Astraphobia…or is God out to get me?

There are many types of fears:  fear of heights, fear of spiders, fear of drowning…to name but a few.  They all have their own “phobia” name.  I had this one fear, that some of you might also have had, called astraphobia or the “fear of thunderstorms”.  Allow me to share with you my mind-numbing anxiety and how I finally conquered this phobia.

The first lighting bolt / thunderclap storm that I can recall was when I was 4 years old.  Our family (mom, dad, us four kids) had gone to Croatia for a vacation (meet the relatives trip).  Being so young, I don’t really remember much.  The one thing I clearly recall is a lightning storm.  It was pitch black outside until the firebolt lit up the sky.  I was under an umbrella with someone (found out it was my mother) and we were trying to run quickly through the mud to get home before we got hit by lightning.  It was a terrifying experience and therefore etched in my mind forever.  That was thunderstorm number one.

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The second thunderstorm that I can recall, took place after we had moved into our new family home.  I was 7 years old.  It was early afternoon when suddenly, the sky went from pretty blue to smokey, dark grey.  We had to turn the lights on in the house.  I was standing beside my mother and we were looking out the window.  CRACK!!!  Lightning streaked across the sky!  Seriously, there were probably 5 bolts that went from cloud to cloud.  A few seconds later BOOOOOM!  Thunder shook the house.  My mom held me and informed me that everything was going to be fine.  Then the lights went out.  I was shaking with fear.  Then all of a sudden…ICE PELLETS!!  I had never seen that before.  Ice cubes falling from the sky.  Hail was piling up on the dirt mountain in front of our house.

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I started thinking that God must be mad at us.  (Yes, going to church all the time and listening to the bible stories of the “vengeful destructive God” in the old testament can really get a kid’s imagination going.)  Well, God wasn’t going to strike me dead on this day.  I bolted up to my bedroom and hid under my bed.  I would live!

Fast forward to when I was 18 years old.  Another never-forgotten storm.  I was back in Croatia.  This time it was me with my parents and younger brother.  We had gone to Medjugorje.  It was a pilgrimage for our Catholic family.  My mother wanted us to do the Stations of the Cross.  We were prepping for prayer when all of a sudden, the sky went black, lightning bolts came bearing down from the sky, the thunder shook the ground and I believed God was going to strike me dead.  (Oh yeah…that “fear of God” can really do a number on a catholic girl’s psyche.)  I looked around and my mother was gone.  Maybe HE struck HER dead!  Nope, mom reappeared from behind a statue saying, “I wasn’t even afraid of dying.”  Well good for you!  I had been terrified!

 

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(I wonder if my mother is a descendant of Zeus or Thor.  Why?  Doesn’t it seem odd that when the worst (and my most memorable) storms hit my mother was in the vicinity?  Something to think about, you conspiracy theorists out there.)

Now, into my adulthood I was still not a fan of storms.  I had friends and co-workers tell me that if I learned more about lightning storms I would get rid of my fear.  Oh, I read about them alright.  I read about golfers being struck by lightning.  STRUCK DEAD!  Then there were the articles about water being a conductor of electricity.  So, after all my “helpful” research, not only did I fear the storms even more, I managed to kick my fear into high gear:

  1.  No taking showers or baths if there was a lightning storm.  Why?  Water is a conductor and I would not be struck dead in my tub.fullsizeoutput_21eb
  2. No answering the phone during a storm.  Why?  Well, if water was a conductor, then surely an electrical phone would lead the lightning bolt right through my ear and into my brain and yup…strike me dead.fullsizeoutput_21ec
  3. No touching computer keyboards, screens, photocopiers, fax machines, etc. during a storm.  Why?  Same reason; electricity.  Like begets like.

Then something changed.  Children came into my life.

Now, this is the last memorable storm I can recall.  We were vacationing at the cottage.  Everyone was in bed.  Suddenly, a strange sound came to my ears.  It was rain.  You could hear it moving closer from across the lake.  So pretty.  So relaxing and then…BLINDING LIGHT!!!!  BOOOOOM!!!  I freaked and hid under the covers.  Then we heard a terrified voice yell “Daddy!”  Wiseguy went to comfort the wee 7 year old girl.  I shook underneath my covers and then my brain yelled at me: “What are you DOING?!”  fullsizeoutput_21ef

What was I doing?  What WAS my problem?  I had never perished in any other storm.  What was I so worried about?  I wasn’t a golfer.  So far, it seemed my mortality was not threatened.  My self-created reign of terror was officially over.

Afterward, when storms came around, I was the brave one and was there to hold our little princess.  I would tell her stories, or I would turn the radio on and we would dance.  Distraction…best thing to do during a storm.  After the storm was over, the beautiful rainbow would come out and all would be well again.fullsizeoutput_21ed

Nowadays, I do use electrical equipment AND take showers (not at the same time) when there is a thunderstorm going on.  The kids are all grown up, but I am now the official protector of my 9 year old fur baby, Sir Waldo; the fluffy shi-poo.  (Look at those ears pulled back and the crazy long “freaked-out-by-thunder” tongue.)

 

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Being a descendant of Zeus and/or Thor (yeah, might as well go with it), Waldo and I no longer have to fear the sky storms.  However, I do still wonder sometimes…is it astrophobia or is God out to get me?

P.S.  So far, no damage to me from God storms.  Yay me!

P.P.S.  I did take up golfing…

Fuzzy Wuzzy…was NOT a bear

With my new career change and my new life, it’s nice to have something that remains constant.  Something that is familiar.  Something that I love.  Something that I can come home to and know it will be there for me.  Always happy to see me.  Always there to greet me.  Yes, you would think that I am speaking about my beloved “Wiseguy” husband.  It could be my handsome man, but sometimes he works nights and he is not there for me upon my return.  When he is not home, I have two fuzzy wuzzies that are always super happy to see me when I get home.  I have two fluffy puppies (until they get haircuts), but no matter how challenging a day I have had, their wet noses and wagging tails make me melt and forget about any trials and tribulations.  This is the story of how the first fuzzy wuzzy came into my life.

I hated dogs.  Period.  Yes, my early years, my teen years, my early adult years, I hated dogs.  Actually, I didn’t hate them, but they terrified me!  I always thought they were going to jump on me and wrestle me to the ground and eat my face off.  How did I get this insane conception?  No idea.  For years I just new that all I had to yell was, “Go home!” and they should go scurrying off.  Did it always work?  In most cases.  So, how did an anti-dog person suddenly become the owner of, not one, but two dogs?

Whilst Wiseguy was working nights, I was alone and wanted company.  I told him I wanted a dog.  He laughed. He chuckled.  He chortled (oh yes he did!).  With the comment of:  “You hate dogs.”  Yes, he was right.  The reason I began thinking I wanted an animal was something a friend said. He had just become the new owner of a German Shepherd.  I told him I could never visit him because I was terrified of dogs.  He said quite simply, “Oh, I don’t like other people’s dogs but I love mine.”  That got me thinking.  Yeah.  If I trained my dog then I would love it.  Wiseguy still thought I was crazy.  Even worse, I told him I would call my dog Barney.  Well, he poo-pooed me every night.  I kept going to bed at night wishing that I could have my Teddy-bear dog.

I wished for a tan coloured little pooch with little dark eyes.  I knew it should be a him and not a her.  I just felt it was right.  (I have these wonky extra-terrestrial powers I think).  So, imagine my surprise when after about 4 weeks my stepdaughter called, super-excited with this news:  “You aren’t going to believe this!  I got an interview at a pet store.”  Well, now you see how my hokey-pokey magic wish powers just seemed to come to fruition.  What happened next?

After a week at the new job, I decided to visit her and see how she was liking her new job.  She was always incredible with animals and this was a perfect fit for her.  I told Wiseguy that I was going to visit her and asked if he wanted to come along.  Sure.  So, off we went.  We arrived and Princess was super happy with her job.  FANTASTIC!  Suddenly, my eyes locked on this little furball.  He just sat there.  The other pups scampered around him and he just sat there.  Princesses’ sister (who also worked there) asked me if I wanted to hold him.  Hold?  Him?  I have held over 100 children, but 4-legged creatures…never!  She brought him to me and put him in my arms.  He sat there.  He didn’t move.  He didn’t bark.  The anti-dog.  I was amazed at this 10-week old teddy bear.  They had a little room that you could sit in to get to know one another.  I placed my little furball on the floor and he WENT NUTS!   He was scurrying and jumping and yipping and I didn’t know what to do!  Wiseguy was laughing at me (justifiably).  He came in and rescued me.  How?  He picked up the foot long fuzzy and placed in my arms where he promptly relaxed and just let me carry him around.  I fell in love with this little cutie.  What happened next?

Barney came home with us except he was renamed Waldo.   Like “Where’s Waldo?”  Wiseguy is great at naming people (children) and animals. Fuzzy wuzzy…has kept me sane.  At first I used to call Wiseguy and cry.  I had never had a pet before and suddenly I had this 6 lb furball biting me and scratching and whimpering and barking.  It was a learning experience with a puppy, but I did survive.  Waldo (now 8 years old and I like to call him Fabio).  He knows he is beautiful.  When his hair gets long (part shitzu-part poodle) he needs a haircut(e).  (lol!  My own funny.)  Biblically he is like Samson (and Delilah if you need to google).  When his hair is short (that is his “Baldo” phase) he is “sprite-like” as the 10 week old that I met. No matter what, Waldo aka Baldo aka Fabio is special.  Why?

Where’s Waldo?  As a dating profile I think he would say:  Hate baths, but love long brushes.  Hate squirrels, airplanes, ambulances.  Love robust trees. love waldo XOXO

P.S. I am beautiful and fuzzy but I am not a bear.  I am sure you bears are jealous! Love Waldo.  aka Waldorfson

Fear of Trying…

Nope, that’s not a typo.  There are so many people in the world that have a fear of “flying” but over the years I have discovered that I am one of those people who has a fear of “trying”.

It started way back in childhood.  The need to have straight A’s in school to impress my mother.  I studied and worked hard to impress my teachers.  Oh, I was a doozie.  I remember actually making research projects of my own to give to my teachers.  Yup…need for attention was way high!  As I got older, it didn’t change much.  My identity was based on what other people thought of me.  If they liked me, then I liked me.  A hard way to get around in life.  The thought of being mocked or laughed at took over my life and not in a good way.

I never signed up for any school sports.  I might look stupid if I missed catching a ball.  My team mates would be mad if I didn’t run fast enough in relay races.  Playday…that should’ve been a fun day.  It would mix children from all different grades and create teams.  There would be all kinds of games like dress up or shoe toss and you would compete against other teams.  Fun right?  My fear of trying led to such nervousness that I would screw up so many simple games.  The year our team won 3rd place I was so excited!  I ran home to show my mom and got, “How come you didn’t get first place?”  Devastating.

Today’s thought isn’t about pity.  It isn’t about relieving sad parts of childhood.  It’s more about looking back to see how much I have grown as a person and how I finally managed to quash my fear of trying.

My first defense mechanism was humour.  If I tripped going up some stairs or something I would laugh at myself first.  Beat everyone to the punch.  That helped a lot.  It’s no fun making fun of someone if they are already making fun of themselves right?

Next, self-confidence.  That was a hard one.  When I realized it was most important that I impress myself instead of others it really helped me out a lot.  Funny thing is that this self-awareness was not something I had realized on my own.  It was when I started dating Wiseguy that I began a very interesting journey to self-awareness and confidence.  It was strange having someone say to me, “do what you think is right” when it came to family situations.  I didn’t know what was right.  Right to me meant making everyone else happy and not caring about how felt.  So, with lots of talking and analyzing he helped me figure out how that really worked.

Even trying new things.  I wanted to take a writing course.  He said go ahead.  I was averaging 94%.  When it came time to submit a story for my final exam guess what happened?  Yup, fear of trying popped up again.  What if they didn’t like my story?  What if I failed the exam?  What if … what if…and that was it.  Never got my certificate.  Wiseguy didn’t harass me or bug me about it.  I guess he realized it was going to be quite a journey for me.

Wiseguy would take me to new places, new restaurants.  We would drive someplace where he had never been before.  It was all about leaving the comfort zone.  That fear of failure or looking stupid in front of others would almost cripple me sometimes. Example:  I would never order food in a restaurant that I would not eat easily with a fork and knife or spoon.  Spaghetti?  Never…what if the noodle suddenly slapped me in the face?  Chicken wings…so messy.  Soup…I might slurp it.  Wiseguy hung in there and year after year I would get better. He would tease me about ordering the same thing so he would dare me to try something new.  My Fear of Trying became the Year of Trying.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times that my stomach gets so queasy from fear and it takes me a bit of self talk to get me to realize that life is about trying new things.  Failure isn’t necessarily a bad things.  You learn so much from errors if you take the time to step back.

I have been asked to emcee a very important upcoming event.  When first asked I got that wonderful, sickening, stomach tightening feeling.  My brain began racing with the usual What ifs.  Then the miracle happened as it nowadays normally does.  The excitement of trying something new, like Wiseguy had taught me, was worth diving head first into the pool of life.  I am sooooo excited and looking back, I can’t imagine why I would’ve turned down such a wonderful honour from someone whom I love so much.

My wish to everyone today, grab that one little fear of trying that you have.  Shake hands with it, wish it well on its new journey OUT of your life.  Make this your Year of Trying.    ♥

Pet Project

My childhood fears were numerous.  I honestly don’t know how I managed to have so many phobias, but, boy oh boy, I drove my mother nuts with all the things that scared me.

Besides the usual arachnophobia, I feared grasshoppers (yes, they jumped at me and I was sure they were trying to poke my eyes out).  I was also beyond terrified of dogs.  From the big local Doberman on the street corner to the wee little Pomeranian.  I would hear a tinkle of the dog tags and I would almost pee myself with fear.  I crossed many a street due to roaming dogs.  These were the thoughts in my head, “I am terrified of dogs.  I will cross the street if I see any dogs.  Dogs are scary.  Dogs bite.  Dogs will rip me limb from limb.”  Pretty dramatic thoughts right?  Back in those days, I was kind of lucky in that many people did not have dogs.  None of my relatives had dogs either so I was pretty safe.

As I got older, it suddenly seemed, everyone had dogs.  My father-in-law (FIL) had beagles.  I tried to pet them to get over my fear, but as soon as they decided to jump on me to greet me I freaked out and ran.  So much for that plan.  We visited my sister-in-law and there were two dogs there.  As soon as I saw them, I froze.  Same thing would happen anywhere we went to visit.  I would ask Wiseguy to check with people we were visiting, to see if they had a dog.  He would forget to ask because, well, it was stupid to be afraid of dogs!

Now….move 10 years into the future.  Here I am watching tv with my TWO dogs.  Yes, I am the owner of these vicious mutts….Waldo (where’s Waldo?  haha) and Lucy (or Lucifer as we affectionately call her).  They are shi-poos.  I know, sooooo scary.  How did this come about?  After the kids moved out, and Wiseguy started working nights, I started telling him that I wanted a dog.  He looked at me like I was on crack or something.  Why would a woman, obsessively fearful of dogs, want a dog?  I explained, I didn’t want a dog, I wanted a puppy.  Cute, small, fluffy.  Nice logic right?

The story of dog ownership continues like this…The Princess called me happily one day to tell me that she got a job!  Yes, she was so excited!   “It’s at the pet store!”  The Princess LOVES animals.  Pet store?  ZING!  Hellooo karma!  Wiseguy and I went to visit her after she had been there for about a week.  She loved her job!  Suddenly, Wiseguy noticed this calm, little, caramel-coloured puppy with a tuft of hair in his little face.  He was just sitting there, staring at us.  He was a little teddy bear.  After two hours of me holding little puppy (while wandering around the store) we walked out with Waldo puppy and a bunch of other stuff to make our new puppy happy in our home.

Training and learning how to properly take care of a dog was a challenge for me, a not-ever pet owner.  Now, I am so happy to have two dogs in my life.  I am so grateful for their excitement whenever I get home.  My pups (dogs) jump on me (one is 20 lbs and the other is only 10 lbs).  They give me slurpy lick-kisses.  They cuddle with me.  They really are a joy for me.  They make FIL and Wiseguy happy too.  The amount of love and loyalty they show is just unfathomable.  Even little Kennie is excited to play with the “ogs”.  Kennie is very articulate about that.  She calls to them as any good trainer would:  Addo!  Ushi!

I now totally and completely understand why people love their dogs.  If anyone sees my dogs and get afraid, I understand.  I just hope that one day they will conquer their fear.  It’s worth it.  “Waldo…Lucy come!  Love you puppies!”

Waldo (sitting pretty)

Lucy(fer)