Saturday, March 24, 2012


As I stood over the stove this evening, stirring a pot of oatmeal and enjoying the faint whiff of cinnamon blooming from the oven where a batch of granola was baking, I glanced idly to the retro clock on the wall, and below that, the bookcase that houses (mostly) cookbooks.  I paused, and counted.  Twenty.  I own twenty cookbooks.  Plus a recipe box that's more than halfway full.  Which doesn't even begin to extend to the hodgepodge of recipes I keep filed in my internet cache, through bookmarked sites and cooking blog posts.  For someone who has food issues, I sure like to cook, I thought wryly.  Indeed, for as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed cooking - for others.  I grew up watching my mom in the kitchen, standing on a stool to crack eggs, gripping a wooden spoon in my two small paws to stir whatever it was she was working on.  Eventually, I graduated to cooking and baking on my own, mostly things for my family and eventually treats for friends, school events, and bake sales.  In college, it didn't take long for my friends and I to start a Thursday night supper club that usually consisted of steaming bowls of pasta (cheap, and feeds a crowd) clutched in our laps while the Massachusetts winter would rage outside.  We would collapse into each other while we ate, fitting into the curves of shoulders, leaning against knees, and talking endlessly as we fell into the easy physical fluidity that characterized our circle of four.  Food, and the experience of it, was a refuge.  A haven of nourishment and safety in the midst of the emotional turmoil and academic challenges that Smith presented.  I hold these memories close, even while the four of us have geographically dispersed to almost comical distances.  After college, I jumped for joy at the prospect of having a kitchen again, albeit one that was wedged into the corner of our studio apartment like an afterthought.  I started cooking for Alix with gusto, attempting to recreate elaborate dishes from her childhood, crafting four course birthday dinners, and creating towering stacks of dirty dishes that took two hours to wash in the tiny sink.  I have cooked and baked for every family for whom I have ever nannied, held many a small hand while we cracked eggs together and encircled little arms that strained to stir a bowl of batter.  These days, I bake for my roommates and I cook for Hallie, making food on the weekends to last the two of us in the week of work ahead.  I make everyone else's favorites because I don't know what mine are.  I ask what people like, what they want for dinner, for their birthday, for anything at all, because it's far more straightforward than attempting to cook for myself.  I cook for others.  I always have.  I want the food to show how much I care for these people in my life.  Maybe this means I play to people's most base selves, but it's what I do, and I do it well.  Talk to me about cooking for myself though, and all bets are off.  When it comes to me, I hate it all.  I hate food, I hate needing it, I hate eating it, I hate what it does to me, I hate everything about it.  I get angry about it, and my brain's completely twisted way of conceptualizing food and turning anything and everything about it into permutations on the idea of BAD.  Same story, a million different incarnations.

My therapist asks me when we talk, "how food is going," the way one might ask after the welfare of your child, or your pet.  What she means is, "Tell me what you're eating and then let's talk about it."  In other words, saying "Fine" and expecting her to say "Great" and move on her merry way is laughable (I know this because I've tried and she has laughed and I still have to talk about it.).  Have you ever had to tell someone what you eat, every day, in excruciating detail?  No?  It's tons of fun.  No, it's not sufficient to say you had a smoothie for breakfast.  Your therapist would like to know what the smoothie is made out of and how many calories are in it.  Don't pretend like you don't know.  Often, the fact reporting part of these conversations is rather short, for the obvious reason that I don't eat a lot, and for the maybe not obvious reason that I eat the exact same thing every day.  It's simpler that way.  Week to week, the combination might change slightly, but I will eat the same thing every day for up to two weeks in order to avoid having to recalculate calories for new recipes or foods.  If I heard of other people doing this, I'd think how sad it was that they didn't know how to cook different, yummy things for themselves (or didn't have someone to cook for them).  But honest to blog, swing the camera back on me and my brain says, "Nope, nuh-uh, doesn't apply to THIS person right here."

Dealing with an eating disorder is like doing an elaborate dance to which you don't know all the steps.  You see other people doing the dance and you know that it's not that hard, but when you try to do it, you keep taking the wrong steps.  So you watch other people, again, and try, again, and maybe this time you get the first part right and you mess up a different step.  It's exhausting.  So you have all these rules and security measures in place to try and keep you from completely collapsing on the dance floor (i.e., eating the same thing every day for weeks at a time) but even with these in place, your disordered brain finds ways to knock down your carefully constructed little house of cards, and you're back to square one.  Again.

My therapist isn't all that happy with me.  She says I'm "coasting" right now.
Coasting, as in, I'm kind of attempting the dance, but my heart's not always all the way in it.
Coasting, as in, this works for right now because everything is just fine the way it is, thank you very much.
Coasting, as in, what's going to happen when things change?
What happens next in the dance?
You think I know?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Red Choice, Blue Choice, Your Choice, My Choice

Hey guys, guess what?  I'm pro-choice.  (I know, hold on to your drinks, huuuuuuge shock.)  I'm not pro-abortion, or anti-baby, or anti-life by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, I'm going to school for three very intensive years and taking on potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt (Yale ain't cheap, y'all) to become a health professional whose life's work will be devoted to maintaining the health and well-being of women and babies.  That is, babies that women choose to have.  Because, thanks to some very brave people and the blessing of social progression, we, as women, have a right to choose if and when we would like to have children.  We have the right to use contraceptives in order to prevent pregnancy and we also have the right to have an abortion to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.  There are people who want to take away those rights.  As a future midwife, as a future mother, and as a woman whose body is my own, that frankly scares the hell out of me.  In Texas and other states, there is a law being introduced that will require a woman seeking an abortion to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before she may proceed with the abortion.  As you might have guessed, the idea behind this law is that forcing a woman to see the fetus on an ultrasound screen will make her reconsider the abortion.  I have a pro-tip for anyone who supports this law - the woman lying there on that examining table, yes, that one, with the ten inch probe in her vagina - she has considered this decision.  More than you can imagine.  It is not a choice that she made easily or lightly or without thought.  But here's the thing - as much as you might not like her choice, it's still hers to make. 

You know how I know so much about what goes on in women's heads who are choosing abortion?  Because I spent an entire summer assisting at a myriad of obstetric and gynecological procedures, about three-quarters of which were D&C's (Dilation and Curettage).  In southeastern Kentucky, there are very few resources for a woman seeking an abortion.  The tiny hospital that I volunteered and shadowed in was lucky enough to have one doctor willing to perform D&C's (both for women who had had a miscarriage and for those who needed an abortion).  Early on Monday mornings, I would show up to the OR and change, shivering, into my scrubs.  I would tie my hair back while I looked in the mirror, and I would tell myself that if those women out there could be brave enough to face what they were facing, I could damn well walk out there and help them as best as I could.  I held the hands of women as they were prepped for the procedure.  I sat with them in the OR waiting bay before they went in, and listened to some of the hardest stories I've ever heard.  I watched procedure after procedure, until I could predict which instrument the doctor would pick up next.  Each procedure took about thirty minutes, start to finish.  Thirty minutes, and the groggy woman would be rolled out the door, the doctor and nurses would leave, and it would just be me and the janitor, cleaning up.  I was part of the clean-up crew.  Of the fetus.  After each procedure, the doctor would wordlessly hand me the basin into which he'd just deposited the contents of a woman's uterus.  The first time he did this, he only looked at me seriously and said softly, "Make sure it's all there."  After each D&C, it was my job, and mine alone, to very carefully examine the contents of the bright orange BIOHAZARD container and look for recognizable parts of the human being that would grow no more.  A hand, a miniscule foot, shreds of placenta - all were good indicators that the procedure had been performed correctly.  I would check, swallowing hard each time, then seal the container and leave the room.

You might wonder, how after all of that, I could possibly still be pro-choice.  Because when push came to shove, when the stakes were high and I was forced to step up to my beliefs and really look them in the face, what I saw was this: face after face of women who were making a choice, that whether I, or anybody else liked it, was theirs to make.  Becoming a parent is a huge choice.  Taking away an avenue for making that choice doesn't help mothers or babies.  As a midwife, I will not perform abortions.  But - given they are still legal - I will refer women who seek them to a doctor who will provide them.  I will do this having seen far more of the reality of abortion than most people who oppose my viewpoint ever will.  There are better ways to help mothers and babies than by removing our rights to contraception and abortion.  I will fight for those.  I will work for those.  I will go into debt for nursing school, I will labor over my own children's births, and I will help as many women as I possibly can that face the decision to become a parent themselves.  I will ease the entry of new life into this world, and I will surely mourn the loss of more than one during my career.  With every slippery baby that I catch, with every hand that I grip through contractions, and with every rapid heartbeat that I search for with a Doppler, I will never stop believing that becoming a mother is a choice too big to take away.  I will continue to fight for the right of a woman to make a different choice.  Because it should always be hers to make.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ache in my Heart

Today is Monkey's second birthday.  If I hadn't quit that job, I would still be taking care of him until at least this summer.  That was the original agreement - a two-year contract.  I would have had two years with him instead of ten months.  I would have seen him grow from a tiny 3-month-old infant into a rough-and-tumble toddler.  He would know me.  He would know my name, he would talk to me, he would love me in a totally expressable and tangible way.  I would be hefting around a chunky little boy on my hip, chasing after him at playgrounds, and showing him the New York that I fell in love with for the year and a half that I lived there.

Things are so different now.

I still miss him.  So, so much.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Happy Birthday, Hal!

A year ago, yesterday, in a what-the-hell moment of desperation and inspiration, I sent an email out into the universe.  I sent it to the writer of a blog about being a nanny that I had been obsessively reading for weeks during Monkey's naps while I slowly went more and more stir-crazy and desperate to find some level of commiseration with anyone who could understand what it was like to be a full-time nanny.  I had Googled "nanny blogs" and after a few hits and misses, I landed on this girl.  After reading her entire blog's archive, I sent her a note basically saying, "Hi, I'm a nanny too and you seem cool and can we be friends?"  It's still a mystery to me why she replied to such a desperate, weird, stalker-ish email, but thank god she did, because if she didn't, I'd be out one hell of a best friend.  Who's birthday - by the way - is TODAY.  Oh yeah.  She's the big two-three today (which, by the way, is a pretty unremarkable birthday in our society, unfortunately) and I have already solidified my place in her heart by making her banana pecan pancakes in the shapes of farm animals.  Oh yeah - I am that good.  And she is the only person for whom I'd ever put that much effort into making pancakes (except for maybe my future children).  Now, in keeping with the - albeit, brief - tradition she and I have of embarrassing each other stupendously on our birthdays, here is a vlog for your viewing pleasure.  Here is The Nanny, in all her twenty-three-year-old glory:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Meal of Oats

So I actually feel pretty embarrassed for even calling this oatmeal recipe a "recipe."  I can sum it up for you in three words: four to one.  That's the ratio of milk to oats.  That's it!  But here's the long version...

If you either A) like oatmeal so much that you eat it multiple times a day (who, me?), or B) have a whole mess of kids (or not-kids) to feed, make a BIG pot, because this stuff goes quick.  Here's the big recipe:

Put a big soup pot on the stove over the lowest heat setting.  Pour in a gallon of milk.  If you're using cow milk, go for at least 2% or whole.  Don't go all freaky on me about calories (seriously, hi, I have an eating disorder).  Trust me, it's worth it.  You can also use soy milk or almond milk, but please don't just use water.  That's just wrong.  And insulting to the oatmeal gods.  Then add four cups of quick oats - NOT whole oats.  Stir.  Cover.  Cook, stirring every eight-ish minutes until it's thickened, but is still very soupy.  This oatmeal thickens quite a bit as it cools and if you cook it to your desired consistency, it will cool into a gelatinous, gloppy mess.  It will probably take at least forty-five minutes to cook down, but if you turn the heat up at all, you will get yucky burned brown bits on the bottom so just be patient, alright?  Watch some tv, read a book, don't forget to stir it.  Once it's like a thick soup, turn the heat off and prop the lid on the pot while you let it cool.  You're doing it right if you wind up with creamy, slightly runny (NOT gloppy), smooth deliciousness.  Once it's cool, pour in about six or seven tablespoons of maple syrup just to sweeten it a touch.  That way, people can individually sweeten their own bowls later (preferably with more maple syrup, but you could also use sugar or honey or agave nectar).  Store in airtight containers in the fridge and OMNOMNOM you have now made massive amounts of scrumptious oatmeal!

Yummy additions:
peanut butter (or any nut butter)
raisins (or any dried fruit)
frozen blueberries (or any frozen berries)
more maple syrup (or honey, brown sugar, agave nectar, etc)

If you don't like this oatmeal, we can't be friends.  Oh, and this recipe is completely Cricket approved, so if you find a kid who doesn't like it, I'd like to meet him or her and have a serious discussion about the superiority of this oatmeal to anything that comes in a packet.
This is how much a half gallon of milk will make - two big mason jars.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Happy Things

It's been awhile...

1.  I read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland for the first time recently.  My favorite part was when the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon sing about the Lobster Quadrille.
2.  My toes are painted an extremely hipster shade of pastel greenish-blue.  Thank god only I can see them.
3.  I learned how to make the most delicious oatmeal (translation: I shamelessly stole the recipe from my nanny family) and now I make vats of it and sometimes eat it three times a day.  For real.
4.  On Thursday, it's going to be 60 degrees and I'm taking the twins out in the double Bob stroller and walking to town and getting a cup of coffee.  Boom.
5.  It's my best friend's birthday this Saturday and she has no idea that I've been training her Shetland pony birthday present to stand on his head for her.  She has room for him in her apartment, right?
6.  I dread my period a lot less since I started being all earthy hippie crunchy and using reusable products (I have a diva cup).  I was so against the very idea of this thing when my college friend first tried to convince me to use it.  I called it disgusting, I swore up and down that I would never, not ever use something so freaking weird.  And then I did.  And it's amazing.  And it makes my vagina happy.
7.  (And oh yeah - I get my period again.  Another happy.)
8.  Remember when I got into Yale?
9.  I took a bath tonight.  Lucy almost jumped in.  I laughed so hard I almost peed.
10.  This boy.  Always and forever.