Looking for the Light

Deep breath.

Confession time.

I have something to get off my chest. Honestly, it’s going to be tough to write this, but I know that doing so will help me take one of the steps I need in order to improve. Many of you who know me know may know some of this, but for most of you, the majority of what I am about to say will be new. But I need to say this. I just need to.

For more than 15 years, I have battled with depression. It started when I was 19, and at the time, it lasted about a year and a half. After that, I thought I was done with it. Since then, I’ve battled it off and on throughout my life.

Fortunately, I’ve had more good years than bad years. Many more good years, in fact. In all, I’d say that, over the past 16 years, I’ve only suffered from depression less than five of those years. For the most part, my depression was pretty low level. I could handle it on my own without the need for drugs or counseling. I did meet with a counselor once, and he was amazing (unfortunately, he works exclusively with UMKC students).

Which brings me to the present. For the past nine months, I have started battling depression once again. At first, I thought I could handle it on my own. When things were starting to get a little crazy, I would tell myself it was time to reach out for help, but then bad days wouldn’t happen as often, leading me to think things were getting better. It’s also really hard for me to ask for help, so when things looked like they were getting better, I’d just push forward with my life and hope that things would turn out for the best.

But they didn’t.

This past month or so, things have just seemed to have sunk even lower. While good things have happened to me, it felt like every time something good happened, three bad things would happen in return. I feel like someone has tied a weight around my foot then drove me out into a lake, tossing me into its murky depths. I’m under the water, thrashing about as water pours into my mouth, drowning me.

I know that, for many of you, that may come as a surprise to read. Prior to writing this, I’ve only disclosed what’s happening with me to three people, because I’m ashamed. Not only is it hard for me to ask for help, but it’s hard for me to talk about my mental health.

The Mindy who people see online and in person has been a sham, almost a pod person if I may reference one of my favorite movies. What better way for people to think everything is fine if I pretend that everything is fine? So, I keep posting links to geeky articles and pictures of cats, but really, all I want to be doing is lying in bed, hiding under the blankets away from the world. When things get especially bad, I want to curl up in the fetal position on the floor of my closet, where no one, not even Jeff, can find me.

Lately, it’s been hard for me to even pretend to be normal. Most weekends, I’ll get out of bed, bathe and dress, but that’s it. I won’t fix my hair. I only leave the house if we have plans or Jeff drags me out – last weekend, he had to twist my arm to get me to go out to breakfast. I have a hard time going anywhere on my own anymore. Weekdays, I do what I normally do because I simply can’t afford to lose my job, but it takes a lot of effort. What no one knows is how much physical pain I’m in – did you know that depression actually causes physical pain? I’m hunched over like Mr. Burns, because if I sit/stand up straight, I feel like a rubber band stretched too tight.

So why am I writing all of this? Lately, I feel like I’ve been letting a lot of people down because of my depression. I will be doing what I can to make it up to everyone individually, but I want to just share with my dear friends why I’ve been off these past few months. And if I have offended you in any way, I am truly sorry. Please know that I would never intentionally hurt anyone I care about. Unfortunately, depression can be a selfish disease.

The other reason I’m writing this is because of the fact that I am scared to get help. I believe that, by writing down my plan, you all can help hold me accountable. I have a meeting with a counselor scheduled for next Monday, and I’m hopeful that he can help get me back on track toward moving past this bout of depression.

I need help. I want help. I don’t want to be depressed anymore.

I Think, Therefore I am Weird

When you have a mind that races at a million miles a minute, it is inevitable your brain will land on some very bizarre thoughts.  I would argue that’s how some of the greatest scientific innovations of all time came to be. And the weird ones, too, of course. 

How else would we have figured out that only a portion of people can smell the sulfur from the amino acids in asparagus in our pee? It obviously took someone going, “Hey, wait a sec, my wee smells a bit off….”

To vocalize some of the weirder thoughts we have, we have to have some courage, but in the name of science, we should totally do it. For instance, during college, one of our senior RAs, Ryan, took a lot of courage to blurt out in the middle of our RA training what I think to be a crazy but very true discovery. One morning, as we were eating breakfast, he said, “Did you ever notice that, after drinking coffee, your pee smells like Sugar Smacks cereal?”

Right now, I bet there are quite a few light bulbs going off in the heads of a few readers.

I also bet that there are quite a few coffee makers brewing up some coffee right now in the name of science.

It’s totally true, by the way. 

With my crazy, all-over-the-place mind, I tend to have an average of 964 random thoughts that could lead to scientific breakthroughs and another 1,485 about things that I know science has covered but I’m curious to know what led to the breakthrough. And don’t even get me started on the origin of slang. I have read so many articles and books on how things came to be.

I know that, language-wise, we have Shakespeare to thank for quite a bit. Although, I’m pretty sure he has had nothing to do with some of the more weird slang I’ve heard. The one that was stuck in my head today, which caused me to think of this post in the first place, is the term swamp butt, also known as swamp ass. 

For the record, this came to be after walking around in the sweltering heat and seeing way too many people who were sitting down and needed to learn how to wear clothing more appropriate for the heat and bring a change of clothing for when they started to sweat through their first pair of pants/shorts.

I must also add, that I made the mistake of Googling “swamp butt,” and learned that it’s also called “monkey butt,” which is cracking me up to no end. Plus, there are some hilarious articles out there, including one with the line “dusting your huevos in cornstarch.” I swear to Jeebus I’m not making this up.

This is where I must emphasize the fact that sometimes we think of things that take courage to admit we think. I’m pretty sure that anyone who can smell the sulfur from asparagus in pee thinks about it every single time they smell it (at least I do), just as I do when I smell the aroma of Sugar Smacks in my wee after having coffee. And I don’t just get caught up thinking about the origin of swamp butt. Plenty of other words have left me wondering who the heck thought up their bizarre origins. Words like falcon punch, douchebag, and Netflix neck.

But I am amused easily.

Literally or Figuratively?

If any of you have been following my Facebook or Twitter today, you may know a little bit about where this story is going, but now you’re about to get the full story. Be prepared to laugh your toukus off. 

Actually, I recommend you take a quick break to go to the bathroom. That way you don’t laugh so hard you pee.

You good? No? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This morning was just like any other Monday morning. I was behind the wheel of my car, speeding down the highway, listening to a podcast. Just like any other Monday. When I looked up at the rearview mirror and saw movement, I didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary.

Until I realized that the movement wasn’t in the mirror. It was on the mirror.

A spider was busy circling the outer rim of the mirror. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted to die. I wanted to set my car on fire. All I could do was say, “Don’t wreck the car; don’t wreck the car; don’t wreck the car.” 

It took every ounce of willpower in my body to keep the car moving and not drive it into the concrete divider in the median while trying my best to keep an eye on that eight-legged monstrosity (did I mention that he was the size of a dime?). I watched him circle the mirror twice, then climb onto the ceiling where he promptly disappeared.

Not long after that, when I got to work, I offered a quick compromise to the spider via Twitter.

Ok, Spider, I’m going to set my car keys on the seat and slowly back away. It’s all yours. Please don’t kill me.

I just wish I could say that this is where this comical story ends, but when your name is Minday, that’s never the case.

As I was walking into the building, my stomach decided to let me know just how scared it had been by the spider. It growled a warning that I only a few minutes before sh!t would literally get worse. Yeah, I literally had the sh!t scared out of me by the spider. 

That is not a joke.

But later in the day. I did joke. Starting at about 4, the jokes began to flow on Twitter.

So…anyone want to come battle the spider residing in my car? The reward will be knowing that I can actually sleep at night.

The spider is as big as a small grapefruit and answers to the name Jerry. He does speak, too. #imaybeexaggerating

Also the spider does not fear fire. In fact, he took my lighter and is taunting me with it. #stillexaggerating

My cat eats spiders, but in order to get her, I need to find a way to get home. Jerry says he’ll drive. #notsureitrustaspidertodrive

Jerry has offered to show me his driving record. He pulled out a little spider wallet. It’s got a Spider-Man design on it. #wierdlycute

As kind as Jerry is being, I just can’t get past the fact he’s a spider. I also can’t get close to him. #skinisliterallycrawling

How do you politely kill a spider? #askingforafriend #itsnotforjerryiswear

On the drive home, I had a brief scare. While sharing the story with my sister (who howled with laughter by the way), I felt a tickling on my leg and began screaming. My sister laughed even harder as I swiped at my leg to make sure that it was only my jeans and not an arachnid trying to dig its way into my flesh. It was just my jeans. I know.

There were no spider sightings. I did threaten to leave Nevaeh in the car for an hour or two just to be on the safe side, but I didn’t know if that would be frowned upon or not. 

Is it?

Scaredy Cat

I am not at all ashamed to admit my fears.

I am afraid of many things, too. Several of which, I’m sure I’ve mentioned before – mascots, water I can’t see the bottom of, giant spiders, clowns (who isn’t), height-challenged monsters carrying axes or bats who will chase me around trying to kill me. Man, I really have some issues.

Of course, the biggest fear I have is one that many of you have, although many people are reluctant to admit it, lest they be perceived as childish. But I am not ashamed to admit it. I will stand here atop my soap box and loudly proclaim it. I, MINDY KINNAMAN, AM AFRAID OF THE DARK.

I mean, come on, it’s where the height-challenged monsters with axes and bats hide. And the giant spiders. Well, according to the internet, the giant spiders also live in Australia.

Shudder.

Now, I’m not so afraid of the dark that I need to sleep with the lights on or have a night light. Seriously, I wear a sleep mask to bed, in addition to sleeping with a pillow lying atop my face (ironically, I need it to be incredibly dark if I am to sleep comfortably). I just don’t like to be up and moving around when there is no light.

For instance, as a child, after watching the movie Troll, which haunts me to this day, I was terrified that this weird Sonny Bono-esque troll would come out of the woods behind my house and try to kill me if I ever had to walk outside at night (hence my fear of height-challenged monsters with axes and bats).

Or the time in high school, while at a friend’s bonfire, when someone got that insane idea to play hide and seek in the darkened woods. I clutched on to a friend for dear life and made everyone swear not to abandon me. I would have curled up into a pee-soaked ball of Mindy and cried myself to death had they left me behind.

And then there was this past Friday night.

Sigh.

It was bad.

I had gone to the bathroom. Jeff had been in the living room playing around with Nevaeh, who was agitated because the neighbor’s cat dared walk into our yard, which was her territory (not that Nevaeh had ever been in our yard). What I didn’t know was that, when Jeff was done, he turned out the light and then headed back into the den to finish watching “The Dead Files,” which we had been watching together.

When I finished in the bathroom, I turned off the light, then opened the door to head back out to the living room with Jeff and Nevaeh. When I opened the door, it was pitch black between the darkness of the bathroom and the darkness of the hallway, thanks to Jeff having turned off the living room light (the den is on the far side of the house, so no light had made it up to where I was). My brain only thought, “BLACK! WHY IS IT BLACK? OH MY GOD! IT’S BLACK! THE POWER IS OUT! THERE ARE MONSTERS! I’M GOING TO DIE!!!!!!”

I screamed, “IT’S DARK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” then slammed the door shut.

Yeah, I slammed the door, retreating away from the dark into a darkened room. I get the lack of logic there. My brain didn’t. It just wanted to run away from the dark and hide. Into the dark.

Poor Jeff. He didn’t know what the heck was going on. One second everything was quiet, and the next his girlfriend was cowering in the bathroom, sobbing about the dark. Even after I explained it, he still didn’t get it.

And honestly, neither do I.

Go me.

April Fools Day? More like April Fears Day!

If you know anything about me, you know that I am not a fan of April Fools Day. It makes no sense, really, as I love playing pranks. Note, I said playing, not having them played on me. Because that is why I am not a fan of April Fools Day. I blame it on three things: my mom, my sister and retribution.

It all starts on March 31, 2008. At the time, I was living with my mom in a small, suburban house. April Fools Day was only hours away, and I was struggling to come up with a prank that would show my prank-loving mom that I could hold court with her. So I called the one person I knew who could out-prank anyone, my sister Brandy, the Queen of Pranks. 

This is the same Brandy from “Why’s Everybody Always Picking On Me?” She spends a major portion of her days scheming up ways she can scare the bejeebus out of people. Her pranks are legendary. Just ask anyone who ever had to crawl under her house with her to check on the pipes. When they nearly crapped their pants after hearing the guttural gargle from The Grudge, Brandy would just cackle with delight. So, she was the perfect person with whom I could scheme.

Together, we came up with three pranks to pull on my mom. The first was cheesy. I left a message for Mom stating that she needed to call a Mr. Lion. The number, when dialed, would call The Kansas City Zoo. 

Yeah, go ahead and groan. Like I said, it was cheesy. And sadly, she never got to this prank, because my other two pranks came together first.

The second prank seems harmless, but in a way, it was pretty smart. I rearranged a few letters on my mom’s computer keyboard. See, Mom is a hunter and pecker, meaning that she hasn’t memorized where the computer keys are. She searches out the letter she needs, then stabs away at it, slowly typing in whatever she needed. 

In this case, I swapped the letter S for T, the letter E for H, and the letter X for E. Yeah, S-E-X for T-H-E. In the wee hours of the morning, when she got home from working overnight, Mom tried to log into her computer. She never made it.

Annoyed that she couldn’t log on to her computer, Mom decided to call it a night. Before heading off to bed, she made one last stop. And that was the site of prank number three.

See, Brandy had come up with this idea that sounded hilarious at the time. Had I thought it through, I probably would be okay with April Fools. Mom would have played a small prank on me, but I would have laughed it off. But I didn’t, so she didn’t.

No, Brandy suggested that I coat the seat of the toilet in Icy Hot.

God, I can’t ever write those words without shuddering in terror. I may have some nightmares tonight.

I laughed. It would be funnier and less messy than plastic wrap over the toilet seat.

Or so I thought.

See, my mom went to the bathroom somewhere around 5 a.m. Being tired, she didn’t turn the lights on. She just sat down.

On the ring of fire.

You see, Icy Hot on regular skin burns. Icy Hot on your nether regions feels like the fiery flames of hell have been unleashed, along with the flames of a million suns, on your most sensitive of areas. 

Or so I’m told.

When I woke up, Mom was already asleep. But not for long. When I went to work, Mom decided that she, too, would call upon the Queen of Pranks. And Brandy, being the diabolical genius that she is, made no mention of the fact that she was in on the joke. Instead, she gave my mom an idea that haunts me to this day.

I was working at The Kansas City Star at the time. Right around lunch, my cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but I answered it anyway.

Trust me, I regret doing that.

A female voice on the other end explained that she was with a debt collection agency. My father had signed up for a cell phone through Verizon and ran up several thousands of dollars. And my name was also on the bill, even though I hadn’t spoken to my dad in about 10 years at the time (it’s a habit my dad was known for – he ruined both of my brothers’ credit before they were even old enough to ruin their own). If I didn’t pay the bill, the woman explained, I would be sued. The woman made it very clear that it didn’t matter whether or not my dad had forged my name (again, something he was known for), I would pay that debt back.

Now, as you know, I’m a bit of a goody goody. The idea of being sued scared the ever-loving crap out of me. The idea that something I had no knowledge of could ruin me started the tears a-falling. I broke down sobbing. The woman on the phone demanded payment, something that I couldn’t really do making $10 an hour and only working 35 hours a week. She said she would call back and then hung up.

By that point, I had left the office and was sitting outside crying. 

And then the lightbulb went on.

I called my mom’s cell phone. As soon as she picked up, I managed to choke out the words, “Please tell me that was a joke!” There may have been cussing. I’m human after all. 

“That’s what you get,” she replied. She explained that Brandy’s best friend had been the debt collector (she was a debt collector in real life, which is why she sounded so authentic). I thought about turning on Brandy, but I didn’t, because I couldn’t have that evil genius looking for revenge.

I’m actually scared recounting this story, because I’m sure that, even though 8 years have passed, my mom’s crotch may still be on fire. I think I’m going to go join Witness Protection now.

Did I Learn Anything in 2012??

While 2012 started out on the sucktacular side, it ended up pretty spiffilicious. Seriously, I went from being horribly depressed to having wacky dating adventures, finishing a novel, meeting HBJ (the hottest guy I know!) and just having some darn good fun in the process. In all, I’d count the year as a success just based on those things alone, but as I like to reflect upon the previous year’s hilarity, I figured I’d give you a look at what all I learned over the past 12 months. So sit back, relax, loosen your belt and prepare to laugh.

  • I am more than a bit obsessed with Funko dolls, amassing a collection that includes Freddie Krueger, Michael Meyers, Jason Vorhees, Leatherface, Beetlejuice, Sally, Jack Skellington, the Mayor, Edward Scissorhands, two Captain Americas and Edna Mode. They are amazingtastic.
  • My cat has now taken to guarding my pajamas from ebil.
  • Battlestar Galactica is the bomb-diggity, yo.
  • Krampus is as Krampus does.
  • Apple’s “will fit your ears” earbuds do not fit my ears.
  • Batman has satisfied me.
  • I heart Tarder Sauce, aka Grumpy Cat.
  • Ermagerd, Gersberms.
  • Adam Scott is still hot.
  • Nic Cage is the greatest actor in the history of ever.
  • Adding cherry vanilla flavoring to NyQuil only means it tastes like cherry vanilla-flavored devil juice.
  • You can actually have hot chocolate that does not taste like hot chocolate.
  • Even at the age of 33, it is still possible for me to fall out of bed.
  • Chocolate soda is nowhere near as awesome as it sounds.
  • I have a crush on Neil Degrasse Tyson.
  • It’s Obama’s fault that I miss Suzie and no longer live in Texas.
  • If Oprah described War Horse: YOU get a death scene! And YOU get a death scene! YOU get a death scene! EVERYBODY GETS DEATH SCENES!!!
  • Little baby people don’t have sideburns. They have to grow them when they’re older. But if your little baby already has sideburns, that’s awesome. Don’t be concerned.
  • Also, two beavers are better than one. They’re twice the fun. Ask anyone.
  • It’s good to be a geek.
  • My new apartment is haunted by a polite ghost who writes hello in the mirror, knocks on the door and folds socks.
  • I English good.
  • The idea of playing defense in softball is to catch the ball with your glove. Not with your mouth. Not with your bare hand.
  • Just because you’re 33 doesn’t mean you can’t have a Captain America-themed birthday party.
  • Teddy Roosevelt is a BAMF.
  • While lemon in your Coke is delicious, drinking Coke right after eating a lemon granola bar leaves you feeling as though you drank dish soap.
  • You can burn your eye with shrimp if your Japanese steakhouse chef has bad aim.
  • Rainbows taste like bacon.
  • I can blame Spiderman for all my problems.
  • I apparently dated a pirate.
  • Harry Potter Puppet Pals are even more amazing live.
  • All you need is love and a cat.
  • Zombie burgers are soooooooo good!
  • I cannot listen to the beginning of “Somebody that I Used to Know” without singing my ABCs.
  • The greatest meme in the history of memes is Thor learning to text.
    Image
  • Do not, under any circumstance, make Oprah angry.
  • I’m about as big of a Tommy Lee Jones fan as you can get, but there is not enough fandom in the world to get me to see a movie about him and Meryl Streep trying to have sex. Ever.
  • Squats are a tool of the devil.
  • Mrs. Captain America does have a nice ring to it.
  • I have witnessed with my own eyes that it is possible to eat a bowl of cereal while driving.
  • My dentist is the devil.
  • Ten years later, Suzie and I can still tear up the River Walk. And it’s still Cleavage Friday.
  • I can touch my nose!

Honestly, I learned so many awesome things. This is really just scratching the surface, but man was it fun. And so, I leave you now with what’s pushing me to learn some more awesome things in 2013. Enjoy!

Image

Bully!

Teddy Roosevelt
BAMF fo sho.

No, not the kid who takes your lunch money or that diabolical girl next door who knows exactly who to make you cry. I’m talking that cry often said by one of the greatest men in U.S. history, Teddy BAMF Roosevelt.

If you’re one of my friends, or a member of my quiz bowl team, you know that I adore Teddy Roosevelt. I mention him quite often, though not as often as I may mention a certain Steve Rogers, aka Captain America.  There’s even a photo of him currently hanging on the Wall of Awesome in my office. Teddy, I mean.

Because the man is seriously awesome.

So, what makes our 26th President a BAMF? I shall enlighten you and hopefully make you a convert to my Teddy Roosevelt Appreciation Society.

First off, if you aren’t sure who Teddy is, he’s a fifth cousin of another Roosevelt – Franklin D. Roosevelt, the longest serving President. But I’d argue that Teddy is the way more awesome cousin, though FDR was pretty darn cool himself, especially seeing how he got us out of the Great Depression and most of the way through World War II. 

But I digress.

Teddy accomplished many awesome things in his life, and his achievements are legendary. Now, I’m not going to write you a biography. Instead, I hope to inspire you to run out and learn more. So here are my personal favorite reasons why he’s a BAMF (in no particular order):

  • At the age of seven, he and two cousins created the Roosevelt Museum of Natural History and he taught himself rudimentary taxidermy to preserve his specimens.
  • Speaking of history, he was considered to be a serious historian after publishing his first book The Naval War of 1812
  • You know he was President, Vice-President and even Governor of New York. Did you know he was a deputy sheriff in the Dakota Territory, New York City Police Commissioner or Assistant Secretary of the Navy?
  • Youngest man to ever be President, assuming office after President William McKinley was assassinated. Take that JFK!
  • If you wanted to talk policy with President Roosevelt, you first had to fight him in Judo. That’s right. Fight him in Judo. Awesome.
  • He was considered an authority on American mammals, and he led scientific expeditions for animals in South America and Africa.
  • He was a big game hunter – yes, we all know this. But did you know he was a rancher in the Badlands of the Dakotas?
  • He wrote more than 35 books and on many occasions, would read a book a day. Along with Thomas Jefferson, Teddy is known as one of the most well-read presidents.
  • As President, he designated 150 National Forests, 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 5 National Parks, 18 National Monuments, 4 National Game Preserves and 21 Reclamation Projects.
  • Oh, and don’t forget getting the building of the Panama Canal rolling.
  • Won the Nobel Peace Prize (which only 2 other Presidents have won – Carter and Obama) for negotiating the end of the Russo-Japanese War.
  • He’s the reason we have meat inspections – thank you, baby Jesus!
  • Teddy was friends with F.O. Stanley, founder of the Stanley Hotel (you know, the haunted hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining). When visiting Stanley in Estes Park, CO, Teddy would have a friend dress up as a bear to block the mountain pass and scare the guests.
  • His nickname was Teedie.
  • He hated the name Teddy, calling it “an outrageous impertinence.” Whoops!
  • Who was the first President to be seen riding in a car in public? That’s right!
  • And he is the reason why we have the White House Press Room.
  • He had a son named Kermit.
  • Yes, Virginia, teddy bears are named after Teedie.
  • He is one of the racing presidents during Washington Nationals home games, but he never wins the race.
  • Was an avid boxer until he was punched so hard it detached his retina and he went blind in one eye. And that happened while he was President; he just never told anyone.
  • He loved to skinny dip. In the Potomac River. In the winter.
  • His ghost is said to haunt the bar of the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, TX, where he recruited men to serve as Rough Riders. 
  • He is the first and only President to have received the Medal of Honor, which had been denied to him until 2001, when he was posthumously awarded the honor by President Bill Clinton.

And perhaps the greatest fact of all time: Just before giving a speech, good ole Teddy was shot by a would-be assassin. After determining that his wound was not fatal because he wasn’t coughing up blood, Teddy gave that speech, talking for 90 minutes. His greeting to the crowd? “Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” 

Oh, and he didn’t have the bullet removed. 

Seriously. Does this sound like someone who was a sickly, asthmatic child? Does this sound like a man who was told to avoid strenuous activities to placate his heart problems? Nope, but he was, and the fact that he overcame his illnesses and lived an awesome life during a time when medical care was only starting to get serious shows that the man is a BAMF.

Many facts courtesy of http://www.theodoreroosevelt.com and theodoreroosevelt.org. Of course, many are just things I’ve learned after years of learning about my favorite President.

This Hate Has Got to End

What I’m about to do is one of the ballsiest things I’ve probably ever done. To be honest, I don’t really want to do this, but I feel like I am left with no choice. 

As I’m sure many of you already are aware, earlier today, Missouri Republican and Senate hopeful Todd Akin went on TV this morning in St. Louis and stated that few rapes end in pregnancies. An absurd statement, I know. 

Unfortunately, this is not the first absurd statement Todd Akin has ever made. Nor is it the most offensive thing he’s said, which is why I’m all fired up. Todd Akin has also spoken about rape, only in terms of “legitimate rape,” meaning that a person has not been raped unless he or she has been forced.

But before I get into the heart of my post, I would like to point out one very important fact. What I am about to say has nothing to do with my political leanings. I would say this even if Todd Akin were a Democrat, a Libertarian, or from any other political party. Because this issue goes beyond political parties. It goes to the very essence of who we are as humans, and sadly, I think so many people are so caught up in being the moral fiber police that they simply stop thinking about us as individuals.

So who am I, and why do I care?

Well, for starters, I am a rape victim. But I am quite certain that Todd Akin and his counterparts would never agree that I was raped. Why? Because I was raped by a partner.

Years ago, my partner (whom I have since left) would force me to have sex, but because we were in a consensual relationship, many people do not believe that it is “legitimate rape.” It doesn’t matter that I was forced to do something against my will. It doesn’t matter that my pleas went unheard. What the man in a relationship says goes in the minds of people like Todd Akin.

Very few people on this planet know what happened to me, and I thought that I would go to my grave without sharing that information. But as lawmakers around the United States continue to band together to strip women of their rights, I cannot be silent any more.

I do not want to be a martyr. I do not want people digging into the skeletons in my closet. But what choice do I have?

I currently live in a state with one of the toughest anti-abortion laws in the country, short of banning it outright. Less than 10 miles from me, across the border is the state I was born and raised in, the same state Todd Akin hopes to represent in the U.S. Senate. 

If I keep my mouth shut, women in the United States will continue to be stripped of their rights. We will lose the choices we have that involve our very own bodies. Have I ever gotten an abortion? No. Would I stand up in support of loved ones who have had no option but to have an abortion? I have and will always do so. 

If you don’t want to have an abortion because of your beliefs, whether they are religious or not, that is your right, but that does not give you the right to infringe upon my own rights. 

How long ago was it that Rush Limbaugh decried that unmarried women who want to use birth control should have to show videos of themselves having sex? What happened? He lost a few sponsors, and there was an outcry from those of us who realize how sexist and disgusting his request was, but that was it. It did not stop the state of Missouri from honoring him earlier this year.

And Rush Limbaugh would have a fit, because I do use birth control, even though I am not currently having sex, because that is my right. 

The voices of ignorance seem to be growing louder as the election draws nearer. As much as I wanted to stick my head in the sand and ignore it all, I can’t. I tried, but I can’t. Because if women like me keep our mouths shut, one day we will have no voice at all.

Our country is a mess, as the religious right seems to forget the fact that this country was founded upon religious freedom. I have done my research on the First Amendment and written papers on the topic. I know that we, as a country, should be as open as we can and accept that not everyone here believes the same. Yet, so many in this country still openly hate against anyone who doesn’t fit in the Christian code.

I grew up Christian, and it was that very hate that drove me from being an active Christian. I could not sit down and listen to all the hate that was spewed forth in the name of God. That same hate that drives people like Todd Akin to want to control everything about us, to strip us of the rights we had to fight so hard to get in the first place. If people like Todd Akin have their way, anyone who is not a white, Christian, God-fearing hypocritical male will be a second-class citizen. And all that progress we will have achieved since our founding will have been for naught.

So, to those of you who, as I do, believe that this hate has got to go, please stand up for our rights. Show your legislators that you will not have them relegate large portions of the U.S. citizenry to the back seat. Whether you are fighting for women’s rights or gay rights, you are fighting for human rights. Please stand up and help us work toward a democratic society that is truly democratic, where all citizens – regardless of race, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, status, etc. – have the same equal and unalienable rights we deserve.

Please register to vote, if you have not already done so. And when November comes around, vote for anyone who is willing to stand up for equal rights for all. It is the least we deserve.

The Russians are Coming!!

This Thanksgiving, the US will experience a remake of one of the most harrowing movies of the 1980s. It’s a movie that leaves me cowering in terror, plotting escape routes, and leave me with flashbacks of all the nightmares I had as a child. In other words, it’s my ‘Nam.

So what is this terrifying piece of film? Red Dawn.

Stop laughing.

Seriously, stop laughing.

If there’s one thing about me that’s both a blessing and a curse, it would be the fact that I have a very overactive imagination. I couldn’t shut my brain off even if I tried. I have actually had the following thoughts: machines will rise up, led by a demonic semi featuring the Green Goblin, and they will destroy everyone I love; a demonic midget clown named Chuckles is watching and waiting to pounce upon me and steal my soul; and the troll from Troll lives in the woods and will attack me whenever I walk outside at night.

I couldn’t even babysit as a teen without plotting escape routes in the event that murderous robbers broke into the house and started murdering everyone. Never mind the fact that I was babysitting for two cops, who could probably handle themselves in such a situation.

But the worst, most terrible nightmares I had as a child stemmed from the Cold War, especially the Star Wars program. It’s funny, I wasn’t even a glimmer in my father’s eye when schoolchildren in the US were forced to endure air raid drills in the event of nuclear attack. (By the way, what good would hiding under your desk do if you’re vaporized?? Schools should have been teaching yoga so kids would be flexible enough to kiss their butts goodbye.)

If you asked me now what Star Wars was all about, I honestly couldn’t tell you. I just knew it was something to do with satellites and was not to be confused with the George Lucas films. But hearing about it night after night as my parents watched World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, I knew that it was not going to be good if shit got real.

I never said a word to anyone about my terror. At that point, I was just worried that the world was a seriously dangerous place and kept thinking that I may have been better off had I been born a street urchin in Edwardian England. Especially if I could have worked for Sherlock Holmes, but I’m a geek like that.

So, as I’m sure you’ve surmised, I was only slightly crazy at that point. What moved me over the boundaries from Kookyland into Bat Crap Crazy Town was my family’s Friday night movie night movie ritual.

It’s funny, I can tell you exactly what my dad rented that night, besides Red Dawn. I remember, because the night started off great with the classic Disney film The Gnome Mobile (and if you were cool enough to have seen that at any point in your life, you are now singing the theme song).

The movie was a great way to unwind from a stressful week in second grade, so I had no qualms when I my dad put in the next film. Of course, that peace only lasted for a few minutes, as the intro of the film left me more chilled than even the most horrific of horror movies has ever managed to do. Honestly.

After the initial outbreak of Russian terrorism, I burrowed myself into the couch, hiding my head under a pillow, then cocooning myself inside a blanket. I didn’t see another shot from the film. But I heard every shot, death, order in Russian, and shout of “Wolverines!”

I’m getting goosebumps just writing this.

The film left an indelible scar upon my brain, which continued to haunt me each time I fell asleep. My first nightmare is the most vivid.

My brother and I were at my great-grandmother’s home, where we spent most of our childhood. We were hanging out in the backyard, goofing around per usual.

And then the planes started flying low overhead. We watched as parachutes fell, depositing raging Russians hellbent on American destruction in the neighborhood around us. 

Fortunately, my brother and I acted quickly. It was well known that my granny slept with a machete under her mattress and kept an arsenal of rusty hatchets and axes in her shed (seriously, she did). So, we armed ourselves and hid in the backyard, killing any Commie who tried to climb the 6-foot wooden privacy fence. 

Around that point, I woke up in a panic. Instead of realizing that it was just a dream, I would look around my darkened bedroom plotting how to survive if the Russians were currently lurking in the dark outside my home waiting to blow a hole in me. My favorite plan was to hide in a footlocker that sat at the foot of my bunk bed and served as a toy box. I’d cower in there among the Legos and Barbies, trying my darndest not to breathe too loudly and give my location away.

For the next few years, until the Berlin Wall fell and the USSR disintegrated, I would panic every time an airplane flew low overhead. Doubly so if it actually was a military airplane.

And funny enough, I don’t think that’s weird. Well, too weird.

About 25 years have passed since that first nightmare, so I thought that enough time had passed for me to realize how ridiculous the whole situation was. When the trailer for the remake popped up last week, I thought I could give it a watch and laugh at the absurdity of the plot – I mean seriously, North Koreans with a super weapon that shuts off our electronics? Actually, wait. That would really suck. I bet they wouldn’t like me too much, what with my love of South Korea, especially Lee Byung Hun. Crap, I’m doomed.

But I digress.

I pulled up the trailer, expecting that I would have no issues with the film. I mean, seriously, it stars Thor, Peeta and Josh from “Drake & Josh.” It’s gotta be a great big ball o’ cheese, right?

No.

I couldn’t even watch the whole trailer.

Once it got to the shot of parachutes falling from the sky, my flashbacks ramped right up, and I had to shut off the video and leave my office.

In other words, I’m still Queen of the Megaweenies.

When they start running the trailer on TV this fall, I’m going to be so screwed. Nightmares every night, I tell you. And what can I do about it? Nothing short of moving to my own island and starting Mindayland.

Maybe Captain America will come save me.

Bad Moon Rising

Every small town has a cast of characters so unique they become infamous. The small Missouri town I grew up in is no exception. We had the guy who drove a hot pink hearse. We had a religious cult. And of course, like every small town, we had our very own Elvis.

Elvis wasn’t the young, handsome man calling others hound dogs. Nor was he an overweight drug addict squeezed into a rhinestone jumpsuit. Our Elvis sported a pompadour with his patented lip curl, and he was more likely to be wearing jeans and boots than leather or blue suede shoes.

I had never seen Elvis in person. I only heard tales of him and his Priscilla – a chubby, older blonde whose hair was straight out of Hairspray. Priscilla jumped out of the ’50s or at least Grease with her satiny Pink Ladies jacket that she paired with jeans. Like her elusive husband, she was only someone I had heard gossip about from my parents or at the cafeteria lunch table at school.

At the time, I didn’t care much for Elvis Presley. I knew who he was, especially as a girl I knew had a mom whose house was a shrine to the singer. You couldn’t move anywhere without some Elvis picture, doll or tchotchke in your immediate line of sight. The obsession is exactly why I didn’t care much for the man. Instead, my heart was all aflutter for New Kids on the Block. What can I say? It was 1989, and I was a wee 10-year-old lass.

Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, my family would order from Pizza Hut every Friday night. It was a ritual my siblings and I looked forward to every week. Such was our love of supreme pizzas.

When Friday rolled around, Dad would call in the order, and after the prescribed amount of time, we’d jump into the car, drive downtown and pick up our dinner. I loved this ritual, because I usually was allowed to run in, pay for and pick up dinner. And the night of The Incident was no exception.

When we arrived, I raced into Pizza Hut and paid for dinner. The food wasn’t quite ready, so I sat on the bench by the take-out window to wait. I won’t lie, I was bored and fidgeting as though I had drank a case of Coke. My dad had given me exact change, so I didn’t even have a quarter to play Super Mario Bros. Resigned, I sat there and looked around at everything and nothing all at once.

And then Elvis walked in the door.

In the early dusk of late fall, spotlighted by the headlights of cars driving past, Elvis seemed to glow. Maybe ghosts got hungry too, I thought, not even trying to hide my gawking. But as the man stepped up to the take-out window, I realized he was flesh and bone. A lot of flesh. Way too much flesh.

I’m shuddering as I type this.

The staff didn’t immediately step up to help, so Mr. Presley decided to make good use of his time by relaxing his boot. Clearly, Mr. Presley’s mom never taught him to bend at the knees. So, like a drunken woman with a tramp stamp, he leaned over, giving me an eyeful of tighty whities and plumber’s crack.

I’ll understand if you have to stop reading so you can go vomit. 

Better? Okay, I’ll wrap this up.

Before Elvis finished tying his boot, I heard a teen shout, “Kinnaman!”

Looking away from the mentally scarring butt of the King of Rock, I saw my pizzas being held out to me. Unfortunately, in order to access them, I had to stand next to Nightmare on Crack Street. I took a deep breath to steel my nerves and ran for my pizzas. Yanking them out of the teen’s hands, I ran to the car. My dad turned to me once I jumped in the passenger seat. “Did you see Elvis?”

“Oh yeah.”

Ugh.