Worms, Hairy Vetch, and Garlic

Last year, the hubs installed a small vegetable garden in our backyard. It made sense. He grew up at his farmer dad and granddad’s knee, growing and tending things. We want to be less dependent on the random fluctuations of the economy. We like fresh tomatoes.

He did pretty well, considering how busy he was with other things and how little we knew about soil building. The tomatoes were AMAZING. The strawberries were not too bad. The birds got more of the blueberries than we did, but the ones we got were little gems.

Then, I got into the “real food” blitz. It started by reading “Little Changes.” (btw I totally enthusiastically highly recommend this book to every thinking person). Kristi’s writing inspired me to look on Local Harvest for a CSA. I found one. The CSA farmer (henceforth Farmer J.R.) told us about Joel Salatin. I read “The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer.” Then we watched “Food Inc.” and “Fresh.” Hey, when I jump on a bandwagon, I jump with both feet!

This summer John started volunteering out at the farm 3-4 days a week. I go out there when I can, and I have been learning what I like to call the mystical, arcane secrets of organic food production from Farmer J.R., who has become my personal vegetable-growing guru. My historical black thumb has finally met it’s match. (maybe? no, definitely. affirmation, folks!)

We did not plant anything this summer, because we were just starting to learn about effective composting – and because we were getting almost all our veggies from the CSA. But I did start laying the groundwork. Meet the Soil Minions:

One pound of red wiggler worms from The Urban Worm Girl

The Soil Minions – Red Wiggler Worms

We got these guys all set up in their new little happy home back in July, and last weekend we harvested our first haul of beautiful fertile black vermicompost. I love worms!!! You should too. Worms are AMAZING. Don’t believe me? Check out the Urban Worm Girl website. She’s my vermi-hero. Isn’t “Urban Worm Girl” kind of a super-hero name?

Next step in preparing for next spring’s planting – a ground cover for my two idle beds. I chose a mixture of winter rye and hairy vetch. Partly because it is nitrogen-fixing, grows quickly, and beats the pants off of most weeds. But honestly also partly because the name Hairy Vetch sounds like something I want to name a character in my next novel.

Did I mention “grows quickly?” I sowed cover crop seed less than 10 days ago in my front bed. Today, it looks like THIS:

Hairy Vetch

The foreground is the liriope that has always been in that bed. I like it. Pollinators like it, especially the bumbles. It can stay. And when I pulled out all the weeds I let the clover stay. It seemed silly to pull up a perfectly good cover crop in order to plant another cover crop – white clover was one of the options I considered before choosing the Hairy Vetch. Hee. I just really like typing that. Hairy Vetch Hairy Vetch Hairy Hairy Vetch Vetch!

Next up – sometime in the next week or so I should receive the seed garlic that I plan to put in the one remaining bed. I’m also pretty excited about growing my own garlic. We eat a LOT of garlic! My zone is warm enough that I had to stick to softneck varieties, so I ordered some Silver Rose and some Early Italian Purple. I am hoping to get enough of a good harvest to keep some for next winter’s seed garlic, and braid the rest!

What are your favorite foods to grow?

A Little Oversensitive

Past few months I’ve been … a little blue. Not full blown can’t get off the couch living on Ben and Jerry’s listening to Old 97’s hardcore depressed kind of blue. I’ve been there, it sucks, I’m grateful this wasn’t that. But bleh. Disinterested. Not at all excited about the things I’m usually passionate about. Sort of just going through the motions, y’know? More blue, less Green.

That’s why I haven’t blogged. The blue blehs, combined with a wee bit of old leftover low self esteem, convinced me that I didn’t have a single thing to say that anyone would be interested in reading. So I just didn’t.

Some of it was regular post-Haiti letdown. Some of it was life circumstances – a little good old fashioned strife with formerly close friends, a scary diagnosis in my near family, various people in my close circle having unhappiness hit them in various ways. And some, I think, was feeling a little more “out of step” with the world at large than I usually do.

Now, I’ve never been prone to any excessive “fitting in.” In high school, I was pretty much like the Ally Sheedy character in The Breakfast Club. (If you are too young or too uninterested in retro movies to get that, watch the previews for the new movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It looks like about the same thing, except there is more than one of them and they found each other. I was just me, all alone in a world of popular kids.) But this is different. I’m differenter now than I ever was before. Well, I’m sure I’m not, really. But I feel more out of step than I used to.

A lot of it is the green-lifestyle clean eating thing. That doesn’t seem like it would be such a big deal, right? I mean, I am making very personal choices about my food, cleaning products, and healthcare that don’t really impact anyone else but me. And the hubs. But he’s completely on board and supportive, so, this should not affect my ability to move in the world socially. Should it?

But it does. It hit me last Sunday at church. We are doing a series called God at the Movies, which so far has been quite wonderful. But part of the “movie” theme has been the addition of a popcorn machine and soda pop at the hospitality table. I looked around last weekend and everybody  I saw had a bag of popcorn in their hand. Except me. I was suddenly the only wacknoodle in the room that refused to consume weirdly orange butterishly flavored salty-oil stuff. I feel like the weirdo every time I leave the office on Thursday afternoon while the Marines are doing the weekly power-clean ritual with Lemon Pledge and Pine Sol. I am apparently the only one who gets headaches from that stuff. It seems completely normal to everyone else. I’m the odd one. Again. This is harder than it seems like it should be. I don’t want to be “just like everyone else.” But I’m also not super-happy about being that strange woman who won’t participate in Scentsy parties or walk into Bath and Body Works, who is (discreetly!) grossed out by half of what is at the potluck and never ever eats at the work socials where they bring in 25 fast-food pizzas.

I find myself saying that “I’m allergic” to a lot of things. I’m not, exactly – I’m just really sensitive to a lot of things, and more so now that I’ve eliminated them from my daily life. I had to walk up the cleaning products aisle in the grocery yesterday. I had a pretty good working headache within 30 seconds. Seriously, I am that sensitive to some chemicals in some cleaning products. I’m sensitive to MSG, a fair number of preservatives, a fair number of common artificial fragrances, and most artificial colors. They do anything from exacerbate my AD/HD symptoms to trigger fibromyalgia flares to cause headaches to make my skin break out. But it does seem that people accept “allergic” more readily than they do “sensitive.”

I have many, many friends who live a very conscious green health and sustainability focused lifestyle and don’t seem to be bothered by their own differentness. And in truth, I doubt any one human in my whole church noticed or cared that I was not drinking the Kool-Aid eating the popcorn. The Marines who get most involved with the Pine Sol and Pledge are very understanding and polite, and they come and tell me every Thursday when they are getting ready to commence Operation Smelldown. They don’t seem at all judgemental about it. But every once in a while I let the old demons of “I have to care desperately about what everyone thinks of me” come out and play.

It doesn’t help that since I’m not in school anymore, I feel a little directionless. Almost midlife-crisis like, but I don’t think we are really there. Well, maybe. Who knows? I am 45 after all. This could be it. (I sort of hope so, because as crises go this one was a little anticlimactic. I’m for that.)

As I am pulling out of this little Pit Of Disconnectedness (like the Pit Of Despair, but less drama-queenish) I am sure that I will find whatever my next big thing is to get passionate about. So if you are still with me, stay tuned for whatever my upcoming adventures in Greenness are destined to be.

What are you oversensitive to?

It’s only fear, book 2

A year ago, I was annoyed.

Today, I am appalled.

I heard an interesting lecture recently – it was in a recording of the “Lead Like Jesus” presentation hosted by Ken Blanchard, Bill Hybels, and Rick Warren. The point emphasized by one speaker (I’m sorry I don’t remember which one, I was driving my car so I didn’t take notes) was that there are two fundamental motivations for human action; love or fear.

Maybe that’s an oversimplification, but I can get behind it in most cases. I mean, if I think deeply about other motivations – greed could be defined as “fear of not having enough,” arrogance as “fear of appearing insufficient,” etc. So, okay – working hypothesis, for this essay at least – love and fear are fundamental motivators of human action.

From my Christian worldview, the only motivation supported or endorsed by study of the scriptures is love. Specifically “love the Lord your God” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” What are we LOSING, as Americans, Christians, citizens of a democracy, when we take or tolerate actions motivated by fear?

On my way to work this morning, I listened to a podcast of an old (well, two months old) debate on Intelligence Squared – one of my favorite new iTunes podcast addictions. If you are not familiar with it, it’s Oxford-style debating on political topics, two on two, some of the most prominent political analysts and officials in the U.S. So, the one I listened to this morning was on the topic “It’s Time to End the War on Terror.”

Both sides made intelligent, well-reasoned arguments. And by the rules of the program, the “Against” side one – that is, they swayed the most members of the live audience to their side. Good to go. But one member of the against team, in his opening argument, absolutely shocked me. His rationale was that, as long as we remain legally in a “declared” state of war, we have the right to use strenuous interrogation tactics, order drone strikes on whoever the president names, detain prisoners for years with no constitutional rights to speedy trial, and carry out operations like the killing of bin Ladin. In fact, one of his principle talking points was that the way that operation was carried out – an armed military person shooting an unarmed, unresisting man – would have been either murder or assassination if we were NOT at war. Therefore we should remain at war, so that we can kill opponents in those situations instead of apprehending them and bringing them to trial. And by “strenuous interrogation tactics” – for now, apparently, we only mean waterboarding. But it does leave the door open for other options. Think about it. Are we who we say we want to be?

I read a news article this morning. In this one, former Baltimore police lieutenant Charles J. Kelly, who wrote the department’s use of force guidelines, called pepper spray a “compliance tool.” He was defending the UC Davis officers who sprayed that line of seated, passive students. COMPLIANCE TOOL? I’ve heard pepper spray defined in terms of self-defense, and of riot control. A non-lethal tool to divert a violent attack. But a “compliance tool?” Does that freak anyone else out? Or does it only depend on who is being asked to “comply,” and with what?

And why are we afraid of the “occupy” movement, anyways? Because we disagree with them? Because they may fizzle out and give up? Because they may cause actual policy change in some areas of U.S. infrastructure that have become sacred cows? Or because we just don’t want to have the conversations that they are starting, about whether “the way we’ve always done it” (since about 1990-ish, anyways) is actually the best way to do “it.” Whatever “it” is, take your pick. Taxation, public education, administration of social programs. Why are these occupiers so scary that they need to be silenced at any cost? If they are wrong, they aren’t scary, maybe just annoying and inconvenient. If they are right, they aren’t scary, but other things are. There is a way to handle annoying and inconvenient. I don’t object to arresting someone who is breaking the law. You block the public roadway, violate noise ordinances, stop workers from getting into their offices, or raise your fist against police (or anyone else) – you should go to jail. And stand trial. But this…?

The Patriot Act. Consenting to all but a prostate exam in order to travel by airplane. Defending a declaration of war as necessary to avoid having to allow suspects constitutional rights. Are we motivated by fear, or love? If it is to be love, what are we going to do to stop our fear from dragging us any further down its path?

Focus Pocus

Sidetracked. Scattered. Random. I am all of the above,

stops, thinks for a second about where she is going from here, goes downstairs to get a banana, decides to do this as a stream-of-consciousness post and see what happens

and some days it is worse than others. The past couple of weeks I have been really driving myself nuts with this. I have raised procrastination to an art form, and I am making it worse by continually promising myself that I will do my homework early in the week, I will organize and standardize all my faculty folders, I will actually have a time management plan and stick to it. I annoy me.

checks facebook and email

My favorite motivator, FlyLady, says that procrastination is a form of perfectionism.

that didn’t count as scattered, I had to go to that website to make sure I had the URL right

I agree, a big part of why I don’t do some things is because I don’t have time to do them “perfectly.” I also tend to put off homework assignments if I can’t “see” the finished product. The class I am in right now requires us to read several chapters a week and then make a project – PowerPoint, lesson plan, handout, spreadsheet, whatever  – directly related to one or more of the chapters, and turn it in along with a written summary of all of the chapters. Some weeks I read the assigned material and think “oh, wow, I have a GREAT idea for what to do with this.” Those weeks are the ones I tend to get my homework done before the deadline.

reads another e-mail, pets cat

Most weeks, though, if I don’t have one of my brilliant ideas, I just… wait. For the inspiration fairy to bip me on the head, or something, I guess. I know my Greek mythology, I know there was no muse of homework, but still… I’m just sayin’, it’d be nice. (~Agnes, Despicable Me)

In the game Mystery Manor (which I’ve played two rounds of in the time I’ve been on the computer this afternoon “studying”) there is a big magnifying glass that moves with your cursor. It’s a hidden object type game, and everything inside of the magnifying glass area is, y’know, magnified – also lit up, in the parts of the game that are in “night” mode. The reasonable thing to do would be to sweep the cursor systematically over the room and look carefully inside the magnifying glass part, right? Yeah, right. What I actually do is sweep the cursor around randomly while my eye looks everywhere, inside and outside of the cursor, for the various objects. The cursor tool is a focus device.

goes to the tab where Blackboard was already open, navigates to the site we are supposed to be writing about this week in our discussion boards

goes downstairs to refill water bottle, decides to get a couple of cookies, has conversation with husband

I don’t remember once, ever, in my lifetime, focusing on just one thing at a time. I know a lot of people are very proud of their ability to “multitask” and I admit I am one of them. But truth be told it is a terribly inefficient way of going about daily business. I just haven’t figured out what to do about it yet.

remembers that kid texted earlier needing his social security card, goes to look for it, reads another email, debates whether to text kid now or wait until later, decides on later

My mother likes to quote the Zen proverb, “Chop wood, carry water” to me. When you are chopping wood, just chop the wood. Don’t do anything else, don’t think about anything else. When you are carrying water, JUST carry the water.

Nice idea. Anyone have any great ideas about how, exactly, one would go about doing that? Because seriously, folks, I need some help here.

Not Exactly Resolutions but

I’ve never been big on New Year’s Resolutions per se – but I am at the beginning of some, and well into the middle of other, attempts to form healthier habits. Here’s what I’m doing… how about you?

In no particular order:

  • I have not had a cigarette since November 2.
  • I have kept my sink shined for a week (if you don’t know what that means or why it is a big deal, see www.FlyLady.net )
  • I have reduced my sodium intake by about 25% – not enough, but a start. I am starting to get used to the taste of Mrs. Dash.
  • I have spent at least 30 minutes a day in some combination of prayer/meditation/Scripture reading for well over a week.

That is enough for me to tackle at one time. One thing about having made the same mistakes over and over again for 44 years is that I am starting to be able to see them coming – and one of my “biggies” is trying to change EVERYTHING I don’t like about myself at once every time I happen to be struck with that magical combination of time, motivation, and energy. This will do.

I am happy about being a non-smoker. I noticed that my immune system is starting to come back – my husband still catches just about every cold or virus that happens by, and I have (by the grace of God) managed to skip the last 3 that he has caught. It used to be an absolute given that if he got sick, I was going to get sick too.

The FlyLady “shine your sink” thing is… well, let’s just say I am NOT a habitually great, effective, or efficient housekeeper. I don’t live in health-hazard quality filth (I have, at times, just ask my mom about the “clean-your-room” fights she and I used to have, ugh). But I do live in a pretty perpetual state of clutter, disorganization, and piles of stuff that I don’t really know what to do with it. My husband, when we met, was an extremely tidy and organized man. He lived in a very clean house – as a bachelor!!!! (Sorry, unfair stereotype flag on that play.)

About a week ago my friend J posted a link to the FlyLady site on her Facebook status. Now, I had tried the FLY system before without success. I had also “sort of” tried the Messies system developed by Sandra Felton (www.messies.com) – unsuccessfully.  These are both really great, effective, well-thought out systems for improving cluttered lives, they have each been used successfully by many of my friends and thousands of other people. So why no success for me? Remember what I said earlier about making the same mistakes over and over again? I tried to change everything at once. Big giant effort, huge expenditure of energy and motivation, rapid burnout, and I quit.  This time I am just doing as prescribed. And it is working well so far.

My diet is pretty healthy. I generally have my fats and proteins in a rational proportion, eat a lot of complex and very few simple carbs, have my cholesterhol under control, and avoid most preservatives and artificial colors. My dietary downfall is salt. Not only do I love to sprinkle it in large quantities on virtually everything I eat, even my favorite (otherwise pretty okay) processed foods have sodium contents off the charts! Campbells Cream of Pototo soup has over 62% of the RDA in ONE CAN! Lean Cuisine frozen meals have tons as well. I started paying attention after I read an article in Shape magazine that said too much sodium can cause your kidneys to work too hard – leading to chronic fatigue. Well, chronic fatigue I got, so cutting back was worth a shot.

The last habit speaks for itself, I think.

In general, I can safely say that I feel observably healthier, happier, and more organized now than I did two months ago. It is not a dramatic change, but then again the dramatic ones are precisely the ones I have never been able to sustain.

How about you? Did you make any resolutions? Or are you working on developing any new habits?

Jehovah Jireh

So after years and years of hearing about it and having it on the “you must read this!” list of several people whose judgment I trust, I finally started Experiencing God by Henry & Richard Blackaby. I read Spiritual Leadership by these authors a few semesters ago as a text for an Ed Leadership class, and really admired their writing and the way they support their positions scripturally, I just had not “gotten around to it” yet.

Today I read the section on “God will provide” (Jehovah Jireh) in the first chapter about the names of God. We were waiting for the “kickstands-up” time for the Polar Bear ride to kick off, and I went to sit down for a few minutes because my back hurt. So there I was sitting in my car, reading on my phone (that Kindle app is going to be my most used app *ever*, I see that coming) and thinking about all the times that the Lord has provided exactly what I needed when I had no earthly idea how my needs might possibly get met.

For those of you who don’t know my testimony, I am a survivor of an abusive marriage to a drug addict. When my ex and I split up he left me in a horrible financial position – I learned that he had not been paying the household bills for months, so all my utilities were on the verge of being cut off, plus he drained the bank accounts and pawned everything of value in the home before leaving. I had three small children, it was February, we lived in Oklahoma City, and it was an extra-specially cold winter. Getting our gas heat shut off would have been – probably not a death sentence, but really bad. The ex pawned his own vehicle and then took off in mine, by the time I got the mini-van back it was unsafe to drive for a variety of expensive reasons.

Unexpectedly and out of the blue, a coworker offered to let me drive her truck for a few weeks until my van could be repaired. This was not a close friend, in fact I barely knew her. I don’t even know how she knew that I was having problems. I was able to walk to the auto-parts store from my house, and do most of the repairs myself, but some things are necessarily a two-man job. My boss offered to come over and help me bleed the brakes on the van after I changed the cylinder.   The gas company found a clerical error that resulted in them crediting my account over $100 dollars, giving me an extra month to get caught up on my payments before they shut off my service. Then my sons’ day care gave me about five bags worth of canned foods (they told me we had “won a drawing” but I think they had gotten an idea of my financial position somehow).

Fast forwarding about 9 years, I have remarried, left the Navy, married my Marine :), and have a great job with Raytheon – and then the time comes for Bo to transfer from Florida back to NC. So I had to give up my job. As soon as we got here, before I even started looking for a job, he got a phone call – instead of deploying to Afghanistan 4 months later, as planned, he was deploying to Iraq practically immediately.  To help ease the transition for my kids, then in middle school, I decided that it would be better if I did not look for a job right away and instead stayed at home so I would be there when they got off the bus.

This was, honestly, a financially foolish decision despite being a wise parenting choice. We had just purchased a home, and our mortage was considerably more than our rent had been in Florida. Utilities were higher as well, and neither his truck nor my car was paid off at the time. Yes, he was getting combat pay and family separation allowance, but that was no more than maybe 2/3 making up for the income that we had lost when I left my job. And yet, things worked. Many, many months I don’t know how they worked – but just when the month came that I had NO earthly idea how I was going to pay the electric bill (for example), I got a notice saying that we had held the account in good standing long enough and they were crediting our deposit back.

Now, I know for a fact that God does not provide magic-wand miracles every time one of His children faces a financial burden. At least, not the kind that I am describing. And I am not going to pretend to know why He does that sometimes, and sometimes He lets faithful, praying believers (and many many other people) deal with eviction, homelessness, repossession of vehicles, etc. I have no idea and if I was arrogant enough to pretend to understand it, I hope you wouldn’t read my blog. Seriously. But I know that He has a plan. And sometimes it is a really really good one. For example, I was evicted from my apartment in Florida in 1999. I had already made the decision to get out, it was only a few months before my Navy career was going to end, so I was not going to be in the area long enough to fulfill a lease on another apartment – and three BR apartments were scarce as hen’s teeth in that town anyways.

So I asked my mom if the boys could come and stay with her for the school year, since I planned to move to Denver anyways. Then I moved into the barracks and got a second job part time as a cashier in a grocery store to fill my empty time. Then I met Bo. Honestly, if I had still been living in that apartment and spending all my free time with my boys, I don’t know if I ever would have dated him. Maybe I would. I’ll never know. But I don’t think so. I prioritized my time with my sons way higher than dating at that point. I’m very very glad that I allowed him to fix me dinner that first night, though.

So – tell me how the Lord has provided for you. I have a lot of friends right now who are facing obligations they can’t meet on their own, who need to hear your stories.

Lighting, glass, and make-up

So, Bo got a new lens not too long ago. This lens is specifically supposed to be awesome for portrait photography – high quality glass and something that I don’t understand about the focal length. I’ll be honest – there are two reasons it is difficult sometimes for me to be married to a photographer. The first one is that photographers love to techno-speak, and I glaze over whenever Bo and one of his photobuddies start talking about things like depth-of-field and bokeh. It’s not that I don’t understand it. I am actually fascinated by the math and physics involved in bending light rays to your will. It is just that my artistic “eye” does not encompass that level of detail. When my Bo shows me one photograph taken with a pretty good lens, and a similar one taken with an awesome lens, and says “see the difference?” … I don’t. They look of equal quality to me.

The other, more frustrating reason that I struggle with being married to a photographer is that I despise being photographed. Really, really, would rather have a root canal most days. I don’t think I am particularly vain or insecure – I don’t have any trouble looking at myself in the mirror, and mostly I’m more concerned with whether I am neatly dressed and “put together” looking than any conventional standard of “pretty.” But in photographs of me it seems to me that every blotch, wrinkle, and the bags under my eyes are magnified and enhanced, until it looks like someone took a picture of bags and wrinkles, and there happens to be a girl in the background. For the most part pictures of me don’t look like me. Remember in “Men in Black” when the farmer’s wife described the alien as something “wearing Edgar… like an Edgar suit?” Most pictures of me look to me like a skeleton wearing a Chandra suit. The camera doesn’t just add ten pounds – on me it adds about twenty years as well.

There are exceptions. The admin chief at my school took a shot of me and Bo at the ball this year that I really really like, it actually looks like us. I am using it for my FB profile pic now, in fact. And once in a while Bo will catch me off guard and some magical combination of the lighting, my expression, and his skill will produce a shot that looks like me. But for the most part, I avoid cameras like superstitious sailors avoid red-haired women.

So, did I mention Bo got a new portrait lens? And when he has new equipment and he wants to experiment with it, “get a feel for it,” and find out what it can do, who is the most logical person for him to ask to model for him? Yeah, his wife. I try to be supportive, I really do.

So this afternoon, doing my make-up for a shoot, I was remembering back to my drama team days in high school. The drama department, with our amazing teacher LG, was responsible for my surviving high school. I was painfully shy as a teen, and had the social skills of a hibernating badger, so I was not exactly in the running for homecoming queen. But I could act, and I loved it. And being on stage, pretending to be someone else, got me through the most awkward and painful four years of my life. Almost all of my few decent memories of adolescence have  heavy make-up on, the kind that changes your apparent bone structure and makes you look older or younger or more evil or more innocent. I just looked at a few of the pics from today’s shoot. I look like me – 44 years old, with a few wrinkles. I love them (the pictures, not the wrinkles – but I really don’t mind about the wrinkles either. I earned ’em.) But in person today I looked like Tammy Faye Bakker on a bad day. It seems funny to me that I have to look fake in person to look realistic on film.

Thanks to that drama team, and the speech-debate team that went with it (same teacher/coach), I did make it to adulthood without that paralyzing fear of public speaking that many people suffer from. All the credit for my success as a teacher and public speaker can be traced back to that greasepaint, and to my love for pretending to be someone else. Today, while Bo was shooting me, I was “playing” Heidi Klum. It kept me sane. In fact, it was his idea. When I teach, or even do the opening briefs, in front of 100+ new students, I am not really “me” – I am Lincoln, Reagan, Churchhill, any or all of the great public speakers that I have studied and admire.

I don’t really know if that is dysfunctional or not. Does anyone else do this?

Could the secret of life be polarized sunglasses?

***Very Important Note*** The information contained in this blog is NOT scientific or supported by research in any way. The experiences with various medical, quack, holistic, and utterly random interventions that I cite here are purely anecdotal and may or may not relate to anyone else’s experience in any way. I am not a doctor, nurse, pharmacy tech, or avid watcher of medical TV, my medical experience is limited to “Mom/Band-Aid dispenser/Forehead fever checker.”

I have been diagnosed at various points in my life with adult ADHD, social anxiety disorder, depression, and anxiety. Some of which I may have had, to some extent, I guess. I hardly have the education to flatly reject a diagnosis by an actual medical professional.

However, some weird things have come together in my life just lately. A faculty member at the school I work with saw another education specialist about his dyslexia and other reading disabilities, and she showed him how to use colored transparencies to dramatically improve his reading. By *dramatically* I mean – this man had never even considered higher education before and is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree, after a few consultations with a specialist just a couple of months ago. Furthermore, he enthusiastically told me “I am reading… and LIKING it!”

Well, as another education specialist, how could I help but be intrigued? So I did a little digging and found references to “The Irlen Method” – based on a contention by author/therapist Helen Irlen. Her work has been dismissed by many as sheer quackery, but my friend’s success was so dramatic that I had to at least check it out. So a few days ago, I received the book “The Irlen Revolution” as part of a larger Amazon order. (side note: I have never been formally diagnosed with bibliophilia, and if there is a treatment available I am decidedly not interested.)

So this morning, after yet another sleepless night, I got up and started working on my homework. I immediately, as usual, became irritable, distracted, edgy. At first I assumed it was the subject matter – my final exam for Conflict Resolution is a very long paper on the Virginia Tech mass murder, hardly a cheery topic. In my usual ADHD manner, I was reading a little of the reference materials, writing a sentence or two, checking my Facebook, playing a FitBrains game, reading a little more, maybe writing a little more, checking my Twitter feed … well, that is what I almost always do at homework time. And work time period, come to think of it.

When my computer slowed down (because I had about 15 windows and tabs open) I needed a new distraction to kill time while my game loaded. So I picked up the Irlen book and opened it to the attention disorders chapter. I didn’t read, I skimmed – but it did not take long for me to get the gist of the idea behind Irlen’s whole theory. In a teensy weensy nutshell, here it is. Some people are extra-sensitive to harsh lighting. So going to school under florescents, or sitting in doctor’s or hospital’s waiting rooms (florescents), or shopping at mega-stores (yep), or driving at night past people who have those HORRIBLE blue super-bright headlights, or reading things that are printed on bright white paper in bright light, is overstimulating, distracting, and crazy-making.

Thinking about it based on other, prior rants — one of the main criticisms of the ADHD diagnosis is that it is becoming more and more common as the years go on. Twenty years ago it was very rare. Fifty years ago it was unheard of. Detractors use this argument to contend that there is “no such thing” as ADHD, discipline in schools is just getting worse or teachers are getting lazier and can’t handle normally active children or whatever. I know these arguments. I have MADE these arguments, which is a huge part of why Ti Bo was not diagnosed until after he was required to repeat a grade (bad mommy!)

But what if the dramatic increase has more to do with how many schools and other public buildings have converted to cheaper but harsher florescent lighting in the past twenty years? The number of children who actually, no kidding, have ADHD could have remained perfectly stable – but the number who were just jumpy and twitchy from the lighting would have increased dramatically, would it not? And now we are all switching over to compact florescent bulbs in our homes.

It also caused me to recall something my own mother said to me about five years ago when she visited here in NC. We had a need to purchase some things, so I drove to Wal-Mart. It was a gray, dreary sort of a coastal day, so neither of us was wearing shades, but as we walked in the front door, she put her sunglasses on.  She explained to me that because of her self-diagnosed ADD, Wal-Mart made her crazy – but if she wore sunglasses to cut down on the visual stimulation, she could handle it.

So what makes mild-mannered, calm, generally friendly and easy-going Chandra transform into PsychoFreakChan who wants to strangle kittens and blow up balloon vendors? Generally, doctor’s waiting rooms (see previous rant), public school and community college buildings (my poor freshman stats professor probably did not deserve that harsh critique, in retrospect), Wal-, K-, and other large  Marts, staring at my computer screen for more than five minutes, those unbelievable horrible blue headlights, and my office.

So just for my own personal quasi-scientific “hmm, I wonder” purposes, I am writing this blog with the lights off in my kitchen and dining room and just natural daylight coming in from the big window behind me, with the brightness on my screen turned as low as it will go, and wearing polarized sunglasses. I’m almost done writing now, and I haven’t clicked over to another screen yet. I’ll keep y’all posted if anything new develops, in the meantime I think I am going to go “summarize changes to campus policies resulting from the shootings, ” because maybe, now, I can.

Hey, Doc.

I don’t “hate” going to the doctor in any really significant sense of the word “hate.” I know lots of medical people, not just doctors but nurses and PAs and nurse practioners and techs of all kinds, and they are generally really great people who really care about helping out and taking care of others. There are exceptions, of course – but there are self-absorbed putzes in any profession, it’s hardly just a “doctor” thing.

But what in the name of all that is sane has happened to health care? I’m not even talking about the insurance mess, or the outrageous fees. Just, the process of making an appointment with a doctor and going in to be seen. For a routine checkup, or a chronic problem, or some new symptom that you are mildly concerned about. When did that become more stressful than shopping in the mall in December?

I have seen two doctors in the past two weeks. One was a dermatologist, who removed a “pre-cancerous lesion” from my face. The other was my new family practitioner, since I can’t be seen at the base hospital any more. Both of them were great. Nice, smart, concerned about my health, willing to explain what they were doing and why, willing to listen to my concerns… they actually gave me the impression that, wonder of wonders, they cared about my health and wanted me to be well. Not just that they cared about my insurance… I mean, seriously, these are so far really GOOD doctors. Which – not all of them I have seen are, necessarily. Not by my standards. I’m sure they were very well educated, but I have seen doctors (one just last year was the WORST) who talk down to their patients, treat us like idiots, interrupt us when we talk, and generally give the impression that they would have been happier as veterinarians or medical examiners, so they didn’t have to talk to their stupid patients. I am grateful that my current medical team does not suffer from that particular disorder.

I sat in the dermatologist’s waiting room for an hour and a half past my appointment time. The family practice doc, waiting room until an hour and fifteen minutes past appointment time, then called in for weight, temp, and blood pressure, and then the nurse said “wait right here, I need to wait just a few minutes for a room” and left me sitting in the hallway for another 45 minutes, then she came back and got me, put me in a room, and took my history – the doctor came in about 2 hours and 35 minutes after my appointment time.

Why is that? Do doctors truly have so very many patients that take longer than they expect that by 2 p.m. they are running 2 hours late? If that is the case, why would they not start “expecting” patients to take longer and book appointments that last 20 minutes instead of 15 – or 45 instead of 30 – before the next patient? Are there not enough doctors in America, so that if the ones we have only saw as many patients as they could book realistic appointments for not everyone would be able to have a doctor? I don’t understand. As a teacher – if I made office hours appointments for 20 minutes, knowing that it takes me at least a half-hour to counsel the “average” student – I would NEVER get done. I would be going home at 10 p.m. every night!

There are other issues, too. Receptionists as a genre have started being rude. Maybe patients are generally rude to them (after sitting in a waiting room for over an hour, that seems likely.) But it seems that my doctors’ and my dentist’s front desk people are *really* annoyed by the fact that patients come up to the counter and want to sign in or something. In fact, even calling them to make an appointment leaves me feeling like I have interfered with their busy lives in some way, inconvenienced them by requiring them to look up when Dr. Whoo is available. Dear stars, I hope I didn’t make them ruin their wet nail polish!

I’m whining, and I’m feeling guilty about it to some extent while I’m doing it. See, I have a doctor, I have insurance, I have a hospital with a half-decent ER less than 15 miles away. If I develop cholera-like symptoms, I will get an IV, antibiotics, whatever I need. Mistakes happen, I know, but in general the health care I receive is about a hundred thousand times better than what 95% of the humans on the planet have access to.

Is that the problem? Is it too good? Has that goodness gone to it’s head and made the whole system arrogant? And what, if anything, can patients do to protect themselves from the dehumanizing rudeness? I mean, it’s not like it’s a class of service that most of us can just boycott. Ideas? Insight? Anyone?

It’s only fear

I love the song “Fear” by the band Stop Making Friends, on the NCIS soundtrack. I love everything about that song, and it has been on my mind a lot lately. So, since we are having another insomniactric night o’ randoms, I thought now would be a good time to get some random fear-related insanity off my chest.

PSA #1. Just because you got an e-mail forward that has some official-sounding person’s name at the bottom, does not mean that it is the gospel truth. No, really. My boss, who is a very intelligent man, forwarded out something that he got from someone *very* high ranking at a *very* prominent HQ division of our local Marine base last week – and he sent it to all of the staff at my school. It was the one about how “gang members are using baby carriers on the side of the road to lure women into stopping so they can rape them beat them kill them etc.” With the bonus points message thrown in about how if someone throws eggs on your windshield, do not turn on your wipers, and do not stop, because… gangs, rape, beat, kill, et. al.

And to be fair, this forward got some credibility points for the signature line at the bottom, from someone who works at the attorney general’s office for the state of Mississipi.

Siggies are EASY to replicate. Spoofing some official person’s account is not much harder. What else is easy? www.snopes.com, for one thing. Doing independent research takes a little more time, but web search engines are so thorough nowadays that it actually only takes a few minutes to look at crimes in the news for the whole state of MS, or any other state for that matter, and scan through to see how many women have been lured/beaten/raped/killed lately after stopping by the side of the road to investigate an abandoned baby seat (zero). Or finding the website for the AG’s office of the state of Mississippi to see if they have any official position on this “crime spree,” or any warnings posted about the dangers of baby seats. Or eggs. They don’t.

Or, even, if you really want to hear from the mouth of the horse – shooting an email to the employee whose siggie is being used at the bottom of the endless chain o’forwards saying, “Hey, official person – is this for real?” I did that, too. She replied promptly, saying no – there is no such threat, but she was aware that her name and e-mail were being used to spread the rumor and she was working to squash it.

PSA #2 – just because you read it on Facebook, doesn’t mean it’s … oh, man, I feel dumber just for thinking about writing that. Seriously? This week the hot new meme was:

 “Change your default facebook pic to a cartoon character from your childhood. The goal? To not see a human face on facebook but an invasion of memories until Dec. 6th. Join the fight against child abuse and invite your friends to do the same :)”

Now I am happy to admit that I do not have a lick of evidence to show that me changing my FB profile pic to Mr. Peabody (who traveled in the Way-Back machine with his boy, Sherman, back in my Bullwinkle days) will do anything at all to raise awareness of child abuse. I have no evidence to show that when I made my profile pic pink for breast cancer awareness, that anything benefited the actual awareness of the actual disease at all – except that I know that my survivor friends saw it and may have had a moment of smilingness knowing that I am aware of the disease and proud of them for winning their fight. Does changing your profile pic to /whatever/ mean anything to anyone? Ever? In the grand scheme of do-goodingness, nah. Not a bit, as far as I know. But it is harmless and kind of fun to see what everyone picks. I laughed when my husband chose Tigger, and laughed again when another friend *very* appropriately picked Mighty Mouse.

And then, all of a sudden tonight there was a rash of this ridiculousness:

“ATTENTION: the group asking everyone to change their profile picture to their favorite cartoon character is actually a group of pedophiles. They’re doing it because kid’s will accept their friend request faster if they see a cartoon picture. It has nothing to do with supporting child ……violence, ITS ON TONIGHT’S NEWS copy and paste this to your status! Let every one know!!!‌”

IT’S ON TONIGHT’S NEWS!!!! What channel? What city? What time? What the heck? And “a group of pedophiles wants everyone to change their pic to a cartoon” is actually scary on what planet?

See, the “doing this will raise awareness of child abuse” thing was probably not true, but it is harmless and fun. At least in my opinion. “Pedophiles are insanely clever and perverting our childhood memories” is not harmless. It is not fun. It is fearmongering. Why would you spread an unsubstantiated rumor like that? I posted a long and tedious FB rant on the subject – if you have read this far into my long and tedious blog rant, an excerpt might not kill you –

“Somebody please explain to me how changing my facebook profile pic back from Mr. Peabody to a pic of me leaning out of a deuce and a half window would have an impact on what pedophiles do? It won’t make them change back, if their FB pic is, say, Underdog. So it won’t stop little Timmy Unsupervised from adding Underdog.

“I love the Pokemon thing, too, I think it is really cute. I can’t wait <sarcasm> until someone finds a way to make *that* gang related. Or started by Al Queda. <eyeroll> Or an evil plot by Pinky and the Brain to put a band of brainwashed chimpanzees in charge of the free world so they can… wait… oh, man, this isn’t good…”

We, as a society, are becoming scared of our own shadows. Frightened people are easy to manipulate (Patriot Act anyone?) 

If anyone catches me spreading fear without a verifiable reason – i.e. I can prove the threat is real and further prove that knowing about the threat will have an actual positive impact – slap me. No, really. I am begging you. I do not want to be a part of this insanity.


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