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Real Men Do It With Their Hands

Before this upcoming biblical proportion storm arrives and kills us all, I just want to tell you that I loved you and it was fun and I don’t regret anything. Except for that pink rabbit-themed hot tub party in Brother Dinklemeyer’s gazebo where we all got naked, went crazy with Instagram and lost our jobs. I regret that. I’m so embarrassed about the whole thing, bringing a fuschia rabbit. I mean really, who does that?

But that’s not why I brought you here today. Today I want to talk about real men.

Real men make things. They make things. With their hands.

“Make” is a wonderful and creative word. It applies to artists and craftsmen and TV shows. Some TV shows value making things so much, they put it in their name: How It’s Made, to name one.

How It’s Made reveals how all kinds of things are built, manufactured etc. Everything from pencils to super cars.

I don’t watch it but I can’t help catch parts of it now and again because my husband likes to stare at it for hours and hours. And whatever channel it’s on (Discovery? Science? The Dirty Hands channel?), holds marathons of the show. All. The. Time.

how its made

The men (and women) in this show are actual people doing their job. They are not pretty or skinny like Hollywood. And they have real work hands with greasy fingers and scuffed nails.

how its made

Oh, there it is. Right there on the screen. The Science Channel. Duh.

Meanwhile, the show is sponsored by such products as Sears Craftman tools where not-real men tell you how awesome these tools are. Tools that go around corners and shoot laser beams and make coffee.

And the guy in the commercial who is “allegedly” using these Sears Craftsman tools? Not an ounce of pudge or speck of dirt anywhere to be found.

craftsmanThis guy wouldn’t know a hammer if it hit him.

Commercials are supposed to relate to their audience, so I figure the advertising wizards assume that a good portion of their target market consists of yuppie weekend warriors, he-man wannabees with the meticulous fingernails of CEOs and the hair of underwear models.

It’s like these commercials are the romance novels of bathroom breaks.

Or something like that.

Meet My New Buddy, Perry Mennow Paws

Have you ever sat on the cold, concrete tombstone of a stranger, just to watch a gravedigger? It’s twilight and all you can hear is the shovel cutting into the soil and the birds chirping in the trees. These gravediggers, they all seem to wear flannel plaid snap-front work shirts and muddy boots. Most have beards. They won’t tell you their name. They never talk to you no matter how much you flirt with them or compliment their cracked, dry hands. Not that I’ve ever done that. I’m just curious if you’ve ever done it.

So anyway, after my recent bout with anxiety for many, many weeks and much research and much meditation and cutting out the sugar and the caffeine and the chocolate, and lots of walking and reading books on how to cope with anxiety, and talking to others with similar experiences, I’ve learned there are different types or levels of anxiety and many different ways to alleviate or cope with it and it’s different for everyone.

For me, it’s drugs. Drugs, I tell you!

I was hoping to do it without pharmaceutical intervention but all the non-drug solutions didn’t make a difference. I literally documented every hop, skip, and jump, and my body’s response to it and what works and what doesn’t.

And what works is the drugs.

Some day I hope to say “no” to drugs. But if I’m right and this whole out-of-the-blue situation is simply my brain boarding the hormonal roller coaster known as perimenopause, then it’s a temporary thing and I can eventually go off this medication.

Also? Why doesn’t Microsoft Word recognize “perimenopause”. And for that matter, why don’t any of the self-help books I read that describe all the causes of anxiety recognize perimenopause as one of them? This sounds like a call for a public awareness campaign. And it should start with a letter to all the spell checkers. I just need a mascot (what do you mean, “Ewwww gross”? This mascot wouldn’t look like an irregular menstrual cycle. How would you even design that kind of costume? Why are you “ewwwing” again?)

Anyway, if you ever experienced the long periods of paralyzing fear and high anxiety that I did, you’d understand why I was desperate to stop it and this was a situation that screamed for better living through chemistry.

I’m back to my old self now and can go to the grocery store all by myself, anxiety free.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to the cemetery…you know, for a friend.

gravedigger
image source

I’ve Got All the Bells and Whistles

I think I have adoraphobia. It’s like the little fuzzy kitten version of agoraphobia where I am capable of leaving the house, I just don’t want to. Isn’t that cute?

Okay, it’s official. I’ve become one of those people that won’t shut up about their health problems (oh, my aching back!). To wit:

 

heart event monitor boxShortly after my anxiety and panic attack mini-series, I was prescribed this drug, that drug, and the other thing. The other thing was a heart monitor that I have to carry around for 30 days and I’m on the home stretch with only one day to go. It was given to me in a very attractive Iron Man lunch box.

The contraption consists of a necklace whose large boxy pendant swings around and slaps on your chest all the time and requires a AAA battery that has to be changed nearly every day and if you don’t pay attention to the battery level, you wind up getting rudely awakened by a “BEEP-BOOP-BOOP” at three in the morning and you have to replace the battery right then and there or else you are serenaded by more beeping and booping.

heart monitorThe batteries they give you are some cheap ass generic brand that don’t last as long as, say, what the Energizer bunny would provide, and the reason I know this is because they don’t give you enough batteries to last the month and so you have to go to the store and buy real batteries (like Energizer) and then suddenly the batteries last twice as long.

So, what you do is, before you go to bed you put in a new battery, and then when you get up, you observe you still have 80% battery left, so you exchange it with a previous partially already used battery so that it runs out and beep-boop-boops during the day. It’s all very scientific and mathematical and probably too complicated for you to understand.

So anyway, from the boxy pendant protrudes three wires with red, black, and white electrodes at the end that you snap onto three separate electrode pads that are placed on three geographically-specific parts of your body. The first bag of pads were great and stayed where they lay, but now that I’m near the end, I’m using this other bag of cheap ass pads they gave me that have trouble staying put and the monitor screams when one of the electrode pads falls off. (Did I mention there is also a monitor? Yes, it’s like a clunky cell phone that you have to keep within a certain distance of yourself and recharge so often I just leave it plugged into the wall all the time unless I leave the house. If you leave the house and forget to bring your monitor with you, your boxy pendant goes “BRAP-BROP-Boooooo”, until you turn around and go back home and grab your monitor.)

So anyway, these slippery electrode pads occasionally slip off and the monitor (which is plugged into the kitchen wall) starts going “BREEEEEP-BREEEEEEP!” And you run to the monitor to see what’s wrong and the screen says, “The red electrode has been disconnected” (it’s usually the red one that falls off) and it gives you the option to push “SILENT” on the touch screen, only no matter how much you touch it, it doesn’t respond (I know, like your wife – haha – yes, you’re very funny – can we get back to me now, Mr. Interrupter?).

So now I have to whip up my shirt which requires running out of the kitchen because we have no curtains in the kitchen and you never know who could be Peeping Tomming and I have to fish around my shirt for the red wire only to discover that the electrode pad for the red wire is totally stuck to the inside of my shirt. It has no problem sticking to my shirt but can’t seem to stick to me.

So I’ve incorporated Band-Aids into the mix.

They actually call this contraption a heart event monitor because it’s supposed to catch what my heart is doing during an “event”. If an “event” happens, you use the touch screen to report it so they can zero in and know where to look on the timeline to analyze your heart rate. Just before getting the monitor, my heart was racing and I had a tachycardia event. In the almost 30 days since using the monitor? Nada.

In the morning, when the normal bedroom alarm clock goes off, I roll over, and the monitor starts screaming that one or more electrodes has been disconnected and I’m fumbling around trying to unpeel several adhesives pads off of my shirt, check what color the wire is, so I know on which part of my body it belongs. Meanwhile, my husband joins in on the beeping and booping as if it’s become an earworm for him.

“Breeeep breeeep. One or more of your electrodes is disconnected…,” he says sleepily.

“I know! I know!” I say, fiddling with my boxy pendant and wires trying to plug myself back in like a 1940’s Lily Tomlin telephone switchboard operator.

Did I mention Thursday is the last day I have to wear my necklace that came in the Iron Man grey lunch box? Life won’t be the same without it.

Thank God.

Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Tears, Oh My!

crazy pattern 500wOK, I still don’t know what happened to me, but a few weeks ago I began feeling weird at the grocery store to the point that I wanted to abandon my cart full of 29 pints of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream, run out of the store and go home. I felt like I was going to pass out, but at the same time felt horribly scared about it. And do I run and put all the groceries back so they don’t thaw because I’m such a responsible customer? Or do I just bolt out to the car?

Invariably, I squat down and look intently at whatever was on the bottom shelf as if seriously contemplating grabbing another 14 pints of Americone Dream. Hmm, Cherry Garcia or Americone Dream, I just can’t decide, so I’ll just stay down here for a few minutes until I figure it out. Also? What the hell is wrong with me? Go away you scary awful feeling, you. Clearly my plan worked, as no one asked to assist me and I never lost consciousness.

But it kept happening.

But only at the grocery store.

And then it began happening everywhere I went.

And then I couldn’t leave the house.

So when my husband said hey, do you wanna go to the mall—

“NO!” I screamed. “I mean, I think there’s something wrong with me.”

I confessed and suspected that I must have been having panic attacks. Constant 24/7 high anxiety with periodic panic attacks. And heart thumping. Rapid heart thumping.

Why is it always a Friday night when you realize something is wrong enough to go see a doctor? And on Labor Day Weekend for that matter, so it’s even longer before you can see your doctor?

A couple of advice nurse phone calls later led to the suggestion that I try see my doctor on Tuesday morning.

Four highly anxious, try to deep breathe, very long days away.

Apparently either anxiety is a very low priority, or they are not allowed to tell you that you can go to the damn Urgent Care Center and get DRUGS for it. And at that point, I didn’t know you can go to the damn Urgent Care Center and get DRUGS for it.

So, naturally I asked the internet what to do and ended up barely making it to a tea shop and some other place for “alternative” anxiety remedies. I drank lots of passion flower tea and tinctures with very little result. Tried wine a couple of times but I can’t drink more than a glass so it just sort of made me feel….winey.

By then I had lassoed my husband who was not allowed to leave my side for any reason whatsoever. On Saturday, he called the Urgent Care Center who said I could come in but if my racing heart was a concern they’d send me to the ER. If my heart seemed ok, they could give me something for the anxiety. Or I could just go to the ER, but the thought of leaving the house to go somewhere and sit all panicky for 8 hours…I couldn’t make myself move to do it.

But, the Urgent Care Center said they were empty and this is the first time I hear that something can actually be done and be done NOW about the anxiety (as long as I wasn’t having something like a heart attack–you know, one of those five-day-long heart attacks where you can pace the house like a crazy person wondering if you’re having a heart attack.) I was going crazy with the anxiety and would have done ANYTHING for it.

Except leave the house.

Here I was one mile away from relief and I couldn’t bear the thought of going somewhere.

So I sat on the couch clinging to my husband all night trying to distract myself with CNN and other shows that do nothing but talk about death and dying.

The next day, Sunday, I’m gulping down passion flower tea, and swearing off white food, and trying to exercise even though it makes my heart go pitter patter too much, and asking the internet what could possibly be causing this horrible mental state I’m in. The Perimenopause internet Guru says to diet and exercise to help balance your hormones, but Anxiety internet Guru says panic attacks and anxiety come from some childhood trauma and I couldn’t think of anything, unless you count the time some kid hit me in the head with a baseball bat or I fell off the monkey bars but I think they were talking more about psychological trauma.

I’d never been prone to anxiety or panic attacks before which was also supposed to explain my problem.

My husband shook his leash at me and tried to reach the logical part that was left of my brain and said as gently as possible “you are going to be scared here or at the urgent care center, so if they can help you, you may as well be scared there.”

I decided if I could take a shower, I could make it. (Did I also mention that I was getting panicky in the shower too? WTF?) But I couldn’t leave the house looking like a mangy stinky rat with 2 or 3 days worth of bed head.

So, I silently cursed my fear with an F-bomb and took a shower while my husband stood guard.

I then paced the house for a few minutes talking myself into going and said “F^&* it, let’s go!”

At the Urgent Care Center, Ron fills out paper work and I start to cry. This is like the second time Ron has ever seen me cry in his life. I’m like baseball and as you know, there is no crying in baseball.

They call us into a room and asked me what the problem is and I start crying all over again, so Ron had to explain everything. Of course they asked me things like has anything happened in your life recently blah blah blah. No. No. No. My blood pressure is normal, my heart rate is relatively normal. End result: they gave me drugs (generic Ativan) and I felt a million times better within 30 minutes of taking it.

I didn’t feel awesome, but I felt better. And dopey. And much calmer.

I don’t go to the doctor very much and I don’t have a lot of drug experience and I didn’t know you could just walk into a place and say “I need drugs for my anxiety” and boom – you have drugs for your anxiety. (OK, it’s not that easy, but almost…)

That pissed me off. I could have had relief so much sooner! Those days of anxiety are hard to describe other than to say that it’s the worst I’ve ever felt in my life. The fear that I was going crazy and that it would never end, the vulnerability that I couldn’t take care of myself, the racing thoughts of doom and despair. It’s outright paralyzing.

So Tuesday after Labor Day I went to see my doctor who gave me a bunch of tests, so more waiting for results, so more on-again-off-again anxiety, crying, etc., until they decide it’s not hormonal and he prescribes generic Lexapro.

So now I’m waiting for THAT to work. Impatiently waiting. It’s been almost two weeks and I’m in a better mood, I can walk around the block, I can focus on some tasks again, but I still can’t go to the grocery store. The freakin’ grocery store, people!

And if and when this drug takes full effect and I’m all better, I’ll be trying to figure out an exit strategy. Find the root cause of the anxiety and panic attacks so I can ultimately get off the drugs. I mean – no more wine, according to the warning labels – WHAAA?????. Right now my question is, is it perimenopausal? Or did something traumatic happen in my childhood that involved a menacing monster shower head roaming the aisles of the produce section attacking customers like Godzilla that will only reveal itself through regressive hypnotherapy?

White House Dinners and..oh, I Wrote a Book.

Have you ever gone to a Presidential Gala and arrived late, only to discover that the First Couple is no longer greeting people at the end of the reception line and all the salmon biscuits are gone?

OMG – me too!!

But that’s not why I brought you here today. No, today I have a bit of news.

When I contemplated teaching younger folks how to write better, especially when it comes to blogging, I thought, Who in their right mind would buy what I’m selling?

And don’t you have to belong to an elite club or sleep with the right politician, or have an “in” with the Textbook Association of America, or have won a Nobel Peace Prize to get a textbook published and distributed to schools?

Then a homeschooling friend of mine told me that homeschool parents can choose whatever resources they want to teach their kids. And some public school teachers are allowed to provide additional learning tools to complement those “required-by-the-Textbook-Association-of-America textbooks.”

So I wrote a book. And today, I’m launching it, or dropping it, or whatever the cool kids are saying these days.

It’s called Adventures in Blogville: A Creative Writing Guide for Teens.

Blogville book cover 400w170 pages of essay-inducing hilariousness.

I hope.

Teenagers often feel like their voices aren’t heard, and blogging is a great way to validate and empower them.

This book isn’t just for kids, though. I’ve been told that adults can use the book as well because it teaches concepts about how to make your writing and blogging more compelling. It’s got some of the same concepts as my previous book, Sticky Readers, but it’s structured in a lessony-type format with assignments and everything! And it’s family friendly — not one F-bomb or prostitute can be found in its pages.

Oh! And it has awesome and silly illustrations by Quinnzel, whose art was recently displayed by BBC America at Comic-Con in San Diego and was more recently displayed on the Doctor Who World Tour.

I know!

I would tell you how awesome Adventures in Blogville is, but I’ve paid people to tell you instead. Well not so much “paid” as shoved my book down their throats and then shook them by their collars and asked them what they thought about it and you can see what they said on my very own special super exciting book page (I don’t want to give it away, but scroll down to the part that says “Praise for Adventures in Blogville.”)

Anyway, if you happen to know any homeschoolers or educators in your circle of fellow humans, mention Adventures in Blogville! I would appreciate it, and my starving orphan hamster would appreciate it.

More info about the book and where to get it.

Or just go straight to Amazon already!

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