Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Confronting My Fears

After blood donation

Image by acroamatic via Flickr

I don’t fear death. I don’t have an irrational fear of strangers, no matter how much my grandmother tried to instill that in me. I used to be afraid of water, but now I’m just very cautious around it. I have two fears – pain and helplessness. I confronted one of those this week.

I think it’s obvious why I’m afraid of pain. Death is unavoidable – I’m okay with that. But most pain is avoidable. I think this is why it took me so long to start running. I knew it would hurt. Why would I want to do that to myself? I’m not a wuss, either. I’ve always had a fairly high pain tolerance. Maybe it’s because when pain has really bothered me, it’s because it would have to be pretty bad.  I don’t think I’m going to get over this fear, but I don’t let it bother me most of the time.

The other fear, helplessness, really bothers me. I’m a very independent woman and I like to rely on myself. I don’t have a partner to share things, so I’ve learned to be very self-reliant. So, those moments in which I can’t do anything for myself really bother me.

I think it started in 8th grade. I was sitting in my health class, listening to a guest speaker. The D.A.R.E. program had brought in a woman whose life had been affected by drunk driving. I had been sick that week, suffering from my ongoing sinus issues. I hadn’t eaten lunch because I wasn’t feeling well. We were listening to the lady describe the accident that her family had been involved in because a drunk driver had hit them. She described her husband’s leg break. She said that if noon was the toes straight to the front, during the accident, it twisted all the way around to 7 o’clock. That was it. The next thing I know I’m being helped off the floor by our D.A.R.E. officer and my health teacher.  I had fainted, right in the middle of class. I looked around and all of my friends, except the guy I was dating, were staring at me. He was avoiding eye contact for some reason. The teacher helped me down to the nurses office. I was mortified.

From that moment on, it really bothered me to be helpless, to have to rely on someone else. I continued to have fainting problems off and on through high school and college. When giving a small vial of blood for medical tests, having a mole removed, or even having a TB test, I would have problems with fainting. It led to me avoiding these types of situations just not to find myself being helpless and needing someone else.

That leads to Wednesday of this week. After some medical tests this spring in which I had to have several vials of blood drawn and I did not faint, I decided to donate a pint of blood. I have wanted to do this for awhile, but my fear led me to avoid it, even though I knew it would be a good thing to do. My church held a blood drive and I decided to sign up. I was nervous, but the people were great, talked me through it, and made sure I was okay before I left. The thing that really got me was how selfish I was being. What is a few minutes of feeling uncomfortable or fainting compared to helping up to four people? I had no problems – I kept my blood sugar up with a bottle of apple juice and I took it easy when I got up. I was so happy that I successfully confronted my fear and gave blood, and I could see myself giving blood in the future!

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Dental Dealings

So this Spring/Summer has turned into my age of dental mayhem. It all started with a cold sensitive molar a few months ago. This resulted in a root canal followed by a crown. Of course while getting the root canal we scheduled my cleaning so we could stay on track with my dental routine. We wouldn’t want me to miss a cleaning it might lead to having to get a root canal or cavities…

So they take x-rays at my cleaning and tell me they’ll go over the results when they finish up the crown. The dentist, who is a very nice man, wraps up my crown tells me it looks great and proceeded with examining teeth on the other side of my mouth. He, in a very nonchalant manner, tells me I have 3 cavities (2 on top one on the bottom…no biggie) that need to be taken care of.  To this I let out a little whimper. “Oh we can do it in one visit and get it out of the way.” It’s not that time that needs to be spent in the chair. It’s not even the unpleasantness of getting the cavities filled it’s the money but that’s what savings are for right? So I’ve come to terms with the cost. I want to keep my teeth so I’ll do what’s necessary to take care of them.

Today marked my final (fingers crossed) day of procedures. My epic 3 filling sitting. It wasn’t so bad. I brace myself when the Novocaine is going in and once all is numb I do my best to not bite my tongue and get to my happy place while the dentist does his thing. Today I had a moment where I was looking up at the dentist and his assistant looking into my wide open mouth and just thought. What makes someone decide that this is what that want to do everyday?

To spend day in and day out staring at and getting their hands in to other people’s mouths. Drilling out teeth. Poking at molars. Getting random whiffs of horrible breath. I attempted to brush but I’m sure there was lingering coffee breath. That’s a hazard of an 8am appointment. I suppose it happens with every career you see people and wonder how they get in to it. But this dental thing has always perplexed me. I think it during cleanings too. Especially with the hygienist I used to have when I was younger. She would make the most unpleasant faces like she was so disgusted by what she was doing. In my bratty teenage years part of me wanted to just ask her, “If this is so unpleasant for you go do something else.” As it was  I swear she made every effort to stab every single one of my gums with her little scraper. I’ve gone to other offices where everyone seems to absolutely love what they’re doing. I personally just don’t understand. Sure some people have beautiful teeth but so many others have really nasty teeth and you know that’s what you’d spend most of your time looking at. Other people’s nasty teeth. To each their own I suppose. In my case it’s good those people are out their so they can keep filling my cavities that I can’t seem to avoid to matter how much I brush.

As in most things in my life today’s situation reminded me of a song:

I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the motivation for the dentist’s I’ve had in my life. But maybe that evil hygienist…

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Road Ragin’ and General Hatin’

Rush Hour on I-5, Seattle, WA

Image by djwudi via Flickr

Okay, I have a feeling this will be a downer post. If you were looking for something happy and cheerful, I recommend Nicki’s post from earlier this week.

I’ve been discouraged, of late, about how mean and self-centered people can be.  I have had a couple of bad incidents lately that have really made me think about this. Since I started my new job in September, I also began a 20 mile each way commute.  Now, for some, this may not be all that bad, but the last two jobs I had were within walking distance of my home.  Before that, I was able to take public transportation to and from work.  So, the morning drive is rather new to me.

Earlier this week, I was just beginning my commute.  I was getting ready to turn onto the freeway ramp when I came upon a gas station driveway with a car waiting to get out.  I thought about letting the guy out – something that I regularly do – but I looked behind me and realized that there was no one back there.  So, I decided just to move past the driveway and let him go behind me, especially since he was going into the next lane over.  Unfortunately, traffic stopped abruptly in front of me, and I ended up slightly blocking the guy and his p.o.s. car.  He revved his engine at me, ended up squeezing out behind me, and squealed his tires in the process.

At first, I felt bad about not letting him out. But after the way he reacted, I started thinking, “Who the hell are you?  What makes you think that you deserved to pull out in front of me?” I don’t understand this sense of entitlement that some people seem to have, and I find that it’s worse when people are in cars.  Maybe it’s because you are safe in your car and will be driving away just a moment later.  Go ahead, be an ass to someone, you won’t see them again.

A little over a month ago, I was driving my mother and grandma home after my grandmother’s surgery.  She was a in a little pain, so I was driving carefully, not too fast, trying not to jar the car too much.  A huge, white f-250 truck comes screaming up behind me and tails me closely.  He started flashing his lights and revving the engine.  He decided to move over into the right lane to pass me, but traffic slowed down and he ended up not getting far.  Determined to best me, however, he ended up cutting me off. I had to slam on my brakes (jarring my post-surgery grandma) and had I not had good reflexes, I would have hit him. I have no idea what got into this guy, but I was in his way and he was determined to beat me.

Whatever.

One of the things I really don’t miss about NYC was the overwhelming sense of entitlement that seems to permeate the area.  Everyone things that everyone else owes them.More and more, people everywhere I like that.  Now, I’m not a saint, but I really do try to be considerate of others and try to help people when I can. I let people merge when they turn on their turning signal. I hold doors for people when they have their hands full or are pushing a stroller.  I wish that more people did small things to help each other out.  The world would be a much nicer place if we all tried.

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Protect Your Four-legged Family

I had a very upsetting incident yesterday evening.  I was about to go to bed when I saw that I had an email on my phone. I decided to check it before turning out my light.  It was a lost dog alert from HomeAgain – a company that microchips dogs and then helps locate them if lost. I signed up to get the lost dog alerts in the hope that I could help someone find the member of their family that wondered off.

Max, the dog upstairs

Well, I opened the email and realized that the alert was really near me – just around the corner. It took a moment for the picture to load, but when it did, I realized that it was the dog that lived on the third floor of my building! I knew Max! He was one of the sweetest dogs I have ever met. Super friendly and likely to kiss you to death. The biggest problem, though, was that Max is a pitbull. I was afraid of what would happen if someone found poor Max wondering about.

Good news, though – I came home today and saw Max’s family walking him outside. I was so relieved to see him padding along after his dad. I don’t know if his microchip or the lost dog alert helped with it, but they very well may have.

Riley, my moms dog

Both my dog and my mom’s dogs are microchipped, and I strongly believe that all dogs should be.  Collars are great, but they come off and get lost.  This little chip, no bigger than a grain of rice, is implanted under their skin between their shoulder blades.  Our boys had it done when they were neutered and already unconscious, but there is no need to knock the dog out to do this. It’s not any more invasive than their rabies shots.  Any vet, any shelter, any animal control agency these days has a scanner than can read the information on the chip – usually the owners name and contact information.  It truly could save your dog’s life.

My boy Toby

It’s not expensive – it cost only about $30 when I had Toby done two years ago.  The additional services from HomeAgain are completely optional, but still only $18 a year.  Besides having peace of mind that your dog has a much higher chance of getting back to you, many local municipalities offer a discount on licensing fees. I saved about $10 on Toby’s license last year, so in only 3 years, I’ll have made up the difference!

For your dog’s sake, as well as your own, microchip your dog so if he/she is missing, you have a much better chance of seeing your best friend again.

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Time for a Fire Safety Refresher

I had an interesting experience on my way home from work on Friday. I called my husband from the train to see if he was home yet and if we had a plan for the evening. He answered somewhat out of breath and said, “there’s smoke pouring out from the utility closet. I just called 911!” Let me tell you, this is an exciting way to start a conversation! I quickly made sure he was alright and then told him to do what he needed to do and call me when he had a chance.

About 10-15 minutes later he called back to say that emergency workers were on the scene. One of the condos kitty corner to us had a fire and the firemen (and women!) were ripping down the walls and breaking through the ceiling to make sure it wasn’t spreading to the other units. All I have to say is, “thank God for firewalls!” Nevertheless, the walls are somewhat porous (as concrete usually is) and smoke poured through the crevices and openings where the pipes are into our unit.

By the time I got home, maybe 20 minutes later, there were about 15 emergency vehicles of various flavors on scene – fire engines, ambulances, support vehicles. It definitely is a site to pull up to. At least I was forewarned – I felt bad for all my poor neighbors coming home who had no idea what they were walking into. To say that it must have been a shock is a gross understatement.

I was able to do a walk-through and while it was still hazy, most of the smoke had dissipated. The smell was horrendous though. It wasn’t that nice, woodsy smell you get from a campfire. This was a heavy, acrid smell that hung thick in the air. We had the windows open and fans going but the smell was too thick to let up quickly. We didn’t have much desire to stay there so we ran out to get a bite to eat, hoping by the time we got back, things would have calmed down a bit. By the time we got back, all of the emergency vehicles had left. The only way you could tell something strange was going on was that everyone had their windows open in 40 degree weather. Our place was still too smoky to stay in so we went over to my in-laws to crash there for the night.

Over the rest of the weekend, after keeping the windows open and doing multiple Febrez pass-throughs, the smell started easing up a bit. Getting a Christmas tree helped too! Now we’re dealing with insurance companies. Fortunately our building is being very proactive, sending one of those disaster clean-up agencies to do an assessment. It looks like we’ll get our walls washed down and maybe the carpets cleaned. Of course, the area in our place most affected was the utility closet, bedroom closet and our bedroom, so it looks like all of our clothes will be taking a spin in the washer – just what I wanted to be doing right before Christmas when I have two family dinners to plan for. It’s a pain, but I’m completely aware that it could have been worse. Only the unit the fire was in suffered any kind of major damage, and the homeowner was only slightly injured. No one else was hurt. In this kind of communal living situation, a fire of that magnitude could have been devastating if it weren’t for the firewalls.

This brings me to the fire safety refresher mentioned in my title. My husband asked the property manager if he knew what had happened. Apparently, the woman who lives in that unit had a candle lit….in her closet…that apparently fell over. I’m aware there could be religious reasons for this. It was a Friday after sundown so maybe she is an Orthodox Jew and doesn’t use electricity during the Sabbath. But still, there are a number of issues with this scenario. Why would you use an open flame in a closet, where presumably, there is so much that can catch on fire? For a fire to reach that magnitude, I’m guessing it had to have been left unattended, which, for the aforementioned reason, is incredibly stupid. Candles are pretty and I’m sure many of us use them regularly in our homes. It’s easy to forget how dangerous they can be.

If nothing else, this situation has caused me to re-evaluate my own living situation. We store a lot in our utility closet and while most of it isn’t flammable, there are definitely some things in there that need to be stored more responsibly. It’s also time to go check the fire extinguisher and make sure it’s still in good working order and accessible should we need it. As you clean up your house and get it ready for the holiday season, I urge you to take a few minutes to check out your own situation. When was the last time you changed the batteries in your smoke detector? Is your carbon monoxide detector working? Are your furnace, radiator and baseboard heaters free and clear of boxes, clothes and debris that could catch on fire? Do you have a fire extinguisher? If so, is it working and accessible? For those of you with real Christmas trees, make sure you’re watering them morning and night so they stay well hydrated. Despite all the hubbub and craziness of the holiday season, I guarantee that you can take 5 minutes out of your busy schedule to make sure you and your family will be safe this season.

...can prevent HOUSE fires

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Stress v. Body – Guess Who Wins?

I deal with stress pretty well.  I have a fairly stressful job, yet most of the time, I don’t get to wound about about things.  Yeah, I’m currently in the middle of a double course of anti-biotics because I got another sinus infection, likely due to a new work situation, but heck, I get sinus infections even if I’m not stressed!

However, there was a time where I experienced more stress that I ever have in my life and my body reacted in several ways to that stress.  It was back in 1999 when my parents divorced. I opted to live at home through my junior year of college to save on money, so as my parents marriage was falling apart, I was witness to everything.  I took on a lot of responsibility in addition to 18 credits at school and I was having a hard time managing it all. In fact, the only class I failed in college was that semester and several other grades were much lower than usual. I was trying to be strong for my mom and my still-in-high-school sister, but it was at my own expense.

First of all, I started withdrawing from people. My mom actually made me go out to a New Years’ Eve party because she knew that I was just going to hole up in my house and be depressed.  It was the only semester that I was not involved in some theatre show.  Most of my friends barely saw me outside of classes and major events. This actually made my depression and stress worse since I didn’t have many people to vent to.

The next thing I noticed was rapid weight gain. Up to this point, I never really had to worry about my weight. I wasn’t super skinny, but I was healthy.  Within a year, I gained almost 30 pounds.  I went from a size 4/6 to a size 10.   I had to buy all new clothes on a very limited budget.  My self image was in the toilet, again stressing me out even more.

Alopecia areata.

Image via Wikipedia

The third thing was hair loss.  I experiences what is called Alopecia Areata, an auto-immune disorder that causes your immune system to start attacking your own hair follicles, causing it to fall out in clumps.  I first noticed a dime sized bald spot on the back of my head. I went to the dermatologist, who prescribed a cortisone gel that helped it grow back, but not before it grew larger than a quarter.  It did grow back in, but the first quarter inch or so was nearly white and super fine.  I had to trim it as soon as it was long enough so it didn’t show through my much darker hair. Alopecia is uncurable, and I have had reoccurrences over the past 11 years, the most recent was a small spot last spring. It’s growing back in now, but it’s still really devastating when I have to deal with it, and when I have to explain to my hairstylist what has happened.

After all these issues, my doctor tested me for thyroid problems.  An underactive thyroid can be caused by stress and can cause weight gain and/or hair loss.  After numerous blood tests, they decided that my thyroid “fell within the normal range.”  The stress eventually decreased, but I am still battling my weight, unable to get all of it off, and still dealing with occasional bald spots.

So maybe that’s why I don’t let the little things get to me. I have stressful days, but I’ve gotten really good at dealing with it. I call up a friend and chat, I go out with people, or I’ll go run it off on the treadmill.  It’s a heck of a lot better than weight gain and hair loss!

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Danger in the Classroom

In this technique the punch is blocked and a c...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve determined today that I am sometimes scared of my job.  If you aren’t aware, I teach middle school special education.  The students I teach have a wide variety of learning, medical, and physical disabilities. Most of them get along day to day with only minor issues.  However, there are many students we serve that have much different problems and some who even can get violent. Which leads me to my opening statement – I am sometimes afraid of what I do.

I just finished the second day of a three day, nine hour total training dealing with de-escalation techniques.  Today we were working on dealing with students who may physically assault us.  We learned how to block kicks, punches, how to get out of choke holds and how to get out of a hair pulling situation.  We had fun doing it – who hasn’t wanted to throw a punch (albeit in slow motion) at a co-worker – but we were also really aware of the reality that we could actually have to use this someday.

Back in my first month of teaching,  I found myself in a bad situation.  Tension had been building all week between two of my freshman. I had talked to our dean about the situation and asked for advice.  He said that there really wasn’t anything that anyone could do besides telling them to stop it (which I had done) until one of them did something.  That happened on Thursday.  Unfortunately, I found myself between the two boys, one going after the other.  I saw the fist just before it struck the side of my head. It hurt, but not terribly, and I was dazed for a moment. The other students, content to sit back and watch their peers fight, got very upset when I was hit and pulled the kids off of each other. I got to the phone, called the dean and he escorted them to the office. One of the students was permanently removed from my classroom and later moved to a different school (for a variety of reasons, not just this incident).

Ever since then, I have been very aware of how dangerous my job can be. I work with students who cannot control their impulses, who don’t always know how to deal with the emotions they are feeling, and sometimes see their only option as violence.  Doing this training has made me uncomfortable about what I may have to do someday. However, I am glad I’m getting this training because the goal is peaceful de-escalation without anyone – me or the student – getting hurt.

I guess I never thought of being a school teacher as being a dangerous job. But it certainly can be.

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The Joys of Home Ownership

I tried. I really, really tried. I’ve noticed my blog posts tend to be on the snarky side. While I enjoy snarkiness and sarcasm, I thought you, my lovely readers, might like a change of tone. Maybe not everyone appreciates sarcasm and dry wit. I had half a post written out about common, every day things I’m appreciative of. This post will have to wait for another week because now I need to discuss the *ahem* joys of home ownership.

I had just put dinner in the oven and began cleaning up the dishes I had used in putting everything together. Tonight’s dinner was chimichangas – quite delicious, but also quite messy. I dried off the last pan and put it away and went to get something from under the sink. I pulled it out and felt that it was wet and covered in food particles – never a good sign. We pulled everything out from under the sink and began investigating. We discovered an 1/8th hole in the metal housing of the garbage disposal. So rather than disposing, it’s more spraying. Of course, we’re planning a party for Saturday and I have to do lots of baking between now and then. Perfect timing as always.

I guess this is the home repair of the year. Last year was the water heater. I had fortunately stayed home late that morning because I had a dentist appointment. Right after my husband left I heard a strange noise that I couldn’t identify. I soon smelled gas too, which really freaked me out so I called my husband. Fortunately he hadn’t gone far and was able to come back. In the meantime, I found out it was the water heater that had gone and was able to kill the water before it got to the carpet (The gas smell came from the pilot light of the furnace being blown out by the water heater breaking). Had I not been there, water would have been running for about 12 hours before either of us came back home. All the carpets and a good portion of the furnishings would have been lost. It was another headache, but certainly much better than it could have been.

Aside from these minor calamities, there’s the painting and the general upkeep – changing old, loose electrical outlets; having the air conditioning and furnace maintained; getting the dryer vents cleaned. We bought the condo because at the time, it made more sense than renting an apartment. We figured we could sell the condo when we were ready to upgrade and use the proceeds of the sale to have a nice down payment on our next house.  And then the housing market tanked. I know prices around us aren’t nearly as bad as other parts of the country, but still, I would be shocked and amazed if we don’t own more on our house than its worth. Oh well. What are you going to do? We’re not worried about making our payments and I’m sure when we’re ready to sell, something will work out. It’s just when “one more thing” like this happens I really question this whole home-owning racket.

What are YOU smiling at, House? (free-clipart-of.com)

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Cracks in the wall

This is a blog about women’s issues, and I recently had an experience that brought some of the less-pleasant things about what it is to be a woman to my attention. 

There’s a wall between feeling safe and feeling unsafe, threatened and scared.  Other people can put cracks in this wall, or tear it right down.  But only we can rebuild it and mend the cracks and holes.  Sometimes we tear down our own walls, but still, we need to be our own bricklayers or continue to live on the wrong side of the wall. 

Someone put a crack in my wall last week.  This, I suppose, is my way of grabbing the spackle and paint and making it right again. 

What happened started out innocuously, and was really not as horrible a thing as happens to many women around the world.  I’m not attempting to compare myself to victims of rape, violence or threats.  I think what happened sucked, and it left me feeling bad, but I’m not permanently altered by it, I’m not injured and I’m not scared.  But I was left feeling a bit victimized and assaulted, even if not physically. 

I was driving to my parents’ house last weekend.  I was on a particularly boring stretch of highway, listening to the radio and trying to make good time.  I looked to my right and noticed there was a good-looking man in the truck next to me.  He saw me notice him and smiled flirtatiously.  I smiled back, turned my attention back to the road and kept driving.  I’ve done the car-flirt before.  I’ve smiled and winked and even, on one occasion, made chase down the street for a time.  It’s always been fun and cute and left me feeling giddy and attractive. 

Now, I was not looking my cutest on this particular occasion.  I was post-work out, I had showered and run a brush hastily through my hair, thrown on some clean workout shorts and a t-shirt before getting into the car. So, I was a little surprised that this dude was flirting like this.  It went on for about ten miles of highway.  There wasn’t a lot of traffic so he was beside me for most of that time.   

Finally, at the exit before mine, he started moving to the right, to get off the highway.  When I looked over the last time he stood up and flashed his erect penis at me.  I was mortified.  All of the self-confidence I had been feeling for the past ten minutes vanished.  I was disgusted. (I’ll take this opportunity to also say that I don’t find anything wrong with the act of masturbation itself, I just have a problem when it’s done in public.  And before you say, “oh, he was in his car, no one could see,” let me say, “No, he was waving it out the window.  That is wrong, and it’s a crime.”).  Then I felt a pang of fear.  I hadn’t seen his license plate, but he may have seen mine.  He might have a way of finding my house, he might do any number of other things with whatever information he was able to get.  I knew it was a stretch, but it was out there…”what if?”

Looking back, I should have slowed down, taken his plate number and called the police.  I didn’t think, though, and I sped up and tried to get away as quickly as possible. 

I was shaken.  It was such a minor incident on the scale of scary sexual encounters, but nevertheless, it was one of those moments when the rug is pulled out from underneath you.  Your illusion of safety disappears momentarily and you realize that anything can happen to anyone at anytime.  Almost like those dreams where you’re falling and you wake up short of breath with a sinking feeling in your stomach.  Then you have to make the patches, and wait for the spackle to dry so that you can continue to live in a world where all the dangerous stuff is on the other side of the wall.  And you cross your fingers and hope that it never breaks through.

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