D is for Dress

DD is for Dress

I don’t wear dresses often, so when I do, I remember why I got the dress and where I wore it. I have a dress in my closet that will always have meaning for me.

Less than a year ago, I had to go to the mall to find a dress for my dad’s memorial service. I was grieving and recovering from a hysterectomy; all I wanted to do was find a dress and get home. I remember the pain I was in, both physically and emotionally, that day.

I walked into Nordstrom and saw “the dress” right away. I didn’t buy it when I saw it because I wanted to see what else was available. I was emotionally numb and moving slowly as I went from store to store, looking for something that would work for the service. It had to be comfortable and loose so that it didn’t put pressure on my surgery site. After a couple hours of searching, I ended up going back to Nordstrom and getting the dress that caught my eye as soon as I started my dress-hunting venture.

I wore it the day of my dad’s service; it was what I wore when I got up in front of a bunch of people I didn’t know and bawled as I shared my memories of my dad and what he meant to me.

Yesterday, I wore the dress again. This time I wore it to a “celebration of life” get-together for my Aunt Sheila, who passed away last month. I didn’t have the honor of knowing my aunt for very long. I only recently reconnected with my mom’s side of the family. I immediately felt accepted by her. I’m not used to that and it meant a lot to me.

Now, when I look at the dress hanging in my closet, I will remember my dad. I will remember my aunt. I will be reminded how fleeting life is and to prioritize what matters.

Sometimes I Think

Sometimes in the quiet of the morning, before everyone is awake, I give myself time to think. Sometimes my thoughts wander to what I need to do that day. Sometimes I think about a book I’m editing. Sometimes I think on a deeper level and look inside myself.

Sometimes I find that my mind is focused on the wrong things. Maybe I allow the small stuff to take up residence in my head and heart because it’s easier to face than the hard stuff—the things that really matter.

Recently, I forced myself to take a step back and ask what is really worthy of my time and energy. This was very freeing; once I realized how much I was allowing myself to be emotionally drained by the petty things and decided to let them go, it was like coming up for air after being underwater for too long.

So, who/what is worthy of the space in my head?

  • My son and how we need to address his social anxiety and Tourette syndrome. The road ahead of us as we start the process of having him assessed for Asperger’s syndrome. His future. He deserves to be on my mind.
  • How to meet the needs of my younger son who is gifted in many areas. I feel like I fall short when it comes to encouraging and nurturing his growth in these areas. He also deserves space in my head.
  • My health. I’ve always been blessed with good health, but ever since my dad died and I lost my job, my health—physical and mental—has not been a priority. Depression will do that. I need to make changes.
  • My marriage. God knows I am far from the ideal wife. My husband deserves the best of me and I haven’t given that to him for a long time. Again, changes.
  • My friends who are struggling. Those I care about who are sick, have sick children, can’t make ends meet, who are grieving… they are worth it.

And who/what is not worthy of the space in my head?

  • People who don’t deserve to be there. Those who act like friends when they want or need something but will toss that “friendship” aside when it suits them.
  • Undeserved low opinions from people I don’t know and who don’t know me. I like to be liked… I admit that, but there are people will never like who and what I am. Wondering why and having my feelings hurt? Not worth it.
  • Grudges. I’ve never been much of a grudge holder. I forgive and move on easily. Every once in a while, though, something will happen and I enjoy disliking someone who hurt me. Is it worth my energy? Not at all.
  • Unhealthy criticism of myself. I am much harder on myself than I am on others. If I feel like I did something wrong or let someone down, I will beat myself up over it. It’s time to give myself the same grace I extend to others.

And now? I think I’m done writing this post.

Language, the Source of Misunderstanding

Featured imageAs far back as I can remember, I have hated being misunderstood—especially when that misunderstanding ends up making somebody feel bad. My earliest memory of this happening was from when I was probably four or five. I don’t remember the details, but it must have been one of those rare occasions when my brother and I weren’t at each other’s throats. I think I gave him a piece of my candy or something like that. I remember him saying, “Thank you.” I was feeling very generous and in my mind, I didn’t want him to feel like he had to thank me. I tried to express this by saying, “You’re not welcome.”

To my surprise, he immediately became upset and told my mom that I was being rude. I obviously didn’t understand the whole idea of saying “you’re welcome” to someone. I figured it was an obligatory answer you just said when someone said thanks. I remember so clearly how sad it made me that he thought I was being mean… especially since I was trying to be nice. I tried to explain to him what I meant and he wouldn’t hear it.

It wouldn’t be the last time I was misunderstood this way. We wouldn’t be human if such misunderstandings didn’t occur from time to time.

What I think sets some of us apart, however, is how we respond to being misunderstood this way. When I care about someone, I hurt when they hurt. To think I may be the cause of this pain is like a stab to the heart. I don’t know how to feel any other way. I can’t turn off being empathetic or sensitive.

Recently, an incident occurred that reminds me a lot of what happened with my brother. There was a third party involved who I felt misunderstood something I said and I needed to know if I owed an explanation to a friend concerning what I meant. I should have just let it go because the more I tried to understand how my words may have been interpreted, the worse things got with this third party. It all just went downhill; the misunderstanding only grew. We both ended up angry and upset.

Long story short, I lost someone who I considered to be a good friend and the friendship of another person who I liked. Interestingly enough, the friend I was so worried about hurting was fine and we are still friends.

I’m not going to claim to be innocent in the whole matter. I’m not claiming to have handled things perfectly. I’m an impulsive person; some things hurt deeply and I react too quickly. Sometimes there are other things going on in my life that may influence how I react.

I am hard on myself, but the one thing I can say is I am someone who can own up to my faults. I forgive quickly. I don’t hold grudges. I have no problem apologizing for my actions when necessary… and I have.

So, what can I learn from all this?

To slow down. To know when I’m not in the frame of mind to interact with others when there is a chance for misunderstanding. To not involve third parties or fourth parties or fifth parties…

I’ve also learned who my real friends are. I’ve learned that just because I see life as too short and friendships as too important to let a misunderstanding come between us, not everyone thinks the same way. I’ve learned that I can apologize but not necessarily receive forgiveness. I’m understanding that just because I am willing to own up to my faults, that doesn’t mean others will do the same.

Now I’m moving on.  I’m saving my tears, pain, and guilt for people and circumstances worthy of it.

My dad dying? Definitely worthy of my tears.

Losing the job I loved? What kind of person would I be if that didn’t hurt?

The guilt that tries to choke me daily concerning whether I’m doing enough for my son who I’m certain has Aspbergers? While somewhat irrational, it’s worthy of my  concern.

The opinion of people I’ve never really met and whether or not they care about me? Not worth it. So not worth it.

Looking back, I can see these people were not my friends. They are actually the self-proclaimed leaders of something equivalent to a high school clique and everything that goes with it. I’ve never been very fond of cliques and certainly never fit into any. I’m okay with that.

I wish them well. And that is all.

Through a Mirror Darkly

My First Independently Published Book & Why I Wrote It

Through a Mirror Darkly is a short story I wrote under my pen name a couple months ago. I self-published it last month through Amazon. I wrote it originally for an anthology that was published this month. It has been categorized as a horror story, but it’s more than that.

When I think of horror stories, I think of crazy, knife-carrying clowns with fangs chasing a group of horny teenagers at a deserted camp. Through a Mirror Darkly has a paranormal element to it, but it’s also very loosely based on my own experiences with familial and personal depression.

When I wrote it, I didn’t think it would end up being therapeutic for me, but it was. I never had a chance to say goodbye to my mom when she died. I hadn’t seen her in over 35 years. After my parents separated, she tried to kill herself. I was barely seven when I heard her crying out from the other room. To this day, the memory of finding my mom on the floor, begging for help wrenches my heart.

After that, my dad got custody of my brother, sisters, and me. She was eventually released from the hospital and given visitation rights every other weekend. Despite her therapies and medications, she was not emotionally healthy and tried a few more times to take her own life.

Eventually, she stopped coming to pick us up for our weekends. The last time I saw her, I was nine years old. I never really missed her… maybe because her withdrawal from our lives was so gradual. Maybe it was because I was such a daddy’s girl. The only thing I was ever angry about was having to find her the first time she attempted suicide. More than anything, I hated the pity people would express when they found out I didn’t have a mom.

Looking back, I realize I spent my life in the shadow of my mom’s suicide attempts and depression. I was adamant that I would not be like her. I would never be weak like I thought she must have been. When I had my first child, I was even more resolved that I would be nothing like her. And I was a great mom: attentive, patient, happy, ambitious. For the first time, I resented her for leaving her children because I could not understand how anyone could do that.

Then, I had my second child. I knew something was wrong in my last trimester. I grew depressed, anxious, and obsessed about irrational things. I told nobody and figured it would go away after I got to hold my baby in my arms, but it only got worse. He seemed to cry all the time, he was a horrible nurser, and nobody but me could hold him. At the same time, my three year old demanded my attention.

I sank into a dark place. I found myself resenting my baby. I started having anxiety attacks when he would cry. I remember wondering if I could place him for adoption. I was sure someone would be a better parent to him. I didn’t want to admit I was “weak” like my mom. I spent my life being everything she wasn’t. I spent my life not being what she was.

Around this time, Brooke Shields wrote a book about her experience with postpartum depression called Down Came the Rain. I do not know where I would be if that book hadn’t ended up in my hands. As I read about her depression, I realized something: this beautiful, intelligent, talented woman was admitting she needed help overcoming her depression.

I decided that was where I would be different from my mom. I would get help before it was too late. I had to be strong enough to admit that I was weak. I was ashamed and embarrassed, but I did seek help because of my love for my boys. With the help of antidepressants, I became more like the “old” me again. I still struggle with depression and anxiety, and I still take medication for it.

When I found out my mom passed away a couple years ago, I felt I needed to do something to “release” her… to let her know I finally understood her. I needed to let her know that she had my forgiveness.

My goodbyes to her were put on the back burner, however. The same day I learned of her passing, my dad was undergoing surgery. Complications arose and he almost died. From that time on, his health deteriorated. He almost died several times in the months that followed. Emotionally, I couldn’t focus on my mom’s death. My dad had priority. He died five months ago and I miss him terribly. I always thought my first book would be dedicated to him, but as the story, Through a Mirror Darkly, wrote itself, I realized it was a book for my mom. It was my way to say goodbye, to let her go with my forgiveness.

I’ve always found comfort in writing, and this story was no different. It also brought healing. I believe in the afterlife. I believe she needed to know that she is forgiven. I feel I needed to tell her this for her sake and mine. I hope she has finally found peace and wholeness.

If you are interested in the fictional account of my story, you can get it on Amazon. It’s less than a buck and if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free. If you do read it, please leave a review on Amazon. Reviews help independent authors like me. Thank you!51AiuzkwVtL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)

Remembering Dad- Fish Tales

This afternoon I sat at my dad’s bedside, crying as I watched him take last breath. I’m broken-hearted right now and feel like writing about the man who meant the world to me. I’ll start here…

I was the epitome of a “daddy’s girl” growing up. In my eyes, Dad could do nothing wrong. I laughed at his silly jokes when nobody else would, I worried about him, I loved to spend time with him… he was my hero. He was the only one in my young life who didn’t walk out on me.

One of my most favorite things to do with my dad was fishing. He showed me how to cast and how to bait the hook.  Well, he did the worms… I couldn’t bring myself to pierce the cute, little worms with a hook. He assured me the worms couldn’t feel it and that they could breathe under water. I believed him, of course. My dad knew everything.

He showed me how to reel a fish in, but always took the hook out of the fish’s mouth for me since I was too squeamish to do it. Some of my fondest memories in life involve sitting with my dad, fishing pole in hand, eating Red Hots (he always got a box for me when we’d go fishing), and waiting for the fish to bite.

One day in second or third grade, I was about to get on the bus after school to go home, when I saw my dad waving at me from across the street of the school. He had gotten off work early and decided to surprise me by taking me fishing. We had a great time. We rented a boat and went out on the lake. I, of course, had my Red Hots and we fished until the sun started to set. To this day, I don’t know why he chose just me to go with him. I have a brother who is only a year and a half older than me. The only thing I can figure is that he was worried about me. In spite of my dad’s love, my early years were filled with a lot of sadness. Maybe he saw something in me that alerted him to the fact that I needed some one-on-one time with him.

There was only one not-so-great part of that day– for some reason, my dad failed to mention to my sisters that he was going to pick me up from school and take me out on the lake. My three older sisters were semi-responsible for my brother and me when we got home from school. When I failed to get off the bus with the rest of the neighborhood kids, they were in a panic. This was before cell phones so they had no way to contact my dad. I think my stepmother was working that day. I don’t know if they tried to call her. My nearly hysterical sisters were a couple minutes shy of calling the police to report me missing, when my dad and I showed up at the house. I was all smiles, but I remember my dad apologizing profusely for not letting my sisters know.

I still get a chuckle when I think of that day. It obviously meant a lot to me because it is such a vivid memory and I hold it dear. My dad– my childhood hero– created that memory. I love him for this gift.

X is for Xtreme

X

X is for Xtreme

No, I’m not cheating by changing extreme to “Xtreme”.

I saw the word on an ambulance today. See?  Here’s proof:

xtreme care

 

This post isn’t about Xtreme Care Ambulance service– although they do seem to be a decent, caring company. This post is about where I was when I saw this ambulance.

I was at a skilled nursing facility visiting my dad.

My dad is dying. He has been at death’s doorstep many times over the past few years, but he always managed to recover just enough to stay alive. Notice I didn’t use the word “live”. There’s a difference between living and being alive, I see that now.

What makes this time different from all the other times? First of all, they recently changed the type of care he is receiving to palliative and/or hospice. My understanding is they will make him as comfortable as they can while nature takes its course. No extra measures to keep him alive other than the basic needs.

Most of all, I think this time is different because he thinks he’s dying. He seems to have lost his will to fight. He doesn’t have cancer or some other quickly moving, obvious disease. His body just seems to be shutting down on him. He’s only 74 years old, which really isn’t that old these days.

Over the past few years he has had a minor heart attack, a minor stroke, back problems, an unsuccessful back surgery, an aortic aneurysm, an unsuccessful double hip replacement, an incurable infection (VRE) acquired during the hip replacement, and most recently, a rip in his colon which resulted in another infection (the surgeons did not expect him to survive at that time). He was transferred to the VA Hospital from our community hospital, where he was delusional most of the time.

On top of all that, he has been unable to walk or care for himself for nearly five years. That is why he had back surgery and hip replacement surgery– they were trying to get him mobile again.

Now he’s back in the nursing home because the VA Hospital can do nothing for him that a skilled nursing facility can’t do. It hurts to see him the way I saw him today. I have become used to him not being aware of my presence from time to time, but in addition to this lack of awareness he has started calling out, “Help me, help me!” over and over, to nobody in particular.

I can’t help him. I don’t know how to ease his suffering. I can’t make things better for him. I can only watch him and wonder if this is the last time I will see him alive. I can only hope that somehow he knows I came to see him because I love him.

I try not to cry… I don’t like people to see me cry.

My body is still recovering from the surgery I had three days ago, so I couldn’t stay long as the painkillers are still making me somewhat loopy. When I did leave, I put my hand on my dad’s shoulder and said, “Good-bye, Dad.”  In response, he barely opened his eyes in my direction, but I wasn’t sure if he really saw me.

Then I added as I was starting to walk away, “I love you.”

To my surprise, he said, “I love you, too.”

I’m not sure where that came from, but it made me smile.

 

U is for Uterus

U is for Uterus
That’s right– uterus.
Sorry, men. You don’t need to read beyond this point.
That point… up there.
I guess you want to keep reading. Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Anyway, I’m getting mine taken out tomorrow. It has finished its life’s work and now it needs to go. I can’t say I’m going to miss it.

An Uterus Eulogy
So long, uterus you served me well
and then you started to give me hell.
Maybe it’s because you got too old
or were two babies too much to hold?
So, to organ heaven you must go
and make sure you take that monthly flow!
No hard feelings, I wish you the best–
thanks to you, I get three weeks of rest.

S is for Scary Stories

Just when I got caught up with the A-Z Challenge, I got behind again. We went camping for two days and just returned this afternoon, so I’m back to trying to catch up. Anyhow, here we go…

S is for Scary Stories

As mentioned above, we have been camping for the past two days. One of our favorite things to do is tell scary stories around the campfire at night. My two sons and their friend, Maggie, insist I tell them a spooky story every time we go. On our last camping trip I came up with a pretty good one! I know it has to be good because it was very effective in scaring the kids, but not so much they will be traumatized forever. They also request to hear it again and again, so they must really like it.

Here’s a little bit of background for you– we love camping in the mountains not too far from where we live. Palomar Mountain State Park is located in north San Diego County. It’s where my family used to camp when I was very young. It’s now where I bring MY family to camp. I love the place! Palomar Mountain is widely known for its observatory, but the camp grounds and hiking trails are also excellent.

The campground we go to is located near Doane’s Pond, a very small pond that is mostly used for fishing. The story I made up for the kids is called “Catherine, the Ghost of Doane’s Pond”. The gist of the story is that a man named Obadiah was trapped when the gold mine he was excavating on the mountain caved in. His young bride-to-be (Catherine) was so heart-broken, she drowned herself in the pond. Her ghost still wanders the pond and surrounding area today, calling out to her true love, Obadiah. On some nights, you can even hear the trapped miners trying to pick their way out of the hillside as the sound echos through the valley.

The first night I told the story, my younger son insisted we walk the short distance to the pond to see if we could see Catherine. We did, but we didn’t get very far because we heard a loud “snap” off in the trees ahead of us.  He was sure it was the ghost and I was sure it was a mountain lion, so we turned around and ran back to our campsite as quickly as we could go. After we explained why we were out of breath, my older son decided he needed to check it out. So, down we went again– my two sons and me. We didn’t even make it as far as the first time before one of our flashlights started to flicker and turned itself off. At the same time, my younger son swore he saw a white, glowing figure over the pond.

It was hilarious to see two boys (ages 8 & 11 at the time) squealing and running in fear. They were loving it, though! They were positive the flashlight acted up because of Catherine’s electromagnetic field.  It became a legend in their minds and their recounting of our experience got scarier and scarier each time they told it.

This last trip, my boys’ good friend wanted to visit the pond area at night so she could try to see Catherine. She even brought her GoPro to document it. The boys were scared, Maggie was scared, and I was hoping they would get freaked out (yep, I’m that kind of mom). About halfway to the pond area, Maggie’s flashlight started to flicker. The creepy shadows cast by our lantern seemed to grow longer and become more active. Even my phone, which I was using to “document” the kids’ reactions, started to act strange.  The screen saver page wouldn’t flip up to allow access to the camera. It actually got stuck in a strange, broken up pattern I’ve never seen before. Weird coincidence!  I couldn’t have planned it better if I had tried! Even my younger son’s camera supposedly stopped working. Then, Maggie (12) and the boys (now 9 & 12) all said they saw something over the pond. This ended in another frantic, squeal-filled run back to our campsite.  And they loved it!

That same night, as the kids were trying to settle down in the tent, a pounding sound filled the campground.  It was probably someone chopping wood or pounding in a tent stake, but in their minds, it was Obadiah and his fellow miners trying to pick their way out of the hillside.

I will never tell them I made the story up. I’m sure they will figure it out when they get older. For now, I’ll let them enjoy those moments of being just a little afraid. They are bonding experiences and make for great memories.

 

 

G is for Gruesome Goodies

G
G is for Gruesome Goodies
Day Seven of the A-Z April Blogging Challenge

“Gruesome Goodies”? I know, it’s a lame title. Truthfully, I just wanted to show a video I took today of my classroom pet, Frankie. And since the letter of the day is G, I had to make it work somehow.

My students love him. I’m not so sure how he feels about them.  But then, he rarely displays his enthusiasm for anything.

The video shows him eating his favorite treat, meal worms.

Click the link below to see the video on YouTube–

Frankie’s Gruesome Goodies