Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I Think I'm a Tiny Bit Mentally Ill

The sun was streaming in through my window the day the diagnosis came. I stopped eating my bran flakes and blueberries and set the spoon on the table. The soothing voice from the TV spoke directly to me. “Do you sometimes feel sad, lethargic and even hopeless?”

“Oh! Yes I do.” I thought to myself. “Why just this morning I was so lethargic from staying up too late that I slept in, skipping my morning exercise. My efforts to exercise and lose a few pounds really do seem quite hopeless and that does make me quite sad.”

The all knowing voice spoke to me again. “Do you also have times when you accomplish quite a lot while your mind is racing and you are speaking quite quickly?”

“Oh! Yes I do.” I thought to myself. “That happens every single day. I thought it was called motherhood, though.” I have never thought of myself as bipolar. But here was the comforting and understanding voice convincing me that I just might be a tiny bit bipolar. All I needed was a pill.

The sun was setting outside my window the night the next diagnosis came. I perused the magazine taken from the top of the overgrown pile of magazines beside the bed. The words on the page next to the picture of the peaceful, gorgeous, sleeping woman spoke directly to me. “How are you sleeping these days? Do you have trouble falling asleep? Or waking in the night?”

“Oh! Yes I do have troubles.” I thought to myself. “I never sleep through the night.” I thought my sleep problems were caused by my nocturnal naughty cat thinking 2 am was a good time to pretend my bedroom was a kitty NASCAR track. I never thought my sleep problems might be something more than cat related. But here was a picture of a good looking, tranquil woman with calming words printed next to her head convincing me that I just might have a tiny bit of a sleep problem. All I needed was a pill.

Over the course of the next few weeks I managed to convince myself that I most likely had back problems caused by inadequate mattress support, allergies that have been keeping me down, and embarrassing scarring that was zapping my self confidence. I was pretty sure I displayed many signs of unrecognized adult ADHD. I was positive I had acid wear of my vulnerable teeth that was irreversible. And it was obvious that I was being held back socially by the wrinkles in my forehead. All I needed was a pill…and a special mattress, some fresh scented cream, a tube of minty toothpaste and an needle in my head.

I was also quite convinced there are a few conditions that I’m likely to get in the future. As a result, I was very careful to watch out for tingling, numbness, and a shooting or burning sensation in 5 different parts of my body. I’ve been on the lookout for the first sign of breathing difficulties, diminished lung function and walks with my grandchildren that are no longer satisfying and leave me winded. I also know that if I have sudden problems passing urine, have strange itching, skin rashes, hives or blisters, or if I start vomiting blood that I should get more information from the handy, easy to use website or call the 1-800 number to request the large print pamphlet that they can mail to me. And of course, I’ll feel much better-as soon as I get a pill.

My compulsion to self diagnose health issues based solely on information from TV and print ads eventually started to wane a bit. I realized my irrational and paranoid thoughts had gone too far when I convinced myself I had 3 out of 4 symptoms of erectile dysfunction. It was then that I knew I needed to leave the diagnosing to my doctor. I am now comforted by the fact that despite my perceived health issues, I can still live “my best life”. Apparently, according to the TV commercial I saw last night, I can still have it all. I will be able to address my specific womanly needs. There is no doubt that I can have more of what matters to me. All I need is a specially formulated…vitamin.

Check This Out!
My new favorite breakfast or lunch: Toast a whole wheat english muffin. Top with sliced tomatoes, salt and pepper, and a little bit of thinly sliced fresh mozzarella. Broil for a couple of minutes. Variation: Throw on some fresh basil if you have it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

This Blog Is Late Because I've Been Too Busy

The look of disdain they gave me cut right through my type A, organized brain. I knew I had failed them. The two younger cats circled the bowls in incredulous disbelief. They sniffed the 17 year old cat’s elderly, sensitive stomach, anti-hairball food that had been placed in their bowls. They eventually walked away in disgust. I had failed to realize that we had run out of their cat food. It took me three days to replace it. I was just too busy.

One day I expect to open up the paper and find the following obituary: Tammy Too Busy, beloved wife and mother, went reluctantly to be with our Lord on May 22, 2007. Tammy’s death came as a shock to the family since she was quite busy this past week and dying was apparently not scheduled in her Blackberry.

How many times have you heard it? “I’m so sorry I haven’t gotten back to you. I’ve been so busy.” “We’ve got to get together sometime. When things aren’t so busy.” “Work is really crazy right now-really busy.” There are days when being busy is absolutely necessary. There are days when being busy is out of our control. There are even days when it feels great to get so much done. But being too busy is so pervasive in our society today that it has become the norm. People purposely and often subconsciously fill their days so they won’t be viewed negatively. If you’re not busy you are lazy. If you aren’t multi-tasking you are simple minded. If you have a weekend free on your calendar then you must not have very many friends. If you’re not swamped with work then you must not have any ambition. If you have nothing to do then you are nothing.

We’ve become blind to the consequences of our too busy lifestyle. Our brains and souls are on fast forward. It’s hard to develop real, meaningful relationships when our lives are too busy. We merely go through the motions. Our families may function from day to day but they rarely thrive. There’s no time to develop the connections and nurturing that families need. Likewise, we rarely have the time to develop true friendships with our neighbors or co-workers. Most of the time we operate on an amicable acquaintance level but nothing deeper.

Just in the last week I’ve been too busy to read to my daughter the book we’ve been reading together. I was too busy to play chess with my son. I was too busy to hear the story about what happened to my husband at work. I was too busy to call my mother, to exercise or to make a healthy dinner. I was too busy to ask my friend how her father was responding to his chemotherapy. I was too busy to say hello to the teacher when I dropped the kids off at school. I was too busy to respond to the email from an old friend. I was too busy to give my neighbor anything more than a wave as I drove by. I was too busy to help the lady who dropped her groceries. I was even too busy to make sure the cats had food.

Being too busy forces me to settle for a life that falls short of what it could be. Being too busy causes me to sacrifice people and relationships and long term life goals. Sure, I might have more money, or a cleaner house or a few more pages done in my scrapbook. But in the end, is it worth what I am giving up? I recently read an obituary for a woman that died. She was 90. “Clara had a zest for life, a keen sense of humor and found good in everyone. She especially enjoyed spending time with her family. She loved to sit on the porch with a tall glass of lemonade and chat with family, friends and neighbors who would stop by. Clara was never too busy for the people in her life. A mentor to us all, she is irreplaceable.”

That’s the life I want. I’m going to learn from Clara. Now as soon as I research and buy porch furniture, pressure wash the porch, get rid of the bees nest, learn how to make the perfect pitcher of lemonade, make up a few pots of pretty flowers, buy plastic glasses and plates that won’t break if dropped on the porch, make a few cookies to serve and find a nice spring outfit to wear, you are all invited over to bond with me over lemonade on the porch. We'd better make it a few weeks from now though……it looks as if the next week or two I’m going to be a little too busy.

Check This Out!
It's Rock and Run Week at Slightly Exaggerated! Load these into your iPod and take off running. Great running music.

Nickelback-If Everyone Cared
Def Leppard-Rocket
Chris Cornell-You Know My Name
Night Ranger-Don't Tell Me You Love Me
Rob Thomas-This is How a Heart Breaks
Skid Row-18 and Life

Monday, May 14, 2007

Halfway to Old

“What’re yer numbers, honey?” he cackled at me.

“90/59.” I tell him.

“Oh, pisssssssssssssshhhhhhhh!” he spits back at me. “Ain’t nobody got a blood pressure that low unless they’re takin’ Lotrel. You takin’ Lotrel?”

“No. What’s Lotrel?”

“It’s my blood pressure meds. Got mine down 17 points on the top and 7 on the bottom. That and oatmeal. Oh, wait. The oatmeal was for my cholesterol. Or was it my diabetes? I get all my numbers mixed up.” He shakes his head at his failing memory. I see his wrinkled hand, discolored by sunspots and odd bruising, grip his cane. He slowly lifts himself from his chair and shuffles over to the counter to pick up his prescription. The leg on his elastic waist khaki pants bunches up. His diabetic socks are visible. His oversized acrylic sweater is covered in piles and gives me the impression that he is a widow.

I look around to find I am surrounded by older people waiting for their prescriptions from the pharmacy at the back of the grocery store. I am there because I am obsessed with my blood pressure. I check it at the do-it-yourself machine whenever I can. My aunt, who is a nurse, once told me that athletes can sometimes get their lower number into the low 50’s. I’ve always secretly wanted to achieve that. The people around me at the pharmacy are old. They check their blood pressure because their doctor told them to.

I catch snippets of conversation and it is apparent to me that most of those waiting have health issues. I am quietly smug. I feel young. Their deep wrinkles announce the many decades they’ve lived through. I will go for a run when I get home. They will struggle out of the store with their walkers. I have hard-to-eat corn on the cob in my cart. They have denture cleaner. I am smiling. They seem a tad crotchety.

With a subtle haughtiness only the truly ignorant can possess, I steer my cart down the frozen food aisle. There are three teenage boys repeating the word “dude” over and over quite loudly. Their oversized Rocawear jeans sit very low on their hips. Their plaid boxers are visible. Their Live Mechanics wildly printed hoodies give me the impression that they are highly irresponsible.

They can’t decide between pizza rolls or mini bagel pizzas. One of the boys accidentally knocks into my cart and his friends laugh. They are egging him on to “ask the lady”. Finally one of them turns to me and asks which product is better-the pizza rolls or the Bagel Bites.

“Well, the pizza rolls are higher in saturated fat and the Bagel Bites have a little more fiber. I’d go with the Bagel Bites.” I say with authority.

“Um……yeah. Thanks.” one of the boys mutters back. “We kinda just wanted to know which one tastes better.” They then grab a few boxes of the pizza rolls and take off. As they leave I hear one of the boys ask his friends. “What is it with old people and fiber?”

I am quietly offended. I feel old. I turn to leave and catch my reflection in the freezer doors. My stretch Levi’s are stretched a little too tight. My fat roll is visible over the waistband. My plain, mundane t-shirt gives the impression that I didn’t try very hard when I got dressed that morning. I look a bit dumpy. I look like someone’s tired mother.

I have to face the fact that the person staring back at me is no longer young. I’m nowhere near being old yet, but the aging process has begun. I don’t yet have the more serious health issues of the people at the pharmacy. However, my peers and I now speak about trans fats, carpal tunnel syndrome and which sleep aid medicine works the best. We buy anti-aging products, lite beer and reduced fat ice cream. I have friends with pre-diabetes, knee and back problems and high cholesterol levels. Some of us can’t make it through the night without getting up to pee. Crowns and root canals are common place. We like listening to the oldies radio stations. Most of us could lose a few pounds and tone up a bit. The times we do attempt to exercise we either can’t walk the next day because we’re so sore or we get some sort of weekend warrior “sports” related injury. We’re starting to fall apart. We’re starting to get old. I didn’t think it would happen so soon.

With a subtle humbleness only the aged can possess, I leave my wrinkled reflection and head to the checkout at the front of the grocery store. Waiting in line I find myself passing over the headlines on Cosmopolitan and Glamour and focusing on the covers of Good Housekeeping and Newsweek. The elderly gentleman from the pharmacy is in line in front of me. He turns to speak to me. He motions with his hands toward the teenage boys one line over who are paying for their pizza rolls and Red Bull energy drinks. “For the life of me, I’ll never understand why they don’t pull their pants up.”

I completely agree with the old man. “What is up with young kids these days?” I ask him. And with that question, I officially arrive at the inevitable age of being somewhere between young and old.

Check This Out!

Stunning and beautiful photographs by gifted photographer Ty McBride can be seen at www.flickr.com/photos/tymcbride. You will love his breathtaking photos of Ireland. You will enjoy the unique perspective of his “Cars” set. And be sure not to miss my favorite photo “Silo” which can be found under the “Art” set. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Let's Start With the Good News

The news is depressing. Whether it’s news from the TV or news from your cousin, it’s always presented in a negative way. I want to be aware of the important events that happen in the world and happen to my family and friends. I don’t intend on hiding my head in the sand. But, most often there are two ways of looking at a situation. Wouldn’t it be nice if the news in life was presented in a more positive way?

From the National Enquirer--Britney Spears was seen at a Los Angeles nightclub last evening with darn near most of her clothes on.

From ESPN--No one else died when intoxicated Cardinal’s player Josh Hancock crashed his vehicle.

From the husband--Honey, I encountered 5,874 cars on my commute today and I was successful in not crashing into 5,873 of them.

From CNN--25,000 people were enrolled at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007 and thankfully 24,967 are still alive and enrolled today.

From the sports commentator--Of the 80 pitches the pitcher threw during last night’s baseball game, almost all of them, 76, were not hit for a home run.

From the school nurse--14 out of the 15 students sitting at your son’s lunch table did not get covered by his projectile vomit.

From the oncologist--Out of the 64 different types of organs in your body, 63 of them are completely healthy and cancer free.

From Men’s Fitness magazine--Americans now have the perfect opportunity to get back into shape when they walk to the grocery store instead of filling their SUV’s with $4.00/gallon gasoline.

From the Army Times--Deployed soldiers are forming lifelong bonds of friendship with fellow troops.

From the wife--I went shopping today, dear, and you’ll be happy to know that I did not max out a single one of the credit cards I used.

From Planned Parenthood--95% of all babies conceived in the United States are never considered for abortion.

From Al Gore--Global warming will NOT destroy earth in the next decade.

From the child--I absolutely love 4 out of the 5 things on my dinner plate tonight, mom.

From the priest--There’s a pretty good chance you’re still going to heaven even if you don’t give the church as much time and money as they would like you to.

From the boss--You have an opportunity to make a lot of money this weekend and get to know your co-workers a whole lot better.

From the dentist--For the next 3 hours, no one will demand a thing from you. No one will whine at you. You will not have to multi task. We will take care of your every need. Your only job is to inhale the complimentary nitrous and drool over the gorgeous Todd English as you watch an afternoon marathon of the PBS show Food Trip with Todd English.

From the grocery store--Please select from our vast magazine selection that we’ve conveniently placed near our registers. It is our pleasure to assist you in learning all about why poor Paris Hilton is going to jail, find out exactly what date the aliens will land in New York City and guess who it is that dared to be seen in public with that nasty cellulite. Relax and we will check your groceries out in about 15 minutes when our friendly new team player Bonnie finally figures out how to change the register tape.

See? Isn’t it much nicer to receive news in this kinder, gentler, more positive way? Of course it is. I know you already feel a whole lot better.

Check This Out!
The book Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and the recent to DVD movie of the same name. The book is full of appalling and disturbing facts and anecdotes about the entire fast food industry. Schlosser takes a look at everything from factory farms and slaughterhouses run by meatpacking plants to the unethical and often illegal treatment of workers in the entire “fast food chain”. Words on a page, however, can’t make an impact like many of the visuals contained in the movie. Watch it…if you can. Be horrified at the reality of what it takes to get that burger on your plate. It may not make you a vegetarian but it should absolutely make you think.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


From the bottom of the hole he stuck out his head .
“I think I’ve struck gold!” was all that he said.
"You did WHAT?" said the mother, filled with dread.
as she peered into the backyard.

“Our troubles are over! You can worry no more!
I’ve discovered treasure inside the earth’s core.
It was such a great plan for me to explore
the dirt in our backyard.”

Much to the horror of the mother inside,
it appeared the boy had gone outside
and with super great effort, he had tried
to dig a hole to China.

The yard was full of rock after rock.
The same was true for the entire block.
Trying to dig would bring such a shock
when your shovel would hit something hard.

Yet somehow the boy had managed to dig
a hole that was really shockingly big.
And now the boy was dancing a jig
and yelling about treasure below.

The boy showed the father the treasure location.
Then the father did dig with great frustration.
Soon the boy did experience great elation
as the gold was pulled from the ground.

The boy was most obviously quite delighted.
The father was even a bit excited.
The mother was then quickly invited
to see the treasure up close.

She looked out in the yard and became a bit stressed.
She saw dirt and mud and a very big mess.
She saw laundry that would put Oxyclean to the test
when she tried to get out the stains.

Then out on the lawn there arose such a clatter.
She sprang from the kitchen to see what was the matter
and heard in the backyard a ton of loud chatter
about the gold that came out of the ground.

The boy said “Look at the treasure I found!”
“Come see the gold that I pulled from the ground!”
The mother then turned herself around
to see the golden prize.

She could not believe what she saw with her eyes.
She honestly looked like she was surprised
when she saw that the special golden prize
was a dirty doorknob of brass.

There was a look of pure joy on the boy’s face.
“I will keep it forever in one special place.
Dad, will you build me a display case
so I can keep my doorknob safe?”

Now the mother did not want that thing in her house.
She saw visions of dirt on her floors and her blouse.
She turned and quietly said to her spouse,
“Why don’t we keep it outside?”

The boy was crushed and started to fume.
He wanted to keep it in his own room.
He then went and got a very small broom
and started to brush off the dirt.

He wet down a towel and cleaned that doorknob.
He actually did a very good job.
The mother’s head started to throb
at the thought of junk in her house.

But the boy loved the doorknob he found in the yard.
He was proud of himself for digging so hard.
His knob wasn’t junk despite being marred
and scratched and dented a bit.

So the bedroom is now where the doorknob does dwell.
This doorknob, named Fred, went to Show and Tell.
And the whole thing has gone remarkably well-
having Fred live in the house.

The mother is learning to chill out a bit.
She won’t be so picky. She won’t throw a fit.
She’s trying real hard to allow and permit
things that she doesn’t like.

The determined boy has set a new goal.
He wants more treasure from the dirt hole.
The mother has given up any control
when it comes to the boy and his dirt.

She has decided there‘s more in that ground
than just the doorknob the boy has found.
For sooner or later that boy is bound
to dig up some money or gems.

And when that day comes and you walk past her house
you just might see the mother with dirt on her blouse
being followed by dirty kids and a spouse
as she yells, “I think we’ve struck gold!”

Check This Out!
The young adult book, UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld, explores what happens when everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous and your only job is to have a really great time. What could be wrong with that? (There are two sequels to this book, PRETTIES and SPECIALS.)