Come Play With Me

With Covid floating around in the air and threatening to jump into our face holes, we’ve had to get really creative about how we have fun, amirite?!

And if you know me or have read this blog for any reasonable length of time, you know that Halloween and creepy shit is the only thing that personally makes the slow, steady descent into winter oblivion worth staying conscious for. Adding Covid into the mix this year requires even more creepy and dark humor.

I started decorating my house – inside and out – for Halloween early this year. Let’s just say I was inspired by the orange smoky death cloud that hung over the greater Portland (Oregon) area for a good chunk of September. We were stuck inside and it looked like The Road outside so I figured celebrating the day the dead returns to the earth was a good call. Maybe they [the dead] could give us some pro tips on how to suffer in style.

I picked up an apocalyptic DVD bundle at the library and took advantage of the extra couch time. I revisited The Road and Hunger Games. I watched 1984 and Clockwork Orange for the first time and now I think I’m all set to hide under my bed and sip my Xanax milkshakes until the Supreme Court decides if it’s okay that Americans can experience safety and joy ever again.

I’m struggling now to remember how it came up, but a few of my mama friends and I text pretty much daily while hiding from our children. We were discussing Halloween and what freaked us out (I think?) when my friend mentioned she had a creepy doll stashed in the back of her closet that gave her the heebie-jeebies. Her mom had picked it up at a garage sale with care, love, and my friend’s daughter in mind, but I’m guessing my friend didn’t want her daughter to get sucked into The Upside-down so into the closet it went. “Isn’t this how most horror movies start?” you ask. And you’d be right.

We (and by we, I mean me) made a few jokes about haha, wouldn’t it be funny to scare some mom-friends by leaving the doll on their porch in a bloody mess and then running away? And then my friends texted back a tentative suuuuuure and changed the subject.

I then started texting only my doll-having friend to see just how willing she was to use the doll in this way. It will be hilarious! I said. It’s the perfect socially-distant creepy fun! I said. LET ME HAVE THIS. I screamed. At long last, she sent me a pic of the doll and I swiped right, my friends. This was happening.

My friend didn’t want to completely fuck up her doll so we compromised and I made a creepy sign with red paint to accompany her. We also wanted to scare the crap out of our victim friend without making a huge bloody mess on her porch, because we enjoy maintaining friendships.

Not to be outdone, the afternoon before we were scheduled to scare our mutual mama-friend, my doll-having friend dropped off the possessed plaything on my porch without telling me and then texted with: knock, knock. For one quick second after I opened my door, she scared the poop out of me.

Touche, my friend. Touche. The messers become the messees!

And so sweet, little Gwenivere (more on this later) came to live at my house for an afternoon. You guys, I had never seen a doll quite as uniquely creepy as she was. Her facial expression was very dead-in-the-eyes meets resting bitchface. When I picked her up, which I don’t recommend, she was surprisingly heavy in an unsettling way. She slumped over when set down. And the worst, by far, was that she fucking smelled. I can’t even describe it, but I’m going to try. It was a scent that used to be sweet, or was trying to be sweet, but missed the mark. It was like super, off-the-charts sweet that had gone sour with age, under a layer of mothballs. And the scent clung to everything it came in contact with. Sadly, I realized this after it was too late.

I set the doll at the bottom of my stairs for the afternoon and she scared my husband and me no less than 10 times. My daughter wanted to keep her. NO! I shouted, SHE’S NOT FOR YOU AND SHE’S LEAVING TONIGHT. Before I grabbed the doll to go scare my friend, my daughter came up and whispered in my ear that she had kissed the doll goodbye. Dear lord, I really wished she hadn’t. She [my little girl] smelled like rancid Koolaid mothballs.

During our magical afternoon together, the name Gwenivere for my little guest just came to me, out of the blue. My husband later informed me that it was the name of the ill-fated van from Onward, which we had watched the previous night, but I prefer to believe otherwise. On a whim, I decided to look up the meaning of the name, just to see if it fit.

Gender: female. Origin: Welsh. Meaning: white ghost, phantom.

Fuck.

My doll-having friend picked me up and we drove the short distance to our other mama-friend’s house. It was dark and windy and raining. In other words, perfect. Gwennie stunk up the car with her evil wrath but man it was worth it. We successfully deposited her and her bloody sign on their doorstep without the dog barking (until we rapped on the door), and then we ran behind a parked car to watch and giggle.

The initial response was underwhelming, but what turned out to be hilarious (from my point of view, anyway) was that my friend’s two daughters instantly loved Gwenivere and wanted to keep her. We were texted a pic of her girls cuddling with the smelly, possessed demon and I was laughing so hard that tears were streaming down onto my mask.

Needless to say, the fun won’t stop here. I think Gwennie and her sinister stank needs to be introduced to all of my friends. She has so much more love to give.

Happy Halloween, y’all.

Quiet, Sluggish Chaos

I’m feeling pretty drained. That’s an understatement.

I’m trying to think of a good metaphor for how I feel that won’t make me sound suicidal – because I’m not. But I have no energy left, you guys. I’m just trying to make it through the days and sometimes I dare to hope and then other days my state gets set on fire or RBG dies and I find myself at a new low that I didn’t know was possible.

Three things happened all at once: summer [weather] ended, fire and smoke made it impossible for me to breathe or leave my house for ten days, and distance learning began for my 1st grader. It sent the precarious balance we had achieved in our household over the summer into a quiet, sluggish chaos.

In 2007 the fire alarm woke me up and my boyfriend (now husband) and I grabbed whatever was in front of us and ran out of our burning apartment building. For months after I would go to sleep and hallucinate the smell of smoke. That thick, putrid, choking scent that makes one’s pulse jump. My heart would race, I’d get a rush of adrenaline, and then I’d have to get up and check to make sure there wasn’t any actual danger. After that, it was pretty hard to calm down and get any rest. It was bad.

I was in my master’s program for counseling psychology at the time and I had started therapy for the first time as a client that previous year. When the fire happened I was on a break from therapy in an attempt to stretch my mental health benefits to last until the end of the year. American healthcare – you suck. At any rate, when I returned to therapy I mentioned the fire and the difficulty sleeping I was having. PTSD, you say? Oooh, crap. So this is what it’s like. It’s always so much easier to diagnose other people. Well, shit.

And, while definitely not as bad, it came back recently. Our sense of smell is so powerful, so tied to our emotions. And the smell of smoke is a warning to everyone – it’s supposed to be. But put that together with absolute terror and it’s a horrible combination.

Plus, the chest pains I was getting from the smoke signaled anxiety to my brain aaand cue positive feedback loop. Sore throat, headaches. I felt physically ill on top of everything else.

With my bucket being pretty freaking empty, I’m struggling to be a good parent, teacher, wife, and friend.

As far as the friend thing goes, I struggle to be social. Being social in person really sucks because I’m worried about Covid the whole time. Being social, while I still enjoy it, often requires energy I’m not sure I have. It’s hard to pay attention and remember details. I find myself so worried about my and my family’s health and safety that it’s hard to be concerned with anyone else’s enough to ask. It’s not that I don’t care- I do. Stress just seems to push everything else out of focus. I’m really sorry if I forget about that thing going on in your life. I’m sorry that I totally forgot to ask how your new job is going. Sorry If my texts come across the wrong way. I feel like my stress and survival mode make everything come out wrong, even more so than my socially-awkward normal. I still love and respect my friends, and I still want to be friends.

I worry that writing about my mental health issues sounds…wallowy, self-centered, whiny. Repetitive. Fishing for pity.

While it might be repetitive (and none of the rest), I decided that talking/writing about it helps me. It’s honest, it’s real. If it helps normalize mental health struggles – great. But this is mainly for me. It’s a journal, it’s documentation, it’s creative expression, it’s cathartic.

In closing, I’ll remind myself that I’m surviving. I’m coping. I’m doing the best I can. I’m just happy to be here.

Challenge Accepted, MFers

2020 is my year, bitches.

I’ve taken my extra time away from babies and I’ve surprisingly spent a good chunk of it exercising and shit. I know, I’ve surprised even myself. This morning, I was running around the house in my sports bra, getting the kids ready for school, and my husband first asked this weird half-naked lady with purple hair if she’d seen his wife, and then, upon remembering how hot I am, asked me if I knew where the gun show was. (spoiler alert, I do.)

That’s right. We know how to keep that spark alive.

Ever since my daughter was done breastfeeding and my body became my very own again, I’ve been working to really, truly take care of myself. I’ve had mental health stuff come up. I’ve had a bunch of seemingly random health stuff come up, too. Skin issues, GI issues, chronic acid reflux issues, my ongoing headaches and migraines. I’ve had a few tests done for the GI stuff and the short version is that they can’t find anything physically wrong with me. That leaves me with…my diet. The food-like things I put into my body.

About a year ago I cut out some dairy, but not all. I feel like that has helped some. Not all. I’ve also cut out or reduced a few things that trigger my reflux. So that helps. But not all the way.

Sooooooooo, my dear psychos, I’m taking the plunge. Starting tomorrow, I’m doing Whole 30. Wholey crap. For those of you unfamiliar, Whole 30 is an elimination diet to see how certain food groups affect your body – you eat whole foods for 30 days and then slowly add stuff back in to see what happens. It’s a good way to see if you have any allergies or aversions and junk. Basically, I can have meat, fish, eggs, fruits, veggies, nuts. Nothing else. No added sugar, no soy, no dairy, no legumes, no grains, no alcohol.

This is a big deal for me. I’ve always eaten everything. I don’t have any obvious allergies and I’m generally not a picky eater. I’ve also never been on a special diet before, ever. Unless you count my surgery prep and the stuff I couldn’t eat during pregnancies, I’ve never really restricted myself. And guys, my parents are from the midwest. Dairy is, like, THE most important food group. It’s like how Bubba is with shrimp: there are so many ways you can have cheese. There’s sliced cheese, grated cheese, powdered cheese, melted cheese, blocks of cheese, wheels of cheese. There’s cheese curds and cheesecake. Don’t forget cheesewhiz. I grew up having cows milk with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ice cream almost every night. Dear lord, my body is a temple and it’s never not been worshipped with dairy.

This is going to be interesting, y’all.

Luckily, I have a friend, whom I’ll call M, and she’s done this before and she offered to do it with me now and to be my emotional support animal. Honestly, I don’t think she’s aware of what she signed up for, because when I get hangry, all bets are off. I’ll be texting her in the middle of the night needing a peptalk so I don’t inhale my kids’ Valentines candy in my walk-in closet.

It goes without saying that I plan to blog about this experience as much as I need to and probably more than you all would like. Food is such an emotional thing. We have living, breathing relationships with it because it’s rooted in culture and family and it’s woven into every. single. social. gathering.

I’m treating this like one big experiment, and it’s my goal to remain determined and curious. Although I’m a rule follower to the core, M (dude, when I call you M, it reminds me of that kickass lady from the Bond movies played by Dame Judy Dench. You’re welcome.) kinda gave me permission to bend some small rules so I don’t go absolutely crazy. Like, I may still cook with real butter (I’m just kidding! I don’t cook, my husband does. A word on that later). And I’ll probably have some store-bought mayo (another midwestern food group – you can’t make a salad without it!), but I’m very interested to see how I feel without all that sugar and dairy and grain in my system. I’m looking forward to the poops! Oh, the BMs! I’ve heard the legends and I want to know what secrets lie within…and without.

Advanced thanks to M and to my husband, who has been amazingly supportive so far. He does all the cooking in the house, and he’s been planning meals for me and I know he’s gonna be there to cheer me on this whole way, even when I’ll be tackling him to the ground trying to eat the pasta hanging out of his mouth.

It all starts tomorrow, folks. What’s hilarious is that my mom friends are going out after we walk/jog/run tomorrow morning for coffee and donuts. FUCKING DONUTS ALREADY?!

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

I’m 37 and I have purple hair

It’s that time again, folks.

It’s birthday time!

This is going to be another stream-of-consciousness post, which often tend to be rambly; you’ve now been properly warned.

This particular birthday brings up a bit more of the feels than usual, because this year the days of the week and the dates of the month are the same as they were in 2003, when I had my cancer surgery 17 freaking years ago.

I had to start prepping for surgery on Sunday the 9th, which meant no solid food after noon that day. My family took me out for brunch and I ordered my usual Belgian waffle with fruit and whipped cream. Normally, I’d never finish it, but that day, knowing solid food wouldn’t pass my lips again for at least a few days (it would turn out to be 4 full days), I said challenge accepted and I forced myself to eat every. last. bite.

Monday was my birthday. I only remember dinner that day, where I sat at the head of the table and ate chicken broth and jello while my family had pizza. God that sucked. I opened some gifts, but mostly just wanted to go to bed so I could get the surgery over with as soon as possible.

Surgery was on a Tuesday. They took me in over an hour late, and if you know me, you know I operate based on strict, rigid expectations. I couldn’t handle waiting any longer and had my last (of many that had preceded this horrible process) waiting room meltdown. By the time they took me in to get me prepped, I was a complete wreck. I was under so much stress that they couldn’t get a vein for my IV (juuuust this year I finally stumbled across the name for the reason my veins close up under stress and my fingers go white when it’s cold – Raynaud’s Syndrome) and allllll I wanted was to be fucking unconscious.

That Tuesday was the worst day of my life.

Wednesday was the day I was told my mass was cancerous.

Thursday was the day I was allowed to eat solid food once more – my reward for the anticlimatic post-surgery fart.

Friday was Valentine’s Day, of course, and I finally got to go home.

All that hell was 17 years ago! It was a lifetime and yesterday all at once. A lot has changed in that time. The experience has most definitely shaped the person I am now.

I’m using change as a rather rough segue theme, here, but that’s how my brain works. My birthday will forever cause me to simultaneously think of the past and the future and how they affect each other in my life.

In general, I don’t like change. It’s jarring to me. Even positive change. Which means that being the mom of two young kids is almost constantly jarring. These little creatures are constantly changing, wtf!! Having to keep up with them and everything that comes with them is exhausting. And by everything, I mean everything. Schedules, routines, schools, teachers, homework, clothes sizes, equipment (meaning, you need bottles until you don’t. you need diapers until you don’t. highchairs, packnplays, all of it), language, skills (my kid can SPELL! F-U-C-K.), attitude, their preferences in everything (food, TV, toys, clothes), their phases and habits (one kid finally eats! the other currently does not.)

On an average day, keeping up with all of this isn’t so bad. I get the feels here and there when I need to give away all the rest of the 2T clothes, or sell the cloth diapers, but then there’s the time my kid wrote me the sweetest letter in school. Or when I covertly spelled S-N-A-C-K to my husband in front of the kids and my son GOT IT.

But the bigger changes give me varying levels of anxiety.

My mom friends going back to work (don’t leave me!). Seriously, our lives are so busy that simple life changes might as well mean that one has moved to the moon. I’ve worked hard to build friendships here in Oregon and to maintain friendships far and wide, but if I’m being honest, I feel like they are stunted because of the season of life we’re all in (parenting young kids). Building friendships in fragmented in-person playdate conversations and random text messages is super hard, y’all. What’s scarier still is that I only see the seasons getting busier and situations getting trickier, and it sucks. (Another piece for me is that some of my mom friends will read this, so this is me being vulnerable in putting it out there.)

Kids getting busier with school and sports and activities and not knowing what or how much to put my kids in and worrying how this will affect my energy level and mental health. It’s hard to know what my kids will like or be good at or will want to stick with. I don’t want to do too much, but I do want them to do something. And do we do what everyone else is doing? My comparison monster gets the best of me sometimes, and it’s especially strong on the extracurricular activities rat race front of modern parenting. Pair that comparison monster with a moderate case of parenting-related FOMO, and there’s a great recipe for rumination-fueled anxiety. Tell me I’m not alone in this!

Me going back to work. My biggest concern here is about dramatically increasing my workload and thus having a huge negative impact on my energy level and mental health. By dramatically increasing my workload, I mean that I’ll add all the stress and responsibility and time away from home/kids/husband while still needing to get done everything I already do now, most notably all the invisible, logistical work. Will I be scheduling doctors appointments at 1am because that’s when it needs to happen after work and dinner and cleaning and making lunches and maybe some TV? This is majorly why I’m dragging my feet in starting this process. I’m finally getting some breathing room within this parenting life, and I’m more than a little hesitant to give up that extra time.

I can feel the changes looming, you guys. They are there, just there, on the horizon. They won’t be all bad, I know, but right now, it’s all unknown.

I suppose, in some clumsy attempt to tie everything in this post together, the lesson is that I’ve handled some pretty dramatic changes in the past, and so I will again, with as much awkward grace (oxymoron?) as I can muster.

So I sit here, in this Starbucks, on this sunny(!) Monday just having had a pretty great massage. I’m 37 and I have purple hair. Right here, right now, life is pretty good.

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