the power of rhubarb compels you

Have you ever wondered how hard it is to become a minister? Well, wonder no more, friends and gawkers! For I, Rhubarb Tiberius Swank, Queen of Steves and Lego Dinosaurs, Starter of Many Things and Finisher of Few, Supreme Glittering Viscountess of Run-on Sentences and Abuser of Ellipsis…es?, have recently had holy orders conferred upon my person.
That’s right, I’m now officially an ordained minister!
Why, you ask? Well, that’s kind of a funny story. And, as with a fair number of my questionable ideas, it all starts with Facebook…
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If you don’t know what this means, I’m a) very sad for you, and b) think you’re probably up past your bedtime.

So, the other day I was skimming through my Facebook feed, as I am often wont to do of a weekday afternoon when the rigors of sending the same emails to the same people over and over again have inevitably brought my brain to teeter on the precipitous brink of madness. It was during the initial aftermath of the recent SCOTUS decision about the case where that asshole baker in Colorado decided they didn’t want to make wedding cakes for gay couples. There was a friend on my feed posting about how she’s ordained and would be happy to perform marriage ceremonies for any gay couples in any state, etc. That made me smile of course, because love is love. People should be able to marry whoever the frig they want (assuming both parties are down with it, obviously), and it ain’t nobody’s business what flavor of human another human likes to boink.

But it also got me thinking. Not the boinking thing, I mean (although…), but rather, the ordination part. The person who had posted this was someone I call a friend, but I’ve never met her in person. We’ve never had any talks about beliefs, philosophy, or religion, but given the avenues through which I became acquainted with her, I was pretty comfortable in assuming that she leaned pretty atheist. Rather than send her a message and start asking all kinds of probing questions about her personal beliefs and religious affiliations, I instead took myself over to trusty ol’ Google and typed in “how to get ordained”.

Side note here: if anyone ever truly hacks me, I’d be 97% willing to give up my credit card and bank account information in exchange for the solemn promise that they not compile and publish a comprehensive list of my lifetime Google search terms, because HOLY POLE DANCING CHRIST, I would never live it down. Like…you don’t even know. You don’t WANT to know. It’s that bad.
Aaaaaanyway.

One of the first things that came up in the results was a site called Universal Life Church. Having never heard of them, I was 50/50 on whether it was some kind of “every sperm is sacred” situation (you know, the ones who say you can’t even masturbate because THINK OF THE POTENTIAL CHILDREN), a cult like that one that starts with an S and ends with -ology and kind of sounds like the word ‘science’ (I am genuinely afraid of them and refuse to type out the whole name online. If you aren’t afraid of them, you need to watch Louis Theroux’s movie about them. Google it. I’m not even linking it because I’m convinced they keep track), or maybe just a nice, gentle, UU-type “don’t be a dick and everything will probably be alright” kind of thing.

Wait, that was three options, not two. So rather than 50/50 I was…33.3333/33.3333/33.3333…ish. Shout out to infinite decimals, heyyyyy.

Fucking A, where was I?

Ok, yes. Universal Life Church. I held my breath, clicked on the link, and was immediately greeted with a cheerful banner image of a dove in flight, with the words “We are all children of the same Universe”. Following this was a link to a video of Conan O’Brien proffering his own certificate of ordination from Universal Life Church. I exhaled. These were clearly my people.

There was a big blue button mid-page that said “Online Ordination”, flanked with what I originally thought were lightening bolts (me, internally: fuck yes, let’s get Norse up in this motherfucker! Zap me with some Odin-juice! Wait…), but what I now see are actually rough approximations of olive branches. Which make more sense, to be fair…but are a little on the boring side.

I clicked on the button. Through the dark arts of tiny HTML gnomes with pixel-axes (get it? Heeee), I was whisked to another page which said a bunch of stuff about how this ordination was legal in all states, how I couldn’t lie and give a fake name, some crap about online communities that were available if I had questions, etc. Much more interestingly, there was also a sidebar showing some of the other famous people in addition to Conan who had been ordained through the site. You know,  in case I needed more confirmation that I would be in truly esteemed company. The list included such luminaries as:

  •  Lady Gaga
  •  Stephen Colbert
  •  Ian McKellan
  •  Paul McCartney
  •  Richard Branson (maybe not as compelling of a selling point as they think)
  •  that Beneflick Clumbermonk guy, and…

…wait for it…

…waaaaaaitttt…

…Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who I personally have oft considered worshiping as a supreme being in and of himself.

sold

 I couldn’t hit that next big, blue, definitely-olive-branch-and-not-lightening-bolt-festooned button that said “Begin Ordination Now” fast enough.

The next step was a web form to fill in. First and last name, email address, state and country of residence, and password to use for the site. I filled it all in and read the fine print at the bottom, which was just some junk about being 18 years of age, and how to access your paperwork later on.

I hovered over the “Submit Ordination Request” button for a minute, wondering what I was getting myself info. Would there be a background check? Would I have to submit references who could vouch for the fact that I’m not secretly a puppy-kicker? Would I have to demonstrate my knowledge of…well, anything?

My gaze floated back up to the ecstatic pearly grin of Mr. The Rock. It was almost as if he was offering a benediction through the computer screen, a blessing for my interminable curiosity and the weird places it often takes me. And my roody-poo candy ass, of course.

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I’m shining it, Mr. The Rock. I’m shining it! (If you’re unfamiliar with The Rock’s wrestling catchphrases, that’s going to sound really sordid out of context. I acknowledge this, but I do not apologize.)

I don’t THINK I actually uttered the words “I’m doing this for you, Rock…” out loud as I hit the button. My co-worker didn’t ask what the shit I was talking about at least, so I’m probably safe.

A split second after I hit the button, the screen flashed up with a big certificate with my name across it (my real name…I didn’t lie to the church like I do to most of social media), proclaiming me officially ordained, legally capable of performing marriages…

…and starting my own ministry.

[ Imagine a picture of my official certificate here. I can’t actually show it to you because it costs $39.95 to download and I haven’t coughed that up yet. You’ll just have to trust me.]

That’s right. I could actually start a Church of Rhubarbology, if I so chose. Or a United Church of Swank. Or I could start a religion where there were ascending orders of holiness named after the chapters in The Hobbit, where you’d have to complete thematic initiation rites for each order. I could start an actual church devoted to the worship of perfect avocados. Or the smell of freshly cut hay.

I COULD CREATE THE CHURCH OF LATTER-DAY STEVES.

squirrel

Praise Nuts!

In all seriousness, though: I didn’t actually do this as a joke. I saw the potential for amusement in it, sure…but my sincere motivation was to be able to make myself available to conduct marriage ceremonies for people that might otherwise have a hard time finding someone to do so. It is remarkable and continually infuriating to me that we still live in a country where some people can’t love who they want to love without being given a load of shit about it. If my silly little ordination adventure can be counted as taking a stand against that oppression, then I’m truly proud to do it.

And if you’ve already got an officiant for your big gay wedding but are having trouble finding someone to bake you a cake, I can sort you out there, too.

I promise I won’t even make you have rhubarb as one of the flavors.

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 Happy Pride!

well that was weird

Last night I had a dream that my grandmother came back to life.

Not like, that she was alive and trucking along like nothing had happened. No, I dreamed that she actually came back from the dead.

I specifically remember thinking in the dream, “wait, we CREMATED you. How is this even a thing?” But I never asked it out loud in the dream because it seemed kind of rude, and because honestly, I was pretty happy to have her back and didn’t want to jinx it.

There was a bunch of other weird stuff going on in the dream as well:

  • my dad and my uncle were working on fixing up a little house for Surprise Resurrected Nana to live in,
  • Surprise Resurrected Nana was having some health issues (understandably, considering) and so my aunts and my mom and I were taking turns running her back and forth to the doctor,
  • and one of my cousins was going around town trying to buy back a bunch of Surprise Resurrected Nana’s stuff that had been sold off in a yard sale after her passing.

Also, I became convinced that I had had a premonition about her coming back from the dead because, one night while I was sitting at the kitchen table painting, I could smell her on the breeze. That actually happened in real life a few nights ago, oddly – I was sitting there painting and the breeze that wafted in through the open window smelled so intensely like Nana’s old house (the one she lived in when I was a little kid, not the house she spent the rest of her life in after my grandfather died), that I had this combination of powerful nostalgia and skin-crawling creepiness. I absolutely believe in ghosts and I’m pretty sure that she was visiting me for whatever reason the other night.

So…maybe my brain was trying to work through my feelings about that strange, creepy visit by putting it in dream form. Maybe the dream was brought on by the fact that yesterday was my mom’s birthday and I was thinking a lot about people I love getting older and how that’s simultaneously the most normal and also the most terrifying thing about life. Maybe it was the simple byproduct of random neural impulses zapping through the soup of fucked-up neurotransmitters sloshing around in my skull.

Or maybe it was because I ate a gigantic hot fudge sundae a couple hours before bed.

Who can really say.

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“I’m pouting because all I got was one half-assed lick of whipped cream. These monsters are so cruel to me. Won’t somebody save me?” – Keppo, Semi-Professional Pouter and All Around Neglected Canine

well, since you asked…

A coworker passed by my office on her way to get her lunch from the conference room fridge this afternoon. On her way back downstairs she veered left into my office. She leaned against the edge of my desk, balancing a plate of chain-restaurant Mexican leftovers on one palm, picking bites of food up and popping them in her mouth with the other hand as she spoke.

“What have YOU been up to lately? I haven’t seen you in FOREVER.”

I dug deep, didn’t mention the pointless hyperbole, and made what felt like appropriate noises in response…but I’ve been sitting here thinking of other things I’d like to have responded with ever since.

So, without further ado, I give you:

 

List Of Responses To Coworker’s Inquiry of What I’ve Been Up To Lately

I’ve been teaching myself Nepali so that I can negotiate better pricing with the Sherpas when I start putting together my Everest expedition.

I’ve been whittling a dildo out of teak wood.

I’ve been conducting interviews with the giant stinkbug that emerges from behind the filing cabinet every spring. Its name is Ferdinand and it has never left this office. I’ve not yet had the courage to ask what it eats.

I’ve been forcing myself to find new creative outlets in the hopes that they will help me better deal with this nagging feeling that I’ve wasted almost 11 years of my life doing a job I don’t like for money that I’m addicted to.

I’ve been teaching my dog to bark Lewis Carroll’s ‘The Jabberwocky’. We’ve been stuck on the word “vorpal” for a while now.

I’ve been knitting weasel traps.

I’ve been watching everyone downstairs work, which I have been achieving through an elaborate system of mirrors attached to the backs of my own private army of mice trained in the art of ninjutsu.

I’ve been hiding in the bathroom and crying. Or hiding in the bathroom surfing Instagram. Or hiding in the bathroom napping. Also, I had an inflammatory bowel issue a few weeks back, so for a while there I was doing actual bathroom stuff in the bathroom at least 75% of the times I went in there.

I just got back from a ten day trip to Mongolia, where I attended workshops on yurt design, innovations in yak-milk cheese making, and falconry. I settled for falconry because they told me I was too fat to ride the ponies. The Mongols are a harsh but fair people.

I’ve been lurking right behind you, lo these many weeks. My shallow breathing skills and lack of a reflection may have made it hard for you to notice.

I’ve been avoiding everyone because I’m terrible at small talk. You’ve been here like 7 years. I’m surprised you still ask.

I’ve been counting the tacks in all the bulletin boards in the office every day, just to make sure.

I’ve been memorizing a Swedish translation of the Gettysburg Address.

I’ve been setting fire to small pieces of paper with your name written on them, and chanting incantations to Kassogtha. Sorry in advance. Well, not really.

I’ve been mapping the capybara genome.

 

capy

“No you may NOT swab my cheek, you impudent rube. Good day to you, madam. I SAID GOOD DAY.”

virtual reality

Last night my phone finally got sick of my procrastinating ass and forced me to install a system update. Along with the system update, there were also a bunch of updates to the apps I use, including the camera software. It looks a little bit different, but I can still find everything I need, so I didn’t think much of it.
This morning I took a selfie to show off my hand-knit neck wear to some like-minded friends, and I noticed that the camera automatically took two pictures, which seemed odd. I kept switching back and forth between the two pictures, trying to figure out why one looked slightly different than the other. One looked just a tiny bit eerie and it took me a minute to realize why.
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Do you see it? The program filtered out the freckles on my cheek and the scar on my nose, and made my skin just generally brighter / whiter.
AUTOMATICALLY.
It didn’t even give me a choice. It just assumed that I wouldn’t be happy with my face. Because who actually likes their face anymore, you know? Who WOULDN’T want to be touched up a little?
Yes, I’m making a leap by talking like my phone is making assumptions, but the simple fact is that while the phone itself can’t make assumptions, the people that write the programs that the phone runs absolutely can. They are collectively assuming that no one feels like their face is good enough anymore. They are collectively deciding to feed us an ALTERED version of reality FIRST…then offering the actual reality as an afterthought.
That’s not only sad to me, but scary as well. It’s SO easy to fake things nowadays. Altered pictures, fake social media accounts, news being spun to fit a network’s or publication’s bias. Who do we trust anymore? What do we grab on to in order to not get sucked into this crazy vortex of reality being constructed for us?
The way my head is wired, I need to check in with what’s real on a regular basis or I start to feel like I’m disassociated, detached…like I could happily float off into the deep end of the Crazy Town pool and let myself drown. To combat this, I go outside and spend time in nature. I visit friends in actual meatspace, face to face. I read about science because I find fact-based things grounding and soothing. I practice yoga and meditation, both of which remind me that I am here, right now, with each breath.
And I look at myself in the mirror or in pictures. Not like Narcissus gazing at himself in the pool, but looking at my own face for a moment and remembering that I am not just the constant barrage of feels pelting the inside of my skull. I am not actually a (mostly benevolent) ghost floating quietly in the background of all these rooms that I enter on a daily basis.
My wrinkles, my freckles, my scars…they all remind me that I am a person, piloting this meatsuit through space and time, having real experiences and doing real things.
I’d rather technology not decide to take those reminders away from me with the assumption that I value luminous, freckle-free skin over…you know…my actual face.

 

tiny magic

The other morning I was washing some pots before breakfast. A tiny soap bubble landed on the leaf of one of my African violets and didn’t instantly pop.

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See it? It looks kind of like a big water droplet, but it’s not.

I’ve always loved soap bubbles. If my mom ever wanted to get me out of her hair for an extended period of time, all she had to do was hand me a bottle of bubble fluid and point me outside. HOURS of entertainment. The shine of them, the flow of liquid rainbows over their surfaces, the idea that a whole other world could be contained inside those ephemeral little spheres of soap film – they’re magic.

The little soap bubble on the leaf made me smile. I admired it a few times while continuing my chore, knowing that one of the times I glanced up at it again, it would be gone. I finished one pot, I finished another, and the bubble remained, cushioned on the soft hairs of the violet’s leaf. At that point maybe five minutes had passed and I was pretty impressed with the bubble’s tenacity so I grabbed my phone and took some pictures to remember it by.

By that time breakfast was ready, and after that I had to take Mark to work. On returning to the kitchen for a second cup of tea after I’d run Mark to work and walked the dog, I happened to look over…and see the bubble still there!  It had been well over an hour at that point since the bubble landed on the leaf. But there it still was, its surface swirling madly with tiny iridescent storm clouds. Amazed, I very carefully picked the violet up off the windowsill to get a closer look. The bubble quivered with the movement but didn’t break. I admired it for a bit longer, then had to bid it goodbye because it was time to get ready for work.

That bubble clearly gave ZERO fucks about my measly human existence and flimsy preconceived notions of How Things Should Work though, because I shit you not, it was STILL THERE when I came back into the kitchen on my way out to work. It had made leaf-fall at approximately 6:15am and I took this video (linked – sorry, WordPress won’t let me upload it without paying them more money and I love you guys but god damn), just before I left the house at 9:15am. THREE HOURS that little bubble sat there, that I know of. It wasn’t there when I got home from work around 4:45, but who knows how long it actually lasted after I left. For all I know, it might have popped five seconds before I walked back in the door.

Now, listen: I don’t care what you want to tell me about humidity and surface tension and dust and whatever other cockamamie logical frigging math-doing mumbo jumbo (it’s always math’s fault. ALWAYS). This was straight up MAGIC. That was a MAGIC bubble with OTHERWORLDLY properties that landed on my MYSTICAL African violet in my SUPERNATURAL GOD DAMNED KITCHEN, and you will never convince me otherwise.

The world is a dumpster fire right now – it might continue to burn for the next twenty years for all we know – but as long as we can still find a little magic now and then, things aren’t completely lost.

Magic, motherfuckers. Hang on to it when you find it.

the surprise

A couple weeks ago I had a little Amazon shopping spree. There were a few books I’d been pining for, plus I had my eye on a set of fancy colored pencils (which haven’t yet made me a better artist, but I’m willing to give it time). I also bought some vitamins because I’m supposedly an adult. I had an Amazon gift card to pay for it all, which made the whole process even more exciting, because free stuff is best stuff! I got home that night and told Mark about it.

Me: Hey, I got a gift card from work so I bought some books and colored pencils, and also vitamins.

Mark: Sweet. I bought something today too, but it’s a surprise.

Me: What is it?

Mark: It won’t be here until Monday. You’re just going to have to wait.

Me: What IS IT?

Mark: It’s a surprise.

Me: How much did it cost?

Mark: Fifty bucks.

Me: Ok, but what is it?

Mark: Sur. Prise.

Me: Come onnnnn.

Mark: You’ll like it. It’s something for US.

Me: US? You mean like, a sex thing?

Mark: Not a sex thing, no. Welllll…I mean, I guess it COULD be a sex thing if you really wanted, but it wouldn’t be very comfortable.

I could see that I wasn’t going to be wheedling any useful hints out of him, so I flounced off to make dinner and basically forgot about the surprise for a few days.

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon. Junie and I were chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool when the mail guy pulled up outside our door and left a package on the stoop. I went out to retrieve it and, seeing that it had Mark’s name on it, realized it must be The Surprise arriving early. Mark was actually in the bath when it showed up, and I demand further adultiness credit for not instantly yelling up the stairs to him that he had to come down right that second and open the package. Instead, I placed it on his chair so that he’d see it as soon as he came back.

I was in the kitchen futzing with bread dough, struggling to maintain my hard-fought veneer of nonchalance when Mark finally reappeared. He opened the package up and brought it over for me to look at as he chortled with glee. I looked down at the contents.

“Jurassic World Inflatable T-Rex Costume”, it said.

What it SHOULD have said was, “All Rhubarb’s Dreams Are Coming True”, because HOLY SHIT, YOU GUYS. I love dinosaurs way more than any normal 37 year old non-paleontologist woman probably should. And those videos of people dressed up in inflatable T-Rex costumes doing stuff like pole dancing and ice skating? ENDLESSLY amusing to me. They’re my favorite.

Mark opened the costume up and started reading the directions while I cleaned the bread dough off my hands. The whole thing smelled exactly like a new shower curtain. After what likely would have proven to be a rather embarrassing amount of time had we been keeping track, we finally figured out how to install the fan into the costume, and how the battery pack attached to it. It was a muggy day (Vermont is GROSS in July. Don’t let the travel brochures (do they even make those anymore?) tell you any different), and he was still kind of damp from the bath, but Mark insisted on getting into the costume right then and there.

The whole thing is basically constructed like a big dinosaur-shaped bag with elastic cuffs at wrists and ankles. You get in via a long zipper up the front, and a little fan blows inside the costume to inflate the fabric around you. The head of the costume isn’t detachable – it’s fused to the rest of the fabric at the neckline, and there’s a panel of clear plastic in the dinosaur’s neck approximately where the average height adult’s face would be. Which is good I guess, because being trapped inside a dinosaur suit with no ability to see one’s surroundings is dangerous. I mean, how are you going to defend your turf if another dinosaur steps to you, you know? Safety first.

We unzipped the thing, got his legs through the leg-holes, he got one shoulder in…and then the plastic-y, nylon-y fabric suctioned to his sweaty back. There were several seconds of hilarious albeit futile flailing, wherein my terribleness as a person was reaffirmed several times over by the fact that all I could do was stand there giggling helplessly while my poor sweet husband was trapped in a vaguely dinosaur shaped straitjacket made of shower curtain material. Finally, we figured out that he’d have to put his head into the deflated, and therefore very floppy and claustrophobic, head of the costume before he could get his other shoulder in. The clear plastic panel in the dinosaur’s neck area fogged up with Mark’s breath almost immediately, adding yet another layer of awful hilarity.

Once we got the arms sorted out and the fan turned on, we zipped him up. During the frenzied flailing we had managed to create a little tear along one of the costume’s seams. There were several tense moments where it seemed like as a result the fan might not actually inflate the costume, but the T-Rex did eventually roar to life, and the posing commenced:

I especially like the fact that the progression of the four small pictures on the bottom there make it seem like he’s coming to eat the viewer. Well done snapping pics there, me!

After about five minutes of picture-taking, Mark mentioned that it was getting hard to breathe in there and that he’d like to come out. We got him out of the suit, laid it out to dry (it got really sweaty, really quickly), and set about posting the pictures on Facebook and enjoying the heady dopamine rush of validating like-clicks.

No one has gotten back into the costume yet, but I’ve been thinking up all sorts of applications for it once the weather gets less jungle-y. At some point I’d like to wear it to the grocery store, for instance. I’d also like to sneak up on family members with it, like peeking in their windows. It’s obviously going to have to be worn to work for Halloween (I’m the only one in the office who ever dresses up for Halloween anyway, so might as well go all-out). And, thanks to Haddaway’s “What Is Love” popping up on my Spotify station yesterday, I’ve realized that my true calling in life is to bring into this world the masterpiece that I will call…

…A Night At The Rex-bury.

And no, it won’t be a sex thing.

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“KHAAAAAAANNNNN!”

re: peanut butter

Peanut butter is basically the perfect food.

Unless you’re allergic to peanuts, in which case, we probably shouldn’t ever share close physical contact because I’m basically 68% peanut butter. Plus I don’t like strangers touching me, and respecting boundaries is important. But mostly because of the peanut butter thing.

Peanut butter is one of those foodstuffs that I don’t buy very often because, if it’s in the house, it calls my name until I have consumed it. All of it. In as short a time as possible. I’m like a peanut butter Hoover. All I need is a spoon and some privacy, and I can actually do without the privacy if necessary.

This sudden and frankly uncalled-for exposition about my peanut butter habits, by the way, is being brought to you by my having an apple left over from something I was baking earlier in the week. Because you see, if an apple isn’t being cut up and incorporated into a dish or baked good somehow, then its only other purpose is as a vehicle for peanut butter. I mean…I know there are people who eat apples out of hand without slathering them in peanut butter first, and that’s fine. It’s WRONG…but it’s fine. More peanut butter for me.

Apples aren’t the only foodstuffs I’ll use as peanut butter delivery devices, oh no! Bananas, banana bread, biscuits, brownies, carrots, celery, crackers, cookies, dates, ice cream…I’ve gleefully smeared peanut butter on, or stuffed peanut butter in, all of them. I’ve put peanut butter on pancakes, muffins, even tortillas (both flour ones and corn ones. The corn ones were a mistake, but hey, mistakes are how we learn).

The most holy form of peanut butter consumption is on toasted bread, of course. I have a deep and abiding love for English muffins and I feel their highest calling is to be toasted and smeared with peanut butter. Second to English muffins would be a good whole wheat or sourdough. I’m not afraid to put peanut butter on rye toast if my hand is forced, though. You think I won’t do it? Oh trust me, I will, and it will be DELICIOUS.

The only person I know who likes peanut butter almost as much as I do is my dad. Maybe it’s a genetic thing? Maybe our DNA has made it so that our brains register the taste of peanut butter as a magical explosion of delicious joy? Maybe we’ve got some kind of peanut butter werewolf curse, where instead of turning into werewolves on the full moon, we…just really like peanut butter a lot. That one might need some work. BUT STILL. You get my drift.

My preferred brand of peanut-based crack is Teddie, preferably the super chunky variety. Teddie is just roasted peanuts and salt. No added sugar, no hydrogenated oils, 100% amazing. This post isn’t sponsored by Teddie, but I’ve never in my blogging life wished more that a company would see me promoting their product and decide to send me some.

Teddie, if you’re reading this, drop me a line. I’m sure we could work something out.

 

teddie

*heavy breathing*

 

a little TOO quiet

My desk at work is an L shape, except the corner of the L is chopped off. The only reason I can think of for the builder to have chopped off the corner of the L is that it would have partially blocked the window behind it, but the whole far leg of the L blocks the next window in exactly the same manner, so why the fuck would it even MATTER, you know?

This isn’t even relevant to what I wanted to talk about, by the way. It’s just something I was thinking about when I took the picture I’m going to show you shortly, and also I didn’t sleep well last night so filtering my thoughts is right out the (partially blocked) window at this point. Har har har.

ANYWAY.

This is my workspace:

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None of that cutlery is currently clean. Don’t judge me. Also, I have no idea how my mouse pad got turned upside down. Weird.

Off to the extreme left of the picture, obscured by glare because I’m not a professional photographer and I was stealthily taking this picture while my boss was in the bathroom so I didn’t have time to re-position for 14 different shots, is a long, thin grey box called a network switch:

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It looks like it’s written on the window in blood. Mwa-hahaha. Ew.

The switch has been sitting there shunting electrons hither and thither around the office for at least the five years that I’ve been sitting at this desk. Probably longer. It’s always a fucking production when the IT guy comes in to replace or fix things, so I’m pretty sure the advent of the switch being changed out would have stuck in my mind.

Which brings me back around to my actual story.

The switch in the picture is a new one because the old one started to sound like a helicopter touching down. The degradation wasn’t a sudden thing by any means. The switch had been exhibiting a normal-ish electronic hum for many months…years, even. It would ramp up to more of a refrigerator-like hum when the weather got very warm, but it wasn’t really distracting. And that’s saying something, considering I am the QUEEN of getting distracted by noises. I can’t NOT hear every noise going on around me, especially at work…but the hum of the switch even on its loudest days was just kind of a wall of white noise off to my left and it didn’t bother me.

Fast forward to last week. We had a couple of warm days in a row, and on the third morning we came in to find that the hum of the switch had escalated to near air-conditioner levels. This thing is like four feet from me when I’m sitting at my desk and I started to get a little bit worried about it exploding or something. I don’t think they actually DO that, but still. Never hurts to fret, right? My boss walked in later that morning and asked where the noise was coming from. We pointed at the switch. He said he’d ask IT to change it out. We muttered about not holding our breaths and got back to work.

A week later, the IT guy showed up at my desk with a new switch and commenced with his usual over-dramatic explanation of what needed to be done, how much work it would be for him, how long we’d all be offline, and the general piss-poor state of all the electronics in the building (side-note: why do IT guys do this? It’s effectively saying ‘I’m shit at my job’). I nodded and smiled, then fucked off downstairs to get a cup of coffee, leaving him to unplug cables from one box and plug them all into another.

Ten minutes later, I returned to my desk…and to a gaping maw of silence. The new switch made no sound at all. Not even the barest hum! It was CREEPY. I commented to my office-mate that the silence was making me feel off-balance, like something that I’d been leaning against on the left was now gone. He looked at me like I had two heads (which is his usual response when I open my mouth).

“Do you want me to turn my music up louder to compensate?” he asked.

“NO NO, that’s ok, I’ll get used to it”, I said, trying my best not to look panicked at the idea of having to hear any more of his music than strictly necessary.

And, to be fair, I WILL get used to it…but in the meantime, it’s totally weirding me out. I didn’t realize just how much I relied on that background noise until it was gone. Even when I’ve got my headphones in, I SWEAR can notice the lack of white noise off to the left. And on a day like today, when office-mate and his terrible music aren’t around, the quiet is like a black hole threatening to suck me in, break me down to atoms of the elements that make up my body, and spit me out the other side into an alternate universe where the Big Bang hasn’t happened yet and I might end up being part of a rock in several billion years. Or something.

Also, not having the white noise means I can now hear every fart, groan and trickle from the adjacent bathroom.

Nobody wins when you can hear the boss’s Metformin poops, trust me.

I miss Adderall, and other things I want you to know

Did you like how I posted a week ago and didn’t mention anything about where I’d been for like the six or seven or whatever number of previous weeks? I thought that was pretty well done, myself. That’s some advanced-level avoidance strategy shit right there. Learn from the master, friends. I’ll have you perfecting your own existential crises in no time!

ANYWAY.

Time has passed. Shit has gone down.

My mom got sick with some heart problems back at the beginning of March and spent basically the whole month in the hospital. You ever notice how time just kind of…falls apart when you’re staying in / visiting a hospital? Airports have the same effect, I’ve found. But at least with airports, you’re usually going to get somewhere eventually. Hospitals are like limbo. You step into this weird in-between world where you can’t do anything except wait for someone to come along and tell you what the next thing you’re waiting for is. Anyway, my mom got to come home for a while and was doing relatively well, but that all kind of went to shit this past weekend, so back to hospital limbo she went. We’ve been orbiting the cardiac care unit so much the last eight weeks that many of the nurses now recognize us and greet us with familiarity. On the one hand I’m grateful that such caring people work there, but on the other hand…well. There are far more preferable places to be recognized and greeted as a regular.  The words “surgery” and “bypass” were finally eased into conversation yesterday, as the minimally-invasive things they’ve been trying just aren’t consistently helping. So…that’s a thing that’s apparently going to happen, though we don’t know when yet. It’s not a situation where she needs the surgery very immediately, and I’m extraordinarily grateful for that (as is she, I’m sure). The flip-side is that the longer she puts it off, the harder it’s going to be on her physically…and it’s already going to be a hell of a slog as it is. I tend to take the view that it’s better to rip the proverbial band-aid off all in one go than to slowly pick and peel at it, prolonging the pain and amplifying the mental stress…but this isn’t my band-aid to rip.

Which, I suppose, is as good a segue as any into the fact that I, TOO, had an episode of atrial fibrillation, right around the same time my mom went into the hospital for it. In fact, I was woken at 6am on a Tuesday by a text about my mom being taken to the ER, when I had just spent the previous evening in the ER myself. My atrial fibrillation was paroxysmal – a freak thing, basically. Except, it turns out that it maybe wasn’t so freakish after all, as we’ve learned through this process with my mom that there’s actually a pretty strong family history of a-fib and that there may well be a genetic component at play. Anyway – I self-regulated out of my episode (and there’s a joke about that being the only time I’ve ever successfully self-regulated anything, surely)., and was sent home with advice to stop taking Adderall to treat my ADD, at least until after I met with cardiology. ‘Sure, no problem’, I thought, ‘it’s not like it helps me all that much anyway”. A battery of tests with cardiology determined that I wasn’t having regular bouts of a-fib and didn’t really need any special treatment for it (YAY!), but then there was the bad news: my cardiologist thought it would be best if I stayed off stimulant meds from now on. Adderall, as you likely know, is a stimulant, as is basically every other effective ADD med.

I had been off meds for about six weeks at that point and had been really struggling with…everything, basically. My particular flavor of ADD involves some classic focus problems, but it also comes with a big ol’ steaming pile of anxiety as well. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you know that it’s often irrational, and always very difficult to shut off once you get into that mode. It starts out as this little dinky toy train chugging along a track, spewing out thoughts like ‘hmm, what was that weird pain I just had’, and ‘Boss just closed the office door, he must be talking about me’. Eventually it grows into this gigantic roaring high-speed passenger train full of brain weasels, hurtling toward me with gems like ‘I can’t seem to accomplish even the most simple tasks without screwing up 14 times and clearly everyone thinks I’m a loser and they only hang around with me because they feel sorry for me and once I lose my job due to being a fuck-up I’ll be homeless and I won’t be able to take care of my dog and I’ll have to give him up and my husband will leave me because he’s only hanging around for the dog anyway and it’s not even going to matter because that weird twinge in my leg is clearly a blood clot that’s going to travel to my brain and I just wish it would happen already and get it over with so I can finally get some fucking rest oh my god normal people don’t think shit like that what the fuck is my problem maybe I need to be committed’… you get the picture. Adderall certainly didn’t CURE me of that constant barrage of mental fuckery, but it usually turned the volume down on it. It allowed me to more easily get shit done, which in turn made me feel like less of a failure in general and kept the doom-train at a reasonable size. But I can’t have Adderall anymore. So you see the problem there.

My doctors are great and they’re definitely trying to help. I started a new, non-stimulant med (Intuniv – apparently it’s not used much for ADD in adults, more-so in children) on Friday and it will take a few weeks to titrate up to a therapeutic dose of that. It’s already helping a little bit in that it makes me sleepy (I take it at night) and it seems to be making me actually sleep THROUGH the night, which I haven’t done on a regular basis like, ever. And I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, before we had smartphones and tablets and all this other shit, so when I wasn’t sleeping through the night at 12 years old, it wasn’t like anyone could blame Faceblotch or Snapcrack or whatever devil music whippersnappers are into these days. *shakes cane thoroughly*

Anyway – the point of word-barfing all this at you was just mostly to make myself feel a little better, I guess. Having focus problems makes me kind of a quitter (I even said it at the very beginning), or even worse, it makes me someone who just lets things peter out because I’ve lost interest / hit a road block / feel like I’m not good enough at it…and I fucking hate that. Every time I catch myself being like ‘meh, maybe I’ll just abandon the blog’, I get pissed off at myself and vow to MAKE myself post. Except, then I sometimes see a butterfly or some shiny tinfoil or a donut and get distracted, but I do get back here eventually…

…if only to make myself feel like less of a big quitting quitter McQuitface with Quits Disease and a massive deficiency of Vitamin Do The Thing.

Did I mention I miss Adderall? That’s where this whole thing was meant to be going.

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Also, we took a trip to Wales at the beginning of April. One of the fun things about Wales is that all the signs are bilingual. The word for ‘moron’ in Welsh is ‘carrots’!                                                I am easily amused.

 

one of these things is not like the others

Every once in a while I click over to the spam folder in my email to scan for non-spam emails, because computers are imperfect, etc.  Normally the subject lines are pretty predictable – lots of “OMG TEH WORLD IS ENDING” stuff from various political organizations I’ve been silly enough to give my address to, some promotions from various websites I’ve purchased things from, and the occasional offer for black-market Canadian boner pills or plea from a Nigerian prince to launder $2 million.

Today, however, there was something just a little bit different. See if you can spot it:

 

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I…have questions. Chief among them being, ‘is this a list that anyone in the real world actually requires in 2017?’.

If the answer to that is yes, then I have more questions, which I’ll be asking once I have constructed and stocked my panic room.