A Little Exercise

A writing exercise, that is. Thought I’d take myself for a walk down memory lane. I’d love to hear your thoughts about when/where you were when you decided to do something you love to do, too!

My interest in writing stories began in the first grade, I think. We had to practice our handwriting every day. “Today is Wednesday,” we would write. “We studied math today.” Sometimes, we would get creative and talk about what we had for lunch or if we did arts and crafts. I always made an “A” in handwriting practice. One day, we made paper hats out of paper plates. The kid in class who was always seeking attention glued his paper lunch sack to the top of his hat and put construction paper headlights on it. I was impressed. I felt that such a monumental creation had to be immortalized in our daily handwriting exercise. “We made paper hats. Brent’s looked like an awtomowbeel,” I proudly wrote. I asked the teacher how to spell “automobile,” and she told me to “sound it out.” I tried my best. It was the only word I had ever misspelled on a class assignment in first grade. Dejectedly, I took my “B+” home to my mother. I think I might have actually wanted to cry a little bit. I was sensitive like that. Also, I was easily embarrassed. My mother looked at the paper and we read it aloud together, like we did almost every day after school. “Well,” my mother giggled, “at least you had the right idea!” She seemed pretty happy, actually. What I didn’t understand then was that she was proud to have a daughter who even attempted to spell “automobile” on a first grade handwriting assignment. I think that was the first day I started wanting to tell stories. I already loved to read, and it was exciting to think that I might be able to put words on paper and describe my world for other people to read.

Seductive Self Pity and Sweet Anger Part 1

Part 1: They Meet

Ok, Not Really.

Identifying Unhealthy Patterns of Anger and Self Pity

I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.    — D.H. Lawrence

I found some of my notes from my posts on how I fight bipolar disorder, and I thought I would treat you to some of the issues I wanted to address but which were probably too narrow to include in a general mood disorder article. You lucky people, you.

About two months ago, I went through a little slump.  Just a couple of days of sadness and fatigue, nothing really out of the ordinary. It passed. Then I went to an event which involved a great deal of activity and stimulus (http://texrenfest NULL.com) for me, and so I intelligently stopped taking my meds regularly. Don’t worry, I was still taking them, but I would miss days here and there. Ok, I missed about two out of three doses. For a week or so. The consequences of doing so were that I had a huge meltdown about a week ago, spent the next three days recovering, and then I had to be really strict with myself about the meds. I experienced more side effects, and I was less stable than usual. Welcome to fatigue and nausea city! Fatigue and nausea town? In any case, it wasn’t a spot you’d choose for your destination wedding. The moral? When you’re experiencing fluctuations in mood, and when you’re engaging in activities that you know might make you fluctuate, make sure you take your medications correctly!

I noticed during my meltdown that the first emotion I felt was a sort of self-righteous anger. Yes, I notice things when I’m having an irrational mood swing. If you have a mood disorder, you may have noticed that you tend to detach when experiencing strong emotions. People often describe it as a feeling of “watching” themselves and having no control over their actions, as if they were “someone else.” This is called “dissociation (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Dissociation).” Wikipedia says so. While I was crying hysterically, I noticed that I was very very angry, mostly because “no one ever listen[ed] to me,” “no one care[d] that I have a right to feel this way,” and “I listen[ed] to everybody all the time, but when I need[ed] someone to listen to me, no one [gave] a shit!” This was about the time I noticed that I was feeling really sorry for myself. That’s a classic bipolar pattern, in miniature, because these emotions went away the next day.

Continue reading Seductive Self Pity and Sweet Anger Part 1

New Improved Ren Camp Checklist

In two weeks, I’ll be headed off to the Texas Renaissance Festival. Because I can’t actually leave my job, but I had some free time, I made a new, improved Ren Faire Camping Checklist. This one is far superior to the old one in that the checkboxes are clickable, and I have created it as a fillable form. You can just “tab through” the gray fields and fill in your checklist!  If you need to customize the list further, just remove the protection in the Review panel of Microsoft Word.

Once again, feel free to use and print for your own enjoyment, or share with others. Don’t sell it, because this site is protected by a Creative Commons License, and also because you wouldn’t get much for it anyway. Enjoy the hell out of it! I sure will! You can download it here.

A Response to a Response

How about this: Don’t Bother (http://happilychildfree NULL.com/rants/?p=633&sms_ss=wordpress).

I read a response to a parenting article on Happily Childfree (http://happilychildfree NULL.com/rants/) today.  The author posts a response to a parenting article entitled “How to Stay Friends With Parents (http://blogs NULL.news NULL.com NULL.au/naughtycorner/index NULL.php/news/comments/how_to_stay_friends_with_parents/).” (The grammar in some of these articles needs to be ignored, by the way, possibly even in my own article!)

The upshot of the original parenting article: If you want to keep being friends with parents, and you are childfree (or even childless at the moment) you must jump through all sorts of accommodating hoops. The upshot of Happily Childfree’s article: Why bother?

I have an answer for the last question. Personally, I would “bother” because I was still close friends with the parent in question. Emphasis on “close.” And yet, and yet…

Why would I remain friends with someone who had so many rules and regulations if those rules didn’t fit into my lifestyle? In all honesty, I don’t know if I would remain friends with anyone so demanding, parent or not! In the past, when someone made too many demands on me without giving back, the friendship did dissolve. However, if I lived in the parent author’s world, there could be a few rules for her to follow if she wished to stay friends with me, also:

  1. While I understand that you are on a schedule, sometimes I might have to touch base with you during “difficult” hours, simply because I’m busy working during “naptime” or “mommy’s/daddy’s day out” and can’t take or make personal calls at that time. Please be tolerant and at least listen to the voicemail at some point, if you’re truly interested in my friendship. Also, I don’t mind spending time with you and your children if you invite me to do so, but really, about an hour or two in “toddler world” is probably all I can stand. (Exceptions will/have been made, especially if I invited myself or otherwise encroached upon your hospitality for some reason. I do that, sometimes. My parent friends were awesome about it.) Please don’t invite me over to spend time with your kids (because if they’re in the room, that’s what we’re doing), or worse, don’t invite me over and then ask, “Would you mind watching them for a little while while I cook dinner/watch tv/some other activity?” Not only is that rude, it defeats the purpose of my visit and also endangers your children. Trust me, I  have no idea what they are doing: it looks like they are small drunk people who are intent on destroying themselves. I’m completely useless in that department, and very happy to remain so.
  2. If I am organizing a party, I will probably give plenty of notice. It will probably be at night/during the dinner hour. If you can’t come, I probably won’t be annoyed. I would love to see you, but I’m not going to organize my whole event around you. Sorry. If only one partner can make it, we would love to have him/her.
  3. Please do not bring your kids to a “fancy restaurant.” If I say “we’d love to see the kids” while inviting you out to one, I’m probably just being polite, although I rarely do/say things like that just for politeness’ sake. If only one partner can come, we’ll probably have a great time with him/her. Maybe next time both of you can come, or, here’s an idea: why don’t you invite me somewhere and you pick the place. I might even come, if your children are genuinely well-behaved  for their ages (and not just “well-behaved” by your standards: I mean behavior I can actually tolerate without wishing I or they were dead).
  4. I don’t usually answer the phone after 9pm, either. I don’t care when you leave if you come out; I have to get up early, too. If you act like you did me a favor by coming out with me, you probably won’t be invited out with me again, anyway.
  5. If you don’t call me back, I don’t mind. We are all busy people, even those of us without children. I will probably call you again eventually. Or, you could just call me once in a while, if you think about it. I won’t mind, and if I have the a few minutes free, we could catch up. You could actually have an adult conversation, with an adult, even! Isn’t that what parents sometimes complain about, not getting enough “adult” time?

So here’s the upshot of my article: friendship is a social contract. We operate within social contracts in order to help each other to be happier and healthier. That’s what boundaries are for. If you want a friend, be a friend. If you want good neighbors, be a good neighbor. Be aware that your lifestyle and your boundaries and what-not may look a little different from the outside. This advice is not just for parents, it’s for everyone. I think the author at Happily Childfree (http://happilychildfree NULL.com) just doesn’t want to be friends with entitled, demanding people, not necessarily parents. Although entitled, demanding parents are just as annoying as any other entitled, demanding people. Some parents just use their children as an excuse to be so, which is kind of icky. All parents aren’t like that. This particular demanding person in the article just happens to be a parent.

The Lost Art of Conversation

I love to watch people, especially at restaurants. I like to see groups of people and watch their body language as they egotistical male conversing with a womantalk to each other. Recently, though I find people are too busy checking their phones to really engage with each other.

I’m sure I’m as guilty as the next person. I try to have good communications etiquette, but it’s just so tempting to take a quick peek at my phone, especially if the other party at my table is doing one of those 10 minute “this will just take a second” phone checks. In all honesty, I tend not to make one-on-one engagements twice with someone who does that to me. It’s bad enough in a group, but if I’m sitting there with my thumb up my ass while you comment on your friend’s Facebook post, I will remember that and not the oh-so-stimulating conversation we had about your coupon savings at Randall’s.

Ruminating on these topics has led me to think about conversation in general. I am blessed to have several intelligent and well-spoken friends who also seem to tolerate my own verbal troglodytery. (Yes, they really should all get medals, preferably ones made of chocolate.) I decided to take a look at my friends’ respective methods of communication, and why one conversation can leave me interested, energized, and satisfied, while another can leave me bored, frustrated, and sapped of the will to live. I’ve noticed at group gatherings that a lot of people (including myself) have trouble with the following: Continue reading The Lost Art of Conversation

The Picayune's Creole Cookbook

Today we did some errands and, as usual, couldn’t stop ourselves from visiting Half Price Books. I was so pleased to pick up an actual treasure: The (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/Picayunes-Creole-Cook-Book-Sesquicentennial/dp/B000I0PL7Y%3FSubscriptionId%3DAKIAJEQD5TKKEYDMJSTA%26tag%3Dblogferret-20%26linkCode%3Dxm2%26camp%3D2025%26creative%3D165953%26creativeASIN%3DB000I0PL7Y) Picayune’s Creole Cook Book – Sesquicentennial Edition (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/Picayunes-Creole-Cook-Book-Sesquicentennial/dp/B000I0PL7Y%3FSubscriptionId%3DAKIAJEQD5TKKEYDMJSTA%26tag%3Dblogferret-20%26linkCode%3Dxm2%26camp%3D2025%26creative%3D165953%26creativeASIN%3DB000I0PL7Y)! It contains 150 years worth of recipes compiles from The Times Picayune (http://www NULL.timespicayune NULL.com/), the New Orleans daily newspaper. The Picayune itself is somewhat sentimental (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/Picayunes-Creole-Cook-Book-Sesquicentennial/dp/B000I0PL7Y%3FSubscriptionId%3DAKIAJEQD5TKKEYDMJSTA%26tag%3Dblogferret-20%26linkCode%3Dxm2%26camp%3D2025%26creative%3D165953%26creativeASIN%3DB000I0PL7Y) for me, in part because my grandfather always said it phonetically to make us giggle when we went to visit. Also, a lot of my mom’s own recipe clippings come from the Picayune, and, miraculously, the paper has two pages of comics on weekdays! Weekdays! Can you believe it?

This isn’t the newer version, printed in 2002, with the pretty cover. The hardback of that edition seems not to be available now for less than a C-note,  but I’ll settle for the more “homey” version from 1987.  It is a reprint of the second edition of the Picayune Cookbook from 1901, which is considered the definitive collection.  This edition was edited by Marcelle Bienvenu, of St. Martinville, LA. She worked for the Brennan’s family of restaurants, as well as opening her own restaurant, Chez Marcelle.

Continue reading The Picayune’s Creole Cookbook

On Health And Weight Loss

Scale in a doctor's waiting room.The other day I was surprised to discover that even with the bizarre month of July I’ve had, I still lost a little weight this month. Four pounds, to be exact, bringing me up to a total of fourteen pounds since May. I’m going to tell you how I began to lose weight, and how, miraculously, I continue to lose and the weight isn’t coming back. It may not work for you, but it may help you decide what your needs are and how to achieve your own nutritional goals. I hope it does!

Because of my friend Andrea’s continued updates on her trials and successes in this department, I decided to create a little post of my own on the subject of weight loss and healthy nutrition in general. I may even make a series of posts. Yes, I know how envious you are of this demonstration of my organization and planning skills. Don’t grovel. It’s unattractive.

A bit of history and background on my fat, and/or lack thereof, in a convenient bulleted list:

  • Anyone who knows me will know that I was obsessed with weight. In fact, I still probably am, but I’m working on it and get better every day. In the past , I spent years thinking I was “fat,” when I wasn’t. I dieted all the time. I worried all the time. Part of this was body image, and part of it was just, well, who the heck knows? Anti-depressants and mood stabilizers seem to help.
  • When I got married eight years ago, I was heavier than I had ever been before, due to quitting smoking, being depressed, and later taking lithium for bi-polar disorder. I gained a total of 35-40 lbs. This was not awesome, but worse, I couldn’t lose it. I lost some before the wedding, but it popped right back on again because the diet was ridiculous and un-maintainable.
  • The only way I started to lose weight was a) by accident and b) by focusing on health and a lifestyle change that I can maintain. I highly recommend that everyone focus on health first. As Count Rugen (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/The_Princess_Bride_(film)) correctly asserts, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.”

Continue reading On Health And Weight Loss

Mental Health Myths

If normal behaviour is increasingly being categorised as mental illness thMarch Hare, Mad Hatter, and Doormouseen that creates a burden on individuals, families and on society as a whole.

Judging from my blog, I must think I’m the poster child for mental health or something! The quote above comes from an article in BBC Health News (http://www NULL.bbc NULL.co NULL.uk/news/health-10787342) about the changed diagnoses in the upcoming DSM-5 (http://www NULL.dsm5 NULL.org/Pages/Default NULL.aspx).  I have actually been thinking about “overdiagnosis” a lot, but not necessarily by psych health professionals. I’m not really qualified to comment on whether or not the new definitions in the DSM-5 will lead the psych community to diagnose the wrong people. What I am more concerned about is whether people will “diagnose” themselves or others, which they seem to do now just fine, with no outside help from professionals.

Continue reading Mental Health Myths

My Evil Knows No Bounds

[NOTE: This was two days ago. I think James (http://www NULL.ambardia NULL.com) came to pick me up for lunch or something.]

I just committed the most evil act. Therefore, like many criminals, I must now confess to the internet.Dr Evil Looking Evil

Our office really isn’t for the “general public.” So we have a “no soliciting” sign on the door and we keep it locked. Sadly, I am stuck out in front of the door like the stupid receptionist, er, ahem, excellent administrative assistant that I am. What happens? People are always trying to open the door, or knocking on it, trying to get in. They *know* they’re in the wrong place. They want directions. Because, you know, I don’t have any work to do, and of course I know every business that’s located up and down either side of HWY 183. Right?

There are several other businesses in this mall. One is a huge ophthalmology office. Directly across from me is a chiropractic office with cute little plants and crap all around the door. Next door to me is a technical surveying (I think) business which also has a poor sap stuck next to the window while he does his work. Do people knock on those doors? Of course not. I am so lucky.

Well, today. Hmm, today, no one is in the office and I was spending some quality “me” time looking at iPhone cases I probably won’t buy. I was busy, dammit! In any case, a car pulled up and an Asian couple got out. The man was on crutches. They begin arguing loudly in what I assume is their native language. It sounded like a dialect of Chinese, but what do I know about Asian languages? Very little.

I didn’t want to answer the door and deal with them, so I stared hard at the computer screen and picked up the office phone and pretended to be talking on it. That’s right, kids, you heard it here first. The Asian couple would have to actually knock on the door to get my attention. I held my breath and stared at the monitor like the secrets of the universe were contained within. I talked to an imaginary person on the phone about how much I wished the couple would go away. I hoped they wouldn’t knock, please, God, don’t let them knock! And they didn’t! They got back in their car and went away, arguing very loudly the entire time! Huzzah!

But what’s this? Now I am overcome with guilt. Not “and remorse” but guilt just the same… And so I purge myself, here in digital la-la land. Cheers, kids. I hope you won’t see me in “doesn’t give lost Asian couples with leg injuries directions” hell.

The Elephant on Your Head Part 3

“Achieving Your Goal, or The Care and Feeding of Your Elephant:  Part Three of How I Fight My Mood Disorder Every Day “

Two people examining an elephant.It’s pretty hard to live with an elephant, even one that doesn’t sit on your head. They’re really large. They’re moody. Ok, well, they have moods (http://www NULL.pbs NULL.org/wnet/nature/unforgettable/emotions NULL.html). In any case, they’re often inconvenient, impossible to ignore, they leave a mess, and boy can they eat! My mood disorder is on a similar scale, and I admit that I occasionally doubt my ability to manage it and still be able to have some semblance of a life.

It’s a sticky situation: if I don’t manage the disorder, I have no quality of life, but if I do manage my disorder, will it take all of my time and energy? Will I have anything left for my family, friends, pets, or hobbies? The short answer is, “Not at first.”

Having More Good Days Than Bad in A Million Easy Steps

There is no simple path to your goal. You can’t do one, three, or five specific tasks a day and achieve mental health. Mental health, similar to physical health, is a lifestyle. If you, like I did, lived for a long time undiagnosed, un-treated, or non-compliant,  getting healthy will be pretty difficult, feel strange, and take a long time. I found myself relieved at first, because feeling anything but bad was so new and wonderful to me. A relatively short time later, however, I began the old “why me?” pattern. Sure, I felt better, but it was so much work. I was on the way to stabilizing but wasn’t there yet, and I was both impatient and at the same time wondering if it was worth it. I have learned, however, that I need to maintain certain habits in order to keep my hard-won mental health. Continue reading The Elephant on Your Head Part 3

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