The stress confession

(Sorry, my autosave cut off the last portion of this blog post. The last couple of sentences are there now)

“Could stress be your problem?”

“I don’t feel stressed,” I replied automatically as I shielded my eyes from the overhead light in an effort to ease my pounding headache.

It’s totally not stress, I thought to myself, stress happens to boomers who work 60 hours a week, people who can’t afford to eat, and those irritating girls I went to college with who were constantly chirping “I’m SO stressed!” at even the simplest assignment. I just need to be better. Work out more. Get more sleep. Eat better. This’ll go away.

This morning I was awakened by a cat crawling over me. As I worked slowly into consciousness, I found myself panicking.

That was a request! Where’s my Request Log form? *flipping through an imaginary clipboard* Okay, okay, I found it. Activity: sleeping. Item requested: attention. Words used: “MEEEEEOW”

Wait, that’s not right.

I woke up, laughed, and gave the noisy cat some attention, thinking about how I must really need a break from work.

Hmmmmm…..

With my hands occupied with the cat, I let my mind work. Okay, so emotionally, I feel pretty good. I feel happy, confident, fulfilled, sometimes excited, and relatively creative. And physically?

I suddenly realized that there was actually quite a list of physical symptoms. The weird super early morning insomnia, the prolonged appetite weirdness, and my recent habit of grinding my teeth are all things that have never been an issue before. I’ve been taking longer to heal, had more headaches than normal, and random muscles are often sore for no obvious reason.

So, emotionally I may be fine, but I’m starting to entertain the idea that my body may be telling me that there’s something wrong.

I feel weak for blaming any or all of this on stress, but it does make sense. I recently started a demanding job, and am working more hours than I expected. Part of that job is dealing with lots and lots of paperwork, and the panic at not being able to find a certain data sheet hasn’t been limited to the realm of dreams. Additionally, most of my support network of friends and Adrian have been away for the last several weeks.

The best advice I’ve received for this elusive stress-but-doesn’t-feel-like-stress was to imagine what I’d tell someone in my situation, and then go do that. That feels a little weird, but it’s worth a shot.

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Hating on personal blogging

Crapnoid. I’m already running out of ideas for these posts. Oh! I’ll just go check and see what the prompt for today is…

“How do you like your coffee?”

Is that… a thing? Talking about how you eat a very specific food?

That’s a Twitter update, not a blog post.

Bah, this is why the personal blogging thing isn’t as intriguing to me anymore. My life just isn’t that interesting. And who cares how I take my coffee, or what I ate today, or the mundane intricacies of my life? I mean, I care, but I don’t expect anyone else to.

You know the saying about thinking about what you would want to read/watch/listen to/insertothercreativemediahere and then creating it? Of the blogs I read, all of them have a pretty defined niche with a little bit of personal information sprinkled on the top. It’s easy to get a sense of the person’s personality and life, without it just being about the person’s life. I’ll give mommyblogging a pass for this one, simply because I don’t think I can really knock it until I have kids (which is nowhere in the near future) and still don’t find it helpful.

So now, to figure out what I’m going to write about here for the next 3 weeks. Hrm. I’ve got a few amusing stories from my retail days, but most everything else is craft/baking/nerd based. Better start brainstorming, I guess.

The end of an era

So by now you’ve figured out that I’m a bit of a geek. Craft geek, Doctor Who and Merlin nerd, you get the idea. One of my other facets of geek-dom is, probably unsurprisingly, Harry Potter.

Unlike a lot of fans who got to grow up with the characters, I didn’t get to read any of the books until about sophomore or junior year of high school (and even then had to sneak them!) since my parents were pretty anti-Potter. Though I have to point out that while I felt very immature a year or so ago going into the kids’ section of the library to check out Deathly Hallows, I also felt highly triumphant to have my librarian mom check out the book for me. Apparently I never quite transitioned out of that “teenage rebellion” phase.

Anyway. So while I didn’t grow up with the books, have never attended a big convention, and am not active in the really visible parts of the fandom, I have and still do really enjoy the books. I’ve waited outside for midnight showings of the movies several times, read through the entire series twice, and am always delighted to see the story or characters referenced in pop culture.

Sheesh, I’m even one of those people that likes to debate about how Neville could’ve totally been subbed in for Harry’s role. And this song gets me every. single. time. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the story, this is set after several main characters have died and Harry has snuck off to sacrifice himself to Voldemort so the fighting will stop. No good-byes to the people that have become his second family. The line “mom I’m coming home” always gets me, too (his parents were murdered by Voldemort when he was a baby)

So all that to say, it’s hard to know it’s coming to an end. I already get strange looks for being a Potter fan, often with questions like “aren’t you a bit… old for that?”, and I imagine that will only increase with frequency as the series gets less and less out of the public eye.

Man, I’m getting sad now.

MOAR WIZARD ROCK!

Even though I’m a Ravenclaw, that made me feel better. 🙂

Google+ and thoughts on social networking

Have you heard about Google+? It’s the currently invite-only social network set up by Google to attempt to dethrone Facebook as the social media giant. Since it’s in beta and invites can still be hard to come by, it’s whipped up a lot of interest and discussion from social networkers, bloggers, and tech geeks. But it doesn’t seem that the hype has reached most other people, with some not even recognizing the name.

But a big question here is whether it’d be worth it for most people to switch over and start new if Facebook is already meeting all or most of the needs of its user base. It’s the equivalent of a new MMORPG starting up and trying to convince World of Warcraft players to join; everyone shrugs and asks “what do you have that I’m not already getting?”

I use Facebook primarily for two reasons: getting updates from people I actually want to be getting updates from (no, seriously – I have under 50 friends!), and sharing interesting links (both receiving information in my feed from places like BlogHer and Lifehacker, as well as  sending/receiving geekiness with friends through walls and messages).

As far as I can tell, Google+ is better at both of those things. There’s a Sparks tab to look at pages relevant to interests (though I’d like to see the option to save my interests and have the Sparks page be kind of like a feed) and share them, site/brand/fan pages are apparently coming soon (so I can get the blogs I read directly in my feed… err… stream? I’m mixing up all my social networking terminology now).

As an added bonus, Google+ has put a lot of emphasis on the Circles feature, where you can drag and drop people into different groups, and for every piece of information you put out, you’re prompted about which circles you’d like to have see this. This would be handy for when I don’t want to clog up everyone’s feed with my Doctor Who fangirling, but have several friends who’d be interested in seeing it (without me having to post it on each of their individual pages).

And let’s be honest – I’d really like to not feel like a jerk for turning down friend requests all the time because I don’t want updates about what the person I had a single class in high school with had for lunch. Hey, sure, I’ll add you! I’ll just stick you in this circle where you don’t see anything that would’ve gotten me teased as a teenager, and I’ll never check this circle on my stream and be subjected to your diet updates. Or hey, ex-boyfriend-that-tries-to-add-me-every-couple-months, you can go right in your own little circle so you can’t social network stalk me but I don’t have to actually turn you down.

Facebook does have the same sort of feature in the form of lists, but it’s not well publicized, and the process of adding and organizing lists and people within them is a big pain, while Google+’s circles are simple and intuitive.

I really like both of those features, and while the whole place is still kind of a ghost town due to its beta stage of development, I like the fresh, clean feel to it.

Remember switching from Myspace, which had the option to completely customize every aspect of the profile (often resulting in seizure-inducing GIFs, backgrounds, and color combinations) and banner ads on all sides, to Facebook with its clean and simple blue and white?

It’s a similar feeling with Google+. No ads, no countless updates about whoever’s CityVille/Farmville/something-ville or those ridiculously annoying “so and so answered a question about so and so” that fill up a feed so quickly. I know this will be brief – the Facebook games will invade and there will likely eventually be ads. But for now?

Sweet simplicity.

I don’t know if Google+ can compete with Facebook. I’m not sure how wise it is to put even more information in Google’s hands – though I do know that if it allows integration between Google+ and other Google Apps, I will officially throw my right to privacy out the door and hop on that bandwagon.

Only time will tell; to use the Myspace example again, it was on top of the world for a few years and seemed so promising, and now it’s nearly dead. Who’s to say the same won’t happen with Facebook? But even if Facebook stomps down the fledgling Google+, I hope it takes some ideas from the competition and streamlines some of the features already available.

Media pet peeve – everything you know is a lie

You know those pet peeves that just make you facepalm (or worse) whenever you see them?

One of my big ones is centered around media, and TV shows and movies seem to be the biggest offenders.

I hate the easy out of tying up plot lines by revealing that everything has been a dream/hallucination/some other thing that changes the entire story. If it wasn’t used so much it might still be original, but now I just roll my eyes when it shows up in something.

I wrote a long, rambly bit about the latest season finale of House, but I think instead I’ll sum it up this way: sometimes, this cliche works. There have been hints throughout, or if it’s a drug overdose induced hallucination (hence the House reference), it’s in character and we’ve seen the signs that this might be coming.

But when used as a quick fix because a) the writers tried to solve everything because they thought they were getting cancelled, but then got renewed, b) the story’s been written into a corner, or c) everything needs to be tied up quickly, the sloppiness shows. It’s hard to use this twist well, and it will probably remain a pet peeve of mine.

Silver linings in special education

So I had a shift at work this week that was hard. I work with kids on the autism spectrum, and I’m used to getting hit, bit, and kicked (on a related note, I’ve also gotten pretty good at dodging hits, bites, and kicks). Working with this kid that day was hard – he mixed up what he used for physical aggression, yelled for most of the episode about how much he hated me, and made me bleed for the first time.

By the time I got out to my car at the end of the three hours I was upset. I had tried so hard not to let it get to me, but I couldn’t help it. I spent some time that day talking to my consultant for that case to get some ideas of how to deal with it, as well as decompressing with some people that care about me.

Yesterday I thought a lot about why I chose to work in this environment. On the surface, it was just a readily available job in my field. But I thought about how excited I was during training (when I wasn’t completely overwhelmed), and I realized that a lot of that was from the prospect of helping these kids become more independent and self-sustainable.

In general, I love helping people learn and do things that they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise, and people with special needs certainly need that kind of help. So I developed a mantra that I’ve been repeating to myself: help them become independent.

This has helped me in a couple of ways. For one, it reminds me that the over-arching point of me doing this work is to help people be able to live their own lives. So that means that if I know a kid can tie his shoes, but she’s grumpy today and wants me to do one, I can’t just give in and do part of it. That’s not teaching independence. And as a kid, getting help tying shoes isn’t a big deal. But if I don’t teach her, who will? What happens when she flies into a tantrum at having to put shoes on at 14? 25? 40?

Remembering that the goal is independence also helps me cope when I feel overwhelmed or hurt. I remind myself that if the price I pay to help someone reach their potential is some bruises, scratches, and hurt feelings, that’s a price I’m happy to pay.

This isn’t about feeling threatened or afraid, the problem here is just being drained emotionally and physically. Remembering what the point of all of this is helps me to push through when it’s hard.

And you know what? When I worked with the same kid today, there were still some behaviors. But, surprisingly, there were also a bunch of things that really impressed me (as in, when I see my consultant for that case next, the first words out of my mouth will likely be “you’re not going to believe this!”).

I may need to write that mantra somewhere I can see it often; I have a suspicion it will come in handy over the course of this job.

Meme-tastic

If I could have any animal as a pet, it would be a cat.

Simple, and to the point. It’s true, but I’m also tired and don’t want to miss two days in a row 🙂

I know there are some cat haters out there, but I like how laid back they are. Yes, some cats can be more aloof than others, just like some dogs can be super hyper. I’ve housesat for people with dogs a few times, and it always made me feel guilty to walk in the door after being gone for most of the day and have them be so eager for attention.

With a cat, they’re fine to do their own thing and use your lap as a bed occasionally, with no guilt.

And while there are some wild animals out there that could be interesting pets, I don’t even want to think of the training required for that (I realize that this prompt may be assuming that training isn’t an issue, but I’d like to keep it semi-realistic).

So it’s a cat for me – preferably long haired and fluffy and not too aloof to snuggle up with me sometimes.

Also, as a user of the interwebs – the defacto mascot of which is cats – there’s significantly more opportunity for meme-able pictures and video. LOLdogs have simply never been as popular as LOLcats and their insatiable appetites for chesseburgers.

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