Henson Attack

The lovers, the dreamers and me…

Lou and I watched this documentary the other night about Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who plays Elmo.

Prior to watching, I wasn’t a huge Elmo fan. But after Clash talked about the development of the character, I started to get it.

“I knew that Elmo should represent love – just kissing and hugging,” Clash explained.

Then I realized what a jerk I had been about Elmo…the little guy just wants to love! There’s nothing wrong with that!

In fact, I think it’s perfectly fitting that the modern-day Muppet superstar is a gushy monster.

To me, Elmo embodies the overwhelming affection I have for all the Muppets. With three older brothers who grew up in the 1970s, the Muppets are a big deal in our family.

Last night, during family dinner (our weekly meal at my mother’s house), we talked about the Muppets for 45 minutes. As we discussed our favorite characters and remembered special Muppet moments, we were all laughing and in a great mood.

So we dug up an old VHS of The Muppet Movie (yes, VHS…we wanted some Muppet action that bad), nibbled on cookies, and watched the film together.

“I gotta admit,” Lou said on the drive home, “I got a little choked up during ‘The Rainbow Connection’”.

Aw.

Lou’s not a crier. I think it just goes to show that I’m not the only 30-something out there with a soft spot for the Muppets.

When we arrived home, I finished watching Labyrinth, which I had started earlier in the day (I’m in a Henson phase, can you tell?).

It was my turn to cry. Tears were streaming down my face as the sad-faced Hoggle said to the young Jennifer Connelly, “Yes, should you need us,…”

Gah! I’m choking up about it now!

Want to go down the rabbit hole with me? Then watch this. I dare you. Ten bucks says you won’t make it to the end without getting a lump in your throat.

Now, couldn’t you use a hug from Elmo? I know I want one.

Coping with Anxiety

Come with us now on a journey through time and space…

I have a mild case of anxiety.

Not right now. But, frequently, I feel the irregular pulse, the erratic thoughts, and the potentially-debilitating nervousness that can ultimately cause an experience of sheer terror.

One time, I had a full-on anxiety attack in the Chandler mall (go figure). If you’ve never experienced this, it feels like a heart attack. I was convinced that there was something medically wrong with me. So Lou rushed me to Urgent Care and I braced myself for the news that the doctor finally found the hole in my heart that I’ve always suspected was there.

“It’s lucky we found it now,” Dr. X would say. “There’s no cure. But if you stop eating all delicious things and quit drinking entirely, you might live to be 35.”

Of course, the real-life doctor took one look at my EKG and sent me home with a pill.

Shortly after, I tried a low dose of a daily anti-anxiety medication. It turned me into a zombie.

So, after a few unsuccessful trials with that, I decided to ditch the medication and talk to a therapist. A good one. I’m lucky for finding her but I’m also lucky to only have a mild case — my heart breaks for people who suffer from severe anxiety because it is fucking Hell, people!

Anyway, my therapist taught me a meditation technique that has worked extremely well.

Here’s how it works.

Close your eyes. Let your mind wander. As it drifts, identify what happens using four categories:

Touch, Feel, Image, and Talk.

Anything tangible that happens during your meditation (e.g. the cat jumps in your lap, you hear your husband snoring, or you suddenly notice the feel of your shirt fabric) falls under the Touch category.

All emotional feelings (e.g. nervousness, anger, fear, relaxation, etc.) are included in the Feel category.

The pictures that run through your mind (e.g. what you imagine the cat in your lap looks like, how you remember the way someone’s face is put together, or any other picture) is categorized as Image.

And, finally, the voices in your head that fire off a bunch of messages (e.g. “I should get up and check my email,” or, “I’m hungry,” or “I should be sleeping instead of meditating because it’s 3 a.m. and I have to work tomorrow,” etc.) fall into the Talk category.

When I first started to practice, I would set a timer for two minutes. I’d close my eyes and say the words out loud. I probably looked like a lunatic, but I was surprised how quickly I fell into the rhythm.

“Talk…Feel…Image…Image…Touch…Image…” and so forth.

The goal is merely to continue identifying the things that happen in your head. That’s it. You don’t have to clear your mind (which is something I’ve never understood).

Allow your mind to stay active, acknowledge the activity, label it, and then move on to the next one.

Now I don’t have to speak out loud (unless I’m really in the depths). Most of the time, I don’t have to do it all. But if I have a bad week, I’ll set the timer (for ten minutes now that I’ve had more practice) and meditate each morning for a few days.

It’s magic. My symptoms subside…

…until they return, of course, because there’s no sure-fire way to cure this type of thing for good.

So, if you’re like me and you have similar difficulties, try this.

Seriously.

(I have more tricks up my sleeve for dealing with anxiety so maybe I’ll blog about that later.)

Reaching Goals with Nyan Cat

This is a traditional goal thermometer. Perfect for a sales department.

I’m working on a big project. Naturally, I have many smalls goals related to a much larger goal.

So I thought I’d make myself a goal thermometer to keep me focused and inspired. Because that’s what sales departments do and it works, right?

After scouring the internet for some kind of automatic thermometer-maker, I gave up and made my own.

You can do this, too. Think about a simple shape that you like (a circle, a bunny…anything). Can the outline of the shape be filled, little by little, with horizontal stripes made by a magic marker?

Great!

Find an outline of your shape online, print it, and make your tick marks for each one of your smaller goals (an Excel spreadsheet is very helpful here). Then fill in the shape with the marker as you work.

Or, in place of a simple shape, think of something with stripes or a repeated pattern that you can use.

Like this:

Just like Nyan Cat, the work goes on and on.

Only 76 more to go!

(Source: Nyan Cat)

Summer Hiking

Happiness!

Man, I am in a ridiculously cheery mood!

This rarely happens. (Not like I’m some sad sourpuss or anything — I’m generally a happy person.)

But, this morning, I’m so super happy that I’m almost giddy.

I think it’s because I’ve been rocking out some sweet, sweet summer hikes.

On Sunday night, Lou and I trekked out to Usery Mountain Regional Park and managed to complete four miles of trail before sunset. Usery has some of the most lush desert in town filled with wildlife. Bunnies were crossing our path and we heard a pack of coyotes yipping in the distance. It was pretty great.

Last night, I hiked the summit trail on Lookout Mountain. Even though the trail is barely one mile, the path goes straight up the mountain with little to no shade. I’ll admit that I was definitely feeling the brutality of the AZ summer sun and it wasn’t comfortable.

“How can you hike when it’s so hot out?” my friend asked me yesterday.

I told her it was just like hot yoga. You’re drenched in sweat, sure, but you’re also dumping out all those nasty toxins in your body.

This has got to be the reason for my super cheery mood this morning. If there was any negativity lingering, it all drizzled out of my pores and evaporated in the summer heat.

Goodbye!

This morning, Lou told me he’d be home in time tonight to hit a trail.

It. Is. ON!

Drunk Writing

This gives me inspiration and permission.

“Write drunk, edit sober.”

Some say this is a quote by Ernest Hemingway (the internet says this may not be true).

Wherever the quote comes from, I give it credit as being a pretty useful strategy. As I mentioned in my  tips for writers blog post, getting out those first words can be the most difficult part.

Since booze lowers one’s inhibitions, it makes this first step much easier.

I drank a beer the other night as I prepared dinner.

Lost in a fuzzy-brained buzz, I suddenly experienced an onslaught of blog ideas. So I set the meal to simmer and jammed out some rough drafts.

When I opened up my WordPress to write today, I was excited to see that I had some copy to edit — enough for four whole posts!

I just read through each draft and they all sucked. Not only was the writing all over the place, but the concepts weren’t even that great.

Still, I’m willing to give it another try.

Research Skills

I had to do a lot of research before I could say yes to this.

The other night, Lou and I went out for cocktails with one of our favorite couple-friends. When the subject turned to our parents, I realized that all of my dining companions have parents who are still married.

I always get very curious about long-lasting marriages. So I asked one of our friends a few questions.

“How long have your parents been married?”

“I don’t know, ” he said, “forever?”

“Are they happy? Like, is it a good marriage?” I asked.

“I guess so. I don’t know,” he answered with a shrug. Then he laughed.

I know I was being nosy but I couldn’t help it.

When it comes to marriages, I want to know everything. How did they meet? When and why did they decide to get married? How long were they married before they had children? Do they ever fight? Did they have a date night? Do they still flirt with each other? Do they still, you know…do it?

I’ve always been like this.

As a child, I was constantly spending time at friends’ houses. I distinctly remember the married parents. I listened in on their conversations. I noticed if they kissed when they first saw each other at the end of the day. And if they were affectionate, I probably stared.

When I was a teenager, I worked at a salon. While endless middle-aged clients hopped in and out of the chair, they openly talked about their spouses. A lot. I was sure to listen to every word.

But, in spite of all my research, I was far from an expert when I started dating. From age 17 to 27, I managed to royally fuck up a lot of romantic relationships. But, I eventually figured things out enough to land me a stellar guy.

And, lucky for me, Lou has a robust suite of marriage skills at his disposal. He had two amazing role models. His parents have been happily married for over 35 years and they’re still nuts about each other.

Every time we have dinner with Kummerers, I see his parents interact and I’m a little kid all over again. Fascinated.

Lou got to see that every day of his entire life. No wonder he’s such a pro.

Without having to think it over, he’s responsive, courteous, respectful, and a total blast to hang out with. Through him, I’ve learned how to be a better partner.

Last night, we had a big conversation about our marriage. We do this a lot. This time, we were talking about divorce. As we shared our fears, we also discussed some strategy.

“It’s an everyday thing,” he said. “Every day, I want you to know — beyond the shadow of a doubt — that I love you. That I think you’re wonderful, and that you’re beautiful, and that I’ll always, always be there for you. Every. Single. Day. And you have to promise me you’ll tell me if I’m not doing that.”

“Oh, I won’t be shy about that,” I said. “Trust me.”

No-No Words

Insert in mouth.

As I’m sure you know all too well, I have a filthy mouth.

My mother, who is a proper lady, never swears. Instead she says stuff like…

Drat!

Rats!

Oh, crumb!

That’s scuzzy!

Darn-it!

Shoot!

Shucks!

It’s just not fun!

Using her language, I will now describe my day…

Drat! Today was scuzzy. Lots of things went wrong and it was just no fun! Oh, crumb!

(I don’t know how that woman lives. That was not satisfying at all.)