overeducated & understimulated

"if you're going through hell, keep going …" -winston churchill

My First Migraine September 16, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aerin Rainey @ 5:21 pm

So, I have curly hair.  I blow dry it every day with a huge diffuser while in the position commonly known as the “forward fold” in yoga.  I like it, because I stretch my hamstrings and maximize my curls at the same time.  Two days ago, I was cheerfully bending and blow drying and my hair turned out better than ever.  I smiled at myself in the mirror.  The sun was shining.  The kids were excited about starting their swimming lessons.  My husband was even helping pack food and pool necessities!  It was looking like a great day.

On my way downstairs, I started feeling a little funny.  Dizzy, maybe.  Also, I felt like I couldn’t see anything except what was directly in front of my face on the right-hand side.  I thought, I should really eat something. 

In the kitchen, I found myself grabbing on to countertops to stay upright and unable to resist the urge to cover my eyes with my hands.  Severe pain stabbed through my head.  It was debilitating, but it was also kind of weird and far away.  I popped a couple of Ultra Tylenols, sat at the kitchen table, and let my husband bring me some food.  A Clif bar, if you must know.  My daughter brought me a glass of water after I motioned to her and managed to croak out something about Water … please.

I soon felt nauseated. I really wanted to lie down.

But that would ruin my hair.

So I stayed in the kitchen chair until I had to admit defeat: I was not going to be heading to the pool.  Charlie and the girls left.  I went back to bed.  I tried not to move much.  This, like my blow drying method, was for a dual purpose: the lessening of nausea and severe head pain PLUS (maybe more important) less curl crushing.

After I started feeling better only an hour later, I started reading up on migraines.  I knew it was a migraine because my mom had migraines a lot when I was a kid.  I discovered on webmd.com that the symptoms of migraines include:

  • A brief period of depression, irritability, anxiety, moodiness, and decreased appetite as much as 24 hours before the onset of a headache
  • Symptoms of an aura an hour or less before head pain starts
  • A severe, throbbing headache, sometimes concentrated on only one side of the head or around one eye lasting between four and 72 hours
  • A headache that worsens with exertion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Extreme sensitivity to light, so painful to the eyes and head that it requires retreat to a darkened room
  • Extreme sensitivity to sound
  • Arm or leg weakness, difficulty speaking, or confusion
  • Severe exhaustion, confusion, or moodiness — sometimes lasting several days after the headache resolves

I definitely had a migraine.  I had suffered all of those symptoms.  So then I looked up the causes.  One of them in particular resonated.

“Changes in hormones and hormonal levels (such as menstrual periods, pregnancy, and perimenopause)”

Perimenopause?!?!

And that is exactly how far I have processed that thought.

 

Be the Change You Want To See In Your Blog … September 15, 2014

Filed under: Writing — Aerin Rainey @ 10:47 am

Why is blogging so hard?  I’ve been trying to get this blog going for years now.  It’s still woefully unpopulated.

I can immediately think of three reasons why:

  1. I am really quite busy.
  2. I can’t make my blog page look the way I want it to look and it is so time-consuming trying to work it out through help menus and experimentation.
  3. I can’t think of anything to write.

I guess none of these reasons is really a major stumbling block. Schedule in some time, get over your perfectionist tendencies and just write.

It’s not a motivation or inspiration problem — it’s a discipline problem. Consistency and routine will solve this problem.  Taking my ego out of the equation will also help a lot.  By ego, I mean that judgey part of your mind that’s always working to keep you stuck in a rut.

So here I am, actually writing on my blog — how long should this post be?  Does it matter?  It will be done when it’s done.  Or when I run out of time.  So, how is it going to look?  I guess it doesn’t matter that much.  I’ll click “Publish” and it will stream into my site.  Worrying about the snazzy factor is definitely putting the horse before the cart.  Gotta have some words to present before designing the presentation.  So what to write about?  Well, I guess this is a bit of a stream of consciousness and the main subject is a bit boring.  Next time, I will focus on something that may be interesting to more people than just me!  At least I’ve set the bar pretty low …

I am hereby committing to stop making excuses, get in the good daily habits that include writing in this forum, and start being kind to myself so that I don’t put the brakes on before I even start rolling.

 

Thank you for my high school teachers April 22, 2013

Filed under: Gifted,Writing — Aerin Rainey @ 4:43 pm

Was there a teacher who helped you recover a lost part of yourself?

My parents never thought creative writing was good for anything.  Or art.  Luckily, I was also really good at readin’, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmetic, so I could still gain their love and approval!  With lots of university degrees and a high-paying job, their “unconditional” love was secure. But I have wanted to write books for as long as I can remember.  And I still do.  But it is hard to believe that wanting that is okay, let alone do it.  I am time-travelling through my past and looking for the little Aerin who once believed in herself and in the worthiness of creative pursuits.  I can remember three people that I knew as a high school student who encouraged me creatively.

 

…my art teacher

One was Ms. Harris.  The thing you have to know about me in high school is that I was very busy being the “new me” and hiding my light under a bushel.  Being “normal,” and having friends.  Ms. Harris was our art teacher.  She had spiky red hair, always dressed in head-to-toe black, was pretty and youngish, and bore the unusual moniker of “Ms” owing to her status as divorced.  She was an exotic creature in our corner of suburbia.  You only had to take art in Grade Nine, but I took it every year. And the adored-from-afar Ms. Harris was quite indifferent to my work as an art student … until the day of the charcoal drawing.

The assignment was cool.  On cream-coloured construction paper, we used charcoal to reproduce some blurred areas of light and dark that Ms. Harris had put up on the overhead projector.  It was really a black-and-white photograph of a figure sitting in a stairwell that she had purposely left unfocused.  Once we had covered the paper with our blurred light and dark areas, she sharpened the focus.  Again, we worked to reproduce what we saw on our own sheet.  She kept sharpening the photo until we could see it the way it was meant and could add the last finishing touches to our charcoal drawings.  I wrote my name on the back and put it on the pile as I left for my next class.

When we returned to the art classroom four days later, our drawings were all pinned to a bulletin board that ran the length of the class between the top of the window and the ceiling.  I spotted my own drawing easily because of the thick black space I had created down one side to make the paper’s proportions match the photo.  Everybody was checking out the work, and after Ms. Harris called us to order, she started talking about the drawings and pointing out what had worked and explaining why.  She kept using my drawing as an example of the accurate depiction of light and dark and how depth is created by seeing light and shadow.  I was so gratified!  But then, oh my god, she congratulated and complimented someone else by name for my drawing!  I put my hand up.

“Ms. Harris, that’s my drawing.”

“Oh, no — I was talking about her drawing — the one with the thick black space down the side.”

“Yes, that’s mine.”

Ms. Harris looked at the other student for confirmation.  And back to me.  And all she said was my name, “Aerin.”  But it was the look of happiness on her face and the reverent sound of her voice, and she looked back and forth between my drawing up by the ceiling and me sitting below it and I felt like someone was finally seeing me and liking what they saw.  I could have cried.  Or hugged her.  But I just soaked up this new and different feeling.

…my English teacher

Another teacher who supported me creatively was Miss Roseburgh.  She was the complete opposite of the cool Ms. Harris, but I loved her even more.  She was round and rosy-cheeked, dressed mostly in voluminous floral prints, had thinning, dyed hair and was still single and closing in on her retirement.  She really liked me.  I can’t remember another teacher liking me the way she did — and don’t think there was any ulterior motive, because in our graduating year, she and Mr. Heathcock, the equally round and rosy-cheeked music teacher, finally stopped having a “secret” affair and got married.

She always called on me to read aloud from our assigned novels and Shakespeare plays.  I loved it.  And she gave us creative writing homework, which I hadn’t done in a long time.  I relished it.  I wrote a long story about an anorexic girl who was obsessed with running.  The character was inspired by my friend Christina who went to a different high school.  She and I were out of touch, but we had been close back in middle school.

After I got my story back, I was dismayed to see a message written on the last page from Miss Roseburgh:  “Please see me after school today.”

Miss Roseburgh was worried that my story was autobiographical.  (I guess I was really skinny back then.  My mother certainly tried to get me to eat a lot of her disagreeable cooking.)  But when I explained that the story was not about me but based rather on my old friend Christina who went to a different high school, Miss Roseburgh didn’t seem to believe me.

I was in shock.  Elated.  I mean, Miss Roseburgh felt that I had imagined this character so vividly and described her so grippingly that I must be her.  I reached my goal of bringing a story to life.  But at the same time, I worried that should I have chosen something safer — that wouldn’t make me personally vulnerable if people chose to believe I was drawing from my life experience?  Despite the compliments on my fiction, I might have shied away from writing as a result of Miss Roseburgh’s suspicions about my possible eating disorder.  But I went on to write many stories for Miss Roseburgh.  I felt safe sharing my writing with this caring teacher.

 

… my guidance counsellor

Mrs. Flannery was like the mother I wished I had.  What Mrs. Flannery did for me was to let me cry in her office every morning when I should have been in homeroom and tell me repeatedly that there was nothing wrong with me.  A lot of teens clash with their parents.  This was beyond that.  I don’t think my parents ever knew how to be truly supportive anyway, wrapped in their own fears and lack of fulfillment as they were (are).  But then my dad lost his job, my mother hit menopause, I became a teenager.  And it was awful.  Non-support became direct attacks.  I can remember so many hurtful things that were said to me.  Hence the crying in Mrs. Flannery’s office.  I would get so upset thinking about what my mother had told me that morning or the evening before I couldn’t stop myself from crying.  I would have to leave class and I could either sneak out of the building or go sit in the guidance office legitimately.

Mrs. Flannery was like a light, warm, down-filled duvet that you wrap yourself in when you are chilled to the core, shivering with violent cold.  Soon you are cozy again and your teeth stop threatening to chatter out of your head.  I needed that.  I needed to hear that sometimes young people don’t fit with their family and that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you.  I needed to hold on to the idea that the person I knew I was inside was a good person who deserved to be happy.

She told me something a bit questionable maybe for someone in her position but that was really smart and brave of her to say to me.  Because she was right.  She told me to go to university as far away from my parents as I could possibly go.  I never would have become the person I am proud to be today if I had not followed her advice.

 

…thank you

Thank you, Ms. Harris, for seeing me and making me feel good about something I created.

Thank you, Miss Roseburgh, for liking me and giving me the chance to write whatever I wanted.

Thank you Mrs. Flannery, for understanding me and giving me a safe place to understand myself.

 

Stint, stunt, stent September 11, 2012

Filed under: Fitness & health,The meaning of life — Aerin Rainey @ 12:31 pm

My father is a liar.  Natural, born.  He just tells lies like it’s second nature to him.  My whole life, he has lied to my sister and me, lied to my mother, and lied to himself.  Not with malicious intent, mind you.  He just tends to say stuff that covers his ass, or even just paints his ass in a better light.  But his prolonged practice of fabulation has had an unexpected result:  He has actually mistaken his great accumulation of falsehoods for fact.

When I was a kid, I had no idea my dad was ever fibbing.  But he should have given my teenage powers of observation a little more credit.  Also, being told by him to lie about certain stuff to traffic officers, neighbours, and even my mother, was a big tip-off.  I won’t bore you with the list of his personal offenses against me — suffice to say, it’s long and myriad.

You’ll notice that one of the things I value in life is honesty — it says so right up there in the upper-right corner of this page.  So his lack of it tends to cause a bit of friction between my dad and me.  It so happens, I am really furious with him at the moment.

Most recently, it has become clear that my father also lies to his doctor.  And lies about experiencing shortness of breath and chest pain when engaging in physical activity.  This new collection of deceptions is not exactly harmless — in fact, he ended up in the hospital two weeks ago for 5 days and nights because his doctor finally saw through all the protestations of:

  • “I’m fit as a fiddle — I exercise all the time” (curling, golfing in a cart, and playing slo-pitch with a pinch runner don’t count as exercise!)
  • “I weigh the same now as when I was in high school” (but then it was muscle!)
  • “I don’t have trouble sleeping — I can sleep anywhere, ha ha” (40 years worth of this one, followed by a diagnosis of severe sleep apnea)
  • “It’s normal to be red in the face and sweating from getting up to get a glass of water, I just got a little too much sun and got up too fast”
  • “I just push through the pain, it’s not serious” (uttered while gasping for air)
  • “I don’t need a break going up the stairs” (he needs two breaks!)

This man is so full of it, it’s not surprising that the bubble finally burst.  I guess my mother, the enabler, finally decided that she didn’t want to end up widowed just yet and forced him to go to the doctor one afternoon after a day of enduring chest pain and not being able to breathe.  Good for her.  I don’t know how she made him listen.  He is usually supremely convinced of his own analysis and judgment, expert opinions notwithstanding.

So they admitted him, gave him tests and procedures and told him he has three huge blockages, one of which was 99%, two very leaky valves, and a worryingly irregular heartbeat.  They gave him a stent, and sent him home.  Now he is on tons of meds and has to lose 25 lbs and follow a very restricted diet.  But he was “just fine” the day before!

Now that he’s home safely and under the care of physicians and following a treatment plan, I feel free to admit that I am absolutely incensed by this event.  Maybe it’s still inappropriate to be mad at your ailing father, but damn it!  Why didn’t he just listen to us years ago?  Decades ago?  I am really mad at him for doing this to himself, because he’s not just doing it to himself, he’s doing it to my mother and his whole family.

My mother sounds almost happy when she talks about my dad’s health now — it’s relief.  Because she doesn’t have to be responsible for convincing him he needs medical attention anymore.  Now he’s got to listen to the doctors.  She’s off the hook.  Of course, she’s also relieved that he’s relatively fine.  But mostly, she’s relieved that she doesn’t have to go head-to-head with a stubborn, sick man who is “as healthy as a horse.”  And who is so determined to cover up any evidence that he’s not.

You can tell when people are lying to you, right?  I can.  Maybe I’ve become an expert at spotting it due to spending so much time growing up in the company of such a consummate teller of untruths.  I don’t know why people bother.  Don’t they know it’s obvious they’re lying?

Other lies that will soon have to be faced:

  • “Your mother doesn’t have a problem with her memory, she’s just getting forgetful, confused, and easily frustrated by simple tasks because she’s getting older.”
  • “I don’t need open heart surgery.”

Ummm, Dad …

 

stent/stent/

Noun   1. A tubular support placed temporarily inside a blood vessel, canal, or duct to aid healing or relieve an obstruction

 

I hope, for everyone’s sake, he’s telling the truth this time.  But apparently he has an appointment with a cardiac surgeon in a few weeks.

 

Gorilla dogs September 6, 2012

Filed under: Food,Life with kids,The meaning of life,Writing — Aerin Rainey @ 10:52 am

I could tell I was sick yesterday when I got a craving for Grill-A-Dogs.  Comfort food calls when the sinus cold hits.  Luckily, my illness coincided with the first day of school, so I was able to rest in a quiet house.  And I didn’t have to share my Grill-A-Dogs with anyone.

So what’s a Grill-A-Dog, you’re wondering?  It’s sort of a cross between a grilled cheese and a pogo.  (Or what I imagine a pogo to be, never having eaten one.)  To make them, you need two wieners, two pieces of bread, butter, and a Grill-A-Dog maker.  It’s similar to a sandwich maker, but instead it molds toasted bread around hot dogs.

Close up of the Grill-A-Dog maker

The hot dog compartments

Tastes just as good as on the campfire …

You can dip them in ketchup and mustard.  Mmmm…

When I was a kid, we used to eat Grill-A-Dogs at lunch time at the cottage.  My cousins, sister and I feasted on them all summer long, as often as our mothers would make them for us.  You can only make two at a time, and subsequent rounds of Grill-A-Dogs pose a bit of a burn threat to the chef.  It’s not as easy to load the bread and wieners when the thing is burning hot.  But our moms had mastered the art of gingerly placing the ingredients and clamping the griller shut.

They were motivated — the moms wanted their own Grill-A-Dogs, too.  This comfort food has a long and revered history in my family:  My mom’s family used to camp a lot when she was a kid and they were devoted Girl Guides and Boy Scouts.  Even my grandparents were involved in Guiding and Scouting from an early age and became leaders as adults.  So, when a local company started selling these Grill-A-Dog makers, it was a great addition to the camp kit.

Eventually, the family Grill-A-Dog maker ended up at the cottage.  Now, for a whole generation of cousins, it is eternally associated with summer, family togetherness, and eating lunch on the dock in a wet bathing suit as fast as you can so you can go swimming again.

When I moved away and started missing summers at the cottage, I realized that at least one element of that summer fun was portable … I started plotting how I could remove the Grill-A-Dog maker from the premises without anyone noticing.  But really, how could I deprive them?  The Internet saved me from becoming a thief, because I discovered that the inventors of the Grill-A-Dog maker are still in business and with several models to choose from!  If this post has inspired you or piqued your curiosity, you can even get your own Grill-A-Dog maker.

Soon the coveted Grill-A-Dog maker arrived at our house and I started making them for my own kids.  Of course, they loved them!  The eldest was convinced I was calling them Gorilla Dogs.  And she still is.  I like it — the 4th generation of Grill-A-Dog lovers is adding to the legacy.

 

Is it wrong to say the end of the school year is the end of my life? June 25, 2012

Filed under: Life with kids — Aerin Rainey @ 2:17 pm
Tags:

I am so grumpy here all of a sudden.  I am biting heads off like a lurking snapping turtle cruising for random toes dangling in the water.  Any victim will do.

And I just realized why — tomorrow morning my kids are not going to school.  Summer’s here.  I am happy that we will be on vacation and have a lot of fun-filled days planned for the kids.  I love being a mom and spending time with my kids.  I look forward to summer and get excited about the last day of school, too.  So why the dread?

Well, because it is hard enough to find time for myself when they are at school 6-7 hours a day and now they will be with me constantly.  It will be like perpetual weekend.  Sounds good, right?  Except that I always breathe a sigh of relief on Sunday nights because I have been going all out for 48 hours and Monday morning is when I catch my breath.  I can go to the gym, call a friend, go for coffee.  Hell, let’s get real: I can just empty the dishwasher and re-load it and wash all the dishes that have been piling up on the counters since Friday. Then do laundry, buy groceries, make beds, pick up clutter, sort closets, etc., etc., etc.,

You see, we have a bad system here that totally relies on kids being out of the house for a chunk of the day.  The grown-ups in this house do no housework over the weekend.  Also, once dinner is made and eaten, it is very unlikely that any of the grown-ups will do anything resembling a household chore.  Originally, this system of running our household started because I noticed that once my husband was home from work, he is in relax-o mode.  He gets to sit down, chat, look at his computer, go on the internet, watch sports, whatever he wants!  Since he was not really able to be flexible in this for whatever reason, I decided that I would also be off the clock.  So, we sit around doing nothing all evening!  Just chatting and wasting time online, watching a show or a movie.  It’s great!  And the same thing is true on the weekends: Charlie does nothing, therefore, I do nothing.  It saves a lot of resentment.  And if he actually does something like set the table or unload the dishwasher or help with homework, or chauffeur kids around, I am really grateful.

Living in this house is pretty sweet, because there are no chores.  We all have our jobs during the day:

  • Charlie: go to work and earn an income
  • Kids: go to school and extra-curriculars
  • Aerin: take care of the house (i.e., do all the chores) and then be on what I call the “kid shift” from 2:30 to 8:30 pm.

So the problem is that when the kid shift expands from dawn till dusk, the chores take a serious hit.  Prepare to be surrounded by clutter, dirty dishes, and unfolded laundry. Plus, all the bits of “me” time I have scheduled in, like going to the gym, occasionally seeing a friend for a quiet coffee, maybe some yoga or a run, all seem to be things of the past (and not-so-distant future).  So, yeah,  I guess I am grumpy.

I can just hear all the working moms out there pshawing my worries about this transition and I know it’s a nice problem to have (luckily most of mine are that kind and I know it!) but it must be easier if you have the same job all year.  I mean, you just sign them up for camp or hire a babysitter or drop them off at the grandparents instead of the school and life goes on much as before … here we are dealing with a major change in routine.  And I am not that good at change.

Oh well.  Summer is short — I am just going to enjoy it and chores be damned!

By the way, this was my first post under my new pseudonym.  Blogging anonymously is actually a lot easier, so I can now release my inner opinionated woman.  Any of you who have followed me prior to this know my real identity and I hope you don’t mind going along with me on this … thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Core April 29, 2012

Filed under: Gifted,The meaning of life — Aerin Rainey @ 10:52 am

At the core of my being, there still resides a little girl who just wants everybody to like her.  She is still there, cowering, meek, looking around at everyone and waiting to be noticed, waiting to be invited.  She just wants to fit in and feel like she belongs.  That there are people she can count on, people who would also turn to her in their time of need.  I’ve always had her with me.

When I was a child, I lived with a lot of criticism and self-hatred.  No one took care of that little girl’s need for approval.  There was always something more to do, something that could be better.  Never good enough — what a negative way to perceive yourself.  Always a better grade to achieve, nicer friends to spend time with, more points to score on athletic teams, more prominent awards to win and programs to be accepted to.  I remember one summer when the unemployment rate for Canadian youth was almost 30% and I was having trouble finding a job.  Instead of feeling supported in my efforts and reassured that everything would turn out, I got asked, “Well, you’ve got to figure out what it is that’s wrong with you.  Why don’t people want to hire you?”  Emphasis on the you.  Not the fact that almost a third of people my age were out of work.

It would be easy to blame my parents, specifically my mother who actually thought she was doing everything right and ended up doing everything wrong.  The pattern of self-hatred was definitely established early and it continued into my young adult life.  I was so unsure of myself and my choices.  How could I know if I was doing the right thing?  I had no idea what I thought was important or what I liked.  I was always looking for clues from the people around me to see if what I was doing was a popular choice.  I missed out on a ton of stuff that I would have really enjoyed and friendships with people I could have really connected with because I simply never realized that I would enjoy it and, furthermore, that it would be okay to enjoy it, okay to connect with people who weren’t generally popular and approved-of.

In my early 30s, after my first daughter was born, I experienced an intense period of self-doubt and self-hatred.  I was wracked with anxiety about how to take care of my little girl.  What kind of mother was I going to be?  I didn’t know anything about or have any right to make decisions that would affect this other being’s existence.  Luckily, I found a wonderful therapist who helped me move forward on a journey to self-acceptance.  I learned that the most important little girl to take care of was my own inner little girl, whom no one (except my husband — how did I manage to let him?) had loved properly her whole life.  No longer did I wait for an approval from an exterior source — I learned to soothe my own hurts and listen to the critical voice inside me with objectivity and tell it how wrong it was.  I gained a feeling of happiness and self-worth.  I cut off toxic friendships and opened myself up more to those who didn’t shy away from the real me.

Life was good.

Then I moved to Atlantic Canada.  I was nervous that I would be able to continue my journey without the help of my therapist, since I am really the kind of person whose ideas and problem-solving benefit from being reflected back to me.  I can make leaps in understanding and integration, as long as I am thinking out loud, preferably to someone other than just me. Anyways, turns out I was right to be nervous, because here I am six years later and right back to where I started.

Why do I do these things?

  • Worry whether my neighbours like me, like my children, like my husband
  • Wish that people I meet would invite me to be in their Book Clubs, girls’ night out groups, dinner clubs, running groups
  • Feel left out every time I hear about people doing something fun
  • Wonder if it’s okay to call someone just to chat
  • Question myself for not going to church!
  • Get upset every time I go to the golf club (or even think about it) and see so-called “friendly” people who never invite me into their foursomes
  • Avoid writing on this blog in case someone I know reads it and decides never to talk to me again

Clearly, I don’t need to be friends with everybody.  I shouldn’t be friends with everybody.  I don’t want to be a chameleon who changes spots to suit every last person she interacts with.  In fact, I have never been good at that anyway!  I only need a few like-minded people who would truly stick with me.  I really need to stop worrying about fitting in with the “friendly” Maritimes and all that entails and just worry about being true to myself and what is important to me:  taking care of ALL the little girls around here, including my “inner Aerin,” who needs a huge daily dose of positive feedback.  (Feel free to leave comments below!  lol — I crack myself up.)

 

 
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