Today, I Broke My Brain

Some days suck. Today, for instance.

I don’t talk much about mental illness. Not because of any stigma against it, or because I’m ashamed of having and handling mental illness, but rather because I just don’t have much to say on the issue. My car accident (see link above) sparked some serious brain issues for me, including anxiety, depression, OCD, and some symptoms that I’m not even sure what to call.

Today is a bad day.

I don’t have many bad days anymore. I’ve been on a medication for over a decade that works well to keep my brain in check. I’ve lived through enough rough times, that I can look back and see patterns, and know I’m not actually going crazy, and that this too will pass. That doesn’t make today better, really, but it does give me hope that tomorrow will be.

Today, I went grocery shopping with Donna. The store was busy. And really, that was it. My brain broke. For me, that means I was overwhelmed, for no really good reason. It manifests for me in a pretty predictable fashion:

  • I look scared and bewildered.
  • I can’t discern when people are talking to me over the din of background noise.
  • I stutter. (That’s really the one that gives it away to my loved ones. I can fake ’em out a bit usually, but stuttering is hard to hide)
  • I get confused easily. This is mainly due to the background noise thing.
  • I get VERY frustrated with myself, my stupid brain, my inability to be an effective family member, and my inability to pull myself out of it.
  • My hands shake.
  • I get odd facial twitches.
  • The worst part is, inside my head, I’m perfectly fine. I can think, I can reason — but it’s like I’m trying to function with 1,000 people screaming directions at me, and a layer of cotton between me and life.

I’ll be fine tomorrow. Really I will. And my family is incredibly supportive. They aren’t frustrated with me. They might be frustrated FOR me, but that’s different altogether. (It’s also not pity, for which I’m grateful) Unfortunately, Sunday night is our young adult ministry, and it means we’re feeding 20-30 college-aged people, along with coordinating music and discussion. I won’t be any help, which means Donna will have to do twice the amount of work. And THAT is the most frustrating part. Being a burden. (If Donna reads this, she’ll insist I’m not a burden, and I get it, she’s not upset with me. But really, it’s a burden we share, but a burden nonetheless)

ANYWAY, I post lots of silly photos. I share funny anecdotes. I smile a lot on the Internet. In my attempt to be as real as possible, I figured it only fair to share that sometimes I have bad days too. And that’s OK. Just think good thoughts at my wife. She totally deserves it today.

An Open Letter to the Singers in My Life

This letter is a response to my eldest daughter mentioning that she doesn’t post videos of herself singing, because she doesn’t want to post them just to get “likes” and puff herself up. She’s worried about posting them for the wrong reason, and doesn’t want to be “that” person. While I respect that…

Dear Singers I Love,

You know how sometimes you’re having a bad day, or life is just stepping on your face so hard it feels like you’re under water? I live with singers, and I know that when life kicks you in the head like that, you sing. You sing hard. There’s something magical about music, in that you can dump your pain, fear, heartache, and worries into it. That’s true of any art (in my opinion), but music is particular in its ability to rinse away those feelings. If you’re a singer, you know what I mean.

Here’s the rub: We don’t all have that singing ability. I don’t say that out of jealousy (much, lol), but rather to enlighten you. When you sing, your music not only washes away that pent up pain in your life, but it actually has a similar effect on others who hear it. Really. The more you put your soul into music, the more that music has pointy, jagged edges that rub off the painful crusty bits on the rest of us, which we can’t seem to expel on our own. We just don’t have that same magic.

You know how people tell you that you have a gift, and you should share it with others? I know that sounds like polite banter, or kind words to compliment your skill. I assure you, it’s quite literal. Your ability to make magical, soul-cleansing music is a gift. It’s a gift that others not only appreciate, but desperately need. When you share your music, you’re sharing that gift.

Certainly, there’s an ego-swelling potential when you share your music, and when people give you “likes” and praise. But please know that dealing with that difficult line between joy and arrogance is a burden I think you should consider suffering. When those of us without your gift give you “likes” and praise, it’s more than just complimenting your skill. It’s complimenting and appreciating your sharing. That gift you have benefits others in an oddly similar way that it benefits you.

I’m sorry that it often takes such pain to create such beauty. I’m embarrassed to ask you to share your coping mechanism with the rest of us. But please, when I tell you that you have a gift and you should share it with others — it’s so much more than asking for you to share your pleasant voice. I’m asking you to share your ability to cleanse souls.

Outsmarting the Smart Fridge

Scotch tape and creativity...

Our fancy new “Space Fridge” has some amazing features. It will auto-fill a glass, based on sensor readings so it knows how much water to add. It has a fancy LCD touchscreen that allows you to configure its features. Heck, it even warns you if you leave the door ajar by playing an annoying tune until you shut it.

It also requires a $50 water filter with a special RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) tag that has the sole purpose of forcing you to replace the filter after 6 months. It’s crazy. You can buy a pack of 2 filters that will fit the fridge for $16, but without the RFID tag, they won’t work, and your fridge will refuse to dispense water. Mind you, the ONLY difference is the RFID tag, the cheap filter itself is perfectly fine.

That really annoyed me, and so I pondered what to do. For the past year, I’ve left the “expired” filter in the fridge and constantly press “override” to get another perfectly-filtered fill from the expired $50 filter. That is extremely frustrating, and occasionally the fridge absolutely refuses to dispense water unless you replace the filter. I didn’t want to put the “bypass” device in, because I really dislike drinking chlorinated water. But that made me think… Why does the bypass device work?

See, the GE fridge includes a plastic non-filter thing that screws into the filter slot, and allows the fridge to dispense unfiltered water and ice. But why does that work, yet the cheap non-RFID filters don’t? It turns out there’s a tiny little RFID tag hidden under a sticker on the bypass device, which puts the fridge into “unfiltered” mode. The only difference, apart from being unfiltered, is the tiny little graphic on the screen shaming you into buying another $50 filter.

You probably see where I’m going with this. I tore the plastic bypass device apart, took out the RFID tag, and taped it to the inside of the fridge where the sensor is. (That’s what the red arrow is pointing to at the top) Now I can use the cheap filters, and replace them when they stop working well. How do I know they need to be replaced without the RFID system telling me? Well, because the water starts flowing more slowly. Then I pop out one $8 filter, and put in a new one. The fridge still thinks it’s in bypass mode, and I no longer want to smash it with a hammer.

Oh, and that “Unfiltered Water” reminder? It just makes me smile every time I see it. Because it turns out I’m smarter than our smart fridge after all. 🙂

What’s With the Pink Hat?

Dinosaur shirts ALWAYS go well with pink hats...

I wear pink hats. Pretty much exclusively. It wasn’t always that way, in fact, my first pink hat was a Mother’s Day ball cap from the Tiger’s “pink out” weekend last year. I wore the hat, and it disturbed some people.

Like, it really disturbed some people. Especially older men. That bothered me, because if I want to wear a pink hat, I should be able to wear a pink hat. So it became part of my persona. When I first started wearing pink hats, it was just because my pink Detroit Tigers hat was another hat in my collection. But now when when people ask me why I wear pink hats, my answer is a bit longer…

  • I wear pink hats because I want gender-based stereotypes to die.
  • I wear pink hats because there aren’t enough women in science, math, technology, and trades. I want to show them it’s OK to buck tradition.
  • I wear pink hats because my eldest daughter is a carpenter, and I want that to be normal, not, “super unique.”
  • I wear pink hats because I think pink hats are nifty.
  • I wear pink hats because they make people uncomfortable, in a good way.
  • I wear pink hats (and crazy shirts) so people notice a grown man wearing pink, and think about what that does or doesn’t mean.
  • I wear pink hats because I want to be brave, and show my kids that bravery comes in many forms.
  • I wear pink hats because I’m going bald. (That’s not specific to the pinkness of the hat, but why I wear hats in general, lol)

I’ve raised 3 wonderful daughters, the youngest of which will be 18 in a couple weeks. Being a father of daughters in our current society is frustrating. I don’t want my girls to have a skewed view of what it means to be masculine and feminine. I want them to be confident. I want them to follow traditional gender roles if they want to, and I want them to go directly against the grain if they don’t.

I want my kids to know that I can wear pink and bake cupcakes, and still be manly. And they can build houses and work on cars and still be girly. I want it to be OK for anyone to wear a pink hat, so I do, and so that’s why I’m often referred to as, “The Pink Hat Guy.”

I’m OK with that. 🙂

Top 7 Reasons to Never Buy a Bidet

We’ve had a bidet in our master bathroom for about a year, and so I feel pretty confident that I can give you this list to start your year on the right foot. So here are the top 7 reasons never to buy a bidet:

  1. International travel will lose its mystery. You know that scene in Crocodile Dundee where he can’t figure out the bidet in his hotel room? You’ll miss out on that comedy genius when traveling abroad. Bidets are the norm in many other countries, so your vacation will be far less exotic.
  2. Fellow Americans will never look the same. You’ll know most everyone you see in the grocery store has a crusty bottom wiped by dry toilet paper. Honestly, if we get a drop of syrup on our fingers, we wash them with soap and water. But a smear of poop? Yeah, dry toilet paper rubbed on it is plenty. Eiw.
  3. Your Butthole Will Get Wimpy. Seriously, my rear end is like a pampered purse-poodle. It can’t handle regular bathrooms anymore. If I’m stuck using a bathroom other than my own for number 2’s, I rub that dry paper on my bottom, hoping for a clean feeling. The feeling never comes, but my bum sure gets raw.
  4. One won’t be enough. What if your spouse is doing their hair in the morning? Sure, the spare bathroom used to be a great backup for your morning constitutional, but now? You better leave time for a shower afterward, because without a second bidet, that backup bathroom is just a prequel for an emergency shower. Because starting your day with a crusty bottom? Yeah, no.
  5. Toilet paper bargains will be meaningless. When you only need toilet paper to dry your pampered bottom, you’ll use far, far less of it. When your favorite TP goes on sale, you’ll still have plenty in the cupboard. Opportunity lost.
  6. Emergency preparedness goes down the drain. Do you have an emergency contact for when you inevitably run out of toilet paper? Have you waddled through the house with your pants at your ankles to the second bathroom? Have you ever just wiped with your underwear and thrown them away afterward? Now the worst that happens is an extended session of Candy Crush while you wait for your sparkling bottom to air dry. Bidets make us lazy!
  7. Your friend’s dog won’t bury his nose in your crotch anymore. I mean, why would Rufus try to smell your tender bits? There’s nothing down there but a faint whiff of fabric softener from your surprisingly fresh underwear. For people who love to embarrass their friends with uncomfortable squirming from curious puppy snouts, it’s a real letdown.

So do yourself a favor, and avoid buying a bidet at all costs. It will ruin your life. And with options like heated seats, warm water spray, and a gentle heated dryer, the fancy models will make waking up in the morning a bit less miserable. And being happy early in the morning? That’s just un-American!