Tiny Details

As I start this entry, it is 0917. I am sitting at my desk with a cup of Lord Bergamot Stash Tea, complete with French Vanilla creamer. If you don’t have either on hand, Starbucks makes something similar called the “London Fog Latte.” I highly recommend them- they’re a bit addictive. Less caffeine to irritate your stomach, and/or the ability to drink far more of them. Both are equally important in my world (does flavored tea count as being “for young people?”). The added bonus is that the mug is keeping my hands warm, as it is 30 degrees Fahrenheit. In DC, the cold is no joke. Apparently, it’s supposed to be the coldest Thanksgiving in 20 years, which sucks, because it’s bright and clear outside. Just freezing with no payoff of beautiful snow.

It’s been perhaps 10 years since the best snow of my life. Dana and I were sitting next to the Christmas tree, and as Luciano Pavarotti started the Schubert Ave Maria, large, fluffy flakes began to fall. My memory may be failing me, but I think it’s the only White Christmas I’ve ever had. It was glistening, pure magic. I wish I could remember the exact date, but I am not so good with that information. I tend to remember tiny details, and not the big picture. For instance, I remember Dana opening one of her presents from me- a t-shirt that said “I’m right 97% of the time, but who cares about the other 4%?” She took the bows off the box and stuck them to her head.

Speaking of which, I’ve been thinking about writing a Modern Love column for years called “Seven Christmases,” all the ones Dana and I shared… but what has stopped me is that for some of them, my memory is excellent, and others, not so much. Different memories come to me at different times, so perhaps I will start it and keep plugging away until they’re all there. We shall see… because I tend to remember tiny details, and not the big picture. It would be easier if I had access to the magnificent “Danabase,” but at this point, that is neither here nor there.


It doesn’t feel natural to not be at work today, but I’ll get over it. The Nassers are cooking everything, and as I always say, after cooking for literally hundreds of people over a week at work, the last thing I want to do when I get home is cook for myself. I tend to run on quick energy, like sandwiches and fast baking Quorn “chicken.” And, of course, today’s meal will be entirely omnivorous, but I am never vegan unless I am making my own thing. I’ve used this quote before, but it rings true every day:

Cooking is hospitality, and if you reject people’s food, you reject them.

-Anthony Bourdain

Besides, I am not going to turn down fried turkey. I’ve never tasted it before.

When I make my own turkey, I massage the hell out of it with butter and olive oil, finishing with Cajun spice. I have some Tony Chachere’s on hand, so I might put it on the table, because it is literally good with everything, especially dressing and mashed potatoes.

I also play against type and do a “Yankee Dressing,” even though I’m from Texas- generally all cornbread, all the time. What can I say? I like white bread and sausage more. It’s harder to dry it out, and I can’t tell you how many years I’ve eaten cornbread dressing with good flavor and the texture of, well, there’s no describing it unless you’ve had it… sand, maybe? The only way you can kind of fix it is adding moisture with gravy. But notice I said “kind of.” If I’m going to eat cornbread dressing, my aunt’s is the only one acceptable. Her son, my cousin Nathan, lives with his wife and kids in Alexandria, so perhaps I can get her to make some for me again at some point, even if it’s July. I don’t care. I will stuff it in my face like it’s going out of style at any time.


Dan has been on a work trip for the last couple weeks, so I’m looking forward to seeing her again. I need a big bear hug, as well as the excitement of “what did you bring me?” My inner eight-year-old shows whenever she comes back from traveling, because it’s always to interesting places. She’s also having a holiday party soon, which reminds me that I need to get a white elephant gift. Not sure how I can top last year- a Funko Pop Bob Ross. I’m on a mission (from God). I am sure I will see her before then, but a party sounds nice. They don’t always, because I’m not a big fan of crowds, but these are all “my people.”


My shoulder continues to hurt like hell, even though I accidentally got really high. You’re going to think I’m lying to you, but I promise I am just that dumb. I took all my psych meds, which includes Klonopin, and then because of my shoulder, I took a Vicodin. I know for sure I am not supposed to mix the two, and I don’t… normally, except that taking my psych meds is second nature every single morning, and taking pain medication is not. I will just chalk it up to a dumbass attack and wait for it to wear off. However, I am not as high as I could be, because the shoulder pain is still cutting through enough to make me swear like a sailor. I’ve also had a lot of caffeine as a counter measure. The only upside is that even though I feel like dogshit, I care less…. so at least I got that goin’ for me.

The flip side is that I hate this feeling, which is loss of control. Brain fuzziness of any kind drives me up the wall. I am literally counting the minutes until I don’t feel this way anymore, as I do after one cocktail as well. I rarely have them, but sometimes I will partake just because I enjoy the taste and smell. One of these days, I really am going to order Kraken rum cologne. I swear that when I have a shot of it, I will literally smell the empty glass until the waitstaff comes to take it away. I’m not even much of a rum fan, but Kraken is extraordinary, what with its chocolate and vanilla notes and crazy viscous legs. Pro tip: do not fuck it up with mixer. Please and thank you. As an aside, I think the company that makes Kraken has one of the best marketing and design teams on the planet. Everything they make just looks as cool as the other side of the pillow, especially the lampshade and the shower curtain.

Back to you, Bob. Let’s go to the phones.

About the only brain fuzziness I can tolerate is real Sudafed, which is its own special hell. It suppresses my appetite, so I have to choose between losing weight I don’t have the luxury to lose and not being able to breathe. Even though I take an antihistamine, it can’t keep up… and I’ve tried Sudafed PE, and all I have to say about that is that the box should say “Warning: Does Not Work.” It leaves me with a still stuffed up and miserable sinus mask with the same appetite suppression as the original. Good times.


Before I close this entry, I want to give thanks for all of you. Having people in my life who think my words matter is invaluable to my self-esteem and therefore, mental health. You are my Thanksgiving, along with my friends and family that support me in real life as well as being “Fanagans.” I learned yesterday that I’ve gained an important one, but you don’t get to know who they are. It’s enough that I do.

Ok, ok. I give. It’s Jesus. I’ve followed Him my whole life, and he finally returned the favor. 😉

Twisted Mango Diet Coke

It works. I don’t know how it works, but it does. These are not two flavors that would seemingly go together. Perhaps it’s the fruit and the cinnamon/ginger combo of cola. Maybe I’m just high on antihistamines and decongestants. Whatever it may be, I would definitely buy it again. Keep in mind, though, that my palate is different than most and I like a wide variety of weird sodas no one else will drink. You have been warned, so don’t @ me, bro.

Speaking of drugs, I’m not sick, per se. I just have to take Zyrtec and Sudafed every day because my allergies are that terrible. It seems as if no matter where I live, it’s the worst possible place I could’ve moved in terms of ever-present spring fever, even in the dead of winter. Maybe one day I’ll move to Vegas or Phoenix to settle my “stuffed up doze” (no, I won’t).

Tino, our handyman, is painting the bathroom and the bedroom next to mine, so perhaps I should splash water on my face in the kitchen. Water is the absolute best home remedy for allergic reactions, because it at least removes what’s bothering me from my skin, even without soap. I also take ibuprofen to relieve the pressure in my “mask,” although it probably wouldn’t hurt to get allergy shots and eat local honey. The honey trick is that your body naturally builds up antihistamines over time to whatever pollen is used to make it. Of course, the real miracle is finding someone who has local honey for sale.

A new person is coming to look at the bedroom we have for rent this evening, so I’m hoping for good things. Between the pathological liar, the heroin addict who overdosed (and is fine now), and the psychological torture of hearing The Beatles sung loudly and off-key at all hours of the night, I am looking forward to pretty much anyone else. Actually, it wasn’t just The Beatles, it was screaming obscenities and having my other roommate record it. The .mp3 was as clear as a bell, and the recording was made from the room next to mine on the other side of the hallway. All this is to say that finding roommates who are relatively normal has been rough going. Anyone can put on a good face for an hour, so an interview isn’t necessarily the best indication… but it’s what we’ve got.

I’ve lived here for almost three years now, and it’s becoming amazing how many people I’ve seen come and go in that short a time. I feel very lucky that I’ve seriously found a home and fit in very well. I’d like to continue living here as long as my landlords will have me, because it truly is like having a second family. As Sam has said, I’ve been upgraded.

My living situation is absolutely a miracle. The Nassers were the first people I called after doing some research on where I wanted to live, and I took the room sight unseen after talking to my landlord for an hour and a half on the phone from Houston. I figured that I could live anywhere for a month if it didn’t work out, so I wasn’t terribly worried about showing up at the Metro station in a new city and just rolling with the punches. DC wasn’t new to me, but Maryland certainly was. Alexandria felt like I’d never left Houston- roughly the same politics… city is liberal, state is conservative. Maryland is overwhelmingly blue. Even the conservatives aren’t that conservative. They might have fiscal responsibility issues, but they’ve moved past the politics of kindness. There is much more in the way of statewide health care, both mentally and physically. Being able to get health insurance the moment I moved here without a job was a hug from Jesus. Though I didn’t move here to sponge off the state, having a safety net until I landed on my feet was legit #blessed.

That being said, when I switched to insurance through my employer, my deductible and copays went up dramatically. Anything would be from all free, all the time and drugs at a dollar a bottle. It has just reinforced my belief that universal health care does indeed work, and nothing gets me on my soapbox faster than thinking about the millions of people bitching about government insurance while on Medicare. Seriously, people. Connect the dots. Not realizing this makes you look one French fry short of a Happy Meal.

In terms of needing insurance, I keep myself healthy, albeit in horrible shape. My weight is under control, but I couldn’t run up two flights of stairs at gunpoint. I’m getting better through walking everywhere, but it’s not enough. I’m not getting my heart rate high enough for true cardio, and I’m not lifting weights to strengthen my muscles….. and everyone knows by now that cardio is rule number one. 😛

However, I do need to go to the doctor once a month for psych med checks and to a therapist four or five times a month. With state-run health care, all of that is free. Private insurance has a copay for drugs and generally offers 13 therapy sessions a year. I am steadily making progress on old trauma, but still need help with visioning, values, and coping mechanisms. It’s not just about where I’ve been, but making sure I get where I want to go. Everyone needs that to some degree. Most people don’t think of therapy when it comes to reaching out for more than they’re currently achieving, but I liken it to sports psychology. Ambition and drive go by the wayside when I feel terrible about myself, because I am a perfectionist to a crippling degree. If I can’t do it perfectly the first time around, obviously I am a straight up failure, no matter how many people I love provide evidence to the contrary. I hear it, but it doesn’t sink in…. I think to myself that they’re just being nice. I know how and what I truly am, which is a disaster. Therapy helps keep things in perspective, that my disorder knows the very best lies to use against me so that they are incredibly vivid and believable. Every negative thing that has ever been said about me is my true nature; everything positive is just humoring me.

Anxiety, especially socially, has a huge impact on my life. I know from past experience that if I am not paying attention, I could really hurt somebody emotionally, so I hide. I only get together with the people I love when I’m feeling up to it, which is always a quarter to sometimes. The hardest is social contact needed to maintain isolation, like shopping. I’m not even friends with these people and won’t have in-depth conversations, anyway, but cocooning in this one is strong. I have taken self-reliance to an extreme, whereas previously, I was entirely too dependent on what everyone else thought. Because I still can be, I just avoid those situations so that I am always listening to my inner landscape of thoughts and feelings. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but no man is an island… from what I’ve heard.

When I am in my right mind about things, I know that I have incredible gifts to offer the world, and indeed, have. But there are days when I just need to back off the nerve that says I’m worthless and just have a Diet Coke and a smile.

On Pets

There are people working on the roof this morning. It’s excruciating, all the pounding, because it seems to pulse with my sinus headache. At least they are marching in step. I’ve already taken my Zyrtec and Sudafed PE this morning, and it’s still not helping, so now that I’m on my third cup of coffee in a mug that holds four cups, I might consider a Benadryl kicker. I find that treating the allergy is better for me than treating the congestion…. treating the root of the problem rather than the symptom. I also need to take a shower and clean my room…. the former because the water will wash away whatever’s making me bloom, and the latter being that I am most allergic to dust. I had one of those tests where they put 25 allergens on your skin to see how you react (smaller than most- I think some tests are up to 75 different ones). Dust overtook six other samples. The best thing was learning once and for all that I am not allergic to dogs or cats… I just thought I was…. probably because dog and cat hair on the floor attracts dust bunnies.

I do not have any pets, but the family I live with has a number of dogs. I think “we” have four of our own, and a rotating cast of visitors. In this house, we are not cat people, and I am somewhat grateful. Though I love cats, I do not love the smell or the mess of a litter box. When I lived alone and had Asher, I bought disposable litter pans by the dozen and just threw them out every other day or so, because scooping a permanent one made me so sick to my stomach. So far, the only pet I have had complete and total success with is fish. I can keep a goldfish alive for years, and it makes me happy to pay five cents for a goldfish and watch it grow to mini-koi. In order to do this, the setup is expensive, but once setup is done, you can make an environment that sustains itself.

Oh, now I am on my soapbox, because I’ve come across something about which I’m truly knowledgeable.

The biggest mistake that people make with goldfish is that they don’t change the water enough. Goldfish are nasty. Gorgeous, but nasty. Their ammonia levels get really high, really quick, which is why it is inadvisable to keep them in a bowl…. unless you want to change the water almost every day. If you are going to keep goldfish, splurge on the most expensive filter for your aquarium that you can afford. If you just buy a ten-gallon kit, the filter it comes with will not turn the water over fast enough if you have more than one goldfish in the tank…. and by “turn it over,” I mean the amount of time it takes for the entire ten gallons to be refreshed by activated charcoal. I generally buy a 20-gallon filter for a 10-gallon tank if there are goldfish involved. You still need to change about a third to a half of the water every four weeks, roughly, but you’ll thank yourself if you buy a Python. Before you buy one, though, make sure you know how far your aquarium is from a water source so you get the right length. There are adapters for every water source- kitchen sink, bathroom sink, outdoor hose, etc. I also take the fish out when I’m cleaning the aquarium so that the fish aren’t barraged by chlorinated water. Although, since the chemical that takes out the chlorine works instantly, it’s not that big a problem if you don’t. It’s just my preference.

The best part about buying “feeder fish” is that you can’t tell whether the goldfish is exotic when it’s that small. So, I’ve paid five cents for black moors, pearlscales, etc. You just have to keep them alive long enough to find out. 🙂

The only time I’ve ever encountered true problems is when a tank gets ich. I have not once had any luck with treating it. I just do everything I can to prevent it. The treatment is expensive and might as well say “does not work” right on the label. Believe me when I tell you this is true; I’ve kept goldfish most of my life and am not inexperienced in the slightest. It spreads so quickly that even isolating the one fish that has it doesn’t make any difference. By the time you see the white spots, it’s game over for the whole tank…. which is why I buy five cent fish. If your tank gets ich, and you’ve had the fish long enough that losing the tank will be emotionally damaging (and I do mean it…. so much work goes into keeping these fish alive that it’s hard to watch them die after two years), try the treatment and see if your fish respond to it… but I’m betting dollars to donuts that they won’t.

If your entire tank dies, the only solution is to go back to the beginning. Start with an empty tank, even taking out the gravel and running water through it (I use a colander). Make sure the plastic plants are clean as well. Scrub the hell out of the walls and bottom of the tank with one of those yellow sponges that has the green layer on top. Never, ever, ever use soap. Even if you think you’ve gotten it all out, the molecules you can’t see will still kill the fish. Once you’re sure the tank has gone back to zero, replace the gravel and plants and plug everything back in. Then, let the tank run for at least two weeks before you add more fish. Some experts say that you only need to wait 24 hours to let the temperature stabilize, but I think this is unwise for goldfish. It takes time for the healthy bacteria to grow. Once you’ve had six or seven weeks with fish in the tank, a bottom feeder is also helpful, like a cory catfish. You want to wait until there’s enough for them to eat.

Also, aquarium size is directly proportional to how long goldfish will live. The smallest rule is one inch of fish (excluding their tails) per gallon of water. Also, goldfish will grow to the size of the tank they’re in. My rule is generally three goldfish in a 20 gallon tank, because I want all of them to be yuuuuge. 🙂

Lastly, don’t put a goldfish in a desktop aquarium. Just don’t. If you only have a one or two gallon tank, one betta is more than sufficient. I named my betta “Tester.” It also helps if you play Aqua for them. Bad puns, I’ll see myself out……