June 28, 2011

Boundaries? We don't need no stinkin' boundaries!

It’s Plank Pullin’ time!  The one day a week that we strongly resolve to ignore the multitude of specks and sawdust around us and pull one bona fide plank from our own eye. Matthew 7:3-5, style.

Remember that other Plank Pullin' post I wrote?  It's time for another one.  (Actually, it's past time.) 

I know this will shock you, gentle readers, but I am not perfect.  Nay, in typical dramatic bipolar fashion, I have more than my fair share of flaws.  I'm not talking about cellulite or stubbornly persistent chin hairs (though they do apply).  I'm talking about people skills.  About relationships.  And about my lack of ability to set healthy boundaries.  What I struggle with the most is determining how involved I should get in other people's problems.

I tend to default to getting over involved, whether invited to or not.  I want to help (read: rescue).  I instantly go into Man Mode:  

You know, it occurs to me that people like me get paid to do this stuff.  It's called "life coaching".  No advanced degree required.  Ingenious!  But for those of us for whom codependency is merely a hobby, getting over involved can cause problems.  Sometimes expensive ones.

On a Friday afternoon in April, I got a call from an out-of-state friend.  She was really stressed out about her family's financial situation.  She and her husband have a family business as well as a large family, and business wasn't going well.  They needed help keeping everyone fed, their phones on for work and home, and their utilities paid.  She said they would be "flush with money" by the next week, and that they just needed help getting through the weekend. 

Pathological Superhelper that I am, I loaned her $600.  I told her that the money I was loaning her was for one of our own bills, and that we'd need it back by May 1st.  She agreed.

May 1st came and went.  So did June 1st.  I realized very quickly that I'd been overly trusting and overly generous.  The excuses came at regular intervals with no money, not even partial payments, attached.  I felt increasingly anxious, ashamed, duped.  Finally, when the loan was 6 weeks overdue, my mom (GC Brawler) took it upon herself to contact this (mutual) friend.  She asked her to pay back the loan and expressed her disappointment that it had gone on so long. 

This was not received well.  My mom and I were both unfriended and blocked on Facebook, and the woman's husband (once a friend) attacked me through email.  His tirade was so ridiculous that I must cartoon it, along with my mom's reaction.


Besides just being a good, old-fashioned airing out of the proverbial dirty laundry, I'm telling this story because it illustrates that rescuing others isn't always this laudable, feel-good venture.  People are crappy sometimes.  People lie.  And sometimes, the positive mojo you get from helping someone out of a jam turns into a giant pain in your butt.  This is one of those times for me.

And it is no one's fault but my own.

Now that I've got that off my chest, it's time to work on figuring out how to avoid this rescuing tendency.  Anyone know a good therapist?


June 24, 2011

Tell Me Something Good: 6/24/2011 Edition

Happily, things are starting to look up over here. 

1.  My beautiful dog is back home from the vet hospital and is acting more and more like herself again.  She's keeping food and water down, and we didn't find anything scary at her ultrasound yesterday.  (Praise God!)

2.  As it turns out, the air conditioning wasn't broken.  The electrician accidentally tripped the breaker to the AC when he was working on the breaker box.  I flipped the switch on and off, and now all is cool.

3.  I figured out a way to pay Paul without totally robbing Peter that doesn't involve going all Denzel Washington from John Q on our vet's ass.  (Hint:  July has 5 Fridays.  For us, that equals 5 pay periods.  That doesn't cover all the vet bills, but it helps.  Huzzah!)

4.  I've had more than my fair share of chocolate from Walmart in the past 24 hours.  Don't worry, I left some for you.  (A couple people have asked me about the dubious-looking brown substance on the self-portrait below.  It's chocolate, not poop, you weirdos.)

June 22, 2011

Sweaty fat chick on the edge!

In other news, I'm fairly certain that I am teetering on the edge of sanity at the moment.  (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)  I have to say that it's a good thing I'm medicated, y'all.  If it weren't for pharmaceuticals, this would have been my week:

1.  I'd have punched a lady out.  For real.  (She's bigger than me, but the force of my fury would have more than made up for my relative diminutiveness.)
2.  I'd have gone all Denzel Washington from John Q on our vet's ass.
3.  I'd have hired some street thugs to get the $600 back that I loaned someone 9 weeks ago to "get them through the weekend."
4.  I'd be camped out on our electrician's couch right now.  (He fixed our breaker box and broke our AC.)
5.  I'd have cleaned out the chocolate aisle at Walmart AND paid with a hot check.

And y'all would be holding a "Bail Danielle Out of Jail" fundraiser.  Just in case I do go off, here's a poster for publicity purposes.

You're welcome.

Click to enlarge.

June 21, 2011

Black is beautiful

You know, I don't believe you've met the most wonderful dog EVER CREATED BY GOD.  Here she is.  Meet Raven, our 9 year old lab and border collie (Australian shepherd?) mix.  We adopted her from the SPCA in January 2003. 

I'd been nagging Tree Guy for a dog for quite a while.  Finally I wore him down he came to his senses and agreed.  Nature Boy was about to turn 3 years old, and I wanted a dog I could trust around my little dude.  So I began The Search.  I visited shelters and rescue groups, and I searched Petfinder.com for months.

The SPCA was one of the first places I looked.  I asked the adoption coordinator there which dogs she'd recommend for a family with a young child.  She led me to the "big dog run."  It was really loud and crowded.  Dogs were barking and lunging at the fence.  The adoption coordinator said that at about 40 pounds, Raven didn't really belong in the big dog run, but that they'd run out of room in the smaller dog area.  

With all the noise and chaos in there, I didn't really get to interact with Raven.  I'd just started my search, and I didn't want to make an impulsive decision, so I left without Raven that day.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, she's a lady.

After a couple months of searching, I came back to the SPCA.  The adoption coordinator wasn't available this time, so I asked the kennel worker for her recommendations.  She brought out Raven!  The kennel worker told me that Raven had been at the shelter for 9 months, and that no one could believe she hadn't already been adopted.  Raven was so people-friendly that she was part of a therapy dog program for the elderly living in nursing homes.  This time I was able to interact with Raven one-on-one, and I saw how sweet she is.  The shelter employee said she believed that Raven had been at the shelter for so long because she was "a black dog in a sea of black dogs."  She told me about Black Dog Syndrome.

Raven was 15 months old, with a beautiful, shiny, velvety coat and a bobtail.  Nature Boy loved her immediately, and she loved him right back.  We applied to adopt her that day, and we brought her home a couple days later.  She fit right in.   

Raven's been a part of our family for 8 1/2 years now.  We couldn't ask for a better dog.  Her muzzle is starting to gray, she's got a couple white whiskers (who doesn't?), and she's not really a fan of puppies, but she's still a gentle, tolerant lover of children, a cuddly foot warmer, a tug-o-war champion, an expert tennis ball catcher, our designated fly hunter, and my shadow.  She's still pretty active for an almost 10 year old dog.

Which is why her current illness is such a shock to me.  She's been at the vet hospital getting IV fluids and medicine since yesterday.  She hasn't been able to keep any food or much water down since Thursday night.  The veterinarian did blood work a few days ago, and we discovered that her kidney function isn't where it's supposed to be, and her liver enzymes are more than 20 times the acceptable level.  And we don't know why.

Raven has always been the picture of health.  A beautiful, black, shiny bundle of love.  It hurts me to see her sick.

I am scared.

I pray that we find out what's wrong and that there is an effective treatment for her.  That she is able to live many, many more healthy, happy years with us.  I find myself wishing that God had given dogs the same life span He gave us.  They are such good and loyal companions--such examples of loving unconditionally. 

Get well soon, sweet girl.

June 19, 2011

Guest Post Alert!: Don't Mess with Mimi

Y'all remember my mom, right?  The GC brawler?  The woman man enough to take down that white trash dude at Golden Corral?  Yeah.  She's got something to say.

Yeah, I said it two.

I have been invited to be a guest blogger on my daughter's blog.  My daughter's blog is VERY funny so the pressure is on, yo.  I think I shall just limit this to the merely amusing.  I tend to be verbose on a rant so herein I will try to lay it out like the Cliff Notes version.  This comes with a rating of EE.  Explicit Eventually.  (Do I need to cuss?  No, I just do.  You will just have to deal with it.)  This is the one in which I list some things I hate even though I find humor in them.  I find humor in about 95% of everything, ever.  I just do.

1)  I hate when folks mispronounce words and you can't correct them.  The dilemma is whether you want to save them from the obvious embarrassment, or it just irks the livin' shit out of you and therefore, becomes all about you.  I work in a medical field with someone who constantly brags about having "been here 15 years."  And this is just one example, but it is a glaring example.  She went to get her yearly lady check.  She said she had to get a mammeogram.  Yep, a MAMMY O GRAM.

The conversation in my head went like this:  Oh no!  Don't.  Just don't.  Ahhhhh, but damn girl!  How old are you?  You do have tits, right?  You're in the medical field!!  WTF?  How many of these have you had in a lifetime??  NO ONE has told you there is no E syllable in this word?  When they call to confirm your appointment, do you become hysterically deaf?!

See folks, if she were in my family?  There would be no ex parte in the chambers of our heads.  We, after amusing ourselves with it, would simply adopt the mispronunciation and use it at every opportunity.  Might even make up a song about it.  Or a poem.  Maybe the "Mammeogram from Alabam" or "Shamalam that Mammeogram."  It would so be ON.

2)  I hate when people make up arbitrary rules, but especially when said rules throw the baby out with the bathwater as it were.  Why can't folks just punish the perp and leave the rest of us alone??  Then I wouldn't have to even think of the absurd. 

Here's an example for the poster of I Hate Arbitrary Rules.  It was Denim Jeans Wednesday.  We all know what jeans are by now.  We also know what shorts are.  Someone wore a pair of denim walking shorts to work on Wednesday.  Her reasoning was she thought they were capri pants.  (They were down to her knees.)  Let me preface this by saying that prior to the Big Deal, we could freely wear capris any day of the week.  Friday was originally Jeans Day and still is.  Wednesday was added for our social committee to raise funds, as we pay $1 for this amenity.  So Walking Shorts Girl has a negative effect on someone and there is a... gasp... COMPLAINT!

So now the rule is NO denim capris are to be worn on Wednesday Jeans Day.  You may still wear NON-denim capris any day of the week, and you are free to wear denim capris on the original jeans day, Friday. Is it me or does this just seem a little nuts?  Someone with the wisdom of Solomon had to actually think that up in the course of their job...  I so want to write a rap about it. 

Until I do, you'll have to be satisfied with this chart.

3)  I hate when folks condescend to prove their superior intellect, when it is average at best.  It brings out a primal need to disprove their delusion.  It is mental Pilates for me and jacks with my trying to stay a humble sort.  I have a jones much like I suspect crack addicts have to use their drug.  I do not like this about myself.  While I wish there was something funny to say about this, it is just a mean streak on my part to school them in the very real world that I would have to value their opinion in order to be offended in the first place.  Period.

4)  I hate being in the presence of the self-absorbed.  They suck the life out of regular people.  I could do an HBO special about this one.  The self-absorbed tend to be also what my best friends and I call a BEAT THIS.  The only reason they allow you to speak at all is to launch their own version of how much more and better they have experienced of whatever it is you have spoken of.  It matters not how insignificant the subject matter is.  It is certain to become an epic movie plot in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.  I just wanna slap the shit out of them.  And in my head, I do.

5)  I hate when religious folks feel as if they are the arbiter of all that is right and correct and now, must convince you of that as well in order to save your soul. I was actually told on Facebook, by someone I had never met or even had a serious discussion with, that I most certainly would go to hell for playing Vampire Wars.  I swear.  My response was that with all the terrible things going on in the world, I was really very sorry to use up any of God's time on a stupid free game.  I was certain too, at that point, that I was wrong about there being one God for everybody, because the One I knew was a loving, powerful God who has the assistance of the Holy Ghost just for the purpose of correcting the error of my ways without the help of a friend of a Facebook friend. 

I stated that I imagined I may get a head thump on the way in past those Pearly Gates for a lot of shit.  None of which would be about Vampire Wars.  I also may have mentioned that I hoped I wasn't behind them in the long line going in because I sometimes lack patience when lines don't move forward.  (I don't think the afterlife has a gate because there's no fence, but I felt compelled to speak in familiar terms with said persons.) My hell would be in spending an eternity with THEM, and I am not certain they don't fall under the above mentioned self-absorbed in point number 4.  I call that a two-fer.  'Nuff said.

June 15, 2011

Hummus: an epic

Sometimes a girl just wants a little hummus.  Is that too much to ask? 

It's all Shrinky Dink's fault.  She recently introduced me to my new boyfriend, Walmart's roasted garlic hummus.  (You can find it in the deli section--if you're lucky.)  Walmart has 4 varieties of deli hummus:  original, roasted red pepper, spinach and artichoke, and roasted garlic.  I've never met a garlic clove I didn't like, and I had a hankerin' for hummus, so off to Walmart I went.

I now believe that there is a conspiracy against garlic lovers everywhere, for the Walmarts around here are always out of the roasted garlic version.  I trudged to no fewer than 3 Walmarts this week in a fruitless search for my beloved Mediterranean snack.  With high hopes, I raced to the hummus aisle.  And there, mocking me, was a gang of hummi:  Mr. Original, Sir Roasted Red Pepper, and that sassy Spinach and Artichoke.  I can still hear the echo of their laughter.

Bruised but not broken, I vowed never to go hungry for hummus again.  By golly, I would make my own hummus!  No more relying on The Man for my fix.  I found a good recipe and with a determined air, I went out to gather the ingredients.

Fate was not on my side in this endeavor.  The first obstacle was that Walmart doesn't carry garbanzo beans.  Nay, the closest thing I found was that dubious legume, the chickpea.  I took this as further evidence that Walmart has a monopoly on hummus.  After scoping out a few other stores without success (now the chickpeas were mocking me!), I went to a Mexican market.  ¡Eureka!

Next on my list was tahini.  Whimsical gal that I am, I went shopping for said ingredient without knowing what it is.  I searched high and low for that meanie, tahini.  Once again, I was denied.  In desperation, I ventured into an Asian market.  I was told that they don't carry tahini, but they do carry sesame seeds.  How annoying!  I needed tahini!  What do sesame seeds have to do with that?!

A kind friend took pity on me and gave me a recipe for hummus that doesn't include tahini.  I was beginning to feel hopeful once more.  I assembled my ingredients and set about my task.  I blended together the garbanzo beans, oil, water, cumin, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and lemon juice.  Man.  It looked really watery--more like soup than dip.  I scooped out some of the liquid, then added more garbanzo beans and spices to thicken it up.  Things were looking better, but my blender was ready to give up the fight.  Apparently, it draws the line at blending 4 cans of beans.  Undeterred, I gave it a good talking to.  It rallied and my first batch of hummus was born!

Here's what I learned:

1.  Chickpeas ARE garbanzo beans.  (DUH!)
2.  Tahini is made from sesame seeds.  (" ")
3.  When you use canned beans in a hummus recipe, you can leave out the cups of water the recipe calls for.  The water was for cooking raw beans.  (Sigh...)


June 14, 2011

Find me over yonder

Just a quick note to let you know that I am a featured guest blogger at Laugh With Us Blog.  Come on over and discover the secret to living a lower stress life!

June 10, 2011

Flashback Friday: My big fat epiphany

From my blog of yore.  Originally written in June 2010.

I recently read an article about priorities. The questions were posed: What would you want to do if you only had a year left to live? A month? A week? A day? The purpose of the exercise is to pinpoint our priorities so that how we live right now is consistent with our values.

As the imagined available time lessens, our desires are distilled and we discover what we truly need to be happy. For most of us, spending time with family is how we'd spend our last year/month/week/day. We wouldn't obsess about our weight, waste time feeling ashamed of our bodies, or apologize for our fat. It would no longer be an issue. Weight would be back in its rightful place. It wouldn't be front and center anymore. It doesn't deserve to be.

I'd spend my last days with my family, my pets, and a couple close friends. I'd want to tell them how much I love them. How much they mean to me. What they've brought to my life. And I'd do my best to pave the way for them to heal after I'm gone. I'd write them letters and make videos so they could have concrete reminders of my love for them. And I'd spend time in prayer and ask God to forgive my sins. There would be lots of hugs and kisses and tears, yes. But there would also be laughter. A lot of it. Because while there have been great difficulties in my life, there has been even more joy. And many, many moments of hilarity. I wouldn't have it any other way.

This priorities exercise could be an excuse for giving up my (recently unsuccessful) struggle to lose weight. After all, counting calories and exercising are not how I would spend my last days--and no one knows when her last day will be. But. Excess weight isn't just a superficial concern. It's a health issue. Everyone knows that obesity leads to diseases that shorten lives. What if my extra weight and unhealthy habits were the CAUSES of only having a year/month/week/day to live? Would losing weight and getting healthier be priorities then?


So I can't give up. Because I want to live a long, healthy life with my family and friends. But I can tweak my goals and shift my attitude so that my definition of success isn't so narrow. When a lower number on the scale is the only goal, I can only pass or fail. No other progress is deemed worthy of celebrating. This quickly leads to feelings of shame and depression. And that's the opposite of motivating.

My real body goal should be to get healthier. Weight loss is a part of that, but only a part. I may not be losing weight right now, but I am creating healthier habits. Right now I can be a healthier size whatever. I can eat whole foods, get enough fiber, get the vitamins and minerals my body needs, and stay hydrated. I can move because it feels good, relieves pain in my muscles and joints, and helps me to be more flexible. Each day can be a success as I choose to make healthy choices.

And hopefully someday, the healthy choices I make will add up to weight loss. But even if they don't, I will be much better off than I would have been if I'd kept doing what I've always done.

June 08, 2011

What we bossy folk do in our spare time

Did you know that I have an advice column on Facebook?  Yes, me.  Paragon of wisdom and exemplar of mental health that I am.  How could I NOT have one?

My focus in on relationships in all their dysfunctional glory.  Romantic relationships, friendships, coworkerships, perfectstrangerships.  Here's one of my recent columns.

Dear Dani,

I've recently started dating after divorcing my husband of 21 years, and it scares the hell out of me. When I was younger I wasn't good at it, and now the rules seem to have changed. I have no idea what I'm doing! I meet a guy I like and we flirt, but doing that well takes so much of my energy that I can'...t take it any further. I get tongue tied and blurt out stupid things and then go over and over the whole date in my mind for the rest of the week. If somehow a guy manages to stick around for a while, I become obsessed with everything he says and what he means by it and if I'm doing something to run him off. How can I navigate the dating world in my 40s? With kids! How can I keep from running my dates off?

Neurotic Novice


Dear Neurotic Novice,

Oh fellow neurotic gal, I can't help with dating advice. I sucked at it too, and I've been married to the first guy who asked me for 14 years. I think I lucked out and found a laid-back enough guy to tolerate my brand of craziness. So, um--pick a guy who likes crazy women? That's all I got.

Just kidding! I do suggest that you remember that men are, in general, not as interested in (or aware of?) the meaning behind our words. Most guys are pretty clear about what they think and they say what they mean. (They are completely unlike us in that way!) They're just happy to have a clean, sweet smelling body next to them who doesn't recoil in horror if they admit they are sci-fi nerds. So relax. A guy who will run at the first sign of crazy wouldn't be able to handle a real woman anyway. We have hormones, yo.

And I advise you to have your neurotic dating blow-by-blow convos with a girlfriend rather than your date. Women are much more tolerant of that kind of stuff. It just feels like WORK to men.

Happy dating!



Ode to Uncle Jake

Today is my favorite bald-headed brother-in-law's birthday.  Uncle Jake is a trip.  He's one of the funniest relatives I have--and that's saying a lot. 

Nature Boy is a huge fan of Uncle Jake.   I think he relates to his musicality, creativity, and goofy sense of humor.  In an extended family of engineer types, Jake is blazing his own trail as a welder and drummer in a band called China Kills Girls.  This pretty much sums them up.

We like being around Jake at birthday parties.  He sings a little song and dances a little jig every time.  (Told y'all he's musical.)  Below is a photo in which Uncle Jake is about to get a birthday butt whippin'. 


June 02, 2011

Men are from Mars (and they want to rule Venus too)

So, one of my favorite new-to-me bloggers, Jessica over at Bohemian Bowmans, sponsors a weekly theme called Plank Pullin'. Here's her intro:

It’s Plank Pullin’ time!  The one day a week that we strongly resolve to ignore the multitude of specks and sawdust around us and pull one bona fide plank from our own eye. Matthew 7:3-5, style.

I don't know that I'm disciplined enough to do this weekly (besides, how ever will I come up with enough flaws to get past week 3?!), but I'll give 'er a go.

The very wise and very bald Dr. Phil McGraw likes to ask the guests on his show if they'd rather be happy or right.  It is one of life's cruel jokes that so often, you only get to choose one or the other.

And I usually pick:


I don't know why it's so important to me to be right.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I live in my head, and my intellect has always had my back.  When you're living on the edge of sanity, you grab any handhold you can.  I might be hallucinating Scooby Doo-like messages of warning (Keeeeep Ouuuuuut!) on my ceiling or making sure the doors are shut-locked-and secured exactly 9 times because 9 is a "good number," but my smarts are stable and predictable.  And since I know I can count on my intelligence, it naturally follows that anything I think must be right.  Right?!

For so long, I believed that marriage asks too much of women.  That it makes us servants, permission-askers, second-class citizens.  That the men of the world had all been inducted into the Secret Society of Superior Studs, and that even the nice ones secretly believe that women are inferior.  I came into marriage believing this, even though I married a nice guy who's no Al Bundy (even though he looks like him in this picture).

And since I thought it, it WAS truth in my mind.  A request for something from the kitchen was further evidence that men feel entitled.  The expectation that I (a stay-at-home mom) would cook dinner most nights was straight out the '50s!  A comment about my spending really ticked me off, as it was so obviously an attempt to control me.  It took me about 10 years of marriage to let go of this stubbornly held belief.

I was wrong.  At least when it comes to my own marriage.  I chose to be right instead of happy for those 10 years.  And that sucks.  Happy is much more fun!

Now I'm looking forward to being wrong about more things.