Sunday, March 16, 2014

Seeds of  . . .

I planted seeds today. 

"Great, Amy," you say.  "That's wonderful, Ames," you say.  But really, you're likely wondering why this is important enough news that I'm breaking my months long blog silence.

Well, I'll tell you. I'm sure you'd love to know.

Most years, when spring, or even the hint of spring comes around, I want nothing more than to get my fingers in the dirt.  I want to be outside and enjoy the unique combination of wet earth, melting ice, and budding trees carried on the sun-warmed, yet snow-cooled breeze that is the smell of Spring. The scent that, to me, is green.  peace. hope.

Last year that didn't happen.  My husband took the dog to the dog park.  I stayed home and read.  My husband bought seed potatoes and planted them.  I stayed in the house, in the dark basement, binge-watching one television series or another.  The husband turned up the earth and planted seeds for cucumbers, sweet corn, and zucchini. I took a nap. A three-hour nap.

The world around me was greening, growing. I was not.  I was wallowing.  I went to the doctor.  He increased the dosage of my antidepressant*.

Summer went on.  My husband did things outdoors.  I could not motivate myself to plant anything.  I didn't get any seeds or flowers.  I didn't fill up any planters.  I took more naps.  More long naps.

In the fall, I started seeing a therapist.  I also started being "sick".  I'd been lacking vigor for quite some time.  My husband and I went to Seattle for a wedding anniversary vacation.  In making arrangements for a seaplane tour, I had to tell my husband how much I weighed.  He, good husband that he is, didn't say anything until we returned.  He expressed his concerns.  I acknowledged them.  We made a plan. I felt horrible about myself.

It got darker.  I got darker.  What had been a half day or so of being "sick" - headache, body ache, nausea - turned into days.  I left work early and came home and slept.  I didn't go to work at all, waking only enough to notify my boss that I wasn't coming in.  I made worse and worse choices about the foods that went into my mouth.  I became a shining example of Newton's first law: an object at rest tends to stay at rest.  I got bigger, weaker, more easily exhausted.

Rationally, I was aware that I was depressed and getting more depressed.  Rather than celebrating any successes I might have had, I spent more time thinking about how they could have been better, how I was such a failure.  I thought about oblivion - about not having to think or feel anything.  

I went back to the doctor.  He added another medication to the regimen.  He made a referral to a psychiatrist. I made an appointment.

In February, I first met with the psychiatrist.  He reduced the dosage of the current antidepressant and added another.  He advised me to keep up with the therapist and to get some exercise.

At the follow-up visit I surprised myself with the positive score on the standard depression evaluation tool.  Life started to get a little easier.  I started taking the stairs more often than the elevator.  I started taking walks now and again. It got a little easier to say no to poor food choices. 

This weekend I made plans to get things done and I got them done.  The husband I bought seeds.  We took the dog to the dog park twice.  I shampooed and brushed the dog. I'm feeling better. I'm making better choices.  I planted the seeds. of hope.  Of peace. 

* Here's where I tell you that I've been taking various antidepressants since around 2002.  Here's where I'll also tell you that while I have my issues, in general I have had a normal, stable existence.  Except. . . Except for what, at times, can be incapacitating depression.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

What's the Connection?

The following blog post discusses menstruation and the associated supplies. Male readers may want stop reading this particular post right now. Female readers who may be uncomfortable with this conversation may to stop reading here as well.

Up until the last year or so I hadn't had to buy tampons, pads, or liners for close to five years.  When I was diagnosed with endometriosis, I went on a continuous dose birth control pill to help prevent any recurrences and minimize any menses related pain.  One day out of every three months, I would wear a liner.  That was it.  One day, barely any flow to speak of.  At that rate, the box of 60 liners lasts a very, very long time.

In the last year I have changed my regimen and my menstrual cycle has returned to its pre-pill levels.  Eventually, I was forced to head off to Target to buy the necessary supplies. For the last four or five years I haven't:

  • had a period of any note
  • watched broadcast or cable television with any regularity
  • read any print magazines
  • surfed the web without using an ad blocker
In other words, I have been completely oblivious to 99.99% of commercials related to feminine hygiene products.

"What's the big deal?" you might ask.  Fair enough.  But things change over the years.  Advertising helps make people aware of the changes.  Me, I was unaware of the change.

I was able to find the tampons I like without any issue.  Conveniently, there were liners right next to them. But  I could not find the pads. Where were they? There I am, in the tampon aisle at Target, starting to mutter audibly, wondering "Have pads left the market? Is everything super thin now? Okay, well, then, I want long ones. With wings? No wings? Really, what's the benefit of wings? I think I used to like wings, but why? Ok, I want unscented ones.  Why in the world must it be so difficult to find unscented products? And really, nothing on these packages is giving me any confidence that they have any absorbing power whatsoever. WHERE.ARE.THE.PILLOW.PADS!!"  Sorry folks, I am the crazy lady who talks herself through at least a quarter of all buying decisions.

In a fit of frustration and embarrassment at having to spend way too much time in the feminine care aisle I decided I would just give up and stop someplace else.  I turned around, face-to-face with the adult undergarments. Located conveniently next to the pads for which I had been looking.


Except not.

For most women, I would think that buying their monthly supplies is no different than buying milk or shampoo or dishwasher detergent.  Go to the designated aisle, look for the familiar packaging, grab, and go.  It's one of those completely automatic purchases. In general one does not comparison shop for these items. She has bought the same thing every month for years on end.  There are, I suppose, changes in packaging, changes in style, but the changes are subtle enough (usually) that they don't even register. But when one hasn't had to buy pads for years, the cumulative effect of those changes is devastating.

It used to be that one would  buy her pad based on the intended use - light, regular, heavy, overnight.  Easy, yeah? Through in some wings, some lengths, maybe some fragrance and that was it. And there were convenient little droplet icons so you knew the absorbency at a glance.

Apparently, now one buys her pads based on the type of BRA she intends to wear with it.

Wait. What did I miss, was there a major ad campaign telling the frilly bra-ed ladies incredible the thinness is and telling the plain ol' broads how much extra protection they can have? How does my bra, you know, that undergarment that helps protect the boobies, have anything to do with the fluid exiting my body from between my legs? Admittedly, my breasts get a bit tender around that time of the month, but that doesn't really affect my below the waist choices. And really, the option on the far right? So, droopy boobs, even in a sports bra, need special odor protection.  WHAT THE HECK?

Regardless, I was find something to fulfill my needs, but really, where are the droplets and the special blue water?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dog Days of Summer

I'm going through blog post drafts and came across this unfinished bit.   The date stamp shows late August of last year. I have no idea where I was headed with it, but I like it.

 I was writing about late summer and fall, the lead in to end of days.  Know my sense of humor, I think I was going to write the entire post about NOT our then brand new puppy.  Perhaps I was going to lead in to my personal struggles with the shortening days and loss of sunlight.

Spring makes me feel alive, but those last days of summer and fall, they remind me why I should be alive, even as I dread the inevitable falling darkness and now. I'm going to hold on to these words below.

It's becoming apparent, on a minute by minute basis, that summer is waning.  The wind has started to shift, and with it the first drying breezes of fall.  Bright orange flickers in the eye's corner and a second glance reveals a maple starting to dress for the autumn festival.  The air is different, summer's oppressive humidity is replaced with hot, but dryer air.  An evening walk must be scheduled a little bit earlier.  Staying out past sunset leaves one with a welcome chill.  Extra blankets are queued up at the end of the bed in anticipation of chilly overnight temperatures.  Unlike the month past when the overnights were to be dreaded as slightly less hot, but more humid sleep preventatives, the changing weather tempts the tired to deep sleep trundled into blankets, burrito like, with only finger- and nose-tips exposed to the cool, dry air.

The air feels like the cicadas' drone.  Spring is full of the frogs - wet sounds full of potential. Summer is full of the buzz of insects - the slap at mosquitoes, the creak of crickets, the flashes of lightening bugs.  These August days are filled with the cicada - a dry rustling sound that is both warning of the pending frost and reminiscent of crunching leaves.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

My apologies . . .

Once upon a job a long time ago I had a coworker who scheduled her whole week around episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While episodes could always be taped, my coworker wasn't guaranteed to be successful.  Then when the show switched networks, it became even more difficult for my coworker to watch the show.  In the absence of cable, her TV couldn't be reliably expected to get a good signal without much finagling of bunny ear antennas and aluminum foil.

And I found all this amusing.  While I was still a regular watcher of primetime television, I didn't live or die by the broadcast schedule.  I certainly didn't understand how a twenty-something scientist could be obsessed with some hokey show about teenagers and vampires.  Really, I mean, really? So, I tended to tease her about it.  Not maliciously, but certainly with a note of incredulity.  Clearly, her need to watch such a show represented some sort of mild, but comical weakness.

Then, several years ago I was introduced to Firefly and to Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog and all that was wise and wonderful about Joss Whedon.  Shows were funny, clever, and there were no simpering lady characters.  By this time I had also watched every single episode of The Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars and could see the appeal of watching shows with teenaged leads who were smart and funny. However, I still was leery of Buffy.  I was still mocking those who spoke fondly of Buffy.  One day I had posted about Nathan Fillion dressing as Malcolm Reynolds in Castle.  Something that tickled the very core of my funny bone. A Facebook friend mentioned I should also be looking for Buffy references in Castle.  "Meh" was my thoughtful and unwritten response.

So, after rewatching all the recent episodes of Doctor Who (Doctors 9, 10, and 11), for the umpteenth time, my husband and I started to watch Buffy.  After all, it was from Joss Whedon. There were likely things that would explode satisfying Jon's primary criteria for show-choosing.  One episode.  We wouldn't like it and it wouldn't be a big issue.  

That, of course, was 130 episodes ago.  I'm completely hooked.  I absolutely understand why my coworker of all those years aga HAD to watch every week.  Why she was heartbroken at the end of season five. Why women and men all over are so fond of the show. It's filled with smart, strong, funny characters - just the sort of people I would want in my world.

So, I just want to say: N, I'm sorry.  I had no idea what I was missing. I sorry I forfeited a the potential for bonding and friendship. My bad,

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wish You Didn't Have to Go

December 2012 Reverb Broads
Prompt 2 - What is your strongest memory tied to music?  
Suggested by Sarah

The first time I realized that music could speak lyrics was while learning "Octopus's Garden" in elementary school.  Standing in the music room, staring into the back of the upright piano, I heard the words coming forth from chords Mrs. S. was playing. I was relieved, I had forgotten some of the lyrics, but the piano knew what they were and was able to tell me.

Do you remember the first time you realized you were (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) attracted to someone?  When you realized what thinking someone was "hot" really meant? For me, I can't tell you what he looked like, but I can tell you that I still get a little warm under the collar every time I hear the Red Hot Chili Peppers "Under the Bridge" because that was the song that was playing when I was hit with that realization.

But the strongest memories I have of music involve my dad.  Growing up I spent a lot of time with him in the barn and he shared with me some of his favorite songs.  To this day, I can't hear a Roy Orbison song without hearing his shout of, "It's Roy." I'm not sure why that was one of his quirks, but it was.  This past summer, to help him recuperate from his open-heart surgery, I put together a play list of some of his favorites and a couple of mine.  The lead off song was "A Summer Song" by Chad and Jeremy.

Perhaps it wasn't every time the song came on the radio, but certainly when it was the least bit convenient, the barn radio would be turned up so we could listen to the sentimental song. When I hear the song now my nose fills with the smell of whitewash, dried hay, and a barn floor freshly spread with lime. And my heart hears my dad telling me to listen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December 2012 Reverb Broads
Prompt 1 - What is your favorite place in the world? What makes it so special?  
Suggested by Kate 

Right now, my favorite place in the world is the second-hand futon we bought from a yarn store classmate over the summer.  It's a great place to sit, read, drink coffee, knit, and hang out with the dog.

I'm a homebody.  I love the fact that the futon is in our living room, a room with two walls of two-story windows. It's sunny, bright, and with the right turn of the head looks out over a house-less wetland surrounded by trees. It's simple and comfortable. It's one of those places that makes my body relax as soon as I get a chance to enjoy it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Let's not let fiction become reality

December 2012  Reverb Broads
Prompt 5
What is your all-time favorite work of art/film/musician/book and why? 
Suggested by Dana

For me, without a doubt, it is Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

It is beautifully written and frightens me in so many ways. There are certain books I read and read and then read again because they evoke specific emotional responses and this is one of them. I read it when I want to be frightened and when I need to remind myself what a tenuous hold we have, not only on women's rights, but on human rights as a whole.

The book was originally published in 1985, before the daily use of debit cards to buy everyday items, few jobs included hours spent in front of computers, and where the idea that CFCs could destroy the atmosphere seemed just as unlikely as the society Atwood describes in her book. Twenty-seven years later, when I find myself destitute when I don't have my credit card, and find it hard to function (shop, get directions, find any sort of information) without some sort of computing device readily available, and weather extremes caused by global warming are becoming common place, it seems that Atwood's Gilead, a world where a damaged environment and religious zeal in combination with a declining birth rate to legitimizes a totalitarian society.

We Americans are taught to fear Sharia law, but Atwood's Biblically-derived dystopia is more frightening to me. Using the Genesis example of Jacob and Rachel using the slave Bilhah as a carrier of their child, the government of Gilead has created a gender- and social-stratified society where "immoral," but fertile women are trained (brainwashed, drugged, and/or threatened?) and then dispensed to powerful men for the purpose of gestating and delivering their offspring. The government took from these women their bodies, their bodies that they thought of as ". . . as an instrument, of pleasure, or of a means of transportation, or an implement for the accomplishment of my (their) will." It is not only the immoral women who have been forced into a limited role, but also the wives of powerful men, "orphaned" offspring, and members of the working poor.

The truly frightening thing is how complicit I fear I would be in the development of Gilead. "We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn't the same as ignorance, you have to work at it." If, like the book's narrator, I was fired from my job and prevented from using my own money, would I chose to ignore what was happening around me? Maybe willing to jump on someone else's wagon, but not brave enough to hitch up the horses and take the reins myself? Would I allow my husband, my father, or my brother to now be my guardian, my patron, my only connection to society? Would I be strong enough to fight against this? Would the men in my life? Or would they sit back, perhaps even slightly delighted that once again, they get to be the ones who make the choices, fulfill the decisions? Would I give my consent to the activities around me? Would "I've leaned forward to touch the rope in front of me, in time with the others, both hands on it, the rope hairy, sticky with tar in the hot sun, then placed my hand on my heart to show my unity with the Salvagers and my consent, and my complicity in the death of this woman." Would I yield to the new world order?

The fact is, I'm usual. I ignore. Oh, I'm outraged at being called a slut because I feel my health insurance should cover the costs of my reproductive stability. Or that I should have to prove I need birth control pills, not to prevent pregnancy, but to prevent the chronic pain that comes with my endometriosis*.  Rape is rape, it is not legitimate, or forcible, and no benevolent god would wish it on any person. Yet, there are men and women in our current world who believe that a woman's place is in the home, barefoot and pregnant as many times as possible. It makes me scream to hear the beliefs spouted by so-called moral zealots.

But what do I do about it? Write some words for my handful of readers to ponder? I may be protesting, but my audience is small. "Dear You, I'll say. Just you, without a name. Attaching a name attaches you to the world of fact, which is riskier, more hazardous: who knows what the chances are out there, of survival, yours? I will say you, you, like an old love song. You can mean more than one." And in writing my words I'll allow you to remain anonymous. Other than the tick mark on my blog counter, I'll never know you were here. Will these words, these questions be enough to disturb the forces around me? "There is something powerful in the whispering of obscenities, about those in power. There's something delightful about it, something naughty, secretive, forbidden, thrilling. It's like a spell, of sorts. It deflates them, reduces them to the common denominator where they can be dealt with."

I'm scared that I wouldn't be able to do anything. I'm scared the words I write here will disappear. I fear that religious bigots, those who feel they are in the right, will take the rights and freedoms of some, and continue to take and take until Gilead is a reality.

So, The Handmaid's Tale is my favorite book because it forces me to evaluate my own role in society.

All text in quotes is from the book.

*Or even, now that I've checked the spelling of "endometriosis" that Google's dictionary doesn't recognize it as a word.