Monthly Archives: February 2014

Not-so-much-Rant: Alopecia is Dumb… But, Grin and Bear ;)

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In the second part of my Beautiful Duckling campaign, I thought it best to remind you of some fellow baldies. They, like my Duckers, are pretty damn amazing. Strictly speaking, they are men, but… gender-schmender. They are likewise hairless comrades.

1. The bald baddies. This list of folks includes: Samuel L. Jackson, Lex Luther, Bruce Willis, Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, the Rock, Gru, etc. Somehow, baldness frequently coincides with bad-assery. Maybe because they are more aerodynamic. Maybe because they don’t need to spend copious amounts of time on styling and whatnot. Maybe because the sheen from a bald head can blind and disorient a nemesis during a high-speed pursuit. Will we ever know what came first? The chicken or the egghead. Not likely. But, in these cases, bald = bold.
Of course, I am excluding any allusions to the Skinheads. For obvious reasons. Ew.

2. The professionals. Mr. Clean uses his shiny top to subliminally remind you of his polishing power. Jason Alexander and Larry David successfully create comedic approaches to their troublesome receding hairlines. Yul Brynner and Ben Kingsley adopted recognizable and signature looks within the ever-growing Hollywood drone mechanism.

3. The artists. William Shakespeare, Pablo Picasso, Shel Silverstein, Phil Collins and company. Maybe they were preoccupied with hairlines, maybe not. But, either way, they could (and I like to think would) recognize and skillfully illuminate the all beauty of baldness.
I decidedly ignored Sinead O’Connor from this list. She’s a bit of a nutter.

4. The characters. Would Homer Simpson, Caillou, Charlie Brown, Stewie Griffin, or Elmer Fudd be the same with hair? What if the animator(s) weren’t quite as quick or lazy on that first day? What if they chose to be more thorough and hadn’t just used a fine-point utensil for a couple curlicues, at most, then called it a day? What if they looked over that first sketch and thought: “mayhaps this calls for a wee more effort?” What if they scratched that first board and pulled out colors in blonde, brown, black, and red? Ugh… Thank goodness they did not.

5. The athletes. Michael Jordan. He makes the case for a naked scalp all by his lonesome. But, with so many other players embracing this look, it’s difficult to watch any game/match/race/etc. without a peep of a smooth dome or two. I cannot in good conscience include Brian Urlacher. Go Lions.

6. The leaders. Americans traditionally do not favor baldies in politics. We usually prefer a nice head o’ hair on our history. But, a few of my absolute favorites actually lacked such luscious locks. Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, though living in the era of the powdered wig, were preeminent baldpates. Grand Rapids’ own, Gerald Ford, was another excellent leader. Even without that highly-regarded head o’ hair.

7. Babies. Babies are cute. Babies can be bald. And, if they are born bald, they likely didn’t torture their mommas with relentless heartburn during their gestations. For real, there’s a correlation between hairy babies and heartburn during pregnancy. Something about the hormones. Ask Dr. Google.

8. Eagles. Would you dare argue that any eagle is superior to the bald eagle??? I didn’t think so. ‘Merica.

9. Gandhi. Maybe one of the greatest teachers… believers… humans? And, a lesson of particular import: “No one can hurt me without my permission.”

10. Patrick Stewart. Duh.

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Rant: Al. O. Pecia is an Asshole

Ducky is bald. I previously mentioned her alopecia diagnosis here.
This past summer, she looked like this…

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Then, around Halloween, she developed a patch…

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By Christmas, she looked like this…

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And, today, she is my little baldy…

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Obviously, I know my child is beautiful. But, it’s difficult not to consider that this may be a challenge for her. After all, men struggle with male-pattern baldness all the time. Which is far more regular. If George Costanza had a hard time with it, is it so hard to believe that I might too, on behalf of my daughter?

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I know it’s what shouldn’t be said, but I just want her to be more normal. Average. Ordinary. I don’t want her to be so different. Yes, I know that her situation could be infinitely worse. Yes, I know (all too well) that in the scheme of things, this is a minor struggle. Yes, I know that I am being shallow and superficial. But, that doesn’t change the way I feel.

All that said, it will never change how I treat her or how I expect her to behave. She is different. She is special. She is also beautiful, she just doesn’t look like everyone else. And, I expect her to understand and believe in her own beauty. I personally do not fit the standards of beauty that our society values, but I know I am beautiful. Not in the “oh, beauty is on the inside” way– if you’ve read any of my other posts, you may be gathering this already. But, I am good-looking. Really, really good-looking. In the fat, lazy, fun, and confident way. And so, I expect my Ducky to understand that she may be different but she is in no way ugly. She’s really a swan.

In honor of her baldness, I would like to share thirteen things that are actually superior to having hair:
1. When in a cat fight, her opponent will be unable to pull her hair, thus giving her an advantage.
2. She will be far more aerodynamic in speed-related sports. She wouldn’t even need a cap to compete in swimming.
3. Furthermore, caps and helmets will fit more snugly when worn. Thusly, her safety and aerodynamics will be at an advantage.
4. It will be cooler in the summer months. Also, she can always be the first to confirm precipitation.
5. She will never get lice. And, she will never be scrutinized as the dreaded “patient-zero” during an outbreak.
6. Should she choose to work in a kitchen or food services, she will never be responsible for the random hair in the food. Not obviously responsible anyway…
7. She will never have a “bad hair day.”
8. And, she will never have to spend money on shampoo, conditioner, products, styling tools, salon services, etc.
9. Also, her carbon-footprint will be lower because she will not be using the aforementioned products.
10. She will never have to deal with massive tangles or annoying hair in her eyes or constant shedding.
11. It will be less likely that she can get lost in a crowd.
12. It will also be less likely that she would leave behind DNA evidence at a crime scene.
13. Finally, no one will be able to produce polyjuice potion in her image. And, let’s be honest, that’s really the biggest relief.

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Rant: Anxiety. It’s the Pits.

I suffer from anxiety. Not the ordinary kind. The extreme, debilitating, agoraphobia-causing, physically-symptomatic, scary, utterly-uncontrollable kind.

I have suffered from anxiety in a more “regular” way. I would worry about due dates and projects. My mind would race with thoughts of unfinished tasks, shopping lists, to-dos. It was a form of anxiety that was almost constructive in its presence; it helped me accomplish tasks. It was a motivator.

Now, it is the worst feeling. It is awful and scary and handicapping and scary.

I think I’ve always had an unusually high level of anxiety. I remember, as a young girl, not wanting to fall asleep for fear that something would happen whilst I slept. At that time, it was an irrational fear that someone would break in my window and hurt my family. Or that I would die. Or a fire. Or some other catastrophic event. I preferred to sleep with my mom. At an unusually late age for that type of behavior. It wasn’t exactly that I was afraid of the dark. More like, I was afraid of what would happen while my world slept. So, I would stay up to take care of it. And, when I could no longer, I would seek refuge with my mom, my fellow insomniac (not for reasons of anxiety but for reasons of bibliophiling). She would take watch while I slept.

That went on for awhile during my childhood. I can’t remember when or how long or why it stopped, but eventually, I must have gotten it out of my system.

Beyond disrupting my sleep patterns, I would to have irrational fears of dying or being sick throughout my day. I remember that I used to play a particular game with myself that allowed me to breathe easier. I would convince myself that I was being irrational based on the occurrence of concurrent/upcoming events. For instance, I would tell myself that “God” wouldn’t let me be sick or die during the month of my birthday. Or right before our spring break. Or before the spelling bee. I would repeat these mantras and actually convince myself that I was being foolish. I adapted quite well and, again, I was able to keep my anxiety at bay.

Then, a few years ago, as an adult, I had my first full-fledged panic attack. At the time, over weeks and months, I had anxiety building again. I did not recognize it for what it was, but I became more introverted than I had been in previous years and began sticking around my home more and more frequently. Then, one night, I was having trouble breathing. A weight was covering my chest. I actually thought it was a symptom of congestion, so I took some medicine for that. It didn’t work. Instead, my heart began racing and I was convinced I was dying.

I waited as long as I could until I woke Beer Bear, my newlywed husband, to tell him that he needed to take me to the hospital. A quick drive in the middle of the night and I was telling the desk receptionist that I was having breathing problems and needed to be seen. Right away, they hooked me up to monitors and began assessing the results. The doctor came in and advised me he was going to give me a shot. Almost immediately, I began to feel better. He told me that my test results were fine. That everything was normal. He had given me a shot that was used as an anti-nausea drug but, often, had the surprising side-effect of treating a panic attack. At first, I was relieved that I was going to be ok. But, the feeling was fleeting. Replacing it deftly in its wake, came the shame. I was so ashamed that I had wasted the time of the staff, doctor, and, most of all, Beer Bear, who would have to leave for work in the coming hours. On no sleep. All because I couldn’t get control of myself. All because I freaked out. For no reason. Ah yes, there was (and is) shame.

The doctor gave me a prescription for tranquilizers and discharged me. I have no doubt that Beer Bear remained as patient and as sympathetic as he could be. But, he didn’t understand. He didn’t really understand. How could he? He was always capable of disseminating the difference between stress and fear and the actual steps that it took for me to have him haul me to the ER. In fact, I feel like I often get this response from people. The lucky ones. The ones who have never felt the vice grip that anxiety can hold on you. The spinning out of control. The spiral of thought that digs you deeper and deeper until you are convinced that your worst fears are being realized. Sure, people have anxiety. Remember that constructive, motivating kind? Some of us have that horrid, unfortunate kind too.

After my trip to the ER, my anxiety began spinning out of control. That’s the true rub. I would absolutely know what was happening. I had a diagnosis. I would know that the shortness of breath, the heart-racing, the nausea, the sudden need for a bathroom; they were all symptoms of anxiety. I would tell myself to calm down, to breathe. I would repeat mantras of relaxation to myself. I would play little games, like spelling words backwards, and counting things I saw, and writing; anything to take my mind off of what was happening. I would take a tranquilizer and pray for a reprieve.

But, I became more and more withdrawn. My fear spread from me dying of a sudden heart attack to me dying in a car crash. I was no longer comfortable driving. Then, I worried that I would have an anxiety attack while in public and not have an escape alternative. I worried that my anxiety would betray me in public and my body would be out of my control and I would have an accident and incur the judgement of strangers. Strangers who, somehow, would’ve had such import to me that I would have felt great shame in their presence. I was no longer comfortable leaving my home.

After a short while of reclusive behavior and, still, experiencing daily torture, I sought the help of a psychiatrist and an endocrinologist (with the help of Beer Bear and my mom, thank you both). I tend to believe that my systems are all intertwined with my hormones so I began treatments for a hormonal imbalance and a proper, daily treatment for anxiety. With this new, daily medication, I hoped to be acting preventatively rather than attempting to tranquilize an already raging beast.

It worked. Within a few months, I felt better than I had in a long time. I was able to start enjoying my days again and become more functional, both in and outside of my home. I stuck with my medicinal regimen for about a year and, feeling confident and steady once more, weaned off carefully.

For a long time, I was good. I may have had situational anxieties, but these were most often brought on by challenging times or specific stressors. I was quite able to manage my infrequent symptoms with tranquilizers again. I still avoided some situations that I knew would lead to discomfort, but, for the most part, was quite functional. I knew better than to test my limits in crowds or confined spaces or the usual suspects.

Unfortunately, recently, my anxiety has reared its ugly head again. I’m not sure how or when it creeped back up on me. All I know is that it’s here and I am afraid again.

I’m writing this at 4 am, not because I needed to write it or because I particularly wanted to share the way I feel but because I was hoping that, by sitting here and writing this, I might be able to shake off some of this ickiness. It’s not exactly working though. I took a tranquilizer. Not exactly working though. I have to get up in less than four hours and be with Ducky all day and I still want to wake my family up and have them take me to the ER. Even though I know what the problem really is. As does Beer Bear. Who has to work. Again.

I am seeking professional treatment. I have been seeing a counselor at an intake center so that I can get an appointment with a psychiatrist. In the past, I treated my anxiety with medicine and it worked for me. At that time, I was able to make an appointment and go seek the help of a psychiatrist who worked with me directly for my medicinal management. This time, however, I am required to complete an assessment with a counseling service to get a referral for a psychiatric consultation. This is only unfortunate for me because I believe in the results of the medicine and it would behoove me to begin that program concurrently with any required counseling treatment, rather than consecutively. I am, however, looking forward to trying the therapeutic treatment this time supplementally. I’m hoping that with drugs and therapy, I can nip this shit in the bud again.

Because I can’t afford to have nights like this; frought with worries and pain and sleeplessness. Because I can’t afford to spiral into hysteria. Because I can’t afford to begin public withdrawal and inhibit the natural development of my daughter. Because I can’t afford to do my writing in the midst of these emotions, in the middle of the night, with the primary goal of calming down and eluding the anxiety monster. Because, while my source of inspiration is clear, my eyes are weary and my mind occupied. Not ideal for a #spellingnazi.

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Rave: Great Grand Rapids

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We live in Grand Rapids, Michigan. About two years ago, when Beer Bear first mentioned that he was up for a transfer here, I shrugged it off. Grand Rapids? I don’t want to live “up north.” We were living in metro-Detroit and I had become accustomed to the city-culture. We were 15 minutes from Tigers’ games, Lions’ games, Pistons’ games, and Red Wings’ games. We were 2 minutes from the Detroit Zoo. We were a hop, skip, and a jump from the Detroit Symphony and the Fox Theater and the Detroit Institute of Arts. We were close to Detroit Metro Airport and could walk to an Amtrak station. We could also walk to several festivals and bike-ride to the Woodward Dream Cruise. We had great food and art at our fingertips. We were surrounded by good schools and good hospitals. I did not want to let all that go. Especially not to move to some West Michigan town that had nothing to offer. Up North? Bah.

I was so wrong. Gloriously wrong. Grand Rapids is a wonderful city. First, it is far from Podunk- it’s the second-largest city in Michigan. What??? Furthermore, it has as much culture to offer as Detroit (and its surrounding area) while still maintaining a unique “small” way of life.

I cannot sing high enough praises for our adopted home. Fortunately, I do not have to:

Lonely Planet named Grand Rapids the #1 destination for 2014 U.S. travel.
The Huffington Post agreed and added it to their 2014 Travel Bucket list.
That’s truly something. But consider: With our own international airport and great public transportation; we are also a relatively short drive from Chicago, Indianapolis, and Detroit. Grand Rapids is home to fabulous dining and hotels. A zoo, several museums, several colleges. And, we are a mere 20 minutes from beautiful Lake Michigan beaches, which are salt and shark-free.

Forbes named Grand Rapids the Best City for Raising a Family.
With a low cost-of-living, great schools, easy commutes, and affordable housing, there are several economic reasons to consider. That’s in addition to the local business and industry that continues to succeed; companies like Meijer, Bissell, Amway, Steelcase. Families can truly thrive among the economic and cultural opportunities.

Forbes followed up by naming Grand Rapids One of 15 Cities with Emerging Downtowns.
It’s a pretty “happening” place. Van Andel Arena is not only home to the IHL Calder Cup Champions, the Griffins, but brings in big-name shows like Katy Perry, Lady Antebellum, and Bruno Mars. Downtown has small-town charm with a big-city vibe. Free summer concerts, an ice-skating rink in winter, fishing on the Grand River, Laughfest, parades, festivals, fireworks, dining, shopping, museums, hotels, and more. And, it’s safe. At least, I’ve never personally drifted anywhere I felt uncomfortable. Whereas, in Detroit, I’ve often felt… imminent risk.

TIME Magazine included ArtPrize in their list of Five Festive Events You Won’t Want to Miss.
ArtPrize is a three-week art contest in greater-Grand Rapids. Artists from all over the world submit works and the public participates in voting for the winners. Each fall, thousands descend upon downtown to compete, peruse, critique, and enjoy.

Finally, let’s talk beer.
Grand Rapids has been named Beer City U.S.A… twice.
Can there be any better recommendation than that? Hey-ooooooooh.

Hopefully, Ducky and I will get out and adventure around after the thaw. We have already had the pleasure of exploring quite a bit. I hope I can offer some reviews and recommendations in future posts. I shall keep you updated…

(I do recommend checking out Experience Grand Rapids for great recommendations in the meantime).

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Rant: English Tooder Ad

I came across this gem in my newsfeed:

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Moron.

This was posted in a garage-sale site that I follow.
First, if you advertise for a job, feel free to proofread.
Second, if you advertise yourself as a tutor, you may want to expend more energy in said-proofreading than, say, a carpenter or plumber or hauler. (Although any position would benefit from a careful and competent advertisement and I do not intend to malign any profession. It’s just that educational services should rely on this as representative of their qualifications).
Third, if you advertise yourself as a “certified English-teacher” and you cannot distinguish “your” from “you’re,” I pity the children who will suffer your tutelage. You’re an idiot.

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Rant: My Dyson Sucks… Er, Doesn’t Suck?

I HATE MY DYSON VACUUM. HATE. IT.

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Worst vacuum ever.

When Beer Bear and I were getting married, we were able to register for shower and wedding gifts. Truthfully, we had been living together for a few years, so our needs were pretty well-met already. Therefore, we used our registry for extras or upgrades. I am super appreciative of convention but, honestly, the idea of the registry was a wee off-putting to me. I wasn’t incredibly comfortable with asking for ultimately a figure; what did we mean to you? A hundred dollars? Twenty dollars? Etc. I was so conscious of the idea that we were asking for things. I would say that we were fairly conservative with the items we registered for. We went to Target and Bed Bath and Beyond. We registered for traditional things, like dishes, and unconventional things, like a tent. But we very carefully approached the registry with an eye for affordable items, because I simply wasn’t comfortable asking for or accepting a gift that I deemed too expensive.

Except the Dyson. I really wanted a great vacuum. At the time, we had a dog and cat. We lived in a carpeted apartment. We were using a little vacuum that I had gotten at a close-out store for thirty bucks. Of course, we could have made it work. But, I am crazy. Did I mention that I hate dirty floors? I have OCD tendencies in this arena. I sweep, vacuum, and mop my floors everyday. Every. Single. Day. Especially now with a [different] dog and a toddler, I am at constant war with the encroaching floor filth.

So. I convinced my future husband that the one luxury item we should ask for would be a Dyson vacuum. They were all the rage. Target was even offering a red model that was exclusive to their store. We risked registry-judgement and disappointment and added it to our registry. While it was the cheapest model they offered at the time, it still came in at 400 dollars- a cringeworthy price for our meager newlywed budget (and remains so).

We got it. My aunts were incredibly thoughtful and chipped in to buy me the vacuum of my dreams. (I’m so grateful for their generosity).

We brought our new Dyson home and I went mad. Cleaned the floors, couches, walls, etc. I lent it to my friends who were moving to clean their home finally and thoroughly.

But, a couple months after our wedding, we moved from our carpeted apartment to a home near the beach. With tile floors. All tile floors. My new vacuum was heavy. I justified its regular use when I couldn’t sweep the floor, but once we were on bare floors, I found it easier to use a broom instead. During our two years in that house, I almost never used the Dyson to clean the floor.

I did, however, use the hose and attachments to clean our furniture. We gained a second dog in that time, so furry cushions were a major problem between the three pets. It was during one of these upholstery cleanings that the hose cracked for the first time. What? This was supposed to be the best vacuum? Then, the hose cracked in three more spots. Unbelievable. In order to vacuum the upholstery, I had to tape the cracks and hold the ends in such a way that no leaks would prevent suction. It’s incredibly tricky.

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You may suggest that I return the vacuum at that point or contact the company or find the warranty. Well, the warranty and receipt were lost in our move. Unfortunate, yes. But stuff happens. I wasn’t so inconvenienced at that point that I was willing to fight over it. Plus, I didn’t really want to be without a vacuum if I was going to have to have it repaired or sent back. Because I was just using it on upholstery, it would’ve been a greater inconvenience to follow whatever instructions for repair or return I would’ve gotten– if I would’ve even been eligible for anything.

After a few years in the bare-floor home, we returned to Michigan. To a home with a carpeted floor. Two dogs. One cat. And, I was pregnant. Suddenly, my already OCD tendencies were exponentially exaggerated. Imagine my surprise when my rarely-used Dyson vacuum barely had any suction. It didn’t clear any of the pet fur from our floors! Beer Bear went to work and checked all the seals and components to make sure it was functioning properly. Here’s the thing: everything appeared to be in order. It just had minimal suction.

Today, I still use that Dyson vacuum. We are in a home with about half carpet and half hardwood and tile. It does nothing. I pass over the same spot over and over. It doesn’t collect dog fur. It doesn’t collect Cheerios. Nothing. It is heavy and difficult to maneuver. It has no suction. It’s been a disaster.

Yes, it’s partly my fault. I never bothered to contact the company and see what could be done. I didn’t maintain the proper documentation from the purchase. But, this was not an inexpensive purchase. I shouldn’t have to do anything. The day the hose cracked I should have known it was a lemon. An expensive vacuum never should have broken like that.

I really have to replace the damn thing now. I get more frustrated than satisfied when trying to use it. We now live in Bissell country anyway. So, mayhaps that’s an option. We can’t afford to invest in another shit appliance. Frankly, we can’t afford to “invest” in a vacuum of any kind. Back to the close-out store…

Our Dyson vacuum is the absolute worst purchase I have ever made. And, I drove a Contour.

Suck it, Dyson. Suck it.

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Apologies

That last post was pretty lame.

I’ve been in a bit of a reading and writing funk of late.

Last week, Beer Bear traveled to Las Vegas for a business conference. “Business.” Sure, they had some guest speakers and meet-and-greets and awards, but it was mostly drinking, eating, and gambling. Obviously.

Meanwhile, Ducky and I stayed with my folks. Ducky was incredibly spoiled. I was incredibly annoyed. My discipline is ineffectual around the grandparents. Pretty typical of grandparents, methinks.

It was my mom’s 60th birthday. As a gift, the Bear Pack will be taking her (and my dad) to Washington D.C. this summer. I’m definitely looking forward to it. As with any Bear Pack event, there is inevitable means for mayhem and madness. Sweet.

Our stay in metro-Detroit also included a doctor appointment for the Duck, a visit with some friends, and naps. Several naps.

Anyway, you may glean from this post the aforementioned “funk.” I promise I will try to do better…

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