A recent text message from my best friend, who moved to stupid stupid dumb stupid Georgia, and my response.
Eat your heart out, Kim Kardashian.
A recent text message from my best friend, who moved to stupid stupid dumb stupid Georgia, and my response.
Eat your heart out, Kim Kardashian.
WARNING: Long post ahead. Seriously, it’s like a book. You might want to read it in increments. Or you can skip all the words and look at the pictures at the end. I babble for a long time at the beginning. I literally use all the words.
About three months ago, one of my brothers-in-law sent an email to three of my sisters and me asking if we’d be available for a surprise 40th birthday party for his wife, my sister, Ginny on May 30th. My sisters, who all live within driving distance of Pittsburgh or just outside of Pittsburgh, immediately responded yes.
As someone who hates to fly and has avoided it for over a decade, this email caused me great anxiety. Here I was, just a month or so post-breakdown, being asked to face easily one of my greatest fears.
I emailed my brother-in-law and told him that my ability to attend would depend on my mental health and The Good One’s school schedule, because if he had anything important during that time, then I wouldn’t be able to come.
In my heart of hearts, I was kind of hoping that he’d have 5th-grade graduation or some other big event that he wouldn’t want me to miss so that I would have a legitimate reason to miss the birthday party other than just being a big-ass chicken.
By early April, I had started to feel really good. Hopeful. Happy. I had started facing some fears (see previous post on fear of showering and the fear of my underwear cutting off my circulation) and was seeing general improvement.
The surprise party for my sister was always in the back of my mind. Sometimes I’d imagine myself getting on the plane, enjoying the solitude, surprising my sister and being the biggest hero of all time for flying there. As if I were Superman.
Yes, I have delusions of grandeur. You may call me Walter Mitty.
So in mid-April I sat in my therapist’s office and when she asked me how I was doing, I went into a 20-minute monologue about how I wanted to fly home for the party but I was afraid to and if I talked about it then Irony would smack me in the head and I’d plummet to the earth in a fiery mess of steel because I tempted Fate by facing my fear when The Universe really wanted me to live in my “safe” little box and that all of the people who had the misfortune of being on the plane with me would die horrible deaths because they were unfortunate enough to be on the plane with the woman who chose to face her fears and pissed off Fate.
That’s what you call the ranting of a crazy woman.
My therapist looked at me with sympathy and a little bit of confusion and then said, “Do you really think that you control the destinies of all of the people who happen to be on a plane with you?”
Bitch hit me with reason and sound logic.
I truly believed that if I relaxed and allowed myself to envision flying and having a good time at the party, then God would somehow say, “Ha-ha! You faced your fears and now I’m going to get you when you’re least expecting it.” Sometimes I say “Fate,” or “The Universe,” but in all honesty, I believe in God. And when I verbalized my fear that somehow God was just waiting to “get me,” it occurred to me that the God that I was imagining was kind of a jerk.
No, I did not just call God a jerk. This is what my skewed fears allowed me to believe about God.
And even if you don’t believe in God or Fate or The Universe or anything, bear with me. The lesson I learned is really universal.
Anyway, as I said out loud all of the things that were bouncing through my brain, I realized the ridiculousness of much of it. God isn’t waiting for me to achieve mental health so that he can trick me. The fate of 200 people does not hinge on me facing a fear.
Have you ever watched the Veggie Tales movie The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything? One of the pirates has a list of all the things he’s afraid of. Every time he encounters a new fear he says, “That’s going on the list.” I was that pirate. My list was getting longer and longer. I hated who I was becoming. I tried to tell myself that I was just quirky. That my quirks made me endearing.
They did not make me endearing. They made me kind of sad.
Two years ago when my father-in-law died, some of his brothers and sisters didn’t come to the funeral because they were afraid to fly. I was becoming that person. If I had received a call about a family emergency, I truly didn’t know if I could get on an airplane. And I hated that about myself.
My therapist said, “You can do this. Look how far you’ve come. Look at all of the fears you’ve faced and have conquered. You may not love flying, but you can get on that plane and be there for your sister’s party. Do you think that you can book your ticket before your next appointment?”
I said, “I contemplated waiting until the day before the flight to buy the ticket so that I don’t have anxiety and nightmares for the next month and a half.”
She said, “Why not book the ticket now when it doesn’t cost $1,000, and then if the day comes and you have too much anxiety, then you don’t get on the plane and are only out $300.”
Bitch was being reasonable again.
I said, “Okay. I’m going to do this. I can do this.”
I left her office feeling very excited. But by the time I made it to Virginia Slims Man’s office to pick up The Beast, I had convinced myself that if I told him what my therapist and I had talked about that Fate/God/The Universe would play a trick on me, and death by falling from the sky at high rates of speed in a steel sarcophagus would be all but guaranteed.
But in the next minute I had a moment of clarity and reason. Fate/God was not playing a trick on me. I could do this.
Then I was afraid again. I could just lie to my therapist. Tell her I bought the ticket. Fake the whole trip. But she’d ask to see photos. I’d have to get a new therapist. I felt the deception snowballing, and seeing as how I neither wanted to start lying to my therapist nor get a new therapist, I decided to tell my husband what we had talked about.
I told him about the party and my desire to go, and he said, “I think you should do it.”
To say that I had conflicted emotions over the next several weeks would be an understatement. I’d go back and forth between reason and insanity on a nearly minute-by-minute basis.
In the back of my mind I still had hope that The Good One would have a school activity that would prevent me from going. I received his school schedule the last week of April. There was nothing that I couldn’t miss.
I told VSM, and he said that since TGO’s school schedule was free, we’d all go to the party. This both excited me and terrified me. I loved the idea of us all going together, but I didn’t want my husband and children to be tied to my fate.
Anyway, I booked the tickets, and the next week when I saw my therapist, she was so excited for me. We talked about my plans for when I was in Pittsburgh, how I was going to surprise my sister, and we talked about my fears.
She reminded me that it was okay to take an Ativan to relax for the flight and that just because I had a fear did not mean that the fear was reasonable. I always felt that my sense of fear was a God-given sense to keep me safe. She helped me to see that some fear is normal and even good, but the level of anxiety needs to be kept in line with the actual threat of a situation. Flying is safe. There is an entire government agency whose sole purpose is to make flying safe.
False Explanations Appearing Real. A “FEAR” acronym that she gave me to help me realize that just because I think it, doesn’t make it real.
In the meanwhile, I read blogs about how people overcame their fear of flying. I read one comment by one person who said that once they accepted the fact that we all die and sometimes that occurs in accidents, they were able to overcome their fear. That really struck me. We all die. All my adult life I’ve been seeking to keep myself alive. In the process I stopped living.
Accepting the fact that we all die and that I’d rather die in a quick, fiery plane crash than of a prolonged illness somehow gave me freedom. Not to be morbid and certainly not to say that I want to die, but accepting the reality of death helped me to let go.
There was a point not too long ago that typing the above paragraph would have caused me intense anxiety. As if I were tempting God/Fate/The Universe to give me what I “wished” for.
Miraculously, I had very little anxiety in the weeks leading up to the trip. I was excited to see my family. I allowed myself to be excited, to make plans, to talk about the future without the “if I survive” thought always being in the back of my mind.
I did make my sisters promise that if I died, one of them would come down to Texas and harvest my garden. It’s the stupid things, I know.
So on the morning of May 29th, I woke up with some anxiety. I texted my sisters what I was feeling. They reminded me that they were thinking of me and praying for me. I told them that I was going to spend some time picking up dog poop to relax myself.
Then I took half of an Ativan and calmed down a little bit. It was in this slightly medicated stupor that I decided that the best way to handle my anxiety would be to document my trip with selfies that I texted to my sisters throughout the journey.
First, I don’t take selfies. Unless it’s a selfie to show my sisters that I dress like Leonard from The Big Bang Theory.
However, on this day, I was a selfie-taking maniac. I was Kim Kardashian without all of the bikinis and Botox.
I’ve decided to share my journey with you. Ready? It’s a good one.
Attractive, I know. The purpose of this photo was to convey to my sisters the general sense of vomity-ness that I was feeling. Remember that episode of Seinfeld where he was dating that woman who looked okay in some lights and absolutely frightening in other lights? Well, that’s me. You’ll see the extent of my freakishness throughout this post.
Yes, I was a little bit freaked heading into our small, local airport. It has two gates. Only small airplanes land in Tyler, Texas. However, as the price was $100 cheaper per ticket by flying out of Tyler, we decided to fly out of Tyler. Also, in case you’re wondering, yes, I do still have my wisdom teeth. My mouth is abnormally large.
When we checked in at the local airport, we learned that there were four first-class upgrades available for a ridiculously unreasonable price for the second leg of our trip from Dallas to Pittsburgh. My husband has upgraded to first class for $17 before. Anyway, this photo was right after I convinced him that, should we survive the first leg of our trip, we should celebrate by flying first class to Pittsburgh. He agreed, and The Good One and I celebrated.
I had taken another half Ativan at this point. So while I was still a little anxious, I was actually feeling okay. You’ll notice the obnoxiously large headphones on my ears. I needed to drown out the sound of the external rocket boosters and the other airplane parts that I’m assuming fall off of the plane during takeoff. Otherwise, what the hell else is making all of that noise?
The Beast is not even a little afraid of flying. He says he wants to jump out of planes someday. He did, however, enjoy taking part in my selfie marathon.
The flight from Tyler to Dallas takes about 20 minutes. It was kind of nice to have a little flight to dip my toes back into the water.
Our layover in Dallas was about 3 hours. We had dinner. The Beast played at this little play area. And I progressively felt more and more relaxed about flying. Ativan really is a beautiful thing. Here we are enjoying the luxuries of first class. Honestly, you are waited on hand and foot the entire flight. We were given cups of nuts and drinks and food and hot cloths and so much other crap that I almost didn’t have time to think about the fact that we were flying. I only drank water so that I didn’t have some awful Ativan/alcohol reaction that would cause me to attempt to open the cargo bay doors mid-flight. However, I was very relaxed.
Like I said, you eat the entire time you’re in first class. We were like the Clampetts. A bunch of selfie-taking morons documenting every minute of our trip.
Shortly after this, we landed. It felt amazing to have made this trip and I was really looking forward to the party the next day.
Ginny, my famous-in-Pittsburgh sister, is friends with David Conrad. He was on Ghost Whisperer, which I didn’t watch because I’m afraid of stuff like that. Surprise, right? However, I loved him on Relativity and my son and husband love him as a baddie on Marvel: Agents of SHIELD.
That’s David and me. I was grabbing his ass in this picture. Just kidding. Sort of. But seriously, he and I are dating now. Don’t we look so cute? When he walked into the party I screamed. Mostly I was just being goofy, but part of me wanted to throw my size 34-Almost-B bra and completely not-cut-up Hanes underwear at him.
Right after David walked in and I screamed, my younger sister Terri came over to me and said, “You stole my thunder!!” I didn’t realize that she also had a crush on David Conrad. I comforted her in the fact that Sally Wiggin (THE Channel 4 News lady) was on her way up. Terri said, “That’s right. Sally loves me!” (They’ve met before.) However, when Sally walked in, I turned and screamed “SALLY!!!” and stole Terri’s thunder again. I was a thunder-stealer all night long.
Sexy, I know.
My sister’s party was in a private party room at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The park was empty. It was absolutely beautiful.
That’s my family above. My sister Terri the snortiest (She snort-laughs. It’s awesome), dad Terry, mom Donna, sister Ginny the famousest, sister Stacey the wisest (really just oldest), brother-in-law David the party-throwingest, sister Tammy the youngest, and me the thunder-stealingest. Ginny was absolutely floored that we were there. I waited outside on a balcony at the park and had my mom Facetime me when Ginny walked in. I talked to her for a minute via Facetime, pretending that I couldn’t make it to the party. I told her that The Beast had a surprise he wanted to show her and he pretended to run somewhere in the house to get it. As Ginny watched the screen on my mom’s phone waiting for The Beast to return with her surprise, he and The Good One snuck up behind her and yelled, “Surprise!!” She cried an ugly cry like a big giant baby.
The Beast had a blast at the party. The Good One got to play a game of pool with David Conrad. It was so sweet watching The Good One ask his idol if he would want to be on his team. David was so kind and generous, which is why he and I are now dating. Virginia Slims Man doesn’t mind.
The trip back to Texas went smoothly. We did not upgrade to first class, but there was a whole row of empty seats behind us on the big plane, so I spread out and took a long nap.
I’m so glad I went. I feel like the world has opened up to me now. I would have hated myself forever if I let my fears continue to rule my life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still odd and on medication and seeing a therapist, but I FLEW!! And I honestly didn’t think I’d ever do that again.
P.S., Please excuse how feely and girly this post is. I promise my next post will be full of the sarcastic snark you’ve come to expect from me.
Also, this post is so stupid long that I did not care to proofread it thoroughly. You’ll survive.
Has it really been three months since I last wrote a blog post? I apologize. I assume that you all have been sitting on pins and needles waiting to hear how I’m doing. Have you checked my blog every day hoping for some indication that I have not been checked into the loonybin?
Honestly, it was touch-and-go for a while there, but you’ll be pleased to know that I am still among the not-yet-institutionalized faction of society. Is that one of the factions in the Divergent books? If not, it should be. They could be called “Wackness” and their symbol could be a straightjacket and their members would be ALL OF US. I think that as we age there’s probably a justification for all of us to be committed for one reason or another. I can think of about 10 reasons right now that my sisters and I could commit my mother. We could commit my father for not yet having my mother committed.
Kidding. My father could be committed for many other reasons. When he eats an English Muffin, he puts a blob of jelly in the middle of the muffin but he doesn’t spread it around. It just sits there like a clot. And he eats condiment sandwiches. Bread, relish and mustard. That’s it. He power walks in jeans. I could go on.
Over the past three months I learned that Ativan gives you amnesia. How do I know this? Well, it turns out that when I was on Ativan I had full access to my computer, iPad and iPhone. At some point during my month of stupor, I sent emails and Facebook messages to several people who would best be described as acquaintances. These messages were unsolicited by the acquaintances. These acquaintances did not ask me how I was doing. They did not know of my breakdown. So I can only imagine their reactions upon reading the overly weepy, brutally honest details of my life. I shared things with these individuals that should have NEVER, EVER been shared. I ran into one of these acquaintances at Target recently, so now I can’t go to Target.
I really blame my caretakers for this mortifying development. How could they let me have internet access knowing that I was high? I imagine that all of the residents of Colorado are deleting their Facebook accounts like I did.
Anyway, I’m good. I’m still seeing the therapist and the psychiatrist. I am no longer hiding in my closet doing sold-out performances of period dramas. Mostly they were sold out because my closet is such a mess that no one can fit in there but me.
I’ve started eating from cans without fear of botulism. I am able to walk through the canned-goods aisle at the grocery store without anxiety and then purchase (still undented) cans without first fondling them to make sure they’re perfect. I still won’t eat home-canned goods because I’m pretty sure that most home-canners are idiots. Do you can? Then I think you’re an idiot, no offense.
I’ve started being brutally honest and tacking a “no offense” onto all of my potentially offensive statements.
I’ve started ordering food at restaurants without first thinking, “What on this menu is least likely to poison me?”
I’ve stopped cutting my underwear out of a fear that they will cut off my circulation. I so wish I was making that one up. I contemplated going without underwear, but I was convinced that spiders would nest in my lady parts and that I’d give birth to a demon of Brown Recluse spiders. (“Demon” is the scientific term for a group of spiders. Or birds.)
I’ve started sticking my face in the shower water again. Did I tell you I haven’t done that for over two years because of my fear of the brain-eating amoeba? And now when The Beast sucks bath water up his nose, I can let it go. I used to not let it go. Now, like Adele Dazeem, I let it go. (I know that story is old, but did you not just pee your cut-up underwear when you saw it?)
So, other than the amnesia and having to hide from certain people, I’m good. I honestly haven’t felt this good in years. I don’t think I realized how bad I was until I got better.
I’m no longer on the Ativan but I’m still on the Zoloft and plan to be for the foreseeable future.
I’ve found energy that I didn’t know I had. I’ve been cooking meals more regularly and The Beast is no longer asking me daily, “What’s Daddy picking up for dinner?”
I’ve started eating again. I lost about 10 pounds when the funk set in. While the skinniness was lovely from the aspect of my clothes fitting without any extra fluffiness, it wasn’t a mentally healthy skinny in that my depression and anxiety made me want to decapitate my children’s Christmas puppy. The puppy is still alive and I’m back to having my upper butt (the fat that sits above my actual ass).
I’ve started getting things done around the house. Not the laundry because that sucks. But I’ve been sweeping my kitchen daily. That may sound ridiculous, but I used to not have the energy to do it. (The split infinitive in that sentence is driving me nuts, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how to fix it. It’s not the only one in this post, but it’s the only one that’s bugging me. Someone fix it and get back to me.)
I’ve taken to organizing porches. I cleaned the screened porch off of my bedroom, bought a wood glider and put that sucker together. I used tools and everything. Virginia Slims Man did help at the end, but only because he got home sooner than I expected and I wasn’t quite finished and I think it was physically painful for him to watch me attempt to use his tools. He said, “I’m impressed you got the right wrench.” I didn’t tell him that it said on the box what size wrench you needed and that I tried to use several incorrect wrenches before getting the right one.
I’ve started spending more time outside. We planted a garden and I spend time there every day.
I’ve discovered that the act of picking up dog poop is therapeutic.
Yeah, that one’s kind of weird.
And in all of this I’ve learned that we all need help. Sometimes it’s from friends and family, sometimes professionals, sometimes medication. There’s a stigma attached to mental health issues, and there really shouldn’t be. We are complex individuals with miraculously powerful brains, and sometimes things get out of whack. I joke about being committed, but I’ve realized that even if I had been committed, there is nothing in that to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. Mental illness deserves sympathy, not judgment.
The point of all this is to say thank you all so much for your kind messages and thoughts. I’m doing so much better. I would say that I’m still weird, but now it’s in more of an “Oh, she’s delightfully odd” kind of way rather than a “Dear Lord, what the hell is wrong with her?” kind of way.
And that’s progress.
I’m going to tell you a story about my friend, Susie.
Her name isn’t actually Susie. But later on in the story, when I introduce Susie’s sisters, it makes for some excellent comic fodder. I love making things funny. And I love the word “fodder.”
So Susie had a really nice Christmas. Her parents came for a visit and it was a perfect, quiet Christmas. Susie missed her sisters and their families terribly, but she still had a great time with her parents, husband and kids.
Towards the end of the Christmas break, Susie got sick with the flu. Then both of her kids got sick. Her husband didn’t get sick because he lives on jalapeno peppers and various forms of whisky, and it turns out the flu is not capable of surviving in such harsh conditions.
So Susie’s parents flew out on New Year’s Day, and Susie and the kids were stuck in the house for another week, sick as can be, smelling like week-old pajamas and looking like something a cat would drag in, eat, and then hack up on the living room carpet.
During this time Susie started to get into a bit of a funk. She had been in funks before, usually after holidays spent with family. She hates living so far from them and it makes the typical post-holiday blues a bit more blue-y.
In the past she had always been able to get out of the funk within a day or two, but this time something was different. In addition to the funk, her OCD was going haywire.
You see, Susie and her husband had decided to buy their sons a new puppy for Christmas. The 17-year-old dog that she thought may have made some sort of immortality pact with the devil finally died with the assistance of a veterinarian who wondered whether he was actually putting a dog to sleep or just wasting drugs by injecting them into a furry, emaciated, dog-shaped corpse.
Either way, there was a sweet, new furry puppy running around the house, just generally being adorable. She would chase Susie’s children around the back yard. She would cuddle when she got tired.
Then, for absolutely no reason at all, Susie became convinced that the dog had rabies. She started keeping track of every innocent scratch or tiny bite that the new puppy would inflict in play. She began obsessively checking for signs of rabies. When she looked at the puppy’s mouth, she actually SAW rabies.
Then there were the other OCD things that got out of control. Susie does this thing sometimes when she watches a movie. She’ll watch a movie, say Jane Eyre, and then she’ll rewatch parts of it over and over again. She’ll find clips on YouTube and she’ll memorize them. She’ll memorize long dialogues and every movement and facial expression in multiple scenes, and then she’ll replay them in her mind, perfectly, before she can move on to another task.
Sometimes she does it perfectly and she’s able to get back to her life for a while before the compulsion pulls her back in, but sometimes she makes a mistake and it causes her great anxiety because she has to get it just right. So she would start all over again. But Susie’s kids would interrupt her with ridiculous requests for lunch or homework assistance, and Susie’s anxiety started to get worse and worse.
So she began hiding in her closet to practice her scenes. A few times her kids found her in there and she’d make up some excuse about putting laundry away. But she hadn’t done laundry in days because she was obsessing about a rabid dog and perfecting a dialogue that no one would ever hear.
And she cried. She cried about her life. Her lack of talent. Her life spent drifting without purpose. And she suddenly hated her husband. Her husband who had put up with more than his share of insanity, who had numerous reasons to leave her, was suddenly her enemy.
And then the next minute she would be crying intensely on his shoulder. She would cry in restaurant bathrooms or while walking through Target. She didn’t care about showering. She woke up every morning and thought, “Why?” She didn’t want to make breakfast, do laundry. She couldn’t imagine anything that would bring her joy.
Then one day she texted her sisters: 1. Snoozie (Snoozie is not a boring person. She’s actually quite fun. But she’s an accountant, and if you told me I had to be an accountant I would probably saw my fingers off of my hands so that I couldn’t use an adding machine.) 2. Schmoozie (Schmoozie is semi-famous in the city in which she lives and as such she gets to schmooze with some bigwigs in the city. Plus, an actual ex-mayor hates her. GLAMOROUS!) 3. Boozie (Boozie is really self-explanatory. She has three young kids. She drinks a lot.) 4. Boozie II (Again, self-explanatory. Three young kids. Lots of alcohol. Also, she and Boozie are twins.)
Anyway, Susie texted her sisters that she was in a funk, was drowning, was contemplating cutting the head off of her new puppy, putting it in a bag and taking it to the rabies people so that they could test it for rabies. She told them about the hours spent in the closet quoting Jane Eyre. She told them about hating her saintly husband.
Without Susie’s knowledge, her four sisters started texting one another about Susie’s likely imminent check-in to the nuthouse if something wasn’t done quickly. They texted Susie encouraging messages of love, while I’m sure their texts amongst themselves said things like, “Sweet Jesus, I think she’s going to kill the dog,” or “Dear Lord, she’s in her closet rehearsing for a play she hasn’t been cast in.”
Boozie’s husband is a doctor and he spoke to a colleague about Susie’s issues and apparently this colleague said that Susie hadn’t snapped yet, but she was right on the verge of snapping, and when that happened there would probably be a puppy head in a bag.
So Susie’s sisters started planning. Could they all fly down to help Susie? Should they involve their parents? Susie didn’t want their parents to know. What should they do? Schmoozie said, “At what point are we going to tell the grownups?”
Then Snoozie sent this text: “You know, Susie, have you thought about having Mom come and stay with you until you get through this stretch? She’s really good in a crisis.”
Susie replied back, “I don’t know if I want Mom and Dad to know. They’ll just worry.”
Snoozie said, “Just think about it.”
The next morning, Boozie Facetimed Susie and said, “Look, J (the doctor) is really concerned about you. I never worry about things unless he says to worry, and he is legitimately worried about you. He spoke to a friend, and they think you’re on the verge of snapping.”
Susie said, “I don’t feel like I’m going to snap.”
Boozie said, “If people who were about to snap felt like they were about to snap, they’d get help before they snapped. You are about to snap. Let us call Mom and Dad and see if they can fly down to help you.”
Susie said, quietly, through tears, “Okay.”
Susie hung up with Boozie right as Boozie II FaceTimed. She said, “Are you going to let us tell Mom and Dad?” and Susie responded, “Yes.” Boozie II said a whole bunch of encouraging things and Susie just kind of nodded in agreement. Then Boozie II put the FaceTime call on hold. When she came back on she said, “Schmoozie just went by Mom and Dad’s house. They are flying to you tonight.”
Then Susie broke down. She cried like a baby. She didn’t realize how much help she needed until that help was on its way.
Susie’s parents flew in and helped her take care of the kids. They set up doctor’s appointments and got Susie on the medicine she has needed to take for years but refused to for one reason or another. Susie’s mom would check on her periodically if she disappeared for too long to make sure Susie wasn’t hiding in the closet reciting lines from Pride and Prejudice.
And Susie is now on the mend. She is seeing a psychiatrist, a psychologist and is taking her meds. She no longer wants to harm her dog. She’s no longer hiding in the closet memorizing classic literature that has been made into film. And she loves her husband again.
And she really really loves her sisters and parents who rallied around her, put their lives on hold, to make sure that their sister/daughter who lives a thousand miles away was okay.
Now, I must go to sleep. My meds have kicked in and Susie needs her rest.
P.S. All grammatical, typographical or other errors are the result of the Ativan making me not give a crap.
Did you have a lovely Thanksgiving?
I’m only asking to be polite. I don’t really care.
I had a great week. Our best friends, Audrey Hepburn, Señor Tiny Junk and their children, came to spend the week with us. If you need a brief history on the beautiful Audrey and the sadly endowed Señor Tiny Junk, feel free to read this post here or this post here. They will explain all about our best friends moving to stupid Georgia because Señor Tiny Junk missed his mommy’s boobies. I’m giving him a hard time.
Because it’s true.
I learned a lot during my Thanksgiving week and now I’m going to share some of it with you. Some of it I learned by the powers of observation, much like Super Grover. Other things I learned from Audrey Hepburn because she reads all the time. I do not read. Reading is for people who don’t drink.
Things I Learned
1. I suck at being a housewife.
I learned this by observing Ms. Hepburn.
I like to act like I’m so busy keeping track of The Beast that it prevents me from getting anything done during the day, but in reality I’m just incredibly lazy. Audrey would wake up each morning and say something like, “I feel like I need to vacuum your house today.” And being the amazing friend that I am who loves to give my friends what they need, I’d hand her my vacuum and say, “Have at it.” So I’d sit on my couch, shopping on Zulily from my iPad while Audrey cleaned my house. She did laundry, folded my fitted sheets into perfect squares, de-linted my furniture, pulled all the cushions off of my couch to vacuum up The Beast’s snack crumbs, organized closets and cleaned my playroom.
So, to recap, I suck.
2. Megadoses of Vitamin C will keep you healthy. You may get a rash and suffer from vicious diarrhea, but you will not get sick.
The entire Hepburn/Tiny Junk family arrived at our house with various forms of illness. There were antibiotics, coughs, sneezes, rashes, surpluses of phlegm, bronchitis, fevers and possibly some Mad Cow Disease. Ms. Hepburn at times walked around the house with tissue stuffed up her nostrils to avoid the side effects of persistent nasal drip. There were intestinal issues. Plungers were used.
I started taking copious amounts of Vitamin C. I’m talking tens of thousands of milligrams. I read somewhere that at the first sign of illness you should start taking 1,000 milligrams every hour until your digestive tract explodes and then back off. My goal was to give myself Vitamin C-induced diarrhea. I started feeding my children Vitamin C (and some Vitamin D for good measure) and we somehow managed to stay well.
Now, I’m not a doctor and I don’t watch any doctor shows on TV, so please don’t use my opinions about Vitamin C to cure your erectile dysfunction (talking to you, Tiny Junk) or bird flu. I cannot be held responsible if you choose to get your medical advice from a completely nonqualified, mentally insane woman on the internet.
I would like to point out that it is a testament to my absolute love for Audrey Hepburn, Señor Tiny Junk and their children that I didn’t wrap them all in bubble wrap and make them sleep in our sons’ play fort in the backyard.
So, to recap, Vitamin C cures everything. Pass it on.
3. Rainbow Loom bands reproduce just like Grape-Nuts.
Have you ever noticed how when you pour yourself a scant 1/4 cup of Grape-Nuts cereal and add your milk that 1/4 cup of Grape-Nuts turns into approximately 17 bowls of Grape-Nuts? You start eating your cereal and after three bites you look in the bowl and somehow there is more cereal in the bowl than there was when you started. So you sigh and take two more bites, check out the news online, look back in your bowl and the Grape-Nuts are now overflowing out of your bowl. It’s very reminiscent of the loaves and fishes.
Anyway, loom bands are like this. The Good One and the two Hepburn/Tiny Junk children have Rainbow Looms. Honestly, I love that the kids are doing something creative and not just sitting around playing video games. However, one bag of loom bands does some sort of atom-splitting reproduction and 300 bands turn into 72,000,833,983,948 bands. And somehow those bands end up in places that neither the children nor the looms were ever located. I had bands in my bathroom, in my bed, on my porch, in my cabinets, in the pantry, in the toilet and in my bathtub.
So, to recap, loom bands can make babies.
4. Natural flavoring sometimes comes from the expressed anal glands of a beaver.
Beaver butt juice.
This little nugget of wisdom comes to you from Audrey Hepburn who acquired this information from Food Babe. I’ve linked you to the site but not the actual video because that would require me to find the video and create the link and I don’t have time for that stuff.
This, of course, begs the question, Who the hell made the discovery that beaver butt juice is a tasty treat?
Picture it: A man — we’ll call him Stubert Dinkens, because that sounds like the name of a stupid man — wakes up in his cabin in the hills of I’m guessing West Virginia. His sister-wife, Beatrude Dinkens-Dinkens, is sleeping quietly next to him. He goes to the kitchen and pours himself a cup of coffee and grabs a yogurt from the fridge. He looks outside at the beautiful stream that flows down the mountain. He decides to take his coffee and yogurt and enjoy them down at the water’s edge. He walks down the hill to the stream and sits on a large rock. He gazes out at the water and reflects on the beauty and peacefulness of nature. He takes a sip of his coffee and peels the lid off of his yogurt. He takes a spoon out of his jacket pocket and dips it into the yogurt. He places the spoon in his mouth and, “Damn!” He meant to grab the key lime pie yogurt. This is plain yogurt. It’s swill.
He glances back out at the water and bemoans the fact that he’s going to have to leave this utopia, this bastion of tranquility, to traipse back up the hill to the cabin to get a new yogurt. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he sees movement. He turns. There, just on the edge of the stream is a beaver, busy collecting sticks and other beavery things — a busy beaver, if you will.
Stubert looks at the hindquarters of the large, furry beast and says to himself, “I’m gonna sneak up to that there beaver and subdue him. After I subdue him, I’m gonna squeeze his butt. And whatever comes out of his butt, I’m gonna put in this here yogurt and I’m gonna eat it.” Then, after tasting his newly flavored yogurt, Stubert sprints back up the hill, arms flailing wilding, face bleeding profusely from the fight with the beaver who did not want to be touched like that. He bursts through the front door of the cabin and screams, “Beatrude! Beatrude! Come quick! You are NOT going to believe what tastes just like vanilla!”
And that, my friends, is the story of how a moron named Stubert who was unable to stomach plain yogurt is the reason we all eat beaver butt juice every day of our lives.
So, to recap, beaver butt juice — you’re eating it. Probably right now.
Also, please don’t tell me I suck for making fun of inbred people from the mountains of West Virginia. Someday I’m going to tell you a story about how my parents met and you’ll realize that I’m allowed to make fun of people who show up twice on their family tree.
Okay. I’m over 1,000 words. I’m done. I could try to think of a cute, snappy way to end this blog post. My college professors went on and on about the need to end well. There were lectures about taking your introduction and making it your conclusion, then writing a new introduction. Leaving your readers — or in my case, reader — wanting more.
Well, that’s not going to happen. I’ve got laundry to pretend to be too busy to fold.
Warning: Lots and lots of words ahead. I’m talking like 2,000 plus. I’m summarizing a year in The Beast’s life. It’s not pretty. Nor funny. Nor well-proofed. I got sick of reading it after the 7th time.
About a year ago I pulled The Beast out of his preschool. Unbelievably, it had nothing to do with the fact that his teachers sent home papers asking for students to bring “a apple” to school. I figured that whatever intelligence he lost in preschool he’d regain quickly once he got into kindergarten.
It was the day after Halloween of 2012. The Beast had been in the three-year-old class for about two months. He had been having some issues with behavior but they were mostly minor. However, The Beast’s teacher was the mother of only girls and she had absolutely no idea how to handle him, so I was having lots of talks every day when I picked him up from school.
“He threw mulch on the playground.” Of course, he did. How are you surprised by this?
“He stood up on the table and jumped off.” He jumps off of our six-foot fence at home. The two-foot toddler table that he’s jumping off of here doesn’t really concern me.
“He ran out of the classroom and ran into another class.” He escaped my house, got onto his bike, and started riding down the road to visit a friend before he was chased and brought back home. This is why we have high deadbolts and alarms on all of our doors and windows.
As one would expect, the day after Halloween was a rough day at the school. A hundred two- to five-year-olds hopped up on sugar and food dye isn’t really going to make for an easy day. (If you’re like the 100 Days of Real Food lady and you hand out glow sticks on Halloween, more power to you. I hope you get egged.)
The day after Halloween I dropped him off at school at 9:00 and drove to Target. At 9:27 I received a call from the director’s assistant who informed me that The Beast had started a mini-coup in the classroom and had incited the other students to rise up against the Establishment. Since the teacher had no idea how to handle the situation, she sent The Beast to the front office to have a timeout. As he sat in the front office with the director and her assistant, they began to chat. He, being a small but observant genius, took note of the fact that they were not paying attention to him.
So he fled. He ran out of the office, down the hall and into a classroom. The assistant and the director ran after him. Once they figured out which classroom he was in, he started a game that he still loves to play. I call it Ring Around the Rosie…in Hell. He places himself on one side of a piece of furniture. And the minute you come at him one way, he runs the other way or underneath the furniture. He’s very small and very quick and if you’re playing this one-on-one with him, you will lose every time. When we play this game at home, say when I’m trying to get him ready for bed, it often escalates to the point that I’m tearing around the house like a rabid squirrel, screaming a blood-curdling scream in the hopes of shocking The Beast into submission.
He never submits, so at some point I have to enlist the help of The Good One or Virginia Slims Man or the mail lady (really, anyone that’s available) and one of us has to dive over the couch or ottoman or scramble under the kitchen table while the other one blocks his path of escape. Honestly, it’s the most infuriating thing ever and it’s usually followed by me slamming a door or throwing a small piece of furniture.
Since The Beast was outnumbered by the teachers, the director and her assistant, they were able to catch him within a few minutes. But the fact that The Beast found so much glee in their struggle made the director incredibly angry, so she told the assistant to call me.
When I spoke with the assistant on the phone I was initially very apologetic. But as I left Target and got into my car, I became more angry than sorry. Yes, I know my child is difficult. I know he’s “spirited,” as one friend put it. I know he’s exasperating. But you called me to pick him up because he made you get off your ass and chase him? He didn’t hit or scream or do anything malicious. He ran. I told you he runs. You know he runs. You’ve seen him run. Why did this surprise you?
So I drove to the school, fuming with rage, walked in the front door and grabbed The Beast by the hand. When the assistant asked if I wanted to talk to his teacher, I snapped, “No!” and left. I got home and immediately sent an email to the director letting her know that The Beast wouldn’t be returning to school. That night when Virginia Slims Man got home, The Beast said, “Mommy took me out of school today. She came in the door and she said, ‘GRRR!’ like a bear.” I guess my rage was not well-hidden.
In retrospect, I might have over-reacted slightly. I know the director, assistants and teachers can’t be expected to baby sit my son. And I know that if he starts a mutiny that cannot be contained, then it disrupts the entire classroom and possibly the school. But on that day I was just too furious to think rationally. I was mad at them. I was mad at The Beast. I was mad at myself for letting him eat his weight in peanut butter cups the night before.
Later that evening The Beast’s teacher called me and said that she had no idea that the director was going to call me and that she was sorry. I told her that I wasn’t sending The Beast back and she yammered on about how “The Beast is with you for a reason and you’re a good mom,” blah blah blah. What I heard was, “Thank God you’re not bringing him back into my class where he’ll likely tie me up and annihilate us all.”
So I visited some other preschools, explaining to the directors of each school all of The Beast’s issues. Finally, I settled on the local Montessori school. I thought that maybe the structure and more advanced activities would help The Beast to thrive. The director said that she had seen the Montessori method work miracles with difficult kids. She assured me that the only time they call parents is if there is an issue that they absolutely cannot handle within the confines of the classroom. So we sold a few internal organs and started paying a small fortune for The Beast to attend the Montessori school.
He struggled for the first few weeks, but then he started to get into a groove. But after his favorite teacher moved to New York, he started pushing boundaries and the phone calls started up again.
“The Beast is running in the classroom. The Beast is interrupting his friends’ work and we can’t get him to stop. The Beast won’t stay in his seat during lunch. The Beast lost recess today because he ran from us and hid under a table.”
I started having to go up to the school two to three times a week to talk to The Beast. I started having nearly monthly meetings with the director where we tried to come up with ideas on how to help The Beast. There were a few days in there where I’d get a note saying, “The Beast had a really great day today.” And that would make me hopeful, but within days the phone calls would start up again.
“The Beast climbed over the 8-foot chain link fence surrounding the playground and ran when the teachers tried to catch him. You’ll need to come and pick him up.”
“The Beast ran out of the classroom and made it out the front door of the school before we could catch him. You’ll need to come and pick him up.”
“The Beast was using scissors today and tried to cut a friends’ hair.”
“We recently planted beans in small pots and The Beast decided to sprinkle the soil throughout the classroom and didn’t want to clean up the mess.”
“The Beast bit a friend on the playground.” (She took his ball. I’d bite her too.)
“The Beast went into the bathroom and stuffed the toilet full of toilet paper.”
“The Beast ran through the classroom naked.”
Throughout all of this, my meetings with the director continued. I read The Strong-Willed Child. My discipline became as consistent and regular as seeing Kardashian selfies on the internet. There was some improvement at home, but he still struggled at school.
I tried every discipline technique that I had ever read about, heard about, saw on a show, or just plain invented out of thin air to help him improve his school behavior. Nothing worked. If he had a bad day at school, I took away TV shows. Or treats. Or bedtime stories. Or outside play. Or all of the above. I took away special events like pool parties and trips to the ice cream store.
Every day when I’d pick him up from school, he’d look at me with fear and say, “Did I have a good day today?”
Every night when I’d lie with him in bed he’d say, “Mommy, I don’t want to go back to school. It’s so hard to be good. I try to be good but my body won’t let me.”
And then I ran into an acquaintance at Target. She asked me how The Beast was doing and where he was going to school, and when I told her she said, “Forgive me for overstepping, but I have several friends with boys who put their kids in that school and they regretted it. If you have a really well-behaved child, he’ll probably do fine. But if your child has any behavior issues or if he’s just loud and moves a lot like most boys do, he might start to feel bad about himself because he doesn’t fit into the mold of what they want their students to look like. Don’t let any school make your child feel bad about himself.”
At that moment I realized that I could no longer punish away his childhood. My new philosophy was if it’s a school behavior issue, the school needs to handle it. I’m only disciplining him for things he does at home. I’m not one of those parents who thinks their child can do no wrong. This entire blog was started on the premise that my child can be a havoc-wreaker. But I just couldn’t continue to punish him every single day for his behavior at school. I felt that if he continued to have daily behavior issues, then maybe it wasn’t the right school for him.
We decided that if this new approach didn’t work, then we’d withdraw him from the school.
About a week after we made this decision, he did something at the school and I got a phone call. As I walked into the school to pick him up, I ran into the director. I had intended to ask to be let out of our contract, but when she saw me she said, “I don’t think we can keep doing this. We love The Beast, but he’s struggling so much. Maybe this isn’t the best environment for him. Maybe he just needs more freedom.”
So now The Beast is home with me full-time. I’m drinking a little bit more. Getting high occasionally. (Kidding, Dad. But as soon as medical marijuana is legal in Texas, I’m putting on my going-out pants and getting in line for a prescription.)
I did talk to a friend who recommended that I take The Beast in for an occupational therapy evaluation so that whatever it is I’m dealing with can be dealt with sooner rather than later. We visited my pediatrician for the referral and he initially said he wanted to wait until The Beast was five because he might outgrow a lot of these behaviors. But after witnessing The Beast breakdancing on the office floor, having The Beast take his stethoscope and use it to whip the wall, and then experiencing the joy of having The Beast climb up his back while he was trying to explain why The Beast didn’t yet need an occupational therapy consult, he decided to go ahead and give us that referral.
The Beast had his evaluation about two weeks ago and he’s going to start occupational therapy for Sensory Processing Disorder. I believe a commenter on this blog told me a long time ago to look into SPD, but, as you can see by the fact that it’s taken me a year to tell you all that I pulled him out of his first school, I have the tendency to procrastinate.
There’s no guarantee that The Beast doesn’t also have ADHD or any other disorder, but we’re going to start here and see where it takes us.
My prayer is that he learns to control his body.
That he learns to focus.
That he learns to listen.
That I learn how to help him.
That he succeeds when he starts school.
And when he grows up, that he doesn’t make a profession out of mutiny.
I’m pretty sure the ability to fold a fitted sheet is a sign of witchcraft.
P.S. I told you you were going to suffer now that I’m not on Facebook anymore.