My Life as a Puddle

Creating hyperhidrosis hope and awareness one drop at a time

Category: other adventures (page 1 of 2)

On-Air! Travel Bags With Annita

My Life as a Puddle and Travel bags with Annita

I’m a featured guest on this radio show! Please tune in.

Join me on the radio show Travel Bags with Annita. I’ll be interviewed by creator Annita Thomas about my Alaskan cruise with Holland America Line and O, The Oprah Magazine and how my hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) may or may not get in the way of having an amazing time. Plus, you’ll get a sneak peek about the stories I’ll be telling soon on my blog. They include celebrity encounters! Can you even?!

You’ll also hear from fellow #OMagInsiders Makes Me Wander and Single Mom Chic.

Just click the blue “Listen Live” button on Annita’s website (links above and in image) to tune in from 3-4 PM EST.  I’ll be on the second segment.

Thank you, Annita, for featuring me as a guest and letting me spread my message of hyperhidrosis hope and awareness. This was the most relaxed I’ve ever been when speaking about my condition. That’s what happens when you’ve got a good interviewer. 🙂

Alone At My Table

Remember my post about Elena Levon and her hyperhidrosis-dedicated dance where I mentioned her use of the bird/wing metaphor and how that metaphor is playing a huge part in my own life right now? Well, I am happy to report that I can finally fill you in, in a BIG way, about what’s been going on these last nine months or so. While this post won’t explain all of it, it will take care of a huge chunk. Drum roll, please…

I WON A WRITING CONTEST!

That’s right. Every year, the Denver Woman’s Press Club sponsors the Unknown Writers’ Contest. This was my second time entering, and this time I won! My essay, Alone at My Table, won second place in the non-fiction category.  😀

So, without further ado, please enjoy reading my essay below. I think it’s the most cathartic piece of writing I’ve ever done, and it was a painful process to bring this piece to fruition. But man, was it worth it. Lots of sweat and tears were shed, believe you me.

Alone at My Table

I’ve just sat down at my new dining room table to eat the dinner I mustered up the motivation to cook. I’m cooking for one now. There was a deafening reminder as the olive oil sizzled across the skillet as I sautéed Italian red kale. At night when I sit down, I try not to cry into my food. It has lost its taste. It is never as exciting as I try to make it when coaching myself through the food prep process. It should be called Cooking and Cocktails, just like Canvas and Cocktails. It’s a new routine for me; I’ve been high strung these last few months even thinking about cooking a meal. Hell, I was never the chef in the household to begin with. So here I am. Cut food, fork in mouth, a slosh of wine, repeat.

My husband has a baby on the way, but I’m not the one pregnant. It is the cherry on top of an unhealthy marriage sundae. In the fall, I mailed custom-designed moving announcements that said Spread your wings. Prepare to fly. The expensive, shiny card stock with the colors I so painstakingly agonized over was my way of telling the universe I would forge a new path and never go back. We teach people how to treat us. It was time that I practiced what I preached. As if I had any other choice but to be hopeful. It is the end of an unhealthy marriage and the beginning of a new and healthy life, whatever that is.

Spread Your Wings, Prepare to Fly

My custom designed moving announcements, courtesy of www.lauralandshop.com. Lyrics by India.Arie

I feel judged. I didn’t receive the annual Christmas card I usually do from one of my favorite college professors. When I cautiously shared the pain in my heart with a group of my trusted religious friends, one of them fled to the opposite side of the room for the rest of the evening. My vulnerability was standing naked center stage. Had I done enough to try and save my marriage? What if I had worked just a little bit harder, or settled for just a little bit more of what I was being given? We were a couple who hung out with couples; they can’t nurture the two of us anymore, so they also push away the one of us. Either/or. Neither/nor. It’s hard to carry this burden. Others can push it away, but I have the weight of it every single day. Sometimes, it is so heavy I have a hard time lifting my fork to my mouth.

As I scoop the kale onto my fork, I admire the pattern in its leaves. How amazing that nature can create such a tapestry of color in one single vegetable. It is a superfood, after all. Perhaps if I consume enough of it, I will feel super, too. A stray piece slips off my fork and lands on the acacia wood from which the table is made. I bought the first dining set I saw in the store. I was drawn to the pattern in the wood of this table. Turns out the Tree of Tenere, an acacia tree in Niger, was once considered the most isolated tree on Earth, yet this one tree lived on thanks to its deep roots that reached the water table 118 feet below the surface of the ground. At least I have my roots to turn to.

I struggle with the lack of inclusion. I’m not a mother or a wife—a complicated life*, but it’s mine. Picking up the phone to call friends is a heavy-handed affair. Shouldn’t they be calling me? I’ve promised not to talk about my divorce all the time, nor do I even want to. The spontaneous crying, though, I can’t guarantee won’t happen. The time spent with friends is precious, yet also is a constant reminder of the house, the husband, and the family I do not have.

I no longer have to consider someone else first, just me—a liberating struggle to say the least. When I set my table tonight, I laid out the dark gray placemats, a woven texture that’s solid and strong. Tomorrow, I might switch to the silky soft oriental placemats, the colors bright and inviting possibility. I am a possibilitarian. My silverware is stainless steel, heavy with a twisted rope pattern on the handles good for anchoring my hands and providing reassurance that I won’t slip. I’m setting my own table now. Taking care of myself is a first for me, like many other things.

I’ve traded my life for a life of firsts I must do all on my own. The days I particularly hate him are when it’s three degrees outside; I trudge up and down three flights of stairs at least three times each day to take out the Pugs. One of them has a bad back and must be carried. Yet she and I press on, doing what we can with what we have right where we are. As I seethe inside with rage and a complete lack of patience waiting for my dogs to do their business, I remind myself that it’s okay. I’ve lost a lot of baggage. My clothes fit differently now thanks to these damn stairs. We treat anger like it’s a bad thing when it’s a completely valid emotion. Sometimes, it is perfectly okay to feel lousy.

I feel lousy in the grocery store as I push my tiny little cart for one up and down the aisles. Couples shop for dinner with their cute little lists, and I am sad. Mothers coo at their children sitting in the cart, and I am envious. I decide to check myself before I wreck myself. Be here now. The shaky wheel on my cart rounds the corner to the produce section. The fresh fruits and vegetables with their rainbow of colors call out to nourish my inner being. I stop and touch the fruit, picking up a cantaloupe. It is rough on the outside, yet oh so sweet when I lift it to my nose to smell its ripeness. Like me, it is ripe for consumption. I find my trusted superfood and figure I’ll up the ante on the kale salad this time. I stash more ingredients in my cart, encouraging myself as the groceries pile up that I can actually cook.

I lugged the groceries up the stairs all in one trip, conscious of the fact that I must put them down in order to let myself into my apartment. We must put down what we carry in order to let more of ourselves enter. The table is set. While the chicken that will adorn the top of the kale salad is baking, I’ve got time to enjoy the little things. I have been what poet Mark Nepo calls reduced to joy. The bird feeder that I was afraid to screw into the ceiling with the scary cordless drill now hangs on my apartment balcony. It beckons the hungry little mouths I was afraid would never find me again after I moved out of the first home I had ever purchased. The geese flying overhead on their way to the lake for a water ski splash landing call out to me. As I sit down at my table for one, I glance across the room and out the window. The birds are on the feeder, eating at the same time I am. I am not alone. I have been found.

I am nurturing what life has asked of me. Today I stand tall, in gratitude to the people I’ve lost (some good and some bad) and to those whom I’ve gained. They have either taught or reminded me of who I am and what I stand for. So thank you. Thank you for rekindling in me my honesty, grace, perseverance, and inner muse. Thank you for letting me know that I am strong without you and will, in fact, be okay. My future belongs to me, a testament to the unconditional love with which I’ve finally learned to shower myself. This is a new year, a new history, a new chapter. As I turn the page in my own story, I intend to write like a motherfucker**, love like I’ve never been hurt, be genuine with people while also setting healthy boundaries, and realize deeply that I am enough exactly as I am—always have been, always will be. I may be alone, but I am not lonely. I’m communing with myself, at the table I chose, with the meal I wanted to prepare and the wine I want to drink. And so, cut food, fork in mouth, a slosh of wine, believe in love, repeat.

Newly divorced and shame-free, Maria has found her wings. When she’s not busy deciding what to wear with all those magnificent feathers, she’s rebuilding her life, creating her own happiness, and hopefully inspiring others along the way.

*Adapted from the album Songversation by India.Arie. This album particularly saved my life these last several months. Thank you, India.

**From the Dear Sugar column written by Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

Stay tuned. Not only did I win the contest, I was asked to read my essay at the Winners’ Reception. You know what that means – public speaking and hyperhidrosis. Dun dun dun.


Copyright © 2011-2014 My Life as a Puddle

My Trip to Ithaca, NY

I went to Ithaca, New York to attend the college graduation of my dear friend and “surrogate brother” Danny. We’ve known each other for a long time. My mom was pregnant with my little sister at the same time Danny’s mom was pregnant with him. I used to babysit him and have watched him grow up to be a remarkable man. He majored in musical theatre, and if I do say so myself, he’s bloody brilliant.

A gorge in Ithaca, NY

One of the gorges in Ithaca, NY

 

Theatre students are a vibrant bunch, and my week-long trip was quite entertaining. I stayed with Danny and his roommate Bruce. At night when we were just hanging out, we watched Harry Potter and endless episodes of The Golden Girls. Those will be some of my favorite memories of hanging out with Danny, the beauty and bonding in the ordinary moments of life. He and Bruce even invented a drinking game based on The Golden Girls!

The Golden Girls drinking game

The Golden Girls drinking game invented by Danny and his roommate Bruce. Love it!

 

When we weren’t out strolling the campuses of Cornell University and Ithaca College, we were either hanging out in Ithaca Commons or visiting the gorges near the town of Ithaca. I was worried how my hyperhidrosis would be during the trip, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Strolling along the Cornell University campus

Danny and I enjoying a stroll along the campus of Cornell University

 

Danny and I climbed a six-story tree house at the Cayuga Nature Center. If you don’t already know, I am obsessed with trees. I have tree jewelry, tree stationery, tree wall hangings, tree pictures, etc. Trees are more than nature’s beauty. They can be used as a metaphor for so many things in life. When I learned about this tree house, I made it a goal that if I didn’t do anything else on this trip, I would at least visit the tree house. I could feel myself getting a little sweaty as we climbed the tree house, but it wasn’t really enough to make me terribly uncomfortable. It was honestly the last thing on my mind at that point, which was a nice relief since hyperhidrosis permeates my entire life.

Tree house at Cayuga Nature Center

The six-story tree house at Cayuga Nature Center. It's awesome!

 

I don’t think there was air conditioning at Danny’s apartment, but it wasn’t really hot enough to need it.  The evenings in Ithaca in May are blissfully cool, so the only time I really had to worry about my sweating was when I was getting ready in the morning. Thankfully, I was the only one up at that time, so I didn’t have to worry about sharing the bathroom or being rushed. Not that people rush me out of the bathroom. It’s more of an internal thing with me feeling a sense of being rushed. I tend to make myself sweat that way. There was a standing fan unit in the living room, though, so I just used that when it started to get too hot as I was blow drying my hair.

 

I already told you about graduation day and the rash I got on my feet.  That and my sweating as I was getting ready in the morning were really the only two stand-out moments on the trip with regard to navigating my hyperhidrosis. The other main sweat fest was entirely brought on by my own doing. On graduation evening, we all went to a fancy dinner to celebrate. I had written a graduation card for Danny and had it with me to give to him after we finished dinner. I was going to just hand it over, but then I thought, You know, maybe I should get up the guts to read it to him in front of everyone.

Maya Angelou Life Mosaic card

The front of the card I gave to Danny for his graduation. Maya Angelou always says it best.

 

If you know me personally, you know that writing, particularly writing cards to others, is what I know I was meant to be doing on this planet. My blog and hyperhidrosis awareness comes in a close second. After thinking about Danny’s card all through dinner, I had psyched myself up to the point that I could really feel my fight or flight response being activated. This is typical for people with hyperhidrosis, at least for me anyway. Thinking about an event can trigger my sweat, the tingly, prickly feeling on my hands and feet right before they start to gush.

 

I decided that I didn’t want to leave Ithaca with any regrets. If I didn’t read Danny’s card aloud to him, I would most certainly regret it. I patted my inner self on the back for encouragement, and plowed ahead into the moment and memory I wanted to create with and for him. I don’t usually read my cards aloud to my recipient. It’s really hard when you’re “a crier” like me. But I didn’t care if I cried. I cared about really showing Danny what he means to me. I wrote the card, and then I used my voice to convey what I had written. A special thanks to Danny’s roommate, Bruce, who recorded me reading the card. And thank you to my husband, who bought me the genius invention known as an iPhone, which  I was able to use to record this important moment in my life.

 

Here’s the video of me reading my card. I can’t believe I’m actually posting a video of myself. Here goes nothing.

(The sound on the video isn’t the greatest, as it was pretty loud in the restaurant. It might help if you listen to it through some headphones.)

This was one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. The people whom I was with made it so special. And they’re not kidding when they say “Ithaca is gorges!” I bought a shirt that says so. 🙂

 

P.S. You should check out Danny’s website. He’s available for hire and comes highly recommended!


Copyright © 2012 My Life as a Puddle

 

 

 

Getting the Job I Wanted

When I got back home from visiting my grandma, I met with my friend who had created the vision statement for me. She helped me create a quadrant of pros and cons for the two jobs that were now potentially on my plate. The four sections were Big Yes, Big No, Little Yes, and Little No. She asked me several questions about both jobs that helped me to fill in each section. Once we were done, she said I had my answer to which job I really wanted, which isn’t to say that the first job I had already accepted wasn’t what I wanted. They were both good positions that were a good fit for me.

 

Then my friend said something really profound. “Why don’t you just call the second employer, Maria?” Wait, WHAT? Me? Call THEM? It never even occurred to me that I could take charge with an employer and actually fight for what I wanted as their job candidate. By calling them, I could take my worrying out of the equation. I could do everything in my power to create the result I wanted. So, we walked through what I should say when I called, and I went straight home to get the phone call out of the way. So, with sweaty hands and a wobbly voice, I left a voice mail saying I certainly didn’t want to be presumptuous, but that I was wondering if an offer was forthcoming as I had been offered another position.

 

This pro-activeness on my part got the ball rolling a bit faster on their end. It also allowed me to relax and feel like I had done all I could. Oh! I forgot to mention the part that happened before this. The day after I got home, I was sitting in church and noticed a woman a few rows in front of me who looked very familiar. I basically stalked her for the rest of the service, and when she left a few minutes early I hightailed it out of the sanctuary to follow her. She had disappeared! I decided to walk to the front entrance of the church and wait for a few minutes. Next thing I know, she’s right next to me with her son. So I stopped her and said hello. I then told her that she had interviewed me several days ago and that they were doing a reference check on me for the position. She replied that they all really liked me and that she especially enjoyed the writing samples I had provided as part of the application process. Isn’t it crazy how God works?! I don’t usually talk to “strangers”, but I couldn’t stop thinking about making contact with her once I saw her in church that day. It was a good reminder for her to see my face again.

 

So, after seeing one of the people who interviewed me at church and then making the phone call asking for what I wanted, the next day my phone rang. On the other end was the woman who would be my supervisor. She said that when she was speaking with my references, her heart was breaking when they told her about my layoff. My former boss told her that I was on the verge of a promotion and that laying me off was one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do. Well, it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through as well. Another of my references spoke to how I deal with failure and adversity. She used the specific example of when I was lucky number 13 on the list of only 12 who would be accepted into the Aspen Summer Words Memoir Writing Program. (I still need to blog about that, by the way.)

 

After we got all that out of the way, she offered me the job! Hallelujah and hot damn! Shockingly, I held my sh** together during this phone call. I kind of felt like crying, but I was outside facing the mountains and it was like the sky just opened up and the sunlight poured over me. The outcome I wanted was unfolding right before my eyes. I really took charge of my life over the past few weeks and felt comfortable with how I had performed in my interviews. The amped up level of my hyperhidrosis in all of those interviews was something I dealt with in the moment, but on this awesome job offer day, I was outside in the cool breeze looking west and NOT sweating.

 

I hung up the phone with a huge grin on my face, and if I didn’t care what other people thought of me half as much as I usually do, I totally would have gone to my car while sporting a John Travolta Saturday Night Fever walk. Because that is seriously the song that popped into my head when I hung up.

 

I’d like to thank every one of you for being so supportive and encouraging, and for reminding me of what I have to offer the world when there were days when I truly thought I had nothing left. A special thanks to my parents and siblings, my Young Marrieds and tea committee peeps at church for praying for me, my closest friends (you all know who you are), and to my awesome husband. He has been amazing through these last few months, picking up the additional financial responsibilities with grace and love, and telling me numerous times not to freak out (because I NEVER do that).

 

If you’re facing adversity in your life, keep fighting the good fight. Nothing lasts forever. Well, except maybe hyperhidrosis, but even that shouldn’t stop you from creating the life you want. Never stop believing in yourself. I still struggle with this, but every day I make an effort to remind myself that I am enough. So are you.

 

Here’s to stayin’ alive!


Copyright © 2012 My Life as a Puddle

Clearing My Vision

We were at the hospital almost all day, so after my uncle left I decided to go for a walk to clear my head and get away from the heavy atmosphere of the chemotherapy unit. I took some pictures of the downtown area and the college and then walked back in the windy cold, my hands sweating in my pockets.

The-Cathedral-of-Learning                  Trees-Downtown                  A-shedding-tree

Remember those blessings I was talking about in my previous post that I said were gifted to me? As I was entering the lobby of the hospital to go back upstairs, my friend who is becoming a life coach called me. She had been working on a vision statement for me as part of her training and said she felt like she was supposed to call and read it to me that day because there was something I needed to hear. She wasn’t sure what part it was, but she knew I would know once I heard it.

 

I won’t share with you the entire vision statement (it’s pretty long), but the parts I needed to hear were so powerful! You are living the life you love! Among your greatest blessings is your knowing that you are a unique and precious child of God. Because you believe in the power of living a life greater than yourself, you are able to excel in grace and kindness to others. You take risks because you realize the outcomes will be for the greater good. You are constantly aware of your ability to empower others! Your life now makes a blessed difference in the world! You look outside of yourself for ways to serve others. When you complete your day, you have full confidence that today mattered!

 

I didn’t write that vision statement, but my friend was able to glean all of that from the conversations we’ve had. It was exactly what I needed to hear during a hard time of unemployment, family health issues, and my own health concern of hyperhidrosis. I’m taking a risk with this blog every time I write a post. I am opening myself up to judgment from others. But so what? Not only am I writing this blog for myself, to finally live my puddle-riffic truth, I am writing this blog for you. If I can inspire you through the story of my life and make you feel like you’re not alone, that is success to me. There have been many times these past few months where I’ve felt alone, and not necessarily due to my hyperhidrosis. There is power in community. So even if the closest you can get to openly sharing your hyperhidrosis with others is by reading what I might have to say, that’s a start. This blog started out as being just for me, but I feel like there is a greater purpose to it now. Perhaps I am supposed to be a puddle so that I can help someone else.

 

The last blessing I want to share with you was gifted to me by my aunt. The night before I flew home, we ordered takeout from this great Italian place. (Vivo Italiano! I am part Italian.) As we were finishing dinner, my aunt left the dining room and came back with a gift for me in celebration of my new job. We were in a stationery store earlier that week, which is one of my favorite places to go. Kelly Rae Roberts has a wonderful collection of cards, plaques, etc. that I really like, and I had specifically pointed one of them out to my aunt. She remembered and got it for me. The sentiment is very fitting. Here it is:

unleash-your-joy-kelly-rae-roberts

(Image: http://kellyraeroberts.com/)

 

After dinner, I checked my email and saw that the other position I had applied for would be conducting a reference check! All of the thoughts and feelings that had been swirling around in my head during the week with my family were starting to come together: forward thinking, the vision statement written by my friend, clearing my head, the sense of community I felt with my family, and how often I think about you, my readers.

 

So wait. Was the fighting for a job over?


Copyright © 2012 My Life as a Puddle

Hyperhidrosis and Traveling

I was super excited to fly in and surprise my grandma. But the one thing I never look forward to is going to the airport. I don’t mind flying, but I hate having to deal with the logistics of my sweaty hands and feet in the airport. Take the suitcase issue: I hate holding the handle as I roll it around. It gets wet and then dries with this weird coating from my sweat. I usually try to only hold it when absolutely necessary, otherwise I will maneuver it around with the inside of my wrist and lower arm. While one hand is busy with my suitcase, the other hand is holding my ID and boarding pass. These have to be placed in my hand just right so that the ink from the boarding pass doesn’t smear. I have my ID on the bottom and the boarding pass underneath just my thumb. I probably look suspicious to security since I’m so uncomfortable in my skin by that point.

Once they check my ID, next comes the mad rush to take off my shoes, remove all liquids from my bag, and get everything on the conveyor belt. I can never wear sandals or flip flops to the airport. One, I’m not a fan of placing my bare feet on a germ-infested floor where everyone else’s feet have been. Two, who am I to put my bare, dripping feet all over the tile floor so I can leave footprints behind for all to see? Sick. So, I always wear tennis shoes with socks, or some kind of slip-on shoes with socks. I still leave footprints through my socks, but at least it’s a lesser evil. Once I make it through security, it’s on to the tram to get to the gates. I don’t like sitting down on the tram. I feel cooler if I’m able to stand, but at the same time, I have to hold on somehow since the tram moves pretty fast. I try to position myself around a pole so that I can lean into it rather than hold on to it. Also, I always wear jeans to the airport, never shorts. I need the fabric to cover the backs of my legs, especially if the seats on the plane are leather. Plus, jeans have more fabric than shorts, the better to wipe my hands on. I’d like to try and wear one of the longer skirts I’ve talked about before, but that would look dumb with a pair of tennis shoes and socks, so I’ll have to work on the shoes for that outfit first.

So, after dealing with the airport sweatiness and grabbing my bag from the carousel at baggage claim, I was off to find my Uncle Jimmy. He was the brains behind this idea in the first place, and was so generous with his frequent flier miles to get me out there. I was already sweating again after having to wait for my suitcase, but it was magnified in anticipation of the surprise we were about to pull off. I love surprises. I wish more people would surprise me as much as I like to try and surprise them. Combined with my Highly Sensitive Person trait, I could feel the excitement of the environment being pumped up the closer we got to my grandma’s house.

As we pulled into the driveway, the headlights could be seen from the living room and my grandma and mom were looking out the window. I stayed in the car and acted like I was my uncle’s girlfriend who was finishing up a phone call. My uncle went inside and said, “Okay, mom. The rest of your Christmas present finally arrived. UPS finally figured out what happened to it.” He opened the door with a big fanfare, and in I walked. It was my grandma, my aunt, and my mom (who had already been there for 3 weeks) in the living room, and it took my grandma a second to realize that it was me standing in the middle of the room. Once I said hello, her face just lit up. It was a bittersweet moment for me. I was so happy to be there, yet so scared of what she would look like after already having a couple rounds of chemo. She looked better than I thought, so that was good. I shockingly managed to keep my tears from spilling over, and then I looked over at my mom to say hello. She was pretty much dumbfounded, too, and my aunt hadn’t even looked up yet, since I was standing sort of behind the chair she was sitting in.

My Aunt Nancy said she thought Uncle Jimmy had been up to something, since the last time he was over he was walking around with a twinkle in his eye. Yep. That’s my uncle. He has such a big heart, especially for his family, and he spoils us any chance he gets. Now more than ever, I am so grateful to him for helping me to create these memories with my grandma, and with him. It was definitely a positive aspect of my layoff that I can now appreciate. If it weren’t for losing my job, I would not have been able to drop everything and fly out. It got me away from the doldrums of my job search and not having anywhere to really go during the day since most everything costs money. It was at my grandma’s house that I could simply be. Be there for a week of quality family time, forget about the job applications, and just reconnect with people whom I hadn’t seen in awhile. It allowed me to quiet the constant hum in my brain and slow down.

In the slowness of this week, I was able to do some forward thinking. All of the job interviews I had completed were now out of my hands, so there was no use worrying about the outcome. It was much easier to stop ruminating about everything since I wasn’t at home and had people to focus on. Coming up, I’ll be talking about some specific actions I took (and that were gifted to me by others) while visiting my grandma to help create the outcome I wanted upon my return.

Here are a few snapshots from my trip.

Maria and her grandma

My grandma won the Duncan Hines Baking with American Dash contest in 1985 for a recipe she made up. She’s awesome like that.

Maria and her mom

This is my wonderful mother. She and I got some quality time together during my trip.

Maria and her family

This is my maternal grandma’s side of the family, minus my other uncle.


Copyright © 2012 My Life as a Puddle

Stepping Outside of My Box

This year I joined the women’s tea committee for the 8th annual women’s tea event at my church. I was in charge of publicity for the event (postcards, signage, programs, social media, music, etc.) I’d never done anything like this before, but I love tea, so when I heard about it I was excited to participate. In addition to being on the committee, I also hosted and decorated a table of my own. I wasn’t sure how things would go since this was my first time participating in the tea, but I accepted the challenge.

 

The committee started out by decorating the room the weekend of Thanksgiving. I helped to string garland, wrap the hostess gifts, and cover bulletin boards with wrapping paper so they looked like presents. I had to ask for help once I got to the bulletin boards since my hands started to sweat while holding up the wrapping paper. The other women on the tea committee know I have hyperhidrosis, so it wasn’t a shock when I said that someone else would have to take over so that I wouldn’t ruin the paper.

 

Once the room was decorated, the hostesses who also were on the tea committee came in to decorate their tables first. It was 20 degrees outside that night after snowing the day before. After unloading my own supplies and making several trips back and forth to the car, I finally took off my jacket before going back outside to help the others unload. Yep, 20 degrees outside and yet my back was dripping with sweat. I try to avoid jackets as much as possible. They become another thing for me to carry around once I get too hot and then rip them off. I didn’t have gloves on, either. What’s the point if I had to shove them back inside my pockets while they were wet?

 

I began unloading my decorations and setting them up. I had a grand idea of what my table would look like and even did a trial run at home on my dining room table prior to the event to make sure it looked okay. I hosted a table with 8 guests rather than the standard 6. Once I got all of my china on the table and the place settings arranged, I had very little room left on the table for all of the decorations I had brought. Immediately my mind went to the negative self talk. I thought my table was going to look stupid since I had to omit half of the decorations on which I had put personal touches. I kept at it and put what I could on the table. I had saved 8 wine bottles and slipped handwritten quotations around the necks to add to my theme, but there simply was no room for the bottles. I improvised and put the quotations on top of the place settings along with the gifts I had for each of my guests.

 

After a few hours of decorating my table and placing tablecloths on all of the other tables for the other hostesses, I was ready to leave. I said my goodbyes and kind of left in a down mood, not being proud of my table and what I had envisioned it to be initially. I thought it looked bland and boring and no one would like it. The head of the tea committee noticed that I left in kind of a funk. When I came back the next night to help the other hostesses with their tables, she pulled me aside for a moment and said, “I didn’t get a chance to see your finished table last night, but I noticed that you seemed kind of down when you left. I know that money has been an issue for you since your layoff. We are well within budget for the tea, so if you feel like there’s anything missing from your table and would like to buy a teapot or some kind of decoration, I’m happy to give you the money to do so.” Well, that was when I lost it. I wasn’t even there for 5 minutes before I was crying in the back room.

 

The last couple of months have been rough being unemployed. I thought I was in a much better place these last few weeks emotionally and mentally, but when she said she noticed I seemed down, it dawned on me that everything was right there under the front I apparently was putting up. I thought I was fine, but all it took was for her to verbalize what I truly was feeling for me to recognize it myself. I thanked her profusely and told her she was very perceptive, but that I physically had no room left on my table to even take her up on her offer. But what a nice thing for her to say!

 

After I pulled myself together, I returned to the main room to help set up all of the tea bags on each table. This also was challenging, as I was outside of my comfort zone even being involved in the women’s tea, and then I had to run around the room holding huge boxes of tea from CostCo. I had a hard time opening the packaging to get to the tea bags, and then I had to balance several boxes in my arms and then distribute the tea bags equally among all of the tables. Some of the tables had special dishes designated for the tea, so I was extra careful when picking them up since my hands were wet.

 

The next morning was the tea. I arrived early to help with any last minute things and was wearing dress clothes. I hate dress clothes. They are not sweat friendly, at least most of them that I’ve found are not. I do have a couple of pairs of cotton pinstripe pants that I really like, as they are about the closest to jeans I can get. I also had on a new cashmere sweater that I learned wasn’t conducive to air flow, either. It was a bit warm in the room where the tea was held, so that probably didn’t help. I was excited for the event, yet also nervous about sweating through the entire thing. I did the best I could and tried not to focus on it too much.

 

One of the things that helped me get through my sweating that day was that as a hostess of a table, I had a decorative theme. The theme of my table was Caught Between Jane Austen and Twitter—Reviving the Lost Art of Letter Writing. My table was the only one with a title. 🙂 Part of the table included gifts for each of my guests, and one of the gifts was a copy of an article I had written about holiday greeting cards. At the bottom of this article was my byline, part of which says that I suffer from the medical condition known as hyperhidrosis and that you can find me blogging about it. I used this as a way to introduce myself to my guests and then I explained what it was. So right away it was out in the open while not being the main point of conversation, and then I could worry about it less.

 

All of my guests had a good time, and I got many compliments about my table from them and others who walked by. This was reassuring since I had so many “ANTs” (Automatic Negative Thoughts) occurring a few nights before. The lesson here is that I don’t give myself enough credit sometimes. I hold myself to a very high standard and sometimes my expectations get in the way of the good things I am already achieving. My table was creative and thought provoking with its title, and my China pattern stood out against the other tables. I volunteered to be on the tea committee, hosted a table, and stepped out of my box without thinking twice about it, for once. Tea is one of my passions. Because I know what inspires me, it made it easier to venture outside of my comfort zone and do something in which tea was directly involved. I’m glad I signed myself up for the event over the summer. It ended up being something that kept me busy during this sucky and totally unexpected time of unemployment.

 

I encourage you to do something out of your norm even if you know ahead of time that sweating will be involved. Do it anyway. Don’t let your condition dictate the enjoyable experiences you might have if you just reach for them.

 

Here are a few photos of my table.

Winter 2011 045 Winter 2011 047 Winter 2011 048 Winter 2011 042


Copyright © 2012 My Life as a Puddle

Holiday Greeting Cards: A Tutorial on Recognition

Here’s a freelance article I wrote for The Vegas Valley Savings Magazine, which is mailed to approximately 42,000 households in the Vegas Valley. I wonder if the Sister Wives will see it?

The holidays have arrived, and with them comes the opportunity to make others feel important. I’m not talking about buying gifts to show affection. I’m referring to validating someone by reviving the lost art of letter writing. Yes, the fine art of sending greeting cards to those who matter most, and maybe even giving some to those along the periphery of your life (eg, neighbors, postal carriers, and those lovely people who collect your garbage). The human spirit longs for recognition; we all want to know that we matter, that we are enough simply by being here.  So why not show someone that he or she matters by giving a card? You can make a difference in the world through a simple act.  Expressing gratitude, humility, love, camaraderie, and a myriad of other things to someone via the written word makes it tangible and everlasting for the recipient.  So how does one go about writing a holiday card? Non-writer types can easily do this by following a few tips.

Go through your address book and also think about those whom you encounter in daily life; make a list of these people to whom you’ll be sending a card so that you know how many greeting cards to purchase.

1. Purchase greeting cards or standard 8½ x 11 paper; if you’re hand writing your message you may select other appropriate stationery.

2. Don’t get overwhelmed by the thought of writing a card. You can easily create a “blanket” message to insert into each card, and then personalize it for each recipient by hand writing a shorter message inside when you sign the card.

3. Think back to what’s happened in your own life or your family’s lives over the past year. Reminisce month by month if it helps. What interesting things did you do, or receive, or were a part of? Did you take any vacations? Go to an interesting place for a business trip? See any concerts or shows? You can craft a few short sentences together and mention these highlights as a 2011 recap. For next year’s cards, keep a running list of these events throughout the year—your message will be nearly done by the time the holidays arrive, and you can reduce your holiday stress!

4. Try to compose an update that will fit onto one-half of an 8½ x 11 sheet of paper. This is a good length that prevents you from rambling, yet it’s long enough to give the recipient a glimpse into the goings-on of your life. When you initially compose your letter, and if you are using a computer, type it using normal 12-point font for ease of reading and revising. Afterward, you can shrink it to fit on half of the sheet by changing the font size and the font type. I’ve had great results using Gill Sans MT Condensed font, 10 point, 1.5” top & bottom margins, and 2” left & right margins; and Vrinda font, 10 point with 1” margins all around. Once the text fits, copy and paste the same paragraph onto the second half of the sheet so that when you print it you can have 2 copies per page, which you will then cut in half.

5. Decide on what type of paper you’d like to print your message. If it’s darker colored paper such as Christmas or Hanukkah colors, adjust the font in the document to be bold for better readability. Print out a test page and then cut it in half to ensure it will fit inside the greeting cards you’ve selected. Once you confirm the fit, print off the proper number of copies you’ll need (remember, if you purchased a package of 20 cards, you’ll only need to print 10 pages of your message). If you’ve handwritten your message, take it along with the rest of your stationery to an office supply store and ask them to photocopy it onto your stationery.

6. Cut the sheets in half to prepare them for insertion into your cards. If you’re feeling fancy, you can use paper edger scissors (aka scrapbook scissors with fancy detail) to create visually appealing borders. Once you’ve cut the sheets in half, use a glue stick to paste them into the blank side of the card.

7. Take some time to hand write a nice message inside the card to personalize your greeting. It doesn’t have to be long. Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2012! followed by We enjoyed visiting you over the summer or any other tidbit that acknowledges the individual will suffice.

8. Keep the United States Postal Service in business! Buy those stamps, stick them on the envelopes, and mail a smile.

Maya Angelou once said, “We all have the power to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”  So don’t think that because you’re not a writer you can’t impact another person’s life.  You have the power to do something true and right and great.  Just put your pen to paper (or your fingers to keyboard if you don’t like your handwriting and would rather print from your computer) and say whatever it is that’s in your heart.  Creating a permanent record like this for someone else reminds us that we are connected to each other through our humanity; it reminds us of compassion; it reminds us of the importance of recognition and documentation of our fellow brothers and sisters.  Don’t use spell check or look for bigger words to use.  Just write.  Find your inner Jane Austen and drop a gem into someone else’s day.  The ripple effects will astound you.

(I encourage you to mail a few extra cards to our wounded soldiers who so bravely serve our country. Just think about the impact if every single one of you reading this were to send a few cards! Please do it. Send them here:

Holiday Mail For Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456

All cards must be postmarked no later than Friday, December 9th. Cards postmarked after this date will unfortunately be returned to the sender. This deadline ensures enough time to sort and distribute cards before the holidays. For more information, visit the Red Cross website.)

2010 Christmas Cards

These are part of the cards I received last year. After this shot was taken, I had to start hanging them on another door since I received so many. 🙂


Copyright © 2011 My Life as a Puddle

Another Massage? No Sweat!

Navigating a Massage with Hyperhidrosis

Last week I had my second-ever massage with a new massage therapist whom I found advertised on Crowd Savings. I highly recommend using these group discount websites. Groupon, Living Social, and (fill in the city) Daily Deals are a few others I’ve used before.

 

Fill out the comments section when booking an appointment
When I booked the appointment online, there was a field that said Comments. I used this section of the form to enter a few personal details about myself so that I could feel more comfortable upon arrival: I suffer from a medical condition called hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating). While it’s not serious enough to impede my having a massage, I’d like you to know I prefer a cooler room temperature, no blankets, and no heated massage table. I will bring a small fan with me for airflow purposes, but if you have a larger fan, that would be helpful. Thank you.

 

By getting this information out in the open, I no longer had to worry about it. Massage therapists are health care professionals. They have been trained and made aware that people come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of wetness. Some of them may not have ever heard of hyperhidrosis before, and that’s okay. You can be the one to educate them about a condition that is under-recognized and under-treated. Take what you’ve been given and make it work toward a greater good. Yes, this is intimidating. Yes, this puts you at the forefront of attention. But can you do it? How about another “yes” in this paragraph? If you can’t be comfortable nearly naked on a table with your masseuse, then whom can you be comfortable with? Give the hyperhidrosis disclaimer and then move into being more like the rest of the people who get massages and think nothing of it. You deserve it.

 

Ask for any paperwork in advance
When I arrived at the massage center, we began by introducing ourselves, and then Julie had me fill out some client paperwork. I recommend to all health care professionals to make their patient forms available online. I much prefer being able to print things in advance and fill them out in my own environment to avoid a trigger situation. It was a short form, so it wasn’t that big of a deal and I was able to complete it before my hands got too wet. After that, Julie led me to the massage room and helped me set up my 4-inch desk fan I had brought with me. She set it up on a shelf in the corner about 2 feet away from the head of the table. She had me lay down on the table to test the air flow and positioning of the fan. Once I confirmed the fan was in the right spot, she left so I could undress. When you have a massage, you decide the level of comfort. I’m not comfortable being entirely in my birthday suit for a massage, so I brought a pair of loose fitting cotton shorts. Ladies, I do recommend removing your bra. It will hinder the smooth flow of movement from the masseuse. Your body is always covered except for the area on which the massage is occurring, so you won’t be flashing anyone anyway.

 

Try to relax on the massage table
When I first arrive somewhere, my body is usually hyped up and I can feel myself sweating and my heart racing from the fight-or-flight response. So when I got on the table to lie down, I could feel my heart was beating fast. I got comfortable and just focused on taking  some deep breaths to try and relax. There was island type music playing, so I tried to focus on that. Julie came in a few minutes later and began with a few simple massage strokes so that I could get used to her touch. I did make it a point to tell her it was okay to really put out on the amount of pressure she used. I wanted to be dead relaxed by the time I was done, so she had my permission to push hard. She had good hands, too; they were big and broad and strong.

 

When the massage first started, right away my inner monologue took center stage and began shouting things like Oh, God, I can feel my feet sweating. Crap! and Geeze, my hands are kind of damp, too. Is my back making droplets? I can feel myself sweating there a bit. Oh, no. The best thing to do when this happens is to reign it in and tell those voices in your head to kindly SHUT IT. To help with this, I asked Julie to move the sheet up so that my feet could be in the open air. A minute or two later, I pulled my hands out from under the sheet, too. After I did all this, I was able to get cool, calm, and collected and then just focus on the stress leaving my body. The massage ended with a therapeutic foot scrub. By that point I was pretty relaxed and fully acclimated to the room temperature. My feet were no longer sweating, and it felt great when she wrapped them in hot towels and then scrubbed them with salts.

 

Drink water after the massage
Once I was dressed and walked into the lobby, she had a glass of water on the table for me. It’s important to hydrate before and after a massage, but especially after to help flush the toxins that have just been released. During the massage, Julie started to ask me a question but then stopped herself and told me to remind her to ask when we were done. I appreciated this, as the whole point of a massage is to relax and not carry on a conversation. She ended up asking me what the name of my sweating condition was. After I told her the medical term, she said she thought she might have it, too! I was so excited to hear this. I was able to share my blog with her and the types of treatments I had tried. I explained the International Hyperhidrosis Society and my Botox experience and gave her tips and ideas for products to try. I also told her she should apply her deodorant at night in addition to in the morning. It absorbs better that way and will plug the sweat ducts better.

 

Ask for what you need
This massage was such a good experience for me. We attract exactly the people we need into our lives. To now have my very own masseuse who understands my condition because she has it herself and can think like I think with regard to sweating is awesome. She told me she was thinking about our appointment ahead of time and trying to come up with ways to make it better. She debated the pros and cons of massage lotion vs massage oil (she went with oil since it takes longer to absorb into the skin and I could wipe most of it off when we were done), where to place the fan, removed all the blankets and had only sheets on the table, didn’t turn on the heating function on the table, etc. She was even worried when she was working on my right side that she might be blocking the fan. I love this woman!

 

We had such a nice conversation afterward. Julie said she got into massage because her parents were both very sick and she watched as they were no longer able to have massages. Her mother went to the same masseuse for 14 years and then stopped going because she now had to wear a colostomy bag. Her mother was embarrassed and felt unsanitary and no longer worthy of having a massage. Julie said she also wants to help wounded veterans who are disfigured or missing a limb; they, too, have reservations when it comes to feeling worthy of being touched. These stories absolutely broke my heart. No matter what we go through, we should never be ashamed and feel unworthy of the gift of touch. The gift of touch can save lives. If you’re reading this, please know that you are worthy. You are worthy simply because you are here. You deserve love, compassion, and the opportunity to live your truth and not be inhibited by exactly who you are. If you haven’t already, begin now to stand tall. Fake it at first if you have to. Eventually it will start to feel natural because you will be more fully engaged with the intention of becoming your best self. If you are confident, you are beautiful. If I can get a massage, you can, too.

 

Fall 2011 050 This is on the wall of the massage room. I like it because it doesn’t quite sit straight on the wall.

Life is always slightly askew. You just have to be able to lean with it to get a straight view.


 

Copyright © 2011 My Life as a Puddle

I’m Right (Write) Where I’m Supposed To Be Thanks to Where I’ve Been

I heard this quote the other day on TV. Jennifer Lopez says it in one of her commercials for her new clothing line at Kohl’s, and after I heard it I immediately wrote it down. I do this all the time, so I’ve learned to carry a small notebook with me wherever I go so I can document wisdom that creeps ups unexpectedly in my life. I also write down the names of songs I hear on the radio that I simply can’t live without, although I don’t recommend this while you’re driving. Since my morning commute is typically stop and go, I can do it when I’m stopped. I’ve discovered a lot of new songs thanks to the free 3-month subscription I have to Sirius satellite radio in my new car (more on the car buying experience later). A friend and I also went to Kohl’s to check out J Lo’s new line, but I wasn’t that impressed. I was hoping to try on some of the jeans in the line. I figured since J Lo has a ghetto booty and I do, too, they might actually look decent on me. My size wasn’t on the rack, so I wasn’t able to confirm my suspicion.

 

Anyway, I was organizing some photos and found some from fall of 2008 when I met New York Times bestselling author Jeannette Walls. She wrote The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses, both of which are memoirs. I’ve always been drawn to the memoir genre, and I think it’s subconsciously in preparation to write my own memoir. I’ve already come up with some draft titles, too, so I will claim them right now: Hyperhidrosis—Adventures of a Sweater (I was thinking maybe the cover could be of a girl wearing a sweater with sweat pouring down the sleeves onto a puddle on the floor) and Hyperhidrosis—My Life as a Puddle, which I’m already using as my blog title.

 

When I met Jeannette Walls, she said she truly believes in the power of storytelling and that we all have a story to tell. No matter what it is, it is our story, and ours to tell. Our stories shape who and how we are, and we should never be ashamed or embarrassed of them. She also said she underestimated the response of the public to her release of The Glass Castle, and I found myself doing the same thing with the launch of my blog.

 

Never did I think I would be involved with the International Hyperhidrosis Society, nor did I think they’d ask me to write articles for their newsletters. Most importantly, though, I never thought I’d get such wonderful emails from my readers encouraging me to keep going and thanking me for finally being the person brave enough to speak about a condition that can be shameful and isolating. My readers have helped me realize I’m in the right place, doing the right thing, thanks to where I’ve been.

 

The seed containing my desire to write has been planted for a long time, and back in 2008 when I attended this author signing I was validated publicly for the first time. I left the event feeling incredibly happy and excited to have met her, and as soon as I came home I furiously wrote down everything in my journal before I forgot it. I had a hard time sleeping that night because it was such a wonderful experience and it was hard to come down from. This originates from my HSP persona, as I felt this author event on a very intense level. I’m so glad my husband came with me that night to play photographer. The preservation of these memories in the form of an image is something I will forever hold dear to my heart.

 

I have released the shame and the secret I’ve held inside for so long  due to my hyperhidrosis. I’m finally starting to believe that I deserve happiness, peace, and a sense of normalcy in the world.

 

I can make my own normalcy, too. We all have the power to actively create our destiny. So start believing that you deserve the good things in life and are worthy of them. You become what you believe. So quit the negative self-talk and get on with the business of finding your purpose and then living it out. It is never too late to be what you might have been. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and have always written, and now the avenue in which I’m writing has been widened. This stretching of my purpose has come about because I dared to believe that something inside me was superior to circumstance. I dared to believe that what I had to say about my life as a sweater was important. Now the blessings are pouring down.

 

Hosting this blog is allowing me to create hyperhidrosis awareness, live my truth, and make others feel like they are not alone. Remember this deeply: as superficial as the Internet can be, my blog is a safe haven for you. Let all your sweating angst out. Talk about it, write about it, feel it, and then let it go. The truth will set you free. Stop hiding from it. You don’t become who you are because of what you tell the universe you DON’T want. You become who you were meant to be by telling the universe what you DO want and by living authentically in the direction of your dreams and goals. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

 

There is hope for people who have hyperhidrosis. There are so many treatments that are available, and some things might work better than others in certain people’s bodies. But we have options. We can experiment until we find what works best for us as individuals.

 

This is me telling author Jeannette Walls my story about suffering from hyperhidrosis. Right after this, SHE TOUCHED MY HANDS AND DIDN’T SHRINK BACK IN DISGUST. I love this woman.

Jeannette Walls 10-20-09 2

This is Jeannette telling me not to be embarrassed or ashamed of my story as I’m trying to hold back the tears that I totally didn’t expect.

Jeanette Walls 10-20-09 3

Here she is signing my 2 books plus the blurb about her in that month’s issue of the Oprah magazine. Oh, and then? She suggests I write my story for a magazine, and then WRITES DOWN THE NAME OF AN AGENT AND TELLS ME TO USE HER NAME AS A REFERRAL WHEN I CONTACT HER. I love this woman.

Jeannette Walls 10-20-09 4

Here is me ridiculously excited and in awe over the wonderful spirit this woman is. She took the time to listen to my story, offered solace and advice, and completely ignored the other 30 people standing behind me as she did it. And you know what? Those 30 people can suck it. This is MY time. 😉

 

I tried to embed a video of Jeannette Walls talking about her shame, but I’m having technical difficulties. Please click this link and watch it. It’s worth a few minutes of your time.

Have a dry and lovely day!

Maria


Copyright © 2011 My Life as a Puddle

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