Tuesday, September 30, 2014

October Hootenany

It's almost October! Hurrah! Hurrah! There are so many things I want to do before Halloween:

  • Take Pippa to a pumpkin patch
  • carve pumpkins with Pippa (and hopefully Nathan, but he is crazy at work so yeah, that seems unlikely) - wait, I'm insane. Let's modify this one: DECORATE pumpkins with Pippa with paint and glitter - KEEP THE KNIVES AWAY FROM THE TODDLER
  • eat pumpkin pancakes
  • (if you are noticing a theme, you are not alone)
  • pull out our Halloween decorations and decorate!
  • visit some sort of carnival or festival with Pippa
  • Take Pippa to another pumpkin patch
  • Then take Pippa to a pumpkin patch with a petting zoo
  • and a pumpkin patch with a moon bounce
  • sew something
  • make an info flyer about my postpartum depression meetup
  • deliver that flyer to 10 different pediatricians and/or ob/gyn's in Pasadena
  • get my hair highlighted (treat yo self!)
  • visit a pumpkin patch

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Courtney's Somewhat Exhaustive Guide to Living in East Pasadena

I am specifically writing this post for my cousin Julie, who recently moved to my neighborhood (hurrah!) I thought it would be fun to write a post for her with all the great wisdom I have gleaned during my Pasadena tenure.

Mexican food: So there is an El Cholo at Paseo Colorado, but the service can sometimes be ... questionable. But the fajitas sizzle and the margaritas will make you forget your sorrows. But if you want some excellent, cheap Mexican food that's closer to home, you must try Chiquita Bonita. Especially for breakfast. You should probably go there tomorrow. Then there's Chipotle over on Lake, in the same complex as Best Buy - they have really, really long lines. We always preorder and take home.

Best Buy: If you ever feel the need to go to Best Buy, go to the one in Monrovia. The one in East Pasadena is a Shit Show.  The one in Monrovia is usually empty, even on weekends.

Nordstrom Rack: You probably already figured this out, but we live insanely close to an excellent Rack.  I have scored big time in their jeans department.

Breakfast: So in addition to Chiquita Bonita, I recommend ... oh wait, I have a baby, we don't go to breakfast anymore. But we used to trek to Dish in La Canada - outstanding pancakes - and we'll be making a pilgrimage soon for the pumpkin pancakes. Everyone raves about Marston's, and I do like their French toast, but this place is overhyped and the waits are too effing long for some fucking pancakes. But if you want a special/expensive treat, get brunch at the Langham (where we got ready for my wedding.) It's a fun outing. If you want to hit a diner, then you must try Rod's in Arcadia - mint green booths, lots of great people watching, good cheap food.

Burgers; There is a burger stand called Super Burger and holy eff, it's SUPER. The line for In N Out is always insane, even at 10 a.m. The food at The Habit is also delicious - and dangerous.

Cheap But Awesome Massage: I have found it - yes, I found it - the best massage, and it's only $20! This place is the opposite of Burke Williams, but the $20 foot massage is divine. A Beautiful Day Spa - treat yo self.

Best Cheap Pedicure: Still searching, no luck yet. Sorry. But if you want to pamper yourself, Bellacures in Old Town is amazing.

Books: Vroman's - there are two. The one near us is good but the flagship on Colorado is all sorts of awesome.

Things I Have Recently Learned

  • If you are taking the baby out of her car seat, and you could swear she had a bottle of milk, but you do not see said bottle of milk: SEARCH THE ENTIRE CAR FOR THE MISSING BOTTLE OF MILK.
  • As soon as your car starts to smell like an army latrine, SEARCH THE ENTIRE CAR FOR THE SOURCE OF THE DEATH STENCH. Don't just hope and pray that the smell will go away on its own volition. It won't. 
  • When you find the bottle of rotten milk underneath the driver's seat of the car, don't celebrate and think the latrine smell will disappear. OPEN ALL THE CAR WINDOWS OVER NIGHT, IDIOT. Otherwise, the smell will only get worse.
  • When the smell gets worse, check for sour milk stains.
  • It is probably a good idea to constantly check for milk stains and then scrub the shit out of those stains immediately, if not sooner.
  • But if you are an idiot, and you allow numerous sour milk stains to fester in your car during an extended heat wave, GET YOUR ASS TO THE CAR WASH AND IMMEDIATELY PAY TO HAVE YOUR CAR DETAILED.
Related lessons: I'm an idiot; always use a coupon at the car wash.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Introducing Guest Blogger: Anges the Abandoned Sofa!

Hi, loyal readers! Between raising a rambunctious toddler, writing my memoir about postpartum depression, organizing some grassroots support for mommas with PPD, training to be a trapeze artist, and battling forces of evil across the Universe, I have been super busy and neglecting this blog. While I focus on my stay-at-home mom, writer, circus and superhero gigs, I thought some guest bloggers could entertain you.

First Up: Agnes the Abandoned Sofa! I first met Agnes last winter during an early morning walk with Pippa. She had been abandoned by her latest owner and left on the curb. She looked very lonely and dejected, and I had a pebble in my shoe, so I sat down on her and we chatted.

And so began an unlikely friendship!

Her life began with a family of disgraced but wealthy Spanish aristocrats living in exile in Vermont. Who would have guessed that she would someday be friends with a California girl of humble ordinary roots? I feel so incredibly blessed to call Agnes my friend, and I hope you enjoy her posts.

Without further ado... Agnes the Abandoned Sofa!






Very long chess games.

Very short chess games.

Seven marriage proposals.

Five marriage proposal acceptances.




And, of course, charades.

God, I hate charades.

But look at me, it's my first guest blog post, and I'm babbling like a broken wicker rocking chair, and you know what they say about wicker furniture: there is crazy, and then there is bat shit wicker furniture crazy.

So let's talk about something Interesting and Important: your morning beauty regimen!!!

I know, I know. I am only an abandoned sofa. What do I know about exfoliants and moisturizers? Well, let me remind you, I might now live on the porch of a disreputable fraternity, but I used to be the personal sofa of the Countess Von Countess of Agua de la Mar. And although her family had been exiled to Vermont, and forced to tend a flock of goats, those goats produced cheese that is the stuff of legend. Have you ever heard about the Legend of the Vermont Goat Herder? Of course you have! Well, that legend is about a different herd of goats, but one time... oh shit, I'm babbling again. Sorry.

Anyway, I once lived in the Countess's personal dressing room where she attended to her beauty routine every single morning, and today I am going to share some tips I gleaned.

I think these tips will be very valuable because the Countess Von Countess was reputed to be a Great Beauty but she was, in fact, quite ugly. 

Beauty tips are usually given by the very, very beautiful. WTF? What the hell does a beauty know about beauty regimens? A touch of mascara, a dab of lipstick, and yay, you are ready.

The Countess Von Countess, however, was working with a face that not even her mother could love. I was born after The Exile Affair, but I understand the Countess' face played a small role in that drama. There was also something about a veil and switched brides and an enchanted carousel.

But nobody wants to hear about switched brides or enchanted carousels. We are talking about beauty secrets!

Here is what the Countess Von Countess did every morning to make herself look like one of the world's greatest beauties:

First, she fetched her bag, which she kept in a locked chest, inside a locked closet.

Then, she took her Daytime Face out of the bag. The Daytime Face was a false face made from flower petals, pig skin and ketchup. Also, the Countess chanted a series of rhyming words while waving her arms around - the words were very important, but I do not remember them.

Just Google it. Google knows everything. It certainly knows the words to make a Daytime Face with flower petals, pig skin and ketchup.

This next part is very important: before adhering the Daytime Face to her Ugly Nocturnal Face, the Countess Von Countess spun around in a slow circle, a dozen times, and hummed. Then she summoned her Spirit Animal, a winged gargoyle named Jesse, and fed him breakfast. Breakfast varied from corn to goat fur to pancakes with cobwebs. After breakfast, Jesse whispered secrets into the Countess' ears.

I could tell you all about those secrets, because the Countess was always sitting on my cushions during that part of the Morning Beauty Routine, but I know you are not interested in those secrets. You are only interested in beauty tips.

So to recap: fetch the bag; take out the daytime face; spin and hum; feed your spirit animal; listen to dark secrets about the end of the world and the enslavement of mankind to the gargoyle overloads; and then, and only then, glue on your face with lipstick, mascara, foundation, and blush.

I recommend Clinique but in a pinch, any drugstore brand ought to get the job done.

Happy Monday!

Friday, September 19, 2014

The L.A. Postpartum Depression Meetup Group

When I was first diagnosed with postpartum depression, I wanted to join a group of women who also had postpartum depression. I imagined we would share war stories and give each other support. Maybe someone who had already recovered would be my Big Sister and mentor me. I was not looking for formal group therapy because I already had a psychiatrist and psychologist.  I wanted something that was free and social. Since I live in Pasadena, right next door to L.A., I assumed I would have tons of nearby options.

There were no nearby options... unless you count Missouri.  (Or maybe it was Michigan - whatever, it was in another state, and not even a state adjacent to California.)

I was shocked and disappointed. I had a ton of support from my doctors, husband, parents, siblings, family and friends, but I really yearned for a community of women who knew exactly what I was experiencing. I often felt incredibly alone and frustrated because I could not find local mamas who had PPD.

Last May I started a meetup group for mamas in Pasadena who have or had PPD. We are now eleven mamas strong! We meet at local parks and talk, and by "talk," I mean "we pour each other's hearts out." Although I am fully recovered, I still find the group incredibly cathartic and healing, and I enjoy helping moms who are traveling through the darkness of depression. 

A few weeks ago, one of our members started a meetup group for mamas in Glendale who have or had PPD. I was so excited! Yes! This is exactly what we need! L.A. is BIG, and it is difficult to drag a baby to the far corners of the county, so let's have a meetup group in every neighborhood, from Malibu to Echo Park and everything in between.

At first I was excited, but then I felt INSPIRED.

Why should I be content with organizing a meetup group in Pasadena?  There are women, just like me, struggling with postpartum depression in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Los Feliz, etc. etc. Those women need meetup groups, too! But if you have PPD right now, it's difficult enough managing showers, groceries and diaper changes. I myself could not even think about starting a group until I was 110% better.

I cannot sit by and do nothing if there is one woman with PPD feeling alone and scared in L.A. County, so I started another Meetup Group today: the Los Angeles Postpartum Depression Meetup - We're Not Alone!

I am hoping to use this big L.A. group to start lots of neighborhood groups. One out of seven women suffer from postpartum depression after giving birth. There is no need for us to suffer alone!

I am so excited! I have so many other ideas. I want to get some links and pages going with PPD info on this blog. I need to start some Facebook groups to compliment the Meetup groups. And I want to send fliers to pediatricians and hospital support groups. I told Pippa's pediatrician I want to make fliers to share information about my group, and she was very enthusiastic about this. I also need business cards! I talked with a momma this morning who gave birth two weeks ago and told her about my postpartum depression. Ugh, I wish I had remembered to give her my name and email address.

I also want to make a tote bag that proudly declares the fact that I had PPD. Something I can use for sand toys so other mommas at the playground can see it, and maybe my candor and openness will help someone who is feeling shitty.

Once I help get the neighborhood groups off the ground, I want to use the L.A. group for monthly and quarterly gatherings.  Maybe sometimes we will have weekend gatherings so the dad's and grandparents can come as well.

AND THERE NEEDS TO BE A DANCE PARTY! Postpartum depression is, well, depressing; so I want to encourage moms to do fun things, because FUN helps fight depression.

AND THERE NEEDS TO BE A 5K! Every cause has a 5K. Where's the PPD Fun Run??

And this is L.A. so we need an outing to Dodgers stadium. 2015 season, I'm looking at you! I want the big t.v. screen thing to flash a big cheerful welcome to PPD Moms of L.A.

But whew, all in good time. For now, I'm working on the L.A. meetup group and getting the neighborhood gatherings started. I hope this project gathers momentum quickly, but I realize it might take time. That's okay. The best things come to those who wait.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I'm liking the word "No"

Pippa has been saying "no" for a long time, but she recently started saying it with a lot more passion and intensity. 

Other parents had warned me about the dreaded "No's" making it sound like a death sentence. But so far, it does not bother me. (I reserve the right to amend that statement at any time!)

Yesterday I overheard a toddler saying "No! No! No!" to everything her mother said. Her mother told her that "no" is a negative word and if she kept saying it, people would think she was not nice.

I see her point.

But I politely disagree. (Of course, I kept my disagreement to myself - I'm not in the market for any new enemies this week. But now I'm going to share my disagreement with the world! Muhaha.)

Why does "no" have to be seen as a naughty four-letter word? Why do we discourage our children from using it? The way I see it, "no" is a very important word and I hope that during her life, Pippa uses it regularly and with great intensity. If her junior high school friends offer her a cigarette, I hope she says, "Gross! No!"

 If she is at a party and her drunk friend tries to drive home, I hope she says, "No! Give me the keys! You idiot!"

If anyone ever pressures her to do anything she does not want to do, I hope she says "No!"

If anyone ever tries to take advantage of her in any way, I hope she says, "No!"

If anyone ever touches her in a way that she does not want, I hope she screams, "NO!!! NO!!! NO!!!"

If anyone ever tries to hurt her, I hope she shouts, "NO!" and then kicks that person in the ass. (Or flees if that's the better option. Always choose Life over Dignity.)

If anyone pressures her to do something stupid, I hope she says, "NO!"

I could go on.

Instead of hating the word "no," I am celebrating it every time Pippa says it. When Pippa tells me "NO!" because she is feeling defiant, I smile inside and think, "You go girl!" When Pippa says "No!" to make the point that she is an individual, I silently cheer, "Yes! You are!"  And when Pippa says "No!" when it's time to brush her teeth, I listen, recognize her feelings, and then make her brush her teeth anyway. I am still the momma, after all.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Some Rambling Thouhts on The Whole Introvert/Extrovert Paradigm

This is my understanding of what it means to be an introvert or extrovert: an introvert draws her energy from within herself; an extrovert draws her energy from other people.

I have taken many different personality tests during my life, and the tests all agree: I am an Introvert.

I have prided myself on being a Lone Wolf. If stranded on a desert island, I would do fine.

Or so I thought.

Until recently, I have always been a member of a Pack. From preschool through law school, I spent my days with my classmates. Then I went to work and there were always tons of people around. Even if I spent most of my day staring at a computer screen, I still spent lots of time interacting with other people. For my entire life, I had a built-in Wolf Pack. I spent my days with the Pack.

After Pippa was born, I became a stay-at-home mom and I no longer had a Wolf Pack. Instead, I was a Wolf with a Cub - not a pack.

Still, I clung to my belief that I am a Lone Wolf. All the personality tests said I was an Introvert!

But here's the thing about personality tests: they depend entirely on my answers.  I might have thought I was answering the questions honestly, but sometimes I can be dishonest with myself.

Nathan has been very busy at work. Insanely busy.  Hellishly unreasonably busy.  He has been working 70-80 hours every week for ... well, it feels like forever. He has been going to the office every weekend for the past month and has been in Arizona for the past week. 

This has been tough for him, but it has also been tough for me. The weekends were especially tough. My parents were in New York, Nathan was at the office, and Pippa and I just had each other.
I was feeling .... ick ... urg... I did not know exactly what I was feeling, but it did not feel good.

I thought about it.  I wrote about it.  I thought about it some more, and then I realized ...

I was lonely.

Me? Lonely? How could that be? I'm an introvert! I should be relishing the Me Time. I only need a book and I'm happy. Right?  RIGHT?!

Wrong. I was lonely. L-O-N-E-L-Y.

I whined and complained to Nathan. He listened, but this did not change the fact that I was l-o-n-e-l-y.

So I made more plans. A year ago, I joined a local mom's group but never attended the big gatherings. I finally attended one. I emailed friends and set up lunch dates. I took Pippa to a free music class and signed us up for the semester. We went to a free gym class. I made more of an effort to chat with other moms at the playground and you know what? The friendlier I am, the friendlier the other moms are too.

When I was talking with other people, I found myself happy and ... energized. Energized by other people? WTF? Aren't I an introvert?

At my monthly appointment, I told my psychiatrist that Nathan was busy at work and I was feeling lonely. He told me if I feast all day and have burnt toast for dinner, that's okay. But if I only get one meal a day, and that meal is burnt toast, then I'm going to be cranky and depressed.

He's right. I have been getting out of the house every day and exploring new places with Pippa. We have taken classes and made friends, but we were not interacting with people every day. I depended on Nathan to be my breakfast, lunch and dinner; my mommy friends were just snacks. But with Nathan hellishly unreasonably busy at work, he did not have the time to be a 24 hour social buffet. 

After lots of ruminating and soul-searching, I finally accepted the fact that I am not a Lone Wolf. I am an extrovert, and I love being part of a pack.

You hear that, world? I AM AN EXTROVERT!!!

I believe I have always been an extrovert but thanks to my extreme anxiety, I convinced myself that I was an introvert. Let me try to explain...

Before I had postpartum depression, I was an anxious person, but I was able to function. After I gave birth, my hormones went bat shit crazy, and my anxiety went to a whole new level. I became depressed, had panic attacks, and could not sleep. I wanted to die.

But I did not die. Although I had thoughts about killing myself, I did not like those thoughts. So I saw my doctor and self-admitted myself to the hospital. I got help. I saw a cognitive behavioral therapist every week and he helped me defeat my postpartum depression. And then we tackled all of my other pre-existing anxieties, and we shredded my anxiety to pieces and then took those pieces and lit a bonfire and turned my anxiety to ash. Now that the ashes have blown away, I can see how deeply every part of my life was affected by anxiety.

I know now that thanks to my anxiety, I was afraid of people. I was so, so terribly afraid of REJECTION. I was afraid of talking to people and asking friends out to lunch because, horror of horrors, THEY MIGHT SAY NO AND THAT WOULD BE FUCKING TERRIBLE.

Except it wouldn't be. Rejection is not the end of the world. It's not even a broken arm. It's a paper cut. An itty bitty ouch, a little drop of blood, and that's it. Big deal.

I am starting to put myself out there. I joined a mommy play group. I joined a mommy class that starts at the end of the month. I started a play group/book club on Meetup a few days ago. I have a few other Meetups that I want to start, especially one for crafting and a big one for postpartum depression. I am looking at my calendar and making sure it is FULL.

I used to be afraid of a full dance card - that was another bullshit concern that my anxiety manufactured. I was afraid that I might have to cancel plans AND HOLY EFFING EFF THAT WOULD BE THE END OF THE WORLD.

Nope. Sometimes plans get cancelled. It's not the end of the world. It's not even a broken leg. Shit, it's not even a paper cut! It is, at best, an empty carton of milk that someone accidentally put back in the fridge. You think, "Shit howdy, this carton of milk is empty, let me throw it out and open this one instead" and then you move on with your life.

Rejection is not a big deal, and neither are cancelled plans. Two days ago, Pippa took a long nap at a weird time so we had to miss a play group. Guess what? The world is still here. No one broke a leg or even a toe. And there is still plenty of milk in the fridge.

This past week, I have embraced the fact that I am an extrovert. I need people! Nothing has changed - I am still the same Courtney - and yet everything has changed - for the first time in thirty-five years, I truly understand and accept who I am.

Nathan is finally coming home today after a week in Arizona, and I feel great. Pippa and I missed him, but we had a great week.  We saw lots of different people, and I had great conversations, every day. I fed my soul and energized myself by making sure I had a Pack.