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Why I decided to share my anxiety disorder
Anyone who knows me knows that, when it comes to my panic and anxiety disorder, I'm not shy about talking about it. But it hasn't always been that way.

I've spent most of my life hiding this fact about myself. Then, one day, I realized -- what's the point? I've always wanted to help eliminate the stigma of mental illness...yet I was too ashamed to tell my own story. How could I help others accept their mental illness when I couldn't accept my own?

The reason I hid my disorder for so long is because I felt guilty about it. I had a good and comfortable life with parents who loved me and a group of close friends. I knew kids who actually had hard lives, so why was I feeling this way?

But that's the thing I've learned about mental illness. It's not logical. For me, mental illness means feeling all the physical symptoms of being sad or anxious without having a reason behind it. And, sometimes, that can be even scarier than actually having a socially acceptable reason to feel that way. 

I decided to share my experiences with anxiety to show others that mental illness can happen to anyone, no matter what your life may be like. It's a disease you can't control and, for me, beating myself up for feeling that way only fed my anxiety. So I stopped beating myself up and decided to, instead, accept it as being a part of my life.

Like I wish I would've been told when I was younger and first coming to terms with my disorder, I'm telling you: If you're battling with any kind of mental illness, it's not your fault. And, like any other disease, there is treatment available to help you get through it. There's a huge community of people to talk to who are going through the same thing. Like me. You are not alone. 
What's the difference between unhappiness and depression?
I think many times unhappiness and depression get confused for one another, although they can be very similar and have comparable symptoms. I think this misunderstanding is one reason for the stigma against mental illness. Some people are confused and think the person is sad...not depressed.

The main difference is that unhappiness is not an illness and it is usually tied to the circumstances in your life, such as the end of a relationship, not getting the job you wanted, being stressed out, etc. It is more temporary while depression is chronic. You bounce back from unhappiness, while depression affects your life in every aspect, from your sleep to your eating habits to your own feelings of worth and even your desire to live.

"Sadness is often connected to a life change, something negative, but depression can rear its ugly head whenever it wants," writes author Natalie Jeanne Champagne on Healthy Place.

According to WebMD, "Major depression is a medical condition that goes beyond life’s ordinary ups and downs. ... People with depression cannot simply 'pull themselves together' and get better. Treatment with counseling, medication, or both is key to recovery."

Depression can be caused by genetic predisposition or environmental factors such as trauma or major psychological stress. If you experience some or all of these symptoms for at least two weeks all day, nearly every day, you are not just sad. You are depressed and should seek treatment.
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Social isolation
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Loss of appetite or eating too much
  • Inability to sleep or excessive sleeping
  • Feeling worthless
  • Low energy levels
  • Irritability and difficulty concentrating
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
For resources, call the national Crisis Call Center at 800-273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863. Michigan residents, call or text the nonprofit Common Ground at 800-231-1127.
What's My Name

I've been married to The Handsome One for over twenty years. 

When we married, I kept my name.  This was not due to some notion of modern womanhood or  feminist whatnot.  I'd had the same name for 33 years, that name was who I was.  The name thing was non issue to THO.  Had children occurred, I would have changed the name.  Well.  Children did not occur. 
It is a little embarrassing to admit that a big reason I didn't change my name is that it was inconvenient.  You might say I kept my name out of laziness.  All this wouldn't matter now, if it were not that I seemed to have changed.
My identity is now very much THO's wife.  So.  Should I change my name 21 years after the wedding? 
There's something else.  The Handsome One's mother's name was Lynn too.  I never met my mother-in-law, she passed away before I met her son.  It felt wrong that our names be the same- like it was somehow disrespectful, audacious.  Now, I wonder if it would be in honor of her son, that fine man who is my husband, that I share her name.

There's Been a Breach

Sacks of duck feed are kept in the garage, inside a large plastic tub with a secure lid.  All winter long, the duck food has remained clean and dry and easy for the Duck Keeper to access. 

Then came Spring.

That there are mice in the garage is not news.  They've been leaving their droppings on the lid of the duck food container and lots of other places too.  For example, there are mice droppings intermingled with crumbs of soap surrounding a little plastic container holding a bar of soap.  (This soap is in the garage now.  In season, the soap sits beside a rain barrel so the Duck Keeper can wash her hands without having to go inside the house.)

The soap crumbs tell us that mice can get through plastic.  Still, they had not breached the tub holding the duck food.   That changed.  Perhaps energized by the Spring Equinox, they ramped up their efforts.

One day a hole was present in the side of the container.  Employing low tech ingenuity, the Duck Keeper stuffed a rag in the hole.

The rag held, but a second hole appeared.  The Duck Keeper stuffed an second rag in the second hole.

The Duck Keeper transferred the duck food into a metal container.  Will there be another breach?  Stay tuned.

Pop Culture Frenzy, Round 45

Welcome once again to Pop Culture Frenzy.  Just the other day,  John Kasich reignited an old outrage.  When will politicians learn not to eat pizza in public?

That's not our question. Here's our question.
What is the correct way to eat pizza?

On a plate using a
knife and fork.

Hostmaster:  isn't that a little uppity?
Uppity?  No.
  It's not a sandwich.
Maybe birds don't have a roof
of the mouth to burn.
Hostmaster:  hmmm.
Don't eat pizza.
It's bad for you.
Hostmaster:  Bryan?
It depends.  If you are on horseback and
it's cold pizza, use your hands.
If you are sitting at a table and
it is a hot deep dish pizza, use silverware.
Hostmaster:  Molly?
Just eat it.  
Hostmaster:  correct. 
For those wondering what John Kasich did with his pizza the other day, he used a fork for the first bite due to what he described as, "scalding hotness".  After that, he picked up the slice and bit off mouthfuls.

So ends another round of Pop Culture Frenzy.  Let's go for pizza.  Cyndi's buying!

Round 45
Fluffy/Molly  21
Bryan/Cyndi  18


A Little Tail before Breakfast

The local rabbits seem to agree with Erma Bombeck, who said that the grass is always greener over the septic tank.  Even though there is lots and lots of grass outside of the fenced in area, rabbits regularly enter the yard.  There have been numerous rabbit sightings, smellings, and compelling scat evidence.  Then there was the rousing encounter of a few days ago.

It was a morning like any other, the dogs go outside in shifts to do their business.  Lois and Henry are first- the benefits of seniority.  Suddenly, things came to a head, or rather, tail.  The sound of a rabbit screaming is loud and full of anguish. 

That was the sound that brought me outside in the still dark.  This is what I saw.

Well.  The rabbit stopped screaming.  He was wedged in that fence very tightly.  Fortunately, after slowly pushing one hip than the other bit by bit, through the chain link, the rabbit was unstuck.  Once free of the fence the rabbit turned tail (what was left of it) and ran quite fast away from his morning  nightmare.  

Henry trotted around the yard carrying the trophy tail.  I took it from him and flung it over the fence.  The rabbit has not returned to claim it, as yet.
Birds in Heaven

Winter has winded down and birds are whopping it up.  Robins gather, preparing to pair off.

Beyond the Robin filled tree, the raucous cry of Red-winged Black Birds mingles with the dour cry of Mourning doves.

A pair of swans flying no more than thirty feet overhead, their long necks stretched toward their destination, are silent, but for the whooshing of huge flapping wings.

Certain male ducks are quarrelling, jockeying to be Top Drake.

Mabel was a bird watcher- from the inside Finches to the outside Sparrows.  Last April when we brought baby ducks into the basement, Mabel was so fascinated, that in spite of the discomfort of stiff joints, she repeatedly charged down the stairs to visit the bird youngsters.

Sadly, Mabel didn't get to see the ducks grow up.

Mabel has been on my mind a lot lately.  She has been gone for not quite a year.  I thought I'd used up all my tears.  Not so.

There is, at least, some comfort in the certain hope that there are many many birds in Heaven with Mabel right now.
Henry's Honor
Some dogs are stoic when they don't feel well.  They valiantly soldier on.  Some dogs whine when they hurt, look at you all sad eyed, seeking comfort.  Some dogs respond to discomfort by caterwauling as though they are being tortured.  Henry is of this last type.

Henry suffers from a common toy dog problem.  Luxating patella.  On a veterianaran website providing information about the condition there is a picture of a Pomeranian.  How about that for a coinkydink! 

A luxating patella occurs when the connecting tissue that holds the knee cap to the leg is not tightly attached.  The knee cap tends to get off track.  Usually it pops back into place but all this moving around invites inflammation which, of course, aggravates matters.  In short, what Henry has is an unstable knee system.

While the knees of big dogs do sometimes dislocate, the problem is far more prevalent in tiny companion animals, like Henry.  It seems dogs that are not toys are less likely to be weak in the knees.

(image)Real dogs have real knees!

Alas, Henry's feeble knee tendency has been evident since puppyhood. 

It didn't seem to bother him too much though. He would occasionally yelp as he scurried around but barely broke stride.  Reasonably enough, Henry was reacting to his knee cap moving out of place than back in again, surely an unpleasant sensation.  Henry's macho playing through the pain didn't last though.

In time,  Henry's emoting over his booboo knees increased.  Before long Henry achieved drama queen status.  Indeed, the agony evidently became so unendurable that Henry actually asked to be carried.  (Henry's other condition is Small Dog Syndrome. Among the symptoms of this condition are being cute and barking for no reason.  There is also a dash of the Napoleonic.  Henry displays this trait in not wanting to be carried.  The Little Corporal prefers to strut unaided, you see.)  Thus, Henry asking to be carried, made it clear he was truly having issues with his hind legs.  Well, that and the hysterical screaming.

A combination of bad luck, less than ideal genetics, having been bred down from a normal sized dog to a little bitty toy creature, and who knows what else, have taken a toil on Henry's knees.  Other factors, such as all that running down the hall like a demented chipmonk, leaping about like an insane kangaroo, and surely most damaging of all, the pirouettes, have turned Henry's less than stellar knees into infirm knees.

Still, it's not all gloom and neurosis.  There's a little strain of honor in this little dog.  Obviously, if your knee hurts, it hurts even more when you use it.  When it's time to go potty, Henry has to go all the way outside walking on his sore knee, then stand on his sore knee to tinkle.  He could just do it on the porch right outside the back door (as he does when the snow is deep).   But no.  Stalwart Henry steps down off the porch and onto the grass to do his business.

For now, Henry's knee is day to day, as they say about injured baseball players not yet on the disabled list.  Will Henry's knee trouble flare up again?  Probably.  Such a tough row to hoe.  After all, Henry doesn't always handle unpleasent well.  He cries when he gets his hair brushed.

Actor Robert Downey Jr. teaches that it's never too late to change your life
"Remember that just because you hit rock bottom doesn't mean you have to stay there," actor Robert Downey Jr. says.

Before donning the red Iron Man suit, Downey had hit rock bottom. He famously battled addiction — since the age of 8. He was arrested in June 1996 after, upon searching his car, police found heroin, cocaine and an unloaded .357 Magnum. In 2001, he was again arrested after wandering around in a barefoot daze through Culver City, Calif. and, afterward, checked himself into rehab.

Downey, now sober since 2003 and more successful than ever, said of his turning point, "‘You know what? I don’t think I can continue doing this.’ And I reached out for help, and I ran with it."

"It’s not that difficult to overcome these seemingly ghastly problems. What’s hard is to decide to do it. ... Job one is get out of that cave. A lot of people do get out but don’t change. So the thing is to get out and recognize the significance of that aggressive denial.”

He credits therapy, meditation, 12-step recovery programs, yoga, the practice of Wing Chun kung fu and, especially, his wife Susan for helping him overcome his drug and alcohol habits.

Since his recovery, Downey got married in 2005 (and, yes, they're still together), had two kids and starred in more than 20 movies. Not only that but, because of his success and because he overcame his demons, he has been able to make others' lives better as well. Most recently, on Monday, Downey and "Civil War" co-star Chris Evans visited a teen fan, who is battling leukemia, at his home.

Downey's life teaches that, no matter how bad things may seem right now or how many mistakes you have made, it's never too late to pull yourself out and turn your life around.

"The lesson is that you can still make mistakes and be forgiven," Downey said.

If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, visit for a by-state list of resources.

Pop Culture Frenzy, Round 46

Welcome once again to Pop Culture Frenzy.  In honor of National Reentry Week, the Department of Justice created a new policy aimed at avoiding the words "felon" and "convict" when referring to felons and convicts.  Use of such harsh, accurate words are "disparaging", might hurt convicts' feelings and put a damper on felonial success.

What should we call them now?


Hostmaster:  incorrect.
Credit Risks?
Hostmaster:  incorrect.
Jail Birds?

Hostmaster:  incorrect.

Hostmaster:  the DOJ just might approve of that one.

Hostmaster:  incorrect.  Are you even trying?

Not really.  I can't
seem to get worked up over
hurting a hoodlum's feelings.
Hostmaster:  good thing you don't work for the government.
 My tendency is to call a
law breaker a law breaker.
Hostmaster:  Fluffy?
How about peccant?

Hostmaster:  that's pretty.  It's still offensive.
I'm confused.
If calling them what they are
is wrong, why call
 them anything?
Hostmaster:  don't forget, this is government.  Groups of people must be labeled.  Some of these groups need special handling. 

Minds more nuanced than ours have come up with a couple of suggestions to replace the unacceptable "convict" and "felon".  These are they.  "A person who committed a crime" and "an individual who was incarcerated."


They can do better than that!
That's still belittling people
who are reintegrating into
society after serving
 their sentence.

Sometimes the truth be little.
So ends this Round.  Nobody wins.
Round 46
Fluffy/Molly  21
Bryan/Cyndi   18

'Guns for Hands' is dedicated to those who have contemplated suicide
For anyone who may have contemplated suicide, the band Twenty One Pilots wrote the song Guns for Hands for you.

Many of the Columbus-based band's songs take on the subject of mental illness, insecurities and suicidal thoughts. With the song Guns for Hands, lead vocalist Tyler Joseph said he was influenced by fans at a particular concert.

"Kids came up to me and felt like they needed to share what it was they were going through and a lot of what they were going through had to do with suicide," the 27-year-old said.

Joseph said the fans told him that they used music and songs to overcome their suicidal thoughts.

"This song is very inspired by them and those people that struggle with that," he said. "This song is about taking that negative energy and aiming it at something else, not aiming it at yourself, really giving these kids the power to know that they do have control over their circumstances."

In the song, Joseph sings that, even though you may have a gun and even though you may have plans to end your life, please do not do it.

He sings, "But there's hope out the window, so that's where we'll go, Let's go outside and all join hands, but until then you'll never understand."

Drummer Josh Dun said in an interview with Reddit AMA, "I feel a heavy responsibility to continue not only creating or playing music, but also working on my own life, and trying to be a person that's worthy of somebody looking up to."

The difference before and after a panic attack
(image)What I look like before and after a panic attackI was inspired by a woman in England to share a picture of what I look like before and after a panic attack.

Earlier this month, Amber Smith, 22, of Rugby, Warwickshire bravely shared a picture on Facebook of what she looks like following a panic attack. Before the panic attack, she looks like a model with pouty lips, perfect hair and clear skin. In the second picture, her teary eyes are brimmed red, her hair is a mess and she looks frightened as she covers her mouth with one hand. This picture perfectly shows how a panic attack not only affects a person mentally but also physically.

As someone who also suffers from panic attacks, I can completely relate. Seeing her picture after her panic attack, I could feel exactly what she was feeling. I have been there. My panic attacks can last anywhere from a few minutes to a couple hours. I feel tight in my chest, short of breath, light headed, queasy and I can't stop crying. And no matter how much I try to "Think positive," the panic attack only ends when it's ready. It's a force outside of myself that I can't control.

The Facebook photo of Amber has been shared more than 30,000 times. In the post, she writes:

(image)What Amber looks like before and after a panic attack"I'm so sick of the fact that it's 2016 and there is still so much stigma around mental health. It disgusts me that so many people are so uneducated and judgmental over the topic. ... I've been battling with anxiety and depression for years and years and there's still people that make comments like 'you'll get over it', 'you don't need tablets, just be happier,' 'you're too young to suffer with that."

She writes, "I can't stress enough that it costs nothing to be nice to others. Don't bully others, don't put others down and the hardest one of them all (as we have all done it at some point) don't judge another person. We're all human regardless of age, race, religion, wealth, job. So build one another up instead of breaking each other down."

I want to personally thank you, Amber, for reminding me and countless others that we are not alone. Which is why, in support of Amber bravely standing up to try and de-stigmatize mental illness, I have decided to share my own picture as well.

Pop Culture Frenzy, Round 45

Welcome once again to Pop Culture Frenzy.  Just the other day,  John Kasich reignited an old outrage.  When will politicians learn not to eat pizza in public?

That's not our question. Here's our question.
What is the correct way to eat pizza?

On a plate using a
knife and fork.

Hostmaster:  isn't that a little uppity?
Uppity?  No.
  It's not a sandwich.
Maybe birds don't have a roof
of the mouth to burn.
Hostmaster:  hmmm.
Don't eat pizza.
It's bad for you.
Hostmaster:  Bryan?
It depends.  If you are on horseback and
it's cold pizza, use your hands.
If you are sitting at a table and
it is a hot deep dish pizza, use silverware.
Hostmaster:  Molly?
Just eat it.  
Hostmaster:  correct. 
For those wondering what John Kasich did with his pizza the other day, he used a fork for the first bite due to what he described as, "scalding hotness".  After that, he picked up the slice and bit off mouthfuls.

So ends another round of Pop Culture Frenzy.  Let's go for pizza.  Cyndi's buying!

Round 45
Fluffy/Molly  21
Bryan/Cyndi  18


Middle schooler reportedly loses life to suicide after being bullied
(image)A middle schooler in the community reportedly lost his life to suicide yesterday.

I'm not going to give any details of his identity.  I am currently trying to get a hold of his mother to get her permission to share his story. But according to parents of children at the school, this boy was regularly bullied.

Bully victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University. Research shows that being bullied by peers in childhood has long-term adverse effects on young adults' mental health (Lereya, Copeland, Costello, & Wolke, 2015).

Nearly 1 in 3 students report being bullied, and it breaks my heart that more is not done about this. If a student was abused at home, authorities would be called. Yet, everyday, kids are being physically and mentally abused within the school walls. And this has been going on for decades.

One of my friends told me that she was once punched by another student and, when the principal heard about it, the other girl didn't get in trouble. Instead my friend was told, "You must have done something to provoke her."

So what can you do about this?

1. Parents, tell your kids that bullying is unacceptable.
It starts at home. Teach your kids how to treat others with respect and kindness. Tell them there will be serious consequences if you ever find out that he or she is bullying.

2. Talk to your kids about sticking up for someone who is being bullied.
When bystanders intervene, bullying stops with 10 seconds 57 percent of the time, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Check out this article on Today's Parent for practical tools to teach your children on how to stand up to a bully.

3. Ask the school if there are any bully prevention programs and, if not, how to start one.
Oxford and Lake Orion High Schools formed Bully Busters six years ago where, every other week, one high school "bully buster" is assigned to each middle school classroom to teach his or her own lesson about bullying prevention. See if there are programs like this at your child's school and, if not, what can be done to start one.  Check out tips on how to start an anti-bullying program.

Bullying is an epidemic. I encourage everyone to do whatever they can to stop it. Do it in memory of this middle schooler, who lost his life because of bullying. Do it to try and save others from this same fate.
How technology is both a blessing and a curse for those with mental illness
Millennials grew up in a world where every person they know is at their fingertips. We carry our whole universe in our back pocket or in our purse every second of every day.

I didn't have a cell phone until I was 17. Those days, I would have my panic attacks in silence. I would lay in my bedroom by myself until the panic attack passed and then walk back out into the dining room and pretend nothing happened.

Technology and the constant connection to those around us can be a blessing. But, in my opinion, it is also very much a curse.

It's a blessing because, if you're suffering from mental illness or considering self harm, you are never truly alone. There are so many 24/7 resources that are just a phone call or a text message away. I'm sure technology has saved many people's lives.

But it can also be a curse for the very same reason -- because you are never truly alone.

A friend of mine recently read a text message conversation I had with someone while I was having a panic attack.

"Monica! Were you drunk when you sent this?" she asked me.

"Nope," I responded. "I was having a panic attack."

When I'm having a panic attack, I'm not myself. I'm self deprecating, agitated, offended by everything, desperate and convinced that everyone secretly can't stand me. Yeah, I know that's not true and, once I snap out of the panic attack, I feel ridiculous for even thinking that way. But in the midst of it, it feels so real.

Sometimes, when suffering from a mental illness (as long as you're not considering suicide or harming yourself), you just need some alone time. Maybe to meditate, to pray, write in a journal or just breathe in and out while staring at the ceiling.

These used to be my coping mechanisms. Now, I spend that time staring at my phone. Which, as I compare myself to people on Facebook or wait for a text message response back, more often than not, it only makes me more anxious.

And, you're bound to get some text from me (that I would never send if I was in my right mind), "I hate myself. Why do you like me? Send me a happy thought. Am I special? Am I making you mad? Sorry that I'm bugging you." And, as I wait for a response, my panic only heightens. I know that, because of this, I have pushed some people in my life away. (Thank you to those who have supported me and been there for me during times like these, by the way.)

According to the University of New Hampshire, technology can have negative affects on your emotional health. It can cause you to overthink, excessively worry, misread a person's feelings or take something out of context.

There are also many cowards out there who are more likely to harass people on social media. There have been several instances in the news where, instead of preventing suicide, technology has, instead, led to it.

"Technology was created to make our lives simple, not stressful!" writes Kelley Simpson, healthy UNH blogger. "Removing negative stress from your life is a major part of mental health.  It is important to recognize your reliance on technological devices to make sure that it is only leading to positive outcomes on your health."

Here are some tips to balance your technology use:

  • Just turn off your phone.
  • Don't check your phone before bed or first thing in the morning. Keep your phone out of reach or in another room if need be.
  • Choose off-screen activities instead of on-screen activities, like going outside for some fresh air, exercising, etc. while leaving your technology inside.
  • Practice mindfulness — being fully present when you're around others, instead of looking at your phone. Think of how many moments we miss everyday because we're so busy staring at a screen. 
Here are some positive uses for technology in 2016 when it comes to mental illness, according to Forbes:
  • Pacifica: A self-help app for those suffering from anxiety
  • Pala-linq: Provides support to those suffering from addiction
  • Spire: Wearable technology that can detect your mood
  • Fisher Wallace Stimulator: An FDA-approved neurostimulation device to help treat depression, anxiety and insomnia
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, text "GO" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.
Stop chasing after people who don't care about you
There's a concept throughout my (almost) 28 years of life that's been one of the hardest for me to grasp — that, even if I don't do anything wrong, some people just won't like me. Or some people may pretend to like me when, in reality, they really don't (which is, honestly, probably even worse).

Last week, I blogged about actress Kristen Bell, who said, "I shatter a little bit when I think people don't like me. ... It really hurts my feelings when I'm not liked."

That's exactly how I feel when people walk out of my life, don't respond to my text messages, talk bad about me behind my back (or to my face), use me for their own gain, or consistently cancel plans with me. But one thing I need to remind myself and should probably tattoo on my hand so I never forget -- STOP CHASING THESE PEOPLE!

There is an important lesson I've learned (although I don't listen to it much) — people make time in their lives for the things they care about. If someone isn't making time for you, NEWS FLASH, they don't care. But, through most of my life, instead of listening to the signs that someone doesn't like or care about me, I do the opposite of what you're supposed to do. I try even harder to get that person to like me.

Every one of you has probably, at one point or another, met someone who you cared about who didn't care much about you. And it may make you think that there's something wrong with you. I just want you to know that this is not true. The truth is, in this life, you will not make everyone happy. It just isn't possible. Not everyone will like you, and you will not be everyone's friends. And that does not mean that you are doing anything wrong.

So, everyone, raise your right hand and make this vow with me:

 "I, (insert name here), will stop making time for people who don't make time for me. I will have enough self respect to stop chasing after people who don't care about me. If someone does not respond to my texts or phone calls, I will not try to contact him or her again until he or she contacts me first. If someone is always too busy for me, I will stop trying to make plans. I will realize that, if someone makes me feel bad about myself, then he or she doesn't deserve to be in my life. And  I will stop wasting my energy trying to make someone like me or change myself so others will accept me. Instead, I will appreciate those who already accept me just as I am."
Remember: Everyone makes mistakes
Last week, I dropped my phone into the bathtub. It was as if it happened in slow motion as I watched it become submerged under the hot water.

I put it in rice for 24 hours, hoping to salvage it. But no such luck. There went $300 down the drain.

I told my friend about what happened. Her response: "You were dumb. Really dumb."

Do you think I didn't already think that?

As someone with anxiety, I criticize myself more than anyone could ever criticize me. When I make a mistake, I beat myself up for days, calling myself stupid and a failure.

It's been like that ever since I can remember. When I was a kid and I would do something wrong, I punished myself more than my parents could even punish me.

The thing is, throughout our lives we will all make mistakes, some serious, some not so serious. And we will think back on how easy it would have been to prevent it. But what's the point in stressing out about it when you can't go back and change it?

When I went to the Sprint store to activate my new phone, I kept telling the employee how stupid I was. And she flat out told me, "Stop it! You're not stupid! It happens to everyone." And these words from this stranger helped me snap out of it.

Just because you've made mistakes in your life (and who hasn't), it doesn't make you stupid. Yeah, it may set your life off course, but it doesn't define who you are.

So, next time you make a mistake, here are some things to help you feel better:

1. Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself. Joking with other people about my mistakes always makes me feel better. I've found that, when you take yourself less seriously and admit to your own mistakes, others will be less likely to criticize you and more likely to admit, "Yeah, I've done that too."

2. Find the lesson in your mistake. Think, "Well, I won't do that again."

3. Don't waste your time worrying about things you can't change. You can't go back in time. Remind yourself that it will be okay and that this is not the end of the world.

4. If possible, think of a solution. You drunkenly tattooed your boyfriend's name on your arm? Instead of dwelling on it, go look up tattoo removal centers. You got in trouble by your boss because you slept through your alarm? Tell him or her it won't happen again and start setting multiple alarms.

5. If your mistake hurts someone else, suck it up and say you're sorry. You will feel better afterward.

6. Know you're not alone. Someone somewhere has made the same mistake you have.

And, as legendary coach John Wooden said, "If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything."
They're Back and So is My Cussing Habit

For the past several years, I have made a sincere effort to reduce my swearing.  It has gone fairly well- most of the time.  Then there are times when the effects of outside forces negatively effect my peace of mind.  After that, an explosion of bad words flow like a waterfall down a sheer cliff.

The latest cussed avalanche began when after a short time strolling around the grounds, Lois sported over a dozen hanger-ons.  My initial response was to yell, "I will kill you!"  Then collecting the tools to do the job, I continued, "I will **** kill you!"

Henry too, was tick ridden.  Tweezers poised, I exclaimed, "you ***** tick bastards!  You will die a **** horrible death!"
After removal from their unwilling hosts, the ticks were dropped into a deadly alcohol bath.  "Die!  Die!  Die!  You evil ****  ****!"

Later, as the Tick Killer was showering, the swearing increased considerably.   "How dare you!  You ****!" 

Two ticks were upon my body.  Gripping them between my thumb and finger, I stepped out of the shower, dripping all over the floor.  Seizing a pair of cuticle scissors, I cut each tick in half and then in half again.

"Take that, you **** parasitical ****!"

The bathroom nightmare wasn't over, though.  Soon, a horrible discovery.  There was a tick nestled between my toes.   "Ahhrrgggh!  ****!  You are not welcome here, ***** !"  

This tick too, was cut in half and in half again.  "I will kill you all!  You, and all your **** brethren!  **** ***** *****!!"

Lois, the voice of reason, suggests that the ducks be called upon to dispatch the ticks at ground level.

If needed, wild reinforcements are also at the ready.

OK, birds.  Get out there and kill, kill, **** kill.
Join chat on Detroit Lions at 2 p.m. on Thursday
Join my weekly chat on the Detroit Lion at the special time of 2 p.m. on Thursday.

With just three weeks left until the NFL draft, there is plenty to discuss when it comes to the Detroit Lions. Also, free agency is still in full gear. New general manager Bob Quinn signed three more free agents this week.

Have any concerns, gripes questions or ideas for the draft? Join in. It's always interesting. — Paula Pasche

Can you tell me a happy thought?
I just started reading the book "Me Before You" by Jojo Moyes this weekend. I'm eight chapters in and there is one part in particular that really hit me hard (so far):

"‘Tell me something good.’
I hesitated a moment, then I leant back against the pillows beside him. We sat there in the near dark, watching the briefly illuminated flakes of snow disappear into the black night.
'You know, I used to say that to my Dad,’ I said, finally."

This scene reminded me a lot of when I was young.

When I was little, I would get panic attacks at night and night terrors. I would say to my parents, before I went to bed, "I need a happy thought."

My parents would sing "You Are My Sunshine." Instead of the line "You make me happy when skies are grey," we would yell out other colors, like "You make me  happy when skies are pink" or "You make me happy when skies are orange." And it, almost always, helped me not go to bed anxious or upset.

I was once dating a guy and I would ask, "Can you send me a happy thought?" before bed, just like I had with my parents. He would get angry at me, telling me I needed to make myself happy (as you can tell, that relationship didn't last).

Don't let anyone ever make you feel like how you cope with your anxiety, depression or other mental illness is wrong (as long as it's not excessive drinking or something illegal, I mean).

I have a couple friends who told me they would never mind sending me a "happy thought" whenever I needed it. And my mom will still text me at night, even though I moved out, with happy quotes, sayings and even memes.

I have learned that people with anxiety or depression need to find positive people to surround themselves with, so that's exactly what I'm trying to do. And one "happy thought" I tell myself: "This feeling will not last forever."

What's something that you do to help yourself cope during moments of anxiety or depression?
SPOILERS: Why 'Me Before You' doesn't have a hidden agenda

The movie "Me Before You," based on the novel by author JoJo Moyes, may seem like just a simple love story at first glance. But there is a lot of controversy surrounding the film by people accusing it of glorifying assisted suicide.

As someone who has spent a lot of time raising anti-suicide awareness, I figured I should put in my two-cents about this movie's ending. And the truth is, I don't think it romanticizes assisted suicide at all or dehumanizes those with disabilities.

In the movie/book "Me Before You," the main character, Will Traynor, becomes a quadriplegic after a motorbike accident. And, despite the other characters telling him he shouldn't do it, he ultimately decides to end his life. While I won't pretend like I understand what it's like to have a physical disability, I do know what it's like to feel like suicide is the only way out.

I couldn't even imagine becoming a quadriplegic, and I have no idea what I would do in that situation, but I would like to think that I would persevere and find reasons to live. I believe this movie doesn't have an agenda promoting assisted suicide and never portrays it as right or wrong. It only shows that this is what the character decided to do and how this decision affected his loved ones. If anything, I think the devastation of the characters who cared about Will shows reasons why people with disabilities should choose to live. It shows, like one of my favorite quotes: "Suicide doesn't take away the pain, it gives it to someone else."

This Huffington Post article shares the opposite view. The writer accuses JoJo Moyes of rationalizing that "it is better to be dead than disabled." But, for me, the only critique I needed was by John Alexander Hall, a C-5/6 quadriplegic who commented on this article.

He said, "I get the criticisms, but for me, this book hit so close to home, scary. It was almost dead on for the experiences and feelings I had. Will is also in the first two years of his accident, which are the hardest. I've never seriously thought about suicide, but I know exactly how Will feels and wouldn't blame him at all for the choices he gets to make for himself. I'm just saying while people think this is unrealistic and shines a negative light on people with disabilities, this was one of the most realistic and even uplifting books for me and I'm in a very similar situation. Knowing that I do have a choice, and I chose to make the best of it, where he didn't makes me feel that much better about living it to the fullest. This book helped me understand myself better, and the people around me. You can say it's unrealistic, but for me (and being very similar to Will's situation), it was closer to real life than any other book I've ever read."

While I do not agree with any kind of suicide, this movie shows that, ultimately, assisted suicide does exist and, right or wrong, it was the character's choice. The movie humanizes Will and shows, despite his disability, he did make a huge impact in the lives of others. And, like anyone who loses his or her life to suicide, this did not make Will a bad person.

The only qualm I have is I wish Will would have gone to a psychiatrist. Plenty of times the character is shown visiting a medical doctor. Yes, his disability was physical, but losing your will to live -- that's mental. And I feel that maybe, just maybe, him seeing a psychiatrist or counselor would have helped him choose to live. I urge anyone who is contemplating suicide or knows someone who is to make sure to get professional help. For Michigan residents, call Common Ground's 24-hour hotline at 248-809-5550 for referrals. Nationally, call 1-800-273-8255.
Actress Kristen Bell has 'no shame' in dealing with anxiety and depression
I have always thought of actress Kristen Bell as my "spirit animal." She grew up in Oakland County, graduated from a Catholic high school and seems like a genuinely kind person who puts others' needs before her own.

Today I learned that I have something else in common with Bell. She also suffers from anxiety, and, in an interview with The Off Camera Show, she came forward to talk about this. Hearing her talk about her struggles, it was as if she was inside my head.

"I struggled a lot with anxiety and depression. ... I have no shame in that," she told host Sam Jones. "I genuinely feel like I'm going to cry over everything and that I'm going to explode."

Bell, who describes herself as "emphatic to a fault," said that one of the things she gets most anxious about is rejection (I completely know how you feel, Kristen).

"I shatter a little bit when I think people don't like me. That's part of why I lead with kindness and compensate by being very bubbly all the time. It really hurts my feelings when I'm not liked," she said.

(image)Bell told Jones during the interview that she has taken medication since her late teens.

"In the medical community, you would never deny a diabetic his insulin ever.  But, for some reason, when someone needs a serotonin inhibitor, they're immediately 'crazy.' It's a very interesting double standard," she said.

If possible, Kristen Bell's bravery in talking about her struggles with depression and anxiety made me like her even more. She shows that, even with people who seem happy all the time, you never know what they are dealing with underneath the surface. It's people like Bell who, little by little, help to shatter the stigma surrounding mental illness.

How the band O-town helped me get through my depression
Music is one of the most powerful of all man-made creations. It has the power to bring people together, to single-handedly change a person's mood, to inspire and make people feel less alone.

I think this quote in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky describes music best, "Many people got through a lot of bad times because of those songs. And how many people enjoyed good times with those songs. ... I hope the people who wrote those songs are happy. I hope they feel it's enough. I really do because they've made me happy. And I'm only one person.”

You may say it was the Beatles or the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin or Michael Jackson that, as a kid, first inspired you.

But as a girl growing up in the 90's during the boy band era, O-town was the first band to really inspire me. Theirs was the first concert I went to (although, at 11 years old, I was pretty shocked to find out what "Liquid Dreams" really meant). They were the first band I ever met and the first autographs I ever received.

This past weekend, for one night, I got to relive this feeling, and it felt like I was a preteen all over again (except, this time, I got to drink specialty cocktails). The four remaining members of O-town (Jacob Underwood, Erik-Michael Estrada, Trevor Penick, and Dan Miller) performed at The Crofoot in Pontiac, Mich. on Saturday night and hundreds of women (and some men) in their late 20s and early 30s gathered to relive their teenybopper years. I can't even tell you the last time I had been so excited for something.

The reason this band has been such a huge part of my life is because they helped me through the toughest years of my life thus far — middle school.

In middle school, I was the first girl in my class to get a pimple, right at the tip of my nose which ensued in me being called "Rudolph," and the last in my class to develop boobs. I was shy and awkward with both glasses AND braces (oh how the start of puberty failed me). I didn't trust people and I hated myself. I felt ugly all the time, and I didn't want to participate in any after school activities because of how low my self-esteem was. When I got out of school, all I wanted was to go home and be alone.

And then I listened to the song "Shy Girl" on O-town's first album. I listened to the words, "You might think you're nothing special. You might be losing hope. But baby don't you realize how beautiful you really are." When I listened to that song on repeat, I felt less alone or like something was wrong with me.

I got over my phone anxiety because of them — calling the local radio station on, at least, a weekly basis to play "All or Nothing." And it was their songs "From the Damage" and "These are the Days" from their sophomore album O2 that helped me cope with  my first heartbreak.

If you don't know who O-town is, here is a little background: O-town was formed during the first season of ABCs "Making the Band" in 1999. I loved that it was a group of regular guys who made up the band and that the members were diverse. I loved that there was no frontman (like *cough*cough* other boy bands during the time) and that they all got their turn at solos.

I was front row at the band's first ever live TV performance in 2000 on "Regis and Kathie Lee." The following year, at age 12, I went to my first ever concert — O-town at the Tulip Festival in Holland, Mich. And, guess what? The hotel we were staying at — O-town just happened to be staying there too!

Even though I wasn't wearing any make-up and even though I wasn't one of the girls with cleavage and a low cut tank top, the guys of O-town paid attention to me. They talked to me, they let me take several pictures with them, and they signed multiple pictures for me. And, for that moment, I forgot to be depressed. I forgot to be self conscious. For the first time, I actually felt "cool." I made friends with several fans, and I felt like I belonged.

I hope that these guys can know how they and their music changed my life for the better.

Let me know in the comments: What was the musician(s) that inspired you most? Who do you listen to when you feel depressed?

Good Friday
Let's do Philippians 2:8-11.                     Go.
 I'll start.

And being found in human form he
 humbled himself and became obedient
 unto death, even death on a cross.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed
 on him the name which is above every name,
 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
 in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 
 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
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