Look Inside Your Vagina (or you’ll die)

I’ve had a mole on my face, next to my sideburn, for as long as I remember. It seemed innocuous enough, until recently when it started turning into some weird bumpy thing. Then, my sister who is a nursing student was all, “CANCER this and CANCER that,” and I got all panicky and went to the doctor. My family practitioner is a good doctor but she’s as emotional as sheetrock. She’s a very no-nonsense person and because of that not at all comforting. She looked at it, “it doesn’t seem to be anything to worry about,” she said, tucking her little magnifying glass into her front pocket, the way that doctors do. “Take a picture of it with your iPhone.  Every few months, take a new picture and compare it to the one before it. If it grows or changes then come back in.” I stared at her for a second, “hmmm, okay,” I said. But I actually thought, “OMG HOLY SHIT THAT SOUNDS SO STRESSFUL!” She must have noticed the panic in my eyes because she added, “if you want, I can refer you to a dermatologist just to be sure but it honestly doesn’t look like anything to worry about.”

I slowly nodded, “yes.”

I made an appointment with the dermatologist and waited for three months until my appointment, wondering all the while if I was going to die before I saw a doctor. I didn’t.

Yesterday, I went to my appointment. I walked into the office, filled out paperwork and after a few minutes, the receptionist called my name. I followed her to the back and she tried to whiz past the scale and I stopped abruptly, “wait, we aren’t doing the uhm,  thingy?” She tilted her head, “excuse me?” I shrugged, “I don’t have this thing at home so could I weight myself?” She nodded, “sure if you want.” I enthusiastically threw off my coat and purse and stepped onto the scale. “Oooh,” I gushed, “I lost five pounds since last time!” She looked at me like, I don’t give a rats ass lady. So I picked up my stuff and trotted behind her. In the room, she instructed me to put on a gown and hop up on the table. I changed and this time I even put the gown on right. Last time, I put it on  backward and my husband was like, “WHY ARE YOUR BOOBS OUT LIKE THAT?” I sat on the table and swung my legs until the doctor came in.

“Hi, I’m Doctor H,” he shook my hand.

“Hi!”

“What am I seeing you for today?”

I turned my head and pointed, “am I going to die?”

He stepped closer to me and inspected my face for a minute with a light.

“Nope. That’s just some fatty cells clumped together an-”

“Ew,” I said.

He laughed, “anyway, they’re not dangerous at all. In fact, they might just go away on their own.”

“Oh, okay,” I smiled.

He grabbed my leg, “But while you’re here, let’s just look you over real quick.” He picked up both of my legs and started to inspect them. I blurted out, “my husband has been in Sweden for weeks and so I didn’t shave my legs so I apologize for that.”

“No worries,” he smiled, “women always worry about their leg hair for some reason. But, honestly, I don’t even notice.” The nurse in the room turned to me, “well, I’m just happy to hear that I’m not the only one who stops shaving when the husband leaves.”

“Oh, no, I go completely feral,” I told her.

The doctor grabbed his phone, “so listen, I’m going to show you some pictures of what you should look for and what should cause alarm be-”

“Ah! NO! I don’t want to see!” I recoiled from him and made an icky face.

“You need to see,” he said in a dad voice that he pulled from somewhere inside of himself. So I reluctantly looked at his screen where he’d pulled up a billion terrifying images. “Okay, so I’ll monitor for those and-”

Doctor H smiled, “good, good, do a skin check once per week. Also, make sure you check your vagina and anus. My neighbor got Melanoma in her vagina and she didn’t see it for a long time. She died.”

The room was quiet for a second, uncomfortably so. I took a deep breath, “okay, well that’s not terrifying or anything.”

“No big deal,” he smiled, “but skin checks are important and you should be thorough.” And I imagined myself walking down the street holding my vagina open like a skirt and asking everyone, “Notice anything a little off?”

Then, Doctor H began wrapping up and I remembered that he was a skin expert so I had to ask, “how can I look young forever? I’ve never seen a dermatologist before. What can I do to have vampire skin?”

“Well,” he smiled, “a retinoid cream, sunscreen always, and drink a lot of water.”

“What about chemical peels?”

“those are good to do a few times per year.”

“Mineral or chemical sunscreen? I’m sorry, I know you have other people to see but just need to know.”

“Mineral works well and has fewer chemicals so if you like the natural route, go with that.”

“Can I use oil to clean my skin? I do. Is it wrong? Am I ruining my face?”

He gathered up his papers and stared at me like he knew if he didn’t get away soon, I’d keep him there all day. And it was true. I had twenty years of fashion and beauty magazine consumption rattling around in the back of my head and I wanted, no, needed, to debunk everything I’d ever heard.

“Don’t use Olive Oil, turns out that’s actually very drying and not good for your skin for a number of reasons. Coconut oil, however, is great. If you don’t break out, then go for it.”

And then he escaped.

I learned how to take better care of my skin and that you need to aggressively monitor your vagina so it doesn’t kill you.

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Ho Ho Whore Nuts

It’s that time again, where parents encourage an overweight stranger to touch their children and whore nuts are all the rage at Whole Foods. No, it’s not one night in Bangkok, it’s Christmas.

Hammond's

I read this as “Whorehouse Nuts” and I was like, I don’t know what this is but I need it.

I love Christmas. I hate it. I’m conflicted. Christmas is a struggle for me because I feel split between two different parts of myself: Little kid me and the jaded asshole I’ve become. On one hand, Christmas was a big holiday for me growing up. My mom loves it, more than loves it, she’s  essentially a Christmas elf, in both her physical size and joy. Every year, her home explodes into what can best be described as a Christmas cornucopia. When she’s not actively decorating her house to look exactly like Santa’s workshop, she maintains the Christmas spirit by blasting Manheim Steamroller in July. Honestly, the only thing she’s lacking is real Santa and a fleet of flying reindeer.

Because of my mom’s unbridled enthusiasm for the holidays, there’s a part of me that is filled to the brim with nostalgia come December. I love Jingle Bell Rock, holiday cheer, and decorating my tree. However, there’s an equal part of me that loathes the whole thing. I really struggle with the waste, consumerism, and the fact that it’s become a giant corporate clusterfuck. I’m also not religious. However, I’m positive that Jesus wouldn’t approve of us celebrating his B-day with 2 billion tons of wrapping paper in a landfill and a discounted Walmart Kitchenaid Mixer.

So how do I keep celebrating a holiday that I love while making it mean something more than psychotic sales at Target and feeling drained when everything is about gifts, gifts, gifts? I love gifts, like a lot, but I like gifts to mean something, not just, “here, I’m obligated to do this and try not to choke on it.”

The solution seems to be to reinvent the holiday altogether. What I like about it:

Celebrating the change of season from fall to winter.

Eggnog.

Food.

Doing acts of service.

Being grateful for stuff.

Giving people I care about things that might make them happy.

The tree.

Stockings.

Time with friends and family.

Winter solstice. Look at me, the ice queen!

What I’d like to do is turn the holiday into what I think it was supposed to be in the first place: A jolly time for giving and being grateful while also being drunk among people you like. My new holiday will be a time for getting together with friends, making some kind of grateful list (also good for depression! double win!) drinking a ton of spiked eggnog, decorating a tree (yay to praising the environment! Thank symbolic tree for oxygen!), visiting relatives and bestowing gifts of locally bought goods or services  (local economies!) wrapped in some kid of eco-friendly bag (because wrapping paper just really pisses me off), donating to an important cause, forcing friends and family to also donate to cause and/or dragging them or guilting them into doing nonprofit work with me. And, eating so, so much food. Food is life.

It’s basically just about food. Booze and food.

What are some traditions that you do for the holidays? I want to hear how all of you will be celebrating this year (or every year).

 

It’s Amazing I can Walk Anywhere

There are two basic skills that I’m inexplicably terrible at: walking and swallowing. Nine times out of ten, if I’m drinking something, I choke on it. And I fall down no less than 9 times on any given day.

The other morning, I took Oliver for a walk. I crossed the street and started down the road when I heard, “hello Misty,” in the bushes. I jumped and screamed. Turns out the bushes were not calling my name, rather, my neighbor was from his steps. “Sorry about that,” I said, “it’s like I’ve never been in public before.” He laughed, “no big deal,” he said, “I’m just out here clipping my nails.” And I thought, why can’t more men go outside to clip their nails? My husband does it in the bathroom and it’s like he on purpose misses the garbage can and for a month I keep stepping on his nasty little nails. My co-worker regularly clips his nails at his desk, which is on my list of the top five grosses things anyone has ever done in an office. I joked on Twitter, “Since my co-worker is clipping his nails at his desk, I guess I don’t need to go to the bathroom to change my tampon anymore.” Fair is fair, buddy. So, I’m thinking to myself that guys should go outside to clip their nails more often when Oliver jerks my hand to pee on a rock and I stumble and catch myself on the fence, spraining my wrist a little. “Sonofabitch!” I screamed and then immediately bent down to randomly pet Oliver, self-conscious that someone might have thought I was yelling at him like a Goddamn monster.

The walk continued. Oliver stopped to poop in some weeds and I realized right then that I didn’t actually have a bag with me. I rummaged in my pockets and managed to find a small square of tissue. I bent down and tried to clean up three turds with one tiny tissue square, holding my breath and feeling faint, while Oliver is yanking on the leash to go look at something. I manage to get it all cleaned up and am walking as quickly as I can towards my house when my boot hits the edge of a crack in the cement and my ankle snaps. In slow motion, the turds fly out of my hand, my legs buckle, and I land on my tailbone. I somehow managed to keep a hold of Oliver though, who is still pulling, now more than before because he wants to get away from me because either I’ve embarrassed him or he’s decided I’m a danger to his personal safety.

I limped back home and somehow got myself to work with only my pride slightly wounded.

A Little Pile of Graveyard

The other night, F and I came home from a movie to find out trash destroyed and an entire chicken carcass missing. I panicked. I’d read a lot of articles about shit that dogs shouldn’t eat and knew that cooked chicken bones were at the top of that list. Convinced that my dog was dying, I picked him up and ran into the kitchen to grab my phone to google shit. Because I was distracted and also panicking my coordination was a little off and I smacked my face into the wall corner and nearly knocked myself out. I whirled back and slumped down to the floor holding my forehead.

“Dude, when it comes to that dog, you can’t see anything else but him,” F shook his head at me.

“Suck it, buddy,” I groaned, “we might have to take him to the emergency vet,” I reached for the counter to grab my phone.

I typed, “What happens if my dog ate entire fucking chicken.” Google had conflicting information from, “OH MY GOD HE’S GOING TO DIE!” to “he’ll probably be fine but if he starts like shitting blood everywhere immediately rush him to the vet,” and “Beastiality legal in Germany.”

While stumbling around I nearly stepped in a giant mountain of disgusting. Initially, I was like, “A RAT DIED THERE!” but then I realized it was much worse than that. It was a pile of bones the size of a football. Oliver had essentially thrown up an entire fucking graveyard and there were thigh bones and little shards of ribcage poking out everywhere in a mound of brown substance. I gagged. And in between gagging felt a huge wave of relief that he didn’t digest any of it.

I picked Oliver up, “you’re a nasty little shit, you know that?” He licked his lips and wagged his tail like, “yeah, I know. Hi!” And I smiled and wondered how something so cute could be so disgusting. Then I cried because I had to scrape the remains from the hardwood.

7 Things I’ve Learned About Therapy

Looking back, I’ve definitely needed therapy for pretty much my entire life. I mean, obviously. Mostly because my childhood was,  uhm, interesting (more on that later) but also because I’m just the kind of person who needs some grounding.  A lot of grounding.

Despite the fact that I’ve obviously always needed therapy, I’ve only ever sought help when I’ve absolutely had to. I.E., the two times I had a nervous breakdown. Yeah, two, because I’m apparently a Goddamn overachiever when it comes to life meltdowns. The first one, I was in college. The second, last year. What caused it? Not sure entirely sure but my therapist has a few theories that sound pretty legit.

When I started therapy last year, I was desperate. Not only was I 100% sure that I was actually going insane but I’d convinced myself that I was also dying. And this desperation probably contributed to my therapy has worked so incredibly well for me. I walked into my therapist’s office ugly crying, shaking, my hair in a horrifying tangle. I was a giant gaping wound, begging to be healed. I would do anything to feel normal again. ANYTHING.

If I hadn’t been that “raw,” and honestly, a little pathetic, I don’t know if I’d have gotten the same results. Because I’m a little bit of a know-it-all and probably would have walked in challenging the therapist like, “I’m smart, you probably can’t help me,” and I’m also not at crazy disciplined in life. Trust, dedication and opening up completely are pretty much required to get the most out of therapy, for it to actually work. Which brings me to what I’ve learned.

1.Do the Work. When I first walked into my therapist’s office I was a hot mess. Bawling, gagging from nerves, my mind racing in circles two-hundred miles per hour of the scariest shit ever. At the time, I was so messed up I couldn’t eat or sleep. I’d been up for 4 days straight and had only eaten carrots all week. I vomited everything I possibly could to my therapist and she gave me a list of things to do: Meditate, take a sleep aid, and make an appointment with a psychiatrist for temporary meds. I didn’t do any of it. I hate medication (my brother died from a prescription a doctor gave him), meditation seemed like weird hippy bullshit, and didn’t Kurt Cobain go into a coma at one point after downing sleeping pills? No thanks. I was in therapy! That would fix me! Nope. Therapy helped and brought my anxiety from a 10 to an 8 but I still couldn’t sleep, eat, or function. After two more weeks, my therapist once again suggested those things and since I’d nearly started to hallucinate from insomnia I agreed. I meditated and felt some relief. I took a sleep aid and my God I felt amazing after that first night’s sleep, and I made an appointment with a Psychiatrist. She gave me a non-addictive prescription for anxiety (a tempory solution, she said), and within two weeks my panic attacks stopped and my anxiety had dropped to a manageable 4.  After one year, my anxiety is a zero, depression is all clear, and I don’t need medication anymore. Although, if I get super stressed out (like when we bought a house, I sometimes need some help sleeping). Also, there’s no shame at all in needing meds, but it’s not to need them.

2. Find a Therapist You Can Trust. In college, I went to a few therapists who tried to diagnose me with a handful of mental illnesses and prescribe medication on my first visit. Fuck, no. Brains are complex, I don’t trust anyone who simplifies them and believes they know exactly what’s wrong with you after a thirty-minute conversation. I found my current therapist through a friend who saw her and loved her. I immediately clicked with her and that allows me to trust her advice completely. She doesn’t spend our sessions trying to slap me with some kind of label. This makes it very, very easy to tell her everything and just do what she says. If she tells me to spend less time with my husband, I do it. If she tells me to meditate, I do it, and if I didn’t trust her, I wouldn’t because I have trust issues. The same goes for my psychiatrist. I didn’t want some typical pill-pusher so I took a lot of time to find the perfect doctor for me and my unique personality. There’s nothing more frustrating than looking for a good doctor or therapist but it makes all the difference. My doctor is holistic, meaning that she’s an M.D., but she also believes in treating the entire body and mind. She tested my blood and put me on 2,000 vitamins to fix imbalances in my system. She recommended relaxing yoga and meditation. And, yes, she gave me a medication along with herbal supplements. My first meeting with her was THREE HOURS. I trusted her. And that trust allowed me to focus on healing instead of wondering what her motives were for her suggestions.

3. Just Walk in and Word Vomit. A lot of people, including myself, think they have all the answers, or they’re worried about being judged or scared of what they might learn about themselves. This doesn’t work in therapy. You might know what some of your issues are but if you’re like most people, there are probably patterns and roots that you can’t see or honestly don’t want to see. Walk in and spill it all. Start with your week, fights with friends, arguments with your spouse, a bad memory about your mom, that weird thing that happened at Thanksgiving when you were 6. Just say it all. Open the gates and let it all come out. My therapist noticed things that I never noticed. Like, that I’m super co-dependent and that I allow myself to be triangulated between others and their problems to avoid dealing with my own shit. In fact, what I thought was causing all of my problems were only a fraction of the issue. The real issue was something that had never, ever, occurred to me and never would have without her insight. And what’s even better, once we identified problems, she gave me guidelines for how to deal with it moving forward. And, ta-da! It worked.

4. Self-Help Books Are Stupid But Also Helpful. My therapist gave me a shitload of stuff to read and it took me a while to get to it all. I’ve always been the kind of person to roll my eyes at self-help books because they just seem lame and weird but they actually help. They helped me understand how trauma impacts the body and mind, what anxiety actually is, and how stress causes or worsens depression. That information really helped me to understand myself so much more and fully understand the treatments my therapist suggested. Suddenly, meditation actually made scientific sense and I was even more on board than before.

5. It Takes a Village. Therapy works best if you have a support system who understand what you’re trying to do to heal your brain and body. I had to distance myself from people who made shitty remarks about therapy or “didn’t believe in it,” blah, blah, blah, and spend more time with friends who understood it. Why does it matter? Because negativity doesn’t help anyone and also because in therapy there’s a lot of weird shit you’ll have to set boundaries and say really obnoxious shit like, “I can’t get involved because I’m not supposed to let myself be triangulated anymore.” And friends who get therapy will be like, “ah, totally,” and they’ll support you. Family or friends who don’t get it, will throw tantrums or take it personally and make it about them. It doesn’t mean you have to change friends permanently, but you might want to temporarily surround yourself with people who are willing to support you. I lucked out for the most part because like eight of my friends see a therapist and a few of them see mine. A group of my female friends also meet for a self-care night where we talk about life, therapy, drink a shitload of wine, and talk about books or articles we’ve read about mental health or self-care in general.

6. It Will Work. With the right therapist and doing all the work, I’ve gone from chronic depression with paralyzing anxiety to zero depression and zero anxiety. That’s not to say that I’m “fixed,” but I’m able to manage with relaxing yoga, exercise, daily meditation, positive self-talk, weekly therapy appointments, supportive and amazing friends and lots of dog cuddles. And, I’m happier now than I’ve probably ever been in my life and feel shockingly stable. It’s honestly a little weird to not be super irritable, or anxious, or off all the time.

7. Your therapist Can’t Fix You. A lot of people think that by going to therapy and chatting you should see amazing results overnight. From my experience, that’s not a thing. It’s a process and it takes time. My therapist is like my mentor in healing. She talks with me, for sure, because we do talk therapy along with cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR (magic). And she gives me tools to build a stable and healthy brain. But she can’t build it for me and she’s not a Goddamn magician. It’s entirely up to me to make sure that I use the tools that I’m given. It’s up to me to go in and word vomit at her, it’s up to me to meditate, go to yoga, and stop myself from repeating whacko behaviors. Above all, it’s up to me to give it ample time. It took me one year to feel like me again.

The great thing about therapy for me is that I have this incredible relationship with my therapist who provides an amazing support system to help guide me through all of the shit going on in my brain and the general difficulties of life. She once told me, “you’re not alone in this battle, I’m here now,” and it was priceless. And then I cried all over her. Once you have the tools and really understand how to use them, you can heal, you can live a normal life, and you can be happy again.

10 Messages From My Dad: Have You Been Eaten By A Shark?

My dad hasn’t always been a family man. But, in his old age, he’s come to like the idea of being around his kids more than ever. If I don’t call him for a while, he’ll get offended and pretend like he doesn’t know me when he answers the phone. “Oh, I’m sorry, do I know you gehl? You don’t sound familiar.” If he calls and I don’t answer, he leaves a message. My answering machine is completely full of voicemails from my dad, almost all of them asking if I’ve been eaten by a shark.

My Voicemail: Hello, this is ME. I’m sorry to have missed your call. Please leave a message and I’ll get back with you as soon as possible. Unless I’ve been eaten by sharks.

My Dad-Message 1: Oh no baby! You’ve must have been eaten by deeeeh shaaaaarks (strong Persian accent). Call me back baby. Love you baby. Love daddy.

My Dad-Message 2: Baby, wanted to see if you wanted to go for deh coffee but you must have been eaten by sharks. Call me baby. Love you.

My Dad-Message 3: Oh, those damn sharks! They got you again baby! Wanted to see if you want to go for coffee. Call me baby. Love you.

My Dad-Message 4: Hey baby! Again, must have missed you because of the shaaaaarks. Oh, I hate dose sharks! They are always eating you! Call me baby. Love you.

My Dad-Message 5: Baby, you must have been eaten by the sharks once again! Well, call me if you can baby. Love you.

My Dad-Message 6: HAAAAAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO YOOOOOU BAAAABY. Oh, happy father’s day! I loooooove you! Must have been eaten by those shaaarks. Call me, love you! Note: My dad doesn’t really understand how father’s day works

My Dad-Message 7: Where is my daughter at? Well, I guess she was eaten by sharks. Love you baby.

My Dad-Message 8: Hey, baby, call me back. You want to come over for dinner? Or did you get eaten by sharks? Love you baby. Call me.

My Dad-Message 9: Oh, no baby. Looks like you were eaten by deh sharks again. Love you Tiger. Call me. Love you.

My Dad-Message 10: I’m in the neighborhood with your brother and wanted to see if you want to go have a coffee together. But obviously, you were eaten by sharks. Love you baby. Call me.

 

Don’t Eat That: Sidewalk Foraging Gone Wrong

For the past two years, I’ve been really into gardening. And why not? It’s pretty easy, food is insanely expensive, and who the hell knows what they’ve sprayed on it by the time you shove it in your mouth. I’ve grown lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, garlic, and even chamomile. I love it. I love eating fresh organic vegetables that cost me like 1/4 of the price it would at Whole Foods (let’s be honest, you have to pledge your first born to afford to shop there). But, sometimes I get a little carried away.

I’ve noticed little chestnuts all over the ground from trees that line my street. Every day I walk Oliver through them and I think, “man, this is super wasteful also because this shit costs like 9 dollars per pound.” So, I started collecting them like I was grocery shopping on my street. On every walk, I’d shove five or so into my pockets and by the end of the week, I had an enormous bowl full. I Googled, “how to roast chestnuts,” and “how to make chestnut butter.”

Sidenote: I partially blame my father-in-law for this. For years I’ve made fun of him for his weird urban foraging, like the time he grabbed fist fulls of rosemary from a hotel vase on the Vegas Strip. Apparently, he’s rubbing off on me. 

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On my last urban foraging trek, my neighbor saw me shoving chestnuts into my pockets and he was probably like, what the fuck is that whack job doing, shoving sidewalk nuts into your sweatpants?” So, in my attempt at being normal, after I emptied my pockets at home I meandered outside to where my neighbor was now talking with another neighbor and casually asked, “you don’t mind me picking up your chestnuts, do you?”

“Not at all,” he smiled.

“If you want to take them from my lawn, go for it,” the other neighbor added, “or, if you’d like to help me harass my wife, you can step on them and really work them into the grass so she has to pop them out with a butter knife.”

“That’s just mean,” I laughed. I turned to walk away, “cool, thanks, guys. I’m gonna go roast them.”

“No, no, no!” my neighbor yelled, “you can’t eat those. They’re Horse Chestnuts and they’re not edible.”

“Seriously? I asked. “Like, gross or deadly?”

He shrugged. I thanked him and when home to google it and apparently Horse Chestnuts are useless and poisonous. I sulked for a minute, then went into the kitchen to dump out my giant mixing bowl of chestnuts into the garbage. Then I wondered, why would anyone plant shitty chestnuts instead of the edible ones? I mean, in the event of a zombie apocalypse, we could like live on chestnuts. EXPENSIVE ASS CHESTNUTS.

Now I’m researching how to plant non-deadly chestnut trees because I want one in my yard. Do any of you have nut trees?