31 October 2009

Barbara Charmaine Goldsteen

My mother-in-law, Barbara Charmaine Goldsteen died early this morning, from complications related to pancreatic cancer. This was her fourth bout with cancer; prior to this, she had survived ovarian cancer three times. Her first two sicknesses occurred before I knew her; when David was a teenager.

No cancer diagnosis is good news, and ovarian cancer is especially deadly. When she was first diagnosed, at the age of 39, her doctor more or less told her to get her affairs in order. And yet, she went on to defy all odds and survive not once, but two more times. She was a medical miracle.

During this last illness, we learned what had become painfully obvious by that point; she had been dealt a genetic short hand, and had a mutated BRCA gene. This last round was the most serious by far; when she was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, her prognosis was five months; she outlived that diagnosis by more than a year.

Despite the fact that for a third of her life she had an uncomfortably intimate acquaintance with this disease, she never allowed cancer to define her. She had a remarkable capacity for staring down her illness and saying, "Fuck you, cancer." She was aggressive and fearless in her treatment protocol, and refusing to take no for an answer. And while cancer ultimately killed her, she did not ever allow it to sap her of her will to live. She came to New York for treatments twice a month for a better part of the year, and while she was in town, and suffering from the side effects of chemotherapy, she did not take to her sickbed, but continued to explore the city to the best of her ability, seeing shows, and visiting with family and friends.

For a brief while, her doctor was able to put the pancreatic cancer into remission, although it ultimately metastasized to the point where it was like chasing mercury. A few weeks ago, when she took ill for what would be the final time, she told a friend that she did not want anyone to pity her, because by her reckoning, she should have died twenty years ago. She had not expected to live long enough to see her children grown and married, let alone meet eight grandchildren, and die knowing a ninth was on its way.

And yet, although I am grateful that my children had the opportunity to know her for as long as they did, I can't help but feel cheated, because we always want more than we get, and I had hoped she would live to see her grandchildren marry as well.

30 October 2009

Executive decisions

After some wavering, dithering and prevaricating, I have decided to participate in NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month. It rolls off the tongue awkwardly, no? I am going to do my best to post something every day in November, which will be no small undertaking for me. I've stockpiled a few things, and I hope that is not considered cheating. Some items will be short, and a few may be lame, but I'll try my best to avoid that. Will I make it? I have no idea, but I'll do my best. 

I am also changing my name. As of November 1, I am retiring Hausfrau. Hausfrau is an awesome blog name, and I can't think of anything that suits this blog better.

One of the things I'll miss most about Hausfrau, and in part why I chose it, is that in addition to a domestic vocation, it is also a porn name, in the sexy librarian mold, and I thought that was a good joke. One of the things I've learned via Google Analytics is that there are a lot of people trolling the Internet looking for hausfraus having sex. Sometimes they stumble across my site via keywords including some combination the two, including my favorite: “anal hausfrau blogspot”. You would think anyone looking for such footage would quickly navigate away from this site disappointed, but you would be wrong. Mr or Ms Anal Hausfrau Blogspot stayed to browse awhile. Maybe they found a recipe, or just related, because they are going through the exact same thing with their kids. Whatever they got, thanks for reading.    

As much as I like it, hausfrau is also a very popular name, and there are a lot of us out there. For awhile, I've toyed with coming up with something more unconventional. A few weeks ago, I hit upon it.

I will tell you what it is on November 1.

28 October 2009

slinging hash: garlic soup

In an exquisite feat of timing, my children fell ill this week in highly choreographed fashion. Gabriel went first, spiking a fever on Sunday evening. Sarah came home early from school on Monday, and Sacha woke up sick in the middle of the night. I thought this most considerate of them, as it means we'll get this round over with quickly, whereas if they'd staggered their sickness, I would be housebound for the better part of a week.

We had a very pleasant day, in part because the kids were too sick to be demanding, and spent the time alternating between napping and sitting in front of the television in a stupor. I did get breathed and coughed on a lot, however, which left me wondering how many days it will be until I fall ill.

And so when it came time to prepare dinner, I thought of garlic soup. I started making garlic soup years ago, inspired by a recipe in John Thorne's excellent Outlaw Cook. Research is beginning to confirm the folk wisdom that garlic may help ward off colds. I knew my kids would hate it, but as they had no appetite, I didn't have to worry about feeding them, so why not try to stack the odds against getting sick in my favor?

Garlic soup is quick and easy. You boil garlic in water, mash the garlic into a paste and return to the water, which is then enriched with eggs. Boiling the garlic tames its pungency into something delicate, while the eggs give the soup body. In all, it is a great demonstration of one of the most awesome things about soup, in that you can make something delicious from practically nothing.

Garlic Soup
serves 4

I serve this with bread or croutons, but plain boiled rice would also work.

6 cups water
12 cloves of garlic, peeled
bay leaf
a few sage leaves or sprigs of thyme, optional
salt and pepper
6 eggs
a few slices of crusty bread
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Bring the water, garlic, bay leaf, herbs and a teaspoon of salt to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, turn it down to a simmer and cook until the garlic softens, 15-20 minutes. Remove garlic and mash to a paste in a mortar, or with the flat of a knife. Return garlic to the pot.

Beat the eggs in a bowl, and slowly add to this a ladle-full of the cooking liquid, whisking constantly. Whisk the eggs into the pot and stir over very low heat. If the soup comes to a boil, the eggs will curdle, which is not a tragedy. Adjust seasoning.

Meanwhile, broil or toast the bread, and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and place in the bottom of soup bowls. Ladle the soup over the bread, garnish with additional herbs and a drizzle of olive oil, or not.

Serve immediately.

22 October 2009

Parenting in ALL CAPS

It is hard to comprehend, as you cradle your newborn in your arms, how much this child will annoy and anger you someday. This is the flip side of love; the ones we adore the most are also the ones most skilled at driving us crazy, sometimes in equal measure.

Spanking has been out for some time, but now, the tide is turning against yelling at our children. I take this with mixed emotions, as yelling is an inevitable, and necessary part of the job.  

In my better moments, my study of mindfulness practices pay dividends. I was talking with a friend about meditation recently, and quipped that one of the greatest benefits I have derived from my yoga practice is to yell at my children with far greater precision. What I meant is that I've become better at catching myself on the verge of an explosion, and deciding how to engage. Recently, I've used a trick I learned from Elena Brower, of lowering my chin to my chest, which changes the pattern of your heartbeat, and I've found it really works. As a result, when I do yell, I am more likely to be in control my anger rather than allowing it to control me.

In my lesser moments though, I've resorted to stomping, gritting my teeth, growling, and wrist squeezing. Once, when Sarah was small, I took a page from my cat, and hissed at her. It was not my proudest moment, but it got her attention.

I learned a good trick for anger management from Sarah. She was about three, and we were beginning to teach her to identify her emotions, and express anger verbally rather than physically. In true sanctimonious parent fashion, "Use your words," was a constant refrain. One day when she was angry about something, she clenched her fists and scrunched her face, and shouted, "I WANT TO HIT!"

We were so proud.

So sometimes when I'm close to losing it, I'll say, "I am really angry right now, so angry that I want to spank you."

What do you do to manage your temper?

21 October 2009

slinging hash: potato gratin

Although there are thousands of ways to cook them, I am not very imaginative when it comes to potatoes. If I'm serving chicken, I make mashed potatoes; with beef, it's roasted or baked potatoes.

When I'm feeling frisky I switch it up by serving mashed potatoes with beef, and vice versa. Last Friday night, I made lamb, and by my logic, it called for an entirely different potato preparation. (If you're wondering, how about rice?, I have one word for you: Sacha. Rice doesn't always vacuum well, and it takes a long time to pick those grains up from the rug.)

And so I remembered potato gratin, and as I always do when I make one, I wondered, why don't I make this more often? Potato gratin is easy and delicious, and coming in somewhere between roasted and mashed, is the perfect fence straddler.

And for a slatternly cook like myself, a gratin has the advantage of coming together more by method than recipe. It is flexible and forgiving. If you have a lot of time — ha! — you can cook it longer on a lower heat. If you're in a hurry, you can raise the temperature, cook it at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time. You can make it with milk, half and half, or cream. Add garlic, or not, though I highly recommend it as there are few things that smell more heavenly than garlic warmed in milk. It is fashionable in the food pages to say that with a salad, potato gratin would make a great light supper, but in reality, I wouldn't bother with the salad. I'd be happy eating it all by itself.

Potato Gratin
serves 4-5
You can easily increase this; my general rule is one fewer potato than the number of people you are serving. 

4-5 medium potatoes
2-3 cloves of garlic
whole milk, half and half or cream
salt and pepper
butter, for greasing dish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.

Scrub the potatoes, and peel them or not, according to your mood and their level of filth. Slice potatoes about 1/8 inch thick.

Slice the garlic into thin slivers.

Butter an 8" square or gratin dish. Place a layer of potatoes on the bottom of the dish, scatter a few slivers of garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat with remaining potatoes and garlic. Slowly pour in milk, half and half or cream to reach the top layer of potatoes, leaving them exposed. Gently press the potatoes down to submerge them a bit; you don't want the potatoes to be completely covered, as they will bake down as they cook.

Bake 40-60 minutes, checking after 40 minutes. Gratin is done when the top layer is nicely browned, and potatoes can be easily pierced with a knife.

19 October 2009

Fighting words

My children have all been great dumpers and tossers of things. The basic recipe goes something like: upend one tin of blocks, add a generous amount of Legos, and a smattering of cars. Using your hands, mix well until ingredients are incorporated, and then repeat vigorously, until items are spread to the far corners of the house.

Sacha is by far, my most talented child in this respect, and I am waiting patiently for him to outgrow this phase.

In the meantime, because I am a control freak have a low threshold for chaos, I spend a good amount of time sorting and returning things to their rightful places. This kind of routine busing of the house is so automatic to me that I do it unthinkingly, and without complaint.

The thing I cannot abide, however, is the flinging. Sacha walks in, sees pillows and blankets neatly arranged on the upholstery, and then methodically tosses everything to the floor. He stops to assess his work, and moves on to the den to do it again.

It is how my house goes, in under sixty seconds, from this:

to this:


It would be one thing if this happened in the course of play – say, making a fort – but the flinging appears to be an exercise in itself. More often than not, once the flinging is done, so is Sacha. His work is so deliberate that it is hard for me not to take it personally. It's as if he is certain that my insistence on placing pillows on the furniture is wrongheaded, and if he rearranges things often enough, eventually I will come to agree. 

Or so I thought, until I walked in to the living room last weekend to find Sacha wrestling with a brown pillow, shouting, “YOU'RE GOING DOWN PILLOW, YOU'RE GOING DOWN!”

This gave me a different perspective. In hindsight, we often realize our tendency to personalize things that have nothing to do with us. I thought the flinging was about me, but now, I saw that it was the pillows, not me, that are Sacha's nemesis.

I'd like to say that this insight gave me new found tolerance for Sacha's idiosyncrisy, but that would be a baldfaced lie. It's still extremely annoying.

15 October 2009

The heat game

Today is an auspicious day in the Goldsteen household. Today is the day we turned on the heat.

When we moved to this house almost three years ago, we experienced a severe case of utility sticker shock. We expected our utility bill to roughly double. We thought this was a reasonable assumption, because our new house is roughly one-third larger than our previous house. You can imagine our surprise that first winter when the utilities bill was closer to three times as much as we had previously paid. I think this had something to do with an unfortunate confluence of rising natural gas prices, and an older, and thus more inefficient house.

And now, every year, when the weather turns cold, when I look through my lovely old windows, with their rippling pains of glass, I no longer appreciate their beauty, and the way they frame the views. All I can see is THEY ARE COSTING ME A FUCKING FORTUNE. I do, however, appreciate the irony in the fact that we cannot yet afford to replace them.

David has gone on aggressive fact-finding missions, searching out and sealing any obvious leaks, which has shaved approximately ten dollars from our average bill.

And thus, we began to play the heat game.

The heat game is familiar to many homeowners. There are two primary aspects; How Low Can You Go, and How Long Can You Wait?

How Low Can You Go is the less challenging aspect of the game; for amateurs, if you will. My daytime threshold is sixty-seven degrees. Sixty-eight degrees is more comfortable to me, but it's nothing that a sweater, a few additional trips up and down the stairs a little extra vacuuming won't cure. At night, we go down to sixty-four degrees, and we are thinking that perhaps this year, we may try to beat this personal best, and go to sixty-three, or maybe even sixty-two.

Once you agree to play How Long Can You Wait, you have made it to the pros. You start by assigning an arbitrary date before which you will not turn on the heat, NO MATTER WHAT.

And then, you wait.

Our date is October 15, and it has given me a new appreciation as to how cold sixty degrees really is without benefit of sunlight. Sixty degrees is cold enough that I have been wearing two sweaters, a scarf, and a hat indoors. If it didn't impair my fine motor skills so much, I would opt for gloves as well. I look fairly ridiculous, but no less so than my friend Sharon, who equips herself for the heat game by creating a DIY Snuggie made from a blanket she wraps taut around her body as one does post-shower, so that she ends up looking like a ragtag Bedouin.

The heat game means I run the risk of becoming dangerously over caffeinated, because instead of one or two cups of coffee a day, I make cup after cup, so as not to be without a warm mug in my hands. Hot beverages have the added bonus of providing temporary relief to the tip of my frozen nose.

The heat game is very good for certain aspects of housekeeping. The floors are very clean, because vacuuming and mopping are good aerobic activities. Bathroom cleaning ranks low, because while scrubbing the tub is effective for raising body temperature, coming into contact with the water necessary for rinsing would negate its aerobic effect.

I felt a little guilty this year because I cheated when I brought a space heater down from the attic on Monday. The kids were off from school, and while it is one thing to subject myself to such deprivations, it seemed a mercy not to inflict suffering on my children unnecessarily. This gave me the added bonus of getting to watch my children duke it out fighting for primacy in front of the heater, in a true depression-style amusement.

This morning when we awoke, David and I looked at each other and nodded in agreement. We had endured long enough, and it was indeed time. On my way out to take the kids to school, I flicked the switch on the thermostat, and when I arrived home, I was greeted by the metallic smell of water moving blessedly through the radiators.

Yet even as my muscles began to loosen, and my teeth unclench, and my fingers thaw, I found myself wondering, if perhaps next year, we could hold out just a few days longer.

Such is the perverse logic of the heat game. 

14 October 2009

slinging hash: corn chowder

I don't know what my children have against soup. Aside from miso or the occasional bowl of chicken noodle, the mere suggestion of soup leaves them mortally offended. But because hope springs eternal, I am thick-headed, and I just like making soup,  I persevere.

Last week I had a hankering for corn chowder when a recipe for Cheddar Corn Chowder in the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook caught my eye. I began to get my hopes up. My children like corn; they like potatoes. Maybe this will be the soup that wins them over. And that was foolish of me, because in child rearing, as with many human pursuits, logic does not prevail.

I would make a terrible recipe tester, because I am incapable of following a recipe to the letter. Except when it comes to baking, for me, a recipe is more of an idea than a blueprint. You should not necessarily trust me if I tell you I made something from so-and-so's book and it was awful, because in reality, I am not that good at following the directions. But this is the beauty of soup; it is easy, and takes well to improvisation. You saute some aromatics, add vegetables, liquid, herbs, spices, or other flavorings, and simmer away. 

When my children asked what was for dinner, and I brightly replied, "Corn chowder!" I was met with the predictable mix of skepticism and disdain, although Sacha won a prize for originality when he shook his head and said, "I don't like corn showers."

Did they eat it? Of course not. But seeing as David and I enjoyed it, and I got a week's worth of lunches for about 45 minutes of effort, it was worth it.

Corn Chowder
serves 6-8

In keeping with my improvisatory nature, this recipe, and the directions are a little loose. I'm sorry if it drives you crazy. But soup is very forgiving, and subject to individual taste. Measurements for half and half and cheese are approximate; truthfully, I don't pay that close attention. My motto is start with less, add more as you go. You can always add more of something, but you can't take it away.

Ina Garten's recipe calls for bacon. As Jews, we are generally not people of the pig, so I omitted it. But since little is not improved by bacon, you can saute some and serve as a garnish. 

People often think you need stock to make a decent soup, which is not true. Stock gives soup a different quality, but is not at all necessary; most of the time, I use water. When I use stock, I like Better Than Bouillon. I don't reconstitute it before using, but instead, stir the paste into the onions, and then add water.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 chopped yellow onions
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
3 cups (2-3 medium sized) potatoes, cut in medium-dice
6 cups chicken stock or water
2 bags of frozen corn kernels
1/2-1 cup half and half
8 ounces (approximately 2 cups) grated cheddar or cheddar jack cheese, optional

Heat butter and olive oil in a stockpot or saute pan on medium high heat.

Add onions, salt and pepper, and saute until onions are translucent.

[True confession: often, I walk away at this point, to put in a load of laundry, or some such, and come back to find my onions not quite burnt, but well past translucent. C'est la vie; it still tastes good.]

Add water or stock, and potatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender. How long this takes will depend on how small you cut your potatoes. When the potatoes are tender, mash some against the side of the pot, and incorporate, to add body to the soup.

Add corn, half and half and cheese, if using. Cook about five minutes more, until cheese is melted.

Adjust seasoning before serving.

12 October 2009

Playing God

Dear Thomas and Amanda Stansel,

I am sorry you had such difficulty conceiving children. I can only imagine what heartache that would bring, as I was fortunate enough to conceive my children effortlessly with no intervention. I know this is a blessing.

It is understandable that you would turn to a fertility specialist in order to realize your dreams of parenthood. Modern medicine has made many things possible that would have been inconceivable a few generations ago. The desire for children is a powerful, biological force, and in a perfect world, everyone who wanted to have children would conceive them effortlessly. Perhaps you were thrilled that your dreams of a large family were going to come true when your doctor informed you that intrauterine insemination was successful, and you were carrying not one, but six, embryos.

You lost my empathy when I learned that you disregarded your doctor's advice to selectively reduce the number of embryos to help increase your chances for a healthy outcome, and decided to play some very large odds, by bringing six babies into the world. I understand that in keeping with your religious convictions, you consider the notion of selective reduction to be tantamount to abortion, something which, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you could not abide. I am glad you consulted not only with a reduction specialist, but with church elders, to help you arrive at what must have no doubt been a difficult decision to forge ahead with your pregnancy.

It must have been harrowing to deliver your sextuplets fourteen weeks early, and I imagine you were despondent to learn that they had a 60 to 65 percent chance of survival, and a one-hundred percent chance of problems. Your babies were born so early that hospital protocol dictated that no medical care be given unless specifically requested by the parents.

And this is where your logic falls apart, and you made what turned out to be a literally fatal error, when you decided that despite all evidence to the contrary, you would ignore medical statistics, because "God doesn't work in statistics."?

Do you not see that you were playing God all along? That perhaps your difficulty conceiving was God's way of telling you that it was not his plan for you to conceive biological offspring. Perhaps he had something else in mind for you, which, while not what you intended, may have led you to a rich, fulfilling life.

Was it worth it to lose three of your six newborns to gruesome deaths resulting from complications associated with a high-risk pregnancy, and premature birth? Was becoming a parent so important to you that you will treasure the privilege of knowing that one of your newborns died when blood seeped into his lungs via an open heart valve, while another developed an infection in the trachea that inflated his lungs so much that they crowded out his heart? Are you glad to be making daily trips to the neonatal intensive care unit to visit your three remaining infants, one of whom is experiencing kidney failure, and is hovering on the precipice of death?

In life, everyone suffers, and all parents will make their children miserable, hopefully unwittingly, and for as brief a period as possible. Can you live with the fact that you have played such an active role as the architects of your children's suffering? Is it lost on you that had you made the decision to selectively reduce at the beginning of the pregnancy, you might now be the parents of healthy twins, or triplets? At this point, your best outcome is two children with lifelong developmental and neurological issues. Is all the suffering you have selfishly unleashed because you could not see any further than your desire for biological offspring worth it?

07 October 2009

slinging hash: bloody mary

I have always had a fondness for the breakfast cocktail. I wouldn't want to make a habit of it, but sometimes, on special occasions, it can be just the thing. Champagne cocktails are lovely, as is the Ramos Gin Fizz. But I have an especially soft spot for the Bloody Mary, which got David and myself through some fraught family gatherings early in our marriage. In keeping with this tradition, on the mornings of both Gabriel's and Sacha's brit milot, when extra fortification seemed like a good idea, we started the day with a Bloody Mary, our own breakfast of champions.

My affection for the Bloody Mary may be in part why Prune is one of my favorite restaurants, as their brunch menu is not only delicious, but features no less than ten different Bloody Marys, including my personal favorite, the Danish, made with aquavit and garnished with a marinated white anchovy.

A gussied-up Bloody Mary is a nice treat, but the original formula needs no tampering. Once, while mixing up a few drinks, I accidentally added two shots of vodka to once glass, and discovered that extra vodka makes a Bloody Mary even more delicious.

One of the hallmarks of the drink is a bit of heat, usually in the form of Tabasco sauce. I'm not partial to Tabasco, which to me tastes too much of vinegar, and chemicals. And so, I've experimented with different brands of hot sauce, as well as cayenne pepper, wasabi powder, and my current favorite, sriracha sauce.

I have to say, I like this current incarnation quite a lot.

Bloody Mary
Makes one drink

2 ounces vodka
6 ounces tomato juice
juice of 1/2 lemon
generous pinch of celery salt
pinch of kosher salt
dash of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
squirt of sriracha sauce

Stir all ingredients together in a cocktail shaker or glass. Serve over ice, or not.

06 October 2009

Hesistatingly offered free unsolitcited advice!

When it comes to clinical depression, I am a lifer. Because I have had more than three episodes of major depression, the likelihood of me slipping into this state again is too strong to risk going without medication. So Depression is a Dilemma for Women in Pregnancy, in today's Science Times, caught my attention.

I cannot live without antidepressants, pregnant or not. I suffered crushing postpartum episodes after the birth of my first two children, because I stupidly, and against my doctor's advice, tapered my medication back to a minimal dose during these pregnancies. Because I was feeling great throughout the pregnancies, I didn't want to expose my developing babies to more medication than was necessary. The result was what my psychiatrist called double-depression; ie, someone with a predisposition toward depression + postpartum hormonal surges = initial elation followed by an ENORMOUS crash.

When I was pregnant with Sacha, in consultation with my doctors, we decided to keep my medicine at my therapeutic dose. In my third trimester my psychiatrist considered lowering the dosage during the last few weeks of the pregnancy and immediately increasing it back to my therapeutic level upon giving birth, because there were some slight risks to the baby. Ultimately, we decided that the risks to the baby were small, and not serious enough, compared with the possibility of another postpartum episode, to warrant tapering down my medication.

In part because of this decision, Sacha ended up spending sixteen days in the NICU. He was a pokey nurser, but we brought him home from the hospital, unconcerned, two days after he was born, as I'd breast fed two children and was confident we'd get the hang of it. When he was seen by our pediatrician for his first newborn well visit, Sacha had lost almost 10% of his birth weight, and we were instructed to keep an eye on him for any changes in behavior, and return the next day for a weight check.

That evening, we did indeed see changes in his behavior. He was sleeping an alarming amount, even for a newborn, had no suck, refused a bottle, and kept falling asleep at my breast when I attempted to nurse him. When we were reduced to pumping breast milk and administering it via syringe, we called the doctor, who instructed us to take his temperature and call him back. Thus began twenty minutes of shaking down the thermometer, and repeatedly attempting, and failing, to get a reading.

When our doctor called to see why we hadn't called him back I replied, "The thermometer is not working." In our postpartum haze, it had not occurred to us it was our baby, not the the thermometer, that was not working properly.  

And thus began a rush to the hospital, where he was ultimately diagnosed with neonatal serotonin syndrome, and reflux.

I don't know if it was because I was on a higher dose of medication during the third pregnancy, or because Sacha was  particularly sensitive to the SSRI's, but in effect, the medication had a sedating affect on him, and when he was born, he did not understand that he was no longer in utero and had to begin to take on life-sustaining functions for himself. As we joked at the time, he was born depressed, just like his mother!

And yet, despite what was unquestionably a harrowing ordeal, I do not regret my decision to take antidepressants during my pregnancy, because it was absolutely essential for my health. I was already a mother of two, and my experience of being raised by two depressed parents had given me painful proof that a child's well being is intimately tied to their parent's physical and mental health. As my wise therapist once said, a broken arm heals more quickly than emotional scars. 

Through the initially terrifying days, when we had NO IDEA what was wrong with our child, and whether he was he going to be okay — although it was stressful, I was able to function because for the first time ever after giving birth, I was not depressed. This is meant I was able to cope with a crisis, and be available and present for my family. While I was scared, and worried, and did my fair share of crying in those early hospital days, I did not blame myself up for having hurt my baby. I understood that in the face of all available information, and in consultation with my doctors and husband, we made what we thought was the best possible decision, and were now dealing with the consequences. And that is the difference between a depressed mother, and a healthy one. 

I've no idea if it would have made any difference, but in hindsight, I do wish I had lowered my dosage during those last few weeks of my pregnancy and increased it upon giving birth. I regret we had to go through what we did, but not my decision.

And as this blog can attest, Sacha is a now a healthy, ball-busting, 3-1/2 year old.

03 October 2009

Unrequited love

I considered many possible titles for this post. Foiled? So Close but yet so far? For the love of the Arctic Monkeys? But perhaps the sentiment that best sums it up is, Fucking Philadelphia.

David has always had an irrational hatred of Philadelphia. And while I've never spent an enormous amount of time there, it's always stuck me as a perfectly lovely place. David's visceral response stems from bad childhood associations with some crazy relations who hailed from the city.

David and I love the Arctic Monkeys so much that David, a grown man of 40, joined their fan club, which is how we were able to purchase tickets over the summer during the pre-sale. New York sold out too quickly, so we settled for Philadelphia. That David was willing to travel there to see them says a great deal about our allegiance to this band.

Although the contents of our iPods are very different, David and I respect each other's musical taste. It is what allows me to roll my eyes as he yet again declares his love of the Dirtbombs, and the fact that Mick Collins is a demigod, or, as happened earlier this week, for me to smile bemusedly when, moments after mentioning to a friend while listening to a track from Portishead's Dummy, that it is one of my favorite records, David, who was not even privy to this conversation, turned to me and said, "I actively dislike this music."


The Kinks, Elvis Costello and more recently, the Arctic Monkeys, are some of the places where David and I find common ground. And as young lovers make a past time of time cataloging one another's many excellent qualities, so do we recount the many virtues of our latest crush. If you were to spend any amount of time with me, and I intuited that you were interested in music, eventually I would find a way to bring the conversation around to the awesomeness of the Arctic Monkeys. Once I get going, I can be quite insufferable.

Every time I hear them, I can't help but marvel at how such a young band can be so good. I can, and sometimes do, listen to them almost exclusively for weeks on end without getting bored. The Arctic Monkeys are not a band with a kernel of promise who had to grow into itself. They sprung from Sheffield, fully formed, and three records later, are only getting better. Whenever I hear them, my pulse quickens, and I sometimes have to restrain the urge to jump up and down, or bark like a dog with excitement.

Their musicianship is excellent, and they have a knack for compelling melodies. They rock hard.

But perhaps what I love best about them is their lyrical wit. They always come up with clever and unexpected, turns of phrase:

They are masters of the biting take down:
Presuming all things are equal who'd want to be men of the people, when there's people like you.

And as I've said before, never have I heard a bunch of lads be more articulate about how men are led about by their dicks:
You should have racing stripes the way you keep me in pursuit/ You sharpen the heel of your boot and you press it in my chest/ And you make me wheeze/ Then to my knees you do promote me.

I don't know if it's just that everything sounds better in British, or Alex Turner's excellent delivery, but their lyrics always strike me as wise beyond their years. If I were half as clever and insightful in my early twenties, I was doing pretty well.

This show was to be the highlight of my admittedly dull social season.

And so it was that we set out, tired, but excited, on Wednesday evening. Doors opened at eight, and we assumed that meant the band would start at ten, so we asked our sitter to arrive at 7.30. That turned out to be exceptionally dumb of us, but we figured it would allow us to miss rush hour traffic, and have dinner with the kids, thus having a comeback ready for when Sarah inevitably expressed her outrage that we were going out again? Because twice a month is really excessive.

We did not get on the road until close to 8, which was a foolish mistake, but as for the rest of the evening, I blame Google, and Philadelphia. Google Maps directions SUCKED. They weren't just bad, they were WRONG. Google instructed us to go east on NJ Route 38, when we should have gone west, and although David initially questioned whether that could be right, we went with it, and drove  FIFTEEN minutes, searching for Admiral Fucking Wilson Boulevard, until we rechecked GPS via Google on my phone, and realized we had to turn around.

By the time we arrived in Philadelphia, we were cutting it very close indeed. We looked for the North 7th Street exit, only to find it DID NOT EXIST. And so we took the 9th Street exit and attempted to circle back around. This was deceptively difficult, because while the city appears to be laid out like a grid, the street numbers we were looking for continually eluded us. After riding around the block once, we asked a cab driver for help, and he provided a long and thorough lesson on the city's geography, during which we learned that Seventh Street was closed for construction, and we should take Fifth Street instead. We thanked him, and headed back in search of  Fifth Street. And so we counted down the street numbers in their predictable order: nine, eight, seven, six...four. This sort of thing happened more times than I care to count.

As we took one wrong turn after another, David grew more anxious, while I was uncharacteristically relaxed, because I figured, it's rock'n'roll, and these things are never punctual, and maybe we'll miss part of the show, but surely not the whole thing.

And so it was that we finally arrived at 10.30, rushed into the concert venue excitedly, handed our tickets to the bouncer, who, as he ripped them, announced, "This is the last song."


It was indeed the last song, and our timing was so impeccably bad that we only heard a few bars, not even enough to recognize what they closed with, before the house lights came up.

 "What time did they go on?" we asked the bouncers.


Despite my immense disappointment, knowing that they started so early only made me respect the band even more, for I read into this perhaps meaningless bit of information that they were either morning people, like myself, or liked to knock off work early so as to fit in as much drinking and shagging as possible.

I suppose I could have found Alex Turner and offered him my body in exchange for a few more songs, but then David would have had to kill him, and the Arctic Monkeys could no longer make music.

So in reality, our only options were to laugh, or have a rip roaring fight in which we berated ourselves for our stupidity.

David asked me, "Do you want a t-shirt?

"Oh, yes, I do!"

Never mind that if you include the cost of gas, sitter, and parking, that it was one very expensive t-shirt. It allows me the privilege, which I will cherish forever, of being able to say I went to see the Arctic Monkeys, and all I got was a lousy t-shirt.

Although we were despondent, I was oddly calm throughout the evening and for this, I have John Friend to thank, as one of the most important lessons I have learned from Anusara Yoga is a very simple, obvious truth that often eludes us: look for the good.

And so, although we would have both much rather seen the Arctic Monkeys, it was nice nonetheless to spend several hours alone conversing with my husband, and be reminded yet again that not only do I love this man, but I also like him a whole lot.

Even as events were unfolding, the act of blogging is now so thoroughly ingrained in me that everything is material, and I could not help but think, despite my disappointment, this will make a really good story.

And, thanks to my new t-shirt, I had no trouble deciding what to wear on Thursday.

I also learned a few practical things from this endeavor.

David should never again drive at night without his glasses.
Perhaps we should invest in a GPS device.
Maybe there is a Philadelphia curse?  

Fucking Philadelphia.