Thursday, September 21, 2017

I'm Biased


Sometimes, it’s easy to think that if we are a woman, disabled, an ethnic minority, a religious minority, LGBTQ or otherwise part of a group often stereotyped, that we have no biases against ourselves and that nothing we do or say ever perpetuates biases or misconceptions. However, despite being a woman, I have definitely thought horrible shameful sexist thoughts like “Really? My doctor is a woman? Fancy that!” or “Wow, that man is such a good nurse! Look at him throw my bandages in the biohazardous waste receptacle!”
And even though my husband has Cerebral Palsy, I’ve thought despicable things about people with physical disabilities like “Oh that poor person must be so lonely and I hope they get to eat yummy meals like pancakes for dinner.” Or if I see someone pushing someone else in a wheelchair, unless they both have white hair and crinkly skin, I probably think “Wow, look at that caretaker go, and look at that other person being awake and out of bed!” Instead of, “Look at that cute couple!” even though if one day Michael is in a wheelchair and I am pushing him, I want people to think “Look at that cute couple!”


Even Michael has told me that he’s had these terrible, awful, yucky thoughts and even about other people with obvious disabilities, and sometimes he has them even though he makes himself sad for having them, and then he feels sad-times-sad, and then he feels extra sad because he doesn’t want other people to have those thoughts about him.


It’s not just about disability or gender or race though, it’s also just about human-being ness. I think thoughts like “Oh that person is crying they are having a bad day :( maybe their dog died or maybe they lost all their homework...




“One day they’ll know what it’s like when their baby is screaming his lungs off in his crib and they are afraid of scary possibilities of strangers sneaking into our house. One day that sad person will be sad about things like that, and then they will be really really sad, I bet they have no idea how sad, but now is probably a good time for them to be sad about things like losing their homework.” I might think this the day after sobbing because I misspelled my title on an essay I needed to turn into class. And I actually really hope I would cry if my dog died. If I had a dog. (I really really want a dog.)


So maybe all I’m saying is that I don’t know if the people who are hurting never perpetuate negative mindsets about themselves. But that doesn’t have to be paralyzing, I hope, and it doesn’t mitigate my responsibility as someone who is fairly privileged, either. For instance, as someone who doesn’t have any sort of obvious physical disability, I am in a position to better communicate with other people who might be inclined to dismiss someone with an obvious disability.


In which case it might not be so helpful to make myself or others feel shame for having bad shameful thoughts. Instead it might be better to simply brush those thoughts to the side and to keep getting to know more people who seem different than me or who seem similar to me but actually have deep differences and reminding myself, often, that I can be a spokesperson for so many who don’t have a voice, and that not only are people like icebergs with way more beneath the surface but that my vision isn’t very good and that I probably can’t even see all the goodness and 3-D-ness and density on the surface.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Thrift Store Play Date



I LOVE thrift store play dates. Even when a really nice and well-meaning lady comes up to me while I sit with my baby in the toy aisle, hands me a simple baby board book, looks at our pile of toys and says "you should consider this too. Trust me, I'm a teacher." (She probably doesn't know that our apartment is a fire hazard for all of the books inside.) 

Usually though, everyone just assumes that everyone else is doing the best they can for their children, and the more people come, the more it is clear that we're all in good company.



Saturday, September 9, 2017

My Backpack


So, I *tried* packing my eight books and the twenty notebooks for my students into a backpack (not my normal one, but a hiking backpack). They fit, actually. But the weight of the backpack made me worry about herniating a disk or developing a case of scoliosis, so I went with the suitcase, which was great because then people thought I was a real hotshot who commuted to campus by plane flight or a lawyer hauling around briefs. (This picture is tardy. School started on Wednesday, and it is now Saturday night. Oh well.)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Migraine

Until recently, I thought that the difference between a headache and migraine was a difference of severity: headaches were bad, but migraines were grim reaper bad. So I thought I never had migraines, because if you could walk around your house than you were in headache territory, and not until you lay wholly incapacitated in your bed did you have a migraine. 

But it seems that I have probably been having migraines every once in a while for years. Not as badly as some do, but definitely migraines: the pulsing, the sensitivity to light and noise, the nausea. 

Tonight was the worst I've had in a long time, but that was in part my fault. I wasn't feeling great last night, and I slept until noon today while Michael and our toddler were at church (though I shouldn't beat myself up too much; sleeping in felt more like passing out that indulging in a snooze.) But I woke up with an unmistakable migraine.

It was tolerable enough at that I could eat lunch with my son when they got back, but I quickly determined that I needed a fast pass back to our mattress, and we asked the babysitter to come pick him up, where he stayed for the rest of the day until bedtime playing with her kids. And most of the day was actually pretty tolerable. As long as I was lying in bed, I could alternate between hybernating against the migraine with my eyes shut and doing a little bit of drawing or listening to a podcast or soft music. 

Until I decided it was time for me to stick it to the man and show my migraine who was boss. I mean, I had literally been in bed for the vast majority of my day. So I got out of bed and put on real clothes and texted the babysitter, saying Michael and I were going to come over, and I started to eat a bit of toast and milk.

That was a mistake. All of it.

My migraine escalated from a throb that ebbed and flowed in severity to a tortured, nauseas drag race of all the blood cells in my braine at once skidding and screeching through my brain and then crashing in a burning, twisted heap of sharp metal and broken glass.

Pretty much, I thought I was dying. I was crying despite myself and despite that crying didn't offer me any relief whatsoever, and I fully believed that I couldn't keep tolerating what was happening to me even though I somehow continued to survive second by second.

This lasted for several minutes--I don't really know how many--after I went to bed, no longer comfortable lying down or with my head on my pillow, finally settling on the floor with torso and head over the mattress (which was on the floor itself). Mercifully, eventually the pain and the nausea subsided, though I know that many people find no such comparable relief lying down, and I have remained lying down (now with my sleeping child next to me), feeling better enough that I can think out coherent sentences and type on a screen in darkroom mode (the screen all black and red) with my eyes mostly shut.

You win, migraine. You're the boss.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

What I Think About After Mommying All Night Long

Some days, I find it really helps to be grateful for things I don’t normally think about, like I’m grateful that I’m not being forced to sit through a recording of my voice saying “Good morning” on repeat, which wouldn't be too bad at first but would probably turn me insane. And I’m grateful that I don’t have to brush my teeth in front of a celebrity, because that would be hugely anxiety inducing.

Today I went a step further and found myself really grateful to not be experiencing things I actually can relate to, like not having to sleep inclined forty five degrees, and not vomiting at strong smells, like, say, the smell of grass or tap water. Which makes me feel better, because as hard as being interrupted by little ones repeatedly a night is, I prefer it to being woken up by nausea when they are attached inside of my abdomen and leaching all of my nutrients and slowly depleting my life source.

It’s the little things that keep you sane.

A sketch page I did while pregnant because I wasn't up to anything else. The computer you see was about to make me throw up.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Hawaii

So, I like to tell myself that the expressions I make on the states have nothing to do with how I feel about them, and that's probably true, but I can't help but think that this is how I would end up feeling under the sun all day, especially because it would make me feel bad about what a party-pooper I am and how I should be able to make my body immune to all the feelings it gets when I spend time in the sun, because who doesn't want to spend time on glorious beaches seeing exotic plants and animals and insects (that would be my favorite part, lest you think the last one sarcasm) while drinking coconut water from an actual coconut?

Yeah. Basically my inner-Hawaiian is sad about all of the fun she could be having but is too much of a heliophobe.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Shoe Baskets for Everywhere

I’ve come to the conclusion that, if you struggle with cleanliness like I do, you might benefit from putting shoe baskets in all of your rooms.


When I say all of your rooms, I mean ALL of your rooms. There are the big ones, of course; the living room and family room and bedroom and playroom, but then there’s also the dining room and kitchen and bathroom and the hall where the vanity is and the laundry closet and the pantry. Yeah. Trust me. A shoe box in every room will really help you keep track of your shoes, because otherwise they will end up under the couch and in the tub and behind the pantry door and under the toilet.


This will also facilitate your inability to throw out shoes that you cannot wear due to


  • toe/arch/heel/ankle pain
  • a chronic lack of clean socks
  • shoes falling apart
  • stylish embarrassment
  • missing both feet

If the possibility of diffusing shoe odor around the whole house worries you, rest assured that while laundry increases in aroma over time, shoes typically become more sedate in odor. And since you won’t actually be wearing the majority of your shoes (despite attempts at minimalist purges), they probably won’t actually smell.

:)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Interspecies Host Family Conflict

How to Overcome Differences and Work Around Communication Barriers


Are you struggling to overcome differences with your housemates? Do you get a sense that others don’t like you, even when they leave you alone?


If so, this is the class for you! In one sixty minute session with a trained professional, you will learn how to:


  • Negotiate personal space boundaries that do not interfere with your host family’s culture
  • Respect Host Family emotional boundaries
  • Overcome linguistic differences by paying attention to intonation and body language
  • Gain a deeper understanding of cultural superstitions and their sources
  • Appreciate the sacrifices made by your host family on behalf of your stay


Just remember: it’s not your fault.


TESTIMONIALS





Who is he? Who is William Hazlitt???


Friday, August 11, 2017

Bubbles

Most people actually like carbonation. Unfortunately, I don’t. (I wish I did; occasionally, I have spent hours swirling pop cans just to get some pain-free flavor). Fortunately for me, Michael doesn’t either.


Last night, we found the solution to all of our carbonation problems: blowing bubbles.


Basically, we wanted to have a date but were really exhausted, cause, y’know, we’re parents and feel like our bodies have just been on the wrong side of a carwash.


So we broke out our two favorite date night beverages--whole milk and martinelli’s apple cider--and commenced sending telepathic heart emoji’s at each other while sipping our drinks with dixie bendy straws.


But, being well trained by my toddler, and avoiding sipping too much cider at once (on account of the carbonation I don’t actually like), I started blowing bubbles in my cider, at which point Michael said, “I bet milk blows better bubbles.”


So we blew bubbles for the next forty seconds, and would have for much longer if it weren’t for the headache I was incurring from trying to compete with Michael’s milk bubbles. (Yeah. Milk bubbles annihilate cider bubbles.)





When I went back to sipping my cider, it was perfect. No cankerous carbonation pricking my tongue, just a very fine fizz.

That’s all. Happy Friday.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Dear Robot

Dear Robot,


Thank you for visiting The Earful Blog approximately 5,712 times in the past six days. I appreciate your dedicated attendance.


Unfortunately, however, your repeated clicks are producing the undesirable effect of placing both “Ode to Old Glasses” and “When You Look Like a Terrible Parent” above “A Bit About Michael” in terms of popularity. I like those posts, too. But do they really deserve to outshine any possible post about Michael, let alone one that highlights three stories about him?


I thought not.


As such, if you could kindly desist refreshing those pages several hundred times a night, we here at The Earful Blog would greatly appreciate it. Unless, of course, it is to restore “A Bit About Michael” to it’s proper place in the universe. (I hyperlinked it for you.)


Kindly,


Lizzie


P.S. No hard feelings are meant in the sending of this missive. In case you are feeling lonely or ignored, I have included a picture of a robot to be your friend. Maybe I will make more pictures of robots in the future. If you already have a robot friend, feel free to suggest a double date with me and Michael. :)


robot.png

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Ode to Old Glasses

A few weeks ago I found a page that looked roughly like this in one of my old journals.


Dearest Glasses,

Fortunately you were beat up enough that when Michael gave me a tour of his wallet while we walked around the bell tower courtyard when we started dating, I had something to show off. I’m sorry this was not enough for me to keep you.


Lest you think I didn’t love you, know that I made Michael choose the final replacement pair because, to me, none of them looked as good as you.


I would thank you for not being the pair that babies always steal and proceed to throw at my face, but I think that has less to do with you or my current pair than it has to do with my current life situation.


I can’t thank you enough for granting me vision of my now-husband, Toy Story 3, and the bone spurs on the endoscopy of my nostrils.


XOXO.

Lizzie

Monday, July 31, 2017

Harry Potter’s Boggart and ERP Therapy




Two events in the past couple of years--a cluster of terrors in the news and my own motherhood genesis--have had me pulling out the stops when it comes to anxiety management. Stories of domestic terrorism and sex trafficking have horrified me, but the real fear has come from the accidents involving kids: the Cincinnati zoo fall, the Disney World alligator, and similar stories. Parents lose their kids in the store or airport hundreds of times a year, so I just don’t buy the notion that these tragedies would only happen to incompetent parents. Or rather, if the standard is perfection, we’re all incompetent parents.


One of the ways Michael has tried to help me manage anxiety about harm coming to my family is by suggesting bibliotherapy, and specifically, Harry Potter. He knows I love Harry Potter and have used it many times to deal with hard times--in fact, in the our household, the word “Aspirin” actually means the Harry Potter books. But in the case of anxiety, this is especially fitting: years ago, at another time in my life when anxiety was high, I sought counseling and I came across a therapy that Harry Potter is all about.


Exposure Response Prevention


It’s called Exposure Response Prevention (ERP). Basically, ERP boils down to the premise that when we avoid illogical fears, we fear it even more and fear-avoidance behaviors escalate. The Harry Potter series seems to share that premise, especially in its treatment of the boggart and Lord Voldemort’s name.


The Boggart as Anxiety


No one knows (except Mad Eye Moody) what a Boggart looks like while hidden in the closet or cupboard or chest, but in the open it appears as whatever a person most fears. The only way to get rid of it is to open the door, face the shape it takes, and finally dispel it using the incantation “riddikulus!” to force it into a shape inciting laughter.


When I first thought of the boggart as an irrational fear or phobia metaphor, I realized that I must not have been the first person to make that connection. And I wasn’t. Lots of people struggling with anxiety or OCD have thought of this magical “ghost in the closet.”


Like phobias, a boggart is:


  • Not real (more mental projection than anything)
  • Powerful despite not being real
  • Strengthened in power by attempts to fight what it represents (with the exception of Harry’s dementor) instead of fighting it as simply a shapeshifter.
    • So, if you try to chop off the snake’s head, that doesn’t make the snake go away and, presumably, your increased belief in the snake only makes the boggart stronger.
  • Can’t be beat with avoidance


Facing the Anxiety Boggart


Whether someone has a needle phobia, an OCD ritual (cleaning, confessing, counting), or a crippling social anxiety, the first step in getting rid of the boggart is to face what seems too terrifying to look at.


When the potential intolerable catastrophe has a physical threat, exposure means actually, physically coming into proximity with that threat. For those who fear needles, it might mean going to a blood drive and first looking at
  • unused, unopened needles
  • then, opened but unused needles
  • then, a trash can of used needles
  • then, a needle with drawn blood
  • then, a needle drawing blood
  • and eventually, perhaps, even giving blood.


When the threat is intangible, such as, say, the threat of your favorite store running out of ramen noodles, exposure can be done through imagination.


Imaginitive exposure involves intentional, attentive efforts to be “mentally” in the presence of a threat. Examples could include imagining or writing about impulsively hurting someone (keep in mind that someone is afraid of something because they don’t want it to happen--fear is not the same as ideation), or discussing with a therapist what it really would be like if one got in a car crash or ran out of ramen.


Exposure v. Catastrophizing


Imaginative exposure might sound like catastrophizing--that is, dwelling on the worst case scenarios--but it is ultimately a different process and has the opposite effects. The difference is that, in catastrophizing, we feel as though we are being “drug along” a terrible domino sequence that lead to utter chaos or hurt, and that is unbearable. In catastrophizing, we sense the potential for fear, sadness, or loss and do whatever we can to smother those feelings. Conversely, in imaginative exposure, we imagine the actual chaos and let ourselves feel the fear, loss, hurt and sadness, rather than trying to avoid feeling negative emotions. A person abides discomfort, and eventually that discomfort drops, because a body can only stay in a “fight or flight” mode for a limited period of time. Our values and priorities haven’t changed, but the possibility of ultimate ruin is a thought that we can experience with acceptance.

Dispelling the Boggart with Laughter


Now, the boggart goes a step further than ERP in its requirement of humor. Some therapists have certainly made this connection as well, but it isn’t core to exposure therapy.


I think this is brilliant. In joking about spiders and heights and our own inadequacy, we become less afraid. In fact, I used to be terrified of hurting my husband, because of his cerebral palsy--until I started pretending to accidentally step on his feet (affectionately, of course), and then profusely apologizing. He returned the favor, and it’s a habit we haven’t broken yet.


That said, as awesome as comedy is, it has its limits. Lupin didn’t want Harry to face the Boggart thinking it would form Voldemort, because how does Harry make the murderer of his parents humorous? Likewise, how could Molly have turned the images of her children, husband and Harry dead into a joke? Surely, it is cruel to expect people to respond to true trauma with humor, and cruel to consider them less well-adjusted if they don’t.


Fear of You-Know-Who


Humor may not have been the best way for Harry to deal with seeing Voldemort, the shape Lupin assumed Harry’s boggart would take, but the book doesn’t leave Harry
(or the rest of the wizarding world) without a choice. Most wizards and witches refuse to say the name Voldemort, but as Dumbledore says, “fear of a name only increases fear of a thing itself.” Or rather, avoiding even imaginative exposure increases fear. Some examples in our culture include avoiding saying that someone has died or admitting depression. You know that postpartum depression is truly something to fear when you feel bad calling it what it is.


Taking Fears One at a Time


I don’t think there’s any use creating more boggarts--for instance, at this point in my life I’m not going to go looking for scary stories about babies getting hurt and will instead be doing exposure to fears I already have thought about or been introduced to.  I’m not doing exposure by shoring up my heart with the news of every tragedy in my state or nation or beyond. But I can be forthright and front-facing to those fears that are present and that relate to my day to day life. I can resist the impulse to avoid things like going down the stairs while holding my son just because I’m afraid I might fall, or the impulse to refuse driving somewhere for fear of an accidence. I can acknowledge that painful experience is a possibility, one that I can’t control against. In the dark moments of anxiety, I can call my fears for what they are, and call my anxiety what it is. I wouldn’t have anxiety if I didn’t care. And, as Dumbledore says in not so few words, it’s awesome that I care.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Ohio



Behold the Ohio-est face I could come up with.

I remember staying at a home in Ohio where the towels were only red and black and the wallpaper was a watermark of the Ohio State logo. I also remember sitting in the backseat with my sister while getting a tour of the "horseshoe" (I think that's a stadium?) at Ohio state and chanting "M-I-C-H-I-G-A-N," also with my sister, and being told that we would be kicked out of the car if we continued.

Oh, also, at a July 4th parade, there was an ambulance pulling a stretcher with a Michigan fan dummy on it in between all the pretty floats.

Consider yourself warned.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Very Short Motivational Post



Sometimes, I lie in my bed and look up, so I can see how clean five of the sides of my room are.

I recommend doing this as often as possible.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Expectations









One night when I was pregnant with our baby, Michael came home rejuvenated from playing racquetball, excited to see me, and eager to bring the In-and-Out he got with his racquetball partner for the two of us to eat.

He knew that when he left to play racquetball, I had just started taking a nap.

He knew that when I take naps, I tend to be out for hours, that when I am wiped out, it takes me a long time to bounce back.

He knew that I wouldn’t really have the energy or the desire to make Spaghetti squash, the meal we had agreed on for the night.

He would tell me, an hour or so later, that he envisioned walking inside the apartment and finding me asleep in bed. I would wake up when he came in the room, realize I hadn’t started the spaghetti squash, and start apologizing—then, he would tell me that it was all okay and that he had dinner taken care of.

Michael did not know that although I was very wiped out, about an hour before I thought he would be home from racquetball I got out of bed, started the squash in the oven, and stayed up to clean and get some school work done.

He didn’t know that I had anticipated he would be home at least an hour before he arrived, and awake to know the difference.

He didn’t know that I had avoided eating anything except for a hard-boiled egg before he got home so that we could eat a full meal together. He had no idea that I had made a special pepperoni pasta sauce he favors. And he didn’t know that the only reason I had enough motivation to get out of bed and do all of that was because I knew it would be hard for him to wait another hour or more for dinner after playing racquetball.

Michael was ecstatic when he came home to me crying at the table with dinner ready. He was excited and happy because he was envisioning a moment where he could surprise me in just the perfect way. He was even so prepared for his vision that, having no keys, he rang the door bell right after knocking, something I don’t remember him ever doing and something he would only do if he suspected me asleep. And when he saw me there, crying, he was devastated—and although I was upset at him, he was far more upset at himself.

In the moment it felt raw, and it hurt. But now, I think of it and feel a sort of exhilaration that Michael and I could put so much into something for the other, and have it flop hard. I feel proud that we messed up so badly despite being well-meaning, and that messing up is part of our story. I feel that our friendship is alive, with all the hurts that can entail.

But the real point isn’t that couples need to communicate expectations so that hurts don’t happen. Rather, it’s that in marriage, those kinds of hurts will happen. A spouse will inevitably feel one inch tall sometimes, or feel hurt or neglected, or feel disappointed, or feel confused. Even when both partners are doing their very best and acting with their heart wholly given to their spouse and their marriage, hurts will happen. Even when the last thing either spouse wanted was to ruin the other’s night or make them feel small and faulty, that can happen. And, as far as setting expectations is concerned—expecting that makes all the difference.

Texas



Sorry Texas. You're a hard state to work with.




But really, everyone I know from Texas is pretty wonderful. Granted, that's like three people. But I've also heard about a waste-free grocery store in Texas, which is amazing, and I love the journal Iron Horse.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Life of a Slow Driver #1: Construction Zone







If I slow down to fifty, cars zoom past.

If I speed up I will get a double fine or maul some poor construction worker.

If I stay slow cars will keep honking at me and drivers will keep flipping me off and someone might rear end me.

Conclusion: don’t drive ever again.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

When You Look Like a Terrible Parent


I’m very glad that I don’t know how often I look as though I am being a terrible parent even when I’m not, because I think the social anxiety would kill me.

A few weeks ago I went to visit my brother and sister-in-law.

We were having breakfast.










In the course of this, my brother burst out “Mean Mama!”

I thought, perhaps, he was making a joke. Like, “Life is just so hard, having to eat toast for breakfast!”

He continued. “I saw that!”

He looked at my child. “Mama’s being mean, huh!”

At this point, I decided to give up the cool charade I try to present when I think people are making suave jokes that I should be getting.

I looked up. “What?”

My brother continued to address my child. “Mama is teasing you, huh? She keeps offering you food and then taking it away!”
“Umm, no,” I said, “I keep offering but this kiddo keeps on dodging my hand. So then I eat it.”

“Oh.” My brother stood there for a few seconds.

“Watch: Let’s try toast… no success. Now let’s try a bit of rice crispy… easy.”

I think he got it, but it was still a little awkward.

However, it could have been a much worse misunderstanding.

I would know.

Like on the day when I took my baby to campus in the middle of the snow.

It was blizzarding, so I decided the safest method to transport my baby was via a carseat strapped in a stroller. I had brought a snowsuit for my baby, but it wasn’t going to fit in the stroller, so I laid it on top of my baby as an extra blanket.

It looked vaguely like this:


I remember walking through the torrents of snow, in a very elated mood, alternating between cooing at my baby and looking at the snow and the other students around me. I definitely noticed that many students were giving me sidelong stares, some with more alarm than others, but I chalked it up to the fact that I was strollering my baby in the snow. Personally, I wasn’t worried; my baby was bundled up well and had the shelter of the car seat umbrella.

Eventually I made it to the right building and up four floors to my Professor’s office, where I knocked.

He opened.

“Come on in,” he said.

He paused.

“That looks dangerous.”

He pointed at the stroller.

I gave him a confused expression as I took the snow suit off of my baby and began to unbuckle the car seat.

“Oh! I thought that was the baby,” he said, pointing to the snowsuit.

It was a good reminder for me in seeing other parents doing things that seem a little crazy. Things aren’t always as they seem.

When Bad Things Don't Happen to You

All kids (or at least all kids in big families, or at least all middle children in big families, or at least all two-braided children with a...