Taking the plunge

I’ve been an artist all my life. In high school, my notebooks were littered with doodles, often garnering more disdain from my teachers claiming I wasn’t paying attention than accolades for their creativity. In 2001, one of my sculptures was selected to be in a national juried show in Chicago, and that might be my biggest artistic achievement. But in my years of teaching my art had been shoved aside, only doing what was necessary for classroom visual aids. 

In the past year I’ve begun painting again, and have been experimenting with watercolors. I’ve built up a portfolio of my abstract pieces. And, feeling the need to get into the art community, I made an appointment to speak to a gallery owner and show him my work. 

When I got there, he wasn’t there. His assistant was, and it was his assistant who reviewed my work. During this time he seemed unimpressed, although from seeing other works in the gallery it was like nothing he had there. His comments were: 

Psychedelic, too busy, too structured, work larger, try a colored background and blending the colors

And he showed me other watercolor examples in the shop to back up his comments- which was akin to comparing apples and oranges as they were completely different styles! 

Realizing he didn’t like my work, I thanked him for looking and the suggestions and quickly made my way out of there. Although he did say that it was just one man’s opinion, it was still disheartening. 

If the demons in my head had been talking a bit stronger that day, maybe they would have eaten away at me. Maybe they would have nagged me to give up because my work sucks and no one will like it. But the demons voices were quiet that day, and I shook them off and told myself that what he said was right. 

It *was* one person’s opinion. 

And maybe there’s 100 others like it. But then there will be the other 100 who will enjoy my work and support it. So I left with my head held high, because I did something I never thought I would do. I put myself out there. I took the plunge. 

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Rainy Days

Some days I have less motivation than others. Rainy days are those kind of days. They’re the kind of days where I want to sleep all day, or spend all day in bed. Or watch tv, order in and play video games. They’re the kind of days where nothing seems to go right and everything takes 600% more effort. They’re the kind of days that, although I don’t look forward to them, sometimes I need them to recharge my batteries and ready myself to take on life again. 

Today was a rainy day and I made the mistake of venturing out for a bottle of wine and a few groceries. My city was largely flooded, the rain was monsoon-like, and I came home looking like I took a swim in my clothes. I promptly changed into warm Jammies and resumed my unmotivated day on the couch with some movies. 

So what kind of days are rainy days to you, dear readers? 

An Open Letter to Parents Who Dine Out…

…With their children. 

As a server, we’re constantly barraged with requests, complaints, and challenges. But one thing is the bane of every server’ existence. Families who dine out. 

Sure, your toddler in the high chair is cute. Cute as hell. In fact, we’ve never seen a cuter kid if it’ll get us a bigger tip. But we don’t like your kid when you leave a huge mess for us to clean up. Here’s the thing: 

We’re your servers, not your slaves, maids, or cleaning crews. While some say it’s our job, it really isn’t. Making sure you have a good dining experience is our job. A reasonable cleanup when you’re done is our job. Cleaning up after you’ve let your child pitch their tiny snacks all over the place so they get ground into to carpet or torn up their kids menu into tiny bits and strewn them about under the table IS NOT part of our jobs. 

So parents, here’s a few friendly tips from your servers for the next time you dine out with children that will keep us all happy, and not forever hating your offspring. 

1. Don’t bring snacks with you like Cheerios, Froot Loops, puffs or any other small tidbit that your child can litter the floor with. They get stepped on and ground into the carpet. It’s not fun to avoid an edible minefield. 

2. Don’t bring Skittles or M&Ms either. As annoying as it is to clean up the above mentioned snacks, the hokey doesn’t even pick these up. Splurge a little and spend the whopping $2.99 for an order of fries or mashed potatoes. Your server will love you for it. 

3. Sugar caddies and packets are not playthings. Give your kid your phone or a tablet to play with like the rest of parents these days. And if your kid does still happen to get into the sugar caddy, please clean up and organize it again. 

4. If your kid has torn up the kids menu, take the time to stuff it into the throw away kiddie cup okay? Little bits of paper on the table, seat, and floor are not fun to pick up. Or better yet, don’t let them tear it up. 

5. The world is their playground…the aisle is not. Please keep your kids in their seats. It’s difficult enough carrying heavy hot plates, multiple drinks or even trays without a moving obstacle course. 

6. Yes, you can have a new set of crayons or the other colors we have. Just don’t expect them right away if it’s busy. You’re not my only table tonight and I may have to put in someone else’s food order, refill drinks, or greet a table first. 

7. The same goes for the little drink umbrella or other toy like item you’ve requested of me. Please take it with you or clean up after your kid and don’t leave it on the floor. 

8. Copy and paste that for silverware, napkins or anything else that can somehow get under your table or on the floor around you. If your kid dropped or threw it, please pick it up. I don’t leave a mess in your house, please don’t leave a mess in ours. 

9. Your kid is crying? We generally don’t care. Babies cry. It’s just one more noise in the place. That being said, if you’re ignoring your kid for a long time while they’re crying, then we care. Because then it’s a nuisance to other customers as well as us, and you need to find something to quiet your kid down. Just don’t do it with the sugar packets. 

10. Please don’t change diapers in the booth.  It’s gross. Just don’t do it. That’s what the diaper changer is for in the handicapped stall. And please throw used diapers away. We don’t want to touch that shit. Pun intended. 

11. On the note of bathrooms, please make sure your kid doesn’t play with the toilet paper roll leaving a trail behind them or strewn about the stalls. If I haven’t iterated it enough: just clean up after your kids! 

12. Booster seats are booster seats and high chairs are high chairs, and baby carriers go in the slings or hammocks, not the underside of the high chair. Know the difference and know which one you need. There’s nothing more annoying than the time consuming act of having to go back for the item you really meant. 

13. I appreciate that you want your child to learn how to order by themselves, but if they’re shy and it’s a busy restaurant at prime meal time, save it for another day. I don’t have time for it. Order for your kid and let’s continue on. 

Don’t get me wrong. We like kids. We want you to dine out with them as a family. We just like them well behaved and not leaving us a mess. If, after all that I’ve said, you still leave us a mess to clean up, be a doll and leave at least 20% tip, if not more. It’s what we call hazard pay. But I for one would rather have 15% and no extra mess to clean. 

If you’re a server and have a suggestion to add to this list, please leave a comment below! 

13 Reasons Why

I finished watching this Netflix series last week and even had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Derek Luke, the actor who played Mr. Porter, and his family this weekend. So I’ve been sitting on this for a little while, letting it marinate until I was ready to comment. 

The series, if you don’t know, centers around Hannah Baker, a 17 year old who kills herself and sends out audio tapes with the 13 Reasons Why she did it. The content of the tapes discusses friendships and loves lost, bullying, drinking, sexual assault, and possibly depression. I say possibly because the series didn’t really elaborate on mental illness being a possible factor contributing to her death. It was more Hannah blaming others for causing her death. 

So let me say a few things about this series. Many of the things that happened to Hannah happen to almost every teenager, but not every teenager commits suicide. Let’s start small and discuss some of these topics. 

The friendships she lost, the loneliness, the bullying. Some kids kill themselves on these reasons alone, and it’s a good reminder that our actions affect others, and we need to be mindful of that. This could touch upon depression slightly, but I didn’t see it that way. 

Drinking to numb the pain. Many people do this, adults included. Although this part was centered more on her friend than Hannah, it’s worth mentioning. 

Sexual assault. This happened to both Hannah and her friend, and may have been the final nail in her coffin. Or maybe it was Mr. Porter’s poor response to a clearly troubled girl. 

Her “friends” failed her, but Clay did not. He may have been confused about where their relationship stood, but he did not contribute to her death. But there were two people who could have helped Hannah and didn’t. 

The teacher and the counselor saw signs of trouble, yet weren’t equipped to deal with them until after her death. The teacher who received the anonymous note asking about making the pain stop, although she briefly discussed it in class, stopped right there. A call for help like that should not have been ignored. It should have been forward to the counselor, who then should have met with each and every student in that class to determine who needed help. 

The counselor, who only saw trouble too late, made accusatory statements toward Hannah about the sexual assault that were close to victim shaming, weren’t helpful, and then let her go. There were other options for Hannah besides pressing charges or just moving on. If Mr. Porter had merely gotten Hannah to someone better equipped to counsel on sexual assault, she might not have committed suicide. And at the very least, he should have made a phone call to her parents. Mr. Porter certainly failed Hannah, and largely contributed to her death. 

Some people say this series glorifies suicide and makes the statement that if you kill yourself and justify it with a note or in this case, tapes, you’re right and they’re wrong and suicide is good. That way of thinking couldn’t be further from the truth. The point behind this whole idea is that we really need to think about how we treat others and how our actions and inactions affect others. 

This series brings up some difficult topics to discuss, and shows some graphic and horrifying scenes, but I encourage everyone to watch it. It will be worth your while. And it may even change you for the better. 

Why I can’t have nice things 

Because I don’t deserve them. At least that’s what my demons say. And a lot of times, I believe them. 

A week after I moved into my new place, I grazed the telephone pole next to my driveway and screwed up the bumper of my otherwise great condition 2015 Jetta. 

I got a one year old used couch a few months ago. The other night I leaned over the back of it to reach something and the frame snapped. 

In less than a month from adopting my second dog, I let her out without a leash (she was always great about it up to that point), she got hit by a car. Luckily she had only abrasions, but I learned my lesson. She will always be scarred.

My other dog is a stubborn pain in the ass and does whatever he wants no matter how much I correct him, and marks his territory. So my bed smells slightly of pee. Yay. 

I had a nice tv, a candle nearby melted part of the frame. 

I’m sure I could list all of the nice things I’ve had that have been ruined, but that’s not the point. The point is that I can’t have nice things. The demons say I don’t deserve them. But it might be for a different reason. I’m not stupid by any means, but I tend to make poor judgments, even if they seem sound at the time. And looking back on all these examples, the reason for my suffering is my own poor decisions. The best that can happen is that I learn from them. But I wish I could just stop making poor decisions in the first place. Maybe then I can have nice things. 

Sensitivity

Political correctness. Society’s sensitivity training. I don’t like it. It seems like anything is a “trigger” these days for someone to feel insulted or offended. Recently, I’ve seen illustrations of mental illness and how the public uses phrases like “I’m depressed” or “You’re so OCD” versus what it’s really like, and I have to say, I don’t like those either. The intent behind it is to say that the public downplays mental illness and by using these phrases they invalidate real mental illnesses. It’s just another step following in the path of don’t use the word retard, banning books like Tom Sawyer because they use the word nigger (yes, I did just type that), to “gyp someone” is a slur, and asking if you stuttered when asked to repeat yourself is wrong, among many others. 

In my opinion, people need to get over themselves. I’m aware this isn’t going to be a popular opinion. But guess what? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion whether or not you agree with it. And that’s my opinion. Society is too damn “fragile” today with political correctness. 

I have depression. I don’t get upset when someone says they’re depressed because the finished their ice cream and wish there was more. 

I have a visual impairment. I don’t get offended when people say that they’re blind and they’re clearly not. 

According to my doctor, I’m morbidly obese. Do I give a shit when people say they’re SO FAT when they’re actually half my size? No. 

I have a delayed processing speed and ask “what?” A lot because of it, but I’m only mildly annoyed when people ask if I have a hearing problem. Okay you got me on that one. I’m sensitive there. 

But honestly. The saying about sticks and stones has gone out the window in favor of words really do hurt. Well I say that’s bullshit. Raise your kids to have a little thicker skin. Language is ever evolving, and if we keep feeding into this mentality where everyone gets a trophy and words really do hurt because our children are just too damn sensitive, then one day there will be NO WORDS. 

Let’s look at it this way. Bobby is a smart kid who learns quickly and is perfect in every way. Mikey has low intelligence and is developmentally delayed. We can’t say he’s retarded, even though that word actually means slow! Can we say he’s slow? Stupid? What word can we use to describe him? Soon we won’t be able to say he’s delayed either. And what does that leave us with? Describing Mikey as the same as Bobby?

I think what it really boils down to when it comes to the blind, deaf, mentally ill, or developmentally disabled is that the people who drive this agenda want people with disabilities to feel like they’re the same as those without. And they’re not. We’re not. And we should celebrate that. Yes, we’re different. And there isn’t anything wrong with that. 

So grow a thicker skin and teach others to do the same. Because there’s so much more to worry about in our lives than the influence and meaning of words. 

When everyone thought I was crazy

In late summer of 2006, I started exhibiting some strange symptoms. Everyone I knew thought it was in my head, but I knew it wasn’t. So let’s go back to that fateful day, in mid-August, when I was at one of my favorite places– Disney World. 

It was the first day of our trip, Mom, my daughter and me, and we were staying at the Boardwalk. We had just arrived and unpacked, and needed some downtime in the pool before dinner in Epcot. About five minutes into our swim session, my arms and legs started to itch like crazy. So bad that I couldn’t stop scratching them. But there was no rash, no physical signs of irritation. Just this feeling that tiny bugs were crawling up and down my extremities and biting. Surely it was a reaction to some chemical in the pool. So Mom sent me to buy Benadryl from the general store.

 She warned me, “Only take one.” 

Dripping wet, I made my way back to the pool, package in hand and reading the directions that said to take two. What does Mom know? So I popped two of them and waited about 20 minutes to re-enter the pool. Reaction was gone. After our swim, we showered and dressed and got on the ferry to Epcot, where I started to feel drowsy. Uh oh. 

In the Mexican pavilion, where it was super dark and relaxing, I held my menu in one hand and rested my head on my other fist. And started to nod. I tried to rouse myself enough to order and did, and that’s when Mom put her hand on my arm and said, “It’s okay, put your head down.” 

I did, and fell asleep until the food arrived. I felt terrible for ignoring her advice, but the itch was so bad! 

During the rest of the trip, I had issues in the pool and shower, and figured it was something in the water. 

WRONG. 

When I returned home, the problem was still there. It was intermittent and unpredicatable. I went to dermatologists. They found nothing. I had to plan out when I could shower by taking Benadryl an hour ahead of time. It was starting to run and ruin my life. And the Benadryl didn’t always work! I would sometimes itch myself raw after a shower. And everyone thought it was in my head. 

Nearly three years of doctors visits, Benadryl, and suffering later, I had an answer. I had been doing internet research for some time with no luck, until I came upon a Yahoo group for people with a condition called Aquagenic Pruritus. Going through the posts I read about other people with similar experiences as me and felt vindicated. Finally, a label. 

I did more research, printed my findings and took it to the dermatologist. She said she had never encountered a patient with it before, as it’s pretty rare, but it would explain my symptoms. She suggested I increase my vitamin D intake and come for lightbox (UVB) treatments a few times a week. At $30 copay a visit, I couldn’t afford that. So, I sat outside a lot, soaking up the sun. 

Over time, and with the help of the Internet group’s suggestions, I began to manage it better. I realized if I shower in morning it’s much worse than night, and I couldn’t shave in the morning either. So I showered exclusively at night. Another thing was that I had to dry off as fast as possible and dress head to toe in medium to heavyweight clothes (so much fun in summer). But these steps helped alleviate or avoid it completely. The symptoms became less of a problem, and are even sporadic now. And I still get a lot of sunshine. 

But having gone through this made me think back to that episode of the Golden Girls when Dorothy suffers from chronic fatigue and no one believed her. It was hard on her, and hard on me, to prove that there really was something wrong. So maybe the next time someone you know says there’s something wrong with them, even if they can’t prove it, maybe, just maybe you should believe them. It will certainly do wonders for their mental health. 

This amusing couple…

…was my guests at the restaurant the other night. They had dined with us before, and there wasn’t anything particularly special about these guests, but what amused me the most was when it came time to pay the bill. 

The husband paid in cash and I returned with the bulk presenter and his change. While holding a pile of their plates and explaining the survey on the receipt to his wife, the husband tried to hand me the presenter with my tip inside. Immediately the wife reached for it. He yanked it back. 

“How much is in there?” She asked him. 

“It’s fine!” He said and tried to give to to me again. She tried to grab it and again he yanked it back and gave her a look and repeated himself. I looked from one to the other, took the presenter and wished them a good night with a smile. 

I dropped off the plates in dish and headed to check on the table next to them, but as I approached the table, the wife walked up to me, her hand casually stretched out with a folded $10 bill in it. I discreetly took it and thanked her, and then the husband saw what she was doing and tried to grab her. I thanked her and wished them a good night and turned to my other table. 

It was probably the funniest exchange I’ve seen in a restaurant. What made it that more amusing was upon opening the presenter later, the husband had actually tipped me 20%! 

I suppose she must think he is a poor tipper, and kudos to her for staying on top of him. Although the extra $10 was unnecessary, it certainly was a nice surprise and the whole exchange made my night. 

What is high functioning?

You’ve heard the term, probably in relation to the Autism spectrum. But did you know that there are also high functioning depressives? But what are they? 

The term is defined as operating at a high level, usually in developmental disorders. What that means is that although someone has a disability or disorder, they’re still able to perform a majority of daily functions relatively well. What this means for a depressive is that they get out of bed, maintain adequate personal hygiene, go to work, and interact with others pretty well. What it also means, is that if the public doesn’t “see” it, the disorder doesn’t exist. If they’re not spending all day every day in bed, not showering, self medicating with alcohol or drugs, complaining or moping about everything, secluding themselves from family and friends, then it’s in the patients’ head. The patient is fine. They’re normal. That is what the public sees. But this kind of depressive is anything but fine. 

I am this type of depressive and I’ll tell you what it means to me. 

Being high functioning, I am a perfectionist and overachiever. I have a strong work ethic and a dedication to projects. No matter what it is, I feel compelled to complete the task as efficiently and perfectly as possible. I go above and beyond in all that I do. If something’s not perfect, I’m going to make it perfect. It’s a matter of pride. Anything less just isn’t me. 

I care too much about people (even though I insist I hate everyone), often putting others’ needs before my own. In fact, I’m always last on the list. I haven’t had a pedicure in well over a year. I get haircuts once a year. I don’t buy things for myself. Everything I do is for and about someone else. 

I am compelled to get out of bed every day. It’s not that I don’t want to be there, I do. If I could sleep all day long, I would. And I’ll admit it, there are some days I skip my shower because I just don’t feel like it. But my work ethic compels me to get up and go to work. I also have this innate fear that if I don’t, everything I’ve built in life will collapse. That’s not to say I’m not still struggling right now. But I know if I don’t go to work, I can’t pay my rent (I can barely pay now anyway) and I’ll be out on the streets. And as an overachiever I can’t have that. At work, I go above and beyond for every customer. And I do it with a smile at all times. People say I’m always smiling. Well, yeah. But if you could only see what lies beyond the smile…

I often have too much on my plate. Right now, its work, a side project, and completing the move into my apartment- which is going slowly. 

And because I’m high functioning, I have a lot of stress and anxiety that I do my best to swallow most days. And I still suffer from depression, it’s just that the public doesn’t see it and therefore thinks that I’m just fine. But I’m anything but fine. I’m just really good at compartmentalizing the demons until they’re just too strong to hide. And this is what makes me high functioning. 

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