Monday, December 24, 2012

Orna-mental

Being a Christmas ornament is a pretty high pressure job. Let's face it, for 95% of the year, ornaments are tucked away, stored for the proper season. Some might say it's an easy gig but I don't see it that way. How many other jobs have such high pressure seasons? If you're a Christmas ornament, do you spend the off season hoping your glue won't fail leading to an embarrassing malfunction that could get you kicked off the A-Squad?

What happens if you get nibbled on by moths? You'll never make it to the tree that way. Ornaments are totally at the mercy of their owners. There are no guarantees of making the cut. As I unpacked my ornaments this year I swear some of them were looking at me with sad panda eyes. They knew they weren't aging well. This didn't change their desire to be a part of the celebration and I felt a little sad leaving them in their boxes. I hate disappointing people. Apparently I also hate disappointing things that aren't actually alive. Damn you giant conscience!

It was hard for me to look some of those older, more frail ornaments in the eye and give them the bad news. They weren't going to the big show. They were to remain in their packaging, nestled among the decades old newspaper and tissue.

I also noticed this year, mixed in with my ornaments was an very old piano with an angel singing at it. It has my mother's name on it and I believe she received it as a young child. I looked at that ornament and although I didn't hang it on the tree this year, I made a mental note that there was a ticking time bomb in my Christmas tote. Some day my mother will be be gone and I will open that box of ornaments and there it will be. A kick right in the dick. That's going to suck. But at least I know it's in there.

Go Christmas! Get goofy! Have fun and go over the top!

Also - what the hell do I do with ornaments given to me by my former mother-in-law? She gave me some things in good faith - mainly butterfly related and a box of balls. (Ha! Balls....) What am I to do with these things? I tried to throw a particularly ugly gold butterfly creation away but then felt so guilty I removed it from the trash can. I really, really did. I don't know what's wrong with me. Is this normal? My ex is a super douche but his mom was okay. She tried really hard. Too hard sometimes.

Who feels guilty over a damn ornament they don't even like??

May your holidays be filled with the magic of the season. Truly, I wish any and all who read this blog my sincere Christmas love. Don't sweat the small stuff. Hang your favorite ornaments, eat your favorite holiday treats, and enjoy your crazy families. I intend to do all that and then some.

Merry Christmas peepers!
xoxo


Friday, December 21, 2012

Pepere

I apologize for my slacking ways this week. I have a new website I have no idea how to use. I'll be learning ASAP and will soon be moving the blog over to the official AngryShrink.com webpage. Woo-hoo!

In personal news, my grandfather passed away at 82 years old this week. He and my grandmother were married for 54 years and the two of them were the best team ever. I miss them both but I did get to deliver the eulogy for both of their funeral ceremonies. It's my way of honoring them. The following is the eulogy I gave today.

It’s almost impossible to think of my grandfather without thinking of my grandmother. I can’t help but to think, Memere had a lot of input here. Christmas was her favorite time of the year. At Memere and Pepere’s house, the Christmas Carols started in October and went pretty much through February.  

Christmas at the Granger house was truly a sight to behold. A lot of people can say they had great family Christmases and traditions but how many of them can say they had a musical, spinning Christmas tree? Memere and Pepere did Christmas like nobody’s business. My last conversation with Pepere, before he left The Village, was, ironically, about Christmas. Or, more precisely, Christmas ornaments.

In my family every year, Memere and Pepere would give each grandkid an ornament. We usually received these on Christmas Eve so we could put them right on the tree in time for Santa to see them when he stopped by. The past few years, Christmas hasn’t really felt good to me. In fact, I think I may have been holding a grudge because the holiday reminded me so strongly of my grandmother and I wasn’t ready for that. It hurt too much, it felt too soon, and when Pepere moved out of the house on Hackmatack, a little part of me went with him. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was really angry.

I was angry that he was old and frail. I was angry that she was gone. I was angry that despite all our best efforts, the job of keeping him in that house was simply too big. I felt like a failure. I know it sounds crazy but I really thought I was letting him and Memere down. I believed she was disappointed. I buried that hurt under layers of anger because feeling angry is so much easier than feeling grief or accepting change.

I buried it so well I forgot it was there. But this year, something inside of me shifted. For the first time since I became an adult and left the nest, I had a real Christmas tree to decorate. I had a real plan to do something really fun and totally for myself and my husband’s pleasure and all of you who received our Christmas card have seen the end result of my letting go of that anger.

A funny thing happened this year as I decorated my tree. I had Christmas carols playing and was decorating by myself. It was then that I realized, almost every ornament on my tree came from Memere and Pepere. I have almost 30 years worth of ornaments, painstakingly wrapped in tissue and saved for me by my mother, the planner. I’m so grateful to her for keeping those ornaments for me and making sure I had them when I was ready for them. Even more than the ornaments given to me by my grandparents, I had ornaments from their home to put on my tree this year. Ornaments I have been looking at my entire life, that I used to decorate the tree at Memere and Pepere’s house when we were all together.

I told Pepere that. I told him how smart they were to have given us something we would have forever without even trying.
I also told him about a funny thing that happened to me this season as I was decorating my tree a few days after Thanksgiving. The first ornaments to go on my tree were the ones from their home on Hackmatack Street. As I hung them on the tree I began to feel something warming in my chest and my heart. I began to smile without realizing it and as I continued to hang those ornaments I felt the most intense sensation of love. Of being loved. Of deep happiness and peace. I knew what I was feeling was special. I know it was my grandmother. She came to me to let me know, I didn’t need to be angry at Christmas anymore. She reminded me that Christmas was her absolute favorite time of year and, as I pointed out to Pepere in our last conversation, Memere never gave me bad advice. She wanted me to feel her presence to remind me of that. I truly believe she was visiting me to let me know she was close by and she knew I would pass the message along to Pepere.

He smiled when I told him that. He said, “Your grandmother loved Christmas. It was her favorite.” I realized then, in that moment that while she was the front of the operation, he was the one behind the curtain making sure she had everything she needed or wanted to make Christmas (or, actually, any other day of the year) really special. Pepere made sure the tree was cut straight on the bottom so it would fit precisely in that spinning, singing, stand. He was the one who painstakingly stored the ornaments and decorations each and every year. He was the one who would build our toys for us when they required assembly. Pepere was the one who let her have the spotlight while he made sure things ran with precision. The only time he commanded attention was when he was playing Santa and passing out the mounds of presents beneath the tree.

It wasn’t only at Christmas that he quietly ensured things ran according to plan. Memere and Pepere were a team in every sense of the word. Well, by team I mean, she wished for something, he made it come true. Even when - well especially when I think - she needed him to be the bad guy and deliver unpopular news. No matter the request, large or small, he lived to make her happy. And I think we can all say, he did a great job.

So remember that today, we celebrate the life of Pepere. A life that started out small in the town of New Bedford, Massachusetts that grew and grew into what you see around you today. Six children. Six loved daughter and son-in-laws. 13 Grandchildren. And one, great-grandson. This is not a time to mourn a loss. This is a time to open ourselves to the joy of reunion. By no means do I believe this timing is accidental. He wanted to go out on a high note and Memere wanted to say hi to us all and let us know, by virtue of the season, she’s with us. She wants us to know it’s okay. She called and he went, he’s with her, where he’s meant to be, where he wanted to be. Some things never change. Open your hearts to the love they had, let that be your comfort.

Merry Christmas Memere and Pepere and all of you.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Talking to Your Kids About Sandy Hook

A parent asked me today how to talk to her son about the tragic school shooting here in our small home state. He's already freaked out by school and the thought of someone stealing him thanks to the joys of being six years old in 2012. Kids today are exposed to levels of hatred and violence there is simply no excuse or precedent for. Throughout history children have borne witness to and carried the scars from brushes with the adult world's evil. Forever changed they grow into adults who know the depths of depravity a human being is capable of. They walk among us with wise eyes and quietly carry the burden of guilt and memory only those who survive a catastrophic event can understand. Survivors survive. We call them survivors because they will carry this inside them for life. Eventually the brain and the body will work together to knit a protective scar over the horrors they have seen but the horror will come up to haunt them forever.

Still others of us are blessed enough to have traveled through life without more than glimpses of what the worst could look like. For that we should all take a moment and say Thank You - to God or the Universe or whatever higher power you connect with.

You have to talk to your kids about this. And you have to protect them from seeing the news, newspaper, blogs, Facebook, whatever. They have seen and heard enough. Secondary traumatization is what can happen when we are exposed to graphic scenes or images over and over and over again. If adults can suffer from it - and without doubt we are all grieving right now - children will suffer from it that much more. Children are truly not able to comprehend the immensity of what happened this morning when a 20-year old gunman walked into a school and murdered 20 students, six teachers, his mother (at her home), then killed himself. As an adult I can hardly wrap my head around it. It's still soaking in and I wish that it wouldn't.

Ask your kids if they have any questions before you start talking. Listen to them. Let them find their own words - words have power, let your children find their voices. Expect to hear questions such as  "Can this happen to me?" "What if that happens here?" "Am I safe? Is my school safe?" "What would you do if that happened to me?" "Why did that guy kill those people?" "Were those kids bad?"



Stay calm, keep your voice neutral and assure them, over and over, that they are safe. Their school is safe. This is a one in a million event. The bad guy is dead. We have police and firemen and hospitals and doctors here to keep us safe. Their school will be making new ways to keep them safe. We don't know why that man did that. Sometimes people do bad things and we never find out why but what's most important is that we remember those who were hurt by those bad things.  We love the children who were lost. We never, ever, say kids are bad. There's no such thing as a bad kid and the kids in that school did everything they were supposed to do. They followed their teachers instructions and they had parents and siblings and friends who loved them very much. Just as much as we love you.

Don't allow the kids to perseverate on the topic. We are going to talk about this one time tonight then we are going to make popcorn and watch a movie or read a book. We can talk about it tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that if you have to. We'll be here. You'll be here with us. We'll be together every day forever and you will always be safe and loved with us.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tree Envy

This year is the first year Jacob and I have gotten an actual, nice Christmas tree. Yes, it's fake. Whatever, stop judging. The dogs would totally make out with a real tree and I don't have the time or extra skin available to dive in and pull my cat out of the tree seventeen times a day.

Initially I had a bit of trouble feeling the tree love. I mean, it's lovely to look at but do fake trees have souls? A sense of humor? Do they know they're the star of the show? Real trees come with all sorts of adventures including the epic sawing of the bottom of the trunk to make it even. Watching someone attempt to do this can be stressful. Until you realize it's fun watching your loved ones struggle. That's when you break out the iPhone video camera and post to YouTube.

A fake tree will never bring fun extra friends into your home the way a real tree can. We've all seen the magic of Clark Griswald  being attacked by a squirrel. I'll tell you right now, if my tree came with a free squirrel I would call that a Win. I would name him Sparkles and he would wear a tiny elf hat and sit on my shoulder wherever I went. Like a pirate with a parrot but better. Because parrots don't have fluffy tails. Sparkles and I would become a holiday favorite, we could make appearances at local schools and sign autographs and take pictures. We'd be local celebrities and perhaps even receive a key to the city.

None of that is going to happen with a fake tree okay?

However, fake trees do come with their own set of frustrations and struggles. I'll leave you with a quote from my friend, Dawn. She is the coolest, most Christmas spirited girl I know.

All right Christmas tree. Even though I bought you at a flea market over the summer for $20, I expect more from you. A missing stand? Random sections of blinking lights? Tree top blackout? A severe lean to the left? 3 collapses? You may have eluded me this far but today I am putting an end to your bullshit. You will be perfect if I have to strangle it out of you. We're gonna take treehugger to a whole new level motherfucker.

If that doesn't say Christmas I don't what will.

Incoming!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Tis' the Season of...Creepy?

I'll admit that I probably wasn't the most normal of little kids. I can roll with that and, in fact, even celebrate it now that I'm old enough to appreciate it. While most kids loved Santa and the Easter Bunny fervently, I hated and feared them. I mean, I liked presents and candy - don't get me wrong. But the idea of someone - anyone - breaking into my house while I was sleeping was just not okay.

I would lie awake every Christmas Eve (and Easter Eve if that's a real thing) and quietly freak out. I would try not to blink because I knew they were magical beings and, therefore, extremely fast. I feared if I blinked I would miss something and they would be able to steal me away. So there I would lay, eyes wide open, sometimes holding my lids apart with my fingers, staring up at the ceiling. I'm pretty sure I took this too far on a couple of occasions because I can actually remember "seeing" Santa. Looking back I suspect this was more a hallucination on the part of a young girl who'd had too much eggnog. At the time, however, it was very real and scared the shit out of me.

Fast forward to the present. I'm not a parent but that doesn't mean I live under a rock. I know about this whole "Elf on the Shelf" thing. It appears to be some sort of torture/manipulation device used by parents to get their kids to behave around the holidays. While I applaud the creativity, I also shudder a bit in horror. If I were a little kid and my parents told me a stuffed toy was watching me I would have been completely freaked out. I probably would have made that elf disappear and to hell with the risk of Santa finding out.

Creepy little eyes that follow me around the house is a little too Big Brother for my taste even as an adult. Parents? What do your kids think of this? Are they creeped out or on board? Does the elf write them little notes as it moves about the house?

If I were a parent I suspect I would not be able to resist messing with the kids. As in "Henry. I know what you did with the Victoria's Secret catalog. Is there something you'd like to talk to Santa about?"

Or perhaps, "Dear little Janey, I noticed that all your Barbie heads have been chopped off and you seem to have decided the toilet is the proper receptacle for them. Cut the shit or you're totally getting coal."

Yet another reason why I stick with cats and dogs.

The only upside? Apparently these elves shit Hershey Kisses....

Friday, December 7, 2012

It's On My To-Do List Okay?

Tis the Christmas season and as I am writing this I have about 37 thoughts banging around in my head. I have to admit, I have never been a huge Christmas person. Sure I love buying presents for my loved and I love receiving presents for damn sure, but as for the rest - the music, decorations, mania, and general chaos of the season, well, not a fan. Not to mention awkward family events.

Thankfully, as I've gotten older I have been able to care less and less about what people think of me and more and more about how they interact with me. Do they take any interest at all in me as a person? Do they have any idea what I do? Have I spoken to them at any other time over the past year? I have a big family on both my dad and mom's sides. It's inevitable that I will be closer to some family members than others and I'm okay with that.

Growing up a musician in the family comes back to bite me in the ass every year. Sweet Jesus. I know I took piano lessons for my entire life and yes I went to music school. Yes I loved it and still do but I have absolutely no way to play on any type of regular basis and I haven't since I graduated from The Hartt School of Music in 2000. I was 22. I'm 34 now. That's 12 years of no piano or music of any kind in my life. This is not okay with me. I miss it - something I never thought I would say.

When I went to Hartt I was already insecure about my abilities. Being surrounded by people who are off the charts talented and driven will make that happen. I also didn't have the extensive music theory training a lot of my peers did. I took piano lessons, I was naturally good at it so I didn't have to practice for hours every day.  It came pretty naturally. Until I had to perform or be put on the spot. My piano teacher at Hartt was kind of a nightmare. To this day I still have no idea what country she was from but she had an accent that made it hard to take her seriously and she clearly did not care about teaching me theory. She was a whiner you guys. I can't stand whiners. I spent most of my time with her trying not to say anything rude. It was a battle.

Having to play in front of juries every year killed me. I had horrible stage fright about playing and having to perform on command basically froze my fingers into stiff claws that refused to cooperate. I pretty much passed by the skin of my teeth and got out of that room as fast as possible, passing with C's was fine by me. Until my senior year when I was finally able to channel my dislike for my teacher and, by that point, my school, into some kind of piano rage. I practiced my ass off and when I went in for my senior jury I killed it. Killed the shit out of it. The jury members were shocked and excited and my teacher was speechless. Hah! Take that mean lady! The student you gave up on just made you look like an asshole (because I found out later you'd "warned" them I wasn't very good.)

Who got the "A"? This girl that's who! Suck it bitches!

And thus ended my piano career. I didn't follow the path I'd laid out for myself of a job in the music industry because by the time I was 22, I was over it. I outgrew it and wanted to do something meaningful with my life. So I took jobs that didn't pay squat, worked entry-level paraprofessional positions you didn't even need a college degree for, and purposely exposed myself to every sector of the mental health field I could get my hands on. I worked three jobs in special education at the same time my first year out of college. I was a paraprofessional in an alternative middle/high school, tutored students who'd been expelled, and taught night school English and reading.

I have poured so much more energy into becoming the person I am today than I ever did when learning to play the piano or sing. I have worked so freaking hard to be so good at what I do I am able to support myself, by myself. Not to seem unappreciative but when people ask me to play the piano my instant reaction is "No!" Because it's been 12 years. Because my hands aren't the way they used to be. Because pianos are large and heavy and it's not like I can just have one in every place I live. That's not an option.

I sure wish sometimes I'd been a guitarist or violinist or something. At least those instruments are portable. Piano? Not so much. So I'm sorry if you want me to play for you. I wish I'd known you when I was a different person and much younger. I wish you could have seen it because I put a lot of love into it and someday maybe I'll be able to again. When I'm all grown up and settled somewhere I will have a piano and I will probably take some lessons again.

You can't have everything all at once. I have to accept that some things take more time than others and some things take a lot more time. It's in my mind and in my heart, someday it will be in my home.



Sunday, December 2, 2012

Yoga Give-Away! WOW!

Darling Shrinkers,

Here's the thing. I hate exercise. I loathe it, detest it, avoid it like the plague. Except for yoga! Yoga allows me to genuinely feel better immediately. I walk into class stiff, sore, stressed and maybe a little drained. I walk out feeling loose, restored, and smiling. You just can't beat that y'all.

I have, out of sheer luck, stumbled upon a wonderful yoga studio right here in South Windsor. And by right here, I mean it is literally in the plaza across the street from my office. So even on days I don't get my lazy ass into yoga pants, I am still reminded of it daily.

Yoga Born in South Windsor has become my happy place for all things yoga. I have brought clients there, friends there, and, my greatest and most favorite achievement - I have brought Jacob there. He took his very first yoga class ever yesterday and he is hooked! I could not be more thrilled! Remember guys - Jacob is a DUDE. Like, big, tattooed, dude. Real men take yoga. (And it's super cute that mine does!)

The owner, Dawn Greenfield, is an absolute gem. She is super laid-back and friendly not to mention insanely knowledgeable. A very smart lady, she has organized an excellent web site where you can see class schedules, make a reservation to attend a class, and pay for the class all at the same time. Genius! All I have to do is go on my iPad and click some stuff so when I get to Yoga Born, all I have to worry about is participating.

Because I love all of you out there so very much, I am giving away a Groupon for 10 Yoga Classes AT Yoga Born to be used by you howsoever you desire. All I ask is for you to tell me one thing about yourself and pick a number between 1 - 200. So easy! Like me on Facebook for even easier access!

Now go my babies! Tell me something cool! You have until Wednesday! Smooches!




Friday, November 30, 2012

Screw Skinny

skinny [ˈskɪnɪ]
adj -nier-niest
1. lacking in flesh; thin
2. consisting of or resembling skin
skinniness  n
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

I don't know about you guys, but I've had it with this "Skinny" bullshit. I. Am. Over it. In case you haven't noticed, Skinny is the new buzz word for what women should aspire to be. Bravo-lebrity Bethenny Frankel (who I so happen to love) has created an empire for herself out of her invention, Skinny Girl Cocktails. At first I thought it was cute. And smart. Everybody knows alcohol is loaded with empty calories so if you're a drinker it makes sense to want to cut back and save yourself a few guilty thoughts or extra crunches at the gym.

More power to you.

However, Skinny Girl isn't the only Skinny out there. Not only are there cocktails, there are entire books called "Skinny Bitch." I don't know if you've read any of the Skinny Bitch books but they're exactly what they proclaim to be. An actual mean spirited and yes, bitchy, diet book that pretty much tells you if you eat anything other than pristine, fat-free, chemical-free, organic nothingness you are a fat loser and doomed to misery and loneliness.

I have had enough of this insanity. Do you see the definition above? Lacking in flesh, consisting of or resembling skin. Why on God's green Earth is that anything to aspire to? When I think of the word skinny, stick figures come to mind. Stick figures with no curves, pronounced vertebrae and collar bones sticking out like brittle badges of honor.

Congratulations. You're malnourished. 

It seems like everywhere I turn someone is promising to make me skinny. And for a long time, I bought into it. I even bought that book - Skinny Bitch - and read most of it. And it made me feel absolutely horrible about myself. So I stopped reading it and had myself a sandwich. But how many other women out there don't stop reading? How many others buy into this idea and make themselves miserable or worse? How many women out there are hurting themselves in order to fit into a size zero? 

Look, I've been thin most of my life. But I've also struggled with anxiety most of my life. And for about fifteen years I couldn't eat the way I wanted to eat because my anxiety and panic was so bad that every time I'd try I'd basically shit my pants and want to die. I had an eating disorder by proxy. And it sucked. I never felt well, I was always tired, often depressed, and severely, severely anxious. I didn't go anywhere or do anything without a cocktail of Immodium and Zanax. And even with those things, chances are, I'd be losing whatever food I ingested before the night was through. My inability to eat safely and without fear limited my life to a tunnel of safe spaces and people who understood my struggle.

So I've had it. I'm done. I don't want to be skinny and I don't know why anyone would be. I'd like to be healthy please. Svelte perhaps. Or gamine. What beautiful words to describe the female form. Yes, please, I'll take those.

Screw skinny! Who's with me?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Going Viral


The past couple of days have given me the horrible reminder that I...am human. Like, for real. And sometimes humans get sick and there's nothing we can do except ride it out and hope for the best. That was my plan at least. I don't know if there's much more I could do for a stomach bug.

My preparations for illness haven't actually changed much since I was a kid. At this point,  I've gotten it down to a science. First, I sequestered myself in the bedroom in order to help quarantine the cooties. Not doing so would just be mean. Also, I prefer to be alone when I don't feel good. Way less yelling happens that way.  I called upon Jacob to bring me the Trifecta: water, ginger ale, and Saltine Crackers. The Saltines are my big guns. Normally I would only eat them with some sort of delicious topping or perhaps in soup. When those babies get pulled out, and there's no peanut butter to be found, that's when I know I'm sick.

When ill I find it necessary and completely appropriate to become totally committed to it. Why go halfway I ask? If you're sick enough to stay home from work, you're sick enough to go full diva.

No I will NOT accept  the cheap tissues! It's Puffs Plus with Lotion or bust! I don't care that it's a stomach bug and I don't need them! They're part of the deal.  They have soothing lotion in them! And don't even think about coming at me with your weak ass, generic ginger ale. Canada Dry or death I say. It has real ginger - an actual homeopathic aide for stomach ouchies.

Approved television includes but is not limited to: Friends (any season will do, but preferably season four), The Big Bang Theory, Harry Potter movies, and occasionally, on the most dire of occasions, Finding Nemo. Just keep swimming guys. Just. Keep. Swimming. Gets me every time.

And what's that? You want to go out and get yourself something to eat and leave me here all alone? Well screw you buddy! It must be nice! Why don't you take your stupid solid food and frosty beverage elsewhere because this is a registered virus zone and we have no room for food chewing hooligans in here.

I can't even tell you how screwed I would have been...
The good news is, the storm has passed and things are getting back to normal. Well, normal as far as I'm concerned which may very well be a different definition of normal than what you're used to. Nonetheless, big thank you to Jacob for delivering the goods even if he refused to touch or hug me in any fashion for the past few days. I'm hoping his plan of No Touchies! works for him because that virus sucked really bad. And I'm pretty sure he'll blame me anyway.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 Part 2

My Pepere  is 83 years old. Pepere is the French Canadian word for grandfather and is pronounced Pep-ay. From the age of 12 until his mid-seventies, he smoked cigarettes. Admittedly, he smoked a lot more of them when he was younger, before the whole thing about cigarettes being deadly thing got out. Unfortunately, he lives with COPD and Emphysema most likely as a result of smoking.

Some times are better than others. Right now is not one of those times. He has a hard time when the weather turns cold and even though it was actually quite balmy by November in New England standards, it was way too cold for him. As my dad, Jacob, and aunt got him out of the car I held the container of oxygen. My dad and Jacob then had to lift/pull him up the tiny three steps leading to the front door. Three tiny steps have never been so stressful. My Pepere gripped the handles of his chair with white knuckles and tried to breathe through the oxygen tubes in his nostrils. His lungs sounded like some sort of stew bubbling and choking him from the inside.

Once in the house he relaxed a bit. We gave him some wine. He definitely liked that. And he ate like a champion. I wish we could prepare all of his food. The assisted living place he lives in is super nice. I would be greatly pleased and relieved to know that when I am frail and old I was going to live in a place that nice. But the food is regular, facility type food and when I've eaten with him I've found it to be perfectly fine but far from exciting. I can see why he'd chow down when surrounded by really good stuff.

I feel lucky to have a grandparent left. Not a lot of people my age do and mine is incredibly special to me. It hurts my heart to see him sitting with us, too tired to participate in conversation, trying to listen but clearly overwhelmed and stressed out. He wants to be out of his home so badly but when he does go out, he pays a huge price. I'm sure he went directly to bed when he got home and I don't think he'll be bothering with dinner tonight. Getting him back in the car was difficult and awkward and awful. I hated it. It made my throat ache and my mom cry.

I am so grateful that he's still here. I want him to stay forever. I know he can't but that doesn't change my wish. I hate seeing him weak, I hate seeing him hurt, yet I remain grateful he is here and he came today and we got to be with him one more Thanksgiving.


Thanksgiving 2012

This Thanksgiving I say thank you to so many for giving me so much.

Thank you to the people who pushed me really hard. The ones who said I wouldn't make it, that I'd bitten off more than I could chew, that I'd never survive on my own, alone, in private practice. Thank you to the haters, the jealous, the small minded and small-hearted.

You made me try that much harder.

Thank you to the bullies who made my life suck as a kid but who taught me the difference between a real friend and someone who only wants to use you. Thank you to the mean girls who tried to bring me down. You sure put a lot of effort into hating me, I hope it was worth it, because I don't hate you.

Thank you to the nerds, the artists, the geeks, the misfits, the weirdos. When I look at you, I see: friend. I see somebody like me, who has turned negativity into compassion. Cheers to choosing kindness over fitting in and flying under the radar. You are brave every day.

You give me the courage to be me.

Thank you to the heroes who don't wear uniforms. The moms, dads, and grandparents on the front lines of raising our next generation. Your job is harder than it's ever been. Thank you to the teachers, the coaches, the bus drivers, para-professionals, social workers, therapists, and guidance counselors. You give our children a place to grow, to learn, to be accepted.

You were my role models. May you continue to inspire.

Thank you to the animal rescuers, the canine and feline foster parents, the ones who give of themselves, their time, and their money to protect those without a voice of their own.

You humble me.

Thank you to the unsung heroes. The ones behind the curtains who aren't looking for recognition. The ones who do what has to be done for the good of others even though they may not have enough for themselves. Thank you to our men and women in uniform of any kind - military, fire, police, and first responders.

You run in while the rest of wait with baited breath.

Thank you to my husband, my family, friends, dogs, cats, and even Mr. Peepers - our finch who we thought would never die. RIP Mr. Peepers. You really hung in there and your peeps and beeps are missed already.
I love the shite outta you guys and I really hope you know that.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Get your nom on!



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Appreciate the Bad Stuff

Today you're probably not going to like me very much. Because today is "Appreciate the Bad Stuff Day." Yes, you heard it right - I want you to think about the things in your life that have been the most challenging. This means they are probably the things you learned the most from. When we are shoved out of our comfort zones we have no choice but to act instinctively. There's no time for pondering, hemming, or hawing. There is only action and at the hardest of times, you were likely stuck between two lousy choices. Maybe you didn't even have a choice. Maybe someone out there made a choice for you. Maybe you're still living with the after shocks and it seems nothing will ever be normal again.

If that's the case, this post is extra important for you to read. Because today we are not seeking a solution to the problem. We are seeking your truth. What is the core belief that is stopping you from moving forward? For many of us, it is the belief that we are not good enough. And the pain comes from that fountain of fear.

While it may seem torturous to look back on life and re-examine the things that hurt the most, remember - you are safe now. It is in the past, nothing is going to bring it back. If you keep seeming to stumble on the same type of problem over and over, chances are, the universe is trying to tell you something. I believe until we accept whatever lesson the universe is trying to teach us, we will remain in a loop that forces us into the exact situation that brings the most difficulty. Lessons come to us organically and without us consciously seeking them out. We have no power to decide what lesson gets sent our way or how it's delivered. We can only control how we react to it.

One example of this for me is my difficulty dealing with male bullies. I grew up with a big, ogre-like bully making my life suck every morning at the bus stop. I had buried that memory deep under layers of crap, far out of sight. Then I met Jacob. He's a bit of a giant. And he's loud. And pushy. And triggering as hell. It's taken me years to get used to the fact that although he's big and loud, he's not a bully. He's not trying to hurt me, he's trying to help me and sometimes he has to yell to be heard. Because, apparently, I am stubborn. (Of course, I'm also always right but that's beside the point.)

Also - being with Jacob has forced me to toughen up. I know if he were weighing in he'd say I'm still not tough but learning to fight back to someone of his size and volume has taken time. Now I can hang in and not freeze up, go to Anxiety Land, and hide. I can yell if necessary - and sometimes, it is necessary. Because we're humans and we're going to fight sometimes.

It's also taught me how to deal with male bullies at work. Occasionally I get a guy - usually a father of one of my kid clients - who thinks he can push me around. With "men" like this (and I use the "" because real men don't threaten, bully, or intimidate) I used to freeze up. I would just sit on the phone and take it as they yelled about how evil their Ex-wife is or how the kids have no respect for him and it's my job to make them.

The last time that happened was over the summer. Oh what a douche canoe that guy was. Typical alpha male, bullied and abused his ex-wife and children, decided to try it on me. After leaving me numerous inappropriate voice mails, I finally picked up the phone when I saw him calling. When he started ranting I cut in and informed him that I was not calling about whatever his ex-wife does. I was calling to talk about the children. When that only served to make him angrier and his voice rose several decibels, I decided it was a waste of my time to even bother with this fool. The old Erin would have stayed on the phone and taken the abuse. The old Erin would have probably cried after that phone call.

This Erin - the one who stayed present and didn't get sucked down into his toxicity - simply stated, "Sir, you are way too aggressive for me. This phone call is over. Do not contact me again."

And hung the hell up.

Because sometimes, the lesson we're supposed to learn is when to cut our losses and move on. I was brought up not to quit. To stick things out even when they're hard. The lesson I deeply needed to learn was that sometimes, quitting is the right thing to do. Walking away, disengaging from negative situations, takes a certain amount of guts. It is not the easy thing when every cell in your body is screaming, "ATTACK! ATTACK THE SCUM BAG!"

The lesson I finally learned was how to stand up for myself and cut off a bully. It may have taken me over 20 years to learn it but I got it now! And you can rest assured, I am grateful for that lesson.

It takes courage to walk away - you can do it!




Monday, November 19, 2012

Attitude of Gratitude

Tis the week of all things thankful and for that, I must demonstrate my gratitude in as many forums as possible. I am taking it upon myself to search out little things that I don't always notice or pay attention to. Life gets in the way a lot of the time and it's easy to miss the stuff that you're used to.

Over the next couple days I will be posting about things I am thankful for. Cliche, I know. But what's a girl to do? You can't fight the holiday season. It will win every time. No matter how hard I may try to deny it, the season is upon us and it's about to get real. Festive, that is.

Thanksgiving in my family has been exactly the same my entire life. It's held at my parents' house and while some years the number of attendees fluctuates, everything else remains the same. Besides the traditional turkey and stuffing, we eat a delightful concoction of meat and potatoes called fowd which is supposedly a French Canadian thing. I don't know if that's true or not but fowd is delicious and you can trust and believe, I will be eating it like a wolverine.

Having a reputation of being domestically challenged, nobody asks me for help. Ever. I make exactly one side dish - sweet potato casserole. I do this once a year, preferably at my mom's house. During the preparation I am heckled by my mom and sister who are both good at cooking. I have learned not to bother getting upset, my inability to cook means I don't have to do jack squat. This works for me.

I am appreciative of the fact that I am basically feral when it comes to cooking. I don't trust anything and show my discomfort by hissing and spitting at whatever challenge I am facing. I may have resorted to biting on one occasion. Just the one!

Anyway, gratitude is the feeling that makes things better. Gratitude is the only force on earth that can shine a light on the truth of what you already have. It can highlight the bits and pieces of your life that you take for granted. The secret to happiness is appreciating what you have at this moment. Allow me to demonstrate.

I am grateful for my beloved dogs. As Shamus sits on my lap and systematically destroys yet another toy, I say Thank You to God (or higher power, Buddha, nature etc.) for bringing this tiny tornado into my life. When you say "thank you" it means you consciously acknowledge that which makes you feel happy, loved, and fulfilled.

For this week, share three things you are grateful for per day. Not just because it's Thanksgiving, but because you want to appreciate your life more. You want to focus on the positive. You want to say "Thank you" to those who are in your life every day and those you only see once in a while. No matter where they fit into your world, take a step back and appreciate them. If you're lucky, you'll be hearing the words "Thank you" a lot this season.

Mmm-hmm....

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Aging Gracefully

Confession - I have dealt with acne since high school. The only blessing about it was that it was on my back and chest. Easy to hide. I may not have loved my senior prom dress but that sucker covered me up the way I required. My senior year of college I finally went on Accutane - a terrifying medication that is not only unpleasant to take but comes with horrifying side effects that include alien babies, mood swings, and constant chapped lips. Awful though it was, it worked. I was free at last! Free at last!

Until I turned 30. It was as though my skin had received a memo - time to screw with Erin! Yup, it came back. Not nearly as severe or painful but this time...it was on my face. Well, my jaw lines. I have been fighting it ever since, finally breaking down and buying Proactive which, to my delight, worked quite well! Alas, post-acne scarring and discoloration is something I was unable to solve on my own.

Enter Groupon. There was a deal for a facial that looked pretty good so I went for it. That is how I met Sandra Downie. She is a kick-ass, take no prisoners, medical grade specialist. She also so happens to be incredibly nice and easy to work with.

Just a side note - I think I may have spent too much time in spas because I basically shuck my clothes for any treatment. It's just been ground into me that when you're having a service done they want you to be as accessible as possible. So...I hopped up onto the table and got under the blankets. Poor Sandra. When she came back in she was shocked, amused, and confused. Apparently that piece of cloth laying at the end of the table was a little spa dress thingie. Used to maintain modesty and stuff.

Oh we had a good giggle over that one.

Yesterday I returned for my silk peel. I must say, I was basically clueless as to what Microdermabrasion is. I liked the way it sounded and Sandra said it would be amazing for my skin. Has anyone else done this treatment?

I had no idea the power she was about to unleash on my face. It was awesome. Painful? Meh, a little. Basically, she has a tiny vaccuum (a tiny Dyson, not a wimpy little Dustbuster) to suck out anything and everything in it's path. It felt weird yet satisfying. Like I had super strong lines of tape on my face that she was pulling off.  This is the difference between getting a regular fluffy spa facial,and calling in the National Guard after a skin related natural disaster. Not soft and delicate pampering, but all business, no nonsense face fixing.

Sandra's motto: If you're going to live it up, you've got to Glam it up!

I'm not super glamorous but I do love glowing, scar-free skin!

This is Sandra Downie - go like her Facebook page! Go now! She can help you!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I have Nothing Nice to Say

I know I'm not the only one who has to deal with crippling ineptitude on the part of outside agencies. I'm sure everyone has to deal with some form of idiocy with their jobs. It's inevitable. But seriously? DCF (Child Protective Services in CT) has to be the worst agency on the planet.

I practically gift-wrapped a child abuse case for them. Seriously had records from the day the kid revealed the abuse up to present day. There is a 0% chance that this abuse didn't happen. The abuse was perpetuated by a family member who has a slew of other complaints from other parents and children.

Gift.
Effing.
Wrapped.

Except, DCF, in all their wisdom, failed to provide state police with the evidence. Apparently they told police there was no evidence. Which is funny because I provided it. I gave everything I had to DCF and the state police  like an intelligent, professional person who actually cares about justice being done. Somehow they either lost whatever they had or they just didn't do their job. I suspect both.

My hatred for this agency is bubbling over. They have caused so much pain and unnecessary trauma to so many of my clients and, by proxy, me. I was taught as a child to trust authority figures and respect them. This case and several others like that have displayed time and time again DCF's complete inability to work with other professionals. They simply take whatever information they want, systematically belittle and attempt to discredit anyone who disagrees with them, and make all their own rules. I have seen children illegally taken from their parent by DCF after DCF lost in court. They went ahead, lied to the parents, took the kids. All without a single court order. And have destroyed at least three lives because of it.

I really hope this is true.


Where are the watchdogs whose sole purpose is to make DCF play by the rules? Why do they get to do whatever they want with total immunity? Why do they allow workers in the field, in direct service with families and children, without actual clinical, psychological training? I hate to say it but there are a lot of people working for DCF - a state agency that pays really, really, well - who have no business at all working with these families.

Ulcer creation at its finest.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Veterans Day

Dear Veterans Day,

Thank you for the reminder you bring to those of us sitting safely stateside in our living rooms. For many folks, this is a day off and if we so happen to remember what it's for, more's the better. Thank you for reminding us that today is for the little guy. The soldiers who are away from their families be they stateside or overseas. The men and women who choose to serve their country even if the job itself is less than glamorous.

Not all soldiers are fighters. Not all soldiers carry guns.

Today, take some time and think about the immensity of the job our military has to do. Feeding thousands of soldiers, making sure the garbage is taken out, that the facility is in good working order, and the essentials - food, clothing, and shelter, are provided even when they are meager to nonexistent.

Think about the mechanics, engineers, IT professionals, electricians, and plumbers. Think about administrative office and legal staff - the paper pushers who make sure orders are filled, people get paid, wills get written, and health insurance coverage is ensured for the soldier and the family back home.

Remember the medics, nurses, and doctors working to save lives. Think about the guy who unloads the helicopters when they are full of injured or dead. Think about the person who changes the sheets when they are soaked in blood from the hurt and dying. Think about the folks doing the masses of laundry.

Give thanks for the USO who brings entertainment and love from home. Give thanks for the personnel who volunteer to work with the USO and take on the extra work it takes to help keep morale high.

Most of all today, give thanks for these people - they are keeping you safe no matter what their role may be. Not everyone is meant for the front lines. No matter how large or small the job may seem, our military personnel are working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year. Every day should be Veterans Day.


Monday, November 5, 2012

VOTE!

Between the 20 emails a day the Obama team sends me and the 200 political ads and arguments I see every day on Facebook, not to mention the onslaught of television ads, I think it's safe to say everyone will be glad when this election is over. (And yes, I am crossing my fingers and toes and imploring the baby Jesus to make sure Obama wins because I suspect Romney is a robot and the root of all evil. That's not what this is about though.)

The one thing about any election that drives me crazy is those who say, "I don't vote. That's my political statement. I hate both candidates so I'm exercising my right NOT to vote."

I know this is going to rub people the wrong way but...that's a cop out. It makes you sound like a little kid who's been told to pick between broccoli and peas. You don't like either choice so you plant your feet in the mud and refuse to budge. But mom says you can't get up from the table until you eat one.
Well...shit. That sucks. You vow to sit there all night.

Then you look over and see everybody else relaxing after dinner. They're enjoying some TV and maybe even some ice cream. But there you sit. Resolute.

Eventually, you will make a choice. And that choice may come from logic or it may come from emotion. Either way, you're getting the hell outta the kitchen. You're going to eat those peas or choke down that broccoli. Maybe if you put a little thought into it, you'd find out you don't actually hate peas. When forced to choose between the two, peas are apparently your best option. Peas it is then. Dinner (and voting) over. Time for Sponge Bob.

Only...in that situation...the only person you're impacting is yourself. That's why we don't let little kids vote. As an adult, however, what you do - or don't do - impacts everyone around you. That is the single-most important thing you can teach your children.

People have fought - and died - for your right to vote. If voting wasn't such a big deal, why would there be so many people fighting to stop you from doing it right now? Why would there have been a Constitutional Amendment granting women and people of color the right to vote? Why were there riots and imprisonments and laws passed to stop anyone voting in the first place?
Why do I see photos of giant lines for early voting? Why the fuss about the Republicans trying to pass voter identification laws that directly impact our most vulnerable members of society - the elderly, the poor, the any other color but snowy white?

Seriously folks, get out there and do your civic duty. Take an interest even if it's only for one day, in who is representing you - not just in the White House, but locally. If you don't vote, you don't get to complain. Don't like the results? Too bad. You have disempowered yourself. You're free to do that because of the thousands upon thousands who fought for your freedom to be apathetic.

If nothing else, voting allows you to participate in something bigger than yourself. It reminds you that you are not alone. You are not the only one thinking what you're thinking and feeling what you're feeling. You have brothers and sisters in the same, exact boat looking for the same, exact thing. You just so happened to be born in a country the rest of the world wants to be a part of.

You're an American and you should be grateful for the opportunity to participate. Maybe it's because of my exposure to the war in Iraq. Being a real military spouse with a loved one in a war zone is something you can only understand when you've lived it.  Maybe it's having a veteran of the Korean War for a father.  I know I look at things differently because of those truths. But I wouldn't change that for the world. Being an American has actual meaning for me and if you're thinking that voting doesn't matter, maybe you should ask yourself what it means to you.

Fancy speak for putting one's feet in the mud.










Saturday, November 3, 2012

Erin - 1, TD Garden - 0

It's like I have two people living inside me. The fun Erin who loves going to basketball games and concerts and being with people. Who lives in the moment and absorbs the energy of an excited crowd like a sponge. Who really loves being a part of something larger than myself with every fiber of my being.
Then there's the other Erin who is still riddled with anxiety even though I now have it under control. I'm not going to have a panic attack, but that doesn't mean I feel great and can stay fully present at all times when I'm put to the test.

I gave myself a big test yesterday. Jacob texted me early in the afternoon and said the Celtics were having their season opener tonight and would I want to go? Of COURSE I want to go! I love basketball games and the Celtics are my fave pro team! Kevin Garnett! Live and huge and in person! (And yes, he's even larger in real life!) Jacob wanted to take the plunge. He stumbled on incredible seats for a great price on Craigslist. Third row, center court, right behind where the announcers do their thing. Amazing. I'd never been to a professional athletic event before. I grew up on UConn mens basketball and developed a love of the game, the players, the spectacle, the crowd, the whole shebang. Love it.

However, being the Panic Queen of the Universe has kind of limited my access to it for many years. The TD Garden in Boston is one of my "hot spots" - a place I have attempted to go in the past but was unable due to crippling panic. Years ago, when Jacob and I first got together we decided to take a mini trip to Boston to do some sight seeing and go to a Bruins game. He is a huge Bruins fan but had never been to a game. He was beyond excited and honestly, so was I.

There we were, barely dating a month, but already a unit. He had splurged big time and gotten the Bobby Orr seats which, if I remember, come complete with a lap dance from Claude, the Canadian coach, and a Zamboni ride. However, that day, a water pipe had burst, flooding the train station beneath the Garden and condensing the crowd, creating for me, a feel of things not being safe. We had gotten there very early and unfortunately, that's my red zone. The time leading up to an event is my absolute worst for panic. What happened next was quite possibly the largest panic attack I had ever had. I was convinced I wasn't safe, I was going to die, Jacob was going to hate me and dump me, I was going to throw up. Diarrhea rocked my body as cold sweats and hot flashes slammed through me and even after spending 20 minutes outside in the car, I could not, would not, go back in there. Jacob was furious. He didn't know me fully at the time. He didn't know what to do. He was scared and disappointed and rightfully so.

He did, however, drive me home. He didn't break up with me despite certainly considering it after seeing the truth of my crazy. Was he upset? Yes. Apparently, however, it wasn't a deal breaker. Something that should have comforted me, and it did, but it also terrified me because what if this happened again? He's a social guy. He loves going places and doing things. Sporting events are his crack. The man loves it. What guy wants to be with a girl who can't go to anything with him?

Anyway, clearly, we worked things out what with getting married and everything. The TD Garden, however, remained my Everest.

Last night, I conquered it. Mostly. I even had the complication of having eaten a bad bagel earlier in the day and seriously feeling like crap.

BUT survived the 90-minute drive and the epic traffic that made us miss the entire first quarter and all the cool stuff leading up to tip off. Survived the game despite the fact they played like crap. Enjoyed seeing David Ortiz about 20 feet away from me the entire game as he sat on the sidelines. Really enjoyed the time-outs when they play music and put people on the big screen. Seeing people absolutely filled with joy, dancing like fools, dressing up in crazy costumes, that was awesome.

I'm not 100%. I'm not dying to go back to the TD Garden. But I am thrilled I went there, had fun, spent time with my hubby, and did something even a year ago,  I never thought I could do. It's a marathon, not a sprint when you're an anxiety and panic sufferer. This stuff doesn't go away overnight. Living actual, concrete proof last night that I can do it, I will continue to face my fears, I will not be kept in a box by my anxiety is precious to me. I have every right to live my life. I deserve to be free and I intend to fight for that right without end. Because at the end of day, it's really me I'm fighting for. And I am worth it.

Hey Paul Pierce! You're RIGHT THERE!

Amazing seats, I totally felt like a celebrity!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane of Opportunity

I remember being a kid in maybe, fourth or fifth grade when Hurricane Gloria swept its way through my town. As a kid I remember looking outside at the huge winds bending the trees with its immense power and being absolutely in awe of Mother Nature. How was it possible to bend a huge oak tree? Or break it?

Having no power back then wasn't a big deal. I was 11. It was like camping but I got to sleep in my own bed every night. I don't remember how long we were out for but I do remember liking the feel of candlelight and the forced quiet that pervaded the house where the television usually filled in the silences. I liked having to interact with family members. Playing games with my siblings was a lot better than sitting in the dark. And fighting with them only got me in trouble so really, I was just better off being nice.

As an adult, having no power is exhausting, scary, and frustrating. I tend to hate it. A lot. But without times like these, when we are forced to interact with our loved ones instead of zoning out on Facebook, TV, and video games, when else do we find the time for basic human connection? It's a techie world and most of the time, that's really great. I love the ease keeping in touch with friends who live far away that Facebook provides me. I love playing games on the iPad and will totally admit my television addiction at any time. But when those things are gone, and you have to fill the hole they leave, you can either complain about it or make the most of it.

I'm a make the most of it type of gal. Not that I don't complain. I think we all know, I've turned complaining into an art form. But once I've gotten it out of my system I make myself step back and evaluate the situation from other angles besides my inconvenience and frustration. Looking over the past couple of days I can now count the number of blessings I have stumbled upon that I have been missing out on when they're right under my nose. I just couldn't hear or see them over the noise of the TV, laptop, iPad, and iPhone.

If I had power over the past few days I never would have spent extra time in meditation that I often totally skip in favor of The Real Housewives of Wherever when given the choice. I never would have seen my husband doing everything in his power to keep us safe and me calm. I never would have had the deep conversations we've shared over the past few days because we would have been too busy watching our shows. I wouldn't have gotten to connect with our neighbors who called to check on us during the storm. I wouldn't have started reading for pleasure but here I am, re-reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire because I didn't want to use the battery on the iPad during the day. And guess what, it's even better than I remember it.



I have been forced to communicate with family members and keep in touch with friends and loved ones to make sure they're okay. I have been given this opportunity and though I wouldn't call this terrible storm a blessing, I will say you find blessings when you're forced to look for them. Make the most of this chance to reach out to a neighbor, help a family member, or accept help from someone who cares. Let this force of nature bring to you a heightened sense of how fortunate you truly are, how loved you are, and how loving you are capable of being. Find the good. It's easy once you know where to look.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dear Sandy...

Dear Hurricane Sandy,

I'm sorry if I was a little harsh before. I was really full of piss and vinegar on that one!

Anywho, at this point, I'm a little scared of you. Did you know they're calling you Frankenstorm now? I've done all I can do to prepare. Thank God I made it to the supermarket in time to get the required eggs, milk, and bread. Phew. Just to be on the safe side, I also bought 2 back-up loaves, 4 six-packs of Parmalot (scary milk in boxes that requires no refrigeration), approximately 10 gallons of distilled water in jugs, and as much canned tuna and Cap'n Crunch that I could find left on the shelves.

In preparation for what I can only assume will commence the start of the zombie apocalypse, I have been secretly training in Mixed Martial Arts and target shooting. I have also been practicing my swing with the old machete. No need to fear folks, I am ready to chop/shoot/crush all zombies who try and mess with me. As well as anyone we suspect might be a zombie. (*Note: if you get bitten by a zombie all friendships are off. Sorry. And - You're Welcome.)

Anyway, if you could maybe try and not drop an RV on my house, that would be super. I say this because seriously? I live next to an RV storage facility. So, really, don't drop that shit on my house. I don't have RV Smash insurance coverage.
Please?

Thanks a bunch,
xoxo - erin
Kitten says: Be gentle, Sandy!


Suck It Sandy

Dear Hurricane Sandy,

Thank you for making me feel like a sitting duck in my own living room. As I await your undoubtedly messy and horrible arrival I look back upon this time last year. When there was another storm of this magnitude headed towards us. I didn't take that last storm very seriously. When the power flickered and turned off before that storm even really started, I didn't worry. I knew things would be back to normal in a day.

I was WRONG.
Wrong.
Wrong.
Wrong.

No power for a week. Longer for many. Lots of outrage and complaining. People stuck in shelters, some unable to leave their street because of the trees falling and blocking their escape.

Total. Bullshit. Chaos.

Not this time Mother Nature. Not this time.

Today I will fill my bathtub with water so I can flush the toilet. I have a well, that makes this necessary. I will not live in a house where poo remains in the toilet for longer than absolutely necessary.

Today I will do enough laundry to last a freaking month. I will run the dishwasher, dryer, washer, vacuum and any other thing that requires electricity. Today I will earn that electric bill like it's my last chance to ever make a Panini on the sandwich press. The Magic Bullet will make me smoothies and the George Foreman Grill will make me whatever I can find and fit on it.

I will have the television on all day. I will use my glorious wireless internet to do absolutely nothing of value.

If I had an electric can opener no can would be safe.

Today I will use as much electricity as possible.

Because I have no idea when my next chance will be to microwave my leftovers.

Be safe kids. Batten down the hatches. Find your flashlights, candles, tiny lanterns, and radios. Charge the cell phones, iPads, Kindles, whatever. Eat anything in your fridge you think is too expensive to let spoil. Eat your ice cream. And your Popsicles.

Hurricane Sandy is coming. And word on the street is, she's a bitch.

Uh-oh...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Spider-mergency

Actual conversation last night:

Me: Jacob. Jacob. Jacob. There's a really really big spider over there. I'm gonna need you to kill it.

Jacob: No. Hand me my candy.

Me: No. You'll get no candy until you've taken care of that monster.

Jacob: Stop it. You're being ridiculous.

Me: Hun, you don't understand. It's really big and it's coming towards me. It's moving! Seriously! Just squish it for me? It's looking at me. It can see me. I'm seeing it see me and it's totally creeping me out. Please squish it!

Jacob: No. Stop being silly. You kill it. It's fine. Spray water at it.

Me: Oh good. Anger it with water. No. You get up and you kill it or I will not give you any candy (Munson's chocolate - the good stuff btw.)

Jacob: No. What makes you think I want to do that??

Me: You're being a really bad friend right now. Seriously. Bad. Friend. Not cool. This isn't what friends do. Friends help each other in times of need.

Jacob: You are out of your mind! (FINALLY gets up and looks over at the beast.) Jesus Christ! That is a big spider! I'm not squishing that thing! That'll be icky! No way! (Note: "icky" is a direct quote)

Me: It's coming closer! It's coming at me! Bad friend! Bad friend!

Real love means never having to squish spiders.
This was followed by Jacob walking a wide arc around Spidey and returning with a can of Raid Ant Spray. Then proceeding to spray the crap out of the it. Not surprisingly, Mr. Spider beat a hasty retreat only to be pounced upon by Jacob. With ninjaesque quickness and lots of swearing, Jacob scooped Spidey up using my super cool lap desk as he tried to climb it in an attempt to escape. He then threw the entire combo outside. The lap desk is still out there. It smells all Raid-ey now. Deal breaker.

And that's what we call "Friday Night".

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Stress: The Final Inappropriate Frontier

Stress is a funny thing. Half the time I have no idea how stressed I actually am because I try not to pay attention to such minor details. I lecture my clients about it all the time but when it comes to myself, um...let's just say I suck at taking my own brilliant advice.

I have a lot of things going on and work is something I've learned that cycles from slow and quiet to Crisis Town. It only really takes one client in crisis to turn things on their head because I am the kind of person who can't do things half-assed. I make myself available to the client and their family as much as possible, I will even leave the comfy confines of my office and attend school meetings to determine what accommodations need to be put into place so the kid has a fair shot at graduating before they're thirty. I recently went to a doctor's appointment with a client to ensure the doctor really had the full story and took things as seriously as I needed her to.

So these things, they may seem small, but in my profession they fly in the face of traditional psychotherapy. Nonetheless, I do them because they are important and my bottom line is that I give good service and nobody is going to fall through the cracks. Not on my watch.

However, there is a cost to me for this level of care. It takes a lot of time and energy and I still have a full case load to take care of so my brain is often working on several projects at once. You would think I'd be used to this by now. Alas, that is not the case. I still let stress get to me and it can absolutely cause me to forget things and make mistakes. Inevitably, that ends up with me being upset or frustrated.

Or, in this case, kind of embarrassed but mostly amused. This story is about to get real folks and if you don't handle blunt talk of lady business items I strongly suggest you get the hell out of here for the next paragraph or so.

You have been warned.

In the midst of clients being in crisis (crisis meaning: suicidal, self-harming, or using) I found myself blessed with a visit from the Uterus Fairy. No big deal, I'm 34-years old. Nothing about this is new to me. I've had my period since I was 12. Let's be real, it's not rocket science.

Yet...With my brain full of To Do lists and phone calls and treatment planning, crisis management and client support...things can fall through the cracks. Personal things like returning calls to friends and putting the clothes in the dryer within 24 hours of washing them. And when Mother Nature throws her hat in the ring, a lot can happen. Sometimes...we can forget things or get confused about if I did or did not do something. Or, in this case, if I did or did not remove something.

Yes folks. Tampon Gate 2012 just got real.

At some point over the weekend I was frantically trying to get out the door and running late and Shamus kept trying to chew my underwear while I was atop the throne attending to lady issues and...something got lost in the shuffle. I could have sworn I put one in there. I am a fan of full and tidy protection during that special time of the month. Constant vigilance! (Yes - a Harry Potter reference. Don't judge me.)

So when I went to remove said tampon, there was nothing there. I proceeded to give myself as thorough an examination as humanly possible which, frankly, was not a picnic. I've had the Nuva Ring before, I know how about spelunking a la vajayjay.

Naturally, I assumed I was going to develop Toxic Shock Syndrome and die an embarrassing and painful death. I gave it some time. I thought gravity would kick in. I jumped a lot and did several series of squats and stretches but to no avail. I took a yoga class. Nothing. After a couple of days I couldn't take it anymore. I sucked it up and called my doctor even though I don't currently have health insurance. I was able to get an appointment quickly and this morning headed out bright and early to hop into the old stirrups.

I don't know what's worse really, the embarrassment of having to explain my predicament or subjecting myself to the speculum. It's a tough call. The doctor was awesome though and insisted these things happen all the time. I find that hard to believe but I'm choosing to run with it because being the only idiot who's found herself in that situation is far too mortifying.

In what can only be called Erin's Law, as it turns out, there was nothing there.

Yup.

The doctor and I had a good laugh about that one.

She had an even better laugh as I forgot my jacket in the exam room and had to go back and get it.
"Never trust my memory!" I sang out as she giggled. I'm glad I could give her a smile. I'm sure looking at lady bits all day must get a little boring after a while. It's not like they do tricks or anything.

And just in case you're wondering what it cost me, an uninsured regular person going to a large, busy medical office I have to say, I will never leave my doctor's office. They are awesome.

Breakdown: Cost of Tampons: $9.99
                    Cost of Tampon check at gynecologist: $66.40
                    Knowing I won't be on the news for dying of Toxic Shock Syndrome: Priceless.


Trust me, you don't wanna be in here anyway.



Sunday, October 21, 2012

Conformity Drop Out

I have not attended church on Sunday for at least a decade. Much longer if Easter Sunday doesn't count.

Random fact:  I have not celebrated Easter for about the past 5 years. I've never liked the holiday really. No offense family but I just saw you people like, 4 months ago. I haven't done anything interesting since then and you probably haven't either. Don't worry, we're cool and everything. I just wanna stay home. I'm tired.
(As far as the religious significance, I am all for it. Go Jesus Go! Way to come back from the dead only to be even more awesome!)
Anyway, as a kid I kind of liked to go to church sometimes even though I had no idea what it was actually about. (Clearly as evidenced above.) I just liked the way it smelled in there. And singing. And taking communion because that meant you were at least 85% done and that much closer to donuts after church!

As I grew older and the value of donuts decreased on my priority list (slightly) the allure of church kind of faded. Not to mention I had finally cottoned on to the fact that the Church and I deeply disagreed on all sorts of issues. And that I hated CCD (our version of bible study) and had no desire to make my confirmation. Which would declare me official and allowed to get married in the church. Guess what? Fifteen-year old me was absolutely right! Thank God (pun not intended) I didn't go through that. I'm pretty sure you can't un-ring that bell.

Anyway, I stood in a church today by my own choice. Something inside me, however, stopped me from participating fully. My introvert self just froze right up when confronted with completely new circumstances and expectations. I actually found myself kind of missing the pomp and circumstance of the Catholic mass. Not for anything spiritual, purely for the comfort of something familiar.

It amazes me every time I am confronted by the truth of my human nature. I, just like everybody else in the world, prefer comfort over whatever new thing I am being met with. The comfort of ritual is something I can't deny. At the same time, it totally icks me out. People acting en masse is something I only really enjoy while watching flash mob videos on YouTube. Other than that, large groups of people making identical gestures and speaking in unison make me think of the military. Which immediately flashes me PTSD-style to my ex-husband's graduation from Air Force basic training. It was beyond hot. San Antonio in May is stifling, I had no idea Texas could be so humid. I remember being hot and being totally uncomfortable on base. The graduation ceremony itself was huge - easily 500 graduates. All moving in perfect unison, in line, dress blues, black dress shoes gleaming and creating perfect line after line of identical soldiers.

I also flash to every WWII movie I have ever seen involving shots of Nazi soldiers organizing.

Creepy. Threatening even. That's how those displays make me feel. It's not my fault I suck at conforming or working in groups. I clearly fail at conformity. Even when it's warm and fuzzy and everybody's really nice. I think this is part of being an introvert. We can acknowledge that life may be enriched by involvement in something bigger than ourselves, but find it totally uncomfortable to actively display outward shows of spirituality or personal revelation. At least, in front of other people. Once we're home and neatly tucked away into sweatpants and back behind our front doors, we (well, me at least) are free to think, feel, and react authentically.
Yeah, yeah I know...




Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Unconditional Nothing

I like to believe in the idea of unconditional love. It's a beautiful idea and I usually think of the love that exists between parent and child as the ultimate example of it. At least, that's what it's supposed to be. Growing up on Disney movies I was taught that anyone can find unconditional love. As long as they were a princess and had some sort of horrible kidnapping/dragon-napping issue. Living in a tower was optional but preferred.

Apparently, Disney...is kind of a liar. I mean, they're great movies and I must admit, the music isn't half bad either (Under the Sea anyone? Just saying...)

The thing is, as I grow older and see more and more the things people do to each other, and themselves, in the name of love the less patience I have with bad decisions and selfishness. You see, people seem to think that just because they have contributed DNA to the life of a child, they are automatically entitled to that child's unconditional love.

I'm here to tell you, that is a crock. Don't believe the hype. Nobody deserves or receives unconditional love if they haven't held up their end of the bargain. Unconditional love cannot exist in a vacuum. If you don't feed and care for your relationship the way you would with a rose bush, you're not going to get the love you want.  If you're not aware of that you have definitely missed a memo.

What I have learned, through my practice and my life experiences is that there really is no such thing as a free lunch.

Relationships are a PRIVILEGE. They are not a right. You are not entitled to have a relationship with anyone, your children included. If you play games with the love your children have for you, they will one day wake up and see you for the selfish fraud that you are. They will be furious with you and ultimately, reject you. If your children are young and they see and hear things from you that are cruel, neglectful, abusive, or otherwise inappropriate, they aren't going to want to be around you. If you threaten your children, your spouse, or you ex-spouse with ridiculous court battles, or refuse to pay child support or follow court orders, they will not want anything to do with you. If you can't be consistent and call or visit when you are supposed to, if you make promises and don't keep them, they will resent you deeply.

And the worst - if you play the victim and refuse to treat your children with compassion, refuse to put their needs ahead of your own, and blame the whole world - them included - for your unhappiness and bad decisions, you don't deserve a relationship with them. You are doing nothing but destroy their childhoods and ensure I will never run out of clients.

Like all privileges, you can and will lose them based on your performance. Once those children (or friends or family members, work colleagues, confidantes, etc.) realize that you are not equal partners in your relationship and that you don't value them above your own selfishness, your privileges will be revoked. And good luck getting them back. Once a door is closed, it takes ten times the effort to crack it back open.

And let's face it, your track record? Sucks.

Nuff' said.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

You're Not the Boss of Me

Random light bulb moment: 12th bday party with group of girls I'd been surrounded with forever.
Popular girl #1 "Why'd you invite us? Why didn't you invite your real friends?"

Mean girls (aka: bullies, "frenemies," or meanie pantsies) are at the top of my list of People Who Suck. Not that that girl was a mean girl. She wasn't really. She was just blunt as shit.

When it comes to growth and change, most parts of that journey are intolerable at first. When you've spent your life a natural people pleaser, being disliked is baffling, painful, and, scary. Not being liked by or friends with people I'd grown up with was as puzzling as it was painful. When I took the time to connect with who I was at that party, I finally saw my younger self didn't know there was another option besides just continuing to be nice and trying ignore the feeling of being not quite accepted. When I evaluated those relationships objectively and even talked to my therapist about it as an adult, the message received from all those relationships came through as "Look and act the part we want you to or you're out."

That shit still hasn't gone away completely and it probably never will. It's inevitable at some point in life, everyone will get this message. It preys on our deepest insecurities and fears and can render anyone mute. It works wonders to keep us frozen in place. It also guarantees we will resist cutting people out of our lives who aren't good for us, maybe they're even toxic. We fear if we hurt someone they will hurt us back, maybe they'll even stop loving/liking us. Maybe they'll even leave.

Learning that some things are worse than someone leaving you is the path to freedom. I have been guilty on so many occasions of keeping people in my life who were only there conditionally. As long as our relationship was all about them, we were besties. The moment I crossed them, however, or stopped doing things the way they liked them, relationship over.

The pisser is, I would feel guilty and hurt when these friends would not return phone calls or always have more important drama to attend to. I actually cared more about how they were feeling and what they were thinking than what I did. Inevitably, this led to certain friendships continuing long past their expiration date. Not everyone is meant to be friends forever. It's a great concept but when put into practice it seldom works out. Letting things stew for years, however, guaranteed that when those friendships ended they went down in flames instead of quiet dignity. I regret that part of things but I am grateful for not turning back around and trying to fix things, to mold myself back into whatever they wanted me to be.

A huge part of why I'm good at what I do is my ability to sense what people need me to be. Some folks need a cheerleader, others a parent, still others an antagonist. The lesson I learned in school of "Meet people from wherever they are at" resonated deeply with me then and still does to this day. When it comes to my work life, that is completely acceptable. Outside of the office, however, being what people want me to be can be exhausting. Not to mention much, much, too hard. Somewhere along the line, after the end of some particularly old friendships, I had to accept that all things have a start point and an end point. That although it was painful initially to end those relationships I was truly better off. These were people who'd long since stopped making me feel good about myself or around them.

Who needs people when I have a Paulie dog?


Opening myself up to the idea that I'm fine has been really new for me. I've stopped viewing myself as a failure over relationships that have ended badly and instead, try to stay focused and in the moment - no more ignoring or drifting off needed. Thoughts and feelings can hurt like hell at times but the good news is I'm the boss of them.