Food, Glorious Food! / Just Plain Random Weirdness

I’ve heard the remark, “Nobody sits down and eats dinner as a family anymore,” many times over in the past year. Until about five years ago I probably would have blamed it on the parents being too busy to bother or the kids having a lot of afterschool activities or heck, maybe even on cable television or video games. That’s no longer my tune.  I blame the increasing importance of retail stores and company greed.

My current household consists of four people between the ages of 23 and 56. Of those four, I am the ONLY one who does not work retail. That means I am the only one who has a standard Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm type of hours work schedule. One person has a set weekly schedule as far as days of the week go but is seldom home before 6 pm, closer to 7 o’clock most nights. The remaining two people have wild and random days they work and wide ranging hours. They can be on duty anywhere between 5 am and 10 pm. People leave the house as early as 4 in the morning to get to work and arrive home as late 11 o’clock at night or even midnight, depending on the time of year. Week to week this schedule varies. I have gone as long as three days and nights without seeing some members of the household upright and awake despite living in the same place. This does not even bring into the picture trying to find a date and time where my daughter can come over to visit or even meet us for dinner somewhere.

How does one schedule meals together when people have to work these wild shifts? Is anyone really going to show up at 7am on a Sunday morning to buy a pair of work gloves or set of ski poles? How often does someone arrive at 9:30 at night to order a set of cabinets?  What happen to a standard eight hour day? Oh, that’s right… MONEY!

If we stay open longer, more people will come. They will spend more money. We can get richer, faster. In the meantime, we have to have employees on duty for the customers that will be busting down the doors to get in at 7 o’clock in the morning. You never know when you’re going to have an “I need a new pair of boots” emergency! We better be open – – – just in case. And being open all these extra hours and having to pay the employees, not to mention the increased electric bill, we better lower the pay scale to cover all that thus making our profit even bigger! Woot!

Family sit down dinners where EVERYONE is present are few and far between in my house anymore. When they do happen it always seems to be a very special occasion and it really makes you appreciate that time. It’s a shame that the majority of corporate big wigs seem to have no concept anymore of what it means to have family time. Maybe they feel they’ve done their time and now that they’ve worked their way to the top of the ladder, those things are no longer important. Instead, they should be climbing down from that lofty position and remember from whence they came. Show your employees that you actually give a damn about them.

I stopped at a newly opened Hobby Lobby in town a couple weeks ago and then realized as a I pulled into the parking lot, “Oh, crap. It’s Sunday. They aren’t open on Sundays.” How awesome is that? I’m not even a Christian so I don’t need the time for ‘Worship’ but dang, the ‘time with their families’ clause really struck a chord with me and made me smile. Yes, it was slightly inconvenient as I’d made as special trip to check out the new store but if that’s the biggest thing I have to worry about in my life, that Hobby Lobby is closed on Sundays, I must really have a boring life. Which, I don’t.

As we dive head first into the holiday shopping season, I urge you to keep in mind those people behind the counters who are waiting on you. (I put in my retail time, too, folks, I know how nasty some holiday shoppers can be.) Remember they are only doing their jobs and trying to support their families on a pay check that probably barely covers their living expenses. Don’t get all snippy and impatient when a certain sweater isn’t there in the size or color you demand. Don’t be pushy and rude to your fellow human beings. Life as we know it is not going to implode on itself because you didn’t get the best deal of the day. Really – it’s not!

This is supposed to be a time of kindness, giving and love. A simple smile can go a lot further than you think.  Let these folks working their butts off at obscene hours of the day and night share in the joys of the holiday so that when they do eventually get to have some time at home with their family they don’t spend it venting off steam from your rude and demanding customer behavior. As much as you might like to imagine it, these folks are not your personal minions.  Be gracious and patient. It’s amazing how much your service will improve if you’re not being a greedy ass.

But, I digress.

I won’t be out shopping on Thanksgiving Day and by some miracle of miracles, all the members of my family have the day off! I have a lot of things to be thankful for this past year and a day spent with all of them enjoying a meal and some after dinner board games is going to be one more of those things.  We’ll have three generations around our table and that’s really what matters the most to me. Now, pass the gravy, please.


Surviving A Panic Attack

Mental health

Very few people know this about me but during a particularly stressful period in my life I was prone to panic attacks. They always happened late at night. Sometimes I would wake up with one. Sometimes I’d be trying to get to sleep and would be stricken. If you’ve never had one, you can’t really imagine the full body dread that comes with an attack.

In my case the first sign would be the feeling of ice cold water being poured over my head. Imagine you’re taking a nice, hot pleasant shower when someone decides to run some hot water in the kitchen. It’s that moment when the cold water hits the top of your head and drains down through your hair and covers your helpless, naked body. You can’t move. You can’t breathe. Your heart skips a beat.

Except during the panic attack, you simply can’t go back to breathing. The water doesn’t warm back up once your housemate shuts the water off again. No, sir.  No breath seems deep enough. As for that skipping heart, it just keeps on racing and no matter what you do you can’t convince yourself you are not about to keel over dead that very second.

Then the pacing starts, the nervous restless leg type movements. I remember one night walking back and forth from the living room to the kitchen over and over and over again. You ARE going to die, of course. It’s just a matter of minutes. Your brain is going to explode from an aneurism or your heart that’s beating so fast right now is just going to stop or you’re going to suffocate. Take a deep breath. Take two. Try three. Pace, pace, pace.  Where minutes ago you were freezing and unable to breath, now you’re sweating and hyperventilating. Should I call 9-1-1? Should I wake someone else in the house?  And these are only the physical symptoms!

Absolute, terrifying dread and feeling like you aren’t even really there anymore. This has got to be a dream. It’s not real. I’m not having a mental breakdown. Am I? I think I am. I’m going to die. I have to get out of here, run, run, run. Escape.  These rooms are so small, I can’t breathe in here. Stop, just stop. Relax. Take a deep breath. Maybe if I went outside. Focus. Stop pacing. Try and make your hands stop shaking.  And so it goes on and on for what seems like hours when it’s really only been ten or fifteen minutes since you first felt that icy wash of fear.

Slowly, oh so agonizingly slowly, the deep breath you take actually feels deep enough. Your heart rate eases. Your head stops swimming. The panic is subsiding. Maybe you aren’t going to bite the big one tonight. You stop pacing and sweating and shuddering and rocking. The shower warms up again and you can relax. Yawn. Go back to bed. Sleep. Unfortunately, once you’ve been subjected to one of these lovely episodes, somewhere in your brain you always fear another one coming.

I’m happy to say I’ve been panic attack free for at least three years now, probably closer to five.  After the first one when I was clueless as to what was really going on, I was able to rein the whole thing in by using meditation techniques I’d learned years before. It didn’t make the onsets any easier or less sudden but it did help to make the episodes less intense and of a shorter duration. Deep breathing exercises and finding an inner focus did wonders.  Instead of an hour of panic, it would only last fifteen minutes. If I was already awake when it started, chances were good I could squash the whole thing before the cold water shower even made it past my waist. And, thankfully, the stress in my life is running a lot let violently and deeply. That, more than any of my coping mechanisms, is what I believe has removed the panic attacks into a distant, horrible memory instead of a constant waking fear of when the next one will strike.

My Favorite Techniques:

Rip It To Shreds: Keep some scraps of cheap, thin fabric nearby, like cotton hankies, an old pillow case or bed sheet cut down to 2 foot X 2 foot squares, handy. With scissors, snip like cuts into the edges to get the fabric ready and easy to tear. Paper works too and would do in a pinch, but for me was not as effective. The long, pulling sound of a fabric took my hands and arms away from their urge to shake while still letting my muscles flex and release like they wanted to. The difference being, YOU are in control of it, not your panic-stricken body.

5-7-8 Breathing:  This was/is my first step at getting back in control. Breath in (I know – at first it won’t feel like you can, but do the best you can in the moment) as deep as you can for a count of five. Hold the breath for the seven count. Exhale completely to the count of eight. This will help to slow your rapid heartbeat and get more oxygen to your panic-stricken brain.

Focus and Visualize:  Even if you’re pacing a rut in the floor, try and visualize not where you are but where you’d like most to be. Maybe it’s a place. Maybe it’s in the arms of someone you love. Whatever it is, go there in your mind. Picture it as detailed as you can and breathe, 5-7-8. 5-7-8.

I don’t know why I’ve chosen now to share this with the world. Maybe there is someone out there who needs to hear these words from me, someone whose life if stuffed to the gills with doubt, fears, hopelessness and self-hate. Maybe you are the sort of person that stresses more than average over the encroaching holidays. Whatever the reason remember, you will get through it! Don’t Panic! (LOL).  Don’t be ashamed to see a doctor. The symptoms of a panic attack are VERY much like a heart attack. Better to be safe than sorry.