A little while ago, I was walking through the house, griping in my head about how messy it is with four young boys at home who have a “slobby mommy.” And when I walked into the kitchen, there – crawling across the floor – was a slug! Made my point for me! (In my defense, he must have hitched a ride on the gardening shoes that I had just worn in the garden. I hope! ‘Cuz I’d sure hate to think that he had been exploring our home for awhile, going, “Gee, this place looks just right for me and my slug babies!”)
(While I am messy with papers and clothes and wrappers, I am extremely cautious about food garbage and about coming into contact with food that’s been left out. When I cook, I know exactly where the clean spots are on my counter so I know where I can safely put plates, cups, utensils, pot lids, and stirring spoons. But to everyone else it looks like sheer chaos and like I’m playing a game of “Let’s see who can catch salmonella first.”)
And there’s a lot of electricity in these freezers. They are so big that you could fit like
It was actually like one of those cartoons where someone is stuck to the electrified thing. As hard as I tried, I could not pull my hand off of the handles. I screamed “DON’T! TOUCH! ME!” to my coworker who was standing there terrified (wouldn’t want her to be electrocuted too), as my face was being all contorted by the electricity.
[Although, thanks to the movie Heathers, most people think of Heather as being a ditzy, superficial blond. However, I am much more like Janeane Garofalo’s Heather from Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, minus the cussing (at least out loud). I wish I could be a super-sweet, floral, feminine type, but I am more of a spicy, cynical, sarcastic tomboy. And I guess in that way, “Heather” seems too fluffy for me. So maybe I should have been named something more like Toni or Jerri or Rizzo, something a little less feminine. A little more salty.]
And I can't use the first squares of toilet paper in a public bathroom. I have to tear them off and throw them away because all I can think is They might have touched the floor or someone else's filthy hands!
And I always set my jacket over the head-rest of movie-theater seats. Because if I don't, all I think through the whole movie is The person before me might have had lice and rubbed their head all over the head-rest.
(You're welcome, fellow anxiety sufferers, for new things to worry about! Helps take your minds off of the things you normally worry about!)
[It also works with “I’m just sayin’.” As in “That dress does kinda make you look fat. I’m just sayin’.” Or “He’s not the smartest tool in the shed, is he? I’m just sayin’.” Or “That baby’s head is too large for his body. I’m just sayin’.” It seems you can get away with a lot if you’re “just sayin’.”]
[Incidentally, just a few months later, my brother was robbed at knife-point at the place he worked. But it turned out that his coworker had staged it with the robber. So, thankfully, he wasn’t in any real danger at the time. Kinda.
And not too long ago, my step-father was fixing up a rental home at night when two guys (who were high on something) violently attacked him. To them, he probably looked like on old, easy target. But this guy is freakishly strong. He ended up pummeling both guys, grabbing one by his long hair so he couldn’t get away and punching the other guy in the stomach with the drill he was still holding, a drill that had a nice, pointy, long, drill attachment on it. Ouch. They ran, but I think the cops eventually found them. I bet they regret taking on that “old man” who was working in a house at night all by himself.
Sometimes, I wonder if my mom’s side of the family had been cursed somewhere back in the day. Things just happen with that side of the family.]
I got a picture of me holding a giant spider in Papua New Guinea. Sad thing is, I held it before I really knew for sure if it was poisonous or not. I tried to ask the village guy who was putting it in my hand if it was poisonous, but he just nodded and smiled because he couldn’t understand a word I was saying. But I took it anyway because I was just so anxious to get a picture of me holding it. As a 40-year-old now, I am horrified at my foolishness. Stupid, risky 21-year-olds.
[She ended up being bitten twice by a brown recluse while she was working among wood piles in her yard. The first time, she got a huge, swollen, lemon-sized mass of dead tissue on her neck. However, she failed to warn me that she had this giant growth on her neck. It was a holiday and we had just come to visit. And I go into the kitchen to say “Hi” when she swings around to look at me. And this giant goiter is just hanging there, like a tiny, shrunken head emerging from her neck. My eyes bulged out in shock, and she explained the spider bite. Not even a few seconds later, my husband comes walking into the room. And she turns to him to say “Hi,” and so does the tiny, shrunken head. And I see his eyes bulge in horror. As she goes over to the fridge for a moment, he hisses, “Why didn’t you warn me!?!”
And the second time she got bit, she said her entire body from the neck down turned black-and-blue. A third time will most likely kill her. To this day, I am nervous and cautious when working among wood piles.]
I didn't always like spiders. But I remember the day I began to really enjoy them. I had found a giant Orb Weaver on our yard swing. And it freaked the daylights out of me. But it was too big to kill because it would leave a giant blob of goo. (I don't smash any bugs that will make a popping sound or leave a big blob of goo! And I hate smooshing the kind where their legs fall off, like a house centipede. Because then the legs are just there, twitching all over the place! Ugh, it's making me sick to my stomach to think about it.) And so I caught it in a jar and decided to research it so I could know if it would kill me or my children while we sat on our swing. And as I researched spiders, I began to see how fascinating they are. And how beautiful and helpful! And I have loved them ever since. A little knowledge can be a good thing!
36. In general, I try not to kill spiders because I respect them and enjoy them. But I did have to kill one daddy-long-legs once which seemed to be possessed. I was in my mom’s rental house in the middle of nowhere at night when this daddy-long-legs came walking up the bed toward me. I brushed it off. No big deal. Just a daddy-long-legs. (That’s a weird name to say over and over again if you think about it. Daddy-long-legs . . . daddy-long-legs . . . daddy-long-legs.)
“My blister’s gone,” he said. “It popped.” We both looked at the peanut butter. And then we threw it out.
Another time, my neighbor was making homemade sauerkraut. He asked my young son to come over and stomp on the cabbage in a big crock like people used to do (did they really?). I know that my son has filthy feet because he’s always outside, so I cleaned him up as best I could.
“Are you sure you want his feet in your food?”
“Oh sure, he’ll be fine,” he said.
So I sent him over to stomp in my neighbor’s food, shaking my head the whole time.
Well, when he finished the job and came back home, I looked at his feet.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “Didn’t you have a big scab on that foot? Where’d it go?”
I figured it was best to not tell my neighbor. He later gave us a jar of sauerkraut. We never ate it.
I screamed for my mom, who rushed him to the hospital. And as far as I know, he is fine today. But I think of the image of him holding his two fingers every time my sons mow the lawn now. And I don’t totally relax until the job is done and the mower is off.]
Oh my gosh, no! I am totally kidding here. Just seeing if you're still really reading.
You couldn’t trust her so she wasn’t allowed out of the cage. It got to be quite sad for her. I was one of her favorite people – she would go into a crazy, chirpy fit every time I talked to her – and now I didn’t even want to go near her because she wasn’t diapered anymore and was filthy. Although my mom did what she could, there wasn’t much for her to play with but poop and old food and poopy-old-food-covered-toys. (I mean, the monkey played with poop and old food and poopy-old-food-covered-toys, not my mom.)
One day when I was watching my mom’s house, I had to feed her. But I didn’t want to go anywhere near the cage. So I stood back a few feet and carefully tried to wedge some food in between the bars. But when I leaned forward to press the watermelon slice through, the monkey made a lightning-fast swipe for my eye (or maybe she was going for my glasses). But she actually cut my eyelid a bit. I was horrified as I searched for antiseptic because all I could think of is what kind of disgusting disease or infection I might get from a poopy, rotten-food-covered, monkey paw. You always had to watch yourself so you didn’t drift too close to the cage because she would slash you in a heartbeat. Lightning-fast, razor-sharp, yucky, monkey-poop fingers!
As mean as she got to be, it’s sad now that she’s gone. She had to get put to sleep because she had breast cancer. RIP, Holly!
Did you know that monkeys can get offended? They know when they are being laughed at. One day, my grandma came to visit. She hadn’t seen Holly in a long time and didn’t know that Holly had grown great big monkey-boobs. (I was actually embarrassed for her - boobs all hanging out, nothing to cover them.) But my grandma was petting her on the back one day. And when Holly flipped over, there was a giant pair of monkey-boobs. And my grandma started laughing at the shock of it.
Well, the instant my grandma starting laughing at her, Holly went from a smiling, “I’m so excited that I’m being petted” look of pure joy to a sour frown with her lips all pursed out in a “I hate you, why are you so mean to me” look. She knew she was being laughed at and she didn’t like it. I thought it was funny!
The whole reason I watched them was because they were referenced so much that I felt left out, like I couldn’t understand an inside secret that everyone else knew. And I thought that if everyone saw them and talked about them, it must mean they were good movies. They’re not! They’re wretched. Even the dancing in Saturday Night Fever, which is supposed to be iconic or something, was like watching a bunch of drugged zombies trying to line-dance to creepy music and lighting. It was terrible!
Moral of the story: If everyone else in the world loves it and talks about it, it’s probably not good!
This video is one of the best things I’ve ever seen online. It’s just so great to be reminded that there are still people like this out there in the world. I’ve seen it twice so far and cried both times. If you’re depressed or discouraged, you’re probably crying already anyway. May as well cry for a good reason. [Another suggestion just for fun: Google “Dover Police DashCam Confessional (Shake it Off).” It’s a police officer singing along with Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” while on patrol. Just plain cute!]
46. My favorite Christian band right now:
But never in a million years did I think it actually would affect the friendship. We had almost 20 years of an incredibly-deep, safe, sister-like relationship, talking every week for an hour or more. I thought it would just sound great to say, showing them how important they are to me as a couple. Yet, in the end, I think it did ruin the friendship. Although she never said anything about it, her husband did pull me aside one day during a visit to their house and say thank you for the letter, that it meant a lot to him. (The fact that she didn’t say anything about it should have tipped me off. Makes me wonder if she never mentioned the idea of divorce to him and then I went and spilled the beans.)
But over the next couple months, she stopped calling and stopped returning my phone calls. And now we talk about once a year in a brief, not-so-deep way. Losing that friendship was one of the hardest things I have had to go through recently. But . . . they are still married and doing well, as far as I know. So I don’t regret the letter I sent. I consider it a success. And if I had the chance to go back and do it differently, I would still send the letter. I just wouldn’t wait for her phone calls that never came. (Sometimes, though, I do hate myself for feeling the need to speak up. But what good are true friends if they are not willing to do the hard, important things for your benefit, because they want the best for you. It still sucks, though.)
(Update: I have recently talked with her, apologizing for the letter I sent. And she told me that she was afraid that she might have been griping to me too much about her bad marriage. I think that's why she stopped calling. It's so sad that she stopped calling because she thought she was bothering me by "complaining" too much, but in reality I desperately needed and valued her friendship. We lost that friendship over a misunderstanding.)
[I say “particularly” because the garden was the last “sweet spot” for me, the place where I invested my heart and creativity because I felt so defeated in every other area of life, except with my husband and kids. And then, two summers ago, we had to stay inside and keep our windows shut because the mold smell was so bad that you could smell it almost up to our house. So I stopped gardening that year and let it all rot. And last year, after I decided to give it one more try and not throw in the towel yet, a giant dead tree fell across my garden at the height of summer and ruined so much, especially ruining my desire for a garden and for anything for myself. And then this year, I thought I’d try one more time, in the hopes that it wouldn’t be that bad (especially since a new person bought it) and that I could learn to love gardening again. But the mold smell is still there and getting worse, and it just feels so defeating and hopeless and like I really shouldn’t be allowed to have joy. It’s breaking my freakin’ heart.]
And so my mind was swirling with all of life’s problems and how trapped I felt by them. And I could feel the panic rising. I fought it off for about an hour, doing every relaxing thing I could think of, from slowing down my breathing to praying to distracting my mind with tasks.
And then I started thinking about lung problems we could get from the moldy garage (on top of the mold from the last place we rented). And so I started to take deep breaths to see if I had the same amount of lung space as before, to see if I could take as deep of breaths. And, of course, in my panicked state, I didn’t feel like I could breathe as well. So I kept trying, taking deeper and deeper breaths.
Well, everyone knows what happens if you take too many deep breaths. You start to get tingly and dizzy. So I started getting tingly and dizzy and I felt like I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t get away from the problems. And before I knew it, I was drowning in panic. I was freaking out that I couldn’t breathe, and I felt like I needed to rush to the emergency room because I was about to throw up and pass out and die of suffocation. I was spiraling into an other-worldly state of mind. It was really weird, so unlike level-headed, stoic me.
I was moments away from telling my husband to drive me to the hospital, but I decided to try one last thing. I told my husband that I thought I was having a panic attack and that I needed him to pray for me. And then I started sobbing about how much I hate life and how hard everything is and how wrong everything is (except my amazing family-life with my husband and kids) and how I am tired of trying, and tired of hoping, and tired of being tired.
And then he prayed for me. It was a wonderful prayer. And as he talked, I felt myself calming down and my body relaxing. I needed him to pray for me because I couldn’t pray for myself. I needed to lean on him because I couldn’t hold myself up anymore. And when he was done praying, things felt a little lighter. Still sad and disheartening, but lighter.
But it’s amazing what a panic attack does to you. How much it wears you down. I was exhausted. And the rest of the day, I shuffled around like a weak, tired, old lady suffering from arthritis and osteoporosis. And my guts were basically liquefied and my stomach was so tight that I couldn’t eat anything. It took me all day to eat a child-sized Subway sandwich. And it took me all day to feel even somewhat okay again.
Unfortunately, the next day (yesterday) I was still wiped out. So I laid down a lot. But one time, I woke up with a neck-pinch that I get sometimes which makes me vomit. And so on top of being exhausted and having eaten nothing, I started vomiting. Three or four times I threw up the nothing that I had in my stomach. I was a miserable wretch. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t move without my neck hurting, couldn’t handle noise. So I stayed in bed all night until this morning, when I woke up at 3:36 a.m. and ate a cracker. And amazingly enough, I kept it down okay, along with the banana that took me hours to eat. Slowly but surely, I am working my way back to normal. But I am wrecked.
Today (the third day APA – After Panic Attack), I am still shuffling around slowly and not eating well. And this morning, I could feel the panic tickling the edges of my brain, looking for a weak spot to come in. I think I was misinterpreting tiredness and hunger, thinking they were precursors to panic. But just the idea of panicking and remembering how it felt made me want to panic. So I called a friend and told her what was going on, and she offered to pray with me right there on the phone. I felt so much better after that, to have someone else pray for me when I couldn’t pray for myself. Just having someone listen and care felt really good.
I have been up and down all day today, praying very different prayers.
First, when I was ready to crawl in a hole, I prayed, “Lord, I’m broken. Please, I am just falling before You broken. Pick me up. Carry me. I can’t do it anymore. I am falling apart. Put me back together again.”
Later on, I once again got so frustrated thinking about how we are once again subjected to mold and how there’s nothing we can do about it and how the city won’t do anything about it and how other people get to enjoy their homes but I’ve never really had the pleasure and how we are right back where we were 6 years ago when we were desperately trying to get out of a severely moldy rental and how just 6-ish years before that I was dealing with my mom and step-dad's very messy divorce and how I just can't seem to catch a break and how it all just feels so unfair, even like God Himself is being unfair. Sometimes it feels like one problem and one health concern after the next. So discouraging. Makes me feel so trapped. And so I prayed a rather unedited prayer in my frustration, “I don’t f*cking care anymore, Lord. I don’t f*cking care about anything. I don’t care what You do. Do whatever You want. I give up. I don’t care about the f*cking garden or the f*cking house. I can’t f*cking care about anything anymore. It’s hurts too much! What have I done? Am I that bad that we can’t catch a break? I have always tried to do everything right and look where it’s gotten me!?! No wonder the Bible says to not get tired of doing good. Because we can get so tired of doing good when it gets us nowhere. No wonder people turn bad and lose faith. I won’t turn from You because I know You are real, but I don’t care about anything anymore. Do whatever You want. My prayers don’t do any good anyway. I’m done!”
And to be clear, when I say “cussing,” I do not mean “using the Lord’s name improperly.” While I might let a few four-letter words slip out, I am very careful about never using the name of God, Jesus, or Christ in a disrespectful way, even in something as common and benign-sounding as “Oh my God” or “OMG!” Unless you are talking about Him or to Him when you use His name, you are most likely using it in an inappropriate, disrespectful, or “bad word” way. And to me, that’s in a whole different camp than other “cuss” words we might use. In fact, “don’t use the Lord’s name in vain” is in the top three of the ten commandments. And it says that anyone who uses His name in vain will be held accountable for it. Is it worth it?
Also, I do not like to use the word “damn” about anything because you are essentially expressing a desire to “damn” something. And I have always wondered about the power of our words, such as the curses that people in the Old Testament have uttered against others, and the fact that these curses seem to come true for many of them. What if our “damning” something has an effect or opens the door to evil? I think it’s best to not even go there.]
Anyway, that sent me into another sobbing fit, nearly hyperventilating. I knew that if I kept crying like that, I would go into a panic attack again. And I CAN’T go there again. So I gathered myself together and reminded myself that I knew this could happen someday, that I have been prepared for this moment since the really messy divorce when things got really bad, potentially suicidal or homicidal bad.
And you know what? We're all broken in some way. If not now, then someday. But we're all broken. And we're all okay.]
65. My idea of the perfect day is just being in the (mold-free) backyard with my family (after the neighbor’s moldy garage burns down to the ground in a freak, God-driven, lightning storm. Wouldn’t that be nice!). Working alongside my husband in the garden, watching the kids play, taking a walk, and grilling out. It doesn’t get much better than that! Unless someone else cooks the meal. That’s even better. And add some cheesecake. That’s nice, too. And maybe have some good friends pop over for a visit. With a nice cup of coffee. And maybe an hour or two to myself later that night watching Gilmore Girls. Awww, yeaaahhh!
66. A couple years ago, I ended up having Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome for a year. The first time it happened, I got this enormous cramp in my stomach, kind of like a super hunger pain. So I ate something, thinking I just needed some food. But then I threw up several times that night.
[I have to be careful, though. I always start speeding – just a little bit - when fun music is on. My son has started calling me “Lead-foot Mama” when I am listening to this music while driving to church because I end up going 39 miles per hour in a Speed Limit 30 zone. Maybe I should stop listening to “I Love Rock and Roll” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It” on the way to church. Yeah, I know . . . but still. It’s a little, bonding-moment tradition for my 7-year-old and me.]
Since everyone else’s windows are rolled up, I figure that they are not allowed to be bothered that I am hogging the air waves with my music . . . not when they are rejecting the air and doing their best to keep it out of their car. And so, while I enjoy my loud music and the delicious rebellious freedom of being the only one who is enjoying the fresh air, I stick my hand out the window and tilt it up and down like an airplane wing, letting it rise and fall on the wind. Or I tap along to the music and simply enjoy the moment!
But I do make sure to turn the music down when I stop next to another car or pull up next to old people or a family with young children. I’m not an animal. Personally, I think that the elderly and mothers of young children have earned the right to not have their “peace and quiet” ruined by thoughtless hoodlums like myself.
[You know, part of the reason I blast the music is because I like to sing along . . . and I don’t want people to hear me. I’m also afraid that I might have butt-dialed someone on my cell-phone and they are listening to me singing in my car. But they won’t be able to hear me over loud music. And I don't trust that OnStar thing in the car. I was told that it never got hooked up, but I still think that green light means that they are listening. Always listening. So if they are going to listen to me while I sing, then I am going to blast the music so loud that it hurts their ears. Oh, they're listening. Probably through all your smartphone and internet-connected appliances too. And those little cameras on your computers and phones and tablets, etc. . . . they're watching you. (I tape over all those camera spots. I just don't trust 'em.)
This is what I tell my kids when they complain about what I am serving and whine about why they have to eat it. I tell them, “If the pioneers only had a can of beans, they ate the beans and were thankful for it.”
It’s good for kids to realize that they don’t always get what they want, that they can’t waste food just because they “don’t like it,” and that they should be grateful for whatever mom serves because at least they have food to eat.
If you’ve got whiners in your house at mealtime, try this recipe sometime. When they grumble about the disappointing food on their plate, you simply say, “I made Pioneer Dinner tonight. It’s ‘you eat what we’ve got and be thankful you’ve got it!’” It won’t stop the whining, but it makes it more fun for you.
“You can dance if you want to.
You can wet your pants, that’s fine.
But if your friends find out,
then your friends are gonna laugh
when they see you’ve got a wet behind.
But if your pants get wet
then I’ll be upset
‘cuz I’ll have to wash your pants again.
You can dance. You can dance.
Instead of just deciding to go, oh, oh, oh . . .
You can Pee-Pee Dance.
You can Pee-Pee Dance.
That’s the Pee-Pee Dance. Hey!”
It might drive them crazy now and they scream and run away when we start singing, but I know that they will appreciate it when they are older and learn how stodgy and grumpy and yelly other families can be.
When my kids reflect back on the mom of their youth, I want them to say, “I remember that mom was always singing. Whether she was happy, mad, frustrated, or sad, she sang. It drove me crazy then, but I realize now how much I really loved it.”