I’d Rather Have Dessert

chocolate baby

Most of you do not know. I keep many things private and choose to let only a very select number of people into my truly personal life; very few, like eight, okay nine, because, well, hairdressers.

This week I finally was able to make myself go back to yoga after a month or so of non-attendance. The teacher always asks, after an extended absence, why I have missed so many classes. I usually state something along the lines of travel, work, etc., which is partly accurate, but mostly not. This time I had the urge to tell her the truth. I have depression, and sometimes making the effort to do the things to help with that is just too daunting.

May is Mental Health month. Not as fun as national ice cream or pancake day, but still, it’s there. For some reason, unlike acceptable chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and such, we are somehow ashamed of our mental illnesses, like it is some sort of weakness or character defect. It’s not.

I have been living with depression since my second son was born. It started as post-partum, is mostly dormant, but rears its ugly head at times of stress, or just randomly, to create an unexpected buzz kill. Over the years I have tried medication, counseling, and various sorts of self-treatment, from healthy choices to unhealthy forms of self-medication.

After many years at this rodeo, I know what works best for me: exercise, yoga, reading, writing, lots of long dog walks and being out in nature. And desserts, especially chocolate ones. Here’s a fun hint for you readers who do not know me well, if I haven’t posted in a month or so, I probably am struggling.

The last few weeks have been a build-up of stress due to family issues, life changes and, well, life. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I was kind of obligated to re-visit a very painful part of my past. I have been trying to shut the door on this for quite a while, but I am really hoping to get to the point of being able to slam the crap out of it,  Old Cheri style, in the near future. I think I’m getting there.

I’m climbing back out of the familiar rabbit hole and feeling better. I hope the remission lasts a very long time. Sometimes it does.

One of my very happily married friends mentioned that she thinks the key to a good marriage is knowing all the crazy idiosyncrasies and weirdness of your partner, and accepting those traits as an integral part of the overall package.

I think there is really no such thing as “normal.” Everyone has their issues and struggles. I would ask that you take a moment before your judge. During rough patches, I also get graced with debilitating social anxiety. It might seem to you like I am just odd or awkward. Yes, I see the looks passed among you. Let me tell you that on some days, getting up, getting dressed and going into a situation I don’t want to be in is like a twenty- mile mountain climb, in heels.

I know there are many of you who have similar issues. I think often, those with depression have a deeper sensitivity towards others, a mixed blessing, for sure. I see your struggles, and I empathize.

But there is no joy without knowing pain, and the world looks just a bit more Technicolor every time I climb back out of my cave. I am me, warts and all, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Holiday Road

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When touring historical spots, we always seek a nice balance between the Griswold’s visit to the Grand Canyon in National Lampoon’s Vacation (jump out of the car, look and nod twice, jump back into the car) and a three-year, in depth master thesis exploration. I am not naming names, but Son 1  finally ripped the car keys from Hub’s hand and jumped in the driver’s seat during our car tour of Yorktown’s famous battlefields … our extensive car tour of Yorktown, where we stopped at every battle site, cemetery, sign, statue, hint of sign, mound, other cars pulled over or unusual weeds and/or rock formations along the way.

In Hub’s defense: Son 1 careened into the parking lot of the last stop of the driving tour to view the field where Cornwallis’ troops surrendered. Son 1 was happy to idle the car, sit for a moment gazing at said field, and then drive on. Hubs insisted we get out of the car and walk. He was right. The actual battlefield was across the parking lot behind us and down a path. Hubs was gleeful, Son 1 argued the whole way back on our four hour, three hour drive from Yorktown to D.C., contending that there was no actual proof which field it was, as what is taken as accurate history often times is not. This makes the honking, lane cutting,  slow to a crawl for no reason traffic around the D.C. area even more fun than usual. And he’s an attorney, never one to drop an argument. And  a  really bad driver.

The trip also including a visit to Williamsburg, Virginia, which we quickly renamed “Disneyburg.” Okay, most of the building are replications, and the some of the costumed workers were  less than enthusiastic about authenticity (Ray-Bans and iPhones, anyone?) but some guides were highly informative, some buildings quite historically significant, and it was just plain fun.

Perhaps to reinforce the Disney connection, we heard a Williamsburg tourist exclaim “This sh*t hurts!” for no discernable reason, maybe too much walking?  This is an oft-quoted, multi-purpose saying from the annals of Hagnauer vacation history, first heard many years ago as a girl was hopping off of Space Mountain. We were more than thrilled to hear “our” saying quoted word for word at another vacation spot.

Highlights included seeing an Amish family walking down the street of colonial Williamsburg and commenting to Hubs, “I don’t get it.”  Son 1 then comes strolling up, takes in the site before us and asks “What’s the point?” Are senses of  humor genetic?

To begin this loop through our nation’s history, we picked up Son 1 at the Greyhound bus station in Richmond, Virginia. Now this is noteworthy for a few reasons. First, anyone who knows Son 1 will be shocked to learn he actually rode a Greyhound bus.  It also re-emphasizes that nature overrides noggin, as by desperate necessity, I actually used the bathroom there, and lived to tell about it. We had about three hours to spend in Richmond, so in traditional Hagnauer family fashion, we only ate lunch, went to the art museum, went to the Museum of the Confederacy and toured the Confederate White House.

We ended the trip with three days  in D.C. finding things we haven’t done before; lunch at a local food market and exploring area shops, touring Catholic University’s basilica (largest in U.S., all dressed up in thousands upon thousands of Easter lilies), and the last day Son 1 got up at 6:30 a.m. to procure highly coveted and almost impossible to get same-day tickets to the new African American History Museum.

We also had time to enjoy our tried and true favorites, like walking the National Mall from the Capitol to the Lincoln memorial, then sneaking around the back of the monument and enjoying the quiet, relatively tourist-free side, watching the Potomac roll by and gazing at Arlington.

It was a whirlwind trip, great to visit Son 1, and I only cried just a bit when saying goodbye to him.

 

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Ode To a Basement Dweller

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The time has finally arrived. Our nest will once again be empty, starting this Saturday. Our basement dweller of almost a year is moving into his own apartment.

There are certainly plusses and minuses to this development. Basement dweller (BD) has brought a lot to the table (often literally, and usually junk) during his lower-level habitation. On the plus side:

  • We sat down as a family and ate dinner together most nights. He helped us realized that whether it’s two, three, or four of us, we are always a family.
  • Hubs had a playmate and fellow sports watcher. This gave me more book time, and a reading mommy is a happy mommy, so it was a win for everyone.
  • I am severely technologically challenged. BD usually was available to fix the television for me when I couldn’t figure out how to use it (yet again.) Okay, I’ll be completely honest. There was also someone to show me how to use our dagburn toaster oven that has been the nadir of my existence for multiple years. In fact, I just thought of a fantastic housewarming gift for BD, don’t tell him.
  • We did things; board games, backyard stuff tossing, puppy playtime, baseball games, even a Blue’s hockey game.
  • The boy makes me laugh. Truly, it’s like having a comedian living in your home. His sarcasm is searing and his humor often inappropriate, which heightens the amusement factor for me.
  • Hubs received a very minimal reprieve from my nagging, as there is only so much one woman can do! I was more focused on BD. In fact, I did such a good job that I got a promotion and new job title. I used to be The Funcrusher.  I have been promoted to Dreamcrusher. I am very proud. Unfortunately the pay scale stays the same.
  • I never had to look anything up in the urban dictionary, I just asked BD.
  • He was rather easy to get along with, and fairly low maintenance.

Yes, there were some negatives, in no particular order, except I am starving from week three of my diet, and I only have lost a couple of pounds, which makes me quite hangry … so first up:

  • That irritating little BD has lost a substantial amount of weight from eating what I am cooking for my diet, and looks great … I hate him right now.
  • I am sick of the overflow. Piles of clothes in his upstairs room, boxes of college junk in his brother’s, shoes (well, usually just one) in the front hallway, gym shorts in the middle of the family room, wet towels over kitchen chairs, cereal bowls left to grow weird stuff in the basement, hats and coats on the banister. He’s not the neatest of men.
  • When my kids are living away from home, I worry less. I don’t know what time they come home, or what they are doing and with whom. It is really a better arrangement for the whole family.
  • He is a much more picky eater than Hubs and I. And he expects dinner most nights. And he doesn’t consider popcorn as dinner.

Okay, the biggest benefit to BD moving? I won’t feel like I have to lasso up and encase the girls when I go downstairs in the morning, and once again will feel free to run down partially dressed or less to get something from the laundry room. At first, I thought my no bra/partially naked/naked self-imposed ban was weird, but I talked to other mothers of boys (men), and we all feel the same way. There is no reason to add “seeing Mom’s pendulous old-lady breasts” to the list of our sons’ discussion topics with future psychologists.

So goodbye to my favorite basement dweller. Fly out of the nest and soar.

Would you like to come over for dinner next week?

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Need A Math Tutor?

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You have to love a place that has “Café” in its name, yet doesn’t serve food.

Husbands, take notice. Saturday was a dream day for me. Perhaps it was repayment for my attendance at a Blues’ hockey game the week before, I’m not sure. It is how a good marriage works, though. Sometimes you are the giver, sometimes the givee.

The morning started with a lie-in. This happens seldom-to-never as our sleep partner (See Buzzkill McGhee)  likes mornings, a lot … Hubs took her downstairs with him and kept her from running back up and doing her usual “Are you up yet? Are you? Are you coming downstairs? Now?”

Next was a delicious breakfast, the famous Egg McKarl’s, which put McDonald’s McMuffins to shame.

A lazy morning of reading all the news I could get my mitts on, a long bath, then off to Beauty and the Beast. Yes, Hubs went, voluntarily. Oh, we were smart about it. We didn’t want any of those pesky children ruining our kids’ movie, so we reserved seats in the over-21 theater. Good call, and surprisingly, he wasn’t the only man at the show. Some may feel he should relinquish his man card for attending something like this, but a smart man knows the benefits to be reaped by such actions.

Then off to dinner with our favorite partners in crime, whose recoiled horror at the thought of the possibility of encountering children, as well as disdain for the manufactured merriment of all things Disney, prohibited them from attending the movie with us. We went to Frazer’s, a local restaurant with good reviews that we hadn’t visited in years. I’m not really sure why it fell off the radar, but we will put it back on. Get the chorizo-stuffed dates, trust me.

In fact, the dates were so amazing that we got a little date obsessed. Who else has great stuffed dates in St. Louis? We finally instituted a new dining policy for future culinary conquests; the menu must contain stuffed dates. You won’t be sorry if you adhere to this rule, as well.

And if you are wondering if the date infatuation lasted past that evening, our dining partners messaged us the next day, exclaiming “AWESOME dates!” I texted back, “You’re not so bad yourselves!”

After our dinner, the social butterfly of our group (obviously not me) was intolerant of my usual “That was fun, let’s all go home so I can be in bed by ten” nonsense. She insisted on a nightcap. We weren’t sure where to go, and were heading towards the Central West End when we drove right by Venice Café. We had to stop.

Although we haven’t been there in many years, I remember the bathrooms fondly. Plus who can resist entering a bar attached to a patio that looks like a regurgitated carnival? A cover of $5 got us access. The décor on the inside of the Venice Café is unabashedly, overwhelmingly kitschy, with a distinctive decorative style best described as “less is for sissies.” Every inch is covered with stuffed animal heads, mosaics, ceramic frogs, glittery bowling pins, UFO driver’s licenses, graffiti and things that would make you laugh at a garage sale. The centerpiece is a flying mannequin over the stage, a woman’s body with an old man’s head. There are cozy living room places tucked around, and a second floor that allows a great view of both the band and the pet snake behind the upstairs bar.

My favorite room, and I don’t believe I could ever say this about any other bar I have ever been in … ever … is the upstairs bathroom. Correctly referred to as the throne room, the well, throne, is up on a pedestal, giving one a commanding view of all the eclectic doohickeys around the unisex yet surprisingly clean facility.

The band playing was fantastic; smooth and jazzy, but not so loud that conversation was difficult. My very favorite part, though, is that the Venice Café doesn’t serve food.* It makes me want to change the name of my blog to Cheri’s Math Tutoring.

*In the summer, when the patio is open, they do have a “Jerk Shack” that serves limited food items. Although this takes a bit away from the amusement of the name, it is more than replaced by the enjoyment of the outside “art.”  For me, summer does nothing to improve my basic lack of math skills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pass the Pi

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I have this thing my husband calls my patent-pending salmon maneuver. If I see crowds going one way, I am compelled to go the opposite direction. If you tell me to do something, it’s very likely I won’t. I am in no way a follower. My childhood answer of “Make me” has matured into my frequent adult use of “No.”

I get this rebel/contrarian streak from my mother.

She was feisty, opinionated and  sometimes jarringly abrupt. Her favorite defense, “Well, I can say it because it’s the truth!” She once told me she didn’t like my hair short because I have a fat face. She also confessed she never really liked my name, but my father chose it. Thanks, Mom. You would think this would scar, but it makes me laugh. That was Mom; biting yet loving, giving yet self-absorbed, a gloriously imperfect person, one of the true loves of my life.

But she was much braver than I. She would have no issue with telling anyone and everyone what she thought, to their faces, whenever she wanted. I hide behind a keyboard.

Here is one of my favorite Mom stories. I think it illustrates her personality perfectly.

It was an extremely cold winter morning (remember those?) third grade, public school. This would have been the late 1960’s. It was a time when school faculty frequently would admonish girls to be “more ladylike.”  On very cold mornings, girls were allowed to wear pants to school, but had to bring a dress or skirt to change into once we arrived. My mom bristled at this ridiculous edict. Her nonsense-tolerance limit finally exploded. She thrust a pair of pants at me. I put them on, then went to grab a skirt. She yanked it out of my hand. “No. Go to school in those pants.”

I begged her not to make an example of me. “I’ll be sent to the principal’s office!”

“Good, have him call me. I think we have some things to discuss.”

It went as expected. My teacher told me to go change into my girl wear. I didn’t have any. I went to the principal’s office. He asked me what excuse I had. I could only answer, “My mother.”

Three days later a letter was sent to all parents alerting them to changes in the school dress code. Girls now were allowed to wear pants at school when the morning temperature was below X degrees.

As I grew older, I noticed a few other things. Her life did not revolve around her children. Of course she loved us and cared for us, but her husband was her first priority. Looking back, I don’t see this as a bad thing, theirs was an epic love story I hope to emulate with my husband.

She also didn’t parent quite the same way as other moms. We didn’t really get “grounded” or punished often. She simply allowed us to suffer the consequences of our actions, and didn’t swoop in to smooth things over for us. I remember skipping an afternoon class in high school and arriving home when I thought Mom would still be out. She wasn’t. She said, “When the school calls, I’m going to tell them you are skipping class,” and walked out of the room.

Looking back, she was an excellent parent. All she had to say was “I’m so disappointed in you” to get us to rethink and make different choices.

She also was vivacious and fun-loving. She collected friends like flowers, loved a good joke, practical or otherwise, and once froze over our driveway so we could have our own ice-skating rink.

I think she was a bit disappointed she never became a true entertainer. She sang and performed in local groups, but I think, in her heart of hearts, she wanted to be a star, perhaps a natural off-shoot of her rather severe case of only-child syndrome. She was a bit of a stage mother to me, which caused more than a pinch of friction with a daughter who didn’t really want to be on stage.

I remember looking up at her funeral and seeing so many people truly touched by her life, smiling through tears. What a wonderful legacy to be so loved, and a testament to a life well-lived.

I think she would be glad to know she is remembered, a star in her own way. She died two years ago, on 3/14/15. Even a non-math person like me appreciates the infinite irony of pi. She was a force of nature, and I think the death date may just have been her choice, a very Mom-like, unforgettable last curtain call.

 

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Dumbo Elephant

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I think I must have a bit in common with some Republican legislators. They don’t seem to understand where babies come from. I didn’t really understand either, at the age of eight or nine.

When I was a mid grade-schooler, there was a scandal in our family’s social circle. Someone’s teenage daughter had magically become pregnant and was seemingly forced into a quickie marriage. I didn’t want this awful situation to happen to me! I even approached my mom about it. She hemmed and hawed, eventually mumbling something along the lines of “You don’t need to worry about that.” But she gave me no specifics… nothing. So I put two plus two together and got five. I assumed that females just naturally had babies… all by themselves… they just grew inside women at some random time in their lives. It must be a kind of lottery thing, where if and when you got pregnant was just a matter of chance.

This must be the same conclusion that Republican Representative John Shimkus (IL) has drawn and still believes. He questions why men should have to pay for prenatal and maternity healthcare, after all, men don’t have babies! Well, John, I later found out that it takes two to tango, and a woman doesn’t just grow a baby all on her own. In fact, I have it on good authority that men are 50% responsible for that baby growing inside the mother’s “tummy.”

Yep, who knew healthcare was so complicated!  I’ll try to break it down simply. Insurance of any kind is based on pools. Healthcare insurance companies are hoping that young, healthy people will offset the costs of the old and sick. The aggregate monies are used for all types of healthcare that one individual may not ever use. I, for one, can guarantee that I will never have a  PSA screening for prostate cancer. It doesn’t mean that I am screaming from the rooftop that I shouldn’t have to pay for this service with aggregate funds. In fact, with this logic, I shouldn’t  have to pay for vasectomies, prostate surgery, and the majority of heart disease interventions. I hope I never need cancer treatment, but I don’t begrudge my part of the aggregate pool being used for people who do.

You see, John, it’s not like going into a cafeteria, picking out the dishes you want, and paying just for what you have selected. It’s more like entering Disneyworld. Everyone pays the entrance fee, but everyone’s experiences are different. Some don’t get to ride Dumbo, for whatever reason. It doesn’t mean those who miss this ride get a refund.

The reason maternity care was mandated in the Affordable Healthcare Act is that insurance companies were refusing to offer it, or charging exorbitant amounts for it in the individual marketplace. Why? Because it costs a great deal, they didn’t want to cut into their profits, and it wasn’t required. Does anyone really think that we need to be worried about insurance companies and their profit margins?

In fact, I believe the problem with insurance isn’t the people using it, it’s the institutions. Exorbitant drug and medical supply prices, non-for-profit hospitals making so much money they must constantly build, expand, landscape and buy art to use up their assets, and insurance companies acting as gatekeepers and decision makers to keep their profits up.

Oh, my favorite part so far, no Medicaid coverage to Planned Parenthood unless they stop offering abortions. Planned Parenthood supplies many basic healthcare services to a wide array of women, not to mention birth control. Take this away and where will they go? Eventually some will visit the emergency room, often the go-to “clinic” for the poor.  The hospitals get the profit, and the system is billed at an extremely inflated rate for services that could have been prevented or performed much less expensively at Planned Parenthood. Everyone’s healthcare costs go up to share the burden, while hospitals, drug companies and insurance companies benefit.

It comes down to a couple of basic decisions. Frist, should women have access to birth control? In fact, let’s be honest. Should poor women have access to birth control, because women with means will always be able obtain what they need with regards to both birth control and abortions. Do we believe restricting access to birth control will somehow lower the abortion rate? More importantly, do we think, as a society, we should help to assure more babies are born healthy, or is this an unbearable onus on the prosperity of health insurance companies and too much of a burden for those of us who contribute to the insurance pool, but will never use the service?

And John? I have something to tell you. When mommies and daddies love each other very much, sometimes they lie down very close together, and sometimes this creates babies…

 

 

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All My Mundanity

tad-the-1rst-liza-colby-played-by-marcy-walkder-all-my-children-6096388-468-602

As a young(ish) mom, I treasured time with my little boys, but sometimes I needed a break, especially during the long, hot summer stretches of school vacation. I am sure my kids were not so very different from any others, but in my defense, Son 1 did like to jump on our bed around 6 a.m. every day and gleefully ask “What are we going to do now?”

Favorite activities when the boys were little included playing grocery store (yes, just as riveting as it sounds), hitting trees with sticks and my personal favorite … painting. This art endeavor involved about twenty minutes of set-up, two reams of paper, smocks, tarps, and another trip to Costco for more paper towels. Evidently the object was not to create a picture of perfection, it was all about quantity and speed. The more pieces of paper with a wide swipe or two of color, the better. The boys would lose interest in this exciting endeavor in 4.2 minutes. Clean-up lasted upwards of an hour. When Hubs returned home, he would be inundated and, of course, appreciatively stunned at the sheer volume of artwork.

Lunchtime was my respite. I made their meals and then plopped them in front of the television for an educational episode or two of Barney. Yes, I own it. You were a better parent, pat yourself on the back. I grabbed a plate, sat on a stool and turned on the kitchen television to watch All My Children. This was not really my fault, as it was an addiction first started in college. The gateway event was an almost mandatory daily dorm gathering where we breathlessly followed Tad’s every mischievous and/or nefarious adventure in dear old Pine Valley.

As the boys grew, Son 1 started referring to the program as The Dr. Manly Show. He often would stroll through the kitchen and ask things such as “Whose evil twin has shown up today?” “Anyone back from the dead?” “How is that pesky amnesia going?”

One day, Son 1 finally asked, “Why do you watch such ridiculous drivel?” “Mind candy,” I replied.

He looked me up and down, shook his head and said, “I think you might just be the dumbest smart person I know!”  Ah, he knew just how to charm a mother’s heart …

Eventually All My Children went the way of so many things of my youth … size eights (and then tens), the ability to keep my eyes open past 10 p.m., and the belief that everything happens for a reason.

I must say I did miss the daily drama of it all. As we are now empty nesters, our excitement consists of things like “What’s for dinner?” and “Did you remember it’s trash day tomorrow?”  In fact, I love the idea of a “Real Housewives of St. Louis.” Viewers could watch us mowing the yard, walking the dog and dozing in front of the television in the early evening. The cliffhanger end of season … Who drove the car last? That’s who should fill it up with gas!

So I was susceptible. First Donald Trump came into my periphery. Like a train wreck, I couldn’t look away. The twists and turns of the election were a surprise to me, much like Tad sleeping with Liza’s mother!

Then Amazon Prime offered me three free months of the Washington Post, you know, that fake news organization that’s often the first to uncover D.C. shenanigans.

Ultimately, I found Donald J. Trump’s tweets. I confess, they are the first thing I look at every morning. It’s not so much for the content, but for the errors. I can’t help it. I am an editor at heart, and the man can’t write himself out of a paper bag. He also does not understand the 140 character thing, and rants in two and three continuing posts that are quite hard to follow, yet somehow seem to reflect the disorganization thus far in the White House. Hey Donald, here’s a secret for you, TwitLonger.

I also enjoy reading Facebook in this new era of gloves-off partisanship. People I know personally, really nice people, love to pick fights and hurl abuse at those who have divergent views. Why not? Our president (precedent?) does this daily.

So now, once again, I can enjoy drama vicariously. As a bonus, Son 1 works in the heart of the action, the U.S. House of Representatives. If only he weren’t such a rule follower (so much like Greg and Jenny!) and would spill some beans for his poor, gossip-craving mama.

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