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.

I just want to pee and run in peace. And not necessarily in that order.

This week I was driving home from work when four police cars came flying down the road, lights and sirens going crazy. Moments later three MORE police cars whizzed past.

Earlier that day, I sat with my pre-student teacher and the lone junior left in my anthropology class and the subject turned to the harassment of women by men, as it does when you have more than one female in a room.

One young lady recounted her visits to a donut shop where the manager would joke that she was his child bride. 

He was in his 50s.

She was 12.

He would give her free donuts and make the joke again and again. 

Hilarious! Hard to believe he was selling donuts and not making HBO specials.

The other young lady recounted her tale of being asked to help a man jump start his motorcycle. She sat in her car while he arranged the jumper cables, but she made sure to slide her pepper spray out and have her phone in ready emergency mode.

He didn’t make a pass. In this case he really needed a jump for his motorcycle. It wasn’t a euphemism.

So of course, that opened the very girly conversation about the merits of different pepper sprays. Mist? Gel? Foam? 

Yeah, this is what the ladies discuss. Ways to jack yo man ass up if needed.

After that we painted our nails and talked about The Bachelorette. 

Not really.

On Monday, I took Derek to baseball practice at a local state park and decided to relish  in the peace of the trails. But before, I had to pee.

As all women do, I surveyed the parking lot beforehand and noticed two gents and a young lady with her dog. I noted details of the men, like what they looked like and what they were wearing and what cars they were driving. Because this is what women have to do in order to survive.

As I walked to the restroom, the story was immediately in my head. Of another young woman who dared to pee while on a run.

Seattle jogger Kelly Herron was four miles into her run when she stopped in a public restroom for a break. As she told ABC News, “As I was drying my hands I became aware that something was wrong,” and turned around to see a man who had been hiding in one of the stalls. “He immediately took me down to the ground, hit both my knees and legs, and then it was a fight on the bathroom floor and I just kept screaming, ‘not today motherf****r,’” which she referred to as a sort of “battle cry.”

During the attack, it occurred to her “this doesn’t have to be a fair fight,” which is when her self-defense training kicked into gear. “All those little things that I learned in my life … how to punch and everything came back to me,” she told ABC. “I started to feel like I was going to lose consciousness … but I got another surge of adrenaline and I reached for the door and was able to get out.” In the class she took just three weeks before, “I learned, hit with hard bones to soft fleshy places so I just started hitting the side of his head.”

She is the badass I want to emulate. But I would just say “motherfucker” without all the asterisks.

I’m uncouth like that.

So, I entered the stall, sat, and suddenly heard a door bang.

Was it this restroom or the men’s next door? No clicks of paws. One of the men? Another door shut, this time on the other side of me.

So, like all women, I instantly tensed and prepared for a fight. I peered through the crack in the door while I pulled up my pants. Without turning I reached behind me to flush. I burst through the door looking both ways quickly, and then as normal women and Avengers do, I kept my eyes on the closed stall door while I washed my hands.

Once outside, I, of course, felt ridiculous. 

Ha ha ha… I thought I might get attacked… silly me! So dramatic. So overly sensitive. So a woman who is under constant scrutiny from men who view her as an object to be overpowered…

I did my trail, but kept my eyes and ears open. Watched the shadows. Checked out rustles in the foliage. Made eye contact with everyone who passed. 

And I finished. Relaxed, but not as relaxed as I should have been. 

Oh right. Those police cars with their sirens blaring?

 A 47-year-old man is in custody after a woman was nearly sexually assaulted Tuesday while jogging in the Oakwoods Metropark but fought her attacker off in Huron Township.

Darien Noel Fickling, of Romulus, is charged with kidnapping, robbery, assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct and assault with intent to commit great bodily harm.

According to police, a 26-year-old woman was jogging alone on a bike trail at about 3 p.m. when a man attacked her from behind and hit her in the face multiple times. She was knocked to the ground.

The attacker told he “was going to kill her” and attempted to sexually assault her, police said.

The woman was able to fight the man off and ran away. During the assault, the man stole the woman’s cell phone.

What. The. Fuck.

I just want to run. And pee. In peace. To get some peace. 

Maybe we need penis-free parks. 

Or this is maybe a business opportunity for running bodyguards. But the bodyguards would also have to be penis-free, because that would defeat the whole purpose. 

Or I could market running shirts that say, “SCREAMING CASE OF HERPES. MANY OPEN SORES. STAY AWAY, MOTHERFUCKERS!”

That probably won’t be enough, though.

What pepper spray was that again?

Part 2– How to survive a power outage

During and after the wind storm of wind storms (see previous post Here), our power was out.

For six days.

The power has been back on now for almost a week, and now that I have actually slept, done laundry, vacuumed and built a shrine to both Edison AND Tesla, I can reflect on the stages one must go through in order to survive such a long time without power with two children who would volunteer to have wifi hotspots wired into their brains.

STAGE 1– Cool Headedness

The power goes out and you are a rational human. You check with neighbors to see if you’re the only one. You contact your electric company and report the problem. You text your husband to share the news. He replies, “Fuck” and you think, What’s the big deal?

You read the neighborhood Facebook page and find that several trees have fallen. You venture outside, chat with neighbors, offer your manual sump pump and start thinking that this might last a while.

You’re still not panicked, but now you’re silently cursing the fact that the generator is sitting useless in the garage because it didn’t start during the last power outage.

You get a little freaked out, but again, cool headedness prevails. You call a small engine repair shop and luck out with the owner who says he will not only rent you a generator and bring it to your door, but will also pick up the non-running one and fix it.

And he does, and he fixes it and brings it back before nightfall and he even hooks everything up for you because you’ve never paid attention to that crap.

The fridge and sump and wifi are running, and all is right with the world.

Stage 2– It’s an Adventure! (The shortest stage)

With no heat, you pull out sleeping bags and blankets and light the gas fire and cook eggs and sausage on the gas stove.

The house is chilly, but it’s like camping, kids! Look at all the stars we can see! Snuggle under the covers! Maybe we’ll roast marshmallows!

 Stage 3– It’s a Naked and Afraid-type Adevnture where someone might not get out alive

Ok, shit’s starting to get real. The weather forecast looks bad with temps in the 20s. You haven’t slept, so you haven’t cooked and your body is starting to reject all of the fast food and pizza you’ve eaten.

At first, it was cute that all the animals snuggled against you for warmth at night, but now you have dreams that you’re in shop class but you’re the one in the vise and your pets are laughing at they turn the crank.

You start to get a little obsessed with the electric company’s app and the neighborhood Facebook page is filled with comments like, “Says a crew is scheduled!” And you scoff and know it’s a lie. A LIE!!!! You secretly start to think that they are just fucking with you and telling everyone that a crew is scheduled, but you know there’s no crew and the electric company people are all laughing their asses off while they sip REAL COFFEE in their HEATED offices. Motherfuckers.

Stage 4– Going Savage (aka Giving No Fucks)

Every conversation is about heat, electricity, laundry, and food. And all of those conversations contain a healthy dose of expletives. 

You might do irrational things like… put a gymnastics bar up in your sitting room and buy chalk and watch your daughter and friends try things that could end in certain death but you don’t care because they’re occupied and you have your half and half vodka drink and who cares because you’ll probably die anyway and the electricity will come on just in time to keep your bodies from preserving and your cats will eat you to stay alive and….

Let’s just say it’s a very dark (figuratively speaking, not just literally) place and what happens when you get there is no one else’s business. And not to be spoken of again because who are you? No judgment here. We’re all (kinda) human.

Stage 5– Acceptance

We’re never going to have power again, you think. This is my life now, with extension cords, the fridge pulled out and pet hair collecting into tumble weeds. The kids will just have to shower early from now on so they have some light. Maybe we’ll churn some butter later and paint sillouhettes by candlelight. Perhaps a game of jacks, or we’ll tell stories by the fire. It will be like Little House on the Prairie with fewer bonnets and more swearing.

Oh, fuck it. You’re not kidding anyone. THIS SUCKS.

Stage 6– Total Despair and Insomnia

Snow??? WHAT. THE. FUCK. Snow = no generator = freezing house = no sump pump = flooded basement = completely, totally, undeniably FUCKED.

Oh, but the electric company says we now qualify for a credit. Of $25. *biggest eye roll ever*

So you stay up all night checking the app and looking at the weather radar and trying to connect with your inner Bob Vila to figure out how to keep the generator dry and protected when the snow hits. And then you get on FB and post about your insomnia and three other neighbors respond and tell you they are in the same boat traveling to the land of Up All Night. And you finally get out of bed and haul saw horses and a table out of the garage and make a doghouse type thing for your generator that you then feed with more gas that you bought with the kids’ 529 money.

And you drive into work already silent raging and running scenarios through your head knpwing you could quite possibly snap at a student and end up on the news, but you think, “Jail has electricity, right?” And you think it might not be so bad, but then there’s the strip search and gross fingerprint ink and you decide you’d better be extra aware and warn your administrators that you might be filling out more discipline slips than you’ve ever filled out before.

Stage 7– Ahhh, Sweet Electricity!

You don’t believe what the app says anymore. For one person it says power restored by 9:30pm. For another it says 11:30pm the next day. You don’t want to hope to believe positive posts by neighbors that say there’s a truck in your neighborhood and you might get power back that night. You just sit in your chair that now has a permanent ass groove and settle in for another round of Candy Crush trying not to focus on the fact that you’re so tired you can’t even drink.

And then,

out of nowhere,

A light flickers on!

You don’t believe it! You test other lights! You wait for 30 minutes to make sure they’re not fucking with you! You dance, you cry, you turn the generator OFF!!!!

And you go to bed.

And when you’re tossing and turning wondering why the hell you can’t go to sleep, it hits you. 

No generator noise.

Awww, I guess I kinda got used to that little guy lulling me to sleep, you think.

And then you roll over and enjoy the sweet silence.

Why I never go to the fucking mall

Well, a real mall. Not a place where people… you know… Fuck. Let me start over.

Five days before Christmas I was desperate. It was too late for Prime, yet not late enough for Dollar General. I did what all productive workers do and took a day off to get ready for Christmas… and to take Derek to the dermatologist in case my bosses are among the 8 people reading this. 

But I digress.

So I headed to the mall of malls in the area– 12 Oaks. Two full floors of materialistic wonderment with Santa’s workshop and a Starbucks right in the middle. Accidental? I think not.

It’s a Tuesday, I thought. How busy could it possibly be? I slid into a parking spot easily (a little too easily) and thought I was prepared.

Not even close.

American Girl

Goal: gift card and play set for my niece. 

The cult-like atmosphere enveloped me as soon as I crossed the threshold. I was a newbie, and they smelled it. The noise from the mall was sucked away and I couldn’t take my eyes off of the boxes and boxes of perfect little hands and faces. It was like walking into the human embryo lab of Brave New World and seeing a hundred Alpha girls ready to be decanted.

I tried to look like I knew what I was doing, but it was useless. I circled around, but I could feel all eyes upon me– dolls’ eyes. They followed me wherever I went.

With tiny boxes in my hand, I approached the counter to pay. In line before me were two exhausted looking parents who appeared to be engaged in some sort of contest to see who had the brattiest kids.

“Well, I’ve got two girls and they don’t share! They’ll fight each other for outfits and accessories.”

“Two?? Try THREE all one year apart! If I don’t get three of the same thing, it’s not a pretty sight!”

I imagined girls dressed in tandem with their dolls yanking each other’s hair out while throwing plastic tea cups. Meanwhile, the dolls sit off to the side placing bets.

Shudder….

But I survived and made my purchase while refusing to give my name– what the hell is THAT all about? You want my last name? No thanks! And so I was off to…

Lululemon

Goal: gift for Kathleen from Derek

Did you know that the store doesn’t even put their name on the front? It’s just that Omega symbol. I barely know the name of the store, just that it’s “elite athletic wear” and I’ve seen scores of pre-teen girls carrying the red and black bags like mini Carrie Bradshaws.

I was ashamed to ask, so I went out of my way and looked at a directory and sure enough I was in the right place. My first thought walking in?

What the fuck????

The line was 20 people deep. Some had numerous hangers draped over their arms and I naively thought there must be a great sale. 

Oh no.

I looked at a tag on a random pair of leggings. $125. For leggings

My workout leggings come from Kohls because when I go to hot yoga I sweat so much that I can barely stand my own stench on the ride home. All of my gear goes right into the washer with a splash of bleach. Even when I run, I’m hard on my clothes. 

I have a feeling these are not clothes to sweat in, or those in which to be an “elite athlete.”

And I’m also guessing that these clothes are not meant for women because the sizes stop at 12. Yes, 12. Do they not have enough shelves? Hanger space? 

So like any bargain shopper, I wound my way past the clearance rack (Originally $150, now $100) and found myself at the wall of shame– the headbands.

I actually felt guilty for taking up the time of the life-sized version of an American Girl doll by having her ring up my puny purchase. 

“Just this?”

Yes, just this.

I know there are a lot of places where I will never be able to work. An engineering office. A recording studio. But it was pretty humbling to know I could never work retail because I would be the fat ugly one. And old. Too old.

And so it went.

Pink, where things went well, except that I sold my daughter’s soul to become a brand loyalist and started her sexualization by others off on the worst foot. 

Vera Bradley, again not too bad considering the choking perfume and the feeling that I would suddenly see my grandmother in the corner (must have been the hallucinations brought on by the patterns).

But after a while, I was drained. I ceased to think and just moved blindly along. It began getting more and more crowded and my anxiety was creeping to the surface. Suddenly, I knew where I needed to go.

Petland.

Yes, there is a pet store in the mall that sells puppies. And yes, I know that pet stores are supposed to be bad. Well, if that offends you, I’m truly sorry. And you should stop reading now because I’m about to promote the SHIT out of them.

I looked at all of those four legged beauties– playing, sleeping, watching– and after asking, discovered a balm for my frazzled brain.

THEY WILL LET YOU SNUGGLE PUPPIES!

I felt like I was in the best bar in the world. I took a seat, said, “bring me the house special” and enjoyed glorious puppy bites and snuggles for almost 15 minutes. 

He was wiggly!

He was snuggly!


I felt like the Pigeon… Awww!!! Puppies!!!!

After that, I had enough energy to shop until my credit card maxed and all was right with the world.

Not really, but I forced myself to two more stores, dragged ass to the car, drove home and slept for two hours.

I decided it would be a cold day in hell before I ever went to the mall again.

And then the kids got gift cards…

I’m fucked.