Wednesday, July 23, 2014

BlogHer '14...........

Tomorrow I'm going to my first-ever conference, BlogHer '14 in San Jose, CA. My husband gave me this as a gift, and even included my 18-year-old daughter, in the mix so I wouldn't have to go it alone. I've always wanted to do something like this but I'm the queen of talking myself out of things, so I've never taken the leap. It was hard to make excuses when Jeff had already booked my room and purchased conference tickets, so here I go!

As the conference has drawn near, there have been so many Facebook posts about what to bring, what to wear, where to go. The whole thing sounds huge and confusing and hard to navigate. So, I'm doing what any sane person would do. I'm not making a plan. I'm just going into it with no expectations and letting things unfold. 

But........I am getting a pedicure before I go. For God's sake, no one needs to see my old pedi, grown out several millimeters and looking shabby. I have purchased several dresses because I just have a feeling everyone will be more dressed up than usual. And while I love those dresses right now, chances are, I will hate them the minute I put them on, so I'm also bringing my usual capris and tops and sandals just in case. I'm throwing in a swimsuit because even though everyone says there's no time for pool time, I'm planning to sit poolside at least once while I'm enjoying the California sun. 

Also? There's a lot of language I don't understand. Like, what is a change agent? How do you make a media kit? Why should I be "talking to brands?" I'm really confused, as I guess any newbie should be, and I just have this relatively tiny blog which is more for myself than anyone else, so I'm not sure that the business end of things is really for me. But who knows? I guess I'll be learning a lot. 

And I'll admit - I'm excited for the swag. Who knows what it will be but "expo" means bags 'o swag in my book and I'm already planning how to carry it all. I'm excited for the speakers - mostly Jenny Lawson and Arianna Huffington. I'm excited for the closing party featuring the Rev. Run from Run DMC and sponsored by McDonald's - although I can't really wrap my head around Happy Meals and sangria as a closing feast. Heck, I'm just excited to stay in a decent hotel. 

My ambitions are small but my enthusiasm is big! Except for the part about the 7:30 a.m. flight from Seattle tomorrow morning. That I'm not so excited about. But otherwise? Bring it, BlogHer '14! 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Getting rid of your fat habits..........

Last night I spent a wonderful evening with a bunch of ladies, most of whom I'd never met, trying on and exchanging clothes. It was sort of a spontaneous get-together, formed on a Facebook page, and the best part was all the clothes were size 14 and up.

Some may think "plus-size" is a one-size-fits-all description - in a word, FAT. But some would be wrong.

What I saw was a group of beautiful, kind, loving and supportive ladies who enjoyed an evening of trying on clothes, giving honest opinions, taking the shirt of their back (literally) to hand it over to another who would "look better in it." Sure, we joked about the lady lumps we don't love as much as other parts of our bodies, but mostly we rejoiced in each other's unique assets. Even if many of us wore the same size, we found that the same top looked completely different on each of us. We all took home armfuls of new-to-us clothing in sizes 14-3X - and yes, most of us had something in nearly every size!

I arrived at the event wearing shorts and a tank top - seemingly a normal summer-y outfit. But for me, it was way outside my summer uniform of capris and a cute short-sleeved top. I rarely wear shorts OR tank tops and this was the first time I was meeting most of these women. First impressions are important, right? Not when it's hot out. Because I didn't care. I liked my outfit. And I felt comfortable.

Of course I have criticisms about my own body. Of course I'm always striving (with varying levels of success) to get more fit and healthy. And by that I mean - more fit and healthy. I did not say skinny. I am not skinny. I've never been skinny. I've not always been fat, either. But none of us (and I mean YOU) are ever going to fit perfectly into some media-driven ideal size or measurement. We all have lumps and bumps and skin that is not taught or perfectly smooth. And we all have reasons - having children, going through a divorce, taking medication, having a thyroid problem. But who cares?

No one - and I mean no one - should have to "explain" why they are a certain size. So, stop doing it. That is the first "fat habit" you should get rid of. Why is it anyone's business why you are the size you are? It's not. So, don't bother explaining. That would be akin to making someone explain why their hair is blue or they have a nose piercing, or why they have tattoos. Because they do. That's it.

Another "fat habit" I'd like to get rid of is thinking "I can't wear that." If you can put it on and breathe in it, you can wear it. I once saw a post online that said "How to get a bikini body. Buy a bikini. Put it on your body." Exactly! If you want to rock a bikini, go ahead! If you're not comfortable, for whatever reason, don't do it. Same goes for sleeveless shirts and dresses - they're just arms - everyone has them. Shorts and short skirts? You have legs. We all do. So maybe yours are a bit lumpy or, like I've been known to say about mine "tree trunk legs." It's hot. Wear shorts. If you don't want to, don't. Wear what makes you feel pretty and comfortable - there are cute clothes in all sizes out there so buy something that fits and wear it. Don't squeeze into a size large t-shirt if you are not a size large. Tags are just tags. Cut them out if they bother you. I remember reading an article once about a woman who lost a great deal of weight. She said she never used clothes as a reward because "I think women should buy clothes they love in EVERY size." Yes! Buy and wear what you love, regardless of whether or not you are happy with what the little tag inside says.

When you go out to eat, do you feel self-conscious about what you order in front of others? STOP IT! That is the third "fat habit" I'd like to see banished! For goodness sake, you are lucky enough to be eating out at a restaurant. Hopefully, you are with friends, someone you love, maybe a first date. You are there to EAT so stop ordering a house salad with dressing on the side when what you really want is a bacon cheeseburger. You don't eat out every day, so enjoy the opportunity to savor something you wouldn't normally make at home. If that's a salad chock-full of yummy goodness, then go for it! If it's a slice of cheesecake, have it. We all know how to eat healthy. We know we need fruits, veggies, grains, low-fat dairy.......so focus on eating those most of the time. And when you go out, enjoy your food. Two incidents stick in my mind regarding this "fat habit" - one, when I was in college and went out with my then-boyfriend (who later was my first husband). We went to Denny's in the wee hours of the morning, following a night out at the bars, and of course we were starving. I immediately requested an order of fries and only after they were delivered did I notice every single other girl in our group had ordered the side salad. Who the FUCK eats a side salad at two in the morning? I know those bitches wanted fries but were too concerned about how it would make them look. I felt self-conscious, but only because my boyfriend gave me a "look" (I divorced him many years later because he never let me eat french fries. Kidding! About the fries...). The other incident has happened twice - my husband, who isn't much of a bread fan, often orders his burger "low carb" (without the bun) and enjoys a Diet Coke now and then. I like my burgers with a bun, and I might be inclined from time to time to enjoy a Bailey's shake. When our orders have arrived, I am immediately given the low-carb/Diet Coke order and he is given the "loaded" order. BULLSHIT! Girls eat, too. I may have just enjoyed a smoothie with fresh fruit and kale that very morning, but when I'm at a restaurant, I want FOOOOOOODDDDDD! So, stop ordering what you think the universe is telling you to - because, guess what? No one cares. It's your stomach, your hunger, and your food. Eat it.

The next "fat habit" I would like to discuss is working out. Specifically, thinking you can't work out at a gym because you're "too fat." What the??? Anyone can work out at the gym. I know people who have actually lost weight BEFORE they join a gym so they will "fit in." Are you kidding me? Last time I checked, no gym discriminated based on size. The gym would love to have you working out right alongside the toned athlete next to you. The important thing is that you MOVE. Everyone needs exercise. So, go out and move. Who cares what you do? If you want to walk slowly on a treadmill, do it. If you want to take a water aerobics class, do it. If you sign up for a triathlon and you are the VERY LAST person to cross the finish line (guilty) so what? You did it! Anyone, any size, can and should exercise. Last year, at a local 5K race my husband participates in, the last person to cross the finish line was a very obese man. Most of the spectators were long gone by then, but the few that remained gave this man a fitting celebration. Why not? He did it! If all you do it ten minutes of light weights or break a sweat washing the car in the hot sun, GOOD FOR YOU! Just move. No matter what size you are. Never stop moving.

Finally, the last "fat habit" I would like to banish is thinking that you are fat. Who decided what is "fat" and what is "skinny" in the first place? Sure, we have BMI charts, but even those are flawed and don't take into account many factors that affect fitness. Why is one size admired over another? What IS fat? Ask a size 0 girl and she might say "size 6." A size 14 girl might answer with size 20. Is fat just "fatter than you?" Is skinny just "skinnier than you?" My children tell me, all the time, "Mom, you are NOT fat." I wear a size 2X. Is that fat? Is anything over sizes "small, medium, large" considered fat? Is fat relative to the relationship you have with the person who is judging you? We are not fat. We are not skinny. We are not the sizes on the tag in our shirts. What we ARE: people who are all different shapes and sizes. That's it. Nothing about that speaks to anything we are in our hearts and minds. Size does not equal intelligence or ability, or capacity to love and be loved.

Get rid of your fat habits. Once and for all.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I opened the tab..........

I opened my Blogger tab so I feel like I HAVE to write something here. As usual it's been way too long since I blogged. But I have a (sort of) good excuse!

We went on a vacation to Montana. The awesome thing about this trip was that it was pretty much a REAL vacation and it was a whole week long which is extremely rare for us as a family. Ok, so one day Jeff did his volunteer thing with the American Chemical Society at the University of Montana in Missoula. But even that day was fun because Arlie and Harrison hiked the "M" on the hill while Hannah and I watched from the safety and comfort of the minivan (and I might have taken an hour-long nap. Ahem. It's VACATION!).

But we also went to Glacier National Park and - oh wow. I cannot even come up with the words to describe this place. It is the very essence of natural beauty and everywhere you turn there is something amazing. We hiked up to Avalanche Lake. The sign said it was four miles round trip. The brochure said it was five miles. Whatever - it was freaking LONG and exhausting but totally worth the view at the top. Breathtaking. Literally. There was a moment when I seriously considered turning back - we had failed to bring food or water because our original plan was just to walk the short "Trail of the Cedars" but then we saw this sign and people telling us it was an incredible hike so.......we just went, completely forgetting the ten essential items every hiker should have. I'm not sure what all ten of them are, but I know food and water are numbers 1 and 2. Anyway, I started to feel a little hungry and every so often I have this weird low blood sugar thing where I get all shaky and sweaty and really, really hungry and I was afraid that would happen along the trail because it went on FOREVER. But I decided to push on and I'm so glad I did because, WOW! I did almost ask a complete stranger for an apple slice, but I restrained myself. The water was so cold it actually hurt to step in. But we stepped anyway. We drove for miles around the park and ended with magical sunset.

Then, we went to the National Bison Range which sounds kind of boring, but was totally NOT boring at ALL. For one thing, BISON! We saw several, although none up close (well, not REALLY close), but we also saw a mama bear and two cubs, several deer, antelope, a mama deer nursing her baby, a huge buck and two baby deer, and a lot of really pretty birds. Plus the drive was spectacular - you just wind up and up this mountain side filled with prairie grasses and views that stretch for miles.

Also, I FINALLY saw an elk in the wild! I had begun to think they didn't exist but I know they do now, because I saw one on the side of the road, up on a hill, just standing there. I was too surprised to even grab my camera (that, plus Jeff was driving almost 80, so...). Still, I SAW AN ELK!

Then, we spent a whole day in Helena being treated by one of Jeff's contractors from work who has become a friend to us. He lives in Helena and took us out on his boat for a tour of Gates of the Mountains on the Missouri River. Again, it was unbelievably beautiful. The weather was perfect and the boat was well-stocked with all manner of food and drink. We got sunburned, took a ton of pictures, and ended the day at a BBQ at Shane's house. There was even a little fireworks action involving coffee cans.

We almost went to the Lewis and Clark caverns but opted instead to just drive to Coeur d' Alene where the "baby" cousins were visiting. They're not babies anymore - almost 7, two almost 4 year olds and a 2 yr old, but they're still a popular attraction. We made it in time for dinner and a visit, then headed to Spokane to stay overnight with Jeff's parents. In the morning we took the Spokane cousins to breakfast and then made the long trek home.

It was a GREAT vacation. I took almost 400 pictures and countless memories. And while it's great to be home and sleeping in our own beds, I'm looking forward to the next road trip which starts in......a few more days!

Yay, vacation!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Applebee's - you suck.

Tonight I met a friend at Applebee's for happy hour. We sat down in the largely uncrowded bar and proceeded to look over the happy hour menu. Almost immediately our waiter came over and said "Hi." I noticed he was wearing a rather large button that said "Happy Father's Day" with a picture of an adorable little girl on it. Nice way to get some extra tips, I thought! I complimented him on the button and he asked us what we would like to drink.

He was heavy on the upsell, and while my dining companion, Jenny, held her ground, I was a sucker for the "top shelf" margarita so I agreed to the $8 concoction, but only after "John" waxed poetic about it for five minutes. I then asked him if he could also take our appetizer order and he said yes, so we ordered mozzarella sticks and chicken taco won-tons. John said "Instead of cole slaw would you like chopped lettuce and pico de gallo? That's how I like them! I call them John-tons instead of won-tons." Uh. No. Just the drinks, the food and some water, please.

After a while, John arrived and set a martini glass in front of me, sporting an olive on a toothpick. In his other hand he held a shaker and said "You are going to love this!" I noted that I had ordered a blended margarita and so how could it be blended in a shaker? Also, what's with the martini glass and the olive? John looked thoroughly confused and said he would "be right back."

A bit later, he arrived with a Long Island Iced Tea (Jenny's drink) and my margarita - this time properly blended and in a margarita glass with a salted rim, but still sporting that damn olive. What the HELL? Why would anyone want an olive in a margarita? I did note that he had added  (almost as an afterthought since it immediately slipped off the toothpick and sank in my drink) a tiny slice of lime. Also, no water. Except in my glass because that "top shelf" margarita tasted just like water. And not much else.

A few minutes later, a different server arrived with our food. She set it down and walked away so fast she must not have heard our "Can we please have some plates?" And napkins. We waited a while for someone to come by who could provide us with plates, but although four servers had a lively conversation a few feet away, and John talked to the couple at the table behind us, no one came. Finally I got John's attention, let him know we needed plates, napkins and the water we'd ordered and he said "No problem" and was gone again.

More time passed and another server arrived with plates. No John. No water. No napkins. John did finally bring both water and napkins, but not before a cheerful server arrived and tried to put two large Ceasar salads down in front of us. We told her she had the wrong table and she stood there and said "Really?" Well, yes, really. She delivered them to the table next to us and went on her way.

Not long after that, another server brought us two large glasses of beer - that we didn't order. We sent her packing to another table and then another server brought out two meals and began to ask us which one of us had ordered the steak. Guess what? It was neither of us!

In the meantime John came by and said "I have your ticket here, but, um, what did you order?" We asked him to check the ticket he wrote our order down on. He said "I know but I guess I wrote it all on the same one so I will have to go print yours out on the computer - hang on" and he was off. When he returned, he said "Oh yeah, I guess I put everyone's food on your order." EVERYONE'S food? I snuck a look at the ticket and there were at least ten items on it! He then said "If you just tell me what you ordered, then I can get your food going while we figure it out." We actually had to tell him that we already HAD ordered, and, in fact, eaten our food and were just waiting for our check. Which we would please take from the manager.

About this time Marisol entered the picture. Marisol the Manager. We explained the night's debaucle and Marisol said "You must think you're on Candid Camera!" Actually, that would have at least made it a little bit funny. But, no, the whole mess was simply the result of John just doing a really bad job. We tried to be nice - we joked and laughed at first, but when we saw John apologizing to the table behind us for the VERY same thing, it was hard to imagine exactly what was going on in his head. Way too many screw-ups in one night.

The manager comped us our appetizers and gave us $5 off coupons for our next visit (which said "Happy Father's Day" at the top, so we were probably going to get them anyway). I'm not sure there WILL be a next visit, at least not to the bar. Applebee's Happy Hour? Two thumbs down!


Friday, June 6, 2014

Messy week..........

It's been a rough couple of weeks for several reasons, but this past week was notorious for something that happened EVERY morning.

Monday, just as I was slinging my purse over my shoulder to leave for work, I heard a crash followed by the sound of water being poured out - and this went on for an alarmingly long time! As I rushed to see what happened, I found that Benjie, our special-needs cat, had (after a week of trying) figured out how to knock over a very heavy vase full of flowers - and about a gallon of water! The water spread in a large puddle across the floor and also poured through the crack in the "entry table" which is what we call the furniture near the door - except that it's really an antique sewing machine! Water poured through the machine as flowers scattered in wilted repose across the hardwoods and met their untimely demise in the trash as I scurried to clean up the mess. One huge beach towel later and a text to my daughter telling her to clean up "her" cat's mess, and I dashed out the door - late!

Tuesday, as I attempted to fill my water cup to take to work, I noticed the ice maker making a grinding sound - but no ice was coming out. I opened the freezer to investigate and a virtual iceberg crashed to the floor, scattering ice in all directions across the hardwood floor! Seems the mechanism was a little wonky and the ice had been storing up inside the (very small) receptacle. An iceberg formed and when I opened the freezer door, it created an instant global warming effect that necessitated another big clean up - only this time it was worse because I had to scoop up hundreds of ice cubes. I dashed out the door - late again!

Wednesday, I was heading downstairs to grab my purse and lunch to leave for work when I happened to turn my head and notice some dark spots on the carpet down the hallway. Upon further investigation, what I thought might have pet puddles turned out to be several large spots of dog diarrhea soaking into the carpet. I yelled to my son to come and help. Half a roll of paper towels, half a cannister of Lysol wipes and two very thorough passes of the carpet cleaner later we both headed out the door - late again. I didn't think the school would appreciate the note I wanted to write "Please excuse my son for being late - he was cleaning up shit" so I just signed a generic note my son penned on the way. I got to work - late.

Thursday, I woke early to the stench of dog crap. NOT AGAIN????? Mysteriously, I could spy no tell-tale stains save for one small spot in the dining room. The smell, however, permeated the house and made me gag. WHERE WAS IT? I finally found the offending pile of - you guessed it - more soft-serve dog crap, this time right outside the kids' bathroom door. I could NOT be late to work again, so my son and I worked frantically to clean it up. We used up the rest of the previous' day's paper towel roll, the rest of the Lysol wipes and I plugged the carpet cleaner in to do the final cleaning. I grabbed the hose, pressed hard to suck up the nauseating poo and suddenly noticed my hand was wet! The hose had broken WHILE I was using it, effectively leaving my hand soaking in freshly-washed dog shit. After steaming my hand with soap and a scalding flush of water, I found some duct tape and quickly "fixed" the hose. But not before texting my husband a picture of the hose, lying on the floor leaking crap, and secretly wishing bad things upon him for leaving early two days in a row and leaving me on doggy "doo"ty. I finally got the carpet marginally cleaned, scrubbed two layers of flesh off my hands under hot, running water, and left for work - late.

I realized at this point I was on a roll. Four out of four days running I'd had to clean up a mess. Surely Friday would be better?

Friday, I headed downstairs and fixed myself some toast and an instant breakfast drink. I prepared some packages for mailing, grabbed my lunch, my purse, the packages and my drink and headed for the door. The packages were unwieldy - a long, flat one, a shoe box and a much smaller box, and I was trying to re-adjust them in my arms so I could lock the door. As I did so, I inadvertently poured my breakfast drink all over the entry way floor! This time, however, I was not surprised. I knew something like this would happen, given the four previous days, so I simply wiped up the mess and carried on with my day. And I got to work - on time.

Life is messy. Clean it up.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Insane in the membrane..........

Apparently, it's mental health blogging day, since May is national Mental Health Month. This is a subject near and dear to my family since every single one of us has a mental illness. Which is such an ugly word. Do people say you have a "body illness" when you have cancer? Why can't we just call it what it is? We have depression and anxiety. And it has wreaked havoc with our lives for the past several years - a whirlwind of doctors, counselors, hospitalizations, medications. But we're in a relatively calm period (I say that with caution because after what we've been through I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop!). Things have been pretty good for several months now.

Each person, even with the same diagnosis, has different manifestations of their depression and anxiety. I have anxiety, but rarely have depression. I have days in a row where I'm definitely "off" and feeling depressed, but what plagues me day to day is my anxiety.

I know I was always an anxious kid - I would have a stomach ache every first day of school and I often worked myself up to the point of canceling plans under the heavy veil of "what ifs". I had a myriad of physical symptoms, too, very real and very bothersome. I thought for years I must be suffering from an unknown illness, and surely I would die soon. But the years went by and I didn't die. Still, I had no idea what anxiety was and, apparently, neither did my doctors.

I had several panic attacks in college, and after my kids were born, things just intensified. I felt very confident as a mom, but my physical symptoms continued to plague me, and I worried I had an undiagnosed illness that would leave my children motherless. By this time, I had researched more about anxiety and thought it might be at least contributing to my symptoms, but I was VERY resistant to taking medication.

My reasons for this were, ironically enough, fueled by my anxiety. You know those commercials where they talk about a fabulous new drug and then go through all the side effects that include things like "sudden death" and worse? I worried I'd experience every single bad symptom and then what good would it do? Not only would I have anxiety but I'd also have bleeding gums and vertigo? No thanks.

Finally, after missing a school event because I was "sick" only to have my mysterious illness disappear as soon as I was off the hook, I realized it was time to bite the bullet and give in to the pharmaceutical industry. I went on my first anti-anxiety drug and it was just as I expected. It was awful. I felt terrible, and so I stopped the medication and resigned myself to feeling anxious and sick forever.

But then I did more research and realized there were a myriad of drugs out there that might work. While the first medication, Zoloft, made me have awful tummy aches and didn't seem to make a difference (because I only took it a few days, and, unfortunately, anxiety drugs often take weeks to work), the second, Prozac (fluoexitine) worked like a charm. I was finally, finally free from feeling anxious all the time. In fact, I didn't even realize how awful I felt until one day, doing a perfectly boring and normal thing - driving my kids home from school - I suddenly felt a fog lift and I felt..........hopeful, I guess. Normal. Definitely not something I'd felt in a long, long time.

I was so happy to be free from anxiety that I barely noticed the weight gain - at first. But, suddenly, I was forty pounds heavier and a whole lot happier. Sounds crazy, but the trade-off seemed worth it. I decided I'd rather be "fat and happy" than skinny and anxious. So, I was. Until my weight kept ballooning and I decided I'd better make a change.

I tried Celexa for a few weeks because my insurance insisted I do so. I had to "try and fail" two different anxiety meds before they would approve Lexapro, which my doctor thought would work best for me. That's another caveat of having a mental illness. Insurance companies playing games with your well-being by creating these stupid rules about which drugs you can be covered for. Who's crazy now?

My anxiety often makes me feel isolated, but it's a vicious cycle. I bow out of social engagements because my head is swirling with "what ifs" or I don't feel secure with the situation. Things that sound like a good idea when I commit to them can often seem like the worst thing in the world when the actual day arrives. Sometimes, it's easier to just stay home in my safe house than venture out to experience social awkwardness, or the perception that everyone else is living a better life. So, I stay home and then I feel lonely and isolated. It's a bitch.

Lexapro, as it turns out, works like a charm. I only need a small dose and I feel normal - capable, calm, no more scary mood swings, no more brittle demeanor that would crumble in tears at the slightest slight. I feel confident, secure, assertive, and able to function normally for the first time in years. Relief!

Then, one day, I decided that it was a horrible fate to have to "take drugs to be happy." I decided I would try weaning off my medication now that I clearly had things under control. The first sign that this was a mistake was the unpredictable mood swings and the irritability. We're talking such a heightened sense of irritability that someone breathing too loud could set me off. I realized quickly that this was the "crazy" talking and I went back on my meds. Two more failed attempts at weaning off my Lexapro and I decided I would just accept that I needed this medication - like a diabetic needs insulin.

Recently, I started taking my meds less often. Every other day and now every third day. In another attempt to see if I can manage to lose weight a little easier once I'm OFF the meds, I've decided to try weaning again. And I've definitely noticed an uptick in my moodiness, my irritability, and my sadness. Nothing I can't handle but still disconcerting. So, maybe it will work and maybe it won't. I'm not opposed to staying on the meds forever. Even if it means I'm fat and happy. It's just worth so much more to me to be able to appreciate the simple joys in life, to feel secure and stable and to handle what life chucks at me instead of staying home, hiding behind my closed door and feeling lonely and alone.

Anxiety, for me, is about trade-offs. I know in my head and heart that this is a physical illness, the same as any other illness. I am not ashamed to take medication for it. I am not ashamed to talk about it. I know if more people did, we could remove the stigma of mental illness once and for all. I know more people than I realize are suffering from the same symptoms. We're all in this together. I know how scary it is to succumb to the hold mental illness can have on a person. I've watched people I love become suicidal, socially isolated and terrified to face the day even while being able to logically tell themselves "you're ok, you're ok, you're ok". Because no matter how much you talk to yourself and reassure yourself that you're not going crazy or about to die, your body controls you and you are powerless to stop it. And sometimes, you need a reset - in the form of medication, counseling, hospitalization. Whatever it takes. It's worth it.

So, while living with anxiety is a total bitch of a motherfucker (and I say that kindly) it can be done. Like anything that's worth it, it takes work and sometimes an admission of defeat or the balls to ask for help. But one thing it should never be is shameful. Anxiety is an illness. Cancer is an illness. Schizophrenia is an illness. Heart disease is an illness. People with anxiety need the same love and compassion as anyone else struggling with their health.

When my children were in the hospital, exactly two people brought meals to us. About five people reached out through a text or Facebook message. No one visited. Our family did not rally. There was no dinner sign-up sheet, no fundraisers, no one offering to help around the house. And I wonder - would that have been the same if my children had been injured in a car accident and hospitalized? Is a battered body more serious than a battered mind?

Compassion. That's all we need. Understanding. Education. For all you know, you have a family member, co-worker, friend, colleague who suffers from anxiety, depression or the myriad of other mental illnesses. You won't be able to "tell" because there won't be any outward scars (but some people with anxiety cut themselves), there will be no trailing IV pole (but some people carry meds to take at a moment's notice so they don't have a panic attack at a most inopportune time), there will likely never be a public display of manic behavior or oddness that you can pick out. People with anxiety and depression are masters at hiding it. Imagine having to hide your cancer because some people just don't get it.

Be kind. Someone is always fighting a battle, and that battle might be anxiety or depression. And if you, too, suffer, don't be afraid to open up and share. Sometimes, when your whole world is crashing down because of a chemical imbalance in your brain, just knowing you're not alone can be the one thing that keeps it all controlled. Listen. Learn. Be kind. You're ok. You're ok. You're ok.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

I can't blog.........

I made myself a promise (and a pledge to NaBloPoMo) to blog every day in May, and guess what?

I can't blog.

I can't blog because I don't really have a working laptop.

I DO have a laptop, but it's not working. As in, my husband bought it off Craig's List (bless his heart) and it regularly disconnects itself from the internet and the keyboard is possessed. No, really. So, before I shoot it or throw it on the floor, we decided to just put it back on Craig's List and get rid of it.

So, that leaves my old laptop, which is obsolete now because of it's operating system, AND it just stopped working at all a few days ago. Like, five minutes before we were going to dump all the important stuff on an external hard drive, the computer just shut off and wouldn't do anything. Plus, it had to be plugged in all the time, so how is that a laptop? That's just a small desktop. Lame.

The good news is my neighbor was able to resurrect that old laptop long enough to retrieve the data and put it on the external hard drive.

The bad news is that while I was doing that, my asshole cats knocked the external hard drive off the table and now it won't work. Like, at all. And my only hope is finding a data recovery place that can possibly take the data off the broken external hard drive. But it's going to cost. A LOT. And every single picture I've ever taken is on that hard drive. All my memories.

So, now I have to use our old desktop computer that is slow and temperamental and most of the letters have worn off the keyboard. Plus, using the mouse is so weird since I'm used to a laptop. And, the computer is in the middle of the family room, and I don't concentrate well with a lot of noise, so I can't blog. I mean, I'm blogging now, but I can't meet my goal to blog every day. It's just not going to work.

And with $33 in the checking account to last us, oh, the next ten days, my chances of getting a new laptop, or fixing my external hard drive or buying groceries are slim to none.

I'm so tired of it all. Tired of things not working, and things breaking and being broke all the time. I'm ready to move to a dilapidated farm house in the central US somewhere where the cost of living is minimal and we're not constantly living paycheck to paycheck and if something breaks, we can fix it.

To add to the fun today, I began my morning getting an upper endoscopy then being drugged on anesthesia that left me unable to do anything but sleep for the next five hours. Actually it was the best sleep I've had in ages so I'm not really complaining about that one. But then, I got an email saying my submission to a blog contest was not chosen. And I was really bummed because I thought I had a chance. But then I started reading some of the winners, and honestly? They weren't all that great. Not all of them. But their blogs were flashier. And they had more readers. And I realize I'm just a small, small fish in a big, big sea.

I just want to blog. But it's hard.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The conversation went like this...........

Tonight, Jeff and I went to the Outback for dinner. He had a gift card taking up space in his wallet since Christmas, and the kids were all gone to watch the high school talent show. So, kid-free (and FREE) dinner! WIN!

During dinner Jeff was lamenting that he had wanted only a salad for dinner because he "felt fat." Um, excuse me - GIRL WORDS! What guy says he feels fat? Well, my husband does. But that didn't stop him from downing steak and lobster AND a chocolate Thunder from Down Under dessert.

At any rate, he mentioned he needed to be "a little bit fat" because when he was out in the woods doing his mountain man/elk hunting/scratching-his-balls thing, he needed some fat reserves in case he got lost in the woods and was starving.

Me: You know, that's why women survive better than men in those types of situations. Because we have more fat.

Jeff: Yeah, like that guy we know who couldn't finish the Ironman? That guy was all skinny and shit, but that one lady? She was WAY heavier than him, AND older, and she finished!"

Me: Exactly. I mean (gesturing up and down my body), I did TWO triathlons! If this body can do it, anyone can!

Jeff: Well........there was a little less of you then.

Postscript - I'm planning to Nair off one of his eyebrows while he sleeps. Subtle, but effective.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Girl, you do you.........

Today at work I visited the ladies' room and I took a look at my hair in the mirror. I didn't love it. I have a love/hate relationship with my hair anyway (who doesn't?) but for some reason, I was reminded of a situation in high school regarding my hair, and how other people's "off-hand" comments can stick with us for decades.

My mom had paid for a "good" hairdresser to do my hair. Not sure what constituted "good" except that it was at a salon that seemed a little more "exclusive" than others. And by that I mean, it had a nice waiting area. And copies of Playgirl on the tables. Not kidding. It was the first time I'd ever seen an uncircumcised penis (and the only other penises I'd seen belonged to babies and toddlers who's diapers I'd changed while babysitting). I was mildly shocked at a pornographic magazine being tossed in with the ladies' magazines and hairstyle books, but I laughed it off as only an awkward teenager could.

When it came my turn to see David (see? I still remember his name), he asked me what I was looking for in a hairstyle. I've had very curly hair since adolescence so up to that point, I'd never had anyone who could cut my hair well. I was really hoping for a miracle from David. But when he described his idea for how to transform my hair, all I remember is him saying "And we should get rid of this," (grabbing my mass of hair at the back of my head), "It looks like you're a truck hauling a trailer."

Fuck you, David.

I don't remember if I liked my haircut (probably not) but I do remember that comment. Forever and a day I will remember that comment.

Another time, my mom walked past me in my kitchen, where I was at the sink washing dishes. I think my oldest daughter was a toddler at the time, so while I was not in the best shape I'd ever been, I was certainly in better shape than I am now. Offhandedly, my mom said "Boy, you sure have fat calves!" Now, clearly I was aware that my calves were not lithe and lean. In fact, though I was a tiny kid, I was always a bit stocky, sturdy, and never willowy. But from that day on, I was more than aware of my "fat calves" though I had barely given them a notice before.

Thanks, mom.

Years later, a friend commented on my "unfortunate weight gain." Her choice of words - unfortunate - making it sound like a cancer diagnosis or tragic car accident - always stuck with me. Who was she to say my shift in weight was unfortunate? I certainly didn't feel unfortunate. In fact, I was quite happy with my life at the time. My weight, while not ideal, was not at the forefront of my mind all day. But, clearly, it had been bothering HER enough to comment.

Screw you, "friend."

It's true that people remember how you made them feel. I'm certain I've said something to someone at some point in my life that mirrored the situations above. Perhaps someone remembers me by the way I made them feel, and it's not in a good way.

I see my own kids and their peers lamenting their weight, looks, intelligence, athletic ability, amount of friends, popularity, and status. I keenly remember my own mother saying "Who cares what anyone else thinks?" But we DO care. We hold on to words, feelings and situations that make us feel inadequate. As we grow older, we learn to set those things aside in favor of focusing our ever-decreasing energy on the things we hold dear. But they never really leave us. Words can shape a relationship.

The other day we were watching an old home video. It was Easter and my two oldest girls were hunting for eggs. My ex-husband was doing the videotaping and while his face can't be seen, his voice can be heard. At one point, exasperated with my younger daughter's inability to find eggs that he can clearly see, he says her name, "Hannah." But the tone of his voice is what makes the video hard for my daughter to watch. She knows that tone - that irritation, that disappointment. Even as an adult herself now, it's hard for her to watch that video and hear her dad's "mean" voice.

During my first marriage, my now ex-husband used to get very angry, often for no discernible reason. We would argue and he would shake his head at me with a slight laugh and say "You're unbelievable." Two simple words that meant a lot more. I heard his disappointment, his anger, his disgust with me. To this day, I still get pissed off when I hear the EMF song "You're Unbelievable." The song praises the object of the singer's desire. But to me, it was completely the opposite.

I shudder to think of the words I've used as weapons. Never have I wanted to intentionally hurt someone with my words, but I know I have. Knowing, as I do, the way words can stick with a person; knowing that words, once spoken, can never be taken back. And "I'm sorry" is just a phrase with no meaning.

Be careful with your words. They mean more than you'll ever know.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

You say tom-ay-to, I say to-mah-to.......

I love language. And by that, I mean, I love all the versions of the English language one hears when traveling to different parts of the good 'ol US of A. Our recent trip to Ohio did not disappoint. Besides the "accent" that makes them sound different, there are the delightful words and phrases that confused and charmed me.

Now, before you think this is a post slamming another part of the country's language/accent/phrases, let me be the first to say I spent some time in southeastern Ohio myself and upon moving to other states, was often told I had an "accent." Later, someone clarified to me that it was my "Midwestern accent" and was more about where I put the emphasis on certain words. Since I've lived all over the United States, my "accent" is more of a mash-up of several states' and probably not as easily identifiable as it once was, but I know I have my own funny way of talking and using phrases that would befuddle another American.

So, for example, while I might "push" something (emphasis on the "oo" sound, as in "book") my relatives would "poosh" it. When I'm "tired" they would be "tarred." It's not that we don't both know what the other is talking about, it's just that our mouths form the words differently.

My sister giggled when she found out what a "foldover" was. I, myself, had no idea until my aunt explained it was what I would call a half sandwich. It's simple - you put what you like on the bread, and fold it over. A foldover.

The main purpose of this trip was to attend a huge surprise party for my Aunt Laurie. My other aunts, Mary and Leah (my namesakes!), along with my aunt Margi and some friends prepared all the delicious food for the party. My aunt Leah was worried she didn't have enough homemade (!) noodles - can we just stop here and admire someone who goes through the trouble to make HOMEMADE noodles? - and so she asked my sister to pick up some "cheater" noodles at the store. You know, cheater noodles. Not homemade.

One day while we were there, my husband wore a beanie on his head. You know those stretchy knit hats that are ever-so-popular with all the teenagers right now? His was more of the tight-fitting, logo-inspired variety, but you get the picture. Only, in SE Ohio, it's called a "toboggan." You know, like the sled? In fact, I called those hats toboggans for YEARS until someone corrected me and said a toboggan was a sled. REALLY? I had no idea. Now, I just call it a beanie because that's what all the kids call it. But my Ohio family still calls it a toboggan, and at least I know what they're talking about. My husband can learn.

During a conversation at my Aunt Margie's house (my dad's sister) the conversation amongst the older set turned to health. Everything from who had which cancer to who's heart had recently been catheterized filled the conversation until my cousin's significant other asked if we "got sugar?" Noting no sugar bowl on the table, I had no idea what he was talking about until my sister figured it out as a question pertaining to diabetes.

My Aunt Leah makes some killer apple pie. Also, they put milk and sugar over their pie. Isn't that just the craziest? I don't know, it sounded pretty good to me, although I was always too full to even try her pie, so I'll have to take their word for it. My brother-in-law inquired as to the secret of her fabulous pie. She began to list off the procedure, explaining that she used a "knuckle buster." A what? We soon learned that a knuckle buster is actually a cheese grater. But, c'mon, who hasn't busted a knuckle on one of those things? Makes perfect sense to me!

Jeff and I spent a lot of time driving aimlessly through the beautiful country for no other reason than to enjoy the completely different geography and beauty that Ohio has to offer. It was fun to explore, get lost and found, and take pictures of the rural loveliness. We were discussing where we'd been when my Uncle Joe started telling a tale about days gone by. He storied on about a particular road when he mentioned how the "meat wagon" used to go out there a lot. I thought, wow! They had meat delivery? I mean, I still get my milk delivered and I love that small-town charm of getting my milk from a local dairy out here in suburbia. Meat delivery would be awesome! Until my Aunt Leah noticed our expressions and clarified that a "meat wagon" referred to an "ambulance." Which, incidentally, they call a "squad" in their neck of the woods.

But my favorite "lost in translation" moment happened when Jeff and I were discussing the following day's plans to hike a nearby state park. My Aunt Leah and Uncle Joe were full of great information, including which hikes to take in our short time allotted and where to see the highlights of the many beautiful sights the park had to offer. While discussing one particular hike, Uncle Joe suddenly said "You got wind?" Thinking he meant the gassy variety, I shot a menacing look my husband's way. How dare he fart in mixed company? Both Jeff and I stopped talking and a beat of uncomfortable silence followed, until Jeff suddenly realized he was referencing our aerobic capacity, not the state of our intestines. Whew!

I love my family. I love language. And I love that we have so many words to mean the same thing. I really pity anyone who has to learn the English language. It's so confusing. And so much fun!