Posted in Reading

How to Read the New York Times (the A.D.D. Edition)

Do you ever try to retrace the rabbit-trail…

…that somehow connected the thing you WERE doing with the thing you find yourself doing NOW?

If you’re like me, that rabbit trail may take several days to loop around to its starting point (assuming it even does). But if you’re one of those Focused People With Organized Heads who completes an entire task before taking up the next, you may not understand how it works. So let me illustrate with a simple example: Reading the newspaper.

And… We’re off!

I am reading the New York Times on my tablet, scanning today’s headlines to see what I “should” know—when I see an article on the sidebar about “What the Great Pandemic Novels Teach Us“—and I’m a reader and intrigued and stuck at home during a pandemic, so of course I have to check that out!

…and the article references Daniel DeFoe’s book, A Journal of the Plague Year. Which I’ve never heard of, despite having done a fair bit of research on Robinson Crusoe’s island (for a novel I’m stuck in the middle of writing) so of course I have to check that out! I open the Apple Book Store…

…to search for DeFoe’s book and find it (with notes! Yay, we like notes) for $2.99, so I charge it to my Apple account. But while I’m here…

…I just have to look through the “Special Offers & Free” section, because they cycle new things into that listing every couple of days, and you never know what awesome book-you-wanted-to-read might surface there for a couple bucks. See, just like this: here’s Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth, which I totally want to read because my mom got me watching the BBC series when she visited a couple months ago. So I buy that too.

…and then I just have to take a second to assign my two new purchases to categories I’ve made up in my iBooks (because yes, there’s a touch of OCD here too)…

…and I realize I don’t have a category for “Medical Practice, Midwifery” in my Book Buddy app (where I track and tag everything I read) so I pick up my phone (because I’m faster typing on that screen than the iPad) and open the Book Buddy app to add the category.

…and I realize that one of the books I’m currently reading (I’m midway through one on audiobook, because I can listen while I do stuff like clean the kitchen; and one actual paper book, which I can read during the daytime; and one on my iPad because I can read in bed without bothering my husband with a light on; and one other one on my iPad because I thought of it yesterday and started to read it) is not listed in the “Currently Reading” status on my Book Buddy.

…which makes me wonder if I’ve tagged it yet on GoodReads (where I also track what I’m reading, because it’s got that social aspect, and it’s keeping count of my reading goal for the year) so I go there and update that app as well.

…and when I close my GoodReads app, I can see that little red badge in the corner of my FaceBook app that tells me I’ve probably gotten some laughs or comments on my daily installment of the “Captain’s Log” in Social Lockdown—so of course I have to check that out!

…which reminds me that I haven’t done a post yet today, so I open my photos (I take photos of stuff ALL the time, even when I pretty much haven’t left the house for a month) to find a fresh one that I can wrap a wry comment or a silly story around. So I get that posted. (Are you curious? It was a photo of the newly resurrected Sports Page—and I mean PAGE, singular—in our local rural-Oregon paper. Three articles: WNBA draft, “Social Fish-tancing” for anglers, and QUAIL CALLING. Apparently that’s a thing. Which pretty well illustrates the reasons for discontinuing sports coverage in the first place.)

…and while I was sending that photo to FaceBook, the banner notification phased across my screen with an incoming email from my boss in Portland so I go open that…

…to discover that she might be misreading the break-down of employee hours I just sent her, so I trot into my home-office and sit at the computer where I can pull up the entire payroll spreadsheet and type out a clearer explanation of who’s doing what.

…and I close my spreadsheet and ask myself, “What was I doing, anyway?

Oh that’s right—I found the book of Call the Midwife, which made me kind of want to see another episode. So I put on my tennis shoes and get on the treadmill (which has a TV right in front of it for just this purpose—and this is when and where I watch the “chick flick” stuff my husband is not excited about) and watch another episode.

…and then I jump through the shower and put on some clean clothes (still no bra!—I’m working from home, baby!) which reminds me I should start some laundry (because I only own so many yoga pants—maybe I should look on Amazon for more) and the laundry is right next to the bathroom I meant to clean today, so I’ll get that done while I’m here, and I think I’ve earned myself a soda…

…which I pop open while I ask myself, “What was I doing, anyway?

Oh that’s right—there was that Plague book I wanted to read! So I pull it up on my iPad and start to read. [This is the one part of the narrative where I actually stay put for a few hours. I have turned OFF all the notifications (new emails, FaceBook comments, text messages) that could come up on this screen, BECAUSE I use it to read.]

I’ve started to highlight descriptions and sections of the book that feel applicable to today, to people’s responses to the Coronavirus pandemic. So I start to think that it would be interesting to juxtapose excerpts of DeFoe’s book (talking about the Plague) against photos and headlines and graphs from today’s news.

…so I sit down at my computer again and start a new blog post in WordPress, where I can play around with the concept—and I type a few excerpts from DeFoe into text blocks. Now I just need the right current graphics to put alongside.

…so I start Googling images for “Trump downplays virus” (to go with DeFoe’s observation that the initial presence of the Plague in London was kept from the “publick” as much as possible). I’m playing with possibilities (about a dozen tabs now open on my browser), and a few of the images feature tweets directly by Trump…

…and I figure I could go right to the source, so I pull up Twitter and start scrolling down Trump’s timeline. (And scrolling. And scrolling. And scrolling. And I stop to see how far back I’ve gotten, and it’s yesterday. Aw, hell.) I mess around with blog formatting (WordPress has a new interface I haven’t mastered) for about forty minutes until I’m tired of working with this text block, so I shift gears and begin working on an introduction to the post, writing to set the scene for 1665 London and the Plague…

…until I hit a lull in the word-flow, and I think about putting a contemporary illustration alongside the introduction, and it seems there was a painting from the Louvre that really fascinated me when we were there, when I was nine years old, maybe I even bought a postcard of it… I start Googling for a Plague painting in the Louvre, and I don’t find it, but I DO find one that I definitely had in postcard form—a whole desperate family on a raft, struggling and waving for help…

Wait a minute, I totally remember this painting as being about The Flood—you know, the Noah one—but its title is “Raft of the Medusa,” which isn’t Biblical at all, so now I have to go read up on what this painting is actually about (a scandalous French shipwreck caused by an incompetent ship’s captain, what?!) and I wonder where I got my original idea, and why I was so fascinated by this particular painting that I would recognize it so immediately today. (In other circumstances I might have hypothesized that my nine-year-old self was titillated by the penis in the foreground… But after two full days of walking through the Louvre, I’m pretty sure I was penised out.)

I’m staring at this painting on my computer screen with two dozen tabs lining its top, and I’m tired of fiddling with the Plague post, and I ask myself, “What was I doing, anyway?

Oh, yeah—I was reading the Times!

So—six hours later—I go back to my very first tab and begin again to scan the headlines.

And THAT, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how we read our news!

Posted in Mental Health, prayer, Recovery

How God Talks

I’ve often wished that God would just text me.

Hey, girl, turn around and say something to that silent person you just passed. She needs a smile. And while you’re at it, tell her she has beautiful hands, because that will make her think of playing her piano, and she’s been missing her music without realizing it. Oh, and by the way, I’ve lined up your next motorcycle for you—you’ll find out about it when you talk to Carrie during book-study. You’re welcome. Love, God

Wouldn’t that be convenient? None of this praying-for-guidance or listening for subtle answers. I’m a literal-minded person; I want instructions dammit! Surely the Almighty Creator of All Things could tap into my cell-service without any problem.

20140131-003602So okay, God has NOT been blowing up my phone. But you know what? He HAS been blowing up my life lately in all kinds of ways. And the guy can make himself heard!

I found myself telling a total stranger (except now he’s not a total stranger anymore—he’s my friend Anne’s landlord) that “God had told me” to ask him about rental properties. While he was buying tile and I was giving him his veteran’s discount at Home Depot. That’s just crazy. What’s crazier is that he didn’t call me crazy. His response? “I believe.”

Now I’ve just finished saying that I don’t have some special dialed-in bat-channel to God. I’m only just Me.

So Anne asked me yesterday, “HOW does God talk to you? How do you know?” Well, all I have to offer are stories. And she knows some of them—they’re about her.

Anne and I used to hang out two and a half years ago, when Jon and I were just married and she and I were both struggling to get Sober again. Her number has stayed in my phone—but we hadn’t talked, or even messaged, for a couple years. Until I took a nap recently and dreamed she called me. And woke up feeling convicted that I needed to reach out. No logic to that impulse, but I texted her. Got nothing back. Kept texting. Again, no logical reason to keep pinging someone who wasn’t responding—but something was telling me to. It was weeks later that she did call me, checking herself into a crisis center with nowhere to go afterward and no one to pick up her calls.

She’s Clean. But she’s broken. And my text messages were the only recent incoming activity on her phone. Left to myself, I had no reason to contact her. So I can only figure God told me to.

Let me take a moment here to tell you (with her permission) a little about Anne. She’s just 31 years old, a disabled combat vet whose complex PTSD and social anxieties stem from horrific traumas in her childhood and her civilian adult life, some of those very fresh. She has lived under bridges, she has thrown herself off a bridge in Portland, she has drowned in her own life countless times and is still (however reluctantly) here to tell the tale. She jumps out of her skin if anyone touches her or makes a sudden move in her direction, rendering her miserably frazzled and disconnected in settings like our church, where everyone wants to welcome her by hugging. One side of her sports an impish smile and a from-the-gut laugh you can’t help but join, while another side of her manifests in stricken expressions and panicked breathing in the face of the overwhelming requirements of simple daily living. She lives in a constant state of fear and anxiety, and sometimes only her OCD (with its attendant attention-to-details) keeps her going with any semblance of togetherness. Her outlook combines deep thinking and childlike curiosity—when we read Bible together I walk away feeling sheepish that I’d never thought to ask the questions she does.

If I had to pick out one defining characteristic that shapes Anne’s life, it would be the fact that she does NOT. Trust. Anyone. No one feels safe to her. Not counselors. Not pastors. Not medical professionals. Not the VA. Not acquaintances. Not family. It’s not “paranoia” on her part; her life experiences have trained her that not even a mother can be trusted to be safe.

That’s Anne. Traumatized, broken, barely functioning, and absolutely alone. Even her service dog was separated from her when she lost her housing in early July.

So when she asked me yesterday how God “talks” to me, I reminded her of the odd impulse that started me texting her in mid-June. Like God was setting something up when he knew she was about to need it.

Even as she acknowledged the point, she was frowning that she doesn’t think God sends her that kind of message. “You don’t think so?” I challenged her. “Then tell me why you decided to trust me.”

That trust has grown with baby-steps, each promise-from-me coming with a reminder that I haven’t broken a promise yet. They’ve mostly been small promises (“I’ll stay with you in the ER,” “I’ll find out how your dog is doing,” “I’ll call you on my lunch break”) but she started out so sure she couldn’t believe them…

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She won’t let me share her smile… Just her story.

The other day she let me stand behind her and braid her hair. If you know Anne, you know that’s an even bigger deal than the Power of Attorney she signed authorizing me to help her straighten out some issues with the VA. So: “Tell me why you decided to trust me,” I demanded in yesterday’s conversation.

She drew her eyebrows down and looked at me sideways and admitted, “Something just told me I should trust you.”

“Well there you go. God told me to call you, and told you to trust me, and here we are.”

Where-we-are includes that she’s been living in the garage section of our fifth wheel for several weeks while we’ve been searching high and low for new housing for her. It’s not a “renter’s market” here, and although she has a perfect rental-history and guaranteed income (disability), her credit sucks. We couldn’t find her anything.

Enter Ed, chatting me up while buying tile from me at Home Depot. I inexplicably asked him what he knows about rental properties (thank you, God, for the nudge) and he answered that he has one. He’s just finishing up renovating it (hence the tile) and it would be available in about a week. So I told him about Anne. And I’m thinking God told him something, because the next day we were meeting him at his sweet little rental-house with hardwood floors and bright open windows and sturdy old trees lining the front. No credit-check necessary. She can have her service dog back with her.

Anne is still raw, and fresh to the practice of trusting people (or God, for that matter). She won’t fully believe it until she has the keys in hand. But she’s trying to. And she’s tentatively “letting in” some people besides me. Not all the way in, but she’s opening that door and building a belief that maybe there ARE some people who can be trusted. It wouldn’t take much to make her snap those doors shut… But I’m trusting God has this in hand. I still wish he’d text and TELL me so… But he seems to know what he’s doing.

Posted in Mental Health

How to Save Hundreds on Prescriptions (I don’t care if I sound like a bad TV ad… everyone should know about this!)

prescription pills RxWe’re kind of conditioned to believe that something “too good” can’t actually be true…  So when I happen on something TRUE that’s awesome…  Well, I just have to share it!

I know I’m not alone in relying on some prescriptions that are critical to my health (mental and otherwise), and I know I’m not alone in having some really expensive drugs in that line-up, and I know I’m not alone in having insufficient insurance to ease that burden… So I know I won’t be alone in my excitement at finding an actual, viable, lower-cost payment alternative! (And before I go further: no, I’m not getting paid by anyone to share this. I just couldn’t believe that I didn’t know about it till now, and I feel like everyone should!)

Jon and I just got new health insurance, and (glitch glitch) even though we met all the deadlines for coverage to start January 1, it mysteriously didn’t kick in until February 1. That was a nasty surprise when I was standing at the pharmacy on Jan 20 for a refill of my most important insanity-fixer, and a price tag of $665 (for the generic)! Now, we’re good with our budget—but that wasn’t IN the budget.  I ended up going ten days without my meds (Jon watching intently for any sign that I might be going off the deep end) and showed up again, first thing on February 1, to find that even with insurance, we’d still owe $250. Ouch. More manageable for sure, but that’s still a real dent in our monthly budget, and that’s just one of my too-many meds.

crazy2
…and THAT’s why Jon likes to keep my meds filled!

So I retreated to consider options. I could fill the scrip and we’d adjust our budget; or I could ask for a partial fill to tide me over till I see my psych-doc next week, and ask if there’s an alternative that might be as effective but less expensive; or I could just wait another 7 days without the meds and then ask… Jon made the decision for me: he wasn’t going to have me go any longer without meds. Before heading back to the pharmacy, though, we thought we’d look for any online coupons that might apply… and Jon stumbled onto BlinkHealth.com.

I’m betting your reaction will match ours: this thing has got to be in the “too-good-to-be-true” category. Download the app, find your medication, pay (a LOT less) for it through the app, then show your phone at your pharmacy and walk away with your meds. The prescription we’d been discussing was listed at $91. Yeah, right. How the heck could that work?—sounds like a scam!

But… I did my research. And felt my excitement rising as I came across news articles (not ads!) about Blink Health on the New York Times, CBS, Huffington Post, CNBC… This thing looked like it might actually be for real. Continue reading “How to Save Hundreds on Prescriptions (I don’t care if I sound like a bad TV ad… everyone should know about this!)”

Posted in Reading Reviews, travel

2017: A Year for Reading Rihla

a dusting of snow at our RV park
a dusting of snow at our RV park

Boise Idaho is bearing up under record-breaking conditions this week. We have more snow on the ground than EVER. (Well, at least the “ever” that dates from 1875 when someone started measuring.) We have wind-chill warnings for -25F and more snow on the way, possibly to be followed next week by rain, of all things, and likely flooding…  All that to say that I’m not going out much this week!

Aside from my “commute” to the RV park office (thankfully, only a three-minute walk) I’m playing Hobbit and holing up in the cozy confines of our RV! Nevertheless, my mind is free to wander. No, wait—that’s not what I meant. My mind is free to travel, and I’ve decided that this is going to be my Year of the Travelogue.

The Way Martin SheenMy mom & Jon & I watched “The Way” (Martin Sheen & Emilio Estevez, 2010) during our Christmas visit, and it fired up my already-engaged gears on the subjects of Travel and Experience. I’m ultra-aware right now of the possibilities inherent in living-on-wheels, and the travel-bug isn’t new to me… Even more than GOING places, though, it’s an urge to EXPERIENCE places, which is what that film really explored (in my opinion). And that’s not to exclude whatever place I am right now, even when that might be holed-up-at-home.

For over a week now, I’ve had the Wikipedia-page for “Rihla” open on my iPhone, and it keeps drawing me back.

… the genre of work called Rihla … or the creative travelogue: a mix of personal narrative, description, opinion and anecdote…

I abhor travel guides, but I love travelogues. And I think this excerpt from Arabic culture has nailed the distinction: a travelogue is a creative and personal work. It’s a work about a person’s experience, rather than merely about a place. (It’s what this blog is for me.) Continue reading “2017: A Year for Reading Rihla”

Posted in Lists, writing

(List#5) Things I Love About Lists

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One of my (MANY) journal-lists…

My journal is full of lists. To-do lists, a packing list for our Christmas trip, lists of words (did you know that “glazomania” means “a passion for list-making”?)…  Yes, I almost just embarked on a comprehensive list of my lists. What IS it about lists that I love so much? Continue reading “(List#5) Things I Love About Lists”

Posted in Lists, Mental Health

Put it on a T-Shirt: Mental Health Edition (List#2)

I hate being bipolar it's awesomeContinuing my Weird Lists project…

If you know what’s funny about these, you probably have OCD, or ADD, or … maybe you live with someone who does!

Yesterday my psych-doc seemed inclined to add A.D.D. to the alphabet-soup of my Mental Health Diagnoses… And if I’d had any doubts, I think I have my confirmation in how many of the ADD jokes hit home!

Sayings I Could Wear on a T-shirt (Mental Health Edition)

The Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Wardrobe…

  • I have CDO. It’s like OCD, but all the letters are in alphabetical order. As they should be.
  • I don’t have OCD, I just have a very specific order in which I like to do things.
  • The only reason I check my voicemail is to get rid of the little icon on my screen.
  • OCD reptile dysfunctionI’m not really a control freak BUT… can I show you the right way to do that?
  • I adore spontaneity, providing it is carefully planned.
  • As long as everthing’s exactly the way I want it, I’m totally flexible.
  • I hate it when I plan my day and no one follows the script.
  • I could stop being a control freak if other people could stop screwing stuff up.
  • Hand sanitizer is a gateway drug for OCD
  • If you’re OCD and you know it wash your hands.
  • The first rule of OCD Club is that there must be a second rule so we have an even number of rules.

Continue reading “Put it on a T-Shirt: Mental Health Edition (List#2)”

Posted in Lists, Mental Health

Entering the Lists

list3My notebook is bent, battered, and buckled, every kind of abused but bruised.  The covers crease from frequent folding, and tags & stickies protrude from its pages. I’ve had it for all of three weeks.

The notebook serves as a journal, but it its pages have also filled with sketches, blog-post brainstorms, A.A. Stepwork, notes from group sessions and church sermons, quotes and definitions related to writing-topics, comparisons of health insurance plans, my checkbook register, ledgers tracking my freelance writing pay and my hotspot data-usage…  And LISTS. Lots of lists.

Some to-do lists are sprinkled through there, but those aren’t the most common denomination. The weirder ones don’t have an obvious purpose. Since I keep making them, though, I surely hope there’s something accomplished in the writing of them. I’m just not entirely sure WHAT.  Continue reading “Entering the Lists”