Home alone with the dog

My husband and children have gone to Florida. It isn’t really a vacation, but a chance to see his mother who is in failing health and spend some time at the beach. I return to work on Monday and could not join them. It is strange being alone in a house that is normally occupied by SO MANY people. I know that my psychiatrist and psychologist both encourage me to take time away from time to time, but this is different. My short trips away provide an opportunity to completely isolate myself, regain strength, and return to my family happy and more whole.

Being home alone is nice. It’s quiet, maybe a little too quiet. I find myself checking the locks on the doors and making sure that the alarm is turned on. I’m never this nervous when I travel. Perhaps it is the overabundance of homework that I have as well. After 7 months, my fear of failure has returned with a vengeance.

Byron is pacing the house looking for his people. I’ve written two papers. Tomorrow there will be more homework to do and church to attend.

Mothers and Daughters

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my favorite books. It is a book that explores the complex dynamics between mother and daughter, mother and stepdaughter, and daughter and daughter. It is difficult and painful at times, but joyous and uplifting. While a 19th-century novel is only slightly reminiscent of the world today, the story is still relevant. Mothers, stepmothers, and daughters still play very much the same cultural roles.

I think about this because I have to think of my relationship with my mother, my daughter, and my stepdaughters. It will not surprise those who know us that my mother and I have a contentious relationship. I have rarely made the choices that she would have chosen for me, but then again, she rarely makes choices that I approve of either (She voted for Trump).  However, she taught me important lessons about people when I was growing up, lessons that I implement today, and hope to teach my children. Love isn’t something that is said, it is something that is shown. It is our responsibility to love and help others in our world.  My mother was a darn good Sunday school teacher, and I will never forget the importance of “but for the least of these.” (Matthew 25:40) It was her words and actions on the Crisp County School Board, as a mentor in Big Brothers/Big Sisters, a member of the Arts Alliance, and other things that have lead to my most important decisions. A year and a half ago, I accepted a clinical mental health internship with Middle Flint Behavioral HealthCare. I could have taken an internship in the Atlanta Area where we were living. But, as I pleaded my case to my husband, I kept coming back to the idea that I felt that this was the right the to do, and the loving thing to do. I have not regretted that decision, though there are days that I have wanted to put my head down and cry. You can’t just say you love someone or that you support someone. You have to take action.

My stepdaughters and I have varied relationships. After many years, the oldest and I have reached a level of friendship. I enjoy her monthly calls where she updates me on her life. I have to say that I truly miss her, wish that she could drive, or that I got to Atlanta more frequently. My second-oldest is 18-years-old and we have no real relationship. I will never be the person that she wanted for her father and I will continue to see through her ploys. My youngest stepdaughter is 16-years old, and I love her like I gave birth to her. Their brother, 12-years-old, is 12-years-old. I don’t remember the last time that he hugged me, but I received a Minecraft play by play last week. That’s affection.

My biological child is 32-months-old. She is intelligent beyond development standards. Her vocabulary is amazing. She is fierce and determined. At night, she holds my face and kisses me and tells me that she loves me. Then she hits me with her Kindle and demands Paw Patrol.

People say that they love all of their children the same, and that is a lie. My level of love for each of my children is equal, but I like them more or less depending on the day. My feeling of love dampens. I think that it is time for all parents and grandparents to fess up to this truth.

I’ll finish this off by saying, Happy Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers that do it all. Happy Mother’s Day to the mother’s who are barely holding it together (I’m in your club). Happy Mother’s Day to the women trying to reunite their families. Happy Mother’s Day to all of the women that I have forgotten.

New patient

There are few things in life more embarrassing than going through the new patient workup required when changing doctors. First, you sit and sit and sit for your 9:45 appointment to begin at 10:45. Then they finally call you back and do all of the preliminaries. Weight (same as on the scale at home – you didn’t really think that I would tell you), blood pressure  (172/115, we might should worry about that), and finger prickly  (yay, no diabetes). And the real fun, peeing in a cup and listing all of my medications. Seriously, all of my medications and I am glad that I had the prescience to bring those.

The thing I hate the most about new patient visits is that feeling that the doctor thinks you are there for nefarious purpose. Like my constant joint pain and other issues are things that I am making up. Or, that my digestive ailments are merely a figment of my imagination. I always particularly feel like this because even among medical professionals Bipolar Disorder is misunderstood.

More than anything they leave you sitting for hours in small yellow rooms in what used to be your childhood doctor’s office.

Lent

For 20 years, I have observed Lent. The purpose of Lent is to sacrifice something that is difficult for you to give up as a way to prepare for Easter. For 20 years, I have made the promise to give up soft drinks, sugar, alcohol, etc. Some of those were more difficult than others. Alcohol was particularly difficult to give up when I was teaching (university and middle school equally). However, I haven’t been able to drink alcohol for a couple of years now due to migraines, so that isn’t an option. Giving up soft drinks has also proven to be painful to me as Coke Zero and Pepsi Max flow through my veins. But, soft drinks started making me feel unwell a few months ago and it seems like cheating to give those up.

I had been struggling with Lent this year until I attended my church’s Ash Wednesday service. Then, I heard my priest’s sermon and I understood that I had been missing the point of Lent for the last 20 years. Lent is about sacrifice, but it is also about making changes within yourself that prepare you for Jesus’s sacrifice. The sacrifice I make shouldn’t just be something that causes me discomfort; it should be helping someone else.

So, what am I giving up for Lent this year? Well, I’m doing something for my health and giving up soft drinks and refined sugar. More importantly, I’m giving up some bad habits that I’ve acquired over the years. I am giving up bitterness and resentment. I am giving up self-pity. I am giving up feelings of unworthiness. Finally, I am giving up negativity. I may have to avoid social media to accomplish the last one.  I am a realist, though, and I reserve the right to point out problems that I see.

I’m also going to do something for me and for the Queen, I’m going to take her out as much as possible for runs in her stroller. We did buy the running stroller anyway.

Will I be successful in my Lenten sacrifice? I can’t make any promises, but I will try my hardest.

I can’t move my fingers

It may surprise many of you that I am in fact quite handy. I can change a tire, battery, and change out headlamps. I can rewire a lamp, put in a ceiling fan, and put in a dimmer switch (among other things). But, I cannot paint. It becomes a big spotty miss on ceiling and floor. Which leads me to the delusion that I had that I could refinish the floor in our bedroom with20170228_140431out disaster.

Wow, I just realized that I can’t add a picture without disaster. Hmm. This all started with the disaster that my husband created. He insisted on staining the floor, after stripping it with 50 grit sandpaper, and not closing it with 100 or 200 grit sandpaper. It was terra cotta, maybe more reddish – Texas orange. Regardless, it had to be fixed and we did sand the floor. I told him that I would polyurethane the floor. Which I did, except that I forgot one small, small thing. You should wear gloves when you put down polyurethane.  By the time I was done, I literally couldn’t move my fingers on my right hand. Did it wash off? No. Would it scrub off? No. Would the Magic Eraser erase it? Ha-ha-ha. So, off to Home Depot I went. The nice woman in the paint department led me to this amazing air freshener that released my fingers.  I wish that I had a picture of the product because it is awesome, and evidently will take the stickers off of items, remove oil based paint, and other wonders.

 

 

Three and a half months

Sometimes it is hard to think about how much life can change in 3.5-months. Tomorrow, I see my psychiatrist for the first time that I think that he will be willing to sign off on my returning to school (and work). I’m excited and scared. In these last few months, I have come to terms with some very difficult things. I have learned that despite my best efforts that I cannot control Bipolar Disorder.

I have learned that medication is only part of the equation. Limiting stress and moderation are very important. I learned that my force of will could not make me better. It took a long and difficult path to reach that point. I learned that it was okay to admit that I was completely unable to control my world or even my emotions, even a little.

But, I also learned as I got better that I needed to determine the person that I am deep down inside. Not the person trying to be what someone else wanted. Not the person pretending to be stronger than she was. Not the person who reacted badly to being hurt and wanting to hurt someone else back.

Working with my psychologist has been great for this, but my trip to New Orleans taught me so much more about myself. It taught me that I am self-reliant, but that I love my family and value them. It taught me that while I am very good at reading people that I am not always good at judging them. I am far too likely to give the benefit of the doubt. It taught me that I seek safety because I have so often been afraid. It taught me that despite the voices in my head that still plague me from time to time that I want to live. Most importantly, I have learned that it is okay to just be me. As odd as I am, as introverted as I am, as much as I care about my clients, as passionate about social issues as I am, and equally passionate about my religious beliefs. Even my complete disdain for the Evangelical movement (if you are offended, I’ll be happy to explain why). I despise Donald Trump and his Cabinet. Yep, I’m saying it now, worst president since Andrew Jackson. Maybe even worse than Andrew Jackson.

There is a wonderful world out there and I want to be there as my children experience it. I want to travel with my husband before his knees give out on him.

More than anything, after 3.5-months I look forward to waking up each day with the Queen in our new home. A home that is free of damp and mold. A home where her two loving parents are happy, and her brother and sister are working on it. Where her mother is finally healthy.

Moving

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We closed on our beautiful new home on February 10. For the most part, the house is exactly what we were looking. However, with my penchant for older homes, it was only to be expected that there would be interesting problems that would need to be worked out. For instance, if an addition is built onto your house in 1969, there is carpet in that room, and even if there is hardwood floor in part of the room… it’s a lie. Two-thirds of that room will be some kind of floor boarding that must be ripped up and hardwood put down or recarpeted. Budget wise (and resale value) the hardwood just made more sense.

Or, the kitchen where we have been working to meld my sweet husband’s ultra modern stainless steel and my more classic era of the house elements. I think that we finally worked that out. For the moment our kitchen looks like a war zone, my appliances are hanging out in the living room. Hey, at least the washer and dryer are set up and ready to go.

Perhaps the best thing about this house is the large fenced backyard, with a huge dog pen. There are plans in the works to get another dog for Byron to train. There is also a huge playset that the Queen thinks is the best thing EVER.

 

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Cooking is good for the soul

I taught myself to cook during my 2nd year at Georgia Tech. My mother had bought me 1000 Vegetarian Recipes, an inexpensive set of pots and pans, and the necessary implements to cook. She promised to replace my starter set if I learned how. I sat down with a set of then sticky labels and marked the recipes that I wanted to cook, and then with another set of labels the ones that I thought I could try to cook. I remember that the first recipe that I cooked was Rattlesnake Stew. It was named so for the rattlesnake beans that were supposed to be in the soup. These beans are nearly impossible to find, but adzuki beans are a nice substitute. It was wonderful, and I thought, maybe I can do this.

In the beginning, cooking was like math, which I am very good. If you follow the recipe and the recipe is not written by an idiot then your recipe is going to turn out. Baking is chemistry, and I struggled with chemistry. This is the reason that I avoid baking if possible. Now, I am more comfortable in the kitchen, I trust my palate, and I can cook from my experience and not a book. Of course, I love my books. I also have an amazing number of kitchen gadgets and beautiful pots and pans thanks to my Mom. I learned how to cook and she kept her word.

I cooked multiple times a week until my sweet husband and I married. We had 3 children living in the home and none liked my style cooking. The didn’t like that one day would be Indian food, the next Italian, and the next something that I came up with off the top of my head. Then I became pregnant with the Queen, bed rest, and I stopped cooking altogether.

I also hated the kitchen, with the lack of counter space, and glass top stove. I hate a glass top stove. When we moved south, the house that we are renting also lacks counter space and has a glass top stove. I just can’t make myself cook most of the time. However, the kitchen in our new house has a wonderful amount of counter space. The meals that I look forward to cooking.

Friday or Saturday, let’s be honest I have no idea which one, I commented on Facebook that reading and watching Julie and Julia with my current abdominal ailments made me want vegetables, butter, and cream. Tonight, I decided that misery be damned and I made my Spiced Cauliflower Soup, dairy (butter, milk, and sour cream), chipotle powder, and onions and shallots. It was delicious, so very delicious. The type of meal that leaves you full and happy. However, I’m up at 1:20 writing this due to the misery of my decision. But, I am not complaining, it was worth every bite and swipe of bread.

I look forward to the next meal that I cook. The catharsis of cutting up vegetables. The first bite with family.

The snake

In Native American teachings, the snake is seen as a symbol of transmutation because it sheds it’s skin once each year. The snake is enigmatic as it embodies sexuality, psychic energy, alchemy, reproduction and immortality.

A tarot reader reached across the table after our reading. He said that the snake was a real person in my life. He told me that I must get this person out of my life no matter what.

I am not a believer in the occult. I had done the reading on a whim while walking through Jackson Square in New Orleans. However, before he spoke, I saw the face of the man that he meant. Over the next few weeks, I tried to extricate myself from the relationship  (loose term). I somehow always failed, but I kept trying.

Then I remembered, certain personality disorders will always want there own way. They can’t stand to be challenged and they certainly can’t stand for you to continue to do what they don’t want. So, I set things up to do just that. It was personally painful as I had to pretend to engage, pretend to be hurt, pretend to care about a relationship that was as interesting to me as paint drying, and pretend that my little heart had just been broken by a shitty friend. It worked though, and I’m glad to be done.

I wish that my path to cleansing didn’t include apologies and truth telling to some others. But, that too, was necessary.

Take my advice when you think someone isn’t acting in your best interest, don’t wait until it takes these lengths. Don’t wait for the grizzled hand of a psychic to bring you to your senses.

Clearing my head in the smelliest place in America

This blog is stream of conscious. I apologize to those that are bothered by this style, but I knew of no other way to write it.

I had a panic attack at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. There were just so many kids there, buses full of them swarming everywhere. It didn’t help that I was coughing like someone with consumption and hadn’t slept for days. It was one of two touristy adventures while in New Orleans, and a repeat of a much-enjoyed experience with my sister 14-years ago. When the docent found me hiding behind some plant life and digging desperately in my bottle of sedatives, he merely said, kids, and walked away. Even after the drugs kicked in, the trip was rather ruined, and there were still swarms of children. I walked back to my hotel shaking my head and lamenting that nothing is ever as good as you remember it.

I am a realist and have never placed any stock in psychics and the like. With the exception of ghosts, I definitely believe in ghosts. So it shocked me when I was drawn to stop at a tarot reader on the northwest edge of Jackson Square. I sat down in front of him, and not wanting him to “read” me, said nothing and took a neutral body posture. His first question was, “Are you descended from an Indian tribe?” I answered simply, “Yes.” He looked at me again and said, “Creek” I shook my head, yes. He handed me a deck of cards to shuffle, and when I handed them back he said, “I don’t need to read these cards for you. You know what they say.” As he placed the cards on the table, I felt impressions. As he read the cards, I realized that he was absolutely accurate. Then he said, there is a man in your life that you must get rid of forever.

Sitting in the chapel of Christ Church Cathedral waiting for the 12:15-weekday service, the vicar told me about the church, when it was built (1840), and how it had to be built outside the city limits of New Orleans. Episcopalians were not welcome in a city filled to the brim with Catholics, but evidently, there were enough of them that they built a magnificent cathedral.On the trolly ride back from the Garden District, I reflected on being an outsider when your beliefs were only slightly different. I mean, we are the Anglican Catholic Church after all. As someone who has always been an outsider, I found sitting in that church strangely fitting. I could imagine myself a hundred odd years ago worshipping in a way that my neighbors would not approve. The only place that I ever “fit-in” was in Austin and that is because no one “fits in.” We are all a bunch of misfits who find other misfits that we like enough to tolerate.

If you can’t sleep because you are coughing so much that you are afraid that the neighboring room is going to complain about the noise, you might find yourself reading and watching a great deal of television. At some point, though, you have to admit to yourself that you are getting sicker and call your insurance for permission to go to urgent care. And what an urgent care that it was! It had 18-foot ceilings with plaster walls, marble floors, ancient wooden benches, worn smooth by wear, and leather chairs. I saw a doctor within 5 minutes of arriving, was given prescriptions for an antibiotic and the good cough syrup and was out the door in 15 minutes. Lesson learned, you are not invincible at 40, and if you are coughing like a crazy person then you shouldn’t be walking 8