Outrunning the Beast

Previous posts go into the history of my discovering that I suffered from depression and anxiety, so I won’t go into it here. What I want to focus on, instead, is the daily struggle.

It’s open for discussion, but for me personally, the greatest struggle is not the illness itself, but how I am unable to communicate my feelings to other people. I was talking with a family member today and trying to explain that it’s just not a good day for me today. It doesn’t matter that the sun is shining, or that I love my job, or that I have people who are very dear to me. When you’re hanging over the abyss much of what normally makes you happy just doesn’t. It’s not for lack of appreciation, but more that you’re missing some core component.

I was trying to explain to this family member that despite the many blessings I count, today was going to end the same as the last two. I am going to finish my work shift, go home, walk my dog, take a bath, and curl up on the futon downstairs in the finished basement. I will either read, put on a movie, or read a book. The response I was looking for was something along the lines of how sometimes you just have to take care of yourself.

Instead, she tried to comfort me by telling me how she was feeling and what she was going through. What it did was actually make me feel like not speaking up at all. Without meaning to, she had started up a “Who is Sicker?” competition. I said depression and anxiety. She saw that and raised it by a stroke. I told her I had a nervous breakdown. She told me she had one in her late 30s.

I understand how callous this can sound, but hear me out. I just wanted her to listen. I am aware of her conditions, but she’s always saying how she wants to help me. When I try to open up and speak, the conversation always goes back to her somehow. I explained this, and she understood. It seemed like we were getting to a place of understanding, but as it turns out, we weren’t really because my anxiety derailed that pretty quickly.

Immediately when she began to understand I fought not to backtrack. Whenever I speak up and fight for understanding, there’s always this voice (that sounds an awful lot like the one that tells me I’m worthless in the beginning) that starts telling me I’ve been too strong. Too bossy. I’ve trampled someone else and am guilty of what I was accusing them of doing.

I’d say that’s a slippery slope, but in truth, it’s more like being kicked into the abyss. Before I can stop it, I’m running through everything else that I do wrong. All the ways I hurt the people I love. All the things say and do that are wrong. Then, just for good measure, I circle back to what I should have said and done but didn’t. From there, I find myself drowning in the things I’ve done days, months, and even years ago. All the damning evidence piling up to prove what I already know in my secret heart: I’m a flawed human being and it’s unbelievable how lucky I am to have people that look past that and find something in me worth loving, and it’s not going to last.

I used to let it end there. I would stay in that lightless oubliette, all of my successes and all the love I give forgotten. Cancelled out by the twisted monster I was. The knowledge that I would never get better anchoring me in the mire and filth of my self-hate.

At my lowest point, something happens. It’s like I hit the bottom and then bounce. I’m not going to lie and tell you that I become fully operational again. But usually it’s enough of a bounce for me to be vertical. To get the laundry done. Or answer a phone call. Then I start thinking of how bad things used to get when I would stumble, and I know that I’ve made progress.

From there it’s not too much of a stretch to remember the good moments that I’ve been a part of. I think of something Dipper told me, which is that the anxiety is loud, I just have to make sure the love is louder. Usually around this time I start swimming up from my cocoon in the covers, and I find Tkout ready to give me a kiss. Provided he can push Zelda out of the way long enough. A quick glance at my phone shows me previous messages between Dipper and I, and if he’s awake, sometimes I’ll reach out. I’ll start looking around the room (any room of my house, actually) and seeing the momentos of happy times from Tkout, Dipper, and Phoebe. Most of the time that will bring me out of it, with a little more help from my Ride or Die Family.

Today is one of those rough days, where I feel like I can’t outrun the beast fast enough. I’ve managed to stay for most of my shift, and in 47 minutes I will be able to say that I stayed for the whole shift. I can cross that accomplishment off in my daily journal-list. Then I can go home and start to convalesce, and within a few hours I should be feeling better.

What I’m getting at is that it doesn’t do any good to push everyone away. Or to wallow in self-hate. (When I figure out how to consistently do those things and never fall into the trap, you can bet there will be a post on that!) But until then, I’m going to keep practicing not giving up on myself, and being kinder to myself. If my Family doesn’t see me as a monster, then I’m sure I can find something worthwhile to hold onto until I’m able to properly see myself again when the clouds lift.

 

 

The Zen of 360

Currently we are a quarter of the way through the 31st year of my being on this Earth. Since getting married and buying a house 4 years ago, I’ve noticed small indicators that I’m growing up. As Dipper pointed out, I’ve started really stretching my legs and moving into the house. The rooms are starting to take on personality and become indicative of Tkout and my styles. Three weeks ago I went on a spending spree, purchasing hostas, lilies, and canna plants for the house. This coming weekend, I hope to landscape the front bed and finally have a front yard worth looking at for more than two seconds. I’m hoping Phoebe will want to help with the window boxes. Two weekends ago I hosted Easter dinner for my family, and turned the house upside down for a whole three days beforehand, cleaning, hanging pictures on walls, organizing the kitchen counter, etc.

As good as I feel about all of the aforementioned changes, nothing will point out that you’re old faster than playing a video game with a 9 year old. Shit you not.

I’ve played board games with Phoebe. We have sat on couches, her building LEGOs or coloring, while I crochet. I’ve gone to one of the local art museums with Dipper and Phoebe. We’ve played with my pets and her kitty. We’ve curled up and watched horror movies, as well as shows she has wanted me to watch with her. I’ve watched her play video games before. None of this prepared me for the experience I had Friday night. (To be fair, we played Katamari on a previous Friday, but she was coming down with a really bad cold and was more than a little out of it.)

Per our usual ritual, Phoebe and Dipper came over Friday night. This time they brought LEGO Dimensions with them. Phoebe was very excited to introduce me to the newest digital crack.

We ordered dinner and got the game set up. Once dinner was over and we were sat down in front of the XBOX 360, Phoebe proceeded to give me an introduction and tutorial to the game that was not unlike being strapped to the top of the USS Enterprise just as it hits warp speed. Being older and more self-conscious, and also lacking a serious amount of time spent in front of a console in many years, I was wanting to go granny speed. Learn the controls. Check out the characters. Basically get my bearings. Phoe was not having any of that. Before I knew what was going on, I was sucked through a vortex and dumped out into the Wizard of Oz. While I was busy hitting things to get the little LEGO studs as possible, Phoebe was demolishing the sleeping flowers in the Batmobile. Before I knew what was happening, we were watching Batman accost the Scarecrow and accuse him of releasing a hallucinogen, thereby producing. The cutscene ended, I smashed a few things, and before I could collect the studs, I was in the middle of a boss battle with the Wicked Witch.

Wicked Witch? More like WTF! This change of activity was born of her intense boredom at my attempt to collect every single stud available. Over the course of the next 2 hours, I was convinced I was going to lose my shit and wind up in a straitjacket. Even though I was having a ton of fun, I couldn’t figure out what the hell I was doing to save my life. Phoebe had already played that level before, so she knew every trick and battle, and she was eager to show it all off. The need for a straitjacket went both ways – Phoebe was going nuts because I was constantly off doing something counter productive to her goal of getting to the next level. (This I admit fully, freely, and with total shame.)

This past weekend, I spent time by myself playing the same level. It took fucking forever. I was after every stud, every secret corner, and switched characters to see what they could do. I enjoyed my run through, but there was something missing.

Today while walking back from lunch, I was thinking about gaming with Phoebe Friday. I was looking ahead two weeks to our next Friday together, and thinking about playing the game together. About how ready I would be. How I wouldn’t force her to have to wait for my slow ass to catch up. I realized what was missing. You see, adulting means that your priorities change. I was focused on getting studs for upgrades later, and for completing as much of the level as I could. I wanted to be sure-footed with my characters and their vehicles. I was thinking ahead to the packs I needed to purchase in order to interact with some of the content, and wondering how the experience would change if I were to switch up the characters. I was overthinking how to reach the highest heights, and what would happen if I met an obstacle I couldn’t overcome.

Phoebe was burdened by none of those things. She approached the game with a balls-to-the-wall excitement. A need to explore and experience. An almost palpable urge to see and do as much as she could. To her, there were no obstacles. If she couldn’t break it, build it, climb it, or go around it, she switched characters and tactics until she figured it out. Each time, she went at the problem fearlessly and joyously. 

More than anything, I can’t wait to play LEGO Dimensions with Phoebe again. To willingly strap myself to the top of the USS Enterprise and wait for her to hit warp speed. Being a stodgy completist can wait for when I’m playing the game on my own. What I want is a slice of reckless abandon. To run balls-to-the-wall into the digitized sunset with no idea where I’m going, how I’m getting there, or even what I’m doing. Which, considering how slowly I play the game and the amount of bullshit adulting I need to do between then and now, won’t be that hard. All I lack is a small, bright-eyed, golden-haired pilot.

 

 

 

Hi. My name is Holly Ann, and I’m addicted…

…to LEGO Dimensions.

Addicted, as in, TAKE ALL OF MY MONEY. RIGHT. NOW.

I can’t begin to describe how intensely awesome this game is. Or how purchasing the parts for it feels like selling your soul. Phoebe and Dipper brought it to my house Friday for Family Friday, and I was hooked. Bad. Like a junkie looking for a fix.

First things first. Just what is LEGO Dimensions, and who cares? LEGO Dimensions is a video game originally released in 2015. The plot is super simple. Lord Vortech (voiced by Gary Oldman) and his robot henchman X-PO (voiced by Joel McHale) are searching for Foundation Elements. With these 12 Elements connected, they can basically take over the universe. The 12 Elements are artifacts from different universes (which are different fandoms), such as Dorothy’s ruby slippers, Frodo’s One Ring, etc. In a bid to keep the universes from falling under single rule, all of the Elements were scattered.

Everything would have gone according to Lord Vortech’s plan, except Robin, Frodo, and Metalbeard are sucked into a vortex with the Elements. Their friends Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle willingly jump into the vortex to save their friends. They fall out of the vortex on Vorton, where they need to rebuild the generator that allows them to travel to different universes, saving their friends, collecting keystones, and saving the Foundation Elements.

That’s only scratching the surface of the game. The worlds they travel in are varied and hilarious, as are the heroes they work with. There is a franchise for absolutely everyone. Gremlins. The A-Team. Retro Ghostbusters. Modern Ghostbusters. Knight Rider. Jurassic World. The Simpsons. Mission:Impossible. Doctor Who. Back to the Future. Midway Arcade. The Lord of the Rings. That’s listing about half of the franchises included. Other franchises are being added, The Goonies, Beetlejuice, and Teen Titans Go! being the ones I’m looking forward to purchasing. Meh on Power Puff Girls. Although the idea of seeing Stripe tear through their pastel world is very very enticing! Just look at the picture below. The Joker, Stripe, Gizmo, and Harley in Gotham. Don you just know that’s going to be a wild party?!

When I said that this game was ridiculously expensive, I wasn’t kidding! There are several levels of add-ons that can be purchased. I’m going to go into a little detail about each level, starting with the least expensive and ending with the grandaddy. The least expensive are the Fun Packs. They retail for around $11.99 and are usual one character and a vehicle of some sort. Excalibur Batman and the Bionic Steed from The Lego Batman Movie are just one example. As you purchase updates for the vehicle (Bionic Steed in this example), you can also rearrange the LEGO configuration to resemble the new form. My favorite is Crabmeat from Sonic, which turns his airplane into a giant rideable crab. It’s also worth noting that vehicles aren’t character-specific. I absolutely LOVE running Stripe around Middle Earth on Shelob.

Next up are Team Packs. These feature 2 characters and 2 vehicles from a
franchise and will run you about $24.00. I’ve alluded to it several times, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t feature it here. My favorite team pack is from Gremlins. Gizmo and his RC racer are cute, there’s no denying that. But I absolutely love Stripe!

As with any videogame, the characters have certain catchphrases that they use. I can’t get enough of Stripe’s incessant babble. Sometimes as he’s tearing around you hear “Gizmo caca!” straight from the movie. Other times he merely grumbles to himself and laughs. If you leave him standing too long, he pulls out a bucket of popcorn and starts eating. Start moving again, and he discards the empty bucket.

If you want more levels, you can purchase a Level Pack. For around $30 you get a character, two vehicles, and then more levels for the game. For the adults who are playing LEGO Dimensions, there is Mission:Impossible, The Simpsons, Midway Arcade, and Doctor Who. Those aren’t the only Level Packs by a long shot, but they seem to be aimed for the older set. Midway Arcade comes with a stereotypical 80s gamer LEGO piece, the Spy Hunter car, and an arcade machine. This Level Pack promises over 20 classic arcade games.

Currently there are three Story Packs that you can purchase. Story Packs allow you to play through an entire movie. The three current packs are Ghostbusters (2016), The LEGO Batman Movie, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. What you get in each pack varies a little. The LEGO Batman Movie gives you Batgirl and Robin as playable characters, as well as a vehicle and a new LEGO piece to add to the game pad, which looks like the inside of the Batcave. Fantastic Beasts… gives you Newt Scamander as a playable character, Niffler as a playable character, and the Magical Congress of the United States is the game pad add-on. Ghostbusters (2016) features the Chinese restaurant facade where the girls have their office, Abby Yates and the Ecto vehicle. I don’t know if this is true for the other story packs, but finishing the Ghostbusters (2016) story unlocks the other Ghostbusters. When selecting Abby, it’s possible to play as Holtzman, Erin, or Patty. For $40, I think this pack is a pretty good deal. Even if you don’t use the facades on the game pad, they’re still neat to have, and playing through a whole movie instead of a few levels is definitely a plus.

Before you can play though, you need the basics. That’s where the Starter Pack comes in handy. The game is available for XBOX 360, XBOX One, Wii U, PS3, and PS4. No matter what platform you choose, you are looking at around $65.00-$80.00 for the starter pack. Let’s be honest, that’s a pretty competitive price when you consider that most games debut in the $50-$60 range. With the Starter Pack you get the three main playable characters of the game, Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle. Also included is the Batmobile. You also get the game pad (where you place the LEGO pieces to introduce characters and vehicles), the game disc, and a LEGO build of the Vorton vortex, which matches what you see in the game. Basically, you get everything that you see to the left.  

the most expensive packs are almost laughable at this point. They’re called Polybags. As the name suggests, it’s literally a plastic bag. With one figure. But it’s exclusive and therefore expensive. The only place you can really get ahold of them is ebay or amazon.com, and you will pay out the ass. The two characters are Green Arrow and Supergirl. The prices are outrageous. I’ve seen $129.00 for both, $65.00 for Supergirl alone, $35.00 for Green Arrow. It’s literally all over the place based on who is selling and when you check. Green Arrow was apparently a GameStop exclusive when you purchased any pack on Black Friday of 2016.

When I first started purchasing additional content for this game, I nearly shit from the amount of money. Of course, I started purchasing after all the Easter sales had come and gone. The buy one get one free, the half off. Those types of sales. To the best of my ability, I’ve followed Dipper’s recommendations and purchased lots or discounted items off ebay. I also just snagged a plastic snapcase for the figures and their vehicles. In part so I can bring them over when I visit Phoebe and Dipper, and in part because my cat is an asshole. She recently figured out that there was interesting stuff to knock over on my desk and shelves. LEGO is known for small pieces, and quite frankly, I don’t want to lose any.

The main reason I’m not as upset about the prices is that most LEGO sets go for
about $15.00 as a base price anyway. I purchased the Ghost Rider and Hobgoblin set for myself, and it set me back $20.00, and it doesn’t do anything but get assembled and sit. Granted, it’s absolutely insanely cool, but that’s all it does. Because I intend to take it out of the box and build it, it won’t even maintain a collector’s value. Speaking frankly, I don’t give a damn. The set is great, reminds me of Dipper, is horror themed (c’mon, a flaming skeleton on a motorcycle from Hell?!) and makes me happy. The same is to be said of LEGO Dimensions. The pieces are a blast to put together, the game itself is a riot, and the content is varied enough that it appeals to a variety of audiences.

 

Writer’s Notes:

Please forgive my lack of links in this post. With so many buying options from stores like Target, GameStop, and Walmart to online retailers ebay and amazon, it didn’t seem worth it to tag the packs. Not to mention the many varieties available.

Information on the voice actors for the series can be found here. In some cases, recordings from the movie or TV series the lines came from was used. For others, other voice talent was hired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katamari-what-the-hell?!

In my last post, I referenced Katamari. I’m pretty sure that most of you were wondering what the hell I was talking about. Katamari, in short, is a ridiculously fun game where you are a little character named Prince (or one of his cousins, after you’ve unlocked them) who rolls around with what is essentially an over-sized Bumble Ball and roll up everything you can. Eventually the ball gets big enough that you can roll up sea monsters, buildings, and international monuments. For those of you wondering why in the hell you’d want to do that, I’m going to give you three answers.

  1. Hella catchy soundtrack.
  2. Bright colors and weird sounds.
  3. Your dad, the King of the Cosmos, got drunk and obliterated the universe. Now you have to go and fix it by making planets out of whatever you roll up. (Shit. You. Not.)

I’m going to take a moment here for a disclaimer. I found this game in college, when I got my first video game system, a PlayStation 2. I was not, nor am I, a person that favors recreational drugs. My boyfriend at the time held other views. He was the one that introduced me to Katamari, naturally. The King of the Cosmos, I suspect, is poorly translated because he’s always saying gibberish lines that don’t make much real sense. Although I like to keep with the lore of the game and just assume he’s drunk most of the time and that’s why nobody knows what the hell he’s saying. Not to mention when he appears and disappears it’s like a rainbow-colored acid trip. The King is subtitled, so if you want to puzzle out that mystery for yourself, well, go ahead!

Anyway, you can literally play for hours because this game is addictive. Especially when you’re trying to run down and catch one of the cousins! Each cousin has their own wacky backstory and name. They’re found in different levels and it’s fun to try and figure out who the cousin is for each level. Lalala is not my favorite cousin by any stretch, but I thought her description was too funny to pass up including in this post.

If Katamari looks like something you’d like to enjoy, it’s available on several platforms and a little digging will most likely give you a version for the system you own.

Now, what does all of this have to do with mental illness? I promise, there’s a point. Here’s the deal. My husband, brother, and niece have all told me that they see me as a superhero. Because even on my crushing days, I’m able to get my ass in gear and do (what I consider to be) the minimum. I still manage to take care of them, and most of the time I even manage to hang out and have a great time. I like the idea of the superhero and have adopted (with Dipper’s suggestion) Jessica Cruz as my personal superhero. She’s the new Green Lantern, and she deals with anxiety of her own. It’s really wonderful and empowering. I freaking love her! My favorite picture of her is currently my phone wallpaper, and my badge lanyard for work is Green Lantern themed. So is a hoodie I purchased recently. (Of course now that I’m working on this post I can’t find the picture I have as my background! But this one works really well anyway, and shows part of her personality. So all is well.)

But what about the other days? The days where I’m in a good mood, or where I’m just sort of rolling with it and seeing where my day goes? Who am I then? I like to think of Jessica as my alter ego, the me when I’m fighting the anxiety. She’s the warrior. The protector. The one who gets shit done no matter what. But who am I when I’m not her?

That’s where Katamari comes in. Dipper and I became friends because I basically just kept following him around and talking to him. Tkout, Dipper, and I joke often that my glittery personality just sort of comes along, steam rolls people, and they can’t help but go along with whatever is going on. That’s why I think most of the time I more resemble one of the cousins in Katamari. (Also, when you are on the screen choosing levels and which cousin you want to play, you can make them dance and whistle along with you and it becomes a really cute conga line.

I’m not graceful by any stretch. I’m loud. I can swear with the best of them. And I usually spring into action when I get an idea well before the logistics of it catch up with me. It’s very reminiscent of a huge Katamari rolling through a city and grabbing whatever unsuspecting person, animal, object, or building is in the way.

(If you’re wondering where all this is coming from, I’m rediscovering gaming and am itching to play on my PlayStation 2. I’m planning on hooking it up tonight and playing Katamari with Phoebe when they come over. I don’t remember if she’s played it before or not, but I think she’ll love it. I know I miss playing it!

 

Bouncy-bouncy-bouncy

Physical wounds heal easier than mental wounds. Debriding a physical wound is painful, but possible. Mental wounds? Not as much, though I find these posts help immensely. Especially during weeks like the one I’m in the home stretch of surviving.

The frequency of the attacks has increased, to the point where I find myself crying at least once a day. If it’s at work, like one the other day, I try and find a quiet place to get it over with. I guess that shows progress – it used to be that I would sort of stop, drop, roll, and bawl wherever I was. The way I view the attack is changing too. I see it as something to get over with and get on with my life, because most of the time I can’t really derail it once it’s happening. This morning I’m counting myself lucky. I was ramping up for a really bad attack, but a message from my husband and my brother got me off that particular ledge.

I’m sitting in a part of the clinic that isn’t open yet, and I’m listening to “Riders on the Storm” by The Doors. It’s raining outside. I’ve had my morning coffee, and my kisses from Zelda. This week I’ve put on makeup and jewelry almost every day. I even bought a few solid colored polos so I don’t have to wear my bright yellow construction polo every day. That’s improved the way I see myself, because I can express myself a little bit more freely. Also in the way that I’ve come to think of myself as a bouncy ball or Katamari. (I feel this requires some explanation, so visit this post.)

Last night I watched “Pet Sematary“, which is becoming one of my current comfort movies. I know it’s an odd choice, but when you get right down to it, it’s a tragedy. All of the events can be avoided. Except that we all make mistakes for love. I can’t go into it because it’s not my story to tell, but my parents are currently struggling with some health issues, and I’m beyond terrified that the cycle will start again. I know that’s contributing to my attacks as well, but it seems that only Tkout and Dipper understand and agree with my fears. Everyone else seems to be ignoring the signs. I guess I will have to see how that all plays out.

I’ve ramped up the amount of reviewing that I’m doing for people, and as a result my “to read” pile has grown exponentially. I’m very thankful for this, because it makes me feel like I’m helping good people fulfill their dreams. I’m not sure how far I’ll be able to carry my own dreams, but if I can help someone else, that’s just as good if not better.

A friend of mine from when I worked in a sales call center sent me a surprise in the mail recently. When I opened it, I found a Lokai bracelet. She sent me the orange lokai – which supports mental health awareness. This has a special meaning for the two of us, because recently she came to me with concerns about a loved one and their possible struggle. Every time I look down at it on my wrist, I think of how much there is to live for. Since the beginning, I’ve been open about my own struggles with anxiety and depression. Originally it was to basically let people know what they were getting into, in a bitter way. A few days over a year ago I had a nervous breakdown. I completely lost it and was planning suicide. My husband and brother fought round the clock to keep me alive. (My parents were dealing with another crisis, and so we three dealt with it on our own.) After that passed, I became less bitter, and what started out as more or less a warning sign just became another part of my life. I still post about how I’m doing on Facebook, but now it’s more or less because it’s cathartic. It feels good not to keep it as a dirty secret. If it helps people along the way not to feel so lost or alone, even better. There is always something to live for, and people who love you and would miss you.

I’ve been leaning very heavily on reminders of good times and of the people that love me recently. I find it helps to combat the dark feelings that creep in during the still moments. I’ve mentioned in other posts that I’ve been collecting the Resident Evil Funko Pop figures. Some are exclusive to certain stores, and some are just ridiculously hard to come across. Anyway, I have the bottom three. From left to right, Tyrant, Hunter, and Nemesis. These three are special to me for different reasons. Tyrant and Hunter were ones that Dipper and I found while out on the town for Twin Friday. Phoebe and Dipper brought Nemesis for me one afternoon when they were visiting. (They also brought me the Alien Queen Funko!) Dipper has said he’ll snag me Jill Valentine from Toys R Us at some point. And we are all on the lookout for Leon S. Kennedy and the Licker. These are also special to me because I got to introduce Resident Evil to Phoebe. She’s seen up to the second movie, and I’m wanting to show her the rest. They also remind me of Tkout, because when he and I were dating he purchased Resident Evil 5 for XBOX 360 so that we could spend more time together. (The beginning of the game is a bitch, so we didn’t get far, but I plan on revisiting it soon!)

The picture to the left is my bedside table. The Three Amigos (my fond nickname for Tyrant, Hunter, and Nemesis) are there, along with a graphic novel called Zombies of Mass Destruction, which Dipper recently gave me (not to be confused with the film of the same name, which is also amazing). Underneath the graphic novel is the Kindle Paperwhite, which reminds me of Tkout. The water is also a gift from him.

If you’re struggling like I am an do from time to time, my advice to you is to hold onto the good times. Just sitting here writing this post and thinking about the people I have to be thankful for has brightened my spirits. It’s not going to be a miracle fix every time, and there are times where it won’t take all the pain away. But what it consistently does is remind me why I’m fighting. Who I’m fighting for. I want one more day. With Tkout. With Phoebe. With Dipper. With my parents. With my friends.

If all else fails, build a blanket fort with the love of the people you love the most. When you can’t see the good in yourself, know that they see it for you. When you don’t know your own worth or why they choose to stay, trust that they know it and that’s why they stay.

 

And no matter what, know that even on your worst days they love you and wouldn’t trade you for anything.

An Apprenticeship

From the very beginning, technology has played a large role in the relationship I have with Tkout. The picture of us on the left is from Astronomy Club Fall Campout 2009, a few days after we started dating officially in October. We were playing Left 4 Dead with our friend Maverick, part of whom you can see sitting on the top bunk. We put tapestries in front of the windows because we were playing during the day, and we played on the XBOX Tkout had just gotten for his birthday a few weeks prior.

What’s even funnier about all of this is that when Tkout and I met, we were at a LAN gaming party at my college. (LAN is a local area network. Basically a bunch of nerds hooked up to the same network to share files, game, and hang out in the same space. It’s super fun! Go if you have the chance!) I digress. Tkout and I had met originally at the LAN while playing a first person shooter game called F.E.A.R. In the game, you’re on one of two teams, and you’re running around killing the other players. Tkout and I hadn’t met formally until he decided to run a full round with our mutual friend Plastiqmanb with no weapons. Just kicking and punching. I was an easy target because I’m terrible at those kinds of video games, so Tkout kept finding me to raise his kill count. I finally looked up and yelled, “Who the f— keeps kicking me!?” A really handsome face with dark eyes and hair raised up over the computer and Tkout waved. Before anything else could be said, he made a few keystrokes, and my character fell dead. Again. From a terminal kick.

When we were first getting to know each other I used to play World of Warcraft on a beat-up laptop. (For those of you that aren’t familiar, World of Warcraft is an MMORPG, or massive multiplayer online role playing game). Tkout’s first grand gesture was to build me a really nice gaming computer. It’s a gesture he’s repeated several times, always making sure I have a really nice gaming rig and peripherals (mouse, keyboard, etc.). The picture to the right is my current rig, which has purple LED lighting. He knows I’m a sucker for color and light, so he bought me a mouse, keyboard, and mousepad that change colors. The colors are dictated by the software that comes with the peripherals.

I have always appreciated the computers, but I think only superficially. Until last night, I didn’t have a real appreciation for what he was doing for me. I didn’t see the computers for the gestures that they really were.

Most of the movies and TV shows we watch are on digital media on our PLEX server. That allows us to stream our content from our computers, and makes it easier to watch than trying to hunt down a physical copy. Tkout doesn’t like to leave his computer running constantly because of the wear and tear on the parts, but I don’t mind. I don’t play games as often as he does. Well, we decided to make a PLEX server together. Basically, a bare-bones computer setup that would house all of our digital media so that we could stream it. I wanted to build it with him because I have a job as a desktop technician, and it’s handy to know how to build a computer if you’re going to go about fixing one. I also am looking to get the CompTIA A+ certification, which is equivalent to a low-level college degree in computers. Fully one half of the test is geared towards the actual hardware. Building a computer and interacting with the hardware is a great way to learn what the parts are and their functions. Also how they work together.

Before he builds a computer, Tkout spends hours reading through tech articles and comparing components until he has exactly what he needs for his purpose. That’s why he bought the parts by himself. Eventually I hope to be able to pick out parts, but I don’t know enough just yet. Yesterday we sat down and he went over the parts of the motherboard. He explained about the history of the components, which doesn’t sound like much, until you know that he taught himself. From scratch. In a time when you couldn’t just go and YouTube or Google the answer. I’m in awe that he knows so much, but he takes it in stride. He’s been there for the explosion of the popularity of the home computer.

He referenced how computers used to be, in terms of where the chipset could be found, or what its function was. I knew a little because back when Microsoft ME (Millenium Edition) came out (in 2000) I had my first home computer that I could take apart and re-image and generally play with. My parents were worried I’d break it beyond repair, so my meddling stopped. But it gave me a small background from which I’m launching my current career.

Tkout is an absolute wizard. He works with such patience, attention to detail, and skill that I was literally in the presence of an artist. There’s a reason for everything he does, and every piece of equipment that he uses. He’s also patient with me, and answers all my questions without getting annoyed. That doesn’t seem like much, but I’m inquisitive to a fault, and wind up dragging him down a rabbit hole of questions.

We also got a few laughs out of building the computer. The picture to the left is part of the motherboard. If you look closely, you will see EATXPWR written in white letters. I asked him what “eat x power” was. He couldn’t stop laughing. I forgot exactly what it means, but I know it’s excellerated ATX something-something. Good thing he takes things in stride, because that’s just a taste of the questions I was asking.

Just because I can, I snagged a picture of Tkout as he was fitting the solid state drive into the computer. He’s wearing his t-shirt from MassiveLAN, which is a charity computer gaming event we attend twice a year. (If you’re interested in finding out more and attending, check out the website here.) The weird red stripes behind him are the red LED lights shining out the side of his computer.

We aren’t done building the computer, and we also have to get the hard drives ready with all of our digital media. I asked Tkout to wait for me, because I want to be involved in every step of this process. He’s very excited, because for years he’s wanted to share his passion with me. He has lived and breathed computers for over a decade. Truth be told, I am glad he’s taken me under his wing. I don’t think that any course or book could teach as in-depth and hands-on as he does.

Over the years I’ve had friends and family ask why I’m ok with him being a gamer. There are basic positives, like gamers tend to stay close to home. They also tend to introduce their friends to their wives and kids. We have several friends at MassiveLAN, which is a family event and has something to offer for almost every age. Now that I’ve had the time to sit down with him and watch him work, I appreciate Tkout’s skill for what it is. I also understand why he chose a career in computers, and I’m glad that I’ve made that move as well.

If you’re wondering why there’s a picture of Zelda snuggled under covers, it’s because even our family pets enjoy the gaming household. Zelda is comfortable snoozing on the futon in the basement with Chloe, our cat. They know we are near by for kisses and pets, and we are all home together.

I’m not sure if we are going to work on the rig tonight or this weekend, but rest assured, there will be another post detailing the progress of this journey. I can’t wait to see what mischief we get up to in the next round of the build!

 

Family Friday

Dipper and Phoebe came to visit us last Friday. Due to a possible obligation, they weren’t able to stay over, but it was still an amazing evening. Phoebe got things going by showing me her new Superhero Girls toy. It’s Wonder Woman on a motorcycle, and it’s downright badass! She also brought Clue, but we didn’t get a chance to play. The week had been rough on everyone, and we were all dying and ready for the sleep of the dead by about 9:30.

Since it was the last Friday of winter break Phoebe and Dipper had gone out around the town together. Among their stops were Barnes and Noble and Toys R Us. Dipper snagged a few graphic novels and a Gravity Falls Cinestory Comic for Phoebe, which I called dibs on after she finishes. (Phoebe liked Gravity Falls before I came along, but I suspect that she finds it even funnier now, since her dad and I are so much like Dipper and Mabel.)

Phoebe was also excited to give me the fuzzies that she and Dipper had picked out during the day. I’ve been all about the Resident Evil Funko line, and they found me Nemesis. As well as the Alien Queen from the Alien series. Phoebe found a Resident Evil manga at Barnes and Noble, that I didn’t even know existed. It’s called Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire, and it takes place prior to video game RE6. I snagged the Power Rangers t-shirt from Dipper’s Loot Crate, and Phoebe had some more Monster High minis for me. (Yesterday I snapped all the little lockers together. I just have to clean candle soot off the one wall and then hang them. I’m really at a loss as to what to do otherwise!) The little green Cthulhu is part of a series of vinyl toys called Dunnys. Dipper got it for me a little bit ago, but I was able to glue the wings on Friday (they snapped off in shipping).

Although I didn’t take pictures of the fuzzies I gave them, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fuzzies waiting. I got Dipper the Hulk Mr. Potato Head, which means he’s only missing one or two more from the series. I also got him a Deadpool mini figure from Walgreens. I couldn’t resist! Phoebe got an Easter egg which turns into a bunny nose, some pens, and I honestly forget what else. I was so happy to see them that the first hour or so is a blur.

I was worn out and didn’t feel like cooking, so Tkout ordered us pizza and wings. He got pineapple on the pizza which is basically my favorite thing. After dinner, I did dishes and we sat down to watch Just Add Magic. Tkout changed the filtering on our router, so I couldn’t use the Amazon streaming app until he did some legwork. While we waited Phoebe and I decided to do some reading. She’s working on the Gravity Falls comic, and I was telling her that not only would Dipper and I be able to read it sooner, but I was sure her dad would count it towards her 20 minutes of reading homework. I sat down with Dreaming in Darkness, which I’m working on so that I can post a review. I chose the couch, because I knew Zelda would come and sit with me and hopefully I could keep her calm. It’s difficult to read with a Boston terrier zooming around the living room! Phoebe was over the moon that Chloe decided to sit on the top of the chair Phoebe had chosen.

Chloe likes Phoebe very much, but she’s not always up for the kind of attention Phoebe wants to give her. Since Chloe is at least 7 years old (she’s a rescue cat so we don’t know for sure) she’s not as spry as Vampira. When Phoebe is home, Vampira basically lets her do whatever she wants, within reason. Chloe isn’t like that. She likes to occasionally play with a toy, but more often than not, she wants to just sit and be petted by whatever hooman she chooses. Treats don’t hurt either. Now that Phoebe has learned that trick, she’s definitely used it to her advantage, and Chloe’s delight. Chloe dozed off while Phoebe read, and on occasion Phoebe would reach up and pet Chloe. Zelda did what I hoped, and stayed with me on the couch. As you can tell from the picture, Phoebe is a truly intense reader and really gets into the story!

I had been dreading seeing it for some time because I wasn’t sure what I was in for. Since she’s 9, she’s at this weird age where her shows are either insipid and torture (Bunk’d, I’m looking at you! Bizaardvark gets honorable mention for really annoying supporting characters.) or they’re really fun (Justice League Unlimited for sure!) Just Add Magic was a pleasant surprise for sure. It follows a common recipe – sisters (in this case friends) realize they can do magic, and they use it to try and have a positive impact. In this case, it’s a magic cookbook that the girls find in the attic. I like the strong female leads.

It was a really amazing Friday night. As much as I was sad that Phoebe and Dipper didn’t stay, part of me was glad because I was absolutely dead to the world once I hit my bed. There would have been no late night comic book talk with Dipper or movie marathon with Phoebe. I would have dropped absolutely dead and stayed dead until late the next morning. There’s also zero chance I would have gotten up early to watch TV and build Legos with Phoebe the next morning.

I promised Phoebe the next Family Friday we would play Clue and watch more Just Add Magic. Although I think we will wait for Dipper to go to bed for that last part. I’m not too sure that’s his bag. With any luck I can talk her into more Justice League. Or the classic Batman movies. By classic, I mean my classic. It’s high time she learned that Batman is Michael Keaton, Joker is Jack Nicholson. And as much as nobody seemed to notice, Harley Quinn pre-transformation in Suicide Squad is a dead-ringer for Kim Basinger‘s Vicki Vale.

(Just to prove my point, to the right is a snapshot of Miss Vicki Vale, from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman.

In the shot below, we have Miss Harley Quinn, of the 2016 Suicide Squad. Game over. I win. Right down to the glasses and classy shirt! Oooh..does that make Harley a foil for Vicki? Maybe. That theory will have to be put to the test in another post, another day.)

 

 

The Echoes

Battling an invisible illness day in and day out can make work a struggle. Especially if you find some days it’s harder to be around people than others. Sometimes the type of interaction with these people matters most. Others it’s the degree to which I’m familiar that dictates what I can handle. The worst days are the days that don’t seem to have a pattern. The days where I can’t figure out the magic combination to make it through comfortably. Those are also the days I find hardest to explain to people who don’t fully understand what’s going on with me. That’s because on those days, like today, I can’t answer their questions. “What caused it?” “What if you did x, y, and z?” “Gee, I wonder why that trick didn’t work this time. Do you think it won’t work anymore?” Days like today, I hate to say it, but “I have no fcking idea…” is the best I can do in terms of an answer. And really, I don’t know. That doesn’t mean I’m not analyzing the situation, it doesn’t mean I’m not trying, it doesn’t mean I’m not absolutely fighting for every moment of peace.

I work as a computer installation technician in a local hospital system. Tkout works in the same department of the same system as well, though at another hospital. My days range. Some days I stay totally behind the curtain, a high-tech Wizard of Oz. Other days I’m working with staff, and some days I’m even in front of patients while setting up or supporting the equipment. It’s always a rewarding job, and I leave feeling accomplished. The amount of contact I have with people varies, which is also good.

Today has been one of the days where I feel adrift. But it didn’t start out this way. I woke up feeling rested and happy. I wasn’t anxious that I had somehow lost anyone in my circle to the symptoms of my depression. The weekend was exhausting, but fulfilling. I achieved things I didn’t think were possible, given how I struggled the past few days. The thought of going to work made me feel strong and competent. I was ready to meet the challenge with both feet on the floor.

I got to work early, settled in, and when I clocked in I immediately began working on a user’s problem that was a carryover from Friday. I had to head to the children’s dental clinic in a neighboring building. One of the dental patients was afraid, and kept crying and screaming. Generally speaking, I get anxious and sad when the patients are so scared. It’s impossible not to feel for them.

While I waited for the computer I was working on to re-image, I took a brief call from Dipper. All was well. The conversation went well. We talked and nothing was wrong. I mentioned that if he heard wailing in the background, it was the patient. I wasn’t sure if the sound would carry to the phone or not.

Shortly after that call, I think the mix of the amount of people in the clinic, the issue I was working on, and exhaustion from the previous weekend got to me. I started sliding. Worrying that I had annoyed Dipper by asking what time he was planning on sleeping (he works the night shift). I knew it wasn’t a valid worry since I KNEW everything was fine. I tried to stop the slide. I reached out to Dipper and Tkout, both of whom were more than willing to help me get vertical. It worked, for the most part.

Which leads me to the topic of this post. After an anxiety attack or a depressive swing, often there are Echoes. That’s my collective term for the shame and embarrassment that follows. I don’t struggle long term so much with the attacks or the swings as I do with the echoes. More than not, they hurt worse than the attack or swing. I had my attack around 11 am. In a minute it will be 1 pm. I’ve been dealing with the echoes for literally 2 hours. I’ve been biting back tears because there is no safe, quiet, and secluded place where I can go to fully break down and cry. I don’t want my coworkers to think I’m a flake, so I don’t want them to see it either.

I know in my mind that there shouldn’t be shame or embarrassment. But there is. The shame is that I fell apart on a good day, when I’ve been doing so well up until. When I got out of bed with no problems going to work. The embarrassment is part of what I call the domino slide. The domino slide is where I start thinking I’ve done something wrong, reach out to apologize, get reinforcement that everything is ok, and then start worrying that I’ve done something wrong by reaching out (even when I KNOW that it is what my circle wants me to do), and more worries pile on. They become stifling. Until I start to believe them just for the sheer fact that there’s so many. Hence the name domino slide.

Once the domino slide starts, my self-image plunges. I start to wonder how people can deal with my shit, when I can barely deal with it myself. My thoughts turn dark. I start imagining that my circle is getting tired of this, just as I am. I hear my husband and brother in my head, telling me that it’s alright. That they still love me and there’s nothing to be ashamed or sorry about. That everyone slides. That they’d rather me reach out over and over than suffer quietly. That they want the chance to reassure me. To make everything right.

Then I start thinking that I don’t deserve this love and devotion. That I haven’t done enough to balance out the shit they put up with when I flounder. Both of them have told me countless times that it’s not a matter of balancing out. The good always outweighs the bad. That I need to stop thinking about it like that. I believe them. I really do. I know I’m loved and needed. Not just by my humans, but by my fuzzies too. Even the snakes and bearded dragon.

But the anxiety and the depression lie. And because it’s my own mind, they know just what to tell me to make me feel worthless. To make me feel afraid. To make me want to keep asking if everything is alright, and then fearing that just by asking, I’ve shattered everything. They make me feel like everything is fragile. Even though I know it’s not.

I’m writing this post while biting back the tears. I know I’m loved. I know that there’s nothing to ask forgiveness for. I know that I don’t need to ask them to hang in there, because they will. I’m Wife. Seester. Aunt. Friend. Family. Confidante. Ride or Die. That doesn’t change, no matter how hard the anxiety and depression are whaling at me.

Tkout, Dipper, and Phoebe always tell me that they think I’m a superhero because I still fight. Even when I don’t feel like it. I still fight to go to work. To stay the whole shift. And even if I’m not feeling well, I still come and see Phoebe and Dipper. Still hang with Tkout. I try to make sure they don’t suffer when I’m struggling. And if they need me, I’ll come running. Even if it’s a day where I struggle to get out of bed.

I’ve had trouble reconciling the way they see me, because most of the time I certainly don’t see this myself. When I’m struggling, I tend to only see the bad. But I have always appreciated that they see me in this way. A little while ago, Dipper sent me a YouTube video about the newest Green Lanter, Jessica Cruz. In her, I’ve found my superhero. Take a look at this series of panels, where she fights anxiety. I almost fell over when I first read them. They’re so true to life in terms of showing the anxiety. But they also show her in the moment where she pushes through it. Not surprisingly, it’s because she knows people are counting on her. I almost cried when Dipper sent this to me. For the first time ever, I saw myself as Tkout, Dipper, and Phoebe have seen me the whole time. All those times I was too busy hitting myself over the head to see what they saw. The whole time they saw my will to persevere. The fact that just reaching out and asking for the love and reinforcement was an act of defiance against the mental illness.

For the first time in the last year, since all hell broke loose, I finally saw in myself what they’ve seen the whole time. I understand why they say the good outweighs the bad. Why they say they love me, no matter what. Why they’ve chosen me to be Wife. Seester. Aunt. Friend. Family. Confidante. Ride or Die. Why they have faith in me, and say that it’s never misplaced. Why they’re always willing to catch me when I fall. What they mean when they say they won’t leave me, because it’s not an option.

For the first time, I see myself as the fighter and superhero that they see. I may get knocked down. But it’s not for always. And every time I come back up, I’m stronger than I was before.

 

Self Care Saturday – Success!

From time to time, I detail my battles with anxiety and depression here. Maybe that’s your bag. Then again, maybe it isn’t. If it’s not, I’ll totally understand if you want to go and scope out a different post. It’s not for everyone.

A little while back, I started what I call “Self Care Saturday”, and I usually declare it after a particularly difficult week. This past week definitely qualified. Tuesday night, I thought I was straight up losing my shit. It was one of the worst anxiety nights I’ve had in awhile. Back to back crying jags, needy button-mashing, all kinds of things. I’m still trying to learn how to forgive myself when that happens, but as I’ve been told by a few people, it’s a process. A war. Not a single battle.

Today I needed to hunker down and take care of myself. Recharge after a rough week. It started out with a trip to Tops for groceries. I needed to restock the meat in the house, and also grab some things for Valentine’s Day. I have a plan of what I want to make us for dinner. Not to mention, I had to snag some Tension Tamer tea by Celestial Seasonings. Suzanne said it’s an absolute miracle tea for anxiety. I plan on drinking that tonight. That went surprisingly well, but probably because there were only a few bluehairs roving the aisles. On the way home, I talked to my parents. They wanted to stop by, but I asked if they would hold off. It’s hard explaining to someone what it’s like when you need to preserve the sanctity of your bubble.

While I put groceries away I got breakfast ready. I made scrambled eggs, bacon, and sliced up potatoes. My dad used to put butter in a skillet and cook them, but I am more inclined to improvisation. I looked up a recipe on homemade homefries, and then did my own thing. Which was vegetable oil, paprika, chopped onions, salt, and pepper, and thickly sliced potatoes. I also served the orange juice that my parents brought us last weekend. Tkout was overjoyed. I was pissed about burning the bacon. I can do many things, but apparently making bacon without burning the shit out of it is not one. Oh well. Tkout took down the smoke alarm, since it was enthusiastically cheering me on.

My parents had also brought us carrots, onions, and potatoes last week because they were on sale. Buy one, get x amount free, to be exact. Which means that we’ve been living with 4 full bags of carrots, a whole bag of celery, two bags of potatoes, and two bags of onions with no idea what to do with them. I wound up cutting them up so that I could freeze them. I hate wasting food. It seems that I never have the veggies when I need them, so this seemed the perfect middle ground. Waste not, want not. Hassle not.

I was tired and debating a nap, but Tkout and I have wanted to see John Wick: Chapter 2 ever since we heard it was confirmed. We aren’t big on going out for Valentine’s Day, so we will probably stay home and have dinner. Something nice and quiet. I consider the movie our pre-Valentine’s Day date. It was a really great movie, and I was pleased to see returning characters from the first. There were laughs, scares, tons of action, and even some really sad moments. The downside was that I wound up having an anxiety attack during the movie. I’m not really dsure what set it off, except the fact that there were people sitting in our row, maybe. I don’t know. I don’t always have a noticeable trigger. That’s something that baffles many people, including my parents. Tkout and Dipper get it. So does Phoebe. Shit just happens sometimes, you know? Anyway, I got out of my seat, headed to the bathroom, and spent a few minutes crying it out and messaging Dipper. I was able to finish the movie.

When we got home, Tkout and I were both tired. I changed the sheets on our bed and put on the new green leaf comforter Dipper gave us for Christmas. We snagged Zelda, I read for a bit, and then we took a nap. It was great. I woke up and messaged a bit with Dipper while getting dinner ready.

Earlier in the day I marinated chicken in balsamic dressing. I also took the potatoes and made mashed potatoes from scratch. I not only didn’t use a recipe, but I totally judged the amount wrong. Which means we will have enough mashed potatoes to have with Polish kielbasa tomorrow for dinner. Score! Tkout was pretty excited. I boiled the carrots down to nothing so that was a waste. But otherwise everything worked out well.

After dinner, I decided it was time to rest. I curled up with the fuzzies on the futon and Tkout put on The Mist. Dipper and I talked for a bit on the phone and then I put on Suicide Squad. It’s still on, and I’m sitting here on my computer typing this up. Before I began, I took my daily journal and made sure to finish the list of things I accomplished today. It may seem superfluous, but it helps me get by. It helps me take stock of the day I had and look at it with honest eyes. It keeps the anxiety down. Reminds me of the good times. Shows me that I can do what I need to, and that the anxiety and depression haven’t taken me down. I also use it to log information about what kind of day it was in terms of mental health. I’m hoping to track any patterns, or even more simply, see that the days aren’t as bad as I sometimes think they are. That I’m winning. Battle by battle. Yes, I cried today when I was out in public. But you know what? I have groceries in the house. And I saw an amazing movie all the way to the end, minus the time when I stepped out to get my shit together. Today, the battle was won. Tomorrow is another battle, and I’m ready.

If you’re wondering what kinds of things go in the list, I will do that as a separate post. While writing this, I’ve decided that I’m going to make part of this blog about my journey with mental health. There for those who need it, but not necessarily in the way for those that don’t.

I wish you all well.

 

 

Yesterday Was a Great Day

I’m going to apologize right away, because I have no idea what this post is about. I’d say it’s slice of life, but it’s more like random and happy babbling. If that’s not your thing, I recommend that you check out the other posts, that revolve around more concrete ideas and reviews.

Lately I’ve been spending more and more time in the company of my Kindle Paperwhite. I’m not even kidding when I say that I take it absolutely everywhere with me. I thought I left it at home the other day when I went to work, and let me tell you, that was NOT going to fly!

I have mentioned in other posts that I have anxiety, and am trying to learn to control it better. It was suggested to me recently to have a cup of Tension Tamer tea every night before bed. My first night trying that particular trick was Wednesday night. Tension Tamer isn’t a new tea to me, I used to love it when I was in high school. Although I have what feels like every tea ever produced sitting in my kitchen, that’s one that I had run out of and never restocked, so I will be going to pick that up later tonight. Anyway, I decided to go with the next best thing – pineapple chamomile. I made a large cup of it, went to my bedroom, and proceeded to read while drinking the tea. I remember talking to my best friend on the phone, and I remember messaging with him. I remember my husband coming up to bed. And I remember saying goodnight to my brother, that I would catch him in the morning.

I woke up a few hours later, the bedroom light still on, face-down, my body hanging half off the bed (thanks to Zelda, she’s an aggressive snuggler),  and my Kindle open a few inches from my face. My memory doesn’t include the moment when I took off my glasses and put them on the side table, but they were there.

Yesterday was a really really good day all around. Work went smoothly, and then I got to go and visit Dipper and Phoebe. McDonalds is selling LEGO Batman themed cups with their Happy Meals. Luckily, you don’t have to buy a meal to get a cup, you can purchase them separately. I snagged a red and orange for dad, a red and orange for me, and Phoebe got the orange cup with her meal. All we are missing now are the green and yellow cups. I bought what I thought was a Batman mask for Dipper, but it turned out to be a Viewmaster type toy. Explaining that to Phoebe was a riot! It was hard explaining what a kick-ass toy it was back then, especially when you’re talking to a kid who plays games on a tablet in her hands, and can talk to anyone in the world with the touch of a button.

After we had dinner and checked out our cups, I pulled out my crochet. I’m working on a blanket for one of mom’s friends. It’s a wild colored monstrosity that I almost frogged and started over a few times. Phoebe was the one who encouraged me to see it to the end. It’s definitely going to win the title of Most Colorful Afghan to Date. It’s always dicey crocheting at their house, because Vampira has a way of playing tug of war with me. Usually she’ll pounce on the yarn, tug on it, and then follow it right to my hook. When I was in Dollar General the other night, I picked up a pink plastic basket with a trellis design. It fits 4-5 skeins of yarn easily, and if I start out right, I can spool the yarn from the top without having to turn the whole skein. I put the yarn in the basket, sat it close to me, and began. I think I have momentarily outfoxed Vampira, but I don’t expect that to last. She’s really clever and energetic. I expect this method to hold up maybe one more visit before she finds her way around it. You can see her giving me what Phoebe calls “a look” in the picture on the right. After that she stayed close, thumping her tail and throwing shade at me whenever I glanced her way. Phoebe tries to help me distract Vampira, and I appreciate her efforts, but that kitty has laser focus when string is concerned! While I crocheted, we watched tv, and Phoebe showed me her new Monster High doll. Originally it was a Target exclusive, but Dipper snagged it off ebay for a reasonable price. It’s the version of Clawdeen Wolf where she’s dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood. (Believe me, it’s on the list of things I need for my horror-themed library downstairs!)

Dipper and I had a big brother talk, which I was very much in need of having. My anxieties have been getting the better of me recently, and when that happens, it sometimes is necessary to ground me in reality. After our talk, I feel much better. More secure, and in a better spot in general in regards to the anxiety.

As it turned out, Phoebe hadn’t finished all of her homework yet. She still had to do her 20 minutes of reading. I’m so happy that her school has the students reading every night. Not only is it an important life skill, but it’s fun. Phoebe was already sitting on the couch under her Wonder Woman fleece blanket, so she just needed me to grab my Kindle and join her.

Phoebe is reading a graphic novel called Smile, by Raina Telgemeier. She’s really into it. She’s in fourth grade right now, so the character in the story is close to her age. The story follows the author from grades six to high school. On top of everything else she has to deal with, she trips and falls, injuring her two front teeth. After that it’s braces, trips to the dentist, and all sorts of coming-of-age obstacles. Phoebe would stop here and there to read me a few frames, or show me a picture. She’s a very involved reader, often laughing out loud, or rolling her eyes when the characters do something silly. A few times, she pointed out to me how some of the characters weren’t very nice to each other. Thus the difference between kids and adults. She thought it was mean. I thought the comments were pretty funny, as I read them as sarcasm. Phoebe’s innocence and loving personality is like a little space heater. You can feel it radiating off her.

I’m currently reading 36 by Martin Berman-Gorvine, which is about the tzadikim. The tzadikim are, according to Jewish tradition, the 36 righteous who justify the continued existence of the world. In the story, Martin posits what would happen if something were to happen to the 36. It’s a very dark, involved, and intense novel. I’m enjoying every page of it. Phoebe asked what it was about, so I shortened it. I told her it was two friends on a road trip. Which is not untrue. The difference is that Lonnrot is chasing the tzadikim to warn them that something is happening to the others, and Nahum is more or less along for the ride because he decided since he’s Jewish, he feels responsible for Lonnrot following this “myth”. It’s a little too involved to explain to Phoebe, not to mention she doesn’t have the educational background in fourth grade to understand the Holocaust or many of the motivating factors of the characters. That’s alright. When she’s older, that book will be waiting for her. She was satisfied with that answer, and we started reading.

As we sat and read, Vampira came over and demanded that I scratch behind her ears. She purred loudly, and for the first time ever, I caught her drooling copious amounts. Phoebe was overjoyed when Vampira hopped onto the back of the couch and settled down with us. It was fantastic! To the point where we actually read a little over the 20 minutes.

When I went home, I made some more pineapple chamomile tea, walked Zelda, got my Kindle, and hopped in bed to read. Zelda grabbed a chew toy and hopped up on the bed with me. The only thing missing was that it was a Thursday. That would have been perfect as a Friday so I wouldn’t have left early!