Not Without a Fight

When the dam broke and I was forced to come to terms with the state of my mental health, it caused me to start reevaluating things. One of the positive outcomes was that I gained a backbone. I have always had a smart mouth, but I gained the spine to go with it. Tkout and Dipper assure me that the sparkly Care Bear is still there, I haven’t lost that, and I can outdo Mary Poppins herself on most days. What I don’t do so easily anymore is back into a corner. Nowadays I’m more inclined to stand up for myself. It feels good.

While I was going through my struggles I found I wanted to push people away. Everyone. Almost constantly. I was angry with the people who didn’t (or couldn’t) understand what I was going through and as a result stepped back from me. I felt they abandoned me. The ones who held on but didn’t seem to know how to help? I was angry with them too. The ones that tried to tell me I wasn’t as bad off as I knew I was? I didn’t want to explain it to them. I wanted them gone. Before I knew it, I had whittled my circle down and was in danger of getting rid of the few people who remained.

Tkout and Dipper tried to convince me not to continue pushing people away. At times they weren’t even immune to the purge, but they held on. For them it was different though, I was selfishly trying to save myself the pain of losing them when they moved on. When they had enough of the crying, the insecurity, the wobbly moods, the struggle. What I refused to have faith in was the fact that they weren’t going anywhere. They still haven’t, and I won’t claim that everything is always a field of wildflowers. I still have dark days. I still feel the need to push everyone away, but it’s more when I know I’m not playing nice. When I have too much rage built up and nowhere to release it. When I find myself lashing out at the people I love. When I know intrinsically that “I’m not good with people right now”. Lucky for me they both roll their eyes and stand their ground.

Recently I’ve found that I want people in my life again. Bit by bit. I’m starting to want to make room again. To make plans. To see those plans through. The big test was this past Saturday.

VTVT has been a friend for years. We met while working at PetSmart. I didn’t like her at first. I thought she was a know-it-all and it drove me bugfuck. What I was unwilling to realize was that I was jealous. While I was scraping by living with my parents, scooping hamster shit at a pet store, and waiting for my big break as a teacher, this chick was living her dream. She was a vet tech (VTVT was the name I made up for her when I didn’t like her, based on her penchant of reminding people she was a Vet Tech.) When my jealousy subsided and I started to see who she really was, I realized I not only liked her, but we clicked. She was the person who taught me how to crochet, which is one of my favorite hobbies.

During the Dark Year she was one of the people I pushed away. She was getting ready for her wedding, which I backed out of being a bridesmaid because of the anxiety, depression, and inability to handle crowds. The stress of that coupled with the fact that I couldn’t seem to explain to her what was going on with me only frustrated me more. She made suggestions – do yoga, drink tea, crochet, go for a walk. These are sound suggestions, unless you’re in a dark hole and looking for somewhere to vent your rage. I viewed them as unhelpful, and decided that they weren’t going to make the pain go away or make me better. I pulled away. She still posted on my Facebook wall. She texted. The offer to hang was always there. But I didn’t want to go to the Botanical Gardens. Or the craft store. Or the state park. Or anywhere that wasn’t the dark of my basement or Dipper’s house. She offered to come over, but I found the idea of hanging out with anyone who wasn’t Tkout or Dipper or Phoebe too terrifying to even consider. I always said no.

After awhile I think she figured out that I had closed off. That didn’t stop her from texting. Or offering a ride to the park. Or asking me if I needed to go to the craft store or out for coffee. She didn’t get mad when I wouldn’t text her for a few days. (Or weeks, if we are being honest.) She never blew up on me because while I couldn’t hang out with her, I hung out with Dipper and Phoebe all the time. She was patient.

This past Saturday we finally hung out. She came over to my house and I gave her an afghan I made for her right before the Dark Year started. I also gave her a Star Wars pin with a Funko cartoon version of Wicket, her favorite Ewok. I found it at GameStop a few weeks ago. She loved them, and I felt embarrassed that I hadn’t even wrapped them, or put them in a gift bag. She didn’t seem to mind.

We sat in my living room with Zelda and talked for a bit. It felt like we hadn’t ever stopped hanging out. It felt comfortable. We talked about her progress in yoga and my progress with finding a job that made me happy. We caught up. It felt good.

Then we hopped in her car and headed to the local park. I knew VTVT liked to bird watch. She does it while sitting in her garden at home. I had a fuzzy recollection of her purchasing some binoculars. I didn’t realize how into it she had become. We walked the park trails and she kept her eyes out for birds. We saw a woodpecker right off the bat, as well as some catbirds. She told me about the different birds and what made them special. People often feed the wildlife in the park, but we hadn’t brought anything. Neither of us believe in feeding the wild animals. We think familiarity with humans is to their detriment. Even so, we had quite the entourage. A squirrel, chipmunk, blue jay, and some other assorted wildlife were following us along the trails. They kept their distance, sort of. It allowed for some really nice photos, and certainly it was nice to get closer without the animals being behind glass at a zoo.

VTVT is a bit of a shutterbug, like me. She kept trying to take pictures of birds, whereas I was more into the bugs and the fuzzy animals. Not to mention plants. I love taking pictures looking up into tree canopies. They’re like a slice of comfort. One of her goals was to get a picture of her doing Tree Pose on a tree stump. We managed that with flying colors!

I think we spent 3 hours in the park, and walked just under 10,000 steps. It was definitely refreshing and fun to get together again. I’m looking forward to it in the future, and am thinking of reaching out and asking her for some help breaking the ground for my garden. I have bulbs that need planting, and I find creating flowerbeds to be a bit of a pain in the ass. VTVT built her garden from the ground up, and adds to it every year. But that’s a topic for another post.

This morning I thanked Dipper for not letting me cut everyone out of my life. He was the first to notice it, but only because he had done that himself during his dark times. Tkout listened to my complaints about people, but was always the devil’s advocate for not getting rid of them. He always argued that there was merit, even if it meant that I needed to take a little bit of a break here and there. At the time, I went along with their suggestions, but wasn’t fully sold on them.

After VTVT left on Saturday I started to think about the Dark Year and why I pushed people away. I’m not going to take all the blame – there were more than I few moments where I was justifiably angry with people. However more often than not, I just wanted something concrete to fight. Mental illness is invisible. Even when the symptoms present themselves, there’s nothing you can fight. You can’t strangle depression. You can’t lock anxiety up and throw away the key. You can’t get on a train, plane, or boat to escape them. The same is to be said of the other disorders and diseases. Like it or not, they’re with you for the ride.

I’m a person that, while I don’t relish conflict, I prefer to meet my challenges head-on. Tkout says that I like to fight things out and be done with it. He’s not wrong. During the Dark Year I didn’t know what to fight. I felt helpless. The medicine adjustments were a hellacious rollercoaster. The soaring highs and crushing lows were unbearable at times. When I was suicidal, I didn’t want to reach out and bother anyone. I know everyone says, “If you need anything let me know.” The problem is, when you’re so sick of it all, you don’t want to let anyone know. You want to be out of the picture. No longer anyone’s problem.

Lacking a corporeal target, I turned on my friends. I found fault where there wasn’t any. Where there was fault, I amplified it to gargantuan proportions. Tkout and Dipper saved me from getting rid of everyone, and I can’t express how thankful I am to both of them. On Saturday I realized how much I miss VTVT. There are other friends I miss too, and it’s my hope that I will be able to bring them back steadily. That’s not to say that everyone is coming back, because in going through it and finding my spine, I came to realize some people really are there to use you. The ones that aren’t, the ones that waited, they’re the ones I am looking forward to letting back in.

This post is longer than I meant it to be, but I hope the message I intended to convey came across. Don’t let your illness and the struggle make you blind. If you need space, take it. But whatever you do, don’t listen to the voice telling you to let everyone go. At times your illness will find every excuse in the book to get you to get rid of people. Don’t listen. Don’t allow it to isolate you. Keep fighting the good fight.

 

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.

 

 

Shit-Your-Pants Terrifying

Awhile back Dipper gifted me a copy of Funcom’s The Park. It’s a spin-off of their game The Secret World (which is not a topic for this post, but I strongly urge you to give it a whirl!) I’ve recently gotten back into videogames, and yesterday morning Dipper asked me to give it a go when I got home. I was going to write this last night, but after finishing The Park, I just needed to lay down and decompress. There are two main reasons why I needed to decompress. The first is that I get motion sick when playing first person shooter games. This game is also in the first person, but I quickly learned how to move the character so that I didn’t get motion sickness. The second reason is that I have never been scared so thoroughly by a video game, and rarely to this degree by a movie.

In order to take full advantage of the experience, I shut all the lights off in my basement. I dragged the futon over next to me so that Zelda could hang out with me while I gamed. I even put on my headphones. Dipper told me that it was an all-encompassing experience and suggested the headphones. The game begins with a woman standing in the parking lot of a beat to hell looking amusement park called Atlantic Island Park. That’s the only playable character, and her name is Lorraine. She’s looking for her son Callum who has gone missing. She gains entrance to the park and commences to search for him in almost pitch-black conditions.

At the beginning of the game there is a disclaimer, about the game messing with lights, sounds, and visuals. When I read it I chuckled. It seemed ambitious but not unsurprising because The Park is styled as a first-person psychological horror adventure game. Not only was Funcom most decidedly NOT fucking with the gamers, but it drastically failed to prepare the gamer for the sheer terror of it all. Lorraine has no weapons, and doesn’t even get a flashlight until she’s almost done searching the park. In fact, the only thing she can do is call for her son Callum. While this seems useless it’s actually a navigational tool. For each section of the park she has several various phrases that she calls out, and when she does a few things happen. Sometimes Callum will respond and you’ll know where to go based on where the sound is coming from. Oh and be prepared, he’s a creepy little fuck. It’s literally like following Gage Creed in Pet Sematary. Half the time I was temped to leave his possessed-sounding ass behind. Or the screen will slightly warp like looking through a fish eye. This either tells you to go in a certain direction or leads you to something to interact with in the park. If you’d rather navigate this solely on sound, go ahead. You can turn off the visual hints in the menu.

Not so bad, right? Fuck no. Let’s talk about the rides, shall we? The first ride that you go on is The Tunnel of Tales. It’s pretty tame but cool. As you ride through in this swan-shaped boat loudspeakers tell the story of Hansel & Gretel. Shadow displays on the wall highlight key points of the story. If you look around while the story is going on, you’ll notice a few not-so-nice surprises along the way. I wound up actually screaming out loud a few times during this segment. Shit. You. Not.

The other rides are steadily scarier. I can’t even say which one is the scariest. Each ride or attraction had me screaming in real life. I hate roller coasters. I couldn’t stop screaming when Lorraine is riding the rollercoaster. I’ll give you a hint. She’s not alone. By the time I hit the House of Horrors, I was literally crawling from room to room grumbling, “fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck-fucking hell-fuck-fuck-shit-where-the-fuck-is-he-shit-fuck-omg” the entire time. Things jump out at you, mysterious shadows are there and gone in the blink of an eye, and then there’s Atlantic Island’s Backstory. As you’re looking for Callum there is a paper trail that you follow. The paper trail details the madman that built the park, and a little bit about what he was using it for.

Oh and the chipmunk mascot that’s in the advertising for the game? Yeah. That’s Chad the Chipmunk. The guy who worked as the mascot never took the costume off and basically went totally bugfuck. How do you know? The incident, accident, and death reports you find laying around the park. Even better? He’s one of the creepy motherfuckers sneaking around while you’re trying to find Callum. Sometimes he’s right in your face, other times you barely glimpse the outline and red eyes.

As the game progresses you start to wonder what’s really going on with Lorraine, our main character. Certain areas of the game trigger memories. Lorraine begins talking to herself and trying to rationalize what’s happened in the past or choices she’s made. It all seems pretty forgivable at first. I mean, she’s stuck in this creepy amusement park. She went in when it was still light out but as soon as she goes in it gets dark out? That would be unsettling enough for anyone. Let alone the strange noises and scratching sounds that seem to come from everywhere and nowhere while you’re exploring. Turns out you can’t really trust our Lorraine. She’s a little bugfuck herself, as her conflicting emotions and memories begin to show. Without giving away too much, you also find out that your narrator isn’t quite as reliable because of what she’s gone through. She had a traumatizing childhood and has been medicated for psychiatric problems. These combined with the changing imagery make you start to wonder how much of the game is in her head and how much of it is the evil influence of the amusement park.

I’m going to be completely honest. This game scared me shitless. I’m not being overdramatic when I say that I was screaming pretty much all of the two hours that it took me to go through this game. If you’re good at this type of thing like Dipper, it might take you an hour. I kept wussing out and having trouble going forward. There were a few rides I rode more than once, just to get a closer look at the “extras” that appeared when on the ride. As it turns out, not all of the rides are necessary in order to find Callum, but they do flesh out everyone’s story a little bit more. Also, if you’re a fan of The Secret World, you may recognize some of these locations. The Park takes place about 20 years prior to the Secret World. Oh and the creepy looking motherfucker to the right? The one in rags and a top hat? All out of proportion? Yeah. No fucking clue who he is, though I have my guesses. Not to mention he’s every-fucking-where in this game. But never where you see him coming. More than half the time he sneaks up on you. I was examining something in the Freak Show area and I turned around and he was there. I screamed so loudly Zelda almost fell off the futon beside me!

The park is fantastic. I loved it so much I might play it again soon, just to go through the experience and see what I missed the first time around. The visuals and sounds are terrifying, but I think it’s all the more horrifying in that you don’t have a weapon. Or a flashlight. It’s literally you going through a dark, creepy amusement park at night looking for your kid. By yourself. With nothing to defend yourself and every situation feeling dangerous in a way you can’t quite put your finger on. The closest comparison that I can make is going through a haunted house in real life. You know something is around every corner. But what that thing actually is? And where? Fuck if anyone knows. It’s not like they’ve left you a clue or anything. The Park doesn’t leave you with a nice cut-and-dry ending. It’s enigmatic and very open for debate, and that’s also what makes the game so enjoyable. I have found myself thinking about The Park off and on today at work, thinking through some plot twist or theory. It’s definitely a game that stays with you.

I absolutely recommend this game, but more strongly than that, I recommend you play it the right way. In the dark. Alone. With headphones. Immerse yourself in The Park and you won’t be sorry in the long run, though you’ll be scared out of your mind while you’re playing! And if while you’re playing you happen to feel eyes on your back, it’s probably just Chad the Chipmunk….

 

 

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!

 

Continuing Traditions

I’ve been working with Dipper and Tkout to show Phoebe iconic movies since this summer. I’m starting to run out of titles that are largely free of major objectionable material, so I’m branching to classics in general. Before venturing further, I should probably clarify, since Texas Chainsaw Massacre, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Alien, and JAWS have all been shown. (If you’re curious as to the criteria that selects these movies for a 9 year old, check out this post.)

When I was a kid, I loved Indiana Jones films. They had action, scares, excitement, and my first Asian crush, Short Round. When I found
out that Phoebe had never seen any, I almost fell off the couch. I decided to start with Raiders of the Lost Ark, in no small part because Marion is kick-ass. She holds her own in fight scenes, outsmarts the bad guys, smarts off to Indy, and is nobody’s damsel in distress. I (correctly) guessed that Phoebe would find her a kindred spirit.

When I started the movie, Phoebe decided to lay down on the cot that I had in front of the tv. On sleepover nights, Phoebe gets the couch, and I sleep on the cot. (I am WAY too old to sleep on the floor for extended periods of time!) She was laying under her new Wonder Woman blanket that I made her for Christmas. She was ecstatic that Chloe, our Bengal cat, had decided to come and snuzzle with her for the movie. Chloe, for her part, is an older cat and likes it best when people just laze around with her and watch tv. (As I’m writing this post, Chloe is behind me on the futon watching a horror movie, and I’m sitting at my computer, which is on a table to the right of the tv. We are both in the basement.)

I was surprised that Phoebe wasn’t as into the whole sequence with the golden idol and the huge rolling boulder. Until I realized that she’d always been alive for bitchin’ CGI effects. As opposed to Dipper, Tkout, and I, who have had a range of effects to experience throughout our lives.

She was ok with the story, but really perked up when Marion (Karen Allen) appeared. She liked that Marian held her own in the bar fight, and that she didn’t just hand over the medallion to Indy because he smiled at her the right way.

Phoebe likes behind-the-scenes movie trivia, so she perked up when I told her that during an iconic market fight, Harrison Ford had a bad case of food poisoning. Rather than the elaborate sword battle that was scripted, he pulls out his gun and shoots the enemy instead. If you look closely, you can tell he’s not feeling well on that day of the shoot. Phoebe was fascinated by the improv aspect, and the fact that everyone on set just went with it as though it was supposed to happen all along.

My one regret with this choice, is that it comes perilously close to my self-imposed restriction on overly religious movies. I also forgot that she had no frame of reference for Nazis either, besides a brief explanation I had given her some months ago. I settle for explaining it like this:

“The ark is a big chest that some people believes holds the agreement the Jews made with God. The bad people, Nazis, who don’t like the Jews to begin with, want the ark because they believe whoever has it will get incredible power and will be able to hurt lots of people very easily. Indy and Marian want to make sure that nobody gets it, because they don’t think people can be trusted. Oh, and the things that look like ghosts that come out of it towards the end of the movie are angels. But people aren’t supposed to see angels like that, so a bunch of people who look die.”

What seemed like a totally reasonable explanation at the time somehow seems less cut and dry now. Phoebe bailed me out of a potentially precarious situation by asking me if it was like in the superhero shows she watches. I told her yes, think of the creepy guy with the glasses as the big baddie, and Indy and Marian are the good guys. And every bad guy needs someone to hate, so the bad guy hated the Jews, even though they hadn’t ever done anything to him. That proved to be a sufficient explanation, and she kept watching.

She thought the market chase scene was pretty funny, especially when Marion tried to hide in the basket, and the monkey blew her in. Phoebe wasn’t a fan of the monkey when she realized that he wasn’t on the side of the good guys, but she later decided that was the fault of the owners, not the monkey itself. She had no such lenience or compassion for the bad guys. When the monkey was poisoned, she sagely decided that was what happened when you threw your lot in with the wrong people. Talk about a teachable moment!

I don’t have any experience with children just entering puberty, other than having been a teacher. But in that regard, in many ways, the parents have already done the majority of the legwork. I was totally unprepared for what transpired when Marion and Indy share a few kisses aboard the train. I will be the first to admit I didn’t even remember this scene in the movie. It’s short, corny, and didn’t make an impression. Basically, Indy is hurt, Marion kisses his boo-boos, he points out a few more (chest, neck, forehead, etc.) and then he falls asleep literally before anything can get moving in any sort of serious direction. By this time, Phoebe was sitting on the couch, instead of laying down on the cot with Chloe. I was crocheting, Zelda was chewing on a toy between us, and Phoebe was working on her Lego set. When suddenly –

“Ok. No more kissy-kissy.”

“Why?” She sat there, saying nothing. But the face, if only I could have taken a picture! “It’s ok, Phoe, he fell asleep.”

“Are you sure he’s not dead?” I paused the movie.

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“How? He looks dead.” There’s no way this wasn’t going to go all the way down the rabbit hole.

“There’s three more movies.”

“Then does he die?”

“No.” I wasn’t sure where we were going at this point.

“What happens?”

“I don’t know, Phoebe. He just gets old. It happens.” I was really hoping this would be sufficient.

“Oh. Then he dies?”

“Don’t know.”

“Why?”

“Because there’s no more movies.”

“Why?” Oh shit. She never does the circular why routine…

“Because he’s old.”

“Oh.” She sits there and thinks this over. I had to strike fast, before she thought of another question that I couldn’t answer satisfactorily.

“Yup. But hey, no more kissy-kissy.”

“Good. I don’t like it.” Just to make sure, she puts her head down and starts working on the Legos.

“Mhm.” I got the death-stare for that one. Haha!

The funniest part of all was that she seemed to hold it against Marion and Indy that they had kissed. Especially when Marion finds herself a prisoner of a Nazi sympathizer. She tries to use her wiles to get out of it. Phoebe was pissed. She thought that Marion was cheating on Indy. I explained that she was pretending, so she could gain the sympathizer’s trust, and somehow escape. Phoebe decided that it was a good plan, but she still didn’t like the dishonesty. I told her that was a good way to look at it, but to give Marion some slack, considering her life was literally on the line. She agreed.

When the movie wrapped up, I honestly wasn’t sure what she would think of it. I was wondering how much the kissy-kissy had weighed into her opinion. As it turns out, even with more kissy-kissy on the horizon, she still wanted to see the rest of the movies. I’m tempted not to show her the 4th movie, because it was so awful. But I think I’ll let her make that decision for herself. (I did forewarn her that it’s nowhere near as good as the other three.)