The Grinch Who Stole Pingle Christmas

It has been brought to my attention that I haven’t written a blog post in a while. I would love to say it’s because I’ve been lounging on a beach while husky bronzed man-servants brought me fruity cocktails. Alas, the real reason is sadly bereft of oiled muscles and sexy coconuts.

Last month, whilst wearing a green visor and using an old-fashioned adding machine to balance my checkbook (as everyone does), I discovered a thief had absconded with a large amount of my hard-earned money.

The description I gave police. How they have yet to find this guy, I have no idea.
Description I gave police. How they have yet to find this guy, I have no idea.

Somehow, someone way smarter than me hacked into a bunch of debit card numbers. My card and my husband’s card were included in this nefarious plot to ruin Christmas. I have no idea how this person got both of us. What I know about hackers is what I see in TV and movies, and somehow I don’t think it’s as easy as they make it seem.

"Type in a bunch of code and CONTROL THE WORLD."         "I don't think that's how it works."
“Type in a bunch of code and CONTROL THE WORLD ” “Um… I don’t think that’s how it works.”

What really, really sucked is that it was our debit cards, so it was like, real money. They drained our checking account. So we basically woke up and Christmas was gone. The Grinch snuck into our checking account and cleared out the place. He got the presents! The ribbons! The wrappings! The tags! The tinsel! The trimmings! The trappings! The bags!

Okay, I’ll stop. But first, what are “trappings,” exactly?
Okay, I’ll stop. But first, what are “trappings,” exactly?

I just felt so… violated. Did I bring this on myself with my sexy online purchases? Did we drop our poor, innocent debit card into a shady part of the internet and just walk away? All I know is that our debit card is now curled in a corner of the shower sucking its thumb. That’s on you, hackers. How do you sleep at night?

"Since I bought a cruise with your money, pretty well, actually."
“Since I bought a cruise with your money, pretty well, actually.”

Anyway, I don’t know how it happened, but it happened at the worst time possible. Not that there’s a good time to get money stolen, but right before we go on the biggest shopping spree of the entire year? Kind of bad timing, guys.

Our bank credited back our money eventually but we had to get through the entire month of December with nothing in our account. The week of Christmas we finally got our money back. THE WEEK OF CHRISTMAS. My husband and I were both in our busy time of year at work; we couldn’t take any days off, so he did all the shopping on Christmas Eve while I worked from home. Shopping and wrapping all the presents on Christmas Eve? Not fun. Luckily there was plenty of wine left over from Thanksgiving or I would have been very grinchy indeed.

Christmas Eve, basically.
Christmas Eve, basically.

Needless to say, it was hard to get into the Christmas spirit this season, and no one was happier than me when it was time to kick Santa’s big butt out the door.

For my husband and me, 2015 looks to be filled with paranoia and lots of hiding money behind toilets. Maybe not even our toilets. By the way, don’t look behind your toilet.

DON'T LOOK IN THERE.
DON’T LOOK IN THERE, EITHER.

Nothing to see, folks.

My annoying sidekicks: Depression & Anxiety

The challenge, sometimes, of being a humor writer is that life is rarely hold-your-ribs funny. And sometimes even when things are going okay, your mind goes on the fritz, kind of like a temperamental refrigerator. Except instead of spoiled meat and brown vegetables, you have crying fits and suicidal thoughts.

 

I’ll try to make it funny, I promise. Here’s a picture of a kitten.
I’ll try to make it funny, I promise. Look, kittens!

 

Like, 80% of the time I feel fine. I’m outgoing, folksy, creative, funny and energetic. Maybe with a little dorky and awkward thrown in.

 

Define “a little”…

So it comes as quite an unpleasant surprise when my depression swoops down on me like the anti-Mary Poppins. Instead of a spoonful of sugar I get a headful of crazy. It’s the kind of thing people who have had no history of depression never understand.

I was diagnosed several years ago with depression. I am on medication. A year or so ago my doctor had to up my dosage because my mind started taking me to dark, terrible places that frightened me. I was afraid I would hurt myself. I started having crippling anxiety along with panic attacks.

 

Sorry. Here’s another kitten... in a box!
Sorry. Here’s another kitten… in a box!

 

The comedienne Maria Bamford  talks about her own anxiety and depression issues, which caused her to drop out of the public eye and put her career on hold. She asked the rhetorical question, “Would anyone tell a cancer patient to just “get over it?’” Depression and anxiety are real illnesses, caused by imbalanced neurotransmitters.  That’s right. I know science-y stuff.

 

I have a PhD in Wikipedia Studies.
I have a PhD in Wikipedia Studies.

I can’t control it any more than I could will myself to mend a broken leg. I take meds because I need them to function on a daily basis. Apparently this is very common amongst us “creative types.” Besides the usual artists and writers, great political leaders such as former Prime Minister Winston Churchill openly wrote about his depression, calling it “the black dog.” (Also check out 50 Famous Artists and Thinkers Who Have Struggled With Depression.)

So the thing that makes my brain the special lil’ guy we all know and love is also the thing that causes it turn against me. Living in my head is basically like being chained to a toddler 24/7. You never know what will set it off.

 

Pictured: my brain.
Pictured: my brain.

What is so, so frustrating about this is that it’s still not considered a valid reason to say, call in sick. How do you call in depressed? Literally everyone asks: “What’s wrong?” or “What happened?”

I WAS BORN WITH A CHEMICAL IMBALANCE, THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED. Now can I get back to hiding under my covers until the urge to fling myself out the window goes away? Thanks.

It’s bad enough that I feel “crazy” or “not normal.” The fact that I have to justify how my brain works makes it a million times worse.

 

Literally a million. I’ve done the math.
Literally a million. I’ve done the math.

Because then on top of the anxiety, the depression, the feeling of unworthiness… I feel guilty. And, not only that, but the general opinion (even from friends and family) is that depression is something to be ashamed of. Or, worse, that it’s not “real.” And then I feel alone on top of the top of… it sucks, is what I’m saying. Would I be embarrassed to call in sick because of bronchitis or something… else?

 

"You had your appendix removed? Big woop. Check out what they removed from my colon!"
“Why was I out yesterday? Check out what they removed from my colon!”

So why do I feel the need to make up some phantom illness when I feel this way? So it doesn’t affect my job? So people won’t look at me different? Why should I have to worry about this?

So many questions, it's formed into ONE GIANT QUESTION.
So many questions, it’s formed into ONE GIANT QUESTION.

The answer, of course, is that I shouldn’t. And I’ve decided that I won’t. I’m sick of being unable to talk about it. Also, I’m a really bad liar, you guys. Anytime I’ve had to “make up” an illness, it’s always something totally ridiculous.

 

I have… squishy eyeball disease?
I have… squishy eyeball disease?

I mean, look what hiding from mental illness has done to some truly talented people. We laughed at “train wrecks” like Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston, but it doesn’t seem so funny now, does it? Sorry, that went to a dark place again.

 

Awww… sleepy kitty!

So, no, I can’t “force myself” to feel better. If I make plans but then am hit with depression and/or anxiety, I’m not going to invent illnesses just so I don’t make people uncomfortable.

 

I’ve come down with oversized cartoon foot disease.
I’ve come down with oversized cartoon foot. But I’m surprisingly okay with it.

 

If I can deal with my depression, then people can deal with hearing about it. (Just to be clear, I’m not going to Ancient Mariner-er people to death about how the brain works, okay?) Nor will I go on and on about my symptoms, like that one old relative we all have who starts talking about her bowel movements as soon as there’s a lull in the conversation.

No, I will just be the eccentric, creative girl who has a deeper side she dared not reveal to the public… until now. Kind of like a funnier version of Sylvia Plath, only less suicide-y.

Too far, Jessie. Too far.
Tsk, tsk. Too far, Jessie. Too far.

Anything goes… as long as it’s funny

It’s very strange having two kids who are teenagers. When my husband and I got married and I officially became a stepmom, the boys were only four and seven. They were adorable and innocent and now I wish I had started this blog back then so I had a record of all the cute things they used to say.

For instance, whenever they broke something they would say plaintively, “It was on an accident” instead of “It was an accident,” which we always found funny. (They did not, because even though they were cute, they would still get in trouble. Parents are jerks, right?)

Once Gunnar found a stray cat outside our apartment (that he named “Sprinkles” even though it was tiger-striped) and when Eric wouldn’t let him bring the cat inside, Gunnar cried, “You hate God’s creatures!” (Eric countered with, “I don’t hate them; I  just find them filthy and dirty.” Gunnar was not appeased.)

When Gunnar experienced the dreaded “special” health class in fifth grade, he came home and said, “I know all about how babies are made.” Then, with a meaningful look at us: “It’s disgusting.” (“Don’t look at me,” I protested. “I’ve never made babies.”)

At our old apartment, our bedroom’s vent connected with the boys’ vent. So whenever they needed us they would just holler through the vent like it was an intercom: “Dadddyyyyyyy… Jesssssieeeee… we’re hungryyyyyyy.”

Of course, this meant they could also hear us. Whether we wanted them to or not, ifyouknowwhatImean. I still remember Caleb saying to us disapprovingly over breakfast, “I could hear you guys kissing.”

And sometimes we’d watch movies that were funny but probably not age-appropriate. For instance, one night when Eric wasn’t home, the boys and I watched “Dodgeball.” Fairly harmless, but I forgot about the ending when Christine Taylor’s character kisses another girl and says, “I’m not a lesbian, I’m bisexual!” and then proceeds to make out with Vince Vaughn’s character. Not exactly pearl-clutching dialogue, but at the time both boys said, “Ewww!”

Then came the inevitable question: “What’s bisexual?” Gunnar asked.

Oh, dear.  But, amazingly, I came up with a diplomatic answer: “It’s when you like both boys and girls.”

“Oh,” they said solemnly. Then, “Ewww.” (This was in the good old days when the thought of anyone kissing anyone was gross and hilarious.)

Blondie- Gunnar Thug stance- Caleb Grinning fool- me.
Blondie: Gunnar. Thug stance: Caleb. Grinning fool: me.

Now, if we were to watch it and that scene came on, they’d both be like, “All right!” Then they’d probably rewind it and watch the scene again. Ugh.

I think that’s what bothers me most: not that it’s awkward to watch that stuff with the kids, but now there’s no need to explain/avoid explaining what it means.

The other night we all watched Louis CK perform stand-up. My rule has always been: If it’s funny and not tooooo inappropriate, then it’s okay to watch. Since I’m a comedy writer, I try not to censor too much when it comes to comedies.

For example, Tosh.0 gets on all of my nerves, but I don’t forbid the boys to watch it; I just don’t want to be around when they do. (Although Eric claims he’s heard me laughing while it was on. Filthy lies.) But on the other hand, a few years ago I watched one of Dane Cook’s stand-up routines and not only was it incredibly vulgar, it wasn’t even funny. Unforgivable. So I banned them from watching that.

I have weird rules, you guys. Deal with it.

For some reason that night Caleb was being all grumpy and teenagery. The whole time Louis CK was on he kept interrupting and saying things like, “Oh, it’s funny when he says the “F” word…”

After he had interrupted approximately five million times, Gunnar  hit “pause” with pointed emphasis, looked over at Caleb and said sarcastically, “Anything else you’d like to say? Any other comments? Come on! Get ‘em out now!” which for some reason I thought was just as funny as the comedian. It’s hard to convey in blog form how funny Gunnar is because it’s all in his expression and the way he says things. I’d post a picture of him but I think he’d literally kill me. So just trust me… it was funny.

Everyone quieted down and, after glaring at all of us, Gunnar hit “play.” And we watched a brilliant comedian and laughed our butts off… as a family.  Anything we can all enjoy together is a rare and precious gift during these dark teenaged times.

So if I have to watch a guy tell hilariously inappropriate jokes just to hang out with my boys… I’ll take it. Even if now the boys insist on explaining the jokes to me. 

Ewww.

Present day. (Well, 6 months ago.)
Present day. (Well, 6 months ago.) *Still* thrilled to have their picture taken, clearly.