Wednesday, August 31, 2011

To Live, or Not to Live. That Is OCD.

So my darling friend Darlena, as planned, made her rebuttal to my Hygiene Hypothesis post. The post below this one is the entry I settled on as my quasi-rebuttal-to-a-rebuttal, but in reality, this right here is the first post that her rebuttal inspired.

In her blog post, she makes excellent points. Mostly because it seems she basically agreed with me. Heh. I found myself thinking, "Well, she's not wrong about that...or that...or even that...Hey! I said that too!"

And then I bristled a little bit. I took a moment's offense at the statement "I simply cannot avoid all the germs she can. I have a life."

I took offense because, obviously, it seemed to be telling me I have no life or that I need to get one.  And I know Dar would never hurt my feelings on purpose, but at first, I must confess, I was stung.

But then I thought a little more. And you know what? I TOTALLY DON'T HAVE A LIFE. Or, more accurately, my poor babies don't. (Well, OK, one of my babies, Naomi, is too young, at five months old, to have a life or to know about cold germs and bum-bum germs--although whenever she sneezes, we jokingly say, "Noey, Christsakes, cover your sneeze!!")

But yes, that's the whole point, of this disorder, of this blog: I don't have a life. You're right, Dar.

The whole problem with my OCD is that, indeed, my life and my husband's life and my children's life are drastically impacted. I am consumed with panic and fears about germs, and that means that either (1) I just don't GO anywhere; or (2) I freak out internally whenever we DO go somewhere, which is no fun. No fun at all, I assure you. I don't have a life, because getting out there to live it scares me.

I am a stay-at-home mom. Aside from things like taking time out for the kids' naps or allowing time for my all-important surfing of the web, my job is to raise and grow and inspire and stimulate my children by taking them places in this world. Instead, we stay home. When I say I'm a stay-at-home mom, I got-damn mean it.

So do I have a life? No, not really. Occasionally, when I wake up on the right side of OCD, I do take my kids out--to the park, on an errand to Babies R Us, to the neighbor's house, even, like whoa, into the backyard. I know, right??

Sidenote: What's sad about that is that it's not a joke--it takes extreme effort and motivation to just plain take my kids into our own yard. It's less about germs than it is about motivation--I think that's a whole separate issue. Often, I tell Maya, "You can go play outside in our [fully-fenced] yard by yourself. Mama can't go outside right now. But you can, and I will watch you through the window." Needless to say, this isn't a very ideal suggestion for her, since she wants to play, and play with ME. But one of the endless issues that I deal with is either a type of depression, agoraphobia...

...or I'm just plain and simply a fat fuck what won't get off the couch,

or else I'm just a lazy ass,

but all I know is I suck for a plethora of reasons. A cornucopia, if you will.

Anyway. So those were my two first reactions to Dar's "rebuttal" to my Hygiene Hypothesis post: Agreement, yet at the same time, a little pain.

But she is right. She has a life, and can't spend all that time worrying, like I do. Or, more accurately, she just doesn't spend all that time worrying, because she doesn't have a mental disorder. See, she's lacking one crucial thing:

She's not


I joke. I joke so I don't cry. Tears of a clown, and all that shit.

No. Not that clown.

No. Not that clown either. Jeez, you guys.

(Can I interrupt this regularly scheduled program to tell you all that I HAVE MET TIM CURRY IN PERSON? OK then. Back to bum-bum germs.)


So, while Dar may basically agree with me on a lot of points, the thing is, it doesn't occur to her in the same way it does to me. She might go to a friend's house and not notice if the friend washed her hands before starting dinner. She might let her kids play at the McPlaguePlace and keep popping over for more bites of fries before heading back into the tunnels, without using hand sanitizer three times in a row first. She might go for a walk and let her kids pet the neighbor dog, then go home and just keep playing without needing to wash first. She might, sin of all sins, wear shoes in the house. ;)

Because while she knows good hygiene, and agrees that handwashing is very important, things don't occur to her like they do to me. I can't even say things ever even do "occur" to me, since the thoughts never left in the first place.

A couple of her quotes stood out to me:

"Yes, washing your hands is good. Yes, it's clean and I advocate it strongly for everyone. But to the point of compulsion? If I see a compulsive tendency popping up in my kid, taking care of that (provided they don't have a mental block that predisposes them to compulsions in general) trumps hand washing."

The only "good" thing I can say about my OCD is that I don't compulsively wash (or make my kids wash) in the way people imagine most OCDers do. I don't wash 12 times in a row. Once is fine. I don't jump up off the couch with the sudden and random compulsion to wash. I wash at what I think are very appropriate times. So I'm not one of those people who washes compulsively, except...I don't know what else you'd call it. I guess you could say that I DO have a compulsion to wash. Just not until my hands bleed, or in the middle of the night, etc. So thank goodness for that, anyway.

Then Dar said:
"They really haven't lived in a bubble, and that's okay. I'd rather them be sick sometimes if it allows them to live a little."
That's also where she and I differ. I'd prefer ANY option over my kids getting sick. This is the obsession, the constant worry, the all-consuming fear I can't get over. And  another of her quotes really got to me deeply:

"Mental health is as important as physical health."

She hit the nail on the head with that last sentence. That's where I struggle to find balance. Because I believe strongly that there are bajillions of horrible germs on the toys at the Children's Museum, I can't let my daughter play there without having an extreme panic attack. And I'm not giving my daughter a chance to play, explore, learn. So I don't know what to do--how to balance it all? Go to the Museum anyway, at the expense of MY mental health, just to make my kids happy? Or keep them home, where I feel safe and clean, at the expense of the richness of their lives?

Obviously, the answer is, I need to find a way to NOT feel terrified and horrified by taking my kids to the Museum. Win-win. Kids play, I feel fine. But it's the "I feel fine" part I'm working on, and trying to find a fix for.

Because months later, many visits to the doctor later, and all MANNER of medicinal nonsense later, I'm still where I started. Living in a bubble and keeping my kids chained in there too.

The Hygiene Hypothesis, P. Much Take Three

So Darlena over at ParenTwin wrote up her rebuttal to my post. My original post, "P. Much," was here, and Dar wrote up a fine fine piece entitled The Hygiene Hypothesis, Take Two (Take Two--OMG--twins--pun intended??).

And now that I've spent two days finger-babbling and belaboring unrelated points, alas I realized that none of what I was writing was the rebuttal-of-a-rebuttal like I had intended. For two reasons, I think: (1) that Darlena didn't really disagree, per se, with the gist of my post and my points on hygiene and why the hypothesis stinks--rather, she just explained that there are certain risks that she's willing to take, whereas I am not; and (2) that it turned into more of an introspection on my part, because of some of Dar's statements.

Crapsicle!! So much for the big war we had planned!

Anyway, I will say this, so I can at least post something to do with the Hygiene Hypothesis: What I hate most about it (and about people's uninformed spouting off about it) is that people take it too far. People wildly misinterpret it. And while I think that even at its true core, the Hygiene Hypothesis is lamesauce and ridicballs, all it basically says is that early exposure to allergens and infectious agents causes fewer incidences of asthma, eczema, and allergies in general. It doesn't say that by catching tons and tons of colds and flu as kids makes you less likely to be sick from them later. Getting a lot of colds in preschool doesn't mean you're not going to be allergic to peanuts, doesn't mean you won't get eczema, and doesn't mean you will get fewer colds later, goddammit.

Not to mention, there are so, so many other issues to take into consideration. Some people think that the increase in childhood asthma could be related to swimming pools, for baby Jesus' sake. Then you have to consider possible over-exposure to certain allergens, and the way children are fed, and where they're from, and endless other contributing factors:

"There are many other hypotheses which aim to explain the increase in allergies in developed nations, many of which are also related to the other. A few other major areas of focus in the literature include infant feeding, over-exposure to certain allergens and exposure to certain pollutants. Infant feeding covers a range of topics which include whether babies are breast fed or not and for how long, when they are introduced to solid foods and the type of these foods, whether they are given cow's milk and even the types of processing that the milk undergoes."

So, you see, there are dozens of hypotheses that aim to figure out why certain conditions like asthma are on the rise. But for some reason, people latched on to Mr. Strachan's Hygiene Hypothesis with an iron grip and refuse to let go, claiming that illness is somehow healthy, people who also refuse to use their noodles and inject a little common sense here and there.

Not to mention, there are studies that come to a completely different conclusion and argue against the Hygiene Hypothesis:

"The 'hygiene hypothesis' postulates that reduced exposure of children to microorganisms and parasites increases the probability that they will develop immunologic disorders including allergic diseases.  It has been used to explain the increased incidence of such diseases and the increase in asthma in developed countries compared to underdeveloped countries.  There is some experimental evidence supporting this hypothesis.  However, the epidemiological data are not uniformly consistent with this hypothesis.  A recent Australian study (Ponsonby et al, International Journal of Epidemiology, 2008, 37, 559–569) showed a reduction in the prevalence of asthma and hay fever without evidence for a decrease in hygiene. Asthma prevalence has also been dropping in other developed countries.  In addition, asthma is more prevalent in poor inner city neighborhoods in the US and these areas are unlikely to be more hygienic than the more affluent areas.  In addition, improved hygiene is not the only environmental difference between developed and underdeveloped more rural countries.  For example, in more developed countries people tend to live in tight buildings which are fabricated from and contain artificial materials which emit chemicals that could possibly facilitate the development of allergies. [Further,] It is in fact well established that poor sanitation practices contribute to high infant and child mortality rates in underdeveloped countries."

Another study also found evidence arguing against the Hygiene Hypothesis:

"The study by Dutch investigators at the Erasmus University found although children in day care got more colds and other infections, they were just as likely as other children to go on to develop asthma or another allergy by the age of eight. The children who went to nursery and who had older siblings had more than quadruple the risk of frequent chest infections and double the risk of wheezing in early life, with no obvious pay off in terms of later protection from allergy."
So which is it? Which hypothesis to believe? Why did those hypotheses never catch on? Why are people so quick to say, "It's OK, she's puking up last night's fish & chips now, but she's boosting her immune system with every heave!" Well, while you're trying to make up your mind, just consider this quick and simple question: Dirty hands or clean hands? Which is healthier? I remind you, we learned this in kindergarten. So mankind, quit telling me that my child will be healthier after poking the dog's butthole and then eating a bowl of popcorn.

(Or you may just want to pick up a box or two of dog bum-bum covers.)

Next up: The introspective blog that Dar's post also inspired.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Musings.

I wonder, do they ever clean and sterilize the hand grip thingers on the Wheel of Fortune?

Or, for that matter, the letters that Vanna turns?

Pat, you better hope so...

P. Much.

I swore I'd never discuss this with you, and that if you tried to blather on to me about it, I would kick you in the slats. But a good friend's blog post got me thinking, and when you get me thinking, you get me ranting, and I cannot be stopped. So here we are: Discussing The Hygiene Hypothesis.

The link I am responding to from is my buddy Darlena's blog, ParenTwin, which you can find here. She's planning a "rebuttal" of sorts, so I will be sure to link you to that later. :)


Recently, Darlena was posting about the dreaded First Time at the Cesspool Preschool. Her poor kiddos got sick p. much immediately.

Now, this is not uncommon. Everyone talks about how as soon as your kids start daycare, they're going to be sick p. much constantly. If they start preschool and have never been in daycare, they're also going to be sick p. much constantly. What is their reasoning? "Because they've never been exposed to these germs before."

In Darlena's case, though, her kids have been exposed to tons of stuff, stuff any typical kid has been exposed to: germs that would make my skin crawl and my OCD spiral out of control, because I am not the typical mom and my kids aren't allowed to be the typical kids. Darlena is an extremely active mother, and her kids get a lot of exposure to the world at large--she runs a billion errands a day and takes her kids along, she takes them for walks, they're at the park p. much all the time, and they have had more playdates in their little finger than my kids have had in their entire life.*

*Pretend this metaphor made sense. Move along.

So, her kids have been exposed, like most kids. Maybe not to daycare, but to shopping cart handles, public restrooms, diaper "incidents," potty chair "incidents," playdates with other little kids, and surely poop on a hot tin slide or two. Her kids do not live in a bubble. If anyone's do, MINE do.

And yet, her kids got sick immediately after starting school, as is typical. Why? Surely they've been exposed to plenty of germs and colds before. Why isn't the Hygiene Hypothesis working here?

Because it's p. much bunk.

Oh, and please recall:

"A theory has been extensively tested and is generally accepted, while a hypothesis is a speculative guess that has yet to be tested."

Sorry, hypothesis!!

Listen, I totally agree that there are certain things kids need to be exposed to. Dirt, grass, plants, well, all of nature. Dust. Animals, along with their animal dander. Things like this. But there are certain things that never, ever benefit anyone. The stomach flu. E. coli. Salmonella. Staph. MRSA.

Even things like the good old common cold or the flu. (1) How, exactly, do these bolster one's immune system; and (2) why, according to so many people, must small children be exposed to such yucky things?

Let's examine (1). Say your toddler catches a cold. She is snotty and coughy and snivelly and miserable for a week. She can't sleep because her nose is all stuffy, and if she can't sleep, neither do you. Everyone is miserable when the kid is sick. Or, even worse, let's say your tiny baby catches a cold. She doesn't even know what's going on and has no tools to deal with being sick. She can't be told, "Here, blow your nose" or "This soup will make you feel better" or even, "Honey, I know how bad you feel, but you'll get well soon." She can't even take any medicine for it! All your baby knows is that she can't breathe.

So, has this cold helped either child? Colds mutate constantly. You never become immune to catching them. Because the next one is going to be one you have never encountered before.

And if catching colds helps us avoid catching colds (a ridiculous statement in itself), then why don't we ever "grow out of it"? If we attend daycare as kids and are constantly coming down with something, and the go through school still getting sick here and there, why as adults do we still catch colds? Why as old people aren't we completely immune?

Again, because colds mutate. And catching one does not mean you will become magically stronger and not likely catch the next one. We will catch colds ALL OUR LIVES. For many people, 2-3 a year, or eve more, for their entire existence, p. much as a rule.

So. On to part (2). If we are forever going to be catching colds, why is it so important that kids are exposed so young? Everyone always spouts off about how great and wonderful it is that kids get sick. "They're strengthening their immune system! Hoorahhh!!" But if we're gonna catch colds, why not do you utmost to prevent them from happening to your little tiny ones? Why not try to wait until they are older and stronger, and mentally/physically better able to deal with them and understand that they're sick?

If you had your choice, would you want your 2-week-old baby to catch a cold? No way, right?

Well, why, then? Why wouldn't you want her to? Wouldn't it help her? Give her a nice headstart on the good old immune system? No. It would be fucking misery, and possibly dangerous to boot. Babies can choke on phlegm in the night or become so stuffed up that they die. Silently. It happens. Your non-OCD mind might not worry about a baby dying from a cold, but mine does, because I have OCD but also because it happens. A good friend of mine almost lost her daughter right there at the doctor's office, after taking her in for a regular ol' case of the sniffles. Her two-year-old suddenly turned blue and had to be taken in an ECNALUBMA to the next-door hospital and be resuscitated. Anecdata, yes, but true, and fucking scary.

So why is it so great for a 6-month-old to catch a cold? Or even a two-year-old? And why am I the crazy one for disinfecting my daughter's restaurant table, or keeping her away from sick family, or not wanting to take her to the McPlaguePlace McPlayPlace?

My older daughter, Maya, has only ever had like two colds in her life. One was when she was 7 weeks old, when my sister-in-law thoughtlessly brought her two very, very sick kids to a family get-together. We all caught that cold, and not only were we miserable, I was terrified for my infant. I basically kept vigil over her and never slept until she was better. So how did this cold benefit her? She could still catch another at any point.

But she only did one other time (funny enough, thanks to the same oh-so thoughtful sister-in-law). Just those couple of times, because we take great pains to wash and sanitize our hands, teach her not to touch her eyes, nose, or mouth when out of the house, and to maintain a clean home or clean environment, wherever we go.

According to the Hygiene Hypothesis, my kid should be sick all the time, because we put forth such effort to avoid contact with germs. My Purell Kid should catch every virus we run into because of an immune system that was never allowed to develop. But she's never sick.

Whereas certain friends of mine (theee very friends mentioned in my blog post, "The Acid Test") are sick All. The. Time. All the time. ALL THE TIME.

And they never wash their hands. Seriously, like, never ever. Not when coming home. Not before eating. Not before cooking. Not after shaking hands. Not after playing at the Children's Museum of Every Virus Known to Man. Not after pooping. Not after touching raw meat or turtles or the floor of a Wal*Mart. Never.

If you took my family, and their family, we'd p. much disprove the Hygiene Hypothesis right then and there. They are exposed to so many germs you'd think they'd have developed chainmail fucking ARMOR against colds and flu. You'd think germs would cower at the sight of them. You'd think our friends would see germs and be like, "Dude, we've HAD you before. We've rolled in you. We've eaten you. We've rubbed you in our eyes and noses. WE PWN YOU."

And yet it is my family who never gets sick. Why? Because we wash our damn dirty hands.

Now, back to Darlena. This is not to compare her to my "Acid Test" friends at all. Not remotely, because no one else could possibly be that bad. :)

But because Darlena doesn't suffer from OCD, her kids have been exposed to a typical, normal amount of germs. They've been healthy, they've been sick, and so it goes. Yet at their first exposure to preschool, they caught the sniffles.

My turn is coming up soon. My daughter enters preschool in mere days. Will she catch a cold right away?


But am I glad that she has not had a dozen colds in her almost-four years?


Because they would have been of no help. We would have had a sick, miserable child on our hands, for no reason, because the next cold to come along would be a new, mutated one she had never been exposed to anyway, and she could catch it too, if we weren't careful with hygiene.

If we can agree that kids who have been exposed to a lot of germs, AND kids who have not been exposed to a lot of germs, BOTH get sick pretty frequently when beginning daycare or school (which seems to be the consensus, since whenever daycare or preschool is mentioned, the response is always, "Ohhh, prepare for constant runny noses and coughs"), then I ask you, what was the point of all the colds your kid had when they were much younger?

Being exposed to certain things does absolutely no good whatsoever. These are things like the stomach flu or all the nasties that live on commoly touched surfaces, like staph or shigella. Who ever heard of becoming immune to E. Coli or being unlikely to catch it next time you're exposed to it? Or having had food poisoning so many times that now you are untouchable? Not to mention, frequent handwashing and all-around good hygiene has drastically reduced illnesses and has extended our very lifespans.

One source says of this theoretical idea that too much cleanliness has led to an increase in asthma or allergies:

"It is in fact well established that poor sanitation practices contribute to high infant and child mortality rates in underdeveloped countries...[Thus,] A decrease in hand-washing increases the incidence of infectious diseases which may more than outweigh the benefit of a possible reduction in immune disorders."

Being exposed to certain things can be important. These things are dirt, dust, and animals. Early exposure can and does help prevent many allergies.

But being exposed to colds and flu does not "help build your immune system." Because you will never be immune to colds and flu.

If your kids are gonna get sick, it's better to have it happen when they are older, stronger, and more able to cope with being sick. And, of course, it's best to just try to avoid getting sick altogether.

It's just common sense, people. We learned it in kindergarten. Wash your hands.


And now for one last treat, I bring you this gem. A month or so ago, I was visiting the public restroom *shudder* at the local UW Bookstore . The stalls were all full, so I was waiting my turn. And as I waited, a boy, aged approximately nine years old, crawled, Army-style, out from under the handicapped-stall's door. Crawled. Belly-down. Hands palm-down. Face-down. Slithered. On the restroom floor. The public restroom floor. His mother said nothing of it, opened the stall door, and exited. Naturally, without washing their hands.

Many of you probably recoil in horror at imagining this, even though you aren't OCD Like Me. Why the horror? Isn't that child just bolstering his immune system? And if you say "no, that's just fucking gross," why do you think it's such a wonderful, immune-system-strengthening thing when kids catch colds or other nasties off other public surfaces, which in all likelihood are even filthier than that restroom floor? Why?

My motto: Avoid What You Can, Deal With What You Can't. And I prefer that we all avoid as many illnesses as possible. But that's just me.

P. much.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fun Friendly Phobic Fact Friday!

Be sure to wash your hands after transferring your wet, just-washed laundry to the dryer. Wet laundry is teeming with fecal matter and bacteria, most notably hepatitis A virus, norovirus, rotavirus, salmonella, and E. coli. And then, if possible, kill it with fire on the hot & heavy cycle in the dryer.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I've Got One for Your Job Creation Act of 2010, Mr. Obama.

One thing I didn't mention in my recent post regarding safe food handling was this...I've often thought (and here I'm not joking) that restaurants should hire for a brand-new, never-before-heard-of position. The new position would simply be, "Cook Area Inspector." The job would involve merely watching. Inspecting, if you will. So that if someone so much as coughs, scratches a nose, itches an ass, digs a pinkie into their ear, mishandles a raw hamburger patty, doesn't properly wash produce, the Cook Area Inspector would scream out not unlike Frau Farbissina:

If a hamburger bun is dropped, the Cook Area Inspector would see to it that it was not placed back atop your Banzai Burger but rather thrown down the incinerator. (OK, I suppose that merely tossed outside for the birds will do.) If someone sneezed over your plate of Spaghetti with Mizithra, into the trash it would go and Chef Finnegan would begin again.

If a customer was rude to a server, and the server wanted to "get even" (one of my worst fears), the Cook Area Inspector would sprint over and catch the spittle mid-drip before it ever hit your Zuppa Toscana.

If the underpaid, bored employees got a wild hair up their bum-bum and wanted to get a little crazy by pissing into the vat of spaghetti sauce at your local Little Caesar's,* the Cook Area Inspector would see to it that they were killed in the face, and then have the restaurant shut down.

*This really happened. In high school, a classmate was bragging about how he did so. Pissed. Into the spaghetti sauce. At Little Caesar's. I've not eaten there one single time in the 18 years since.

But seriously, the Cook Area Inspector would just generally be responsible for observing and reacting, and employees would be required to follow her commands, without argument, to wash their hands, throw something away, remake the food, use gloves, change gloves,* or wash their hands again.

*My family and I recently went to the local Taco Time and witnessed one employee, wearing food-prep gloves, taking orders at the front desk, punching orders into the cash register, and handling all money. Then going right back into the open kitchen and preparing the food with the same gloves. I died inside that day.

The Cook Area Inspector would be responsible for your food being snot-, spit-, and spooge-free. This would be different from the typical, apathetic, non-germ-phobic manager just meandering through occasionally to "see how things are going."

This would be militant-style observation.

It could be performed only by someone who has a demonstrable tendency toward OCD. Someone with catlike reflexes who would be on the chef, germ-ninja-style, the very second he befouled his hands or the food he was preparing.

Seriously, I honestly really for reals think this would be a selling point: Businesses could advertise, "Our restaurant now employs Cook Area Inspectors!" and "Most hygienic eatery this side of the Mississipp!" and "Our trained Cook Area Inspectors watch your food being prepared and observe it every moment of the way. Eat Here With Confidence(TM)."

In addition, it would be awesome if customers would watch on CCTV the kitchen and chefs. Just have little monitors placed up in the corners of the restaurant, and you could at a glance see if your Macho Burrito Con Carne was being handled with gloves and all manner of correct hygiene or if it was being rolled up con carnage.

I joke, but seriously, I'm not joking.

Cook Area Inspectors. You heard it here first.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Post Script

Speaking of hotels, I gotta tell ya, I learned something this day. A new technique, if you will.

Howie Mandel, my kindred spirit and fellow OCDer, doesn't bother wearing shoes the entire time in a hotel, like I do. In a John Tesh interview, he explained that he orders a couple dozen extra towels and creates a path, a towel stairway to his own personal OCD heaven, and tells the maids not to disturb them. (I go a step further and forgo all maid service entirely, lest they destroy the cleanliness I've wrought.) He even puts towels down in the shower to as not to have to step upon the actual tub or tile.

I never thought of creating a towel path in the entire hotel room (although I'm not sure why, since I do cover the whole floor of the bathroom with towels). Next time, assuming I'm ever brave enough to enter a filthy sex lair hotel room again, I might just have to go this route.

And if maids think I'm insane?


Things I Do, Hotel Edition.

So, hotels. *dry heaves* Pardon me. So, hotels.

It doesn't matter whether it's a nice hotel or a crappy motel. I've been to some gorgeous resorts, and I've been to some really shitty places. My reaction to them all is the same: horror, terror, and disgust.

  • The blankets. The very, very first thing I do upon entering our room is either tear the damn thing off altogether, or fold the duvet and blanket all the way down, and then fold the top sheet over it all or part of the way. There is no way that duvet or banket is going to touch my flesh at any point during the night. (If I notice in the night that my husband has pulled it up over him, I will mull over a trial separation outright yank it back off him. Sorry, honey.) Neither will I sit or lounge upon the bedspread during the day. The top blankets get folded all the way down or thrown off. If we freeze in the night? Tough shit.

  • I lift the top sheet and look all the way down to the bottom to make sure there are no unexpected, er, surprises.

  • Then I flip over the pillows, because the duvet has been folded over them.

Although I realize that making the bed in this fashion also means that the duvet has touched the other side of the pillow, too. Lose-lose. :( I say a lengthy prayer to the Patron Saint of Headlice (and a quick one to the Patron Saint of Spooge) and hope all goes well. The one thing I cannot bring myself to do is bring a blacklight to a hotel room. I would never be the same. At the least, I could never travel again; at most, you'd have to commit me.

  • The very next thing I do is attack everything with Clorox wipes. Everything. The bedside tables. The dresser. The dresser handles. The doorknobs. The closet doors. The tub. The toilet seat (even after disinfecting it, I still put down toilet paper on the seat before I use it). The toilet handle. The sink faucets. The phone. The alarm clock. And the remote. Oh Godthe remote. I've even been known to disinfect it, and then still put it in a plastic bag. Just think how many people using that bed have just finished making filthy nasty deviant sweet sweet love and then upon completion, reach for the remote to find a nice program on the tee-vee to relax to. Just think.

  • The suitcases never touch the carpet or the beds. They go up on a fold-out luggage rack, if possible, or I put a towel under them. This is common-sense advice, and word is spreading.

  • The carpets. First, I will not walk in a hotel without my shoes on. I even take them into the bathroom with me so that after I've showered, I can stand right on the bathmat and put on my socks and shoes.

  • The drinking glasses! Ye gods! I would sooner drink from a drinking fountain* than use one of those cups. At least not without a long, hot scrubbing. You KNOW those things aren't sanitized, even with those "nice effort, thanks for trying" plastic covers over them (that aren't sealed in any way). You KNOW the maid has just finished wiping down the toilet before giving those glasses a brief rinse. You KNOW they are festering with The Herp. Bygones.

*Just kidding, no I wouldn't. Drinking fountains are positively swarming with nasty bacteria and viruses, not to mention the occasional birdshit. And even though the water arcs away from the spigot, think of how water dribbles from your mouth right back down onto that spigot. So the water is arcing, yes, but arcing OUT of a spigot covered in nastiness. But I digest.

  • Showering is a tough one. I usually feel dirtier after showering at a hotel than before. After washing my feet in the shower, I re-wash my hands right then and there. Then, when exiting, I touch the shower curtain at the very tip-top, as high as I can reach, where other people haven't touched immediately after washing their own assholes.

And I lose my damn mind when the shower curtain billows in, touching my body, conforming to it, vacuum-sealing to it, like white on lice, no matter what I do. You know that's happened to you. It is horrifying.

But, you know what? Even after all of my attempts to clean and disinfect, I still touch everything with a Kleenex, Howard-Hughes style.

Because all the Lysol in the world couldn't kill 
what lives in a hotel. And I don't just mean in Room 237.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Parks and Recreation, Plus Poop.

Yesterday was a tough day, anxiety-wise. We went Maya's little BFF's 5th birthday party, along with a zillion other little school friends of this little girl. The party was lovely--a gorgeous day at the park and splash pad, food, drinks, games, a fabulous hostess. I thought I would have an easier time of it, since we were outdoors with fresh air and such, but as always, OCD manages to make its appearance.

It first appeared when the watermelon was being sliced. It hadn't been washed first; in fact it had been sitting on the super grody cement floor of the covered park area. (And seriously, people, you really ARE supposed to wash your damn dirty melons, whether or not you have OCD.)

So there sat the unwashed melon, sliced up and sitting on a picnic table, mocking me. Mocking, I tell you. Maya kept asking, "Can I have some watermelon? Please? Please? I really want some!" And I kept trying to distract her. But finally I had to give in. Because who doesn't let their kid eat watermelon at a picnic? I said a prayer to the Patron Saint of Escherichia coli and let my child dive in.

Jo, 1. OCD, 0.

...Not that I'm sitting here on pins and needles, waiting 1-10 days for the first appearance of hemorrhagic colitis, which is characterized by the sudden onset of abdominal pain and severe cramps, followed within 24 hours by diarrhea, soon becoming watery and grossly bloody, along with vomiting and fever, bowel necrosis and perforation, progressing to hemolytic uremic syndrome, which then causes acute kidney failure in infants and young children, where the infection continues to move into the cells’ cytoplasm and then shut down the cells’ protein machinery, resulting in cellular injury or death, and subsequent damage to vital organs such as the kidney, pancreas, and brain. Nope. Not me. Doesn't mean I'm sitting here for 1-10 days on pins and needles at all.

Also, not that I noticed or anything, but...

On a hot tin table.

The second moment of panic came when the cake was served. She had handmade a gorgeous cake, but it came in segments that had to be placed together. The cake was totally stuck to the plate it was on, so it required massive amounts of manhandling with bare fingers to be smooshed together with the other parts. At one point my friend, recognizing what was going on in my sweaty brain, said, "I know Jo is having a heart attack right now." No, not a heart attack, friend. Mere palpitations. I answered, "Maya will have a center piece, please." And gave her my best, watery "I'ne jos keeding!" smile.

Observe, actual finger impressions:

I could have refused to let Maya have a piece, but come on. Look at this face. She is actually salivating, tongue out:

Friend, I love you, and you are beautiful, and your party was beautiful. But you gotta know how bad my shits were freaked. I know that none of this is news to you. ;) Because you love me despite my OCD, and I love you despite your lack of it. ;)


Anyway. The third offender of the day was...THE HOT TIN SLIDE!!

Today, it did not have fossilized human poop on it.

But it sure as hell did have baked-on, caked-on BIRD SHIT.


Just another day at the park, OCD-style.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fun Friendly Phobic Fact Friday!

Cold and flu viruses can survive for between 3-7 days on surfaces such as telephones, keyboards, computer mice, desktops, photocopiers, the water cooler, printers and other high-touch surfaces. Germs transmitted from a sneeze or cough can travel up to 3 feet where they will land on such surfaces. When someone sneezes, the mist of liquid droplets from their nose will be suspended in the air for a long time. You can walk into a room where someone sneezed five minutes ago, and you'll be breathing in those particles. And any germs attached to them.

The average person in an office touches about 300 surfaces every 30 minutes. In the world of viruses, even kissing is safer than shaking hands.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I've Had It With These Motherf*cking Poops in These Motherf*cking Potty Chairs!

Forget Snakes on a Plane. We've got Dukes down the Drain, and I'm over it.

Ever since we potty-trained Maya (it's been over a year now), she has used her little white plastic Bjorn potty chair. For pee-pees and poo-poos. It was the best option for awhile because we could keep it where we needed it, so it could always be close at hand bum-bum.

Then we moved it into Maya bedroom so that she could go potty if she needed to during a nap or the night. (Which she still has yet to do, anyway.) And I know, gross, a potty in a bedroom.

But the worst part of it has been cleaning out the poops. I just absolutely dread hearing, "Mommmmmm, I went poo-poo!" (1) because of the wiping of the bum-bum and (2) because of the cleaning of the potty. Yaaarrgggh.

So after having Maya assume standing pike position so I can wipe her bum-bum, I take the potty bowl into the bathroom, open the toilet seat lid (which we always keep down, and so should you!), and dump the lump. Then I clean it out with at least three Lysol wipes, then I spray it down with Lysol spray. Heavily.

Then I wash like I've never washed before.

The reason I don't have Maya use the regular toilet is because of the way kids grip it and grasp it and clamber up on it. Then they sit there and usually hold the edges of the toilet seat as they go.

Look! Even Mr. Hanky uses Potty Mitts!

And yeah, I know I could just teach her to always wash her hands after using the toilet, but she goes potty covert-like, without telling me, and I know she'd forget to wash or even use hand-sani sometimes. Plus, I'm afraid she'll fall in, like I did when I was her age, emotionally scarring me forever.

Anyway, the time has come. I'm tired of scraping motherfucking dukes out of a motherfucking bowl. Plus, she's entering preschool next month (another source of agonizing anxiety for me, but that's an entry for another day, child), so I guess I have to teach her how to properly use a toilet and always wash afterward.

Or, just stock up on Potty Mitts.

Maybe if she gets really good at toilet hygiene, 
I'll get her these cozy lil critters as a Yay For You! present:

Monday, August 15, 2011

[You Don't Wanna] Cook With JoJo!

It's time for a cooking lesson, child. I call this one "Cookin' Wit Me, Oh Cee Dee Stylee!" I like to keep it hip, keep it real, for the fresh crowd.

  • When cooking ground beef, most people just use the same spoon or spatula the whole way through. They plop in the raw meat, let it cook a bit, give it a stir, (probably) set the spoon down on the counter *dry heaves*, then occasionally give the meat a few more stirs until it is cooked-ish. But by doing this, you are jamming the same spoon containing the original raw ground beef germs right into the now-finished product. What you need to do instead is to switch utensils, at least once throughout. I like to wait until the ground beef is almost totally browned, then I switch to a clean spatula and give it a nice finishing simmer, letting the heat seek and destroy, stirring several more times.

  • The same is true with chicken. If you're grilling some up on the BBQ or in a pan, after one side of the chicken has been browned and you take your tongs to flip the bitch over, one side of the tongs has touched totally raw chicken. So you will keep using these tongs to keep flipping the chicken, and then you will remove the chicken from the pan or BBQ with SAME SAME TONGS. Do you Smell the Salmonella What the Rock is Cooking?? Or maybe you use a fork to turn your chicken. The fork stabs into the raw chickie, spreading the same raw juices throughout, every time you turn it. Or maybe you are baking some marinated chicken in the oven, occasionally spooning the marinade over the chicken as it bakes. The marinade was originally chock-full of delicious raw chicken bugs. So please, for the love of hygienia(TM), switch utensils! Change your spatula 3/4 of the way (maybe 9/10 of the way) through cooking ground beef. Switch tongs after both sides of the chicken have been seared. Let the chicken bake thoroughly after you've given it one last covering of marinade (using a new spoon). etc.

  • And believe it or not, you should also do the same with eggs! As I scramble them, when they are almost done and need one last flip, I use a new spatula. I scoop them up from underneath, the side that is hot and fully-cooked, and I give 'em a flip, so that you can cook the germs off the top as well.

Sounds simply, and reasonable, donn'it? Although, somehow, for me, it never end up being quite so simple. I manage to go through about 27 utensils and 14 plates and 4 forks and 6 knives (such as when I cut the chicken to see if it's cooked through). My dishwasher usually won't accommodate the amount of cookery I've cookered with for that one simple meat dish.


Now that's food cookin' OCD stylee (well, I actually think that's not just an OCD thing, it's just good practice. I have a hard time eating burgers at other people's houses, because I'm like, "Now son I know you ain't switched your flipper 'fore you flipped that there burger one last time!"). 

Anyway. As for food handlin', ye gods that's an arduous process for someone like me. I used to be able to barehand the meat with a little TLC (twss) and then just wash thoroughly afterward (usually at least twice, because meat fats tend to make the soap not foam very well on my hands, and I feel like I'm just smearing around e.coli wax). 

Now, I've regressed progressed to using rubber gloves. Those silver nitrile exam ones you get at Costco by the trillions. Especially when handling chicken, because I always trim the fat off. There's nothing worse than crunchy, rubbery chicken fat in a deliciously cooked meal. So I don my gloves, pull out a plastic cutting board, and take out my meat scissors. Then I open the package of chicken, carefully, so carefully, not letting it drip anywhere, and throwing the packaging carefully, so carefully, into the garbage.

I season or slice or chop the chicken, then place it carefully in my cooking dish of choice (grilling pan, glass oven pan, etc.). Then with one gloved hand, I grab the mid-wrist area of the other gloved hand, and peel off that glove. Then I use the now-turned-inside-out glove to remove the other glove, and I carefully, so carefully, throw them away.  Then I wash my hands.

I place the dish in to bake or whatnot or whathaveyou or saywhatnow, and then I fuckin wash my hands again. Because come on.

Then the entire kitchen area is Clorox-wiped.

Now, God forbid I have to marinate, or STORE, some chicken. I employ the same process as above as far as the rubber gloves go, and trim/season, slice it, but when it comes time to put the chicken into a ziplock bag to either marinate or freeze for later use, I scream out, "Husband! O dear husband! Need you!"

He comes along, and holds open the ziplock bag as wide as it will go, which is never quite wide enough, and I carefully, so carefully, place the chicken into the bag. Then I remove my gloves as detailed above, zip the bag closed, and then DOUBLE-BAG the fucker (twss), only to wash my hands yet again. Maybe twice, maybe thrice. And he washes too.

It's all very stressful. 

But got-damn am I a fine cook, and you should try my Aztec Chicken Casserole, or maybe my Taco Chicken with Jack Cheese & Salsa.


FYI, I've been reading The Help, just like the rest of America. And I laughed my proverbial bum-bum off when I read this passage, where Minny was working with Celia, trying to teach her some good  goddamn sense:

Minny, the hired help: "We lay the battered raw chicken on the rail. Then I have to remind the ding-dong for the bobillionth time to wash her hands before she kills us both."


Saturday, August 13, 2011

How I Spent my Friday, Friday, Gotta Get Down on Friday

Let's say there's this girl. And she needs some fancier clothes for some upcoming events.

Let's also say this girl has rampant germ OCD.

And just for fun, let's throw in a new fact: This girl also has a severe phobia of lice and bedbugs.

What's the solution?



...Er, well, on second thought, that might not have been the best choice for someone like me.

Let me tell you, I am not too proud for Value Village.

I am just too OCD.

But anyway, because I have a sick twisted love and adoration for La Village and because I didn't want to spend $400 I went anyway. Honestly, I really do love to get clothes there. It's just's just....well, I'm both a cheapskate, and someone with OCD. So yesterday, the cheapskate in me won out. :) To La Village it was!

OK. So when I've taken my older daughter there, then entire time is spent with my telling her, yes, as usual, "DON'T TOUCH! HANDS OUT!" I walk rigidly through the narrow aisles of clothes, and my anxiety meter explodes as Maya hides in the racks of dresses. I expect her to climb back out with lice and fleas and bedbugs visibly sproinging about her person.

And she drags her hand along through the clothes as she walks, and I'm thinking, "Maya! You don't know whose bum-bums those jeans have been on! Do you have any idea how filthy the seat of one's pants are??"* And then of course she'll touch her face or mouth or nose and it's more, "MAYA! HANDS OUT!!"

*This is why I also gag violently am uncomfortable when someone hops up and sits on their kitchen countertops. I'm like, "Are you even serious right now with that shit?"

Then when it comes time to try on the clothes I've selected...oh boy. Here is how it goes.

1. I try at all times to not step on the floor. If I have to take my shoes off to get some pants on, I step out, pull the leg up, and then step back ON THE TOP of my shoe, just so I don't have to get my socks dirty. Yesterday, I was wearing flip-flops, so it was much easier to just either keep them on (as I tried on skirts) or step out, pull up a leg, and slide my foot back into my sandal. And my feet aren't the only things I worry about getting nasty as I try on pants. Trying on pants is gross. Just pure gross. Their crotch on your crotch. I said a quick prayer to the Patron Saint of Pubic Lice, took a deep breath, tried on the jeans, and then whipped them off as fast as I could.

Holy shit. Even as I was typing this, and I swear to you people this is the truth, a commercial came on the TV in the background for, talking about bedbugs. How did they know? How did they know?!?


2. I try at all times to get my child to NOT TOUCH! She wants to touch the hangers and climb up on the little seat and put her hands on the mirror and such, and even that is too much for me. Why does she move so much? Why couldn't I have given birth to a metal soldier?

3. I freak out about my hair. I have very long hair right now, and didn't bring along a pony-holder. So as I'm easing these shirts over my head, all I could think of was "lice lice lice lice lice lice lice lice lice lice I'M COLONIZED!"

4. After making my purchase, and getting in my car and using preposterous amounts of hand sanitizer, I drive home. And the very second I am home, entering through the garage into the laundry room (well, but pausing to wash my hands first), I strip bare-ass nekked (because I've put MY clothes on after THEIR clothes have totally germed up/liced up/bedbugged up my body, so my clothes are contaminated too). I throw the Value Village clothes in the washer on hot (and later do my own clothes separately on hot), and dry them on hot too. While they are washing, I dash to the shower, still naked as a jaybird, and scrub. If my daughter has come with me, into the shower she goes too, and we scrub right along together.

5. I wash my hair twice with a deep-cleansing shampoo, and then I put about a gallon of super slick, slippery conditioner on my hair and leave it on for as long as I can. I heard one time that one way to kill lice is to put mayonnaise--yes mayonnaise--on your head for a long time, because it literally suffocates the lice. So in my mind, I was doing a mini-version of that. I slathered my hair with conditioner, then scrubbed my face and body with Dial, then took a long leisurely time shaving my legs. Then I brushed through my slick hair, imagining that I was brushing out all manner of bedbuggery, and finally rinsed. Eighteen hours later, my shower was done. heh.

So while I love me some Value Village for their wild & crazy deals, it's a truly anxiety-riddled ordeal to go there. I can't tell you how grimy I feel when I leave.

And that, friends, is a tale of what it's like for a girl who has OCD and a phobia of creepy-crawlies to visit her local Value Village!

Really, Rebecca? More like:

I feel like I need to go shower after just writing this.