Harvest Festival

Farm Portrait
Despite the fact that Bear and I are still just barely coming out of our ‘indoor kid’ cocoons, somebody at church thought it would be a great idea to put us in charge of the ward Harvest Festival. The intention was great – shake things up, get us new folks involved – but the logistics of it all proved to be a nightmare. On top of our pretty ludicrously busy lives, Bear has been getting up at 5:30 to teach early morning seminary to the teenagers, I’ve been planning the monthly Relief Society activity, and then we had this Harvest Festival. I’ve been averaging about one weepy breakdown a day. But we did it, our team did it, and it was a huge success.

Pie Eating Contest
When we were first presented with the opportunity to plan this event, we thought we were planning a chili cookoff. Ho Ho Ho Ho were we wrong. This thing is SERIOUS. People treat this Harvest Festival like the event of the year. Everyone had stories of their favorite game or tradition, the year that they ran out of food, the year the kids got into the orchard and picked all the fruit, the year it rained, and everybody had an opinion about what HAD to happen to make it a real Green Valley Ward Harvest Festival. It was all a tad overwhelming.

Chubby Bunny
Complicating the matters was the fact that since we’ve only been in the congregation since April, and have pretty heavy travel schedules and even heavier bouts of illness, we still don’t know many people. We kept hearing, “Oh, soandso knows all about that. You gotta talk to soandso.” And, of course, we’d never met soandso. We were tossed right out of our comfort zone and into the thick of the ward happenings.

Sister Missionaries caught the chicken
By far, the favorite and most eagerly awaited event was the chicken rodeo. We all stood in a circle, shoulder to shoulder, to make an arena, and then a few people at a time were called out into the center to capture a chicken set free to run. It was hilarious, especially watching the littlest kids get into it. No, I take it back. Especially watching the biggest kids get into it. The sister missionaries in particular tucked their skirts up and got down.

Smith Family Chicken Chasers
The big surprise of the chicken rodeo was our dear friends the Smith’s. Their family caught every chicken they went out for. You know those reality shows about people who hunt feral hogs? If feral chickens ever become a problem, I think the Smith family has a new career.

Daddy pulling the wagon
The party was held at the home of one of the ward members, and the property was stunning. There was a barn with a full sized water wheel, a teepee set up for story time, a hay maze with a slide for an exit, and the most incredible view. Bear spent most of the evening running around doing hosting duties, so I dragged Atti in his little orange wagon all over creation. He has gotten really into farm life lately and all he wanted to do was pet the goats, eat popcorn, and watch the chickens in their coop while he said, “Wow! Look!” By the end of the night he was exhausted from too much sugar and excitement and I was exhausted from hiking all over the place dragging a wagon behind me. I needed a pack mule.

Antique Desk
If I had realized what I was getting myself into, I never would have agreed to take it on. And heaven knows I could have done without all the stress. (My house, you guys. It is currently so dirty that I’m not sure it’s safe to live here.) But! There was no getting out of this event without becoming a full on part of the ward. We are the new kids no longer. We had to get over our reticence, make phone calls, hold meetings, ask for help, accept the help, ask for more help, make announcements and jump into the traditions of this area with both feet. We have new friendships forged in the trenches of planning big things, and the gratitude of good people. A few years from now when some other poor sod gets this job they’ll be told about the year the kids picked all the fruit from the orchard, the year they ran out of food, the year it rained, and the year the Edmunds’ thought they were planning a chili cookoff.

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Time for new tactics

WHAT???
This picture doesn’t have much to do with anything, but it cracks me up.

I have been sick for three weeks. Just a stupid run of the mill cold, but it won’t leave me alone. Atti got it and it flattened him, but only for about two days. This brave little kid of mine, the kid who is up and playing the same day he has surgery, the kid who is in pain every day and never says anything about it, asked to stay home from school and snuggle and then coughed and said, “Atti’s so sick.”

So it was a doozy of a cold, but it was just a cold. Atti was down for two days and Bear had it for about a day and a half and then they both resumed their normal activities with a little bit of a stuffy nose and an occasional cough. Meanwhile I cannot get out of bed and am sleeping about 18 hours a day.

This is nothing new. I have a whole life plagued by chronic illness and mysterious symptoms. I’ve run every test, had sympathetic and non-sympathetic doctors, supplements and therapy, and I’m still here flattened by every virus that crosses my path. My last sympathetic doctor, after exhausting his expertise, suggested that I probably had some kind of an auto-immune disorder that we weren’t aware of yet. He said that the field of rheumatology was in its infancy and that ten years ago nobody knew what fibromyalgia was. I think he’s probably right, but it doesn’t do much for me in the meantime.

As a sufferer of both chronic illness and infertility, I am a prime target for everybody’s miracle cure. If I had a nickle for every suggestion I’ve heard about how to change my diet, things to eliminate, things to add, oils to swallow, blah blah blah I might still be suffering but at least I’d be rich. I tend to treat these suggestions with suspicion. In my lifetime eggs and butter went from being viewed as poison to being viewed as the best thing to eat. And if you’re a history buff you’ll read all kinds of crazy things people used to believe. (Every wonder where graham crackers or corn flakes came from?) (Or that people actually used to think that water was fattening. Seriously. Water.) Nobody really knows what works or else they’d be billionaires. I just never had the faith that any diet change would cure me, and never had the energy to devote to it.

But. I’ve been reading a lot about gluten sensitivities and I have every symptom on the list. I have friends with legitimate celiac disease, like, crackers could kill her kind of thing, and so I’ve been annoyed by people adopting it as the latest diet fad when I know people whose lives are significantly endangered by something that the rest of us are all playing at. To me it’s like somebody saying, “Oh my gosh I totally have a sugar sensitivity” when there are actual diabetics in the world.

But hey, jerks exist in every population, so if that’s my only reason for turning my nose up at something, it’s not a very good one. And while having a sugar sensitivity isn’t really a thing, eating a lot of sugar can have detrimental health effects, so why not the same thing with gluten?

So I’ve decided that I’m going to experiment with this whole gluten free thing. But the main way I’m going to do this is by making as much of my food from scratch as I can. I can’t imagine a life without bread if I don’t have to, but if I’m going to have to pay a health price for eating it it better be worth it. No more boxes of cheese-its in lieu of lunch. I’m going to try and eat something fresh and then cash in my gluten points on one of Bear’s cakes instead.

Whether it’s gluten or high fructose corn syrup or some other mystery substance that the bastards at Monsanto are slipping into our food, it doesn’t really matter. Eating from scratch can only be good for me. This is one diet change that I feel can be worth the effort.

You're kidding me!
Apparently I could not believe what my friend was saying.

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Hope in Healing

Brittany's Hope
Brittany wants to dance again. Read the note at the bottom to find out how you can help.

I spent yesterday and today at doctor’s offices, not for Atticus for once, but for me. I tend to get neglected when there are already so many other appointments to make and places to be and there are so few hours available without Atti at my side. I’ll be helping him bathe and toilet for a lot longer than most kids, we’re close enough without him coming with me to the gynecologist.

Moving means finding a new doctor, and switching insurances means learning a whole new set of ropes. I’ve had Kaiser for my whole adult life which is great in that you don’t have to search for people who can help you, but it’s also bad because you can’t search for people who can help you. Kaiser was top notch for Atti’s care and I’d go back without a qualm if it ended up that way, but I had a lot of bad bad years trying to get my own medical needs addressed. Doctor’s who told me that I was crazy, that wouldn’t prescribe me pain medication until I saw a psychiatrist, that performed surgeries incorrectly, that told me to read The Secret. (I also had doctors who saved my life, saved Atti’s life, and gave me the keys to understanding how my mind works, so this is more a bash on bad doctors than Kaiser doctors, but with Kaiser the options are far far fewer.)

Honestly, I’ve pretty much given up hope about ever feeling healthy. On top of the endometriosis there are a couple of other issues that I haven’t written about because they involve my gynecological health and even I have my limits. I will write about the inner workings of my diseased mind, but apparently not the inner workings of my diseased vagina. Except for that sentence right there.

Doctor’s rarely take female pain seriously, they almost never take gynecological pain seriously, and they very very very rarely consider something that lab tests don’t show. I have every single symptom and risk factor for a major auto-immune disease like Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus, but the one test most doctors put all their faith in says I’m good, so the doctors keep treating all the different symptoms and tell me that there’s nothing wrong. After losing my twenties to being bed-ridden and in pain, I figure that I’m just not going to get everything I want and I should be grateful that I at least have the ability to function and a beautiful son. A healthy body and feeling great are just not going to be in the cards for me, and I had resigned myself to that.

Yesterday I went to the doctor for a nagging hip pain. Every time I try to stand up the hip goes out on me in such a sharp pain it takes my breath away. I hunch over and groan my way up from the couch every time I have to move. After a little manipulation, the doctor discovered that it’s not my hip that’s the problem, it’s my ligament. A ligament that is usually only pulled in dancers or gymnasts, and since I am neither of those things and can’t point to a specific injury, say, some time I was playing soccer and took a hit, then it means I injured it during sex. At which point I laughed and laughed and laughed, because, of course.

Since it’s not torn and doesn’t require surgery, there’s nothing to do but baby this hip until it heals. That’s where most doctors would tell me to have a nice day. But this doctor actually kept asking questions. Since I’m not into anything in the bedroom that regularly results in injury, he suspected there were other health issues going on, and kept researching until he came up with a plan. I was honestly shocked. He asked me if I had ever tried medications that every other doctor I’ve ever had flat out refused to prescribe as a matter of course, not because the medications wouldn’t help me but because the doctors didn’t want to deal with the red tape of prescribing tightly regulated drugs. They treated me as if I was an addict looking to score instead of a patient wanting to responsibly use the medication as it was intended to be used. My new doctor automatically extended me the benefit of the doubt.

Giving a medical history is always a scary thing to me. On paper, I am a mess. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bipolar II Disease, Endometriosis. For doctors that spells: Trouble. That says “pain in the neck hypochondriac attention seeker time and energy vampire.” Most doctors want something they know how to fix, not a big mystery of mental health issues and chronic pain. So they look at my medical history and put me in a box in their head labeled “Can’t Be Trusted.” I told my new doctor about my mental health and cringed as he typed it in, waiting for his voice to change to the “speaking slowly and calmly” voice people use around the crazy and the elderly. But he didn’t even slow down. He told me about another patient he treated with OCD and how he recognized it as a truly debilitating disease. He expressed concern with my current medications and how they would affect my BPII and we talked about my love of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. He studied Ayurvedic medicine and is a believer in a mind/body connection, but not in the fanciful “Just read The Secret” way, in the “Mental Health is a significant and real part of Physical Health” way, and so he took all my history in stride, unthreatened.

I left with some bummer news I hadn’t wanted to address, but also, with a strange feeling of hope. I realized how thoroughly I had given up on finding help, but I think I may have actually found some.

**My friend Brittany is another chronic pain sufferer and needs help rediscovering her own sense of hope. After years of battling lyme disease and having it ravage her body, rob her of her health, and defer her dancing dreams, she is finally beginning to experience treatment that works. But she needs your help. BrittanysHope.net**

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Personal Best

I am awesome
Growing up poor has left quite a number of marks on me. My love of thrifting, my make do attitude, the fact that any form of canned beef still makes me gag, and a paralyzing fear of having people know we’re poor. To be specific, my parents weren’t poor, I was. Which really complicated things. I didn’t qualify for any programs like school lunch or other assistance, and I didn’t want people to know that I couldn’t have things just because my parents wouldn’t – not couldn’t – pay for them, so I made up a ton of thin excuses about how unhungry I was, or how the field trip seemed lame, or how I never really wanted to participate in sports.

I still visibly cringe when I think about the time when I was in seventh grade and I missed the Girl’s Ensemble competition. I was in an elite choral group that had worked hard and prepared for a competition, that I knew my parents would neither support nor attend. So I just didn’t show. And then got in ENORMOUS trouble for it. All the other girls were mad at me, they compared notes to find out my excuses contradicted each other and just thought I was a huge liar, the teacher told me how disappointed she was in me, and I ended up leaving the group over the grief I got. But hey, no one knew my parents were neglectful abusers, so…mission accomplished?

When I left home at 16 things really got financially precarious and I was regularly juggling late fees and shut off dates. In college I was used to having $5 in my bank account and feeling flush. The rest of the time I was walking down to the bank and begging them to reverse bounced check charges so I had a prayer of digging myself out of the hole I’d made.

Things haven’t been that bad in a really long time. As married adults we’ve always lived paycheck to paycheck, but the paychecks actually meet, which to me feels like total luxury. Bear has a harder time with it. He doesn’t know how to be poor, so just the fact that there is a finite amount of money stresses him out. Poor thing. Abundance crippled him.

Still, after all those years of being poor, and the shame associated with why, I have a residual fear that I can’t seem to shake. Every time I use my card I find myself holding my breath and waiting to see if it gets accepted. It doesn’t matter how much is in the account or how close it is to payday, whenever I’m standing at a register, I’m saying a little prayer.

Nobody feels good when their card gets declined, it’s on nobody’s list of things that happen on a good day, but it crosses over into the irrational for me. I’ve worked retail. I know people’s cards get declined constantly, for a million different reasons, only one of which has anything to do with how much money is in the account. Still, even when the reader isn’t working and I just have to swipe my card a second time, the shame of my childhood comes flooding back to me and I want to turn into vapor and waft out the door.

This week I was shopping for outdoor cushions, trying to get an end of season deal, so I went to WalMart.com. But my card wouldn’t work. It told me to go into the store, so I assumed the problem was on their end. I went into the store to try and pay for my online purchase, which none of the cashiers seemed to know how to do. After waiting in line and calling the manager over to ring it up, my debit card is declined. I try to use it as credit. Still declined. We’ve been trying to get rid of our credit card debt so that card that has been declined is the only form of payment I have on me. I have to wait there, holding up the line full of people staring daggers into my back, waiting for the manager to come back and void it so that it doesn’t mess up my order.

I call my bank to find out what happened and it turned that a local grocery store had a database breach. So they warned my bank and they were keeping an eye on the card. From there all it took was an attempt at a purchase on WalMart.com for them to flag the fraud alert.

We got everything straightened out, I waited in line again, the manager had to come over again, my card actually went through, and everything seemed OK. The nice lady at the bank said that she’d send new cards out just to be safe and apologized for the inconvenience, and despite my desperate wishes, I was not struck dead.

Then yesterday I went to my favorite thrift store for their 50% off everything holiday sale. I had an epic haul that probably outdid even my own record for thrifting. For $120 I got a couch, a vase, two pieces of carnival glass, an afghan, five sweaters, fabric, two wooden chairs, and NINE upholstered dining room chairs. Four of those chairs came out to $1.25 a piece. A DOLLAR AND A QUARTER FOR A CHAIR!! WHAT IS BIGGER THAN ALL CAPS BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT I NEED RIGHT NOW!

I wait in line forever with all the rest of the holiday bargain hunters, have her go through the complicated process of ringing up all that furniture, chit chat with my friend who came with me, and then my card gets declined again.

They had canceled the cards without sending any new ones.

My friend had to buy my $1.25 chairs and then I had to write her a check to pay her back. Because I couldn’t even use an ATM.

In one week my card was not only declined, not only declined twice, but declined at Wal-Mart and at a thrift store.

And then I died.

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Coping with the darkness

Duvet Day

My new friend Lillian left an amazing comment, and as part of that she asked: “When you are in your dark place how do you force yourself to even get out of bed?”

Today just happens to be one of those days. I feel the darkness hovering and today is the day when I have to drop everything and deal with this before it gets worse. So that’s step 1: Pay attention and try to head it off before it gets dangerous.

Step 2: Tell someone. Bear has always been super supportive of me, but he didn’t get how this disease worked for a long time. We’ve been working on educating him and me learning to speak my needs and it’s paid off for us. This morning all I had to say was “I’m feeling the darkness around the edges,” and he knew what that meant. He made plans to get home from work as soon as he could, he’s planning to make dinner, and this evening he’ll be working on cleaning the house, since chaos in my environment is always a big trigger for me. I’ll also be reaching out to my network of friends who can just remind me that there is love and friendship in this world.

Step 3: Make sure I’m up on my medications. Medicating is really hard, particularly for people who deal with depression. I really try to be rigorous with myself but if I’ve gotten lazy or lost track, I have to address it. I also have some medication I can use when I’m sliding into one or the other of my poles, so I’ll use that.

Step 4: Decide what the bare minimum is that I need to do today. When I’m depressed then even fixing lunch seems insurmountable. If I hold myself up to my usual standards than the weight of it all will bury me. Some days the bare minimum is to just make it to the end of the day. Today I’ve decided that I can get Atti to and from school, and keep us both fed and safe. And maybe, after I’ve rested I’ll take a shower. And for extra bonus points I might even color my hair. Every single other thing will just have to wait.

Step 5: Self-care. When I have a cold, I love to eat popsicles and drink hot tea. They make my throat feel better and clear out my sinuses. When I am depressed, I do puzzles. I cross stitch. I watch British comedy. They make my brain feel better. The stigma around mental illness is so enormous that most of us have internalized it. I’ve found that my answer to that is to pathologize it. Treat it like the disease that it is in every way. When I have a cold I feel no shame about staying in bed and drinking tea. So today I will shake off the shame, stay in bed, and laugh at British sitcoms until I feel better.

If you are struggling, know that you are not alone. Take care of yourselves, friends.

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The Aftermath

The end of a road trip

I’m still recovering.

I did it. But I’m still recovering.

Last week I drove east in search of friendship, just me and my little guy with a car jam packed with everything necessary to make him mobile in the wilderness. I found it, and I found a new piece of myself and it was incredible. But that’s a story for later this week. You all know that I never try to pretend things are better or rosier than they are, and while the camping trip was successful, it was also HARD.

A nine hour drive by myself with Atti, a night staying up too late gabbing with friends and sleeping on the floor amongst a pile of toddlers, two nights in the woods, another night on the floor, a nine hour drive back, hosting house guests, picking tomatoes, throwing a party for my guest, and now canning all those tomatoes I picked. I may never get enough sleep again.

My dear friend Jerilyn and her five year old daughter, who were also at the camping gettogether, live in Oregon. So they hitched a ride back from Utah with me and I made them stay at my house for the rest of the week as payment. As we drove West over the salt flats (which are not snow nor glitter as she tried to get me to believe) we told our whole life stories to each other, tag teamed parenting duties, tweeted whenever our phones had bars, and kept each other company on the end of our ropes. A week of parenting on your own, away from home, all the things your kids are particular about, and any structure, is a challenge. And by the time we were driving home we were over it.

By 7 o’clock we were in Reno, two hours away from home and ready for a dinner break. After a week of camp food and fast food hamburgers, we got the brilliant idea to find a little restaurant where we could sit down and have a nice meal, the kids could stretch their legs, and we could take our time over food we actually enjoyed eating. Half an hour later after both google and yelp let us down, we pulled in to a round table pizza. With his wheelchair buried under luggage, I left Jerilyn to order for us as I carried Atti into the bathroom for a diaper change.

Of course there was no changing table. Of course not. So as only the end of a vacation will do to you, I abandoned all sense of hygiene and set Atti down on the floor of the bathroom while I used the facilities. But now that he is so much more mobile he wouldn’t just sit in the corner, he had to crawl away. On his hands and knees. On the bathroom floor of a Reno Round Table Pizza. He found his way to the drain and stuck his fingers inside, an ant crawling out, up his arm, and on to his face.

I washed us up as best I could and went out to our table where Jerilyn informed me that they were all out of everything we wanted, so she had to get creative with our order. And then we waited. And waited. And waited. An hour later our pizza finally came.

Our spirits broken and giddy with exhaustion, everything was hilarious. After the bathroom floor nothing scared me so when Atti crawled down off the bench and laid down on the carpet, I didn’t stop him. Jerilyn loves to tease me about my “brand” – Reese Dixon the domestic goddess – so she was laughing and laughing at Reese Dixon (TM) letting her son play on the dirty floor, when all her pizza toppings fall down her shirt and her 5 yr old asked, “Why are you laughing? Because you have food stuck in your boob?”

Just when we collected ourselves a kid who worked at Round Table came over. He couldn’t have been older than 17. He saw Atti, who was falling asleep by this time, old pizza crumbs stuck to his face, and said, “You might want to move him to a bench. That floor is filthy.”

We laughed right in the poor kids face.

Yes, I hit my domesticity rock bottom. My dirty child and dirty self ate pizza we didn’t want, after waiting too long, and I let him fall asleep on the floor. Of a Reno Round Table Pizza. With a floor so dirty even a 17 year old boy was disgusted.

But we went camping. So. It was worth it.

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Making a good first impression

Atticus is cute

California will forever hold my heart for what it offers to my son, but it doesn’t come easy. Moving to a new county means another bout with red tape hell. And moving in the summer means embarking on red tape hell in and around everyone’s vacations. It’s a challenge, but we’re making progress.

I had made an appointment with his Regional Center Service Coordinator for last Monday. This is basically the state agency that puts you in contact with all the other state agencies, and gets a whole lot of pieces moving for you. There are SO MANY moving pieces. From who provides therapy, to where we get Atti’s equipment, to seeing doctors and dentists, to which school he goes to, to paying for all of it, it’s kind of a big deal. And after making the appointment, I promptly forgot all about it.

Luckily most of these appointments occur at your house. They know that travel can be difficult for kids with disabilities, and most kids do better in their own environment, so I didn’t miss the meeting. It just started while I was standing in my bedroom braless while Atti was playing naked on the floor.

I heard the doorbell ring, tossed on a bra and caught our service coordinator as she was walking back to her car. She was kind and understanding and came in to make herself comfortable while I went to fetch Atticus, who had taken off his diaper, peed all over the floor, and then somehow gotten to the drink on my bedside table and poured that all over the place too. I was shouting apologies from the bedroom as I raced to clean things up, put Atti in a new diaper, figure that our service coordinator was already seeing me in my pajamas so she might as well just meet Atti wearing only his diaper, and as I brought him out to the living room I noticed there was blood all over his arm.

The night before I had been working on reupholstering some chairs and while removing some staples I stabbed my thumb with a screwdriver. It went right into the nailbed. It’s gross. And in my rush to clean Atti up and get him out to the meeting, I had apparently opened that wound. It was bleeding so profusely the service coordinator honestly thought we should cancel the meeting and just go to the emergency room.

I brushed her off with a now crazed laugh, tied a bandaid so tight around my thumb that it was more like a tourniquet, and tackled Atti with wet wipes to get all the blood I had smeared on him. The poor kid looked like he had seen things.

She was a pretty remarkable sport and we got down to business while I was quietly dying inside. I explained that since I was a blogger, no bad day was wasted and I now had my blog post for the day. I tried to pull up my site to show her what I was talking about, and then discovered that my internet was dead. Of course.

But honestly, as mortifying as that day was, it’s also an example of one of my silver linings in parenting a child with a disability. When I feel like I am at my highest level of fail, I have a team of professionals around me to put a hand on my knee, look me deeply in the eye and say with a profundity that speaks volumes, “I’ve seen worse.”

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Project Put Together has a long way to go.

I was setting the camera up on my tripod to make a video home tour of the new place, when one of the legs collapsed and the camera landed lens first on the floor. I held my breath while I checked the damage, but when I tried to take a picture the autofocus just made a sad little gasping sound. Luckily here in Sacramento is one of the best camera repair shops in the country, so repair is only going to take me another week instead of another month as I ship things around the nation, but it still means I’m camera-less for a little longer. So all my projects for the blog are halted.

This is only the latest in a string of my ridiculous clutzy mishaps. As I’ve been unpacking and fixing up little projects I have dropped things on my feet, ripped open cuticles, bashed wall corners, and covered myself in mysterious bruises.

I have had some crazy great thrifting and Craigslist luck lately, which I’ll happily show you as soon as I have a camera at my disposal, but one table needed a little support. So while we were out running errands I had Bear swing through Home Depot so I could pick up some metal braces and screws. I left the house without my purse as I usually do when he’s with me, so he gave me 20$ in cash, which I couldn’t imagine wouldn’t be enough for a couple of screws.

But it turned out to not be enough. Which I only discovered as I was in the self-checkout with all my stuff wrung up and a line behind me. I was 27 cents short. I’ve always been bad at calculating sales tax.

Being short at the register is one of my big fears. One of those irrational things that we all have that carry way more embarrassment for you than is strictly necessary. So as I begin quietly dying, my face burning red and looking about for a solution, a nearby checker sees my distress and pulls two quarters out of her apron pocket. I melt in gratitude and shuffle out of there as quickly as I can, my hands white knuckled around the screws and braces and receipt that I’m juggling because I don’t want to use a plastic bag. I, reliably, left the reusable bags in the car, so in penance I’m carrying my purchases tucked under arms and balanced between fingers.

And then I realize that no where in this pile is my phone. I roll my eyes and stomp my foot like an exasperated toddler, and then go back inside to search for my phone, and just as I get to the register I use, I see a family with a couple of teenagers leave. I immediately worry that one of the teenagers has found my phone and will keep it for themselves, so I frantically search around for it. The checker in charge of the self-checkout lanes comes over to help me out. He’s feeling plastic bags, he’s down on the floor looking under the register, and finally he offers to call it. And then my butt starts ringing.

I hardly ever wear pants with back pockets, but I did that day. And apparently I had put my phone there.

I slunk out of the store and got back to the car, Bear completely confused by my distress and what was taking so long, and even more confused when I opened the door, flung down my stuff and just shouted at him to give me a dollar. Which I ran back inside and left on the kind money loaning cashier’s station, and then ran back out while trying to avoid eye contact with everyone.

I am always surprised when people describe me as someone who’s got their stuff together. And yet it actually happens with regularity. These people must not read my blog.

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Callin It

Creative Mess

I have three more days of solo parenting, and in that time I have to prepare an hour and a half presentation for a women’s retreat I leave for on Friday. I not only missed teacher’s appreciation day, but I also missed the last day of school deadline for the presents I had in mind. Atti’s teachers have had him for nearly three years. They deserved quilts, but those are all still lying in pieces all over my living room as Atti crawls over them singing and pretending he’s a little baby that needs to be wrapped up in a blankie. I ran around town Friday morning scrambling for a plan B and came up with cheesecake cupcakes and gerber daisies.

The movers get here on Thursday, we move in to the new place a week from Monday, and then I can begin letting out the breath I’ve been holding for the last two months. We’ll still have to deal with all the red tape of getting Atti’s services started up in a new county, finding new doctors and a new school, and of course all the details that you never think about except when you have to move, but at least we’ll all be together again. The new house has a big bathtub and I plan on using it. I might even wait until the movers are done.

I’ll see you all on the other side of this move. I love you all for your patience and support. There’s light at the end of my tunnel.

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No words.

Reunited
I’ve been trying to write this post for three days and I still find myself sitting here with my mouth open and the words stuck in my throat.

Sunday night was the big Listen To Your Mother show and it was magic and empowering and has changed everything for me in so many ways. But I can’t even begin to process it because something else happened Sunday night that has me kind of reeling. And emotional. And giddily happy. And then scared silly. And then weeping with joy.

My youngest sister Dee flew in to watch me perform. She didn’t tell me, we hadn’t even talked on the phone in ages, and she wasn’t even sure if she was going to surprise me at all or just leave after the show – she was that unsure of what to expect from me. That last time I saw this woman she was ten years old. She got married nearly a year ago and I wasn’t there. I wanted to be. Desperately. But I knew that fractured family relationships would bring disaster on a day that she deserved to have for herself. So I put my dreams for her back in the spot in my heart where they’ve been locked for all these years. Hoping that a day would come when we could be together without the web of family dynamics.

love
She called my name as I was walking across the theater lobby and I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. She was crying, I was crying, my friend Sarah was snapping pictures while crying. I immediately made her and her husband Chris come back to my house where we stayed up until 4 am talking and crying and eating and then after a little more time on Monday they were back on a plane and I’ve been walking around in a stupor ever since.

When I ended my relationship with my parents, it was the wisest and hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it carried heartbreaking consequences for my relationships with my siblings. I have two sisters I don’t talk to, both for different variations of the same problem – repeating destructive patterns in our relationships that were set up for us by our parents. I wish nothing but every life’s happiness for them, but I am unconvinced that that includes each other. We all see our upbringings very differently and after years of sad experience I don’t think it’s possible for me to have a relationship with a sibling that denies my truth. I am rarely upfront about the pain I feel, I usually mask it under black humor and defiance, but this discovery was made at a cost so dear I didn’t think I could bear it. Some days I still don’t. I have to be careful what movies I watch or music I listen to because anything that reminds me of my siblings will send me into the dark place for weeks. This also means that I have kept the two siblings I do talk to at a distance. I am the only one who doesn’t have a relationship with my parents and after years of heartbreak so intense there are no words for it, I am wary and scared that all the hard work of healing I’ve done will be undone by getting too close to people who don’t see what I see. Not that I expect everyone to accept my way or no way, it’s just that for the sake of my emotional health I at least need people to let me have my own experience and not rewrite it into what they need.

Dee and Atti

Dee called me out on some of the ways I haven’t tried enough with her. And she was right. Because it is so so much harder to have hope than to just close the door and lock it. And she wasn’t quite right, because for most of her life she was too young to deal with this stuff. She was dependent on my parents and siblings and my own stuff would have been completely inappropriate to dump on her. Plus, I desperately wanted to believe she would never need to. That somehow it would have all magically gone over her head and I could pay the sacrifice of giving her up to keep her from ever feeling it. But I see now that I wasn’t giving her enough credit. She’s 24 now, not the 10 year old still living in my heart.

I think the thing that was the most┬ásurprising┬áto me in all of this was her reaction to me. She was so happy and so emotional and something as simple as me inviting her back to my house meant so much to her, it all made me realize I had no comprehension of what I meant to her. I’ve seen myself from afar, loving that little girl I helped raise like she was my own, tortured by the loss of her in my life, and I never once considered that she felt that way about me. I was going off of the experiences I’d had with my other siblings and I never suspected that she would miss me like I have missed her. And I don’t think she had any comprehension of how much I did. By climbing on that airplane she was taking a big vulnerable leap into the unknown and hoping that she wouldn’t be rejected. At first I was shocked she would feel that way, and then I thought, of course she did. Why don’t I pick up the phone to call her? For the same reason. Only I let it stop me.

When you see these feel good stories of friends and families reunited, they always stop at the hug. And there’s a reason for that. What comes next is pretty terrifying. We both have a lot of work ahead of us to forge a relationship that is free from the reins of family dynamics and is one that serves us both. We have a lot of time to make up for and a lot of assumptions to unlearn. But I feel so hopeful this time around. Any of the other times I’ve been here I haven’t felt matched. It always felt great, but dangerously one-sided, and sure enough, it was only a matter of time before the patched plaster cracked and the fractures returned. This time, I think it might actually stick.

 

 

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