Friday, June 30, 2006

'Til we're old and wrinkly

Indulge me by letting me brag on my husband for a few minutes. He’s not had an easy time the last couple of years, and having a formerly Superwoman wife who is now living with multiple health problems doesn’t make anything easier. (For anyone with fibromyalgia: I don’t recommend starting menopause. Ever. Don’t try to sweat it out. At the first sign of hot flashes or mood swings, go to your gyno or your witch doctor or someone who knows something about these things and get hormones, or vitamins, or whatever works for you. Fast.) Yet even though he’s occasionally cranky, and once in a while on a bad day has said things he’s later regretted, (and haven’t we all?), he will, at my lowest of low points, do something so wonderful that absolutely has me switching from my normal waterworks to tears of joy, and pride, and gratitude that he’s the one I chose all those years ago. (Plus our anniversary is coming up in a couple of weeks and I need all the spouse points I can get.)

Like earlier this week. Until then, I had been fortunate enough to be having a decent run of sleep (For those of you who don’t know me well, last summer I stopped sleeping. A stellar night was four hours, and some nights I didn’t get a wink. This went on for four months. Nothing – not from the health food store, not from the pharmacy, not even a tranquilizer dart - could put me out for more than a few hours at a time. Then I simply crashed, got some good medical care, and started getting better. It’s been touch and go since, and there are some bad nights, but far more fewer and far between than they used to be.

But this entry was supposed to be about him, and not my adventures in insomnia-land. So let’s get back to that.

On the bad mornings after the bad nights, he’s there for me. And I don’t mean that in the pop-psych-70s-Kalil-Ghilbran-wedding-on-the-beach-there-for-me sort of way. Physically. He’s there. And he’s a night owl, often not getting to bed until 3, 4 in the morning.

I get up at 6.

And he’s there. Letting me cry on him. Reminding me that one bad night doesn’t mean I’m going to crash and burn all over again. Keeping me company through my morning routine.

And on Tuesday, when it was – and this hasn’t happened in months – two rotten nights in a row – he drove me to work. I hadn’t even asked. And he picked me up after. And then took me to the doctor. Sat with me through the appointment. Even though it’s the doctor he hates with the uncomfortable waiting room who keeps us waiting forever.

Then he took me home.

He’s taken me to other doctors, he’s chauffeured me here and there before I was well enough to drive myself, but this one day meant more to me than all of the rest. And that’s only one of the joy and comforts of sharing one heart (and sometimes one brain) with someone for so long.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Brief Salute to Aaron Spelling

Oh, what would my formative years have been like without Aaron Spelling? Making a big bowl of popcorn and settling into my beanbag chair every Wednesday night to watch Farrah Fawcett flip her hair, to see what Jacqueline Smith was wearing that night, to feel inadequate that I would never have a figure like…well, any of them, or teeth that white or hair that stayed where it was put. How else would I have soothed the indignity of my dateless Saturday nights if not for “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island?”

Of course I was over him by the time his list of braless, brainless horrors entered the 80s and 90s. Dynasty, Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place…I had better things to do.

But where would television be today without Spelling setting the bar so low?

Probably no different. After all, at the time of his death, he still had a number of properties in production. But his influence – the dumbing down of the scripts, the skewing down of the demographic – sadly, still lives on.

Yes, I know, it’s the height of bad taste to rag on someone who just died, but for the King of Bad Taste, perhaps it’s merely an homage.

If not for his noticeably jiggling actresses, how would we have Baywatch?

If not for bringing Ricardo Mantalban out of mothballs, how would we have the Wrath of Kahn?

And Joan Collins…well, she would have overdosed on plastic surgery, painkillers and guys like Astin Kutcher if she hadn’t been given a chance to strut her stuff again.

Who else would have brought to life the bodice-ripping novels I wasted my teenaged summers with?

OK, somebody else might have done these things, but they wouldn’t have done it with such…such…wonderful tackiness.

In fact, I think the word “tacky” didn’t exist before he burst into 70s television. It followed beanbag chairs, velour jumpsuits and guys who wore seventeen pounds of gold chains to discos.

But maybe as a culture we needed the kicky kitsch of the 70s. We were licking our wounds from a war we shouldn’t have been involved with, couldn’t win, and ended up slinking away from with our tails between our legs and both eyes blackened. We had a president who’d resigned in disgrace and we needed things to be Lite and Fluffy. We needed Saturday Night Live and pet rocks and Billy Beer and The Pina Colada Song (OK, maybe we didn’t need that). We needed to turn on our TVs and watch braless girls with big hair and blue eyeshadow saying stupid things and, occasionally, wrestling in mud. Maybe it didn’t solve all our problems but was a kind of comfort food.

And Spelling kept on tapping into that cultural zeitgeist, into the 80s when everyone was supposedly flush but us and we could watch beautiful actors and actresses spending their money and discovering that all their millions really didn’t make them happier or any better than we were. And into the 90s when the Melrose Place and 90210 kids, borne of the “Me” generation, tried to find their souls but really never could, and continued to roam the land of plenty, feeling bereft (and each other).

We may never see an episode of “ER” where a couple of the interns get down in their underwear in a mud pit, but still, Spelling will live on in TV Land.

And I'll always have Wednesday nights with Farrah.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Opus the Spy Redux

It pains me to admit this to myself, because this was at the top of my to-do list as far as career moves, but I can never be a spy.

Because I’d give up every state secret including how much the Bush family paid Satan for those two terms in office if my captors only did one thing to me.

And that’s to lock me in a room with some armed thug assigned to keep me from stretching or exercising in any way. If I so much as attempt one calf flex, he will clamp down my leg. God only knows what they’ll do if I try to do laps around my room or get on the floor and go through a series of spinal rolls or hamstring pulls.

So much for all those years of training, when everyone thought I was majoring in advertising. Sorry, Dad.

At times there have been good reasons to stay put. The day or so following laparoscopic removal of an ovarian cyst as big as a pear being one of them. Eye surgery is another. It’s a little harder to get a bead on where to stick the syringe if I’m doing neck rolls. Or having the stomach flu so bad that even turning over in bed caused the room to spin (the only partially amusing tidbits about that episode were that I threw up on a nurse, and follow-up care included Husband having to medicate me in a way that, shall we say, takes care of his end of the marriage vows for the next hundred years or so).

But after a year and several months of stressing the importance of daily stretching and exercise – even when I’m in pain – by my physical therapist, he’s now asked me to cut it back to every other day. Just for a week, as a test, because there’s one little part of my back that’s being stubbornly unresponsive. But it’s only three days in and I’m going berserk. Stiff as I am when I wake up (The hallmark of fibro is morning stiffness, like not being able to bend your fingers, for one. Husband and I call that “squirrel hands.”) I still want to stretch. Out of a hot shower, I want to stretch. Getting up from a chair…getting out of the car…after a stressful day at work…and it’s psychological, I know. Like when you’re trying to quit smoking (actually I wouldn’t know this, having never smoked) you see cigarettes everywhere, and when you’re dieting (this, I know a little about) you see oatmeal raisin cookies and jars of Fluffernutter in your dreams. I want to stretch doubly on my off-days just because he told me not to. Damn it.

But he’s often been right before, so I might as well listen. Sigh.

“Just don’t think about it,” he said.

Yeah. I’ll get right on that.

It’s weird. I got used to a routine. Walk, stretch, do a bunch of exercises. Three types of leg lifts, abdominal crunches, pelvic tilts. That’s in the morning. Walk and stretch again at lunchtime and then again at the end of the day. Heat and ice as needed, special, more intense yoga-type stretches if I’m out of alignment. Now on my “off” days (today being one of them) I still get to walk, but after stepping off the treadmill, I feel…strange. Ungrounded. Like I’m hanging on the end of my seat, waiting for that final resolution chord of the sonata. No stretching. So what do I do? I mill about for a while, feeling odd, or if I feel tired, I lie down for a few minutes, or sit and do a crossword puzzle, or, if at work, just go back to whatever task I was doing before, again, feeling like I’ve forgotten something.

I hope that it works. If not, an alternative that’s been bandied about is a cortisone shot into the joint, which I would really rather avoid.

OK, so for this, I’ll try to put up with it.

Made me good and grouchy for work this week, which coupled with a deadline, made me someone you really didn’t want to be around. Even the Prince of Darkness laid low (or at least a little lower). I was amused to find out that the ring tone on his cell is the theme from The Exorcist.

And that’s another thing. Not the ring tone but the existence of this guy at all. I’m on deadline, pumped full of Motrin, and I get yanked off and given no more than twenty minutes to proofread a 20 page document that has an even tighter deadline than mine, and it’s work that His Damienship should be doing, as he is one of the cast of characters involved in the project, but I’m put on it because I’m a good proofreader and he’s got other things to do. Now, despite all the mishegos of my body, I’d been nice to him that day. I said “good morning” when I came in. (He snubbed me.) I offered to get him coffee when I made my Dunkin Donuts run; he declined, wanted to go out himself. So after I finish the proofing (One of my favorite typos: “trouble shooting” (space between the words) instead of “troubleshooting.” Takes on a whole raft of amusing connotations.), he goes into my coworkers office, asks if she wants a bagel or something because he’s going out, and he doesn’t come anywhere near my office.

This defies my whole blueprint of how human beings – especially human beings who are supposed to be working together in a small space to achieve a common goal- are supposed to act toward each other.

But “supposed to” gets us in a whole heap of trouble, doesn’t it?

The same way I was “supposed to” be perfect. “Supposed to” stay healthy. “Supposed to” be a spy.

So maybe I can still use that training yet. I’ll get so good that I’ll never get caught, so my captors won’t even get a chance to torture me. Or, if I’m double-crossed, I’ll be so fit that I’ll bust out of my dank underground cell and live to exercise another day.

Or return to my deep cover existence and find sneaky ways to upset The Prince of Darkness….heh, heh, heh…

Sunday, June 18, 2006

History repeats itself?

I was feeling lousy yesterday so I channeled the spirit of my Grandpa Dave and put on my shoes and went out. (If I were channeling the spirit of my Grandma Jean, I would have put on lipstick and went out, because in her opinion lipstick makes women beautiful) First I had to pick up a few things at the pharmacy, then I drove to Barnes & Noble in search of comedy. Some days, distraction is the only medicine that works, and my favorite distraction is humor, somebody else’s when I don’t feel up to writing my own.

I had this craving for George Carlin. I don’t know, maybe it’s a childhood thing, as comforting to me as the first bite of cinnamon toast and the softness of my cat’s fur. As a precocious ten-year-old, I would steal my father’s Carlin albums and play them for my friend Deanne and we’d laugh ourselves sick repeating the best lines over and over. Like so many of the classics – the Three Stooges, Bugs Bunny cartoons, Doris Day movies, these Carlin bits have a permanent place in my head, somewhere below the ability to make scrambled eggs and somewhere above the place where all that high school French is stored. It only takes a word or two, and I’ve gone back in time, giggling like a kid over the “Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television” or his reminiscences of growing up Irish Catholic. I’m sure you Firesign Theater or Monty Python fans (myself included) have experienced similar brain tugs – a couple of key memories and you’re singing the Lumberjack song.

So I came home with my two Carlins and a Lewis Black for good measure (he’s about as Carlin-esque as any other working comic right now), did my afternoon PT and while icing down afterward, listened to George’s HBO performance from 2002 or so.

Some of his content and demeanor had changed (how could you not evolve over a career that spans – Christ – more than my whole life?). He’s grown a little bitter, a little grouchy, but the essence of it still made me giggle like a ten-year-old.

And for a while, I felt better.

I couldn’t find the real old stuff on CD – AM/FM, Toledo Window Box, Class Clown – but I don’t know, do I want to listen to them now and possibly spoil the magic that I remembered? What if they aren’t as funny anymore? What if my cinnamon toast isn’t exactly the same as the way my mother made it or, in retrospect, my cat had matted fur and I just imagined it differently?

I’d like to leave those memories unsullied, thanks. Leave them to the left of the one that knows how to tie my shoes and to the right of the memory of the taste of the first Macintosh apple of the season.

Perhaps I could clean house up there and make room for new ones. Get rid of the classified column widths of most of the newspapers in the Northeast and leave space for new novels. Ditch the starting lineup of the ’73 Mets and make room for the way tonight’s sunset will look, filtered through the haze.

And leave that giggling ten-year-old alone. She’s too young to have all those first memories spoiled by reality.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Prince of Darkness

Not on the job more than a few weeks and I’m dealing with the difficult employee from hell. Well, I suppose there are worse, from the stories I’ve heard. At least he doesn’t smoke crack in the bathroom or key my car on his way out or do me any physical harm.

But he is…annoying as all get-out. To the point where I’ve left the building for coffee several times rather than say something that would get me fired.

Before the first word left his lips it was clear that he was looking down his nose at me. No. Before then. When I returned my now-boss’s call inviting me in for my first interview, he was short and condescending on the phone. And then we met. And then he spoke. And it’s all gone downhill from there.

First of all, it’s been years since I worked for an ad agency. So I’d forgotten about the concept of time sheets, and keeping track of how many units of time I spend on a particular project. I worked for a company for eight years where all I did was punch in and punch out and didn’t have to account for anything at all, except weekly status meetings with my boss.

And when I didn’t grasp the entire concept of the time sheet in one gulp, he repeated it again, louder, as if he were in a foreign country and thought this was the way to get through to the natives – just speak slower and louder. When I couldn’t figure out the phone system immediately (I have multiple-phone-line of the reasons I was never put on the switchboard rotation at my last job) he walked into my office and shoved the manual at me.

I also inherited the Project From Hell. A directory with so many parts and pieces it should require installation instructions and a seeing-eye dog. Most of these parts and pieces were missing, unaccounted for, lost in transition or just plain imaginary. It has also involved my learning InDesign on the fly (It’s a new desktop publishing program. It is, in many instances, replacing Quark, which has been the bread-and-butter desktop publishing program for fifteen years or so, until their management made the bonehead move of not getting an upgrade for Mac’s OS 10 operating system to market fast enough, leaving designers who’d already taken the plunge to 10 without a viable solution – hence, Adobe stepped in with InDesign.). Not only have I been doing this thing on deadline with not just one but two InDesign manuals at my fingertips, but it’s also required an extremely complicated and badly documented plug-in program in order to create not just one directory listing of all of the members of this organization the directory is for, but another grouping them all into occupational categories.

We’re coming down to the wire on this thing, so hence, I’ve been a bit on edge. And here’s the Prince of Darkness, whose role in the project has been to: 1. Coordinate which ads are actually going in this thing; 2. Creating the database for me in a format I can use in this software program I don’t know how to use; 3. Trying to help me figure out how to use the plug-in program, which amounts to him huffing out breaths and shoving papers at me and yelling at me that he’s already explained to me five times what to do; 4. Generally being a total bastard who thinks everyone he’s forced to work with is a redneck rube.

Now, I’m a little slower than I used to be, but I’m still in possession of most of my brain cells. It’s just taking me a bit longer to get up to speed on the learning curve. And whatever personal problems he’s going through, it’s no excuse to take them out on me.

Because I’m sure he’s deeply, deeply unhappy. And probably has a very small penis.

So I’ve decided not to let him bother me. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll give him my nicest smile and tell him to go fuck himself.

But nature took him down a peg this week, and while maybe it’s a bit mean-spirited of me, I’ve never been happier for a sudden thunderstorm in my life.

Because he’s been helping my boss coordinate a fund-raising event for a client – one of those feel-good things, with dinner and an auction, etc. As the guy is a wedding planner on the side, he took on the task of decorations, including arranging for the flowers, the tent, the linens, and…I’d heard about these for weeks…the paper luminaires.

“I hope to God it doesn’t rain,” he’d mutter, “Have you ever seen what happens to paper luminaires in the rain?”

No. Gosh, darn, I’ve never been out of my trailer ‘cept to go suck down a few brewskis at the local roadhouse so how am I supposed to know what things at a fancy shindig look like?

And while I can only predict the weather, I do not have the power to cause it.

But he’d been particularly nasty to me the week leading up to the event. And on Thursday, (the event to be early that evening) with flowers piled up in the office and tents set up and the luminaires in place, I went out for my usual lunch walk.

“Wouldn’t you know it?” I said to him when I came back. “It’s been beautiful all more morning, but the minute I step out the door, it starts to rain.”

He went ashen. “No. It can’t rain.”

“No, I don’t think it’s supposed to. Just a passing shower.” Because that’s what the weather report said. And it was beautiful, for the remainder of the afternoon.

And around six o’clock, I start getting these weird pains. “Can’t be,” I said. The sky was blue, with just a few big puffy clouds floating by.

And around six forty-five, as I was sitting and doing a crossword puzzle, the pains intensified. “This is ridiculous,” I thought. “What did I injure now?”

And then the wind blew in like a train. And I heard the thunder. And the heavens split apart.

And I smiled.

For one, because I knew I wasn’t crazy. It was all rain pain getting into my muscles.

For two, because I was thinking about what happens to paper luminaires in the rain.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Coulda, woulda, shoulda

Mostly I’ve given up on the larger regrets of my life. I’ve blogged about this before, how even though some of these, had I made different decisions would have led to different outcomes, I wouldn’t go back and change them if I could.

But it’s the smaller things that sometimes irk me.

For instance, if I could, I’d get in my time machine and:

1. Do a slight edit on my wedding vows. I’d already taken out “obey,” but I would have added a codicil that I would only agree to this marriage if my husband promises never to make me go to WalMart.
2. I’d rethink that whole Madonna-Flashdance wardrobe fling back in the mid-eighties.
3. I’d have dumped the WorldCom stock. (Anyone need kindling for a fire? Wallpaper for the bathroom?)
4. There are several presidential votes that I’d like back.
5. When our illustrator friend who died from cystic fibrosis asked if I would sit for his drawing class (since my husband had already done so and he wanted to have them draw a woman’s face next), I would have said yes instead of turning him down because I was too shy to have all those people staring at me. He died shortly afterward. OK, maybe this would move into that larger regret category.
6. I would never have agreed to a first date in the early eighties with the guy wearing the Miami Vice t-shirt and parachute pants – the one and only time I got stood up.
7. Nix the week I tried cornrows.
8. When I was in the library with my hand hovering over “Bridges of Madison County,” I would have let my fingers keep on walking.
9. Not seen “Silence of the Lambs.” (I still have nightmares)
10. The whole Betamax thing: bad idea.
11. Never tried to transport a television from New York to Boston by bus when you live a half-mile from the T stop and don’t have enough cash for cabs.
12. Fix things so never, ever in my life will I have been or ever be in a bus station on Christmas day.
13. Go back to 1973 and throw away all my peacock blue eye shadow.
14. Check out the status beforehand of the four people riding in the car owned by a co-worker who offered me a ride home before I spouted off about what a bad idea it is to have a relationship with someone you work with. (the four were two couples)
15. Remove the shoulderpads from every one of my outfits.
16. Barter my soul to have enough money to buy a season ticket for the Red Sox before the 86 season.
17. Decide it’s a bad idea to put together an entire platform bed by yourself.
18. Ditto to self-medicate after outpatient surgery with three rum and cokes and a joint.
19. Be better at keeping in touch with old friends. (ok, maybe this goes into the larger category, too)
20. Go back to my wedding day and dance and eat more and pose for pictures less and have a respectable hangover from partying the night before instead of thinking I had to get a lot of sleep and look good in the pictures. (as my Grandma Jean used to say, makeup covers a multitude of sins)
21. Go back to high school and trip a snotty girl or two. Preferably while they were carrying their lunch trays.
22. Make that whole Rocky Horror phase in college disappear. Especially the costume. And definitely the pictures. If there are any. Please, tell me there aren’t any. Even if you have to lie.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Who really owns the truth?

Do you remember the days when there were good guys and there were bad guys, and it was a good thing when “we” got the bad guy?

Yeah, I’m trying to remember those days, too. There was something about white and black hats, something about a celebration, something about the mood of a country lifting.

Like people tell me what happened when we learned that Hitler was dead. Or when Mussolini was swinging from a lamp post outside a gas station.

But the world doesn’t seem to be that cut-and-dried anymore. No black and white, but a whole Pantone book of shades in between.

Could you imagine, back in 1945, if a member of Congress or a representative of our national media stood up and said that the death of Hitler would only make our problems worse?

He’d be swinging on the same hook with Mussolini.

OK, maybe Al Zarqawi wasn’t the bad guy everybody had hoped we’d surprise with a bunker buster, but shouldn’t his demise count for something?

A strange thing happened in my house the day after Zarqawi bought it. (Not so strange, if you are familiar with the politics that goes on in my house) I was in the living room listening to the NPR pledge drive and Husband was in the family room watching Fox News on television.

It was as if we were living on two separate planets. On his planet, we killed a big bad guy and were rejoicing. Ecstatic Iraqis were waving guns in the air and the sun was shining for democracy. On mine, the guy on the radio running the drive begrudgingly allowed Bush’s statement to air, then came back and said that OK, we’d killed a top Al Qaida leader (among a few other innocent civilians) and while it might have been good presidential PR to take this guy out, in the long run it would only make things worse and cause more death and destruction in an illegal war that was unnecessary and bleeding our country’s vital resources dry. Nobody at the top is telling you the truth, and that’s why you need to give as much as you can to this radio station, which will always tell you the truth.

And I started thinking about truth. And how, as I’ve always theorized, no matter how many sides of the story you hear, the truth lies, bound and gagged, somewhere in the middle.

The world is not as cut-and-dried anymore. And maybe it never was. Maybe this misty look at the past has only resulted from the pressure of year upon year that condenses “truth” into a finely-hewn collection of factoids that are then compiled into history books and spoon-fed into children’s’ brains. Columbus took Isabella and Ferdinand’s money and sailed the ocean blue and discovered the New World. The Pilgrims fled religious persecution in England and found a haven in Plymouth Rock where they lived compatibly with the Native Americans. Meanwhile all the other colonists busied themselves killing this peace-loving indigenous people and stealing their land. FDR saved the country from the Great Depression. He would have stayed out of World War II of not for Japan bombing Pearl Harbor. Overall, women didn’t do much, except maybe sew a flag or free a few slaves or fight for their own right to vote. And African Americans? As a child, I only remember hearing about John Brown, Sojourner Truth and Rosa Parks.

And we’ve grown up accepting these nuggets as incontrovertible “truths.”

But as my mother often reminds me, history is told by the winners, and unless you are motivated enough to dig deeper, you don’t learn the other side of the story. You don’t learn that the Pilgrims wanted to foist their religious beliefs upon everyone they met, sometimes under great duress. That the Native American tribes regularly and enthusiastically made war upon each other, with the winners enslaving the most capable of their surviving enemies. Ditto that Africans took each other as slaves, and it was a group of mercenary and greedy Africans that sold their own people literally down the river and into those terrible boats that took them to the New World. Did we learn that in Washington’s will, he decreed that his slaves be freed? No. Did we learn that Lincoln agonized about the freeing of slaves, concerned that as a population, they wouldn’t know how to run their own lives and would descend into poverty and despair? Don’t remember that one, either. What was Napoleon’s side of the story? Attila the Hun’s? Hirohito? We certainly don’t learn about that in school.

My childhood spanned the length of the Viet Nam war. Just from being conscious during that time I learned two sides of that triangle, and from some of the hipper teachers, the third (meaning why the conflict was actually happening). I haven’t been in school for a very long time, and I don’t know what the textbooks did to it, so if anyone knows, I’d be curious.

I’m also curious what the press of history will do to this era. If Al Quaida will be portrayed as some sort of mosquito-like annoyance that we dealt with fairly handily after a shaky start. Or if it led to something larger. Like that assassination in Serbia led to World War I.

We might never know.

Depends which version of the truth survives.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Brain-dead Friday

Top Nine Reasons $90,000 in cash was wrapped in aluminum foil in William Jefferson’s freezer:

1. It’s where he kept his extra FEMA money for Katrina victims.
2. He ran out of Saran Wrap.
3. Emergency cash left over from Y2K.
4. Burglars would look under the mattress first, of course.
5. He hadn’t defrosted his freezer since the Clinton administration.
6. “That explains the six hundred t-bones rotting in my safe,” said his butcher.
7. “Walking around” money left over from the last presidential election.
8. It’s old tradition started by Huey Long – every new electee begins his administration with a wad of cash in the freezer. If it’s still there when you’re up for re-election, the party bosses either make you leave quietly or leak the “find” to the press.
9. Since he was on the “Ways and Means” committee, it was an honest mistake, because in Louisiana politics, if you’ve got the means, you can get the ways. He was only doing his job.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Miracle of Life

It's not uncommon to see a deer or two or three traipsing around our backyard, since we live in the woods, but it's not too common to see them lie down and take a nap. Well, maybe when we first moved into the house, as the building had been vacant for a good few months, no dogs or humans to dissuade them from making the whole of the yard their crash pad. The sleeping deer look like a bunch of little ETs scattered about the yard, with their tiny heads and giant ears. But I hadn't seen this kind of behavior in a while. I watched the doe for a little bit - she'd get up, walk around a little, flop down again. Maybe she was sick, I thought, or pregnant...and then I didn't think much more about it. I had my own problems. The constant rain and the stress of the week had taken its toll on me and I needed to try to get a nap before I went out for an afternoon appointment.

Since it was to meet with a local representative to see if we qualified for a government-subsidized health care program, I wasn't feeling too enthusiastic about the meeting or the results. I’d had quite my share of battling the government lately. Yet I decided to keep the appointment, since COBRA is ridiculously expensive and it's going to be another five months until I can buy into my employer’s plan, and even that is going to be costly.

After said nap, I gathered up all the paperwork I'd been asked to bring. My last four pay stubs, my birth certificate, some proof of address, and Husband’s schedule C from his taxes. I drove into town and parked in the appointed lot and walked down a long corridor to the appointed meeting place.

And was told at the front desk that the appointed woman hadn't shown up.

Fortunately, her colleague, a very pleasant man named Bobby, was able to meet with me. He called Larissa – the appointed woman - and discovered that she'd been called to some other office for the day, and had somehow neglected to contact me.

One more strike against my faith in my friendly neighborhood government worker.

But Bobby was nice, and apologized, and told me about the programs. He said they were based on income, and how many children we had, but even with my contribution to our household earnings alone, we made too much to qualify.

“But I only work part-time,” I said.

"It’s based on income,” he reiterated. “Didn't Larissa go over any of this with you on the phone?"

"No," I said, standing up. "And if she had she would have saved me the trip. But it was very nice to meet you."

He apologized again. "I'm sorry. But if the two of you weren't married..." I wiggled my banded ring finger in front of his face. "...or if you had kids..." he added.

"So we’re just screwed," I said.

"Basically," he sighed.

It was a long walk down the corridor to the doors leading outside. At least I had to go to the pharmacy, I told myself, so the trip wouldn’t be an entire waste. This helped calm me some, but I was still seething. Once again, New York State was penalizing us for 1) being married; and 2) not having reproduced. What about the Defense of Marriage act? Did that mean nothing? (I guess it was only designed to keep gay people from getting married) And here I thought all these politicians were being sincere when they pontificated about the sanctity of marriage and how it kept communities together. Silly me. And children? People can have three, four, five, six...with different fathers yet...and they're eligible for all kinds of government aid. And here we are, caught in the middle. Not even offered any incentive for reducing our community’s carbon footprint by not making any more humans to tax the planet’s resources. We make too much money to qualify for help, yet not enough to live on. Married couples with two incomes (however small) and no children pay more taxes, proportionally, than any other demographic group. But even if we had made the decision to have children, we couldn't afford them. But then, maybe, they would get free health insurance.

On the trip home, I let most of the seething go. I can't change the system. It sucks, but that's the way it is, and I have to accept it. For a fleeting moment I thought about who I could compose an angry letter to - Hillary came to mind - she is my Senator, after all, and I haven't asked one single thing of her yet, and wasn't she all for this Defense of Marriage act that her husband passed? Didn't she believe that it takes a village to raise a child? Well, some of those villagers have time to help raise the other villagers’ children because they don't have any of their own. Surely I was worth a few minutes of her time.

But then I decided that would probably all come to naught and get me upset all over again.

So I went to the pharmacy, filled a prescription, bought a bunch of trashy magazines, and went home.

And the doe was still in the back yard. Again, she didn’t look right. She'd get up, unsteadily, then flop back down. I wondered if I should call my neighbor, Pat. He's a hunter, but a good one - the kind that cares about the ecology and the health of the local population.

And then she looked right at me, clear-eyed and strong, and I knew. She was pregnant.

"Maybe she's just sick," Husband said. "She doesn't look big or anything."

“Maybe she just carries it well,” I said.

We watched her on and off for the rest of the afternoon. We watched a movie, foraged some dinner, and then I did my evening PT.

As I’m stretching on the floor, Husband is standing at the slider to the back porch, holding binoculars. “You’ve got to see this,” he said. “There’s a baby. She had a baby. Right in our yard!”

I got up to look. There was Mama, licking a wobbly brand-new fawn. It looked like a wet house cat with long legs. Husband and I took turns watching and calling people like we were the proud parents, until it was too dark to see. We watched it try to get to its feet – then fall – and on its feet – and it fell again. Until finally it took its first, still wobbling, step.

I’d seen my cat have kittens, but I never saw an animal in the wild giving birth. I was in awe. I feel like in some ways animals are so much smarter than we silly humans. Women and men decide (or don’t decide) to reproduce for so many reasons besides instinct or love. There’s power, and convenience, and a ticking biological clock, and societal expectation, and the desire to create someone that will love us or take care of us when we’re old. And to bring this child into the world we need doctors, midwives, books, training…yet animals do it all the time, right out in the woods, with no assistance at all.

We named it Fawn Hall. I felt as proud of the doe as if I’d given birth myself. Hey, maybe I can claim it as a dependent. Then perhaps we can qualify for health insurance.