Thoughtful Thursday: Haunt

October 27, 2011

Thoughtful ThursdayThis week, we’ll talk about haunting. No, not the fun spooky Halloween kind of haunting. We’ll talk about the horrible things you can’t get out of your head. Sorry.

Different people get affected by different things. Some people can stomach any human injustice but get their heart broken by cruelty to animals. Some people feel a protective urge toward children, or anxiety about illness, or a fear of accidents. Some people are touched by the personal, and some people are most affected by large-scale calamities.

Bloggy friend and Intelligentsia member Strong Blonde just posted about how she can’t stop thinking about the tragedy that happened this week in her family. Her husband’s cousin killed himself… after murdering his toddler.

Someone who went to graduate school with me had a daughter who was diagnosed with cancer as an infant. The whole department was very concerned, but one good friend of mine, with a daughter almost exactly the same age, was obsessed. She often woke her husband up in the middle of the night to talk about this sick baby she’d never even met (his sleepy automatic response: “Yes, it’s terrible, we are so lucky”). She’d check the baby’s health website for updates every few hours, and for a while she spent literally several hours a day reading back posts and learning about this particular kind of cancer. Her obsession got less intense over the period of this baby’s long illness, which took up almost all of her short life. When the little girl died, my friend became obsessed all over again.

After Hurricane Katrina, a co-worker spent every moment when she wasn’t at work watching news footage of people stranded on their roofs. She told me, “I can’t stop. It’s all so horrible. I can’t stop watching.”

I’ve been obsessed with various things over the years. Like the time during an IVF cycle that I looked up everyone who’d ever cycled on CycleSista to calculate statistics on their success rates, twin rates, type of intervention, total number of cycles before achieving success… It was quite the spreadsheet.

I don’t tend to think much about big disasters, in part because I stay away from news coverage in general. Individual hardship can make me momentarily sad for the people involved, but I tend to move on quickly. At times I’ve worked with issues that didn’t faze me at all but are too much for most people to even hear about; sometimes, when meeting new people, just the mention of what I do has been enough to send people in a beeline across the room with no explanation but, “Oh, uh, that’s great, uh, bye.” I’m notoriously hard to shock. A robot.

But, you know the one thing that really haunts me? The Holocaust. It didn’t resonate until I married a man with several grandparents-in-law and numerous other relatives who are/were survivors (and even more ancestors who were killed). His relatives almost always avoided talking about The War, so it’s not like I heard a lot of details from them. It’s just the idea that entire nations of people could stand by (or join in) while their neighbors and friends were persecuted, imprisoned, and killed. Letting horrible things happen not to enemy combatants but children, little old ladies, everyone, from their own country.

I usually don’t think about the Holocaust, but occasionally I’ve visited memorials or visited the graves of relatives whose headstones also honor the members of their immediate family who were killed in the Holocaust, or encountered other reminders. Then for a moment I mentally put my family in that situation, and it’s too horrible to think about anything bad happening to my husband and babies and I block it out of my mind.

Most recently, I was looking at the website of the Survivor Mitzvah Project to make a donation in memory of a relative who’d survived the Holocaust but recently died. Once again, I am haunted. The people on the website survived a genocide then have spent the subsequent 65 years still suffering. After the war, they went back to their little towns as one of the handful of remaining Jews and have lived in poverty ever since, often facing further persecution under new dictators or oppressive governments or soulless neighbors. Unlike the people whose stories I’ve heard before — relatives, friends of relatives, activists — these people didn’t start new lives in North America or Israel. Their letters tell heartbreaking stories not only about the cruelty of their neighbors and countrymen, not only about war or poverty, but about the ugliness that such situations can bring out in the people you love. Which brings us full circle, back to that baby who will never play with Strong Blonde’s twins at a family reunion, because his father did something that most of us can’t even bring ourselves to imagine.

Yes, it’s terrible, we are so lucky.

What haunts you?

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It’s the fourth Monday of the month, which means that it is Perfect Moment Monday!

I’ve written over and over about unfortunate pottery incidents that have happened over the years. There are so many things that can go wrong, at every possible point in the process. Even once you bring it home, you never know when a piece, or half a dozen, will tumble and crash.

Every now and then, everything goes right.

Find more perfect moments at Write Mind Open Heart.

Thoughtful ThursdayAfter detailing some of my nanny woes here earlier this year, with lots of helpful advice from readers with all sorts of relevant experiences, the situation was resolved when that nanny quit before I could fire her. Firing her hadn’t really crossed my mind before my blog post, because I am a very tolerant person and because the prospect of hiring someone new is horrible, having gone through the hiring process several times. But, she quit on her own and gave me the impetus to replace her.

We replaced her with a dream-come-true nanny who was everything I could have hoped for and more. She was wonderful enough that I was reluctant to move away and lose her. Then we thought we might move somewhere exciting temporarily and I was totally going to bring her with us to Europe or whatever. And when her housing situation became uncertain, I was going to let her move in with us. When DH and I both went out of town on business, I had no reservations about leaving the twins alone with her for a couple of days. Can’t get better than that.

Our relationship changed a couple of months ago from honeymoon phase to on the rocks, and now I’m strongly considering a breakup.

She used to be on time consistently; I never questioned whether she’d show up. Then, some things in her life went to hell, totally legitimate things that would trip anyone up, and she started being late. And later. And later. It started to become a surprise if she showed up less than half an hour late. Her record is 3 hours. At almost any job you’d get fired for being a little late just a few times, and virtually no boss in the world would let you get away with missing several hours of work per week, but I put up with it. The twins adore her and she is fantastic with them in every way. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t like it, especially that week when I missed four appointments including a medical appointment for me and one for Tamale because of her lateness, but I tolerated it. When DH and I had a sit-down with her, the lateness improved. And then it unimproved.

She also started watching TV. Burrito and Tamale are not allowed to watch TV or any other screens, ever, and the only TV in the house is in a room where they don’t go. She started watching TV during their naps, ostensibly when eating her lunch and when folding their laundry, but there have been plenty of times that DH or I has had to inform her that they had been awake and talking — or crying — for a while, because apparently when you watch Glee you need to turn up the volume really loud during the musical numbers. Except that I went downstairs yesterday when Burrito and Tamale should already have been napping and she was watching TV on her computer while they sat playing… in poopy diapers. Seriously not cool. I told her firmly how seriously not cool that was, I reiterated my stance on screens around my children, and I banned her computer. Okay, so she made a mistake, but the problem is solved, maybe.

She doesn’t have a car so I lend her our car once or twice a week to be helpful and kind. I don’t mind her putting on a hundred miles sometimes, and I don’t mind paying for the gas, as long as I don’t end up with a totally empty tank, which doesn’t happen, usually. I didn’t even mind that time she got a parking ticket and didn’t pay it and didn’t tell us and we got a notice in the mail a month later. She was very apologetic and paid the ticket — or rather, I paid the ticket and took it out of her salary, because I wanted to make sure it got paid. Fine.

Then there’s the lying. I caught her in a silly lie not long after she’d started; she was embarrassed to say that she’d done something that I didn’t even care about in the first place, and she lied to cover it up, and the truth came out. I told her that I didn’t care, and that we were delighted she was with us, and that she should just be honest. That was fine. Lately, there have been a bunch more little silly lies which are annoying but not dealbreakers. Then I discovered that she falsified her work history, which is far more than just annoying. She had the experience she said she had, except that it was for her mother instead of a stranger. I would have hired her if she’d applied with her true background, but she presumably thought that she needed to “boost” her experience to get anyone to take her seriously. She doesn’t know I know, because if I confronted her I’d presumably have to fire her on the spot. That one is bad, but not enough to push me over the edge.

The last straw? She has taken up smoking. She swears that she hasn’t, but several times after she’s borrowed the car it’s been totally smoky — each time she has an excuse about giving a different friend a ride who lit up before she could stop them — and also she smells totally smoky and also she has started randomly going outside. The other day she locked herself out of the house and I had to come home from work and let her in while my children sat inside crying, then she had a bizarre excuse as to why she had gone outside. That was totally not okay. But, I don’t expect it to come up again because she’s actually rarely home alone, but c’mon, do I really have to babysit the nanny? I object to the lying and I object to leaving my children alone but really, I mostly object to the smoking. I would never, ever, ever hire someone who smoked, so it stands to reason that I should fire someone who starts smoking. That’s it. That’s the last straw.

And then I see Burrito gleefully kiss the nanny, or I see Tamale throw her arms around the nanny’s neck in a big hug, or I hear her singing to them with her incredible professional-caliber voice while the twins sit in her lap enraptured, or I hear Tamale ask hourly every Saturday and Sunday when the nanny is coming back, and I mentally un-fire her.

How tolerant are you? How far do you let yourself be pushed?

Thoughtful Thursday: Cranky

October 13, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday

Welcome to the October Intelligentsia, the people who have commented on every Thoughtful Thursday post in September.

#24: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#21: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#21: Lost In Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#16: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#8: Tara from Turkey In My Oven
#6: St. Elsewhere
#5: Lori Lavender Luz from Write Mind Open Heart

Thoughtful ThursdayOh man, this morning, I was no fun at all.

I’d slept 3 hours. (Working late the night before.)

The nanny was 3 hours late. (She called and had a good excuse, but still.)

I had to make an incredibly important work phone call but I couldn’t do it with toddlers screaming in the background. (Not that they scream nonstop all day long, but they raise objections if I talk on the phone, plus if you leave them unattended for more than 3 minutes, someone will push someone else down or take someone’s toy or try to hug someone too aggressively or something.)

The nanny being late I can handle — it happens almost every day (though almost never that late). Work stress I can handle — plenty of that. But I could not handle them in combination, plus toddlers throwing food on the floor and hurling cups of milk across the room and bashing each other and biting me and kicking me, on 3 hours sleep. Hence, cranky.

I do fine when I’m hungry, and I do fine when I’m sick (except for tummy problems), and I even do fine when I’m sleep deprived for one day, but cumulative sleep deprivation does me in. By the afternoon, my urgent work thing still hadn’t been resolved and my work day had still been hijacked by the nanny’s absence, but I had taken a nap, and all was right with the world.

My husband is crankiest when he he has gone too long without eating, which only happens once a month or so. The problem is that he doesn’t realize that’s why he’s cranky. His stomach doesn’t grumble, he doesn’t notice how long it’s been since the last meal, he doesn’t put two and two together. Every single time, he becomes off-kilter, deeply dissatisfied with life. I ask if he’s hungry. He says he’s not. I ask how long it’s been since he’s eaten. He gets flustered and says he doesn’t know. I tell him to eat. He says no. I tell him to eat. He begrudgingly eats something. Three bites in, all is right with the world.

What physical state makes you the crankiest? Sleepy? Hungry? Sick? Something else?