Sunday, March 30, 2008

Who you calling Type A?

Published March 30, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

I've been studying the negative impact of chronic stress in one college class this week. As part of a lecture on the topic, my professor handed out a quick test designed to determine whether or not each student has a Type A (competitive, hard-driving, impatient, and anger-prone) or Type B (easy going and relaxed) personality.

The news is not great. According to this test, I am a "definite Type A." I'm not a moderate A. I'm DEFINITE...dun dun duuuuunnnnnnn! I'm hard core. According to my textbook, Type A people are much more likely to die a painful, stress related death from heart disease or stroke.

Great. I'm all stressed out now. Faced with a death sentence like this, I initially did what any Type A person would do. I argued!

Who came up with this test, anyway? What credentials do these people have? Why should I, an intelligent, educated woman, accept this label without a fight. It's an outrage, I tell you, an outrage! Lets take a look at some of the so-called Type A behaviors from the test.

-"I thrive on challenging situations." This makes me Type A? What is life, if not a challenging situation? Whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger, right? Anyone ever heard of the refiner's fire?

-"I've often been asked to be an officer in some groups." Can I help it if people like me to lead them? I think that says more about those people.

-"I hate giving up before I'm absolutely sure I'm licked." I see nothing wrong with this. This is the same kind of sheer will upon which this country was founded. Ever hear, "Give me liberty or give me death?" Patrick Henry...Type A.

-"When I'm in the express lane at the grocery store, I count the items in other people's carts and comment if they have too many." I count. I do not comment...not loudly, anyway.

Okay, so I'm a little stressed. So, sometimes I can become so overwhelmed that I get heart palpitations. So, I refuse to take any kind of anti-anxiety medication because of my control issues. Does that make me Type A? Why are you all nodding your heads?

Actually, I realized I was overly stressed about three years ago and I've done quite a bit since then to reduce my workload and stress level. I take time to breathe. I exercise. I meditate for hours on rocks in the middle of nowhere. (This is not a joke. No, really! Stop laughing! I rock sit and I'm proud). Sometimes, I just kind of fall off the Born Again Type B wagon.

Getting back on is not as easy as it seems, either. I checked out my to-do list list for today and found the following stressed out orders, scrawled frantically in bold, capital letters: READ SCRIPTURES! PRAY! GRATITUDE JOURNAL! MEDITATE MEDITATE MEDITATE!!!! Geez...even my attempt at reducing my stress level stresses me out.

I'm willing to concede that I have Type A tendencies, but as someone with those tendencies who is trying hard to get back to a Type B level, I know that ultimately, I'll be fine. Do you know why? Because I've made a goal and I'm going to follow through. All I need is the will...the determination...the killer drive. It's hard work--very hard work--but hard work I can do! I thrive on challenging situations! I'm a leader! And I won't give up before I'm absolutely sure I'm licked!

As long as I stay away from express checkout lanes, I'll be fine.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Easter Skunk?

Published March 23, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Happy Easter! I trust the fabled rabbit made his rounds and filled Easter baskets throughout the community. At least, I think that's what he does. The Easter bunny has always been a mystery to me. Having no childhood experience with this particular ball of gift-giving fur, I'm still at a loss as to what he does and what he represents.

Actually, according to my mom, the Easter bunny is a pagan fertility symbol that has nothing to do with the true meaning of Easter, and that is precisely why she never allowed him to visit our house. A little research corroborates her opinion, though the practice of leaving eggs in baskets has more to do with a German custom than Constantine's melding of religion. I can't say I blame her.

My mother's opinions notwithstanding, I can kind of see how a rabbit represents life...or new life. I mean, rabbits do breed like, uh, rabbits. With a gestation period of only 33 days, it's not hard for a rabbit to create a large amount of offspring. If you're going to have a symbol of fertility, the rabbit is the obvious choice.

And there's the song. "Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail. Hippity-hoppity, Easter's on its way!" It's catchy, anyway. And since Easter occurs in the spring, the arrival of rabbits on the bunny trail is as good a way as any to herald in the season that heralds in the holiday. (Note: I would like to see a bunny trail. I'm willing to pay for directions within driving distance.)

Still, it could have gone in another direction, entirely. Rabbits aren't the only fertile animals in nature. Actually, a skunk has a shorter gestation period, at 31 days. The gestation period of a mouse is only 19 days. The gestation period of a seahorse can be as short as ten days. I'm not even mentioning various insects that populate the earth in exponential numbers.

Of course, "Here comes Pepe Stinkytail, skulking down the skunky trail," doesn't quite have the ring to it of the other song. And the smell isn't something I'd like to equate with any holiday, though I imagine a forgotten easter egg or two have created something of a skunky frenzy in their day. Mice incite fear in a good number of the population. Seahorses, though they actually lay eggs, aren't really associated with spring. Insects are...well, icky.

Whether you embrace him or discourage him, it looks like that Easter bunny is here to stay. For my part, I figure Easter is about life, so I'll live and let live. I don't have the Easter bunny visit my house, but I enjoy hiding eggs and filling baskets with my kids. In a way, I guess you could say I'm the Easter bunny at my house.

Any and all jokes about my fertility level can just stop right there.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I believe I can fly!

Published March 16, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

I, Sarah E. Wilson, being of sound body and questionable mind, do hereby leave my last will and testament. To my fiancé, I leave my iPod, five semi-rowdy children, and all of the cash currently on my person ($4). To my children, I leave my genetically enhanced sense of humor and personal taste in music, my, ahem, dignified nose and unruly hair, and enough life insurance to get them through one semester of college...if they share books. To my readers, I leave the memories. Thanks for those.

Do not be dismayed or worried. I’m not dying of cancer or depressed and planning to do something drastic. I just wanted to cover my bases before I board a plane tomorrow.

At this writing, I am fewer than 24 hours away from the flight that will either result in my safe arrival in North Carolina for my sister’s wedding or my tragic and untimely death. At the time of your reading, I am fewer than 12 hours away from the flight that will bring me safely home or call me home to Jesus. At this point, it will be another week before you even know if I survived my adventure unless you know me personally or see footage on the news tonight of the burning debris that was my plane.

I know someone out in Readerland is shaking his or her exasperated head and telling me the statistics show that air travel is much safer than travel by car. To that person, I’d like to say two things: A) I can’t hear you. You’re talking to a newspaper, and I’m likely dead by now. B) Statistics only mean something to the people on the RIGHT side of the statistic in question. If I end up being one of the unlucky few, no one’s going to console my grieving family with comforting words like, “I’m sorry for your loss, but actually, statistically speaking, flying is the safest way to travel. Sarah has passed on, but millions of other people DIDN’T die in a plane crash today. Isn’t that encouraging?”

My fear of flying corresponds closely with my fear of riding roller coasters. When I’m on a roller coaster, I feel a thrill of excitement. And then the attendant fastens the safety apparatus and I realize there’s no way out. I think, Why am I doing this? WHY am I doing this? This is completely stupid! I am going to die today.

About this point, I say a little prayer: “Dear God, I know I’m being terribly stupid right now, so I probably don’t have any right to ask you for anything, and I’m sure that random act of kindness I performed earlier today doesn’t really make up for this random act of idiocy, but if you could please just keep me alive until this ride is finished, I would really appreciate it.” Obviously, I’ve made it out alive every time, but I’m sure it’s been close a time or two.

Tomorrow’s prayer will likely go something like this: “Dear God, I know I shouldn’t be putting my life into the hands of people who have no regard for your most basic laws. I know I shouldn’t trust those sinful people who believe gravity is more like a guideline. Please forgive me. Gina is getting married, so here I am inside this blasphemous piece of flying metal. I’d really like to be there for Gina’s wedding and still be around for my own, so if you could just keep me alive until this awful, heretical contraption lands, I will spread the good word to everyone within driving distance of me.

“And God…it may be too much to ask, but if you could keep the pilot alive too…well, that would be great.”

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Wanderer, thy name is Miriam.

Published March 9, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Kids should come with defibrillators.

Or if not those, kids should come with nitroglycerin…or baby aspirin...or a do it yourself CPR guide. If I make it to 35 without having a stress-induced heart attack, I think someone needs to throw me a party. Whether it’s Cate running along steep petrified dunes in Snow Canyon like she’s learned to fly or Michael thinking if he can dodge a ball he can dodge traffic, my kids get my heart pounding and not always in a good way.

I had one of those experiences yesterday, when a child I will not name (because it’s been more than 24 hours and I’m finally starting to feel just the tiniest bit gracious) decided to go to a friend’s house after school and stay there until 7:30 pm with nary a word to his/her worry-crazed mother. After several circuits around the neighborhood in the car, a call to the police, and several tearful hours imagining the worst and then realizing I could imagine even worse things, the child in question arrived home with a deer in the headlights look to my “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN AND WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?”

I know what they’re thinking when they do things like this. Aw, those unsightly brown patches in Mom’s gray hair probably bother her a lot. I think I’ll help her out with that. Or. She’ll laugh about this later. Or. Whatever doesn’t kill her only makes her stronger. She’ll thank me when she really thinks about it.

As a mom who’s had her fair share of scares over the years, I’ve come to believe that whatever doesn’t kill me now kills me slowly; I will most certainly not laugh at this later; and if my kids don’t pony up for some hair dye soon, I’m going to start taxing their allowances whenever shocks like this occur.

I’m still questioning my decision not to share with an entire community which of my children committed this act. Actually, last night I wrote column notes saying not only would I like to humiliate my child by letting the entire community know, I’d also like to have this child wear the scarlet letters SMMTD for “Scared My Mother to Death” if I thought it would make him/her never do it again. A 24 hour time-out has calmed my nerves a bit, so I’m content knowing his/her teacher knows, along with the police, the neighbors, my close friends, and every single coworker I saw today.

A 24 hour time out served more than just that purpose. No mother should discipline a wandering child on the same day that he/she is found safe. Emotions are always in the extreme at moments like those. Either you’ll punish too harshly or you’ll smother your child with kisses and say, “I don’t care what you did! I’m not even going to punish you! I’m just glad you’re safe!” For my part, I allowed my offspring to make a sandwich and then go to bed early with the admonition that the consequence would follow in the morning because, “If I consequence you now, I’ll ground you for the rest of your life and sell all your toys. Believe me, you want to stay in your room for your own protection.”

Gray hair and palpitating heart aside, I am very glad my wayward child made it home in one piece. The punishment for the crime is reasonable and impactful. I’m feeling a lot less tense and edgy, and I’m hopeful all my kids have learned a valuable lesson in PICKING UP THE GOSH DARNED PHONE AND CALLING YOUR MOTHER WHEN YOU WANT TO GO SOMEWHERE OR WHEN YOU’RE GOING TO BE LATE!

No, really…much less tense and edgy.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Published March 2, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Much of what we do in life happens on an annual schedule. Christmas comes once a year. So do Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Easter. Every twelve months we do the spring cleaning and pay the property taxes. For women, there is another event that occurs on a 12 months schedule...that wonderful trip to the kind of doctor I'm actually too skittish to even name in this column. I had my annual appointment this week, after a long, 16 months since my last one.

I guess my year runs a little long. I have no proof of this, but I'm willing to bet that's the way it is for most women. On an unpleasantness scale in which one represents an experience that is entirely pleasant and ten represents something terribly unpleasant, the yearly visit to the "woman doctor" rates about an 87. If I had to make a list of the things I'd rather do than attend this appointment, I'd put dental work, traffic court, and my own funeral at the top of the list.

To be fair, it's not all unpleasantness. The waiting room is decidedly non-embarrassing, with its muted colors and cheery receptionists. They pipe in soft, meditative music to lull you into a fully clothed sense of security. And then there are the pregnant women and babies everywhere. There is nothing more non-threatening than a pregnant woman or a newborn.

And then they call you back. And then they put on a scale. I don't want to talk about it.

When you make it into your exam room, you're told unceremoniously that you must take everything off for your examination. In some strange act of momentary kindness, they tell you that you can keep your socks on if you want to. That's nice. You've just told me you want me to get naked as a jaybird, but I can keep my toes covered in case I'm modest about such things... (Says the columnist, as if she doesn't always consider keeping her socks on "for the principle of the thing.")

Disrobing in a doctor's office is an interesting experience. You want to see a quick change artist? Well, don't try to do it in a doctor's office, because we women change too quickly for any normal human to catch it. Every second of the 30 seconds it takes me to go from groomed to gowned, finds my eye fixed firmly on the door, as if by the power of my gaze alone I can keep it from opening at an inopportune moment. I hold onto as much clothing as I will need in the event of a duck and cover and then for one terrifying moment, I drop the clothes and dive into a paper gown (open in the front for maximum humiliation) and take my place on the exam table under a paper blanket.

This is probably the most comical moment of the whole process. Flies on walls (if doctor's offices have such things) must have a good chuckle as women try in vain to keep their bottom halves covered with the blanket and their top halves covered with the gown when doing either cancels out the other. Somehow, every woman finds a modest solution...just as the doctor walks through the door. At that point, it hits you that the desire for some semblance of decency is naive, to say the least.

The only thing I can really say about the exam itself is that it's amazing how interesting ceilings can be when you're trying not to focus on what's going on underneath them. These ceilings could have been painted by Michelangelo himself, so rapt are women by their every detail. I enjoy discovering new constellations among the holes in the ceiling tiles. This time, I found one I'm calling "Mammogramas."

By the time you're on a first name basis with the ceiling insulation, the kindly doctor pronounces you done and you're given a one year reprieve from any more embarrassing moments like these. If you're like me, you get the "Now, make sure you schedule your next appointment for 12 months instead of 16" lecture. It's the fact that I know she's 100% right to scold me that makes me nod my head in agreement. It's the fact that scheduling that appointment makes me remember...ahem...that appointment that keeps me putting it off.

Truth be told, I actually spent much of this experience with surreptitious smile on my face, as I thought of the silly column I could write and the money I could make. In a situation like that, you thank the heavens for any reason to smile. Of course, that doesn't mean I want to spend the rest of my life thinking about it, so I'll thank my readers not to mention it. Actually, I plan on completely forgetting the existence of this column and the appointment that inspired it by the time I finish this sentence.

Now, if I could just figure out why I'm only wearing socks...