Share The Love

In November of 2013, I joined the Board of Directors at the Pasadena Humane Society. I had already been participating in fundraising events with them for 5 years prior, but being on the board meant an opportunity to do more on a regular basis to help.

They have different committees that target specific needs of the shelter. The one I am involved in is the “Community Outreach Committee.” The best way for a shelter to help animals and people in the community is by finding as many different ways to show the facility and the services they provide, as well as a way to show  animals that are waiting in the shelter for a new family to adopt them. This has quickly become my favorite part about being involved in PHS.

Our friend, Sean Becker, went to the shelter with me, my son, and my two dogs, so he could shoot video of my dogs giving a “tour” of the facility. I had already decided how the story within the video would go ahead of time so I knew what I wanted to shoot. It took us 3 hours to get everything I wanted and my dogs had a great time playing with and on everything there.

I asked Steve Grubel, our friend who does editing on TableTop and on The Wil Wheaton Project, if he could help me edit my video together. He’s obviously really good at conveying a lot of information in a short amount of time while being able to make what you’re seeing actually make sense. He was happy to help.

Yesterday, I gave the final cut of the video to Pasadena Humane Society so they could have it on their website, Facebook page, and Twitter.  They loved it, and have already shared it in the hopes of showing the community just what they do to help so many animals. I know I say it all the time, but I am so proud to be part of helping such an awesome organization. And I’m not gonna lie, my dogs look pretty darn adorable in this video if I do say so myself.

 

Show Me Potato Salad!

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to make homemade potato salad for the first time, ever. I know. It’s like I’m some kind of broken person that it took this long. I tried a very simple recipe I found online and it turned out pretty damn good. I mentioned my potato salad success story on Twitter, and got a ton of replies from people who told me their secret ingredient to their own recipes. This got me thinking…

We all have our favorite additions to our favorite foods. For me, just the thought of wasabi makes my mouth water. I’ve been adding it to deviled eggs for a couple of years now and can’t get enough of it. Today, I thought I’d venture out into the strange, new world of potato salad and make my own recipe; wasabi potato salad.

I went to the store today, grabbed the ingredients I wanted to use to create this magnificent dish, and got to work as soon I got home. It turned out to be probably the best food I have ever created in my entire life. This may or may not be related to how hungry I am or due to the fact that I was sipping a martini while I prepared it. All I know is I kind of want to be alone with my potato salad and this is taking away from our time together. So I’m going to give you the recipe I came up with and you can enjoy the magic in your own home.

ANNE WHEATON’S KICK ASS WASABI POTATO SALAD

-Boil a large pot of water. Add 6 large russet potatoes, cut in half,  cook until soft but not mushy. Let cool in fridge for an hour.

-Hard-boil 6 eggs. Cool in fridge for an hour.

-One large yellow onion, diced into small pieces.

-One stalk of celery, diced into small pieces.

-Peel cooled potatoes and dice into cubes. Put in large bowl.

-Peel cooled eggs and dice into cubes, add to same large bowl.

-Add diced celery and onion, add to same large bowl. Toss all ingredients in bowl together.

In a separate small bowl, mix together 1 cup of mayo ( I used Trader Joe’s Organic Mayo) and one tube (45 grams) of grated wasabi (Not wasabi sauce, which has sugar and sunflower oil bullshit in it. You want the real deal.)

Pour mayo/wasabi mixture over ingredients in large bowl. Toss to distribute evenly. Salt and pepper to taste.

I know you’re supposed to cool potato salad in the fridge for a couple hours before you eat it but I couldn’t wait, and ate a bunch right away. I also know that potato salad tastes better the next day, so I’m sure I will be eating this for breakfast as well.

I hope you like it!

Do Unto Others…

Yesterday, Wil and I took the train down to Stone Brewing Company at Liberty Station near downtown San Diego. The ride there from Los Angeles takes two hours and 45 minutes, the same as it would take if we drove without a single traffic issue on the freeway. But since we’re pretty much guaranteed to encounter at least one car accident and more than one construction zone, we opted for the train. The bonus train ride also allows for naps, so there’s that.

We got up at 4:30am to catch the 6am train. This ridiculously early morning would be the second day in a row of Wil only getting 5 hours of sleep because of working on The Wil Wheaton Project. The ride to San Diego was peaceful and the train had hardly anyone on it, so we were both able to nap. We arrived at Stone Brewing Company by 9:15am, and Wil spent the day doing a full hands-on experience of brewing a collaboration IPA with their brew master, which was fun and exhausting. We finished up just in time to catch our 6:45pm train home, both of us ready to nap for the majority of the ride. The train was pretty full and a lot of people were talking, but Wil managed to fall asleep right away.

I had a slightly different experience and ended up not being able to sleep at all. I was seated at the window, Wil next to me in the aisle. The rows of seats are slightly staggered across the aisle from each other, so people aren’t right next to another in that sense. There was a girl seated across (well, slightly up) from Wil, also in an aisle seat. She had looked over at Wil a few times, and I could tell she recognized him, which is totally fine and something I am used to and doesn’t bother me at all.

About 20 minutes into the ride, with Wil asleep next to me, I looked out my window at the sunset. In the reflection of my window, I saw the girl across the aisle from Wil hold her phone up. I could tell she was taking a picture, so I turned around and looked at her because that felt weird to me. Her eyes met mine, but she already had her phone back in her lap, and she made an effort to look out my window casually, like that’s what she had been doing the whole time.

We have been out in public before where people have recognized Wil and snapped a photo of him without asking him first. I get it. We’re all out in public, it’s a public space, freedom to do what you want, all that. I understand and have accepted that. But as a woman sitting next to her sleeping husband and knowing a person sitting less than 3 feet away from Wil in what is clearly a vulnerable position for him  was doing this made me feel very protective and felt like an invasion of privacy.

I was hoping that it was just me feeling a little paranoid on my part, so I thought I should give her the benefit of the doubt that taking a picture of him didn’t just happened. That doubt was immediately wiped away when I saw her settled back into her seat, holding up her phone where I could clearly see the picture of him sleeping with me looking out the window that she had just texted to a friend. And then another friend. And then one more. It just felt, I don’t know, gross to me. I don’t think she would feel comfortable if her husband were sleeping next to her and I snapped a picture of him when I thought she wasn’t looking and then shared it with my friends. This girl was at least 30 years old, so old enough to know that what she was doing may make a person feel uncomfortable if they knew what had just happened.

I didn’t want to say anything to her because what’s done was already done. Plus, the train was crowded and a little loud, so I would have had to talk loudly over Wil who was sleeping to even say anything. I knew how exhausted Wil was, so waking to loud conversation of me trying to politely ask a stranger to please not take anymore pictures of my husband sleeping would have been a pretty awkward way to wake up. I decided to just keep an eye on her and hold up my blanket to cover Wil if she did it again. She didn’t, and she got off the train about 30 minutes after the incident anyway.

Inside, I was still really upset (and Wil was still asleep so I couldn’t talk to him about it) so I said something about it on Twitter which may or may not have been the wisest thing to do when feeling that way. But hey, at least I felt better getting it off my chest. Most agreed with me that it was a violation of privacy, but two people had a different opinion of it. One guy, wording it as kindly as I think he could have, said he didn’t feel that way because Wil is a public figure and these things are going to happen so I shouldn’t let it upset me. Again, I totally get that and 99.9% of the time it doesn’t bother me at all. But one woman said “You can’t have a career that makes you famous and then complain about it when people get excited to see you. #privilagecheck.”

My first thought, which I had to talk myself out of doing for several minutes, was to only respond with “#SpellCheck” but I wanted to stick to the point that I was originally making. Yes, Wil has worked really hard to make a living out of doing creative things that he loves to do. Yes, that comes with a viewing audience that enjoys what has been created and is excited to see the person who has done this face to face. I absolutely get that. But I think the thing that gets lost along the way is this is also a human being, not an object.  He is a person who gets tired, gets hungry, gets sick, and has a family that cares about him,  just like you. I would never consider taking a photograph of a person sleeping near me who was not my family or my friend without asking them first. I would never consider it my right to invade someone’s privacy and then tell their family member to “privilege check” their feelings about such an invasion. That is appalling to me.

If you have ever met Wil in person, you would know that he is very friendly, conversational, and is always happy to take a picture with you if you ask him. If I’m with him when this happens, I always offer to take the picture for them so it’s a good shot. I would think that experience and interaction would be pretty cool if I ran into someone I had always wanted to meet out in public. So, next time, girl on the train, just try that instead. Then everyone involved will walk away happy.

 

Food For Thought

Over the weekend, one of my friends on Facebook (a for reals friend because I don’t have a public Facebook page) shared a link to something a guy I don’t know, whose name is Kyle Cease (his profile says he’s a comedian) had posted. I don’t know if he wrote it personally because at the end of it, he mentions a man named Wayne Dyer who is an American psychologist. Anyway, I read it a few times over the weekend because I really like it and it so clearly says what I have worked to achieve in my own life. I didn’t figure this out until I was in my 20′s and when I did, that’s when I met Wil. I met my perfect match in a spouse and have carried this on in friendships as well. So thank you to Kyle Cease for the post (and possible author of it) Wayne Dyer because he may or may not have actually written it as well, and my friend, Laura, who is one amazing girl.

“If you put out scared energy, you will attract control freaks.

If you choose to be a people pleaser, you will attract takers.

If you put out energy that says ‘Look how rich I am’  you will attract people who will like you for your money.

If you put out a bunch of naked selfies, you will attract sex driven people.

If you are connected to yourself for real, you will only be able to be with people who are connected to themselves.

If you have someone in your life who is not the vibrational match to what you are being, it won’t last long.

Whatever vibe we decide to put out is awesome. Whatever you want to have in your life is fine. As long as you know that what you put out is what you get back, do whatever you want.

Know that you will attract the match that you are, so be ok with what you present, or evolve to what you really want to be.

When you evolve to what you truly want to be, you will only find people who are where they want to be.

You don’t attract what you want, you attract what you ARE.”

Good Mews, Everyone!

It’s no secret how much I love animals, especially rescue animals. I got my first rescue pet when I was 5, when an orange tabby followed me home from a friends’ house. We found out the owners had just moved away and left him. In Arizona. When it was over 100 degrees outside.

Over the years I have owned only rescue animals and have done my share of helping to promote adopting rescue animals instead of getting animals from breeders. I created rescuepetsareawesome so people around the world could share their own stories about their rescue pets and most recently, I became a member of the Board of Directors for the Pasadena Humane Society. PHS is such an amazing organization that I donated to for years and am so proud to be able to do more for on a regular basis now.

In December of 2013, PHS opened a huge addition to the shelter; large classrooms for dog training, a supply store that puts the sales revenue right back into the care of the animals in the shelter, boarding and daycare facilities, a socialization yard, and most importantly, a state-of-the-art low-cost spay and neuter clinic which will help keep pet population down and significantly reduce the number of animals in need of homes. They also offer low-cost vaccinations and micro-chipping.

Pasadena Humane Society is over 100 years old (they used to take in animals AND children back in the day). The original building is still there, marked as a historical structure and now used for offices, and they have slowly expanded the facility and the staff as the need to care for animals (including wildlife) has now reached to 9 surrounding cities that they also service. With the newest addition to the shelter getting so much use for the care of dogs, they are now ready to move on to helping cats.

The area that PHS has to house cats currently is about 900 square feet. (I should point out that in the month of May alone, they adopted out over 100 dogs and 90 cats. The adoption turnover rate is incredibly high here.) The biggest problem with housing cats is how easy it is to spread upper respiratory infection among them. They are very careful in handling them and something I didn’t know, they keep bunnies that are also up for adoption in the same area because for whatever reason, bunnies stop the airborne spread of upper respiratory infection in cats. Who knew? The problem with cats is how many litters they bring into the world each year. Again, the spay and neuter clinic will help with that in the long run (they also have a catch and release spay and neuter program for feral cats because they are the ones having most of these litters) but the housing of the adoptable cat population need has been an issue.

Today, PHS is breaking ground on construction of a 4,000 square foot cat center. It’s going to have a nursery where volunteers will be able to feed and care for newborn kittens (currently, they have a foster program for this outside the shelter. One person can have a litter of 9 at one time to feed round the clock) large, air-controlled housing units to prevent the spread of infection, and a common play area for cats that are healthy who have been at the shelter for a while.

The construction will take a year but it makes me so happy that today will be the start of a new facility just for the kitties. I’ve had dogs and cats my whole life (I currently have 3 dogs and 2 cats) and I love them equally. To know PHS is doing as much as possible (they are a non-profit organization, completely run by donations) to not only care for animals in need now, but to provide services that will cut down on the population of so many animals in need of homes makes me so proud to be part of this organization.  I can’t wait to see this new addition when it’s done!!

That 70′s Kid

Summer is finally here. By now, pretty much all schools are out and the parental mania of planning activities for kids has begun. Over the last week or so, I have seen several people post a link on various social media sites to an article titled “Ten ways to give your kids an honest-to-goodness 1970′s summer.”  While I’m sure the idea is meant to be about keeping things simple, it got me thinking about what an “honest-to-goodness 1970′s summer” actually entailed. After all, I lived it so I remember quite clearly and if we’re being honest, I’m not entirely sure I’d want my little kids doing the same things I did back then. Unless the goal is to think of that time as “Survival Camp” because if you can make it out alive, you are a champ. So here is my list of “Honest-but-not-necessarily-goodness 1970′s summer activities.”

1. Every parent told their kid “Just come home when the street lamps come on.” I remember feeling scared at the lack of supervision, yet exhilarated at the lack of supervision. No cell phones to call or text to check in, just go out and come back before it’s too dark. This meant hopping on your bike, riding to a friends’ house to hang out for a bit, eventually getting bored and going back out on bikes to ride all around town and occasionally, even ride to another city. Of course, we’d eat at some point. A quick stop at a 7-11 to load up on all the candy you could carry down the sides of your tube socks or tucked into the front pocket of your corduroy shorts so you could have a free hand to balance the over-sized Slurpee you dumped multiple flavors into that now has a nondescript taste. Before taking off, you’d grab a couple of packages of Wacky Packs and go through the funny cards and stickers with your friends, trading ones you needed with ones you already had, before setting back out to ride. You’d continue to ride while eating and drinking, chucking wrappers into bushes as you passed because there wasn’t a trash can in sight.

2. After all that bike riding, you’d work up quite a sweat. No lifeguard keeping an eye out down at the nearby river or pond, and certainly no supervision when you’d hop the fence of the nearby neighbor who had a pool and was out at work all day. No swimsuit? No problem! Just hop in with your clothes on. They’ll dry before the sun sets so your parents will never know what you did. If you were lucky, a friend would have a Slip-n-Slide set up so you could race down the yard and hurl yourself onto a plastic tarp being sprayed by cold hose water. Occasionally, you’d disconnect that hose and everyone would gather around to drink from it, and then re-connect it. And since parents weren’t around, go ahead and throw some dish soap on that Slip-n-Slide to really make it slippery. Don’t worry about the lawn getting wrecked, it’ll eventually grow back. At least it wasn’t your yard so you wouldn’t get yelled at when your parents came home.

3.  Now that you cooled off, this was a good time to collect things to make a sling shot. You’d find the perfect “Y” shaped stick outside, and then rummage through the kitchen junk drawer for rubber bands. You’d collect a pile of tiny rocks to launch at mailboxes or trees, without looking beyond those objects to see you just hit a house window, then take off running because no one saw you do it, so it’s like it didn’t happen. You’d move on to a game of hide-and-seek, which involved catching the person by throwing water balloons at them as hard as possible, always nailing them smack in the back or on the side of their head. Good times.

4. The fireworks stands sold an unlimited supply to any age person who was willing to give them money. If you remembered to ask, they’d even give you a free book of matches so you could get started right away. And since you’re on your own, now is the time to twist those Ground Flowers and Piccolo Pete’s together and light them all at once because that is WAY more fun than lighting them one at a time. And while you’re at it, those metal sparklers make a great light saber duel you and a friend can enjoy, especially if you twist a few together to make one jumbo sparkler!

5. There was always one latch key kid whose parents also happened to be the ones who could afford this new technology called a “microwave.” Since no one was around, this was the best place to see what you could over-cook and explode, melt, or cause sparks to fly inside of. They were also the ones who bought their only child all the junk food your parents wouldn’t buy you, so you’d raid their refrigerator and cupboards and eat as much Otter Pops and Fruit Loops as you could without eating so much that your friend would get in trouble later.

6. The sun is starting to go down and you’re really far from home. Time to put a friend on the handle bars of your bike (no helmets) and pull the other one who’s holding on to the back while riding their metal-wheeled skateboard, and race down that hill without a care (or a traffic precaution) in the world. You get home as the street lamps come on, and all is right with the world.

7. If it’s a weekday, you get to sit down to some sort of casserole mom made for dinner. You have no idea what’s inside of it but you’re happy to eat it because the top is covered in crumbled chips. Sometimes they’re potato chips but tonight, it’s Fritos. If it’s a weekend, your parents are probably going out, so mom is preparing the Swanson TV dinner you picked out at the store earlier in the week. This is your first introduction to Salisbury Steak, and the art of keeping the corn out of the brownie you’re trying to save until the end.

8. It’s time to watch TV. “Solid Gold is on, followed by “The Love Boat.”  This week of new passengers still has people who have adventures, are always drinking alcohol, and keep mentioning this “nightcap” thing which you eventually figure out involves even more alcohol and sex with someone they just met on the ship. (We also saw this a lot with people at “The Regal Beagle” on Three’s Company.)

9. You would go to sleep at night with doors unlocked and windows wide open. Sometimes, you’d even sleep out on the back deck. In the morning, you would go to pour a bowl of cereal for breakfast and saw that you were out of milk. No problem! Carnation taught our moms that in a pinch, all you had to do was add water to their powder and it tasted just like milk. This was also when we learned what false advertising was.

10. Before heading out to have another day just like yesterday, you’d spend 4 hours in your pajamas, glued to the TV set as you played your new ATARI 2600. You’ve already mastered “Combat” and “Air-Sea Battle” but now you’ve got “Pong” and “Breakout” to become a pro at. Little did you know, summers were about to get a whole lot better when the 70′s would come to an end, and the 80′s would bring you “Space Invaders”, “Asteroids” and a place to spend all of your allowance in an arcade playing “Pac-Man” and “Donkey Kong.” But first, you’re going to throw on the same clothes you wore yesterday so you can run barefoot down the street to catch the ice cream man as he makes his way around the block because it’s almost noon and you’re ready for a 50/50 bar and some Fun Dip. Another carefree day is underway. Just remember to come home when the street lamps come on!

 

It’s Me Time!

When I was in my 20′s, I was on my own with two little kids and I had a job as a waitress. The restaurant I worked for offered health insurance, but if I wanted coverage for all 3 of us, it was going to cost $497 per month. I was barely skimming by just paying for rent, utilities and food for the kids (I waitressed so I could get a free meal every day. Most of the time, it was the only meal I ate that day) so there was no way I could afford that additional expense. I knew the importance of being able to go to a regular doctor, or needing to go to an emergency room, see a dentist, and an optometrist, and I knew I needed insurance to do this. My only option was to get Medi-Cal, which is state funded health insurance.

I am a proud person, so getting “welfare insurance” was pretty embarrassing at the time. But looking back now, boy was I lucky I had that. The kids had falls that required stitches, I had strep throat countless times, Ryan had the worst case of chicken pox his doctor had ever seen, Nolan got German Measles, I had an old filling fall out and needed a root canal and on top of all that? I can’t see distance and needed an optometrist for annual exams and contact lenses. Lucky indeed. I had that insurance for us until the day Wil and I got married, when the 3 of us could be added to his insurance through the union.

Finding doctors that took Medi-Cal was tough (no internet back then to make it easy) but I managed. Along the way, I found organizations that offered screenings and basic care needs that were either free or very low cost if they didn’t take Medi-Cal. I loved that those services were available then, and now that I’m not a struggling single mom on  waitress wages, I donate to them annually so that people like me can use the services the same way I did 20 years ago. During those years, I learned the importance of annual screenings, wellness checkups, and being proactive in maintaining health.

In March of this year, I wrote a blog post called “The Other Side of Depression.” I talked about seeing symptoms in Wil that turned out to be depression, and the steps we took to get him help to treat it. He didn’t have those issues his whole life, it was something that surfaced in his late 20′s, so it wasn’t something he had ever talked about with his doctor. Many people on my blog and on Twitter seemed to appreciate the honesty in the symptoms, how Wil got treatment, but mostly, how I saw this in him and how it affected me and our kids. The health and function of your brain is just as important as any other part of your body, so I’m glad that talking about it helped others in one way or another.

Then in April, I was contacted by someone at http://www.womenshealth.gov,  a website dedicated to all aspects of women’s health and well-being concerns/issues. They asked if I would do an extensive interview with them, which will be featured on their “Spotlight” page; a place where they post one interview a month from a woman on a specific topic. They saw my post about Wil’s depression, and thought it would really help other women who may be dealing with the same thing with their husband. I agreed to do the interview, which will post on their site sometime in the near future.

Every year since Wil and I got married (when I was 30) I designated May as “me month.” As a mother of two young kids and working full-time as a hairdresser, I rarely made time for myself. But I know the importance of staying healthy, so having a month that reminded me to take care of myself by scheduling annual exams became a priority. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have known I have nodules on my thyroid, which I now get checked twice a year. Staying proactive about your health is the best thing you can do for yourself and for the people who love you.

I love that this week, May 11-17, has officially become National Women’s Health Week.  I don’t know how long that’s been a thing (maybe it was a thing back when I was 30 and that’s how it got in my head to make May “me month”) but I think it’s awesome. I’ve reminded friends over the years to schedule exams and when I got on Twitter almost 3 years ago, I reminded women there. Last week, I was asked by the people at http://www.womenshealth.gov if I would be willing to be an Ambassador for them in reminding women of the importance of their health. Since I already do it anyway, I was more than happy to!

So, ladies, as your official Ambassador, I am here to remind you to take care of you. Whether you have a doctor and insurance or need to Google a credible place near you that offers the annual screenings you need at either no-cost or low-cost to you, now is the time to schedule. You matter in this world; to your family, your friends, your co-workers and most importantly, to yourself. You get one life so be the healthiest you can be to enjoy it to its fullest!

 

A Day To Remember

Every year as Mother’s Day approaches, I can’t help but feel like it’s a silly “holiday” created by Hallmark to sell cards. But every year on the actual day, my mind fills with memories of all the handmade cards and gifts my kids gave me when they were little and it makes me so happy.

Today, I found an old photo of me, Ryan and Nolan, taken in front of the little duplex I was renting back in 1995. They are 5 and 3 in the photo, and I was 25. I was really struggling to support us back then, but I did everything I could to find fun things to do, and tried to take as many pictures as possible of us with my old 35 mm camera that my parents gave me for my 18th birthday.

We don’t live too far from that duplex, so I thought it would be fun to go back and re-create that photo of us today. It’s been 19 years since that was taken, and I love that the building still looks the same. The 3 of us have all gotten older, the kids are obviously bigger, but standing on that lawn together felt like walking into a time capsule. We lived through some pretty tough times there, but we wouldn’t have the life we have now if we hadn’t lived that life then. I would do it all again in a heartbeat knowing the men those boys have become. Best Mother’sDay, ever.

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Walking In Your Footsteps

Last week, Wil and I went to The White House to attend a private reception for people who helped Americans in signing up for the Affordable Care Act. It was really neat getting to meet people who had done everything from talking about it on social media (which Wil did) to people who helped fix the website when it did a massive crash after so many people tried to sign up at once.  I was so stinkin’ nervous as we were leaving our hotel to go there that my knees were actually shaking. It ended up being a lot of fun and I totally shook Barack Obama’s hand. The whole evening was an experience I will never forget.

The following day, Wil and I decided to set out for a sightseeing/tourist adventure. With a map in hand (and not the ideal shoes on my feet) we walked our way around the city. We saw several monuments, walked through gorgeous parks, and decided to choose one museum to go through since we only had the one day to do this. We chose the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The tour started by getting an “Identification Card” which looks like a passport booklet. There’s two stacks, one for women, one for men. Inside the booklet is a photo and information about a person who had lived and/or died during this horrific time in history. They give you these cards, with real names and photos of these victims,  so it personalizes the experience and so you understand this isn’t about just a bunch of nameless faces. I got Zelda Piekarska, a young Jewish girl from Poland. The Germans took over her town, took everything from them, and moved her and her family into a tiny space with other families. She was separated from her family shortly after and worked in labor camps in unbelievably horrible conditions for over 2 years before being liberated by the Soviet Army, eventually emigrating to America in 1949.

We hadn’t even gone through the doors where we would see artifacts, read stories, watch video, and see photos of the gruesome torture thousands of people were put through for no reason, and I was already choking back tears. I had a surprising sense of relief in knowing the girl on the identification card I chose had actually made it out of there alive. We had been there all of 5 minutes and I was personally invested.

Wil and I worked our way through the museum in silence (as pretty much everyone in the whole building did) seeing everything from a real Nazi uniform worn by a soldier to hundreds of real leather shoes worn by victims who were asked to undress, shower, then join 1000 other people in a room before carbon monoxide was pumped in, killing them all. There were large shoes for men, smaller shoes with heels that women wore, and very small ones that had obviously been worn by children.

I won’t share anymore of the story since we all learned about this in history class, and I know there’s been books and movies made over the years that many of us have read and seen. But walking through the Holocaust Memorial Museum is something I will never, ever forget. When the tour was over, Wil and I walked out of there in silence, holding hands a little tighter than usual, as we walked back out into the city.

We made our way down to the Lincoln Memorial and stood on the steps where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech about having a dream that someday there would be equal rights for everyone, regardless of the color of their skin. This speech happened less than 20 years after thousands of Jewish people were murdered and tortured in a country just an ocean away. We went inside the building and watched video of his speech from that day in 1963, where people had held up picket signs, some for and some against the equal rights this man was talking about on those steps. Such an incredible difference from the people who had all of their rights and their lives taken from them without a choice not so long ago.

It’s pretty incredible to look back on history and see how far we’ve come. The sacrifices and triumphs we benefit from now make me so grateful to be living in this day and age. We still have a ways to go, but I’m glad we keep moving  forward in taking steps toward an even better future for generations to come.

 

 

Panic Button, Pushed.

A few weeks ago, I was summoned to attend jury duty. I’ve had to do it a couple of times in the past, always spending the day sitting there while the attorneys interviewed prospective jurors in the jury box, while I waited on the benches with everyone else. I’ve always thought it would be kind of fun (or at least interesting) to be a juror, but I was never chosen. Never even got called up to be interviewed.

On my first day in court, I sat in a waiting area with dozens and dozens of potential jurors. Groups of at least 40 people at a time were called away while I continued to wait. After a couple of hours where two different groups of people left, then returned, I was called in. We were taken into a courtroom where there were four attorneys, two at each table, their clients next to them, and the judge. The judge proceeded to tell us who everyone was, and what the case was about.

As soon as the judge said the plaintiff was The County of Los Angeles, I knew this would not be a quick case. As much as I thought being on a case would be interesting, Wil and I have so many different things going on that anything more than say, a week, would seriously mess up stuff for us. Don’t get me wrong. I am aware that this is my civic duty. I’m getting to the part where it felt like anything but that.

The defendant was a contractor, and his company had done work on a couple of historic buildings in the local area. We didn’t get too much detail on the case other than the County wasn’t happy with it and refused to pay the contractor the additional billing he requested. Basically, they were suing each other. I can only imagine a contracting company has got to have a great reputation if he gets to work on stuff like this for the city, so for this guy to sue in return means he is gambling on winning the case.  If he doesn’t win, that’ll be the end of his company.

The judge went on to explain that this case will take approximately 50 days, possibly longer. FIFTY DAYS. Ten weeks of our lives are about to come to a screeching halt. My heart began to race. I started thinking of all the deadlines and commitments and travel already booked that I would have to not only bail out on, but responsibilities that Wil and I share would all be dumped on him, just as he was about to launch a crowd-funding campaign for TableTop while simultaneously preparing for his show on SyFy. I was so anxious for both of us and how we would manage. Total panic.

The judge asked the 40 of us to raise our hand if we could not commit to that time frame. All but two of us raised our hands. One by one, we had to stand up and say why we couldn’t do it. People said everything from the financial hardship it would cause, to their business needing them to run it , to caring for elderly parents or small children. The judge excused us for lunch, but had all of us come back after.

When we returned, I was one of twelve that were called up to the jury box to be interviewed. I explained my commitments and my inability to stay for fifty days. A week? No problem. Ten to twelve weeks? I couldn’t do it. I also explained that I’m currently being treated for anxiety and that a trial this long would not be good for me. (To be clear, it’s anxiety during super stressful situations, not a daily issue for me like it is for some, but a thing that I finally talked to my doctor about a few months back, and I take Ativan if it’s needed.) Everyone had their turn to speak, some even being excused and replaced by a new potential juror. They would come back to me, asking my experience with working with contractors, family members possibly in this business or other jobs connected to the business. It didn’t matter that I have a family member who’s an architect or another who’s a D.A. They kept making their rounds of questions, always keeping me in the box.

The defendant on this case sat next to his attorney at the table, which was directly across from me in the front of the jury box. He seemed to be staring everyone down, with a small smirk on his face. Occasionally, he would even doze off. Here we are, a room full of people who are about to be forced to put our lives on hold, yet he’s dozing. He would sit up a bit, wake himself, and settle back in to looking at us with a smirk that made me SO uncomfortable because he kept his eyes mostly on me.

You ever get a feeling from someone just by watching their body language that they are the kind of person who would lie, steal and take short cuts to even their own family members just to get ahead? That was this guy. I’ve seen guys like him. My father was one. So was my ex-husband. It was the smirk on the guys’ face that made it all connect for me. This guy was about to take control of our lives with this case, even if he was wrong in the matter, because he didn’t want to pay the county for his mistakes. I’m a really good judge of character in people, so I felt like my instincts were right about this guy. The attorneys seemed satisfied with my answers to their questions, and it was obvious I was going to stay.

And that’s when the panic set in. I could feel myself choking back tears as I looked up at the clock on the wall, then over at the judge. My eyes briefly meeting the defendants eyes, who were now completely fixated on me,  the smirk on his face broadening. I looked away,  the feeling of someone standing on my chest while my heartbeat pounded in the sides of my neck took over. I looked around at the wood paneling on the walls, looking identical to the other courthouse Wil and I been in at least a dozen times over a five year time period, when my ex-husband kept taking us to court attempting to get custody of our kids.

I tried to compose myself, my nose feeling like it was about to gush everywhere. I brushed the back of my hand across my nose which was a HUGE mistake. The glob of cry-snot was overwhelming, and so was the courtroom. I stood up, now in full hyperventilating-ugly cry mode and started walking out of the courtroom, the judge calling out “Mrs. Wheaton, we are in session. You may not leave.” Too late. I was out the door, running down the hallway and into the bathroom, hyperventilating and crying out of control.

What the hell just happened? What the hell is wrong with me?

The woman handling all the jurors had followed me into the bathroom, full size box of kleenex in hand. She asked me if I was alright. Between gasps, I told her I didn’t realize it until now, but I feel like I have PTSD from years of being forced into family court. She kindly walked me out of the bathroom, back down the hallway, and sat me on a bench away from all of the jurors they had to clear the courtroom of because I left. Woops.

The woman then went in to talk to the judge and attorneys, and came back out to get me to come back in to see them. The judge was an older man, very sympathetic, and very confused looking. He asked if I was alright. The crying flooded my face again as I told him I knew it was my civic duty to be a juror and I’m sure being on a case that lasted a few days would be interesting. But being forced into doing this for so long is an unreasonable request to put on anyone, and it brings up what feels like a PTSD thing for me from years of being forced into a family law court because of my ex-husband. He asked if I had someone I could talk to about this, which I totally didn’t expect him to say. I told him I have a therapist and will be scheduling an appointment as soon as possible. He excused me from jury duty (at least until I get my next summons in a year) and I left.

I was still upset when I left the building, so I stood on the sidewalk outside the courthouse talking to Wil on the phone about what had happened. I hung up, called the therapist and scheduled an appointment, then called my best friend on the drive home (after I had calmed down.) I had jokingly said on Twitter that I was annoyed that I had jury duty, but I realized I was annoyed because I was upset that Wil and I had been working so hard on things that I was going to have to walk away from. I still couldn’t figure out why all that triggered an anxiety attack, but that’s why I was going to the therapist.

At my appointment with the therapist, (who I had only talked to in the past in regards to what was happening with the kids before they started seeing her as teenagers) she pointed out that she doesn’t know much about my background, except with what was going on with the kids, and occasionally, how Wil and I were handling all of that stuff during those years. She asked about my father (who as it turns out, is putting myself and my brother through a bit of legal junk right now, bringing the courthouse thing to the front of my mind) and how abusive was he to me. At first when I started talking about him, I didn’t think he was, but then I remembered that he hit me up until I was 15, when I was finally strong enough to stand up to him and make him stop. He was very emotionally abusive and controlling to my mom, which I always remembered, but somehow forgot about what he did to me. The therapist pointed out how I traded that physical abuse for emotional abuse with my ex-husband, and then the boyfriend after him, finally stopping that cycle of seeking that out in men when I met Wil. My life with Wil has been the two of us working so hard to be good people and separate ourselves from awful people, and that courtroom itself wasn’t the only trigger, it was the defendant sitting in front of me with that smirk who was about to control what I did with my life for the next six weeks whether I liked it or not, that brought up those feelings.

Turns out I spent all those years helping my kids get through a pretty horrible situation, but never helped myself along the way. Sure, I learned how to cope with it as much as I could, but I had felt like the way to separate myself from it was time and distance by thankfully, not seeing my father or my ex-husband for years.  No matter how much I had that space,  the old wounds resurfaced when I was forced to get close to it again. I get this fight-or-flight feeling that washes over me (It happened a year ago when I walked past that old boyfriend in Pasadena. He didn’t see me, but I saw him.) I’ve talked about all this stuff so much that what I do need to learn is how to handle that feeling that takes over me when I get in those situations. I’ve been seeing the therapist weekly since then, and I’m already feeling so much better.

So, this is why I haven’t updated my blog in a month. I wasn’t feeling up to talking about anything, really. But this is a situation that I’m sure happens to more people than we know, and sharing stuff like this I think helps others as much as it can help ourselves. I know it has helped me, so thanks for listening.