Monday, April 29, 2013

Ceremony and Tradition

*Warning: do not try this at home.  I have no intention of being a role model with this post.  I am not taking responsibility for your irresponsibility.  No no folks, I only take responsibility for my own lack of good judgement.*

This past weekend, I watched my very amazing husband walk across the stage to receive his Masters Degree.  I am.  SO. Proud.

 Can I just tell you how much I love this sneaky photo of a VERY proud 
PapaMcD snapping a picture of his son?

To be fair, The Mister actually completed his graduate work while we were still in Mexico.  And when he finished his course work from south of the border, his advising professor told him he could 'walk' if he wanted to when he came home.

The Mister had originally thought it didn't much matter, but when he said so to me, I set him straight.  I'm big on ceremony and tradition, and this is one of those that he had already put in the work for. I told him "You won't ever look back and say "Gosh, I wish I hadn't walked," but if you don't walk, you might regret it."  It was a lovely ceremony, and he was, in fact, happy to have gone through it.*

I got my Masters Degree in Texas; a state so embroiled in the importance of school tradition and ceremony it's almost cultish.  If you're from Texas and reading this saying 'I'm offended by that statement!'  Think of the last time one of your friends started a real, legitimate fight, due to them throwing up the 'hook 'em horns' sign in front of someone wearing maroon.  Because I'm 100% sure you have a story like that somewhere in your lexicon.

Anywhoozle.  Because I was in Texas, I received a class ring for FREE.  According to the alumni association, and my professors, there is nothing more important than showing off the proper Texan school from whence I received my education.  Whatevs, free ring, pretty awesome.  My ring came with a lengthy pamphlet, explaining the symbolism of every bit of the design (including a fire-hydrant built into the "U" of the word University, to commemorate a dog named Dammit who wandered campus back in the day.), and how to properly wear it (it needs to face IN on your hand until you've actually received your degree, then OUT towards the world/ people you would shake hands with after you've matriculated).  At some point I was talking with a friend about how I was impressed/ astounded at all the importance put into this little piece of metal, and was informed of the ring-dunking ceremony.

Full disclosure - I did not graduate from Texas A&M, and this is technically only an A&M tradition.  But the explanation stuck with me for years and I always kind of wanted to do it.  Here's how it works if you're not familiar:
Upon receiving your class ring, you must go -with your closest friends and family- to a bar.  At said bar, you purchase a pitcher of beer.  You drop your ring into the bottom of said pitcher, and then you have the year you graduated plus 100 seconds to chug that pitcher and catch the ring in your teeth.  (i.e., I graduated in 2008 so I would have had 108 seconds).  Only then is your ring considered legitimate.
Now, obviously, this is not a tradition that is sanctioned through Texas A&M's administration by any means, but that doesn't stop a good chunk of the student body from following it to the T.  Also notable - I was totally down to do such a silly thing while I actually lived in Texas, just to say I had, except I went to a University that was religiously affiliated with the Southern Baptists, and as such, I didn't really have any graduating friends who drank, or were willing to do this with me.

Cue spring of 2013, when the Mister brings home a flyer about class rings for HIS institution, and asks me if he should get one.

My very eloquent response?  "YES.  YES YOU SHOULD GET ONE RIGHT NOW.  butonlyifyoureallywanto.  Um, yes though. Please."


Once he actually received his massive ring (holy cow you could take a person out with that beast), I explained the ring dunking and asked if he would like to do it with me.  And because I clearly married the right guy, he was all about it.  So we planned to hold this very important ceremony directly following his very *actually* important graduation ceremony.


Now, the Mister and I are not college kids anymore, so we adjusted a bit to make sure we could do this without making our livers revolt for the next three days.

Here's how we set up our ring dunking:  We went to Hooters and recruited teams of Hooters girls to cheer for us (which was a blast in and of itself, because they were super confused when we explained it). We bought PINTS -not pitchers- of beer.  We had glasses of water waiting on the sidelines.  We dunked our rings, and we chugged with the intent to catch our respective ring in our teeth.  Instead of timing it, we raced.  It was everything I ever dreamed of.  Until... well, you know what?  Here, you can just watch it:


video
I LOST!

Do you even... ugh.  I knew when we agreed to those rules that I was 100% certain to win this race.  (you may note the Mister's "my wife is going to smoke me on this" look in the picture above.  He knew too.)

We all have those "skills" we developed in college that aren't exactly resume appropriate.  Mine was that I learned how to chug a beer like a champ.  So I chugged my beer in record time, knew that I had handily beaten The Mister, and settled back to watch him finish his drink.


Except I forgot the part about catching the ring in my teeth!  You know, the ENTIRE POINT OF THE THING I HAD WANTED TO DO FOR FIVE (5!) YEARS.  BAH!  So as you'll notice, I clarified that since we were technically celebrating the Mister's graduation, I "let" him win.  Yes.  Clearly that was on purpose.  And I should not be as disappointed in myself as I am.  I am not disappointed that I lost a chugging contest to my husband.  Nope.  Not one bit.  Ican'tevenbelieveIlost.

blurry ring kiss!

Do you have any fun traditions from your school?
What "resume inappropriate" skill did you get from college?
Have you lost a competition "on purpose?"
Did you walk for graduation?  Why or why not?
Tell me in the comments!

*The graduation ceremony was very nice.  And I was impressed, because I've always gone to/ worked at smaller institutions.  The Mister's University matriculated a couple thousand students in one day, over 3 ceremonies, and they kept a pretty good time schedule going.  I have never seen "well-managed timing" happen at any of the small school ceremonies I've seen.  

My only complaint is that if you're not going to have a commencement speaker in order to keep time short... maaaaaaaybe the President of the Uni shouldn't talk for over an hour (not even kidding).  Because after all the names are said and everyone's walked across that stage, not a single person in that space wants to hear another single word.  They want to go celebrate.  Also: never, ever show a slideshow.  Nope.  No.  You could HEAR eyes rolling in heads.

MAD PROPS THOUGH - I was throughly impressed with the folks who pronounced everyone's name going through graduation, and even MORE impressed with the ladies who signed the entire spiel for those who are hearing impaired.  Yes, even the names.  Holy cow that was amazing.  Go them.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mac Does Something Awesome - Ep. 10 Bath Time!

We're back with a MDSA video this week!

Just in time too, because Mac... well he was pretty rank.  (Hard to tell just how dirty a black dog is until you get a whiff of him while snuggling and gag)

(You can watch below or click here to watch it full screen on youtube!)



Though you can tell he feels better after a good "spa day," Mac's always a little reluctant to hop in the tub.  We filmed this while getting him all clean so he could go to the SPCA this past weekend and accept his winnings for the Pet Celebrity Contest of 2013

So you'll be seeing a lot more of Mac around South West Michigan as he represents the SPCA and all the wonderful adoptees there for the entire year.  If you'd like to know more about that, you can

Click here to visit the Southwest SPCA website
Click here to read Mac's feature in the SPCA newsletter

Does your dog like baths? 
Or hairdryers?
(Mac comes running when I do my hair!)
What do you do to get them in the tub? (Bribery like me?) 
Do you have to wear a swimsuit when you bathe your pup like me 'cause you're going to get sopping wet no matter what?
Tell me in the comments!

I'm sure you may have noticed a few items in the video -
Lickety Stik - it's exactly how I described in the video -a liquid treat in a roll dispenser.  Mac adores his, and will work super hard for a quick lick.
Coconut Oil - We use it as a leave-in conditioner after Mac gets a bath.  I use it as a lotion after I shave my legs, and I even give Bub a lick or two of it to help him with hairballs.  All good things, people.
Zoom Groom (the green thing I'm brushing him with during his hair-dryer time) - It's a product of Kong (the durable dog-toy manufacturer), and functions as a great brush as well as massager for dogs with short hair (I've seen groomers use it on long haired dogs, but I can only attest to it's awesomeness on Mac's coat.)

What would you like to see Mac do next?
Stay tuned Wednesdays for new MDSAs.

Monday, April 22, 2013

SPCAwesome!

Happy Monday friends!

I mean, as happy as a Monday can be.  I hope you're doing swell even though there's an entire week in the way of the weekend.

If you're new here, welcome!  The name's Kristin, though I go by KpMcD, and I'm a graphic designer, artist, and accredited dog trainer.  If you'd like to know more about the antics me and my two rescued critters (Mac, the Doberman-mix, and Bubba, the marmalade tabby) enjoy, I'd suggest the following posts to get you started as you bop around this little corner of the internet that I call home:

Bubba:
  • Fabu Feline - The story of how I came to adopt Bubba
  • A Garfield Kind of Cat - when my husband and I lived in Mexico, we got a lot of comments about how Bubs is a bit fat.  He's... well he's not fat, but he's probably husky.
  • Fatty Tabby 2x4 - Okay he's a bit tubby.
  • Jingle Bells - That one horrifying time we lost Bubba.  On the streets of urban Mexico.
Mac:
  • Moving Mac - my husband and I just got back from living in Mexico for a year.  We took our critters with us - this is how we got a big old dobie-mix south of the border.
  • Service 1/3 - Mac is my service dog.  This is the first in a 3-part blog about how he came to be that.
  • Six Step Program - The first day Mac was in Mexico with us.
  • Mac-nificent Ring Bearer - Mac was the ring-bearer for our wedding this past October.  Here's how that went.
  • Mac Does Something Awesome - This link will take you to a whole series of posts that I do each Wednesday where I upload a video of a silly trick Mac does.
Past that, thanks for stopping by and I'm pumped to have you visit. :)
***

We sure are doing swell over here at KpQuePasa, I tell you what.
So last week, if you stuck with me through all the long text and seriousness, I talked about Mac in his role as a service dog.  And that's important, certainly, but I like to stick to cheery things here when possible, so today let's talk about how 

MAC WON A MAJOR AWARD THIS PAST WEEKEND.

Specifically, Mac won the "If they could see me now" contest, put on by the Southwest Michigan SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).  The contest was/ is to showcase the great turn-around "rags to riches" adopted pets can have, and the great pets that rescued animals can make.  I submitted a photo of Mac, and an essay detailing how Mac went from a mangy (literally, he had mange) shelter puppy to the distinguished canine he is today.


Mac will be getting a professional photo shoot soon, and a commemorative brick at the SPCA's rescue center, but more exciting to both Mac and I - Mac gets to represent the SW Michigan SPCA at... stuff!

We haven't gotten too many details about said stuff yet, but presentations, fundraising events... I believe that's what we're talking about.   I am SO, so flattered that the good people at the SPCA saw in my puppy what I see in him, and are giving him the opportunity to show off to the greater critter-loving populace of Southwest Michigan.  We'll keep you posted.

{I'm also really humbled that they were so kind as to share this-here KpQuePasa web-site with those who receive the SPCA's monthly newsletter*, so that folks could come and learn more about the dog who's going to do good deeds out in the world on the behalf of their dogs and cats.  We're going to work hard to make you proud.}

We went to the actual SPCA's rescue center this past Saturday to accept the award and have a few pictures taken, and I wanted to make sure that Mac looked his best for the occasion.  So I made him a tie.  And then I made a few more.  Then we decided:


In the spirit of SPCA love, the KpQuePasa Etsy Monster has a few new things up for sale.  And if you buy any one of the things (old or new) listed up at the Monster right now, Mac and I will donate 50% of the proceeds to the Southwest Michigan SPCA on any sale made up through the end of May.


Help your large-breed puppy cement his business-casual image with a Dapper Dog Neck Tie (Why do little &/ girlie dogs get ALL the cool accessories?  Not anymore I say).  Display your dog's Rewards/Treats with style in your very own etched dog-cookie jar!  I'm planning on getting some cat-friendly things listed by the end of the week. 

You can even contact me through Etsy for a custom creation of your liking - Want a cat treat jar (Bubba approves.)?  Or want your dog's name on something?  Or a customized Mac Does Something Awesome Jar of your very own?  I'm on it!

Do you have a rescued pet?  
What's the best thing about them?  
Tell me in the comments!

Bubba is just not ready to get up yet today, but he'll be excited about this all in good time.

*Here's the link to the SPCA newsletter where Mac was announced, and a link to our essay!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Service 3/3

Here’s the last post of a three part series on how Mac came to be a service dog.  Thanks for sticking with me.  If you missed posts one and two, you can click those respective numbers to get all caught up.

And again, if you love the banana song as much as I do (I doubt it)… here’s that for your reading soundtrack.


From the point I first started mulling Mac-as-Service-Dog over, to this point right now, where Mac sits beside me AS a Service Dog, took a few months.  A few months for me to admit I wanted/ needed to seek help.  A few months for me to admit what he was already doing was such a help to me (because I originally felt like using a dog to avoid an attack might be a a bit of a cop-out).  A few months to tell a few people I'm close with about this idea, and gauge their reactions to the situation.  Would they be supportive?  Would they think I just want the attention?  Would they think I'm being ridiculous?


 I know we're talking Anxiety Disorder, not Depression.  But same sentiment.

I got three different reactions to these conversations.  The first reaction was support, for which, I am eternally grateful.  Ultimately one of my anxieties is a need to appear that I am on top of my game, all the time.  A need for approval.  
The Mister was the strongest in this reaction category, and I think that was my final push, because he's the only person who has truly seen me at my worst, and he can truly attest to what Mac does in those times, so he ultimately was the best equipped to be a sounding board with all the information but without some of my biases.  Holy snot folks, I picked a great husband.  The doctor I saw was of course second there, because I trust his opinion as a professional.  

The second reaction was skepticism.  I don't think it came from a perspective trying to be mean, I think it comes from not having an understanding of what it feels like to have a panic attack, how crushing and real that is, and how a little help would be immeasurable.
Along with that, I'm sure there's something mixed in there too that was "she just likes dogs and wants her dog with her all the time."  Folks, this is only half true.  I won't lie and say I don't enjoy having Mac with me, I mean, he is an excellent dog.  But I want/ need my dog with me when I don't feel like I'm having a successful day.  Most of the time, with the life I lead, this is entirely possible because I work in a pet store, and Mac can second as my Demo Dog for training classes.  Outside of that, typically I'm home with him anyway.  
But going on trips… the Mister will tell you, travel almost never goes well for me.  Now, Mac can come to any hotel with me, fly on a plane, or ride with me on public transportation when I get anxious about all of the things that could go wrong with all those people stuffed together in one very dirty place.  Who knows, maybe I won't pass out or cry by focusing on that guy who just open-mouth sneezed in my direction, because instead I can focus on the dog sitting on my foot, pressing himself into my legs.  And wouldn't that be amazing.
When I feel balanced, a week, or month, or if the stars align, monthSI am confident leaving the house without a backup plan, and without Mac.  This was one of my primary concerns that I shared with the doctor.  I don't know that I need him ALL THE TIME.  And he told me that this actually made Mac reasonable as a way to manage the attacks.  Because the other option he could suggest for management was medication.  
Medication, because I suffer irregular attacks, would be prescribed as a "take this when you feel one coming on" sort of deal.  Except I don't have that feeling, that time window, in any manner which would make medicine effective.  I'd be too busy focusing on other things to break out of my head and take a pill.  Even if I did, once I feel it coming on, the timing means the attack would be mostly through by the time anything I took to combat it would kick in and make me an emotionless blob.  Let me be clear:  while medication is effective and more than valid in many cases for many people, if I have a way to be successful without altering my mind's chemistry, I'd like to go that route for as long as it's working.
I have a general understanding of what things bring these attacks on and why - It's life on a whole and the un-certainties said life throws at me.  The things that throw off my groove.  I can't stop dealing with life, and generally speaking I do LIKE dealing with life.  Managing anxiety is more a matter of figuring out what it takes to deal with life in a way that helps you avoid attacks.  Dare I say Mac has identified himself in that area already.


The third reaction was the most common:  pity mixed with embarrassment for my perceived benefit.  That was a bit hard for me to hear, though I know it comes from a loving place.  These folks just didn't want me to have to publicly state there was something wrong with me.  To have a dog with me as a Service Dog is such a blatant way to say "hey I'm not normal," and I don't think they wanted that for me.  Their feelings are not unfounded - I know not every person we encounter is going to be jazzed to see Mac walk into their establishment with me.  I also know that when I'm not feeling confident enough in my personal sanity that I need to have him with me as I go to their establishment, I'm only there because in some way I HAVE to be there - because when I feel out of it / potentially anxious I would really rather be at home in a comfortable place than anywhere else on the planet.  So it's not like "oh, let's go to an amusement park, and we're taking Mac."  It's more "I need groceries because there is literally zero food in the house.  I have a list, I will get those things, and I will leave as quickly as is humanly possible.  And Mac will calmly walk next to the shopping cart while that happens."  This is not a show-boating operation folks.


With those reactions in my pocket, I am further comforted by the fact that there is a lot of information about rights regarding Service Dogs out there.  While people can ask whatever questions they want of me, I am only legally required to answer two:

1) Is this a Service Dog? - yes.

2) What task does the Service Animal perform? - he will alert me when I am about to have an attack.  (and I do not have to be anymore specific than that if I do not want to be.)


I'm not about to pretend it'll be all sunshine and rainbows.  If Mac is there in his service vest, Mac is there for a reason.  I understand that, and I'm pretty sure Mac does too.


So that's that.  A very long series of thoughts that have lead to KpMcD having a Service Dog, and Mac being that service dog.  In closing, here is a very dapper photo of him in his new gear*.




*Please note he has two patches on his vest – one denoting him as a Service Dog, and one asking that if you want to pet him, it would help me if you ask first.  (having people be allowed to approach and pet him, at least from my view-point, makes me seem less "abnormal and crazy" and therefore seemed the better option for my anxiety).  I point this out because there are some service dogs who perform a service that makes people petting them okay.  And then there are dogs who do not get breaks in the work they do to be able to have others pet them.  Please always ask or check for the appropriate information on the dog’s gear before approaching any service dog.  They are not a pet there for you to snuggle.

Click here to read part one of this post

Click here to read part two of this post

30,000 pounds, of bananas...
of bananas...
of bananaaaaaaaaaaas....

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Service 2/3

Welcome back – this is part two of a three part blog post about Mac as a service dog.  If you missed post number one, click here to read that.  (also just because I love this song, here’s the soundtrack from that post again if you want to bop along to something as you read)


  




Let's take a second to go off on a tangent that will eventually tie-in.  Namely, a few months back when I started working as a dog trainer.  I got a question about Service Dogs one day, and what it would take to train one.  And being newer to the field (I'm coming to realize this is a really common thing for any dog trainer to work with), I said "I'm not sure, but I'll do some research."


Here's the very condensed version; my research turned up that a Service Dog has but two requirements: 
1. they must be well-behaved in public (though there is no requirement for them to pass any kind of certification**).
2. they must provide a service that the handler/owner is unable to do for themselves, which helps them live a quality life (though there is no requirement for them to pass any kind of certification**).  




This does not mean the dog is just happy and comforts them in times of emotional distress.  It means the dog does something very specific which helps the person, and is something the person is incapable of doing themselves.  There are obvious examples of this; Guide Dogs help the blind navigate a sighted world.  Alert Dogs help the deaf know when there's an sound or alarm to signify a fire, a phone call, or a doorbell.  Those dogs are very specifically trained in a program to identify their handler's needs.

Then there are dogs who perform a service which they may have been trained for, or that the dog itself has identified as a need in their handler.  There are dogs who can smell when their diabetic handler's glucose levels are low and alert them to take their insulin.  There are dogs who can sense abnormalities in their handler's heartbeats.  There are dogs who sense an impending psychiatric episode in their person, and give them something else to focus on so they can avoid a damaging incident.***




I read that and I got a bit of a hitch in my throat.  And I immediately wrote the Mister at work with what I thought was a hair-brained idea.  But his response was a pretty straight forward: yes. yes you're right, it is a good idea.  let's go for it.




Mac has been a foot-sitter since he was a puppy.  I joke that it is a good way for him to pin a person down so they have to keep petting him.  He just wiggles his butt into your legs and plunks down on top of your sneakers while giving you a "Please sir, can I have s'more?" sort of look.  Because he's a fairly big guy, that weight settling on your foot will almost certainly get your attention.  Mac will do this to darn near anyone given the chance.  And yes, he does it to me.




But for me, he saves foot-sitting for one occasion:  I start to get that intense focus, I start heading down the hill into a panic attack, and Mac will get up from wherever he is, calmly walk over, sit on my foot, press his body into my legs, and make sure I see the "Shift to low-gear or $50 fine" sign.  As I pet him, or take him for a walk, or otherwise switch from focusing on something inane, to him, the tension relaxes just a little bit, and more than once, he has helped me avoid an attack altogether.  On other occasions, he stays with me through the attack portion, and during that time his behavior shifts - he will make a point of pushing his body into me - a sort of "swaddling of dog" for me.










This is not just a dog being comforting. This is a dog letting me know that I need to take action to avoid a panic attack.  And if the Mister sees him do it, he helps me get out of that head-space too.  This is a dog doing a very specific thing to help me in a way that I can’t help myself.  

So back to this doctor I went to see.  


I described my panic attacks, saying something to the affect of "I struggle to call them panic attacks, because I have no desire to be my own personal version of WebMD and make myself a hypochondriac through self-diagnosing."  He responded with [and I paraphrased a bit here, obviously]:


While I appreciate the sentiment, you are spot on.  You are having panic attacks, that description is on par with a legitimate anxiety disorder.  It is common.  What is less common is the way you have begun to manage that phenomena.  If your dog truly does what you say, and he truly alerts you in a way that helps you avoid or better navigate an attack, he is doing something for you that you cannot do for yourself.  He appears to fit the criteria laid out for a Service Dog.  But less common or not, I am happy to help you in continuing that practice, because it sounds very beneficial to you and your lifestyle. 


And then I cried in the middle of the doctor's office.  Because Mac is a great dog.  A fantastic dog.  I am so proud of him that a doctor has agreed with me that he is providing this service to me, and is validating that service from a medical professional's standpoint.  But I am again, ashamed to admit just how much this helps me, and how often.  Like I am disappointing others by admitting I benefit from a dog's actions.  I guess I had hoped in some little corner of my mind that he would be all "Naw, you're fine.  That's not a panic attack, those dishes really DID need to get done to avoid death and destruction.  Don't worry about it.  Totally normal.  Everyone does that."





So he was kind enough to write out a note which validates Mac's service to me (in my research I found this is helpful for Service Dogs who provide a service which is not immediately recognizable, though I am not by law required to ever show anyone this note, it's sort of a comfort blanket for me.)  I have basically been prescribed Mac.




*Just in case you’re new here, I want to be very clear:  The information contained in this blog reflects only my PERSONAL opinions, and not those of any corporate entity which employs me to train pets.  I do not represent the pet store I work for here.


**I understand both sides of this non-requirement in the Service Dog world.  If someone benefits from a Service Dog, they should have the easiest path to that assistance as possible.  But in using that dog, I would personally really like to know that there are expectations I can have of that dog's behavior which will be maintained.  Now, guide-dogs certainly have programs for blind and alerting training.  But other types of service dogs do not have this kind of organization, and I just... Maybe this thought process needs to be another post for another time.  What I'm getting at here is please don't read this post and go "oh, so my dog can be a service dog just because I say it is."  Because that's really the wrong message to take away here.  And also it’s a federal crime to misrepresent your pet in such a way.


***Other examples I found in my research of Psychiatric Service Dogs:  Dogs who will lead a handler with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder out of a triggering situation.  Dogs who will remind handlers with depression to take their medication.  Dogs who will distract their handler with OCD to brush or walk them if they start self-harming rituals like picking at their skin.




Click here to read part 1 of this post
Click here to read part 3 of this post

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Service. 1/3



I’m going to start this post with a soundtrack.  You may have heard of a man named Harry Chapin.  If not, you've probably heard of some of his songs:  Cats in the Cradle, Taxi, W*O*L*D, etc.  He was known for writing REALLY long songs, and his defiance against radios for not editing those songs' length down, because his songs were all stories, and he didn't want to cut out an important part of the story just to fit the three minute mark.

Harry died a few years before I was born, but because my parents are awesome, I grew up listening to him on car trips.  Specifically (and I chuckle as I write this, because I know both of them would read this and go "she's gonna talk about the banana song," and they're RIGHT.)  I was addicted to a song called "30,000 Pounds of Bananas."  That will be today's soundtrack.  There's a link for the sound cloud here below; if you hit that play button, it'll play the song while you read.  It's relevant.



This is a song that I LOVED as a kid, because it really is about 30,000 pounds of bananas, and as it progresses, the speed picks up and it gets exciting.  In my youth, I would insist on hearing this song on repeat about a thousand times in a row.  I made The Mister listen to it three times, and his response when I said I made my parents listen to it over and over was "it's amazing your parents still love you."  (Note:  THIS WAS A JOKE, and I laughed really hard. But he was pretty over the song.)  And actually, I listened to it on repeat the entire time I typed this out.

It's more than just bananas, though.  It's about a truck driver, who is delivering those bananas to Scranton, Pennsylvania.  And because he is tired or just not paying attention, focused on something else, he misses a sign that tells him to switch his truck to low-gear because he's about to go down a very steep hill.  The song speeds up as his truck does, and thankfully I was too young at the time to realize, but the song ends with the truck driver careening to his very tragic death among his shipment of fruit. (Also thankfully too young to realize? Harry wrote this about a thing that ACTUALLY HAPPENED.)

Okay, so you have the context now.  Adding relevance to the soundtrack, here we go:  This past week I saw a doctor, and I used this song to explain to that doctor what it feels like when I have a panic attack.  I focus on something outside of what is actually going on.  Obsessively.  And somewhere in that moment of focus, I pass a point of no return, my "switch to low-gear" sign.  The focus morphs from just staring off into space and being only half-heartedly connected to whatever else is going on, into a racing heart, a feeling of disorientation, and absolute, overwhelmed panic.  It seems like nothing is going to save me.  Save me from what?  I have no idea, because I can logically say that whatever I've focused on is not a reasonable thing to make me feel that way.  (i.e., the dishes will in fact, not irreparably ruin anything/ anyone's lives if they are still dirty in the sink tomorrow)

I was scared to type that.  You'd think having a counseling degree that I wouldn't be so ashamed to share a mental health concern with the world, considering all the other crap I willingly admit here.  But I am.  Which in and of itself is almost more shameful.  Mental health is just as legitimate as physical health, our society just doesn't frame it that way enough.

A while back, when I first drafted the Frequently Asked Questions on my homepage, I put in a little blip about how I thought it reasonable to say that I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and talked about how I came to that conclusion and why I mention it every once in a while on the blog.  Here's what I originally wrote:
You mention being OCD a lot.  Are you just joking, or are you legitimately diagnosed? Neither and both.  I am not diagnosed as suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, or Anxiety Disorders.  I don't want, at this point in my life, to seek outside help or a concrete label.  But I can tell you (see above about that MEd), that I have spent enough time with a DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) to know that I fit the criteria for a diagnosis.  There are simply times when anxieties fill me to a point where the only way I can stave off the feeling of my heart exploding through my chest (panic attack) is to clean, tidy, and organize.  These anxieties typically don't have a darn thing to do with dirt or disorganization.Now all that being said, when I manage to climb back out of one of those moments, the best way for me to recoup is to joke about it.  I'll even go so far as to throw out that cheesy "laughter is the best medicine" line.  But it's true.  You have to be able to laugh at yourself.  And until I reach an unreasonable point, I'm fairly certain both the Mister and I are happy to enjoy a sparkly clean home.  
You are more than welcome to look into what OCD is, and how it's characterized.  I will not be doing that today.  What I will be doing, once I finish writing all this, is updating that FAQ.  Because you'll note the last bit says "...until I reach anunreasonable point..."

Unreasonable point.  Has been reached.  Had been reached, in fact.  After explaining the feeling to the doctor, it occurred to me that I have been having panic attacks for almost ten years now.  But because I had always lived on my own, it was "manageable" in that I would just lock myself behind my apartment or dorm-room door, have my "freak out," calm down, and move on with my life like nothing had happened.

I also need to correct that it's not OCD, it's a more general anxiety disorder, because I haven't got specific rituals that need to happen.  Really anything can set off an attack- from dishes to laundry to whether or not I wrote my work schedule down correctly, and none of those things is a trigger every time.  It's more connected to whatever large, stressful life events are looming than the dishes being clean.

Now I live with The Mister.   I don't have a way to escape to solitude when I have an attack.  I have to panic right in front of him, and it is so painfully embarrassing I daresay the experience is all the worse for it.  He just wants to help me calm down, and all that I can get to come out of my mouth as he asks to help are horribly mean wails for him to just leave me in peace already.  He understands at this point that it does help me a bit to just be alone, but I think it worries him to see me so upset and then have me out of his eyesight.  I can't say that's unreasonable on his part.

Typically, typically, I experience an attack once every six months or so.  Then we moved to Mexico and I couldn't take my dog with me [right away].   In that two months without Mac I had four attacks.  We started planning our wedding, and I can conservatively attribute six incidents to that timeframe.  The Mister would leave me alone for these times, and Mac and I would do whatever I needed to do to feel better; clean everything, take a walk, go to a vacant parking lot and cry for a little while (yeah, that happened).

The bigger point here is that we (aka myself and the Mister) had noticed that MAC was present for these moments.  And we had noted that I either calmed down faster, or just had fewer incidents when I had my pup with me.

Which is all I have for you today.  I wrote all of this out and realized that it is far too much for one blog post, and far too dreary for a regularly happy blog.  But I need to get this all out of my system so I don’t feel like it’s some deep dark secret that I’m supposed to shield the world from.  So I’ll be spacing this out over the next few posts (there will be a Thursday AND Friday post this week folks!).  Why did I start on a Wednesday you ask?  What happened to the Mac Does Something Awesome videos?

Mac is doing something awesome.  In fact, Mac is now my service dog.  For my panic attacks.  And that’s what I'll talk about in the next two posts.  Deep breath, I can do this.  See you tomorrow.




Click here to read part two of this post
Click here to read part three of this post

Monday, April 15, 2013

Top Score.

Hey remember that few weeks back when I started an online poll because The Mister and I were planning on attending a Masquerade Ball and I wanted opinions on what kind of critters we should go as?

And then you voted?

We... didn't actually end up going with what y'all voted on.

Sorry.

BUT.  We did go to that masquerade ball.

And we drank a lot of wine  (because it was a function put on by a local winery).

And THEN.

Then we flipping won the mask contest.  So we got more wine.  For free-sies.

tiger and rhinoceros, at your service.

As you can tell by this photo, perhaps the Mister and I did not need any MORE wine by this point.  But whatever it was tasty.

Have you ever won a contest?  
Is there a good story behind it?  
Tell me in the comments!

Because I wasn't sure what we'd really end up being for the ball until the last minute, I ended up finishing a few other masks - you can check those out in the Etsy Monster now if you like!


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mac Does Something Awesome - Episode 9: MEOW

We had a bit of a hijacking today with the MDSA series. :)

With nicer weather comes outside time for the whole QuePasa family.  But it also means that some of us become a little more... annoyingly insistent on being outside than others.

You thought I was talking about me, didn't you?

Watch the video below, or click HERE to watch it FullScreen on YouTube!

Bubba is a fiend for sunlight.

Does your cat like the out of doors?
Do you keep them on a harness/ leash for their outdoor safety and or the safety of squirels?

What would you like to see Mac do next?
Stay tuned Wednesdays for new MDSAs.

Monday, April 08, 2013

No Regrets!


Last night, The Mister and I watched a movie called "Safety Not Guaranteed."  I won't spoil it for you, but the premise of the movie is that an aspiring writer is assigned to write an article investigating a classified ad which is seeking a partner for a mission where the two will "travel back in time."  It's more or less a comedy, because you spend the whole movie wondering just how crazy is the dude who thinks he can really time travel.  Anyway, it prompted the question:

"What do you regret enough that you would go back in time to fix it if you could?"

And you know what?  I don't know that I regret anything I've done enough to want to take it back.  I mean, sure, I've done some STUPID crap, but in the end, those things turned out to have some excellent silver-linings.  Top three stupid things (which wouldn't get me arrested to publicly admit on the internet) in no particular order?

1.  At 19 years old, fully sober, I ate a crayon.  On film.  By choice.

Once I tried to make a movie with a group of friends in college.  We were idealistic about how obviously successful this movie would be, and decided that we needed to fund-raise in order to purchase some props and video-editing software.  So we put on a grilled cheese sale on a random Friday night.  If you're following this story properly, you may realize just how brilliant of an idea it is to sell warm, gooey cheese inside buttered bread to drunk college students at 1AM.  We made bank.  And we did really use that money to buy video-editing equipment.

things that amuse me: when this, the actual flyer in question, 
has been preserved on Facebook for the ages.

But we didn't realize that the way we advertised (aka we put a flyer on literally every door on campus), and the fact that we were not a registered student organization, were both violations of the student code of conduct.  Oh, and we were all RAs at the time.  You know, the students expected to uphold that code of conduct.  So we almost got fired for that.*

What I remember most about this project is that my "character's introduction" in the movie, involved me eating actual crayons.  And I was so convinced this was going to be the next Blair Witch Project that I actually, really, truly did eat a crayon.

But you know what I got out of that?  Some of the most fun I've had in my life was had with those people, and I'm so thankful that such a stupid project became such a bonding experience for us all.  Also, Brides-dude, what the hell ever happened to that video?  Because I would like a copy.

*We did lots of other things that should have gotten us fired that year which were far worse than selling sandwiches.  I will not be telling those stories.  5th Amendment rights, y'all.   (sorry to my college boss, who may actually read this-here blog from time to time.  You put so much faith in me, and really I didn't earn any of that until the third year I worked for you)


2.  I stood on a stage dressed in Spandex and thought I was the shiz.

My senior year of high school, I decided to take on a tradition among the drama-geeks group:  I would be the spring play director.  This was a role that had been taken on the past two years by wildly successful fellow-drama nerds, and was the opportunity to pick the play, pick the cast, and run the whole darn show.

I took the reigns for the third year of the tradition, and I was far more excited than anyone ever should be to pick a play titled "Captain Fantastic*."  It is a play about a super-hero, and his band of super-hero friends.  This meant that I willingly picked a production which put myself (there were too many parts for me not to be in the same play I was directing, which is never a good idea), and all of my closest friends at the time, in costumes that consisted almost entirely of spandex, in front of all our peers.  (It should be no mystery why I won the "never gonna grow up" award from my fellow seniors that year).  I had actually blacked this out of my mind until last week when a fellow cast-member from this production decided to post photos she found on FACE BOOK, which as you know is accessible to the entire internet.  And then she also TAGGED ME.  In all my spandex glory.  There goes my political career.

So I might as well just share it here too.  I'm the one in the ref shirt.

But if I hadn't done that?  No one would have directed a play that year - my Senior class did not have as many contributors to the drama-geek group as the classes above and below me.  This is a group of kids that regularly got the short-end of the stick when it came to resources and generally anyone giving a poo about what they did, so this was a project that we needed to prove we were excited about in order to keep it going.  The next year the students who took over did a great job from my understanding.  If I hadn't gotten everyone to put on spandex and jump through a window like we were about to fly under our own super powers in 2002, then no one would have gotten to be in a spring play at all in 2003, or any year after that.  And that would have sucked.

Also, can I tell you how loved I feel in retrospect that all my greatest friends at that time were too kind to refuse such a stupid idea or such embarrassing costumes?  I made one of them wear a freaking bucket on his head, people.  Also if you're reading this, Bucket-head (that was really his character's name), I won't reveal your identity, but thanks for that dude, that was pretty damn boss of you.

Lastly, my superhero name was Girl Marvel, who's alter-ego was Agnes Griddle, if anyone actually cares about that.  I had a cape.   Are you jealous yet?

*Oh my good lord the whole first act of this is available to read free online.

3.  I put myself on a dating website.

I only ever wrote about one date that happened from that time.  I will admit there were others.  And while they weren't all as memorably horrendous as that one (seriously just click here if you don't remember/ haven't read what I'm talking about), they weren't great dates.  One guy wanted to date me just to use me as his personal counselor.  He had no intention or interest in me romantically, he wanted someone to talk to about his mommy issues, and I had the MEd to qualify.  He strung me along for a long enough time that when I finally figured out what was going on, my self-confidence took a rather giant hit.



OkayCupid did make my twitter feed ripe with hilarity for a while though.

But if I hadn't put myself out there for the internet to see?
Well, I think we all know that I would have missed something pretty flipping awesome.


What about you?  
Is there anything you regret that you've done?  
Is there a silver lining that came from it anyway?
Tell me in the comments!