thejuliemeister

Musings from an unsuspecting navy wife


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Mr. D

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At 4, I started begging my mom for violin lessons. I would pantomime the motions I’d seen somewhere and cry when she said I was too little.

4 years later, she finally agreed. By 8 years old, I was big enough to be trusted with an instrument. I was over the moon. We lived in Michigan at the time, and once a week I would ascend the stairs to a music studio and take short lessons with a pretty young woman who was always fixing her hair.

She left the studio after 6 months, and then I saw Tony. All I remember about him was a red beard, and knowing vaguely that I will always associate him with Vivaldi.

I do not recall much of the specifics of my early violin education. I know it was tedious. I know I didn’t sound very good. I know also that I loved it. I was able to perform a Little Mermaid ballad at a school recital. Nothing made me feel cooler.

2 years after I began, my family moved back to California, and I had to find a new instructor. I have no idea how my mom found him. But I ended up in the garage studio of an old man, Mr. DiSaro.

Mr. D had been teaching music for more than half a century. It was the mid-90’s, and my teacher had been alive most of the century.

I’m sure I was intimidated at first. He was older than my grandfather, and he could be stern. I hardly remember those days now. Instead I remember working on advanced techniques and cracking jokes. We had the type of friendship where even as a high school student, I could rib him, and he’d tease right back.

He had been a WWII fighter pilot. I’m not certain when I learned this fact. Sometimes when I hadn’t practiced as much as I should have, I would try to get him to tell me old stories. He told me he met his wife in Texas.

It was either right after the war, or sometime during when he was on leave. I can’t recall which. He and a few friends in uniform wanted to get dinner at a restaurant that was full. The restaurant staff wanted to accommodate the service members, and sat them at a table with a group of single women. One of them became his wife. He loved her for decades.

Another time he told me about a night he stood watch with a buddy. Mr. D knew his friend had been out all night the evening prior enjoying himself. Midway through the watch, the man literally fell asleep on his feet from exhaustion. Mr. D had to rouse him to make sure he wouldn’t get in trouble.

When I started lessons with him at 10, he towered over me. By the time I left for college and ended my tutelage, I easily cleared his stooping frame. Every time I walked in the door he’d start to raise the music stand.

I always wanted to learn the next advanced technique. When would I learn third position? When would I learn vibrato? When would I move on to a new song? Mr, D had the same answer for all of these: “In due time.” After a while it became a running joke. I started asking when I would do the next ridiculous piece, just to get that answer.

It wasn’t smooth sailing with me and the violin. My parents had to bribe me to practice, and there were several times I almost quit. I’m not sure if I could have handled disappointing the old man though. I stuck it out.

He believed in me. He said my pitch was perfect. He wanted nothing more than for me to play music and love it.

One of my deepest regrets is that I didn’t keep in better contact with him over the years. I visited him once after I left for college. All he wanted to hear about was how much I was playing. As college drew on and I didn’t join the orchestra, it seemed too hard to keep in touch. So I left him in my memories.

After college I began playing in bands. Improvising and playing with atypical groups felt freeing. It was not as rigid as my classical upbringing. I decided I wanted to buy a viola to add to my repertoire.

I’ve only ever bought instruments though Loveland Violin Shop in Santa Rosa. I was living in Monterey, but I called up Mick Loveland one day when I was about 22 to inquire about viola pricing. I told him he’d sold me a violin, and I’d been a student of Dom DiSaro.

“He was a great man,” Mick said.

“Was?” I responded.

“He died about 6 months back.”

It was my lunch break at work. I sobbed until I had to go back. Viola pricing completely left my thoughts. I should have known. He was in his mid 80’s when I left for school. He must have been pushing 90 when he died. Mick told me a small orchestra played at his funeral.

He devoted most of his life to music education. He conducted orchestras and played in others. Towards the end he only saw a few students, and I’m so proud to have been one of them.

Last year, I started teaching violin lessons. Part of me thinks that Mr. D would be proud. Another part knows he would have chided me for not learning some obscure advanced technique first. But that was him.

I took an intro course to teaching music in preparation. The instructor mentioned that for many students, their music teacher is their most significant student-teacher bond. Grade school instructors will change every year, but a music teacher usually sticks around for a long time.

Mr. D taught me violin for 8 years. By the time I left for college, I realized I probably knew him better than my own grandfather. I loved him just as much.

I’m still playing. I’m still teaching when I can. Every time I get a student to understand something new, I think of him.


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The Facebook Problem

I started having anxiety dreams about my 10-year high school reunion a few months back. I love my husband and I like bragging about getting to live in Hawaii, but I was afraid that it would seem like my marriage was the only thing going for me. While I know this isn’t the case, I’ve never wanted to be perceived as defined by my relationships. I tried to think of ways to make myself seem more awesome to my former peers who I never see anymore but for some reason still care what they think of me.

In the end it didn’t actually matter. There wasn’t enough interest and the reunion was cancelled. We all know what’s going on with each other because of Facebook.

On the one hand, I feel robbed of a reunion. Back in high school I was weird and fat and nobody wanted to date me. I wanted the satisfaction of showing off the svelte chick with the handsome husband. (High school me, for reference):Image

I wanted to tell off my former best friend for breaking my heart by cutting ties after graduation. In that lesser part of myself, I wanted to see who wasn’t doing so well.

But I realize I can do that anyway, for the most part. It’s all available online. I’m already “friends” with everyone who I can readily remember from high school. I’m also friends with countless people I’ve met in the last decade and inexplicably need to stay connected with: that guy who made me laugh uncontrollably once at a party in college and I never saw again; the girl who was in my GRE class, that one navy spouse who was at an event but I mustn’t delete because who knows if we’ll ever live in the same spot again and I wouldn’t want to offend her if we do.

I try to go online and purge my friend list every so often. But I can’t force myself to remove connections, even when I only vaguely recall the person. It’s like a personal memory box and each person brings me to some story or special memory.

I also like to see what people are doing. Facebook and other social media make us feel like we are connected, but are we? Just because you liked my quip or I saw your vacation photos doesn’t mean we actually talked. Of the 500+ friends I have online, I have no idea who is looking at what I put out there, nor do others know when I keep track of them. We’re all passively following other’s information without actively maintaining relationships.

And maybe this is part of why I am so sad at the lack of a reunion. I like seeing what people are up to, but I also want to rekindle old friendships, and it’s nearly impossible to do without personal contact. Otherwise how do you say to someone online that you haven’t been close with in a decade that “I miss you.” How do you explain to people who saw you at your worst growing up that “I’m a better person now.” We’re probably all ashamed to some degree of the half-adults we were as teens. Maybe the real purpose of a reunion is to show that we became grown ups, even though our teen selves never seemed like we’d make it.

Or maybe I’m reading too much into it. Either way I feel I am missing out on a rite of passage. In this world of ultimate connectivity, it seems a certain human presence is missing. I’m glad to be able to see what my great aunt is up to online, and I am amazed by the way that technology has progressed. But I wish that the result of Internet profiles wasn’t the dismissal of active communication.


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Worst First Date

Before I met my husband, the dating world was a bleak place. I once went on a date with a man who openly used racial slurs, and another with a man who turned out to be homeless. Shockingly, I met both online.

Of all my bad dates, one sticks out as a special gem.

At a local pub’s trivia night, I met a handsome fellow, henceforth known as “Dan.” Dan was a Stanford-educated lawyer who was new to town. He was a gorgeous black man with a physique that should have been commemorated in marble. I have a problem with staring at people when they’re not looking, then awkwardly avoiding eye contact when they turn my way. I spent many interludes during trivia gazing in Dan’s direction.

For some reason this Olympian had come down from on high and thought that I was cute. At this point in my life, I was chubby, out of shape, and working a menial secretarial job with no real career prospects. I could not understand his attraction.

(My chubster physique for reference):

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I could only imagine that the fates were apologizing for all the shitty man-luck I’d had.

He asked me to go rock climbing then out to dinner as our first rendezvous. Sure, I had no upper-body (or any-body) strength and am still afraid of heights, but I could totally make a good impression. We set it up.

What does a chubby girl wear to a workout date? Deodorant was (and frankly still is) no match for the perspiration that ensued whenever I performed the slightest physical task. Walking documents upstairs at work could give me pit stains that nearly hit my waist (if you could find my waist). I needed something comfortable and breathable. I settled on capri-length yoga pants, a sports bra, and a light tee.

At the rock climbing gym I could see his pecs- that were a larger cup size than mine, and his perfectly sculpted abs through a T-shirt that was probably originally sized for a 9-year-old boy. I later found out that while he was studying at Stanford (did I mention he went to Stanford?) his GPA was higher than his body fat percentage… on a 4.0 scale. He told me so himself. I could believe it.

For some reason, it made sense for the novice climber to take the first turn at the wall. Rock climbing harnesses are the least flattering contraptions in existence. I couldn’t wait to be done. I don’t want to imagine what my ass looked like.

Somehow I managed so scramble up the short kiddie-wall. The wall should have only taken a few minutes, but took me close to 20. By the end I had sweat not only under my arms but also on my brow. Sexy. It was my turn to hold the rope while Dan went up the big-kids wall. About halfway up he paused, leaned back, and asked to come down. Maybe he’d decided to call it quits now before wasting more of the evening.

He looked woozy when he reached the ground. Once out of the harness, he quickly made his way to the bathroom. I waited around. It was at least 10 minutes before he emerged, and by that time I was pretty certain he’d been puking.

Dan explained that he had several food allergies that bothered him from time to time. So he wasn’t entirely perfect, but food allergies aren’t that bad, especially compared to being homeless or racist. He went on to tell me he’d “destroyed” the toilet. Lovely.

I’d driven us to the rock climbing gym, so I offered to take him home. He accepted gratefully. I drove about a mile before he needed me to pull over so he could vomit some more.

What do you do when your date is vomiting in the bushes? I thought checking my phone would be the most innocuous task I could perform. I’d give him his privacy.

There were 3 texts from a number I didn’t recognize, but the area code was local. I investigated, and sandwiched between two messages with nearly incomprehensible grammar was what appeared to be a video recording. I thought I spied a confederate flag in the thumbnail. Maybe it was a friend pulling a joke?

Dan was still puking, so I clicked it to play. Indeed it was a confederate flag in the background. Then- oh holy hell- VAGINA! The camera tilted south and I was confronted with an inexpertly shaved vagina and what I assumed was the owner’s middle finger caressing it. I couldn’t watch.

Wrong number. I had been wrong number sexted. Someone had actually mistyped a phone number, and before checking it’s authenticity had shared her vajay-jay. It was so ridiculous that I laughed uncontrollably.

Suddenly I heard from the sidewalk: “are you laughing at me?”

Oh God. Oh God no. It was Dan. My dreams of salvaging this date and remodeling myself as a trophy wife were quickly disintegrating. I knew I could never pull off platinum blonde.

“Oh! Nononono! It was just…” I replied.

He looked at me in a way that said he thought he might have misjudged my character. I felt helpless. So I told him about my sexting debacle.

Dan didn’t seem convinced of my wild story. I did the only thing I could think of, and showed him. I could only hope he wouldn’t think I had a deep-seeded love of the Confederacy when the film opened up to the rebel flag as I hit play.

And then there I was, watching porn with this creature of near perfection. It later occurred to me that likely the only person who would send this sort of crude recording was probably under 18, meaning that we had almost certainly actually watched kiddie porn. It was my only date to crescendo in a felony.

Thank God he laughed. I breathed a sigh of relief. We sat in the car and joked for a few minutes. Maybe it wasn’t that bad. It was only a little bit of a stranger’s vagina mid-date after all.

Dan said he was feeling better and asked if we could still get dinner to help settle his stomach. Phew. I agreed. He suggested sushi, because who doesn’t want to eat raw fish after being violently ill? At the restaurant I learned he was a vegetarian (definitely not perfect), so he ate vegetable rolls as I scarfed down a few fishy bites by myself.

Dan didn’t vomit during dinner. But by that point the chemistry had left the equation. After throwing up then watching porn there wasn’t much left to talk about. I drove him home thinking that I might have made a new friend. At his door I was surprised that he leaned in for the kiss. All I could think about was puke and sushi. If kissing that was the price of being a kept woman, I decided that I could keep myself. I declined the kiss, and we remained cordial friends.

About a year after this date, I went to a mustache and wig party where I met a man in a mullet wig with a handlebar mustache drawn on, drinking Cobra malt liquor out of a paper bag. We’ve been married almost 2 years. Sometimes fate likes to tease us, and sometimes, unexpectedly, it works out.

 

 


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On the road again

My husband, Cameron, and I are halfway through our military PCS move from Rhode Island to Hawaii. Sitting in California, we are literally at the midway point between the two locations.

In April our belongings were packed up and crated away. A week later we began a meandering trip with our dog, Gus, in our 2005 Kia Sportage across the country. We spent time with family in Virginia and Tennessee, meandering through Dollywood at the latter. We visited Cameron’s alma mater, The Citadel, and I fell in love with Charleston, South Carolina (especially the food).  

Me at our “fancy” dinner in Charleston:

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This was my first trans-continental drive, and I honestly was not looking forward to it. I’m not good on long car rides. I tend to whine after 10 minutes. So my husband and I equipped ourselves with snacks, sodas, audiobooks, and a neck pillow to fortify against boredom and discomfort. For the most part, this worked, although my bladder required frequent breaks.

Along the way we spent time in 20 states. Our route had to change more than once due to spring storms, but we made it into CA by our planned arrival date. Most of the states were new to me. I made many observations along the way. The most poignant observations are recounted below:

Drivers in New England will stop to let pedestrians in, but will never change speed to help you merge. Drivers in the South will always let cars into their lane, but never stop for pedestrians. Drivers in New Jersey can go to Hell.

The Northeast tries to trap you in with tolls. You want to leave the airport? Toll. You want to go across a bridge in either direction? Toll. You want to drive anywhere in New Jersey? Tolls everywhere. It cost around $50 just to get from Rhode Island to Virginia, and that was all done in one day.

In New Jersey, Missouri and Colorado, I saw signs in public restrooms warning women not to drink booze while pregnant. My favorite was one that proclaimed: “you never drink alone… when you’re pregnant.” That was at a Chili’s. In Nevada, the public restroom implored users to report human trafficking.

Kansas may very well be the most desolate and boring place on earth. I now understand why Oz was so appealing.

We got snowed in just before Idaho Springs in the Colorado Rockies. It must have been cosmic retribution for happily exclaiming “NO MORE SNOW!” as I skipped into the car on the way out of Rhode Island.

Our hotel patio after a night of snow:

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In Salt Lake City, we stayed at an airport hotel on the outskirts of town. In our room there were two books in the nightstand: The Holy Bible, and The Teachings of The Buddha. The Buddha was on top.

Everything doubles as a casino in Nevada. I bet there are churches with slot machines. We stopped for gas twice and both gas stations had slot machines. I lost a total of 75 cents while waiting for Cameron to pick out what snacks and beverages he wanted.

California really is the prettiest state, and the best part of the drive. After driving through the dark side of the moon (AKA Nevada), the mountains and trees along the California border are heavenly. Everything feels like it’s going to be ok, even at Donner Lake.

I thought after living in California and Rhode Island, I had a pretty good idea of what the country is like. I’d lived in two extremes and I assumed everything else was not just physically, but culturally in the middle. I was wrong. There are similarities, but every location had its own vibe. The culture changes from state to state, and in some cases, so does the language. I heard Gullah spoken for the first time, and learned while in Tennessee and Nevada that there are incomprehensible accents outside of Boston.

Kansas aside, it’s a beautiful and vast land. We’re headed to Hawaii, and I’m sure that will be another cultural adventure. I may have loathed the idea of being on the road for over a week, but I’m glad I got the experience. I wonder what I’ll see next time we make the journey.

 


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Farewell Newport

It’s almost time for me to leave Newport, RI. My husband, Cameron, and I tried to generate a list of things we’ll miss about the town itself. It consisted of:

  • Being able to walk to most places
  • The architecture is nice
  • The neat characters in town, including bongo man, who plays the bongos poorly along to his boom box behind a purple metal grate, and lacrosse man, who wears all black spandex and twirls his lacrosse stick as though he was the town’s drum major

That was it. The first item can generally be found by looking at specific neighborhoods in any town. The second is endemic to the whole of New England. The last item wasn’t specific Newport either. Most small towns have their fair share of oddballs. For years, a man in Santa Cruz, CA walked up and down the main street dressed in all pink and smiling broadly at all passersby.

The list of items we won’t miss about Newport is too long to recount here. Suffice it to say that we’re ready for a bigger house and eternal summer in Hawaii.

There is something we will pine for after we leave though: our friends. Cameron and I have connected with some of the kindest, funniest, most caring and intelligent people here. We will undoubtedly miss them.

When I first got to Rhode Island, I had a little trouble making many friendships. Mary-Jaq was my first friend who I regularly spent time with, then Sally. But I knew with every bond I formed that there would be an eventual expiration date. I didn’t want to put too much energy into something ephemeral. I could only handle a few companions.

Then I met Tricia and Jessica. Jessica is the wife of one of Cameron’s best friends, and Tricia and I should have met years ago. She married my friend, Ben, but prior to that she and I ran in the same circle in Monterey before either of us were in the military family. We all clicked.

Suddenly I felt like I had a group. I felt involved. I felt cared for by people other than my husband in this town. I felt like I wanted to spend as much time with my friends as possible before they went on military moves, instead of feeling like I should keep my distance.

Unfortunately, they all PCS’d within a few months of each other. It looked like I was on the friendship dating market once again.

Spouse functions seemed like a good place to mingle. I went to a few, hoping to meet a few ladies. Every time I met someone who acted cool, I’d whip out my phone and request digits. Moments later I’d take this information and facebook stalk my new best friend to make sure she was really as awesome as I’d assumed. This tactic is now lovingly referred to as “forcing my friendship” by a few of my pals.

After months of forcing friendships, I began setting up lady lunches with new best friends. A lot of the spouses in Newport, RI, are unemployed. RI boasts an extremely high unemployment rate, and many spouses are only here for 6 months. It was the perfect recipe for midday hangouts.

The first big lady lunch made me realize that I liked these gals. We were all around the same age and we’re all in Rhode Island because of the Navy. That was enough to get the conversation started.

The group decided to do weekly lunches, and we’d attend as our schedules permitted. One of the early lunches, maybe the second or third, took place at Pour Judgment Bar and Grille. We still didn’t know each other particularly well, but we enjoyed the company. Every now and then there was a brief lull in conversation before a new topic was introduced.

I have no recollection of how this came up, or in what way it was pertinent to the conversation that day. All I know is that after a brief pause someone said she had a friend with two vaginas. Manners were forgotten as mouths fell open. Nobody quite knew how to respond.

Then one gal piped up: “Did you see it? I mean see them?”

Now we were laughing. The vaginas had not been verified by eye witness. The questions and speculations started pouring in.

“Does she have two uteruses? Is that a word?”

“If so, can she get pregnant once in each for pseudo twins?”

I casually mentioned a Reddit Ask Me Anything thread from a man with two penises.

“Those two are meant to be,” somebody responded. Everyone guffawed.

Somewhere amidst the questions and laughter, I realized that this was my group now. I had friends. I had friends who responded with inquisitiveness instead of disgust when medical anomalies were introduced to conversation. I’d had a few friends still in the area before the group started up, and we’re all still friends, and I still love them.   But the larger group made me feel like I had a safety net. It gave me my first inklings of what the extended military family can really mean.

I have male friends and Navy friends here too.  There are too many to name, and I am so grateful for that fact. They will all be missed. Every time one of my friends has left I’ve felt the void of their absence, and it is now just dawning on me that my departure may do the same for those still here.

My last lady lunch is drawing near. I’m not sure where we’ll go. (Ladies, I’m thinking this looks good:)

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In the last 6 months or so we’ve done high-end and low-end locations, and even had one violin concert potluck. I hope I can make friends in Hawaii who make me feel the same sense of community.

At times I’ve felt like Newport wasn’t worth it. Many people love it here, but in my core I’m not meant for New England.  I despise winter, and I can’t understand a Boston accent. (Excuse me, Baaaaahhhhhstaaahhhn.)  Even with these inconveniences, I’m glad we came.  The people I’ve connected with have made it one of the most memorable and fulfilling experiences of my life so far.

 

 


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I’m so OCD

It took the world’s fourth most powerful super computer 40 minutes to model a single second of human brain activity. I frequently imagine computers to have vast intellectual processing abilities, but really, each human brain is a more powerful processor than even the most advanced computers. The brain is an amazing machine that is constantly taking in sensory information and processing it in such a way to help each individual survive and prosper.

One thing the brain does quite well at a subconscious level is to try to determine all possible outcomes of a given situation simultaneously, and decide what is the most likely to occur. For example, someone extending a hand is likely trying to offer a greeting, but our brains will process other possibilities so quickly that we don’t even register them. The extended hand could be a trick and they may punch you instead, or they may grab you inappropriately, they might turn away before you get the chance to extend your hand back, or if you do shake their hand, they may have rubbed their palm through dog poo right beforehand. While unlikely, these are all strange but legitimate possibilities that you are always somewhat aware of, though little credence is ever ascribed to them.

 Unless, like me, you have obsessive-compulsive disorder. One of the most pervasive problems associated with OCD is something called “intrusive thoughts.” Someone with OCD is usually very sensitive to what is and isn’t considered socially or morally appropriate. Whenever a passing thought pops up that is in some way reprehensible, the OCD brain plays it out repeatedly causing severe anxiety. Frequently the only way to at least temporarily relieve this anxiety is to perform compulsive actions.

OCD doesn’t mean being fastidious.   It doesn’t mean being a perfectionist. It doesn’t mean keeping a clean house. It means living a life feeling apart, abnormal even. I cringe a little when I hear someone say: “I’m so OCD!” simply because they keep a spotless kitchen. That’s not OCD. There’s an almost positive connotation to OCD because it is associated with being driven and hygienic. Either that, or there’s an assumption that we’re all just like Howard Hughes. For most people, it’s somewhere in the middle.

Here’s an example of the obsessive-compulsive mind. You may see a person crossing the street from your vehicle, and think that you could physically run them over. You would usually dismiss this as an odd thought because, of course, you would never actually do that. Someone with OCD might think the same thing, and the thought will replay over and over again causing debilitating stress. The OCD individual may even check their front fenders a few times after driving, or return to the crosswalk to make sure that they did not actually run someone over. They will know by memory that nothing happened, but the fear and anxiety of even considering causing harm to another human being is so intense that checking to make sure it didn’t happen seems to be the only option.

There are many foci for worry to the OCD brain. Some people fear causing harm to themselves or others, some fear disturbing God, and some fear for their own health, among infinite obsessions. Some people are more obsessive, and others more compulsive. The compulsions are usually rituals that are preformed as a way to temporarily ease anxiety on a particular obsession.  Some people may touch something to make sure it’s still there, or clean and wash repeatedly to dispel germs, or check the locks a dozen times before finally believing that they may be locked. The relief from doing these things never lasts long. The thought always comes back that maybe one more washing is in order, one more touch, or one more check of the lock.

My OCD normally materializes in intrusive thoughts, hypochondria, intermittent bouts of checking things repeatedly, localized skin picking, and a difficulty in making variations to routines. I make daily to-do lists and get upset or despondent when I don’t complete them. I’m afraid that if I don’t make the lists I’ll forget to do something and my life will somehow eventually spiral out of control, inevitably ending in the destruction of mankind. So I keep to my lists to preserve humanity (you’re welcome).

For years I’ve been convinced that any blemish near my lips was actually a touch of mouth herpes cleverly disguised as a zit, although to this day I’ve never had a cold sore. Every headache or slight dip in energy has been personally scrutinized for fear of cancer or AIDS. While I do not lead the type of lifestyle frequently associated with HIV or AIDS, I have concocted more than one elaborate scenario that could undoubtedly do the trick. This is actually one of the reasons that I rarely get my nails done.

When I think of something that I will need to do eventually, it is very difficult for me to sit still and not do it. I have a hard time leaving dishes on the table as soon as the food is off them. I want to immediately put them in the dishwasher because I can’t relax if I know that sooner or later the dishes will need to be done, or the soda cans recycled, or the laundry folded. Even if I’m in the middle of a conversation or at a crucial plot point in a movie at home with my husband, I’ll get up and perform chores because I can’t sit still until they’re done. I inevitably find more things that need doing while in the process of completing my current chore and the cycle continues until I tire out. More than anything I’m afraid of forgetting, so I try to make sure I get everything done as soon as I think of it.

I also worry for the sake of worrying. On some level I believe that if I worry about a negative possibility the act of worrying will prevent it from happening. In my logical mind, I know this isn’t true. Knowing that what you’re doing is illogical, but not being able to stop doing it is one of the extremely frustrating and depressing aspects of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

One of the most difficult problems I have is in meeting new people, which is very convenient when I move every couple of years. My mind likes to play a little game of “what would be the most inappropriate thing to do right now?” Usually the images of kissing, spitting on, or punching a new person rotate through my brain. I have never, and strongly suspect I will never do any of these, but if the thought is there, the worry is there. And unfortunately, I can’t stop my brain from imagining all of the most horrifying scenarios. The worst is meeting a pregnant woman. I usually keep my distance for fear of what my mind will start projecting on a seemingly never-ending loop through my head.

A therapist once told me that people with OCD and intrusive thoughts are usually very sensitive. That is why we experience such horror at the thought of doing something we deem terrible. We are also usually the least likely to act out any of our terrible thoughts. The compulsions are an attempt to satisfy, corral, or even atone for the thoughts we have. It’s a small comfort to know I’m sensitive.

It used to be a lot worse. There was a time when I attempted to give myself physicals a dozen times a day then made a doctor’s appointment if I thought I detected an abnormality. I missed a week of school once because intrusive thoughts gave me such bad anxiety that I could barely keep food down. I used to get out of bed each night and re-check the locks and stove even though I’d done that multiple times before retiring. These are only a few examples that I feel comfortable with sharing. There are many more.

I’m currently medicated and I lead a relatively low-stress life. Things that used to need doing are less at the forefront of my mind. I don’t always think about spitting on people when I meet them, and as long as I’m not home alone, I’ll allow the door to be unlocked for sections of the day. I still have intrusive thoughts, and I still have some compulsions, but they are fewer, and are generally relegated to areas in my life that aren’t disruptive to living.

I used to see medication as a personal failure. In the spectrum of mental health conditions, the general population supports, for example, schizophrenics or bi-polar individuals to stick to a regime of medications. Those who suffer from depression and/or anxiety are often met with the condescension that they should just deal with it. Everyone gets anxious or depressed sometimes after all. Then I realized that if I could “just deal with it,” I wouldn’t have this problem in the first place. My OCD is defined by my inability to dissuade intrusive thoughts and compulsions. Without medication I can go for weeks with little to no sleep and experience periods of deep depression because I feel so desperately out of control in my own mind.

I recognize that what’s right for me isn’t for everyone. But I hope that everyone realizes that we all have a choice, and no choice is wrong. I have a condition, and I chose to take medication because it has helped. It’s not a failure. Others with similar issues may choose therapy or meditation or any number of options that alleviate symptoms. I did not choose to have an anxiety disorder with depressive repercussions, but I am choosing to be open and vocal about it, because it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s part of who I am.

 


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How Howard the Duck almost killed me

Everyone has an arch-nemesis. This does not have to be a person. It could be an irresistible snack food, control-top panty hose, itchy shirt collars, or that smug bitch from high school (you know who you are). I firmly believe that everyone should have something non-threatening to direct any excess anger towards.

My arch-nemesis is Howard the Duck. If you don’t easily recall 1986, let me refresh your memory. Howard the Duck is an anthropomorphic duck from outer space, who eventually nearly makes it with a punk Lea Thompson (I wish I had her hair from this movie). There were no CGI characters at the time, so Howard was played by a man in an over-sized, and wildly terrifying duck suit. (For some reason, characters seem way too accepting of this creepy duck man throughout the film.)

This, along with “Playduck Magazine,” and a separate instance of duck titties, should be enough to set any child of the 80’s against the horrifying film. But for me, it holds a special significance. Howard the Duck literally almost killed me. Let me explain.

I’m the youngest of two. My mother discovered after more than a day of hard labor with my sister that she could not physically give birth. Her doctor nonchalantly told her that had she been pregnant 100 years ago, she would have died. Thank God modern medicine allows for miracles and C-sections. My older sister is now pregnant with her first, continuing the line. We couldn’t be happier.

My mother’s pregnancy with me was high risk. My mom has a heart murmur and suffered from angina during the pregnancy. She had to go on bed rest for the last few months. There was also a serious risk that I would need a complete blood transfusion at birth. But she sincerely wanted me, and I’m grateful. She took particular care to stay healthy for both my sister and I.

Mom works for an insurance company located in Marin County, California. George Lucas lives a few short miles from her office, and Industrial Light and Magic was also housed nearby. (Fun fact: George Lucas lives in Lucas Valley. It was already called Lucas Valley when he moved there.)

The proximity to the Star Wars magnate should have meant nothing to my mother and father. But there was one day when Georgie Lucas needed to shoot aerial shots for a new film that he probably thought was going to recreate the magic of Star Wars (it didn’t). Although the film was notionally set in Cleveland, Marin could totally do the trick.

Georgie and his crew decided to shoot one of the aerial scenes at the office building where my mom still works. The shot was filmed in the winter. Normally Marin is pretty temperate, but winter temps can go below freezing overnight.

To prepare for shooting, they decided to spray down the whole employee parking lot to make it look nice and fresh for filming. Totally logical. Unfortunately, this water froze forming a lovely sheen of black ice. It probably looked great on film.

That day, in her high-risk pregnancy, my mom arrived early to work. Only a few of her co-workers knew she was pregnant at this point. She stepped out of her car, and slipped on the ice. Her body fell full force on the concrete.

A friend who knew was nearby and helped her stand. She was terrified. Mom said she thought for certain she would miscarry from the spill.

Somehow, I survived. I was full-term and healthy. The film was Howard the Duck. It came out a month after I did. There were pretty much no positive reviews. I recently sat through the film to see if it was any good. It wasn’t.

This is one of the unremarkable shots that nearly snuffed me out:

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At least we get another view of Lea Michelle’s panties in the same scene.

After watching the film, I realized how unfortunate it would have been if anyone had died in order to bring Howard the Duck into the word. My mom jokes now that it would have been sad had my life been cut short thanks to the worst film ever made. I may be biased, but I tend to agree.

I wonder how many people have died to usher in films, good and bad. Is it possible that profitable producers are actually mass murderers? Unlikely. But it is likely that film crews over the years have been less than cautious with bystanders when constructing sets and setting up perfect scenes.

For years I’ve said that an anthropomorphic duck nearly took my life. Really it was the idiotic production crew, and probably George Lucas’ ego. Thanks, Georgie.

I guess my real plea here would be to ask for a little common sense and consideration. My father frequently comments that people are idiots for failing to recognize a logical outcome of their actions. I cannot fathom how anyone could not foresee that hosing down concrete in mid-winter would generate a layer of ice, and that this ice might pose a risk to the regular working folks trying to get into the office. But hindsight provides more clarity, and those morons didn’t even realize their actions could have killed me. Jerks.

So Howard, I will continue to despise you, but I think perhaps calling you my arch-nemesis is a bit too harsh. I’m sure if it were up to you, you would have stayed in comic books and not become the object of ridicule the big screen has made of you. My true arch-nemesis must instead shift to George Lucas. If nearly preventing my birth wasn’t enough to make me hate George Lucas, Jar Jar Binks certainly is.   Therefore Mr. Lucas, I will now direct any excess anger towards you, cursing your name at every stubbed toe or broken hair-tie. It’s a small price, and one I feel justified in claiming, because you brought the worst film of all time into the world, and came close to taking me out in the process.


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Military Spouses: Why we do what we do

Memes are the inside jokes for people who spend too much time on the Internet to actually socialize and generate inside jokes with friends. This notion was recently appropriately commemorated with a meme on the front page of Reddit (AKA the Front Page of the Internet), signaling that indeed, nerds know they are nerds. (As a Redditor with lots of fake Reddit points or “Karma,” and not a single Karma-whoring tit shot to my posting repertoire, I’m well qualified to diagnose my own kind.)

Memes usually consist of a picture that signifies something. There’s the Actual Advice Mallard who gives pieces of legitimate advice. There’s also Confession Bear who states deep dark secrets that range from a love of nose picking to actual murder. Chances are that if there is a very particular story or emotion that you need to evoke, there is a meme to match it.

One meme that usually garners nods of approval is Captain Hindsight, who originated in South Park. This spandex-clad Captain points one finger to the sky and states platitudes of things that really, people should have seen coming.

About a year ago I was browsing the interwebs and came across a Captain Hindsight that I wanted to slap across his smug cartoon face. This was it:

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The image had thousands of views and many accolades as to its accuracy. For the first time, I cursed all of those morons out there on the Internet. These were supposed to be my people. How could they be so naïve?

On the one hand, I understand where the Captain’s coming from. People should always go into a marriage with open eyes and clear expectations. But how could they assume that a difficult career trajectory was the only aspect in determining whom you marry?

It made me think about a lot of things, including why I married a military man. I never wanted to marry someone in the Navy. Why would I subject my life to constant interruptions from moving, a poor chance at a steady career, and a spouse who would be intermittently absent? Really, it didn’t sound like a good deal.

But before I met my husband, I didn’t have a good idea of what being married would mean. I didn’t know what to look for. I’d had my heart broken more than once and I couldn’t fathom what it would take to commit to a life with someone.

Now I know. My spouse is someone who I never tire of. I feel more myself when he is next to me than I do sitting alone. He is the one person who can make me angrier than I knew possible, and also the only one I want to comfort me when I am down. He knows all of me and accepts it. And I know and love him back.

When you find someone who does that, how can you not try to form a life together? It is literally the foundation for why people should get married. And with any partnership, there is a give and take.

I gave up my home. I gave up a good job with a free graduate education. I gave up seeing my family as often as I wanted, and I gave up the consistency of living in the same area for an extended period.

In exchange I got the ability to take some time away from an office to explore my true passions. I got a man who enjoys cooking and allows me to eat like an adult instead of foraging like a feral child. I got a dog and started to form a new family. I got to experience living in new places and meeting new people. I will get to live in Hawaii soon.

My husband made concessions as well. He gave up on the hope of retiring to a state without income tax, because he thought it only fair I could decide where we live after the Navy. He gave up playing video games until dawn. He gave up assuming that all free time was “his” time, and now knows it’s “our” time.

For his part, he got someone task-focused in his life that happily took over budgeting until all debt was paid off. He got the ability to never worry if the stockpile of toilet paper is low. He got a new drive and passion in his career, because it’s not just him anymore.

We both got a lot in the end. We got each other. We both get to know we’re married to someone who knows and loves us- flaws and all. We both get to wake up to each other. We both get to look forward to what our future looks like together. We get to know that no matter what, we’re in it together.

In Plato’s Symposium, Aristophones tells a crowd of drunken philosophers that in the beginning, there were circle people. These beings had two heads, four arms, four legs and one body. In that form, the circle people were so powerful they tried to take on Olympus. Zeus decided to chop them in half to reduce their power, creating singular beings. These single people do not feel whole, so they are always questing after their other halves. Once two separated beings find each other, they never want to be apart again. And that is the origin of love.

I found my other half. And no, I honestly do not want to deal with the stresses of being a military spouse. There are many benefits, to be certain, but I hate that I have to be separated by deployments from the person I love, I hate moving frequently, and I hate that I don’t always get to pick where I live. I imagine that most partnerships involve sacrifices and stresses that are balanced against the benefits. So while there are downsides to this lifestyle that I’d prefer not to have, I wouldn’t change it, because the scales are heavily stacked in favor of being whole.

 


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The Hover

Of all my shortcomings, the one that I am perhaps most ashamed of is my utter inability to complete “the hover.” If you are unfamiliar with this terminology, let me explain. “The hover” is a urinating technique for ladies, which consists of utilizing significant quadriceps strength to squat lightly over a public toilet to pee without touching flesh to the offending porcelain throne. I imagine it looks something like this:

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My quads are spectacular. Years of running have rendered them too large for skinny jeans. Unfortunately, my balance is lacking. All attempts at the hover have ended with me falling over and trying not to pee on myself. I like to say I’m “too tall” for it, but really, I lack the skill.

In California, this was an infrequent problem. The law requires that all public restrooms provide toilet seat covers. That thin sheet of recycled paper provides an obviously impervious barrier to all creepy crawlies. I was stunned to discover that this legislation doesn’t extend to all 50 states. Simply unrolling toilet paper and gingerly placing it on the toilet seat seems insufficient. Surely, germs can make their way through the perforation.

But there’s a bigger problem. One I’ve witnessed my whole life, but has intensified living since a toilet-seat coverless world.

Piss. Piss everywhere. How can anyone get more pee on the toilet than in it?

There’s only one reason I can think of for this smelly yellow phenomenon: the hover. It has to be the hover. Somehow, everyone on the East Coast is capable of unleashing a violent stream of urine from on high without once touching a cheek down. The aftermath is horrendous.

Ladies, I get it. Public bathrooms are gross. You don’t want to sit on something where hundreds of people pee and poo on the regular. But do you really need to make the whole thing worse? And if you can’t deign to sit on the seat, can you at least clean up after yourself? If you don’t want to wipe up your own pee, what makes you think someone else wants to?

Not everyone is capable of peeing from a distance. It’s selfish and rude to pee on toilet seats without cleaning up. What if an old lady with bad vision or a pregnant woman was the next one in? Would you want your grandmother or pregnant friend to inadvertently sit in your pee? Of course not. So why leave it there?

The worst is when you catch the culprit. Have you ever walked into a stall as someone walks out, only to discover the remnants of a torrential downpour all over the toilet and floor? Then when you walk out to find a cleaner stall, the messy pee-er is casually washing her hands like nothing happened. But you both know what she did. No level of stink-eye can convey the disdain in my heart for this free-peeing soul.

So can we all agree that after a wee we’ll check the seat? It’s the right thing to do, the courteous thing to do, and the sanitary thing to do. Let’s all band together to make sure that the poor disadvantaged few among us who are incapable of the hover aren’t sentenced to a life of wiping up pee that doesn’t belong to them before achieving relief. Let’s all clean up our on pee.


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How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?

My dad has a song for everything. I remember once watching “I love the 90’s” on VH1 when my dad walked into the room, changed the channel, and stated: “2000 zero zero party over, oops out of time.” I couldn’t even be mad. He’d partied like it’s 1999 to assert television dominance. Somewhere, Prince smiled.

Part of having a song for everything includes listening to obscure bands from bygone eras. He is, in fact, the original hipster. For a time when I was in high school my father worked from home, and occasionally I’d walk through the front door to music blaring from the turntable and my dad rocking out at the computer. That was how I was introduced to Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks, a Northern California band from the 70’s that still play in the area from time to time. We even saw them perform once.

“How can I miss you when you won’t go away” is a Dan Hicks classic song. When I left for college I bought a few Dan Hicks CD’s and this song was always a favorite that reminded me of home. In fact, I surprised my dad at my wedding by blaring this song during our daddy-daughter dance. We both laughed.  Here he is reacting to the song choice:

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But it was a bit sad, too. We all knew that my first military PCS would be two short months after the wedding. I’d never lived more than a car ride away from my closest friends and family. Now it was my turn to move 3,000 miles away.

Leaving my family has by far been the most difficult part of marrying a military man. Sometimes I’ll find myself on Google Earth looking down at my parent’s place and noting whether or not the red truck is in the driveway.

I used to visit every few weeks. My folks live just north of San Francisco in beautiful Marin County. It’s just a hop skip and a jump to the Carneros region with some of the world’s best wines. I felt a comfort there that can only come from feeling truly at home.

Now at least with technology it’s easier to stay in contact. We FaceTime on holidays, and we have a long-standing tradition of sending what we dub “neener-neener” pictures to tease each other like small children about whatever neat thing we’re up to. My mom, the other runner in our family, might send me a picture of herself holding a glass of bubbly wine at a picturesque winery. The same winery where as I child I had my first unexpected taste of sparkling water and in my disgust, and much to my mother’s horror, opened my mouth to let it dribble down my front. In response I might neener-neener back a view of the Atlantic coast from my run route.

In this case, all she needed to do to set off my jealousy was send a picture of champagne flutes:

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My dad sends me neener-neener pictures of him smoking a stogie while playing a new instrument. I’ve lost count of how many ukuleles he owns. I’ll send back an audio file of me playing classic rock. Every time I smell a cigar I think of him.

The one set of neener-neeners that always gets me are of my sister’s growing baby bump. I wish so much that I was there to see her grow. As kids, I begrudged my sister every glass of water she asked me to grab while I was up. Now I would happily get up of my own accord to get her anything, if only I could be there. I’ve yet to come up with anything I can neener-neener back.

At least I can see them all. 30 years ago if I wanted a progress report of my sister’s baby bump, or my dad’s ukes or my mom’s trips to wine country, they would have to use a film camera, wait for the photos to develop, then snail mail them across the country. Now I can get photos instantly or see them live when we talk, and for that I am grateful.

There’s a silver lining to the military lifestyle that I didn’t expect. All of the spouses that I meet are in the same boat. We’re all transplants trying to get along in new areas. We all have families elsewhere. I guess that’s where the military family comes in.

I have forged strong bonds with other spouses. I have been amazed by how women will rally to help each other. There’s a program to make meals for new moms, and there’s an unofficial support network to reach out to women (or men) while their spouse is gone. Last year Cameron had to be out of town for Valentine’s Day. I was bummed since it was our first married V-Day, and we hadn’t been in town very long. So my new friend Sally took me out to dinner to be my Valentine as her husband was also away. It made me feel cared for more than she knows. Little acts of caring are countless in the military family, and it helps to make me feel at home.

This year Cameron and I will move to the farthest reaches of the states to settle in Hawaii. I will still miss my family. That will never change, but I am glad to be able to see and speak with them easily. My mom has often told me that I can come home anytime I want while Cam is deployed, and I may. I may not need to though. From what I’ve seen and experienced spouses are good at banding together. I’m less anxious about this move because I know there will be a support network when I get there.

The past few years have been an amazing journey of growth and learning for me. I met the love of my life and went from a California hippie to a New England navy wife. I ran my first and second marathons and realized that I am stronger than I knew. I made friends that I truly love having in my life, even when they move half the world away. There have been numerous ups and downs, but even missing my fam, I’m actually happier now than I can ever recall.

I guess the Greatful Dead say it best, and I’m sure my singing father would approve:

Sometimes the light’s all shining on me

Other times I can barely see

Lately it occurs to me

What a long strange trip it’s been

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