Loch Ness

Loch Ness

Thursday, November 3, 2016

You Down With EDD?

My mom used to say I have a champagne taste on a beer budget. Managing money has never been my forte. When we started talking about buying a house, I had to look at my bank accounts. Well actually, the bank people that we were applying for the loan with wanted to see both of our bank accounts, so I decided to take a peek first. I had never in my whole life looked at what I was spending my money on. I just figured, it’s expensive to live in Los Angeles, so I just will live paycheck to paycheck for the rest of my life or until I get my big break.  I had never actually looked at a budget though. I had had multiple people, including a therapist who I complained about never having money to and that being why I was sad, tell me, that I should start a budget, but it seemed like a lot of work. So when we went to apply for a loan, I thought it would be wise if I looked at where all my money was going to, before I shared my bank account information with my husband and the loan dude, just so I could explain myself if things got weird. Turns out, I was spending a fortune every month on food delivery services, whether it be yummy.com or postmates, I was spending a LOT of money on them. I am too embarrassed to say how much but let’s put it this way, after not doing that for about 4 months, I had saved almost $5000, before that, I did live paycheck to paycheck every month, so you do the math. Can you imagine how much money I would have if I listened to that fucking therapist and started a budget ten years ago?

These food delivery services are very duplicitous, Sam would say to me, “babe, did you really just order milk from yummy.com, I would have gotten it on my way home from work.” And I would tell him that I really needed the milk and that it was only $20 (which looking at that in black and white, is really a huge inflation from the normal cost of a gallon of Milk). Then the next day, I would realize, I needed toilet paper, and order from yummy again. In my head, ordering from yummy.com was way better for my sanity then going to the Vons on Centinela and Washington and almost committing murder crimes every time I had to wait in the lines there.

When I got pregnant, my food ordering obsession kicked into high gear. I would have a craving for P.F. Changs and the closest one was in Santa Monica and we lived in Culver City, and it was 5PM on a Friday and traffic was going to be insane. Well, that’s why Postmates was invented! By the time my $30 order of Orange Chicken and Mongolian Beef had arrived at our house, after traveling through rush hour traffic on a Friday night, 3 things had happened; one, it was very cold. Two, it was almost 8:30PM and I had ordered it over 3 hours ago. And three, it cost $108. I won’t go into all the times I did this with you. I tried my hardest for my cravings to be close to home places, but occasionally they drifted across town. I justified it with, it’s only $50 to keep a pregnant woman happy and I’m saving poor Sam the trip. (There was one night that I had an insane craving for the salsa from Tito’s tacos at about 10:00PM and I begged Sam to go out and get it for me. If you have ever been to Tito’s, the line generally takes at least 30 minutes every time. By the time Sam got home with my salsa, I was puking and too sick to eat it. After that night, he didn’t take me too seriously when I said I had to have something, NOW). Anyways, I justified the $40-$50 for dinners with all kinds of different pregnant (double-meaning) excuses, but the fact is, that adds up when you are doing it 5 nights a week, and I saw that, when I logged into wellsfargo.com.

When I saw the numbers on that cold mechanical screen, I couldn’t hide anymore, I couldn’t ignore it another day. I had to quit. I had to give it up. I put a self-imposed moratorium on my spending. I stopped the online grocery shopping and the online dinner ordering that day. I relapsed once when we signed the papers for our house and I wanted a Boba tea to celebrate, so I paid $35 to have two $5 Boba teas delivered to our house (the only reason it was so affordable is because it was closer than P.F. Chang’s). Then at the very end, when I was put on bed rest and literally laid flat for 22 hours of the day, only getting up horizontal to shower and eat, I justified going back to ordering meals. My favorite place was the pizza place downstairs in our building, they truly made the best BBQ Chicken pizza I’ve ever had. They didn’t charge a delivery fee for people in the building which was rad, so I ordered that pizza almost every day. Every time the delivery guy would get to the door, I would be embarrassed because I figured he thought I was the laziest human on the planet. I would explain to him that I was 9 months pregnant and on bed rest and the elevators were broken and I couldn’t make the journey 4 floors down, my doctor wouldn’t allow it. I should tell you that only about 2 people worked at this pizza place and I told them this story every time they came up, just in case they forgot. The point of that story is, besides my one Boba relapse, I stayed clean from using any form of food delivery service up until I was put on bed rest.

I had saved a considerable bit of money and was planning on  using some of it to decorate our house. Keep in mind, I was deprived of the almost cavewoman like need to “nest” in my home. I never got to do it. Every woman who has ever been pregnant knows what I’m talking about. I never got to for two reasons, I did not have a home until 12 days before Olive was born, and when we moved in those 12 days before, I was sentenced to the couch, so could not do anything.  I wasn’t even allowed to decorate the nursery. Joelene and Andy came over the day we moved in and they decorated as I shouted orders from the couch...occasionally I was allowed to go into the room and check the progress but only if I laid on the floor to do it. I would try to sit up and Joelene would bark, “I’m not going to help you and I’m going to leave if you lift your head once more.”

So after Olive was born and we came home, I went a little off the deep end. I was making up for lost time. I think it started with a pair of boxer leggings. I decided that Olive needed a pair of leggings with boxer dogs all over them. I didn’t even know if they existed, but I googled them anyway. Lo and behold, there was a company that made leggings with boxer dogs all over them. I was checking out when I noticed they also had Christmas donut leggings and reindeer leggings, and sushi leggings, and leggings with dinosaurs and roses on them, and turkey leggings. I had to have them all. In my defense, during checkout, I took the turkey leggings out of the cart, she would only be able to wear those one day which didn’t seem too cost effective. After my order (which was placed a month ago now and I still haven’t received), I got a thank you note from the seller and she asked me to follow her on instagram, which I did. And shortly after following her on instagram, all the baby clothing sites started popping up in my feed and asking me to follow them and soon I was following over 30 different baby clothing, accessory, paraphernalia sites. When I was in college in psychology 101 class they taught us that, P.T. Barnum (of Barnum and Bailey Circus), coined the phrase, “there’s a sucker born every minute.” They were referring to the things people will waste their money on at circus’ and the like and the tricks of the eye and slight of hand things people will pay to see. I just researched this to fact check it and he is actually attributed with saying that, but it may have been another dude. It may have been a dude named Michael Cassius McDonald who was referring to the roulette wheel (which is interesting because it is another weakness of mine). My point is, whoever coined the phrase, I am the sucker. And boy am I a sucker for online shopping for ANYTHING and EVERYTHING at 4am when I’m feeding a baby and have only slept a few hours in the last few days and it seems that I may actually die of exhaustion but I must carry on for the child. So there I find myself, at 4am in the darkest online shopping vortex, realizing I have spent all my money. Not just on baby stuff but on a new mom wardrobe which is necessary because my maternity clothes don’t fit anymore and my pre pregnancy clothes will never fit again, also my shoe size has grown an entire size, and a girl must have shoes. And then there is the house decor, who knows where the most money went to, it definitely was not my mom wardrobe but the baby gear and the house decor are neck and neck. And then my savings are gone...but WAIT, there is that emergency credit card I had, that I just paid off from Sam’s christmas present last year...and I will be getting a check from the EDD in a few days.

Two days before Olive was born, I got a call from the EDD saying I was cut off. That was weird, I only had received one check. I called them and listened to a 10 minute long automated message and when I got to the end was told “we’re sorry, we have exceeded the amount of people who can be on hold, please try back again, goodbye.” I continued calling them until I finally got through, I memorized the numerical prompts and cut the 10 minutes down to 6. Finally I got through and was told it had been a massive mistake on the EDD’s end and this “never happens,” and they would send me my check and they were “very sorry for the inconvenience.”  

A couple days after I spent my portion of the mortgage on the interweb, I got another notification, at 2AM on a Tuesday morning (yes, I was awake), saying they were cutting me off again, this time, it said I had been completely disqualified. I called first thing in the morning. I called 16 times and got hung up on every time. Olive was having a bad day and had been crying and inconsolable most of the day, I tried to call the EDD every time she got calm and meanwhile Sam was at work, watching the whole drama unfold on the nest camera and texting me saying, “I’m coming home to help.” I told Sam I had to learn to do this on my own and he needed to stay at work. Eventually he decided to not listen to me and came home anyways to try and be of service to the situation. Of course the minute he walked in the door, Olive stopped crying and went to sleep. I burst out crying at that moment, I considered throwing my phone through the wall, I considered going to the EDD and doing things that would probably get me arrested and although I don’t have very many readers, I am aware that we are all being watched so I won’t say exactly what I wanted to do to them on here.

I used to tune in to Ryan Seacrest every morning on my way to work at 8:10AM for the birthday giveaway. I tried for 3 years to get through to him and win that $10,000. I never even got past the busy signal. Sam used to get so much entertainment out of the fact that I did this, he thought it was very amusing. In the midst of my EDD nightmare he looked over at me and said, “babe, they are harder to get through to than Ryan Seacrest,” and I started crying all over again. A few minutes after that, I got an email from my work saying I owed $455 for my health insurance and Olive’s health insurance. If I was working, that would have come out of my paycheck and I would have never noticed it, but when you’re not working, that’s a lot of money. My phone started ringing and it was the cardiologist’s office telling me I needed to come in for an echocardiogram to rule out any problems because my blood pressure still had not come down, I let them know this was incredibly inconvenient at this time in my life and couldn’t it wait, like a year, they said absolutely not. At that moment, Sam suggested I go outside and meditate. Generally, a suggestion of this nature in the midst of a situation like this, would result in me exploding on Sam, but I went outside to meditate, as I had no idea what else to do. I cried and cried until my head was quiet and then I had some weird revelation. I had heard this in my secret society over and over again, but I guess you hear it when you want to…I was trying to control every aspect of my life. I was trying to control Olive’s crying, and I was trying to control the EDD phone lines, and I was trying to control the fact that I had to go back to work in a couple months and I really did not want to leave my baby but that was actually robbing me of the current time with her, and I was trying to control my blood pressure problems and manage them myself. All these things I was trying to control and I had zero control over any of them. I took a deep breath and came inside, Sam was still trying to get ahold of the EDD for me. I told him to stop and that we were not going to call these mother fuckers anymore today and we’d try again in the morning when they opened at 8AM. For now, we would enjoy our time with Olive and each other and not waste one more postpartum tear on this stupid Tuesday.

On Wednesday morning at 7:30AM, I sat at my kitchen table with my phone in one hand and oatmeal in the other. Sam suggested I call at 7:54AM since we knew it took 6 minutes to get through with skipping the prompts and they opened at 8AM. He was going to try to call at 8AM, in case they didn’t pick up callers who dialed in before. I got through! Important to let you know that Sam, at 8AM (when they OPENED), got the message saying “we’re sorry, we have exceeded the amount of people who can be on hold, please try back again, goodbye.”

I would like to tell you that after I got through to them, the drama ended...but it didn’t. I was speaking to a very nice woman for about 45 minutes. I have learned in my 35 years on this spinning rock, that when dealing with bureaucracy, you must be overly kind. I was acutely aware that every person they spoke to all day was probably very pissed by the time they got on the phone after being on hold so long, so I just killed her with kindness. She really liked me. She even asked me if I was filipino because according to her “Gayle is a filipino name.” I let her know that I wasn’t filipino in my kindest voice and I considered telling her that filipino people were my favorite race because I figured she must be filipino but I thought that may be overkill. She patiently and diligently worked on my claim, she told me there had been a huge mistake which never happens, but that it would take her some time to reverse it. We were on the phone for 45 minutes when the call dropped, and we got disconnected. Sam, who had been sitting across the table from me this whole time, looked at me like he was looking at a bomb that was about to explode. I very calmly put my phone down and announced that I would be going to take a shower and meditate before I lost it because this was really fucking with my serenity. Sam came in the bathroom about 15 minutes later and told me he was on hold with the EDD and he had called back and actually gotten through. What a good man. I was just as kind to the next lady as the last and she resolved the money issue. I very nicely asked her if there was any other way to get through to them in case I got cut off again and she let me know that unfortunately this was the “easiest way.” The easiest way!! Can you imagine? The easiest way to get 55% of my paycheck in the mail, so that I can take a few months off work to spend with my baby girl, after working one job or another since I was 14 years old and paying taxes on every paycheck, is to wait on hold, sometimes for days, and call back to back to back until I am pushed to the brink of insanity. If you say so.

That was two weeks ago. This morning, when I logged into my bank account, to make sure my next payment went through, I was not surprisingly surprised to find that it had not in fact been deposited into my hollow bank account. I logged onto the EDD website. Those nice people disqualified me again. I wondered what once in a lifetime major mistake they made this time, for the third time in two months on my account. I pulled out my cell phone and dialed the number and settled in for a long day of back to back calls. As I listened to the annoying automated bitch start her 6 minute onslaught, I considered, that robbing a bank, would probably be an easier way to get my money.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Plant Lives Matter and La Leche League

You know when your Monday starts off with you waking up to your 80 pound dog falling out of your bed that is 4 feet off the ground, with a stumbling crash, followed up by your oatmeal exploding in the microwave, that it probably is going to be an off day. You probably would be better served heading back to bed. But you have a newborn, so going back to bed and starting off on a different side, perhaps, the right side, is not an option.

Nobody told us at our breastfeeding class in the hospital, what to do if you didn’t make any milk. All they told us is “breast is best.” If you don’t breastfeed and you formula feed then your baby will have a fucked up gut and none of the good bacterias for a healthy intestine and your baby will grow up maladjusted to life and probably become an alcoholic. (They didn’t say the alcoholic part, but being that that is in her DNA, everything that could disrupt her peaceful existence, results in alcoholism in my mind).

In the hospital we had problems with latching. The sweetest lactation consultant lady called Rosemary came by and tried to help but the day Olive was born was a very busy day for babies being born in the hospital so Rosemary was being pulled this way and that and she didn’t get to spend too much time with us. When we weren’t getting the latch right, Rosemary showed us how to hand express the colostrum into a spoon. She yanked and pulled and squeezed on my boobs for about 45 minutes and that produced less than a teaspoon of colostrum which was then sucked up into the tiniest syringe you have ever seen. Sam then sterilized his hands and stuck his pinky in Olive’s mouth and every time she would suck he would squeeze out one tiny hash mark of the syringe into her mouth. This whole process took possibly hours, I don’t know, but we continued to do it at every feeding. By the time we got home from the hospital we were getting a couple teaspoons of colostrum at every feeding and a few syringes full to give to her but my milk did not come in.

Sam called Rosemary at the hospital and she said we needed to start pumping right away, even if only a drop came out, this would start generating milk. Here was her suggestion, which we followed, diligently. Feed baby on each boob until she falls asleep or stops sucking, then pump for 20 minutes, then give baby whatever you pumped, as she may not have gotten anything out of boob when feeding. I hadn’t even sterilized my pump yet or looked at the directions on how to use it. I was so emotional, reading directions seemed overwhelming. Sam facetimed Veronica and asked her how to setup and use the pump. Veronica very patiently walked us through everything, as I very frantically tried to follow her guidance. I was crying during this also, and Veronica panned the camera over to her 6 month old daughter Violet, who was sitting next to her, watching this whole ordeal unfold with amusement. Now here is a little backstory on Violet, the girl likes to eat. She has had a voracious appetite since birth. She recently started solid foods, but she still loves milk and would not scoff at any form of food. I was sitting on my bed, with my boobs out, trying to figure out the archaic looking torture chamber pump, adrenalin pumping, because obviously the quicker this happened, the quicker my baby could eat. Meanwhile Veronica tried to explain everything to Sam, tears were streaming down my defeated face that had disappointed my baby by not being able to provide for her and Veronica panned over to Violet’s face and she was looking directly at my boobs that were hanging out and drool started dribbling down her chubby little chin. Violet was dissapointed, if only she knew, “Oh Vi, they are empty, you wouldn’t enjoy them as much as you think you might, they are like cotton candy, they look really good, but just empty calories.” Sam and I and Veronica were reduced to hysterical laughter watching that drool drip down her face. I was laughing and crying and pumping. The whole process Rosemary suggested to us took anywhere between 2 and 3 hours, and because you are supposed to feed baby every 3 hours from start to start, we would finish the process and then have a 5 minute nap and have to start again.

We were home from the hospital for 24 hours with no wet diapers when we called the pediatrician’s office, quite concerned.  Actually, Sam called the office while I was taking a nap. By the time I had woken up from my nap, Sam had spoken to them, they had said he needed to start formula because she wasn’t getting enough fluids, and he had been to the office and back home with about 64 free samples of different formulas for her. That was around 3PM. I woke up to this news and just wept. I cried for hours. I was a failure. Our baby’s tummy would be ruined and she would have chronic stomach problems for life.I refused to give her the formula. We would wait. My milk was coming. I told Sam we needed to wait a few hours, he just wanted to feed our baby. We waited, but it didn’t come. At midnight, 9 hours later, I was in hysterics and finally conceded that we must give her formula. I was told by a trusted friend that up until 10 years ago, breastfeeding was for the poor people and all the wealthy people used formula and there was nothing wrong with that (I thought of all the rich people that went through rehabs I worked at and figured it was probably because they were formula fed, of course it was, I had discovered one of the leading causes of alcoholism and a great scientific paper would be written on my discovery). She also asked me if I would rather starve my baby than give her formula, that got through my thick skull. Olive peed about 3 hours after starting the formula and I cried again, with joy.  

I called a lactation specialist the next morning. The second they picked up the phone I started blubbering crying. Somehow, the angel of a lady on the other line, worked out what I was trying to say through my tears. I imagine this wasn’t the first call of this nature she had gotten. She told me they would send someone out the next day, she told me not to distress, that my “ milk fairy” would come in that night and I’d wake up the next morning looking like Pamela Anderson, these were her words, not mine. I didn’t believe her, but she had a lot of conviction in her voice, and  I could tell, she believed it.

I woke up the next morning to milk soaking through my tank top and my sheets.  That was the most milk I made for a while.  The lactation consultant arrived, she was brilliant, and I do believe, a whole blog could be written on that experience, so I will save it, but I have to say she had many amazing phrases such as “your baby is going to eat at the Breastaurant, let’s make this an enjoyable experience for her!” And, a good way to remember how to feed her was one boob was the “appetizer” then you switched and gave the “entree and dessert” on the next boob, then the next time you pumped, start on the opposite boob. It’s all very scientific. Sam spoke to his friend and fellow dad Chris, who told Sam he doesn’t look at boobs the same way anymore, he has come to believe that boobs are very “utilitarian.”

I had trouble making enough milk and when we would run out, instead of freaking out and starving my baby, I would run for the formula and get it in her as soon as possible. I started taking Fenugreek and eating different foods to help with milk production and doing everything possible to become a milk producing factory. Apparently Guinness is good for milk production but that may be taking it a little too far I figured, since in less than a month I would have 11 years sober, although it would make for the most interesting relapse story I ever heard. So I also started Brewer’s Yeast on my oatmeal along with a few other milk making disgusting tasting cardboardy food items. Turns out our baby is colicky and one of the number one colic causing foods is Brewer’s Yeast, so that had to be taken out of the regimen. I started drinking Mother’s Milk tea with every meal and between every meal, I basically was on an IV drip of the stuff. Slowly but surely, I started making enough to feed our baby. I didn’t have extras like a lot of people I knew who were able to freeze some, but I made just enough everyday to feed her. I did do something sacrilegious the other day. We ran out of milk and I put the little extra breast milk I had in case of growth spurts, in my coffee and oatmeal. It did seem a little cannibalistic, but I just tried to look at it as me becoming very resourceful. I hope she doesn’t need that milk this week.

I took out the diaper trash can a couple days later and found my wilted and withering orchid on top of the trash bin outside. I had kept that orchid alive longer than any other plant I ever had. Sam had given it to me for Valentine’s day this year and it had survived, it was a survivor. I read up about how to keep an orchid alive and it said one ice cube a week, so I did just that, all the way up until moving to the new house. Then when we had to vacate our house for the whole summer, I left my poor orchid behind and it died without it’s weekly ice cube feedings. When your house floods with shit, I imagine it’s similar to any other natural disaster, you get the bare necessities, the photo albums, the favorite clothes that you can’t live without, the important documents from the file cabinet...you don’t think to bring the orchid. I immediately grabbed my poor forlorn orchid out of the trash heap and brought it inside the house, determined to resurrect it back to life. I must feed my orchid!!

I have four plants now that I tend to. I have a mini rose that my mom brought me when I was on bed rest in the apartment, he is really struggling. I have a bonsai Olive tree that one of Sam’s mom, Jane, art curator type friends/clients gave Olive as a welcome home present. I have a baby Olive tree that Jane gave us. The Bonsai Olive and the Olive seem to be thriving. And I have an orchid, and I really hope I can save her. All of a sudden all lives matter. Plant lives matter. I want to feed everyone in the world and start with everyone in this house. I find myself watering the babies and speaking to them, in the strange manner that I used to watch Sam’s grandma Ann speak to all her plants. I never understood why she did that, but Ann wasn’t a woman that you questioned. Now I get it, she was encouraging them to grow. I ask them what they need and speak to them and tell them good morning, because nobody wants to be ignored, that would be very lonely. My poor orchid almost perished this summer because she was all alone.

My boobs were killing me the past few days and I was pretty sure if it wasn’t mastitis then it was definitely engorgement and I read online that you could solve this problem with wet or dry heat prior to pumping or feeding. So after the 4am feeding I saw an opportunity in Stewie. He was laying on Sam’s side of the bed, keeping it warm while Sam was trying to put Olive to sleep, (which involves clocking miles walking back and forth through our house while bouncing and shsssing the baby until she drifts off). Sam finally came back in the room and I asked him if he’d mind pushing Stewie around to face the other way so I could spoon him. Spooning would kill two birds with one stone, I could give Stewie a cuddle, which were few and far between and not nearly as often as they used to be (it would alleviate some of my guilt), and I could take advantage of his dry heat to keep my boobs warm, sort of a symbiotic relationship. A couple hours later, I woke up to my poor dog crashing to the floor, I didn’t even know what was happening until I heard the crash. Sam had just left for work and Stewie was jumping out of bed to run and look out the front window and watch him drive away, which is his way of saying goodbye to daddy until he comes home later. He had been right on the edge of the bed because I was so selfish, and was using him to ease my conscience and my boobs and he misjudged where he was and fell out of the fucking bed. I ran after Stewie to see if he was okay, he looked okay, no limping, no yelping. I decided I should get started on the day as the crashing commotion had the baby stirring already. I put my oatmeal (a great milk producer according to all the important sources), in the glass dish that it always explodes over in, and I always forget that it does that. I made my coffee. I opened the microwave to doctor my oatmeal with flaxseed and coconut oil (also milk producers) sans Brewer’s Yeast, and found it exploded everywhere. This is when I realized if I didn’t have a baby I would probably go back to bed and start my day over in an hour. Instead, I sat down at the table with my sticky bowl of oatmeal and began to do my morning pump. I got 7 ounces. If you don’t know anything about breastfeeding, trust that that is a good harvest! It must have been Stewie’s dry heat. La Leche League should add that tip to their website, “If you have a dog, spoon him before a feeding, just please make sure he is not on the edge of the bed.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

After the shit hit the fan...A River (of Shit) Runs Through It (Part 2) (The Happy Ending Part)

A few hours after I posted my blog, “A River (of shit) Runs Through It,” I came out to the living room to find a very down trodden looking husband. “Where is the happy ending baby,” he asked me? He was upset. And why wouldn’t he be? He spent the better part of his summer and every day from August to September working on building our house and making it a home. Up until this year, Sam’s summers consisted of working all day and then surfing every evening after work, he almost never missed a day of surf during the summer as long as I have known him. This summer he worked all day, got off, went to the house and started helping the contractors with their work. The last few weeks when they went past their completion date (September 1st), I was on bedrest  and my due date was looming in the future (September 23rd), he was sometimes at the house until it was too dark to work anymore and would come back to our haunted apartment covered in paint and dirt and with cuts and bruises up and down his arms and legs and bags of groceries because he had to do that too. Why wouldn’t he be upset to see me post something so sad about the beautiful home he had built for us. “Babe, I wrote that 3 months ago!!” I told him. I could see he was still sad but was trying to be supportive of my entrance back into writing. “I will do a part two to the article, okay?”

I started writing “A River (of shit) Runs Through It,” our first night at the Residence Inn Extended Stay in Beverly Hills. I was up all night writing it because my head was so loud about all the events that had happened in a one week span, that I felt, if I didn’t get my thoughts out, i would never sleep. I ended up not sleeping anyways, I think I wrote until about 4am and had to be up at 6:30am for work. I posted the blog but never posted a post on facebook, and since I have about 2 followers from 3 years ago, who don’t even follow me, nobody ever knew I wrote it, and nobody ever saw it. But it was cathartic to get it out.

The insurance company came out to our house immediately after the floods. And they came with a whole entourage of people that were going to be involved in the process. We were told that every place that water touched would have to be ripped out. So essentially the back half of the house, or in other words, half the house. They were going to cut 2 feet up on all the walls that were just painted and 2 feet out on all the hardwood floors.
Then they would bring in fans to dry everything and then we could start to rebuild, once the check from the insurance came. In the meantime, the housing relocation agency was going to put us up in an apartment in Torrance. Torrance!!! Sam explained to the insurance adjustor who was in charge of our case, Travis, who called often to check in on us that they wanted to put us in Torrance and that his wife was 7 months pregnant and worked in West Los Angeles and already had a very long drive without adding to it. Travis was appalled! Travis vowed to make this right and call us back. I should note, that one of the reasons they had to put us so far away is because I insisted that wherever we go would have to take Stewie, because I wasn’t going to have his life upended anymore than it already had been by having him separated from us. The truth is, he probably would have been much happier at his Uncle Bryan and Auntie Steph’s house, which Sam pointed out many times, the real person that couldn’t stand to have their life upended anymore was me and it was at the risk of Stewie’s happiness that I demanded he stay with us as we went from apartment to hotel to apartment.  The housing agency called us back shortly after Travis got off the phone with us and let us know that they would be putting us up in the Beverly Hills Extended Stay Residence Inn, they took dogs, and they were about a mile from my work. It was only temporary while they looked for a more permanent solution for us.  

Stewie hated the Residence Inn. They were so nice to us there, but Stewie is not a city dog. He did not like Beverly Hills. He had lived in a house his whole life and now we were on the second floor of a hotel. He had never even ridden an elevator before we moved into the hotel...we couldn’t take the stairs because we had to park on the top floor of the building and take the elevator down to our floor. He panicked so much every time we got in that elevator. Sam and I would take a big breath and pray that he didn’t poop himself as he shook and quivered under our feet (he has had a few incidents in his life of pooping on himself in public places because he gets scared).
Guests in the elevator would marvel over what a cute dog we had and Sam and I would watched Stewie get real low and get into the pooping position and hold our breath and telepathically send him messages, please don’t do it Stewie, you got this buddy. When the elevator opened and he would bolt out with no poo on the ground we would exhale a sigh of relief. Sam and Stewie would get back to the hotel around 6PM from work and Stewie would pace the hotel floor crying and whining. We would try to take him out on walks in the street to go to the bathroom and it was actually good timing because the Pokemon craze just hit, so we could walk and look for Pokemons, but no matter how short or long the walk was, (a short walk being to the outside of the hotel entrance and a long walk being one city block because Stewie refused to go any further after that), he just would not squeeze a drop. He doesn’t like to pee in the city, or on a leash. So he would hold all his bodily fluids from 6PM until the next day at 8:30am when he got to work with Sam. I witnessed this a couple times myself when I took Stewie in and he did the longest pee I have ever seen every time.

After about a week of living in the hotel, Sam got a call from his friend Travis, the insurance adjustor, (they had become friends by this time), Travis was going to come out for a site visit and give us a rough estimate of what they would be paying us. Sam told me later that day that the visit with Travis went better than imagined. It turns out, Travis was a classic car fanatic and loved Sam’s ‘56 Chevy Pickup in our garage. Travis deemed that our house was an absolute mess, it would cost A LOT of money to fix it, they were going to pay for whatever it cost, except the plumbing, we were responsible for that. He gave Sam a check that day to start the work and let him know there was more where that came from. He also said way more would need to be ripped out than we originally thought, the master bathroom linoleum floors that i hated already, the floors in the guest bathroom, the walls in the master bedroom.

Sam spoke to his brother’s friend Lucas who is an architect and asked him if he would mind taking a look at the house just to give us some ideas, if we had to tear out half of it, maybe we could install a linen closet while we were doing the work, I really wanted a linen closet, and the house didn’t come with one. Lucas emailed Sam some drawings a few hours later with a completely different floor plan. The original Master bedroom had a really ridiculous floor plan, which wasted a lot of space, we figured when we bought the house we would fix that in ten years when we could afford it. Lucas had taken our floor plan and turned it into a masterpiece design by just moving a few walls. We just needed to wait and see what the insurance was going to give us financially and then make a decision if we wanted to do the work and pay the difference, or just fix what had flooded. We were on the clock, but it did seem, that if we were doing all this work anyway, why not do ALL the work, If we had to be put out for a month, why not two months?

A week after Travis came and visited the house, Sam called to see if he had any updates on what we would be getting. Travis didn’t work there anymore. Reading between the lines, he had been fired. We were told he was reassigned to a different case but Sam blew up his phone and email, emails bounced back and phone number no longer existed. Someone new was assigned to our case. We only had one point of contact before radio silence with the new guy for what I remember to be at least a week. The new guy called and said that he didn’t have a number for us, that he would have to come out and assess the situation, that Travis had made a mess of the job and nothing was done correctly, and that all this work for us would be put on hold because tornados were sweeping across the midwest and they were higher priority than our problems. Our one advocate in Travis was gone, this new guy didn't care about us.

The Saturday after Shitstorm, I went to my women’s secret society meeting in the morning. The night of the Shitstorm I had quite a few things going through my head, one of the ones in the forefront of my mind was, if I wasn’t pregnant right now, I would have a drink, I would get good and drunk. I was over 10 years sober. I did something at my meeting that morning that I hadn’t done in many years, I heard the old slogan in my head “you can’t save your ass and your face at the same time.” I raised my hand and shared. I shared how unhappy I was, I shared that I wanted to burn down my house, and I shared that I wanted to drink. Because it is a secret society, I can’t go into many more details than that, I’m going to do my best to tell this part of the story as anonymous as I can but it is also part of my story, I hope I don’t offend anyone. A woman came up to me and told me she would help me if I was willing to go to any lengths, I didn’t know what that meant but I called her anyway because I figured, if it didn’t work, then as they say in my secret society, “they’d refund my misery.” This woman said I would have to do some things differently, if i wanted to work with her, she asked what I was willing to do. I said I was willing to write anything she asked but not go to any secret society meetings, I didn’t have time to go to any outside of my Saturday morning. She said she wanted me to go to a meeting everyday until the baby was born, that would equate to about 90 meetings in 90 days. I told her she was crazy, did she realize I was almost 11 years sober? She said take it or leave it. I started going to meetings everyday after work, I hated every single minute of it. In fact, I shared at meetings about how much I hated being in meetings but I had no idea what else to do and I was pretty sure drinking wouldn’t solve my problems. I was a real asshole, I basically told them all to go fuck themselves. It was the same thing I did when I first came to the secret society 14 years before, told them all how fake I thought they were and how I wanted nothing to do with them, but I kept going back every week after I told them that, nobody else wanted me, and they kept reaching out their hands to me. All my friends kept asking me this summer, “who is this woman, does she know that you have been doing this for 10 years?” I told them yes, but that I was out of options and I had to try what she was suggesting but that it wasn’t working and if things didn’t improve, I would stop working with her. I truly hated every minute of meetings but kept going because I was desperate. Then on my fourth week of doing this everyday and feeling no change, I thought, I’m going to fire my sponsor, this is ridiculous and I still feel like shit, I’m going to go to my womens meeting and then I’m going to fire her. I went to my meeting and  I heard a woman speak about how she had had a baby, stopped going to meetings and went out with double digit sobriety, she went out for almost ten years or maybe it was more, her daughter grew up with her drinking, she was taking a year cake that day. I don’t know what you believe in, but that day I felt like something bigger than me was speaking through her to me and I had two choices and two different paths I could go down. I knew as sure as the sun rises and sets, that I was going in the same direction as her, that would be me.  I thanked her for sharing her story. She doesn't know just how much she changed my life. But one day, I'll tell her.

The housing company eventually moved us to an apartment in Playa Vista. The apartment, built on the burial grounds of Tongva indians was haunted. The fire alarms went off every single day of the week, first time it happened the firemen that came told us that they were there every day of the week and that it was built on Indian burial grounds and never should have been, no kidding, they dug up 417 Tongva Indian skeletons and I wonder if it was worth it, if the developers would do it again, because I’m sure I wasn’t the only person calling them asking them to fix the fire alarms and the elevators every day of the week and I only lived there for two months. And yes, the elevators were broken at least once a week and we were on the fourth floor, much to Stewie’s chagrin. I would get home from work, find the elevators broken and walk up one flight at a time, 40 pounds heavier than my normal body weight and I would stop and sit down at every flight to catch my breath. Stewie hated it just as much as the hotel and the only solace he found was laying in my pregnancy pillow, every time I came home, I found him curled up inside of it.
  I’m pleased to say, by the last few weeks of the summer, we had him peeing on the leash, and occasionally, he would do a poo. I’m realizing now that everything that happened in that apartment may require a whole separate blog.

Around the middle of August, my friends Sarah and Joey and their kids came to visit us, we went to the house to check on the progress, I hadn’t seen it in a few weeks and they hadn’t seen it at all. Their daughter found an earring on the floor and brought it to me, I asked her where she found it and she pointed to a spot on the floor, I walked over and found a pile of rat poop, upon further investigation, the whole living room and kitchen had rat poop scattered around. I won’t go into my second mental breakdown but I was forbidden to go back to the house after that.

I’m running out of time so I’m going to skip the bed rest and the high blood pressure and the laying on the couch in haunted apartment for last month and we will make that into a blog for when I have nothing to write about. Right now, I have tons of inspiration. We moved back into the house on September 11th, 2016 after being out for over two months. I had not seen the house in almost a month when we moved back in, it was safer that way. The house was beautiful. Better than I could ever imagine. Still, now a month since we have lived here, I go from room to room thinking, I can’t believe this is mine, I can’t believe how flipping lucky I am that my house flooded with shit. The truth is, when we bought the house, I knew it was a good investment but I didn’t love the house. Like I said, there was a lot I wanted to change, in ten years when we could hopefully afford to. I never imagined that it would happen in ten weeks! I feel like the guy in Spring Breakers (quite possibly the stupidest movie of all time that I ever wasted 1 hour and 34 minutes of my life on), “look at all my stuff, look at all my things,” except I don’t say it out loud because I’d sound like a dick, I just say it in my head to myself. I love my house. I love my shower. I love that Stewie can play in the backyard and those fucking fleas are finally dead after round 500 of flea control coming to our house. A few days after we came home with the baby, our hot water heater broke, they came out and fixed it and then it broke two days later and this time the gas company came out and put a red tag on it. I didn’t have the same feeling as before when that happened. I didn’t feel like the house was intentionally fucking with me and that it was going to fuck with me until we either moved out or I burned it down. It didn’t feel like the house was trying to ruin my life anymore. It just felt like bad luck. I didn’t lose it. I laughed. I boiled water for a week every time I had to clean the baby bottles. I said to Sam, “well babe, eventually all of our appliances will be replaced and there will be nothing left to break.” All we have left is that piece of pipe between the street and our house, the dryer, and the dishwasher. They will probably break next week after me writing that down, and I’ll try not to lose it then.

I got a lot of advice from people this summer telling us we should sue and that we had a case against the previous owners for not disclosing any of the problems with the house, which according to them, all started the day they gave us the keys. In the beginning, I was so angry, I really did want to ruin and destroy them. Someone just the other day suggested we sue again. I can’t stand an ambulance chaser. I’m not trying to be greedy, we already came out way ahead. I didn't even get into the fact that the second insurance guy that we were weary about ended up being even better than Travis and they even ended up paying for a significant part of the plumbing. It would be bad karma to even think about trying to get more than we have, when we already have been way overpaid. We were taken such good care of this summer. I sometimes stop and wonder if it was because the insurance company thought we might be ambulance chasers and they didn’t like the sound of 7 month pregnant women left living in shit house and insurance does nothing to help. Were they so good to us because I was pregnant or did we just have brilliant insurance?

Sam’s mom and Stepdad have started coming every Thursday for dinner. Two Thursdays ago, they brought a bottle of wine to have with their dinner and they each had a glass. When they were leaving to go home, Jane went to pull out the cork and pour the wine down the sink. Ever the good alcoholic, even when I’m not drinking, I wanted to know what the heck she thought she was doing and why would she waste that? I thought maybe she thought it was triggering to have it in our house so she was trying to help us. She said Burt would never drink white wine that had already been opened. I told her my parents were coming up that weekend and they had no qualms about drinking already opened wine and it would be nice for me to have something to offer them, so she left it. My mom and dad came up that weekend and we had Shrimp and Oyster Po Boy sandwiches from Bayou Grille and I was able to offer them wine with their sandwiches.

I got a message from my friend Sherah last week that a client we had shared and sober companioned together had died of an overdose. I really liked her. It would have still been sad if I didn’t like her. Young, beautiful girl, she was so funny and fun to be around which was rare with our job, usually I really didn’t like my companion clients and I can count on my hand the ones I worked with that I did. Most of them had no desire for help and as a result treated us like glorified babysitters, which we were. I felt so bad for this girls family.

Last week Jane and Burt came with another bottle of wine. I didn’t even realize they did, until later that night when I was putting my pumped milk in the fridge and saw it sitting there, a bottle of wine next to all my pumped bags of milk. I realized, staring at that green bottle, that just 3 months ago,  in July, I wanted to drink. And I actually may have, had it been sitting right there in front of me. I wondered about Cameron and how long she stayed sober after we worked with her. Because I had a bottle of wine, sitting in my fridge, and no desire to drink it. What if she had waited for the feeling to pass? What if I hadn’t? I saw that bottle glistening next to my boob milk and I thanked god that I didn’t drink back in July because I could have missed all this. I would have missed all this. And that would be a supreme tragedy.  I wish I could have told Cameron all that she was going to throw away and how really good it could be if she just waited and held on. But this life,  it’s not for everybody.

This evening, Sam got home from work and I finished feeding Ollie and put her in the sling and turned on Elton John. We have had a rough few days of lots of crying and not so much sleeping. We had been trying to do this cry it out thing but it just wasn’t working for us and the sound of her crying literally shredded my soul. We decided we would try again in a few months when  she was a little older. There are so many different books and different ideas and Sam and I are trying to merge all of our ideas and find what works best for us and Ollie. It was a long day today and I spent half of it, dealing with my other child and his itchy paws and bathing him and rubbing him down in coconut oil everywhere and then putting socks on in an effort to get him to not get the coconut oil all over our couch, and then giving him Benadryl because he wouldn’t move from his place on the floor when the socks were on, and doing all this with an almost 4 week old hanging in a sling. So like i was saying, Sam got home from work, I put Ollie in her sling, because I discovered that she likes being in the sling after eating and she will fall asleep in there if Elton John is on and I dance a little and sing to her. I went outside and the sun was setting and Stewie who was hopped up on Benadryl and nodding off, followed Ollie and I out and sat watching us as we danced. Sam was inside watching the debate of the century of two of the most horrendous monsters I have ever seen and I thought, what a strange world you have come into Ollie, where one of these two morons will become president. I texted Sam to pause the debate and come outside because it was so beautiful and the light was perfect on our house and it was a little cooler after about what felt like a 100 degree day and it felt so nice like fall was in the air. Sam came outside and the four of us sat on our porch looking out at the sunset, swaying to Elton John as the sun ducked down into the horizon and I thought, this is the fucking life.  I’m so grateful a woman in my secret society made me go to a meeting everyday. Thank god she did. I could have missed all this.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

No Sleep Till Brooklyn

I fall asleep everywhere. Last week we went to the cardiologist to have my blood pressure evaluated further and Sam and I were the youngest people in a room surrounded by ancient artifacts of humans. I could hear a man probably in his eighties or nineties telling who may have been his caregiver a joke, and he was laughing away, full of so much life. Meanwhile, Sam and I, the youngest two people in this room were sleeping on the waiting room couch like two junkies on the nod, almost dead. I went to get my nails done on Tuesday because I wanted to feel a little human again and I fell asleep when they started the foot massage. I fall asleep on the toilet sitting up in the middle of the night between feedings. I have a terrible fear of falling asleep sitting up feeding her and will nudge Sam to watch me and make sure my eyes are open because I don’t want to drop her. Despite all of this, I actually am getting more sleep now than I was the last month of being pregnant I think.

I texted Joelene a couple weeks before Ollie was born that I couldn’t wait for her to be here and finally get some sleep, she texted back with “hahahahahahahahahah.” She proceeded to tell me that yes, I would get some sleep, in a few years. I am getting more than I was getting before she was born, when I was up all night, unable to find a comfortable position, wide awake from laying down 22 hours out of the day (doctor’s orders). My legs would crawl and itch and jump and I would try to shove them under pillows and the crack in the couch in order to stop the jumping because it kept me up and slowly drove me insane until I would pray to god to stop the crawling and think about what sweet relief it would be to saw my legs off. I’m definitely sleeping more now. I get between 3 and 5 hours every night, depending on the night.  And it turns out, I don’t really need more than that! I used to love sleep, it was my way of checking out, the way normal people may have a glass of wine. I find myself being more productive than I have been my whole life, on those 3 to 5 hours. There is just so much I want to do now. I haven’t even caught up on any of my shows during that time. In the 3 weeks we have been home I have watched only 2 hours of TV and that was both my recorded episodes of Below Deck, and I was barely paying attention because I was doing so many projects in between. I find myself, everytime Ollie shuts her eyes for a minute, making a mad dash to clean the house, wash the dishes, unpack boxes (we only moved in 12 days before she was born), add things into her baby book, work on my blog, fill out the various paperwork associated with having a child, order birth announcements. As they say in my secret society, the list goes on, ad infinitum.

The person who has had hardest time adapting to less sleep is Stewie, he is the only person I know who loved sleep more than me, pre Ollie. When we first brought Ollie home, Stewie was definitely wondering who the heck this attention stealing blob of flesh was. The first night he was thrilled to see that he still got to sleep in the bed with us and she would be sleeping in a rock n play on the floor. The day before Sam had to go back to work, I wanted to give him a full night’s sleep so that he would be well-rested for work. I woke up in the middle of the night to Ollie stirring and Stewie dry heaving which happens every once in a blue moon that he gets sick in the middle of the night and I am up all night with him, and I couldn’t believe his timing to choose tonight. I called him up in the bed and wrapped myself around him and cuddled him for hours, Ollie gave us a break and slept for a few hours so that I could tend to my first born who had an upset tummy. Poor Stewie, Sam and I find him during the day, trying to watch Ollie and he is nodding out too, with his eyes open. He is so strange, before Ollie, he was so skittish, and any strangers that came to the door, he would run and hide under the table like an elementary school kid in an earthquake drill. Since she came, he gets right in between Ollie and every person who walks across our threshold, he’s made it his mission without even being asked really, but it’s so hard to be a bodyguard when you are working with only a few hours of sleep. I look at him and my heart hurts, only the most selfless of beings would go from being the center of our universe to taking care of the new attention stealer and never complain once about it. I tell everyone Stewie is human, it offends me when someone calls him a dog because it offends him, but only a dog could make that sacrifice.

Despite all this sleep deprivation, we have a REALLY good baby. I mean, I have no prior experience to base this off of. I never really cared for babies until I had my own, so I wasn’t paying too much attention. Now all of a sudden I’m the corniest, gushiest human on the planet. I know I don’t have the market cornered on baby loving, but I care about other people’s children out of nowhere, or out of somewhere, out of Olivewhere. Although we have this tiny sleep terrorist, she is not crying all night long, she is just awake. According to witnesses to my infancy, I cried around the clock for the first year of my life, only stopping when taken on a car ride and as soon as the engine turned off I would start wailing again. But Ollie is just awake, she can’t figure out the difference between day and night yet, and she is ALWAYS hungry. Sam looks at her and her tummy looks like it may bust at the seams and she keeps eating. I can’t make milk fast enough to feed this hungry girl so we find ourselves in the middle of the night supplementing with formula when the milk vampire has drained my supply and my boobs feel like they have been cut open from the inside out with razor blades. My friend Alissa had a baby two weeks before us, it’s her second so she is a bit more evolved than myself. She says anytime Marlo breaks the cycle or is up all night when he slept the whole night before, she just says to herself, “growth spurt.” So when Sam is freaking out, saying he thinks we may be overfeeding our child, I just say, “she’s going through a growth spurt, and we can’t put our baby on a diet, she’s not a goldfish who will eat until she explodes, she will stop, when she is full.”

So what do I do during these sometimes 3 or 4 hour awake stretches at night? One of three things. One, I online shop, because I was on bed rest that last month and we didn’t have our house until 12 days before she was born, I never got to nest. Women have a cavewoman pull and desire to build a nice home for their babies, I was deprived of this. So I shop for house stuff, for anything and everything we need, the list never stops. Two, I look up baby questions I have. This is a very interesting one because during my pregnancy, I forbade myself to go online and research symptoms, I spent the first three months doing that and every time I went online, I was convinced I was going to have a miscarriage. I had a pretty difficult pregnancy between a barrage of different health problems and a very dark depression that could have been situational (read blog “A River (of Shit) Runs Through It,” but I think it was deeper than that. Now that she is here, I look up everything, because I know nothing about babies; can she get a regular bath if the majority of her cord has fallen off but there is still a little piece or do I continue sponge baths? Is it safe to take her out in public before her first round of shots at 2 months? Is it normal that she holds a bottle on her own or is she a genius? Is it normal that she already grabs her feet, or is she a genius? Does every mother thing their baby is a genius? Three, I research ways to improve milk supply. I start with why is my milk supply low? I get tons of ads for supplements to improve milk supply. I see huge bruises on my legs that were not the result of hitting anything, they just appeared. I was anemic during pregnancy and the doctor said it could happen again postpartum, I google, does anemia cause low milk supply, yes, it does! Eat more meat, you can’t take Iron supplements when breast feeding. Then there is the coconut oil. We started mixing in a teaspoon of coconut oil to Stewie’s food a few weeks ago because he was chewing his paws like crazy and I read that that would help. Within days of starting this, his coat felt nicer, his breath smelled better, he finally started losing some weight after trying so many doggie diets at the vet’s recommendation for the past few years. The only thing the coconut oil didn’t help, was Stewie chewing his paws.. So coincidentally, I also find that this miracle potion, will increase milk supply, I start putting 3 tablespoons of it a day in my oatmeal. Stewie and I both smell like Hawaii, coconut oil is seeping out of our pores. I start breaking out, probably because of something else pregnancy related and I put coconut oil on. I feel like the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding that thinks Windex will cure everything, but instead I’m promoting coconut oil. I pump every 3 hours, rain or shine to keep the milk going.  I walk around the house with my  lunchbox sized breast pump going, trying to get as much done as possible during these 20 minutes, because Sam has to hold Ollie while I pump if she is awake. This jersey cow is just trying to make milk.

Ilya and Caitlin came by this weekend with a huge basket for Ollie and a pillow of a Boxer that is the spitting image of Stewie as a housewarming gift. They understand me. I love dog people. They probably don’t know this but I still remember what they got us for our wedding present, they bought us the one gift that was actually for Stewie on our registry, a big plush dog bed. A few nights later, Stewie doesn’t come into bed, perhaps he thinks he will sleep better on the couch.
I go out to kiss him goodnight and he is on the couch curled up in front of his new pillow with his face nose to nose with the dog on the pillow.I have a stabbing in my gut that he believes we have bought him this new fake dog pillow friend to replace us in his lives and we want him to be best friends with this pillow now. I wonder if it is a coincidence and he just fell asleep in that position, so I look between him and the pillow to see if his eyes are closed, but they are open, and he is looking soulfully at the fake dog embroidered on the pillow, perhaps longing for him to wake up like the Velveteen Rabbit. I can't help but wonder if Stewie thinks the pillow is his new friend, his only friend. I give him a big kiss and a cuddle and ask him to get up and come to bed but he doesn’t want to tonight, tonight he wants to sleep on his own in the living room, I give him his space.

I wake up on Tuesday, the morning after Stewie slept alone. We have gotten a lot of sleep! I hear Sam's voice calling Stewie in the distance (he's really just right behind me but he sounds a million miles away). Stewie comes running in and jumps into bed with us. I lay between Sam and Stewie and Ollie.....I know it's the perfect kodak moment but like so many other perfect shots, there is nobody here to take a picture. So I close my eyes and try to suck up every sensory memory from this moment in a mental snapshot and remember it later today and Wednesday and Thursday when she goes back to barely sleeping at all.