I Drank The Helium

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The last time I drank helium I ended up in the hospital. Were the two directly related? Probably not, but my mom seemed to think so.

The first time I can remember having serious chest pain was when I was a freshman in high school. When the morning after homecoming I woke up from a dream where I was drowning, only to find out that I really wasn’t breathing. My chest felt like it was being sat on by a six-ton elephant, holding a three-ton freight train, that happened to have a short and was sending electric currents through the elephant, to my chest and down my left arm. Needless to say, it sucked a lot.

I spent the night before slouching at my table refusing to dance. What else do you do when your mom makes you go to a dance you are determined to hate? But when we were getting ready to leave, we saw a few of the parent chaperons popping the balloons that decorated the entrance way. My sister, cousin and I saw this as a waste of perfectly good balloons and after being told we couldn’t have them by one parent, we decided to sneak them out anyway.

I don’t remember who actually grabbed them, but I remember running as fast as I could thinking all of the chaperons were going to come chasing after us. In reality, they probably just rolled their eyes, as they watched us crazily run for the door, high heels in hand, with a bunch of balloons bobbing after us.

We decided to suck the helium and go through drive thru’s and ask to throw things away. Because that’s what homeschoolers do when they are feeling devious. And since that was the only thing out of the ordinary I had done prior to my chest acting up, the balloons were blamed.

Because in the off-chance it really did make my chest react that bad, I didn’t want to end up in the hospital again. Now, eight or so years later, I watched the leftover balloons from cinco de mayo hug the pole they were tied to at work. They had just started deflating on their own which meant we would have to throw them away soon.

It was five minutes to close and not a soul in the store. So I decided to see once and for all if the balloons caused the extreme pain that sent me to the hospital. My chest was already acting up a little when I took the scissors and cut the tie off one balloon. After all these years of dealing with this chest pain, I was confident that if it did get bad enough to warrant a trip to the hospital, I would be able to drive myself. And if not, there is a fire station literally right up the street.

I took a deep calming breath before sucking in as much helium as my lungs could handle. Isabel was walking up from the back, so I leaned on the counter, wiggled my eyebrows  and asked her how it was going in a squeaky chipmunk voice. My chest wasn’t in any more pain until the third balloon. Then it started hurting a little more. Not enough to send me to the hospital but enough to make it a little more than uncomfortable.

So, I think it is safe to say that drinking the helium does not actually cause the pain but will amplify it a little.

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Happy Birthday To Me

My twenty-first birthday was the Monday of finals week this year.Which sucks but what can you do? So instead of getting completely trashed, stumbling half dressed into class and possibly failing one of my finals, I went to BDUBS with Jules and Jessica.

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(Me, Jules, Jessica)

First legal drink! Cheers to many more!

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(Black Cherry Mojito, it was preeettyy good.)

Changing Tires

I got a flat tire after dropping one of my brothers off at school this week. We had just finished our morning swim and I was looking forward to crawling back into bed before my class when the car started backing an ominous banging sound. I have had a flat tire before, so was fairly certain what it was when I pulled off of the busy street we were on and into a neighborhood. I crouched on the ground staring at my deflated tire, hoping I was just really, really tired and was seeing things. I was not.

The last time I got a flat tire I was on my way to work on the interstate.  My back tire blew a giant hole but I was lucky it wasn’t bad enough to make me crash and I was able to make it to work. My dad came with one of my younger brothers and fixed it for me, which did not help me now since I couldn’t figure out how to fix my current flat.

I called my dad, because what else are you supposed to do? He said he needed a little time but should be able to come help us. In the meantime Jake and I pulled out the spare, jack and the other tools that came in my handy flat kit and set them on the ground. I watched this really helpful YouTube video: https://youtu.be/joBmbh0AGSQ

This would have been great except my car is a little older so the part where the jack is supposed to rest, was rusted and I couldn’t find it. I was not about to guess and have the car fall on top of me, but I recommend the video!

Dad arrived after a short time and I told him I wanted to learn how to do it this time. Because god forbid I am ever alone on a dark creepy high way with no cell phone reception and my tire blows! When I put it that way, he couldn’t help but see the utility of me knowing how to change the tire.

I put the car in emergency break and Dad showed me how to use my body weight to loosen the bolts, by standing on the wrench and letting gravity do the hard part. After that I was on my hands and knees in wet grass, placing the jack in the correct spot (dad showed me), and turning the crank until it was all the way off the ground. Tires are deceptively heavy. I almost lost my balance and fell on my butt because I underestimated how heavy it was going to be. I put the spare on, making sure to tighten the bolts catty-corner to each other first, otherwise you might not have as tight of a wheel as you would like.

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Once the spare was on and the tools and tire were in my trunk, I did a little victory dance. I am now less helpless and more independent now that I know how to change my own flat. I was extremely impressed by how easy it was to lift my car, and even more impressed that I was the one who lifted it!

Achilles in Uptown Toes

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In my last post I talked about my fear of being touched that stems from being assaulted when I was a teen. But as weird as some people may think this is, that fear is twice as strong if the area being touched is my feet (I just cringed in my seat simply thinking about it). I can’t really explain why, but feet have always appeared so profoundly vulnerable to me (possibly due to the copious amount of Greek mythology I read as a kid, stupid Achilles). But whatever the reason, my feet were the first and last thing he touched and so are my biggest trigger.

This week I thought, what the hell. I already tortured myself with a massage, might as well violate the next boundary. Unlike last time, I was definitely not ready to have a guy touch my feet. So I found a place where it wouldn’t even be a possibility and bought a Groupon from there. I set up an appointment at  Uptown Toes for Jessica and I, because I didn’t think I could do this one alone.

We walked into one of the cutest shops I have ever seen. Black and pink permeated throughout the rooms in the form of sleek comfortable furniture and fluffy pillows.The bathrooms even had complimentary spray deodorant and body mists. And since I was curious, I tried one. This ended with me not realizing the bottle was faced the wrong way and getting more mist on the palm of my hands than anywhere else.

After washing as much mist off as I could, I followed Sarah (my nail technician) into the nail room and soaked my feet in the bowls of water they had set up for us. Even though Jessica was there with me, I was struggling with the idea of letting Sarah do my nails. After I picked my color and design (purple with black butterflies), I leaned back and hid the death grip I had on the pillows with a wobbly smile.

 

“How are you doing?” Sarah asked, as she rubbed the brown scrub on my feet (she explained what this was but because I was preoccupied with worrying, all I heard was chocolate something or other).

It took me a few moments before I could force out an “Alright,”

“Liar,” she chuckled and quickly finished up the scrub so I wouldn’t have to sit through her rubbing my feet any longer than necessary.

She put marshmallows between my toes (again, something to do with the chocolate theme that I missed) and began painting them a deep purple. The painting was easier to handle because she wasn’t really touching my feet too much. I was able to pry my fingers open and relax into the steady banter flying around the room.

“Okay, don’t put this near your phone or your glasses,” Sarah said, as she gave me a white buffer block to take home, after she finished my toes. Because I’m a bit of a smart ass, I immediately lifted the block up to my face so Jessica could see me break Sarah’s rules. It might have been slightly childish but the laughter that rang around the room helped ease the last bit of tension.

“You’re a weirdo, but my kind of weirdo,” Sarah laughed, as she put her supplies away.

While the experience had more of an affect on me than I would have liked, I am still really grateful for the women at Uptown Toes for making it a little easier. My feet are still a big trigger for me but at least now they look pretty cute ^_^

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The Third F

Almost everyone knows about the two instinctual F’s that come into play when you are frightened or your life is in danger. Fight and Flight. But not everyone knows about the third F. Freeze. For whatever reason, some people in those types of situations experience an overwhelming wave of helplessness and their brain decides it will be safer if they don’t move.

Why do I bring it up? Well, because that’s what happened to me when I was assaulted a few weeks before my eighteenth birthday. I just froze.

As you can probably imagine, this experience has really restricted what I am comfortable doing. One of those things it being touched. Especially by guys. But, after a couple years of figuring out how to avoid panic attacks, I think I’m ready to test this fear. I bought a Groupon for a massage at Palmer Massage Therapy  and scheduled an appointment with a guy named Gerardo.

I stayed curled up in my bed until the last possible second thinking maybe I could skip and they could just keep the money. But I had told too many people about it and their disgustingly, encouraging confidence in me kept needling at my peace of mind until I threw back the covers and got dressed.

The office space was simple and relaxing. We decided to focus only on my back and shoulders because they were giving me some trouble and I thought it would be a safe place to start. I was handed a form to fill out about health issues or allergies and at the bottom of this form was a check list of the muscles I was comfortable having massaged. One of those muscles was the pectoral. And while I do know what it is, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember while I was staring at that sheet.

“Uhh, I’m sorry, could you..could you tell me where this one is?” I asked Gerardo pointing to the list. He made a contemplative face, like he was trying to figure out the best way to tell me.

“It is the muscle under your collarbone,” he said.

“Under my collarbone..” I looked down and, well, definitely didn’t see a muscle there. I smiled awkwardly and said thanks before checking no, until the whole box was black.

I was left alone in the room to undress and get beneath the sheet. I was just contemplating leaving when he knocked at the door and came in. He asked me a few questions about myself as he prepared to start. I could hear him rubbing his hands together and almost bolted. Speech was not something I was doing well. I stuttered a lot and talked too softly, until eventually he just let me retreat into the war zone that was going on in my head.

Should I leave? Should I stay? Was I about to embarrass myself with a panic attack?

“Take a deep breath in…..now let it out. Now again…..let it out. Breathe…..let it out..,” Gerardo gently pressed his hands down on my shoulders with the last exhale. I cringed a little but reminded myself of three things.

  1. I asked him to do this.
  2. I wasn’t in any danger.
  3. I may be nervous but breathing is required damn it!

I was eventually distracted from my thoughts when Gerardo started rubbing up against a bone. I couldn’t for the life of me image why he was doing it but it hurt so bad I almost cried. He kept rubbing and rubbing and rubbing against it but then suddenly the bone disappeared….

Gerardo said it felt like I held all of my stress in my back and shoulders, which doesn’t surprise me since I mistook a knot of muscles for bones! When the massage came to a close I was insanely proud of myself. I was uncomfortable and stressed about the whole experience but I didn’t have a panic attack or freeze! My body was sore for a day after, but it was a good sore.

Back in the Pool

I swam competitively for five years as a child. I wasn’t the absolute BEST swimmer but I developed a killer backstroke and one year, I won the most outstanding swimmer award for my age group (I still have the trophy). But when I turned thirteen, I stopped swimming.

Between my mom going to work, feeling like my coach was being unfair by swimming me up (meaning instead of swimming against girls my age, I was swimming against girls 16 and older), and suddenly feeling uncomfortable in my own swim suit, I decided to stop.

And when I mean stop, I mean STOP. I didn’t touch water again for years and years and years (obviously I showered, I’m not that ridiculous). To the point where my mother forgot I knew HOW to swim.

In a way, I guess I did. Or at least I forgot how to love it. With everything but a few spandex covered areas on display, swimming is one of the few activities that require you to be basically naked. Personal body positivity is important but I think almost everyone feels vulnerable when they first start walking around in a bathing suit. And after so many years of hating the idea of going back putting on a swim suit again, is not something I have been looking forward to.

But this week, I have made a deal with my younger brothers. Phill wants to go out for the swim team and Jake wants to build up his breathing endurance (he has asthma). I’ll be teaching and helping them achieve their goals, while being held accountable to the gym plans with my promise to them.

I get to wake up at 5 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and at 6 a.m. on Saturdays, so I can pick up the boys and get to the South West YMCA by the time the pool opens.

We made the agreement on Sunday but I didn’t actually buy anything for it until the night before our first morning. I already had a swim suit from when I went down to visit my friend in Florida almost two years ago, but I bought a bottom for it, a towel, three sets of goggles (the boys didn’t go shopping before either), and breakfast for when I’ll be driving all of us to school.

I packed everything into my duffle and set out my suit before bed so I could slip everything on and run out the door. And after snoozing my alarm three times, I really appreciated my forethought.

When I went into gym locker room, it felt like nothing had changed. I used my favorite locker, padded across the tile flooring in my flip flops, and made it a whole two minutes before I seeing my first naked person of the season. I was going to be fine.

The strong smell of chlorine hit me first. Then the overly warm humidity I have come to associate with fungus and indoor pools. I waved back to the lifeguard in his office and adjusted the sides of my goggles until the boys came out, trying not to remind myself that I didn’t care if anyone saw me in my suit.

When the boys joined me, I jumped into the farthest lane from the lifeguard and let the water swallow me for breathless moments of solace. When I surfaced, we worked on correcting technique and slowly swam laps across the pool.

I was surprised by how nice it felt to be in the water again. As I languorously watched my arms reach above my head doing backstroke down the pool, felt a strange kind of sorrow come over me. I wish I hadn’t ever stopped swimming. I wish I could have remembered how much I love being in water sooner. But now I can make up for lost time.

Despite how the swim aggravates the pain in my chest, I am really looking forward to my next swim.

Dating Buddy

I went on a date. After the first few rough days on Match I talked to a couple of really nice guys. And one really nice guy in particular. I’ll call him Damien.  After talking for several days he asked if I wanted to meet to have coffee or something. So we agreed on the Juice Stop downtown.

I went out with my younger sister Jules and my friend Jessica (yes I know, Jessica is in a lot of my posts. What can I say, she is hard to get rid of 😉 ), the night before to find an outfit. I was really nervous that he would be disappointed when he saw me and so I let them pick my clothes like I was a human doll until we all agreed on an outfit. New pair of skinny jeans, dark blue blouse with a peach undershirt and black converse (okay, off brand but whatever).

Snapchat-5344485055781318683(Jules and I shopping)

When I told my mom I was meeting Damien she wasn’t very happy. She wanted me to take someone with me because technically speaking I didn’t know if he was a serial killer or not. I know it sounds funny but really if you think about it, she isn’t wrong. Safety is very important especially when you are meeting up with someone you’ve never met before.

Needless to say, I agreed. As I was getting ready I started giving Jules many instructions on how not to OBVIOUSLY be watching me. I was so nervous I nearly stabbed myself with my mascara and eventually gave it to Jules to finish.

After my makeup was done, my clothes were changed and several helpful ‘hints’ to brush my hair (my hair is always a hopeless mess), I was ready to go. Except I didn’t want to anymore.

Everyone kept telling me not to worry if I wasn’t what he was expecting. He, apparently, was supposed to be worried about meeting my expectations. But to be honest, I didn’t really have any. I half expected that he wouldn’t show up or might cancel. Those would have been fine compared to my biggest fear. That I would show up and we wouldn’t even be sitting there for a second before he left.

I don’t think I’m the most unattractive person in the universe but when I think of the worst-case scenario, I think of the absolute WORST.

When we finally arrived at Juice Stop, I went in first and met Damien and settled into a booth. Then two minutes later Jules came in and took up a stationary position in a booth at the other end of the shop.

Damien and I chatted awkwardly for a few minutes with the customary, tell me about yourself, and what would you like to know about me?

I hadn’t really considered what we would talk about when we actually met and apparently neither did he. There was a lot of blushing and fidgeting with hands and nervous chuckles as we just stared trying to come up with things to talk about.

We finally fell into a comfortable rhythm talking about what we studied in school  and were both able to relax a little more. He was funny in a quirky kind of way but we were struggling to find things in common. After an hour he left and the girl working behind the counter gave me a huge smile.

I smiled back, blushing a deep red before walking over to Jules’ booth asking her if she was ready. The girl behind the counter burst into laughter when she realized that Jules had been secretly watching the whole time. The three of us just sat there for a minute, smiling before the girl gave us an approving nod and we left.

Even though Damien turned out not to be a serial killer it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Finding a Dating Site

Because I am not old enough to participate in the speed dating events here in Omaha, and because trying to meet in Omaha is time consuming (or I am just to tired to try), I decided to sign up for a dating site.

I did not want to join Tender or OkCupid. They are notorious for being hookup sites and Ronny just isn’t about that life. And despite my mom saying that EHarmony is the only legitimate site that you trust,  it seems way too serious. So I settled for Match because those are the only four dating sites I have ever heard of.

I couldn’t help humming the Matchmaker song from “Fiddler on the Roof” while I filled out the application. Well, while I filled out the application the first time. By the end I was humming a whole list of curse words, you probably have never even imagined.

It took me hours, HOURS, to sign up. Not because the application process is terribly long but because my internet kept crashing. Each time I’d get a little farther in the process than before, giving me a false sense of security. And each time the crash caught me by surprise. After many threats to throw my computer our the window, I was finally able to sign up. The site is fairly straightforward with the most common ways of interacting with other users include, liking pictures, winking, or sending a message.

I will be the first to say that paying to ‘date’ feels very, very weird. I know that people do it all the time but I can’t help but lower my screen when I think someone can see me looking at a guy’s profile.

I think I might just be embarrassed because I’m new to this and in the past, dating sites or apps have carried a negative connotation of failure. People who have met their significant other through a dating site have always started telling me their stories with,  “don’t judge me but,” or “I know it sounds silly,”.

My first few days on the site didn’t do much to alleviate my embarrassment. I received a few emails, two of which openly propositioned me and another that told me about his family, a few of his interests, told me he would never cheat on me and asked me to be his girlfriend…all in his first email.

I considered canceling my membership and getting my money back but I didn’t think a couple days was really a very fair trial run. Hopefully things get a little better or I might just have to sneak into one of those speed dating events!

Piercing

This week went by fast and by the end I realized I hadn’t done anything for my blog yet. I started making a list of things to do, but my answer for each of them was

No, no, no, no, no, no!

I don’t want to do any of them.  My friend Jessica kindly reminded me I’m not supposed to want to do the things on my list and suggested I get my cartilage pierced. I’ve wanted to get it done for a while now but needles freak me out. A lot.

There is just something about a tiny needle piercing my flesh that just rubs me wrong. I can handle shots, you know, as long as they don’t do that stupid count down thing. They think they are being helpful by giving you the shot before they say three so you aren’t expecting it. But I KNOW they are going to go on two and it stresses me out. I start to panic, black dots dance across my vision and all of my muscles tense. That’s just shots, I’m sure we’ll get into IV’s and drawing blood another time.

Because I couldn’t think of anything else to do last minute, we went to get piercings. There is a tattoo shop that does piercings called Big Brain downtown that is open until midnight and looked professional so we went there. Glowing white brains sit on little end tables between benches that wrapped around half of the store. We sat by them after we put our names on the piercers list.

My ears are double pierced but those piercings are just on the earlobe (fleshy part of your ear). The cartilage is the harder part of your ear and contains a nerve. If someone were to pierce the cartilage incorrectly you could have nerve damage or the cartilage might collapse.

Because I was so nervous I Googled what this might look like and tortured myself with lots of images of collapsed cartilage. Basically what I learned is that it is different for everyone. Sometimes the cartilage shifts and looks a little deformed while another one I was looking at it looked like the ear melted!

I pulled out a book because if I didn’t distract myself my mind would play the images of ears with collapsed cartilage over and over again in my head.

I read somewhere that it only happened if the piercer used a gun instead of a needle but it still made me extremely antsy. I tried stopping my leg from jumping by focusing on the book but I didn’t get past the first page. The piercer, Dave, came up to the front and called a middle-aged blond woman back. My stomach dropped to my toes with a thump I was sure everyone could hear.

The woman looked like she came in with someone but he called her back by herself. I looked at Jess, and she saw it too. There was a possibility I would have to go in the back. By myself.

“I’m so sorry!” Jessica said, but I just barely heard her.

“I hate you, I hate you, I hate you,” I said, at the same time but not angrily. More like a desperate whisper of someone on their death bed who wants you to know it’s your fault they are dying.

When Dave came back up to the front with the blond woman and scribbled her name off the list.

“Jessica and Ronny,” he called and I exhaled audibly in relief.

We walked back to his work space and I sat in a glittery purple chair. Jessica said that when she got her cartilage pierced a few years ago, it was the most painful one. I wasn’t afraid of the pain. Just that pesky needle. I tried to remind myself that I had gotten a tattoo, so I could handle this, but it didn’t really help.

Dave picked up on my fear pretty quickly and I worried he might make fun of me for it. Who goes to get a piercing when they hate needles?

Apparently me.

He didn’t make fun of me though. He asked me questions, offered to answer any of mine, and pierced it so fast it barely pinched. He had me sit in the chair for a couple of minutes until I wasn’t shaky anymore. Jessica and I switched places and a felt giddy. I did it, and it looks cute. No collapsed cartilage for me.
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An Interview Continued

Scott agreed to meet with me at the campus café after work on Thursday the 25th of February. I arrived early to set up at a square table in a quiet corner of the dining hall. My nerves started kicking up again as I looked over my notes and the list of questions. I had written them in shorthand so they would be more of a jumping point that I could improvise. A few of them included:

Military?

Wife?

Metal?

Cancer?

I knew Scott had skin cancer when I first met him a few years ago but he was on the remission side of it. I wondered if he would think I was rude if I tried asking him to tell me about it for the profile.

I had fifteen minutes to go and my hands were shaking. I pulled out a napkin from the dispenser and wrote myself a note that said “You Can Do This!! Breathe!” while humming Masquerade from The Phantom of the Opera in an attempt to keep calm. When it was done, I propped the napkin against the dispenser so when he sat across from me, he wouldn’t be able to see it.

Snapchat-4256251144267513253(This is Scott and I during one of the turns)

I saw his big blue coat and the husker ski cap he wore over his shaved head first. It’s just Scott. No reason to worry. I told myself when he walked through the glass doors and I smiled. He ambled over to the table and took the seat next to me instead of the one across. I scrabbled to move my note and just barely got it out of sight before he could see. That would have been so embarrassing that I probably would have left.

We made small talk at first and I relaxed a little. This was the Scott I knew, the guy who cooked hot dogs with C4 when he was in the Army and rocked out at metal concerts.

I puttered around for questions and he politely waited for me. His honeymoon was spent in Vegas, where a woman won the progressive on the machine his wife had made him get off twenty minutes before.

“I didn’t talk to her the rest of the trip,” he told me as he leaned over to rub his calf. It was bothering him today.

“The doctors don’t warn you about the bumps and bruises,” he said shaking his head. If it wasn’t his leg, it was his thigh, or possibly his junk. “When that happens, the hell I’m coming into work. I don’t get paid enough for that. I’ll be at home playing some video games with a bag of peas,”

I asked him how that was going. I figured he brought it up, so he couldn’t be upset that I asked. He reminded me of the surgery they did back in 2013 to remove some of his lymph nodes. Well, the melanoma got in his blood stream but never showed up on any of the blood tests until last fall when he was doubled over in pain and they took him in.

“The doctor just came in and was like, ‘well, there is a mass on your pancreas, so you are going to die in about a year,’ and I’m sitting there staring at him then go, ‘how come every time I come in here you always give me such  great news?’”

It took a second to take in what he was saying. Scott might not be here much longer. I swallowed down the tears because I didn’t think he would want me to cry all over him. But I was seconds from doing it. He told me he wants to hang on for his family but that personally he would be ready if it was his time.  

We finished up the interview and I walked around the table to thank him.

“You look like you’re about to go to a sock hop, dear,” he said smiling when he saw my skirt and converse paired together. I hugged him goodbye and watched him whistle out the door. As I packed up my things I realized I didn’t really need the interview to know Scott.

Come hell or high water that man will whistle, laugh, grumble and  rock his way through it it.