Awake- Friday April 1st

The nighttime hours are long when you’re trying to fall asleep naturally. All the apartment building noises that were dulled by the soothing stupor of the sleeping pill become obnoxious. The whir of a vent that used to be white noise becomes a haunting siren.


The bed is hot. I remember when I was young these hours were the shortest, the most chased after. It was the daylight that stretched interminably, bound by panty hose and stuffed into skirt suits. Now it’s only midnight, and tonight’s battle for sleep is only two hours old but it feels like weeks. I’m exhausted but my eyes feel like they’re spring-loaded. I know that staring at the bright computer screen is a major threat to the sleep I want so badly. I know too that hours of uninterrupted thinking leads to brooding leads to obsessing, and that when the obsessing starts the hope for any real sleep slips away.


I took the sleeping pills for granted. Instead in reveling in my new ability to snuggle right into bed and fall asleep without a flitter of anxiety about my job performance or future, I immediately forgot that I was ever a bad sleeper. I forgot how after fighting for hours for some precious night-time sleep, I would bolt awake at the smallest noises: my dog’s fitful dreams, that settling noise the toilet makes, the snap of the wind against my 8th floor window. I miss those nights of eight thick hours of sleep like a person in jail must miss sex, or a bath tub.


In the apartment building across from ours, one set of windows is lit up like it’s being shown by a realtor. I keep looking over to see if someone else is awake, or if someone has come home yet. I try and practice typing without looking at the keyboard because my hands are starting to look veiny and old, which is kind of a stupid thing to annoy me. But I’m pretty good at typing without looking. I do another math problem- If I fall asleep by one and go to the gym after work, I can wake up at 7:30 which still gives me six and a half hours. I know it won’t be the good six and a half though. When the dog jumps in bed at four A.M. I’ll wake up, and I’ll probably spend the wee hours of the morning contemplating the sharp angles of my bedroom, or whether or not there’s a dividing egg in my body.

Announcement- Tuesday March 29th

By now you’ve probably heard the official announcement of my enemy: Glenn Beck. It was a difficult choice to make, sort of like deciding who you’re going to marry. Barring any radical personality changes, I am going to hate this person for the rest of my life. Of course I don’t have to hate monogamously, which is a relief, but it’s still a big deal.


Glenn Beck faced some pretty tough competition. There was my third grade teacher, Sarah Palin, the traffic cop who gave me a parking ticket when I was in my car with the motor running and the engine in drive and my foot on the break, there was Heidi Montag and the dozens of people who currently think they are famous because they appeared on an MTV reality show. Dog the Bounty Hunter’s wife was high up in the running, as was John Edward’s girlfriend, and whoever took that photo of Michael Phelps smoking pot.


In the end, it was Glenn’s unmatched dickheadery coupled with his powerful douchebaggery which is always accompanied by his unsurpassed sleaze that really pushed him into first place. I think he’ll be proud of this accomplishment, and probably will invite me to be a guest on his show. I don’t know yet if I’ll decline, or just go ahead and try and create some on-air chaos.


The point is that this is a really big step I’m taking, and I wanted to share it with my readers. It’s not every day that you find the perfect man to declare as your arch enemy. I feel like such a lucky girl!

TaaaDaaaaaa- Thurdsay March 24th

There I am! Phew. I found myself. I was hiding behind a tornado of hormones and bad brain chemicals, but that passed and I’m back to normal. From now on I’m going to keep track of my brain more closely- I’ll write down what it’s doing in my calender. Maybe I said that last time I went through this? It’s hard to keep track of the crappy days when you’re in the middle of the good ones.


So there you have it…I’m back. Thanks for sticking around.

Back, but not where we started – Monday March 21st

Please note: This post is not a cry for help, or cause for concern for my general mental health. I am ok. I have many resources at my disposal. I’m just writing, not trying to freak anyone out.


I’m sorry to report that I’ve been stuck under a major depression for four or five days now. I don’t want anyone to worry- I know that it’ll pass. Tom G reminds me that this is probably cyclical and that it’s much much better than it has been in the past. But while I’m in it, I thought I should write about it. Maybe it’ll be useful to my readers to understand what this depression feels like.


This is not sadness, it’s not the blues, it’s not PMS. It doesn’t prevent me from experiencing laughter or having glimpses of my normal self. Depression, for me anyway, is very physical. It makes my bones hurt. It makes my insides feel black and cold, like all my organs have been replaced with sewer sludge. It makes my heart thud with an inexplicable dread, it makes my mind race in pointless circles.


The depression makes me feel caged, squeezed, backed into a corner. It makes me fold in upon myself and revel in my self-obsession. I know many of these descriptions sound cerebral, but they are not. My brain function during a bout of depression probably looks like a small insect, or an ameba- something that is actually just reacting to stimuli. It doesn’t stop me from hoping or loving, but it does make it harder. Sometimes I can get my head high enough above water to have good conversations and make people laugh.


In an effort to keep trying, I bought a book called Magnificent Mind At Any Age. I’m only a few pages in, but it’s really interesting. I have never thought about how I fuel or excercise my brain and how that reflects on my emotions. The cynic in me thinks this book is a little too…salesy. But since there’s almost no chance that i’ll go to the author’s clinic to have my brain scan done, it doesn’t bother me too much. I’m happy to have found something new to try.


I’ve been thinking more and more about Tommy Jr’s birthday. Well “thinking” isn’t the right word- it’s like the thought darts in and out of my mind. I can’t actually sit and consider what it’ll be like to approach and pass his first birthday. I remember now that the week I was in the hospital it thunderstormed like crazy. Our room had a huge window that the rain thrashed against. The noise competed with the beeps and chirps of the hospital machines. I think towards the end of the week the sun came out. When I went in the hospital it was winter, when I got out, it was spring. At least that’s how I remember it.


Tom G’s finals begin on Tommy’s birthday. We’re both worried but can’t seem to talk about it, probably because there’s not very much to say. Life won’t pause or slow down for us.


So that’s what’s new. Actually I guess nothing’s new. I’m still Poor Lucky Me.

What Is Normal – Thursday March 17th

Dear Poor Lucky Me,


Here’s what happened: I have two pugs who I adore and are on a special diet. In my slavish devotion to them, I make rice on the stove top every night to feed them. Last night I put the rice on and decided to leave it cooking while I took the pugs out for a quick bathroom break- I figured I’d be gone less than seven minutes.


While we were outside I got a phone call. I chatted for 40 minutes without going upstairs, because I don’t get reception in the elevator and I didn’t want to hang up. Plus it was an incredibly interesting and intellectually stimulating conversation. It wasn’t until my battery died that I remembered the rice was on the stove top.


The rice was black, the pot is ruined, the pugs were starving but I was able to improvise. I realize it could have been a major disaster, but when I told a couple people this story they acted shocked that I left the apartment with the burner on.


Do you think that was a strange thing to do or something a very normal person would do? I don’t plan on it happening again, but you know how these things go. Please let me know what you think, and I’d love to hear what your readers think as well.


Yours Truly,
Just Loving My Pugs


Dear JLMP,
I don’t think what you did was strange, certainly not outside the realm of what a “normal person” would do. However, we learned as a nation in the last decade that doing what normal people do isn’t necessary a productive methodology. For instance, plenty of “normal people” hate Muslims, listen to Glenn Beck, wear Uggs, and text while driving.


Normalcy isn’t really the goal, at least it’s not my goal. We should try and do what’s right, what’s fair, what’s generous. And especially what’s safe. So the next time you walk your pugs, please turn off the burner, blow out all your candles, even turn out the lights and the television. Every small positive action we do adds to the greater good.


I’d love to hear from my readers. Please weigh in either in the comments section or by emailing


Poor Lucky Me

Substitute Socializing – Monday March 14th

One thing I really like about Facebook is that it allows me to participate in society while simultaneously cultivating my agoraphobia. The last time I went under the radar was in 2003. I lived in a second floor apartment in Lake View and my fellow restaurant workers liked to stop by at all hours of the night. My dignity would politely excuse itself while I crouched on the floor below the windows, hoping that my friends, who were trying to hang out with me because they like me, don’t see the light change under the door and suspect I was home. I had to take a lot of heat from my friends and family members who disapproved of my interior life style.


Then came social networking. Facebook could make any shut-in look like they’re living it up! I can spend 6 hours a day thinking of one hilarious Facebook post, and feedback from my on-line friends is extremely satisfying. In real life face-to-face conversation I have to think of dozens of clever things to say, and tailor my follow up jokes to the persons reaction. It’s very intimidating. The amount of invitations that fill my Facebook in-box make me think that at any moment, if I wanted to leave my apartment, there are dozens of exciting events at which I would be a desired guest.


Winter is a very special time in the lives of the socially anxious. We have a legitimate excuse not to leave the warmth and comfort of our homes. We work longer hours in the winter because we’re afraid to put our coats and hats and scarves back on. But on Facebook, at least one person I know is on a tropical vacation. I can stare at their photos and vow that I’ll go some where next year for sure! Then I’ll lift my spirits by researching topical vacation locales.


Saturday I looked out the window and watched St. Patrick’s Day revelers walk back and forth in front of my apartment. “Wooo Hooo” they said and waved green feather boas. I pressed my forehead against the glass and felt my dog lean against me. There was a very short time in my life when I thought it was fun to press into the crowds of drinking-holiday enthusiasts. Now I scour the cable menu for documentary style shows about misfits, or hoarders, or drug addicts, or people who keep wild animals as pets. When I can’t watch anymore TV I fantasize about driving across the country with Tom G and Ramona and no schedule.


I guess the bad thing about Facebook is that it is a constant reminder of how grounded I am. Still here in Chicago! Still an angst ridden chubster with more neuroses then motivation! That’s is boring. At least the grief was stunningly dramatic, a constant force to be reckoned with. I feel like a retired stuntman now.


There’s a saying about how in order to be bored you have to be a boring person. I think that’s very true. In fact most of my agoraphobia comes from a reluctance to socialize with myself. I’m always there, cracking lame jokes or acting awkward or eating too many appetizers. I’m so sick of my stories. I’m sick of saying things that show I can see the bright side. I really do want to tell every single person I meet what happened, if for no other reason then to help prevent them from saying something stupid and making me wish I hadn’t left my house. But that makes people uncomfortable, especially when I pull out my strange smile.


It will be spring soon, and I’ll make myself get out and enjoy the city. I’ll walk Ramona and take pictures and be glad I live in Chicago. But every once and a while I’ll let myself really believe in a writers’ community out West that needs a self-conscious comedy writer, a good natured lawyer, and an orange mutt.

Our Invalid – Friday March 11th

Ramona Quimby, the six year old orange mutt who lives in our house, underwent surgery Monday for a torn ACL. She had to spend the night at the clinic in Woodstock, Illinois. I laid awake most of the night worrying that she was unhappy, or in pain, or asphyxiating. The nurse warned us that Ramona would be partially shaved for the operation, but you really can’t prepare yourself for the glaring, fishbelly white of a dog’s bare skin. We received an itemized bill of the procedure and some graphic photos of the actual surgery. I’ve been a wreck since we found out the dog would need to an operation.


I finally admitted to myself that this experience was picking at memories that had just scabbed over. We are caring for another soul who can’t tell us of the pain, and relinquishing that care to strangers on a faith that is born of a lack of options.


When Tom called me to say she was waking up from the anesthetic, I wiped away the tears that sprang from my eyes. I don’t trust that she’d be ok until she is ok. But waking up from the surgery was a huge step one on the path of relief. Having her at home comforts me, but seeing her in pain and frustration keeps me in a constant state of angst and heartache. Even seeing her skin makes me think of Tommy Jr; raw and pink and uncomfortable.


I know Ramona will make a full recovery. She’s in good hands with Dr. Barb Royal, who is doing everything she can to get Ro back up and running like a healthy dog. I’m trying to stay in control of my fears and anxiety because I learned ten months ago that worry and anger and self-pity don’t help the patient. I could only help my son by being a mother to him while I had him. I was upbeat in his presence, I was joyful. But I felt his pain in my heart and soul. And that’s all I can do for my dog. And really, that’s all we can do for anyone we love.


The bandage came off yesterday and Ramona’s leg is mottled with bruises. We ice her knee to keep the swelling down and feeding her elk jerky to keep her tail wagging. By the time spring rolls around I expect she’ll be back on four legs. And we’ll all have survived another family crisis together. The Guillens are getting better at this than we’d ever imagined we’d need to be. And we’re all grateful for that.

Twenty Five Cent Increments of Drama- Tuesday March 8

Why am I required to fill out so many forms at the doctor’s office? The rest of my life takes place in the current year, 2011- where a website is utilized for almost every task or event in life. I barely know how to use a pen and paper anymore. Then I arrive at the doctor’s office and it’s like 1997 and I’m writing my god damn address on three different forms.


Last year I had to go to three different doctors, all within the same hospital system and at each office I had to write my date of birth over and over and over again. It worries me that a doctor’s office can’t streamline their operation down to one birthday request. Meanwhile I’ve got two Starbucks in my neighborhood where I never even have to say my order. What does the Starbucks know that my doctor’s office doesn’t?


I called my EX doctor today and only had to wait on hold for thirty minutes before being told that they could only print my medical records on THURSDAY and that it would cost TWENTY DOLLARS. Either they’ve got the technological savvy of a troop of chimps, or they’re trying to nickel and dime me over six pages of paper. So I asked the woman on the phone if they were working off an Apple IIe.


“What” she quipped.


I explained: “I just mean what the hell kind of equipment are you running on that only works once a week and requires $20 to print off a few pages? Because I happen to know you could get a brand new computer that works every day of the week for like $90.”


“So do you want to mail the check or drop it off when you pick up the records?” said my clever opponent.
“I’ll drop it off Friday” I said, defeated. It’s not enough that this particular doctor’s office seemed to take every opportunity to humiliate me, ignore me, and treat me like a hysterical yuppie. They have to further enrage me by making it difficult to obtain my own medical records. And as usual, I have no recourse.


Except quarters. I’m bringing those a-holes a bag full of quarters. I’m going to say “Enjoy your twenty dollars, suckers.”

Here Comes Some Personal Sh*t- Friday March 4th

After some careful research and note taking, I have reached the disturbing conclusion that my post-tragedy menstrual cycle is 45 days long. As far as I can tell that’s the same length of the Blue Whale’s menstrual cycle. Maybe my body is trying to mimic the body of a giant mammal in order to ensure a longer gestational period. Maybe my next baby will be in there for 18 months, like I assume a Blue Whale makes a baby.


But it’s disappointing news, because I can’t get pregnant IMMEDIATELY, which is now what I want. I mean now as in this moment that I’m writing this. Later today I might feel hugely relieved that I’ve only got a shot at getting pregnant every six weeks. My moodiness knows no boundaries.


And so we wait. I feel like we’ve been waiting forever. Or that all we do it wait. Sometimes I’ll be lying on the couch, feeling like I’m waiting, but really I’m just watching TV.


The changes that I thought were temporary are becoming permanent. I’m just not the same person anymore. Some one pointed out to me today that I never dance anymore. I’m not thoughtful- I never remember anyone’s birthday. I’m not funny or hopeful. I’m jealous of other girls, of other families. That jealousy makes me hate myself- it’s like a terrible ugly mole right in the middle of my face that cannot be removed even by the best doctors. Nothing is pure anymore, everything is tainted with sadness or at least wistfulness. That’s an awful legacy for my son, but I don’t know how to change it.


My mom said that you can’t take the risk out of living. But how to you get back to the place where the risk didn’t paralyze you with fear?

I’m Real Fashiony- Tuesday March 2nd

Almost of of the clothes in my current rotation double as pajamas. This was not intentional, but it is convenient. Actually it’s inconvenient when I notice that I can see my bra and belly button through the threadbare tee-shirt that I bought at Whole Foods, but other than that it’s fine. Well not fine, I mean I realize it’s sort of anti-social behavior to wear your pajamas to work or your work clothes to bed. I also occasionally wear these clothes to the gym. So really my clothes triple as business attire (pair your sleazy misshapen shirt with a blazer!) pajamas (go straight from the office to bed!) and work-out clothes (roll out of bed, step into a sports bra, grab a five hour energy drink and off you go!). In way I am a leader both as an environmentalist and a human rights activist. Obviously because I’m buying less clothes, I’m saving spandex/cotton blend trees all over the planet, and I require the use of less sweat shops by employing my clothes creatively.


I don’t mean to brag, but not a lot of people would have the guts to take the fashion risks I take. I’d like to see Lady Gaga roll on stage wearing her husband’s 18 year old Bruce Springsteen concert tee under a tweed blazer. Or a stained and heavily pilled sweater over a tank top she bought in the pajama section at the Gap. It’s not a lifestyle for the faint of heart.


On a related subject- I am now so thin I think my dog barked at me the other day because she didn’t recognize me. Although she may have been barking because she wanted me to play fetch with her, or give her the rest of my sandwich, or let her stand on the balcony, or walk her, or give her water, or pet her. She’s hard to read sometimes.


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