Thursday, September 16, 2010

OH MY GOD. What have we done?

It was exactly a year ago that I found myself obsessively running 5 miles every morning and surviving off of about 500 calories a day trying to lose an inhuman amount of weight in a very short amount of time. I was also doing daily facials and exfoliating like a madwoman. I know, it sounds like the beginning of a Lifetime movie which involves some kind of dramatic family intervention and me ending up at resort-like rehab facility and through some serious soul searching I heroically overcome my demons. I wasn't crazy. I was just getting married. And I had to look perfect, and this was the most important thing in the entire world. Ever. I did, and it was.

Fast forward to 8 months of marital bliss: Memorial day weekend. The husband and I decided to go see the Symphony under the Stars because it's the the kind of thing young newlyweds do because they are young and in love. It was also SALUTE TO AMERICA night and what is more romantic than the 1812 Overture? (Side note: how come we associate that piece with patriotism? Wasn't it written for RUSSIA's independence?) Anyway, we had bought a terrible yet overpriced bottle of wine and I poured us each a glass and then promptly knocked the bottle of wine over into grass leaving me with a single Dixie cup of rancid grape juice, which was ok because all those cannons were giving me a headache anyway.

The next morning I woke up and I was HUNGOVER. I couldn't believe that I got that sick off of a single glass of wine -- but it was really bad wine so I figured it was the tannins or the sulfates or something. As the day wore on I drank a gallon of water and I still didn't feel any better. I tried to eat a turkey sandwich and it was the most disgusting thing I'd ever tasted. I felt like crap, but something else started nagging at the back of my mind: when exactly was my last period? I added up the weeks and I was late. My pill prescription had just expired and I hadn't had a chance to get to the Dr. yet - but we were using alternate methods of birth control and I knew that it takes your body some time get back on track so I tried to tell myself not to freak out over nothing. The chances of me being pregnant were one in a billion or some official statistic like that.

But I couldn't get the thought out of my head. The next day I had the husband drive me to Walgreens and I picked up a 3 pack of EPT pregnancy tests. He figured I was being my normal drama queen self but he knew if he didn't just let me prove it to myself that I wasn't pregnant I'd just spend the rest of the weekend making both of us miserable. When we got home he actually offered me a beer before I took the test.

Pregnancy test instructions are pretty simple. You pee on the stick and wait five minutes and then you know your future. So I took the test and within seconds a blue plus sign appeared. I figured I'd done something wrong -- because I was getting a result before the recommended wait time. I threw that test out and took another one -- this time I turned it over and waited the requisite five minutes before I looked at the results. Another plus sign. At this point I re-read the entire box, the directions in English and in Spanish and then looked up the directions again online for good measure because I knew I had to be reading the test wrong. They all confirmed that plus sign = pregnant. So I then I turned the test upside down, looked at it from a 75 degree angle and 10 feet back - still a plus sign. I then confirmed with my husband that I did indeed know what a plus sign looked like because I've never been that good at math. Things were getting strange. The next Tuesday before I went to work I took another test -- this one came up with a totally blank result even half an hour later. So I knew for sure I did something wrong -- the logical conclusion was that I just didn't know how to take a pregnancy test. When I got home from work that night I looked at that test, and it had somehow developed a plus sign too. Hmm...

It was time to go to the Dr. because something must be wrong. I knew she was just going to tell me that my hormones were out of whack because I'd just gone off the pill and to stop freaking out. Instead she told me I was 8 weeks pregnant. I wasn't just pregnant, I was pretty darn pregnant. That night I went home and read everything on the entire Internet about pregnancy. Turns out I had pretty much every single pregnancy symptom in recorded history . I'd just been too oblivious to figure it out on my own.

My first reaction was fear. I had not been taking care of myself for the past 8 weeks and I was terrified that I'd hurt my baby somehow. I'd been drinking and smoking a little and god knows what kind of junk I'd been eating. Plus, the internets are particularly cruel to pregnant women - there are 5 million super rare things that can happen to a developing baby that WebMd will tell you for sure are all happening. Thankfully an early ultrasound and an understanding midwife confirmed that the baby was healthy and developing on track.

My second reaction was fear. My husband and I were not equipped to have a baby. He had just finished up his first year of grad school and I was just getting started with my career. We had a carefree existence of randomly taking off on the weekends and drinking for 3 days straight in Vegas. Don't get me wrong, we wanted kids, just later. I had always said that I wanted to be at least 30 years older than my first child -- and we were ahead of schedule. Hell, we didn't have the kind of car you could put a child in.

However, my most intense reaction was pure love. I was instantly and forever attached to this tiny being developing inside of me. I knew that whatever it was I used to think my future was had been all wrong. This was the most right, most incredible thing that had ever happened to me. I instantly devoted my life to giving this child the best life possible. I find myself crying daily at the unfathomable miracle that a baby is -- how so many things in the world had to come together at just the perfect moment to create this little life. And although I knew that I loved my husband from the moment I first saw him, I began to love him on an entirely different level once I found out he was going to be the father of my child. It's like ultralove or something . All I know is that I used to think I knew what love was, and now I know I had no idea.

I guess I've become a cliche. And I don't care.

So now as I approach my first wedding anniversary I'm fatter than I've ever been in my life. I couldn't run five miles even if my feet didn't ache in every pair of shoes I own and I have skin like a thirteen-year-old. And it is the most perfect thing. Ever.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Not Everybody is Catholic

And other religious lessons learned in small-town New Mexico

When Mike and I decided to get married we were faced with quite the conundrum: My parents said that their only request was that we get married in the Catholic Church. This "tiny request" presented us with quite the conundrum, although Mike was raised Catholic he was not confirmed. Further, Mike and I were already living together and couldn't even consider ourselves Christmas and Easter Catholics, big no-nos that would require major reconciliation in most churches before we'd be allowed to walk down the aisle. We looked around at churches and finally found a liberal church that would let us get hitched with minimal adherence to Vatican doctrine. I was delighted with our new church's lack of pews and what can only be described as "Happy Dancing Jesus" in place of the crucified Christ that adorns most Catholic churches.

Despite the church's lack of conventional furniture I was still not prepared for our first and only meeting with the Priest. We walked into his office and the first things I noticed were his lack of a collar, the giant bottle of gin and a giant, friendly chocolate lab. He started off the conversation by asking if I was on birth control and I freaked because I was afraid if I told the truth we'd be kicked out right then and there. Imagine my surprise when he encouraged me to remain on the pill until I was ready to have children, and further explained that this wasn't the 50's when we knew nothing about child psychology and we weren't "raising a farm" so I should not feel obligated to have tons and tons of children. My jaw nearly hit the ground when he said that we should encourage said children to explore their sexuality and to never make them feel ashamed for masturbating. At this point I gave a quick look at the priest's pupils because I was sure he was on acid. After I confirmed his sobriety and got over the sheer embarrassment of having such a conversation with a priest I realized that even not all Catholics are the same and started thinking other times when I realized that not everyone believed exactly what I believed.

Lutherans make the best snacks

The first time I ever went to a Lutheran church was when I was 4 or 5 years old and my mom sent me to a vacation bible school at a church a few blocks from our house. I must have been a particularly annoying child that summer for my mom to hand me over to the Lutherans, but nonetheless, I LOVED that place. Particularly because every time we passed the church, which was often because you couldn't leave our neighborhood without passing it, I saw my first true crush: the Holy Grail of swing sets. It was big, shiny and had a spectacularly amazing looking slide. This is the kind of thing that can stir up incomprehensible longing in a young girl. I must have told my parents that we should join that church at least 10 times a week. After what seemed like years of yearning the bible school finally gave me my chance to swing to my heart's content, teeter-totter like an Olympian and scorch my baby thighs on the slick metal of that glorious, glorious slide heated to a perfect 200 degrees in the July sun. The church service itself seemed pretty familiar: I had to sit still, be quiet and listen to some old guy talk endlessly about stuff I didn't understand. The upside was they gave me my very own miniature bible (which I couldn't read but didn't have to share with my brother and sister -- even though I'm sure Jesus would've appreciated it) and introduced me to one of the greatest culinary delights known to man: the cupcake in an ice cream cone. This little confection took the two most incredible known kid foods and made them into one harmonious child-size delight covered in gobs and gobs of icing. I was in heaven -- however, I must have liked the Lutheran vacation bible school a little too much because for some unknown reason I was taken out halfway through the week never to go back again.

More recently I attended a Lutheran service for passing of a dear friend's father and found myself thinking many of the same things: It was a lot like the Catholic church (they even do the Apostle's creed!) except there was more singing, less standing up and sitting down and once again the superb snacks. I ate something that can only be described as chocolate, marshmallow ecstasy as well as about 20 different types of miniature sandwiches.

Oh, and as life would have it, I now pass the old Lutheran church of my youth on my daily commute to the cube farm and that old longing creeps back up. Over the years they've upgraded to a FULL PLAYGROUND. It looks so awesome that most days I am tempted to call in sick and swing all day long.

Jews are Catholic because Jesus was Jewish, right?

In the first grade my best friend, Bristol, was the coolest person I'd ever met. She was smart, fashionable, sassy, and always smelled really, really good. She was also Jewish and this was totally awesome in my six-year-old mind because Jesus was Jewish and most of the songs I knew at the time were either about Jesus or jump roping. Needless to say, I wanted to be just like Bristol. I didn't understand why my family didn't own a menorah (probably because I was a mini-pyromaniac, but that's another post) and I wanted to go to Hebrew school rather than catechism. I even went so far as to select the one and only RIF book specifically laid out for the two Jewish kids in school (Bristol and her brother) at one of the bi-yearly book giveaways. It was a bright shiny Hanukkah activity book and had stickers and wicked cool pictures of colorful soldiers. I actually remember Bristol being seriously peeved at me for choosing it because for whatever reason I was allowed first pick of books that day and she really wanted it -- but I didn't care it was the coolest book in the world and it was MINE. I think that book lasted about 1 week in our house until it some how disappeared in the way things that parents don't exactly approve of do.

The hardest thing for me understand at that time was why I couldn't be both Catholic and Jewish. Maybe it's because a lot of the stories used to teach young children about the Bible are from the Old Testament. Think about it: Noah's Ark = practically every nursery's decor in America. I seriously felt like they were one in the same and didn't understand why the adults had to constantly point out that they were different. We were different: Bristol was one and I was the other. The older I get the more I understand that these kinds of definitions have caused 90% of the wars in the world. Stupid adults.

The Rapture is not the same as a raptor, but almost.

In high school, still believing that essentially everyone believed in same thing that I did, I started to get involved with the Born Again Christian movement that was growing mighty popular at that time. The Left Behind series could be found at any local Wal-Mart end cap, Mega-Churches were the new Club 54 and anyone who was anyone had a deluxe personalized bible cover. I know it's hard to believe, but in high school I was determined to do exactly what everyone else was doing, so I tagged along with my to the charismatic services and pizza buffet Bible studies with glee.

The thing about these kids is that the kept talking about THE RAPTURE (which I'm pretty sure always appears in all caps). I had no idea what the fuck they were talking about. Let's be clear here, the Catholics have more books in their Bible, not less, so we definitely have the Book of Revelations. We just don't take it that seriously. I once asked a priest about it and he said something like "Eh, we kinda take the Book of Revelations with a grain of salt -- it was written long after the other books of the Bible and we don't know if those guys really knew what they were talking about. But it's a good story."

It scared the shit out of me. Of course I never actually took the intuitive to read it, but my friends were more than happy give my all the gritty details. There were horsemen and Prophets and some kind of global speaker system. You were guaranteed to either to get vaporized or your have head chopped off. And most of all JESUS HATED CATHOLICS. Believing in Mary or Saint Anthony was pretty much the Mark of the Beast itself -- I was destined for hell.

Still, even though many of my Catholic friends were more than happy to give up Communion wafers for Vanilla Wafers, I was not so sure. Instead I created some kind of religious hybrid -- I was determined to reconcile both religions within myself and cover all my bases. I threw my hands up and sang Christian Rock and went home and prayed the Rosary. I went to two youth groups a week and spent copious amounts of time defending each side to the other. I was intensely religious and I probably freaked a lot of people out. I wore a gold necklace that said "Worth Waiting For" and I once spent 45 minutes in drama class explaining how the greatest wedding gift I could give to my husband was my virginity (ha ha).

And Now? Where will I spend eternity?

Eventually just became too much or maybe I just went to college, but either way I pretty much gave up on all of it. I stopped listening to everyone and just listened to myself. I haven't been excommunicated but I guess I'm still technically a Catholic. I can't believe in a God who sends people to hell based simply on semantics and I don't understand why you'd ever start a war over God because I think that would seriously annoy him. I call God him because there isn't a respectful genderless pronoun but I don't think he really cares. I guess I'm just like every other cliche 20-something bleeding heart out there and I really don't know if you go anywhere after you die but I think you shouldn't live your life any less because you're afraid of the answer. I'm just trying be a good person and that should get me points with someone, somewhere. :) OH MAN, I couldn't resist ending this with an emoticon!