Wednesday, February 28, 2018

My Great Shame (Thumb Sucking Is Okay)

I'm about to open up about a topic that has caused me more underlying buried shame and embarrassment than I can explain. I have never been comfortable talking about this, and I fear I am opening myself up to more ridicule, teasing, and mocking by doing so, but some things just have to be done. As I write this I am a married thirty-eight year old woman with three wonderful children at home. I am teeming with fear because I am going to have to put down on paper (or on the internet which is more permanent) exactly how long I sucked my thumb for. I know how the world feels about thumb-suckers. I can feel the judgment from miles away. But I want to start at the beginning.


I was the fourth child of six raised in a loving family with a very idyllic childhood. Unfortunately I came out of the womb sucking my thumb. My childhood memories aren't so much of sucking my thumb, but of playing outside, playing with my friends, tether ball, Cabbage Patch Kids, Garbage Pail Kids, and all the other joys that come with childhood. I have two older brothers, a sister five years older, and two younger brothers. When I was about seven years old I remember getting a lot of censure from my family about my thumb-sucking. My dad was constantly telling me I was too old and needed to stop sucking my thumb. My brain agreed with him. I WISHED I could stop. But something inside me was utterly incapable of complying with these requests. I remember my mom tried to use "Stops It" to get me to stop. It was basically clear nail polish that was applied to the entire thumb. It didn't taste great. It was downright nasty. But guess what? After sucking my thumb for about an hour or two it came right off. I got a lot of teasing from extended family and other adults in my circle. They were always saying "Does that thumb taste pretty good?" "How's that thumb taste?" "What's so tasty about that thumb huh?" And after enough experiences with Stops It, and attempting to self-analyze, I learned it's not about how it tastes.. it was how it.. felt.

By fifth grade my anxiety about not being able to quit sucking my thumb only increased my "need to feed." I started the habit of trying to only suck my thumb in private; when I was alone in my room, or if I had a big book to hide what I was doing. If I couldn't be caught, I couldn't be made to feel bad about it. Unfortunately, there were times I would slip up. I think I sucked my thumb a lot in 5th grade. I ran into a grade school friend some years ago who had been in my 5th grade class and she brought it up. She probably said something like "You still sucking your thumb?" To which I probably quickly replied while turning red, "No..." She said, "You sucked your thumb a lot in class." I had forgotten and didn't believe her. "Really! I remember you would sit like this" and she showed me how I'd put my elbows on my desk, both hands together near my face in an attempt to hide that I was sucking my thumb. The light went on. I remembered it now. I thought I was being so clever hiding at sucking my thumb in plain view.

From there on it was a constant battle, constant agony over an addiction I didn't understand yet couldn't conceive of quitting. It was some kind of chemical feedback that I desperately needed. I didn't care how I was ridiculed, I needed it to survive. As a ten year old I suffered a traumatic fall out with my close circle of five friends. I had to remain in their society yet as a pariah. This had nothing to do with thumb-sucking and is the topic for perhaps a separate therapeutic post.  Maybe. This trauma intensified my need to feed. It was one of my only comforts. I made some new friends which led up to yet another traumatic blow and fall out at the age of fifteen. I was such a mousy-teenager, utterly insecure and absolutely no confidence in myself about anything at all. Then I found out I was diabetic. Talk about a killing blow. I was in the depths of despair for a year after that. I was suicidal. Or rather, more obsessed daily over killing myself. I was too chicken to do it. I wasn't so upset to end it all. I just took great comfort in fantasizing over how I could use my diabetic tools to end the pain and how "that would show them." I had very little friend support through this intensely difficult and dark time in my life. It doesn't take a genius to see how much I needed my thumb at that time. I sucked my thumb a lot at night in those days. By that age I had tapered my addiction off to mostly nighttime.


With a change of school and friends in my junior year, I came out of my shell and blossomed. Or as my father so poignantly put it: I came out of my cocoon and became a butterfly. I really became a social butterfly and gained confidence in myself for the first time ever in my life. I was a completely new person. My addiction is nearly non-existent during those dream-like two years of high school. I remember around the age of sixteen when I was a camp counselor at church Young Women summer camp. My friend Amanda and I were both totally excited to be counselors to the younger girls. I remember as we bedded down on the floor of our cabin in our sleeping bags I was brimming with excitement to confide a triumph to my then-best friend. I turned to her and whispered excitedly: "Amanda! I'm so happy! I finally broke the habit of sucking my thumb!" I am not sure I had ever told anyone else about my thumb sucking (if they didn't catch me in the act) but her reaction was rather underwhelming. Maybe she was exhausted and sleepy, maybe she didn't care, maybe she didn't really hear me, but I remember a very "non response" of a "hmph" or "okay." That didn't diminish my joy in that moment.

I don't know what happened exactly after that, but it was only a few months later I remember being in a shame spiral about the fact I had started up again. I didn't know why I needed it so much but the bare truth was I did. I needed it.

Fast forward ten years. I got married, had a son. All this time, I still needed to suck my thumb. I still had almost no confidence. I was just never blessed with it. I truly believe some people are just born with it. I wasn't. My husband knew about my addiction, it wasn't a problem. I probably tried to dismiss it like it wasn't a big deal (IT WAS. I NEEDED IT, DON'T YOU DARE TAKE IT AWAY FROM ME) saying things like, "It's just to help me fall asleep" and, "I only need to when I get really upset." Honestly it was just a part of who I was. I'd sooner cut my whole arm off than willingly stop sucking my thumb.


I'd been married about five years. We lived in a rural community where the homes are separated by two acres, lots of horses, fields, farms and cows. I had no friends in this area and a six month old baby. My husband had just graduated as a Doctor of Pharmacy, I had just graduated with a Teaching Certificate and Bachelor of Music Education. He was working, we had agreed I would not.  By this point I was probably sucking my thumb out of loneliness. I had only made a few friends in my three years of undergrad study but we moved a state away and didn't keep in touch. This was before the days of Facebook and even Myspace. Heck, we were still resisting the movement to get a cell phone in 2004.

One day my husband's brother calls him and says, "There's a new game out, you HAVE to play it. It's called World of Warcraft." My husband was like 'meh.' Next thing we knew his brother comes all the way down for a visit, game in hand, with a free monthly subscription. He installs it on my husbands computer and we're both looking at each other kind of rolling our eyes saying 'yeah, yeah he's excited about a new game. It'll pass.' The game looked fun enough, but I hadn't been a "gamer".. well.. ever. The most video games I'd played up to that point was Autobahn and Castle on our Apple IIC, some other varying dungeon crawlers of the earliest type, Empire Earth, Starcraft and Age of Mythology during our courtship, and a lot of Diablo 2 after we got married. Okay, well, that sounds like a lot of gaming, but I really hadn't played very much at all.

One day while husband was at work I sat down and fired up his game. It had me curious at least. Little did I know what was about to hit me. A vast fantasy world that was filled with other "real people" playing the same as I was. This game was a MMORPG. A massively multiplayer online role playing game. This game threw me into a huge pool of people. We would "group up" and clear "dungeons" where we'd get special loot and items at the end. The whole experience was entirely intoxicating. I went from feeling very friendless, not to mention insecure and unconfident, to making many friends in a game where we collaborated to achieve goals, and, I flatter myself, I became rather popular. It required social skills, politeness, teamwork, leadership, and was just downright a breath of fresh air to my life. I noticed pretty quickly the drop in my need to feed after playing the game for a few months. It still existed, and was still a need, but it was much less required than before.

I can still recall times at the computer trying to play--it required two hands--and sucking my thumb. I could guide my character with my right hand while I sucked my left.... always my left. Then eventually I consciously shifted to sucking on my index finger. I think I knew I was heading in a good direction, and by weaning myself off my thumb explicitly, I could eventually wean myself off needing to suck at all. I would say it was another two or so years before I woke up one day and realized I had completely weaned myself of the habit. It was a glorious realization. It filled me with such relief ... there aren't words to describe it. I celebrated internally and shared the news with my husband. He was happy for me of course and didn't judge me. But we both had the same thought: I've only replaced it with another addiction. But it didn't matter to me. THIS WAS HUGE.

I played "WoW" for about five or six years total. I then quit the game for eight or nine years. During my time away from the game I never felt the urge to suck my thumb. I had truly broken the habit and it was a relief unlike anything I can communicate. Like a waterfall over a muddy bridge.

History Repeats Itself

Fast forward seven years: After eight years of struggling with infertility, we were finally blessed with a daughter, and eighteen months later a son. Our youngest son was a surprise and a sublime blessing to our family. I would be lying if I didn't admit that with the birth of each of my children, I had "Thumb Sucking Radar" in a big way. I watched them for any signs of the dreaded disease. Our first two children survived unscathed. I had thought so did our third. When I was in the hospital with him, I remember a lactation specialist was assisting me and she suggested putting his thumb in his mouth for pacification when he didn't need to feed. I said, "I don't want him to suck his thumb!" To which she replied, "Oh honey if they suck their thumb, then they were doing it in the womb." This was a relief to me, since he showed no sign of thumb sucking in his infancy. It should be stated that I exclusively breastfed him and used no bottles, pacifiers or binkies.

When he was three months old, I picked him up for a feeding and as I sat him on my lap and looked into his sweet face I noticed he was sucking his thumb. This. Was. A. Huge. Moment. In this moment, my heart cried out in agony. My brain screamed at me to tear his thumb from his mouth and tie his arm behind his back for the rest of his life. But my mommy instincts melted at the sight of it. It was stinkin' adorable. And yet one more thing happened: a missing gear fell into place for my own psyche. From the moment I saw his thumb in his mouth, I began a rapid journey of reflection that led me to some mind-blowing epiphanies about my childhood and life up to that point. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First I pictured what my poor little boy's life would be like: the mocking, the teasing, the tormenting by peers and strangers. OH THE STRANGERS. I just knew I would get sick of strangers pulling his thumb out of his mouth and saying, "You don't need that." "Get that thumb out of your mouth." How difficult school would be for him. I thought about how he would pick up every disease known to humankind due to his little sponge fingers which would go directly into his mouth. The anxiety began to build, because at that time in my life, I was terrified of confrontation. How could I stand up for my child? How could I defend his right to suck his own dang thumb? You may think I'm jesting, but at that time, I was dead serious. This was a serious conundrum to which I needed to find a solution. But mostly, my heart broke at the surety of the shame he would one day feel because of it.

And that got me thinking. WHY is thumb sucking so shameful? Why? WHY?? Why does society look at it like it's the most disgusting, shameful thing in the world? My mind couldn't understand. Yes, I was biased, yes I had traumatic scarring related to the subject at hand, but it still didn't give me a logical fact-based explanation of why "we should be ashamed of sucking our thumbs." This was simply not true. And that is the first epiphany I had: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH SUCKING YOUR THUMB. If you're a thumb sucker, or former thumb sucker, I implore you to say this to yourself. I don't care what culture you grew up in, there is literally nothing immoral about it. There is nothing to be ashamed of. This really led me down a rabbit hole. I am very much motivated by logic, so even though I had an acceptable "answer" for the time being, I still wanted to know WHY society censured the world on this.

Years ago, when I had only one child, I had a friend who had two adorable boys. The younger of the two sucked his thumb. They came to my house one time for a visit. I believe the thumb-sucker couldn't have been more than about four or five years old. I remember during various times of our visit she would snap at him, "(Name) get that thumb out of your mouth!" I mean she wasn't mean, but stern, putting her foot down. In a we-talked-about-this-at-home-and-you're-not-obeying-the-rule-we-set kind of way. It felt like she was stabbing my heart. It was very, deeply, cutting and painful to see her berate her own child like that. I must interject here--I don't judge her, I think she's an amazing mother and woman, but I am an empath. I feel others pain and rejection very deeply. If you're getting mad at me in my face, I FEEL your anger, and I will cringe, and melt into a crying mess most likely on the spot. I feel others emotions deeply, and I believe I felt that poor sweet boy's shame in those moments. She said it again to him as they were getting their shoes on to leave. Once they were buckled in the car and I was talking to her through the rolled-down car window I recall her saying "(Name) are you sucking your thumb??! You better not be!" Each and every time she did that my insides SCREAMED at me to correct her. To say... something. I had no idea what. But it felt so wrong to me, and I couldn't exactly say why.

So there I was, nursing my three-month old, and realizing just WHY I should've, or at least wanted to say something. And the more I thought about it, the more my Mama Bear came out. Another thing about me, and it's part of being an empath, is I am a huge advocate of the underdogs of this world. If I see an injustice that I can do something about.. I will act. I will play devil's advocate tooth and nail if it means defending the little guy. I will also be a quiet friend that they need if that's all that is required. So my youngest thumb-sucking son just became The Biggest Underdog of the Universe as far as I was concerned. And this was a problem. Because I don't do well with confrontation, or anything broadly resembling anything that could be in someone's wildest imagination to be even close to something like a confrontation. I was terrified. But I knew I could overcome it. I had to. I had no choice. My fate was before me and I wasn't going to shrink from my moral obligation.

Before I wax too philosophical, I'll say that I waited and watched my son in the following months. I wanted to make sure this was really happening, and that it wasn't just a phase. It happened. It wasn't just a phase. But it was incredibly enlightening for me as an individual. I am a huge fan of self-discovery. Getting to know oneself is the greatest service we can do to help ourselves in this life. I was pretty much clueless about myself until about the last six years. And I didn't realize I didn't know myself. And every time I learn something new or have an epiphany about myself, it feels so incredibly cleansing--and powerful. Knowledge really is power when it comes to knowing who you are.

Within about a week of my son starting sucking his thumb, I had come to the following conclusions:

  1. It is perfectly okay for anyone to suck their thumb, no matter their age.
  2. Society deems thumb sucking unacceptable for reasons which are not logical. It is a stigma associated with childhood and that is as far as I have been able to discern. 
  3. Thumb sucking is very likely a sign of a child who needs "extra." 
  4. I never had any confidence my entire life due to the fact that I was shamed, teased and belittled for sucking my thumb.
  5. I would not tolerate anyone berating my son for sucking his thumb.

I think #3 was the biggest epiphany of them all for me. Because to me, it was the "solution to the problem." I resolved to love my son deeper than any child that was ever loved. I vowed to build him up and make him feel like the King of World before he turned five (Okay not really but you get the gist). I knew I would shower him with love, affection, words of affirmation and any other tool at my disposal so that he would most assuredly NOT have the crippling shame and guilt that has been the millstone around my life. So I went to my husband. I discussed all of this with him. He is not only a saint but my biggest supporter. Even when he very strongly did not want me to go sky-diving, he supported me. Even when we (my tandem instructor and I) broke some of the tethers and had to EJECT the first chute, he supported me. So it goes without saying that he supported me 100% on "the Pathway to our Son's Happiness" that I presented him with. 

#4 was HUGE. I underwent some serious mourning when I came to this realization about my entire life. I couldn't help but wonder what my life would have been like had I not sucked my thumb. Up to that point in my life I was convinced my insecurities were appearance-based. I had always been a little chubby (and I do mean a LITTLE) and always wanted to be thinner. This is a rabbit that I am still chasing, so I assumed this was the root of all of my insecurities. I am sure it contributes, but it is not the root. I am still trying to regain whatever confidence is accessible to me at this point in my life. My poor parents were just clueless. I don't blame them. They had six children. SIX. I can barely imagine having more than three. I don't know how my mother managed to give her love to each of her children on a daily basis. I can only imagine she did her best and probably scolded herself on days she felt she had failed in that goal. But the cold hard truth is: I was a middle child. I was a white personality middle child. And a triple whammy I was a thumb-sucker. By white I mean I wasn't an advocate for myself. I didn't know how to be. I was a doormat. When I was berated for sucking my thumb, I would put on a stone face and say nothing. Then go to my bedroom and cry and suck my thumb, for that was the only comfort available to me. 

So when I mingled all of my past pain with the future I dreaded for my son, I vowed that it would not be his fate. I would NOT let what happened to me happen to him. I could help him. 

The Plan aka "the Pathway to our Son's Happiness"

I told my husband we would never comment on our son's thumb sucking one way or another--ever. We would not joke about it, we would not tease him, we wouldn't even state it as a fact. It was a non-issue that required no attention. We would show him our love more than we thought we might need to. We would be there for him at any and every moment in his life. It was all very nebulous, but I knew he just needed MORE. More than I had received. More hugs. More kisses. More snuggles. More attention. More building up. 

I think every parent is terrified of ruining their kids. I was terrified of shattering my children's confidence at a young age. And I was prone to exactly this as I tend to react more than pause and then act. With the catalyst of my son's new habit, I was a reformed mother. Perhaps I didn't change overnight, but I do believe I became a drastically different kind of parent. This was a daily conscious effort on my part, because we had the constant reminder of seeing his little hand in his mouth. I'm not gonna lie, it was adorable. Precious. I'm glad at his one-year-old photo shoot we got some good photos of him sucking his thumb. It's who he is. 

So, the following years I learned to stand up for my son. It is still hard as he's now four years old. I have a very difficult time telling people close to me (say, grandparents and family friends) "Please don't do that. It's okay if he sucks his thumb." I haven't had to say it too often, but I'm proud of myself for when I did. I think I may have blown my parents mind when I gave them the Speech, a truncated version of the Plan. I politely asked them not to tease him, or comment on it at all. My dad acted a little affronted like, "What? I would never! Of course!" But really, I was most worried about him as he was the one I remember giving me the most "flak" as we say. 

Our little boy very early on developed strong confidence. I'm not saying it was my doing, but it was a balm to my soul to see it. I felt the plan was working. A month ago he turned four. This boy, this sweet, affectionate, loves-to-snuggle boy that I adore is the most stubborn child I have ever met. Two times we have tried to toilet train him. He just wasn't interested at all. AT ALL. We tried bribery, begging, coaxing, threats, leverage, emotional blackmail (just kidding), nothing was working. I realized, he is not going to do this until he is good and ready. It has to come from within. It almost has to be his idea. But I digress. Despite all this frustration (SO MUCH FRUSTRATION) and feeling of hopelessness... imagining myself changing his diapers when he's seven.. *shudders*... I felt I succeeded at showering him with my love. Which, I'm not gonna lie, when I'm up to my elbows in his excrement and all I wanna do is strangle him.. it's hard. (sorry.. hahahahaha!) 


Okay so leading up to his fourth birthday, I made a very big and vocal point of saying what a "big" boy he would be when he turned four. However many other ways you can say that, I said it, and tried to get my family to follow my lead. I was mostly hoping this would segue beautifully into him feeling ready to potty train.... it didn't. That aside, on his fourth birthday, he said something so shocking out of the blue that I instantly wrote it in his journal: "January 22, 2018: (My son's name) just said something so shocking I had to come and immediately write it down. While playing Ninjago video game he stopped and said to me: 'Mom, I don't suck my thumb anymore. I don't suck my thumb anymore 'cause I'm a big boy.' I said, 'Ok, if that's your decision I'm okay with it.'"

I went on to say that I didn't think there was much truth to his comment. And added a note later on that day that said he was sucking his thumb. But the fact that HE came up with that idea on his own was huge. HUGE. No one in our family says anything to him about needing to quit sucking his thumb. I can't imagine there is anyone outside of our family that would have any capability of communicating that to him. Possibly his church class teacher but I highly doubt it. I digress. Skip forward to this week. About four days ago I noticed that he said something rather offhand like, "I don't need to suck my thumb anymore." He wasn't saying it with gravity nor to anyone in particular. Later in the day I realized he hadn't sucked his thumb that whole day. So of course, now I was watching him. Closely. 

I watched him closely at bedtime, sure he would fall back into it. He didn't. I watched him first thing in the morning when he's groggy and climbs onto my lap for a snuggle with his thumb and his blanket. He didn't. He has since then started putting his fingertips in his mouth. Not sucking on them. If you turned your hand toward your face opened your mouth, and pulled down on your teeth with your fingertips, that's kind of what he does. Occasionally his mouth is closed around his fingers and he's sucking on them. It's possibly his own way of weaning himself off his thumb. But I have yet to see him sucking his thumb since that day and I have to say.. it's a heady feeling. I don't want to pat myself on the back and say "I did it! I was right! My way worked!" because let's be honest here it's only been a few days. And who can possibly say that his quitting has anything to do with anything I have done. It may not. But what is more satisfying than him actually quitting sucking his thumb, is that it is 100% (as far as i know) HIS OWN IDEA. My ever-present fears of his future teasing are evaporating as I type this epic saga. 

If you came here for the TL;DR, I'll summarize it as follows: It's okay if there are children in your lives who suck their thumbs. I implore you, for their own mental health, not to belittle them. Not to tease them. I have emotional scarring that I still haven't gotten over. But with my son's success story at your disposal, I pray this post may do one child in the world good. Just one parent with the guts to stand up for their own child's right to suck their thumb. It is an emotional need. It's not a dirty habit. It is an intrinsic part of them and to remove that before they are ready will only lead to an addiction to something else. Do you really want your child addicted to something WORSE than thumb sucking? (And for the record, addiction to WoW is probably worse, but it was a means to an end, so there it is) Love them more. Give them more. Build them up more than you think necessary. Perhaps I have succeeded in filling that hole in my son's life so that his thumb is no longer required. I can only pray that I am right.  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Why I haven't been writing

I have nothing to blame other than...lack of inspiration and lack of motivation. Yes, I've been busy, but that never would have stopped me in the past. I used to be on fire with my desire to write. I was constantly thinking of stories I could write, exactly how I would word them, etc. Maybe I hit a writer's block, I don't know. But since I'm not a "serious" writer, I don't believe in forcing something. I figured, when inspiration hits again, I'll write again. I have several old ideas for stories, but again, just no motivation or excitement at actually sitting down and writing them. Writing has always only ever been a hobby for me, so you may not see many stories from here on out. Who knows, maybe one day I'll be bit again by the writing bug in earnest. But for now, I'm happy to pursue my other hobbies and interests. As always, thank you for reading. :)

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I want to tell you the story of one of the single-most memorable events in my "diabetic life." I don't believe any diabetic has truly been initiated until they've gotten so low blood sugar that they passed out. (This in no way shape or form condones the getting-of-low blood sugar!) I would also like to meet a (insulin-dependent) diabetic who never had this happen to them. It only happened one time to me (so far).

I call this story "An Unfortunate Series of Events"
It was 1999 and I had been dating my soon-to-be husband Cale for about three months. I had been a diabetic taking insulin shots for five years. We decided to spend the afternoon at his house in Enoch. We talked and just hung out until we both were getting hungry for dinner. Cale offered to make spaghetti. Now the insulin regimen I was on was such that I always took my shot of Humulin R (regular) insulin thirty minutes before eating time. The insulin takes thirty minutes to enter the blood stream, therefore when we decided to prepare to eat, I took my shot 30 minutes in advance, so I could eat when the food was ready. Cale put the water on to boil and we decided to go outside and jump on the trampoline until thirty minutes had passed. This was mistake Number One and Number Two. Exercise makes blood sugar go low and it also can accelerate insulin effectiveness, and (Mistake Number 2) I should have tested my blood sugar before taking my shot in case I was already on the lower spectrum, which I didn't.

We jumped on the trampoline for probably forty-five minutes. Mistake Number Three. I think Cale's mother made up our spaghetti and told us it was ready. There was a table with chairs set up in their garage since the weather was nice so Cale and I took our dinner there.

I had my plate of spaghetti sitting right in front of me and Cale kept going in and out of the house to get forks, drinks, napkins, etc. I just remember laying my head down on the table next to my plate. I may have even had spaghetti on my fork but I hadn't taken a bite yet. I remember laughing giddily, probably at something funny I thought Cale had said or done. I vaguely remember Cale telling me to eat my spaghetti. It was then I started to swim in unconsciousness. Unrelated images flashed in my reality: sitting cross-legged on the edge of the trampoline and leaning towards Cale who was standing on the grass.Wetness. Feeling like I was going to throw up.

I was trapped in a space that I will try to describe. It wasn't sleep. It didn't feel like a dream. I felt like my entire being and my whole body had been reduced to a single-celled amoeba.  I couldn't think, I couldn't recognize or reason or identify anything, I could only be carried by the wave of subconsciousness in which I was submerged, floating. 

The first thing I became aware of was an acute sense of panic which gripped me violently. My whole consciousness, my whole reality was one single sensation: the impending sense of doom. My body was trying to communicate to my sugar-deprived brain that something was seriously wrong.The periphery of my consciousness suddenly registered something within my vision. I sensed someone next to me, and I knew I was about to be injured, poked, lanced. I knew I did not want to have that happen to me.

My brain suddenly devised a situation in which my consciousness could make sense of, and this is the scenario I suddenly felt I was in: I knew something was severely wrong. Cale wasn't with me. He was in the house trying to help me. I was in the car, and the person with me was wielding a lancet device, gripping my dead, non-responsive fingers.  They were about to pierce my unsuspecting-finger. I couldn't let that happen. I suddenly regained control of my faculties and yanked my hand out of the oppressor's hold and yelled across their form, through the open car door, in the most urgent and loud voice I could, one word: HURRY!!!

Reality soon returned to me and I suffered nothing worse than probably many, many killed brain cells and some extreme embarrassment. Now, here's what really happened, as accounted by Cale, his mother Mary Ann and I believe Cale's sister Tyree. I absolutely recall nothing of this.

The Rest of the Story
I asked Cale what happened, and I remembered some stuff wrong. We said a blessing on the food, then I said dreamily, "I need to eat." He said, "Okay, go ahead."  Then I laid my head down. Cale, being a pre-pharmacy student immediately saw the red flag of low blood sugar. He told me to come inside and I situated myself in the kitchen, not far from the carpet of the living room. He brought me cranberry juice and commanded me to drink it. I did, he held the cup. I was still acting weird, but my eyes were open. Cale went into his sister's room and found her saved Easter candy. He brought the lot of it out to me and started peeling them and feeding them to me. Tyree discovered what was going on and got mad and said "That's my candy!" Cale said, "Well she's diabetic and she needs to eat sugar."  When she saw the gravity of the situation she was contrite and said, "Oh, okay she can eat as much as she wants to."

I suddenly said, "I think I'm gonna retch," then immediately heaved two times--not onto the wood kitchen floor of course--but onto the nearby carpet. Mary Ann does not recall me throwing up. Mary Ann was trying to call her pharmacist friend at the hospital. Cale was more concerned with bringing me out of it than anything else. Mary Ann says Cale took straight sugar and put it on my teeth or in my mouth, as I had become completely non-responsive. Cale and Mary Ann decided I needed to go to the hospital. Cale carried me to the car, by which time Mary Ann's friend said to test my blood sugar. Cale went back in the house to get his keys. Mary Ann found my tester kit and was just about to poke my finger when I came to.

Cale says as soon as I seemed to be conscious I said things in a groaning voice... "Euughh ohh, I do not feel good." I remember getting out of the car and sitting on the grass to rehash what happened with him. I remember asking Cale, "Did I throw up?" He seemed embarrassed to admit that I had. I then tested my blood sugar inside his house--I saw no signs of my "accident"--and my blood sugar was 35 or so. Normal blood sugar is between 70 - 120. 

After it was over I was incomprehensibly grateful to Cale. He had saved my life. I always considered him my Guardian Angel ever after, and I'm sure it helped solidify my growing feelings for him. He was so selfless in his behavior to care for me, not just during that event, and it touched me deeply. If I had been dating any other individual, who wasn't in a health-care major, I'm sure it could have been extremely ugly. There are just too many "what ifs" to entertain.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Curse of the Starfish Hook

For lack of anything better to write about, I decided I needed to get this puzzling experience out there.

I recently painted our bathroom in an ocean theme. I need a single towel hook that I can place at a level my seven year old son can reach to place his towel. So I went online at least four weeks ago to see if I could purchase a "starfish" towel hook. The internet is awesome--there were tons of starfish hooks for sale. I found one I liked and bought it. A few days went by and I heard nothing from the seller, no confirmation e-mail, nothing. So I tried to e-mail the seller only to have it returned with a "this e-mail does not exist" error. So I e-mailed Paypal, or registered a complaint or whatever to have them look into it/refund my money. I followed the progress on their (Paypal's) website and was notified that I would shortly be receiving a refund. Now, I did not purchase this item on any reputable website (aka Amazon or e-bay), but I did pay with Paypal obviously. Well, it took a week or more before I received my refund, but it did come. BTW I purchased everything in this story using a debit card only.

So, I still wanted--and needed--a towel hook, and there are so many cute and different styles of starfish hooks out there that I was confident I could buy another one. I found another no-name website that *looked* very clean and legit. I purchased yet again, another single starfish towel hook. I immediately received a confirmation e-mail from the company but it said "Unfortunately, this item is out of stock right now. We expect another shipment in 14 days. We will contact you when your item arrives." Out of stock!?? But.. you just told me I bought it? What the heck? Needless to say I was ticked, but decided I would wait for my hook to come in.  Better late than never.

Shortly thereafter, we had suspicious charges start to show up in our checking account. We often have charges that are labeled so bizarrely that we usually find out it was something we did actually instigate and purchase. So we ignored the first one. About a week later I went to buy printer toner and my card was declined. That was a huge red flag. So I went straight to the bank. This all happened the week of the 4th of July so things were just crazy and I wasn't being as good a watchdog on our account as I probably should have been.

The gal at the bank told me there were suspicious charges and they hadn't been able to reach me by phone. It just so happened that we got new phones in June and I obviously hadn't updated those with the bank.  So they had put a hold on our card. She told me two more charges of $100.00 each had recently taken place somewhere in Texas (the same place as Charge #1). I told her those definitely weren't us. So she issued me a new card and we put in the claim to have the fraudulent charges returned to us. Red tape, I should expect the money back in about a week. 

As I was waiting for her to do everything she had to do to take care of this problem for me, I asked her how it was possible they were using my credit card number to buy gas? She said something like "Not all websites are secure when you enter your credit card info, and some people are able to get in there and steal numbers, then they actually make a physical copy of your card and can use it like that." I immediately thought back to my two failed starfish purchases. Surely one of the two websites had been the culprit.

Okay, lesson learned, I wasn't going to buy anything from any website that wasn't Amazon or e-bay. However, I still needed a towel hook! And no, I was not going to accept anything other than a stinking starfish hook! So, I went onto e-bay and hunted down the best deal. Surely e-bay could deliver what I wanted. There wasn't a big conspiracy, a scam that all focused on the Elusive Starfish Hook? I had just had bad luck and this time, Third Time's the Charm, I would actually get my starfish hook. So, I purchased it, entered in my new card info into Paypal, and awaited my confirmation e-mail.

I kid you not, this is what the e-mail said:
"The item you have purchased:
NEW Park Designs Star Fish Single Hook Towel Holder 220815100100
Is temporarily out of stock, we have already ordered additional quantities.  We will ship as soon as the item is available.   Please feel free to email me if you have any questions.
We appreciate your business."

ARE YOU KIDDING ME???????????????????????????????????
I mean. Seriously. I have been hit with the Curse of the Starfish Hook. And yes, before you say it, I am just too lazy to hunt down on foot in shops where I live to see if they have what I want. It's just so much easier to purchase such a specialized item online--so I thought! I forwarded the e-mail from the seller to e-bay customer service and I'm waiting to hear how they handle it. What I cannot fathom is how companies, individuals, sellers, anyone, is able to actually put up on e-bay that they HAVE an item to sell, when in fact they do not. It boggles the mind! Will I never get my Mythical Starfish Hook? I'm too stubborn to settle on a generic hook. I know I could go down to Walmart, or Lowe's or anywhere, and get a plain old studded towel hook or something.

I got my refund for the $400-odd fraudulent charges. I ignored the 2nd attempt to purchase since they have my old card info, and I think they are the culprits for getting my card stolen. I mentioned my dilemma on facebook and everyone told me that if I paid through Paypal it most likely wasn't that website's fault. Paypal is like the Fort Knox of internet security. People posted many enlightening things on my page that day, and I thank each and every one of them for doing so. I learned that I need to be extremely careful about letting my card out of my sight (for example when paying at restaurants, etc.). I learned that most Credit Card companies have authentication steps and precautions to help defend against card theft.  And my brother-in-law astutely pointed out that paying with cash eliminates most of the problems associated with card theft. However, it doesn't help when trying to purchase something online of course. I am convinced The Curse is real. There's something the scammers have latched onto surrounding the allure of starfish hooks. I'm determined to outsmart The Curse.

Stay tuned to find out what happens next on The Curse of the Starfish Hook!

7-26-11 Update:
Received an e-mail from the most recent "seller" which reads as follows:

I just receive notification from the MFG, the Star Fish Single Hook is back order until September 15.

I will ship as soon as available, otherwise I will refund you money in full.  I do apologize the for the delay and any inconvenience.

Please feel free to email me if you have any additional questions.

Thank you,"

Needless to say I have requested the refund (though I don't believe I have been charged yet). So, it's one of two things: the manufacturer of all Starfish hooks, or perhaps I attempted to purchase the same exact one three times (I don't believe I did) are simply, in fact, truly out of stock at the moment. Or, it really is some kind of bizarre scam, which I'm leaning towards simply because this seller has less than a fluent grasp of English. Looks like I'm going to have to fashion my own homemade starfish hook. :/

11-12-13 Update:
I never succeeded in my quest. I gave up on ever attaining the Elusive Starfish Hook.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Comp died

My graphics card was acting up, freezing my screen etc, but for whatever reason we determined that it was the power supply that had gone bad. We sent it in for an RMA and I received a brand-new power supply much to my pleasure. Unfortunately, I inadvertently, unwittingly, included our three sata cables in mailing the old power supply back to the manufacturer. Whoops! Once I got a new sata cable, the screen was still garbage. Neither Cale nor I are experts at computer hardware, but we've both had frequent enough problems with our computers that we've been grasping the inner workings of computer hardware more. This last bout of troubles educated me more than any of the others. In short, Cale figured my graphics card had gotten fried when my power supply started to act up, so he bought me a shiny new graphics card and now my computer is back up! Hallelujah!

I have been aching to write during the past several weeks of my computer being out of commission, but I simply can't perform at my husband's computer. So now that I've got my medium back, I hope to have some more stories flowing soon. I recently attended our local Renaissance Fair and it was so much fun for me. It was truly one of the highlights of this year for me. I have always wanted to go to one but never really made it a priority. This year I made a petal skirt for it, got into character, the whole thing was great! My son even loved it. I'm always keeping a keen eye out for any experience that could be used in my storytelling--I definitely picked up some golden nuggets!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Trespasser Wake-up

This happened last night:
I was sound asleep, when I suddenly awoke with a jolt. I was trying to figure out what was going on when I heard boy's voices right outside my window. Our bed is situated directly under said window. So I knelt up and peeked between the slats of the blind. There I saw three teenage boys, drinking something from a can, and just shooting the breeze. Right outside my window. At 5:00 am. Boy's voices who are post-puberty are not subtle. They rumble and carry and these boys weren't attempting to whisper, although they were talking quietly. Two boys were facing away from the house, and one very tall one was facing them. He looked like a grown man he was so big. My first thought was, "What is a man doing out there?" Although it was dark, I could clearly see what they were wearing. They all had jeans on and t-shirts, but the tall one looked like he had a school crossing-guard vest on. I guessed they were around sixteen from what I could tell.

I attempted to rouse Cale, thinking he would want to know, and that he'd know what to do. He's such a deep sleeper that after a few gentle shakes I decided not to wake him. I could handle this myself. As it turns out, I have a long and rocky history with trespassers on our property. The river flows just behind our house. Unfortunately, we have no wall to protect our yard, so it is the thoroughfare through which all kids travel to get from the river to the street. I have been burglarized two times by kids traipsing in our yard. These boys were not getting away with this. So what did I do? I decided I was going to take their picture. I knew I could catch them completely by surprise. I got up, fumbled in the dark for my camera, checked that it was working, and then steeled myself for the imminent confrontation.

I slipped out the back door silently, and walked slowly but confidently around the corner, snapping my first picture in the process--no flash. My camera has been acting up so I just knew that would be my luck to have it not work tonight. I didn't care, maybe I'd get lucky. I kept trying to take pictures. The instant the Tall One saw me--he was the only one who could see me coming--he said "OH SH--" and bolted. Then he tripped and fell loudly. "Good job" I said. The second one half-ran as well, then paused when his friend fell, or maybe it was because the third boy just stood there. But I gotta give it to Boy Number Three. He turned and faced my camera as cool as a celebrity. He didn't flinch. He kept drinking his beverage and had an intelligent remark. He only stood about two feet from me. I said, "Thanks for waking me up guys." I heard someone, I think Boy Number Two mutter "sorry.. we're sorry."  Boy Number Three said calmly, "Yeah, sorry, we were just using it to come off the bridge."
"Our bedroom is right here, so if you could just please not hang around here."
"Yeah, sorry."

They all walked away. And I left. I didn't want to have to pick up the pieces of whatever was going on with the Tall One. For all I knew he was still lying on the ground. Finally, once I was back inside and the adrenaline started to slow, I realized the Tall One had gotten clothes lined--literally. Like I said, we've had a constant problem of kids trooping through our yard, so my father installed two lengths of clothesline attached to two steel posts a few months back. It was mostly to keep bicyclists out. Anyone on foot could easily duck through. I started laughing my head off. Serves them right for trespassing and waking me up. It confirmed to me that the boys didn't live in our neighborhood. They would've known about the lines, and also would have known that one house over was a fire lane path they could have easily used. There was no chance of going back to sleep after that, so eventually I wandered out to the Scene. They had left a can and what looked like a ripped portion of a wifebeater tank. The can was Mountain Dew. I guess the parents of these boys should be glad they weren't drinking alcohol at least. I was sure they were. One of the steel posts was ripped from the ground. I can't be sure if the Tall One caused that, or if he was tangled in it and couldn't figure out how to get by, and hence ripped it from the ground. The post had been driven into the ground at least a foot.

Cale thinks I should have called the Police, but I disagree. As mad as I am about being woken up in the middle of the night, and having people constantly in my yard, it seems extreme to think of calling the Police on the boys. I think they learned their lesson. Unfortunately, I only got three black photos with absolutely nothing discernible on them. But the boys don't know that. :o)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Gall Bladder, Gall Bladder, Who's Got the Gall bladder?

This is a story I entered into the monthly writing contest in the Ambitious Writers group on goodreads.  I finally broke past my writer's block! :)
Disclaimer: This story is loosely based on true events. Names have been changed and no disrespect is meant to those referenced here. I have taken enormous liberties with the facts and this story should be viewed as fiction. Thank you for reading.

Gall Bladder, Gall Bladder, Who's Got the Gall bladder?

If you’re reading this, then I am dead.

I was born in 1907 and grew up in Reno, Nevada.  I studied ecology, and worked as professor of ecology at University of Nevada, Reno.  In 1967, I penned the three laws of Ecology which made me famous on campus and in ecological social circles.  Each year on my birthday, the campus celebrated Thomas Henderson Day in honor of me. But this isn’t a story about the great things I’ve done nor the great things done for me.  This is a story about a single terrible thing done to me.
    In 1973, at age sixty-six, I found myself lying supine on a surgery table in Tehran, Iran.
I had brought my wife and daughter to live in Khorramabad, Iran while I worked under contract for the American government. The following is an account by my own hand of the events that transpired.

Chapter 1 - Surgery

The voices drifted to me through a thick haze of unconsciousness.
“There eet ees,”
“That’s not it.”
“ of ‘ees kidneys out while we are ‘ere!”

Was I just dreaming? Everything went blank.

While I slept, demons haunted me. Doctors speaking foreign tongues loomed over my surgically sterile-sheeted body, wielding scalpels and forceps. They cackled maniacally as they cut away at my entrails. They pulled my innards out at random, holding them up to the light as proudly as a father of a newborn babe. They laughed sadistically, while one reached his arm up to his shoulder into my exposed middle. He pulled his arm out holding my heart, staring me in the face triumphantly, leering at me. I stared back wide-eyed, paralyzed more with fear than anaesthesia. The doctor holding my heart pumped it grotesquely for me and said in an icy voice, “I am going to make one million rials* on your heart.” He laughed madly, and my subconsciousness bucked against the dream, ending it.


A heavy blanket of sedatives pressed on my consciousness as I tried to make sense of myself. I wanted to go back to sleep, but there was too much pain somewhere in my middle.  Should there be this much pain? It was worse than my symptoms before surgery. I could feel my heart racing. I’d never had surgery before, but my instincts told me something was wrong. The images of my nightmare flooded back to me. It had to be a dream, my logic reasoned, because the doctor held my heart. Yet here I was, still alive. A tender voice reached me through the fog.

“Tom... Tom sweetie, are you feeling alright? It’s me, Myrtle.”
Myrtle was grasping my left hand lovingly. I was afraid to open my eyes. I was afraid of what I would find there. I finally opened my eyes and looked at my sweet, unassuming wife. Her greying hair perfectly coiffed, her eyes still rich blue. Her forehead was wrinkled with worry. I wanted to smile and tell her I was fine. But I was not fine.
“Something’s wrong,” I moaned. “It doesn’t feel right.”  My words sounded slurred as they came out. I saw panic in her eyes. She smoothed my hair and forehead, trying to comfort me.
“I’m sorry, Tom, let me call a nurse.” She moved to go but I held her hand fast. She stayed.
“Dr. Ahari said you had to have lots of blood transfusions during surgery.”

I tried to distinguish fact, from dream, from hallucination. Anxiety crept over me. I wouldn’t forget the disturbing voices I had heard.
“That’s not it.” Something about one of my kidneys, “while we’re at it.”
Had it just been a joke? Had I blacked out before the laughter registered in my aural canal? If I’d been anywhere else, I would have chalked it up to the meds and hallucinations. I didn’t remember seeing anything. That was what convinced me it couldn’t have been a dream. I never had any dreams where I only heard and didn’t see. No, I decided. It was not a dream, and it was not a hallucination.

I’d been so ill before the surgery with excruciating pain in my abdomen for a week. Dr. Ahari, an Iranian surgeon, recommended having my gall bladder removed would cure my problem. Was how I felt now better than how I felt before the surgery? I wasn’t convinced.
Just then, Dr. Mehdi Ahari, my surgeon from Tehran, strode into the room flanked by nurses. His full black hair was combed stylishly, his skin the hue of a silky almond. His mouth was crowded by a thick mustache and beard. His light brown eyes met mine, appraising my condition.
“Hello Tom,” he said. “The surgery was a success.” His rich Persian accent made me have to work to understand him. “We removed your gall bladder. Unfortunately, you bled a lot and we had to give you blood transfusions. You’re running a high fever that is giving us much concern. Your vital signs are not what we would like to see. You will need to be fed intravenously until you are stronger.” I could hear the concern in his voice. My heart rate increased, an unshakable sense of paranoia gripping me. I knew this surgery was risky at my age, and it seemed all had not gone as planned. I had to know the truth.

I lifted my gaze to meet his. “I’d like to see my gall bladder, please.”
Dr. Ahari stared at me and blinked. I guessed none of his patients had ever asked him that question before.
“I’m sorry Tom? What did you say?”
“I want to see my gall bladder. Please bring it to me so I can see it.”
He stammered before answering, “O-okay, Tom, I will see what I can do.”
I sucked in a sharp breath as an acute wave of pain shocked me. I clenched my eyes shut.

“What is it Tom?”
“My middle, it hurts.” I said through gritted teeth. My breaths were coming in short and ragged.
“That is not good.” He said simply. He gave instructions to the nurse in Farsi. I looked up to see what was going on. She was filling a syringe with medication.
“Tom, we are going to sedate you so you can sleep. You may be under sedation for quite awhile until you are more recovered.”
“Thank you, Dr. Ahari.” I eyed him seriously. “Now, please see what you can do about finding my gall bladder.” He nodded and stepped out into the hall. The nurse plunged medication into my IV. I barely caught Myrtle’s, “I love you, Tom” before I slipped back into the mercy of unconsciousness.

Chapter 2 - Recovery

I opened my eyes, revealing my sterile recovery room, a blue patterned curtain drawn separating the next patient’s space from mine.
“Tom how are you feeling?” Myrtle was there, gazing anxiously into my eyes. “You look very pale.  Can you speak?”
I could hear the worry in her voice. I was still weak, but I felt monumentally better than before. I met her eyes and tried to smile.
“Hi, turtle.”
She smiled, her face softened with relief.
“Do you need anything? Shall I call the nurse? How do you feel? Dr. Ahari said to notify him the moment you woke up.”
“I’m okay. I feel better than last time I was awake. Did they ever bring my gall bladder?”
Myrtle’s eyes darted to the left as she stuttered a response. Uh oh.
“He ah, said he wanted to talk to you about it when you woke up. Let me go tell the nurses you’re awake.”

The mind-numbing pain in my mid-section had ceased. I could breathe easily, but my limbs felt like jelly. I was aching with hunger. I glanced down at my upturned arms. The crooks of both elbows were riddled with red dots and splotched with purple and brown, evidence of numerous IV’s. I turned my hands over, examining the backs. More bruising and tiny red scars.
Dr. Ahari entered with Myrtle.
“Hello, Tom,” he said in his lilting tones. “I am glad to see you are awake. How are you feeling?”
I groaned. “I’ve been better.” Myrtle took her place by my side, looking up at the doctor with concerned eyes.
He smiled at my perceived joke. “Do not worry, you’ve beaten the fever and your vitals are much better. We will need to keep you in hospital for observation and recovery for several weeks.”
A flame of fear caught in my chest.
“How many weeks?”
“I cannot say for sure, but probably about three more weeks.”
I nodded. “Doctor, can I see my gall bladder now?”
His expression turned from upbeat and optimistic to fumbling and regretful. His eyes widened as realization struck. He tried to recover, but it was too late, I had already read what he’d hoped to conceal.
“Eh, yes, Tom, about that, unfortunately, your organ was destroyed immediately after removal. It is hospital policy, I am very sorry.”

I ground my teeth, furious. My breath coming out in rapid spurts through my nostrils. I felt cheated and extremely vulnerable. I would never be able to confirm with my own eyes that they had removed my gall bladder. I was in a country I knew little about, was notorious for civil unrest, and had the strongest military power in the region. I’d be lying if I said I trusted Dr. Ahari and his assistants. It was outrageous that he couldn’t produce my gall bladder. I knew his excuse about hospital policy was just that--an excuse.

I spent six weeks in Pars Hospital recovering. I ate boiled chicken day in and day out. I never wanted to eat chicken again. I had to follow a strict diet the rest of my life. No fatty foods. No oil, no butter, only skim milk, lean meats. No more cheese. It was my own personal torture.

Chapter 3 - Discovery

It was fifteen years later when I made the Discovery. I was living with my wife back home in Reno. I was eighty-one, and my wife had been badgering me for years to get a prostate exam. I finally yielded. I abhorred doctors. While there, I asked my doctor--Dr. Horgan--if he could tell me for sure if my gall bladder had been removed. He said he would have to inject dye and take an x-ray to know for sure. I asked for the procedure.

And that was when I discovered it. I’d been right all along. My suspicions had been founded. My mistrust rightly placed.
They had never removed my gall bladder.
When I’d heard those unfamiliar voices speaking over my semi-sedated body, joking about taking out one of my kidneys, my self-preservation kicked in. My subconscious went on high alert. Somehow my consciousness filtered everything after that through my fiercely defensive subconscious. I suspected the doctors in Iran, but I didn’t have a specific reason why. The unknown I suppose. But that was a petty reason for judgment. My nightmarish dream during surgery--while fiction true--was a reflection of the physical realm taking place in my body at the time. Those doctors had truly committed a nefarious deed on me and my body translated it directly to me in a twisted, drug-induced dream.
And that’s when Dr. Horgan told me. I had never lost my gall bladder, but my left kidney had been harvested.

I stared ahead, eyes glazed over. Images raced past my vision of the nightmares, the recovery, asking for my gall bladder, Dr. Ahari’s face, the blue patterned curtain in my room, the smell of boiled chicken and khoresh stew. My ears burned. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dr. Horgan saw steam coming out of them. I was furious. I’d never felt so violated in all my life. I wished then and there that I could put Dr. Ahari under the knife by my hand. All that confounded chicken! The diet I had been restricted to for the last fifteen years. Was it all some big... trick? A farce? God playing a cruel joke on me? There weren’t enough words to describe my outrage. I must have appeared catatonic to Dr. Horgan.
I had been a victim of the mythical Organ Black Market.

*rial = Iranian currency