January 30, 2012

In a homeschool rut

We love the homeschooling lifestyle.  I get to wear denim jumpers with tennies everyday and my guys shower me with gratitude for taking on the responsibility of educating our son.  Nature Boy speaks four languages and is working on a patent for his formula for non-toxic girl repellent. Tree Guy comes home to a clean house and a delicious warm meal every evening.  And one of our dogs is a math whiz.

Even with all of this, I am in a season of low motivation.  Meaning, I don't want to do any school.  Period.  Which would be understandable if we'd been busting our (intellectual) butts all year, but we haven't.  And that means I haven't earned the right, nay the privilege, to be burned out on homeschooling.  And neither has Nature Boy. 

Surely there's only so much burnout to go around, so we must be crashing somebody else's pity party.  Some other homeschool family has been slaving over textbooks and worksheets and book reports all year, while Nature Boy and I have been watching too much TV, playing at the theater, and baking crap that is totally screwing with my Weight Watcher's plan.  And here we are, taking away the only thing left to them--their right to feel burnout.

To them I say:  Sorry, suckers!  Can I have some of your energy and motivation, please?

January 27, 2012

Big girl friendships

Tree Guy and I both grew up in Texas for the most part.  When Tree Guy graduated from college, he looked for local jobs, but forestry jobs are few and far between.  And Tree Guy wasn't just a forester; he specialized in forest recreation.  He wanted a career that involved sunshine, s'mores, and kumbayaing in the woods.  Unfortunately, most of those jobs are seasonal, and they tend to go to poor forestry students who will work day and night for free to get some experience before they graduate.  Which was so not us.

So we were really happy when he landed a conservation education job at a nature reserve in a neighboring state.  We knew no one in our new town, but Tree Guy got to play around in an aquatics lab and teach school groups about conservation every day.  The pay was crap, but that's the case with most entry-level jobs right out of school.  We just felt lucky that we didn't have to move to Oregon or Montana or some such.  ('Cause everyone knows that's where the serial killers live.)

Anyhoo.  Here we were.  A young married couple with nary a friend.  I normally pride myself on not being the needy type, but during our first year in our new town, my husband was my only friend.  So I wanted ALL his free time.  The poor man couldn't even make a quick stop on his way home from work without getting an earful at home.  I missed my family and friends back in Texas.  I loved dogs, but Tree Guy was the Pet Nazi early on in our marriage, so I didn't even have one of those to help with the loneliness.   (He eventually relented.  Now that I think about it, my neediness was probably what brought about his change of heart!)

I tried joining a book club, hoping to make some friends among my fellow bibliophiles.  It was fun, but it didn't translate to print-free time.  A slacker by nature, I eventually decided in my desperation to get a part-time job.  And this is where I met my first friend.  I was careful not to appear too needy, but it was just an act.  I longed for girls' nights and couple friends.  For weekend dinners to look forward to.  One good friend can make all the difference.

At first I didn't know why making women friends was so difficult.  What was wrong with me that I couldn't get a girl to have lunch with me?  Did I give off weird vibes?  Was I stalker-like in my exchanges?  Did I have broccoli in my teeth? 

It took years, but what I finally determined is that it's just really hard to make friends when you're no longer a student and you move to a new city.  People are already established there.  They have a complete set of friends already.  Friends they had childhood sleepovers with, and read Teen Bop magazine with, and partied in college with, and danced the Electric Slide at each other's weddings with.  They weren't desperate for friends like I was.

It was a lonely time. 

This week I started hanging out with another "transplant".  We've known each other for a couple years now through our homeschool group, but this is first time we've hung out on our own.  She confided in me that she's had a really hard time making women friends here too.  She's extended invitations and been rebuffed just like I was.  It's been just as confusing and hurtful for her as it was for me 14 years ago.  I hope it helps to hear that it's not her; it's them.   Some people's lives are just too full to work one more person in.  Some people are afraid to trust someone new.  And some people are just assholes.

Whatever the reason, the lack of friendship in her life is most assuredly not her fault.  I know.  I am the self-declared Standard of Normal and Knower of All Things, and I vow that there is nothing wrong with this woman!  She's not needy or dishonest or stinky or a bully.  She doesn't show up to homeschool co-op drunk or high or wielding Pokemon cards.  She's basically the Cuban version of me, which means that she is without a doubt, AWESOME.

Y'all remember when I had that idea for Shrinky Dink that involved passive-aggressive poop bombing of jerky exes' houses?  Well, I propose that for my new amiga, our passive-aggressive response to cold-shouldering and all manner of rebuffery, shall be this:

January 22, 2012

Moving on from crazy (kind of)

So I've been slacking again on the blog front.  Sorry.  There's the whole grief thing.  And the whole real life responsibilities thing.  And the whole I'm-obsessively-watching-all-the-back-episodes-of-Desperate-Housewives-in-order-on-Netflix thing. 

But I don't want my "I'm crazy. No, really." post to be front and center forever, so here's a little recent happening that I cartoonized for you.

You remember our new boxer, Tank, right?  And you know that he's nigh-on 80 pounds of awesome, yes?

Well, yesterday while Nature Boy and I were watching Cowboys and Aliens (also awesome), Tank decided to make like a cat and climb up on the back of the couch for a snooze.  There was no way his big ol' self was going to fit on an 8-inch span of sofa, but he gave it a good boxer try.  He balanced precariously for 20 seconds or so and then he fell.  On top of my shoulders!  One would think he would be worried that this would irritate me.  One would think he would have immediately climbed down and slunk away to avoid my wrath.  One would be wrong.

Instead of lumbering off the couch, he wrapped himself around my shoulders like a shawl.  Stubby boxer butt on one side of me; adorably wrinkly snout on the other.  Then he fell asleep.  Which means he started snoring.  Loudly.

I let him stay perched on my shoulders because I wanted Nature Boy to get a picture of the ridiculous situation I found myself in.  Unfortunately, he couldn't find my camera.  Which means no pictures for you

So you'll just have to settle for this.

January 13, 2012

My time in the pen

I've debated sharing this part of my story for obvious reasons.  Don't want to freak out my local friends.  (You know, the ones whose kids I teach in our homeschool co-op.)  Don't want to have to deal with the stigma.  Don't want this to be the first thing new acquaintances know about me.  Because while this experience is a part of me, it doesn't define me.  I've decided to share it now because life is too short for faking it.  People don't talk about this stuff, and that leaves people who struggle to do so in secret.  And these kinds of secrets can be deadly.

No, I didn't go to prison, y'all.  I'm talking about the nuthouse.  The loony bin.  The funny farm.  A mental hospital.  Yeah, I've been there.  And not just once.  I'm a 3-time offender.

To be fair, 2 of the 3 stays were only a few months apart.  Had I been properly diagnosed and treated the first time, a repeat hospitalization a few months later wouldn't have been necessary.  Even better, if I'd been properly diagnosed and treated during my very first hospitalization in the late '90s, I wouldn't have needed the other inpatient visits 4 years later.

Going inpatient was my decision.  I was depressed--suicidal and hopeless.  I felt like I was a burden to other people.  That I made their lives worse, not better.  My 15-year-old brother had taken his life in the early '90s, so I knew suicide wasn't just something that happened to other people.  I'd actually taken an overdose at age 16 (and spent the night puking while a friend held my hair).  When I got to that point a second time, I knew I needed help.

In addition to the recurrence of depression, I'd also developed paranoia and irrational thoughts.  Tree Guy and I had just moved to a new state after college, and we didn't have insurance or doctors in place yet.  My mother-in-law made an innocent comment that the people in our new town (her hometown) were weird, and I began to fear that they were straight out of Children of the Corn.  I stopped opening the curtains and blinds.  I began checking and rechecking to make sure everything was locked up safely.  I didn't want anyone to know we had pet parrots because I was sure they would try to break in and hurt them.  I stopped eating anything but bread.  I lost 20 pounds in a month. 

Living like that was hell.

Then I saw a Scooby Doo-esque "message from God" on the ceiling telling me to "BEWARE".  Poor Tree Guy didn't know what the hell was going on.  He called my mom and she told him to take me to a psychiatric ER.  I was admitted and diagnosed with major depressive disorder with psychotic features.  I stayed inpatient for 4 or 5 days, and I was heavily medicated.  I don't remember much from that stay, but I do recall that my new husband, Tree Guy, came every day and spent all of the visiting hours with me.

I was prescribed medication for anxiety and depression, and Tree Guy and I relocated again, just 2 months after our initial move.  Everything was sunnier and less threatening in our new apartment (in yet another state).  We lived on the second floor (safer than the first).  And no one had told me the people in this town were weird.

I had a few years of blessed stability. Tree Guy and I became parents.  I went off of my medications during pregnancy, and aside from some annoying OCD issues, I felt fine.  I was so happy to be a mom.  I knew the depression was over when I found myself whistling while grocery shopping.  Being a new mom was a balm.  THE bomb.  It was joyful and healing and fun. 

Then I got sick with Crohn's disease, was hospitalized with a bowel obstruction, and had part of my intestines removed.  During my surgery stay, the doctor took me off of all medicines unrelated to Crohn's disease.  I was on TPN (total parenteral nutrition).  I couldn't take pills by mouth.  I slipped into a depression again and became paranoid and anxious.  After discharge I was prescribed another anti-depressant, but it didn't work fully.  I felt suicidal again.  I was a mom now--I didn't want to give up on living.  But I was very impulsive, and depression + impulsivity = danger.

So I checked myself into a mental hospital for the second time.  I was placed on suicide watch.  I had to keep my door open and someone checked on me every 15 minutes.  I went to occupational therapy (which was actually really fun) and participated in group sessions.  This fancy hospital was very different from the first one I'd gone to.  This was more like a mental health spa.  I left 5 days later with a diagnosis of recurrent major depression and a prescription for a new anti-depressant.  But it wasn't enough.  Something was missing.         

Another health crisis and 4 months later, I was suicidal again.  I felt out of control.  I left Nature Boy with his dad, took a bunch of Ativan, and took off in our truck.  I planned to crash the truck into a cement wall.  But something stopped me.  I called Shrinky Dink and told her what I was planning.  She asked me to meet her at the psychiatric facility in town.  I was out of it for most of the intake session because of the pills I'd taken, but I remember making smart ass comments to the intake coordinator and laughing with Shrinky Dink.  Poor thing was 8 months pregnant at the time, but she was game.

My third and final stay lasted 4 days.  That's all it took for this doctor to realize that I wasn't just depressed; I was bipolar.  And because of that one episode of psychosis (the hallucination thing) and my continued paranoia, I was diagnosed with bipolar I (the more severe form).  This time the medicines I was prescribed were exactly the right mix.  The missing ingredient had been a mood stabilizer.  This was 2002, and I've been stable and on the same medications since then.  No major episodes.  No paralyzing paranoia (just the annoying kind).  No suicidality. 

Praise God.

The biggest reason I chose to share this is that mine is a success story.  I'm resilient and proactive and compliant with my treatment (something a lot of bipolars struggle with).  I'm proud of how functional I am now.  I feel no shame about needing to rely on medications to maintain stability.  I rely on them to stay in remission for Crohn's disease too.  It's no different.  Illness is illness, and health is health.

So yes, I have my crazy papers.  I earned them.  Heck, I think somebody should award me an honorary Doctorate of Badassness for what I've overcome.  There's hope with mental illness.  It takes support.  It takes a willingness to get help.  And just as important, a willingness to stick with your treatment program.  Which means, if you're feeling better on medication, it doesn't mean you don't need the medication anymore!  It means the medication is working

My bottom line nugget o' wisdom:  There's a life worth living on the other side of crazy.


January 11, 2012

Wordless(ish) Wednesday

My mom as a teenager. Ain't she purdy?

My "Am I white person or not?" existential crisis in high school.


My brother Collin feeding the chickens at our grandparents' farm.

Tree Guy and his awesome brothers.
Their parents done good.

Meemaw and me on my wedding day.

Uncle Jake's first time to change a diaper...

Nature Boy "tie-ing" one on at a wedding several years ago.

January 10, 2012

Guest Post: Future Reflection

Below is a guest post written by my mom.

As you all know, my mom passed on recently. She had come to stay with me. You probably don't know that I am an Empathic. I didn't always have that and I can no longer recall when it started. Funny, that. Anyway, when I worked at a local hospital, I found myself wanting to make sure no one ever died alone. Families go home. Sometimes they live far enough away that they can't be there and raise a family too. I think it may have been then that I noticed the energy zap caused by my patients who were actively dying. I would check the heart monitor for patients that weren't my own. Someone called me morbid. To my face... No tellin' what the untold stuff was. But all I had to do was look into the face of a family member who missed it after I told them how peaceful they went to know it was the right thing to do.

Even though I knew my mother was actively dying, she was gone by the time I got to her bed. She SNEEZED and that was it. I SWEAR. And I missed it! Besides the effects of the dementia, which had fast, fast forwarded, leaving her unable to walk, her falling blood pressure told everything. A lot of the time, there are other physical signs so maybe I was waiting for that. Or perhaps it was denial.

I had been staying awake until 3AM, just in case she woke up without knowing where she was. That night had followed a very restful day for her. Actually, I watched many of her deep wrinkles disappear. The day before had been a rough one. The hospice nurse sat me down and told me without asking, "You CANNOT overdose your mother with the Rx as it is written." I HAD been hesitant. Some of those heavy drugs can cause psychosis in some folks. She had stopped eating the day before. They kill your stomach when it is empty. I know this first hand. Hospice isn't my biz, so I did give her 2 of the 3. I never needed the 3rd.

She was peacefully letting go that day. I was hyper alert. Because in addition to this, my daughter and her family would be continuing the grieving that had begun when mom no longer spoke or would open her eyes. Many people to serve. As I said, it was a rapid decline. But I put relaxing music on and lit a lavender candle. I kept the lighting soft. Throughout the day I spoke with her. I told her to not be afraid. I told her she would soon see Dad coming her way to pick her up. I told her to run to him, that they had both been waiting for this day. I asked her to please kiss Collin for me and tell him that even though I get through every single day, I miss him being on earth every bit as much today as I did the day he died. I can still feel that absence in my physical body.

And yet, at 1:00AM, I became exhausted. I had had some severe body pain for 2 months that was letting up. I thought I was just wore slap out as they say in Texas. A good sleep at the end of a peaceful day, I was reaching for the lamp needing to sleep very badly. And she sneezed. And crossed over. I went to her. It was 1:17AM. I was in clinical mode and thought, "Wow! She's German. I wonder if there's some truth to the gesundheit thing." I did what anyone would do and decided to read up on it.

Of course you also don't know my personal spiritual beliefs. That's as it should be I guess, but one thing I believe strongly is that as Spirit, before our births, we have a hand in the life planning. Leading most of us to say, "If that is true, WHAT was I thinking?!". Don't bother to deny it... We know. And I thought maybe if God asked her how she'd want to go out, that it would have been just like Mom to say, "Like a fart in church." I think that God is a gentleman. Maybe He compromised with the sneeze. Both, after all, are escaping air.

Mother was also Jewish. They weren't raised as such as my grandfather was Catholic. So after I got beyond the superstitions, I found the answer. It's not only a German thing but a Hebrew thing too. So here is the answer. I trust you will find it as interesting as I did.

The following is a Jewish perspective on the custom: Although not technically part of Jewish law (Halacha), the custom of saying gesundheit, tzu gezunt, labreeyut, or bless you is considered a mannerly custom. It is written in the Talmud that the Patriarch Jacob was the first person to become ill before passing on. Before that, people would sneeze and die. When God infused the soul into man, He "blew it" into Adam's nostrils. Thus, when it came time for the soul to be returned to its Maker, it would leave through the same portal it arrived.

Makes perfect sense to me.

January 07, 2012

Warranties = loads of crap

The thing I love most about the Weight Watchers plan is that I can still have my daily medicinal dose of chocolate.  Sometimes I am one Special Dark away from going clean off

Which brings me to my next thought. 

The thing I love least about living in a brand new house is that when things go wrong (as they often do the first year or two after a house is built), you are at the mercy of the builder's warranty workers.  You move into your new house and everything is all shiny and spiffy.  The builder's crew was careful to tape before painting and paint before installing hardware such as doorknobs, light fixtures, and hinges. 

Then some settling occurs or you notice during the first big storm that your back door leaks water.  A calls goes in to schedule a visit from the warranty slackers workers, and at some point, they eventually show up.  And this is only the beginning of your trouble.

In every single warranty situation we've had this past year, the workers left things looking worse than they did before they came.  They are sloppy.  SLOPPY, I tell you!  And not only that.  They also often don't fix the *^%%&*% problem the first time they come out!  Or even the second time.  And sometimes, not even the third time.  I have to get all Crazy Papers on them just to finally git 'er done.

I'm sure the warranty coordinator guy thinks I'm incredibly high maintenance and quite possibly that I have the homeowner's version of  Münchausen syndrome, but I care not a whit.  I have been more than patient.  Far more patient than a mental patient like me should be expected to be.  I have yet to get all Golden Corral on his ass. 

In other words, I've tried the white, middle class way of handling this situation.  And it has failed miserably. 

We've had the door guys out at least four times.  And these weren't new warranty issues.  No, the problem was that they didn't fix what needed fixing the first three times!  The door situation (yes, we have a door situation) still isn't resolved.  Water was getting in under the door every time it rained.  It caused warping and flaking paint on the trim.  They tried every cheap fix they could to no avail before I finally just said, "We want a new door and a frame that actually fits the space."

We got that.  But they totally messed up the trim with big nails that caused cracking and splitting.  And the caulking extends far onto the walls and is thick and goopy.  It doesn't look like the door of a new house should look.  It looks like someone's unskilled husband tried his hand at being Tim the Tool Man.  Not acceptable. 

So now they are sending a trim carpenter out to fix that.  I'm cautiously optimistic.

And last night the painters finally came out to paint the new door and frame.  (It came primed but not painted.)  I'd been waiting for them all day.  They finally showed up at 7pm.  And they didn't speak any English.  They painted the inside of the door without taping anything, so there is paint on the doorknob, the window, the door hinges, etc.  And they didn't put a drop sheet down, so there are paint drips on our back patio.  They tried to leave before cleaning up the paint they slopped on my kitchen floor, but I was all, "Limpiar el piso antes de salir, por favor."  So they did.  And then I noticed the drips down the side of the door.  So I was like, "Y por favor, limpia las gotas de la puerta."  Then Tree Guy asked how long it would take for the paint to dry.  And they just said, "Yes."  So I helpfully interjected, "¿Cuánto tiempo pasará hasta que la pintura esté seca?"  And they said it would be twenty minutes.  Only Tree Guy didn't realize they'd painted the door frame in addition to the door, so he shut the door anyway. 


Tree Guy's decided that he's going to handle painting and carpentry-related warranty work on his own from now on.  And I think that's a good thing.  He's a perfectionist (except when it comes to hanging pictures perfectly even for his obsessive-compulsive wife).  And he's actually quite handy with tools and whatnot.  He built himself a nice little tool bench in the garage.  He also customized our new closets with shelves.  And built a raised food and water bowl holder for Tank.

And he made my mom a cat playground.  And he restained and retrimmed my grandpa's secretary. 

So yeah, he's awesome. 

Now, if we only had a tree.....

To Be Continued

P.S.  I totally used Google Translator for my painter convo. The only language I'm fluent in besides English is Sarcasm.

P.S.S.  Tree Guy doesn't read my blog.  Canyoubelieveit?  So that pretty much gives me carte blanche to write whatever I want about him.  BWAHAHA!!!!!!!!

January 03, 2012

2012. Word.

Jessica over at Bohemian Bowmans came up with a great alternative to New Year's resolutions: One Purposeful Word for 2012.

What's one word that encompasses what you most want this year to be about?  It might be hard to narrow it down to one word.  Or the word might come to you as quickly as mine did.

I chose the word BALANCE.

I'm sure you're familiar with the concept of our lives having "seasons", right?  Childhood is largely about discovery.  Young adulthood is often focused on careers or dating or marriage.  Then there's the exciting and exhausting early parenting season.  There might be a season of illness, or even a season of poverty.  A season of self-discovery.  A season of loss. 

And for many of us, there is a caregiving season.  This season necessitates a letting go of extraneous things to make time and room for the necessary.  Sometimes it even requires pushing aside that which is important for that which is more time-sensitive, more urgent. 

2011 was a caregiving season for me.  And as stressful and exhausting as it was at times, I am grateful for this season in my life.  I was able to spend a lot of time with Meemaw in the last year of her life.  I thank God for that gift.  

It is now time for a new season in my life.  A reordering of priorities.

I plan to continue to work on improving my health through more balanced eating and exercise.  I've lost 10 pounds so far following the Weight Watchers program.  I work out 3 times a week now while watching episodes of Desperate Housewives on Netflix instant streaming.  (I can't decide who's sexier: Mike or Carlos!)

Homeschooling will be another renewed focus.  Thank God Nature Boy loves to read and watch shows like Bizarre Foods, Man vs. Wild, and Mythbusters, or we wouldn't have accomplished much of anything in our homeschooling in 2011.  (Just keeping it real, folks!)

A key part of achieving balance in my life is that I plan to reduce the amount of time I spend on the computer.  Facebook is a giant time-suck for me.  I need to spend less time on my virtual life and more time on my real life.

My word for 2012 is balance.  What's yours?