That What Doesn’t Kill You…

My daughter is growing up and doing her own taxes. Part of the process is listing her medical expenses because they are still a part of her life. So yesterday she pulls the file for her medical that I have kept since she was diagnosed with cancer at ten-years-old. She pulled out all the old paperwork that I was hanging onto for some reason, and set it out for recycling. I was thumbing through the pages this morning, and the memories and emotions just flooded through me.
 
Pediatric cancer was the craziest experience. One day you are a mommy to two little girls and the next day you are a cancer parent, and it turns your life upside down. They put you through little training sessions and tell you things like, “if you don’t clean their central line well, any germ that gets in goes straight to their heart.” Yeah, no big deal. You do it wrong and you compromise your child’s already comprised immune system and potentially harm them hugely. You learn how to hang an IV bag of fluid at home and time it so it never runs dry, because this is the only way you will get a precious day at home. You can watch your child vomit over and over, and clean it up without a thought, when the year prior, you would have been vomiting yourself. You dress wounds that seem closer to something that should be on the battlefield. Analyzing whether the graphic bloody mess might be becoming infected without reacting.
 
I remember sitting in a deserted hallway in the middle of the night. The hospital lined up wheelchairs there that would be used during the day. I would sit there and wonder how I could manage one more day cooped up in a tiny room with too many people crammed into it, and watch over my sick child. It was so isolating. I missed my husband and my other daughter, and my bed, and sleeping an entire night through. Sleeping on a chair that makes into a lumpy, hard bed is no picnic, and the constant people in and out of the room all night long, and beeping IV poles made living with a newborn seem like a cakewalk. There were days I couldn’t even bear to think about the next day because it would have driven me over the edge, and yet, here we are years later. My marriage survived, stronger than ever. My child survived multiple surgeries and chemotherapy and infections, and is now almost twenty, looking for her own home. My youngest goes to an early college high school and is a good solid kid.
 
Cancer was one of the darkest periods of my life, but yet as I sit here on this sometimes snowy, sometimes blue sky day, I can appreciate my life so much more. I would never wish cancer on anyone, but it does change you in some positive ways. I don’t take things as much for granted. When I sink into my comfy bed at night, I savor that moment. When I kiss my husband and hug my daughters (to their dismay), I am grateful.

Crazy Witchy Woman….

Growing up in a strict Jehovah’s Witness family, I was allowed to believe in four things, well five actually.  They were God, Jesus, the angels, demons, and of the course the vile Satan the Devil.  I was told everything pure and good came from God, and everything else came from the devil and his demons.  JW’s were ruled by God and “the world” aka everyone else, was ruled by Satan.  Therefore my life was very structured around God’s things: going to meetings (what they call church), proselytizing every opportunity we had, reading the bible and avoiding anything that even slightly smacked of evil such as stories about witches and ghosts and psychics, for they were all of Satan (never mind that the prophecies in the bible were seen psychically or more accurately were channeled from spirit).

Once my eyes were opened (my JW family would argue they were closed to God’s truths) to the church’s inconsistencies, I took the major step of faking a sexual interaction–well I tried to have an interaction, but thanks to my mother’s lack of teaching me about sex, it didn’t go so well–and I was kicked out of the church.  I was cut off from my family and friends and had now become a pariah.  I stumbled around in life for a bit, contemplated suicide, spent a solid 24 hours projectile vomiting, but eventually found my footing in the real world slowly but surely.  The Universe sent me a lovely man that would protect and love me to aid in building this new life.  My also disfellowshipped (the term they use for we kicked you out of our church) sister and I began a haltingly awkward relationship with fits and starts as we began to learn about each other again.

As the years went by, I still faced trauma from leaving behind the only world I ever knew but I was adapting as well as could be expected.  The one thing that stayed with me from my religious upbringing was that all religions were bad…well, except the JW’s of course, they were God’s chosen people…so I avoided religion as much as possible.  At weddings and funerals in the sometimes ornate churches and sometimes plain churches, I always found fault with the service or the materialism I saw around me.

Only one time did I find solace in a church.  I don’t remember the circumstances but knowing the young me, it was probably something to the effect of I found a Playboy of my husband’s and I just knew he didn’t love me and he just wanted one of those silicone-filled, photo-shopped models instead of his flesh and blood wife.  Those were the kind of things that tore me apart because of my own lack of self confidence, but also because I didn’t grow up in a world where you stumbled upon erotic pictures of naked women.  I had no concept of how to deal with that (later on I would just tell my husband that if he chose to have one of those magazines, I just never wanted to know it existed and I’ve never seen one since).

Anyway, the younger me was probably torn apart trying to live this “worldly” life when all I had known was a very limited world in my religious upbringing.  So I am driving down one of our historic, tiny streets and a church rose in front of me.  I’m not sure of the denomination but it was not fancy but not plain.  I found myself pulling over and getting out of my car.  Never having done this before, I wasn’t sure of the etiquette of entering a church when not in service, but I just walked up to the front door and it opened.  As the large door swung open, I saw a smallish church with white painted walls and burgundy pews facing a pulpit carpeted in burgundy also.  There was no one to be seen and the immense peace I felt in the room called to me immediately.  I moved to a back pew and sat down, not sure what to do now.  I don’t even know that I prayed that day, I think I just sat there and felt the peace for a few minutes.  Little did I know that those few minutes of peace would lead me to a journey where years later I would be burning bay leaves to try to increase my intuition, and attempting to channel angels through automatic writing.  For that day, at that moment, I began to realize in just a tiny way, that I controlled what I did and believed.

Time marched on and illnesses tested my lack of faith which led me to the great and not always accurate, Sylvia Browne, and her books.  I read her first book with fear, just knowing I was inviting in the demons and the dark forces by reading a book clearly from the devil himself…except it wasn’t, it was beautiful and loving.  She talked about a loving God with a sense of humor and people crossing over to heaven where they lived lives just like here, just more interesting and more harmonious, with so much more knowledge.  I had never considered such a thing.  JW’s had taught us that we would die and then be asleep until God killed all the non-JW’s, and then made earth a paradise.  We would then be resurrected and live happily ever after (which I remember worrying just a bit that I would get bored in happily ever after on paradise earth…if we are talking forever, well you can only see earth so many times before it gets old).  But Sylvia’s world opened me up to the thought that heaven wasn’t bouncing around on a cloud all day, it was learning constantly, coming back to earth and trying a different life, living on other planets in other solar systems, living as beings other than just humans, she opened up this whole world of possibility.

Once I had read all of Sylvia’s books, I moved on to near death experiences and then alien abductions and that lead to Big Foot sightings, and people swearing that they had seen fairies and elves.  There was so much information, and people were positive they had seen and experienced these things that I had thought were only possible in fiction.  I even read some of the darker stuff such as voodoo and black magic.  Even as I read about these, I knew these were not elements I had any interest in pursuing any further, but from what I could tell, they were real and tapped into some energy that is out in our universe.  My mind was blown and I couldn’t get enough.  I did not necessarily believe everything I read and heard, but it was my decision to make as to whether I did.

I read voraciously anything I could get my hands on and I visited psychic mediums, a few of which were quite obviously frauds…my ass you are going to charge me $200 to remove evil spirits from me…some were only mildly accurate, but their energy was so refreshing to me that I would go to them because when I left, I felt positive and ready to take on the world.  But there were a few that were incredibly accurate, one even spilling a secret that only a few family members know.  Even on my most doubtful days, I know there are things that can’t be explained and I do have accept there is more to this world that the average person realizes.

After years of reading and talking to those who have the ability to see beyond our 3-D world, I have been told we all have abilities, we just tend to close them off when we are children.  I saw this myself when my oldest daughter told me I was pregnant when she was three years old, and I hadn’t breathed a word about the possibility to anyone.  Then when she accurately predicted the gender and the appearance of her younger sister, I had to take note.  She wasn’t guessing in any of this, she spoke as if she was stating the facts.  So knowing that we all have abilities, that had to mean I did too, and I began to try to bring them out.  The problem that arose is that with an entire upbringing that denounced anything in the nature of communication with spirit, fortunetelling or dealing with magic, it created a block.

Meditating is one of the most useful tools in opening one’s chakras  to allow your natural abilities to blossom, but when I would try to sit and quiet my mind, I would end up planning dinner, debate whether the dog needed a bath or not, and curse that massive piece of cake I had eaten earlier.  I managed to process a lot of thoughts, but couldn’t find that peaceful quiet that I was looking for.  I tried meditating over and over, and each time I would find it a frustrating exercise in futility.  I couldn’t understand why people would look forward to the prison of sitting in one place and fighting with your mind to shut the hell up, but fortunately I happened upon guided meditation.  Guided meditation is a beautiful process where you put some earphones on and listen to a soothing music while someone talks you through the process gently.  Your mind follows their instructions and so you are not fighting it constantly.  I finally found the soothing that comes from meditation, but I wasn’t finding any additional abilities popping up.

Eventually I began to have little experiences here and there that let me know I was progressing.  During one session, a sparkly ball of light appeared in my inner sight, it was of every pastel color and it sparkled tremendously, and the love I felt from this was so overwhelming that I had tears pouring down my face.  There was no logical explanation for what I was seeing and how it made me feel, but it certainly gave me hope that I was tapping into something bigger than me.  This made me want to experience this even more so I began to look into what other ways I could expand my abilities, and then I discovered candles and natural herbs (no, not that herb, I know what you are thinking….I tried it once and it was a total let down, I felt pressure on my head, no high whatsoever, terrible sleep BUT I still wanted to eat, which is the last thing I need…no thank you!).

I spend my next days researching blessed candles and candle colors, and what they represent.  I etch my candles with my desires that I want to manifest…have a brief moment of worry when I start to think I’m doing magic because I recite spells at the same time, but then realize that manifesting and magic are basically the same thing, and if you are coming from a place of light, and protecting yourself with God’s holy spirit, you will get your assistance from the angels.  Light attracts light.  People that practice dark magic–which always has a price by the way–are requesting help from the lower, darker energies.  My candles burn and I can feel the positive energy that they are sending out into the Universe.

Because I can’t get enough, I then begin to look to nature for help.  Did not the Native Americans and the Indigenous people of the world find their magic in nature?  I start small by taking some mugwort and melatonin to incite prophetic dreams, but the only dream I get is that my best girlfriend’s dog is getting a monkey…I going to have to think this dream isn’t going to give me the answer to world peace.  So then I wait a few nights and try the mugwort, melatonin, and I add pure lavender essential oils to my pillowcase and bay leaves under my pillow, this is going to be a good combination, I can feel it….and I had lots of time to feel it because for some reason this combination made me so wired I couldn’t go to sleep.  When I finally did drop into a slumber, my dreams consisted of my husband murdering someone and then heading off to a strip club to feel better…um, again, this is not the world peace prophetic dreams I was looking for.  On to plan C.

So for plan C, I go a much simpler route, I burn the bay leaves before I go to bed….big mistake, huge!  The bay leaves smolder on and on, leaving our house stinking and my husband furious, and again no prophetic dreams.  So far I’m striking out on this whole herb thing, but my enthusiasm for trying new ideas just grows every day.  I love the possibilities of things that I can learn and the subjects I haven’t even discovered yet.  I love living in a world where I can have any idea or thought, and do my own experiments to see if they are valid.  I love that there could be more to this life than just getting up and going to work each day, and I intend to spend my life exploring the possibilities.

 

The Bitch Depression Strikes Again…

Having struggled with my own depression on and off over the years, I know it can be a bitch.  My postpartum depression was definitely the worst, filling my head with talking telephone wires and constant thoughts of downing a bottle of pills.  The other depressions I have suffered have ranged from functioning, but with zero enjoyment in life, to constant thoughts of worthlessness interrupted by the surety that ending it all is the only way my husband will ever find the perfect wife and my kid’s a perfect mother.

With my own depression, I generally gauge how bad it is by how long it lasts and how strong the feelings are.  If I feel I can tough it out, I just grit my teeth through each day until it is over.  If it is overwhelming, I make a trip to my family doctor and get a prescription for an anti-depressant that I will take anywhere from six months to a year.  But my child’s depressions are different, hers are brought on by her bipolar.

My daughter’s bipolar depression likes to creep up on what should be the greatest moments of her life; high school graduation, her eighteenth birthday, and now on the eve of starting a job that can really take her out into the world.  This job was incredibly hard to get, and it has a great starting pay and full benefits.  A dream to a young woman that spent the last year and a half in the fast food world.  So of course, the fucking depression would choose to rear its ugly head right now.

This kid has spent the last two months handing out resumes, filling out applications for every place she could think of that might hire her.  All the work netted her almost zero response, the phone never rang.  As her parents, my husband and I began to worry about her being able to move on with her life…no job means no money.  No money means she lives in her bedroom watching Netflix all day.  Then the miracle happens, she gets a call-back.

This job is working in a call center for a busy medical practice.  I know my daughter has great customer service skills, I have seen her in action.  She knows how to handle problem people and was complimented numerous times in the her past job on her kind manner.  This position would be a great match for her skills and with full benefits, how could she go wrong?

When the day of the interview arrived, I had to stay away from her because my nerves were in knots.  I didn’t want my anxiety to rub off on her.  She tends to do better at things when she doesn’t think about the possibility of failing.  I tend to try to smooth out any worries by saying things like, “if it doesn’t happen, it isn’t meant to be,” thereby setting her up for failure.  I figured the best thing I could do that day was stay out of her path.  I did yell down the hallway that she should make sure her teeth were brushed and she had deodorant on, but other than that, I stayed out of her way.

She left for the interview in plenty of time, and several hours passed without hearing from her.  I had to force myself not to think of all the possible reasons it was taking so long, and I did such a good job of it that when she walked in the door I was surprised.  She didn’t say anything, so I didn’t ask.

My daughter putters around the kitchen talking about random things but never mentions the job.  I figure that either she has to wait to hear back or she didn’t get the job.  An hour later she casually mentions in conversation that she starts work Monday.  To her embarrassment, I immediately tear up.  I’m thrilled at this opportunity this kid has!  I’m walking on air with joy, and for a full ten minutes I get to enjoy it until she drops the bomb.  This kid that battles sleep every night, most of the time from her bipolar, and other times from the messed up nerves in her bladder from her cancer treatments, has to be at work at seven in the morning.  Seven in the morning for her is equivalent to three in the morning for regular people.

The more she thinks about it, the higher her anxiety gets.  The more I think about it, the higher my anxiety gets also.  This is an enormous task for her to get up so early.  This will mean that there will be nights she gets zero sleep, which for a bipolar person is a direct path to mania.  I talk her down from her freaking out and find myself worried this job isn’t going to work out.

A day goes by and though she is worried about the starting time, she is excited about the rest of the job, and then the little signs start to show up that depression is going to rear its ugly head.  The first sign we should have noticed would have been the extreme anxiety, but we just chalked this up to nerves.  When the pizza order comes incorrectly and tears flow freely down her cheeks, we know that the depression ride had started again.  The next morning’s continual obsession with discussing why the pizza was made incorrectly was another sign that things were going astray.  She just couldn’t let it go, wanting to march down to the pizza place and demand a new pizza.  Eventually I had to tell her I wouldn’t talk to her anymore about it.

Physically the depression shows up in the slumped shoulders, the dull eyes and the gloomy aura that surrounds her.  She asks to cancel our dinner to celebrate her new job, because when she is down, she no longer wants to eat.  My heart aches for this child that doesn’t even get to enjoy the excitement of a new job.  This bitch called depression just swoops in and steals the joy from the best moments of my daughter’s life.

Through conversation I learn that my daughter and her psychiatrist have been lowering her anti-depressants for awhile now.  I urge her to call the psychiatrist to discuss raising the doses but my child doesn’t want to, she wants to try natural supplements and to discontinue the use of birth control.  The birth control is in place to ease her menstrual symptoms and clear her acne-prone skin.  My kid is positive it is causing this emotional down-swing but personally, I have noticed that her mood has been much steadier while on this particular pill.  The pill is also causing her to have two periods a month so I’m not against her stopping it.  I chafe at not being in control of my child’s medication anymore.  I know the law sees her as an adult, but I have made those decisions for so many years, it frustrates me that I can no longer get on the phone and get her anti-depressant dosage adjusted.  Now I have to respect her wishes because though I pay all her medical bills, I am no longer a part of her medical decisions.

I pray that the depression lifts and she can thrive at this new job, but too many years of dealing with bipolar leaves me hesitant.  I know that it is a disruptive disease which finds its pleasure in causing turmoil in the life of the person carrying this diagnosis.  My daughter sits at the dinner table as I write this, her head cradled in her arms, tears escaping to leave tracks down her cheeks every so often.  As a mother, I am helpless to stop this.  This isn’t like a boo-boo when my children were toddlers; a Band-aid and a hug and kiss are not going to fix this.  My heart is heavy because the dreaded depression is back and has settled in.

 

 

Quit Showing Off Your Perfect Dog….

It is Friday morning, I’ve dropped my youngest at school and my car is on auto-pilot to the local McDonald’s for my daily gallon of toxic chemical, aka Diet Coke.  The line this morning is particularly long, and I have a brief moment of anxiety because I have to cart the oldest daughter to her psychiatrist appointment an hour away still.  My attention is quickly diverted to the bouncing mini-van in front of me.  It is a typical older model mini-van, the kind that usually sports several children and some sort of sticker on the back window letting me know that they have a mom and dad, three kids, a dog and six cats.  I’m not sure why people feel the need to let me and every stranger on the road know this, but whatever.

Looking at the vehicle, I’m just filled with relief that I no longer sport children’s car seats and all their accoutrements.  Instead, I’m the proud parent of two teenage daughters, and I have the gray hair and lack of patience to prove it.  As I’m thinking about how nice it is not to drive a mini-van with little kids, I notice that the van is bouncing like someone is walking in it, and that is when I notice the dog walking from the front seat to the back of the mini-van.  He is a large black lab and despite his size, he gently eases his way through the maze of car seats and reaches the back bench.  He lays his large boxy head on the last seat and quietly stares out the back window at me.  Envy of this woman with way more kids than I could ever want floods through me.  She has one of the things I long for…a normal dog.

My parents weren’t big on pets when I was a kid, and the few pets that we did have either froze to death in the extreme cold of Wyoming or were shot to death when they became an issue.  Pets in that land and in that day were considered dispensable, unless they were a working animal such as a cattle dog.  Pet rabbits and chickens became dinner in the winter, so kids learned very quickly to not fall in love too deeply.

When I grew up and moved in with my soon-to-be husband, I realized that I no longer had to live by my parents rules.  I approached my husband about getting a pet and he reluctantly agreed to a cat which somehow became a puppy by the time I brought it home.  That dog was the best dog we ever had.  Her name was Annie, and she was the product of someone’s German Shepard getting busy with someone else’s Keeshond.  A kinder, gentler dog could not be found.  When our oldest came along, she would ride the dog and pull her ears, and was just a general pain in the ass to the poor dog–well to be honest, she was a pain in the ass to everyone–but that dog would just let her do whatever she wanted and wouldn’t blink an eye.

Everyone loved Annie except the weird neighbor across the street that had a hatred of all dogs–I’m not a psychiatrist, but unless you have been bitten by a dog or something, hatred of dogs should be classified in some category of problem personalities.  Annie gave so much love to everyone, and when we saw that her body was starting to give out, it was hard to comprehend that we would have to live life without her at some point.  She was our first dog as a family, and we loved her tremendously, but we also took for granted the fact she was such a good dog.

Once Annie passed away, I immediately started looking to fill the void that she left.  In the ten years we had her, I discovered that a home is only complete when it has a pet, preferably a dog.  At the local shelter, I found a beautiful Chow/Golden Retriever mix named Lizzie, and to my husband’s chagrin, I brought her home.  It became quickly clear that she was going to be an issue.  She didn’t have the nurturing love that Annie had.  Instead she preferred to show her feelings by biting.  She bit my husband several times, one of the guys that worked for us, and my youngest daughter.  She found her way back to the shelter when she bit my youngest daughter on the forehead, the dog was just too dangerous to have with children.

Next came Stella, a massive white Pointer/something huge, with black spots.  She was a homely dog, and not in the so ugly she was cute kind of way.  My husband saw an ad for her in the newspaper and brought her home as a surprise.  It took several days for her to warm up to us but when she did, she fell in love with all her heart.  My first hint that we might have another dog with issues was when we took her in the truck and my mother-in-law stuck her hand in to pet her.  A growl rattled through her massive chest (the dog’s, not my mother-in-law’s–her chest was only average, not that you wanted to know that), and her teeth bared (again, we are talking about the dog…my mom-in-law liked me so there was no baring teeth from her).  That was when I knew that we needed to be careful.  The second clue came when visitors would come flying in our front door without knocking because our dog was hanging off their pants (this clue was not quite as subtle).

Before we knew it, we found ourselves on the bad dog list for UPS, the mail and anyone else that had to show up on our property unannounced.  People advised us that we would need to put up Beware of Dog signs for liability issues, so we did.  This dog loved us so much and we loved her back with all our hearts.  I knew that when my husband was gone for work all the time, we would always be safe with her watching out for us.  But we also knew we had a huge liability with a dog that was well over a hundred pounds that bit without warning.  After four years, with heavy hearts we ended up putting her to sleep after she attacked two separate dogs, both times going for the throats.  We knew that her main goal in life was to keep us safe, but we were worried that it would be at the expense of hurting someone badly, and we couldn’t take that chance.

Because our hearts were so wounded from our experience with Stella, it was almost a year before we began looking again.   The urge to have a complete family, which should always include a dog, was pushing me to start looking for a dog again.  This time we were going to get a puppy, a lab maybe.  Labs were solid family dogs and we wanted the love that we had with Annie and Stella, but without the biting of Stella and Lizzie.  So next enters Lilly, a “lab” puppy that came to us with parvo.

Somehow Lilly survived parvo after a week at the vets, and we began the process of raising her.  We quickly discovered that Lilly wasn’t really bonding to us, and the normal puppy biting felt quite extreme with her.  I took her to puppy training classes and she didn’t want to listen.  Even the trainer had issues getting her to follow instruction.  I worked with her every day, just as we were taught in class but Lilly absolutely wanted to march to the beat of her own drum.  During this time, we also discovered she was an escape artist.  Turns out Lilly wasn’t just a lab, she had Australian Shepherd mixed in there.  Most likely she was too damn smart for our family.  She should have been a working dog, not a family pet.  After a year and a half, we found a home for Lilly with a massive lake (she loved to swim) and another dog companion where she lives still happily.  At this point, my husband was done.  He was still mourning the loss of Stella, and fixing the damage done by Lilly (turns out siding does not stand up to a bored dog).  Another year passes with no dog, but again, my desire gets the best of me and I head to the shelter again.

I’m again thinking lab because I’m searching for the personality of Annie, the loving nurturer.  But behind the counter at the animal shelter is a smaller, oddly shaped bag of bones.  I’m not a fan of smaller dogs, but her eyes were so gentle, so kind, and I fell in love.  My husband yet again reluctantly gave his approval and I gently carried our new dog, Bella, home.  She had been found flea-ridden on the streets, and her crazy fangs pushing their way through her lips and her oddly squared body screamed of an inter-bred Lhasa Apso.  Her misshapen hips spoke of the numerous medical issues she had, but I felt drawn to her.

In the following five years we discovered that she was food aggressive, dog aggressive, and at the end, was a biter of children.  She was also my constant companion in the car, except for in the heat of summer.  She would ride with us to drop the kids at school, and would happily greet them when we picked them up.  Her heart was huge and was filled with her love for us, and we in turn loved her beyond belief.  The day came when her pain was to the point it couldn’t be controlled with medicines, and we had to make the decision to send her to heaven.  When she passed, it was like a member of the family died and I would find myself sobbing weeks later.

A year before she died, we made the decision to get another dog, one of our friend’s puppies.  We thought we would get the best of the both worlds, the love we had experienced with every dog, without the issues of our last several dogs.  We knew the parents of this puppy and would raise him with our beloved Bella.  The only one we didn’t ask was Bella, and if we had, she would have said, “hell to the no!”  She was not a fan of our new puppy, this Redbone Coonhound with his droopy ears and silky red fur.  She promptly taught him food aggression by trying to destroy him when he tried to share her food.  This puppy, Hunter, quickly showed us that he had issues of his own.

His first clue that he was going to be yet another less than chill dog was his first ride in the car.  Instead of being wildly excited to ride with his siblings, aka my daughters, the first thing he did was pee and poop in the back seat.  We thought that perhaps this was just first time jitters that would ease with experience, but we were wrong.  No matter how many car rides, how many different things we tried to ease his anxiety, he still loses his mind when he gets in the car.  A car ride with him will make a person dream of deafness.  It is so loud that even he shakes his head at the sound of baying in the small confined space.

Two in-house training sessions, one actual training class and two thousand dollars later, he is still a maniac.  Walking him is an ulcer in the making as he bays constantly, only taking a moment to breathe ever so often.  Throwing the ball for him ends up with teeth sunk into your hand as he tries to tear the ball from you, and the note left on the door complaining about his barking is about as disheartening as you can get.  But in the last four years we have come to love this dog so much.  He loves to cuddle and and when the kids curl up with him on the couch, he emits little grunts of happiness.  The sheer joy he expresses when we walk in the door, and the way he scoots over on the couch so that his body is touching mine makes my heart sing.  I love him so much it hurts, but he is such a pain in the ass.

So as I watched this quiet, calm dog in the car in front of me, I was jealous that they got to take their dog with them.  My dog is beautiful beyond belief and likes people, but I can’t take him anywhere.  His ringing bay disrupts everything around him.  People laugh at first, but the laughter quickly turns to irritation when they realize he isn’t going to stop.

I ask myself why we keep getting these animals with issues?  Is it us?  Is there something about us that sends an animal over the edge?  I pondered this question all afternoon.  It finally came to me, maybe we get these animals because we are such an imperfect family that we will understand them.  With Annie, we didn’t appreciate the perfection that was her until we had our line of dogs, each with their own issue.  Maybe when you have to work at relationships, even relationships with animals, it makes the love even deeper and more special.  I suspect when this gorgeous, sleek hound that occupies our couch when he isn’t baying on the hill behind us, grows old and infirm and has to go to heaven, my heart will shatter into a million pieces, and I would bet money that the dog that comes along after him will make us tear our hair out too, but I would bet that we fall madly in love with that one too…..

 

 

 

I Quit….

I should have known better.  After all, life was good, maybe even great.  My husband and I had come off a two month patch of arguing that we have unintentionally made a yearly thing.  The arguing sucks, but afterwards, it is like being newlywed again.  I think the thought of losing your partner really makes you appreciate them more.  So we are more in love then ever.  Our oldest kid has been at her job for well over a year.  Our youngest kid is doing really well at her early college high school and our kids are somewhat getting along (translation: can’t stand each other but only fight occasionally).  So life is good.

I’m down in the city returning a rental car that we used while my oldest kid’s car had some warranty work done on it.  I have just switched the cars out and am driving her bucket of filth home.  This used to be my car, a smoky grey Camry.  Now we call it the FrankenCamry because she has damaged every corner of the car and pulled the entire front end off.  The front end is now screwed back on and has a somewhat Frankenstein appearance.  As I drive, I am thankful for the tinted windows because there is a lot of laughter from other drivers when they see the car.

So I’m innocently trying to drive while remaining unseen when my phone starts blowing up.  Text after text comes in.  I really try to follow the law, but after the tenth text I peak at the screen.  I can see they are all from Meghan, my oldest daughter, and owner and destroyer of the FrankenCamry.  The mom part of me worries at the flurry of texts and pulls over the next chance I get.

I pick up my phone and the first text I see says, “hey mom, I gave my two week notice at work three weeks ago and today is my last day.” Um, WTF?  I read through her Bible-length texts and discover that she is excruciatingly unhappy at work.  So she felt she couldn’t take it one minute more, and put in her two weeks notice. Of course, it never occurred to her to tell her parents that she was making this life altering decision.  I mean, why would she do that? After all, all we do is house her and feed her and pay her medical bills.

Honestly, I would have thought that my first reaction would be fury. But instead, I felt a sense of relief. I had been afraid that she was too comfortable in her job and would never leave, and I had seen the workers that had been at her work for decades. They all had that beaten down, I’m tired of life, look about them, and they all struggle to pay their bills.  However, if my daughter had thought to check with her parents, I would have told her to make sure she has another job before she leaves her current one. But then again, she is a teenager and that would be way too practical.

She finishes her last day of work, and comes home ecstatic, almost manic.  The next day she is the same; her energy so manically intense, the rest of the family have a hard time being around her.  By day three her euphoria is really getting to us, and I’m thankful that she has a psychiatrist visit in her near future.  On one hand, I feel like a shitty mother because I should let her enjoy these few days of freedom that she has. But the problem is, I know this child, and she’s not great at following through on things.  She has huge elaborate dreams of what she’s going to do, but when it comes time to do the work to fulfill them, she’s too tired.  I have the very strong suspicion that if I don’t really push her, in two years she will still have no job, she will have gained 50 pounds from laying in her bed all day, and will be quite content with the way her life is.  So I begin pushing her.

By day four I am making her get out of bed, and take a shower.  I tell her to print out a stack of resumes and to go plaster them around town. I tell her that she needs to be very neat in her appearance, she should put some makeup on and make sure her hair and her clothes are clean, and that she’s presentable.  She is getting ready as I leave the house to take my other daughter to school.  She looks okay, but she definitely needs some makeup on her face, as she had had terrible acne and it is just now healing, and it’s very distracting.

I’m feeling very optimistic and I go about my day taking care of my errands, and getting some work done. I get a nasty text from her about an hour later.  It is telling me how stupid I am because I don’t know that people now only do applications online and don’t leave resumes in person. I am dismayed at the disrespect in her text but choose to ignore it.

She gets home about an hour after I do, and she’s very excited because she has left her resume at a local candy store. The candy store did a mini interview with her and it seemed like it went fairly well, so she is pretty sure she’s going to get the job. While she’s telling me this I’m not actually looking at her, and when I turn around I see that she has not put any makeup on and though she is clean by her standards, she could’ve done quite a bit more with her appearance.  I am filled with dismay because I know that those who are looking to hire will not understand that her dressed up looks like most people’s dressed down.

I ask her why she didn’t put on at least a little makeup.  I try to explain that when you are job hunting, you are presenting the best possible side of you.  She immediately bursts into tears and tells me she thinks she looks good.  She feels it isn’t fair that people would want you to dress nice and wear makeup, they should just accept you for being you.  I tell her in a perfect world that would happen, but in this world you are selling the best version of yourself to them.  She screams and cries and has a meltdown that I’m sure can be heard a mile away.

I feel like shit yet again, but I know the real world.  I have been interviewed and also been the interviewer many times.  I pray that the candy shop calls, but it never does.  She gets over it quickly and settles into a schedule of rising at noon, mixing nail art that she lists on eBay, but has yet to sell, and buying more nail art to work with.  I try to explain to her she has limited funds now and she needs to wait until her existing inventory is selling before she buys more.  She acts like she is listening but every day new packages arrive in the mail.

Yesterday she decided to make cookies, but in her normal bipolar way, she can’t make one batch of cookies, she must make several elaborate kinds that require multiple trips to the store.  Every surface in the kitchen is covered, along with the kitchen table. There are even white handprints on the sofa from either flour or powdered sugar.  And as usual, once the mess is made and she is a little over halfway done, she loses interest and climbs in bed to watch programs on her phone.

I am distraught when I wake up today, not only because of the massive mess that is still there, but also because she is supposed to be job hunting again today.  I can tell her plans today involve laying in bed and watching Netflix all day.  I don’t know how to force a nineteen-year-old bipolar young woman to live life.  Living in bed, watching movies on her phone is all she wants to do, but wouldn’t we all like to do that?  But that isn’t how life works.

So what do I do?  A psychic medium once told me that Meghan was surrounded by spirit guides and angels.  I feel like I need to have a powwow with them about how to get this child motivated to live life.  Maybe they could whisper something in her ear that would get her off her ass and living life again.

This parenting shit is too hard.  There are no manuals to tell us what to do.  My husband’s thought is to boot her ass out if she hasn’t done anything by six months, but I know I can’t do that. But I also can’t bear the thought of her still living here in ten years because she would rather coast through life while her dad and I take care of her.

I don’t know the answers and I’m frustrated.  Maybe I’ll give my notice and quit.

Boobs…

It would be a surprise to most people that know me,that I am weirdly a connoisseur of breasts.  No, I’m not a lesbian, but I’m pretty sure that I exam breasts more than any doctor or male on earth.   In fact, I might even admit to being slightly obsessed with them.

This weird obsession dates back to the preteen years when all my friends were sprouting tiny budding breasts.  I watched with fascination as theirs began to take shape, because when I looked in the mirror, all I saw were some lumps of fat with mosquito bites on them.  As my friends matured, some into buxom young women and others with a more modest endowment, I noticed that their chests all had nice form and shape.  As I aged though, nothing happened…still lumps of fat with nipples attached.  It took me years to figure out that the universe has a sense of humor and gave me extra helpings of curves in the thigh area (where nobody in their right mind wants fat), and skimped on the whole breast tissue thing.  I had almost no real breasts, just fat with nipples and massive thighs.

Even as a religiously raised teenage girl in a tiny Wyoming town, it didn’t take me long to figure out that breasts carry a lot of power.  They are everywhere; they are used to sell products, titillate (there was no actual pun intended but you have to admit, that is a great word for this discussion) and attract men, and of course, provide nourishment for infants.  A teenage girl with a great rack has her choice of the salivating, hormonal boys around her.  As a female teen with an already shaky sense of self-confidence, I easily translated my lack of endowment as one more strike against my low self-worth.

As I grew older, I would find myself unconsciously examining women’s breasts, categorizing them: perfect, old, saggy, enormous, tiny, passable, normal.  Then suddenly I am attaching emotions to them: jealousy, envy, distain, pity.  The sad part is that I didn’t even realize I was doing it, every breast was a strike against me.  Beautiful ones mocked me, normal ones reinforced how mine weren’t normal, and old ones became the internal image for what I saw when I looked in the mirror.  Other women’s breasts had become one of my tools of self-destruction.

When I became intimate with my husband, I tried everything in my power to keep him from finding out my shameful secret.  Once I lost my childhood weight, my lumps of fat were no longer lumps of fat, but instead tiny, deflated sacks with nipples.  I would fight to keep my bra on, and would not be able to lose myself in the lovemaking experience because I was so worried about my appearance.  My worry would take over and close my eyes to the love and desire in my partner’s eyes.  I would miss out on this beautiful experience with my soulmate because of my obsession with my imperfection.

While we were dating, my husband having been a single male, had a stack of Playboy magazines in his bathroom.  I would pour through the pages, examining all the enhanced breasts in detail, simultaneously turned on by their perfection and reinforcing my own belief system in my own flaws.  These surgically augmented breasts became my ideal.  Never once did I look in the mirror and marvel at my tiny waist and my strong arms and beautifully cut shoulders, or even my pretty face with its bright blue eyes and thick dark hair.  All I saw were these imperfect breasts that God had given me, making me less than other females my age.

Getting breast implants became a goal of mine.  I pictured walking around braless, turning my husband on with my now perfect breasts.  It never once occurred to me that my husband was always turned on by me, never leaving me alone, always wanting me.  I was too wrapped up in my imperfection to see that.

When my daughters came, I did not see the natural beauty of the nursing process.  I did not revel in the fact that my body was able to make the perfect nutrition for these little babies, and that my breasts were the vehicle to imparting this life-giving fluid.  Instead I saw engorged, vein-crossed breasts that were cumbersome, leaking milk through my clothes at inopportune times.  My relationship with them was still based on hate.

The day came when I was diagnosed with a blood disorder and the door to the possibility of breast implants was closed forever.  Anger arose in me, now I would never be able to be desirable in the way I dreamed about.  Never would I walk around braless and look in the mirror and see myself as sexy.   I actually mourned the loss of this dream.

As I got older and gained weight, my breasts swelled to new heights and I began to make peace with them.  Though they would never be poster worthy, their weight and size made me feel more womanly.  I could occasionally in the darkest part of the night, forget my imperfection and just enjoy my husband.  My obsessive need to categorize women’s breast diminished somewhat but still hung around.  I could feel myself making some small gesture at peace with my body image.

Two things happened in the last few weeks though that have propelled me leaps and bounds into making peace with my body.  The first being an incident my husband had before he met me, of which I just learned about.   Early in our relationship, I remember meeting a striking blond woman with a phenomenal figure.  I was obviously quite intimidated by her with her perfect breasts, and was honestly quite relieved when she moved out of state.  Turns out that before I came into the picture, my husband had had an encounter with her.  She was the object of all of our male friend’s lust and they were constantly trying to bed her, but she tried to bed my husband (before he met me).  He had taken her home from the bar because she was intoxicated. When he got her to her house, she removed her top and tried to make love to him.  He turned her down and made an excuse that he had to leave.

To hear that he would turn down sex with this gorgeous woman shocked the hell out of me.  Why would he not take an opportunity that all of his friend’s dreamed of?  She had a phenomenal body and was really beautiful, I asked him why did he not take her up on her offer.  His reply stirred something so deeply in me, he said when she drank, she became mean and ugly and that held no attraction to him.  Suddenly I realized that all these years of despising myself and trying to hide my imperfections from him were such a waste, he wasn’t looking for imperfections, he was looking at the beauty of my soul.  I was beautiful, no matter what my physical appearance looked like, and I am so much more than a pair breasts or thighs.  When I made this real connection, something began to heal inside me.

The second thing that happened was because of my daughter.  She has an affinity for nails and is thinking of becoming a nail technician.  Because I’m a good mother, I am allowing myself to be the guinea pig for her nail creations.  As she attaches these fake additions to my fingernails and I find myself unable to function in my daily life, I realize how much I hate the artificiality of these nails.  As soon as the nails cover my own natural nails, I feel imprisoned by their fakeness.  I start to make the connection that if I had augmented my breasts all those years ago, might they have also felt artificial in my body?  Might I have felt imprisoned  by the foreign bodies implanted into my chest?  It had never occurred to me in all these years that fake breasts might not be the answer to perfection that I so desperately wanted.  I didn’t realize that I already had the beauty and the worth that I sought so desperately, I just had open my eyes and see it myself.

I’m Changing the Rules Midway Thru the Game….

I recently came home from an eight day, almost 7000 mile car trip across the United States with my sister.  Miracle of all miracles, we are still speaking to each other, her fiery red Volkswagen was not squished under a semi, and my blood disorder (Lupus anticoagulant for people that like weird disorders) did not cause a blood clot to form in the middle of Kansas (actually, lets say Colorado because that state goes on forever).

It was eight days of three different GPS maps running at the same time, swear words as the exit we needed appeared on the other side of the freeway, flooding storms that formed in a matter of minutes from a formerly blue sky, semi-trucks that waited until the last second to pull out in front of you, but it should be okay because they turned their blinker on, and very long, mind-numbing miles of corn fields upon corn fields.

The trip taught me many things such as once you hit the middle of the United States, toilet seat covers are no longer deemed necessary, and that on the East Coast, you can get a lobster roll, a McFlurry and gas at a rest stop.  On that note, my beloved state of Wyoming does not believe that people actually have to go potty because two out of three of their rest stops are closed.  We quickly learned the art of drinking as little as possible to ensure that our sanity stayed intact when we saw yet another closed sign posted across the rest stop entrances.

Of course my sister and I talked and laughed, and sang along with the radio with no shame.  It didn’t matter if your voice cracked or you sang the wrong words, this was your sister sitting next to you, someone you have been singing with since you were a kid.  There were long silences too, my sister being a thinker more than a talker.  If I wasn’t driving, I would post pictures of the trip on social media and try to describe each state to my friends and family.  But after awhile there is nothing more to see on a hand-held electronic, and I would find myself gazing out the window lost in thought.  To my knowledge, I had no deep revelations, I just thought about my life and my sister’s life.  As the day would lengthen into evening, I would find myself missing my husband, my children and my bed, but come morning, I was ready to go again.

On the last day, with a grueling 1100 miles to get home, there was the strong desire for the trip to be over and to be home again.  I drove the last shift, struggling to keep my eyes open, reminding myself of a dear friend I lost when I was a teenager.  She was my friend’s mom and I loved her.  Her constant laughter made even the cloudiest day bright.  She was middle-aged but young, and after attending a concert with her daughter, drove home in the wee hours of the morning.  She drove alone and a mile from her home, fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a tree, killing her instantly.  I played this scenario over and over in my head to keep myself awake, telling myself that my youngest child needed me to stay alive to see her through to adulthood.  Even with my pep talks, it was a challenge to finish that drive.

When we pulled into my driveway, the buzzing from the road noise and the many hours on the road haunted me.  My exhaustion was so complete that even taking the luggage up to the house seemed an insurmountable obstacle.  Finally I enter by way of the garage because I did not bring my own keys with me.  It was very late and I had visions of my household sleeping, and I would sneak into bed and surprise them all when they woke up and found me there.  Instead, through the garage door I hear voices calling out to each other, and someone is opening the fridge door.  I don’t rush in to greet them as I would expect.  I find myself hanging out in the garage a little longer, unknowingly savoring my last moments of only me.

I drop something unintentionally, and I can hear the movement in the kitchen stop.  I know that I now must go in.  I open the door to see my husband walking around the corner with a knife, somehow never pegging the noise as his wife coming home.  I’m too tired to even find this funny and I give him a weak smile.  He pulls me in his arms and I am glad to be there…for about two minutes until the dog comes to greet me, and my husband informs me that the dog ate something he shouldn’t have and there might be an issue in the days ahead.  I’m too tired to deal with this information, so I head to our bedroom.  Our youngest child comes out thrilled that I am home.  My oldest child is also thrilled I think, except her bipolar does not allow her to express it in a loving way.  Her excitement boils over into a yelling, screaming match with her father, and before I know it, I am filled with anxiety.

I do my best to calm the situation, and I go to bed…I am done.  After a week of changing time zones and sleeping 5-6 hours a night, I should sleep for hours, but instead I am awake early.  I know this lack of sleep is going to haunt me and it does.  We have an at-home business and my husband tries to do my work for one more day to give me a break.  However, there are quite a few issues and we immediately butt heads over how to fix them.  I’m transported back to the last eight years of us working together and the constant arguments, and suddenly I realize I don’t want to work with him anymore.

Though this week of traveling had no great revelations in the actual journey, I discovered when I walked into my home of chaos, that I wanted the peace back.  I wanted to be best friends with my husband, not his dueling business partner.  I wanted to be a mom and a wife, not a business woman dealing with customers.  I wanted to fold clothes and do dishes and greet my husband with joy, not irritation.

I was smart enough to keep this revelation to myself that day, knowing instinctively that it would not go over well with my husband.  My husband will always work.  We could win the lottery tomorrow and he would still work, that is just who he is.  He has ADD and has to be active at all times.  His mind is brilliant and needs to be in constant action.  But me, I’m just a regular person.  I enjoyed most of my jobs and did the best I could being a working wife and mother, but my soul is tired.  That eight days of exhausting push to get across the United States and back, was actually a respite from the responsibility for other people I have had for over twenty-three years while I worked.  I’m still very cool with keeping my responsibility as a wife and mom, but I would love to just do that for awhile.

Unfortunately, by the time the next day rolls around and I still can’t sleep, I am now a walking ball of raw nerves.  When my husband and I bicker, it lodges into me and my tiredness blows it up into a massive tidal wave of frustration.  Next thing I know, I confess to my deep, dirty secret…I don’t want to work.  My husband’s jaw drops, and I can’t help but wonder if I had told him I secretly use meth if it might not have went over better.  He is without words and his mouth gapes about, trying to connect to his brain that is in shock.  It had obviously never occurred to him that I would not want to do everything and be everything, like his mother and his step-mother.  I had just broken some cardinal rule that I didn’t even know existed.  He was rendered speechless, but not for long.

What followed was a raging argument, with phones and other items being thrown.  It was almost like an out-of-body experience.  We fought like we had never fought before, him railing against me putting all the pressure on him to provide.  Me pointing out that most women weren’t expected to work until the last thirty years.  I screamed at him through the tears pouring down my face that I was tired, not physically, but mentally…my soul was tired.  I had seen a kid through cancer and bipolar, worked while raising two kids and taking care of a household.  He shoots back that he is tired too, he is frustrated at the thought that he may have to work and support our oldest daughter for the rest of her life and that makes him exhausted.  I am surprised, I never knew he felt this way, but emotions are running too high.  The word divorce flies out of my mouth and then he can find a hard working woman that will go out on the town every night like he wants.  He is angry that I can even say that after all these years, and says if I want a divorce then he won’t stop me.  It is ugly.

We draw the emotional hurricane to a close with the sentiment that both of us want our marriage to stay intact forever, but feelings are hurt, and we both retreat to our corners.  I think about our fight long into the night.  I decide that of course I have to work, but we need to find a way to work together in peace.  I wake the next morning feeling better but I immediately sense the distance when he gets up.  His answers to me are single word answers, and there is no affection in his face when he sees me.  We politely make it through the day and the next day seems a bit better, but he is still keeping me at arm’s length.  This is new, just in the last year that he has begun to do this.  I resign myself to waiting it out.

This morning I think we are healing, but a problem arises right before he leaves.  He makes a statement about me fixing it, but oh yeah, I don’t want to work.  I feel like I’ve been slapped in the face, this is not the man I know.  I realize that I have changed the rules, and for whatever reason, this was a very important rule to him.  But I’m still glad I said it, I was true to what I feel.  We are financially comfortable but it will never be enough for my husband for some reason, and I’m going to have to understand that.  Maybe I have betrayed some unknown financial goal we had together, I don’t know.

What I do think though, is that this is a transitional time in life.  We are in our mid-to-late forties, and we are changing and growing.  We are setting new boundaries and it isn’t easy.  After you live a certain way for twenty-plus years, it is okay to make some changes.  I’ve noticed he goes out way more at night than he used to–and no, he isn’t having an affair–but I think he needs more stimulation to bring energy to his middle years.  I think I’m just the opposite, I need more peace and calm as I get older.  The key to surviving this will be find a middle ground that works for both of us, and it might be more difficult than it would outwardly appear, but to continue to grow and thrive, we must do the work, even if it means changing the rules midway through the game.