Just your average blog.

So, this is how Norton’s pulling off the scam. Their browser extension is free, and it came recommended when I purchased their antivirus protection. Here’s a screen shot of what I agreed to, in order to install the extension:

Screenshot (188)

So, it can read and change all your data on the websites you visit, replace the page you see when opening a new tab, display notifications, change your search settings to nortonsafe.search.ask.com, and manage your downloads. I blithely agreed to it in the name of internet security, under the stupid assumption that it was included in my antivirus protection. In reality, it’s a free extension they offer to everyone.

I’m disillusioned. I know it’s hard to trust people on the internet, but I trusted Norton. And now I think they’ve gone bad. [Shrug.] At any rate, I printed my chat transcripts with them. Here they are, for your reading pleasure! I spoke with three different people via chat. I’ll indicate when the speaker changes. Other edits are minor and are meant to improve reading flow, not to make things look better for me or them.

My initial question: [I linked my latest blog post for them here.] I hope you enjoy the free publicity!

Support: Welcome to Norton Support, my name is [Jane Doe]. Please give me a minute to go through the information you have provided. Welcome to Norton Support Meg. My name is [still Jane Doe]. I will certainly help you with the issue. While I am reading through your case details, could you please provide your active email address and phone number? I apologize for asking it again.

Meg: zeldas_lullaby@yahoo.com [my phone number]

Support: It’s really important to us to help you with this query. I will do everything I can to resolve it for you. Let me check the website ratings from Norton.

Meg: Fabulous!!

Support: The website you are trying to access is not marked as safe from Norton which is the reason you are facing issue accessing this website. May I know if you are the owner of this website?

Meg: Yes, I am!!

Support: Okay, you have to submit your website for evaluation to Norton.

Meg: No. I’m going to sue you. There is no good reason why my site would seem unsafe. IT’S A BLOG.

Support: I am sorry for the experience. Norton Safe Web blocks a website when a malicious content is found in website certification. Which is the reason you have to submit the website in Safe Mode in order to evaluate it. Once it is whitelisted then you will not face the same issue.

Meg: It’s wordpress!! They’re a major blogging site!!

Support: I do understand that. Please be assured evaluating the website will not change anything in the website. I am providing you a link to do the same.

Meg: No, I’m saying that wordpress is a reputable site. I KNOW you won’t change anything. Then I’d really sue you. Um, no, I’m not going to jump through hoops for YOU. I’ll see you in court. 

[At that point, I got angry and stormed away. Then I got back on chat with person #2.]

Support: Welcome to Norton Support, Meg. My name is [John Smith]. I will certainly help you with the issue. While I am reading through your case details, could you please provide your active email address and phone number? I apologize for asking it again.

Meg: zeldas_lullaby@yahoo.com [my phone number]

Support: It’s really important to us to help you with this query. I will do everything I can to resolve it for you.

Meg: Great. I want to know why you somehow infested my computer when I installed the add-ons to Chrome, enabling you to blacklist my web site.

Support: I apologize but I am unable to locate an active subscription in your Norton account with the email address zeldas_lullaby@yahoo.com. 

Meg: Oh well. Answer the question.

Support: I would like to tell you that it may be possible that you have installed the Norton Safe web extension on your browser that blocks a website that it detects as suspicious. Norton Safe Web analyzes and rates websites to see how they affect your device. When you see the gray icon next to the search results, it indicates that Norton Safe Web has not analyzed that website. If you are a site owner, you can submit your website for evaluation. If your website is already evaluated by Norton Safe Web and you want to dispute the site rating, submit the website for re­evaluation. May I know if you are the owner of the website that has been blocked by the extension?

Meg: No. You used my extension to target my web site. That’s criminal. Yes, I am the owner of the web site. I downloaded the extension thinking it wouldn’t scam me. I trusted your company. What do you want, money?

Support: I would like to tell you that Norton Safe web is a free extension and it is quite simple to resolve the issue you are facing. You can visit the link: http://safewebnorton.com/ and sign in from the top right corner of the page.

Meg: Supervisor. I want to know what you get out of it. Money? Personal info about me? Let me in on the scam! I’m curious. Fill me in. What’s in it for you?

Support: I would like to inform you that we do not make money from Norton extensions. Norton extensions are for you only to protect from unsafe and dangerous website so you can surf Internet without being worried about any hack or phishing.

Meg: So, how do you get money from this deal? Do I have to pay to get my site cleared That would give you money. See? Are you in bed with Google?

Support: You do not have to pay anything to get your site cleared. I am sending you an instruction email to submit your website to Norton Safe Web Portal and our senior team will evaluate your website and whitelist it for free. We do not charge anything for this service.

Meg: I’m not going to follow your instructions. You’re going to clear my web site. I’m not a trained seal. If you want to harass website owners like this, that should be your problem, not mine. Merry Christmas. You blacklist me, you whitelist me. Do you have an issue with that?

Support: I apologize, Meg as it is a complex process and I cannot verify your website from my end. It can only be verified by our developer team in back-end. Instructions are very easy to submit the website to Norton Safe Web and it will only take a few minutes.

Meg: Nice try. No. You’re going to fix it, or you can get a supervisor. The fact that it’s a complex process is your problem, not mine. I didn’t wake up one day deciding to cause problems like this.

Support: It looks like your website has some security issues due to which Norton is detecting threat. If you do not want the notification from Norton Safe Web then you may simply disable the Norton extension on your browser.

Meg: Nope, nice try. Whitelist my web site. Now.

Support: I am sorry, Meg as website cannot be whitelisted instantly as it is a long process. Your website already had some security issues, when you installed Norton Safe Web, it showed you that your website is not safe. I have sent you an instruction email. Please go through that email and submit the website from your end then our team will whitelist it.

Meg: No. I’m not your trained animal. And you’re not sorry. You’re sadistic. There’s a difference. Supervisor. Now.

Support: Please stay connected while I transfer you to my supervisor.

Meg: Great!!

Support: [Connected with Bob Adams. John Smith has left this session!] Hello, Meg. This is Bob, supervisor to John.

Meg: Hello. 

Support: I have gone through your chat session and I can see that you want to whitelist your website.

Meg: Look. Whatever your scam is involving blacklisting people’s websites, it’s illegal, and I’m not going to fall victim to it. No, I don’t want to whitelist my website. I want YOU to whitelist my website. It’s not my problem.

Support: I would like to inform you that your website is not blacklisted. Norton has detected some kind of threat in your website that is the reason you are unable to open your website when Norton Safe Web is enabled. There is a standard procedure to submit a website and you need to follow it if you want to verify your website from Norton.

Meg: No, I don’t. Whitelist it.

Support: If you do not want to submit a website then you may simply disable Norton extension on your browser which is blocking the website.

Meg: Whitelist it. You are slandering me by implying that my web site is dangerous. My dad is a slander lawyer. There is NOTHING dangerous about my blog. (Although you already know that.) If you don’t believe me, google him. [Dad’s name] atty Louisville, KY. He lives downstairs.

Support: I am not saying that your website is dangerous. It is Norton that has detected a threat in your website. If Norton Safe Web extension is installed on your browser, it scans every website you open and block it when it finds any security hole in the website. Your website has some security issue that is the reason Norton has blocked the website. You may try other reputed website like facebook, Youtube, etc which Norton does not block as these websites are safe. Once you submit your website on safe web, it will be verified and Norton will not block it anymore.

Meg: Tell Norton my web site is safe. My web site has NO security issues whatsoever. It’s from wordpress. Speaking of reputed, I thought Norton was reputed. Now I think you all are scammers.

Support: What best I can do for you is escalate your case to our senior team so they could investigate it further and help you with this issue. You will get a call back within 24-48 hours from our senior team.

Meg: That’s great. I appreciate it.

Support: Could you please send me the URL of your website?

Meg: [Lists this web site]

Support: May I know the category of your website? Is it an educational website?

Meg: It’s a blog.

Support: May I know the error you get from Norton when you open the website?

Meg: It has a red page and says my site is a known dangerous web site. Dangerous Web Page Blocked. It is highly recommended that you NOT visit this page. (Just a tip to your higher-ups–it’s best not to offend people before you scam them. For whatever that’s worth.)

Support: Thank you for the information. Do you have any description of website that you want to provide in order to whitelist your website?

Meg: My website is not known as being dangerous. My web site is not dangerous in any way, shape, or form, unless its content offends you. It’s G-rated. I don’t scam people. I’m not a phisher. I don’t like being called one.

Support: I understand it and that is the reason we require a description to get your website whitelisted from Norton.

Meg: I see. 

Support: We are not claiming that it is a scam website.

Meg: It looks that way on the error page. “Dangerous Web Page Blocked!”

Support: It is just that as it is not tested by Norton so it comes up with the error that it might be a dangerous page.

Meg: Uh-huh. As much as I appreciate your backpedaling, I’ve got the error page on the screen in front of me. “This is a known dangerous web page.”

Support: So please provide me a description for your website e.g. what category it is related to like shopping or blogging and what kind of blog do you post on the website.

Meg: Why not just put a photo of me up at the post office? It’s a blog. I shouldn’t have to justify my web site to you. I blog, therefore I am.

Support: Please provide me these details and your website will be white listed from Norton in next 48-72 hours.

Meg: If you’re interested, you can read it. Details? There’s nude sex, fetishes, chains, sadomasochism, and whippings. Just your average blog.

Support: Thank you for the details.

Meg: You’re welcome!!

Support: I have escalated your case to our senior level team to get it whitelisted and you will receive an email confirming the same in next 48-72 hours.

Meg: Thank you so much!!

Ugh. What a headache!! Sigh. I also reported them to Chrome when I disabled the extension. So, there you have it. Norton antivirus is no longer legit. It’s a sad day.

 

This is a known dangerous web page. It is highly recommended that you do NOT visit this page.

So, I added some Norton extensions to my browser because I switched antivirus programs. And then this happened:

Screenshot (187)

Yeah, so apparently, Norton thinks my web site is a “known dangerous web page.” I’m offended.

Digging deeper, this is from their safety page:

Everyone knows that the Internet is huge, there are many online threats like viruses , phishing , and spyware there’s a lot of unsavory Web sites out there—Web sites that will try to deceive you, steal your credit card numbers or passwords, or even crash your computer. By the time you visit a Web site it’s usually too late The damage has been done, you’ve been had. So, how can you find out if a Web site is a safety risk before you visit it?

And, I’m all like, Grammar Police here. It should be “there are a lot of unsavory web sites out there.” So, hmmph. I guess I told them.

You know, my dad’s a libel and slander lawyer. He’s probably sue them if I were to ask nicely. They’re freakin’ calling me a “known dangerous web page.”

Or maybe Norton security is trying to save me from myself? 😀 Good luck with that. Okay, problem solved. They have complicated instructions for fixing it that include things I don’t understand like meta tags, but I just messaged them and said they’d better fix it for me, or I’ll sue. In the meantime, I’m going to tag them all over this blog post. (Why does anyone ever mess with me? This is too much fun.)

Hey, everyone out there! Norton Security thinks my web site is dangerous. Are we going to sit back and tolerate this? No!

I hope they enjoy this free publicity. I mean, where do they get off thinking they can mark my web page as dangerous and then expect me to jump through hoops to fix it? They’re slandering me. They’re essentially calling me a catfisher or phisher or other scammer. You know what? That sort of thing makes Meg angry.

Huh. I’ve been angry a lot lately. But it’s not hard. Opportunities for anger are falling into my lap. I mean, I go to my own freakin’ web site, and that happens.

[Eyeroll.] [Deep breath.] I need to switch back to ESET security. DO YOU HEAR THAT, NORTON? I’M GOING BACK TO ESET!

Please “like” this post if you read it, because I’m sending a link to Norton! Grrrr.

Book Review: Managing the Depression Puzzle by Ashley L. Peterson

Guess what I finished reading recently? Managing the Depression Puzzle: Putting the Pieces Together by Ashley L. Peterson!! What a great book! You can find it here. It’s all about different aspects of depression, different causes, different manifestations, different treatments based on those factors, and different illnesses or conditions that can include depression (such as bipolar disorder). It’s mind-blowing to me how much info is packed in this seemingly tiny book. My paperback (I love paperbacks!) is 124 pages, but there’s so much content crammed in here that it’s unbelievable.

This book has a lot to offer anyone who’s studying numerous fields: psychology, pharmacology, psychiatry/medicine, counseling, et al. I would also highly recommend it for anyone with depression or, more specifically, if they’ve tried different treatment options and are still depressed. There are so many ideas in here that if I were depressed, I’d feel hopeful just from reading this.

Ashley has a very scientific mind, and she discusses studies that show efficacy of given treatments (including, but not limited to, medications) and how those studies are used by healthcare providers to take a solid stab at first-line treatment. She explains that it’s not a shot in the dark, like, “Oh, hey, let’s try this treatment,” but rather, it’s based on evidence and other important factors, like type of depression. Did you know that it’s more common for depressed people to sleep less and eat less, than it is for them to sleep more and eat more? I sure the heck didn’t, and that surprised me. But anyway, it might sound like I’m pointing out obvious commonsense stuff, but you have to read this to get the picture that all these factors come into play.

And the whole section on therapy–wow! I thought all therapy was just random talk-based, like, “Tell me about your childhood,” or whatever. Nope. There are focused therapies that I’ve never experienced personally, and they have scientific evidence of being helpful. She goes into enough depth about those therapies that you can get a primer and consider if it could be a good fit for you.

She also discusses mindfulness and self-care, and she outlines some ways you can track your symptoms and/or emotions in a regular way, like with a day-to-day journal. She lists affirmations and their unrealistic (rainbows and unicorns) counterparts. I found that section to be really funny. I mean, why not tell myself, “I’m the sexiest woman alive, and most men can’t handle it, and that’s okay,”? But I digress. She makes a good point that it’s silly to tell yourself that you’re surrounded by love everywhere you go, for example, because let’s face it–if your car breaks down in a bad part of town, that affirmation won’t help you at all. You may as well be at war with reality (and a scary street gang).

She brings it all together with how you should have a depression plan, should things get worse or relapse. There are references and strategies out the wazoo. The author speaks from experience, because she has treatment-resistant depression herself, which she discusses in the book. Her attitude is very positive and hardworking in her search for answers and solutions. I’ve known her a long time and I admire her quite a bit!!

So for anyone out there who’s wondering, “Do I need to be taking this antidepressant?” or, “Why isn’t my medication helping all the way?” you might find answers–or, at the very least, insight–from this book. Not all medications or treatments have the same effect, because no two people experience depression the same way. She emphasizes how treatment needs to be tailored to the individual, and how what works for one person won’t automatically work for the next person. Her scientific know-how is quite evident, which is useful for me, ’cause I’m just horrible at science. She took a topic which I saw quite broadly and made it specific in a million ways. So check this book out!!

More anger!

So, I have no idea if I’m justified in feeling angry over this, or if I’m overreacting, or if it was my fault, etc. My dad and I were walking Big Woof around the block. We started to take her around a second time, but two huge dogs were coming toward us on leashes, being walked by the same man. We turned around and headed up the street the other way. Well, this man was fast on our tails and quickly reached us, which drove Big Woof into a state of badly behaved distraction. Big Woof’s a Newfoundland, and I think the two dogs were large collies, like Lassie.

He pulled his two dogs into the street in order to pass us. (There was no traffic.) He mumbled an insincere apology. Meanwhile, Big Woof was so eager to reach the two dogs and play that she dug up some gardening done between the sidewalk and the street. I placed my feet apart and held onto her with everything in me. The other dogwalker kept talking to us, like, “How are you? I hope you guys are staying healthy,” blah-blah-blah. I couldn’t respond–literally–because I was using every single ounce of energy in me to hold back my wild dog. So my dad laughed and joked and made small talk with this guy. As he and his two dogs were passing us, his dogs got thisclose to Big Woof. I mean, this guy could’ve crossed the street or, I dunno, tried harder to pull them away. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was holding onto Big Woof for dear life, and that she was uprooting vegetation.

So he eventually got past us, and I managed to hold my temper. (Just keep reading. I’m not that virtuous.) I waited until he was out of earshot before saying to my dad, “I have a few choice words I’d like to verbalize.”

My dad immediately started making excuses for this guy. “Oh, he never encountered other dogs on a walk before.”

Uhuh. And he was walking two collies, both of who were just as badly behaved as Big Woof? And this was a first for him? Yeah, right.

We walked Big Woof around the block again, and then I put her inside. Up the street, the man with the two collies was returning. I waited for him to acknowledge me with a glance, and then I flipped him off. Then, my dad and I walked without Big Woof (because Big Woof doesn’t like long walks).

I know most of you reading this are probably not comfortable offering me feedback, but is there any chance that I was in the wrong here? I mean, I know my dog is too rambunctious. But it’s common for one dog walker to cross the street in that instance. And what about the rest of it? All thoughts are welcome. My take on it was that he was a total jerkface. But that could be my paranoia. It reminds me of the token apologies from my fellow banker yesterday, the lady who kept apologizing for talking to the teller, but without quitting talking to the teller. No one ever verbalizes it thusly, but people might as well say, “I’m sorry for my bad behavior, but I’m going to engage in it anyway, because I can.” AARGH.

I had a lot of anger issues this time last year, too. I figured I’d waited too late into springtime to go back down on my Prozac (which I take more of for seasonal issues). But I’ve already gone down on it this year, as of about two weeks ago. Maybe my spring anger issues aren’t related to the Prozac.

Random musings about my nasty mother.

I was thinking about it yesterday during my paranoid downward spiral that it’s my mom’s fault I’m paranoid. Well, I know, I mean, how obvious, right? But what I mean is that I can find her at fault in a very specific way. It just had to do with how she was always shoving her energy onto me. It left me polluted and unable to get her essence off of me, because she was always there.

I had a real [bleep] of a teacher in third grade. Her name was Triva Duffy. She expected advanced-program third graders to be little prodigies. At one point, she assigned us to give presentations about famous people, and I was assigned to be a famous nurse.

The night before my presentation, my mom was on her hands and knees in our carpeted upstairs hallway, sobbing her eyes out and begging me to cooperate with her. The shawl she kept putting on my head was fuzzying my braids, and she feared this was going to ruin my grade and destroy my future. She was in a total panic, and she couldn’t get a grip. In fact, she didn’t even try to get a grip. She just kept oozing pathos and desperation all over me and acting like it was the end of the world. Pressure started to mount inside of me, and that was when I first started screaming.

And I’m sure I’ve talked about Carlotta before. When I was eight or nine and my brother being two years younger, he and I were standing near my mom upstairs. She was seated on the organ bench in our hallway. She shut her eyes, opened them, and became Carlotta, a woman with a robotic voice who expected kids to do loads of housework.

My brother and I burst into tears and begged her to be Mommy again. She shut her eyes and became Mommy again, but she acted as if she knew nothing. No apologies. No explanations. She refused to own it. “I’m Mommy. Who’s this Carlotta you’re speaking of? Did something happen?” She thought it was funny. It’s hard to describe, but her voice carried a hint of laughter in her role as Carlotta, as if she was trying to ward off the desire to dissolve into giggles.

When I was six or seven and my brother two years younger, she sequestered each of us in our rooms and demanded to know who’d broken our dry sink, a piece of furniture made by my late paternal grandpa. Just flash forward to when I was twelve or thirteen and my brother was ten or eleven, and the same situation occurred over her demanding to know who’d drunk my sister’s juice box. (It was my brother in both instances.) She made threats, she acted scary, and she made my brother cry from guilt both times. The furniture had been an accident (a frame of wood wasn’t put in well, and I still have to fix it to this day), and he drank the tiny juice box because–duh–he was thirsty.

Mostly, though, it’s hard to describe her toxic energy and how it got all over me. She was just a horribly negative and somewhat evil woman. I threw a lot of screaming tantrums to avoid keeping her energy bottled up within myself. I’d argue with my parents in that manner–with me screaming, and my parents acting all victimized, because why was I so difficult to control? At one point, my dad had me backed against a wall in the kitchen when I was nine. I grabbed a paring knife and threatened to stab myself in the chest with it. I meant it, too, because I was sobbing and shrieking my lungs out. That actually got him to back off.

I realized that everything that went wrong yesterday was his fault. He shouldn’t have bragged about his close relationship with the manager of the restaurant. He also shouldn’t have read a scene from my book and said, “Aha! You got this policewoman character from the time your brother called the cops on you, didn’t you?” Gee, thanks for the reminder. And furthermore, he shouldn’t have acted all victimized over the coronavirus.

But anyway. My mom’s energy is ugly, and it was frequently dumped all over me as a child. I couldn’t escape it. My voice (the way I’d scream) was my only defense, but I was made to feel as if it made me a bad kid. It also left me with no way of understanding how to regulate my emotions or control my temper. Fortunately, that’s no longer an issue. I no longer go around shrieking at everyone and having complete meltdowns. Back when I used to, it made me hate myself. Like, at one point in college, I wanted to major in teaching, but then I had a screaming, throwing-things meltdown and felt like, “I can’t be a teacher! I’m too messed up in the head.” That makes me sad now. It all goes back to my mother.

I also never learned any boundaries, because my boundaries were under constant assault by my neurotic mother, who saw me as her ideal victim onto whom she could project her insanity. I wasn’t allowed to have boundaries, and I wasn’t taught how to have them, anyway. Instead, I was taught that it was wrong of me to try to separate myself from my mother in any way that would help me. For this reason, other people’s energy continues to splash all over me–because I was never allowed to “block” my mom’s energy. And that’s why I’m schizophrenic today. Sure, these days I try to “block” other people’s energetic fields, but it rarely works. Whatever dark essence a person has, it bleeds all over me.

I had to spend years–decades–dragging myself up and out of the abyss of my mom’s demanding neediness. I worked quite hard at it. I even did A Course in Miracles. It’s amazing, but I only recommend it if you feel called to it. All the while, my mom was still going around spewing negativity wherever she could. A few times while I was in college, I tried living with her. (My college is right up the street from here, and she lived in an adjoining neighborhood.) It never ended well. I’d be playing DK64 (Donkey Kong for the Nintendo 64), and she’d have some sort of tantrum over something, and she’d blame me for how awful her life was, and that sort of thing. I couldn’t even climb the stairs of that beautiful home without feeling miserable and full of dread. That’s what I’m doing in my memory–climbing the old-fashioned stairs with their textured green carpeting and feeling miserable and hopeless, just like she wanted.

Yesterday, I felt too close to it, as if I’d traveled back in time and was exposed to her negativity and cruelty all over again, as if no time had passed since whenever she last tried to destroy me. In the broad scheme of things, she’s enjoyed keeping me crazy, because it gives her control over me. She hates it that I’m happy now, and that I have friends. She wants me to be isolated and miserable, mentally ill and weakened.

She says the exact opposite. “Oh, I’m so glad you have friends. Friends are everything.” But I know she’s full of it, because for years when I was younger, she’d find me crying over a tiff with a friend and say, “Well, who cares? You won’t even know this person in ten years, so forget about him/her already. Relationships can’t be relied upon, unless you’re related. Besides, I think your friend is very strange for [insert something that makes someone completely normal]. Don’t you find that odd? I’d keep my distance from him/her.”

She was a master at making me aware that no one cared about me. Not unlike when I had fun at a Christmas gathering one year several years ago, and she said, “You know your cousins all hate you, right? If they really cared, they’d keep in touch with you during the year. They’re only playing along today because it’s Christmas. It’s nice of them to be so polite and to include you in conversation, isn’t it? It’s so mature of them.” I think that was the same Christmas she said, “Your grandmother doesn’t understand you. She thinks you’re quite strange. She likes your cool, older cousin Shannon quite a bit more, because Shannon’s normal. Now, your grandmother wouldn’t want me to tell you this, but I believe in honesty.” My grandmother died a few years later, and she literally had to visit me from the grave to apologize for that, which I appreciate. Although I’d appreciate it more if she’d never told my mom that.

Anyway, I’m not sure what the point of this was. But I need to put myself first during this coronavirus and not let her guilt-trip me into doing stuff for her that makes me feel uncomfortable, whatever that might be.

 

Paranoia in the new world.

So, Mother wrote me what I hope is a good check, and I took it to the bank a few minutes ago. Each area where you could fill out the deposit/withdrawal paperwork had a thing of hand sanitizer. There were three or four more bottles of the stuff up at the teller counter.

My problem occurred when it took me too long to fill out the paperwork, enabling someone to go ahead of me in line. This woman kept up a lengthy conversation with the only available teller (the other tellers were helping the drive-thru bankers, and such), and I had to wait and wait and wait for her to quit gabbing.

I never blame the teller (or cashier, or whoever) in this instance. Good etiquette dictates that they should be tolerant of such customers.

So then, this woman made a lengthy speech about how sorry she was to be holding up the line, but she just had to gab, which we all understand, right? [Massive eyeroll.] Because, you know, the subject of the hour is just so fascinating. And then she slid over two feet, with the obvious implication that I could come up to the counter now, and she attacked the nearest bottle of hand sanitizer. She then turned and stared at me with more fake apologies, and she asked, “Why aren’t you coming up? Sorry.” Yeah, I didn’t budge. But thanks for putting me on the spot, lady.

Uh-huh. You know what? My reaction had nothing to do with the scary virus. I’m paranoid, and I don’t like having my energetic field polluted by silly, attention-seeking bank customers, thank you very much.

She murmured more fake apologies, all the while staring at me as if I were the freak here, and then she finally walked past me, and I dodged her (to avoid her energetic pollution); and I was able to go up to the counter.

Let’s hope the check Mommy gave me this time is a good one.

That’s not to say, though, that the coronavirus isn’t freaking me out. It is, massively. I’m not just afraid of the virus itself, but of the change to our normal society that’s occurring. One of my dad’s favorite restaurants just closed. He eats out twice a day, every day. I don’t even know which foods to stockpile for him, because he never eats at home except to snack late at night. (Uh… toast. He likes toast.) It’s just freaking me out.

I’ve gone off my diet due to stress. But I think I can maintain my weight for a while. I’ve been munching compulsively on rainbow goldfish while my white-skirted tetras look on in horror from their fish tank. (They’re crackers! They aren’t real fish! Hmmph. Try talking sense into tetras.)

Last night, I was playing the emotional background music to Felicity at the piano. I stumbled upon the right chords. (Snuffy Walden doesn’t release his sheet music.)

Oh, how delightful. My demoralized dad just told me that restaurants have been ordered to close. “But they can still offer carryout,” he said.

I sighed. “We need to get you some groceries in case the carryout has to close too.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it. Grocery stores will still be open. But they’re going to close earlier now.” He seemed agitated but was trying to hide it.

It’s hard not to be anxious under these apocalyptical circumstances. Right now, my dad’s having a freakout trying to reach his healthcare provider and get medicinal refills. He’s in such a state of panic that he dialed the wrong number and then accused me of giving him the wrong number (he asked me to look her up online). Now, though, he redialed and is speaking to someone about which drugs he needs. Oh, wait. He’s coming back… Nope. That must’ve been him walking toward his office, because the calming sounds of Rush Limbaugh are now floating up here. Assuming Rush Limbaugh is on today.

I just feel a prescient sense of doom. So do my fish. I mean, the tetras, not the crackers. They’ve been unhappy ever since I adjusted their water recently. Poor fish. They seem better today.

******

Several hours have passed since I wrote the previous part of this blog post. Apparently, my dad has discovered that he can eat out at his favorite restaurants in secret. Being a woman of high moral virtue and fortitude, I disapprove, and I told him so. It’s very possible that some people have this virus and are asymptomatic. Such people could be spreading it without realizing it. Furthermore, the rule was put into place for safety purposes, and my dad should respect that.

Nope.

The reason they’re still open is that carryout is allowed. So everyone’s in these restaurants pretending to be picking up carryout, but instead of carrying out the carryout, they’re carrying it to the nearest table.

I can’t remember the last time I vehemently disagreed with my dad, but it probably involved my evil sister.

Apparently, the manager of this particular restaurant told my dad on the sly that he could keep eating in until they were found out. Coincidentally, this is the same restaurant that put this on their billboard last summer, in reference to yours truly:

Image may contain: sky, tree and outdoor

I never told you all in detail what happened to precipitate that. But I just now emailed the manager and told him that if he’s not closed by tomorrow, I’m reporting him. I added that he should think twice before messing with me again in the future. (Don’t you love it when the chance for revenge just presents itself to you on a silver platter?)

I have no idea what just now came over me, what led me to do that.

I think I’m stressed and agitated. It’s hard to stay sane when the world’s falling apart.

Oh my gosh. Large Flatulent Marge has shown up, everyone. My angry alter ego. Oh, Lord. Okay, I need to breathe. Okay, okay, it’s fine. Oh, yeah, she has shown up, people. Hopefully my dad won’t find out about this, although I’m pretty sure he’ll understand my motives here.

I guess I should revisit the incident. I joined the neighborhood forum to warn people about Calvin, the thug who abducted me. (That makes it sound worse than it was.)

But everyone on the forum bullied me and harassed me. The whole reason I was there was to warn them about Calvin. It was the most hostile place I’ve ever been online. It was hellish. I stuck it out in the name of community safety. And then they started triggering me with the “spank” word. And I called it abuse, and they didn’t care that I found it hurtful. So I told one guy on there, in graphic detail, what my parents did to me. I like to think it made him puke.

A few days later, that banner came up, and I knew it was directed at me. You can argue all day long that it had nothing to do with me, but it was a neighborhood forum. They knew my address. They knew that the above restaurant is right around the corner from my house. They knew I’d see it. The rest is history.

Okay, I’m feeling less agitated now. That’s good. Deep breath. I know I called myself virtuous a while back, and then this happened, but I’ll readily acknowledge that I’m not virtuous in every way possible. But I can’t live with someone’s death on my conscience (regarding the coronavirus), and I think that keeping the restaurant open on the sly is unconscionable. Granted, my threatening of them was purely revenge-based, and I won’t pretend otherwise. The fact that it will make my country safer is just an added bonus. Maybe the whole disaster will wind up saving a life. (Isn’t it weird when something beautiful comes from something hideous?)

My dad’s going to kill me.

Yeah… should’ve thought of that. Oh well. That manager had it coming. After I emailed him last summer, complaining about the billboard, he NEVER got back to me. And I’ve confirmed his email address from various sources, including the restaurant’s social media page. But he’s beholden to me now. If he knows what’s good for him, he’ll be closed tomorrow except for actual carryout. My best guess is that he’ll ignore me, and I’ll follow through on my threat to report him. (Trust me, I know myself, and I’ll totally do it.) Whether it’ll lead to anything bad going down (like their restaurant getting in trouble) is unknown, because the cops have enough going on already, I’m sure.

There’s a hidden veil that no one’s supposed to see past, and right now, everyone in the world is looking past it against their will. It’s a lot to process. I haven’t realized it until now, but I need to focus on my mental health. This is all ramping up my paranoia. And I really do disapprove of my dad’s wanting to break the rules.

I guess I’m sort of shocked that my dad is friendly with the manager of that restaurant. I mean, the guy was responsible for that freakin’ sign being put up. From what my dad told me, the manager had nothing to do with it. He fed my dad some bullcrap about how, even though the sign is right out in front of the restaurant, it’s controlled and rented out by someone else. Before anyone can say, “Well, gee, Meg, maybe that’s true,” let me point out that the sign usually says restaurant-related stuff, like, “We’re having a guest bartender tonight,” or, “Stop in to watch the big game this weekend.” So I’m not buying it. The manager must’ve been friends with the guy on the forum. He must’ve been in on it. If nothing else, he should’ve apologized to me. (Hell hath no fury like me.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great progress with the weight-loss plan!

Okay, so, I have great news from the dieting front. I’ve figured out what I was doing wrong, and this breakthrough might even prevent the need for a weekly box of Cracklin’ Oat Bran.

Here’s the skinny (pun totally intended): originally, I scheduled the following meal for brunch:

  • Four turkey sausage patties (200 calories total)
  • One Luna protein bar (180-190 calories, depending on variety), and
  • One square of dark chocolate (roughly 60 calories)

Problems arose when I got tired of eating the turkey sausage and started replacing it, innocently enough, with a second Luna protein bar. As you can see from the above numbers, that doesn’t really affect the caloric total in any noteworthy way, maybe by ten or twenty calories. BUT… I’ve realized that it was a huge mistake.

It’s simply not as filling. And now that I know that, I’m going to force the issue. Even though eating turkey sausage gets really old and tiresome, I don’t passionately hate it, so I’m going to insist that I eat it each day. And that if I don’t want to eat it, I can seek out an alternative such as turkey bacon, or whatever. (But we know that a Luna protein bar won’t get it done.)

I’ve been having all sorts of issues with the diet over the past week or so, and I think that this change will help greatly.

Also, I can’t recall if I’ve blogged about this or not yet, but the Amish popcorn, which came in blue, purple, and red kernels (colorful corn!), didn’t work out. These colorful corns are supposedly healthier than regular popcorn (made from white or yellow corn). However, they have slightly more calories (which alone doesn’t bother me), and they pop into smaller kernels, which leaves me with a much lower feeling of satiety (and that does bother me, because satiety is key here). So I’m returning my undying love and loyalty to one Mr. Orville Redenbacher.

I feel really good about my continued prospects for weight loss, now that I’ve assessed what wasn’t working. I haven’t lost anymore weight lately, but to recap, I weighed 220 before I went to Prague last November/December. In Prague, my best friend Sonya started me on this path of weight loss by pointing out that I needed to go off of Ambien, because I was sleep-eating on it to the point that Sonya was alarmed. So I went off Ambien and lost some weight, but then I started getting hungry each night because my body was used to snacking then. So I did all this research, blah blah blah. And now I weigh roughly 205. After this recent period of maintenance at that weight, I’m ready to take a deep breath and lose some more weight again by getting back to the basics of this diet.

I truly hope that March is the month where I break below 200. That would have to be celebrated, ya hear me? Yeah, we’ll have a party here at the blog.

*****

I know everyone’s freaking out over the Coronavirus, and who wouldn’t? It’s freaky. I’ve decided to see this period of time as a celebration of the introverted among us. Hey, we’re being told to stay home all day! Live it and love it, I daresay. We can read a book, or watch a TV program, or whatever else sounds good.

In other news, I woke up yesterday and discovered a huge, gaping maw where my positive checking account balance used to be. Panicked, I clicked open my online banking and discovered, much to my relief, that it wasn’t my fault. Apparently, my mother wrote me some bad checks. I think she accidentally used a checkbook from an account she’s already closed for whatever reason. The banking fees weren’t over the top, and I was able to fill the hole by borrowing from next month’s income.

I had to call my mom and give her the bad news. She had a total meltdown. “No, no, no, I can’t deal with this! It’s one thing after another.” Then she took the Lord’s name in vain, GD-style.

“Um, that’s some foul language,” I murmured. “God doesn’t talk about you that way.”

She may as well not have heard me. “I can’t go on! How can I cope? No, no, no. Why? Why?” And then she dropped the JC-bomb with an F-bomb in the middle of it, like JFC.

“Look,” I said. “Jesus doesn’t talk about you that way, either, so cut it out. All you need to do is figure out which checkbook is invalid, and shred it. Then, you can find the right checks and write me a new check.”

“No!” she wailed. “You don’t understand. I paid my federal taxes and all of my utility bills with that checkbook.”

Because, of course she did. Before any of you can start feeling sorry for my mother, she does stuff like this subconsciously on purpose in order to create drama in her life. I mean, this sort of thing gets repeated again and again and again. She can claim that she’s old and senile all she wants, but there’s more than that going on, and there always has been.

And then she ended the phone call, citing her inability to discuss the issue further. Unfortunately, she now wants me to call her back. She probably wants info from the bank about which checks she wrongly used, and I’ll probably have to feed her that info while she slowly gets more and more stressed; and eventually, I’ll be a total emotional zombie (all numb inside). I don’t want to call her. Luckily for me, she’s out to lunch with friends now, so I’ll probably wait for her to call later.

The Coronavirus…?

So, how’s the Coronavirus treating everyone? I double-dog dare anyone out there to binge-watch Stephen King’s The Stand miniseries and not freak out. It came out in 1994, if I recall correctly. I used to love that miniseries. It has a great soundtrack of both great rock-and-roll titles and background music by Snuffy Walden, who also composed the background music for the TV program Felicity. He’s really talented. There’s this one piece of background music from The Stand that I adore. Let me find it… Here it is. And here’s another gorgeous one. And here’s his background theme for Felicity.

Felicity ran from 1998 to 2002. It was all about Felicity’s experiences at college. I myself was in college from 1995 to 2000, so I totally related to her character. Felicity went to a college in NYC to follow her crush, Ben Covington. Even though he was less than thrilled to find out about this, it seemed like she was meant to be there, so she stayed. When the show started, she was geeky, awkward, nasal-sounding, and dressed in frumpy sweaters.

Well, I’ve just finished the second season, which means I’ve gone halfway through the reruns. By this point, Felicity has slept with four different men–hold on, let me count–yes, I think that’s right, and she got a haircut and started wearing see-through tank tops. I’m not trying to sound judgey. That’s not the point. The point is that her character’s development is a bit on the incredulous side.

It all started with the haircut. Before:

Image result for felicity season 1

After:

Image result for felicity season 2

See, Hollywood thinks they can fool us, but they always cast gorgeous actresses and then try to uglify them, as if we’ll buy into it, and as if they’re not going to gradually bring out the actresses’ beauty. It’s because actresses who are genuinely unattractive, and would therefore be perfect for the role, are unworthy and won’t be cast. (Hollywood is so shallow.) Nope, it always has to be a gorgeous actress who can be uglified.

But after that haircut, ratings for Felicity tanked, and the actress, Keri Russell, got publicly yelled at by the WB Network. All other actresses with the network were ordered, under no uncertain terms, to not get their hair cut without consent.

But I don’t blame Keri Russell. I blame the writers. Felicity’s growth into a sexually confident college student was done by the writers. In one episode, she’s practicing with a cucumber. (I wish I were making that up.) She starts reading a book called Gimme an O, and her roommate Meghan says, “Oh my gosh, that was my favorite book in, like, sixth grade. Wow, this brings back memories.”

There’s something about the roommate. She has my birthname, but she’s nothing like me. But when Felicity went off the air in 2002, something odd happened with her character. I don’t remember what. I’m not even 100% certain of this. Since it originally aired, I haven’t seen seasons three or four. I feel morally compelled to watch them, because they’re hiding something about why I viscerally and completely rejected my birthname. I don’t know what they’re hiding. I might be better off not knowing. I was never comfortable with the character having my name.

All I know is that in 2002, I started going by Meg. And the ending of Felicity, with its fourth-season Twilight Zone theme, scared me. A lot. For three seasons, the show was about relationships and emotional growth, and then in the fourth and final season, it was suddenly a sci-fi time-traveling program; and that scared me. I don’t know what happened to Meghan, the character; I don’t remember. But if I can watch the last two seasons now (I just finished season 2 tonight), I can find out. It must’ve really messed me up in the head.

All I remember about season 4 is this: Felicity has been in a loving relationship with Ben for a few years. All is good. But then, up on the rooftop with bedroom-eyes Noel, Felicity and Noel have sex. Horrified, they spend months trying to keep this bit of news from Ben. When Ben finally finds out, his relationship with Felicity is strained, he’s really upset, and everything goes to hell.

Then, all of a sudden, Felicity’s up on that roof again with Noel. “Did we just sleep together?” she asks.

Why yes, they did. Somehow, Felicity has traveled back in time to that moment.

“I’m going to just tell Ben right now,” Felicity declares.

Noel’s like, “What?! He’ll freakin’ kill me.” He has no clue that they’ve already lived through it all. Only Felicity knows.

Felicity goes downstairs and finds everyone, and she tells Ben, “Hey, guess what? Noel and I just slept together. Stupid indiscretion. It meant nothing, and I already regret it. Can we move on now?”

And oddly enough, Ben takes it a lot better than he took it the first time, when it was hidden for months.

But some other weird stuff happens with the time travel. And it just all freaked me out. The whole reason the show did it was that, after three seasons, there were no more relationship or emotional issues to address; and the writers knew it was their last season. So they may have jumped the shark. But for the life of me, I don’t remember how it impacted the Meghan character, nor why it freaked me out so much that I had to change my name.

Meghan was Felicity’s goth roommate. We’re talking tattoos, piercings, black hair, rebellion. Her character grows a lot during the run of the show and winds up in a very loving relationship with a guy who rents out his apartment space to some of the other characters. But beyond that, I don’t know. I must’ve blocked something out. It sucker-punched me, whatever it was, and I had to change my name to Meg. And I still have nightmares about being called M-word. (I typed it out previously because it’s in reference to someone else, like Meghan Markle, for example. In reference to me, it’s M-word.)

This Coronavirus is making life seem surreal. Events are being cancelled, and people are acting like it’s the end of the world. Do you ever wonder what happens when the fictions we dream up become reality? I’m not sure I want to find out, but I suspect we’re all going to. My dad’s freaking out over it, but he’s trying to hide it. He’s acting like the mob mentality is the issue, and like he’s upset that basketball has been cancelled. I strongly suspect, though, that the uncertainty of it is eating away at him, and he’s trying to act all tough and unbothered.

Eventually, I’ll figure out what happened to Felicity’s roommate Meghan. I think it’ll shed some light on my name issues. That should be one doozy of a blog post. It’ll be a while. It’s taken me years to watch the first two seasons.

I went to the grocery store today. It was a mob scene. It’s not the virus that scares me. Rather, it’s the reaction and the uncontrollable worries about everything shutting down. What if we can’t get groceries? What if the water supply gets tarnished? Etc., etc. What if tomorrow’s fish fry is cancelled? My dad and I were going to do lunch with my mom and her boyfriend, but her boyfriend is no longer coming to town due to fear of traveling here from New England. That freaks me out. All of it.

And I’m worried about Sonya, my bestie. She worries about stuff like this when there’s no reason to be worried, so now, she must be a massive stress-mess.

Surreality happens so often in fiction, but rarely in real life. Weirdness.

A once-a-week caloric deficit.

So, I had issues yesterday with my diet. I woke up starved. Trying to stick to my diet, I made some of my high-protein waffles for breakfast (rather than for dinner). It didn’t help. I was still starved. Demoralized and unable to cope, I went to the local pastry shop and got a bagel and a large apricot cookie. Yummy! Later, I also ate a small piece of cake from the grocery store, followed by a dinner of chicken and rice (which is on my diet).

Problems persisted. I was struck down by the same killer headache I had a week ago. I managed to cope with it better this week, but it was still a doozy. I gave up counting calories and finished eating my entire bar of 92% cacao dark chocolate. I skipped making popcorn and went to the drugstore instead, where I bought a box of Wheat Thins and a roll of mini-doughnuts. This was late at night. A few hours later, I woke up, feeling sick to my stomach. No big deal. I staggered downstairs and swallowed some Pepto. Problem solved. Then I finished eating the remaining Wheat Thins in the box and fell back to sleep. (Nothing like settling an upset tummy with more Wheat Thins, right?) [Eyeroll.]

Backing up a few hours to before the Wheat Thins, I researched headaches and figured I had a tension headache. But I also read about hypoglycemic headaches and couldn’t help but wonder if that was the issue. Obviously, something was going wrong with my diet, and that was tied in with the headaches, right?

I ran the idea past my dad. “You need peanut butter crackers,” he said. “Except we don’t have any peanut butter. Or crackers.”

“I’ve got something better,” I told him. “Lancets!” I dug his diabetic testing kit out of storage and showed it to him.

(Just let me interject this tale of woe by pointing out that he’s never used it, and he didn’t mind my using it; and also neither he nor I have any communicable diseases. I’m a total safety girl.)

So pretty soon, I was jabbing my fingers with lancets and trying to get a reading. I think this was two or three hours after eating the chicken and rice, just to give some reference for my blood sugar.

Eventually, I got the thing to work, and it displayed my blood sugar: 105. Plasmic sugary perfection on a meter.

So skipping back ahead to after I drank the Pepto and went back to bed, I slept on it and gave it some thought. Most days, it’s not that hard to follow my diet. I count my calories with pride and feel good about my efforts. But apparently, one day a week, I’m experiencing a caloric deficit that really takes me for a ride.

I think I’ve come up with a solution. When that one day a week comes, I’m going to keep counting calories (by eating my healthy foods), but I’m also going to let myself eat an entire box of Cracklin’ Oat Bran breakfast cereal. It will add about 1800 calories onto my daily count, which would make that one day a week an epic fail. But here are some things to keep in mind:

  • I used to eat the caloric equivalent of that much junk food every single freakin’ day!
  • Cracklin’ Oat Bran is filling.
  • I’m not trying to go off my diet. I’m trying to save it. I truly believe that.
  • It’s frustrating to have a diet that works great… except for when it suddenly doesn’t.
  • If I eat the Cracklin’ Oat Bran, it will ideally keep me away from worse junk foods, like pints of ice cream, cake, entire boxes of cookies, a canister of Pringles, etc.
  • Hey, I have perfect blood sugar! (Probably irrelevant, but what the heck, I like to be positive.)

So, deep breath. That’s what’s going on with my diet! I feel full and satisfied today, so I’m sure I can return to the diet as planned. When this problem crops up in a week, I’ll know how to handle it!

Anyone else out there having any dieting successes or setbacks? Feel free to share!

 

Happy springtime!!

Well, life is mostly going pretty well. I’m working on my cozy mystery, volume 1, and it keeps cracking me up. In this scene, our intrepid heroine gets mistaken for the tutor Mrs. Danville hired for her college-aged son. In order to get information, Desiree plays along with the ruse. And then this happens:

“I got your name and number from one of our state representatives. I doubt I need to tell you which one. He truly appreciates the work you’ve done with his three elementary-aged daughters. He’s a good friend of mine.”

I want to smile, but a wave of panic nips that idea in the bud. “Oh, great, the state representative, right.” I can’t breathe. “He’s, uh, a great employer. His daughters are so easy to work with. They’re dream children.” I have a feeling that my anxious, I’m-going-to-die facial expression doesn’t match what I just said.

“Even the one with behavior issues?” she asks. “You’re quite tactful. I like that.”

I try to talk, but I can’t form words.

And then, shortly later, this happens:

Mrs. Danville struggles to smooth out her sad expression. “Anyway, I’m glad you’ll be tutoring Terry. I just have one question. How do you spell your last name? I’ve never heard it before, and I want to make sure I have it right for when I pay you.”

Before I can spell out Hendricks, I realize that she thinks I’m someone else… someone with a different last name. Holy devil in hell, I’m screwed.

“Yeah, um, I get asked that question a lot,” I say with an effusive nod. “But people overcomplicate it. It’s spelled exactly like it sounds.”

“But it sounds like Kerschmindlerzfrau.” Her expression goes vacant.

“Right,” I croak. “The… it… there’s a silent letter after the… um,” I shove my hair behind my ear, “why don’t you let me write it out for you? It can be hard to remember. I almost got held back in Kindergarten for that reason. But, um, I’m a great tutor. I—I was spelling it by second grade at the latest. So, um, do you have a piece of paper?”

HA HA HA HA HA. It’s so good for the soul for me to be writing comedy, I gotta tell ya. It’s like I’m getting paid the big (non-existent) bucks for laughing all day.

I heard back from my former supervisor. He told me he left KidsPeace in 2009, and that he’s never been happier nor healthier, and that it has added ten years onto his life. I told him how happy that makes me! If I were being completely honest, I wish he was single, but he’s not; and I’m not that kind of girl who messes up other people’s relationships. So I’m going to let our discourse fade away and mentally wish him well.

So onward and upward, but I still need two more references for the volunteer work I want to do. Sigh.

My diet fell apart this morning, but I don’t blame myself. I woke up starved. Now, I just need to regroup and figure out how to prevent that happenstance. I’m sure there are some modifications I can make or plans for that eventuality.

I hope everyone out there who’s reading this is having a great day! Spring has sprung, and I couldn’t be happier.

 

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