New New Year’s Eve, Same Old Shit (#207)

366 days ago, I thought, “Next year, for sure, we’re going to do something fun on New Year’s Eve. We’ll go dancing, at least!”

2017 had other plans. Andy ruptured his quadriceps tendon in September. Yesterday he was finally cleared to jettison his brace, but it’ll be months before he can walk normally. Dancing? Out of the question.

Going to a party? Forget it unless they have a recliner and some ice.

Having a party? We did that on Christmas Eve. Andy had to go lie down in the middle of the party. I still haven’t finished returning the house and yard to their normal state.

Once again, my big plans will be walking dogs and envying the shiny, fabulous people driving off to parties. Then I will remember that my envy is based on heaps of false advertising by companies that distribute alcohol. The reality is a lot of obnoxious drunk people and vomit.

Besides, everyone on social media will remind me that most of us are at home with our pets anyway. Bring on the photos of dogs in 2018 glasses and party hats! Bring on a 9:30 PM bedtime!

Remember your earplugs, because your neighbors probably have illegal fireworks.

Before 9:30 PM, though, I’ll remember how very fortunate and privileged I am, because my husband’s injury was minor. He’ll make a full recovery. Our family members are in good health. My grandmother is going to be 98 in 2018!

It’s not all roses, though. We’re going to be thoroughly screwed on our taxes in April, thanks to the “Only Billionaires Get Breaks” Tax Bill. Yet we will endure until the November elections give us something to smile about again.

And next December 31st, damn it, we’re going dancing.

Here are my musings on staying home from NYE 2016. Enjoy!

 

 

Christmas Morsels

You know what Christmas means to me? Cold weather. Snow, if you’re really lucky. Sledding. Getting three Chapsticks in your stocking and being thrilled because your lips really were about to fall off.

Christmas won’t be Christmas if I’m stuck in Los Angeles.

This year’s hunt for a Christmas tree versus last year’s. Who wouldn’t be bummed?

But I am stuck in Los Angeles. My injured husband can’t travel. As he’s not a holiday person, he’s thrilled to have a relaxing holiday at home.

The weather is clear and sunny. The palm trees are swaying. My orange tree is filled with fruit.

Blech.

Memory lane is more enticing than oranges today. So below is a recap of all the fabulous Christmases I spent in cold — and sometimes even snowy — places, having proper Christmases. May they fill you with holiday cheer!

First, a post about Andy’s first Christmas in New Hampshire.

For all the kids of divorce, I’ve got the story of how my mother — and J.R.R. Tolkien — brought magic back to a broken family.

Are you a last-minute shopper? Enjoy A Walgreens Christmas. (Brilliant Blonde Lawyer Sister swears up and down that it was actually a CVS Christmas, but you get the idea.)

And here’s one about clueless WASPS and Christmas stockings.

Finally, I hope all those traveling enjoy fewer storms and better weather than we did last year.

Merry Christmas!

Spun (#206)

You may have noticed some outrage on my page these days. And those are only the public messages, not the private ones. Some people are seriously pissed at me for writing posts that do not laud childbearing.

To which I say, why? Why is it so important that we revere pregnancy and procreation?

I’m gonna go with the marketing of Big Religion. Once birth control went mainstream, women suddenly had the option of not spending their lives trapped in an endless cycle of what The Women’s Room termed “[baby] shit and string beans.” More and more women saw they’d been denied the opportunities of their male counterparts. They got angry. They demanded the pill and equal rights.

Big Religion pushed back, utilizing Christian conservatives. Religious types blasted feminists as harlots and undesirables, while praising traditional, stay-at-home mothers. Conservatives labeled women shrill. Ball-busters. And don’t think this ended in the 1970s. Rush Limbaugh is still obsessed with Hillary Rodham Clinton, mocking her 70s pants, hair, and glasses this century.

Much of America couldn’t get past the avalanche of conservative spin. The Bible Belt certainly couldn’t. Hillary Rodham took Bill Clinton’s last name. She ditched the glasses, dyed her hair blonde, and traded in her pants for pink suits with skirts.

It worked. Arkansas embraced her. America embraced her.

And Hillary bided her time until she thought America had evolved enough to accept a strong woman in pants.

Turns out, we hadn’t. 53% of white women voters went for Trump instead. A guy who bragged about assaulting women.

Last week, 63% of white women in Alabama went for alleged child molester Roy Moore. Were we going backwards or what?

Not all of us. If you break down the numbers, those women think of themselves as Evangelical Christians. The same group that went for Trump. How can two such sinful men get so much of the so-called Christian vote?

Religious spin, of course. (Racism, too, but that’s another post.) The same Big Religious Patriarchy that went all in on feminist harlots went all in on abortion. They made the embryo the most sacred of all cows, and motherhood the holiest of all callings. (Once you have a kid, though, it can starve to death or die from lack of medical attention, especially if it’s poor or not white.) And the southern states bought in, big time. They ignore other issues, because abortion is murder and murder is bad, and you don’t vote for what is bad and that makes voter research quick. It’s a win for the lazy voter and religion, a loss for the country.

Big, Religious Patriarchy has been effectively spinning for years. The more kids their adherents have, the more their power religious leaders wield. No wonder the womb is sacred. Of course religious leaders praise women for fulfilling their “traditional” roles and being “obedient and “feminine.”

And even if you aren’t religious, this reactionary spin seeps into our media, our culture, and our bones.

*****

Spin is everywhere. Even here, on my pages. On my previous posts, where I list reasons not to have children. That doesn’t mean those reasons aren’t legitimate, mind you.

And I still think people should think – long and hard – before having kids. I wish we all hit puberty with a form of birth control. Then humans would have to consciously opt in to have children, rather than consciously having to opt out.

But, perhaps like the religious right, some of my spin came from fear. Big Religion fears women gaining power, realizing they’ve been complicit in their own repression, and screaming “I’m outta here!”

I feared being a terrible parent, with a terrible temper, like my father. I feared that, like my mom, I’d be worn out, an emotionally empty vessel after all the years of taking care of children. I feared I wouldn’t be able to give a child all that it needs.

I got past those fears — mostly. I came to terms with adopting a child in need. Singular. One kid only, I could manage. But then my husband didn’t want to adopt. He wanted that one child to have half of my genes, and half of his.

And that’s even more terrifying. That’s goddamned genetic roulette.

Especially if your family has some, er, atypical genetics.

Like mine.

Starting with triplets. Yes, triplets. On her second pregnancy, my mother’s overachieving ovaries released three eggs. THREE! There were complications, including one stupid male doctor. Mom lost all three embryos, plus a fallopian tube and an ovary. (Don’t worry, she rallied and made up for it by having another five kids.)

There was no way in hell I could be a decent parent to 3 infants at once. Andy and I were on our own. We couldn’t afford a nanny. I told Andy that, in case of triplets, we would offer two of the babies up to two of my girlfriends who were planning to adopt. He thought I was joking.

I wasn’t.

He came around, grudgingly, when I pointed out that the alternative was not having kids.

But that still left us with one other genetic issue:

Asperger’s syndrome.

Asperger’s runs – nay, GALLOPS — in my family. If you’re familiar with Asperger’s, then you know it’s not officially called by that name anymore, but you’ll also know  the type of high functioning autism spectrum disorder that I’m referencing.

If you aren’t familiar, the character of Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory is probably the best example of Asperger’s in pop culture. Enigma code breaker Alan Turing is an excellent historical example.

“Aspies,” as some self-label, are characterized by being brilliant thinkers and social nightmares. Like one of my nephews, they might teach themselves to read and do long division by age three. Like one of my sisters, they may spend kindergarten in a corner, reading a book, painfully aware of their classmates’ ridicule.

They miss social cues. Their speech is sometimes flat, sometimes grating, and often alienating.

Aspies often require early, intensive intervention in order to fit in with their peers and make friends. Until recently, most Aspies didn’t get that intervention.

My father certainly didn’t. He’d never heard of Asperger’s until I informed him that he clearly had Adult Residual Asperger’s. I don’t think he believed me until one sister, her son, and another grandchild were officially diagnosed a few years later.

Dad had manners and social graces pounded into his head by his mother, though. He learned to fake neurotypical behavior well enough to achieve some career success (aided by being a white male with familial connections). Conversations with Dad often devolve into lectures, however, with the focus on HIS thoughts about HIS favorite topics.

That’s not surprising. Perseveration and one-sided conversations are two common indicators of Asperger’s.

It’s not just my genetics that are problematic, though. Do you remember who else on this blog perseverated relentlessly? On everything from doors to male grandchildren? And lacked the slightest bit of social grace or awareness?

Andy’s father Jay. There’s no way that man did not also have Adult Residual Asperger’s.

I pointed this out to Andy. Andy agreed.

I asked, once more, “Are you sure you want our own kid? We could have triplets. All. With. Asperger’s.”

Andy is an optimist. He said, “Or we might have one sweet, charming little girl.”

I snorted. “First, I already told you, we’d have a boy. Boys are something like five times more likely to be on the spectrum. Second, the Bossy Ashbough Tyrant gene is dominant. Are any females in my family sweet and charming?”

“Uh…Ex-Stepmother?”

“She was only an Ashbough by marriage and you know it. So let me ask again: are you absolutely sure you want to spin that genetic roulette wheel? Because there’s a good chance it could land on a red three.”

Andy’s a gambling man. He set his jaw and said, “Yes.”

And we spun.

Baby Battle (#205)

My parents procreated like rabbits. Then they got divorced and procreated some more. Given that having children is pretty much the worst thing a regular person – not an Exxon Executive or a Donald Trump – can do to the environment, I figured someone in my family owed it to Mother Earth to NOT have children.

There was just one problem. My husband wanted a kid.

I came up with a brilliant solution. We’d adopt an existing child. And since my husband was Chinese-American and I was a feminist, I thought a little girl from China would be perfect.

My husband had a slightly different take. He said, “No.”

My husband NEVER says a flat no. He hates confrontation. I asked, “What do you mean, ‘no?’ No Chinese baby girls? Do you hate the land of your father or what?”

“No adoption.”

“What? Why?”

“Because.”

“Because why?”

“I want my own kid. I want our kid. Not someone else’s.”

I should have expected that sort of response, given my husband’s reaction to the neighborhood kids who stopped by to play with our dogs. Like many men, Andy was the lion who wanted to kill any cubs that weren’t his. (Though he didn’t actually want to kill them so much as have them conveniently disappear.) I glowered and said, “I do not understand you. We adopted our dogs and you love them just fine.”

“A baby is not a dog!”

“And you,” I informed him, “are not the one who will have to host a parasite and swell up like a hippopotamus with gland problems in order to have a child of your own. YOU won’t throw up constantly. YOU won’t get ripped to pieces. ”

“It might not be that bad—”

“It will be that bad! I saw what happened with my mom and Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister. I can expect all that and probably more.”

“I thought your mom loved being pregnant.”

“Mom’s mental health always was questionable,” I said with a sigh. “What’s unquestionable is that her body was a mess afterwards. You’ll owe me all kinds of surgery.”

“No problem,” Andy assured me. “I’ll start saving now.”

I snorted. “You say that, but the baby will take all the money. You’ll have to max out the flexible spending and health care spending accounts.”

“Of course, of course!” Sensing victory, Andy rushed to promise me everything.

But I had some ammunition left. I knew how much Andy adored his niece and how ambivalent he was about his nephews. I told him, “And you know what, honey? If we have a baby, it’s NOT going to be a girl.”

“What?! No!” Andy yelled. “You can’t possibly know that!”

“Oh, yes, I can,” I told him. “Our child would be a boy.”

“Is this like your grandmother’s witchy sixth sense?” Andy demanded. (My father once caught an illegal ride on a milk truck when he was a teen. At the exact moment he fell off the truck, or so the story goes, his mother dropped her hand of bridge, said, “My son is hurt,” and took off. She drove to the exact spot where Dad lay in the road, put him in the car, and took him to the hospital. Supposedly this was the only game of bridge Gram never finished.)

“I dunno,” I said. “I just know we’d have a boy. So if you want a little girl, the only way you’re going to get one is if we adopt.”

“I don’t believe you,” Andy scoffed. “What if you’d married Ethan?”

“Ha! I would NEVER have married Ethan,” I told him. “But if I had, we would have a girl.”

“You — you can’t know that. Or this. Or anything like that or this!” Andy sputtered.

I shrugged and said, “Maybe not. But I do anyway.”

Andy glared at me. The desire for a sweet little girl and the desire to pass on his genes warred for a few minutes before he told me, “I still want my own. And you might be wrong.”

“I might,” I conceded. “I mean, when you think of all the times we’ve disagreed in the last five years or so, I’ve been wrong how many times?”

Andy mumbled something.

“What was that?”

“Two!” Andy answered. “Two, okay?”*

“I like my odds.”

Andy mumbled something about Ashbough witches and then said, “So we’re agreed? We’re gonna have our own kid?”

“Not so fast, mister. We can TRY. But we might not succeed. And then what?”

Andy rolled his eyes. “You’re kidding, right? You’ve been telling me for years that your family conceives at the drop of a hat. You insist on backup birth control. And now you don’t think you’ll get pregnant?”

“It’s possible,” I argued. “There might be something wrong with your sperm.”

“There’s nothing wrong with my sperm!”

“You don’t know that. You’ve never had it tested. Maybe your little spermies are drowners, not swimmers. Or maybe they go in circles and bump into walls.”

“My guys are fine!”

“Okay, but what if they’re not? What’s Plan B? Do we use your brother’s sperm?”

“NO!”

“No spermy, no baby. Are we going for an anonymous donor?”

“I’m telling you, we won’t need one!”

“And I’m telling YOU, I need a plan,” I crossed my arms, planted my feet, and said, “No plan, no baby.”

******

It took 4 days for Andy to capitulate. Then it took a week to hash out the details:

We’d spend 6 months trying to get pregnant. If we were unsuccessful, there would be testing.

If my eggs/ uterus were problematic, we’d find a donor/ surrogate.

If Andy’s sperm were problematic, we’d look into adoption.

Andy remained quietly convinced that Plan B was utterly unnecessary.

And me?

I was kinda hoping for drowners.

*Andy wants everyone to know that this conversation took place years ago and that, as of December 2017, he has been right 7 times. But I tell him the last one doesn’t count because it’s become very clear that Donald Trump cheated. So he’s really only been right 6 times.