Saturday, September 22, 2012

Last ditch attempt

Everything in my life seems to be perpetually falling apart.  I'm not sure if it has always been that way or if it is just since we moved to St. Louis.  Probably the latter.  I recently read through some of my first blog, from the year we spent living in Nicaragua when I was doing my dissertation research, and I realized that I actually used to be a happy person.  What happened?  Hyperemesis.  Finishing my dissertation but then walking away from the thing I'd spent 8 years working towards.  Our Urbana house explosion.  St. Louis.  

But mainly St. Louis.  It is easier to blame this on a place.

For about the first four months we lived here, things were okay.  It was exciting to have a job, and my coworkers were nice.  I no longer spent every minute of the day completely terrified that something would happen to Rob and I would have no way to support my child.  But then we had that house thing happen in Urbana, and everything got really awful for a while.  St. Louis no longer seemed promising.  Nothing seemed promising.  

I began, either consciously or subconsciously, to look for an Exit Strategy.

The form that my grief took was to write a book.  Just do it.  The thing that everybody in my life has spent my entire life telling me to Just Do.

I don't know what I was hoping to accomplish.  I didn't necessarily think of money as being the goal, but it would have been nice if we could have both quit our jobs and picked up and moved to Eugene, OR.  Why Eugene?  Because it is a place (I am told) that is so liberal, Rob and I would be considered "just right of center."  It seems pretty good compared to Missouri.

The book didn't pan out.  Maybe I can write and I just don't have what it takes to succeed the publishing industry.  Or maybe I can't even write.  It's really hard to say.

I'm exhausted.  I just can't put any more energy into it.

A couple of weeks ago, the NGO I was loosely involved with when I did my research in Nicaragua contacted me and asked if I would teach a primatological field course during the winter session this year.  At first I said there was no way.  

But then I took a good look around me and saw how much I don't belong in St. Louis.  I emailed them back and said I'd move heaven and earth to do it.

It would have involved planning and designing the course during the nights and weekends, then maxing out on all my vacation days for the entire year to take off enough time to go down there and teach it.  Rob was going to come with me and bring Will, of course.  I started getting excited for Will to learn Spanish.  To be wild and free and swim in Lake Nicaragua and watch monkeys with me in the forest.

It was only going to be 3 weeks, but maybe that would be enough.  Just enough of an exit to give me the energy to keep on doing this for a little bit more.  Maybe I could get a trumpet for Eduardo and bring it to him.  He wants to go to a university in Rivas and study music.  He wants to start his own mariachi band.

But then the whole thing fell through.  These things happen.  I got the news while I was at work, and I had to close my office door for a while.

It wouldn't be quite so bad if I thought I was going to be able to go to Fuego y Agua with Rob in February.  Oh yes, he's running it again.  But when I tossed out the idea to my coworkers, there was some grimacing.  It would have been much easier to have me gone, even for 3 weeks, over semester break.  Taking a whole week off in February, during the semester, is problematic for everyone.  They put up with it last year for me.  It was kind of a one-shot thing.

And so.

Eduardo isn't getting the money I send him every month.  I'd worked out this deal.  It seemed okay, but that fell through too.  He emailed me and told me the money didn't matter to him.  He'll always think of us as his North American family.  Of me as his Mama Meli.

And meanwhile, I'm still stuck in St. Louis.  Not sure what I'm doing here.

I decided I needed to pull myself together.  To put in one last ditch attempt to stop feeling toxic in my own skin.  

And now is the point at which I actually begin writing about what I intended to when I began this post.


Yes.  You read that right.  Juice.

For a really long time, I'd been thinking about getting a juicer and doing a juice fast.  I mean, I'm a vegan, so it's kind of the next step-- right?  I finally took the plunge and did it.  Well, at least I bought the juicer.  It's a nice one.  A Breville Compact that I got refurbished for only $69.  And I bought the fruits and vegetables, a ton of them.  They didn't even all fit in the fridge.

I was so excited.  I just wanted to feel clean and clear-headed.  But what I found out is that I don't actually like juice.  

In particular, I don't like green juice, which is the juice you're supposed to rely on while fasting.  It all goes back to kale.  The first food that made me sick when I had hyperemesis.  I still can't eat it.  One of my main motives for buying the juicer was that I thought I'd be able to consume kale if it were in juice form.  The texture is what bothers me, not the taste so much, or so I thought.

It turns out, it is the taste that bothers me.  And juiced kale tastes about as good as, well, you'd imagine.

Of course you mix it with other things (like celery, cucumbers, apples, etc), but that just makes the other things taste bad.

About 22 hours into the juice fast, I was on the floor writhing in nausea, and I thought, okay, this is not working.  Most people who juice fast probably don't have such strong aversions to kale, and they probably aren't running 5 miles a day in preparation for some as of yet undecided ultra marathon.

So I gave it up.  My last ditch attempt to get my shit together.  I'm not sure where to go from here.

On the plus side, I've gotten Will to drink fun things like carrot-mango-orange juice.  I'd been hoping to sneak some leafy greens in him this way, but the kid knows better than to try anything that contains kale.

I've got no more Exit Strategies up my sleeve.  So, I run.  At some point on this blog I think I said that I run because I need the feeling of pushing myself into a deep, dark, scary place and then finding my way out.  But maybe that's not really why I do it, at least not all the time.  Maybe I run like this because I can't really run away.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dear William (37 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 37 months old.  You are really enjoying being three.

We took another family camping trip this month.  We went to Hawn State Park near Ste. Genevieve, MO.  There was a playground right on the campground, and you loved that.  We played nature bingo in the amphitheater that night.  Then you snuggled up next to Mommy and Daddy and went to sleep in the tent.


The next morning we went hiking.  The trails were great-- sandy and beautiful.  I hiked barefoot because a blister on my ankle made shoes uncomfortable.  It was lovely, William.




Your daycare randomly closed one day because of a water main break, and your dad took the day off work to take care of you.  The two of you went on another hike.  This time you rode in the pack.

In the pack


We went to the Festival of Nations at Tower Grove Park.  You wouldn't eat any food (as per usual), but you did have some frozen lemonade.  It was really good.  It was a lemon icee and they put a peppermint candy at the bottom that melted into the lemonade and became pure wonderfulness.  I think we got it from the Hawaii booth (which is a state, not exactly a nation), or from some unaffiated booth that was next to Hawaii.  I hope your father can find this booth again next year (I've already forgotten where it was) because those icees were delicious.

Frozen lemonade


We went to the Science Center, where you looked at trains and puzzles and played with magnetic tiles.  We don't know anybody in St. Louis, but we saw three people that we knew there that day.







You did some more hiking with your father.  You stole his trekking poles.

More hiking


We went to the zoo and visited the stingray exhibit.  Did you know it is free during the first hour of operation?  That is great.  There were stingrays and little sharks in the enclosure.  Visitors could pet them.  I put my hand in the water and a couple of stingrays swam over and let me pet them.  They felt slimy and amazing.  You and your dad didn't really want to touch them.  Maybe next time.

You continue to be a non-eater of food and I wonder what keeps you alive.  

You never want to go to bed.  The whole process takes us two or more hours every night.  You cry like your heart is breaking and cling to me whenever I say "Nigh nigh" and try to leave the room.  You beg me to stay with you.  You get up repeatedly to ask for a drink of water or to go to the potty or to tell us that you are afraid of lions.  Sometimes you call me into your room in the middle of the night and tell me, "I need a hug."   It is hard to be mad at you because you are so cute, but William, it is exhausting.

You started taking naps in underpants (no diaper) and waking up dry.  We haven't tried that overnight yet-- I'm a bit too scared.  Maybe this month, we'll see.

Get ready for more adventures, William!  


Your mom

Saturday, September 1, 2012

2 years

"Give it two years."  That was what a friend said to me when we moved to St. Louis.  "You can't really expect to feel at home any place until you've been there for two years."

Our two year anniversary of living in St. Louis came and went (quite unceremoniously) near the end of August, and I didn't feel a flash of brilliance, a sudden sense of belonging after two years of being an outsider in a city with which I can't quite reconcile myself.

The way I feel about St. Louis is kind of like how I imagine it would be to have a weird uncle you don't really like.  Maybe this person annoys or bothers you, but he's family, so anybody who's not related to you and dares make a derogatory remark about him is going to have hell to pay.

I complain about St. Louis all the time, but I'll be damned if anybody else talks down about it.  The crime rate, the dilapidated appearance of the downtown buildings as you whiz by on I-64, the crime rate, and did I mention the crime rate?

Well, there was only one shooting on my running route last week, and nobody was injured, so that's something I guess.

Aside from all the crime, people here are uncommonly nice.  Freakishly nice.  Even in places where you don't expect people to be nice, such as the benefits department at work, the post office, and the driver's bureau.  When we first moved here, I had the feeling that it was just the people I worked with who were nice, but then I found that this niceness extended to the entire university, and even beyond that, to what appears to be the entire community.  I've never encountered that anywhere else in the world, but I've always imagined it's how Wisconsin would be.

I'm suspicious of this niceness, though, because I suspect that beneath it all, the person at the grocery store or library or auto repair shop who is exchanging seemingly genuine "Hellos" and "How are yous" might legitimately be the kind of nut job who would vote for this nut job.

And beyond that, the niceness completely breaks down once anybody gets behind the wheel of a car in this city.  I follow the local news on Twitter and every day, I swear, there are at least 8 fatalities on the interstate just because road rage, privilege, and the "mine is bigger" mentality takes over when people are attempting to merge or change lanes.

Don't get me wrong, all the road idiocy is hardly confined to the city's over-used interstate system.  At the corner of Delmar and Skinker, I have seen, on no less than two occasions, someone make a RIGHT turn from the LEFT turn lane, on a RED light, while talking on a cell phone.  

I have never, ever felt so unsafe walking anywhere since living in St. Louis, and I'm not talking about the fear of getting shot or robbed.  I am honest-go-god scared to be a pedestrian in this city.  Green lights and walk signals are meaningless.  Cars barrel right through them.  In fact, I came the closest I've ever come to getting hit by a car just last weekend at mile 3 of my 14-mile run, when an SUV didn't think it necessary to stop or even slow as I crossed the intersection (on a green light!).  When I am driving and I do yield to pedestrians, the driver behind me generally honks and makes wild gesticulations.  I assume profanity is involved as well.  At least it is on my part.

Yet St. Louis is a haven compared to the areas beyond--that is, rural Missouri.  The people are probably really nice there too, but I don't feel welcome as a vegan, feminist, environmentalist person who supports LGBT rights.  While we were driving to a state park recently to take a family camping trip, I felt nauseated at the sheer amount of political signage proclaiming that our current president is a Muslim (he's not) and urging passers by to reject the idea of health care for all.  Last fall, a couple of grad students even reported to me that they passed through an actual clan gathering (and by clan I mean clan with a k) while on their way to the Ozarks.


Of course, it isn't all bad, and I'm even getting a little mad at myself for being so negative in this post.  St. Louis seems to be a place of great opportunity, of great potential.  There are genuinely many times that I'm excited to live in a big city (yes, I consider St. Louis to be big), because there are a lot of things to do here (even if they are way too over-crowded and there is never any parking available).  Forest Park has got a lot of free museums (the Science Center, the Missouri History Museum, the Art Museum) where I can take Will, and honestly, I often think about how he would never have had so many of these amazing experiences if we'd stayed in Urbana.  While I miss Strawberry Fields and the Co-Op, here I've got Whole Foods and a produce delivery guy who is also a stand-up comedian.  St. Louis is also a thrift store shopper's paradise, ranging from "upscale" places like the Scholar Shop, to the Goodwill Outlet, where you can buy items (clothing, shoes, used candles, broken lampshades, picture frames, and boxes of expired cake mix) for 79 cents a pound.

Plus, St. Louis seems to be on the Indigo Girls' tour circuit, so it's got that going for it.

I don't know what the future holds.  Sometimes I dream about moving to Eugene, Oregon, or going back to Nicaragua and living up on the volcano with the hippies who are into permaculture.  But I also feel like I've barely scratched the surface of what St. Louis has to offer.  I really don't get out much, what with the full time job, the toddler who still takes a 4 hour nap in the afternoon, and the ultra marathon training schedule.  I know I would miss this place if we ever left.  I guess all I can do is give it more time.

Thanks for reading.