Sunday Lowdown #201


I’ve been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work this week, but I’m not ready to talk about it on Grab the Lapels yet. It did involve meetings that had me nervous, but thanks to the therapy I’ve been doing, I was able to restructure thoughts that caused me anxiety into positive ones. Not that I’m just “using the power of positive thinking,” but that I look at best and worse case scenarios, consider any thought traps I’m stuck in, and restructure my initial thought that caused me mental and physical duress. For example, when my plan didn’t go how I wanted it to, my first thought was, “Everything is ruined!” I restructured that thought into, “Plan A is no bueno. Now I have a Plan B.” Honestly, the progress I’ve achieved is noticeable to everyone around me.

The most memorable day this week was Friday. I had a final exam on interpreting ethics. Again, my commute is 50 minutes. I got out to my car and opened the passenger door to put my snacks and purse on the seat when I noticed a pile of shredded tissues on the floor mat. Then I saw the little trash bag I keep in my car had a hole chewed through it. I instantly called Nick about what to do, because never in my life have I seen rodents invade a car, and what if one jumped on me while I was driving on the freeway?? And it was sleeting.

Nick advised I open all the doors, so I did, which is when I found more evidence in the trunk. The perpetrator chewed through my reusable grocery sacks, not only ruining them, but leaving bits of confetti-like fabric all over the trunk. So then I’m grabbing every soft thing and throwing it out, in addition to the car mats. This is when I noticed they also chewed the carpet up a bit, too. Nick suggested laying on the horn. So, okiedokie.

By then, I realized there was no way I would make the final exam on time, so I called the professor. I got to the exam ten minutes late (everyone had to wait for me, because it was a debate), and I only got there that fast parking in a spot that said, “Reserved for AVI.” I later asked students what AVI is, and they said that is the company that does the dining hall food. So, if there was an angry chef adding cayenne pepper to everything out of spite on Friday, that’s my bad. I didn’t get a ticket though, so I felt lucky. I’m sure I would have thrown myself on the mercy of campus security.

The professor, who taught remotely, was there in person, so we got to meet face to face. She made all kinds of baked goods, and I sat there and stress ate cookies. Sometimes you just have to say “whatever” and eat the cookies. I think the exam went okay, except we went over time due to my tardiness, and several students had to call their bosses to report they would be late. I felt awful for that.

Saturday I finally got my bivalent booster, so that makes COVID shot #4 for me. I could have gotten it earlier, but some folks, like Cupcakes & Machetes, didn’t feel so hot after the vaccine, and I didn’t want my school schedule to suffer. Afterwards, Nick and I headed to the library, where the local Deaf community organized an event with a Deaf Santa, and it was lovely to meet everyone who showed up, including a few high school students learning ASL and tiny children eating candy canes. Nick and I got a picture with Santa, so I’ll share that once it’s uploaded onto the group’s Facebook page.

Many of you were curious about my ASL final, which was about volunteer vs. career firefighters and mental health. I updated my ASL webpage with what I learned from that topic, because my ASL blog is mainly devoted to continuing education. Check it out if you are still interested!


As much as I wasn’t sure what to do with this book, readers seemed even more puzzled, based on the comments. Classic literature updated to the 1960’s (and why that decade?) with some morose, pensive narration. I mentioned to Cupcakes & Machetes that in some ways Reluctant Immortals reminded me of Interview with the Vampire. Granted, Anne Rice’s novel was much more structured and had fewer plot holes, but that tendency toward philosophy instead of horror is a commonality.


So, so many books written by fat women that tell you we’re not going to beg for basic decency are authored by folks in their mid-twenties. And I find myself feeling exasperated, because many of the statements these lovely, but young, writers make about being fat almost sound too close to the “girl power!” motto we threw around in the late 90’s. Sure, “girl power” is nice, but saying it doesn’t do anything. I mean, to me it’s the equivalent of wall art telling you to be positive and quit whining. But here comes Kimberly Dark, an older person sharing stories of life as a fat, biracial, Queer person, and boy did I gobble it up. Review Wednesday.


Owned Books on TBR at Beginning of Year: 202
Owned Books on TBR Last Week: 184
Owned Books on TBR Today: 184

No drop in the TBR pile of stuff I own, and no new books added.


  1. Great post as always Melanie. I like this “For example, when my plan didn’t go how I wanted it to, my first thought was, “Everything is ruined!” I restructured that thought into, “Plan A is no bueno. Now I have a Plan B.” I think I could practise that a bit too. It’s so easy to focus on disappointment and not on options.

    I thought of you today when I was looking at the Instagram account of a young friend who does dog obedience. I noticed someone commenting on her post, and thought she looks interesting so clicked on her profile and posts – and what did I find but a lovely seeming young woman who was signing (using our ASL). What she was saying was that she was learning ASL so she could teach dog obedience to people in the deaf community as she felt they were not being well served currently.

    Your rodent story was horrible – but I’m glad you got to the exam, and the professor waited for you. I hope you all did well!


  2. I keep pens and utensils in the centre console of my truck. One day, picking it up from the mechanic’s, I saw the plastic handle of my vegetable knife had been chewed. The best guess was a rat, so I tucked my pants in my socks – in case it ran up my leg – while I drove home. I stripped all the bedding and everything out but found nothing except my floor mat had been chewed too. The real worry is when they start on your electric wiring.


  3. That’s awesome that you’ve been able to start navigating your way around the thought traps you mentioned so successfully. I’m really happy for you about that! ❤ I've caught myself a couple times this past year making a habitual response to something that USED to always be a no-go for me due to my anxiety, but then I would stop and check myself and realize that I'm just being stuck in my old ways and that I should try things old me used to avoid like the plague to see if it's something I might actually enjoy now that I'm treating my anxiety. It's been a really cool process, even if it isn't always easy or has perfect results.
    I'm glad your exam went well even after all the rodent-induced chaos. I had never considered rodents getting into a car before either. Hopefully the problem proves to be short-lived and your little visitors scamper off to go do more productive woodland critter things.


    • I know you’re on the anxiety journey, too. Do you mind if I ask what technique your therapist is using? Is it CBT? That’s what I’m doing, which is why we went through thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. The thought traps are really helpful to look at (I often pull them up on my phone) to check if the response I’m having is the one that is helpful to me. One aspect I’m really struggling with is I often identify my emotions as “afraid” or “fear.” My therapist keeps reminding me that the definition of fear is a response to a physical threat, and I am not being physically threatened. But my brain keeps shouting, “FEAR!!!” So, I have to work my way around that one over and over. It’s like, if my brain were a horror movie, “FEAR” would be a spooky house, and I need to cross the street to avoid it. On the other side of the street, though, how would I label those houses? Dread? Frustration? I’m working on it. And yes, my house metaphor is wonky, lol.


  4. I’ve had to replace more than one part under the hood of my car because of mice. Also our dishwasher stopped working and the repairman said it was because mice had chewed through some of the wires. We live in a rural area.


      • Sorry, didn’t mean to alarm you further. We know they like to nest under our dishwasher, and try everything to keep them out, but it’s an old house in the woods, so they’re going to get in. We might actually put up a barn owl house at some point, in the hope of better rodent control.


        • No, you actually made a good point about the chewing. I bought some mouse traps yesterday and need to set them up this evening. I don’t live too, too far out in the woods, but I do have 7.3 acres of farm field that had soy beans this year, so I know there’s environmental reasons for rodents to be around.


  5. So happy to hear all of your work you’ve been doing to help your anxiety is helping! Did you ever find the critters that were chewing in your car? Super interesting post about the firefighters. I have a cousin in California who is a career firefighter and made the rank of captain a few years ago. It’s not an easy job and I can only imagine how much harder it is for volunteers who don’t get the institutional support that career people get. Are all your finals down now? I’ll be getting my co-valent booster next week. Not looking forward to it, that’s for sure since the last one knocked me down for 24 hours.


    • I never saw what was in my car, but another commenter mentioned how mice chewed through parts of her car, so now I’m waiting for the other (mouse-sized) shoe to drop.

      Career firefighters are often in urban areas that have a taxpayer base that can afford a fire department, so I’m wondering if your cousin is in a big city. My father-in-law was a volunteer firefighter in a tiny town that was once more robust due to a local military base, but they have since moved, and even the local McDonald’s closed. Surely that is a sign, although I do not lament the closure of fast food restaurants.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I found your post about PTSD among firefighters really interesting – thank you for linking to it! In the UK there has been an increase in awareness of PTSD among healthcare professionals following the pandemic, which I imagine relates to the same repeated emergency cycle that affects firefighters so much.


    • I do wonder if peer support groups would be best for nurses, too. With firefighters, those groups are led by a peer who is trained to do so. I wonder about health care folks because I know when I get on Reddit and end up in the nurses subReddit, they are talking about things I can’t even imagine, and they’re using acronyms and initialisms I’m not familiar with, so I have to imagine it would be challenging to explain what each one is to a therapist who is not familiar with health care.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There is a new programme called Professional Nurse Advocates in the UK that one of my colleagues has just completed the training for. It’s not for PTSD specifically, but it is designed to help nurses who’ve been through traumatic experiences make sense of them. Unfortunately the health service doesn’t have the staff or funding to actually implement the groups, though, so it’s only really being done with students. Better than nothing but far from ideal!


        • Lately, every time I get groceries, I am paying double what I did a year ago, and I keep seeing how businesses are making record profits, so in the last year, any time I think about how something positive needs done for “the little people,” I’m positive we have to do it ourselves.


  7. That’s brilliant work you’ve done on yourself, well done. I had amazing results from the online CBT course I did, and I managed to actually not have the feeling of doom for a few months. Then we found out one of our cats has a long-term health condition that has left my hypervigilant for messes getting onto stuff in the house, as well as worrying about him, obvs, and it’s come back to an extent, as my anxiety decision tree doesn’t work so well on, “no, I can’t affect what’s happening” when it’s this. Anyway, sorry. Well done getting through the exam, rodents notwithstanding, and that book you’re doing next week looks very enticing!


    • I’m doing a lot of writing down a thought that includes the word “will” and then the emotion I was feeling. This is the negative part. Then I restructure that thought and decide what my new emotion is. This part we’ve been going over for a few weeks. It takes a lot of practice. I can appreciate an online course of CBT, but who challenges what you think are failures, but are positives, or what you think is success but could lead to further anxiety? I know you’ve said the wait times are very long, though, for professional therapists.


      • I completely take your point about online courses. It is not ideal, but the wait time for a human one-to-one was in the tens of months. Also, the course I did was overseen by a mental health professional. I had a talk with someone initially to establish what I needed and if I could help them. She then suggested the online course out of the three options (the other was a group session over Zoom. A friend did that and didn’t find it as hepful as I found mine, as some people dominated and they couldn’t access the chat). Then I had a talk with another professional who chose the modules I would have (e.g. I don’t have phobias as such so she didn’t concentrate on those). I had I think eight modules to work through and I had to give feedback, do exercises, list unhelpful thoughts and how I could work to reverse them, etc. as part of those. Then every two weeks the therapist reviewed my responses (I could also write freeform notes to them) and replied with suggestions, encouragement or I imagine warnings if I was on the wrong track). Then at the end there was a summing up. So I did feel she would have challenged me if I’d put down inappropriate stuff, and I had the chance to say “It looks like I didn’t spend much time on this module but I’ve written out the guided meditation and read it to myself because I hated the person’s clicky voice” etc. So it felt a bit better then just absorbing an online set of modules with no interaction or oversight, if that makes sense?


  8. Hooray for (good) therapy! I’m a big fan myself.

    UGH on the rodent in the car – maybe you need to put your kitty in the car for a while and see what happens, LOL – just kidding! Hope they have moved on.

    Fat, Pretty, and Soon to be Old looks very interesting! Can’t wait to read about it.


    • My cat came with no nails, and she’s old and spoiled. I need to borrow my neighbor’s cat! She prowls out in the field, typically. The last two days I’ve had this horrible sensation of something on my pant leg while driving, so it’s pretty awful. I just have to remind myself to chill out.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Yikes! Rodents in the car sounds stressful, especially before an exam! I’m glad you’re having success in being able to reframe your reactions. That’s huge!


    • It is huge, and I can tell I’m doing it on the fly, in my head in some circumstances.

      I will say the mice in the car is upsetting because 1) it feels like a violation of my space, 2) I had to remove everything from my car so they won’t shred it, and 3) I keep thinking I feel something climbing my pant leg as I’m driving.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh man, that episode with your car sounds very stressful, but being 10 minutes late is practically nothing! Don’t feel bad about that. My husband is late to everything, but he has white man confidence (something I’m trying to cultivate more of) which basically means you don’t care about inconveniencing others, LOL. We joke about it, but it’s sort of true too. He has completely unwarranted confidence in all situations and it always seems to work out for him! I have so many stories I could tell you about him being an hour late to things and never getting any pushback, it’s actually crazy. In fact here’s an example from three days ago: we had some people coming to install solar panels on our roof, and my husband was an hour and a half late coming home to meet them, b/c they needed inside the house. They just ended up leaving the panels on the roof, deciding to come back another day b/c they couldn’t wait any longer for my husband. I would have freaked out about this, crying and apologizing, but they just changed their plans, I don’t even know if my husband apologized!!! Anyway this is all to say, don’t feel badly for being ten minutes late haha


    • Oh, Anne. Is your husband proud that he inconveniences other people? I mean, looking at the solar panel example, that cuts into their time, meaning they’re paying workers to do nothing and have to drive back another day. I wonder if they’re going to charge him for the time. Maybe you could cultivate the attitude of not having to apologize or cry, but honor people’s time, too?

      Liked by 1 person

      • No I wouldn’t say he’s proud, he’s sheepish about it for sure, but he honestly cannot be on time. His parents are the same way. We used to argue about it more but we’ve been together for so long I’ve come to begrudgingly accept it.

        No doubt he will get charged extra for those solar panel people’s time!


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