Monday, October 16, 2017

Life of a Slow Driver (#2)



Sometimes when a car is stuck behind me on a one lane road and I'm not comfortable going faster, I imagine that I'm an exotic insect catcher (usually fancy cars are the ones bothered by my speed-limit abiding tendencies). When the lane opens up, I think to myself, "Fly like the wind, butterfly! You're free!"

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Camping Will Solve All of Your Problems

Are you overwhelmed with mess? Wondering what the purpose of life is? Generally irritated at the world around you?


Camping will effectively bring you purpose, let you have space from the world, and eliminate the messes created in your house or apartment for the duration you spend away. This tactic is actually quite compatible with children, at least as long as you


  1. Camp in an area that is not infested by racoons
  2. Camp in an area that is not surrounded by a raging river/cliff drop-offs/mountain lions/virus carrying mosquitos
  3. Camp in an area that is within a few minutes of a grocery store and at least one fast food restaurant
  4. Have extendable arms
  5. Have more than two arms
  6. Have a magically appearing stock of sippy cups and clean water and goldfish and cheese sticks and veggie straws.


If you are interested in this approach to getting a new start to life and you own a home, you may want to consider buying a pet racoon. This nocturnal omnivore will eat through your various doors and walls and eventually require the demolition of your home. However, as you will still own the plot of land, you will be left with a very clean lot of dirt, with which to set up a spare, minimalist arrangement, perhaps with the aid of a tent.


If you don’t own a home, you may want to forego causing any damage to your immediate building, as this will only leave you truly homeless and in debt, for you will have neither roof nor place for belongings nor--and this is the important part--a piece of land to easily camp on. However, with some preparation, you can notify friends or family of your camping intentions and spend increasing lengths of time camping in back or front yards.

Suddenly, your clutter problems will be over and you will have the mental space to focus on the now, prioritizing the pressing need to keep you and your children fed and clothed and at a sustainable body temperature.

New family pet included.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Oklahoma

The season is changing and the sky is softer and the leaves are crunching and the wind is stirring and all things are alive and dying with autumn. We've spent the last few days at a corn maze and a pumpkin patch, pumping water to race ducks and the little one throwing balls in a pit of thick, cool, dried corn kernels. Dirt is filling our nostrils and the seams in our palms. Two little pumpkins, an orange gourd laced with green and a green gourd laced with white lay on our wooden table, a small, yellow-hued thing that we love dearly.

And this morning is was, oh, such a beautiful morning.


So for all of these reasons, here is that most wonderful of states, Oklahoma.


 


Monday, September 25, 2017

New York



One day, dear New York, I will visit you. But for now I'll just be catching up on sleep.

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 four-page 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.)

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?

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 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.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

It Gets Better (especially when you are at the beck and call of your brand new offspring)



Imagine walking into a room where a women is in labor. She is screaming and sobbing and shaking. You raise your eyebrows and say, "you know, it's just gonna get harder," and then walk out. Perhaps that would have been the better comic, but I'll leave it to your imagination.

It's absurd, and yet, if you are a new mom or dad, you might just have had an interaction like this. Like, fifty times. (Or if you're pregnant, which may well be harder than the insane demands of being a new parent).

If you are anything like me, this is one of the most soul crushing things you hear, and sometimes you just want someone to tell you that no, you aren’t crazy--caring for a newborn is a *ridiculous* amount of work, and eventually it will won't be so hard.

So let me tell you. It DOES get easier. Unless you have the easiest baby on the block and have been bestowed with superpowers, or unless you have a highly medically demanding child (and even often then, I have heard), it gets better.

Newborn babies are precious and magical and somehow have the telepathic ability that enables them to know exactly when you were about to eat dinner or use the restroom or watch a show and derail your plans, and sometimes you’ll probably be able to feel that awesomeness, but sometimes you absolutely won’t feel that way because you will be just so, so tired. And, as my dad says, some things will get harder. But many things will get easier.

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 bea...