Monday, April 24, 2017

Caleigh Bird

Hi all! 

Just a quick post to share an amazing artist with you.  It was such a treat for me to work with Caleigh Bird, who is not only incredibly talented, but also professional and courteous. She creates custom pieces (paintings and drawings) based on photographs you provide, and although I hate to sound like a salesman, they're such a unique and special thing to have for yourself or to give someone as a gift. Like, yeah, I'm sure your mom really wants another scented candle for Mother's Day, but then again, no she doesn't.

    Anyway, Caleigh makes the process very simple and keeps you in the loop every step of the way.  I sent her my favorite photos of Aidin and she picked the one with the best lighting/detail. After getting my approval she began, and within a couple of days I had my first in-progress update email.  About a week after that I got to see the finished product and it's currently en route to me!

The photo I provided Caleigh:

The finished product:

I absolutely love this and will treasure it always.  You can find Caleigh Bird on InstagramFacebook, or check out her website here

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bad Girl

           When I was thirteen I began to suffer from bouts of terrible stomach pain and nausea.  Because these episodes came and went, it was hard to figure out what was going on.  One day I would be fine, the next doubled over the toilet, willing myself to throw up.  After several doctors visits and tests it was concluded that I had stress-induced gastritis. Basically, I was unintentionally making myself sick. My mom took me to quite a few therapists but they all struck me as pandering and the whole act of confession felt somehow self indulgent. I would often point out that comparatively, so many people had it so much worse.  In all those visits I don't think I ever voiced how satisfied I felt in my discomfort.  How it felt earned.

           I went to school every day,  went to church every Sunday and said my prayers every morning and night.   I tried to do the right things, but even then I felt the facade slip sometimes.  It's hard to articulate, but I felt that I was, intrinsically, bad.  And when I say "bad" I don't mean it in the sort of sexy, smokey eye, sneak a smoke behind the gym kind of way.  I mean genuinely not good.  Poor quality. Not deserving of good things or worthy of good company.   When something bad happens to me I'm never surprised or offended.  I get it. I accept that I somehow deserve it.  And when things are really good, it's worse. The heavy tension of waiting for the bottom to drop out.

           When life is good I become so painfully anxious that any pleasure I might get from the good is ruined by the fact that I can see the threads holding up my happiness and THEY ARE SO THIN.   For a long time, I would cut them myself just to release the pressure. I would self-medicate to avoid worrying about how tenuous it all felt.  Ultimately, I just got used to it. I learned the signs that heralded bad episodes and I taught myself some tricks to keep them at bay. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.

             Recently I was getting ready to leave for work, feeling really antsy.  Very irritable.  I walked outside and everything felt wrong somehow.  I don't remember where I heard it referred to as "the curious dreads" but I cannot think of a better description for this particular feeling.  It's one I recognize right away and immediately go to work trying to shake it off.  I did my regular routine to check that everything was off and locked and in its place and then walked out to the car.  I got in, but suddenly couldn't remember if I had turned off the oven.  I knew I hadn't even turned it on that morning, but also, on some level, didn't know. I went back inside.  It was off.  I walked back out to my car.  This time I didn't even get to it before I started to suspect that after checking that it was off, I had turned it back on again.  That would be nuts, though.  Why would I do that?  But maybe I did?  I went back. This time I said, "OFF" out loud.  A lot. Sometimes that helps.  This time it didn't. I tried to leave, but again, couldn't. This went on for about ten minutes.  I started to cry out of sheer frustration.  I tried to FaceTime my husband.  Maybe if he could see that the oven was off then I could finally leave.  He didn't answer.
              This wasn't a super-rare occurrence, but a rough one  for me, in part because the more manic I get about something, the deeper the subsequent period of depression I'll fall into becomes. So I was waiting for my husband to call back, which was humiliating because I realized how ridiculous it all sounded.  If I could snap out of it soon enough, I might not even tell him.  Why burden him any more than I needed to? His life would be so much easier without me wildly swinging from one extreme to another. (Like my life wouldn't?) I was still suspiciously watching a cold oven when I realized that I felt bad for myself. I felt empathetic, as though I was outside looking in on this weird, sad sight. It didn't feel like something I deserved.  It didn't feel like something anyone deserved.

               That was the day I called a psychologist, who referred me to a psychiatrist.  At every session I have to fight my natural urge to be a cynical, sarcastic monster, which is hard. I have to fight my tendency towards secrecy and try not to lie about uncomfortable truths. I can't sugarcoat, or fake the fun, which is a shame because I'm so good at it. In the end I'm not hoping for much. I would love to be able to feel happiness without having it snuffed out by the fear that it will inevitably be snuffed out. Does that make sense?  I'd like to feel content, without an undercurrent of dread.   That would be nice.






Friday, March 31, 2017

But I Do

The other day I was driving Aidin home from school when he made me a bet.  If we beat the bus home then at dinner I would have to announce that he was the smartest person in the house and my favorite child.  

I agreed, but said that if we didn't beat the bus home, he would have to announce at dinner that I was his favorite person in the world and he loved me more than he would ever love anyone else.
He paused for a moment and then said, "But I do. When you make a bet it can't be true! It has to be something embarrassing!" 

Just putting this here so I don't ever forget about it.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Tender Mercy of a Dead Friendship

At first I was flattered, thinking that her desire to get to know me was due to the fact that I was interesting, or funny, or pleasant to be around. Familiarity breeds intimacy and that's what she wanted.  To know me.  And she did, but it wasn't because she cared, I think it was because she was curious. And probably a bit bored.  Entertain her!

Actually, she was the entertaining one. The outgoing one who could make everyone laugh to the point of tears more times than I can remember.  Often at someone else's expense.  But that was her personality!  Just a biting sense of humor.  Chew you up and spit you out kind of humor.

I think there were rare moments of real caring.  Genuine friendship. And those moments made me excuse the many other moments when she made me feel like shit.

She wanted information and secrets and she listened like she loved me but I didn't realize that I had become the subject of her conversations.  That once they left my lips my stories and experiences were hers to share.  Retooled and retold to strangers who dissected my mannerisms and diagnosed my possible disorders and spent time online, deciphering the codes I didn't realize I had embedded in my pictures and posts.  Of all the notifications I received I dreaded hers the most.  Her preternatural ability to deliver backhanded compliments and scathing critiques was unparalleled.  But I can take a joke.  It's just her personality!  She is jealous and spiteful and ecstatic when you look bad, but it's not her.  It's this separate, blameless entity, 'personality'.  The problem with that explanation is that if it's true, it should be universally so. Not applied only to a few, unlucky ones.

And so I was wary.  I guarded my thoughts and hid myself away from her.  She became a friend in name only.  She accidentally left her phone next to me and it dings dings dings and there's a terrible photo of me that she took without me knowing. It's part of a group text with people who don't know me.  I am the punchline of a joke. I am not as pretty or perfect in real life as I pretend to be online and she's got the proof. She rushed back and grabbed it, flushed with the awful fear of being found out.  I smiled sweetly and pretended I hadn't seen anything.  She hadn't violated any loyalty because there really wasn't any left at that point.   The more I retreated the nicer she became, but it was a saccharine sweet that made my teeth hurt.  I didn't believe anything she said anymore and she knew it.  Our interactions were forced and tense and at some point they stopped altogether.

She was a good friend until she wasn't.  At some point I think she really, genuinely started to hate me and I wish she had just done the noble thing and ghosted me.  Extricating myself took far too long than it should have. It meant accepting that some people outside of the situation might take sides, might think of me as full of myself or overly sensitive. Might not know my side of the story. That's something you forfeit in exchange for a clean break. And it's something you find you don't really need in the end.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Somebody Call 911

I have called 911 twice in my life.

The first time I was six or seven and I was dared to by a friend.  My family was visiting hers for the weekend and our parents had gone shopping that afternoon, leaving the kids at home.  My older siblings were watching TV and my friend and I were upstairs, bored out of our minds. I honestly don’t remember how it came up, but at some point she dared me to call 911. Or she mentioned it and I dared her to dare me to call. Regardless,  I did the damn thing. I picked up the powder blue corded phone and dialed those three numbers.  My hands were shaking, and when the operator answered I quickly whispered, “Help me” and hung up.  I hadn’t planned to say anything, but got caught up in the moment and couldn’t help but throw a little drama into it.  What a rush! And no ramifications whatsoever!
Just kidding.  Within ten minutes their house was surrounded by cop cars. And at almost the same moment our parents arrived home.  Everyone was freaking out, trying to figure out what was going on and who had called 911.  *Actually, no, I don’t think anyone was really trying to figure out who called, because they already knew. This was during my “wreak havoc, deny everything” phase of childhood. And deny I did! No, of course I hadn’t called, yes I knew that it was an incredibly serious offense to call 911 as a joke. The flaw in my stubborn assertion of innocence was having a friend who spilled the beans almost immediately.  (Snitches get stitches, Susan!) So I was outed, forced to apologize and promise never to do that again. And as the police filed out I realized that I honestly didn’t want them to leave, because my mom was looking at me with an expression that I can only describe as murdery.  (And she did murder me.  With her disappointment.)

The second time I dialed 911 I was nineteen, working at an upscale tanning salon. In addition to my duties at the front desk I  was also a spray tan technician,  frequently dipping into my own product,  resulting in a hideous year-round Trump glow. Of course, at the time I thought I looked amazing, and the contrast really made my teeth pop.

The salon was on campus, right in the middle of everything, and it was close to closing time on a Friday night.  A coworker (I think her name was Brittni or something obnoxiously spelled like that)  stumbled in and asked to tan for ten minutes in a deluxe bed.  The deluxe bed was no joke an enormous bed with a plush mattress.  The tanning bulbs were on the inside of the top, and they were intense, so I would advise people to start with five minutes on each side.  Twenty minutes was the max, but you had to work your way up to that.  Gradually increase your tolerance. One time a very fair skinned girl tried to buy twenty minutes and I was like, “No, you will die.”

 But back to Brittni. The bar she had been drinking at next door was “too crowded and loud” and she wanted a quiet moment, alone with her thoughts and  mutating skin cells.  I set the timer for ten minutes, which came and went, but she didn't emerge from her room.  I knocked, loudly.  Nothing.  I yelled her name “BRITTNI WITH AN I, ARE YOU OKAY?!” but got no response. I started to panic.  I called another coworker who lived nearby and within a few minutes she had joined me, trying in vain to pick the door’s lock, yelling and pounding on it when we failed.  Finally, fearing that something was seriously wrong, I called 911.  "Brittni is unresponsive in the deluxe tanning suite. Please send help." Within minutes a fire truck, sirens roaring, pulled up and three firemen jumped out. They were pumped.  Maybe it had been a slow day at the station, but they were ready to rescue the shit out of someone.   I pointed to the door and they literally broke it down.  With their bodies. I don’t even think they tried the handle first.  They ran into that  tiny room and lifted the top of the tanning bed and Brittni sprang up like a tipsy, topless Jack In The Box screaming, “WHAT THE FUCK?? WHAT THE FUCK!?”

I immediately started laughing and could not stop.  Like, tears streaming down my face. Spray tan streaked to hell. I don’t know if it was the adrenaline or just relief that she wasn’t dead, but I couldn't turn it off. The firemen left the room, dejected, propping the broken door up against the splintered frame to give Brittni privacy to dress.  She did so, sputtering expletives. I was reigning in my hysterics,  apologizing to everyone. The firemen, disappointed by the lack of real emergency, unceremoniously left and soon after Brittni moved the door aside and stomped out into the night without so much as a goodbye.  Oh Brittni.  You tawny Lady Lazarus. I wonder what you're up to now.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Reproductive Rights Are Not a Liberal Conspiracy

Savita Halappanavar knew her baby was dying inside of her even before the doctors confirmed it. She also knew that if they didn't get the baby out soon, she would die too.  Her fever spiked, her back radiated pain and her contractions were excruciating. She begged, brokenhearted, for an abortion, but because Doctors could still find a fetal heartbeat, they refused. For three days Savita writhed in agony in a hospital bed, waiting for her baby to die. Stillborn as expected, her daughter emerged, and four days later Savita died from infection and organ failure.

 I know this sounds like some kind of dark ages cautionary tale, but this was in 2012.

In Northern Ireland, where Savita died, abortion is illegal. It was only after outrage over her death that a new law was enacted, which allows for an exception to the abortion ban in instances when the mother's life is at risk.  Even that caused a lot of debate, with many opponents arguing that it would lead to "widespread abortion."  Like women everywhere are just conspiratorially tapping their fingertips together, waiting for the opportunity to take abortion mainstream.

With Roe vs. Wade in 1973, abortion became legal in the US, but this right was balanced with the state's interest in protecting the potentiality of human life. As a result, in most states abortion is legal only before the fetus is viable (could possibly survive outside the womb), which is around 24 weeks (6 months).  However, almost all abortions (92%) are performed within the first thirteen weeks, with the majority of those (66%) performed in the first eight weeks.  Because the states are given a lot of latitude when it comes to regulating abortion, many continue to fight Roe v. Wade by cutting funding, requiring parental consent and ultrasounds, enacting waiting periods, etc.  Abortion's existence in the U.S. is tenuously legitimate at best, though that might not be the case in this administration.  Mike Pence has stated publicly that he longs for the day that Roe v. Wade is "sent to the ash heap of history." 

If you're wondering what would happen if Roe v. Wade was overturned, The Center for Reproductive Rights did a thorough, state-by-state report entitled, "What if Roe Fell?"   Check it out.

I recently watched the coverage of Trump reinstating and expanding the global gag rule. He signed it, smiling, surrounded by a bunch of rich old white dudes. (Because really, who is better suited to have dominion over women's reproductive organs than penis-having politicians?)  Essentially, what Trump signed was an executive order banning foreign nongovernmental organizations that receive  American aid from counseling health clients about abortion or advocating for abortion liberalization.   Abortion cannot even be suggested as an option, even if the woman or fetus is at risk.  (And just to throw it out there, in Africa alone there are about 34 million orphans and about 3 million of them have HIV. Under the global gag rule a pregnant woman dying of AIDS could not receive any abortion referral information from a U.S.-funded organization.)

A lot of you will balk at such "extreme" examples.  You will point out that most women in America have access to all kinds of birth control. You will argue that unwanted children should be put up for adoption.  You will point out all of the programs put in place to help single moms. You will say, passionately and with good intent, that abortion is the taking of a life. I can only remind you that as long as women can get pregnant, by rape or accident, there will be abortion.  Before it was legal, there was still abortion.  It is a product of desperation and often times, necessity. 

I am pro-choice because I know that restricting access to abortion hits the poorest, most desperate women the hardest. I am pro-choice because I believe that women are moral beings, capable of making thoughtful decisions about their own bodies.  

P.S.  Abortion rates are the lowest they've been since the Roe v. Wade decision.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

On The Farm

Advice We've Been Given By People Who Know Their (Chicken) Shit:

-Do not name your chickens. (We did.)
-Prepare yourself to see at least one of your chickens die a horrible death. (We didn't.)
-In the event that your own dog kills one of your chickens, tie the dead chicken to your dog's collar until it rots, dissuading them from killing again.  (No.)

The first chick we lost, we buried in a small, intimate ceremony in the front yard.  Willy was three days old, had no eyes and had been nursed by hand since we got her the day after she hatched. Aidin mourned for the rest of the day, reminiscing over the cute things she had done, including that one time she cocked her tiny head to the side as though she was concentrating on what he was saying.  It was a sad day, having put in a lot of care only to see our efforts fail.  Aidin picked flowers.  There is a small rock that serves as her headstone.

For the subsequent twenty chickens we lost, there was far less ceremony.

No-Eyed Willy: Illness.
Chicks 2-4: Neighbor's German Shepherd.
Chick 5: Illness
Chick 6: June (Our German Shepherd)
Chickens 7-9: Unknown predator.
Chicken 10-14: Unknown predator.  Left no trace.
Chickens 15-18: Unknown Predator.
Chickens 19-20: Unknown predator.  Left an explosion of feathers and, several yards away, a head.
*Chicken 21: As of an hour ago, still alive. Torn to shreds, currently in our bathtub but not expected to make it through the day.

Just to be clear, we began with thirty chickens and now we have ten (the realist in me is saying nine).  We have a strong, sturdy coop of chain-link fencing around a cement foundation and still, whatever is getting them is undeterred by barriers and is, perhaps, magic.

The loss of our first few chickens was rough, but there is a gradual desensitization that comes with living in the country. Well that's sort of a lie. I mean, I bawled when my cat Smith died suddenly a few weeks ago, but he was cute and cuddly and liked being held like a baby.  Chickens are basically impotent raptors. Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for them. They're given zero survival skills, can't even fly, yet somehow they're made it this far. But they're not my pets. You might totally love your chickens!  You might put your chickens in cute sweaters.  Your chickens might have their own Instagram accounts and that's totally cool.  To each their own.

Now, that said, yesterday morning when Cole opened the back door and said, "Mom there's a chicken head out here. Did you know?"  Something in me really snapped.  These are my chickens.  I raised them.  I got them through their first laying, when they were all like "OH GOD WHAT'S HAPPENING??" And I was like, "You're becoming a hen.  That's an egg."

My point is, I don't want them suffer and I certainly don't want them to die.  So now we go to war with whatever the hell is decimating my flock. Traps are set and we're ready. Dear God,  Please don't let it be a weasel.  How boring. Or a skunk, for obvious reasons.  What would I even do with a skunk in a trap?  Oh boy. I honestly didn't think about that until right at this moment. Anyway,  this is what living in the country gives you.  All these hard lessons to learn, a certain familiarity with death and occasionally, the rare opportunity to call into work with the excuse "A chicken emergency."