Stress vs. Humans: Spoiler Alert – We Lose.

We wear stress and exhaustion like merit badges in this country. If you’re not stressed, tired, or busy every second of the day it’s assumed that you’re lazy or not working hard enough. People can actually die from stress (ex: heart attacks). It also does us no favors for quality of life. The top ten “hit list” of illnesses that stress causes are as follows:

  1. Heart disease
  2. Asthma
  3. Obesity
  4. Diabetes
  5. Headaches
  6. Depression and anxiety
  7. Gastrointestinal problems
  8. Alzheimer’s disease
  9. Accelerated aging
  10. Premature death

You know what the sad part is? All of that is easily preventable – if making our personal health was an actual priority and not just something that companies and governments pay lip service to. I know plenty of parents who would have benefitted from actual proper parental leave after the birth of a child. I know firsthand that my mother would have been much better served if she could have taken time off to care for my father when he was dying. This was back before the family leave laws, weak as they are, were even a thing. Her day was something like this:

  • 5:00am – wake up & get dressed (assuming she wasn’t so exhausted that she slept in her clothes)
  • 5:30am – head out to work (still dark no matter what time of year)
  • 6:30am – arrive at work and hit the ground running
  • 12:00pm – arrive at hospital to take care of dad & have lunch
  • 1:30pm – back to work
  • 4:30pm – back to the hospital to take care of dad
  • 9:30pm – on a good day, arrive at home
  • 11:00pm – 12am – on a bad day arrive at home
  • 12am – 5:00am – sleep, maybe

Notice how I didn’t mention me or my brother? That’s because there was no time for us. We had to take care of ourselves when my aunt and cousins, who thankfully lived directly above and below us, respectively, were not on the clock. I never resented her for this even at that young of an age because I knew it had to be done. What I resented was the conditions that our culture created that made this the norm. To a very large extent, even with family leave laws that we have today, it’s still like this for many families who have to take care of a sick or injured family member. Dad was lucky enough to have someone looking out for him. The antics with the hospital and health ‘insurance’( that was cut off anyway because he got cancer) were unreal and even for someone who was well and smart enough to throw down with these vultures it was a terrible battle each time a bill came in. For example: one of the doctors at the hospital sent in a bill for an exam performed on my father. Here’s the catch. It was a gynecologist.

Before I see comments that say things like “that couldn’t have happened” or “that’s not how —- works”, here are a few parameters to keep in mind:

  • This happened in the 90’s when healthcare and insurance were even more of a joke than they are today
  • In the 90’s, insurance companies could drop you for anything they wanted
    • Ex: pregnancy was considered a preexisting condition, even if the woman or girl was never pregnant
    • So were yeast infections, even if you only had one ever
  • I saw all of this unfold first hand
    • Mom is not subtle or quiet
  • There were no laws that would protect or help us with this kind of thing, and still aren’t unless you’re rich
  • Poor people and middle income people still have to deal with this kind of nonsense

She aged 10 years in 8 months trying to keep up.

I don’t need to look back in my history to see how stress affects people when I can just look around my office and see it. Some of my closest work friends will put in for vacation time and end up working during it anyway, or come home early from a trip. It’s not like we’re hurting for back up either. They are conditioned, like most of us that have to work for a living, to feel that if they leave their post someone else will replace them and they will have to look for work all over again. Looking for work is completely demoralizing, especially if you are a woman or a person of color. God help you if you a woman of color. That pay gap is real and it gets worse the farther you go down the privilege ladder. Talk about stressful. Managers don’t seem to care much since the work gets done, but the expense is the people who work for them. They suffer from burn out at a much faster rate or they get fed up because they’re not actually living.

Yes, working fewer hours in a week would do wonders. They put in anywhere from 60 – 70 in reality even if the data entered is 40 – 45. If they actually only worked 40 -45 hours a week they would be more rested, more efficient, and honestly more pleasant to be around, because when you’re stressed and tired, you’re a jerk. You could be the nicest person in the world, but that will turn you into a negative, pessimistic jerk.

In 900 words (or so) I’ve covered work culture and government health ‘care’. Something else that stress is greatly responsible for is weight gain. I realize that our culture likes to place the onus of weigh management on the shoulders of the individual, but honestly we do that out of fear that anyone can ‘get fat’. Guess what? Anyone can get fat; even that skinny blonde who runs every morning and measures out every meal. I’ll show you how stress does it more than food an exercise.

stress wheel

It’s a horrible cycle and each time someone rides the wheel it gets harder to do anything to change their life for the better. No one can get healthy when they are fed a steady stream of stress, hate, exclusion and depravation. They can’t get healthy because the things surrounding them are not healthy – from the bullying to the advice given, welcome or not. The good news is that this cycle can be broken easily. Take this piece for example:


To stop the cycle, these items need to be addressed.

  • Fat Shaming
    • For the average person they have a choice when they see someone they feel is overweight
      1. Be a horrible person and shame them
      2. Say nothing

It doesn’t matter if you know the person or not. It is so easy to say nothing. It’s so easy to mind your own business and turn your attention to your iPhone and finish that level of Angry Birds or Candy Crush that you’ve been stuck on for days because you refuse to give money to a game about farm animals and sugar.

How to fix it: Keep your mouth shut. No one is inviting you to comment on their appearance. Saying nothing includes not posting passive aggressive memes on your Facebook as well.

And doctors? Guess what. If you only see the fat you’re going to screw up your diagnosis of the whole person. One of your ilk almost killed my aunt because of that. You just saw a fat woman but you didn’t bother to question why she only had 1/4th of her blood left in her body. You had a baseline, since she went to you almost every month for a checkup and a blood draw to keep her diabetes in check. You also missed the fact that she has hyperthyroid issues. It wasn’t like this happened in the 90’s or other past decade we look at as the dark ages. This was 2009. But you know best right? You also said dad had the flu when it was really cancer. Go back to school and try it again, genius. You’re not the gods of intellect you think you are.

How to fix it: Look past the body weight and take all of the information you get from a physical work up into account. Also, take some sensitivity training. The way some doctors talk to people is downright insulting. I get your time is valuable. So is mine and since I waited 45 minutes for an appointment I made a month ago the least you can do is be courteous.

  • Media messages
    • Diet commercials sell big promises at big prices and don’t deliver
    • Every TV show has painfully thin women on them, mostly white, most likely with destructive food issues
    • Food commercials of thin women eating enormous amounts of food as if it was their normal eating habits
    • Lastly – my favorite – The thin woman binging on nachos wearing a football jersey and downing a beer

It’s like Photoshop for film. None of this is real! You don’t see the spit takes at the end of the shoot or the hours on the treadmill that the actors strap themselves to in order to burn off all the bites they had to take. I think the worst part of it is the fiction of the “cool girl” who is glamorous, sexy, into all of the things guys are (supposed to be) into, but she’s super low maintenance and will still get you a beer. This is a woman cosplaying. Women will only be able to be this fiction for a finite amount of time before they finally crack and decide that they would rather skip the beauty routine in favor of some alone time or extra sleep. This bullet point is not only stress inducing but sexist as well. Expecting someone to be something they’re not is also a major source of stress and can result in depression, weight issues, and self-harm.

How to fix it: We can’t change TV and marketing fast enough, but we can sign up for streaming services where commercials aren’t a problem. The more industrious of us can also share ad blocker software suggestions or even create a few new ones! On a smaller scale – flip the script. If someone is expecting you to be something you’re not, ask yourself why it’s ok for them to expect you to conform to their ideals without your permission. (Spoiler alert: It isn’t. Ever.)

  • Size cap in clothing stores
    • Forces those above a size 12 to look online for clothing that fits
      • Sales people frequently direct customers looking for items over size 12 to look online
    • Too many smaller sizes and too few larger sizes even though the larger sizes sell out faster
      • H&M rarely if ever has anything above a size 10 in any of the women’s sections
      • Uniqlo and American Apparel don’t make clothing past a size 12
      • Victoria Secret’s does not carry sizes above large, 12, 36D and those are still hard to find in store

All it takes is 15 minutes on my favorite clothing site, Modcloth, and I’m already annoyed. Not from the site itself which has been plus size inclusive to a degree not commonly seen, but more at the number of designers that stop making clothing past a 34 inch waistline. Many times I’ve had money in my hand to give for these wonderful clothes just to find that they won’t fit my 38 inch waist. I’ve also been chased out of a few stores, even at a size 10 (32” waist) and size 12 (34”waist) because, and I quote, “We don’t have your size.” I’m looking at you, Victoria Secret’s and Bloomingdale’s. Wonder why I don’t shop with you anymore? Your staff is not helpful. I don’t live in a rural area. I can literally step outside my office and get anything. In a three block radius there are 5 drug stores, countless restaurants, a comic book shop, fast food joints, jewelry stores, wine shops and if I want a massage at lunch time it’s two blocks from here.  So don’t tell me of the 8 locations of your store, which Google turned up in a search, none of them have the pink lacey bra with the sparkly bits in a 38D., as well as their brick and mortar stores, has always been very good to me – but this is another rant.

How to fix it: Carry more of the sizes that sell out the fastest. Keep a more extensive stock instead of stopping at 10 or 12. It is not ok to expect people of certain sizes to order online, wait for shipping, find out it doesn’t look right, ship it back and try it again. Also, don’t alienate women of larger sizes. They have money they want to spend. That’s just bad business.

Stress doesn’t necessarily need to be a part of our lives. We should be able to save the stress moments for things we can’t control, like an emergency vet trip or a burst water pipe in the apartment. These moments need the fight or flight response because they are acute and in immediate need of attention. Prolonged stress makes us less willing to take care of ourselves, which only adds to the physical effects that stress and depression are putting on the body. We don’t want to go out, too tired for exercise, feeling unattractive and avoiding intimate contact, comforting ourselves with food or retail therapy. All that strain on our bodies leave us open to getting sick more often, but for some reason our culture sees this as a virtue and not something destructive.

You can buy all the lavender-scented candles you want but the reality is that culture change starts with the individual that says “I’m not doing this. I have a better way.” and then does it. For my part, I’ve left the body shaming of others and myself behind, I question my doctors because they are just mortals like me, and I don’t give my money to stores or designers that complain that making big clothes is too hard. Don’t whine, it’s unbecoming.

Netflix, you with your streaming cartoons and lack of ads, please don’t ever change. I love you.

Surgery PTSD: Trading one trauma for another

I had my gallbladder removed laparoscopically this past September. They said I had one stone as big as a ping-pong ball and a bunch of little stones in there with it. Essentially, they pulled a full dice bag out through my belly button. Even though I was out for the whole procedure, I still have nightmares and flashbacks of my time in the hospital, to the point where I can remember the smell of the room, the sounds and the tinny resonance of voices because of all the white noise and beeps from the small army of machines they had in there.

The smell was the worst. Antiseptic, sweet (but the wrong kind that sticks in the back of your throat), tacky and dead. It was cold in there. The slab was in the rough shape of a human body. I think I would have been more comforted if it was rectangular and shapeless like most beds. This had arms that ran out from either side and a head cradle. The lights were weird. Instead of bulbs alone, each light source had something that looked like a tiny mirror so it was bright and dull at the same time, making everything look white and blue. Everything was white and blue, even the staff. Little wisps of hair peeked out from the caps around their temples. The spot of hair you can never get fully into a wig or cap. It was the only color aside from their skin tones that I saw.

I walked to the OR. I felt like I was walking to the gallows. Most of my life I’ve had a deep fear of doctors, blood and needles, and after my father’s death it exploded into a full-on phobia. If I can keep away from any of that, I do. I skip doctor visits, put off vaccine updates, opt for pills or bandages instead of injections. If I can heal it myself, I will, even if it means a scar or long term lingering effects. I do whatever I can to keep out of the doctor’s office and having surgery feels like…death. Or worse.
When I was 18 I had a cyst on the end of my spine which made it misery to sit down or lie on my back. I went to the doctor to get treatment and was told it was just a bruise and to take some ibuprofen, which I did. Days later, I was strapped face down on a gurney with an IV in my arm and my skin being sliced open with scalpels and needles. They said they had given me a local to knock me out. It didn’t work. They gave me more. It didn’t work. And more and more until my blood pressure was so low that they could have killed me. I could still feel the cutting and slicing and stabbing. Surgery without painkillers, without anything to make me black out. I lived, awake and screaming, through the whole thing for upwards of an hour. I don’t know why they didn’t stop when I begged them to at the beginning. I even said, “I’m not out yet,” many times before they started butchering me. Needless to say this did not help my phobia of all things medical.

When I was told I needed my gallbladder out because of stones back in 2008, I refused. It wasn’t life threatening and I didn’t have most of the symptoms of gallbladder disease that would put me at crisis level. For the next seven years the list of what I could eat got shorter and shorter. The times when my gallbladder would go into acute crisis were extraordinarily painful. When your gallbladder tries to empty out to aid with digestion, it squeezes to pour the bile into the ducts that carry it to your stomach. If there are stones in there, they can block the entrance and prevent the bile from leaving. There’s also the possibility of having the bile backwash from the stomach back into the bladder. This can happen from 4 to 6 hours at a time, usually at night when you’re trying to sleep, and feels like a sword being driven through your back and turned like a pig on a spit. At the same time, gas swells in your stomach and pushes it so it extends out and acid flows back and forth, causing nausea. Sometimes there is a sensation of barbed wire inside you, twisting. All this happens for 4 to 6 hours. (I know I said that already but it bears repeating.) I dealt with this on a weekly basis for 7 years. Some weeks were better than others. There were a few months where it didn’t bother me at all! This was short lived. Toward the end, I was in pain every day. After it was out I realized that I had actually been in pain every day for 7 years and just got used to it. You’d think getting it removed would be a cause for celebration, and for a while it was! I was looking forward to the promises:

  • Eat what you want
  • No more pain
  • No worrying about food
  • No worrying about the organ going sceptic

Often I do enjoy being free from worrying if the next bite will keep me up all night, but the trauma from the surgery still haunts me. The painkillers they gave me made me hallucinate and gave me nightmares. I stopped taking them but I still have the barrage of grisly images when I close my eyes. Some nights I wake up thrashing or screaming because I’ve seen my fingers blended when making a smoothie, or cutting off my cats legs when I’m supposed to be cutting vegetables. One night recently I had a dream that I left scissors in bed and my husband was stabbed by them. I could actually smell the blood even after I woke up. I started pressing on him, tossing the sheets, looking for the wound and he woke up, asking “What are you doing? Stop!”

“I’m trying to stop the bleeding!” I sobbed wearily, “you’ll bleed out!”

“Hon, you’re dreaming. Stop.” He had to grab my wrist to wake me up fully. I didn’t go back to sleep for almost an hour after that.

Getting back to my old self has been hard. The physical pain has been enough of a problem, even though my doctor said I was healing very well and the scars are going down. He did a hell of a job considering the size of the problem, but the mental trauma is still crippling. My therapist is helping me through it. I still refuse to get my flu shot, more willing to put up with the actual flu than get stuck. Injections, no matter how much I relax, hurt for a week after I get them. The tetanus shots I need every 10 years hurt for almost 3 weeks afterwards and includes nausea and dizziness, but I’ve seen what happens if I don’t get it, and it’s worse. That will land me in the hospital.

For most people, phobias are of heights or bugs or something that can be avoided. If you fear flying you can take a train or a car. If you fear dogs you can live in a pet free building or work from home. You can’t avoid the doctor if you want to life a long life, and sometimes you don’t have a say if social services gets involved. The hospital is also the last stop for many people. Unless you die right away in an accident, emergency services will take you to the, you guessed it, hospital to try to save your life.

Continued exposure to this kind of phobia has shown no progress in desensitizing me. In fact, the more exposure I get, the more afraid I become. I guess I’m glad to have the organ out, but I think the cure is worse than the disease, at least for now. To be honest, aside from the food thing, there is not much difference in my life. I just ended up trading one form of trauma for another.

The Snoopy Project: #1 Vermeer

I’ve decided to document the drawings I do at work on the dry erase board to make my co workers smile. Right now I’m doing a series of Snoopy drawings inspired by fine art paintings.


Snoopy with a Pearl Earring

Inspired by Girl with a Pearl Earring – Vermeer 1665

Friends Don’t Let Friends Do Electrical Work

I had wanted a dimmer switch ever since the 80’s were a thing and when my friends and I got into the collage years of life, I decided that it was time and mom couldn’t stop me anyway. I was 19 damn it. I was an adult! Yet it was when I turned 23 that she finally stopped telling me to go to bed and do my homework – but I digress.

I must have been one of the last, pre-recession people who wanted to stay home when attending college. Free laundry, hot meals, private room and all the chocolate I could eat unless she found it first. Who would turn that down? Derek, one of my brother’s best friends and mine too, was studying to be an engineer. He now works at a high paying job in an undisclosed location near the center of the earth with a large wingback chair and a cat with a screeching meow. (Kudos to you that get the reference) He said he knew how to install a light switch so I took him at his word.

My parents bought 3 family private house, one in a row of 5 or 6, in the late 70’s, when money could get you real things and income equality hadn’t gone completely off the wall just yet. All three apartments are set up almost like a railroad flat with one room after the other. At the rear near the door to the back yard are the living room and one bedroom. Following toward the front of the place, down the long hallway, you pass the kitchen, open dining room, big bathroom directly across from the front door to the hall stairs, the master bedroom used by my brother (Brad) and Derek, and then my room at the end of the line. If you sit in the cushy chair by the glad backyard door, you can see straight into my room in one unbroken line.

Our buddy is the type to tinker with anything. Not much has changed since then either and he never let a little thing like an exploding Tonka truck stop him – but that’s another story. When I asked for the install he was ready to hit home depot like a frat boy on Friday night.

I love my mother, but calm isn’t her thing. Of course she sits in the chair with the view of my room that very night that we decide we’re going to do this thing, because fate and crap. Mom, Brad and I (and possibly another of our friends) were all in the living room while he was working. In our style we would crack jokes and call him Bubba the Plumber because my family is made of assholes and I love them. Everything was going fine for the first twenty minutes and then there was a loud pop and a bright flash of blue light from the bedroom seconds before that end of the house was plunged into darkness. My mother screamed out, “Derek, are you ok?!”

We sat there, each silent second going by seeming to be an eternity, and then he answered in a shaky voice, “Yes?” The lot of us heaved a collective sigh of relief, me and Brad on our feet and down the hall right after. We found him laughing. Typical.

Mom flipped the breakers to turn on the electricity to that end of the house, all the while swearing in Scottish because of the shock. Apparently we were a “shower a’ bastards” and other stuff I can’t spell.

But wait! There’s more! A few more minutes of him fiddling and the project was complete. It worked beautifully! I had more mood lighting than one co-ed, who couldn’t get a date anyway, than I would ever need.

At least we thought so until Brad went to turn on his computer. I heard a string of curses and profanities from my brother’s room. Apparently, when we hooked up the dimmer switch it drained all the power from the other room. I have no idea how that works because I do not science for electrical wires. He carried on as if we kicked his puppy so Derek had to undo everything that was done so Brad could get power back to his room.

Final note: I never did get my dimmer switch.

5 Ways That Clickbait Will Help My Site Traffic

I love the human condition sometimes. All you have to do is create a bullet list or an infographic and presto! You get people clicking the link thinking, ‘Oo! What’s this?’ or the more insidious trollers, ‘How many ways is this bitch wrong?’

Ah the internet. Here’s my plan!


  1. Create titles that have numbers and insinuate that a bulleted list of ‘facts’ will be discussed, or at least, listed so the first line can be read and the rest of the text skimmed or skipped.
  2. Don’t do any actual research, but instead lift commonly known tidbits of information off the interwebs.
  3. Two words: Cat Photos.
  4. Actually offer sound advice for commonly known issues, problems, gripes, moans, groans and general complaints.
  5. Just have a list of my favorite My Little Pony characters.


And there you have it! My recipe for getting more site traffic by manipulating the populous’ tendency to click on anything that will break information down in to snack sized pieces.

Thank you,

The Management.

Holy Christ, I Almost Hit a God Damn Coyote

Yes, friends. The title says it all. Why is this night different from other nights? Because it’s Passover and on the drive home from a lovely Seder dinner, I almost hit a goddamn coyote.

I was behind the wheel, driving down the Saw Mill Parkway at around 9:30pm, going the speed limit with my husband, sister-in-law and her fiancé. This road is poorly lit on a good day and the stretch of road we were traveling on had no lights for the most part and a speed limit of 50. It’s a twisty road as well, so driving with caution is always a good idea. I’ve always prided myself on my killer night vision and tonight it saved the life of a very scared coyote and spared the rest of us minor injuries.

I saw something far down the road scurry across through the darkness and my brain yelled to me, “Slow down! Object ahead!” My brain gets right to the point. My headlights hadn’t even got to it at that point, but when they did I started a controlled brake. I think I said “Oh shit” but to me, everything got quiet and I was super-focused on the object ahead of me. My brain was already running through things I’ve been told:

  • Mom – if it’s a deer, brake or turn. Something that big can wreck the car and really hurt you
  • Dad – use the shoulder if you have to. If you’re going too fast and it’s small, keep going.
  • PETA, HSUS, ASPCA, etc.. – coyotes are living things. They do not pose an immediate threat to humans. Do not engage. Do not kill!
  • Me – I brake for animals. Please don’t be a cat!

So my brain does the calculations for me at light speed, which as a dyslexic, was pretty freaking awesome and correct. I kept applying pressure to the brake, first slowly, then harder until I was maybe 5 inches from the animal as it hauled ass across the front of the car. Thankfully, no one was behind me. That would have been a disaster. Everyone was buckled up and because it was a controlled brake, no one got whiplash and the coyote vanished into the tree line. I would have felt terrible if I hurt it, and worse if I killed it. It all happened so fast, and there really wasn’t anywhere to pull over and catch my breath, so I just kept driving, super concentrating on the roads and watching the sidelines with frequent glances, as was everyone else in the car.

My focus was able to split back into the normal multitasker that it usually is after a few minutes and I realized that my passengers were talking about what just happened. The different reactions upon realizing that there was a coyote in the road were priceless.

  • Hubby – what the—OH SHIT?!
  • Sis Fiancé – is that-OH SHIT!
  • Sis in law – shit. –braces for impact and thinks this is how it ends. Damnit

Can I just say I love my family? Because I do. The fiancé said flat out, “If you had hit that, there’s no way we were going to let you stop.” Which is totally fair and valid, but let me tell you, I would have had a hard time with that. At the very least, I would have insisted on calling the ASPCA or the local police. The irrational part of me still wants to go in the woods, find it, bring it home, and give it chicken soup because I’m a crazy tree hugger and I still feel bad that the poor thing had such a close brush with death. Luckily, the other parts of my personality screamed in my mind, “are you stupid????”

Yes. Sometimes. But not today.

I get that there are a lot of people who want coyotes dead or relocated or whatever, but my feeling is, it is a living, breathing thing. I can’t get upset over a coyote acting like a predator because that’s its nature. It’s like getting pissed at the rain for being wet. By the same token, if a bear was chewing on my leg, I wouldn’t pass him the ketchup. Let’s not get crazy here. (editor’s note: leg goes better with A1)

The night ended with everyone safe at home, the coyote still alive and in the woods, and me with a cup of tea and my cat as I write this. First chickens, now coyotes. I wonder what else is going to get in front my car without being aware of its surroundings.

Updated: The Library

I started work on a story based on a memory my mother had back in Scotland growing up. I’m not sure how many of you knew that or how much any of you know about mom’s childhood. To say the least, I took liberties with the plot, but the essence of how she felt about The Library is accurate. When she used to tell me about the place I always saw it as something magical and alive. I hope that this first, very rough, very ugly draft catches some of that.

I’ll go through it about a hundred times more before I give her the finished piece and get her feedback on where I can fix the character development, but even after she saw the first crack at it when I had much less written down, she still was blown away. My goal is to get this in her hand, proofed, printed and hopefully published by her next birthday.

For those of you who would like to read the work as it gets hammered into shape, here’s the link to the perma-page. Any time I update you’ll see the alert in my feed stream. I hope you like it.


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