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Sensory Processing Disorder, Weighted Blankets, and Feeling at Home

April 9, 2015

I don’t know if everything is a disorder. They call this thing Sensory Processing Disorder. The inputs and outputs get confused. Look at this list. Isn’t this everyone?

If I can feel the tags in my shirts and they drive me insane, that isn’t a disorder to me. It’s just normal. I think manufacturers should do something about their damned tags. Is that not reasonable? Why do you want to drive a significant portion of the buying public insane with your sewn-in tags? I don’t just mean sewn-in, I mean incorporated into the seams. What the heck? You can’t remove the tags without leaving a hole in the seam. Man, that’s just not right.

I’ve never been diagnosed. I never asked. I just did the normal thing and avoided physical activity and the cologne aisle at the department store.

I don’t steal, normally. But I tell you what I have done as an SPD person. It’s a crime, but a small one. I have taken the air fresheners out of public places like bathrooms, and I have thrown them away. I know. Technically stealing, but it’s a public service. You’re being poisoned by those things. You just don’t know it. I do. I can feel it because I have a headache for three hours afterward.

The dog daycare has started putting this room freshener on the counter that spews out scent. It looks like a small stereo speaker. It has a purple light. And it KILLS me. If it hurts me, what is it doing to dogs like mine, who can smell a treat in my pocket from across the street? I don’t know if I can go back anymore.

I have always known I liked being weighed down. I looked forward to dental X-rays, because having that lead apron on me made me feel so good. It was like being home. It was so good that I didn’t even mind the little cardboard X-ray holders cutting into my gums.

At the County Fair, I always loved the Tilt-a-Whirl, not for the thrill of it, but for the extra gravity being in a centrifuge provided. Aaaah. Home. Totally worth the couple bucks it cost me.

When I first saw a weighted blanket online, I knew I needed one. I finally ordered a blue fleece 10 lb blanket filled with the little glass beads like Beanie Babies have in them. God knows how you clean the thing, but I don’t care.

I bunch it all up on top of my chest and I sleep like a baby. I’m an adult. You might say I have Sensory Processing Disorder. I just say I have super sharp senses. And I like extra gravity. It feels normal to me. Goodnight.

Thank You, Kelly

April 3, 2015

I remember being irritated at Kelly. Not big irritated, just enough to make me sigh and refrain from rolling my eyes.

We were at BlogHer – probably 2007 in Chicago. Kelly had just asked, from the audience of a panel discussion about something completely not related to race (in my opinion) why women of color weren’t better represented.

I thought, whatever. Why is she going on about this? It wasn’t something I had considered or ever had to consider, but I already knew Kelly and liked her, so I checked my snark impulse.

When a whole group of women gathered around her after the discussion ended, eager to keep talking, I thought “Hm. What’s up with that?”

I thought it would all blow over. BlogHer was such a cool thing and we were all cool people and certainly none of us were racists, so there were probably no problems to overcome. Right? Right?

Kelly didn’t drop it, though. Fueled by her desire to make the world a better place and most likely encouraged by the feedback she got from that comment, she started writing more about race and justice and What the Hell She Was On About. You can read some of her posts on race here.

And because I liked her, I followed along. Prodded by her thoughtful posts, I began to dig deeper into my own prejudices, of which I have many. I could no longer let my assumptions about race go unchallenged.

Whenever I had a thought that began “Black people [insert stereotype here]…” (rinse and repeat with other races, religions, backgrounds, social classes) I found myself asking “Is that true? How do you know? What kind of evidence do you have? What makes you think that?”

It isn’t comfortable to confront the ugly, ignorant parts of yourself, but it is good to do so. It’s like you walk around wondering why the world smells so bad and you find that you have dog poop on your own shoe. It’s nasty to find and nastier to deal with, but once you clean your shoe, the world is a better place.

I don’t think I ever would have bothered to look at my privilege and prejudice if it weren’t for Kelly. She’s so smart and funny and beautiful that you kind of have to listen to her, annoying as it can be. She’s also brave and dedicated and strong as hell. I’m glad she came into the world 44 years ago today.

Happy Birthday, Kelly. Keep on doing what you do. I’m thankful for it.

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And besides all that, this picture makes me laugh so hard.

Determination

April 1, 2015

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Abbie and I were walking through the alley behind the grocery store this morning. She likes walking there because it gives her a chance to flirt with the employees who are standing around on break and maybe get some affection.

She ducked her head down and stopped to sniff something that looked like the sole of an old boot.

But it wasn’t a boot sole or any other part of a boot. It was, rather, a huge hunk of dirt-coated, well-aged roast beef. Who knows how it got there? Fell out of the trash? Got dropped when the food bank van came for a pick-up? Abbie did not care. Today was the luckiest day of her life, as far as she was concerned.

She began to hoover the nasty old meat down, pretty much without chewing. I was yelling “Put that down!” as she attempted to swallow the thing whole, knowing I was going to try to stop her.

I grabbed her face. I tried to pry her jaws open. They were clamped shut like a bear trap. I put my finger in front of her nose, assuming that if I had my mouth full and someone stopped my nose up, I would open my mouth, and if it worked for me, it would work for her.

Wrong. She was not giving up. She glared up at me. She had the Eye of the Tiger. She clamped down even harder. She even growled a little.

I determined not to let her eat some spoiled alley meat. I grabbed onto as much of it as I could and pulled. She pulled back. I was suddenly locked in a game of Alley Meat Tug-of-War.

Do you know how hard it is to hang onto a greasy meat flap when your 60-pound dog is fighting for the right to party with some delicious chow, especially when you don’t really want to have your hands full of greasy spoiled meat?

We tugged and pulled. She kept gaining on me. She wasn’t going to let her prize go without a fight.

Finally, I conceded. The dog had me beat. 1.4 seconds later, the nasty hobo meat was in her belly and I was wondering what the hell I should wipe my hand on (for the record, there was nothing. I let Abbie lick my hand and called it clean).

I spent the day waiting for the inevitable consequences, the volcano of badness spewing from one end of my dog or the other. But guess what? Nothing! I guess all that hard training she has put in eating cat poop every day has strengthened her system.

Tell me again why I waste my money on that premium grain-free dog food?

Once a month, whether I need it or not

March 29, 2015

Looking back over my post history, I have been posting about once per month. A monkey with a typewriter could do better.

It’s so different from the early blogging days when I had to hold myself back from posting more than once per day…but that was before all these other outlets for my blather. At least I Instagram daily, mostly pictures of flowers and Abbie.

Part of it was that winter was awful. Or that I was awful in winter. I have been eating too much, started drinking again and barely exercised other than twice-daily dog walks. I’m fat again, have had entirely too much red wine over the winter and am so incredibly disappointed in myself.

Ok, I’ll say it: I’m mad about menopause. It has been driving me pretty literally crazy.

But Suebob, you say helpfully, you were pretty literally crazy before menopause.

Shut up and bring me a popsicle, I snarl in response, mopping my sweaty brow.

Because I most certainly have a sweaty brow. Hot flashes at least twice per hour, every hour of the day and night. My friend Kyle wanted to know what it felt like.

“You know when you have the oven up to 450 degrees and you open the door and that whoosh of heat comes out? Like that,” I said.

I also started getting arthritis. I hobble out of bed on stiff feet walking like a pelican. My hand joints are getting knobby. My neck crunches like a bag of potato chips.

Yes, my friends, I’m having a big old pity party and you are the guest of honor.

I’m considering my options. I had dinner the other night with a woman who went on hormone therapy to cure her night sweats and sleeplessness. Did I mention sleeplessness? Because gah. It stinks. And crabbiness. She had crabbiness. I may have a tiny touch myself.

I might try it. Until then, I’ll be here with my blue chilly towel around my neck and a fruit icee in my hand.

Bruce Sinclair Swasey 1928-2015

February 22, 2015

Bruce died almost a month ago. Peacefully, at age 86, surrounded by his children, as one would want.

Much like my dad, he died with no trouble or fuss to anyone. He decided it was time, quit eating, and called his children to come. Hospice came in two days before he passed. The night before he died, he awoke at 3 am and chatted through the night with his son, Chad, even going through some math problems. Bruce was a technical guy, and loved math problems.

It’s hard to overestimate how important he was to us. Not just to me, to us, our community of Toastmasters. He belonged to so many clubs – it was impossible to determine how many. Toastmasters was his social life, his true calling. He welcomed and drew people in and helped them take their first shaky steps into public speaking. He encouraged and called, or more often wrote. He wrote notes and letters and cards. I have a whole file folder full, and I only kept maybe a third of them.

You know that phrase “covered in glory”? That’s what it felt like to be loved by Bruce. He covered me in glory. He praised me endlessly and acted like I was a goddess sprung from a clamshell. He was effusive, concerned, honest. He took my petty offerings with such open-hearted enthusiasm, like the time I gave him a book of poetry the girls in a writing mentorship program had written, and he stayed awake all night reading it. He reported back that it had given him new courage and enthusiasm to write poetry himself. This was a man in his 80s, unabashedly diving into writing poetry, cheered by the bravery of teenaged girls to put pen to paper.

About six months before he died, he began telling us all, his friends, that he loved us. He said he had decided that he didn’t want to leave this world without us knowing that. So at every parting, we said “I love you.” We said it often.

God, I miss him so much. At his memorial the other day, we sang “What a Wonderful World,” together. I think it was a perfect tribute, because if everyone behaved like Bruce, what a wonderful world it would be.

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Bruce, on the right, doing what he loved most – goofing around at a Toastmasters meeting.

1000 Posts for Compassion

February 20, 2015

Love and Compassion

1000 Posts for Compassion

January 20, 2015

Updated: haha I posted a month early! I guess I’ll be back doing this again on Feb. 20, the real date. I don’t mind. More kindness and compassion is better than less.

Today I’m joining with 999 other bloggers to fill the internet with posts about compassion and kindness, so now I guess I have to say something profound.

Compassion comes from a the root words meaning “to suffer with.” Suffering. The last thing we ever want to do. The thing we try to avoid at all costs. If we want to be compassionate, though, we suffer with.

Suffer with. Be with. Sit with. Share in the moments where certainty is not given. Breathe. Pray. Hold. Hold on.

Everything in modern America tells us not to do this. Run away! Take a drink. A pill. A vacation. Get away. Make an inspirational quote photo. Do anything to get the hell away from that pain.

I dated a guy who had a stroke when he was about the age I am now. Not a devastating one, but serious enough to require a cardiac pacemaker due to heart damage brought on by years of untreated high blood pressure. He had no health insurance, so he had to go to our county hospital, a creaky old place with no air conditioning.

There was a more modern hospital across the road, but there was no way he could afford it. I was afraid the care he got at County would be sub-par, but what was there to do? To top it off, he was terrified. He had never suspected, until he had the stroke, that he was in any way unwell. He was in shock.

A nurse who looked to be about 45 came in to the hospital on her day off. She had heard about his situation. She told him that she, too, had a cardiac pacemaker. She told him she had felt scared and devastated by her heart problems, certain she would never be the same. She pulled back her shirt collar and let him run his fingers over her pacemaker, right there under her skin. She explained that the pacemaker allowed her to continue her life much as it had been before.

The nurse gave him exactly the care he needed at that moment – the experience only someone else with a pacemaker could share. She had the compassion to come in when she didn’t have to because she knew there was a human in need. He was instantly better, calmer, ready. She had given him something the most modern hospital couldn’t offer – a light on the path, shone by a human soul.

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