30 April 2009

Rainbows and unicorns

This post officially falls under the TMI category. If you are at all squeamish (or have a Y chromosome) you might want to skip it. Here, look at this picture of rainbows and unicorns, instead.

Still here?

Okay, you asked for it.

This post is about cramps. Specifically, menstrual cramps from hell.

I used to be one of those annoying women who had (pharmaceutically achieved) perfect cycles: Regular schedule, light symptoms, relatively painless.

When Minion #2 was born - by unplanned C-section - I told the doctor that as long as he was in there, he could just tie those puppies off, 'cuz I had no intention of using them again. So he did. And the husband and I celebrated with several months of enthusiastically unprotected sex for the first time. (What?! I totally warned you about the TMI.)

And then I stopped breastfeeding.

And, soon after, Eve's curse reasserted itself. (Feel free to go back to the pretty unicorn now. It's only gonna get worse from here.)

And now, every 28 days or so, I have about 12 hours of oh-my-fucking-gawd-will-someone-please-stab-me-in-the-eye-with-a-pencil-to-distract-me-from-the-pain cramps from hell.

Now, 12 hours might not sound like an unsurvivable term in hell to the uninitiated. But, in pain-time (like bullet-time but way less cool) it's about 4,000 years. Remember, it's all relative: 30 seconds kissing a your lover is a totally different span than 30 seconds holding the handle of a hot pan. Don't take my word for it, ask Einstein. ;p

Anyway, on a pain scale from 1-to-childbirth, this is about an 8.5, which puts it somewhere above a broken bone, but just below a full-blown migraine headache. (Which is arguably worse than childbirth - at least you get a baby afterwards with the latter. With a migraine, you just get nausea and a headache-hangover.)

In terms of the type of pain, these hell-cramps are (not surprisingly) similar in nature to labor contractions.

Not the early ones you can "breathe through" ... and not the late ones where you at least get to do something about it by pushing ... but those insidious in-between ones that we only recall later as blurry, red-tinged vignettes of sweating-panting-teeth-grinding waves of oh-my-gawd-pain punctuated by increasingly shorter periods of blessed respite and a string of faceless nurses telling you that you've only progressed 1 centimeter when you know that you could totally drive a fucking mack truck through there by now.

(If you're looking for those rainbows and unicorns, they're still up there.)

For those of you who have never given birth, think John Hurt during his last meal on the Sulaco.

If you've never given birth AND you've never seen Alien ... well, I have no frame of reference for you. Try shoving a pumpkin up your nose or some other similarly sized orifice. That comes close. I guess.

Then, go rent the Aliens movies. Well, rent 1, 2 and 4. You can skip 3. It sucks.

Where was I? Oh yeah, in excruciating pain.

So ... it's been several months of these hell-cramps, now. And I am getting pretty damned tired of them.

So much so that I've resorted to drugs.

That might not sound like a big deal. Unless you know me.

Except for migraine medication, I don't take anything stronger than Tylenol on a regular basis. (Because, when you have a severe migraine headache, you will do damn near anything to make it Go. The. Fuck. Away. Seriously, if someone told me that sacrificing a baby Harp Seal and eating it's heart would make the pain stop, I'd be all, "Hand me a handsaw and some ketchup.")

Anyway, I don't even do OTC cold medicine except in extreme cases.

It's not that I have any philosophical hang-ups abut better living through chemistry. It just that meds screw with my system.

Stuff that other people can nom-nom-nom like candy makes me sleepy or dopey or grumpy or some other dwarf. I tried my husband's OTC allergy antihistamines once and I thought I was going to drop dead in a heart-racing, room-spinning, nausea-inducing cold sweat.

And don't even get me started on NyQuil. I don't call it the nighttime-sniffling-sneezing-what-the-hell-am-I-doing-on-the-kitchen-floor medicine for nothing.

So, when I say these cramps have driven me to drugs, this is a serious development.

Today, I actually took a prescription narcotic (I have some around for emergency migraine treatment). These totally screw me up. When I take them, I usually pass out for several hours of anesthetized coma. Which is not exactly something you can do when you have two small kids to take care of. So it's really a last-resort thing for me.

But, today, the pain was already so debilitating that I could barely unfurl from the fetal position, so I figured it was a choice of being non-functioning AND in pain, or just being non-functioning.

Not a tough choice.

So, I took a half-dose. And then, through some supreme force of will, I managed to only sleep for about an hour before I dragged myself out to the couch to rejoin the living.

The little men in my abdomen have now exchanged their ice-picks for felt-wrapped mallets. I'm still a little fuzzy-headed - I probably shouldn't operate any heavy machinery for a while - including blogging. But it's a trade-off I'm comfortable with for now.

Fortunately, The ZenHusband had things under control in the kid-care department while I was in la-la-land, despite the fact that he actually has a minor back injury right now. He's a trooper.

But ... this is becoming a problem.

I have a pretty high pain tolerance. (Did I mention the two childbirths and the 20 years of migraine headaches? Not to mention a lifetime of general kluzty-ness. I'm no wuss.) So, if I'm being forced to resort to narcotics to function - even just one day a month - I guess it's time to make an appointment with my OB-GYN and see if there is anything modern medicine can do for me.

I guess I've been avoiding going to the doctor. Probably because of my aforementioned aversion to drugs. And my general feeling that there's probably not anything he can do to "fix" me. Except maybe going back on birth control pills. Which I don't want to do. Because those side effects suck, too.

So, I really don't want to go see the doctor.

But I also really don't want to be a doubled-over, whimpering, quivering mass of hell-cramps again in 28 days.


Okay, I'll call the doctor next week.


Holy shit. Are you still reading this?

I bet you wish you'd opted for the rainbows and unicorns.

*This post brought to you by Codeine: The #1 choice of babble-inducing narcotics for bloggers everywhere. And by Rainbows and Unicorns: Coming soon to a nightmare near you.

23 April 2009

Playdate: Gratuitous Cuteness

Now that they have their album cover, I guess they'll need to start a band.

Seriously, though: Tell me those are not the cutest younglings you've seen in a long time. Go on, I dare ya.

The cuteness, it burns!!! :)

Yeah, so, okay, two of them are mine, so I may be just a little bit biased. But I think this is the cutest pack o' heathens (you did know they travel in packs, right?) to hit the playground in, like, ever.

The two not-mines are the kidlets of two great friends who live too far away. We had a fabulous playdate sleep-over last weekend up in Sacramento and I'm not sure who had more fun, the kids or the moms.

One of the other moms snapped this photo with my camera at the park in a rare moment when four of the five all actually stopped moving at the same time. It lasted all of about 12.5 seconds. So, I was pretty impressed with her photography kung-fu.

We played around the house, had happy-face pancakes, played at a couple different parks, visited a museum, watched a movie, and even visited Ikea (Hey, I said the moms had fun, too!) And the kids got to eat junk food and stay up late and the moms got to drink Vodka Cranberries and stay up later. In other words: A good time was had by all.

Oh, and just to round out the cuteness overload, here's a few more:

22 April 2009

On anger

Recently, I wrote a post about my frustration with someone I work with.

Ironically, THIS came up on my "Quote of the Day" calendar this morning ...

"Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste,

it is better that you should sit at the gate of the temple
and take alms of those who work with joy."

~ Kahlil Gibran

Looks like this reminder came just in time, eh? The universe is funny like that. :)

But it really did make me think. I do take joy in my work the majority of the time. Overall, it is something I enjoy and would miss were it gone. But, yes, there are moments of frustration and even anger.

Usually, when I get to feeling frustrated, I talk it out with my lunch-buddy - one of my best friends. She and I go to lunch and we bitch a little and then we laugh about it and we move on. We joke that we should be able to write off our weekly lunches as occupational therapy. It really is cathartic.

This time, I tried writing about it.

To be honest, I really hesitated to put the anger and frustration I was feeling into so permanent a form. On the one hand, I thought it could be good for me to "get it out". On the other hand, it makes it ... permanent. It gives it life outside my own mind.

I did feel better after I wrote it. I'd satisfied the need to vent a little and I felt like some of the negativity was purged from system. I was ready to let it go.

It's gone.

But, also, it's not.

Because it's still here - in black and white.

The feelings are gone, but the words remain. A reminder of that negativity. A reminder that words said in anger can never really be "taken back".

I think this is the first time I've ever posted anything so negative - the first time I've vented anger and frustration in writing. And now it's part of the permanent record.

I can own that. And learn from it.

As I've said before, "zen" isn't about feeling calm all the time. Anger is a part of who we are, too. To deny it, to sublimate it, is unhealthy. It's "okay" to feel anger. The problems happen when we act on that anger. Or when we hold on to it.

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal
with the intent of throwing it at someone else;
you are the one who gets burned.
~ Siddhartha Gautama

The best thing is to accept that you feel the anger in this moment and then let it go.

If you are holding on to anger from the last moment, then you are not fully invested in this moment.

So ... does writing about anger help you move from that moment to the next? Does it help you learn and grow? Or does it prolong the feelings, distract from the now? Does scratching that immediate itch give you relief ... or does it only serve to leave more lasting marks?

I don't know.

But, for me , I think my "therapy lunches" with my girlfriend work better.


Once upon a time there was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he should hammer a nail in the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. But gradually, the number of daily nails dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally the first day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. He proudly told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence.

"You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out, it won't matter how many times you say 'I'm sorry', the wound is still there."

20 April 2009

Ten Years Ago

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
~ George Santayana

Columbine: What you think you know is probably wrong.

Ten years ago today, we all watched together as a terrible tragedy unfolded in Littleton, Colorado.

As a citizen of this world, I mark today as the anniversary of an indescribably sad event.

As a PR professional and a former newspaper reporter, I mark today as the anniversary of the beginning of the end of journalism.

Ten years ago today, media - professional and otherwise - were all so obsessed with getting the "breaking news" first-fast-right-now ... that we were inundated with speculation, half-truths and unconfirmed reports.

In the light of the tragic loss of life and the resultant loss of our collective sense of personal security, it might seem unimportant to some to "nitpick" the media coverage.

But - without downplaying the terrible events of that day - I disagree. I think it IS important to look at and understand how the media failed us ten years ago today. And how they continue to fail us every day by focusing on getting the story first instead of getting it right.

But it's also important to remember that the media are not doing this in a vacuum.

We - the consumers - are really the ones to blame. We want fast-food journalism. We demand it. We can't be bothered to take the time to actually learn about complicated issues and events ... just give us the Reader's Digest version, please. And make it snappy.

And so, the media delivers exactly what we want instead of what we need.

And we all live on in collective ignorance ... subscribing to the myths of misinformation that bloom from the seeds of shoddy journalism and an apathetic citizenry.

And we fail to learn.

And that only compounds the tragedy.

16 April 2009


I <3 data-blogger-escaped-span=""> dad-blogs. (I also <3 data-blogger-escaped-span=""> transitive pictograph verbalizations, but that's a different post.)

I read a lot of different kinds of blogs, including several very good moms-who-blog and other funny and interesting ladies (and guys). But, for whatever reason, I generally find it easier to relate to dad-bloggers - especially those of the geek variety - than to most mommyblogs.

Apparently my inner child is a 12-year-old boy?


Well, whatever the reason, these guys flick my Bic. They make me laugh - a lot! - and think, and even get a little weepy on occasion.

So, since I'm still super-crazy at work and don't have much time or energy for (non-professional) writing right now, allow me instead to share with you a few of my favorite dadbloggers:

Tales From the Dadside: SciFi Dad is a great storyteller. He has two adorable kids, smart and inspiring insights into the adventure of parenting younglings, and a cool mommyblogger wife. He also has cool tattoos. And an obsession with Star Wars.

Daddy Geek Boy: Just what it sounds like. I'm still a newbie reader at DGB, but I was an instant fan of this unrepetant geek-turned-dad. He's fun and funny and smart and sweet and he has excellent taste in movies and breakfast cereal.

Backpacking Dad: Shawn is a philosopher. Really. He has a precocious preschooler girl, a baby boy on the way, a dry wit and a unique voice. He also sometimes spouts Latin. But don't hold that against him.

Looky, Daddy: Is a SAHD who has an amazing ability to be "real" and serious and even vulnerable, and yet still be upbeat and insightful and hilariously funny. He has a third grader and a set of twins - all girls. Shenanigans abound. But my favorite thing about his blog is that he makes me laugh out loud at some ridiculous thing one day, and then plucks at my heartstrings with something deep the next day.

Wil Wheaton: Wil is not really a dad-blogger - more a geek-blogger who happens to be a dad. But, while his blog is not strictly about his family, the stories he tells of his relationships with his wife and sons are always my favorites.

DadCentic: A team dad-blog with some very smart, funny, geeky writers. Some of these guys have serious writing chops.

Dad-o-Matic: Another team-blog. Usually a little less up-close-and-personal than DadCentric, but still offering interesting information and insight by (and mostly for) dads.

There you have it: One Zen Mom's list of favorite Dads-Who-Blog. Check them out. Let me know what you think. I hope you like them, too.

NOTE: If you are one of these dadbloggers, you might wonder why the heck I rarely (never?) comment on your blog if I'm such a fan? Well, here's my dirty little secret: I'm a compulsive lurker. But I am trying to get better at leaving comments. But, trust me, if you are on the list, I like you; I really like you. :)

So, who is your favorite daddyblogger?

14 April 2009

Golden Words

"Anytime you can lead a story with a gunshot wound to the scrotum, you gotta go with it."

My favorite college professor imparted those words of wisdom to me when I was a but a wee green journalism student.

Seriously, would I make up something like that?

I was reading an article the other day about headlines and leads and grabbing your readers and I suddenly flashed back to that day ...

One of my best friends and I were teaming up on a project for our college paper - a package of articles on emergency medical services in our community. We'd done our research on funding and staffing and statistics and all the "boring stuff". Now it was time for the fun part: A night with the graveyard shift at the downtown ER.

It was a busy night ... a heat stroke ... an overdose ... a stabbing. I thought, for a while, that the stabbing might be the highlight of the evening.

But then the cops wheeled in the man clasping a bloody rag to his groin.

It didn't take finely honed journalistic instincts to know THAT was gonna be a story to tell.

Now, my first response was pity for the poor guy. I mean, a bullet to the family jewels? How can you not feel for that? (In fact, I bet male readers are even now wincing and crossing their legs.)

But, I have to admit: I was a little excited when the ER surgeon told me it was a gunshot wound to the scrotum. And, when, a little later, he reported it was actually a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the scrotum ... I got a little light-headed.

I mean, seriously, how often do you get to write something like that?

Reporters will tell you that if you don't hook your reader by your first sentence, you're done. But Professor Flynn took it a step further. He taught us that you have to hook your reader with your first three words. He called them "Golden Words".

And if you thought that I was inappropriately excited about this poor guy's genital trauma ... you should have seen the The Old Man's face when I brought him those Golden Words. He grinned so big I thought his face might split open.

Silly me ... green little cub reporter that I was: I'd put the scrotal suffering at the end of my second sentence.

Flynn just looked at me deadpan and said, "Oh, no. Anytime you have a gunshot to the scrotum, you gotta lead with it."

In all my years as a writer, that is - hands-down - my favorite lead EVER. There've been other good and memorable first lines in my career, but that one will always hold a special place in my memory.

Now that I've sold my soul and crossed over to the dark-side (as my former colleagues like to refer to my move from journalism to public relations), I just don't get the opportunity to write those kinds of leads anymore.

Every now and then, I kind of miss them.

But I haven't forgotten the lessons learned. I still try to find the "Golden Words" in everything I write professionally. I do that by thinking about my readers and my goal: What do they care about? What do they need to know? What is the most important thing I need to share with them?

The inverted pyramid is not enough. In today's fast-paced world, most readers are only ready to "commit" to the first sentence of your copy. Is that sentence going to intrigue them or inspire them or amuse them enough to go on to the next?

And the next?

And the next?

How do YOU grab your readers?

12 April 2009

Happy Easter


What? You were expecting cutesy bunnies and spiritual reflection, maybe?
Pfft. Who has time for that? These chocolate bunnies aren't going to eat themselves, you know.

06 April 2009

On religion

"So, what church do you go to?"

There are people here who actually start their casual conversations with near-strangers with that question.

I guess I'm a little old fashioned in that I think religion and politics are poor topics for "casual" conversations. I was raised to think of those as more personal topics; Rude to inquire about when you don't know the other person very well.
Blogs being a whole different animal, I will now commence to discuss religion at length, because it's my blog and I'll talk about what I please, thank-you-very-much. :)

Personally, I don't give two hoots what most other people believe. Yet the conversation still so often turns to religion. Believe me, I'm never the one to steer it there. Because it almost never ends well.

I don't consider myself "in the closet" about my religion - or, more specifically, my lack thereof - but I'm also not one to shout about it from the roof-tops, either.

But my silence has an unintended side-effect.

I think I've mentioned 7 or 10 times before that I live in the "Bible Belt" of California. Around here, everyone just assumes everyone else is one flavor or another of Christian. Because, well, everyone here is. It's part of the social fabric of the community. So, asking which church (of the 70 bajillion to choose from) you belong to is as common as asking which school your kids attend.

When the topic of religion comes up, I usually just let the person labor under her assumptions that my beliefs must be similar to her own. I won't lie, but I don't usually go out of my way to enlighten them, either.

First: It's really none of their business. Like I said: It's a personal thing. You don't go around asking casual acquaintances about their salaries or their medical history or their sex lives, do you?

Second: It's usually just a lot easier to let a casual inquiry pass with a simple, "I'm not religious," and let them make of that what they will. Usually, the person is not really interested in my philosophical views anyway - he's just trying to figure out which box in his head to put me in.

Third: It kind of derails some people when they realize they are talking to a *gasp* real-life, honest-to-goodness, godless heathen. The idea that I have no religion just makes them slip a gear. And it sometimes takes a while for the social graces to return.

Sometimes it's all frozen smiles and back-away-slowly. Sometimes you get that shocked-and-appalled look - like I just said I eat babies on Sundays. (Pfft. Silly wabbits - we only do that on high holidays.) Some of them actually want to start arguing with you, right then and there. I never know whether to be annoyed or amused by that one.

A good reaction is when they just continue the conversation normally without making me feel like I've suddenly grown a third eye. Good reactions are rarer than you might think.

Another acceptable reaction is polite inquiry as to my beliefs. But, that's not easy either.

Because my spiritual-religious philosophy is not easily summed up with a quick label. So, what do I say? "Agnostic-Atheist-with-Taoist-and-Buddhist-leanings" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, eh?

Plus, that usually just opens up new potential for confusion.

Buddhism, most people have heard of - though, I'm constantly surprised at how many people I meet who really know nothing about it. ("Well, Buddha is just another name for God, right?" O.0 ) And mention Taoism and it's usually just blank stares.

But it's always the agnostic-atheist part that people get really hung-up on. Because, while some people are tolerant of other religions ... most of them are much less tolerant of the non-religious.

I'm amazed by the people who really don't know what it means to be agnostic and/or atheist ... "Gee, you don't look like a devil worshipper." or "So, you hate Christians?" or my favorite: "What happened?" - like my "condition" is some kind of injury or affliction. Again: O.o

But - never fear - those folks don't let not understanding it stop them from condemning it - and you.

And that brings me to the last reason I usually prefer to avoid the topic of religion in social settings:

Fear of confrontation.

I'm sometimes afraid of how other people's reactions will affect my job, my relationships, the way my kids are treated.

I'm reminded of the pretty blue lady in "X-Men" who tells the bigoted Senator: "People like you are the reason I was afraid to go to school as a child."

How sad is that? But it's true.

It can be intimidating to be "different" than the majority. Just as it can be dangerous to think differently than those in power.
"In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man ... is stoned to death." ~ Joan D. Vinge
I'm a big fan of the First Amendment, but I'm not so naive as to think that people are not discriminated against every day in this country for their religious beliefs. And I also know that atheists are among the least trusted and most reviled of "others" in this country.

I'm extremely non-confrontational by nature. I don't like friction. I never want to be the cause of dissension. I just want everyone to get along.

So I keep quiet to keep the peace. I avoid the confrontation by avoiding the subject.

But, to be honest, I'm getting tired of letting people assume my silence is agreement, even in casual context.

So, World, consider this your notice:

I am not responsible for your hangups about my beliefs.

I'm secure in my beliefs. I'm happy. I don't need fixing. I don't need to "fit in".

If you have a problem with my beliefs ... well, it's yours. Own it.

Because I'm done carrying it around for you.