Tag Archives: insomnia

Should Couples Sleep in Separate Rooms?

usCoverIf you’ve been on the internet today, you’ve probably read the shocking news about Donald and Melania sleeping in separate rooms.

It’s everywhere right now: NO PILLOW TALK FOR PRESIDENT! His marriage must be hanging by a thread!

Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t.

But I wouldn’t pin it on whether or not they keep separate bedrooms, because my marriage is doing just fine and my husband and I…

… have our own bedrooms too.

shocked.pngI’ve hidden this fact for a long time, for reasons the current media explosion is making obvious: I didn’t want people whispering about how my husband and I were probably having marital problems and were maybe even headed for divorce.

Because sleeping in separate bedrooms is strangely taboo. It makes people think your marriage lacks intimacy.

So I kept it quiet until the day I moved next door to the kind of neighbor who would march through your house, taking inventory, until she couldn’t help noticing two master rooms with giant beds in them.

She’s exactly the kind of neighbor I’ve desperately needed. The kind who knows everyone in the neighborhood: where they live, what they do, how they’re currently fixing up their house and what kinds of BS problems they’ve been having with the school district. The kind whose confident, direct approach could be the perfect Yang to my Yin-like ballet of barely grasping what color car anyone drives and fretting about how anything I might say could possibly offend someone. (Did I say ‘hi’ wrong? Did they just give me a weird look?)

Well, I respect that kind of of forthright honesty and couldn’t bring myself to counter it with a bunch of lies. We were going to be living next door to each other for a long time and I could tell we were going to be friends, so why start out with some Three’s Company-style charade?

That’s John’s room, and mine is upstairs…

She looked at me sideways until I told her, “He snores, and I’m an insomniac.”

And that’s pretty much how it happened, how I came out about our separate bedrooms deal.

How it all began

My husband and I never intended to sleep in separate rooms. We slowly evolved this peaceful arrangement after our bedroom had turned into a nightly battlefield.

You see, I’m a hardcore night owl, chronic insomniac and very light sleeper.  He, on the other hand, is a champion snorer who can wake you up through three closed doors, from a different story of the house.

He also considers his sleep utterly sacred. “Like a religion,” to quote him exactly, which makes him prone to extreme grumpiness whenever woken up in the middle of the night by my tossing and turning or because, say, I needed him to roll on his side because my ears wouldn’t quit bleeding.

I used to stare at him at 4:30 in the morning, irrationally resenting how easily he could just drift off like that and reminding myself how wrong it would be to shove a pillow over his face right now.

I felt horrible about being mad at him for something he couldn’t help, but I was just…

so    t i r e d.

insomnia cat
(My sleep-avenging insomniac superhero fantasy self)
We tried everything. Earplugs, nose-strips, even sinus surgery. None of it worked. Turns out, they’d have to reset his entire jaw to fix the problem and it wasn’t worth the risks.

It finally all came crashing down one night when I was pregnant, in that brutal late period of pregnancy where nothing is ever comfortable and you find yourself overheated, aching and flipping into broken starfish positions across your bed, trying against hope for a few sweet hours of oblivion as your baby keeps digging her foot into the underside of your ribs…

It was during these painful hours of sweaty exhaustion, when his spoon-in-the-garbage-disposal snore was pushing and pulling two inches away from my ringing ears like Satan’s own accordion, that I finally snapped:

“I’m sorry, but you have GOT to GO.” (Before I kill you, darling.)

Either pitying me or fearing for his life, the poor guy relocated to the couch.

Well, the couch kept happening until it turned into a futon that turned into the office converted into another bedroom. Then we ended up buying a house with a serendipitous second master bedroom and could finally stop pretending that this sleeping apart thing was a temporary deal.

Some unforeseen perks

Although my husband and I started sleeping in separate rooms for purely practical reasons, we’ve discovered the arrangement offers real  perks beyond being able to get a decent night’s sleep.

You see, one of the coolest parts of being single is having complete dominion over your own territory. Being married means companionship, but you can sometimes lose all of your personal space, which is probably why couples tend to carve out man caves and femme dens.

On the other hand, having your own room means:

 

unicorns
(My room)
You can express your decorating style without having to compromise with anyone. My bedroom involves a bathtub with peach curtains and chandeliers. I keep fresh flowers on my coffee table, next to a tea set and whatever fluffy indulgences make me happy.

My two daughters call my room the “girl clubhouse” and like to hang out on my flowery bedspread with all of our cats, purring in harmony around the throbbing pinkness of my rose-strewn monument to glittery estrogen. The whole place reeks of vintage movie stars and unicorn magic.

Meanwhile, my husband can put up that monkey-drinking-booze poster that that he finds hilarious without me giving him crap about it. His place is one big Testoster-oni treat of electronic wires, open closets, spread-out zombie comics and tiny hair shavings.

He can leave his underwear on the floor or refuse to change his sheets until they don’t bend anymore if he wants to and I don’t have to care, just as he doesn’t have to deat with having a thousand throw pillows in his way.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 5.40.32 PM
“Hold on… I need a sec before we get started”
We don’t have to watch each other clip our toenails or nose hairs, because we have separate, private places in which to do these things. Kind of like when we were dating and didn’t have to watch every nasty step of each other’s transformation. We can still pretend to just wake up like that.

Having separate bedrooms doesn’t mean we can’t still visit. Or even stay a while.

But it’s not a given. You’re on boy or girl territory with a temporary visa.

Maybe that sounds cold, but it’s actually fun. It keeps you courting… you can’t juse scratch your butt before Dutch-ovening your partner while knowing they’ll have to put up with it. Unless neither of you minds, I guess.

Keeping a little mystery can bring dating excitement back to the marriage. You still have private territory. Your own identity. Your own refuge to think or read or do whatever without having to entertain anyone else. 

Maybe we should rethink the separate bedrooms taboo. It may not be right for everyone, but it doesn’t obviously mean a marriage is falling apart.

So stop being so judgey, people. You just made me defend Donald and Melania Trump.

 

 

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7 Dark Confessions of a Suburban Momma

Hello everyone, hope you guys all had a great Labor Day weekend!

We spent ours cold chillin’ in middle-class suburbia, wearing our gangsta yoga pants and showing our house to potential buyers. A couple deals have fallen through, the new school year is upon us, and it looks like we may be staying here for a while yet… may as well represent.

Meanwhile, I found out about the PostSecret art project. Have you guys heard about this? People write their secrets on anonymous postcards then send them in where everyone can read them. It’s weirdly fascinating.

Some secrets are really sad, while others are just quirky and adorable. Either way, it’s probably therapeutic for everyone involved. Participants get things off their chests and everyone else gets to see our fellow humans being vulnerable.

It got me thinking about the stuff I’m hiding too. Stuff that’s been secretly nagging at me.  Stuff that doesn’t comport with my tribe.

And I finally figured I’d feel better if I just came out and said it.

So here goes:

1- I’ve always used those vinegar-and-water mixes or cleaners with essential oils to clean my house. They smell pretty and won’t hurt the environment and the non-toxic ingredients pose no threat to my kitties or kids.

Then last week, my husband mopped the floor with buckets of PineSol and it looks brand new. Our house has never looked better. Natural cleaners are crap.

i-need-to-start-eating-more-healthy-ecard.jpg2- I’ve always been big on the benefits of eating whole, unprocessed food. I spent the last decade cooking all my meals from scratch, using olive oil (never butter), fresh produce from farmers’ markets and I never ate sugar or boxed, processed food.

But this past year, I’ve snapped.  I started eating donuts for breakfast and have had WAY too many frozen pizzas and Cool Ranch fiesta tacos. I just had a physical and not only have I lost thirty pounds, but my cholesterol has dropped from borderline high to fantastic.

Apparently, calories DO count.

3- I’ve always loved natural medicine and have tried using chamomile tea, melatonin, and valerian root to deal with my insomnia issues.

And… they’re mostly useless. They’re the mad ravings of a bra-less hippie vegan who uses crystal deodorant in her pits. None of them come anywhere close to a good hit of Ambien. Long live prescription drugs.

 

Pregnant-Meme-Natural-Child-Birth4- Natural childbirth sounds doesn’t sound like a beautiful natural experience to me, just an endless, nightmarish torture that makes you beg for the sweet release of death.

Lots of women tried to talk me into natural childbirth while I was pregnant, but they sounded like that evil puppet-master mean girl in junior high who would talk you into asking out your crush just so she could watch the preteen jungle kill your self-esteem. Kill it with fire.

Seriously, when I got to the hospital in heavy labor and was told it was too late for epidurals, I honestly considered ramming my head into the wall until I knocked myself unconscious. I also thought about attacking the hospital staff so they’d be forced to give me drugs.

5- I really feel like I’m the kind of person who should like indie labels, but whenever I try to get into indie music, I get angry about how whiney and boring most of it sounds.

And then I end up rocking out to happy, top 40 pop songs, or the kind of screaming rock you’d expect a 90’s frat guy to like. Shut up.

Wake_up_responsible_Funny_Meme.jpg6- I hate waking up early and nothing will ever, ever change that.

7- Whenever I see people jogging at 5 AM or biking up incredibly vertical hills, I wonder why they hate themselves so much.

Maybe they’re just trying to get in shape, but I’m picturing someone with a guilty conscience trying to balance the cosmic books via pain. I’m wondering what they did that made them feel biking around San Francisco was somehow warranted.
Whew… that felt good. Kind of an Emperor’s New Clothes deal.

What about you? Is your life experience making you question some of the theories you’e held onto? Some of the sacred cows of your social set?

Sometimes it’s fun to just say it out loud.

I’M REPRESENTING LIBERAL MOMS IN MIDDLE-CLASS SUBURBIA AND YOU KNOW WHAT? KALE TASTES LIKE CRAP.

 

Children’s Toys Are Creepy

I can see your soul
“I can see your soul”

Having kids is a wonderful thing, but it’s exhausting. Also, the grass is green and the sky is blue.

The power drain of childcare, though, is hard to fully appreciate until you’ve done it yourself.  Sitcoms aren’t a good substitute.

Beyond the physical demands, constantly being alert mentally wears you down. You are always having to make sure no one jumps off the second story or crams something into an electric socket.

And the questions… so many questions. I used to hear about parents getting frustrated by kids asking questions to which they didn’t know the answer, but never understood their grief until now.

“What’s the problem?” I thought, “Just turn it into an opportunity to find information! Say ‘let’s find out’ and take your kids to the internet to look up, I don’t know, the depth of the Amazon. Everything is on Wikipedia now.”

But there are no resources available for many of these questions. The other day, for example, my daughter asked me why I never put rocket ship stickers on my boobies.

She was completely serious. She loves stickers, thinks rocket ships are cool, and thinks boobies make the perfect place to stick some. Why wouldn’t I avail myself of that opportunity?

How do you answer something like that? it’s a legitimate question though, apparently, because everyone who heard about it also wanted to know.

So after a long day of hyper vigilance and baffling queries, I tend to take some “me” time late at night.  Being a natural insomniac, I not only keep going well into the tiny hours of the morning, but also enjoy the solitude. There is no one but me and my mystery novel, or my writing. I sip a soothing cup of tea while one of my kitties sidles up to me in the dim light as I work quietly to fill a small corner of the internet with floating ideas.

The house is calm and dark. It’s the Magic Hour. The world is silent… until it isn’t.

The other night, I was lost in a creative trance when I heard a faint voice in the background. I stopped to listen. Was it the kids?

The voice spoke again. An adult voice. My ears sharpened their focus.

“Hello?”

A wave of goosebumps tickled my forearms. Did I just imagine that?

“Hello?”

Felt my heart slapping my chest. What the hell is that? Is someone at the door? It’s coming from the front door. I’m wearing yoga pants, so I could run, but is there anything I could use as  weapon? Why is someone talking through the windows at 2 in the morning?

I swear I just heard a quiet ringing. “Hello?”

A woman’s voice. Not unfriendly, but possibly deranged. I’m going to go wake up my husband…

Soundlessly leaving the living room to creep up the stairs, I suddenly saw it: the children’s toy telephone. You press a button and it rings and says “Hello?”

I felt much better. Kind of.

With children’s toys, there is a very fine line between adorable and horror flick. The girl’s toy telephone keeps ringing and talking, but no one is touching it. It’s totally creeping me out. All I need is a clown picture on the wall with a soft music box soundtrack and I’ll be running straight out of the house.

Maybe a little doll that says “Mamma” while staring me dead in the eyes…

Who thought this was a good idea?
Who thought this was a good idea?

Scrape together all the monsters you want, but it can’t beat a carousel slowly revolving to slightly off-key music. I’ve been afraid of children’s toys since I was an actual child. I still remember jumping in horror, during my toddler years, to a small demonic box with a deranged clown inside it.

My parents would chase me with this brightly-colored cube, slowly turning its satanic handle until the angry clown would explode from inside it, his arms stretched wide in a clear attempt to snatch me into his twisted parallel dimension. Foreboding, uneven, music signaled the imminent attack.

Toddler imaginations being what they are, I think my parents were actually trying to show me that a Jack-in-the-Box can’t hurt me. They were probably sitting quietly while turning the handle and reassuring me that it’s just a doll with a jumping spring, but in my tortured mind, they were menacing me with an insane sorcerer clown, bent on imprisoning me in his twisted lair.

(To this day, I’m not fond of Jack-in-the-Box commercials. Sure, he looks like a clown executive, but you know he’s not right in the head. Just look at his deranged posse of Harley Quinns, eating sandwiches so inappropriately.)

Locating the source of whispered Hello’s, however, was reassuring. I remembered something about appliances beeping and making noise when the batteries are low. At least that’s what fire-detectors do. Not sure how that happens, but the kids’ telephone must be running low on juice. Mystery solved. Whew.

I yanked the batteries out of the phone, crept back into the living room, and sat down on the couch. I picked up my laptop, with a relieved sigh, and resumed writing in the middle of the night. Everything was quiet.

Until it wasn’t.

I heard a note. A sound.

Another note. A gentle chime.

I shivered.

*Bing*

Creepy-ass cat
Creepy-ass cat

My heart started pounding. I clutched a lap blanket around me tightly, as though it would make me ghost-proof, and stomped back into the front room. Frodo, my small black cat, was tapping his paw on a toy piano. He looked at me, and perhaps sensing the psychic tension, bolted from the room.

Was he trying to evolve? Had he watched the children manipulate these buttons all day and wanted to try out basic machinery after everyone went to bed? Or was he playing a trick on me, somehow aware of human fears about animated children’s toys in the middle of the night?

I felt a little bad for interfering with his cat experiments. but he really scared the crap out of me. Maybe next time he should rig up a kitty clown picture or drag some dolls around the room.

Why I Quit Drinking Coffee

The one that got away
The one that got away

I have been an insomniac for years.

It sucks. There’s really no other way to put it.

I lie in bed for hour after boring hour, dreading how awful I’m going to feel the next day as my cats mock me with endless napping. I flip uncomfortably back and forth while I watch the black light surrounding my windows slowly shifting into gray, then finally white. Daylight.

A nurse friend once let me in on a little secret. Allergy pills, she told me, are as effective a sleep aid as anything else you can buy over the counter.

I jumped on that train and rode it happily until my body was used to the dose. I started taking two pills, which worked until I needed three. Then four. Then eight. Then eleven.

That’s no good. I dropped the allergy pills and realized that Ambien would be much the same scenario. Sure it works, but for only so long. Eventually your body builds a tolerance and you just need more. It’s a dead end.

Last week, my insomnia was acting up again, so my husband made a little suggestion.

John: Hey, remember last year when you gave up coffee? That seemed to work for you.

Me: YOU GIVE UP COFFEE!

John: But I don’t need to. I can fall asleep right after an espresso.

How DARE he? I LOVE coffee. I love the taste, the warmth, the rich scent… coffee is one of the few pleasures we are still allowed to indulge in, plus it’s supposed to contain a bunch of antioxidants that help prevent Parkinson’s and Type II Diabetes. How am I supposed to get through a rough day with the kids without caffeine? These children will drive a chihuahua to throwing up.

Except that deep down, I knew he was right.

John can knock back a triple-shot espresso and be snoring ten minutes later, whereas a single cup of drip coffee leaves my adrenalin pumping for hours. It’s part of why I love it, and also why I shouldn’t have it.

There’s a logical explanation for all this. A couple of years ago, John and I had our DNA analyzed by 23 and me, a genetic testing company. They tell you all kinds of interesting things about yourself, including your genetic ancestry, percentage of Neanderthal blood, and vulnerability to many diseases.

I learned, for example, that all the stories I’d heard about having Cherokee blood are probably poppycock. For years I had heard all about how my great-great-great grandfather, the Scotsman, illicitly married a Cherokee woman. She was supposed to be amazing beautiful, dazzlingly cleaver, and mean as a snake.

We were supposed to have tribal roll numbers, I was told, but my grandparents didn’t apply for them because they could pass for white and being part Native American was nothing to be proud of in those days.

When my test results came back, however, I learned that my blood is actually white, with added white, and an extra dash of white on top. How utterly disappointing.

23 and me also tested the rate at which you break down caffeine. Fast metabolizers, for example, break it down quickly, so it doesn’t stay in their systems very long. Research shows that a few cups of coffee helps prevent heart attacks in fast metabolizers. John is a fast metabolizer.

Slow metabolizers, on the other hand, break caffeine down very slowly, so it stays in their systems for ages. A couple of cups of coffee significantly increases the risk of heart attacks in slow metabolizers.

As you may have guessed, the results showed that I am a slow metabolizer. Life isn’t fair.

Since I was at my wit’s end with fatigue, I was willing to try just about anything to get some more sleep. So, out coffee went.

I had a raging headache for a few days as my system went into caffeine withdrawal. Caffeine restricts your blood vessels, so when you quit drinking it, your blood vessels dilate and a bunch of blood pours into your head a neck, causing headaches until your body readjusts.

It was rough, but temporary, and I was noticing drastic improvement in my ability to fall asleep. I even knocked out before midnight for several days in a row, which is kind of a record for me. The headaches were subsiding, I was waking up with a clearer head, and everything was going great.

Until yesterday. Kids are kind of a mixed bag, though we love them to pieces. Some days they are charming little cherubs who melt your heart with all the adorable things they say and do, while others… well… there are other days when they are so demonically insane, they would drive the Dalai Lama to punch out a window while letting a string of profanities fly.

Yesterday was one of those days.

I'm just a cute baby. What harm could I possibly do?
I’m just a cute baby. What harm could I possibly do?

My baby Bridget is a freakishly-strong infant with a good right hook, who can blow your windows out with nonstop screaming and doesn’t hesitate to claw your lips off in the middle of a tantrum. She told me she was hungry yesterday, but wasn’t happy about anything I gave her to eat.

I handed her a bowl of Cheerios. She grabbed a handful, moved her arm over the floor, and dropped them to the ground.

“No, Bridget,” I told her.

She gave me a hard, challenging stare before grabbing two handfuls, swiveling around in her baby seat, and chucking them halfway across the kitchen.

“NO!” I told her firmly.

She picked up the bowl, stared me dead in the eye, and threw it straight at my face. Grrrrr…

Okay, I guess she didn’t want Cheerios. By this point, the entire kitchen was littered with Cheerios, but since Bridget was frantically screaming while pointing at her mouth, I guessed that she was still hungry and getting fairly impatient about it. I decided to whip up a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich (What kid doesn’t like PB&J’s?). I could slap one together quickly, cut it in half, and stuff it into her angry mouth before she stomped off and burned the place straight to the ground.

I scrambled to put together a PB&J as though my life depended on it, then dashed over to hand it to her.

She stared at it, looked me straight in the eyes, and threw it against the wall. Where it stuck.

She threw up her arms and screamed hysterically, so I frantically handed her a sippy cup full of water. Maybe she’s thirsty. She grabbed the cup, reached out her arm, and clocked me across the face with it.

That’s IT. She’s going down for a nap.

I stomped upstairs to put her in her crib and threw a blanket over her, then walked back downstairs in hopes up rounding up some Cheerios of my own, since I hadn’t eaten yet and that wasn’t helping defuse the situation any. As I rounded the corner, I saw my toddler Brontë carrying her Minnie Mouse potty chair into the kitchen, hiked up over her shoulder.

“I WANT TO POTTY IN THE KITCHEN!” she announced, like it was a completely rational thing to say. By the looks of it, she had already pottied in Minnie Mouse, when it was still in her room, because a toxic sludge of Number Two, dissolved into Number One, had leaked out in a giant trial across the white carpets as she carried the potty across the entire house.

The smelly green trail led from her bedroom, across the living room and couches, over her shoulder, across her feet, and onto the Cheerios and sandwich bits all over the kitchen floor.

“Put it down!” I yelled.

She dropped it. A big wave of dark green poop water flew up into a mushroom cloud hovering just above the potty, then splashed down onto my legs and the kitchen floor. Pieces of torn sandwich bread were swelling green like swampy Barbie sponges as Brontë stared at me and blinked. “I potty in the kitchen?” she asked, as though everything were normal and we hadn’t just experienced a poop hurricane.

“You are taking a shower,” I told her while lifting her up with one arm and marching her upstairs. I cleaned her off and laid her down for a nap, because the last thing I needed was a hyperactive toddler crunching fecal-soaked Cheerios into the tile and carpet as I tried to navigate the mess.

I walked back into the kitchen, surveyed the damage, and noticed the coffee my husband left in the pot this morning after he went to work. It was still hot. The light was still on.

I decided to pour myself a conciliatory cup of coffee to enjoy before tackling the inferno. I figured it was better than grabbing my keys, hightailing it to the car, and tearing off into the sunset while blasting rock music.

The coffee was nice, and it gave me just enough energy to salvage the kitchen wasteland before it started attracting flies. I managed to get the kids up and get through the rest of the day without getting punched in the face again or scrubbing any more waste out of the carpet.

But later that night, when I laid down to finally sleep after an exhausting day, I was still completely keyed up. Damn.

I watched some Netflix. I read a book. I surfed the web. I tried to sleep.

The hours passed by. My muscles ached and yet, I couldn’t relax them. The light outside began to cast an eerie gray.

I checked the clock. 4:50 AM.

Goodbye coffee. I loved you so.