Friday, October 16, 2015

Writing is hard, so I decided to pretend I'm famous

I've been reading a lot of celebrity books lately. I mean, OBVIOUSLY I've read the books of my favorite imaginary-best-friend bloggers The Bloggess and Allie Brosh, but recently I started reading even more. It started with another blog-celeb, Brittney Gibbons, and the next thing I knew I was reading things by hollywood peeps like Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, Amy Peohler, and most recently Felecia Day. And you know what? I loved every fucking minute of those books (I say minute rather than word because I most listen to audible because I'm busy and so I "read" while I commute. Don't judge). Even when I was yelling at them things like "you're not that awkward! look, you have 3 whole friends, asshole!" I was loving it. So I decided I had to write my own celebrity memoir.

There's only one small problem.

I'm not even close to a celebrity.

I mean, I've BEEN close to SEVERAL celebrities. I can even show you pictures. 

Look at me near Carrie Fischer!

See how I awkwardly cornered Brandon Sanderson!

Watch as I sweat in the vicinity of the guy who actually was sweating inside R2D2 !

(I really have met famous people who weren't in sci-fi/fantasy, I just don't care as much. I mean really. Have you even me me?). But all that is beside the point. I don't want to meet famous people (obvious lie) nor do I want to be famous (semi-truth) but I do want to feel like I have the same right as a famous person to write about my life an experiences as if somebody somewhere will give a shit. And mostly I just want to get myself to write again.

So if pretend I'm writing a memoir in disjointed chapters here on this blog that will trick you into reading it and thinking I'm cool like Felecia Day (no, I'm not) and maybe it'll trick me into thinking I'm successful like Tina Fey (really, really not even close, like, I think you feel sad for me now to have even made this joke). At the very least it will get me writing again. And sometimes maybe I'll even write soberly by the light of day. But given how my mental health has been lately, I'll take whatever I can get. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

In which Park Nicollet flips me the bird.

I started a post on the importance of validation, and maybe I'll get back to that more general post, but first I'd like to address a very UN-validating experience I had this weekend.

For a little background, a few months ago I had a hockey injury and went to the ER where I received the most traumatizing "care" I have ever had from medical professionals. A week or two after the fact, I posted about it to this blog in the post A little injury, a lot of trauma.... I tweeted the post to Park Nicollet, the medical group the hospital belongs to and as a result I got a call saying they'd look into it. The process of sharing was cathartic and as my hand healed, my mind was able to heal too, at least enough to stop replaying the incident over and over in my head.

Until this weekend.

This weekend I got a letter from the hospital telling me that they'd looked into my care and found it to be "appropriate". In fact they took two whole pages to spell out just how wrong I was in my assertion that I was mistreated. I will attach the full letter but here are some highlights of why I'm crazy and the trauma was all my fault, if it existed at all:

  • "While we can understand your frustration with your visit, it appears the care you received was reasonable and appropriate." This made my stomach drop. I had a panic attack and was treated like a psychopath criminal. If the "care" I received was "appropriate"?? Then why does it still haunt me? And in what way do you "understand" if this is your conclusion?
  • "The longest you were by yourself was approximately 14 minutes." So apparently leaving somebody with a diagnosed mental health condition alone with no idea when you're coming back, when they are in the midst of a panic episode, is ok if it's *only* 14 minutes. My students aren't allowed to be more than 7 minutes late for work, but leaving a scared woman alone for 14 is FINE. 
  • "...your social worker had minimal contact with you due to your lack of collaboration... your social worker states you were crying and hard to understand." OMG, so sorry to have inconvenienced a social worker with my crying. Couldn't have been because I was scared and she was making me feel like I was over-reacting, oh but wait!
  • "Your social worker ... recalls offering several statements of support, but recalls the helpful information was not accepted by you." The social worker claims she said "supportive" things, where I felt she said accusatory things, so just believe her over me, then it's all hunky-dory. I just can't even with this one.
  • If these truly are your standard practices for dealing with somebody who you determined was "a danger to yourself and others", then you've messed up from the get go. Also, that is not listed on my discharge papers. Why not?
  • Speaking of my discharge papers, the letter failed completely to address the lack of information I was given at discharge, including never having been told the dosage of the medication I was forced to take. 
  • The note does mention the security staff did the right thing, I agree. I have no beef with the two security dudes. The letter does not mention the nurse lady who got all up in my face.

Basically I got an ass-covering, victim-blaming, totally BS letter. And it wrecked my otherwise fantastic weekend. Thanks Park Nicollet Methodist! I will never, ever, ever visit you again. And I will warn all the people I can about this experience. I may have a mental health problem, but I'm human and I will take my business to a place that treats me with dignity.

PS: fuck you, Park Nicollet.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Writing, Men in Kilts, and an open letter to Diana Gabaldon.

I'd like to start off this post with a short (it got longer than I intended) open letter to Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander book series (now also a tv series!)

Sexy men in kilts can make me sweat, no
matter how cold it is out, and I live in MN
Dear Ms. Gabaldon,

First let me say, I really enjoy your books. I am currently on book 8 of the Outlander Series, Written in My Own Heart's Blood. I really appreciate all the diligence you put into researching both the historical and medical aspects of your books. It's a rare treat to get to read a book that teaches me so many interesting facts, while also getting the pleasure of imaging Jamie's hot nakedness. So it's with great respect that I offer the following criticism:

Please, for the love of all things holy, stop with the "she shivered despite the heat" or "he began to sweat despite the cold" schtick. If there were a drinking game for an over used cliché in your writing, this would be it, one hundred times over. Please believe that people can understand from context that when you mention the somebody gets goose prickles due to a scary/creepy/eery/etc event that we understand that they are not simply cold. I am at the point where every time these phrases crop up I end up yelling out loud at the book. This can be quite embarrassing when I'm reading in a public space, and has even scared the dog on occasion.

So please, for all our sakes, enough with the temperature to physical reaction disclaimers. And do keep writing your vastly entertaining books. They are quite fabulous after all.


Ah, it feels good to get that off my chest finally. I love reading, and I really love settling into the rhythm and feel of an author's writing style. This is one reason I love reading many things by a single author, and also why I almost never read collaborative works (for example, I love, love, love Larry Niven's earlier books, but now all he does is collaborations so I don't even bother). But it also means starting to notice little things that can pull me out of the story (like mentioned above). It also can have an impact on my own writing style, which can be good or bad, depending on how... unique the style is.

And now that summer break is coming up and more people will have time to start reading, let me close by recommending the Outlander series for some fun summer reading. And if you like audio books, the narration by Davina Porter is fantastic. (She is second only to Song of Ice and Fire narrator Roy Dotrice in the portion of my heart reserved for great narrators.) Also, if you're hot for men in kilts, then Outlander is certainly for you. Mmmm.... I suddenly feel a chill, yet it's so warm in here. ;)

Friday, May 1, 2015

There's no such thing as the magic pill...

It seems that many people have the misconception about mental health medication that once you find "the right one" then you're set and you just stay on that forever. In reality, it's more like a never ending cycle of finding "good enough for now" meds, living with them until they stop working well enough or the side-effects become more than it's worth, then trying something new. Trying something new may mean changing a dosage, adding another med to the mix, or stopping something all together. I got my first mental health medication prescription in late 2003/early 2004 and I've gone through this cycle many times.

Right now I'm in the process of slowing decreasing and going off my meds. For a while I was on 3 every day meds and had prescriptions for 3 other "as needed" ones. The side effects were annoying (being asked "why are you shaking?" all the time gets old fast), but what really put it over the edge is that, when I got sick with a bad cold and forgot some of them I then had to deal with medicine withdrawal on top of the headache, sore throat, and fever from the cold. Talk about kicking you when you're down.

At my next psychiatrist appointment I asked about trying to get off all the daily meds over time. My doctor agreed and as as first step we cut all my daily meds' doses in half. That was a... transition. It was hard, made harder by my traumatic hospital experience right in the middle of the change. But I got though it. So a month later we took one of the 3 away completely. Whoo boy! I didn't even know some of those could be symptoms. If you ever forget your brain is run by chemicals, try changing the ones you feed it.

Bus, Traz, and Al - they just want to stay friends.

In case you've never personally gone through long term medicine changes, let me give you the highlights of some of the fun symptoms, generally temporary, of starting or stopping meds. And I'm not picking these off a website or pill label. These are all symptoms which I have experienced recently and/or expect to experience soon.
  • Shaking
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Forgetting to actually interact with the real world, like TV zone out, but IRL
  • Depressive episodes
  • Manic energy (aka the "I will now dump out and reorganize every drawer in the kitchen" effect)
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • The sudden need to lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling for an hour
  • Dry-mouth (yeah, I know it sounds dumb until you find yourself incapable of spitting)
  • Insomnia (or in my case, just increased insomnia)
  • Intense dreams
  • Stuttering
  • Feeling like somebody lodged a fuzzy sock in between your brain and your mouth
I have my next psychiatrist appointment next week. Maybe I'll get to add another couple "fun" ones to the list after the next round. Right now I'm going to focus on taking care of myself as best as I can. Getting lots of sunshine, hugs from my family, and strength from all of you out there in the interwebs who have gone through the same shit and lived to tell about it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spring has finally come to MN, time to get plantin'

My garden from last year as of May 10th, 2014
In Minnesota, spring is a jerk who likes to tease us with warm weather one day and snow the next, so it takes a while to really believe in spring. But looking at the forecast this week I'm feeling hopeful at last. And that means it's time to garden! I had my first (somewhat) successful vegetable garden last summer. When it comes to flowers and houseplants I have a black thumb. I can kill just about anything. I'm nervous for the cactus in my office. But last summer I succumbed to pressure from my children and planted a veggie patch, and lo and behold, I actually ended up with edible veggies! I also learned a lot of good lessons that I hope will improve my garden this coming year. Here are some of the valuable lessons I will bring to my garden this spring...

  1. Don't over-crowd the garden - Last year my eyes were bigger than my patch of dirt and I ended up with more plants than I could squeeze in (although I did try and squeeze!) so I ended up with some plants killing others. I'll be more selective this year, which reminds me...
  2. Don't plant 4 varieties of the same thing - Last year I picked not just too many plants, but too many that looked so similar that I couldn't tell what was what, which lead me to not pick some things when they were full grown, thinking they were something else and would grow bigger. And it made me pretty nervous to cook things like peppers, when I wasn't sure which type and therefore how spicy they'd be. This year I'm going to pick one type of each family of veggie to avoid this issue.
  3. Deer suck and I hate them - Last year deer ate all my beans, peas, and tomatoes, and maybe some other stuff. This year I will be more diligent with the fake coyote urine (ew, I know, but it works) and I will plant all my tomatoes in the puts by the house, since the deer don't come up that far. I will also put up a better fence. Take that, assholes.
  4. Repeat successes, ditch utter failures- If I'm going to plant things again, I might as well plant things that worked out last year. The biggest wins were the patty pan squash, cucumbers (only one variety this time though!), and habanero peppers. Bok choi and broccoli did well enough to try again, and beans or peas I'd do again if I get a better fence and put them on the other side of the plot. Onions, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and pumpkins are right out.
Well, now I'm all excited about plants and veggies and being outside. I'll try to keep you up to date on my progress. If you have any easy gardening tips for me share them in the comments (but keep in mind, I'm not actually very good at this, nor do I have a ton of time to devote to it beyond planting, occasional weeding and watering and hoping for the best). Happy Spring!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Dad's exist, and they change diapers too

One of my biggest pet peeves in the parenting culture of today's society is the erasure of dads as caregivers for their children. If you take the time to look, you'll see that there are subtle and not-so-subtle messages that women are caregivers and men a bumbling idiots that should never be left alone with children. The most glaringly obvious are the things that the advertising and entertainment industries pump out, like commercials featuring fathers barely able to take care of their own kids (this article does a great job discussing the "dumb dad meme" in commercials). There are also all those "funny" little pictures people share on facebook putting down dad's and raising moms to goddess or martyr status. Well I'm sick if it all, but the way that this inequity manifests itself that really gets under my skin is the issue of bathroom changing stations.

Sweet Pea's in St. Paul, MN. No there wasn't live music in
the men's room, but there wasn't a changing table either.
My kids have been out of diapers for years, but every time I walk to the bathroom in a restaurant, store, or other public place and see a sign indicating that the women's room has a changing table and indication that then mens' room does not, I burst in to flames of rage. I flash back to all the times my husband had to return a poopy baby to me because there was no place for him to change her. I think about dads, brothers, uncles who don't have a woman to hand their child off to, who end up changing the baby on a pee-spattered floor or on the tiny edge of a sink, and I have to ask: what is wrong with our society??

Surly in this insanely cisgender heteronormative world we live in, we must at least realize that many, if not most babies come with FATHERS. And that these fathers are also PARENTS. And that a parent may need to change a baby's diaper in public regardless of genitalia or gender identity! I'm not even talking about the complete ridiculousness that is gender specific single-user bathrooms (wtf is even the point of that?). I'm talking about businesses spending the measly $170 (Amazon, bitches) to put an extra changing pad in the MEN'S BATHROOM. And if you're a man without a baby you might thing, hey, I've often seen changing pads in men's rooms, consider what my husband says: "You can often find one, but just imagine if I said that the men's bathrooms often had a toilet. To someone who didn't need one, you would notice that men's bathrooms have toilets. When you need one, the fact that many other bathrooms have toilets isn't much help."

Kudos to Grand Central Restaurant in St. Paul, MN for
having changing tables in both bathrooms! I'll be back here!
Men deserve to be recognized as parents. Women deserve to sip their drinks while Dad takes care of business now and then. Babies deserve clean butts. So here's my throwdown: call them out. Call out all the places you visit that blatantly make diaper changing a woman's job. Call out places that ignore a father's right to be a full parent to his baby. Tweet #DadsChangeDiapers when you are out there and see this BS in action. And tweet props to the good guys too! We need to reward forward thinking (father thinking?) businesses too!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Reaction to the Start Wars Trailer - A Sonnet

So I've been trying to think of a way to comment on the new Star Wars trailer. Many people have already done wonderful job talking about all the awesome in this trailer, so I don't want to rehash the same points. So instead I am channeling my 13 year old self, the girl who loved Star Wars and corny poetry so much it hurt, to bring you a sonnet about the parts of the trailer that really struck home for me....

Lighting down my spinal column
Ok, this pic isn't from the second trailer, but I did say I was
channeling my 13 year old self, who is now swooning
Once again we're brought to Tatooine*
but in this time the view is solum
as long crashed ships litter the scene

The force is strong in my family, Luke said
in the voice I've heard in my dreams for years
a twisted reminder that his father's dead,
their hands, a link, which can summon tears

Dark memories fade with the sight of a child
Taking the future in her hands?
to say my heart leapt would be putting it mild
Already this trailer is perfect as it stands

Then Han and Chewie appear to say that last line
Did your eyes tear up? So did mine.

(*ok, apparently it's not Tatooine? That's kind of good, I'm hoping to see some new planets, I really am hoping to see Corillia. Yeah I read the books, shut up. But I'm trying to stay away from spoilers which is why I didn't know the Tatooine thing when I wrote the sonnet.)