Good & Plenty

I haven’t been writing a lot lately, and I think that’s because I haven’t been writing lately. Once so much has happened, you don’t even know where to start, so you get overwhelmed. And then you think, “I’ll blog tomorrow” ad infinitum amen.

Finally, today is the day, inspired by the candy box next to my desk.

I didn’t really become a fan of licorice until I became a singer, and then a cook. Singing because just about every throat recovery tea out there has anise in it, and cooking because roasted fennel is divine. And then I branched out into liking ouzo and Sambuca, especially good in black coffee.

Finally, finally I liked the candy, from the twisted braids to jelly beans to allsorts to the aforementioned little candy-covered bites, although I find that they are the best when they are fresh. Once the candy coating dries out, they just don’t taste the same. The best Good & Plentys have the texture of a Hot Tamale. With fresh ones, I pour a huge mouthful in so I get the maximum amount of sugar to licorice ratio. A serving is 28 pieces and I’m almost certain I’ve done it in one bite. My only wish is that they’d make them in flavors, particularly peach.

In Portland, there used to be a Greek restaurant downtown that you couldn’t miss because there was a huge purple octopus on top. Dana and I wandered in for Happy Hour, and their specialty drink was a “Greekarita,” frozen peach bellini and ouzo. It is one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth, thus my longing for peach flavoring to be added to the beauty that is the Good & Plenty sugar coating. When the restaurant closed, I tried making my own, to varying degrees of success.

But now that my cocktails are limited to every once in a while and we don’t keep (much) alcohol in the house (usually old because it’s left over from parties), I haven’t tried here. I don’t even have a martini set anymore, or even the glasses, because even though I love the classic (gin, not vodka, let’s not get stupid), I just can’t see spending the money when 100% of the time, I only get a drink when I’m out with friends, and even that is rare. I am much more likely to enjoy sugar free soda or iced tea with lemon and Splenda, plus the blessing of free refills (hey, if they’re gonna charge me over two dollars for something that costs less than a quarter to make, I’m gonna have five).

I just wish that more restaurants carried sugar free options that didn’t begin and end with Diet Coke. Not that I’m not a fan, I just wish I had more than one choice. For something a tiny bit different, I go to District Taco or Cava, because both have sugar free cola that’s a little higher-end. District Taco has Boylan’s, and Cava has Maine Root Mexicane in both regular and Splenda (if you’re not opposed to regular soda, try the blueberry…. plus, Cava has “the good ice.”). Even the ubiquitous Chipotle has both Diet Coke and Coke Zero, which is at least something.

Quick Coca-Cola fact:

The reason Diet Coke and Coke Zero taste so different is that Diet Coke is based on Tab (come on, it was 1982), and Coke Zero is based on Coke Classic.

For that reason (and now that my mother is dead and can’t wring my neck for saying so, I prefer Diet Pepsi, which she always thought tasted like moth balls and called it “that Pepsi mess.”). Of course, I have more variety at home, I just mention Diet Pepsi because that’s usually the only choice in restaurants that have Pepsi contracts (sometimes I am blessed with Diet Dew or Dr Pepper). I’m like, the one person in the world where Pepsi actually IS okay, at least in the South.

My actual favorite is Cherry Coke Zero, but you can usually only find it at the grocery/convenience stores and no one I’ve found has it on tap unless you find a restaurant with a Coca-Cola Freestyle…. but if I find one of those, I’m getting Cherry Fanta Zero).

I know this entry is starting a bit different from the usual emotional vomiting I normally do in this space, but I haven’t used my writing muscle in public very often lately, and I have to start somewhere.

The funniest thing that’s happened recently is that Facebook has added a dating app inside the regular mobile app, and since my relationship status is single, I was automatically added to it as a beta tester. So, this woman reaches out to me and in her pictures portion, there are only pictures of Jesus with writing in Spanish.

So, I sent her this message from my iPhone, and then I’ll translate:

Hablas ingles? Mi espanol es muy mal por que solamente estudio dos anos en escuela (no ~ hahahahahaha), y ahora tengo quarenta dos anos.

“Do you speak English? My Spanish is very bad because I only studied two years in school (no ~ hahahahaha), and now I have 42 years.”

Here’s why this is truly hilarious. Años in Spanish is “years.” Anos in Spanish is “asshole,” or anus if you’re not using slang.

So, what I ACTUALLY said is that I studied two assholes in school and now I have 42 assholes. The reason for this is that in English, for age you say “I am 42 years old.” In Spanish, it’s “I have 42 years.”

Really must check to see if special characters are on the emoticons keyboard……. didn’t think of it then, though.

Technically, this is not entirely true. I did study Spanish for two years in high school, but when I was a junior and senior in high school, I went on three mission trips to Reynosa, Mexico, across the border from McAllen, Texas (two between each school year and one at Christmas).

Immersion helped me more than anything else, because it’s amazing how fast you learn when you have no other choice. And while I didn’t know much Spanish, I knew more than anyone else in my group, so I became the de facto translator……………….. again, often to hilarious results, but God bless the Mexican people because they didn’t laugh at me, ever. Just gently corrected me, even when what I said should have made them laugh so hard they could have died from asphyxiation.

I enjoyed Reynosa very much, but the entire area was very, very poor and I couldn’t see myself living there because it was hard to find a proper house. Most of them were poorly put-together shacks with tin roofs…. of course, this has probably changed since I was last there, but if I did choose to relocate to Mexico, I would probably settle in Ensenada (please click on this link- it is gorgeous).

I didn’t go there on a mission trip- my stepmother took our whole familyactividades-principales_baja-california_ensenada_visita-la-bufadora_01 and all her employees on a trip that left from Long Beach, California and went to both Catalina Island and Ensenada. Though Catalina Island was extremely pretty, Ensenada was life-changing for me. It is a place that is both beautiful and practical.

Lots of restaurants and things to see (my favorite was La Bufadora, the second largest marine geyser in the world, capable of shooting water 60 feet in the air). It is also easy to speak English, because lots of Americans retire as ex-pats to Baja California when their medical costs in the United States get too high (ahem). However, I definitely would not suggest moving there speaking only English, because there are certain parts of the city where English is prevalent, and others where English will only get you a “that dumb American” look.

The weather is roughly the same as any city on the Pacific Coast. Our trip was during Spring Break, and it was in the mid-60s most of the time….. basically the Mexican Portland, Oregon. That didn’t stop us from snorkeling, though, despite a huge mass of jellyfish.

The absolute biggest thing that would keep me from really moving there is that I wouldn’t want to give up my United States citizenship (hard for me to live in a place I can’t vote).

I also believe that the United States will have universal health care eventually, and maybe even sooner than I think. Medicaid is already expanded to low-income people in some states, and either that will be broadened or the U.S. will come up with something similar and yet new.

I am all for universal health care because of my mental state. Most private insurances have no problem covering a new patient exam and 15-minute med checks with a psychiatrist, but when it comes to therapy, you usually get 13 sessions a year and then you have to start paying out of pocket. Universal health care says you can have as many medical and mental health appointments you need, rather than are allotted.

For part of the time, I was a psych major at University of Houston, then changed my major to political science because psychology changed me too much. I kept analyzing and trying to diagnose people in my head, and my speech reflected it. To put it mildly, it wasn’t pleasant for anyone, even when I was absolutely right.

I met a psychiatrist named Justin at a winery- we struck up a conversation while waiting in line for a taste. He said something so funny I will never forget it (this was almost 10 years ago). He put his finger horizontally on his lips and buzzed to indicate full-on crazy and then said, “you won’t find that in the DSM, but you know it when you see it.” It was a good thing we were just in line and not actually drinking, because either I would have choked to death or wine would have come out of my nose.

But by the time I decided to switch majors, I already had plenty enough hours for a completed minor. I bring this up because the most important thing I learned actually came from the overview class, Psych 101. It’s that medicine and therapy are two sides of the same coin, inextricably interrelated. For people with situational depression, lifting their mood will help a lot, but talking through the situation with an outside, objective person is what gives them the coping mechanisms to be able get back off the medication altogether.

For people who struggle with chronic illness, they do not have a choice. Medication is a given, because you can’t talk away a chemical imbalance. Going to therapy will not suddenly make your brain create the right amount of neurotransmitters. It’s different for everyone- for some, it’s seratonin. For others, it’s dopamine or norepinephrine.

When you have a chronic mental health problem, therapy is mostly about dealing with it, from anger that you’ll always be this way because there is only treatment, no cure, to the inevitable fallout from people with normal brains who just can’t understand why you’re so different, and why you tend to say things that make no sense in their brain and perfectly legitimate in yours. Communication is a large chasm, and you tend to beat yourself up mightily at the ones they’ll never remember and for you, it’s been four years (20?) and you still feel embarrassed. It also happens more frequently than you would think that a friendship between a neurotypical and a mentally ill person doesn’t work out, because you just don’t see eye-to-eye on what seems like everything…. or, the mentally ill person is having a rough time and is spiraling out and the neurotypical person mistakes that for how you’re going to be all day, every day, and they just can’t handle it.

You march to the beat of your own drum, because you don’t have a choice, and people are generally (but not always) terrible at making allowances because since they’ve never experienced depression/bipolar/ADHD/schizophrenia/etc. they don’t know what allowances to make, and most of the time, we don’t know exactly what it is we need, anyway… or at the very least, can’t put it into words that actually translate into action on their part.

In my case, things that are difficult for most people are easy for me, and things that are easy for neurotypicals get me overwhelmed and flustered…. for instance, creating habits that will help me take care of myself. I am not the kind of person that does well with managing laundry or finding anything. Well, actually, I am great at finding things, just not the thing I’m looking for at the time (oh, there’s the headphones I lost three months ago. Now where are my keys? I JUST had them in my hand.) Yesterday I spent a half hour looking for Bluetooth headphones that were around my neck.

Romantically, once the honeymoon period is over, I have trouble with those relationships. Being with a neurotypical person seems like a good choice because two crazy people in one relationship leads to bad patterns that feed off of each other for years on end, and neither one of you realizes that it just keeps getting worse. But “seems” is correct, because you walk on eggshells with a neurotypical trying not to let your crazy spatter drive the person away, or what’s even harder to admit, bringing them into your own dysfunction so that their normal changes, and your fucked up becomes their fucked up and there’s no one to say “this is bad. We need help.”

I don’t need or want anyone to enable the bad moods and behaviors I experience on my own, and I also don’t want to have to worry about my own mental health as well as my partner’s, because all too often, I stop taking care of myself and all my attention goes to “helping” the other person (too much of an empath for my own good)….

If you have a mental illness, the only one that can truly help you is you. Trying to lift someone else out of depression is like helping a little old lady cross the street when she doesn’t want to go, so she’s banging your head with her purse the whole time. But it’s your own fault, really, because if something needs to change, they have to want it. They can’t/won’t help themselves (depending on the level of spiral) just because YOU need/want it. The worst feeling in the world in a relationship is watching someone go through something in which you feel totally and completely helpless. The only thing you can do is keep yourself strong so that you can deal with what life is handing you, or get out of the relationship altogether because you can’t just keep living that way. You both get resentful at each other (maybe not at first. Empathy comes first.) because one person feels trapped and the other person feels nagged, because it doesn’t matter how you meant it. Perception is everything. Sometimes, your depression makes you feel so low that any suggestion that might make you feel better actually comes across as “you’re not doing enough. You are not enough. You are a bad person because you cannot do these things.” When depression is bad enough, the want to feel better goes away completely, because you just don’t care whether you live or die. Most mentally ill people do get suicidal ideation (normal, especially when embarrassed). Fewer people get to the point where they’re making plans, and even fewer get to the point where they’re invested in carrying them out and start preparing). However, those numbers are on the rise. But for the most part, mentally ill people don’t actively want to die. They just don’t care.

Whether they’re alive or dead is neither better nor worse…. keeping in mind that they are forgetting the repercussions for the people around them, only the way they feel because depression is inherently myopic. It’s acutely important to let mentally ill people know they matter to you, because depression uses the best lies:

  • No one will miss me.
  • You’re never going to get any better. Life is always going to look like this. It’s just going to be one long slog of trying to find medication that works… for a while, and then you have to do it all over.
  • Even people who do love you are also exhausted by you…. and you don’t want to be known as the burden of your family and friends your whole life, do you?
  • You are completely worthless. You bring nothing to the table.
  • You’re going to get fired because no one understands you…. that the hardest part of any job is getting there, because it’s just another day of trying to fit into a culture where everyone does everything the same way and can’t understand why you can’t “because it’s so easy anyone could do it….”

For most mentally ill people, bright ones, anyway, high level thinking is where they excel and mundane tasks are where they fall flat on their faces. They’re great with excellent ideas, not so much with the execution.

I think this is because high-level thinking is one of the few jobs that has the ability to cut through the depression, because it has positive consequences. Low-level jobs only have negative ones. People who can barely spell or add are thought of as so much smarter than you and not because they are. It’s because they can do these mundane tasks quickly and efficiently and you are the absolute dumbass who can’t.

But in any company, you start at the bottom, and by the time you get to high-level thinking, you’ve been fired long before that….. because you could possibly revolutionize or motivate or create something that would really contribute, but they hated you after six months to a year of saying, “no, we don’t do it that way.”

And in low-level jobs, the reason you’re so different is that your mind is eating you from the inside out. Rote is the enemy of depression, because lack of mental stimulation pulls you back into the drizzle of your mind. There are rarely thunderstorms, it’s just constantly overcast, with rain heavy enough to need an umbrella. You don’t care enough to find yours, and no one in any office will offer you one.

For Bipolar I & II people, coworkers don’t understand your personality…. how you can be so cheery for weeks at a time and then something will set you off and now you can barely make eye contact. So, not only do they think you’re a dumbass, most of the time they don’t even particularly like you…. but that’s okay, because you don’t really like you, either.

If you’re wondering why this entry jumps all over the place, my ADHD brain works in tangents. One topic starts a tangent, and that one branch starts ten more, all in different directions. It’s as if my brain is a tree with no trunk. I suppose it’s a good thing, because not everyone reads this site for the same reason. For instance, it is surprising just how many people visit my site when I mention Diet Coke.

And on that note, I think I’ll end here. You’ve got (good &) plenty to read by now.

 

The Hours

I’ve gotten a lot more hours at work, about which I am incredibly happy. More money never hurt anybody. But at the same time, my life is exhausting. Not to the point of wanting more time off, it’s just a cook’s life that when you get home, everything hurts. I know I’ve said this many times before, but I’m really feeling it today. This is because not only do I ache in my bones and muscles, my arms are still recovering from being burnt to a crisp. Thanks to Dan & Autumn, this will stop somewhat, but it doesn’t help the burns that are already there. Once they start scabbing over, they hurt even more than when they’re fresh, especially the ones that start out as bubbles full of serum. I’m beginning to think I need to buy stock in the company that makes Neosporin.™ The kicker is that all of them are my fault, generally from moving too fast.

I know I have also said this before, but it bears repeating. Working in a pub is different than working in a restaurant. In a pub, there are no waves of seating. We are sometimes hit with 25 tickets at once, and we don’t want to make some people wait 15-30 minutes for their food. As a result, the kitchen is utter chaos, grabbing things from the fryer before they’re cool, etc. It’s the baskets that get me the most. When I’m taking things out of them, invariably my arm will touch the edge, resulting in burns that actually look like thin cuts. The rest of the time, I have no idea. Burns just happen, and I don’t notice them until long after the fact. I suppose that the silver lining is that I don’t have to deal with cuts as well. My knife skills are solid. I haven’t even gotten first blood on either of my chef’s knives, which in kitchen folklore means we are bonded to each other, and I’m not stupid enough to make it happen on purpose. Fingers, even when cut lightly, bleed all over the place.

The other thing about being a cook is that you’re so tired, you tend to sleep right up until the next shift begins, because your muscles need more time to recover after a job that’s so physically demanding. This turns out to be gross negligence in terms of taking care of yourself. I mean, why take a shower every day when you’re just going to get horrifically dirty again an hour afterward? Just please be reassured that in the kitchen, I scrub in like a surgeon multiple times a shift and wear gloves constantly. The only time I really get “all dolled up” is when it’s my day off and I have plans with friends. Yes, it’s disgusting. It’s also real talk. You also have little time for laundry, so I do several weeks’ worth of clean underwear and don’t care if there are stains on my shirts and pants. I’m just going to get more of them… to the point that when I had a tech interview, I had to buy a new pair of pants for the occasion, because every pair of pants I currently owned had food stains that wouldn’t come out in the wash, even the black ones, where the stains aren’t as noticeable. I do wash my clothes, just not as often as they need it…. and as high as my wage is, it’s still not high enough to afford a maid so that all the crap I have to take care of is done once I get home. I also don’t have a partner to share the load, as it were, so everything falls to me. But don’t think I’m not grateful for being single.

I am incredibly introverted, and being single affords me only as much human contact as I want. Though with a partner, there is no need to be “on,” there is still compromise and difficult discussions and a whole lot else I’m just not prepared for in the slightest… maybe not ever, but for sure not right now. I’ve been single for, oh, I don’t know exactly how long, but sufficed it to say it has been multiple years, and I’m okay with that. Sometimes I daydream about the kind of partner I want, and joke that the perfect girlfriend for me would be that since I live in Maryland, she should live in Virginia. That way, in order to get together, we really have to want it. Really.

Another bonus is that because I’m not busy with a girlfriend, I have so much more time for my friends. They’re people I love like sisters and brothers, so it’s important to me to stay in touch and available for whatever they need. That being said, we’re all so busy that life seems to be a series of text messages and DMs on social media. I am positive that this is normal for adults our age, especially for people with children. Alternatively, I am not the type that likes to go out in a major way. I don’t need clubbing excitement. I am happiest sitting on the couch and chatting or watching a movie. I think this is also normal for people my age. We’ve already done all the stupid shit we’re going to do, and have little patience for it. I feel like I’ve done all the stupid shit I want to do, or have done by accident.

If I get invited to do something I would consider “wild,” I just give them a dumb look and say, “I’m 40.” The wildest thing I like to do these days is occasionally have a shift beer after work. The rest of the time, the pub has this Mexican cola that is so good it’s on my chef’s game “Last Meal.” I would much rather have it than anything else.

One of my favorite restaurants, Cava, has started carrying a sugar free version of the same brand, and I am not ashamed to say that I generally drink four in a row, especially since they have the good ice. Diet soda is my last vice. Just give me this one. Nothing helps beat the heat of the kitchen than a soda with ice. The pub doesn’t carry sugar free soda, so I generally drink seltzer water the entire time. You’d think I’d be stuck in the bathroom every thirty minutes, but I stand in front of a gas stove, a 500 degree oven, an open flame grill, and a 350 degree griddle and two fryers. My body is constantly using that moisture. Every once in a while, it is a blessing to be sent to retrieve things from the walk-in refrigerator. It only takes about 20 seconds to cool down, because it’s cold enough to keep ice frozen for hours before it even thinks about melting.

But the very heart of my work is that I do not have any Anthony Bourdain “underbelly of the kitchen world” stories. We are clean and efficient, we all get along well, and for the first time in any restaurant I’ve ever worked, there is no “war” between the waitstaff and the kitchen. If front of house drops something, it’s a quick re-fire with no judgment. In a fast-paced kitchen, everyone messes up at one time or another. “Stuff” happens. We just roll with it. Plus, the waitstaff doesn’t get angry at us if ticket times are slower than normal, because all their customers are drinking and have no concept of time, anyway. We just try as hard as we can not to test it too much.

The only thing that really trips us up is an order with a whole bunch of modifications or substitutions, and that’s in all restaurants. It interrupts the dance we’ve created not to ever be in each other’s way. Not that we won’t do it, of course, but from our perspective unless you have a genuine food allergy, we’ve created the recipes so that everything complements each other. Change that and you change the way the food is supposed to taste. Maybe you don’t, say, like pickled onions, but you’ve never tried it mixed with our perfect aioli. Give it a chance- be surprised. Branch out. You might discover you like something you thought you didn’t before. Additionally, don’t add salt and pepper before you’ve tasted what we’ve created. If you think it needs something afterward, don’t be shy. Make it to your own taste. But at the same time, trust us first. You don’t do this for a living. We do.

My whole life revolves around cooking, and doing it well. Especially since I’ve gotten more hours at work.

Ginger Lime Diet Coke

I didn’t expect to like this one in the slightest. I thought it would taste like high end furniture polish…. and it sort of does, honestly. But that flavor quickly dissipates the more you drink of it, and there is plenty of old school cola flavor to cover it up. By old school, I mean that it calls back memories of drug store cola, or perhaps small batch/home brew. It reminds me of cane sugar Pepsi with lime, or perhaps Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola (which is the ultimate “treat yo’self” in a grocery store).

Yesterday, I treated myself to excellent macaroni and cheese. I boiled dried ancho chiles in the pasta water, and added seasoning and fresh cheddar cheese to the roux. The base was Kraft Dinner, but I still make it the way I’d make homemade, adding the dehydrated cheese/flour mixture to butter and sautéing it for a minute or so before adding milk.

There is nothing in my life that has helped me more than being a professional cook. It was the ultimate in learning everything I needed to succeed at feeding myself for a lifetime in what seemed like a five-minute course. One night on the brigade is roughly equivalent to five years at home…. or, at least, it will feel like it. Ask your knees.

Pretty soon it’s going to be Friday night, which has always been pizza, from the time I was a little girl and my mom would put a quilt on the floor in front of the TV so Lindsay and I could have a picnic and watch Full House. Everyone is metaphysically coming over around 7:00, and you’re invited.

See you then.

Feisty Cherry Diet Coke

Feisty Cherry Diet Coke is my least favorite so far. It’s really good because it tastes more like the cherry in Wild Diet Pepsi, but there’s a black pepper tasting note that makes me cough. It’s hideous, truly.

It’s kind of like falling in love and realizing too late that you’re dating a meth addict.

In other news, I now have a new roommate. I haven’t met her yet, but I have heard that she has a cat. I have also heard that she’s crazy in a good way. Sounds right up my alley. I might not love her- that remains to be seen- but I can love a cat…. especially one in which I don’t have to feed or change litter. That’s just God right there.

Dana did me a solid by keeping Dodger for two reasons. The first is that I didn’t want to wander around DC trying to find an apartment that took cats. The second is that he was already bonded to Dana’s cat, Minerva, and splitting them up didn’t seem right to me, either. The only thing I regret is that Dodger was a gift from my mother, and I’d do anything to have him back just based on that fact. However, I’m still not in a place to have a pet, and Dana’s is the best place for him in all the world. I am sure that he is spoiled beyond all measure, and in more ways than I would ever think to or care.

Dana is a cat mom. I’m all like, it’s a cat.

I have always joked that the reason our relationship didn’t work out is that there are only two types of people in the world… pet parents and pet owners, and they do not mix. I take laughs where I can get them, okkkkkkk……..

The funny story about myself that I have for today is that I applied for a job with the APA, the American Psychiatry Association. However, they did not explain the acronym on the job posting until the exit page for the application, so I told them that I was a good writer and thought it would come in handy for research and summarization. I can only hope that they don’t think that’s weird, because I thought I was applying to the style manual. #dumbassattack It brings tears of laughter to my eyes every time I think of it. I just have to remind myself that there are plenty of times I’ve felt dumber.

I’m also coming up with ideas for my novel, Fish Ralph, because an idea dawned on me last night that had me really excited. But, of course, I am not going to tell you what it is…. just that it is a truly unexpected turn of events. I’m probably not going to win a Newberry award, but I’m having fun with it.

For the writers in the crowd, I’ve switched over from Microsoft Word to Storybook, which has sections for character development and dividing chapters. It’s brilliant because of its organization, and I highly recommend it for novelists… not so much for non-fiction. It also has the ability to switch between different writing projects so that if I come up with an idea for -frog.- or have a wild hair for even newer works, I can jot it down quickly.

I am also a big fan of Google Keep for ideas on the go, and on my phone, I can dictate instead of type. My handwriting, as I’ve said before, is a carpal tunnel pile of garbage even I can’t read if I put it down and come back to it later… and it’s a bummer having to retype ideas if I hand write them, anyway. I’d rather have the text in a format I can use.

In trying to find the link to -frog.-, which I wrote long ago, my search results returned entries I hadn’t thought about in years. I read them all. Some of it was truly touching, because enough time has passed that I feel like I’m reading someone else’s work. It doesn’t feel like bragging when you don’t even recognize the work as your own. It’s more akin to thinking, “wow. I wish I could write like that….” and a true feeling of humility that I’m the one that has been given this gift. I’m also astounded at the measure of truth I’ve been willing to put to “paper.” It is only mine, not universal, but I know for sure that it does resonate with a few who’ve stood in my shoes. In other ways, I am dumbfounded that I was ever so stupid to publish how I felt about that. That is an x-factor.

I have learned that my love for Argo knows no bounds, but is no match for the hatred I have of myself (at times). I am proud to be who I am, but that has come along relatively recently in the ebb & flow. My self-esteem has been rebuilt after disaster, and for that, I am grateful. It is amazing what forgiveness and mercy can achieve, both internally and externally. The fire in my lantern has returned, hopefully strong enough to light the paths of others, because they gave me strength when I could not return it.

I edited that paragraph above, because it originally said Dana & Argo. Now, it doesn’t. That’s because I read about a phone call between Dana and her mother, and Dana and the younger brother of a friend. One was about “appeasing the crazy,” the other about “not taking on projects.” It brought everything back regarding how little she thought of me and what I would do with my life while not exactly being the model of achievement herself. She was in no place to judge, and she did, both harshly and without remorse.

I also saw Argo’s loving words…… I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in you.

I put both of those perspectives in my pipe and smoked them, and by the end of staring into space trying to decide what I thought, I decided that Argo’s words are and always would be worth more, because who doesn’t love someone who thinks that about you? Who, in this world, can’t? And, of course, by love I mean that I would run to Walgreen’s for her in the middle of the night without complaining once. I am sure that she already has people to do that for her, but it is my definition of friends who love you. I might even be willing to throw in some chocolate, depending on how generous I’m feeling that day. 😛

I know for sure I’d be willing to throw in some Diet Coke, just for the love of God, not Feisty Cherry.

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.

Blood Orange Diet Coke

…..it’s as good as it sounds.

I needed to go to the grocery store, so Sam and I headed over this afternoon. They had all the new flavors of Diet Coke on sale for 79 cents a can, so I bought one of each…. even though I have a history of ruining Diet Coke with citrus for everyone in the room by announcing “it tastes like Pledge.” That was in 2001 or 2, so I thought Coke might have figured it out by now. I’ll let you know how it goes…. probably going to save lime for last……. Nothing they make matches the magic of Cherry Coke Zero, with tasting notes of Trapper Keeper, Mall Bangs, and Tiger Beat magazine.

Sometimes, though, I like to branch out… and new flavors of Diet Coke are something my mother and I easily could have discussed for two hours on the phone. I miss that. I don’t have anyone else in my life that can go head-to-head with me on zero calorie soda obsession, because apparently it’s “bad for you” and “causes cancer.” As I was telling Sam when I was loading up my cart, I could have worse vices. While it is true that all sugar substitutes cause cancer in rats, I would have to drink approximately 40 cans an hour, every hour, for years before I’d reach carcinogenic levels in my bloodstream. Right now I’m only drinking five [That was a joke].

Treating myself to soda this afternoon was sort of a celebration. Fifty Shades of Cray has moved out, and the house is blessedly quiet. Sam and I were laughing about it all the way to the store, because in the moment, it was actually quite scary and we needed to debrief. I am no stranger to people with mental illness, and yet, I have never seen anything like it. I felt truly sane in comparison, but not in a mean way. More like eternally grateful, as well as good wishes for her safety and health going forward. The thing about mental illness, though, is that you can’t help a little old lady across the street that doesn’t want to go.

Right now, she is unwilling, undiagnosed, and therefore, untreated…. and if my own experience is any indication, will continue to slash and burn until she realizes that going untreated isn’t doing anything for her. I don’t agree with her scorched earth policy, but only because I’ve done it and it worked masterfully well in pushing everyone away until there was no one left. I know what feeling like a wet cat backed into a corner, claws extended feels like. So, seeing her exhibit that kind of behavior made me wish I could fix it, knowing I couldn’t, and if I could, shouldn’t.

True change will only come when the realization dawns on her, not me.

I make amends when and where I can, without expectation of reciprocity. It may or may not affect the person to which I’m offering them, but it affects how I feel about myself. I am proud of the way I have ruthlessly performed my own emotional surgery, because it’s not something anyone else could have done for me. If removing negative thought processes and muting memories could be taught in medical school, it would be a billion dollar industry.

Maybe even bigger than Coke.

A40

A 38 and A 40 were my seat assignments- the first from National to Midway, the second from Midway to Hobby. I did not expect this in the slightest. Unbeknownst to me, my dad had added Early Bird check-in to my ticket. On the first flight, I sat in the bulkhead for the extra legroom. The guy next to me coughed on me twice. By the time we landed in Chicago, I was coughing, too. Apparently, germs are a thing.

I mean, of course I know they exist. I just didn’t know how fast they could spread. But then again, it might not have been that guy’s fault at all. It could have been anyone on the plane and all that recycled air.I could also be incorrect in that germs don’t spread that fast, and I was already getting sick before I boarded the plane, anyway, and I just noticed it when a big dude coughed down on my head. If that is the case, I indeed apologize to everyone on board.

On the second flight, I sat on the second row- less legroom, but I did not like having to stow my backpack in the overhead bin and the lack of a tray table. Luckily, that flight was short. In fact, in true Southwest fashion, the announcements were hilarious….. Chicago is our home city and we’re done for the day after this, so you’re officially on the fastest flight in the fleet.

My plane to Hobby was delayed by about an hour and a half, so I did what most people do when they have extra time in Chicago. I went looking for pizza. I did not find classic Chicago style, but it was delicious. I hadn’t had anything but three cups of coffee up to that point, and a simple margherita was the perfect antidote.

I would also like to say that even though I went to Chicago, I am still alive and mostly well (you’re welcome, five readers who get that joke).

I landed at Hobby about 9:30, but by the time I collected my bags, it was closer to 10:00 before my dad and I left for Sugar Land. He took me through downtown and showed me all the Christmas lights, the new additions to the hospital where Angela works, and the performing arts center that’s basically on our street. So much has changed since the last time I was here. When I came to Houston in October, I didn’t come to Sugar Land at all. It’s nice to see how much the city has grown and changed- I hardly recognized it.

When we got to the house, my dad showed me my room. It is painted 18% grey, the only color that’s completely neutral in photographs, because it’s Angela’s office/studio… or, at least, it used to be. I seem to remember a few years ago Angela saying that the dogs were jumping out the window in her studio, and I was very confused, hoping they weren’t injured. I didn’t know that since the studio had moved, the window she was talking about was a foot off the floor. I thought they were jumping out the second story.

The paint is very close to my favorite color, which is also grey, but a bit darker. I don’t know the percentage, but it’s #333333 for HTML purposes and you can Google it, because I’m typing on a tablet and it’s a pain in the ass to look it up for you. 😛

My dad was so sweet- he put a coffee machine and a refrigerator in my room, stocked with HEB Diet Wild Red, one of the things I actually miss about living here. If HEB existed in the DMV, I think the region would be closer to divinity than it already is. Technically, I just want a Central Market within walking distance of my house. That’s probably too much to ask, but a girl can dream.

In addition to having my favorite sodas cold, my dad made sure that I had a Roku that tapped into the cable so I have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and………. wait for it……… BBC AMERICA!!!!!! There’s a Doctor Who marathon running right now, which I have turned off and am sitting in the quiet. Otherwise, I will just watch it all night…. Just one more episode…. one more….. one more…. oh, look… now the sun’s up. I made sure that either my dad or Lindsay had BBCA because I cannot miss the Christmas special. They’re always good, but this year’s has a regeneration. I have a very good feeling that Jodie Whitaker isn’t going to pop onto the screen with Alex Kingston saying, “hello, sweetie,” but again, a girl can dream.

River Song is one of my favorite characters because I’ve had a celebrity crush on Alex Kingston since ER. I don’t know whether I’ll end up feeling the same way about Jodie or not- in Broadchurch, she was in grief the whole time, and though my heart bled watching her on screen, I tend to crush out on people who’ve got that humor thing down. There’s just not a whole lot of room for funny when your son dies in the first episode. She was, however, brilliant in the role, and because of that pain, I can totally see The Doctor’s history weighing on her already. I want to say for the record that I have high hopes for Jodie as The Doctor, not The First Female Doctor. That’s cool and all, but I don’t think it’s the radical change people think it’s going to be, because I’d be very surprised if The Doctor’s new gender, and, by extension, sexual orientation, is even made an issue. Doctor Who is about adventure, and hardly ever romance, anyway. It is more about deep and loyal friendships, and those happen with any combination of genders.

I would, however, like to see The Doctor as a wife. But that’s just my own personal taste. There may not be a way to bring River Song back, but with a time travel show, who knows? I just think it’s important to show that when you fall in love with a personality, outward appearance ceases to matter.

There are things that matter so much more, like a coffee machine in my room.