Thursday, September 25, 2014

How to Serve Meals to the Picky

Meals bring a challenge to me because I have very strict rules about how things need to be served (also eaten, but that's another post).

First off, I am a food separatist, i.e. I like my foods to not touch one another.  Nothing freaks me out more than the juices of one food touching another food, and don't even get me started on the random pickle with its nasty pickle juice placed aside, and ruining, a perfectly good sandwich.  No, you can't just move the pickle off the plate.  The juices remain, and inevitably have already at least partially been soaked up by the poor defenseless sandwich.  Dwelling on such tragedy protects me from having to think about other, more important and unsettling things.  I can't tell you what a nightmare it is when the juice from the green beans mingles with the gravy or, God forbid, actually touches the potatoes or the bread.  The horror of it all!  I believe all plates should be segmented like those old school lunch trays -- a place for everything and everything in its place.

Second, there are certain foods that are definitely to be served and eaten together as one.  Good examples of this are mashed potatoes and gravy or cake and ice cream.  Of course these things come with their own difficulties, the biggest being the proportional balance of each bite.  Running out of either food means wasting what is left of the other food because one cannot be expected, once tuned to the goodness of the combination, to actually eat one or the other foods without each other.  Therefore, I employ a rather painstaking process of making sure I maintain as close as possible to even proportions bite to bite that will allow finishing both components at the same time.  It's easier if the server takes care to serve the foods in the proper proportion to begin with.

Third, there are certain foods that should definitely never be served and eaten together as one. The one that particularly bugs me these days is gravy and cheese.  What?!?!?  In my book, that's a sin against nature.  The dish requires cheese, or it requires gravy.  It NEVER requires BOTH.  Given this seems to be the new "in thing" at restaurants to put both gravy and cheese in certain dishes I have become very careful to read descriptions on menus and ask to have one or the other (depending on the dish it could be the cheese most frequently or the gravy rarely) left off.  Also, meatloaf is one of those foods that generally falls under the category of serve with gravy.  However, if the meatloaf is one that is baked with the ketchup on top, then there should be no gravy. 

I have no idea why the rest of the world doesn't understand these rules.  They seem so natural to me.  It isn't like I thought them up.  It just is the order of things... at least in my warped mind.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Power of Writing and Other Things

Pretty sure my post on my depression last Wednesday had a beneficial effect on my mental health.  I know something did.  Whether it was that or something else I feel better (better being a relative term here) than I did a week ago.

However, I'm fighting another battle, related to the depression sort of, that I have also helped by writing a two page single-spaced missive.  Whether it actually gets used for its intended purpose or not remains to be seen.

This battle is one at work.  It will come as no surprise to anyone to learn that my employer, similar to most U.S. employers, provide little in the way of paid time off to their employees.  Because of that, when there was a shitstorm of family member medical and educational issues that all came up at the same time a few months ago, I took as little time off to deal with them as was possible.  I took care of a whole lot of things for both W and N as they recuperated.  I basically gave up my life to work and family care.  Period.  Nothing for me.  I thought I could do it.  I did it.  Then when W and N were both better, I took a deep breath, relaxed, and basically turned into a basketcase.

Fast forward a couple of months, as I continued to drag myself out of bed, get myself to work to do what I had to in order to get by, provide chauffeur services to W and N since I'm the only driver in the family (and thank goodness that will change in a few months as N gets his license), and to stress out about all the things that aren't getting done because I'm too tired/lazy/overwhelmed. 

Thinking it over, and reviewing The Company's policies on vacation and leave for various reasons, I decided to look into taking a six week personal leave of  absence.  Wanting to work with Boss to make things as smooth as possible I told him about my plan and that I was going to make an appointment with HR to ask some questions that I had about what I had read in the policy and also to assess whether it would be financially feasible for me to bear the burden of about 2/3 of the time off being unpaid.  Reflecting back later, I believe Boss thought that following my research I would decide not to request the time off.

The next week, I met with Boss again, having gotten favorable answers to my questions to HR and also working with W to figure out how we could liquidate some investments to cover my unpaid time, to tell him that I planned to turn in a request for personal leave.  I was a little surprised when he said, "Give me some time to think about this."  However, I agreed, and we left it at that at that time.

I heard nothing for over a week when all of a sudden a meeting request comes through my Outlook to discuss the leave with Boss.  I figured there might be some negotiation on whether six weeks was feasible and was ready to compromise down to five, possibly four if I had to.  Timing, I thought, might also be an issue, and I was ready to be somewhat flexible on that.

That was not what the meeting was about.  The meeting was simply to tell me that just because The Company has a policy on unpaid personal leave doesn't mean they actually grant unpaid personal leave.  Wait... what?  Yes.  My boss encouraged me to try to get the leave covered under FMLA.  Then The Company would have no choice but to grant it if I could present a valid reason for an FMLA leave.  In essence, I was told to go to my psychiatrist, get her to declare me mentally ill to the extent that I need a medical leave, and I can have my time off.  Otherwise, no go.  Also, Boss said I could go ahead and turn in a request for unpaid personal leave, and state my case, but that he wouldn't count on it being successful since it would have to be approved both by him and by HR which won't happen.

Well, I've written a two page thesis on the subject of why I should be granted an unpaid personal leave.  Writing it felt WONDERFUL, very cathartic, very helpful in letting go of the thoughts so they no longer have to occupy my brain but can occupy the written document and be referred back to at any time.  I have not yet submitted it or my request for leave.  I am debating whether to do so before my appointment with my psychiatrist next week or not.  I'm leaning towards waiting and see what comes of my discussion with her.  I've already discussed it with Freud, and he is very supportive of me asserting my need for some serious time off.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Held Hostage at the DMV

Poor N.  No he is not being held hostage.  His driver permit is.  He has passed the written exam.  He has paid his $20.  When the driver ed teacher went to pick up the student's permits, the DMV office was closed. 

When he researched why it was closed during its regular business hours he learned that it is a severe air quality issue.  Apparently, several workers have become severely ill, and a hazardous situation was detected when testing at the facility was done.  So the permits are locked up in the facility, and nobody is allowed inside until the company hired to decontaminate the facility arrives on the scene.

I'm pretty sure nobody has seen a sadder nearly 16-year-old boy than N was yesterday.

We are hoping his permit is released soon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lethargy, Black Holes, and Meh...

Blah, blah, blah... Life continues... Blah, blah, blah.

I have neglected this blog because I've been posting on Facebook so much, so very, very much.  However, all my FB posting has ceased lately.  I haven't been to FB to read anybody else's posts.  I have been down in the black hole, and so much of what I want to say when I have the energy to post at all is not for consumption by family members or certain friends.

I'm as far down the black hole as I've been in a long time.  The trigger seemed to be Robin Williams' death, which happened not long after I felt that I was managing to crawl out of the black hole or at least closer to the top of it.  He was 10 years older than I am. He fought depression for years, with some measure of success, meaning he didn't kill himself, until finally that black hole swallowed him whole.  Why that day and not any of the days before that one?  At what point, if ever, will I, after battling depression with some measure of success, finally succumb to the finality of the black hole's infinite depth?

These are the thoughts that have made themselves resident in my brain the last few weeks.  So much has been written about depression since then or at least been reprinted online since then that I have had much fodder for my hunger for information.  No matter how many times I read it or how many sources report it, I still struggle with depression being an actual medical disease rather than a moral or character failing.  Having grown up in a family that believed and taught that you just have to buck up and deal with it no matter what IT is, I struggle to deal with my IT in any way other than berating myself for my failure as a human being.  Not only can I not deal with it on my own, I'm not even succeeding with the combination of therapy and meds that I'm on.  I am, in my mind, a complete and utter failure.

I'm sitting so far down the black hole that I don't even see a way up.  It seems the only way is to sit here on this very low ledge in the hole (I still think the bottom, if there is a bottom to the black hole, is farther down) and stay as still as possible because any movement might make me fall even further into the hole.  I don't, at this moment, see the possibility of making progress upward.  I don't see stairs, a ladder, or even a rope.  I can't see myself committing suicide, but if I went to sleep and never awoke it seems like it would be a blessing in many ways for everyone.  If I just ceased to be... meh, who cares?

Please know that I continue to see my therapist regularly and that I have scheduled an appointment with my psychiatrist for later this month even though I wouldn't normally have had another appointment with her until late November.  I'm trying to do what I can, but the lethargy that accompanies depression is a daunting foe.  Getting out of bed in the morning seems almost too much, yet I manage most days to do so, and to get dressed, and go to work, and take care of the essential things that W and N need from me.

I doubt people around me even really realize the depth of my depression.  When I do venture out into the world it is after I have psyched myself up to put on the face of one who is fine.  I don't even let my guard down around W or N because whenever I do it upsets them too much, and I don't want to worry either of them.  However, when I'm alone -- in the shower, in the car, in the restroom at work, wherever I catch that brief moment to myself -- I cry.  I cry, and I cry, and I cry.  For the least little reason or no reason at all, I cry as though my heart was breaking.

Proper Way to Eat M&Ms

The only proper way to eat M&Ms (for me, as a borderline OCD type) is to separate them by color first, and then eat them one at a time in the following order (this is for standard M&M colors; seasonals can cause extra thought and discomfort):
  1. Brown
  2. Red
  3. Yellow
  4. Green
  5. Orange & Blue -- These are the exception to the one at a time rule.  These are paired together as evenly as possible given the number of each color you have and are then eaten together in pairs.  If there is one odd orange or blue left over after pairing, you must eat that one first and then eat the rest by pairs.  If there are several more of one color than the other, you must pair two of the more plentiful with one of the less plentiful as many times as necessary to achieve either a one-to-one ratio or two-to-one ratio in each grouping, and then eat each grouping together.