Tag Archives: Worry Wednesday

Birthday Week: Kicking Worry

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As I noted over the weekend, my daughters each started an activity recently: softball for the 6-year-old and ballet for the 4-year-old. My wife and I committed the family to months of weekly or multi-weekly activities. The girls loved the first days of their respective pursuits and went to bed happy. My wife and I celebrated by watching the Bronies documentary streaming on Netflix that night. It made us both get all teary eyed.

Last week ended well, but this week didn’t start off so great. My 4-year-old woke me at 4:45 a.m. on Sunday asking for water, then more water, then some food. She had refused to eat dinner the night before, so I guessed she was fairly hungry. I made her a bowl of cereal and toast. At about 6 a.m., she started throwing up, an activity that—unlike ballet—continued for another 14 or 15 hours.

On Monday, I wasn’t feeling great—nobody in the family was, except for our first grader—so everyone (but the first grader) stayed home. And though she was keeping down food at that point, my secondborn then declared, sobbing, that her throat hurt. Of course, throwing up for an entire day will make anyone’s throat raw, but I immediately began worrying about antibiotic-resistant strep throat, since she had strep a month earlier.

Before you judge me, know that I’m about to fly soon—I’m heading to New Orleans for the Dad 2.0 Summit later this week—and I’m a terrified flyer in the best of times. Louisiana is currently in the grip of what meteorologists are calling a “once-in-a-generation winter storm.”

Tie all that up with a particularly stressful season at work and you’ll get an idea of why my mind is racing many miles a minute.

I’ve written about dread before in the Shallows, and that’s what really gets me: Dread that something bad will happen on (or to) my flight. Dread that my kid will get really sick. Dread that the flight will be fine, but my kid will be seriously sick while I’m far away.

My trip is coinciding with my 35th birthday. Here’s to hoping that 35 marks a year of less worry—less to worry about and less energy given to worry from my end. On that note, I’ll be writing Worry Wednesday posts only occasionally. I’ll still write on Wednesdays, but I don’t want to give all of them over to what’s eating away at me. I still want to leave that door open, though, since there’s something therapeutic about pouring it all out.

Sometimes.

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Outside Week: Worry Wednesday

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Taking the kids outside of the house means exposing them to germs. Forget fresh air; people don’t cover their mouths when they cough and sneeze around town.

Since I can’t actually isolate my children, they do get sick. My son started getting a fever on Tuesday evening—101.4 going up to 102—which pretty much shut me down with worry for the rest of the night. Yes, despite me knowing that it’s not even that high of a fever.

It’s not so much worry as it is dread, I think. Author Orson Scott Card once wrote about dread: “It is that tension, that waiting that comes when you know there is something to fear but you have not yet identified what it is. The fear that comes when you first realize that your spouse should have been home hours ago; when you hear a strange sound in the baby’s bedroom; when you realize that a window you are sure you closed is now open, the curtains billowing, and you’re alone in the house.”

(I’m pretty sure that’s what I remember reading from a story collection of his back in high school. I couldn’t find the quote firsthand, so I turned to the Internet for help and can’t vouch for its total accuracy. I mean, it seems fine, but often so do words of wisdom mistakenly attributed to Einstein and Lincoln.)

Anyway.

At bedtime, I read a story packed with similes to my girls, and we took turns practicing creating some of our own: “We are as cozy as … ”

“Mice!” my firstborn said.

“We’re as sleepy as … ”

“Mice!” she said again.

I then turned to specifics of our family, saying one girl was as sweet as … and the other was as fun as … . Then I threw out: “Your brother is as sick as … ”

“A sick baby!” my secondborn shouted.

While my firstborn said, “Cancer!”

The little dude’s fever was gone the next day, and I know modern medicine has relegated to folklore the idea of teething causing a temperature rise, but darned if he didn’t have a giant tooth sticking out of his gums where there was just a little sliver of white before.

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Imagination Week: Worry Wednesday

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If you can read this, it means I’m still alive somewhere.

No, I’m not holed up while defending my family from the zombie apocalypse. I’ve been trying to make some technical tweaks to my blog—changing the address to a simple standingintheshallows.com, for one—and for a while, nothing seemed to be working.

I was worried because I couldn’t see the Shallows anymore, and I imagine you couldn’t either.

But as I could still get into the admin side of things, I could still write posts. And I knew that said posts would go out to more than 700 readers who’ve subscribed via e-mail (and who now know that I’m not exactly on track to be the next Steve Jobs due to my online fumbling). So I started writing this digital message in a virtual bottle.

Some of the technical jargon I read noted that it can take up to 24 hours for domain name changes to take effect, but the “page not working” message I repeatedly saw had the word “never” in it—as in “don’t wait around for this to start working, because you broke it and it’s never going to get back together again.”

I turned to some fellow dad bloggers for help—thanks Adam Cohen from DaDa Rocks!—and they talked me through the mini-crisis I was having, assuring me that it all looked fine on their end.

I’d like to say that I was sure all along that I didn’t do anything irreversible, but you know how I worry. Not even all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could help with Humpty Dumpty, and they had to have been pretty well trained, right?

On the plus side, I spent the evening worrying about web stuff as opposed to my kids’ health—though I didn’t like the sort of raspy sound of my son’s cry when he woke up a little while ago. Ah, well. The night is young.

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Late Week: The Final Assessment

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Late Week was fun and all, but one of the reasons I picked the theme was to see the difference between focusing on posts at night and posts in the morning.

Things got interesting. I was literally falling asleep as I wrote this post: Saturday’s writing appearing finally on Sunday. It probably didn’t help that I was in bed. Here’s a line I went back and read after I woke up for a while, talking about writing at night vs. writing in the morning:

“While I’ve tended to do a little of both since launching this blog, I’ve found that I don’t so as well if my deadline for the day is actually that evening.”

It’s not overtly terrible, but it does produce a “huh?”

I’ll be going back to my regular method of posting this next week. Christmas might throw it off a bit, but in general, I’ll be back on track.

In Worry Wednesday news, I’m struggling to stay calm amid concern that my 6-year-old has appendicitis. She complained of pain, briefly, in the area where that would happen. I called an advice nurse and everything, but by the time I was dressed and ready to take her in for some tests, she said she felt fine. She never had a fever. She stopped complaining of any discomfort. She went on a bike ride.

We’ll see …

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Late Week: Worry Wednesday

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My goal to post each day—except maybe Sundays—on this blog was tested when I realized that starting a post at 11:47 p.m. is a bit late, even for a week themed on being less than punctual.

Fortunately, I have no shortage of stuff to worry about, so it’s easy for me to pull something off the top of my head. Let’s see … hmmm … yep: meningitis.

Several college students at a college in a nearby county came down with meningitis a few weeks back, and a college student in my town developed a case of it even more recently. I can’t remember which is worse, and which is communicable despite the vaccine—bacterial or viral—but none of that matters to a worrying mind such as mine. I’ve already established that I can quickly go to some dark and medically impossible scenarios with very little provocation, such as my kid sipping a soda she found.

I was recently struck by the realization that this health-based worrying came to me late in life. Late in my life, I mean. I’m 34, but the germaphobia started a little more than six years ago, which—coincidentally?—is when I was just getting to know our newborn daughter.

The world wasn’t so scary to me when I was a kid, a college student, a young working professional, even a newlywed.

Having kids, though, changed me into something new—something paranoid and freaked out by even trivial stuff. So when one of my kids gets a runny nose and a slight cough, forget that the others have been sick, too, for days, and are getting better. It must be meningitis.

Of course, somewhere deep inside, I know I’m overreacting. I wouldn’t be able to survive otherwise.

But the girls do have strep throat right now. So there’s that.

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Late Week: Remember, Remember, the Efforts of Movember

Back when I was just a fresh-faced young blogger (about two months ago), just starting out with my daily posts and preparing my face for the moustache-growing endeavor that is Movember, I learned that Just for Men hair products was looking for facial-hair-friendly bloggers willing to review the product line.

Eager to test out just how far the Shallows extended, I threw my name into the hat—and I got a response. In exchange for a review, they’d send me a bunch of free products, as well as some Movember goodies, like a T-shirt and stickers. I just had to be honest and post by mid-December. I knew I could do the former, and was reasonably certain I could do the latter. As my grandma sometimes says, “I’ll be there if the good Lord’s willing and the crick don’t rise.”

When the package arrived, I got a little worried. I had thought the Just for Men product line would include moustache waxes or similar products, but it was actually their complete line of hair coloring, from sandy blond to real black. I knew that Just for Men did hair coloring, but I figured a product line involved something more. It was my first product review, and I was already fumbling around.

I let the go-between company know that I was sorry, that I didn’t actually have any gray in my moustache—though I do have some on my temples. They were cool with the situation and encouraged me to move forward however I thought best—but to keep the coloring on my facial hair, if I chose to use it. The stuff I got is formulated especially for coarser hair (though a warning inside the box said to not use it on body hair; I didn’t ask whether Just for Men has a product line for, uh, anything below the neckline—or below that).

I decided to take my dark brown moustache to black and, time and skills permitting, attempt to shave my facial hair into the Batman logo.

But first, my brother-by-choice—who does have a little gray in his facial hair, even though he’s a year younger than me—agreed to get in on the action, too. My review is supposed to be my own, but as I’ll still be posting my own thoughts, I thought this would be an OK write-up. He and I bleached our hair together years ago when we were roommates, and we’ve given each other haircuts (buzz cuts, but still), and we shared a bathroom mirror for shaving for a few years during and after college. We’re old hats at this.

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You can see some gray just under his lip and to the right. His wife likes it, but he still wanted to give the coloring a try. The application is super easy and quick, and the package—he chose dark brown—even comes with disposable gloves. I mixed the coloring up in a little plastic tray (also included), he brushed it in, we waited five minutes, and he shampooed it out. That’s it.

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He liked how it turned out. The single application made the gray strands take less of a spotlight. I asked if he would have wanted a darker color or a second application, but he said no. After he and his wife left, I turned to my own moustache. I’d let more of a full beard grow after Movember ended, but I was ready to scale back again. I change my facial hair a lot anyway.

As you can see below (despite the weird lighting), I’ve got dark brown facial hair.

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I opened the box of real black and repeated all the steps from earlier in the evening. Easy. I was pretty liberal with the stuff, but there was still a bunch left in the tube, so I could do this a couple more times if I wanted. I waited five minutes, then hopped in the shower. While I didn’t go from brown to jet black, my moustache is noticeably darker. It’s serious. Like, this is a moustache that wants attention. I trimmed it up, and here’s the initial result:

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I like it. I had got some of the coloring on the skin around my moustache and wiped it off as best I could, but there are still some stains as I write this. I’m sure they will fade. That’s totally not something I would typically worry about.

With my moustache blackened like a Louisiana catfish, I started the fine tuning. My tools: two straight razors, a detail trimmer, and a copy of the Batman logo.

A few experimental passes with the detailer in, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. The more I shaved, the more I said stuff like, “I should’ve kept that part,” and “Dang it,” and “Darn it,” and “Dagnabbit.” I really do say “Dagnabbit.” My 6-year-old has started saying it, too, in addition to “Nuts!”—which I don’t say.

I did the best I could, but the Batman logo just didn’t materialize the way I hoped it would. I took a picture anyway, which I won’t post now. I think I’ll hold onto it until the inevitable Fail Week here in the Shallows. My wife, however, thinks it’s recognizably the Batman logo—but as my wife, she’s legally required to say that.

Successful logo or no, the Movember effort was an unquestionable triumph. Friends, family, and an anonymous donor helped me to raise $375; I came in seventh on my team of 50 guys. That group, Dads/Bloggers, raised a collective $15,797. Boston, the city where our group was registered, netted $1,153,223. That’s one city’s total! The final numbers for the entire effort won’t be in until after April, but there has to be millions upon millions of dollars raised in the fight against testicular cancer, prostate cancer, and mental health issues. Thanks to everyone who supported the effort in any way.

I may reward you soon with a photo of my terrible Batman moustache. I also probably have some beard/moustache coloring in your shade, so let me know if you want to try some out. Maybe I can lob a box your way.

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Carol Week: Worry Wednesday

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“Oh my / friends I’ve / begun to worry right.”

What you might know about me: I’m a bizarre sort of perfectionist and I frequently feel guilty, whether I have a reason to or not. Despite my knowing that I’m not Atlas, that the world doesn’t rest on my shoulders, I walk around hunched like it does. Like if I don’t hold it all together, everything will start to fall—at least my corner of it will—and it will be nobody’s fault but my own.

Every year, I make myself wait until after Thanksgiving dinner to listen to Christmas music. Then I stop as of Dec. 26. I’m a big fan of Pandora, and my favorite two holiday stations are based off of Sufjan Stevens and Bing Crosby, respectively. While Sufjan’s “Sister Winter” is probably my choice song for the season—aside from the traditional “O Holy Night,” which I’ll take in any form—perhaps the song I most look forward to is an outtake of Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters singing “Jingle Bells.”

I first came across the song in my Pandora shuffle a couple years back, and I’ve since sought it out. My Secret Santa at the office got me an MP3 download of it last year. The song moves along like a normal take on the tune, but there’s a hiccup here and there in the timing. You can tell Bing Crosby is sort of giving up after a while, because he throws in a joking “Yeah!” at one point after a flubbed cue, and as the wheels fall all the way off the cart, he sings “Holy Jesus Christ!”—prompting an “Urk!” from one of the sisters.

Sufjan sings: “All my / friends I’ve / returned to Sister Winter. / All my / friends I / apologize, apologize.”

Bing Crosby is calling out to Jesus flippantly, but I like the element it adds to the effort, like a sheepish plea to the original manger-born inspiration behind the ancient carols that have since given way to more generic winter melodies and lyrics.

Some church music has an odd history. There are hymns that actually began as drinking songs, freshened up with new lyrics. “What Child is This?” is set to the tune of “Greensleeves,” which was a slang term for a prostitute—or at least a woman willing to lie down in the grass, getting stains on her clothes.

The history and evolution of sacred music, the way it intertwines with popular music, is messy and surprising.

It’s not perfect.

I like that.

I didn’t realize until recently that one of the signs of the season for me is hearing a song that wasn’t intended to be heard. An outtake. A mistake.

I look forward to hearing it in my random shuffle of holiday music, even though it’s technically flawed. It’s profane, in the literal sense of the word. And yet.

The awe and wonder of this time of incarnation isn’t dimmed. Atlas can indeed shrug*. The plan, after all, was not for a baby to be born in a stall intended for livestock.

Sufjan sings: “And my / friends I’ve / returned to wish you all the best! And my / friends I’ve / returned to wish you a happy Christmas!”

 

* I can’t stand Ayn Rand by the way. At all. It’s a “Wonderful Christmastime”-level can’t standing.

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Toy Week: Worry Wednesday: Sugar Cube

Toy Week: Worry Wednesday: Sugar Cube

This is my 4-year-old daughter’s toy penguin, Sugar Cube.

I had a whole related post written for today, but for the first time since I’ve started blogging, I don’t know what happened to the words. They’re gone. I’ll try to re-create them later, but my day job calls.

In the meantime, enjoy this penguin.

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Fight Week: Worry Wednesday: The Spiders

Fight Week: Worry Wednesday: The Spiders

I only recently learned about brown widows, which are like black widows, but are, you know, brown. They’re apparently just as toxic as—if not more so than—black widows, but they deliver less of their venom when they bite, putting them on the gentler, friendlier branch of the “I can hurt or kill you if I feel like it” tree. They’re practically cuddly.

I’d been periodically finding these brown spiders around and in our house—behind a barrel on our patio or tucked into the corner of our kitchen window—but I didn’t care much about them since they obviously weren’t black.

Then I stumbled upon this article, which explained that brown widows are taking over in Southern California and elsewhere in the country. I’d never heard of widows of that color, but I went and checked the webs of the spiders I’d been spotting; they were thick, tough, and haphazardly spun, just like a black widow’s.

I was historically a live-and-let-live sort of person when it comes to things that share our home. My pattern has been to scoop wayward house spiders into cups and dump them outside, but that benevolent attitude has faded since I became a parent. I don’t like things threatening my kids—not directly, not indirectly.

Now I swat flies, because I don’t want them landing on my kids’ food and spreading their fly foot-germs. I’ve been doing the same with moths, because I sometimes find little holes in our clothes. (This, admittedly, isn’t so life threatening.) And I’ve been fighting with spiders.

I took out the little one in the corner of the window. A couple of weeks later, a new one had set up a home. So I took that one out, too. Another one replaced it.

I figured there was a nursery nearby, which led me to discover the big brown widow behind the barrel on our front porch, which sits just below the kitchen window. Aha!

But then there was the garage. I’d noticed a particularly thick web in the corner of a window out there, but it was too high up and out of the way for a casual check. I got out a ladder and swiped at some of the web. Classic widow tensile strength. (I think that’s a thing. It just sounded like the right thing to say here.)

I’m not usually a poison person—because of the live-and-let-live thing, and because we have kids in the house, and because I believe there are often natural remedies for stuff—but I wanted this brown widow gone for good.

So I got out a jug of bug spray and squirted the window. Small spiders began running out, and I took care of those with a piece of broken picture frame—a modified weapon I hastily pulled from the trash when I realized the spray wasn’t cutting it and my bare fingers weren’t going to step in. Then what looked like a good-sized black widow ran out from near the top of the window. Picture frame again.

Finally, the eight-legged motions stopped. I still hadn’t seen the main beast, the Shelob I’d seen lurking up there before, so I swiped the jagged frame edge through the thick of the web. A big, round, brown quarter-sized spider dropped out, and I squished it. The whole thing was gross. My skin crawled for the rest of the day.

Plus, in the process, I got a little of the bug spray on my left hand, which I washed off. Repeatedly. Repeatedly repeatedly. It’s more than three days later as I write this, and I still haven’t put my wedding ring back on. It’s been soaking in a disposable cup.

I should have been wearing gloves, I know, but I told myself that I’m such a worrier, I should just get the job done without excessive precautions. And after I accidentally got some of the pest poison on my hands, I told myself not to freak out.

But after my shower, and my repeated questioning of my wife—”Do you think I’m OK? The label said it’s possible to absorb this stuff through your skin. Did I do the right thing by spraying it?”—she told me to call Poison Control.

“I’m not that worried,” I said. “Not really. I mean, I know I’ll be fine.”

Then I called Poison Control and the man at the other end of the line told me I’d be fine.

I sort of believed him.

(A note to those who were waiting for there to be a huge spider on my head, based on the illustration: Chekhov’s rule only applies to guns.)

 

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Health Week: Worry Wednesday

Health Week: Worry Wednesday

So, I’m going to New Orleans for my birthday.

Which is awesome. And stomach-churningly freaky.

If there’s one thing I worry about—more than germs, more than personal financial collapse—it’s air travel. I am terrified of flying.

When I’m on a plane, I’m sure I’m going to die. I’m not worried I will. I am positive I will.

When I flew to New York for a wedding some years back, I stayed up for 36 hours before the red-eye flight to ensure I’d be sleepy. Then I took double the recommended dose of sleeping pills the proper amount of time before departure. And I washed them down with alcohol.

None of this is medically recommended, by the way. In fact, I don’t recommend any of it in any way, since I spent the next eight airborne hours death-gripping my armrests like I was being Tasered and staring with pupils the size of Susan B. Anthony dollars at the little airline icon slowly creeping across a map of the United States. My panicked body apparently immediately synthesized every gram of narcotic and ounce of booze directly into glutamate, which is the chemical your brain starts pumping when you’re threatened and need to decide whether to choose to fight or flight. Fight or flight? On a plane? Ha!

I’m not proud of my phobia, which makes me a miserable travel companion before, during, and after any air travel.

So why am I planning to willingly step into a pressurized cabin that has no business being several feet above the ground, let alone 30,000?

About a month ago, I decided to enter a haiku contest to promote Cottonelle toilet paper and wipes on Twitter. Why not, right? I got to make a joke about butts, and I won a $200 gift card to Amazon when my entry was selected to be one of seven winners.

The winning text, by the way:
“Cottonelle sheets, wipes—
Like yin and yang for your butt:
Two forces, one whole.”

Suddenly, new people were following me, probably eager to see if I had anything else funny or insightful to say—about butts or any other topic. And I realized my Twitter account was linked to a web page to which I last contributed content in March 2011.

Since there seemed to be a hot iron in front of me, I decided to strike by launching a blog based on a concept I’d developed at around the same time I stopped posting elsewhere. Standing in the Shallows went live on Oct. 6, 2013.

Then …

Last night, my phone rang, and at the other end was a voice telling me I’d been randomly selected out of the seven haiku winners to get plane fare, a hotel stay, and conference registration for the Dad 2.0 Summit in New Orleans, set for Jan. 30 through Feb. 1, which coincides with my birthday. And here I am with a blog and everything!

I don’t know much about New Orleans beyond the fact that bodies can’t be buried there due to it being below sea level, and of course the levee situation, and Mardi Gras, and beignets, and that Simpsons episode where they make a musical out of A Streetcar Named Desire and refer to the city as the Sodom and Gomorrah on the Mississipp’. I don’t really like jambalaya or gumbo or muffalettas, but I do like visiting new places, even if getting there isn’t so much half the fun as it is all of the bladder-emptying terror.

But thanks, Cottonelle and Dad 2.0! I’m looking forward to learning a lot in Louisiana—assuming I don’t plummet to my doom.

(I’m still playing the long game too, life-wise, just in case, so don’t forget to weigh in on my Movember moustache style in yesterday’s post, and visit my Mo Space if you feel like leaving me a comment, making a donation, or just seeing what’s what.)

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