Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Only Deal He Ever Lost

You all know I love my celebrity gossip.  I manage to read them at least once a day, in spite of the grind of taking care of a newborn.  Sometimes I read while I feed her.  I guess I’m mildly addicted, God knows why.  My gossips delivered me some sad news today: Larry Hagman, best known as the nefarious J.R. Ewing of Dallas, passed away yesterday.  J.R. Ewing was quite possibly one of the most iconic TV characters of all time, and he was certainly one of my personal favorites.  Dallas has always been one of my favorite TV programs.  It’s hard to believe that J.R. is no more.

For some strange reason, Larry Hagman’s death bothers me more than other celebrities’ passings.  Maybe it’s because J.R. is a treasured character for me.  Maybe it’s because my hormones are still criminally insane due to the aforementioned baby.  I think, however, that it might be something a little more than that.  I remember watching Dallas at night with my late mother who, like most people in the 80s, loved the program.  I clearly remember sitting on the floor at our old house while my mom sat in her chair, and we’d watch the trials and tribulations of the Ewing clan.  It must have been around 1988 or so.  For the record, that doesn’t seem like long ago to me, but then I realize that a lot of my students were born after the year 2000.

Perhaps the subject of aging is what bothers me about this whole thing.  Having a child has made me suddenly aware of my own age increasing and time marching persistently on.  There are a lot of things that I want to do and haven’t done, and part of me realizes now that there are a lot of things that I will probably never do.  Quite simply, life is too short.  I might also add that the older you get, the faster it seems to go.  I remember when I was young, and I look at the pictures now and realize how young my aunts and uncles and parents were.  I remember when my aunt turned 40.  She’s over 60 now.

Of course, I know that no man is immortal, and everyone eventually has to depart this world and take that inevitable journey into the next.  Of course, I also know that J.R. was never real, only a character on a show.  Still, something about him seemed timeless, like he would always be there.  Characters can be immortal.  I guess maybe that’s part of their charm.  The people who play them, however, are bound by the same rules as every other person on this Earth.  I suppose, in some respects, that tarnishes the immortality of the characters they play.  Nonetheless, if anyone was untouchable, surely it was J.R.  If anyone could cheat death,it would be him.

The man everyone loved to hate, J.R. Ewing, played to the hilt by Larry Hagman.

Maybe film is a cheat.  When I watch my Dallas DVDs, it’s almost as if it’s 1980 again.  Like no time has passed.  Larry Hagman was still handsome, Charlene Tilton was still thin, and Linda Gray… Well, she still looks like a million bucks, frankly.  In some ways, I suppose the time, the characters, and even the people are forever preserved on film, though they are doomed to repeat the same lines forever and ever.  Still, it gives one a sense of comfort, like nothing ever changes.

But time soldiers on.  Larry Hagman is gone, Charlene Tilton got fat, and Miss Ellie and Jock are long in their graves now, as is my mother, with whom I used to watch them.

I think having a child has, in some strange way, made me more acutely aware of my own mortality.  It’s easy to believe, when you’re 18 or 24, that you have all the time in the world and that nothing will ever change.  You’ll always be able to get over the hangover within the day – boy, does that ever change! – you’ll always be friends with the same people, you’ll always want the same things… That’s not true of course, and things are always changing.  I never thought I would have children.  Maybe some part of me thought that by not having them, nothing would ever change.  I’m not sure that’s the case at all, but who knows?

What I suppose I feel I’m most scared of right now is that the journey is going too fast, that I know that it’s going to be me they’re writing the obituary for before too long.  People will be sad, and then within three or four generations, even my own family won’t remember my name.  (I’m fortunate that I have a grandfather for whom genealogy was important, so I actually know my dead relatives’ names, but I fear it’s rather uncommon.)  When viewed in that light, I can’t help but think that I’d best do what I want with the time that I have, because once it’s gone, there’s no getting it back.  I could live a lifetime on “someday,” but “someday” is “never.”  It’s time to start doing today.

I wish I hadn’t become afraid of death seemingly overnight, but alas.  I’ve just finished re-watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy while I feed the baby (helps pass the time), and there were a couple of excellent quotes by Gandalf that I think are perhaps worth some thought and more than worth ending this post about fear of death and wasting one’s life.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Pippin: I didn’t think it would end this way.
Gandalf: End?  No, the journey doesn’t end here.  Death is just another path, one that we all must take.  The gray rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.
Pippin: What?  Gandalf, see what?
Gandalf: White shores.  And beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
Pippin: Well, that doesn’t sound so bad.
Gandalf: No, it isn’t.

I think perhaps I would do well to dwell most on the first – that it is up to me to make the most of my time here.  Instead of saying “tomorrow,” I should say “today.”  Truly, there is no time like the present.  Perhaps there is no time but the present.

Regardless of how I’m feeling about my own life, I’m sad that Larry Hagman is gone, taking J.R. with him.  It really is the end of an era.  Part of my childhood is gone.  There are no more schemes to unfold, no more intrigues to watch with at least mild disbelief.  Larry Hagman himself suggested an epitaph for J.R.’s tombstone, and I think I’ll finish off with those words, since they are both far more light-hearted and indubitably appropriate for the man everyone loved to hate.

“J.R. Ewing.  An upright citizen.  This is the only deal he ever lost.”

Give Thanks

My post will have to be a quick one.  Having a new baby in the house means that I am simultaneously sleep deprived, cranky, insane, and have almost zero time to do anything for myself.  Just keeping up with the bottle sterilizing and washing is enough, frankly.  Cooking is generally out of the question, and I haven’t showered in probably five days.  If you think I’m joking, come over here and smell me.  I smell like desperation and baby formula with a hint of schizophrenia.  Let it never be said that newborns are easy to live with, because the fool who says that obviously never had to live with one.

Today is officially Brett’s third week of life.  She has grown a ton already, but she still hasn’t figured out how to go to sleep without a fight or how to sleep longer than four hours.  Four hours would be a good night, in case you were curious.  My life has been totally topsy-turvy since she came home.  Some days are better than others.  Yesterday was mostly good.  I even had time to watch Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers while I was getting some things done in between naps and caring for the baby.  If you think that isn’t an accomplishment, kiss my backside.  I’ve had no time for entertainment lately!  Today hasn’t been as good, with her “witching hour” sadly occurring in late afternoon and early evening, and we had a devil of time getting her down for that nap.  Every day is a surprise, and trying to schedule anything is like herding cats.  Trying to have a normal Thanksgiving dinner?  Well, that would be an uphill climb in Korea under normal circumstances, but this year it just ain’t happening.

I have longed for my family and the USA more in the past three weeks than I have in years.  People who complain about having relatives at their house after their baby arrives need to shut up.  Relatives can be helpful, or at the very least, they can provide adult conversation.  Not having anyone here has been a real trial for me, and one that I was not expecting.  I’ve always been very independent, maintaining a general attitude that I can do everything by myself.  Well, this has been one lesson learned more or less the hard way.  My husband and I are pretty much alone here, and he’s at work all day, so it’s just the baby and me.  She’s not a sparkling conversationalist yet, and I find myself some days having minor breakdowns in between feedings, partly due to lack of sleep, partly due to feelings of failure, and partly because I’m incredibly lonely and would like help.

My family and friends at home have been wonderful to offer advice and help as best they can from afar.  There have been packages with supplies, some sent at considerable expense.  Although our family has not been able to be here for us, on this Thanksgiving Day, I’m terribly grateful that they have shown that they care in other ways.  It’s nice to know that folks at home are thinking about you and willing to take time out of their day to offer condolence, advice, and “conversation,” even if it’s via Facebook.  Little things mean a lot, and I’ve suddenly realized the value of being close to your kin in a way that I never have before.

I’m also thankful for my husband’s loving patience.  I have, frankly, been a crazy woman for a long time now.  That poor man has dealt with mood swings, pregnancy cravings, a stressful birth situation, and now my daily breakdowns.  Sometimes I just go in our bedroom and sob.  Sometimes I call him at work crying with the baby screaming in the background.  Through it all, he brings dinner and maintains a sunny demeanor.  I have no idea how he manages.  I apologize on the regular for being crazy, but I know that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.  Here’s hoping I can make it up with some really banging Christmas loot this year or some random acts of kindness, once our lives settle down a bit more.

The other thing that I’m awfully grateful for is the health of our daughter.  The whole birth thing was kind of scary.  I developed preeclampsia at the eleventh hour and had to be on oxygen and monitored pretty much 24/7.  I was induced about two weeks ahead of schedule, and Brett had to go to the NICU when she didn’t eat well and barfed shortly after delivery.  They thought she might have an infection from my prematurely ruptured sac, but it turns out that she has reflux.  That’s been a whole other joy unto itself that we’re finally getting under control.  But I digress.  The point is that preeclampsia can be extremely dangerous to both mother and baby.  It can suffocate the baby, cause organ damage in the mother… It’s scary stuff.  On top of that, the baby came out with the cord around her neck four times.  She was as blue as a Smurf on delivery… But she started breathing right away, and she has never had a problem on that front.

We’re very fortunate that there were no serious problems.  In some ways, I feel like we’re quite lucky that we have a daughter at all.  We had great care at Paik Hospital in Busan, and I’m extremely grateful for it.  I’m not sure that we would have gotten such good care in the US; it may not have been affordable or even accessible to us.  The UK may have been a slightly similar situation.

No, things have not been easy around here lately, but I think today would be a prime time to remind myself that, although things are hard right now with the new baby, they could be a lot worse.  We have each other and are very lucky for that.  We have our health, our families, work, and a safe apartment to call home for now.  If only everyone could say the same.

In any case, I wish all of you a joyful and fun-filled holiday.  Thanksgiving is my favorite family holiday, as it has all the eating and none of the gift-buying pressure of Christmas.  I hope everyone finds themselves surrounded by family, friends, food, and festivities.  Count your blessings, and even if you’re as stressed out as Mama Marge, take a moment see all the things that are good and positive in your life.  Sometimes it helps us to put things in perspective.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

The Name

If you all are reading this, I am officially a mom and probably have a child dangling off of me as we speak.  It’s like being a possum except that I only have one baby instead of like, 13.  Also, I’m not a marsupial, nor do I have like, 80 teeth, so I guess it’s more like being… some animal that less closely resembles a possum.  In any event, I’m writing this in advance because I’m pretty confident that, for the first couple of weeks or so after giving birth, there is going to be no rest for the wicked, and our house is probably going to be pretty hectic.  That’s why I’m writing my name explanation post now.

My family and friends have been harassing me about the name pretty much since day one.  For some reason, I decided that I was going to keep it a surprise, and honestly, the biggest surprise of all for me was the fact that so many people seemed annoyed and mystified that I decided to keep the name a secret.  I can’t decide if it’s because people are nosy or because they just feel like, on some level, they have a right to know.  My cousins didn’t tell their first son’s gender or name, and I don’t think they did with their second son either.  I’m guessing they probably got an equal if not greater amount of grief, given my aunt’s fondness for babies.  She was probably jockeying hard to find out!

Every time I call my grandmother, who is basically my mom, she somehow manages to sneak it into the conversation that she doesn’t know the name and is pained by this fact.  She won’t come right out and say so – that would be too easy.  No, instead, she’ll sigh and lay out the guilt, which she’s really great at doing.  “Well, I just wish I knew her name so I could put a face to the name.”  “It would just be so much easier if I knew her name.”  Woman!  I don’t even have a face to put to the name yet!  No better than what’s shown up on the ultrasound, anyway!  I don’t have a face to put to her, either!  She’s not here yet!  Give her some more cooking time!  Sheesh!

My friend Holly also expressed some displeasure at my not revealing the name.  She asked what the point was of keeping it a secret, if everyone knows she’s a girl.  I basically replied that there is no point except that I want it to be a surprise.  I mean, it’s not like I’m doing any of this for anyone else, so why should anyone else factor into my decision about her name?  Maybe I just want it to be a surprise, dammit!  I see her point, but still.

Well, the wait is now over.  Our little lady has arrived, and she has had a name almost since we found out that she was a girl.  I chose the name.  My husband and I basically couldn’t agree on any names because he likes boring, overused, traditional names that, when used on the playground, will result in ten other children turning around to look at you.  I, as you might guess, like different names that most kids don’t have.  We made the agreement that if the baby turned out to be a boy, he had naming rights.  If the baby was a girl, I would get to name her.  I guess we know how that turned out!  Incidentally, we’re planning on having another, and regardless of the next baby’s gender, he gets to name him/her.  He already has both names chosen.  Let’s just say, I hope it’s a boy.

So, I’m guessing if you’ve read this far, you’re thinking, Okay, Marge, enough whining and jaw-flapping – gimme the name!  Alright, alright, no more suspense.  Our daughter’s name is Brett Ashley Derbyshire.  … And, at this point, I’m guessing that you’re either thinking, What a cool name! or What?!  That’s a bullshit name!  Being me, I don’t care too much about what anyone else thinks – we’re happy with it, and that’s all that matters!

Where did I get the name?  Well, sort of two ways, actually.  Some of you probably remember reading The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway during your junior year of high school.  In spite of my love for Hemingway, I hated the book at the time, probably because I hated reading for school.  Like so many books that were forced upon me in my youth, I revisited it later and fell in love, particularly with the anti-heroine in the story, Lady Brett Ashley.

Hemingway modeled Lady Brett off of a woman he knew called Lady Duff Twysden.  (Now, aren’t you glad I didn’t choose that name?)  According to Hemingway/Jake Barnes in the story, Brett is beautiful and has curves “like the hull of a racing yacht.”  She wears men’s hats, fashion-forward clothing, no pantyhose, and calls everyone “you chaps.”  She’s very much a modern woman and very much a man’s woman; she has few, if any, female friends in the story.  Her fiancé, Mike, whom she cheats on left and right, compares her to the goddess Circe, saying that she turns men into swine.  She was a field nurse during World War I, and she was married to a man who slept with a gun and made her sleep on the floor at night.  You can tell right away that she’s one of those brilliant, damaged people that exudes a certain allure – you either love her or hate her, but you can’t ignore her.

Think this is a bad character to name your kid after?  Well, frankly, I like the name just in and of itself.  Believe it or not, Brett actually is a unisex name, and it means “a Breton.”  My husband is English, and I’m about 50% British blood.  Our child will have a UK passport, so I thought that seemed appropriate.  Besides, I think Brett is rather a cute name for a little girl.  It’s sophisticated.  Of course, her nickname is probably going to be “brat,” but she’ll get over it.  Any name you give your kids will probably result in some nickname.  Mine was “Large Marge” because I was a fat-ass, so I’m pretty sure “brat” wouldn’t be half as traumatic.

Ashley is a pretty common name, or at least it was when I was growing up.  Ashley, Sarah, Mike, Jennifer… I kid you not, there were six Sarahs in my senior English class.  Six.  That’s just shy of 20% of the class.  In case you were wondering, my husband likes Ashley far better than Brett.  I don’t think it’s as popular as it was in the 80s and early 90s, but I’m sure it’s still ranking.

The reason I like it though, is because it reminds me of my best friend from college and my old roommate, Ashley Hayden.  (She’s married now, but I’m leaving her maiden name here, since I doubt that she wants people snooping around for her, trying to get in contact or something, because stuff like that happens.)  No, I didn’t really name Brett after her, but I decided to stick with the Ashley part because I have good feelings about the name, and also because my husband liked its normalcy.  I think he’d really like to call her Ashley, but she’s Brett.  I’ve been calling her thusly for months and months, with a variety of strange nicknames already sprinkled in: “Lady B.,” “Bretty Bear,” “Brett-Brett”… I’m not going to lie: I really like boys’ names used for girls, and I think Ashley would agree with me.  I remember her telling me that her mother was going to name her Colin Michelle – bad-ass name – but her mother’s friend basically stole her baby name, and she was so pissed that she changed it.  And probably stopped talking to her friend.

In any case, that’s the story behind our daughter’s name.  Like I said, I think it’s cute and sophisticated for a little girl.  Yes, people will probably assume she’s a boy when she’s older, only seeing her name.  Yes, I named her after a Hemingway character.  Yes, her nickname will likely be “brat.”  Somehow, I think she’ll get over those things.  I got over “Large Marge” and the fact that my name makes me sound like a Catholic nun.  I love the name Brett, and I love my daughter.  She’s awesome and gorgeous, and she couldn’t be a bit more perfect, at least to us, and my husband and I are the only ones who matter, when it comes to that question!  Oh, also, her initials are BAD, which I sort of love.  I need to start playing that particular Michael Jackson song for her…

As a random thought that is unrelated to my daughter but is related to Catholic-sounding names and Ashley Hayden, my mother apparently thought about naming me Mary Katherine for awhile. … So I would have been Mary Kate.  We would have been Mary Kate and Ashley when we were sharing our dorm room and apartment.  Ha!  Like them Olsen twins.  We used to laugh about it and say that, had I been Mary Kate, we would totally have had to buy our dorm sheets and curtains from Wal-Mart off of the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen line of craptacular clothes.  Incidentally, I think Mary Katherine would have been better than Margaret, but I guess my mom decided to name me after my grandmother.  Weirdly, I have a great-great-great-great grandmother on my maternal grandfather’s side named Margaret Emily.  Yeah, my name was popular in the 1800s.  Seriously, look it up.

But our lady is here, and we love her to pieces.  She’s the best thing that ever happened to us, and we’re enjoying smothering her with hugs, swaddles, stories, and kisses… Even if she currently repays it by barfing down our shoulders and pooping on us.  🙂