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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I am Spartacu--I mean, Renee Zellweger

The post in which I wimp-out of playing God. Scrolling through my facebook feed today, I feel like God must feel. Bombarded by the wants and needs of a world in crisis. Disgusted by the wrongness of it all. It’s overwhelming, and I don’t even know where to start to make it less alarming. No matter how much I go around “liking” all the good things on facebook, nothing seems to change. I probably should just stop reading the feed entirely.
     But I can’t. As Leonardo DiCaprio observes to Kate Winslet as she dangles from the rail of the Titanic, I’m involved now. I’m going to have to dive into freezing cold water, risk skin-piercing pain and save my facebook friends by talking them back onto the ship. (Yeah, yeah. I know it’s going to sink anyway. Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.)
     We’ll start out small.....with
Item 1:
...Renee Zellweger’s appearance. I often wondered what happened to her. Kind of figured she got fed up with the Hollywood scene of ageism and gender discrimination and took off to lead a more fulfilling life. Like Ben Affleck when he pulls into Matt Damon’s driveway in Good Will Hunting only to find his friend MIA, I noted her absence and smiled a sappy smile, thinking, “Good for her. She’s meant for better things.” Then I looked wistfully off toward Harvard or Princeton or whatever college was in Good Will Hunting.
      A few male stars have likewise disappeared from the face of the earth at one time or another. Their absences haven’t been lost on me, either. It just seems like they always come back, tail between their legs. I respected Rene for actually sticking to her decision. She stayed away.
    Imagine my vexation when she reappears in order to attend the Elle Women in Hollywood event and starts all this buzz about appearance. Stop being so stupid, everyone! This shouldn’t even be on my facebook feed. Or God’s. Or anyone's. Just walk away, Renee. (I've always wanted to say that!)
      Rene Zellweger looks different in part because it’s been ten years. It can’t be entirely plastic surgery. Plastic surgery makes you look more like the Hollywood norm, not less like it. She left to avoid having to live up to this ideal and looks exactly like what she is—a woman living an ordinary life at 46. It’s Hollywood’s vampiristic refusal to age that has our perceptions all skewed and unhealthy. The people who stayed in Hollywood are the ones with addictions to Botox and Photoshop.
     Besides, Rene insists she’s happy. Shouldn’t that be all that matters? The thing is, we’ve been raised to believe happiness is this miracle elixir that will make you forever young. Truth be told, happiness doesn’t affect one’s appearance at all. You can be plain and ecstatic or drop-dead gorgeous and a miserable jerk or any combination of these elements: ugly/happy, mediocre/happy, miserable/ugly, mediocre/ugly….Urgh, my brain hurts. Quick! Let’s get the GWH math genius on it. *Matt scrawls out every variation on the nearest chalkboard while we check out this official statement.*
     I’m sorry if you are having a hard time coping with this “transformation”. No doubt your horror stems from the suspicion that if it happened to Rene Zellweger (and It here means the normal aging process), it will also happen to you. Guess what? It will. Your one saving grace is that your demise won’t be plastered all over facebook, inspiring dialogues that strive to negate all the positive changes you’ve made in your life. Sadly, she is used to it.
     In conclusion, let’s analyze a scene from Good Will Hunting: Ten Years Later (Trust me, it’s in the works) A wizened Matt Damon shows up at the local bar to meet Ben Affleck for a drink. Matt mentions he’s recently gained tenure as a professor of mathematics. The puckish, youthful Ben chugs down his beer and belches, saying, “Jeez, that’s great, Matt. But you look like shit. If you ask me, you probably would’ve been way better off staying in town and laying bricks for a living.” Ben flexes his Batmanesque muscles and slaps Matt on the back. “It’s okay, buddy. I’m buying the next round with my union overtime.” The prosecution rests.
     Item 2: This

Holy shit! I wish I were that articulate at 15. I wish I were that articulate now. I wish I knew whether or not Rene Zellweger was that articulate (or that I knew anything at all about her current life besides that everyone thinks she looks bad—or not bad, different, which we all know means bad). I wish young girls would be perusing the Mighty Girl web site right now and modeling their vocabs after this young woman’s instead of scouring Instagram for dorks to model their priorities and bodies after. I wish.
     Item 3: Gamergate
Is that a thing? Upon reading a grim article, I conclude it is a thing and a deadly one at that, resulting in ugly threats and the attempted stifling of female empowerment. And in this spot I was about to render an insightful article on this issue. Unfortunately, people tell me this issue is dead. Gamergate is no more, which brings up another bad thing about God’s facebook feed. By the time He gets to the bottom of it, there’s something more important drawing his attention right back to the top. An unending loop of need and life. Man, it sucks to be God. Once again, Thank God I’m not.


Friday, October 17, 2014

I'm Grateful for My Shitty Computer

Do your eyes deceive you? No. They don’t. Today for the Celebrate Small Things blog hop, I’m truly grateful for my shitty computer. That's right. If a person showed up at my door today, right now, and offered me a free I-Pad, I’d decline. Even if it was an I-Pad Air. I’d say: No way! I’m good with the computer I have. That old desktop over yonder, on the…well, on the desktop. 
     So what if the graphic driver’s shot? I like a computer that blinks on and off as I’m typing. It reminds me of my brain. 

      And so what if it takes about a million years for the little icons to materialize on my screen every morning when I turn it on? That gives me time for another cup of coffee. 

     So what if it crashes more reliably than the blood-sugar levels of a kid who makes a steady diet of Twinkies and Dots? Gives me an excuse to get off it and go do something else. I guess you could say that my shitty computer has taught me some invaluable lessons.

    Here are a few other things I learned from my crap computer.

Save. Save the freaking document! Save it every time you breathe, every time your heart beats. Every time you think of Colin O’Donoghue and how he never wears anything but that stupid pirate outfit on Once Upon a Time. Save when you imagine you’re getting a whiff of the B.O that needs must waft odiously from O’Donoghue’s leather-encased pits. Save when you find yourself feeling ashamed for dissing O'Donoghue—who is after all a one-handed man (or plays one on TV). C'MON! He still should be able to afford an alternate outfit. Trade rum for it, for God's Sake. Rum's a commodity. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Save! Save! Save!

Back it up. Okay, so you forgot to save. Again. No worries, you have the last draft backed up in the cloud or some other such idyllic, hypothetical place (A flash drive doesn’t count.) Hurrah for you. Because even if you did save each and every time, something unexpected still might happen. Always have a back-up plan.

Your computer is not alive. Sure, it’s been with you right from the beginning, cheering you on with those indecipherable beeps, challenging you to rise above the blue screen of death, making you persevere no matter how many uncertainties the task you're asking of it entails (printing, emailing or just listening). Sometimes you would swear that it's alive. Here's ultimate proof to the contrary. Your computer will be the sole thing that manages to brave your company in November, which marks Nano, an activity that will make you so insufferable that anyone who actually is alive (like the rest of your family and friends) will avoid you like an Ebola-stricken traveler. 

I'm sorry to bust your bubble, but despite the fact that you bounce ideas off it, swear at it, threaten to throw it through a window and plug most of its orifices with electrical devices, it isn’t alive--(and you should thank God it's not, by the way, because you might be up on charges if it were, especially after that last line). Don't you realize that any live thing definitely would’ve objected by now to the continuous stream of coffee spittle dripping down its screen? (Which of course would be the equivalent of its face in a live version of itself.) Don't look at me that way!The Internet is funny and I spit when I laugh. Up until now, you’ve simply been projecting human traits on it. Calm down! It's understandable. After all, you spend about eight hours of your day immersed in a world of your own imagining. Plus you’ve always been a bit nuts, if you want to know the truth.

Just because something is nuts, doesn’t mean you have to run out and replace it right away. Chris Cooper said it best in Seabiscuit: “You know, you don’t throw a whole life away just because he’s banged up a little." *abandons un-dead computer to watch Seabiscuit twenty additional times.*

You can find a bright side in anything if you put your mind to it. Amen to that! This holds true especially if you’re a writer.

This blog hop is hosted by Vik Lit (Scribblings of an Aspiring Author) and co-hosted by: Diana WilderLG Keltner @ Writing Off the EdgeKatie @ TheCyborg Mom, and CaffeMaggieato @ mscoffeehouse 
If you'd like to join us in finding gratitude in unexpected places, please click below. My computer commands you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I Laugh in the Face of ADHD (Um, no I don't)

I don't get it. Does this mean the book is NOT a best-seller?
This Wimp-out Wednesday, instead of a self-serving summary (alliterate much?) of my pursuit of employment, I’m delving into an Important Issue with caps. Content Advisory: if you don’t like serious topics interspersed with irreverent humor, proceed no further. I’m just warning you. I plan to blog about Kelli Stapleton, who is about to be sentenced for first-degree child abuse after a failed murder/suicide attempt involving her autistic daughter. It’s certainly no laughing matter, but I approach everything with humor. If I didn’t have that defense mechanism, I would probably be in Kelli’s shoes. Who knows? Maybe I am.
     As the mother of an ADHD child, I have experienced a small taste of the stress Kelli Stapleton had to deal with. Small taste, mind you. Although autism is much more difficult on families than ADHD, there are similarities (they are related, after all). Some of the drug treatments overlap, ADHD kids can become violent and act out in frustration, parent support of both ADHD and autistic kids is lacking. Being imaginative, I can easily make the jump. And that scares me shitless.
     I’m thinking if I can, there are probably others who can see themselves at risk for this tragic consequence. Others who haven’t had the best childhoods to set an example for functional family life. (The news article said that Kelli’s was “chaotic”) Others who might be going it all alone (while I have a husband who actively participates in the raising of my kids, Kelli did not). People who are so busy struggling to get appropriate treatments and therapy for their children there is no budget left over for themselves. They may not be able to articulate this fear, but I would bet a million dollars that right now there are women (and some men) out there who might find themselves in the position of seeing no other way out than concocting a drastic plot to end the suffering.
     Kelli Stapleton most likely could be defined as legally insane when she gave her daughter sleeping meds and lit a pair of charcoal grills inside her van with the intention of killing them both.That is not something a mother with fully-functioning faculties (again with the alliteration. MAKE IT STOP!) would do. But I checked out her blog (and you can too, here).
      Now tell me if that sounds like the ramblings of a crazy person. (Hint: My blog sounds more like the ramblings of a crazy person.) Correct answer: It does not. She was quite obviously at one time fully vested in her daughter’s treatment and well-being. Before her mental health deteriorated, she was an advocate for autistic children; a former molecular biologist who gave up her career to attend to the demands of raising kids in general, and specifically a child with special needs; a single mom; a woman who had found a good, effective behavioral treatment program for her daughter and was trying to afford it when she lost insurance funding.
     Her husband said she was crazy and that the daughter wasn’t violent. I find that pretty hard to believe. More likely, Kelli Stapleton was a sane woman who became so afraid for her own safety that she cracked and lost all reason.
My oldest helping at O.A.T.S
   Autistic children all have episodes of violence. My daughters volunteer at a therapeutic horse program for children with special needs, and there are a lot of special needs kids that volunteer (sometimes in lieu of riding) as well. (I don’t really see my ADHD child as a volunteer with special needs. Her needs aren’t special special needs—more like moderately charming and sometimes extremely irritating needs. Or something like that.) Anyway, there is one high-functioning autistic teen in particular who helps out with the horses. I didn’t even know she had special needs—she’s that mainstreamed—but when my kids brought their new baby rabbit to the barn to show the program directors, and the girl I mentioned asked to hold the bunny, my daughters didn’t let her. I thought it was cruel until I was told by everyone in the place that she would immediately throw the baby bunny across the room if it made even so much as one move to cause her any discomfort. No one wanted to risk a bunny death. Yet her parents deal with the possibility of that same spontaneous violence every day, like a ticking time bomb.
      My own ADHD child has threatened me with a hammer, kicked and bitten her siblings, and once I got the distinct feeling that she considered punching me in the side of the head as I drove down a winding road. I had to remind her that the car would most likely run off the road if the driver was rendered unconscious. (Better safe than sorry, huh?) Once she threw a rock at her brother, chipping his tooth so that he had to get a root canal at the age of six. The tooth still occasionally becomes infected, causing him a lot of pain and calling for a dose of antibiotics. I don’t even know if that act of violence had anything to do with her ADHD. It might’ve been just a dumb kid mistake. It was kind of a blessing in disguise, because  1.) it didn’t hit him in the head and 2.) she’s had the opportunity to witness how an impulsive act on her part can have far-reaching effects. And I think it scared her enough to keep her from throwing rocks in the future. That’s what it takes to teach a lesson to an ADHD kid.
     Guess what? It takes even more to teach a lesson to a child suffering from autism.
Brianna rides sometimes in exchange for helping.
     Our family has been in our fair share of therapy sessions since my daughter has been diagnosed, and before she was diagnosed I’d been lectured by a number of pre-school and kindergarten teachers about the task ahead of me, i.e., raising The Anti-Christ. You see, they’d written my daughter off at that point as a bad student, a wicked child, instead of considering she might have an attention disorder. Even today—five years after her diagnosis—I sometimes wonder if the early teachers were right about her (It was her second-grade teacher who suggested we take her to a psychiatrist for evaluation). I often wonder, could she be bad? Our relationship is so damaged, that I can barely see how to patch it up—yet I’m trying. I wonder how Kelli’s relationship with her daughter was. Not good, I’ll bet. So heartbreaking for a mother.
      It’s hard to tell which behaviors stem from the ADHD and which are just plain brattiness, because no child is perfect. Mine has had to work extremely hard at what has come easily to her other siblings: things like empathy, sharing, appropriate hygiene, kindness. I need the Lady Gaga concept of “She was born this way” constantly reinforced by her therapist, who also reminds me at every session that my daughter has a lot of good qualities (all common among ADHD kids). She’s driven (and I need to stop seeing this as obsessiveness), quick-witted, confident (and I need to stop seeing this as being a know-it-all), able to appear competent in pretty much any situation (and I need to stop seeing this as conniving behavior that will someday result in her heading up a Ponzi Scheme), punctual (And I DO mean punctual. She freaks if we are running late for anything—even though she is often what causes us to be running late), demanding of perfection, loyal to the end of days, imaginative (not manic, as I sometimes fear). I’m sure Issy had her strengths too, but the light of these was probably doused as she and her mother soldiered on trying to stay one step ahead of Issy’s disorder.
     The question is: why didn’t this family get help? All they had to do was ask. Okay, if that’s what went wrong, here, I am officially asking for help on behalf of every parent of a child with autism/ADHD/bipolar disorder/schizophrenia and any disorder I might’ve missed. They need help. We need help. So now that I’ve issued this official plea for help by proxy, does that mean that if we fail to come to their aid the next tragedy is on us?

For more information on autism, visit Autism Speaks 
Families coping with the myriad challenges related to autism can also call a 24-hour hotline for assistance: 1-800-273-TALK.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Grocery Ninja I Am Not

Ground-up kitten? I'm there. Cats are so smug.
Must. Blog. *army crawls along floor to old desktop computer, does pathetic pull-up on rolling chair, arranges self in chair and takes a swig of coffee, being careful not to drool all over the keyboard*
"Mmm, pumpkin spice."
     The experience of grocery shopping is becoming more and more surreal. My trip to the local Meijer store yesterday clinched it. The flaws of the entire world were evident around every corner. Not only was the place torn up, people were running into each other--with carts, without them. Items had been moved from one end of the store to another, rendering all of us grocery-shopping rookies despite years and years of experience. People were coming unhinged. In all fairness, no one wants to be made to feel incompetent, especially not the average afternoon clientele of Meijer, which includes new moms with young children in tow, retirees, the occasional person on lunch break…and me. 
     I overheard various complaints to store employees about the construction. I wonder what the heck these customers expected the employees to do about it. No one complained to the construction workers who were standing around in this hollowed-out pit in the middle of the produce section. I suppose they were afraid the construction workers would resort to catcalls, because it did appear as if a street of New York had been magicked from some burough and set down in the middle of the potatoes. It just seemed to me that they’d be more likely to have answers about the logistics of the move. Is there some unwritten rule about not engaging construction workers in conversation? (They don't only speak in catcalls, do they?)
     Anyway, signs and prices were inaccurate, full sections of shelving were empty, carts of merchandise en route to other places were blocking aisles. I saw right away that it was going to take some extra time to navigate this food labyrinth. Still, I was confident I’d get out alive, even though from all directions came the sound of folks exhaling huge gusts of breath in frustration and despair. This was no more discouraging than the venomous glares directed at anyone not engaged in a fight to the death for groceries. I'm sorry. When did this become The Hunger Games?
     At one point, when I had made a conscious decision to wait patiently for an older woman who’d wandered about twenty feet from her cart, leaving it directly next to another cart belonging to a woman who was scouring a shelf in vain, searching for an item she'd never find because the store HAD BEEN COMPLETELY REARRANGED, the shopper behind me edged her cart in front of mine trying to squeeze past. Unfortunately the gap between the two stationary carts was no wider than a scooter. When it became obvious she couldn’t fit (which is why I DIDN’T ATTEMPT IT), she stomped out from behind her cart (completely blocking passage for a cart-less shopper behind her who could’ve easily slipped through the scooter-sized gap if Ms. Proactive Grocery Predator hadn’t decided to make her move). She rolled the old woman’s cart up, all the while skewering me (yes, me) with a gaze that said in no uncertain terms: “Why didn’t you think to do this, you dumbass?”
     Here’s my answer, lady: because it’s rude. It occurred to me, fleetingly, that I could push the hindering cart aside and get past, but honestly I felt the bulking form stewing behind me and figured Ms. Proactive Predator was about to go in for the kill. By that time I’d seen about five cart collisions and didn’t want to be involved in one personally. I’d even observed two women that had already collided meet up again in another aisle. While this time they were able to ward off direct impact, they exchanged a chuckle about the irony, saying something like “It’s you again. Ahhh, we’re two women on a mission. Yuk. Yuk. Yuk.” Yes, it’s so amusing to run people down over bags of Cheetos (although they were kind of cute—they were shaped like skeletons! Have you seen those?)
     Did I mention the store was in shambles? ATTN: Proactive Shopper Types. No one’s finding anything they need! This is the fault of store managers and corporate executives—NOT mine or the elderly woman who left her cart for about five minutes in search of something that has been methodically hidden from her under the guise of making her life better. I’m trying to be patient, here, in the face of adversity. So chill the fuck out! Capiche?
     Don’t get me wrong: I can be aggressive enough when the situation calls for it, but grocery shopping doesn’t call for it. I mean, the actions required for such a task are light lifting and basic math. I never saw grocery shopping as an opportunity to show-off ninja skills. To me, getting a can of tomato sauce into my cart two minutes earlier isn’t worth making an elderly woman feel as if she were just taking up space on this earth. She's been here longer than I have. It isn’t worth fostering the impression that any fellow human—all of whom have every right to occupy a human-sized area, mind you—is merely in the way. Besides, everyone in the store was in everyone’s way.
     I could tell just by looking at this poor, unsuspecting woman who’d haplessly abandoned her groceries for a brief instant, thinking no one would be affected by this reckless deviance, that she’d be mortified if someone moved her cart. And I was right. The moment she saw movement in her peripheral vision, she snapped to attention. Even though she still hadn’t found the object of the mission that resulted in the unfortunate cart abandonment, she returned with due speed. Emitting an audible gasp, she meekly tried to move the cart even further out of the way (I suspect she would’ve made it disappear entirely if such a thing were possible, although even that wouldn't have satisfied Proactive Shopper Chick.) She then proceeded to apologize to the other woman…for her very existence. The cart-moving woman, intent on getting in front of people who had actually arrived BEFORE her and were thus entitled to get to their grocery items first IMHO, responded by making some sort of grunting noise in acknowledgment of the older woman’s apology. I translated it as: “Well, that’s okay that you’re alive and here, adjacent to me, at this very second. Just don’t let it happen again.”
      I tell you, it was a most ridiculous scene. (Not the most ridiculous scene EVER, though. I've got tons more where this came from.) I wish I could’ve video-taped the interaction in order to have it sent out to a university and analyzed by sociologists. I’m sure it says something about our culture. I’m just too depressed right now to figure out what.

Team Kale
     You see, I forgot to buy cabbage, kale (if they even stock kale anymore. I think I saw a sprig of it peeking out from underneath a construction worker's boot, so they must have some somewhere) and cooking spray. I’m not going back. We’ll just eat grass in place of the kale, timothy hay for the cabbage, and I’ll grease up the crock pot with some K-Y Jelly. That’ll work.