Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Zolpidem gives you ZZZs (plus the occasional purple octopus)

Zolpidem is better known by its non-generic name: Ambien. And it is magic. Sweet, sweet, dream inducing magic. Now before I start sounding like a druggie (which I totally am not, really. I don't even like pot. But it's fine if you do. No judging) let me tell you the story of how I discovered the magic of zolpidem...

I got pregnant when I was 23. (on purpose) And because I was a young, first-time, paranoid prego, I refused to stay on any of my anxiety meds. I didn't even eat sushi for a whole 2 trimesters (sushi should be categorized as a drug, it's sooooo addictive). But my anxiety-addled brain was not a fan and I got really anxious, depressed, and near suicidal. The anxious thoughts kept me up at night. Not sleeping increased the anxious thoughts. And it just spiraled until I finally agreed to take something to help me relax and sleep: zolpidem. And, like I said, it was magic. It let me sleep while my sweet daughter practiced headers with my bladder. It soothed my mind when I was afraid her never-ending hiccups might somehow damage her (or me!). It gave me a reliable one night of full to excessive sleep a week. And therefore I survived pregnancy, and I even relaxed enough to have sex while pregnant a couple times (that was a big deal, since I was the opposite of so many women and was way to anxious to be horny while knocked up, which pissed me off, but not as much as it disappointed my husband).

So zolpidem saved my sanity for that last horrible trimester. It also introduced me to some trippy times, because, as I discovered, waking dreams happen sometimes on zolpidem. Usually in the form of dream characters floating above my bed in a not-quite-like-tv, not-quite-like-real-life, semi-interactive state. The first few were the most memorable, the octopus was the first, and kind of weirded me out, but my favorite was when the pirates were totally cheering on our... bed business. Nothing like a little hallucination to really turn up the heat. heh. (ok, at this point I think my dad is really regretting reading my blog. sorry, Dad.)

Zolpidem helped me get through a second pregnancy and now is just another tool in the arsenal of things that help me cope with (or escape from) extreme anxiety or panic attacks. (and I'm careful not to get hooked, blah, blah, blah. only use it rarely, blah, blah, so shut up, no judging, remember?)

That's how I'm going to put this little A to Z challenge to bed (so to speak). It's been a fun ride and very challenging  Stick around for the A to Z swearing challenge next month, which will be a lot sillier. Untill then goodnight. ZZZZZzzzzzzz.... (haha just kidding, I still have to finish dinner, do the dishes, put the kids to bed, do laundry, and watch Bones with my husband, but after that! Sleep!)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Yo-yo Ma made me skip class

Okay I'm cheating, Yo-yo Ma is not really the topic of this post, but Yo-yo Ma starts with the letter Y and he is a famous cellists.  And I also play the cello, and this post is sort of about that. (I thought of replacing each mention of the word "cello" with the phrase "Yo-yo ma's instrument  but that went too far and sounded a little dirty) If you imagine a cello player, you normally might think of a goody-two-shoes, you know the well-behaved kid who never did anything naughty, and certainly never skipped class. 

Overall I was a good kid in school. I did my homework, I didn't talk back, I was never rowdy in class (maybe it was just because I was shy). Orchestras was offered at my school starting in fourth grade. I talked one of my best friends into playing the cello with me, I already been playing for a couple years and she played piano so she picked it up pretty fast. One part of doing music in elementary school was getting to miss class to go to orchestra. There was legitimate time spent outside of class practicing our instruments, having sectionals (practice where only people who played the same instrument would attend), and full orchestra practice. And this gave me an odd opportunity to be naughty. 

When I didn't want to be in my normal classroom I would tell the teacher I had orchestra sectionals, then I would head off to the classroom down the hall, look at my friend in the classroom window, and she would know exactly what was going on. She'd tell her teacher that we had orchestra sectionals, and then we'd be free. We would go down to the cafeteria, into the little orchestra room that was cornered off by one of those accordion wall/door things (we could get into it even though it was locked because we could climb right under the accordion door). We spent hours in that little room, playing cello, playing piano, playing with other instruments, or just chatting. 

I may have gotten caught once, but I don't really remember. What I do remember is spending blissful time away from all the horrible parts of school that I hated: being stuck in class when the subject matter was too boring to me, with other kids who would tease me for being shy. Much of the time, if I was in class, I would hide a book under my desk and just read through the class period.  Ironically, reading under my desk got me in trouble more often than skipping class ever did.

So did Yo-yo Ma ever skip class to go to the orchestra room? I bet if he did he was actually playing the cello the whole time instead of playing with every other instrument or just giggling with his friend. I don't know what I'd do if my kids got caught skipping class for imaginary sectionals. But I will cherish the memories of my tiny elementary school rebellion.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

TEDx

A few days ago I did a crazy thing. I signed up for an audition slot for a TEDx talk at my alma matter, Carleton College. Have you heard of TED? If you haven't, you MUST because TED is amazing. There are TED talks on so many subjects, and they are so well done. My favorite is Jennifer 8. Lee Hunts for General Tso (a hilarious look at the history of American Chinese food). So what is TED and what is TEDx?
TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) ... is a global community dedicated to “ideas worth spreading” which inspires people from every discipline and culture to seek a deeper understanding of the world. ... TEDx was created in the spirit of TED's mission. ... The program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level. 
Ok, so what does that mean for me? Well, I saw a post on facebook, clicked it, filled out a short form and now I'm going down to campus on a Saturday afternoon and give a 10 minute audition for a talk about anxiety disorders and panic attacks.

The irony will come when the whole thing gives me a panic attack.

But seriously, I was so, so, so touched by all the people who reached out to me (here, on Facebook  in email, even in person) about my blog posts Panic at the disco... of my mind, Crazy Goes to the Gym, and Enter the Thought Monkey. I've had friends, family, coworkers and complete strangers tell me bits and pieces of their own struggles with anxiety disorders and how they really appreciated hearing somebody talk about it so openly. So I guess I figured, why not keep talking? Why not take this topic to a new stage?

Over the next week or so I'll be collecting more stories, more thoughts, and hopefully the permission to use some of them to help me spread awareness of this difficult condition and the people who suffer silently with it every day. If you have a story to tell about your struggles with anxiety/ocd/panic attacks, please post a comment or send me a message. I'd love to hear your story too.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Why write?

Why did I start this blog? Why do I want to spend my free time writing? Because we all need some sort of artistic outlet. I'm totally jealous of the severely artistic. That sounds terrible, but you know what I mean, people who dive into their artistic endeavors, are good at it, and know that they are good at it. I want to feel that way.

I've bounced around between different mediums. You've seen my sketches, they're pretty childish (although who doesn't love the occasional personified vagina, right?). I've tried getting more into music too, but despite the fact I've played cello since I was a kid, I have no ear for writing music. Last summer I wrote and recorded a song (alone, on my computer). It's terrible. Imagine an auto-tuned duck warbling out bad rhymes about Las Vegas and you'll have a good idea of what it is like. (You'll know I'm really desperate for a laugh if I ever share *that* with you.)

But even if I kind of give up on drawing and music, I'll never give up on writing. I love to write. I've loved to write since I was a little kid. My writing has taken on many different forms as I've gone through different phases in my life. Short stories, poetry, fanfic, journaling.  I discovered fanfic as a young teen and fell in love with it for a long time. I wrote so much fanfic... Star Wars, X-Files, Star Trek, Kenshin, Stargate.... And it's fun, but fanfic writing is like writing with a big crutch because you already have all this marvelous backstory and deep character history to draw from without any effort on your part. So now when I try to write fiction of my own, I get stuck on having to make all that up from scratch. And I guess I just don't have enough self-confidence, because I end up I hating my characters or second guessing my plot the whole time, then eventually I give up.

If you click on this picture you can actually read my
first electronic journal entry from November, 1996
But I am good at journaling. Or, at least, I'm persistant. (can you even be good at journaling? is blathering on and on about yourself really a skill?) I started keeping an electronic journal backing in 1996, on an old floppy disc on the family IBM computer. In 1999 I saved up and bought my own computer and journaled there (sadly most of those journal entries seem to be lost). Then in 2003 I discovered LiveJournal and have been using that ever since.

Then I recently read The Bloggess's book Let's Pretend This Never Happened and I just lost my shit over how impressed I was. And that inspired me. Inspired me to take some of what I know about writing and channel some of my journaling energy into it to make a blog.

So I guess in a way this whole blog is my latest feeble attempt at the arts. I'm going to try not to let the voice in my head talk me out of continuing to do it. So far it's been incredibly cathartic and... fun. I really appreciate every bit of positive feedback I've received even just knowing that some people have read one post and come back for another helps me keep going. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for...

Vagina. I mean really, what else would V possibly stand for.

This is a great word to illustrait some of the weird difficulties of having a daughter that are completely caused by our own stupid society. Vagina. It's treated like a dirty word oh so much more than penis. There's no PEN15 Club for vaginas. (although I guess that would hard, what, like V4G1N4 Club? That sounds like a disease you get from poultry). People should be more comfortable with that word. In high school "Heath, Drugs, and Sex Ed" class the teacher went around the room and made each person say "Penis and Vagina" without giggling. This took practically the whole class period. Apparently getting 17 year old boys to say that with a straight face is basically impossible.

Anyway, what was I talking about? My daughters, right. I wanted them to learn the real word right away. None of this "lady bits" or "hoo-haw" crap. And I thought I was being very feminist and forward thinking and all that when I taught my daughters the word vagina.

Only the mommy wars are so bad that apparently I suck, and that's just not good enough. I should have taught them vulva. Well, shit. I guess I just might as well have said vajayjay, now they're going to grow up thinking their vulva is their vagina and clearly this will lead the therapy later. But I can't bring myself to re-teach them the generic word for their girl-crotch. So I also taught them the pee comes from the urethra and that's going to have to be good enough for now. Also, in case you haven't experienced it, a toddler saying "urethra" is just about the funniest thing ever.

But it turns out they actually never say vagina anyway, they just say 'gina (which is way better than vag' at least) and they say it a lot. Nothing gets a giggle like a well-timed exclamation about their butt or 'gina. That's just the age we're at.

Now I've probably made you all really uncomfortable with all this talk of children and vaginas, so let's wrap this up with a cute/embarrassing (for me) story from when Kaylee was 3. So Kaylee's taking a bath and I'm taking a leak. (You gotta multi-task when you're a mom.)

Kaylee: Your 'gina is furry!
Me: Uh...
Kaylee: (triumphantly) Mine isn't!
Me: Well, when you get older you will grow some of your own.
Kaylee: (clearly nervous) Does it hurt to grow fur?
Me: No.
Kaylee: Does it tickle?
Me: Uh, maybe? It's not fur though, it's hair.
Kaylee: It comes from your head??
Me: No, it grows there.
Kaylee: (starring at her crotch) It grows out of my 'gina?
Me: Close enough.
Kaylee: When?
Me: When you're a big kid, maybe like 11 or 12.
Kaylee: Tell me about when you were a kid.
Me: Ok, when I was a little kid I didn't have any hair, then when I was a big kid, almost a teenager, I grew some.
Kaylee: Ok!

Moved over to BlogLovin'

I've moved over from Google Reader to BlogLovin' and now I have to post this in order to "claim" my own blog. It's a pretty cool platform. I recommend it so far.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Uterus and I

The April A to Z Challenge is wrapping up and so far it's been pretty good. There have been a few weak posts, but I've never felt as stuck on a letter as I did with U. And I really didn't want to go with the word uterus. I fought the idea. But today I woke up to horrible evil cramps. And every time somebody at work said "how are you?" in that polite casual way, I wanted to scream "my uterus is trying to kill me!" (but I didn't) so I guess the universe is telling me to write about my uterus. Thanks, universe.

Women are pretty bad-ass for putting up with this evil organ. Men complain that getting hit in the nuts hurts a ton. But try to imagine (if there are still any men reading this) knowing that every 4 weeks you would get three days of nut-punches, and that there was nothing you could do about it. And this will happen every 4 weeks from the time you start puberty until you hit your 50s (barring times when you are growing humans in your nutsack, ok this analogy has gone too far). That would suck, wouldn't it? So be nice to the PMSing woman in your life and pray that I never find a magic genie while I'm on the rag, because my first wish might just be to grant you all that lovely experience.

My uterus is pretty cool in some ways though. It did grow two wonderful children. I wasn't a fan of the growing process, but I am grateful that my uterus did such a fabulous job making those big, healthy, beautiful babies. I hope my uterus doesn't take it personally that I want to cut it out and throw it away, now that I'm done having children.

Can you do a uterus organ donation? I'm such a giving person, I would totally give you my uterus. Are you in the market for a pre-owned uterus? It's a pretty well behaved organ, most of the time. It doesn't fight with the other organs. And it only throws tantrums about 3 days out of every 28. And all the surgens who cut it open totally told me how cute it was.

Ok, this post got a little bizarre. I guess blogging and PMS go together like eating doritos dipped in chocolate frosting (at first you're like eww, then you're surprised how good it actually is, but after a while you start to regret it). I bet you can't wait to read what I have in store for the letter V.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tattoo you

My left leg as of 4/22/13, it's not finished yet.
I have tattoos. I love my tattoos. I know a lot of people have strong opinions on tattoos, I have strong opinions on tattoos, people also tend to have a lot of questions. I'd like to adress some of those...

Does it hurt to get a tattoo? Yes. I mean, come on! You're having a cluster of vibrating needles raked across your skin. Of course it's not going to be all butterfly kisses and sunshine. But the pain varies from person to person, artist to artist, and location to location.  For me, some locations don't really hurt at all. You can't see it on these pictures, but I have Jabba's palace on the front of my shin, that was barely more than a tickle. In comparison, when my artist was inking the back of my kneecap I wanted to stab him in the eye with his own tattoo machine. I'm pretty sure I told him so repeatedly. I routinely consider that it might be less painful to saw off my leg than let him complete the death star (which is now just an outline). He mostly just laughs at me and reminds me that I am paying him to torture me.

Isn't it expensive to get tattoos? If you're doing it right, it usually is. Take a stroll through Ugliest Tattoos, they will often do a side-by-side of good tattoos and bargin tattoos. You'll want the good ones. Just like any other discretionary spending (movies, eating out, clothing, decorative yarn balls) tattoos are something that should be budgeted and planned for. I'm not going to tell you how much my leg has cost so far. But I will say, you might prefer a trip to Disney. But although it may be pricey, it's also really damn addictive. I already have ideas for my next piece (hockey related!) for once my leg is finally done.

I drew the turtle, panda, and clover myself.
The color is more vibrant in person
I like tattoos, I just don't know what I would get, and I wouldn't want to regret getting something dumb. Ok. Good for you? I never know what to say to that, and people say it to me all the time. I'm not a tattoo pusher. I don't care if you stay ink free forever. I don't regret any of mine, they all have meaning to me. The clover I got because of my family's Irish heritage (it was my first, say tramp stamp and I'll cut you stare at you angrily), the turtle I got to remember the first days of my daughter Kaylee's life, the panda I got for Dani's. The Minnesota ties them together and there because I'm so happy to live here and proud to raise my family here. I have a tattoo on my wrist to celebrate my marriage to Ethan. And my leg is covered in Star Wars. Because I just fucking love Star Wars. All of them (except the wrist) were thought out and carefully planned, and there's no point in having regrets about something I did to my own body. The Thought Monkey is kind enough to save my regrets for other things.

But what's it going to look like when you're oldI have no idea. I'm guessing it'll look like old people skin with a tatto on it. I wasn't planning on starting a geriatric modeling career, so I don't think it's a big deal.

I may have been slightly drunk
when I got this one. Don't do that.
What tips would you give to somebody who was thinking about getting their first tattoo? Find a great tattooist from a reputable shop. The shop I got to, Electric Dragonland, has a bunch of bad ass artists. Check out their work, go in and talk to them about your ideas. Don't go with the first shop you see just because it's close to your favorite bar. Find somebody who does quality work. Then really think through your idea. Talk with your artist about it. Don't just walk in and pick a piece of flash off the wall. Those are tattoos people tend to regret (I'm told, none of mine are flash. No, not even the clover.) Think about placement. Can you cover it up for a job interview? Is that important to you? Will it stretch like crazy if you get knocked up? Do you care it it does? Most importantly take your time and enjoy the process. Getting a tattoo can be an awesome experience. I'm going back to the shop this week and I can't wait.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Star Wars! Nothing but Star Wars!

Being a Star Wars fan is part of what makes me me. It's a comfort, it's an inspiration, it's so much more than just a few badass movies. So I think now might be a good time to explain how that all started, and how much these movies have ended up impacting my life, whether directly or indirectly. There has always been sci-fi around me to some extent. Growing up my dad read us stories out of Ray Bradbury's Illustrated Man, and every week we'd all sit down together to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. I enjoyed those things, I liked sci-fi, but it wasn't something got me particularly excited, it certainly wasn't something that defined me. It was just another pleasant part of my childhood.

The best purchase I ever made.
Fast forward a few years. I was 12. While I was sitting at the kitchen counter eating a bowl of cereal, I noticed the cereal box was advertising Star Wars, and I started thinking. I knew I had seen some Star Wars, but in looking at the pictures I realized I had only ever seen Jedi (and maybe the ewok movies, but I don't want to talk about that). So I thought, hey, I should probably see those, they seem culturally relevant to the times. Ok, my 12 year old self would never have said "culturally relavant" but I don't really know why I decided I had to see them, but I did. I convinced my parents to take me to Blockbuster (ahhh, warm fuzzy Blockbuster memories!) to get the tapes. They only had Empire Strikes back in stock so I got that. I loved it. A few days later they took me back and I rented the rest. I was in love.

Not long after seeing them for the first time, I put down my $42 (a lot of money for a 12 year old, it was the most I'd ever spent on anything ever) and bought my first copy of the Star Wars Trilogy (I now own 7 copies, 4 VHS, 2 DVD, 1 Bluray, I have a problem... I don't have it on Laser Disc or Beta!). I watched it over and over. I even recorded the audio of the whole trilogy on to cassettes so I could listen to it in the car (that seemed so cool to me then, but now it sounds a little mentally unstable...). I'm sure I drove everybody around me absolutely crazy. I was obsessed! I talked about Star Wars, I quoted Star Wars, I read Star Wars books, I even wrote school essays about Star Wars (I'm sorry, Mr. Lightfoot). I developed my first celebrity crush that year on Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker). 

None of those things did much for my social life, but there were some surprising doors that being a huge geek started to open. This was all happening around the time when the internet was becoming more accessible to the general public. My parents got an AOL account a few months after I started my Star Wars obsession, and the next thing I knew my friend was helping me set up a Geocities page about (you guessed it) Star Wars. Star Wars became the gateway to being an internet geek, I learned html and javascript, I spent a lot of time on the computer cropping images and editing together sound clips for my site. I set the computer to say "remember, the Force will be with you, always" when it shut down. I also started getting interested in film editing, I learned how to edit, first on a tape-to-tape system, then on a computer. I had aspirations to become a big Hollywood director/producer (who worked with George Lucas, of course). 

My first website came complete with this fabulous lightsaber gif
In college I got a job at the tech help desk, essentially because I'd spent so much time on the computer learning all these things in the name of Star Wars. After college I was able to combine that experience with my college degree in Asian studies into a career as an academic technologist, where I get to help students make websites, edit audio recordings, and produce videos for class. 

Star Wars also helped me realize that I enjoyed science fiction in general. I started reading more sci-fi and fantasy books, I watched other sci-fi shows and movies, and saw my sci-fi obsessions grow to include many other things (but Star Wars always remained number 1). I even met my husband in the sci-fi house in college (yes, there was a sci-fi house. Carleton rules, get over it), we had our first kiss while watching Star Trek, and the first time I got super drunk I told him that I'd never love him as much as I loved hockey and Star Wars. But I did (and do) love him a whole hell of a lot, and now we're married with two wonderful kids (both named after sci-fi characters, of course).

I don't think I ever would have ended up on this amazing family and awesome career trajectory if it hadn't been for Star Wars. That may sound a little ridiculous but, hey, I am a little ridiculous. May the Force be with you.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Robot Boner

Ethan and I at the local bar.
After I graduated from college I got married and moved to the rural small college town (population was about 9,000) where my husband and I worked. Living in a small town is kind of a funny way to spend your first years as an adult, and, as it turned out, all your child-free adult years. We'd run into coworkers at the grocery store(once while picking up the morning after pill, awkward!). We were considered regulars at all the restaurants (except Taco Johns, yuck. I'm a strait-up Taco Bell girl). And the rowdiest parties were held at the local Red Man's Club (I once seriously called the cops on a Metallica cover band they hired).

I could talk at length about the pros and cons of living in a small town. But I won't. Suffice it to say, small town living was nice, I liked knowing the people and being able to walk from one end of town to the other, but it was hard being so far away from my family, my hockey team, and Target (I'm never living more than 5 minutes from Target again). We eventually got new jobs and moved up to the Twin Cities, where we can be hip and eat sushi and go to shows (and by "shows"I mean Yo Gabba Gabba Live. Twice.), without driving over an hour to get there. But there's something I will always, always miss about those years in a small town: Bar Trivia Night.

Trivia night at the local bar was the best. It wasn't the kind of bar trivia you can do at Buffalo Wild Wings or those other fancy city bars. There were no TV screens, or electronic answer machines. No sir. There was a guy with a microphone and a box of Trivial Pursuit cards, and waitresses who handed out slips of paper. They'd read out the questions, you'd write down your team's answers, and each round you'd have a chance at winning a pitcher of beer, and the point totals were kept from week to week and at the end of the trivia season the top team got a tour of the local brewery.
Proof!

The whole thing had a great sense of community. And my team was the best, with the best/worst name ever: Robot Boner. We were a force to be reckoned with (a drunk force, but a force). In fact, we became well known enough that other teams started naming themselves after us. My favorite was "Premature Robot Boner Ejaculation", mostly because it was hilarious to hear the guy who announcer have to say that over and over each time he read out team point totals. They may have meant it as an insult, but to me it was totally a compliment. It was like being a celebrity  A metallic phallic celebrity. We even had our own (kind of disgusting) drink in the bar computer.

The Robot Boner:
1/2 shot of cream de cacao
1/2 shot cherry schnapps
dropped into a Schell's Dark beer.

We may not have won the grand prize, but we came close. And really, the true winners are people having the most fun. Or getting the most drunk (remember what I said about being able to walk across town? Well, we were only 3 blocks from the bar) And I'm pretty sure that was us. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

How QUEER!

This is, like, pretty much one of the hardest topics for me to write about. That's why, although I made the place-mark for it weeks ago, I haven't posted anything about it until the letter Q (today's assigned letter for the April A to Z Blogging Challenge) forced my hand.

Q is for queer. Back in the old days, if you were called queer, you were being called strange, weird, odd. In the classic Sesame Street song ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ, Big Bird sings the line "it's awful queer to me!" and that's my favorite part of the song. I am certainly queer by that old definition. I am an oddball and I like it. But that's not what I am posting about today. Today I'm posting about the other queer. The gay kind.

First, let me say, I am in love with this definition of queer from the PFLAG website:
Think of queer as an umbrella term. It includes anyone who a) wants to identify as queer and b) who feels somehow outside of the societal norms in regards to gender, sexuality or/and even politics. This, therefore, could include the straight ally who marches during pride, the republican lesbian, the person who highly values queer theory concepts and would rather not identify with any particular label, the gender fluid bisexual, the gender fluid heterosexual, the questioning GLBT person, and the person who just doesn’t feel like they quite fit in to societal norms and wants to bond with a community over that. 
Many people I know and love fit that definition in some way. I would say I'm the "gender fluid bisexual" type of queer. Yup. There. I said it. Bisexual. It's like a dirty word to so many people that I avoid using it. There are so many stereotypes about bisexuals. We're promiscuous. We're not really gay. We are slaves to the binary gender construct. We just want attention. And I hate all of that. I'm none of those things. (Ok, so many I want some attention, but I don't think that is related to my queerness. That's just me bein' me.) That's why I like the word queer better. It's just so much more... flexible. It doesn't put me in a box (or maybe it does, har har, get it? box? vagina? queer women? ...bueller?). It gives me a little more leeway to define my own sexuality.

I'm also a Hartosexual. 
The reason it's hard to post about this is because, well, it doesn't really matter. I'm married to a man. I'm done with dating. And that's that. Who cares if the celeb I'm crushing on right now is Hannah Hart and not MANnah Hart? (I am on a roll today!) Do I try to make up for my very heterosexual life by being involved in as many lesbian stereotypes as possible? Like coaching and playing women's hockey, going to gay marriage rallies, and watching women's basketball? Maybe. Maybe I'll even buy a Subaru one day. But unless Ethan kicks it, or we discover that we're actually raging polyamourists, I'm pretty settled.

Being queer does make me feel a strong personal connection to the current politics concerning LGBT rights, like gay marriage and anti-discrimination laws. Sadly society still has a long way to go before it even truly accepts the "normal" gays, let alone all the people in other parts of the gender and sexuality spectrum. But there's a lot of work being done to make it better. I'm doing what I can and crossing my fingers that my great state of Minnesota will soon legalize gay marriage (you can too! call your local representative!). And whenever the world does take a step forward toward equality, it makes my heart soar. And damnit, there is no better party than a queer-filled party when we win a vote for quality! It may sound cliché, but Pride events are truly fabulous.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Panic at the disco... of my mind

For people who've never had a panic attack, I've got to assume the name of it sounds kind of... lame. I mean, we all have moments of panic. "Did I leave the car running?" "omg, my child just bolted into the road!" "I'm totally going to get fired." But none of those are panic attacks. The Mayo Clinic's website says, 
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you're losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.
That's the basic gist. But what does it really feel like? This is what it feels like.

I'm doing something pretty normal, but overall it's probably either a stressful day, like a day where I visit a doctor, have to do a performance evaluation, or pack for a vacation. I start to feel off, I know something's not quite right. I'm getting tingly. The tingling numbness creeps up my neck and all over my face, seeping into my head. I feel dizzy. I think maybe I didn't eat enough today and grab for whatever's at hand. A piece of candy, a handful of crackers. My head is feeling fuzzy so I sit down. 

View from an abating panic attack.
Although sometimes a small part of me thinks of seizures or heart attacks, I know better. I know it's a mounting panic attack when my heart starts beating harder. Not fast really, just... hard. Like the heartbeat in the background of a horror film. The panic is raising in my throat, pressing on my chest. I'm already starting to get scared. No, no, not again, not now, not here. The right medicine right now might cut it off here, bring the crescendo back down. But even the right medicine doesn't always work.

I don't want to move, but it's impossible to sit still. I want to be frozen but somehow my body just won't listen. I pace. I lash out. If I try to hold it all in I twitch. Then the tears come. Broken dry cries. Weak angry shrieks break through, while my brain screams shut up shut up shut up. I can't really cry a real cry, something that may be cathartic. It all gets caught in my throat and in my head.

I get angry. At this feeling, at myself, at anybody. I want it to end. I want to smash my skull in and make it end. Sometimes I can't hold back and I pound my head with my fists, or hit it on the floor. Just enough to hurt. It feels like relief for a moment to have physical pain.

I crave physical pain. Cuts, burns, bruises.  Then that scares me more and I stare at my shelf filled with pill bottles. I could take them all. I could end it forever. But I don't. Real tears come now. Slow, sad tears. Now I can lie still and cry and breath and wait for it all to be over. And eventually it ends. It always does. And I'm tired. But I'm still here, and with my sanity coming back, and my head clearing, I'm grateful. It's always stops eventually.

Until next time.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Owls, Otters, and Other Animals Outside my Window

My suburban view.

My backyard is a park. Actually my backyard is a small strip of poorly maintained grass, but on the other side of that is a park. There's a small creek, it's too shallow for me to worry about the kids drowning in but just right to attract all sorts of animals. There's some grassland... maybe it's called wetlands... I'm not sure, and a wooded area. This backyard is the reason why we bought our house. When we bitch about not having enough room to store the bikes in the winter or the snow-blower in the summer, we can look out the window and say, "yeah I know it's worth it, you just can't beat that view."



Nature's poopiest bird.
The best part of living on a park is the wildlife. I don't even know where to start, so I'll start with the birds. Oh my god the birds! We get every bird you can imagine passing (if your imagination is confined to Minnesota, of course). We have all the usual suspects: chickadees, finches, cardinals, blue jays... We've got one asshole woodpecker who periodically attacks our house like it just insulted his mama. There are the occasional bands of turkeys trotting along the grass next to the stream (they can fly they're just too lazy to do it most of the time). The water attracts waterfowl, usually ducks and geese but also some egrets and herons. I could do without the geese, those little jerks poop everywhere. But on the plus side they're absolutely frightened of my tiny little dog and don't really hang around my yard anymore.


I'm not sure what type it is, but I know it's badass.
All those birds are nice to have around (except the geese and woodpecker), their sounds create great ambiance, but I'm not much of a bird watcher. However, I get so excited when I spot a bird of prey, like a hawk or an owl. I've seen hawks a few times, I wish I knew enough to identify just which type they are. They are so cool. I haven't actually seen the owl yet but I can hear it clear as a bell. Actually, the first night I heard it I thought it was recording because it sounded too perfect, too much like the owls on TV (there are totally owls on tv, don't you watch The Real Nest Owls of Lake Superior?) for it to be a real owl, especially since I couldn't see it. But I'm starting to believe it is real and that maybe I will one day actually see it.


The next most common animals are all the little rodent types. You know, the rabbits, mice, squirrels. The mice we just hope to keep out of the house and garage. They are a pain in the ass, but if they attract the hunting birds I guess that's okay. The rabbits are everywhere. I like the rabbits, they're pretty cute. However I'm a little bit afraid of whatever ripped out that rabbit's throat the other day over by where we walk our dog. I haven't seen a coyote but I hear they might be around... The animals that I've seen that freaks me out the most are the raccoons. I have a few stories about them that I'll save for another day.

The Guy! Our favorite little neighbor.

Moving on. My favorite back yard animal, bar none, is "the guy". The guy is what we call the river otter who lives in our creek. There may be more than one, there may be more than 2, I don't know how long they live or what generation we're on but I know that every year since we moved into this house we've been watching the river otter come out in the spring and splash around in the creek every summer, carrying bits of this in that up and down the creek. He's the best. He is the most sure sign of spring there is.


You lookin' at me?

There are also many white-tailed dear that pass through. They're so sweet to watch, so graceful, so pretty... and so damn delicious. It's too bad we can't hunt in our own backyard, we would never go hungry. I haven't seen any fish in our stream, nor anything scary like cougars or bears. It's a great backyard it really makes me feel connected with nature.And every time somebody says something derogatory about the suburbs I think fuck that noise, my house is awesome, I'm in the suburbs, and I've got the nature channel in my backyard. And I feel so blessed.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Some days I want to move to Neutopia

There's an episode of Fururama called "Neutopia" in which the Planet Express team takes a group of commercial airline passengers and they all crash-land on a planet, where they are forced to compete based on sex/gender. They prove to the aliens that the genders can not get along, so they eventually end up all neutered, and get along splendidly (until they all demand their "wingwangs" and "kajiggers" back).

Sometimes, especially when I'm in a bad mood, I will think about that short lived "Neutopia" and how wonderful it would be if The Borax Kid (one of the aliens) would visit our planet and just neuter the lot of us. Just  blast out all those pesky primary and secondary sex characteristics. Do away with our hormone-fueled stupidity. Think about it. No more rape. No more gender discrimination. No more sex trafficking. No more periods. No more "boys like trucks and girls like dolls". No more "don't be a pussy" or "grow some balls". Nothing left to feminist rage about. Wouldn't that be splendid?

Yeah, sure, we might *miss* sex. And there'd be the small problem of figuring out how to reproduce a-sexually. But when I read a story about another teenaged girl being gang raped then bullied until she committed suicide, and I know that just barely scratches the surface of the sick, cruel, evil ways women and young girls are treated the world over... Well, having an alien come down and banish all the genitals on Earth sounds like a pretty nice idea.

It's not going to happen. Penises and vaginas are here to stay. And sadly, so, it seems, is sexual violence. But we, as individuals, can do our part to fight against gender bias and discrimination. We can choose to get consent before engaging in sexual behavior. We can teach our children to respect their bodies and the bodies of others. We can make a difference in our lives and the lives of those around us.

A sexual assault awareness display for Take Back the Night
Those of us with daughters are all too aware how important it is to teach them how to protect themselves. Even though my girls are only preschoolers, I already think about how I'll talk to them about things like watching your drinks so you don't get roofied, and using the buddy system when you're out after dark, and that there is help available from friends and family, and that they never deserve to be treated like anything less than a human being because of their female bodies. They should know that consent is important and goes both ways. The golden rule is golden for a reason.

I can only hope that the parents of every little boy is thinking about the same talk, and teaching them how to treat women like human beings deserving of respect. No woman is ever "asking for it" just because of the way she dresses, dances, or drinks. Asking for it must be just that, verbally asking. This doesn't just go for full-fledged sex, it also goes for unwanted touching, comments, etc. When somebody tells you you've crossed a line, believe them. And for the love of god, don't roofie somebody. Don't rape somebody. Don't harass somebody for being raped. Don't take pictures of somebody getting raped and share them with your friends. People do these things in our cities and towns in our country EVERY DAY. And that is just evil. YOU are just evil, if you partake. Seriously. What. The. Fuck? It's hard to write about this stuff without getting all HULK SMASH.

Maybe one day humanity will figure it out. Until then, I'll  be dreaming of neutopia.

Monday, April 15, 2013

"Mommy Servant" deserves a pay raise.

Ever feel like your kids think you're a servant? I definitely get that impression. I'd be pretty thick not to, after this little exchange the other day:

Kaylee: (shouting from the other room) Mommy Servent! Mommy Servent! Mommy Servent!
Me: (Shouting back) There's nobody here by that title!
Kaylee: (continues shouting) Mommy Servent! Mommy Servent! Mommy Servent!
Me: Are you talking to me? (her sister was there, so I thought I'd ask)
Kaylee: Yes!
Me: I'm not a servant.
Kaylee: Why not? I want you to be!
Me: No, I'm not your servant. I may do things for you, but I'm not your servant.
Kaylee: (pause) ... What's a servant?
Me: Somebody who has to do things for you because it's their job.
Kaylee: Yeah, you should be Mommy Servant!
Me:

Turns out she was "just playing for pretend" but she had herself all propped up on the sofa with feather boas and a dozen pillows like a little diva. (I blame Backyardigans for that bit) It was a caricature of the whole Mommy Servant/Diva Daughter relationship, and it was pretty funny. My mom was there and she got a good laugh. When I told my husband, he said "just don't teach her the word slave."

I may have been asking for the title of Mommy Servant, since I had recently tried to get Kaylee to help more with cleaning by paying her for her help, but requiring her to pay me if I do her share. It worked for about a week. Now we're back to the normal whining, crying drama as before. And Kaylee gets upset too.

Why is it so hard to get kids to help with the chores?? Forget about the servitude of constantly running to get them another go-gert or to re-fill their juice cup (yes, I let my kids have more than one cup of juice), I would be happy if they would just put away their toys, at least *some* of the time, without being dragged through the process.

I'm sure I was a perfect angel who always picked up her toys, and all my memories of my mom saying "I am not your servant" must have been directed at my siblings. (I think I can hear my mom laughing from 3 miles away)

But whatever happened in my own childhood, it hasn't helped me solve the mystery of getting kids to deal with their own shit. For now I'm pretty resigned to it being a daily struggle to keep the floor at least moderately clear of evil foot-killing legos and other plastic crap without turning into a full-time Mommy Servant.

But at least sometimes, when they leave their crap all over the house, it's staged in an entertaining way. Like the time I fount my PJs clipped to a cat leash and tied to the door, while the plastic horse in the hallway looked on from his dinner of nutella-covered bagel. A classic American still-life, you know.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Lovies.

Baby Ali and her lovies

I have had this song stuck in my head for two days straight...

L is for the way you look at me
O is for the only one I see
V is very, very extraordinary
E is even more than anyone that you adore

So when I sit down to write, I keep coming back to the word love. So let's talk about love. No, that's too sappy, let's talk about lovies. (Lovies, incase you aren't working off the same definition I am, are comfort objects small children carry around for comfort. Like stuffed animals or blankets or what have you.)

The famous Teddy
Growing up, my sister had a lovey. In fact I'd say she was the most attached to a lovey of anybody I knew, her Teddy Bear, Teddy. I had a string of lovies but never really took to one over all. I guess I had commitment issues, or maybe I just had bad luck. I lost my baby blanket, the one my mom made for me, in a hotel when I was 6. After that I did have a favorite cow puppet, Cowy (you can tell we were really good at naming things in my house), but he too was lost when I was 11. I still have some stuffed animals from when I was a kid, but nothing that I was ever attached to like my sister was to Teddy.

Actually, my sister is still attached to Teddy. She's now in law school. (My sister, that is, not the bear, Teddy doesn't go to class. I assume.)  I was always kind of jealous of my sister and her Teddy. It always has seemed like a special bond. Teddy was a member of the family like no other stuffed animal ever was. Teddy had personality. Teddy was (is!) special.

Sometimes I wondered if I didn't have one special lovey because I sucked my thumb. I was pretty attached to my tumb (har har) and I sucked it to an embarrassingly old age. As in, I was getting called out at sleepovers... I would say more, but it's... actually kind of humiliating. Anyway. When I had kids I was really, really sure to keep them off the tumb (seriously, the thing is like crack, I'm fucking 30 and I still sometimes want to suck my thumb. What is with that?), but I was really hoping they'd find a lovey.

When Kaylee was little I thought she'd found her soulmate in this pink and green striped blanket. As a toddler, she even made the teachers take pictures of it, alone, on school picture day. She called it her "boppy" and took it everywhere. It was great, because it always comforted her. But then I panicked. What if she ever lost boppy? So I went about bought like 4 more similar blankets, just in case. Maybe that was a jinx, because as it turns out, a fickle heart must be hereditary, and now she jumps around among handful of favorites, just like I did as a kid. Oh well. At least she's not sucking her tumb.

Dani and Jojo
But then Dani came along, and almost before we realized, she became attached at the hip to a teddy bear that looks remarkably similar to my sister's. The bear is named Jojo and goes everywhere. And for some reason I'm not scared. Jojo is a part of the family. Somehow I think Teddy's immortality has been passed on to this bear and he will be going along with Dani to med school (she's is very determined that she's going to be a doctor). Lovies really do take on a life of their own some times.

Did you have a lovey?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Kaylee's Story


Instead of a regular post, I decided today I'd take a story Kaylee made up and illustrait it for you. She's a weird girl. Also super awesome and kick-ass. 

Vampire Baby

 by Kaylee 

Once upon a time there was a new born baby. It looked evil. 

They took the baby out and she bit somebody’s finger.  

She had a cradle. After she did sleep at night and she saw the grownups were still sleeping, 

she went over, crawled on the bed and bited their nose. And then on the mom she bited the eyes. 

They both woke up and shouted “baby!” and they threw the baby out the window out and into the lake. 

They lived on and island right on a lake and they threw the baby right into the water. 

But the baby was a good swimmer. 

Then one night, when she wasn’t a baby anymore and she was a big girl, she turned into a vampire. 

She creeped out of the tower and saw babies sleeping and stealed them. And kept them in the tower. Then she sucked their blood. 

After she sucked all the blood out of the babies. She would go get more. 

Then end.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Not really Jewish, but Jew-ish

I married a Jew. We are raising our kids Jewish. I am not Jewish, but sometimes I do feel... I don't know... Jew-ish? Before I go on, let me answer all the questions my non-Jew friends and family always ask when they first find out:

See? Told you. Pork & shrimp. And Pizza.
  1. No, I'm not converting. Yes, that's ok with Ethan's family.
  2. No, we do not keep kosher. We have a freezer full of pork and shrimp and we LOVE IT.
  3. Yes, we do belong to a temple, but that does not mean we're really religious.
  4. Yes, we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah, yes it is a big pain in the ass.
  5. Yes, my kids are "real Jews" I don't care what the guy you knew in college says.
  6. Yes, my husband's nose is huge.

My husband is an atheist but he feels strong cultural ties with his Jewish heritage. Currently I'd say I'm some crazy mixed up Jew-ish agnostic Irish Catholic blob of self-doubt. Let me expand on that a little. My parents were raised Catholic. Nuns, confession, confirmation, the works. I was baptized Catholic. Then we hopped around to a few churches, and I ended up taking first communion at a Lutheran Church. Then basically quit Church all together and worked at the hardware store on Sundays. I never felt really firmly rooted in anything religious and I was a budding liberal with a faith in science. I had a Darwin fish on my car and religious tracts were slipped into my coat pocket by a friend's dad. And then I married an atheist Jew. I might be going straight to hell. I'd be more worried if I were sure it existed. 

We were featured in an article about inter-faith families
Now we're raising our kids Jewish and that has presented a few new challenges  First off, I don't know shit about Judaism. I've learned a lot in the last decade with Ethan (that's my husband, I got sick of calling him my husband, his name is Ethan damnit) but I have a lot more to learn. Like, I can belt out a great rendition of Bim Bam, but ask me to say the blessing over the bread and you'll probably end up hearing about wine or candles or just jibberish that sounded like Hebrew to me. And please never ask me when any of the holidays are, because even Ethan doesn't know that, and he's a real Jew! Our kids are so screwed. But knowing every detail and doing every tradition the right way isn't what being Jewish means to our family.

Being Jewish (or Jew-ish) means raising our kids with a sense of community and an understanding of their ancestry. It means celebrating life, love, and family twice as often because we totally get double holidays. It means having a keener eye for where people in the religious minority are being left out. It means one day singing hava nagila at my daughters' weddings. But most often it means rolling my eyes and going with it when my husband insists we have to shop at Costco because it would be against his cultural heritage to pay a higher unit price for frozen pizza. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for Injury - EPIC Injury.

If you are squeamish about talk of medical procedures/injuries/blood then you might want to skip this post. I talk about slicing my leg open with a hockey skate. You've been warned.

Give blood, play hockey. You can get that slogan on t-shirts, hats, and bumper stickers. It's accepted that hockey is a dangerous sport. But if you're not playing in a league with fighting, it's really not so bad. You're covered head to toe in pads, after all. I've played ice hockey since I was 10. And in those two decades I'd only really gotten badly hurt twice. One injury was a bad AC pull from a hit, and the other was a concussion. Outside of that nothing bad enough to send me to a doctor, just bumps and bruises, and that time I lost a tooth on the ice (it was a baby tooth).

So there I was, going along my merry way, happily playing hockey uninjured. Until this February. (this is where it starts to get gross) My skate bald had cracked earlier that week, but I didn't have time to go get it repaired, and since it wasn't actually cracked all the way through to the plastic, and since I had already skated on it for at least half a game with no problem, I figured I'd just play anyway and deal with it later. This was a bad idea, and come to think of it, probably against USA hockey rules.

Now, I don't know for sure that the cracked blade caused what happened next but it seems like a weird coincidence otherwise. So like I said, going along my merry way, playing hockey, on a cracked balde. I was skating hard at a defenseman who had the puck, she dumped it away down the ice, and I took a hard turn to follow the play. Everybody else turned and went down the ice. I fell. And something hurt. I looked down at my leg and saw that I was bleeding through my hockey sock, on my thigh near my knee. I knew I'd cut myself. I yelled for the ref to blow the whistle, but I was so far from the play he didn't see me. So I got up and hobbled from the ice over to my bench. That hurt. A lot. (And in the mean time the other team got a goal! I mean, WTF?)

Leaving the ice on a stretcher. Not my preferred method.
I was so, so scared at that point but I was also being pumped full of endorphins by my body. I got to the bench, peeled back the sock, and saw the worst thing I've ever seen in my life. To be honest I expected a bad scrape, or maybe a real cut, I was not prepared to see the inside of my leg gashed wide open. I will never forget the sight of my flesh sliced cleanly through, fat and flesh laid open, with a glint of bone visible deep within the crevasse. (I might pass out just describing it)

I still had all that adrenalin and stuff, so I started screaming at people to help tie a tourniquet on my leg and call 911. My teammates were AMAZING. They Held me up, in case I passed out, they brought me a bucket, in case I puked, they called my husband, and most importantly, they made me feel cared for. At this point I was holding my leg together with a death grip, imagining that if I let go all the meat would just fall off the bone like a well-cooked drumstick. Finally the EMTs arrived. They made me let go of my leg so that they could see. They told me not to look. I did anyway. And that's when I puked.

Ativan ROCKS!
Endorphins are really amazing, y'all. For most of the ambulance ride I was able to be calm, answer questions, and laugh at the EMT when he bragged about his IV skills then took two needles and a million stabs to put in a line. The pain was just starting to creep up when we arrived at the hospital. But once it started to spike, I went from chatting to screaming and bawling so loudly they had to close the door in the space of a few minutes.

It seemed to take forever, but I eventually got a few doses of morphine. Unfortunately at this point the panic attack had already started to mount. I felt like an idiot. I kept apologizing. I swore I'd never let my kids play hockey. The doctor ordered nitrous oxide to help me calm down. I think they put the mask on wrong, because it did NOTHING and it was really hard not to hyperventilate with that mask on. I was having the worst panic attack of my life, and really, really scared. I felt like I was going to die. Eventually they gave me ativan, right into my bloodstream. That did the trick. I was able to come down from my panic attack and sit still while the doctor stitched me up. (She did not like me, maybe because I yelled at her not to touch my leg, but she's just lucky the nitrous oxide didn't work, because I'm pretty sure I would have said everything on my mind, and I was not thinking nice things about her as she poked and prodded at my gaping wound.)

Totally badass.
So that was that. All the medical personel told me how lucky I was, because although it was deep, it had missed all the major arteries and muscles. It took me a few days to be able to walk without crutches, and a while more not to limp, but I'm a quick healer (one reason why I can never keep my ears pierced, they just close up. I'm like Wolverine) and one month later I played hockey in the state tournament. 

It still makes me ill to think about, and I still have panic-inducing flashbacks time to time. But I'll never stop playing, I'll never stop hoping my kids play. Hockey is the greatest sport on earth, and injuries like these are extremely uncommon. If I do it to myself again in 20 more years, well, I'll just be thankful that I've played long enough to get there.


The scar, 2 months after the injury
Doesn't it look like a sad face?