Oy! The Equifax Breach, Y’all

Hi Gang!

Unfortunately this is not a funny post or a story, but rather a quick blog piece I wrote for one of the company’s I’m a freelance writer for – and it’s in regards to the recent Equifax Breach. If you don’t have all the info yet, and need some information on how to be proactive see below for useful tips, links, and information!

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The Equifax Breach and Your Online Security.

Dear Client,

In regards to this week’s alarming cybersecurity news, I want to talk to you about the Equifax breach, and how you can protect yourself against hackers. I know many of us are feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, and vulnerable, but there are easy proactive steps you can take right away to make it more difficult for anyone to use your compromised information unlawfully, and then some Pro-tips on how to protect your information in the future.

First, if you have not already done so, please check with Equifax to confirm whether you were impacted by the breach. 44% of Americans were impacted, and that means the chances are great that either you or a loved one were affected. It’s better to know than not to know. Please click on the link below to check whether your information was likely to have been compromised:

https://trustedidpremier.com/eligibility/eligibility.html

Next, if it turns out you were likely impacted, the most proactive step you can take is to bite the bullet and freeze your credit with all 3 credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. For residents of California there is a $10 charge for each freeze, (though Equifax is not charging, last I checked). You can call, or freeze them online very easily. You may UNfreeze them at any time using a unique PIN number, which each company will provide to you when you freeze.

What does it mean to “freeze your credit?” It does not mean that you won’t have access to your credit cards or your current lines of credit. Instead, it prevents any new credit provider (Banks, Loan companies, Credit Card companies) from running a credit check, and therefore impeding a cyber-criminal from opening a new line of credit using your information.

You can access the relevant websites to freeze your credit by clicking on the company links here:

Experian

Equifax

TransUnion

Or you can call Equifax (1-800-349-9960), Experian (1‑888‑397‑3742) or TransUnion (1-888-909-8872) directly.

Third, thanks to a 2003 law known as FACTA, you are entitled to one free credit report a year! Take advantage of this at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action, whether you think you were breached or not – it’s important to look at your current report for discrepancies. This is a key step to proactively protect yourself.

Lastly, the other aspect, which is probably just as overwhelming if you haven’t already addressed it, is your Internet Security. You’ve heard it a million times, but chances are your passwords are not secure enough, and chances are you are using duplicate passwords or variations of the same password on multiple websites. If someone can break into Equifax, they can get into almost anything. Remember, they already hacked Yahoo, and once they get your password – even for an unimportant site (who cares if they access my Netflix account, right?) they can then utilize the information on that site to get into another and another. Then they can use that access to spend your money, steal your money, commit you to services, send communications on your behalf, and steal your identity and use it for illegal purposes.

I strongly recommend using a password management tool such as LastPass or 1password. These tools can not only save and fill your passwords for you on the websites you visit, and on your phone as well, but can generate complicated, near-impossible-to-break passwords on your behalf. Here is a link to LastPass to get you started:

https://lastpass.com/f?21657922

Even if you think you’re not someone a thief would target, you’ve got nothing they’d be interested in, and so on, that’s just not true. Identity theft happens to the most innocuous and unsuspecting.

If you still feel vulnerable and overwhelmed, please give them a call! I’ve put a link below for contact information.

http://jjbcomputing.com/

https://www.yelp.com/biz/jjb-computer-consulting-los-angeles-2

Is Vacation, Vacation?

We’re going out of town next week. I wouldn’t call it a vacation, but traveling is always a treat, right? We’re headed back to our hometowns to visit family, sing Happy 70th Birthday to my Dad in Michigan, and celebrate the High Holiday – Rosh Hashanah in NYC. It will be a treat.

However, traveling is not as easy as it was before we decided to shack up together, get some dogs to pretend we were parenting, and then go ahead and open a 24/7 home business known as AirBnBeeber. Not to mention the whole traveling with a 2-year-old… talk about pretending to be parents.

Let me just start with the basics, to travel with or without your own car seat? That IS a question. If you rent a car in Michigan adding a car seat is like an extra $15 USDOLLARS a DAY! Are you kidding me? I could purchase a new one and then auction it off, donate it, return it?, and be better off financially. Why are you penalizing human beings for procreating? Do you actually want the human race to fail? Should we just not travelwith children?

If we left our baby at home with a sitter while we, Jason and I, travel that would be a couple thousand dollars and a lot of heartache, because what’s the point of visiting Grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins if the wee ones aren’t with you? Rhetorical. I can tell you with certainty that once we had a child no one, no one, but our friends care if we, Jason and I, visit – just as long as the baby makes the trip. And shocker, 2-year-olds are not allowed to travel solo… yet, but in all honesty, if they were, that’s like a whole lot cheaper and then parents everywhere could ship them off to family while staying back and enjoying a peaceful, clean, tantrum free home again – that’s what I would call a Stay-cation, but I digress.

Let’s jump back to those dogs, WTF dogs? Sure, there may be fancy dog hotels and kennels, but only a barbarian (or someone with money, not the Middle Class) would dump their pre-baby, babies off to the unknown while going away for a week or two. No, our furbabies must be treated as the children they are, we will have someone stay at the house full time. Nurture them, walk them, feed them, hug them – basically our dogs get the vacation I want. Meanwhile, I’m schlepping around two cities, taking multiple flights which keep me locked in stale-recirculated-air filled airports for too many hours, while carrying my 30lb toddler because he’s tired of walking and the new “light-weight” (HA!) umbrella stroller we bought for the purpose of travel (add another $60 bucks to the trip) is just not the same as mama carrying him. Not to mention the several carry-on bags that are filled with necessary distractions for said toddler and all our work files while we travel, because hey, we do have jobs and they do require our attention and no, we don’t get vacation days, but that one is probably on us, since we own our own business and all. And being a small business owner (and I’m not talking about AirBnBeeber) is a lot of work, it has its perks, but it’s also 7 days a week and a lot of hours, but again, I digress.

Then yeah, there’s the AirBnBeeber and the guests all the guests that book their trips months in advance. We aren’t going to cancel on them for our vacation. Nope, instead we’ve hired a friend to manage and care for our guests while we’re gone. It’s a nice gig if you can get it! I think we pay pretty well.

Okay, so just to get to my sister’s house in Michigan we’ve spent money on, flights, rental car, child car seat, travel stroller (this may be a splurge, but if you have kids you get it, if you don’t have kids trust those of us that do – this is necessary), dog sitter, AirBnBeeber manager, and car parking at the airport which is about the same as an Uber ride there and back, but comes with a Car Seat for the kid – that’s like SO MUCH MONEY and we’re not even on vacation yet.

I could go on, but I won’t because at the end of the day we’re getting away and while I will worry and fret about the costs, and the business, and my pups I think it will be worth it, right?

I’m laughing like I’ve lost my mind, because I think maybe I have. Please, laugh with me so I feel like I’m not alone. 

~Xo

Table For One

There I stood, by myself, at the hostess stand waiting to be seated. The sign indicated I was to wait, and as I looked up and down the single row of booths, 14 in total, in the little diner that I had been frequenting since I moved to town, I saw a happy bustle of people taking leisurely lunches on a Friday afternoon ahead of the three day weekend. There were two servers and a busboy on the floor; from the window behind the counter I could count three line cooks.

After putting my name down, Jaime – party of one, on the self sign-in sheet, I stood and waited for a good long 5 minutes until I decided to take a seat on the narrow, holding bench, just big enough to support two waiting patrons. The Diner was as put together as an Ikea showroom: small and uniform, filling every space with perfectly fit, custom engineered small pieces, bright, and happy. After another five minutes of waiting a party of three entered the door, just to the right of me, and one of the two waitresses bee-lined over to them and asked, “Have y’all been helped yet?” She had a soft, put-on, Old South accent.

With a quick, unanimous shake of their heads – No, the waitress grabbed a stack of menus and ushered them to one of the two booths that had just been cleared in her section. Surely the dismissal of me was an oversight and the waitress would be right over to seat me in the empty booth opposite the three-top she’d just taken a drink order from. I smiled at the waitress as our eyes connected, and I waited.

I waited another five minutes (it’s now been 15 minutes if you’re tracking). The waitress made no indication that she would be offering me the booth, so I stepped outside and contemplated leaving. If I say something it would likely ignite an argument, I thought, which gave my insides an electric current of anxiety. But what if I just go back in and wait another few minutes standing so there is no confusion whether or not I’m waiting to be seated? I opted for the latter, my curiosity was piqued – just how long would it take for someone to wait-on the SWF (Single White Female)?

I reentered the diner and planted myself directly between the front door and the hostess stand. It would be a tight squeeze for any new diners to be seated ahead of me, and I smiled with newly found confidence.

The minutes ticked by slowly and painfully. I shifted my weight back and forth from one leg to the other, my hips pushing themselves into a deep tea-kettle pose, as I rested one hand at my waist while raising the other hoping to catch the attention of both waitresses or the busboy. It may be cliché to write, but I was boiling, you could tip me over…yada yada yada…

I stared unapologetically as patrons were leaving and tables cleared, first from the section to my left and then from the section to my right. The bright orange vinyl booths held the shape of the wide backs that had previously resided in them, and then after a few minutes they slowly restored to their original plump shape, with a faint pop as air penetrated it’s way back in. There I was, loitering, or so it must have appeared, as no one spoke a word to me. My mind started to wander as I looked at the melting cheeses and toasted buns being served one plate at a time.

Then the bell on the door behind me announced another new arrival. I turned to see a couple smiling at each other dreamily as they prepared for their lovers lunch on this Friday afternoon. I was mesmerized by their affection, and while distracted, had not noticed the same carrion waitress swoop in to snatch the couple up and seat them at the available booth in her section.

It took everything in me not to scream. I felt angry and self-conscious and the fact that not one of the patrons cutting in front of me bothered to say, “I think she was here first,” pissed me off even more.

I stared at the waitress, this two-time offender. I stared with the weight of my anger and frustration until she took notice. She hesitantly walked toward me and asked if I had been helped.

“No, I’ve not been helped,” my mind was bitter and spewing the words, but my mouth was calm and collected.

“Are you waiting for someone?” she asked obtusely.

“I’m waiting to be seated,” I answered as neutrally as possible, while thinking, okay, you’re special, you are a special kind of asshole.

“Oh, I guess we didn’t see you over here in all the commotion,” she giggled as she lied. I frowned. “Follow me this way,” she directed.

She had led me to a booth in the other waitress’ section.

“Some one will be right with you, okay Hon?” As the pronoun rounded itself off her tongue in a slow southern drawl, I smiled neutrally, again, as I made a mental note to write a Yelp review commenting on the one time I didn’t have decent service at The Diner, and then I thought, no I won’t, I don’t like being negative, I prefer everyone to see me as happy and positive all the DAMN TIME!

I was seated, in a booth, menu in hand and mentally, actively choosing to change my attitude. I sat, my lunch decision made: the Mixed Green Salad, a Fresh Fruit Bowl, and a Decaf Coffee. I closed the menu, and I waited. I checked my phone, the first time since I’d arrived at the diner, and noted I had now been at the restaurant for half of an hour and had not even been asked how I was doing today. Not that it’s mandatory, but it is customary.

I watched as a second booth in my section was filled by two burly men and then a third booth was filled by two women. I watched as the waitress in my section made her way to both tables, and chitchatted. She asked them how their day was going, if they had plans for the holiday weekend. I watched her take both tables’ drink orders and then deliver the beverages. I just sat there, and I waited, smiling, and watching.

I watched as more couples entered the restaurant, sat in the opposite section of mine, and placed their orders. Finally I caught the attention of the busboy and I asked him for a glass of water and if I could order.

“I’ll tell your waitress you’re ready,” he replied.

I watched as he made his way to my waitress. I saw her glance over and felt hopeful. I watched as she hustled to my side of the diner, walk right past me and gossip with yet another table of twenty-somethings about the good old days when she was married to a “Psycho, but that was before you all were born, I’m old,” she joked, lightly.

Then I watched as she took the orders of the burly gentlemen and then the women. I watched with longing, because I had skipped breakfast and was now really hungry. I thought my choice to stay and watch how this played out was stupid, but I was too invested to leave.

As my stomach rumbled, the waitress put the orders in for the tables seated after me, and I swallowed dryly as their drinks were topped off. I flagged down the busboy once again and asked him, loudly, “Who is my server? I would like to at least get a water.”

And then, the energy shifted. I was louder then I had intended to be. In fact I had projected so loudly that the carrion waitress was upon me instantly.

“Hey Hon, what seems to be the matter?” her drawl even thicker and her smile less convincing this time.

“Well, I’d like a glass of water, and I’d like to place my order, but it seems that I don’t have a waitress,” I stated neutrally and still quite loudly.

“Oh,” her tone condescending, “well maybe she just thought you were waiting for someone, Hon. Why don’t I get your order started and I’ll let her know,” she was dripping with sweetness and insecurity, unsure of how she would be handled by me.

“Great,” I started calmly, “I’ll take the Mixed Salad, the Fresh Fruit, and a Decaf Coffee.”

“You got it, Sugar,” I wondered whether Sugar was a euphemism for Bitch or Cunt.

As she placed my order with the line cooks, I saw her gesture at me to the other waitress. A moment later, the other waitress wordlessly delivered me a decaf coffee. The mug, indelicately set before me, spilled with the hard landing. I sopped it up, also wordlessly, and I felt the deep animosity of this older waitress and thought, was it your ex that was Psycho or was it you?

 Exactly three minutes later, my salad and fruit were delivered with the same amount of physical enthusiasm and silence. I ate quickly and efficiently, trying my best to enjoy the fresh cut mango. I had one silent refill of coffee and then the check arrived. I paid, left the standard tip, and exited.

When I got home I wondered if this was a normal, everyday experience for any of my friends.

****

That evening Jason, Jack and I went to the supermarket. I grabbed bananas as Jack and Jason made their way to the sample station, as is customary during our Trader Joe’s runs. When I met them at the sample station, there, cooing at my son, was the carrion waitress with her Old South accent. I said nothing as I looked at her and then to my husband, and I kissed my child’s head to show a little power. This time there was no denying that she had noticed me.

Her face turned as scarlet as the red, eyelet shift dress she wore. I smiled at her confirming recognition, as we had only just parted ways 3 hours prior. The guilt written on her face was enough for me, I looked at the family and asked, “what are we sampling? I’m starving! Did I tell you about the fresh mango I had at lunch?”

I winked good-bye to the waitress and pushed the cart forward as Jason (my husband) popped a bit of mini quiche in my mouth from the sample tray.

****

What would you have done?

Do They Like Me?

Online relationships are hard.

Oy. You have to email, or messenger, or text with a total stranger that we desire to like us, even though we may not end up liking them.

IMG_7086First impressions are the easiest because everyone looks good in a profile picture the size of a thumbnail! I’m not telling you anything new, I know, we all know, YES, everyone knows. It’s the best size to sell oneself because it’s not big enough to even be a book cover, let alone judge one. We accept the person and their happy, white, toothy grin because teeth are the one thing that standout on a picture that requires a magnifying glass to look at.

After we take two seconds to review this micro-mini thumbnail, we dive into the portfolio pictures, maybe manipulated with an app or for the pros, Photoshop, and decide if we are in love – which can take a total of one awesome picture staged perfectly, or a few super cute composite shots procured with any number of free apps, again, that make the common phone user a photographer.

That first written correspondence is the next gatekeeper. Most of us can agree that Twitter is not the example for proper short hand in an email or text, right? I want to see if they’ve used commas, periods, or exclamation points too much, or just enough? Have they substituted an “a” for an “e” on commonly used words? I am hesitantly forgiving of the “auto-correct” dictionary on the phone, but “definitely” will never be auto-corrected to “definAtely.” And if there are multiple paragraphs in the correspondence I tend to gloss over a few punctuation errors, as I make them myself. I’m not an asshole. As long as there are periods at the end of a sentence, I can live.

*Sidenote – This whole piece will not be edited since my editor is not home and I tend to ramble and forget basic-comma-laws.

Okay, the potential match has made it past the first several rounds: Profile Picture, Picture Gallery, and Written Correspondence. They’ve sent a wonderfully crafted and engaging first email and we are all smitten. I’m smitten. I’m ready to engage. I write back, immediately, not wanting to lose them to the other potential match they’ve reached out to. My response is equally generous in length, plus I am witty and approachable.

Our online banter goes on for several hours and we are confirmed for the following day and several dates after that… I have a two-date minimum. You should too. It’s just not worth it to pull everything together for one night. Time is money, and I spend a lot of time getting ready to make the best impression. I put money into the right look, I make the bed, I clean the bathroom, I vacuum, after all I am investing in my future. Then there’s the childcare now and I’m giving up time I could be working on my books. I love all this and I have no regrets, but no one-nighters.

You text me, “Getting on the road, should be there in an hour.”

After an hour goes by I look out the window waiting for you to pull into the driveway. I’ve left a light on so you can easily find your way, but an hour comes and goes and I don’t see you or hear from you. I debate whether I should reach out or not. I decide against it. I will wait until the morning.

The next morning I still haven’t heard from you so I text, “Good morning! I just wanted to check in and confirm all is well?”

Nothing. No response. Not a peep.

After all the build up and the back and forth messaging, inside jokes had already formed and then they just stopped communicating with me. I wondered if I had said something wrong. I reread our messages to be sure; the last thing I would want to be is offensive or insensitive. Nothing.

Day 3 – Silence.

Day 4 – I just stopped worrying about it.

It has now been five days. Five days and I just now, now received a new message in my inbox!

“Hello, I apologize for the late response. I had a few things to take care of when I arrived and then returned home. I do want to thank you, however, for everything. I’ve stayed at a few Airbnb’s in L.A. and this has been the best stay by far! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I will definitely be referring you to others and I know they will enjoy their stay and your hospitality as much as I did.”

So, in summary, no news is good news. As a host and concierge I am hella awesome. And it’s not like I’m trying to date online – thank goodness – but if you are (trying to date online), I’m definitely on your side. If that ass doesn’t call, text, or has the nerve to stand you up – let me know. I’ll write them a well crafted, edited email or text letting them know they suck.

My Day In Court

By the time we arrived at the courthouse at 8:30 AM, I had already been up for four hours. And thanks to my new NO COFFEE diet, I was also tired as hell. I still managed to dress well, shower, comb my hair and apply some decent color to my face.

Now, based on my experience of binge-watching The People’s Court and the multiple times I’ve been called to Jury Duty, I know there are two kinds of people that go to court: Those Who Dress Professionally and Those Who Don’t. Today there were more people in the Those Who Don’t category… which, based on my aforementioned experience, seems to generally be the case.

Why was I at court? Well, it wasn’t for Jury Duty this time. No, on this occasion I was standing in line waiting to enter the metal detectors of the rectangular, boring-as-watching-cement-dry building as moral support for my friend during her custody case.

It is the first hearing for my friend in what has been a long and agonizing two years of single parenthood. She’s been working two full time jobs to survive and provide. She is educated, talented (gifted in the performing arts), and a really good person. She is smartly dressed for court in freshly pressed, khaki colored slacks and a bright blue button down that makes her skin glow softly and disguises the sleepiness under her eyes. Her hair is swept back into a neat bun and her lips are gently glossed. Her look is put together, smart, and approachable – the woman you would ask for assistance if you needed it, and she is an example to everyone on HOW TO DRESS FOR COURT.

Sure, I’m being a little funny regarding how we present ourselves because there is an abundant amount of truth that we are prone to making snap decisions based on appearances. I’m being 100% honest and I will tell you why:

 

My friend, I will call her Eve, is outwardly calm, but her insides are a mess. A mixture of anxiety, sadness, fear, and anger are twisted in so many knots that to distinguish one feeling from the other is nearly impossible, and so she has learned to push them down and smile with false calmness and a bit of self-deprecation to help her and me laugh at an otherwise appalling situation. As Eve would say, “I am thirty-something years old and smack dab in the middle of an episode of Sixteen and Pregnant.”

It’s funny, but the truth is even at an age when we have our shit together and we’re in a tenured relationship, we can end up with a father that, “wasn’t ready,” and “doesn’t love us anymore,” and feels that, “ever since the pregnancy you’ve been a Bitch,” and my personal favorite, “you made me cheat on you.”

I guess when I saw him, Eve’s Ex, show up to court in his new weekend casual sneakers (they were pretty great and I want a pair, but are too expensive and not court appropriate), his easy going polo, and his Los Angeles standard-issued-denim (jeans) I knew I, too, was smack dab in the middle of Sixteen and Pregnant. He definitely presented that he was indeed not ready to be a father, however, he did make sure to be escorted into court by a well-dressed attorney.

Well, if you’ve never been to court for a custody hearing, let me give you a brief run down on the flow. First, the Bailiff checks you in and every body else that’s showed up for a court hearing. And Family Court takes place in Civil Court, so you sit and wait and listen to all the folks wearing their F*ck Off graphic tanks and acid washed jeans rant about the “bullshit” restraining order against him/her. You listen when the young woman in her ill-fitting, years old Homecoming dress tells the Bailiff she’s innocent and shouldn’t be there. You eavesdrop on the planned lying between middle-aged sisters against a landlord. And you tear up and worry a little when you look over at your friend, Eve, and see that she’s praying for this to not be happening to her.

At the end of eight hours of mediation, no agreement was reached. Throughout the entire day Eve asked on three separate occasions for a continuance, which the mediator, an Accident and Injury Attorney in this case, denied. The Mediator sent Eve out to sit in the courtroom while he spoke alone to the Ex and his Attorney.

When the Mediator returned to Eve he looked her straight in the face and told her, “Either you give him what he wants or you’ll end up with the cops at your door. You wouldn’t want the police to show up to your home would you? Nobody likes the cops called on them.”

I know this is exactly what he said because I was sitting right beside Eve when he said it. This officer of the court, a court-appointed Mediator.

The Mediator threatened Eve with a call to the police because she asked for a continuance so that she could employ her own legal counsel. She had been blindsided by the appearance of her Ex’s attorney and she had been blindsided when her Ex, who has not seen his child in over a year – electively­, asked for sole custody so he could leave California and raise the child in Michigan.

Let me say this – all the under-dressed, unkempt, orally dysfunctional (did I make this word up? You get it), white people that filled the courtroom were treated with respect and never threatened with a call to the police, even though I’m pretty sure with the lies, multiple false allegations, and domestic abuse, there probably should have been some mention of police involvement, but no.

Eve is black. And no, it is not a coincidence. 

It’s The Little Things, Ya Know?

IMG_6817I can’t drink coffee anymore.

I love coffee. The rich, intoxicating aroma leads me into a calm, serene state of mind. The purposeful measured “splash” of cream that caramelizes its hue brings a smile to my face. A single sugar cube to sweeten the roast for my tongue is my greatest pleasure in the morning. It’s my ritual, my every morning, and my friend-date go-to.

I worked at a coffee shop. I loved pulling shots of freshly ground, espresso. I loved the smiles and thanks I received when I handed someone their drink. I loved the smell of my clothes that permanently wore the scent of roasting beans. I loved the false bravado of the customer who set-up her/his laptop for a long afternoon of staring at a blank screen.

Coffee can perk you up when you’re down or feeling sluggish, and it will be your muse when you lack inspiration. It’s a treat and I rewarded myself daily.

Now, the Doctor says I cannot drink coffee.

“You should consider yourself allergic,” she rationalized.

Two months ago today was my last mug of the good stuff. Had I known it would be my last cup, I would have cherished it more. I would have sat down, with delicious biscotti, and I would have closed my eyes and thanked it for the lifetime we’d spent together. I wouldn’t have let it get cold sitting on the counter while I changed a poopy diaper, dressed a screaming toddler, and dropped him off at daycare only to come home and resent my coffee’s stale bitterness from being nuked in the microwave.

I’ve been savoring the rich dark roast since the age of nine. My parents allowed me a cup of their Folgers every weekend. If I visited my parents today, surely I would find a large, plastic, red tub of Folgers precariously shoved into the top cupboard of their 1986 galley kitchen with its light blue wallpaper that’s been peeling at the corners since 1989. It would go without saying that coffee would be made and a large blue tin of Danish butter cookies would be served.

I miss my coffee.

A couple of weeks ago I tried decaf. While the smell that wafted from the hot cardboard was familiar the taste – was off. The warm drink minus the caffeine made me drowsy. I tried to convince myself that the decaf espresso would be better than stale diner coffee, it isn’t. It’s not the same. There’s no reward to drinking decaf, no high, no rush, no momentum.

I went grocery shopping yesterday. I wandered sluggishly down the baking aisle and followed my nose to the coffee beans. I smelled every bag, I lingered at the bean grinder, I stuck my face into the shoot it was still warm and oily from the last grind. It smelled amazing.

I picked up a bag of Breakfast Blend and headed to the express lane. I forgot to pick-up dinner, but we could just order in. I rushed into the house as fast as I could, running to the corner of the kitchen counter I ripped open the coffee grinds ready to pour them into the filter and I couldn’t find the coffee machine. Here, on the white Caesarstone, coffee stained counter there was no coffee machine.

“JASON!” I shouted, not caring if the toddler was sleeping.

“Yeah, Babe?” came his calm, measured response.

“Where’s the coffee pot?”

“I sold it.”

************************************************************************************

My heart is racing and my eye is twitching and my leg keeps bouncing, but I am happy. I am across the street at the Coffee Haus writing to you, sipping my café au lait made with fully caffeinated, dark roast coffee. Don’t let anyone tell you, ‘you can’t,’ because I am proof you can.

Where On Earth Have I Been?

I’m writing about where I’ve been.

It feels like I may be tempting fate and risking another One just by writing about Them.

I fear everything right now is a trigger.

But if They’re going to keep happening, I might as well write about Them.

It’s been one week and two days without One, but somehow I know They can hear me, read me, know that I’m talking about Them.

Panic Attacks.

 

It’s been five weeks and four days since the first one gripped my chest so tight I thought, someone help me!

And then I thought I’m not going to make it. Then a stream of thought consumed me:

I can’t breath. My chest is pinched. It’s collapsing. My lungs – air.

 My throat is closing up.

Why am I shaking so violently?

My head repeats I’m not going to make it. I’m not going to make it.

 I’m outside, so is the dog, fuck, “GET INSIDE, DOG, NOW!”

I was surprised any sound made it out of me at all.

I locked the door. I walked to the neighbor’s house, quickly. I pounded on the thin strip of metal that is the screen doorframe until someone heard me.

Her husband answered, why is her husband home and mine is not.

“Is Ruth here?” I asked, shaking, eyes wide and frightened, I must have been a sight.

“She’s sleep—“ he stopped the thought, “yeah one second, come in.”

I spilled the glass of water I’d forgotten I was holding.

Breathe Jaime, breathe. I can’t. You can. I can’t. You can. I can’t. You can.

He’s back, “Ruth will be right out, do you want some coffee?”

“I think I’m having a panic attack,” I may have yelled it. I may have cried it. I was definitely pleading for help when I said it.

 

 

It’s five weeks and four days later.

I finally feel like myself again, which only just happened two days ago. But for the first time in five weeks and four days, I’m not sitting waiting for an attack to happen and that feels like the best gift ever.

I didn’t have just one panic attack – I had one to five attacks per day for a month. It was unbearable. Debilitating. Scary-as-hell. Nothing I’d ever wish on anyone.

I couldn’t be alone for those weeks. I went on jobs with Jason. I dragged Jack to Jason’s basketball games and piano lessons – the ones I didn’t make him cancel, and I dropped the baby off at daycare full-time. I cried in public more times than I can count. I couldn’t drive because I didn’t know when I’d have one or how bad it would be. I couldn’t stay in the house; not alone, not at all.

I’m here, I never left, but I did lose the month of June. I likened it to a really long stomach-flu, but it wasn’t. It was much worse emotionally and physically, not that I want the stomach flu again to compare.

I’m still me. I’m working on getting rid of the attacks. I’m practicing more self-care. And I’m writing. Every experience helps with character development, right? Right.

Every time I tell someone I feel a little stronger, a little less alone, a little more like everybody else. Because I’m not alone and neither are you.