Where’s Whoopsie #15: Trumpkin

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<Image>: Pumpkin carved to look like Trump. Image source, and more Trumpkins, here.

It seems to be all the rage this year to carve jack o’ lanterns into angry Trump faces. I’m a little disturbed by this – as I see his face enough on t.v. to be bad for my mental health already – but mostly I’m amused. In a world of politicized media, satire – including satirical news shows – sometimes is the best way to patch together the truth in a world of alternative facts.

Mock away, those of you who have the artistic skills to gore Trump and the evil he stands for in gourd.

Just make sure you aren’t squashing any opportunities as you do. I fear too many would-be satirists are stopping merely at the obvious overlap in skin tone as the driving force for their mockery. There are so many additional overlaps between Trump and a jack o’ lantern that I feel the need to carve out a bit of mental space from all the horrible things going on in my life currently – and in the country in general – simply to illuminate at least the (so far):

Top Ten Ways Trumpkin is like a Pumpkin

  1. Both Trump and a Jack o’ Lantern were forged by a bunch of tools.
  2. Both Trump and a Jack o’ Lantern are hollow and gutless.
  3. Yet, they both somehow manage to remain rigid and inflexible at the same time.
  4. This is probably because both Trump and the Jack o’ Lantern are putting on a show to hide the emptiness inside.
  5. Both Trump and a Jack o’ Lantern are hot-headed and flip their lids easily.
  6. Speaking of “lids,” both are bald even though they are often disguised to look otherwise. (We aren’t fooled by those seedy cover-ups!)
  7. Like Stingy Jack of lore, who inspired Jack o’ Lanterns themselves, Trump is so morally repugnant he’ll willingly deal with the devil himself…
  8. But also like Stingy Jack, Trump’s arrogance far exceeds his intelligence. His attempts to swindle his nefarious foes inevitably only make him lose face instead.
  9. Both Trump’s and the Jack o’ Lantern’s visages adorn far too many buildings without adding much in the way of aesthetic appeal.
  10. Trump, like the Jack o’ Lantern, will be well past his time come November. I’d strongly suggest tossing him and all similarly themed accessories of his out as soon as possible (as soon as November 6th, where possible!)

Have some Halloween-themed Where’s Whoopsies since I lack the artistic talent to contribute a Trumpkin of my own. Also, have a baseball-themed Where’s Whoopsie since tonight might be the last game of the World Series. At the time I made this, these were the #1 teams in each division going into the playoffs. Obviously, I’m a little late in posting, but close enough! (Consider it trivia for those of you who like baseball to work out approximately what week this summer that I actually colored the baseball Where’s Whoopsie based on what team colors are represented.)

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.

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Improv #11: I’m Mrs. Bright Blogs

*Knock knock*

“Who’s there?”

“The Bright Side”

“The Bright Side Who?”

“The Bright Side Who Doesn’t Actually Exist”

“Oh. Then I guess this is just another dissociative conversation with the bully-in-my-brain, then?”

“You catch on not quickly at all, don’t you? Also, your joke sucks.”

I’m fairly sure the first rule of building a blog audience is “own your domain name so you can engage in SEO and promote yourself across social media.” I failed that rule the moment I set up my account because I was too afraid to pay for an anonymous blog with a non-anonymous credit card. I also do not have the spoons to maintain more than one social media site, period.

I maintain a free site even though my lack of spoons has gradually led me to dial back on the other paranoid hoops I used to jump through to maintain anonymity. Part of my expression of a PTSD sense of foreshortened future is a fear that, if I did dare to make that all-of-$36-dollar annual investment in a domain name, I’d immediately go broke. I would be inviting the wrong kind of irony magnet. Then, my audience accustomed to something simple like “lavenderandlevity.com” would all abandon me as soon as continuing to follow me required the modicum of effort to bookmark “lavenderandlevity.wordpress.com” again. If you follow me while I use the free version, I suppose you’ll probably follow me on a paid version. But, would those who would only follow a paid version ever bother to reverse course? Do I really even want followers for whom I have to write witty, engaging content all the time? C-PTSD says just stick with free: I’ll never have to fear inevitable future rejection from potential future financial disaster. C-PTSD is dark.

Which sucks because…

Continue reading “Improv #11: I’m Mrs. Bright Blogs”

Where’s Whoopsie #14: Where’s it Hurt?

Traveling and being unwilling to bring anything I have actually invested time and effort in with me to Hell means I haven’t posted a Where’s Whoopsie since July! I suppose I could have posted some of my decidedly not-safe-for-work swear word drawings that I relied upon instead of geometric patterns to express my feelings during my time in the 9th Circle of Hell, but even I don’t care to see them, though swearing out loud feels like a great way of reminding myself I’m not in that place anymore. I’m fairly confident some of those swear words leaked into my blog posts anyway over the past few months.

However, I feel like posting something just because I need to mentally distract myself, and typing hurts physically even if it might help mentally. Thus, I’m using the fall back of pretty pictures to make up for a decidedly lackluster pain-fogged blog post. Something appears to be going “around,” and proximity to sick people has resulted in the inevitable acute illness coupled with massive amounts of all-over pain. I would dearly love to understand how bacteria and/or viruses exacerbate joint problems caused by defects in collagen, but they certainly seem to. Acute illness seems to have triggered a truly agonizing all-over EDS joint-pain flare. I’m exhausted but on my second night of painsomnia. The next time someone compares their cold to my chronic illness, I’m going to remind them that we get all the same bugs, then have to deal with another week of our normal symptoms being on overdrive to top it off.

Continue reading “Where’s Whoopsie #14: Where’s it Hurt?”

Improv #10: Seven Things for Self-Care

*Knock knock*

“Who’s there?”

“Seven”

“Seven Who?”

“Seven Eleven…”

“Dude, you can’t fool me. I know there’s only seven of you. When I’m seeing eleven then maybe I’ll believe I’m as think as my friends drunk I am. Now bring me my black coffee and tylenol delivery stat!”

There’s an Improv game called Five Things that seems to be fairly universal. The basic gist is that you sing a little song and then ask the person next to you on the spot to come up with five (or seven, or eleven or whatever arbitrary number) of a certain category. It’s a warm-up game to get you thinking in odd ways.

It’s also a song that will lodge itself into your brain forever. If you don’t believe me, watch here. You get bonus points if you stay on beat and/or come up with wittier or more advanced versions for your answers. For instance, to start you might ask for five types of vegetables and only be able to think of “potatoes, carrots, peas, turnips, and celery.” Later on, you might get a little more inventive: “Mr. Potatohead, Veggie Tales, Carrot Top, The Jolly Green Giant and Sweet Pea.”

I do not seem to have self-care lodged in my brain in the same way. Between the double-vision fiasco, being mentally frozen in the 9th Circle of Hell and general ADHDness, I have been kind of terrible about my self-care this past month. (Don’t worry! No real alcohol or mind-altering substances were involved in my lack of self-care. Line games are just things that have also become permanently lodged my brain.)

Continue reading “Improv #10: Seven Things for Self-Care”

Messages in a Bottle #7.2: 525,600 Words

Written at some point prior in May 2018, intended for 5-26-18, my one-year blogiversary. The intro to this post (including why it is so delayed) is here.

525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear.

525,600 minutes – how do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.

In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.

In 525,600 minutes – how do you measure a year in the life?

How about love? How about love? How about love? Measure in love. Seasons of

love.

525,600 minutes! 525,000 journeys to plan. 525,600 minutes – how can you measure

the life of a woman or man?

In truths that she learned, or in times that he cried. In bridges he burned, or

the way that she died. (don’t worry, not a tw, despite what the lyric might suggest!)

It’s time now to sing out, though the story never ends

Let’s celebrate remember a year in the life of friends

I had to perform that song as a pledge event for my sorority in college. Pledging unending sisterhood or some such. Does it surprise anyone that I joined a sorority? Honestly, it kind of surprises me, too. I’m also kind of surprised I didn’t fall over while attempting to vaguely “dance.” Undiagnosed Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome explains a lot in hindsight about why I got kicked out of ballet class (and soccer) and hidden away in the back where no one could see me for that college initiation “performance.” But, rush was a thing that was a fairly big event even at my geeky college. I did it as something to do to fit in in a new place, and I was sufficiently mystified when offered a bid that I accepted it partly on some vague grounds of “leadership activities look good for grad school” and partly some deeper, “you mean there might be a school where I’m actually vaguely acceptable for who I am?” I am a very forward planner and easily flattered by simply not being rejected.

Continue reading “Messages in a Bottle #7.2: 525,600 Words”

Behind the Back Behavior

I feel betrayed. I’ve just learned for the first time about some truly “behind the back” behavior. I don’t mean anything from the 9th Circle of Hell, workplace bullying or even America’s President being a traitor – those are all sufficiently terrifying betrayals, but they are hardly newly discovered  – but rather something that has been quietly happening for years of which I’ve just become aware. Women, we’re all being badly betrayed…

By women’s clothing.

I’ve had to wear entirely too many dresses lately. Dresses are frustrating to begin with for spoonies, because they require things like making sure your legs are shaved every day, finding flat-toed shoes that look professional and cute (I do not have the ankle stability to wear heels), the ridiculousness and expense that is “dry cleaning,” inconsistent sizing between brands that make shopping take forever and fray the last ADHD nerve, having to buy special bras to wear with oddly shaped clothing styles, and sometimes wearing the modern-day torture device known as the “thong” under them.

They also all have zippers in the back. This has never phased me, but apparently only because I’m a mutant.

I finally pursued physical therapy for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome because it seems like, if I’m going to have to be on unpaid not-FMLA leave wearing traitorous dresses to traitorous meetings in the 9th Circle of Hell, I should also actually invest some energy into learning how not to dislocate my elbows or fall over because my ankle suddenly decides it needed to pop out orthogonally to my leg while I do so.

It took months to find a physical therapist who actually knows about EDS and who accepts my insurance. When I finally found one, the first thing he did was go through what “normal” range of motion is for most of my joints and to establish some limits beyond which I really shouldn’t be moving them to ensure my funny bone stays connected to the rest of my bones.  He will work with me throughout my not-FMLA, including designing a home program I can continue anywhere, including in the 9th Circle of Hell.

It took me until after the session to crystalize what was nagging at me about my “hyperextended” range of motion behind my back. If what I am capable of is “too much,” then how do non-mutant women ever zip up their dresses?!

I have never met a dress I couldn’t zip on my own, which is a good thing because my Partner is the first human I’ve been able to live with. I finagled my way into a single room in my sophomore year of college, and I never looked back. I am not good at having strangers in my personal living space. (Heck, it even took about four months to get used to living with my Partner.) In all that time, I have worn dresses to various functions. Now, suddenly, I’m told that the way I zip them is actually hyperextending most of my arm joints. What’s the alternative? For now, it’s asking my Partner to zip me up.

He is more than willing. (Though being a funny bonehead himself, he happily reminded me that he only has to own a handful of sports jackets, five pairs of similarly colored dress slacks, two colors of dress shoes and two suits to complete the male professional wardrobe as he agreed.) But, it made me wonder how single women without Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome handle zippers in the back of their dresses? If I’m understanding my physical therapist – and my Partner – correctly, most humans can’t zip up a zipper that extends the entire length of a dress from butt to neck on their own? I legitimately never knew this.

A brief internet search suggests this to be true. There are even devices made for single women to help them zip up their own dresses? Women, why do we stand for this? Women’s fashion is cruel and unusual punishment in so many ways, but it’s a special level of betrayal that a staple of women’s fashion for “coupley” events like weddings and first dates requires expensive contraptions for a single woman to put on. Or, that a woman could conceivably make the C-suite all by herself but still need to ask her significant other to help her get dressed for it in the morning?

There are other places that designers could put zippers. I’ve seen dresses with zippers up the side or no zippers at all. Yet, the vast majority of my dresses have had zippers straight up the back that require a range of motion that is “beyond normal” for humans. Why are women such masochists for “fashion”?  Can we all agree now that owning a twenty-piece professional wardrobe like my Partner makes much more financial and physical sense, especially for spoonie women? Can we agree to some women’s code wherein we all don’t purchase clothing that requires special equipment to put on?

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of a minimalist wardrobe for some time, but “minimalism” for women still requires being creative so that the same small number of clothing items are worn in continuously inventive ways that look like they are many more items. That takes creative commitment for which I don’t have the mental energy. Owning fewer clothing items additionally means more of that most feared task for anyone with ADHD: laundry. Laundry is the bane of the ADHD existence. I can’t quite embrace minimalism simply because of its laundry commitment. However, I am now seriously considering boycotting dresses with zippers up the back. I trust my Partner to always be there to give me a “hand up,” but I resent that some designer I’ve never met could force me into a situation wherein I have to either spend additional money or rely on others. I’m not scratching their backs with any more of my money unless they scratch my back and make their clothes fit within my new “pretending not to be a mutant” human lifestyle.

My PTSD Awareness: Currently Subject to Mental Health Austerity Policies

PTSD_Awareness

Trauma_is

PTSD sucks. I have previously written 48 posts to this effect. (But who’s counting?)

Today is National PTSD Awareness Day. I’m still generally too overwhelmed in my ability to cope from ongoing 9th Circle of Hell trauma and PTSD symptoms – oh the irony! – to muster up my usual witty commentary on my awareness of awareness months at the 11th hour.

Instead, have some humor (with a grain of real truth in it) courtesy of my Partner instead.  This conversation took place tonight in regards to whether I should still go to open mic night knowing I have to deal with the 9th Circle of Hell again on Friday. I felt guilty for not obsessively staying home and continuously preparing, even though that was liable to just end with me a dissociated puddle on the floor.

Partner: “Remember how austerity was a resounding success for the world’s economies during recent economic troubles?”

Lavender: *Crickets*

Partner: “No? Well, mental health is the same way.”

Take care of yourself. Austerity in economics and/or mental health care is rarely a sustainable solution for long-term shocks.

Improv #8: Dramatic Irony

*Knock Knock*

“Who’s there?”

“An indecisive person”

“An indecisive person who…?”

“I have no idea. Who would you like me to be?”

I just finished my first level of Improv training advanced enough that we actually get formal feedback from our instructor, who is a member of the main performing troupe for the theater, and a written evaluation which goes to the next class if we’ve successfully made it into it. (I did, for those wondering. I can legitimately say I didn’t influence that decision, as you will learn if you read this post all the way through, though that’s not necessarily as good a thing as you might initially expect!)

You know how they say art imitates life? My art is dramatic irony at its finest.

According to my instructor, I’m actually a great performer when I’m leading. I offer up creative narratives with a lot of humor potential, I willingly offer side support, I seem to have a good sense of how to create relatable characters with genuine emotion –  though I should play more with being the high-status character instead of always the low-status character – and my next instructor should encourage the class to engage with what I offer because I’m a strong leader who drives scenes forward when others do follow.

The problem comes when others don’t follow. Even though “Yes, And” is the foundation of Improv, failure to “Yes, And” – or just “Yes, Anding” in a thoroughly unexpected fashion – is a thing that happens often enough that I need to learn how to play off of it as strongly as when I do generate consensus. At the beginning levels, there can be a failure to accept an opening offer because the actor just isn’t experienced enough to recognize it. At the more advanced levels, since many actors that make it that far come from a theatrical background, many will just see my offer and raise it anyway because they think they have a better idea. If I ever do make the main troupe, I will be playing against audience members who will often offer complete non-sequiturs simply because they legitimately don’t know what “Yes, And” even means.

If my initial gambit is accepted, I’m decisive. If it isn’t, I’m too often indecisive and reorient the character or emotion I was exploring to be in consensus with whatever the other person(s) offered up.

Some performers get told they need to be more open to emotions or to improve their object work. Some just get told, “hey, be willing to share the stage a bit more.” Most performers get feedback that they need to remember to “Yes, And” more frequently. Me, however?

I get the feedback that I need to remember that there can be too much of a good thing. When an actor gets on stage and goes a totally different direction from what I initially was exploring, I need to remember that it is possible to “Yes, And” and still be decisive in who my character is and how they feel. “Yes, And” means that I have to accept whatever new facts are offered without disagreement. It doesn’t mean my character has to agree with them or come to a consensus on how they feel about those facts. If my character just lost an eye in a war (actual scenario from one of our sessions) and the entire rest of the characters react indifferently, I need to not be afraid to commit even more to how my character would react to that level of additional betrayal after such a life-altering event instead of instinctively deferring to the other characters’ opinions. The best humor comes from the audience recognizing authentic reactions to universal life experiences played out within fantastical and weird situations. It’s inherently funny to see my character decisively show his hurt and frustration because we all know that feeling, even if we can’t quite express it in such an over-the-top way…

So, I need to have the confidence to act high status and lead even when others don’t follow, I need to act decisively and I need to be true to who my character is even when others try to paint them as something else? Sure, why not?

It seems appropriate that I’d discover that I do have the potential to go all the way. The only thing standing in my way is just that pesky “resolving the central conflicts of my life born of experiences that shaped me long before I had any say in the matter” bit. Never ironically call Improv trauma therapy: you’re daring the universe to “Yes, And” you on it…

P.S. – as in real therapy, there is homework. Mine is to find situations that are fundamentally safe – not work, obviously – and practice coming to snap judgments, expressing them loudly and just sticking to them despite opposition. Bonus points if it’s a different decisive decision than what those who know me well would expect and if I don’t tell folks what I’m doing so they can’t inadvertently make it easier on me by giving in too easily.

My first decisive expression of this is that I’m going to my About page and removing that bit where I invite constructive criticism. My instructor also told me he had a feeling that – of all the class members – everyone but me would offer at least some justification of why they felt they deserved to go on to the next level regardless of his judgment about their readiness. I’d just say “whatever you think, you’re the expert.” Part of being decisive, however, is defending my right to my creative voice. Improv is subjective, and future instructors might not always rate me as highly as he did. That doesn’t mean I should automatically accept their judgments as gospel. So, given that advice, at this point, I’ve decided that my blog is what it is. If you don’t like it, go read something else. Art is subjective, after all. 🙂 )

Improv* #6: A Meetup Group with Social Anxiety Tries to Walk into a Bar…

How to Make Friends
Source: XKCD

…The bartender says, “We don’t serve folks with social anxiety here.”

The groups shrugs their shoulders and replies, ‘Well, if that diagnosis doesn’t work, how about depression, PTSD or ADHD? We’ve got a few options for what to call ourselves…’

The bartender shrugs, “One of those ought to count. Come on in.”

You probably thought I was going to go with the ending where they all shrugged their shoulders in relief and walked away because they didn’t really want to be in public anyway, didn’t you? Well, I was trying not to be cliché. After all, I tried to go to a meetup group for folks with social anxiety last night. At the time I thought of that joke, it seemed like the obvious ending was just a mental loophole giving me permission to chicken out. Chickening out at the last minute, even mentally, didn’t seem like the best option given I had three hours left to keep myself psyched up to actually go and “be friends at people.”

Continue reading “Improv* #6: A Meetup Group with Social Anxiety Tries to Walk into a Bar…”

Bombogenetics with a Side of Pie

Cross one random thing off my life’s bucket list. For Pi Day this year, we were gifted with a snowstorm that shut down the city for 36 hours (including leading to the cancelation of an Improv show I would otherwise have been in, boo!). The whole city – at least those in it who had office jobs – got work-from-home days on Pi Day. My partner and I both decided to make pies in honor of the occasion.

I have always wondered why other people could beat egg whites into stiff peaks, but I never could. I have gone my entire life unable to make a meringue, custard, french silk pie, or banana cream pie despite otherwise being a pretty good cook and/or baker. I have tried all the tricks I have read about over the years – chilled metal bowls, tilting the bowl and doing an undulating mixing motion with my beater and/or hand mixer for an optimal mixing motion – and I do mean everything. I once asked a chemical engineer about chemical admixtures and fluid dynamics just to determine if he could help me make a meringue. He could not, but he could make one himself. And, he assured me there really was something to the tilted bowl and optimal mixing stroke thing I had read about from the literature in general. It works for concrete as well as meringues.

Before I got an upgraded diagnosis,* I interpreted my continual meringue “failure” as just that – true failure on my part. I thought it meant I was a lousy baker because aren’t meringues kind of one of the “five mother sauces” of pies? It’s kind of disheartening when RSD shows up in the kitchen. The kitchen should be a failure-free zone, because, as my Partner says, “if you mess up, you can still eat the evidence.” But, no, I blamed myself for my meringue failures anyway. Well, it turns out it was probably an early bit of evidence – along with ankles that kept giving out during soccer leading me to be medically retired, early carpal tunnel and “double jointed” hands that made a no-nonsense Eastern European strings teacher tell me point blank that I should give it up because I couldn’t hold my bow well enough to be any good at it – that I’m hypermobile. I’m medically excused from meringues, too.

But, I’m older and wiser now and I have better kitchen equipment. I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for accommodations if you have a chronic illness, including in the kitchen. There’s no shame in a little help. My particular unexpected accommodation for my own bomb-o-genetics came this Christmas in the form of a fancy KitchenAid stand mixer given to us by my Partner’s parents. I progressed from a lifetime of failure to, in 2018, both understanding the root cause of my prior failures and being able to make a meringue at literally the touch of a button. (I did have to make my Partner put it in the oven and take it out later. I also randomly drop things sometimes and unset meringue fillings and/or fresh-out-of-the-oven meringues are not something I want to risk dropping!)

I wasn’t a cooking failure after all: just too poor in grad school to afford a stand mixer. With that knowledge, whole worlds of homemade whipped creams, Boston cream pies, and more have opened to me! For now, though, enjoy some pictures of my first ever lemon meringue pie and custard. I also include my Partner’s apple pie as a shout-out to him. They are a little toasty on top, but that is because we didn’t realize our new oven ran to the extra-hot side of 350. I’m still willing to eat the evidence.

 

*What subtype you ask? Well, presumably just hypermobile, but ask me after the genetic test results come back. I have a side of my family that I don’t know a lot about that also raised some flags in the review, so good to rule out anything more serious with a full genetics test. Presumably hypermobile unless I say otherwise in a few weeks. Hope I don’t say otherwise for my sake! Hypermobile is supposedly the least severe subtype, as well as not having a clear genetic marker yet.