I want to be the good. You in?

I went off the grid for almost two weeks and returned to the dumpster fire that is the daily news cycle.

And damn, does it get me angry, frustrated and down.

It’s so overwhelming. I mean what can you do?

I mean, yes, I can scroll We Rate Dogs, the Dodo, and look at my photo library.

But the relief doesn’t last very long.

While I wish I could visit and comfort all kids who have been forcibly separated from their parents, send Epstein’s money and unlimited counseling services to all of his victims, tell all of the political pundits to shut the fuck up until a month before the election, house every endangered animal species and make sure they’re safe, and bitch slap every misogynist, racist, classist, homophobic asshole, I have to understand that I can’t.

And fuck, that’s frustrating.

But instead of getting more pissed and angry, I realize that I need to focus on what I CAN do to counter all of the negative words, actions and deeds that get the attention of the media.

I can take my little corner of the world and make it as positive a place to be as I possibly can.

I can say hello and smile to people while I walk my dogs. I can show my kids unconditional love. I can offer an egg, a lift, a helping hand to the people around me. I can be an emotional support at work. I can demonstrate politeness, respect and courtesy. I can model generosity and humor.

And I’m not so jaded yet to think that I am one of few.

So when I find them, I will do my best to befriend them. We will weave our histories, intertwine our beliefs, share our visions and creeds.

We’ll establish a network. Connected through love, passion, reason, generosity, compassion, altruism. And the bond will be so strong that nothing can break it. When one falls, we will pick her up. When another falters, we will rally to support him.

Although it seems like these beliefs are outdated and on the threshold of extinction, I know we are out there.

I know you are out there.

Will you join?

Finally, a diagnosis!

Supra-ventri-cular-tachy-cardia-a-la-docious,

It has a su-per long name that sounds just quite atrocious!

But it’s not life threat-en-ing and that is really awesome,

I’ll just take some helpful meds, avoid stress (something else that rhymes with “us”? Bogus? Onus? Ah..) that’s a bonus!

Yeah, so I haven’t disappeared or lost interest in the blog or anything. It’s just life that gets in the way, and tests, and keeping my shit together, which lately is like trying to keep 30 kittens in a shallow Amazon box– put one back in and three more escape.

But after numerous ECGs, a stress test, heart ultrasound, 24 hour and 48 hour Holter monitor and a two week Zio patch that left scars on my chest, I have the answer.

It’s only taken 9 months.

To get all medical, it’s something you’re born with. You have that electrical signal that jets to a “gatekeeper” as my cardiologist calls it (I hope it looks nothing like a Ghostbusters Rick Moranis), which then sends it to constrict the heart chambers correctly.

But with this, there’s an extra circuit that sometimes gets the signal, and it just kind of signals, signals, signals until the heart corrects itself. Kind of.

So those are the extra beats, the THUMP THUMP THUMP like my heart’s going to beat out of my chest and the 225bpm that were recorded and I sometimes feel.

And of course, as I get older, the episodes will increase in frequency and duration. Which isn’t a problem unless it doesn’t correct and I have to go to an ER to get it stopped.

So, there are three things I can do.

1. Nothing– awesome. I will let my heart binge Netflix

2. Take some beta blockers. Side effects are low blood pressure and fatigue. I didn’t know blood pressure could go lower than what mine already is, but ok. 90/65 is my normal. So he said to take it at night. You know, so if I faint, I’m already asleep?

3. A heart “procedure” that will completely cure it. They feed a catheter through the groin (that word is right next to “moist” as a word I hate) to the heart, find the circuit and fry it. I asked if they could make mine extra crispy with a side of mashed potatoes, but he didn’t hear me. Or maybe he was just ignoring me.

Since I’m kind of leery about, you know, A HEART PROCEDURE, which might as well be called a YOU WILL BE FUCKED IF ANYTHING GOES WRONG PROCEDURE, I’m going to stick with the beta blockers for now.

Getting old sucks.

Oh, and if you ever have to use the Zio patch, which apparently is the gold standard of diagnosing asshole hearts, and you start to itch and have pain, TAKE IT OFF before it looks like this:

Yeah. Eeww.

So I did a thing…

If you read my posts over the spring and summer, you know that I struggled with my third trip into the dregs of a major depression. I felt like this was by far the worst one because instead of just feeling like I was worthless and hopeless and without value, I felt like life itself had no value.

All life seemed pointless. I mean, why? Just why? Why get out of bed and do the things and be stressed and miserable and get back into bed just to do it all over again the next day? Until death?

Nothing made sense.

And always, when I have started down this path of despair before, I have been able to drag and scratch myself back up by looking at my kids and realizing that I absolutely HAD to survive so I could be there for them. No matter what was going on, no matter what lies my brain was trying to tell me, I held firm to the knowledge that my presence in my kids’ lives was vital.

But this spring, that belief blew away like the seeds of a dandelion.

And in its place grew guilt.

Guilt that I had brought two beautiful human beings into this world to face the same treacherous journey. To exist in a state of nothingness surrounded by horrible people and horrible circumstances. To struggle and strive and get knocked down and hate me for causing it.

I was so completely and hopelessly lost in the darkness. And there wasn’t even a glimmer of light.

Eventually, as you know, I got help and changed meds and worked and pushed and took every hand held out to me to pull me out of shadow.

And I feel well. Really well.

But I don’t ever want to get that far down again.

So I decided that if my brain can lie about the two reasons I do everything in my life and tell me that even they don’t matter, then I need a more permanent reminder.

I don’t wear a lot of jewelry, and I wanted it where I could see it every day, at every angle. It is with me when I circle my arms around them, and it will be with me when they have families of their own.

An eternal reminder, my own personal light.

The stressiest stress test

I recently “re-established care” after not seeing a regular doc for over two years. Long story short, my old doc sucked and then life was happening, and here we are.

Anyway, after nothing for two years now I have all kinds of appointments and preventive care stuff and one of them happened to be a treadmill stress test because I was having some palpitations and not the kind I get when I see Chris Hemsworth’s half naked body in Thor Ragnarok.

How bad could it be? I’m a runner, I have a treadmill, right?

I was picturing a room like a gym with some totally high end treadmill set up like this:

But I entered a super small room with a hospital bed, a monitor and a treadmill that looked like this:

And it was placed in the corner.

The first thing they wanted to do is do a resting EKG, so I was told I would have some privacy to undress from the waist up and put a gown on opening in the front.

Say what?

I have to run sans sports bra?

With the gown open?

But the techs were gone before I could ask so I hurriedly took off my dry wick shirt and sports bra and tied the gown around me, which was a total waste of time because they just untied it immediately after I said I was ready.

I laid on the bed and the techs placed all of the leads. They asked if I was a runner, how far I had run, yada, yada, yada.

Little did I know this was a trick.

After the resting EKG, I was told that a dude, we’ll call him MAJE for Most Awkward Job Ever, came in to do an ultrasound of my heart.

Not gonna lie. He came in and the techs dimmed the lights and left the room and I panicked just a smidge, but Maje asked what I did, and after I told him he made the joke, “Well, now I know why you’re stressed!”

I’m pretty sure I could have said I was a professional kitten cuddler and his response would have been the same.

So out comes the gel and gloved hands and I’m on my side and he’s got the tool and he’s only half looking at me and more looking at the screen and he’s rocking me back and forth to get a good image.

It was like high school sex all over again, except the Red Wings weren’t playing.

Anyhoo, it turns out my heart is an asshole that doesn’t want to be photographed. After moving my boob around and around and pressing the wandy-thing into my rib cage he asked if I had pectus excavatum which is where your breastbone goes all concave between your boobs instead of flat and before I could say yes, he looked and said, “Oh yeah, there it is!” and I think in certain countries that means we’re married now, which is awkward because I already have a hard time remembering my anniversary with my first husband.

So now there’s an issue. Time to bring in reinforcements. Not for me though, for Maje who feels bad that he can’t see all of my heart, and I was like, It’s just shy and doesn’t know you well yet, but he didn’t buy it and went to get another tech.

This tech had a super strong Slavic-like accent which could have been soothing except she kept saying “You, see ok?” at the end of each sentence. She couldn’t see my heart either, so she left me a $20 on the hospital bed and told me to get myself something nice.

Ok, so she didn’t leave me money, but after the second groping, I really felt like I earned it.

Maje finally gave up and said his images were good enough. Good enough? It’s my heart, not a school picture, but I guess that was all they could do and at this point there was no way I was rescheduling.

Now it was time for the treadmill. The techs came back in and they all marveled that I was actually dressed to run and then I started feeling like an idiot because I sensed a trap. One of the techs wrapped a belt around my waist so I didn’t trip over the leads and I almost asked if I could tuck my boobs in there too, but decided against it and hoped for the best. Plus, they were all gunky from the gel so I prayed they’d just stick to my body. Once I was strapped in, she used a piece of scotch tape to close my gown.

One piece.

Presents wrapped by a two year old are more stable than this. A single piece of tape is going to hold the gown closed so my boobs don’t flail around wildly like two half-filled water balloons? I think not.

Just for context, I’ve had two kids. The ONLY stretch marks I have are on my boobs. From engorgement. They aren’t pretty and I try to keep them under wraps at all costs. If I go braless, I’m like one of those National Geographic women who look like they have pouches attached to their chests.

I had no choice, so I got on the treadmill with both techs and Maje watching. There was no speed or incline indicator. It was all automatic, so each stage was three minutes at a speed and incline, and every three minutes both increased.

At first it was ok. The speed was brisk and the incline up, but I could walk and still just breathe through my nose and talk just fine. Simple. Boobs were just swaying like leaves in a summer breeze.

Then there was a beep and the speed and incline increased. Still ok, I was walking fast, but was now breathing out of my mouth and talking was a little bit more difficult. I wondered if the gown was still closed and if my nipple might poke the tech in the eye.

Before it could beep again, one of the leads was malfunctioning because it was jacked up from all the gel. Of course it was a lead on my side next to the wall.

The time ended and the speed and incline jacked up again. Now I had to run, on an incline that felt like Everest, and they wanted to change the lead while I was running. Fuxcuse me? I was afraid I was going to fall off the damn thing and my legs were about spent, so I quit.

So much for my running background…

Then it was back on the bed and there was blood pressure being taken, images of my asshole heart and EKG going. Honestly it was a little like an ER episode without a gang busting in to avenge a fallen brother.

Finally, it was over. They had all the data they needed and I was given the ok to dress and leave. The tech told me not to feel badly, that the average time is between 6 and 12 minutes.

I lasted 7.

I slowly put my bra and shirt back on. The room was in disarray. The lights were still dimmed. Everyone had gone. It looked like a used stage from some really specific niche porn flick.

I hope I get a cut of the profits.

I have a nube skin and sometimes lay low like a bush camper, but I’m all in for Fortnite.

“Ok, we’re landing at Tilted. Follow my marker.”

“The blue one?”

“Yes, Mama. I’ll tell you when to jump…. JUMP!”

“Where should I land?”

“On top of that first building.”

“Crap. I think I opened my chute too soon. I’m going to land way away from there.”

“Ok, I have a shottie, a legendary SCAR and some mini-shields.”

“How do you find this stuff?”

“Don’t worry, Mama. I got you. I’m going to drop the minis for you and the shottie. Drink the shields. We have to get to the circle before the storm gets us.”

Fortnite.

Most adults hate it. If you have kids, they have probably spent the better part of their summer playing it on their iPad, X-Box, PS4 or any other number of devices. The best part is it’s free. The worst part is it’s addicting and your kid has probably asked to spend the next five years’ allowance on V-bucks for battle passes and cool skins (avatars).

But contrary to what most of my friends think, I happen to like the game. And what I like more, is getting to play it with my kids.

Yes, there’s violence. The object is to kill/ survive until you are the last single, duo or squad standing. But there’s no blood, no gore, and no side vulgarities. If you die, a light kind of dissolves you leaving all of your loot behind for enemies to pick up.

What I really like is the teamwork and skill involved. Unless you’re playing singles, you have to work with others in order to win. So people will share shields with you. They’ll build for you if you suck at it (like me). And they’ll even revive you if you’re knocked down, which I find amazing. Even though my own kid chose a supply drop over reviving me once–asshole–random players have revived me again and again.

And again.

I told you, I really suck.

But I’m getting better.

I can land where I planned to and find chests with all the goodies. I can reload my weapons on the run. I know how to aim and shoot. I can build— albeit very slowly.

And I have to admit, I like getting better at something. I like the strategy involved in drawing your enemy out, in choosing the appropriate weapon. In running floor to floor in a house and knowing there is always a chest in the secret room in the basement. I like having my go-to landing spots—Retail Row, anyone?—that are now familiar. I like reviving nubes (new players) like me.

But most of all, I like the fact that my kids are way better than I am and yet they want to play with me.

My kids are 13 and 9. They’re both starting to hit that stage where I’m not cool enough to hang out with. In the future they’ll be way more interested in their friends and eventual boyfriends and girlfriends. So I cherish this time of looting and killing with them.

Even if it means I watch my daughter get excited about killing someone with a single headshot.

From behind.

And I like that they are the experts. I think it’s awesome that they can teach me, and that I suck at stuff that they excel at.

And what shocks me is the patience they have with me. Sometimes I get frustrated when I can’t pick up what I want to pick up. “Mama is your inventory full? You have to drop something, remember?” Sometimes I can maneuver the way they can. “Here, let me build another stair so you can jump easier.”

When I get killed, they empathize. When I get a kill, they’re ecstatic.

That’s only happened four times…

So yeah, Derek plays way more than I’d like him to, and sometimes I have to make him get dressed and see the sun.

And I’m like 99… ok, 93% certain that playing this won’t have negative long-lasting effects on him. Probably.

And it’s not quite the scenario I pictured when they were little. You know, visiting museums, appreciating art, reading books together… which sounds pretty boring now that I typed that out. Sheesh.

But he won’t always be nine and want to play with me.

So, thanks, Fortnite.

Pot, paintings and palm rats, oh my!

No exposition, I’m getting right to it.

We rented a house in Naples, FL. Did our research, checked reviews, beautiful house.

We pull up after 9, totally dark and there’s a pimped out Jeep, monster tires, top down in the carport.

The owner left the house open, so we turn the knob and hear jazz playing throughout the house.

We walk in a little further and the TV in the screened in porch is on.

And the whole house smells like Hash Bash at Michigan every year. At least that’s what someone told me.

Where they also used to have the Naked Mile. Allegedly.

So I am completely freaked out and we start calling, “Hello?” but no one answers and I’m starting to think we just scared off a group of hellions in the middle of a Jazz-listening, pot-smoking, Disney TV-watching soirée.

I mean, that happens. Somewhere.

But no answers, and I walk through every room opening every closet door and bathroom door and looking and peering and running through all of my kick ass Black Widow moves but there’s nothing to stun with the taser discs attached to my bra (not really, but I would love those) so we unpack and watch the end of the NCAA Championship final (sad but expected) and go to sleep.

But not before noting some of the owner’s… ahem… art.

And what the fuck is up with that photo? Yeah, here’s a cute picture of mom and daughter and I think I’ll put it on the table under the painting of these women and their vaginas. And while I’m at it, I’ll set the clock to six. Permanently.

And then this one.

I call it Woman in Bush with Bush.

Now, I’m not a critic and everyone has their own taste and ideas of what might be appealing, but when your 13 year old daughter says, “The guy and the girl in the painting in my room are totally naked and you can see the guy’s penis,” well… nuff said.

Fast forward 36 hours where I get groceries, we go to the beach, out to dinner, I drink a little much, the kids swim and we fall into bed.

Next morning, hubby goes golfing with friends who are also in Florida. Kids are watching TV when I go get a banana.

And find this.

And this.

And text this.

And this was me, in the kitchen, behind the kids who were still watching TV.

🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯

If you’re unfamiliar with the palm rat, it is common in southern Florida, and looks like this.

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?!

If you’re a new reader, this is not my first encounter with rodents. Please see my earlier terror in the archives.

I start putting boxes on shelves and throwing things away quietly and quickly. “Hey kids, how about we get Dunkin Donuts on the way to the beach? We’ll eat lunch at the restaurant too.”

Yay…cool mom points.

So we go to the beach. For SIX HOURS while Bill and I try to figure out what to do because there is no fucking way I am going back into that house unless it’s to pack and get the hell out.

We eat at the restaurant and I have a drink. YES JUST ONE WHAT DO YOU TAKE ME FOR?

Oh, right.

And I furiously text and badger my dad and friends back home because I HAD to talk about it, but not to the kids because they would totally freak out unlike me who was holding her shit together, thank you very much.

Bill returned to the house after golf and started packing everything up, and by the time the kids and I got back, we had a place to stay. During the packing, I threw a ton of stuff in the trash and found this.

Fuckers.

We drove away while explaining why to the kids, and then vacationed happily ever after.

Except for the whole red tide alert thing. Which apparently causes a rash. In some. With me it’s like a nuclear reactor erupted under my skin. And of course, I’m the only one of us who got it because that’s just the waythings are.

10 Things I learned this week

1. Trying to keep the attention of 30+ students when my classroom is 84 degrees is an exercise in futility. By the end of the day, we all feel like we’ve been through a car wash and just want to lie down and softly moan in our heat exhaustion induced hallucinations. Thank you, kids, for playing along as well as you did.

2. Michigan’s way forward might just be with John O’Korn and not Wilton Speight. From one offensive touchdown last week to four this week, Harbaugh has some decisions to make during the bye week. Make the right one, Coach.

3. The word “leader” is just a title. Being a leader involves much more. If you have to scream, intimidate, and belittle those around you, you are not a leader, sir. You are an asshole. And I’m not afraid of you anymore. Bring it.

4. It doesn’t matter what the Lions do, the universe just doesn’t want them to succeed. This time it isn’t the fault of poor drafting, poor coaching or poor management, it’s just that Lion fans are doomed to watch the Super Bowl outside in the bitter cold for all eternity. All. Eternity.

5. I run slow, I walk a lot, I sweat buckets and have a bum back and hip. But I never regret going. Even when my awesome hubby has to pick me up because I just can’t go any farther. 

6. Sigh… Despite the fact that she hasn’t really grown since the fourth grade, my little girl is maturing into a responsible young adult. She is capable, confident and a force to be reckoned with. I’m so proud of her and happy for her, and eager to see who she becomes. But it’s bittersweet. If I start weeping over baby pictures, call someone.

7. I really shouldn’t be allowed in grocery stores. I was using the self-checkout, because, you know– people– and after being told for the sixth time to “place the item in the bagging area,” by that annoying robot voice, I said (maybe loudly), “I DID, bitch!” Apparently, the guy who supervises that area takes his job way too seriously, because he paused while opening the bags for the next customer and gave me the look of death. I think I’m banned now, but I haven’t been back to check.

8. I’ve confirmed that one of my biggest fears is disappointing others. This came back into focus as my students ranked the books they want to read, and I ordered 15 books online so no student had to resort to their third choice. $150 later, it’s all good.

9. When people loot in protest, critics say, “Why can’t they protest peacefully? Violence solves nothing,” but when people protest peacefully, the most hateful, venomous vitriol is spewed toward them for being unamerican. What gives?

10. My mental health has been really good lately. And part of it is because I just stopped giving certain people any power over me. At this point in time, I think I’m a good teacher, mom, wife and friend. And, right now, I’m good for me. It could change tomorrow, but this feeling is unfamiliar enough that I recognize it and am grateful for it. Thank you.

Summer’s sunset

Yesterday was the perfect day. 

I sailed through Meijer without rushing, without a deadline. Every item I needed was in stock and when I went to check out, no one was in line. 

I ran three miles around the neighborhood feeling joy in the fact that I could. 

I walked my dog, I sat outside, I counted the many bikes in the driveway and I listened to my kids and their friends laughing.

I wish it could always be like this. 

But it can’t, because next week I will be back to work again and the kids will be in school. 

And I will have a really hard time with it. 

I don’t like change, even if it’s one that I know is coming. I suddenly start panicking about how we’ll get laundry done. How we’ll fit homework and practice and yard work and housework all into just evenings and weekends. 

And my kids!!!

This was a glorious summer, I have to admit. Hang in there if you’ve got younger ones, and if your kids are older, don’t worry— I am not taking this summer for granted. 

They were old enough to ride around the neighborhood without supervision, and I’m fortunate enough to live in a true village that watches out for everyone’s kids. Some days I had a house full, while other days it was oddly quiet. 

I completed projects, read, took naps, read some more and stalked @dog_rates. 

And all was right with the world. 

But now it’s back to real life. 

To setting the alarm for 5am.

To packing lunches the night before.

To choosing my clothes for the next day.

To carrying loads of papers home to grade during baseball practices and gymnastics meets. 

To talking to my husband more through text than face to face. 

To giving exhausted ‘Good nights’ and brief goodnight kisses.

To seeing my kids for only a few hours each day. 

Every year I whine and ask Bill if I really have to go back to work. And it’s not that I hate what I do, I love it. 

But I also love this:

And this:


And I love it more than I will ever love anything else in my life. 

So if I’m a little out of sorts and weepy for the next couple of weeks, it’s just because I’m not ready to give up the summer. 

Not just yet. 

I am just about over “mental illness”

I am a huge proponent of erasing the stigmas associated with mental illness. Lord knows, I deal with three of them on an almost constant basis— PTSD, GAD and MDD. And I am glad for the strides society has made in being aware of mental illnesses and treating them as seriously as they deserve.

But there’s one thing that’s still pissing me off.

Journalists and other media personnel insist on keeping mental illness as an abstract noun by saying things like, “He suffered from mental illness,” and these abstractions lead to negative stereotypes.

A journal article by John Coverdale, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry (2002) revealed the following findings:

After cutting all articles regarding mental health or illness over a four week period, out of 562 articles, 61.3% related mental illness to “danger to others” and 47.3% connected mental illness to “criminality.” Positive associations of mental illness only occurred in 27% of the articles. 

Finally, 47% of the articles used the phrase “mental illness” as a generic term, failing to identify the specific illness.

This generic phrase needs to be eliminated.

You see, if I’m sick and you ask me if I’m feeling ok, I would never think to respond, “Not really. You see, I’m suffering from a physical illness,” and if I did, it would sound dramatic if all I was dealing with was the common cold. 

When you’ve been off work sick for a few days and people ask, “What was wrong?” They don’t want a generic answer. They want to know— was it strep? The flu? Bronchitis? Were you throwing up? How bad was it? And no one feels ashamed to say what, specifically, was wrong.

So why the ambiguous “mental illness”? 

And I’m not real comfortable with the “suffering from” phrase either. To me, that gives the illness power over the individual. Like you’re at the mercy of your illness and thus “suffer” from it. 

Anyone who has a mental illness diagnosis understands that you aren’t always “suffering.” Sometimes you are dealing with it, sometimes you are living with it, sometimes you are suffocated by it, but you’re still here, so you are definitely not a victim of it.

I “have” mental illness sounds off as well. I don’t possess it, but it sometimes feels like it possesses me. It’s not necessarily a descriptor (at least I don’t like to think it is) like I “have” blue eyes. 

So my preferred verb is “deal” in the present progressive tense— “I am dealing with mental illness.” Or, for my post partum depression, the past perfect tense seems most accurate— “I have dealt with PPD.”

Let’s not be scared to actually name what it is people are dealing with. I am dealing with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. If we are really going to embrace mental illness as a real issue, then we ought to be concrete and eliminate the guesswork.

“He suffered from mental illness” reveals nothing, and only evokes extreme images of someone who is out of control and dangerous to those who don’t understand the intricacies.

Call it what it is, so that people may learn more, stigmas may be blurred and those dealing with them may be understood.

People fear what they don’t know or understand. 

So let people know.