Don’t Call Me Crazy!

zoeparascopeMy dog, Zoey, hates when I close the door to my office. She doesn’t get that that door is the difference between me being productive and me getting caught up in something else—like dishes or television.

At a closed door, Zoey will scratch on the other side and reduce her muzzle to fit under the half-inch door crack and aggressively sniff. If I don’t open the door, she throws her body against it a few times and then whines. When I finally get up and open it, Zoey peers inside and walks away—she doesn’t want to come in. She wants to make sure I haven’t ditched her, jumped in my car and headed out to eat at every fast food chain—I’m sure this is her assumption of what I do when I leave—that’s because Zoey is crazy.

The other day I left my dog and went to a doctor’s appointment to get a prescription refill and came out with yet another medication. I’m on quite a few drugs that range from battling hypothyroidism, stabilizing hormone levels, and for depression. It has been my goal to reduce my med intake but without success. Every pill I take is a have-to, not just to stabilize my mood, but also to keep my body functioning. What bothers me is when a health care provider categorizes depression as having a Mental Illness (capital M, capital I).

People are uncomfortable with anything that uses the words Mental and Illness. No one wants to talk about it, not even me. I had a friend once explain it like this: when someone has cancer, everyone within a twenty-mile radius stops what he or she is doing to help. They want to be involved because they understand what the disease is. When it comes to depression, everyone disappears. Do you blame them?

See, depression is uncomfortable because it’s associated with unpleasant things and not triumphs. There are no pink t-shirts or 5K races to enlighten people about mood disorders—my husband will run anywhere and wear pink if it’s to save a pair of breasts—I think many people would. No one with depression calls up a friend and says, “Hey, I had a terrible day, and I didn’t kill myself. Let’s celebrate!” And no friend of the depressed is going to celebrate knowing that today’s bad day didn’t end with funeral arrangements because that’s weird. Instead, like a dog with a bone, the depression goes underground, dragging the person who has it with it. Outside of a few people (and usually it’s done from a therapist’s couch), no one talks about it.

So, here’s my equivalent to a pink shirt crusade, bare with me! Do you know you can be terribly sad and not try to off yourself? Also, there are a lot of reasons that cause depression other than childhood traumas, abuses, and or self-pity (this last one is controversial but it’s one many people assume is the root cause of depression!)

Take me for example, I’ve dealt with many from the above list at one time or another throughout my forty-two years, but my depression, today, is caused by the fact that I had a full hysterectomy when I was twenty-three years old. The removal of my uterus and fallopian tubes made me hormonally, mentally, and physically depressed. So why on earth would I then be categorized as having Mental Illness? I’m not sick! I’m not scheming ways in which to murder anyone (well, I am, but that’s because I’m also a fiction writer, so that’s okay). It’s because of the big D-word, Depression.

My sister-in-law recently turned me on to a new term that I took to my doctor: Brain Health instead of Mental Illness. Whenever Mental Illness is brought up people stop listening, because it means you’re done—fit ‘em with a straight jacket, place ‘em in a padded cell in front of eleven hours of Sesame Street programming and throw away the key.

Brain Health, on the other hand, elicits a totally different attitude one with infinite possibilities and avenues of help and benefit. Brain Health is associated with healthy living and not crazy pants.

There are many reasons I don’t like taking pills. However, the benefits outweigh the bad. I love that I feel fine on most days. I like that I can get out of bed and be productive even at the expense of my pet, which I assume has Doggie Dementia, and who is sniffing under the door this very minute as I write. All of these are great reasons! So what’s so crazy about that?

A Ramble

inkwell pen pic

I’m sad today though not for any particular reason. Usually, this is when I write my best when I’m gloomy without a rainstorm. Today, I’m sitting at my desk trying to find inspiration. I listened to two episodes of a podcast called, Terrible (Thanks For Asking), which was good but added to this underlying wretchedness I have. I don’t have a problem with being sad sometimes. My issue is that today I can’t seem to use it to write something good.

I am on my third attempt of finding inspirational writing music. Usually, I don’t write to music because I like everything to be silent. Otherwise, I get distracted. It’s stunning the crazy stuff people write to; anything from Iron Maiden to Disney music. I’ve found an awful lot of Game of Throne and Lord of The Rings soundtracks.

Personally, I gravitate towards scores composed by John Williams, but if I listen to him, I’m afraid I’ll write stories starring an alien farm boy haunted by stories of his dead war hero father or else an anthropology professor searching for buried treasure. Or worse, I’ll write about an Anthropological farmer with a mega-sized daddy-issue that carries both a bullwhip and a light sword and bounces around the universe searching for alien treasure. Genius.

Something’s in the air—some shift I can’t quite put my writing fingers on. Perhaps it started this morning? My dog Zoey and I finally went for a walk. The temperature was a balmy 50 degrees Fahrenheit, as opposed to the 30 degrees it has been. Except for trills of traffic, inconsistent and waning as the morning wore on, outside was silent. The sun hadn’t come up yet, but the sky was clear, and the air was crisp. Above us, an arrow of geese cut through the blue, honking, I assume, directions to one another. The strange thing about it was that they were flying north when at this time of year, shouldn’t they be flying south? They’re probably Canadian Geese heading home.

Maybe it’s the podcast I listened to where the last episode talked about not comparing your pain to someone else’s. I know, I know, it sounds excruciating! However, I can’t help but wonder if I’m feeling this way because I listened to the episode, or if I was drawn to it because I feel this way? I suppose it doesn’t matter.

I call this mood, going dark—which I’ve discovered is the term used by FBI agents when describing a person who isolates themselves right, right before they do something terrorizing— which is not at all what I do.

When I go dark, I just don’t like to leave my house or put on makeup. I take long, long baths, and crave buckets of ice cream. I should probably change the name of this mood. Should I call it, at the risk of sounding like the title of a Life Time original movie, going melancholy, instead?

I know this state I’m in is temporary, which is all the more reason I want to use it to write. So I guess the point of this post is that the sun is out, bright and shining, but I can’t stop noticing how many shadows it casts.

He Ran Back

superhero opening shirtI’ve been upset over what happened in Las Vegas last Sunday. I’ve read up on the shooter and have seen countless reports of the terrible event. Along with the sadness, the one thing that strikes me is how many stories highlight an unknown person who, after escaping, he or she ran back to help others. These people are heroes.

The media spent a lot of energy on learning every aspect of the Las Vegas shooter: Who was he? Why would somebody kill fifty-nine people and be responsible for wounding over five hundred more?

There is a logical reason for our interest—we’re trying to understand it to prevent it from happening again. But what if there’s another aspect to the situation and instead of using it for preemptive measures, we try to emulate it? I’m talking about the heroes.

I read account after account of heroics done by seemingly ordinary people. These people plucked up the wounded and plugged up bullet holes with the shirts off their own backs. They used their own broken bodies to shield someone unknown from the bullets raining down.

Some helped many, creating human chains to get people out of danger, even while harboring multiple bullet wounds themselves. Some helped only one other, holding a hand so that the stranger would not die alone. These people fought for the ones too frightened, too hurt, too overwhelmed to fight for themselves, because that’s what heroes do.

We all know the shooter’s name, now. We’ve seen his face and know his background. We are aware of the names of the fatally wounded and have seen their faces as well. They’re what make this event such a tragedy. And the heroes?

They are faceless. Most of the time we don’t know their names, nor do the people whose lives they saved. Most of the time we have no idea what happened to them afterward. However, it’s because of them that this world is redeemable. Because of them, there’s hope.

I don’t know if people knew they were heroes at the first blast of shots last Sunday, but I do know they heard something other than what surrounded them. It makes me wonder if I would. Would I choose safety over saving? Would I be willing to face danger to protect someone unknown? I don’t know. It’s easy to get caught up in the fear that evil is lurking around us, but don’t underestimate all the heroes in the crowd.


Device or Not Device, That’s the Question

no-cell-phone-sign-icon-great-any-use-vector-eps-52344478 (image 52344478)

My husband, Bry, and I always wanted my kids to feel their opinion mattered, even if we didn’t agree with it. Sometimes this backfired—at one point we referred to them as the Lawyers—but most of the time it gave us a new perspective.

Perspective is relative, but when it comes to actual relatives, perspective can be strange. Once, as a thank you gift for watching our dog, we gave my in-laws a bright orange neck pillow with a built-in massager. It was a perfect present because they travel a lot. The following Sunday my father-in-law greeted each grandchild with, “Hey, check out my new vibrator!”

He wasn’t using the word in the urban vocabulary sense. He was referring to the fact that it vibrated at a touch of a button. See, perspective.

My in-laws have since bought another massaging device commercially called the Jigglin’ George: One must lay flat facing upwards on a table. On the opposite table end, a raised cradle-type apparatus is used for feet to be set on. When the power button is on the cradle begins rocking side-to-side resembling a dog ripping apart a stuffed animal. The purpose is to stimulate blood circulation, check it out on YouTube.

As a Christmas gift, my in-laws bought me a back massager that lines the back of almost any chair. I’ve nicknamed it the Gyrating Jenny (but don’t try looking this up on YouTube—you’ll find something totally different). See, a sarcastic perspective!

Recently, on Good Morning America, a new device was introduced where parents can monitor everything their teenaged driver does while behind the wheel. A report is sent to the parent revealing how often their child sped, hit the brakes, how they parked, and had a way of keeping the radio volume at a particular decimal level at all times. It’s marketed as a way to give relief to any worried parent while their child is driving. My question is why on Earth would anyone want to know that?

Isn’t it better not to know sometimes? Aren’t we all a little happier when we don’t know every minuscule detail of how our kids got from point A to point B as long as they didn’t get a speeding ticket and didn’t plow over anybody crossing the street along the way?

Another appalling little device comes from Xfinity (cable). It’s a way in which one person can control all the Wi-Fi devices in the house. Picture this: A family sitting down to dinner, and everyone is busy on a cell phone. The mother is just about to join them when she tells the voice over guy to wait, whips out her phone and presses a button where all the phones are paused. She then sits and asks everybody how their day was.

At this point, the audience is supposed to say, thanks, Xfinity! You saved our family once again! We talk at the dinner table, and we couldn’t have done it without you, Xfinity. Yeah, yikes!

My issue with either device (the car one or the phone one) is that our kids can’t make a decision for themselves. Where are they going to learn that actions have consequences (and just-because-I-say-so doesn’t count as a consequence)? How do they learn when to put the phone down?

Bry and I struggle with the phone thing—our fifteen-year-old son wants to sleep with his cell phone. At any given time, his phone buzzes no less than fifty times in thirty minutes. I’m not kidding. Even when the phone is on silent, it still vibrates.

How can he get a good night’s sleep with that in his ear? He can’t. At night we make him bring it up and plug it in on the kitchen cabinet. Usually, he’s good about doing so. Sometimes he sneaks back up and takes it downstairs with him. We know that’s bound to happen. The consequence is he gets in trouble (at least a talking to by us), plus he’s grumpy and tired the next day. Not my favorite outcome, however, he’s learning the consequences of his actions.

I asked my nineteen-year-old daughter about the newest car device. She was offended and furious about it. She feels as if parents are treating their children like criminals in case they will commit a crime, not that they have already committed a crime. See, total lawyer potential, right? I think she’s right about that.

The point of this post is that every newest fandangle device, whether or not we want them to, will affect someone and it’s important to discuss them with said affected. We also need to understand how the device is perceived and if we can accept the consequences that come with each.

As secondary advice, be careful with which words you use to describe said devices, and for the love of Mike—know what you’re saying before you’re running at your grandkids waving your vibrator at them!





Come On, What’s There To Like?

salad picI don’t like salads. I know, I know, it sounds blasphemous. In confessing this truth, I fully expect to be inundated with articles about the health benefits of salads. There will be interventions; I walk into my house, I’m already suspicious because it’s nighttime and someone has actually turned on the outside lights, that and the lack of a blue light bouncing off the ceiling indicating the television isn’t on. My family and friends will greet me. I’ll be asked to have a seat, probably on the not so inconspicuous chair brought in from the dining room and placed in the middle of the group. People will begin with telling me they love me and that they have each written a letter about how me not liking Asian Chopped Salads is ruining their lives…

Salads, what’s there to like, anyway? I’m cold all the time, not emotionally (although some may argue that point) I mean physically cold three-hundred-and sixty-five-days of the year. Why would I order a concoction of biting Bibb lettuce, chilly carrots, and polar peppers—all of which when combined taste no different from one another with or without salad dressing?

No amount of additional items changes anything about salad, either; Chicken becomes as flavorful as foam. Apples taste like green peppers and green peppers taste like green peppers—what’s the deal with that? As for candied walnuts, well they taste like candied walnuts and I gobble them up so fast, they have little time to improve the salad as a whole.

Also, nobody ever finishes a salad. People get bored and give up—that’s why they lose weight—they put the fork down! That’s how I lost my weight through boredom and fork detruding.

It’s not that I dislike vegetables. I love them! I love squash, green beans, spinach—you name it, I probably like it. However, when mixed together with lettuce, I don’t like them anymore. Maybe I’m a broccoli bigot? Perhaps it’s a severe case of me not liking the food on my plate to touch? But then explain to me why I have no problem with casseroles? Or S’mores? Or green smoothies?

Mormons are especially clever when it comes to salads (which is something they may not be known for around the world but should be). Usually, these salads have no nutritional value what so ever.

My sister-in-law introduced, at a Sunday family dinner, a Cookie Monster Salad. Picture this: A mountain of mandarin oranges and crushed pineapple, stirred in a vat of vanilla pudding (made with buttermilk, not regular milk as is suggested on the box) and then topped with crumbled Keebler Fudge Stripes cookies! And we did not have this dish as a dessert we ate it as a side, as in a salad. It was the ultimate Diabetes Trifle and it was delicious.

Mormons are really good at the ability to take a dessert and put it in the wrong dinner course order. I’m not saying I dislike it. I’m saying it’s amazing that it’s a widely accepted way of doing things in the community. Nowhere else can someone go to a restaurant and order the dessert to come with the entrée and have the bread basket brought at the end of the meal—although I like the idea! I think the justification for calling such frothy treats a salad is the added fruit. Hey, let’s add fruit and call it a salad!

What’s worse than salad? Slaw. I hate any kind of slaw, really, coleslaw, fruit slaw, slaw-slaw. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this food, it’s basically finely chopped cabbage and veggies with either a vinegar or mayonnaise dressing. It’s cold, acrid, and drippy—yikes! I also dislike it for the name because slaw sounds very close to slop—as in what pigs eat.

I don’t know where this disdain of salads comes from—Weight Watchers? My childhood? Society? I suppose it doesn’t matter. So, now that I’ve professed that I cannot, do not, and will not eat salads, I guess I’ll see you at the intervention. I’ll be the one in the middle of the room!




Foliage Foil


Last May my husband and I decided to take on putting in a garden, again. We’ve tried doing it in the past with not disastrous results, really, more like mediocre results instead. We had pumpkins that never seemed to ripen and carrots that wound around each other like the tornado from the Wizard of Oz.

We’ve grown bitter green peppers and mild jalapenos that we took for regular peppers. So why put ourselves through all of this again? I don’t know. Maybe we like the challenge of the thing? Maybe it is just something people in the Suburbs do—like we’ll get a notice of noncompliance and warned that if we do not plant an herb garden immediately, our section of street will not be plowed come winter, nor will our garbage be picked up at the curb—who knows?

So, always a glutton for punishment, we attempted a garden once more. This time, however, we decided to present it differently and plant in pots surrounding a paver patio complete with Adirondack chairs. In theory, it’s amazing! I like our oversized white and blue pots, it’s the stuff growing out of them that’s concerning.

Over the summer our garden has over taken our patio and chairs. We have Red Leaf Lettuce growing in tall stalks, toppling tomatoes, what resembles jungle jalapenos and we underestimated the distance between our pumpkin seeds and our watermelon seeds—I’m terrified we’ll get morphed fruit like a pumpka-melon or water-kin gourds.

The more the summer wore on, the more everything seemed to grow bigger and overwhelming. Every day I’d look out the window down at the scene and hide behind the curtain out of fear and shame and the potential that the abhorrent genetic splicing, though accidental, was producing plants with eyes and ears, ones that knew I was there and knew I was neglecting them.

To gain back control, I’d attempt to curb the growing by pruning. With the tomato plants, I’d cut off an arm, and it would automatically grow a muscular leg, which would send me back to hiding inside my house.

Recently, I went out there to confront my fear, armed with sharp shears and a plastic bowl. I thwacked and whacked cutting through the plants, separating the melons from the gourds. Luckily, not one melon or squash has lips! I gathered all normal looking fruit cleaned, sliced, sifted and made the best-tasting pico de gallo in the world.

Who knows if we’ll continue with the garden thing—though I think my husband and I might be some sort of green-thumbed sadists—is there such a thing as melon masochists?

I don’t know what it is about my spouse and me. Maybe it’s that we don’t know when to quit, or we are incredibly optimistic, or perhaps we’re simply insane. Anyway, here’s hoping we’ll eventually get it right!