Friday, October 28, 2011

Anxiety Girl Tackles Flying

only, I don't think of her as Anxiety Girl.  I think of her as Adventure Girl.  Or, my best friend.  We've been through a lot of adventures together.  Our first adventures were in a Dilbert-like office where our job descriptions lacked a creative outlet so we made up our own.  We often plotted sitting on the steps outside--a pint of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia between us and two spoons.    An opportunity arises for her--to leave the office world completely and enter the world of outdoor education.

"What an amazing opportunity!  You can't say no!" I persuade.
"If you think it is so amazing, you should come with me," she responds.

And so we go, the two of us, on a new adventure.  Down to a remote part of Alabama to live in a log cabin on top of a mountain.  Our new job description is hiking, rock climbing, ropes course, teaching, singing and playing.  Weekends we travel to the Smoky Mountains to camp in pouring down rain, to Mardi Gras, to the St. Patrick's Day parade in Savannah.    We are passionate about our jobs and our lives.

old photo of a marathon adventure

The passion translates to new opportunities.  I return to school to complete a graduate degree in Education.  She returns to a rewarding career in social work.  Through it all, our adventures continue: a marathon, crazy weekend biking trips, triathlons. 

Soon we include husbands and then babies in our adventures.  But along the way of "growing up" and becoming responsible for our families, a little seed of anxiety sprouted and grew.  Like kudzu, it spread, creeping around until it takes over parts of our lives.

One manifestation of the anxiety is fear of flying.  After several years of avoiding airplanes, I decide to fly.  It wasn't easy.  For weeks before my flight I would burst into tears just thinking about it.  Even seeing airplanes in the sky made my stomach tight.  I spent more time focused on the 90 minute flight than I did thinking about my destination! 

Last week I got an email from my friend about her upcoming family vacation.  "I’m at the point of almost crying every time I think about getting in a plane.  Yuck."   Knowing I recently survived a flight, she asks me for tips.  Here they are:

 My Completely Non-Professional but Effective Flying Tips

Think about the destination:  Whenever you start feeling anxious about flying, force yourself to picture a safe landing.  Picture yourself walking off of the plane feeling happy.  Anticipate the adventures of your vacation.

Plan distractions: I can't focus enough to read on a plane but I like easy crossword puzzles and looking at the pictures in People magazines.  Think of something you enjoy to occupy your mind.

Invest in good headphones: Airplanes are loud and have lots of weird noises.  Bring along your ipod with lots of happy songs and some really good sound reduction headphones.

Set small goals: Break the trip up into 15 minute segments.  Decide on a reward each time.  My rewards always involve chocolate.

Meditate: Sometimes I wonder, instead of worrying about everything and praying as a last resort, what would happen if I prayed about everything and worried as a last resort?  I write down Bible verses on two index cards and carry them with me on the flight.  The first is Philippians 4: 6-8 and the second is Philippians 4:11-13.

Medicate:  Some people like a glass of wine to take the edge off.  I got myself so worked up about my overseas flight that I finally talked to my doctor.  She prescribed a small dose of xanax, which really helped.

Write: I bring my journal on the plane and write about the trip itself.  Here's an excerpt of the entry from my last flight:

8:35 am: I feel nauseous, on the verge of tears and a little shaky.  I've already gone to the bathroom about six times this morning--my bladder succumbing to a state of "nervous pees."  My heart is pounding and I feel a bit of bile collecting at the base of my throat... 8:47 am: We are moving...9:30 am: Regretting the decision to get coffee.  The flight attendant is very friendly but he filled my cup to the brim.  Now, too hot to drink, I am picturing the turbulence spilling it all over my lap...9:40 am: We're going through some clouds.  the plane is swaying and bumping.  I know the turbulence is normal but again I feel a surge of tightness in my chest.  Discreetly, I dab my overactive armpits with my beverage napkin...10:00 am: I'm glad to have finished my coffee...10:10 am: We're starting our descent.  Only 20 more minutes in the air.  Home stretch--I can do it!

And last, but not least, Define yourself:  If you think of yourself as Anxiety Girl, you will be anxious.  You are Adventure Girl, able to fly high above the sky on the way to your newest adventure.  You can do it!

Monday, October 24, 2011


The kindergarten classroom is most definitely a place that requires a grin, some grit and a bit of grace.  When dealing with 5 year olds, I always have to be on my toes.  My carefully crafted lessons can get tossed at any time for an unpredictable new direction. 

On Friday I go into Mrs. Y's classroom to help her class with Pumpkinpalooza.  Mrs. Y has 6 different stations of math, science and language arts activities all dealing with pumpkins.

"You have your pick of the stations, Mrs. K.  Which one would you like?" she asks.
"I'll take any station except the carving station," I reply.

Guess which station I get?  Oh that Mrs. Y has a sense of humor, doesn't she now.

comparing the textures of pumpkins
Six groups of children rotate to my table throughout the morning.  Each time, I encourage them to use their senses to compare and contrast the different pumpkins. 

Once we have studied the outside, each group chooses a pumpkin to open. 

"What do you think we will find inside?" I ask.
"Applesauce," one little boy replies.
"Candles," another confidently suggests. 

Once the predictions are made, I review knife safety rules and carefully cut a circle in the top of the pumpkin.  Six times I successfully open various pumpkins without dismembering myself.

Once the inside is exposed, the different personalities of the children emerge.  To some, this is the most disgusting activity ever and they can't wait to (literally) wash their hands of it all.

"This smells like rotting garbage," a girl moans holding her nose.

Other students are excited to have permission to get messy and are picking up handfuls of freshly scooped pulp and seeds. 

"This feels just like raw chicken," exclaims one little boy.  I wonder how he knows. 

Another girl is inhaling deeply-- her entire face mashed against the pumpkin's opening.  "Mmmm," she sighs contentedly, "It's like fresh cantaloupe."

Soon it is time to clean up.  I choose two of the pumpkins and carve simple Jack O'Lantern faces just to make the kids smile.  I figure I owe them, since they kept me laughing all morning with their observations.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Celebrating Fall

To Do List: October

1. Fall hike with autumn views
2.  Cox Farm trip to choose a pumpkin
3. Neighborhood "Boo" basket
4. Fall Decorations
5. Halloween costume constructions
6. Boo at the Zoo
7. School Fall Festival
8. Kindergarten Halloween Party
9. Jack O'Lantern carving
10. Trick or Treating

It's a good thing I'm working fewer hours because I need all the extra time I can get to celebrate fall!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

One Day

What a difference one day makes.  Yesterday morning we were arriving in Asheville excited and anticipating our weekend.  Tonight we prepare for departure--our bags full with laundry, our camera full with pictures and our minds smiling with memories of our too-short vacation.
Since our last trip to visit my brother, much has changed.  The old carport is now a workshop for Bobby's glass blowing business.  The weedy back yard has been transformed into a working garden with several raised beds and new fruit trees. 

Bobby showing off his prize tomatoes...soon to be our lunch!
 Most noticeable, of course, was the replacement of the three roommates with Julie and three beautiful children.  Any initial shyness dissipated as Clay and Reed began demonstrating their skills with duct tape.  Soon, Jack and Katherine joined the fun making wallets, bow ties, headbands and other creations. 
Katherine and Reed having fun with duct tape.
 Meanwhile, we are getting lots of snuggle time with the happiest, cutest baby ever!
Aunt Allison and Uncle Paul with Blossom
Downtown Asheville kept us occupied in the afternoon with three different festivals and a political rally all within walking distance. 
Enjoying Fiesta Latina

Meandering around all afternoon makes everyone hungry so we decide to get some local flavor for dinner.  Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company is an old, converted movie theater that serves amazing pizza (walnuts on pizza, yum!) with its freshly brewed beer.  We sit in the game room and feed the kids quarters which they, in turn, feed into skee-ball games to their heart's content.  In the background, old black and white Munsters episodes play silently on the big screen. 
After dinner we build a fire in Bobby's fire pit and roast hot dogs and marshmallows until the moon rises and our eyelids droop.
Bear on the lookout for extra hotdogs.

Morning begins by driving south on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The road is lined with sloping hills of goldenrod before a backdrop of tall, narrow evergreens. In contrast, are trees blushing with autumn.  Lush, verdant carpets speckled with garnet, amber and rust stretch out in the morning sun.   We stop to hike by a waterfall and watch the boys climbing and leaping over the rocks. 
Later in the afternoon we are treated to a hilarious, unconventional tour of Asheville on a big purple bus. 
Enjoying our root beer on the tour

What a wonderful weekend visiting Bobby and meeting Julie, Clay, Reed and Blossom.  Yesterday we were strangers.  Today we are family.  What a difference one day makes.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

9:30--Past My Bedtime?

"I have an extra ticket to see Ben Harper at the 9:30 Club.  Do you want to go?"

When Bonnie calls, I don't even hesitate to say yes to a night on the town with the girls.  Never mind that it is a school night and I don't have a clue who Ben Harper is.  This night has adventure written all over it.

Pre-adventure routine when I was 25:
  • take a nap
  • plan outfit for evening
  • fuss over extra mascara
  • grab cash from ATM

Pre-adventure routine tonight:
  • take Katherine to Girl Scout meeting
  • plan to leave dinner on stove
  • fuss over Jack's homework
  • grab cash from Paul's wallet
Once downtown, we eat dinner at a very trendy place.  I know it is trendy because the decibel level is so loud that we can't actually talk to each other so we just sit and look cool.  Also, I know it is trendy because our waitress has an asymmetrical haircut and the wine is $9 a glass.  The 20somethings that had time to take a nap earlier are playing bocce ball in the courtyard.  I wonder if a round of bocce ball is cheaper than a glass of wine.

After dinner, we head to The 9:30 Club.  Some people think the name of this concert venue refers to the time when shows begin.  Actually, the reference is to it's original address at 930 F Street, NW. That was 15 years ago.  Now we arrive at 815 V Street and make our way past the bouncers, pausing to get our hands inked with proof of our adventure.

There are a lot of people at the 9:30 Club.  It is a sold out show in a standing-only venue.  I try to walk and discover my shoes are stuck to the floor.  This is the kind of place where the bathroom stalls are out of toilet paper early in the evening.  When we finally wind our way around to a place where I can kinda sorta see the stage, a tall guy with huge hair stands in front of me. 

My view of the stage
It is really fun to people watch at a place like this.  There seems to be a certain dress code at the 9:30 Club and it is not preppy. There were, however, grown men wearing full Oktoberfest costumes with the little shorts and the embroidered suspenders.  The sleeves you see here are often not blouses, they are tattoos.  And several guys had these giant discs which appeared to be somehow implanted in their earlobes.  Their earlobes were the size of silver dollars. 

As for Ben Harper,  I didn't know many of his songs.  That's OK--I love listening to live music and being with my friends.   It is worth staying up past my bedtime every once in a while.  Next time, I'll remember to pack my own toilet paper.  

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Saturday Night Fever

Sleep deprived, I'm feeling a bit punchy.  With apologies to Elisabeth Kubler Ross and her Five Stages of Grief, may I present my very own conclusions of research:

Five Stages of Staying Home with A Sick Child

Stage 1: Denial
Tuesday.  Jack mentions that he doesn't feel good.  He has a headache and his body hurts.  "Drink lots of water," I tell him.  Jack's not one for complaining so I take his temperature.  The thermometer reveals a low grade fever of 100.1 degrees.   "You just need a good night's sleep. I'm sure you'll be fine in the morning." 

Stage 2: Enjoyment
Wednesday.  There's some pleasure in the unexpected sick day.  After a trip to the doctor rules out strep, Jack and I have a little fun.  The ibuprofen kicks in and there's a false sense of improvement as his fever temperature drops.  We play a few games of Farkle and watch Spongebob Squarepants in the middle of the afternoon.  We make study cards for the upcoming 7th grade science test and I learn quite a bit about the 8 biomes of Earth.  (Well, I had fun doing that...I make no promises for Jack.)

Stage 3: Worry
Thursday. The virus, or whatever it is, crawls into the upper respiratory area of Jack's torso, giving him relentless coughing fits.  He complains that he is cold and wraps himself in several quilts.  His fever spikes at 103.5.  I call the doctor back, but she still seems convinced that the virus needs to run his course.  His room is equipped with the humidifier and I slather vapor rub over his chest.  I try opening his windows for fresh air at points, and am wiping down surfaces with disinfectant.   His fitful naps are short and his calls for Mommy come often.  Sometimes he coughs so much that he gags, bringing up what little food he's eaten.  I add laundry to my list of things to do. 

Stage 4: Frustration
Friday.  There is little change in Jack's health, except I think the cough is getting worse.  Last week, when everyone was the picture of rosy health, I agreed to substitute for a teacher at school today.   I can't believe Jack still hasn't kicked this thing!  Last night I tried, in vain, for an hour to get someone to fill in for me.  A sub for the sub.  Twenty (no I'm not exaggerating) phone calls later, I give up.  Now I am paying a babysitter $15 per hour to stay home with my sick son so I can go to school and substitute for $14 per hour.  There is something wrong with this picture.

Stage 5: Exhaustion
Saturday.  Did I mention that our dog is upset by coughing?  He's also pretty neurotic about wind.  So to have a coughing child on a windy night just about put Tatum over the edge.  Paul and I took turns getting up to tend to Jack and the dog.  At one point Jack's pajamas are soaked through with sweat.  In the morning the thermometer confirms my hopeful suspicion-- the fever broke.  He is tired, still weak and still coughing.  But I know the worst is over.  Let the convalescing begin.  We're too tired to do anything else.