Week #1: NaNoWriMo and the Week That Wasn’t

It started innocently enough: Monday night writing session, sitting in a crap chair that encourages crap posture, a chair I’ve used since my freshman year of college 11 years ago and I’m surprised it hasn’t crippled me yet. That kind of crap chair.

On Tuesday, I felt the starting tension of a headache building at the base of my skull. Easy fix: grab a Coke, see if caffeine will knock it out. By time lunch was over, it was clear the full octane, liquid caffeine wouldn’t work, so I did the next best thing: took the generic form of Excedrin Tension Headache. Two pills.

Three hours pass and I arrive at my physical therapy session and the receptionist asks if I’m okay. I lie, say I’m fine, because it’s automatic and really, when someone asks you that question, they’re not really expecting a different answer, are they? Well, maybe in the medical and health-related field they actually do, but I keep the building headache to myself, get on the exercise bike, and work with my physical therapist and talk extensively about the crap chair and what to do about it.

Get to my car, take a prescription migraine pill. Generic form of Imitrex. One pill every two hours, maximum two pills a day. One pill should do it. Except it doesn’t. Driving home I realize I’m in a kind of trouble, because none, absolutely none of the medication I’ve taken that day has even come close to making a dent in this thing. I stop at a gas station, grab an emergency Coke, and when I get home, take my second and last dose in 24 hours of my prescription migraine medicine, hoping, just hoping, that this will do the trick.

I go to bed. Wake up at 4:30 am Wednesday. Still in pain.

Migraines used to be a different beast for me. Back in college, I would wake up with them, and I’d wake up vomiting. That particular migraine/trait/symptom is mostly history (used to be a monthly occurrence), and I get tiny headaches, the kind that lurk in the background and throb just enough to let you know they’re there, but not bad enough that you’re reaching for the first available pain medication. I also get bad headaches, the ones that make me debate between the Excedrin generics or the heavy-hitting prescriptions (it’s a debate, because I don’t want to starting overusing any one thing and make it less effective as a result). But by and large, if  headaches don’t make me vomit, I feel I’m functional.

I’ve not had a migraine that’s lasted longer than a day. Or, if I have, I’ve forgotten, and the circumstances were so completely different that it’s not even triggering the whole, “Oh, I’ve been here before,” feeling.

For the purpose of this entry, I’m blaming the craptastic chair. Truth be told, I honestly don’t know. In the past few weeks there’s been enough going on that’s different (I’ve made a list) that it could be any one of or any combination of those things.

In those wee hours of Wednesday morning, I gave up and took two generic Excedrin Migraines (only two in 24 hours allowed!). I feel asleep, and when I woke for work, the headache was on the way out. I grabbed my emergency Coke from the fridge, hoping the extra caffeine would drive it away completely, but I ended up taking a nap at lunch. When the timer went off and I was forced to return to a vertical position, I knew it was a very, very bad idea. But I did it anyway. After all, I only had four hours of work left. How bad could it be?

Bad enough that I finally gave up and went home at 3:15, after fighting to keep my head upright. Bad enough I called my doctor and asked for his advice on medication: I’d already taken my recommended dosage of the generic Imitrex. I’d already taken the recommended dosage of the generic Excedrin. What else could I do? He asked about my symptoms, the location of the pain, about what I’d taken and when, and called in two prescriptions: a new round of generic Imitrex (as the stuff I’d been taking had gone out of date in March. Ooops) for migraine, and generic Fioricet for tension headaches, which we both agreed was what this was. An aggressive, Hulk-sized tension headache, but a tension headache nonetheless.

I pick up the meds, get tips from the pharmacist on how to make those meds more effective (20 minutes soaking in a hot-as-humanly-tolerable bath with 4 lbs of Epsom salt). Pick up Thursday, until mid-afternoon, where I swear, in the span of 20 minutes, if left like someone grabbed the remote and turned up the pain levels back up to screaming. I wanted to pop my head like a zit. Powered through to 4:00, went home, made my list of WTF-is-causing-this-shit list, took my special bath, and then ended the night with the prescription dispersing in my system.

Today, Friday, was a day of goals: don’t ingest the things that might be exacerbating the pain (sugar, caffeine). Don’t take anything for the sinuses, even though the blockage is annoying as hell (and yet this isn’t a sinus headache). Keep taking the big guns through-out the day, because if the bugger comes roaring back like it has the past two days, it’s time to call the doctor and beg for a brain scan.

Fortunately, I did not have to call the doctor and beg for a brain scan. But headache’s still there. Lingering and waiting, shifting around and testing various locations in my head, like it’s trying to find a room just right. But because it’s Friday night, I’m debating taking another around of the big guns. I want to go to sleep, see what I wake up with, so I can get a feeling for how this sucker really operates, if it’s really on the way out like I hope. I’m not out of the woods yet, but I didn’t need to go home early today (stayed late, even!), and that is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Writing-wise: Tuesday yielded nothing. Wednesday yielded a couple hundred words that knocked me over 10K. Thursday I didn’t quite make the daily word count, and today, Friday, well, I need to get started. While I’m not in bad shape for NaNoWriMo, I’m also not where I want to be either, and I’m hoping the weekend affords me some time to get ahead, really ahead. I’m also hoping that this migraine, this tension headache on steroids, goes the hell away and stays the hell away.

Because this bastard has been here since lunch on Tuesday. Not off and on, but on, brighter and sharper at some times and dimmer at others. Friday’s been the best day since this started, and I hope that’s a sign that Saturday and Sunday will get better and better. I’m tired of having to say, “I was migraining yesterday,” in order to explain a lapse in attention, a screw up at work, a bumbling of words, or a plain fuck up (leaving the garage door open, forgetting to feed the cat twice). I’ve had to say it two days in a row, and that’s more than enough.

So let’s be optimistic: here’s to a migraine/tension headache-free weekend. Here’s to writing my heart out, eating delicious Chinese food with friends, and being blown away by the glory of Interstellar on IMAX. Please be awesome, Interstellar. Please be awesome.

Ban Bossy

So there’s a campaign that’s caught my eye: BanBossy.com is sponsored by Lean In and the Girl Scouts of America, just to name a few, and its message is to promote leadership in young girls while educating the world about the double-standard that exists: boys aren’t bossy, they’re leaders. Girls aren’t leaders, they’re bossy. And that very message is something that silences girls through-out the years, and in some ways teaches them to be passive, though often disguised as teaching them to be polite.

It hits home.

I was definitely called bossy as a kid. But what I remember most about that isn’t the simply the fact I was called bossy (and nosey: those were the two main criticisms leveled at me during my formative years), but rather I remember the people who leveled the criticism at me, and those people were my friends.

Those people were girls.

I never realized how easily those labels held me back, mentally and socially and developmentally. Oh, I was certainly a leader when I was a youth, but I was a deferential one, always: I lacked the self-confidence to really stand for what I believed in because I didn’t want to be aggressive. I also didn’t want to be wrong.

And I remember those criticism, those labels, so clearly: they’re a thorn in the memory of my childhood, and as an adult, I can now fully recognize the power those words had on me: they, in short, shut me up. Because god-forbid I did something that made me less likable. I already felt like an outcast as a kid, so any criticism was taken to heart almost immediately: in order to be liked, I had to be normal. And normal wasn’t bossy. It wasn’t nosey or curious.

This campaign hits home because I wonder now, as an adult, how different I might be if not for those labels. While lately I’ve been working really hard to break my brain of the “What-If” game, I’m quite cognizant of the fact that my interactions with people, everyone from strangers to acquaintances to friends to loved ones, from readers of my blog over the years to my very own husband, are all based on my being able to accommodate, to put my needs aside, to feel like in order to be heard, I have to be super calm and rational and sweet. Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with learning how to put other peoples’ needs before your own, so long as you know where the line is, so long as you know when you need to be number one. There’s nothing wrong knowing how to finesse an argument: there’s a time and place for anger, but it’s not always needed, nor is it always necessary to prove that you’re right.

But one of the things I’m realizing this year is that I’m at my most confident at work: I know my job, I know what I’m good at, and I have no trouble seeking help or second opinions when necessary. I’m direct and forthright because I’m an expert in my field, and while sometimes I have to “rounding the edges” a bit, that’s part of learning the art of compromise and finesse. I’m not perfect, but my role as a leader in the workplace is about learning when to lead and when to follow, when to be direct and when to be subtle, what to fight for and what to let go of.

Why I feel this way at work rather than other areas of my life is a story for another day, and probably not an interesting one. However, my point is this: how much braver would I be, right now, if I hadn’t grown up being afraid of being bossy? If curiosity hadn’t been ridiculed? If I hadn’t been taught that in order to succeed, I had to hold back?

Ban bossy. If I had daughters, I’d be right there with Jennifer Garner: I’d teach them to roar. In the meantime, I’ve got some catching up to do.

You can learn more about this campaign, and check out all of the awesome graphics, at BanBossy.com.

Stay-Cation Ideas

So. The end of the year is nigh, and I’ve got a few vacation days left to schedule. We’ve already taken our trip for the year (Atlanta to see the Braves play against the Phillies in the last series of the regular season; also, the zoo!), so any remaining vacation days will likely just be days OFF, unless we decide to do a day trip somewhere. And of late, I’ve been feeling like my free time is taken up with chores and obligations. Laundry is endless, and now that I’ve established a walking routine, that takes a good chunk out of my free time too. I’m THISCLOSE to finishing my Hellblazer read and I’m getting ready to dig into House of Leaves in earnest, both items that belong on the “Stuff My Husband Makes Me Read.”

In short, I find myself lacking the time and liberty to do stuff for me. Stuff that’s not necessarily productive, but refreshing and enjoyable all the same. So while I may not be able to do the following on my remaining vacation days, I’m going to keep them in the back of my mind for future days off. I really wish I’d had this list in 2010, because not only was I recovering from gallbladder surgery, but I had a ton of vacation to use up before the end of the year (it was the last year I had more vacation time than my husband, who’d just changed jobs).

Anyway, if I had a week off to myself with no other obligations, here are some things I’d try to do:

1) Turn Mount TBR into a Slush Pile

For those of you not familiar with industry jargon, a slush pile is what magazines and editors get: unsolicited manuscripts from writers hoping to get published. Slush readers review your cover letter, read your sample, and either pass your work up the line for the higher-ups to read or send you a rejection.

What I’d like to do is take my TBR pile (books I’ve bought because I thought they were interesting) and turn it into a slush pile. First, I’d divide the TBR into two piles: stuff I know I’m gonna read because it’s a sequel of something I love or its by an author I love will go in one pile to go straight back to the shelf, and the second pile will be the stuff up for slush. Then I’d take that slush pile and read the first thirty pages. Or the first chapter. Or just enough to give me an idea whether or not I’m still interested in reading the book and whether or not the writing and all that entails holds my interest. If so, yay! I’ll put the book back into Mount TBR for later consumption. If not, boo! Book goes into the rejection pile to be placed on Paperback Swap or go to a used book store at a later date.

And I’m pretty sure I’d need a full week to do this. To date, I have 267 books in the TBR pile, not including the 37 books in my Star Wars TBR pile, and that doesn’t include all the books I didn’t add to Mount TBR because they’re collector’s items or classics or nonfiction I want to have but just not read right now. And the TBR pile is hungry, and it is always growing.

BTW: TBR = To-Be-Read

2) Disney Movie Marathon!

Let’s be real: I’m a Disney fangirl. Not of all things Disney, just mostly the Princess stuff. And Oliver and Company. And The Lion King. And, well, okay, I just love Disney animated features. When Disney first started re-leasing their animated movies on DVD in the Platinum Editions (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I started collecting DVD sets. Sure, I was in college, and no, I didn’t have kids, but I was going to have those DVDs!

What would I watch? Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Robin Hood, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Beauty and the Beast, Oliver & Company, The Little Mermaid, The Little Mermaid II, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning, and The Lion King. Then I’d find a way to get my hands on Aladdin, Bambi, Cinderella, Peter Pan, The Lady & The Tramp, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Fox and the Hound, The Aristocats, Pocahontas, and Mulan. THEN, if I still had time, I’d just hit the Pixar collection hard, and people would probably never see or hear from me again.

Is it any wonder I’m such a fan of Once Upon a Time?

3) Favorite Movie Marathon!

Sometimes, I just want to curl up on the sofa and watch a favorite movie. It rejuvenates me, invigorates me, inspires me. Reminds me why I want to be a writer. OR sometimes those favorite movies that are just plain fun that I enjoy the hell out of. But, we’ve got so many NEW things on Netflix and Hulu and iTunes to watch that it’s hard to justify a re-watch, and even if my husband and I agree to watch something we’ve already seen, it’s rare that we’re in the mood to re-watch the same thing.

So what would I pop in? The Lord of the Rings trilogy, extended editions. Top that with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: The Extended Edition. Then I’d slap Star Wars in there, ALL SIX MOVIES, but in machete order (maybe). After those genre-defining classics, I’d pull out Moulin Rouge, Shakespeare in Love, The Princess Bride, Fight Club, The Fountain, Big Fish, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick, Love Actually, Jurassic Park, King Arthur, The Last Samurai, The Last Unicorn, Newsies, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Spaceballs, The Sound of Music, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, The Truman Show, Titanic, The Three Musketeers (Disney version), Casino Royale (Daniel Craig version), 500 Days of Summer, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, The Matrix, Moon, The Orphanage, Star Trek (yes, the Abrams version), Stargate, V for Vendetta and Wall*E.

And this is just the stuff I’ve got a hard copy of. I’m probably blanking on some movies that I loved but don’t own (for the most part, we’ve stopped buying things on DVD/BluRay). Also, I’m sure this list calls into question my tastes, but at least there’s some variety to the list, right? And there are some classics here that if you don’t like, well, you might be an alien. 😉

Pretty sure this plan would take, like, a month to get through. 🙂

4) One-Season Wonder Marathon!

Then there’s television. There are shows that I absolutely love but were canceled way too soon. My husband really isn’t interesting in re-watching any of these because they didn’t end “properly,” but I say screw that: the shows were captivating in their own way, and I want to remember why I loved them so. So via Netflix or Hulu or whatever method I could get my hands on, I’d marathon Defying Gravity, Awake, Pushing Daisies, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Better Off Ted. And let’s just throw in Deadwood for good measure.

Again, that’s just the stuff I can remember.

So there are my stay-cation plans, should the stars ever align for me to take advantage of at least one of them. Which one do you like best, or at the very least, which one do you see yourself doing? What are YOUR stay-cation ideas?

Fear Factor

Weird story. I’ll go ahead and spoil the ending: it was all paranoia. But the fact the paranoia even existed is the very point of the story.

I’m not going to tell you where I work. I will tell you that I’m in a two-person office and I’m something of an office manager. I keep things running smoothly; I keep things in order. I’m not the boss. That’s the other person in the office. But I’m female, and the boss is male, and the boss is a man that if you saw him you probably wouldn’t want to start something. He is a big guy.

He left early the other day and told me to leave at four. I had a 3:00 appointment and a 3:30 appointment to handle after he left, but it was all good. My 3:00 was easy paperwork stuff. Get a guy to sign a form, send the form to home office, and ta-da! We’re done. Easy, 5 minute appointment tops.

He calls and lets me know he’s running a bit late. That’s fine, but I find out during the course of the conversation his son is with him. His son is an adult. Again, fine. But here’s where the paranoia kicks in:

I’m a female, alone in the office, and I’ll be facing not one, but two grown men. Odds are everything will be fine (and it was), but I had a moment of panic: my boss wasn’t there. If these guys decided to try something, anything, I’d be up shit’s creek. I’m pretty sure I could fight off ONE person, but two? So my brain started wondering whether or not I should unlock the back door, that way I could run for it if I really had to, but then I realized that by leaving the back door unlocked, it’d leave the door open (pun intended) for strangers to come in. Worse, I’d forget the door was unlocked after my appointments, and that would be very bad indeed. No one wants to leave their office unlocked all night, do they?

Like I said, all my paranoid fears were for nothing. And I do have a panic button that essentially calls the local cops ASAP if I push it. My 3:00 appointment arrived, left his adult son in the car, signed his paper and was very nice and congenial and thanked me for my help. I smiled back and told him to let us know if there was anything else we could do to help. Did I feel bad for mentally freaking out? You bet.

See? Paranoid. Nothing to worry about. And that’s usually my motto. There’s a handful of people we work with that my boss has told me (or I’ve told my boss) that I shouldn’t be alone with, because said (male) person gives off creepy vibes. One of those said people on my boss’ list (not mine, I think he’s a harmless old man who appreciates younger women in a non-creepy way) showed up out of the blue last week when my boss wasn’t in with a question that could’ve really been handled over the phone and really shouldn’t have been asked to begin with: this guy, he’s smarter than the question he asked me. And I realized, after he’d left and I was getting on with my very busy morning, that he probably just stopped by to see me. Not chat, not like lonely old people do. But he wanted an excuse to see me. That’s it. And the realization ticked me off, because I was having a bad, busy morning.

When people talk about rape culture or how it sucks that women are the ones who are taught not to be victims, but men aren’t taught how NOT to be a victimizer, this is the bullshit our culture has produced: women, like me, who have a legitimate, however paranoid fear, of being alone with strange men and because we’ve been taught to “stay safe,” have to mentally chart escape routes just in case.

If I had been a men, none of these situations would’ve been a bother. But I’m a women, and therefore both situations were. It’s not that I’m afraid of being alone with men. I sometimes scoff at people who my boss thinks is creepy and I don’t, but I do have MY list of people who are creepy. Men who, if they have an appointment, I don’t want to spend a single minute alone with in the lobby. Men who, if I’m on the phone with them, make me shudder even though they don’t say anything wrong except the occasional “honey” or “baby” or “sweetheart.”

Being a part of the customer service oriented business I am means I don’t get to be a bitch and say, “Don’t call me that,” and set them straight. I’m in the South, and that means a lot of those endearments are just old school habits that don’t go away. And even if I wasn’t in the South, I still couldn’t be a bitch and set them straight, because in my line of work, customer service is important.

But I have to deal with them. Because I’m female. And my whole point is that I shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have a list of clients, however small, whom I don’t want to be alone in the room with. My boss shouldn’t have a list, however small, of clients HE doesn’t want me in a room alone with. I shouldn’t have paranoid fears that just because I’m alone in the office and a male client comes in. I shouldn’t feel the need to prepare, just in case.

But I have to, because I’m female. And those paranoid fears, however fleeting? Those anxieties or that dread? That isn’t going away. And that’s really, really unfortunate. Because while what I’ve talked about is the norm for most women, and what I’ve talked about is wicked tame compared to what many other women go through, it’s still a drain on us. It’s a drain because it’s normalized and it shouldn’t be.

That is all.

In Other Air-Conditioning News…

We don’t have air-conditioning at work either. This, we discovered last week when we turned it on for the first time, and the repairman said he’d order some replacement coils (or something), which would take about a week or two to arrive.

Yesterday, my boss happened to run into our landlord and mentioned how he looked forward to having air by the end of next week.

The landlord’s response?

“Oh, we forgot to order the parts….”

Yeah…. my boss was thrilled about that….