Monday, November 14, 2016

Social Anxiety and Panic Attacks: Conversational Difficulties and The Messy Room

Someone asks me to walk through a door, into a room I've never been in before. There is a door on the other side, straight ahead, that I need to reach as quickly as possible. I'm being timed.  This is the concept of conversation, and getting a thought from my brain to my mouth. The more stressed out I am, the more problems I have, and the more problems I have, the more stressed out I get. What can start out as barely nothing can snowball into a total panic attack. Let me explain, using the imagery of this room.

  • Sometimes there is absolutely nothing in the room, and it is well-lit.  (Feeling Chatty! Good eye contact, conversation flows well)
  • Sometimes there's a dimmer switch keeping the light at twilight visibility, and there are tables and chairs and couches and piles of paper stacked everywhere that I have to walk around to get to the door.  (Looking around while talking, mixed eye contact, a lot of "um"s)
  • Sometimes it's a hoarder house and nearly impossible to pick my way through the trash, but eventually I make it. (No eye contact, not answering you right away, subdued discussion. You may feel like I don't want to be there, which isn't necessarily true at all)

These are all pretty normal situations, and most people have felt at least those first two at one point or another. But sometimes, it's one of those situations and someone turns all the lights off. I'll be walking along and BAM out go the lights. I pause and wait for the lights to come back on.

  • Sometimes it's just a brownout and they flicker back on immediately and I can go on my way. (Pausing between sentences, struggling to find simple words)
  • Sometimes they stay off a little longer.  (Long, uncomfortable pauses, I look very disconcerted, and people stare at me while I struggle to remember how to speak or come up with a different words that can replace the word I'm trying to think of. This makes me panic because they are waiting for me to speak, which triggers even more pausing)
  • And sometimes they stay off so long I sit down where I am and when the lights come back on I don't know which door I'm supposed to be walking toward. ("What was I saying?" "What were we talking about?" Often I have completely forgotten what was mentioned less than thirty seconds ago. This is the pause that happens when I start a grilled cheese, turn around in front of the stove, and have absolutely no clue that I'm cooking anything until I smell burning. These pauses can happen anytime and they are the reason I am not allowed to cook without a timer and why I always keep my keys next to my son in the car until he is fully buckled.)

The worst, though, is when the lights go out in the hoarder house and like some horrible haunted house, someone comes up three inches away from my face with a strobe light blinking just slowly enough that I can't pretend it's a flickering light. And then that someone starts blaring sound bytes of people screaming and honking horns and babies crying and paper ripping and books falling off of desks.  Then someone starts poking me, tripping me, shoving me. And I'm supposed to still be able to find that door, because remember I'm being timed.

When I pause when I'm talking to you, I'm trying to get through that room. When I'm pausing and crying, stuttering and having trouble breathing or getting words out at all, I'm in that last room. It's not you, it's me. And what I need is a REAL dark room with only pure softness and nothing scratchy and no words or sounds or weird smells or anyone touching me.  Only breathing.

Trying to talk on the phone unless I'm in that safe space is like a game of panic roulette. Sometimes I can focus easily and make coherent thoughts, but that's not often. I don't do well with verbal messages, so if I'm trying to listen to you and also process everything that is happening where I am and also come up with meaningful things to say, it's not going to work. I need all my senses taken away to focus on speaking with you. This is why I prefer communicating through text, where I can formulate a message without worrying about the long awkward pauses, and I can look back at what you said since by the time I have gotten to the end of your sentence I have forgotten what was at the beginning.

If you want a meaningful conversation with me, by all means call me on the phone and play roulette. I will totally try it if that's what works best for you. But you might not get the best me. No matter how flighty, impulsive, or inattentive I sound on the phone, that has nothing to do with how much I love and appreciate you and your thoughts, and I hope that you don't give up on me. Next time may be better.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


I have just been informed that when I republished my post from 2015 about my colonoscopy so my friend could read it (I had taken it down because I thought maybe it was just too embarrassing), that it went out to everyone who subscribes to my blog. I don't know why I didn't realize that would happen. I had thought that it would just restore it to the 2015 publish date and that would be it. I feel like an idiot now. An EXTRA-embarrassed idiot.


For the record, the surgery was successful and I haven't had any problems in the year since it happened. So I've got that going for me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Monthly Nuisance

I feel like this happened in Heaven:

God: "Hello, Eve. Welcome to your heavenly home. You are the first woman of Earth to come home to me. Do you have any reflections on your life?"
Eve: "Really God? PERIODS? You couldn't have just made our bodies reabsorb that or something?"
God: "It couldn't have been that bad. Here's some chocolate.."
Eve: *growls, grabs chocolate*

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


How do you make yourself feel better when you've done something that goes against your belief system? Even if all your friends say, "Hey you did the right thing," or "You apologized so it's okay," how do you deal with the shame of knowing that you have failed yourself? Sure, your loved ones probably won't think much less of you, because they understand that we all fail sometimes, and they forgive you without a second thought. But how do you forgive yourself?

My own advice to someone asking this would be, "Don't dwell on the past because you can't change that. You can only change the future." Easy to say, harder to do. I have a lot of regrets in my life - things I've done, things I've said, people I've hurt, people I've ignored, things I've forgotten, things I can't forget. It's taken me a long time to come to terms with the person I was in my twenties. I don't like that girl very much. But it's been my practice to say that regret is a useless emotion and if I hadn't been that girl, I wouldn't be the woman I am today. Saying that only works, though, when I'm proud of the woman I am today.

And today I am not proud of the woman I am today.  Today. This very day. I am not proud of the Julia from this 24hr period. I said something to someone that was fueled by rage and hurt, and it was in turn hurtful. Apologies, though given, did not fix it and in fact damaged the relationship irreparably. Someone asked why the person I hurt was hurt at all, when I only spoke the truth. I said,

"One man's truth is another man's attack. No good was going to come out of posting something so filled with rage on his page. I could have approached it calmly, in private, telling him I found it hurtful, and it could have been resolved peacefully once it was determined that the post in question wasn't intended to represent his feelings about [the incident] at all. Instead I chose to take the antagonistic route. That's on me. Life lessons, I guess."

That is the truth.  I didn't have to act the way I did. How can I preach words of love, compassion, and understanding, and then act without those very things? I failed the test. When it came down to it, I didn't have what it took to be the person I want to be. And I am so filled with shame for it. I took the day off work to reflect on my behavior and to spend time with family in a constructive, loving environment. That sounds really "hippy," but there's something about the unconditional love from a toddler and the love of someone who knows everything about you - good and bad alike - that is healing. And today I need healing. I need love, kindness, and compassion. I need to forgive myself, and to take my own words to heart.  Every moment is another chance to begin anew. Even though I keep failing, keep messing up, keep losing friends, I do help people. I do fix things. I do make new friends to help heal the broken pieces in my heart.

I am not a ruined person. I am just human. If there were no shame, there would be no growth.

Today I will forgive and love myself for being human.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Why is Amazon Prime Not a 2-Day Guarantee anymore?

Scene: Tuesday, 2pm
Friend (lives 45min from me): My two day Prime shipping means things arrive Friday? HOW is that two days? What number system are we using there?
Me: I think you have to place your order before a certain amt of time, like noon.. but I am certain it used to be much later.
Friend: Well, I can see that, except it says "for delivery on Friday, place order in the next 25 hours" How does THAT make sense? It implies fluid cut off times.
Me:  Idk. It makes me mad.
This conversation reminded me that I had an order to place that was still sitting in my cart. I added a pair of lefty scissors for my little Southpaw to the order, and then placed it. Lo and behold, same problem. What is going on? I started a chat with an Amazon representative and other than a moment when he totally OWNED me by explaining 2-day shipping does not mean 2-day delivery (Yeah Brandon, I know you did a little victory dance at your desk) and a hilarious moment when he called me "a great costumer" (the only person I costume is my kid at Halloween) it wasn't at all enlightening. 
Can someone else interpret this interaction for me? Why is Amazon's handling/fulfillment taking longer than it used to? How will we know when something is a 2-day Prime or 3-5-day Prime item? Does this lessen the value of Prime? With online shopping becoming more and more popular and Amazon's presence growing to Jack and the Beanstalk Giant proportions, can we expect Prime to mean "3-5 days" in the future? 

You are now connected to Brandon from
Me:I placed an order at 2:20pm today, Tuesday, for three items sold by Amazon, all of which are eligible for Amazon Prime. I chose the 2-day shipping option with Amazon Prime. Why are these items scheduled to arrive on Friday, three days later?
Brandon:Hello, my name is Brandon.
Hello Julia, before I look into your account, I would need to verify that you're the account holder. Can you please provide me the name on your account, your e-mail address, and your billing address?
Me:Julia [information]
Brandon:thanks, and the order number?
Me:Order# [number]
Brandon:appreciate it, just a minute to check the order
Alright Julia, I can see here that the order is okay, sometimes an order may take some hours extra to be ready for us to ship it. This is one of those cases.
But for sure it'll arrive on Friday
Me:Why would it take an entire extra day (as this should be arriving Thursday with two-day shipping) to put together two workbooks and a pair of scissors?
Brandon:Well Julia, as you said is two day shipping, not two day delivery. Shipping is the process and duration that an order is in transit onnce it has been handed out to a carrier, meaning that this part of process doesn't include the time that an order may take to be prepared before it ships (Fulfillmnt). This doesn't mean that we can't deliver an order two days later (we do that most of the times), however due to handling and other particular situations, sometimes the package may take more than expected to be ready for shipping.
once*, sorry
Me:I guess I just don't understand why Amazon was always able to manage 2-day Delivery for all of the years I've had Prime, but suddenly in the last few months to year I can't count on that.
I realize that I am embodying the whiny "first-world-problems" procrastinator customer.
And this particular order really doesn't need to be here on Thursday, or even within the next week, although my son would love it as soon as possible.
I just wanted to talk to someone who could explain why there has been a shift in the Prime guarantee. Often I get my things in two days, but it's not a guarantee anymore (Amazon-sold items, I mean).
Brandon:I understand your point, I really do. And all we want is to give you the best service we can, if in the past month you've been having problems, I apologize for that, I can promise you that I will report that and we will work in order to fix it. You've been a great costumer and we really appreciate that.
Me:There aren't any specific circumstances you can fix, really, but thank you for the offer to report them. I was spurred to ask this question by another friend who also has Prime and also has been seeing slower ship times, so I don't think it's just me. It is disappointing because sometimes I will delete an order from my cart because I realize that I cannot get it in time for whatever event I needed it for, and I have to go with an inferior product from my local Walmart (the only store with any kind of selection near me). So I suppose if there is anything to report as a problem, perhaps just general customer dissatisfaction regarding ship times.
Thank you for your assistance today.
Brandon:It was my pleasure Julia, is there anything else I can offer my help today?
Me:No, I do not believe so.
Brandon:Thank you so much for giving me a chance to help you today and talk to you, Julia. I hope you have a great day, and thank you for being part of the Amazon Family.

Monday, May 30, 2016

First Family Camping Trip

Note: Click on pictures if you'd like to see them larger.

Everybody in the semi-rural Midwest goes camping at some point. Some go more than others. It's a rite of passage, really, if you live anywhere outside of major cities. Over the last twelve years, Julie and I kept saying that we wanted to go camping, but we clearly didn't want to go badly enough to make it happen. Then our little man came along, and ain't nobody wants to go camping with a 2yr old. Now that he's nearly four, however, it seemed like the appropriate time to introduce him to this national pasttime.


We began with books, subtly mentioning the topic, and discussing how FUN it was to sleep in a tent and cook over a campfire. We started telling our friends we were going to do it, and looking at local campgrounds. Then for Mothers' Day Julie and I gave each other expensive camping stuff - a fancy tent and a double sleeping bag. Now we'd guilted ourselves into HAVING to do it. If we chickened out, everyone would know. So we picked a date - Memorial Day Weekend - and started picking up supplies. Suddenly, the forecast was predicting rain. What!? Everyone knows it can't rain over three day weekends! After a lot of wishy-washy beating around the bush, we sadly planned to go to the Discovery Depot Children's Museum in Galesburg instead.  Saturday evening it rained nearby and when the wind picked up and the skies got dark we patted ourselves on the back for making such a responsible decision.

Sunday dawned with bright sunshine and a text message from my friend: "Going to camp? No rain in the forecast today or tomorrow."  Crap.  No, we'd made our choice. I responded, "We're going to Galesburg today and camping in the yard this evening."  We were going to "camp," just not off our property.  Best of both worlds! Then Julie called the campgrounds. Apparently it was going to be $60 to tent-camp, and there weren't many spots open. She told me to make the decision, so I said that we'd stick to our much cheaper Galesburg plan.  Just a few minutes later, she told me that she was overruling me and we were going camping. WELL, OKAY THEN.  We hurried to get everything together, eat lunch, and get out there. We still didn't make it until 2:30pm, an hour after we'd planned to be there.

Pretending we're not terrified

Boy this place was busy. Every spot was taken, and even spots I hadn't realized were spots were taken. I'd never been out there during a busy weekend before, and had no idea it could even be that full. It did not look like fun, it looked like a family-friendly Woodstock. Jasper was missing his nap, it was hot and muggy, our car was packed full, and we didn't even know if we'd have a spot to camp. We pulled into the host camper spot, and Julie knocked on the door. And waited. And knocked. And waited. Finally she pulled out her phone and called them. It turns out that the host campers were busy with a golf cart parade and we needed to wait patiently for them to return. No. Lie.

My golf cart is more festive than your golf cart

They finally came back and asked us if we wanted electricity or not. We said, "Sure" (gotta plug those phones in, amirite?) and they took us (we followed their fancy golf cart) to the sunniest spot in the park. It was completely out in the open, no trees at all, surrounded by campers, and looked to be roughly the temperature of the surface of the sun. "There's a plug over there by that camper you can plug into," they said, pointing over to another campsite.  We decided we didn't need electricity after all. We said as much, and they told us they'd show us another spot. This spot was also awful, and they were pointing out more electrical outlets in other camper's spots.  With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I assured them that I was incredibly grateful for their thoughtfulness in trying to find us an outlet, but we really didn't need one after all, and could we pretty please have a spot with shade for our ginger boy? Oh, of course, they reassured us. They understood.  "Wasn't there a guy who just left on the dam?" they asked each other.  Oh. No.

We headed out of the camping area. As in, no more camping people. Just boats, water, and the dam ahead of us.  They were legit going to make us camp on the dam.  Suddenly, they pulled up in front of a hidden camping site. It was the only camping spot on this side of the lake, secluded, a bit hard to get to, and PERFECT.   We said we'd take it.  With Jasper asleep in the back, we unloaded as much as we could and then Julie drove off to pay for the site and pick up some firewood.  "Get that up while I'm gone!" Julie shouted as she headed off, pointing to the 8-person tent we'd never set up before.

L. O. L. 

Did I mention that I hadn't gone camping in 23 years, and for her it had been more like 3+ decades? This was a recipe for failure.  Well, I gave it a shot, and nearly gave myself heatstroke in the process.  This is as far as I got before she returned, shocked I'd even attempted it:

Jasper didn't think much of my efforts.

Oh my God she expects me to sleep in that?

Luckily, we worked better together. Jasper chipped in as well after seeing what it would look like if I were left to do it all by myself.

Thug Life

Jasper was pumped to try out his Paw Patrol camping gear

We sat down to congratulate ourselves on managing to get the tent up without having to call in the authorities, and relax for a moment.  I asked Julie how much the site ended up costing, and she sheepishly admitted that she had misheard the host camper on the phone and it was apparently only twelve dollars for the site.  Not sixty.  My poor, deaf wife... When we realized it was close to 5pm and Jasper hadn't eaten anything all day but a grilled cheese and some loose cereal, we thought maybe it was time to unwrap the new camping gear and cook something besides nacho chips for the kid.

Do you know how many marshmallows this thing could hold?

Now, Julie had been telling me for several days about this AMAZING treat she'd seen online.  Apparently if you get some pie filling and stick it between a couple pieces of bread and then toast that over a campfire, it tastes JUST LIKE PIE.  Well, of course we had to try it. After we finished our hot dogs, Julie got out the brand new can opener and opened up the cans of pie filling. She got apple, and I got cherry. We debated putting butter on the outside of the bread but decided that would taste too much like grilled cheese, so we went plain.

Step 1:  Fill the bread

Step 2: Cook it like a pro

Step 3. Admire toasted "pie"

Mine wasn't terribly attractive
Julie's was fantastic looking

Step 4: Consider filling

Step 5: Reaction face

How the heck am I going to put this into MyFitnessPal?

This is her "Meh" face

Verdict: Meh.  It didn't taste like pie, it tasted like pie filling on toast.  Those cooker things would have made bitchin' grilled cheeses though. We were looking forward to lunch the next day.

With dinner under our belts and no electronics to distract us, we set about enjoying the peace and quiet. Julie and Jasper played a little Tee Ball, and I went around taking some pictures of the campsite.

Finally Julie left to go give our cats their medicine, and pick up a few things we'd forgotten (pillows, toothbrush, etc.) I peed in the woods and then took Jasper on a walk.  We saw some geese, played "Going on a Bear Hunt" a few times, and generally spent the next few hours hanging out and having fun.

If I make this face enough she'll stop making me pose

Finally it was time to settle down and head to bed. 

Jasper was so tired he conked out on his own after reading a few books, and eschewed the s'mores we offered to make. If he'd been a teenager and in town we would have assumed he was attempting to sneak out, but as it was he was just really tuckered out and excited to use his Paw Patrol stuff.

If only every night's bedtime were this easy

Julie and I spent a few hours chatting and eating s'mores - at this point all notions of diets were out the door - and enjoying each other's company. It's been a while since we just sat down and chatted, and it was nice to have that quiet time to ourselves. We congratulated ourselves on our procrastination, as if we'd arrived earlier and on time we never would have managed to get the sweetest spot in the campground.  Hooray for dumb luck! Also, can you request camping spots? We want that one EVERY TIME.  And we do want to go back. It was so nice.

Well. I mean.  Until we woke up to thunder (Julie insisted it was "a jet" - for 20 minutes) and a kid who'd gone above and beyond the bedwetting call. Once I got Jasper awake I got him completely naked and then put into a new shirt. Before I even considered putting pants on him I walked him outside to pee. He didn't want to wake up, he didn't want to get changed, and he REALLY didn't want to go outside to pee in the bushes.  He demonstrated his annoyance at me by swinging around and peeing on my bare feet. Thanks kid. I'll get you back someday, just you wait.

We packed up as fast as we could, but still ended up getting pretty wet.  We were really disappointed, as we'd been looking forward to a camp breakfast and grilled cheeses for lunch. Still, we'd done a lot of packing up the night before in order to secure the campsite from any critters, and it didn't take as long as it could have. 

Bungee cord gathering in the rain (AKA Karma for peeing on Mama)
"No rain in the forecast" ;)

Naturally, as soon as we had fully packed up and backed the car out to head home, it started clearing up. By the time we were leaving the park, it was sunny again. Like, brilliantly sunny, gorgeous, would have been fine if we'd been staying another night, perfect.  Oh well.

Not even out of the park limits yet
We got home and unpacked, then got the stuff out to make a great brunch. Pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, milk, and juice! Jasper even finally tried bacon for the first time, and he really loved it. He also loved the bath he needed after such a wild adventure. Mama and Mommy couldn't wait to take their own baths, either... we needed ours almost as badly! Check out Mama's curly hair after that rain!

Julie and I had set some stuff out in the sun to dry up, and after brunch we put up the tent so it could dry out. Jasper discovered we'd put the tent up, and suddenly couldn't wait for naptime. He evidently thought we were going to allow him to chill out in the back yard for his nap while we stayed inside.  In a few years, I'm sure we'll be perfectly happy to do that, but I doubt he'll be as happy to take naps! Luckily, he's got his very own tent to use, and we set it up in his room for his nap.

What a great time, even though it rained!

Before Camping
After Camping

Thanks, Spring Lake Park, for being a wonderful place to make memories of our very first camping trip as a family! We'll be back!!!

P.S. Check out Jasper's thoughts on the trip here.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Feeling Panicky

New things scare me. They scare the pants off of me. In fact, I usually just avoid new things so that I don't have to worry about losing my pants in public. Sometimes, however, those things are necessary. Like actually giving birth to the baby I got myself pregnant with.  Apparently once it's in there, it has to come out one way or another... The pants really did come off in public that time...Anyway, I digress.  Three years ago I started thinking about graduate school. My employer offers this amazing benefit of 6hrs of in-state tuition EVERY semester.  That's incredible. At first I didn't avail myself of this opportunity because I had no desire to be back in school.  I needed to focus on just having a "real job" for a while.  Then I was focused on having a baby. After I finally started sleeping again after the baby arrived (a year later), I realized that I'd actually fallen in love with librarianship and I really wanted to be an official one. I wanted to be able to say I was a librarian without getting the stink-eye from people who had the real degrees. And there was a way to get a (nearly) free degree.  I would be stupid not to take them up on it.

So I applied, got accepted, and then had to go through with it. Two and a half years ago, in January of 2014, I left my baby for the very first time ever and spent a week with strangers in what my program calls "boot camp."  And oh boy, was it. There was an incident at the end that I kind of hope I'll have forgotten about in another decade or two that involved hysterical crying in front of the entire cohort after my final quiz essay got deleted right in front of me, two minutes before the time was up... I was fairly sure there were bets on whether or not I'd be quitting the program. I was sure thinking about it myself. But that was after staying up all night long to finish a paper (turned it in at 5:45am!), and I decided to give myself at least a semester to see if I could handle it.  And I could.

In fact, this program turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.  Only taking two classes a semester allowed me to really focus on each class and give them the attention they deserved. I turned in every assignment (with only a few extensions), and after that darned boot camp class gave me a B+, I got straight As (even a few A+s), leaving me with an overall GPA of 3.98.  I am incredibly proud of myself.  I accomplished this feat while working full time, parenting a toddler every moment I wasn't working, and often on my own as my wife works several jobs to make ends meet and is usually gone in the evenings and weekends, especially in the fall. On the other hand, now my kid knows how to play on a computer better than I did at the age of 15. Hey, cheaper than the babysitter we used to have to get on my school nights. By the end of this program we had a real routine down pat.

Now, however, I am facing a new challenge. Graduation.  I'm terrified.  It was scary enough in high school, with people holding my hand at every turn, and a practice session.  In college, it was pretty horrifying, but at least I was familiar with the campus and had sat through a couple previous ceremonies for friends.  Now, though, I have to travel three hours to the campus, pick up my cap and gown from a building I've never been to (in person, I sure as hell stalked that place on google maps and with pictures and building blueprints), assemble at another place I've never been to, and then yet another place.

This is a three day event for me.

  • Tomorrow we'll drop our son off at daycare where he'll wait to be picked up by one of his dads for the weekend. We'll drive to our hotel that is half an hour away from the city (because when I booked six months in advance everything within a half hour radius was booked solid), then drive to the city to pick up my cap and gown.  Then back to the hotel to steam it and finish freaking out for the evening. 
  • Saturday we'll wake up excruciatingly early and drive to .... some... parking spot.... on a super crowded campus... and join the thousands of people who will be there to see their undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral candidate student graduate.  This place is so big that I won't walk that day. I'll just stand up in a big fat group of my friends. My poor wife will likely be sitting alone in this stadium.  Then we're free for the rest of the day, hopefully to meet up with friends for lunch or dinner, and probably to do some tourist-y type graduation pictures. 
  • Sunday we have to do it all over again, except on a smaller scale. This one will be my program's convocation. This one I'll be walking in. This is the one that will make me feel like I've really graduated, I think. Then we'll probably have lunch and head back home to pick up our son where he'll have been dropped off at our friend's house.  Then I will be able to relax.
Did I mention it's all going to be on live feed?  If I fall down, ERRYBODY'S GONNA KNOW. I have to go through with this. I have to do it. When it's over I'll be so glad I did it.  But holy crap am I scared.  I took today off to basically clean my house and calm myself down so I'm not rushing around having a panic attack tomorrow. Ha. Who am I kidding? That's exactly what's going to happen anyway. Send me a kind thought if you have a moment this weekend.  Or, if you want to watch me fall on my face, here are the links to the graduation ceremonies:

Part 1: Saturday, May 14th at 9:30am (Campuswide ceremony, I will be standing up with my fellow graduates in a large group, 2hrs)

Part 2: Sunday, May 15th at 9:30am (Smaller ceremony in which I will cross the stage, 1.5hrs)

P.S. I'll be wearing a dress so my pants can't be scared off of me.