Thursday, February 28, 2008

Gatorade, Staff of Life

"Mom?" I heard a small voice say in the dark at about 2AM this morning. My son's voice sounded frightened, tentative. But what had me instantly on my feet was that he was speaking in that emergency frequency that is only audible to the mothers of young children. And that frequency says, "If you don't get over here right now, cleanup is going to be really, really massive."

My son had the stomach flu. And not some meek, mousy variety of stomach flu. This was the Megadeath-Darth-Vadar-Meets-Venom-Meets-Ghost-Rider version of the stomach flu. In the wee hours, I felt terrible for him. I reassured him that he would be okay. I reassured myself by remembering that he had, in fact, survived pneumonia and a 3-day allergic reaction to pennecillin before he was two. Even so, I couldn't do much more for him than rub his back every time he reunited with our bathroom toilet. By 8AM, he had thrown up 6 times. Then, I started to get scared.

I guess that's because, now that he's eleven, I'm out of sick-kid practice. For the past five years, I have been blessed with a child who rarely even gets the sniffles, much less the plague. In fact, because he almost never gets to stay home sick, I actually give him two hooky days a year. Of course, on these hooky days, Evil Mom that I am, I let him get dressed and suited up for school, before I tell him today's the hooky day. I meet him at the front door and look deep into his eyes -- just until he starts to get a little worried that he's in trouble. Then I say "You, my friend, know way, way, WAY too much. This couldn't be good for you. You'd better stay home and watch TV all day."

I hope he remembers how nice I am when he is 16.

But back this morning, by the time I was starting to get pangs about possible future trips emergency room, the gods smiled on us and made my godson late for work, giving me just enough time to dash over to the store. There, I felt calming relief as I bought a pallet of THE secret cold remedy of my Southern childhood. Jewish mothers may have chicken soup, the English dry toast. But, when you are a gal from Richmond, VA, you buy Gatorade when your nearest and dearest are spewing the Black Death of Influenza. You know that if Gatorade doesn't work, it's definitely time to kick start the major medical.

Two hours later, after measured sips of orange Gatorade, the Spewing One (SO) braved a cracker. Then, another two bottles of the orange elixir. Now he's chowing down Cheerios. Better yet, the dog has decided he can leave his nursemaid post (curled up on the sofa next to my son) and chase squirrels in the backyard. And, the real test of recovery: The SO has raised himself and is playing MySims on the Wii.

So, okay, maybe Gatorade really does have the same chemical profile as urine and it tastes like orange bazooka that you left too long in the glove box of your car. And let's not even talk about why a bottle of Gatorade does not freeze at temperatures below 32F. To me, Gatorade possesses special magical powers that are worthy of exaltation -- or at least buying stock in the stuff.

And -- as an added survivalist bonus -- if you have an onion handy, you can even use Gatorade to power up your iPod...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cheerful Is As Positive Does

Okay, now that I am back from getting the groceries -- both literally and metaphysically (you figure that one out) -- I'm all ready to dissect depression some more. Fortunately, others with much more street cred and PhDs than me are doing the same. Just two Sundays back, a wonderful article appeared in The Washington Post that shed more light on the subject of working out the blues. And it got me to thinking...

In the Post, Charles Barber wrote Healing A Troubled Mind Takes More Than A Pill  And while he might have mortally pissed off the pharmaceutical industry and some psycho-scientists, he had a lot of good and helpful things to say about living with depression, managing it, and taking control. According to Barber, rather than just relying on medication, work, exercise, and (most of all) having a purpose that extends beyond yourself are the necessary prescriptions for keeping the head and the heart in balance. 

This, of course, seems like common sense -- but it is common sense worth saying...and saying again.  It has been both my experience and borne true from the rudimentary research I have done. Getting busy, absorbed, fulfilled by work is vital to not only feeling better, but also changing the depressed brain.

But, it's not just about feeling better, good work actually fixes our brain equipment.

According to researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, the depressed brain literally begins to lose volume in the hippocampus, a physical mechanism that allow you to feel happy. As bad as this equipment failure sounds, there are possible replacement parts. According to researchers at Emory University and the University of Toronto, cognitive therapy can actually help the brain retool its happy parts.

So it seems that all this research and writing points to the same point:  Antidepressant drugs help to make a foundation of new, happy brain parts, but it is the repetition of positive acts and responses that really makes the depressed brain grow healthier.  And, I would add, humor and just plain laughing more is sugar on top.

So, my new mantra has expanded to "make hay while the sun shines" alternated with "I'll take another helping of accomplished laugh-happiness please; leave the argh! on the side." Also, where are those Marx Brothers movies?

And for some more brain entertainment, check this out:

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Giving Us Slugs A Good Name

This reminds me of my clubbing years, when I could shake some fair white girl boogie and actually drink as many as two gin and tonics in a row without having to take a nap.

And I swear, I had a boyfriend once with the same groovy antenna-eyes as these hipster slugs. Or maybe he just looked that way after the two gin and tonics.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Gas Powered: The Real Explanation For Dinosaur Extinction

When you are the only gal living with three fellas (and, yes, I am counting the dog), your sense of humor is affected. Maybe we could say lowered. A decade ago, I would have sneered at this clip in that eye-rolling-guys-are-so-subspecies kind of way. After living with my guys, who regularly stage fart contests as a normal Sunday morning activity, I think it's hysterical.

But, will it hold up with creation theory? That's what I want to know

(Please excuse me, Mr. Darwin.)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Untangling The Blues

It's been a while since I have written about depression, and my own garden variety of it.  I had pretty much your run-of-the-mill mood handling equipment up until 2006 when I got hit by the Mack truck of the blues. The only way I can describe this was that it felt like the Joker had set a big block of Kryptonite under my bed -- rendering this Supergal's powers null and void. Not too long after that, I learned that this was just another door prize at the menopause ball -- a party that I've been having a hell of a time finding a ride home from for about five years.  Turns out, recent research shows that menopause has the annoying habit of magnifying whatever grab bag of problems, syndromes, or just plain genetic anomalies you happened to be born with. Why my magnifiable anomaly couldn't have been slim thighs or a killer backhand is beyond me. Really, honestly, I would have been happy to have had to cope with a menopause-problem like the burning need to launch a successful business before I am 50. 

But, no such luck, and the blues hit with a vengeance in the fall of 06. If hot flashes, hair loss, and dry skin weren't enough, I found myself feeling so tired by 10AM most days, that even crossing the room required negotiation. (Is there REALLY a good reason to take all those steps? Maybe I should wait for a sign). Of course, I did cross the room -- and take care of the holidays and go to parent-teacher conferences and make windows and trim back the roses -- I just felt like crap the whole time. "Putting one's foot in front of the other" was the main descriptor of my day.

It was a drag. I gave it a name, and that was Agnes. (I envisioned my blues as a chain-smoking harpie with bad hair.) Then, I went to the doctor.  And talked to my friends.  And learned that I was in a boat with a lot of other nice, normal women, who were good enough to share their oars, strategies for getting better, and plain smart advice with me.

Since then, medication, diet, exercise, and a "keep on keepin' on" mantra have helped me regain much of my equilibrium. It's clear that winter is my problem area, and that I am affected by seasonal effective disorder, also known (quite aptly) as SAD. From mid-November to mid-January, I can feel my energy and mood slipping down a dingy and slushy slope. Even more mystifying is that all this happens for no particular rhyme or reason, but is utterly exhausting nonetheless. This year's winter was not great, but I kept the faith and slogged my way out of it.  I worked under one of those sunlight spectrum desk lights that made me feel like I was some kind of greenhouse plant. Then, like the crocus in spring, the increase in daylight hours brought big, relieving improvement. Nay, I must say that it felt as though it was lifting my heart right up out of ground. I would very nearly have called it an unfurling, just like daffodil leaves, probably because as a gardener I will use any reason to bring in a plant metaphor.  Whatever you want to call it, it felt wonderful.

Then, bang, despite the glory of spring, I started feeling that dark cloud creeping back, just that dull, aching weariness. Wasn't I supposed to finish that article two weeks ago? Washing the same, darn dishes everyday, just to dirty them again.  Jeez, can life be any more dreary? Every daily task felt like such a gargantuan effort and yet meaningless at the same time. Argh. It seems that the work of staying healthy is not achieved just by some extra sunshine or a pill.  It seems that it takes a bit more of my own work and focus.  Like everything else involved in heading towards the big 5-0, it's all about maintenance.

More on that after I pick up the groceries.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ferns Grow Slowly

Well, I've learned that if I design a window that has 120 pieces in the first square foot, it's not exactly going to fly off the work bench.  (Sorry. Bad metaphor, but you know what I mean.)  Getting through the lead piecing work on the first half of this transom window has been SLOW.  

Fortunately, I get a bit of a break today: I'm headed to Weisser Glass to take a lamp-making class this afternoon.  It has been so long since I've done copper foil method, the construction method used in making stained glass lamp shades, that I felt I needed a refresher course.  The copper foil method was invented by Louis Tiffany's shop as a way of creating lighter pieces with narrower lead lines.  It's great for making lamps, sconces, boxes, etc. -- things that don't have to survive heat and cold extremes, like windows.  A client and friend has asked me to make a custom lamp for her living room.  So, rather than muddle through, I thought I'd take this four-Sunday afternoon class and do things right.  

Unlike knitting, when you mess up, glass just doesn't lend itself to unraveling and knitting over.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Still Thawing, But Happy Too

So today was primary day here in the District of Columbia, a city that is so predominately Democratic that it is almost impossible to find Republican voters. Actually, the last time I encountered a RNC canvasser working the Saturday farmer's market, I felt so bad for the guy I just about went and bought him a sandwich. Almost.

And given the neck-and-neck, competitive Democratic race, the city was just about vibrating with electoral excitement. And this is saying something in DC, where most of us have seen the seamier side of the federal government, various presidential administrations, and a city councilmember or two. We are a cynical bunch. (Having perfectly good streets permanently shut down by Homeland Security can do that to a person.) But today, voters turned out in force. There was giddiness and earnest debate happening all over the place. In fact, in my own precinct, the voter roll registers were already 3/4 of the way full by 4PM, meaning fully 75% of the voters in my precinct had already voted.

Pretty darn cool.

As for me and my kin, we spent the day standing outside in a windswept parking lot organizing canvassers. It was cold and cloudy. Then it snowed. Then it rained. Finally, it iced over. But people still showed up and ate doughnuts and went off in gaggles to knock on doors and tell people to vote.

Pretty darn cool. Okay, cold. It was a lot of fun to be a part of something so much bigger than myself. Still, I am hoping to be reunited with all the nerve endings in my feet someday soon.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Because They Could

Just when I thought that things like "happenings" and "be in's" and "live art" were over, there's this. Move over Christo.

Thanks to Rebecca, the gal with appearances. ;)

Friday, February 8, 2008

My Kind of Reality TV...Finally!

Okay, so you know you are REALLY a knitter when there is some part of you that can anticipate what this gal does next. And that's from someone who has been reduced to knitting with bar straws and chop sticks, when the needles ended up packed away in the lost luggage.

I mean, who doesn't take their knitting with them on vacation? Especially for the scenic overlooks.