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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was." ~Abraham Lincoln

Yesterday as I was driving through our white and drifted snow, I had a sudden urge to get a Christmas tree. This hasn't happened for a couple of years. I've been so tired, the thought of putting it up and decorating it just seemed overwhelming. But this year I want one.

There was a period of time--a long one--when I desperately needed to talk with people every day. If it didn't happen, I was in trouble, emotionally. I drew on their strength and love and it would sustain me for a few more hours. I feel helpless and guilty as I write this--but it's true. I could not make it on my own. Therapist believes I suffered some postpartum depression, but as is my habit, I ignored it and immersed myself in work which is what led to the suicidal feelings I was battling a year ago (Has it been so long? It still feels like yesterday). And so I created for myself, mentally and emotionally, safety nets made of loving arms, encouraging words, and interactions with people who care about me.

Today I'm enjoying alone time once again. This doesn't mean I don't want to talk with people--I do. My day is brighter and I'm happier when I connect with loved ones in person and online. It does mean that if it doesn't happen, I'll be okay. The need is gone. There is an odd sense of loss as I recognize that I'm letting go of some beautiful moments most adults rarely experience, mixed with a knowledge that I'm somehow setting myself free--and that freedom extends to those who cared for me. I am finally confident that PTSD will not last forever, and while I don't like it, it doesn't seem to stop my progress. The child inside, the one I ignored for so long, the one who frightened me with her needs, pain, and loneliness, is growing up.

I'm finding myself dreaming about my future, thinking of the endless possibilities, happy to spend time with family and friends, planning beyond the day at hand. And for the first time in at least three years, I'm looking forward to Christmas.

Which reminds me--the Christmas Carol giveaway starts tomorrow. Of course, I'll let latecomers opt in, but if you want to receive all 25 of my hand-picked carols, contact me with your email address before tomorrow morning.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Two Things

First: A couple of people have asked what the Christmas Carol giveaway is, and I've taken compassion on them and not referenced last year's Christmas posts, mostly because I think I deleted them along with a bunch of other posts. So, briefly, this is when I email you a Christmas Carol every day until Christmas. And no, I don't know if this is legal, but most of the carols I'm sending are public domain, I think. But just in case they're not, don't sell them or do anything like unto it.

Naturally, if you're opting in I'll need you're email address. If you leave me a comment that links back to your blog, I'll use whatever email address is listed there, so if you want it sent to a different address, you'll have to let me know either by listing that address in my comments, or emailing me (and I send it all bcc, just in case someone wants to keep their address private).

I try to send less well-known versions of carols and am toying with the idea of including one or two trash-with-flash piano recordings I did a couple of years ago (apologies to anyone who already has a CD of those--I'm duplicating).

Anyway, let me know if you're in--the list has begun. If you're interested, I'd love to add you.

Second: New milestone passed and it's an odd one. I passed through a rather horrible bout of PTSD symptoms last week. What I'm beginning to realize is that when those happen now, they're usually followed by some sort of therapeutic breakthrough. I'd love to say this always brings joy and relief. Unfortunately, this is not the case, but progress is progress even when it's painful.

Following the most recent recession of symptoms, I recognized a number of things:
1. During the PTSD episode I was agonizing over my inability to express/confide/discuss things of personal emotional importance with people closest to me. After the episode I found myself no longer stressed about it. The truth of the matter is, most people aren't interested anyway--even those those who are closest to us. They listen because they love us, but that's pretty much the only reason. There was a part of me dying to share the things of my heart. I realize now that there's really no point to that. I'd be speaking simply to fulfill my own desires, not because the person wished to have the knowledge I imparted--and that's not sharing, it's just talking. I'm not sure, exactly, what this means nor where it will lead, but at least I'm not trying to force my inane trivia on anyone anymore and that is a very good thing.

2. I'm no longer afraid of what, three weeks ago, I would have deemed the negative aspects of friendships. I'm recognizing the wisdom in allowing people to go away and return--how long the absences are and how frequent the returns are up to the people involved and based on how busy their personal lives are. I've always known it was impractical and unfair of me to wish for people to remain in my life indefinitely. Knowing this has not made my understanding of that friendship dynamic any stronger. Following a number of thoughts and experiences last week (during the PTSD time), I'm recognizing that my ideals are not sound nor healthy and I need to allow natural developments in my friendships without agony, anger, or rancor. It's something to work on, and I will. The important thing is that now, finally, I can consider doing so without wanting to rant or scream or run away from it all. This is progress, maybe.

3. While I'm continuing to move forward, emotionally, and complete therapy tasks, I'm also continuing to fail physically. My fatigue level is not improving and I've reverted to a number of negative ways to cope with stress. Today, as a result of clenching and grinding, I managed to break a tooth. This bring the tally to: three cracked teeth, one broken, and several small cavities. In addition, I find myself sometimes going a couple of days without remembering to eat, and I've started sleepwalking again (thank you, Darrin, for bringing this to my attention even though I'd really rather not know). My anxiety about being in crowds and touching people is escalating, and I'm finding myself nauseated to the point of vomiting when stress becomes unmanageable. On the bright side--no flashbacks, still, but something (or maybe more than one thing) is obviously causing me some distress and Therapist let me know about ten days ago, that he's tentatively planning to leave for vacation on the day I scheduled my appointment with him.

4. I will be all right. Finally, this assurance is back. Sometimes I say it simply to make sure I still believe it, and often when I say it I'm really wishing someone could rescue me so I don't have to do this by myself (whatever "this" may be), but I know that's not possible, and in the moment I'm just feeling inadequate and lonely. It's good, though, even when the certainty is small, that I'm finally feeling that I can make it through whatever is happening now and whatever might develop in the future.

There is some lingering depression, which I believe is understandable. Some of it stems from disappointment that my outcome is not going to be what I wished. Some of it is a result of fatigue. I'm keeping an eye on it and should it become unmanageable, I'll talk to my doctor about steps I can take to find relief. Until that time I'm remembering that people often feel sadness, it's a part of life, and I am no different from anyone else.

And now I'm hoping that I can have a tiny vacation from PTSD for awhile. I know that's not how it works. I'm hoping for it anyway.

Will the real superhero please stand?

It's after midnight. There is no reason for me to be up this late. But it's quiet and I'm thinking...

My sister, Lila, called me tonight. It's Sunday morning in Armenia. Darrin, the kids, and I have been talking about her, missing her--which is appropriate anytime, but especially during holidays when families often gather.


Lila is my opposite. She's six feet tall, blue eyed and blond. Her bone structure is large and she's beautiful and strong. The only things we share, genetically, are crazy curly hair (which I straighten and she does not), a love and gift for music, IQ level, voice quality (especially the sound of our laughter), and our sense of humor (which isn't genetic, I know, but still--we share it).

Shortly after I miscarried last year, Lila announced she was pregnant. I didn't want to hear about it.

Lila and I have both had difficulty conceiving, however once Lila's babies were growing, they didn't want to be born. Mine have tried to get a look at the world beginning with week 22.

My children were small, as premature babies are. DJ has grown the largest in breadth, but Adam matches him in height. I've been happy that in spite of their short parents, both boys are above 5-foot-10. Tabitha will be lucky to hit my amazing height of 62 inches.

Lila's children are giants. Her three-year-old son is fifty pounds and he's 42 inches tall. He's as large as the average first-grader. My eleven-year-old niece towers over me, and her eight-year-old sister looks me in the eye.

Lila has spent her married life living in different countries as she went with her husband wherever he was stationed. He's worked in counter-intelligence for the military for fifteen years, but no one's really certain what he does. They've lived in different places throughout Europe and Asia and my brother-in-law spent long periods of time in Iraq and Afghanistan. There have been times when Lila, herself, has not known where he was stationed, nor was she allowed to contact him.

Lila has weathered all this with courage and grace while she took care of their children and wondered if/when she would see her husband again. She's sort of my hero.

When they received the assignment to go to Armenia, Lila thought this would be just another adventure for their family. Then my brother-in-law was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and Lila got pregnant. Thyroid cancer is curable and most who get it survive. However, the treatment for the cancer is intense and difficult, and regaining strength afterward takes a very long time. Add to this the burden of moving with a small family, including a new baby, to a country which doesn't even share the same alphabet.

Lila is tired and lonely.

And she called me tonight to tell me that when she feels tired and lonely, or her kids are misbehaving, or she fights with her husband, or money is tight...she thinks of me, and wonders what I would do in that situation, and this is what she told me:

"I love your relationships with Darrin, and how you parent your kids, and how--no matter what happens--you're still happy and people love to be with you. I want to be like that."

How about that. I might be a hero to my hero. Maybe we both have Wonder Woman boots.

Friday, November 26, 2010

My house is haunted

I am not a collector.

However, I do collect music boxes. I've always been fascinated by them. I have several unusual ones, all tucked out of sight because when Adam was small there was nothing visible that was safe from him. He managed to break the blown glass piano that was on the top of one of my music boxes, at which point everything breakable disappeared.

I've kept out four music boxes. They're largely unbreakable, and they joined my collection when Adam was old enough to stop breaking things (which doesn't mean he actually did stop). The music box parts are in the lids of  decorative, circular tins which originally held ginger cookies, and they play Christmas carols. I've left them out because my nephews (more destructive than Adam was) can play with them without destroying them. 

I've had those music boxes for more than ten years now. My nephews no longer find them novel, and they've lain silent on my shelves for the past two years.

Today, however, I sat alone at my computer. The kids and Darrin had gone shopping, or visiting, or whatever else, while I worked for a few hours. The silence was suddenly broken by a tinkling Christmas Carol. My first thought was that someone had left the CD player on pause, and something had jolted it back on. Then I recognized the tune of the red tin. It played for about twenty seconds, then stopped.

I have no idea what caused the music box to sing on its own but if, indeed, it was the work of a ghost, he or she is welcome. This specter has very good taste. I believe we would like each other. 

Oh--and speaking of Christmas Carols, if you want to get in on this year's giveaway, be sure to let me know in an email or a comment. I'll be sending out one a day from December 1st, through the 25th. I'm not promising I won't duplicate any from last year, and you can count on at least one bagpipe serenade because that still makes me laugh. Let me know if you're in...maybe I'll let the ghost choose the first one.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Adam is unusual (to say the least).

This year he decided he and DJ would be cooking the turkey for dinner. They've done this exactly zero times--and watched me do it equally often. However, they've been perusing television specials about cooking turkey, and Adam is confident about pretty much everything he does...and DJ is a very good sport.

So DJ bought a cooking bag and a foil roasting pan,and made Adam read the box directions. My parents, misguidedly, believe I've trained my boys to be fabulous cooks, so they surrendered the 25 pound turkey meant for our dinner. Adam planned to cook it yesterday (a little bit excited about all this). I talked him into waiting till this morning.

So DJ picked up Adam this morning at 9:00, and they've been working at DJ's apartment. Adam appeared briefly to rifle through my drawers for a baster and thermometer (which they do not need), then disappeared out the door yelling, "See you at Grandpa's! Love you!", so I think they must be having a wonderful time.

Darrin is worried the turkey will be inedible. I'm not concerned--I never eat it anyway.'s almost noon. Maybe I'll roust Tabitha out of bed and go for a run. Darrin says he has the sweet potatoes under control. This could be a very nice day.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Anonymous Exhibitionist

The Great -L- named me that back in the days when he was being a super hero and when he actually talked with me. At the time I was, momentarily, affronted, but after thinking it over I realized he was correct. I was anonymous. I was airing my personal, deep feelings and discussing experiences I had tried desperately to forget. I talked of my family and my daily life, and threw in snippets of music, comics, poetry, mixed together with infrequent posts about other bloggers, religious philosophies, and research projects. "Anonymous Exhibitionist" was an apt description.

I am, however, no longer anonymous. Many people know me. What I'm finding is that there is safety in anonymity. I can post what I wish without feeling defensive or protective because no one can read what I write and weigh it against the person they know. It's very possible that this is a PTSD by-product, but each time some key player in my life mentions they've read my blog, I find I'm bracing myself for...something? Certain that whatever comes next will be unpleasant.

This doesn't happen with people like Jason, mostly because we established our current relationship based on discussions of my blog. I may have challenged him to read it in our first conversations, or even sent him selected entries because I had a reason for talking with him that actually had nothing to do with me, personally. To my surprise, he not only read the entries I sent, he went back and read my entire blog. At the time it was relatively small, nothing compared to the monstrosity it is today. Still, I was impressed that he would be interested enough to follow up. Jason has continued to read for nearly five years now. He's open about reading it (or not, when he gets busy). We can be chatting online and he'll say, "Wait--did you blog about this? Give me a second, I'm going to go read." And then he does and then we talk some more. It's an established rhythm and routine.

Other people, though...

Sometimes I'll be talking with a friend and he or she will mention something they've read in my blog and I feel suddenly guilty--like maybe I should have brought it up first, or there's some underlying sin in discussing my personal life with strangers online but not talking about it with people who really know and care about me. Or I might find myself feeling exposed--defenseless--as though I laid myself bare in a place I thought was sheltered and safe, and was discovered by someone who knows who I am.

I don't know why this is happening; and it's fairly new. I first became aware of this reaction in July. And it's silly. Nothing I put in my blog is secret. Most of it I would discuss with people I love anyway--and if I don't, it's because I feel it's not important, just something I felt like writing at the time.

It's making me crazy. I feel fine for a little while, then this nasty little "thing" crops up and I find myself awash in the unnecessary aftermath of all those stupid feelings. And then I do and say irrational things. I even told Tolkien Boy recently that I wasn't prepared to discuss personal things, like what I write in my blog, with him.

Not prepared to discuss personal things??? with Tolkien Boy???

This is the person who escorted me to lunch with the man who raped me and took care of me afterward. I have laughed with him, cried with him, and slept on his shoulder. He's been present when I've had flashbacks, visited me in my home, and eaten countless meals with me. I stayed with him for a few days this year in his home, and we've talked about nearly everything under the sun from trivia like the current weather, to deeply intimate thoughts and beliefs. I know his parents and siblings. We talk nearly every day...

And I can't discuss my blog with him?

There was a time when I had one or two private blogs. Tolkien Boy was one who was invited to read.

I don't know what is happening to me. I'm losing my mind. I have this certainty that I cannot discuss anything deeply important to me with anyone anymore because there is no way they can care about the things I care about--and it is wrong of me to wish for it. I cannot ask people to feel the same way I do. It's wrong.

But I do wish for it. I long to talk about the tiny, trivial things that make my heart beat a little more strongly, and cause me to have hope or excitement. And then I slam the lid back down, remind myself that I'm not allowed to want people to care--and they won't--and if I tell people who don't care I'll be hurt and aggravated, both with them (for not caring) and with me (for wanting them to). But the result is the same--I'm frustrated because I'm staying silent as I believe I should, and angry because every once in awhile I forget and start talking about those terribly important (to me) things, and then, midstream, I remember and I become all sorts of upset because I don't know what to do next.

AAAAAUUUUGGGHHH!!! I make no sense at all.

But the really difficult thing, for me, right now is that this--whatever it is--is causing some deep, overwhelming depression and I don't know why, nor do I know what to do about it. I'm acting like an idiot--I know this--but cannot come up with an alternative.

Maybe this is what happens in close friendships if one does not drift away...maybe it causes insanity...or blindness...wait...that could be something


Adam went with my parents to Utah last weekend. Friday night, Darrin and I took Tabitha out to dinner, then Tabitha and I went to a video store and I let her choose whatever she wanted to watch. She chose Beezus and Ramona, because Adam wasn't around to make fun of her. We spent the evening relaxing and watching her movie.

Adam popped online during the evening. He has difficulty with change and this is the first time he's gone on a trip without a sibling or parent. I chatted with him for a little while, then told him to go talk with his aunt and spend time with his cousins (he stayed with my sister). He laughed and disappeared.

Saturday Tabitha got up early--unusual for her. She did her chores (again, unusual) and showered. Darrin took her shopping--they were gone three hours. When they got home, Tabitha sat next to me while I worked for a few minutes, then said, "Don't tell Adam, but I miss him." Adam had said something similar to me the night before. I promised.

DJ joined us for dinner that night and we played games. Tabitha won (really unusual).

Last night I made a new friend. It's possible I'm in love with him, and while I understand that's meaningless (given the fact that I fall in love frequently and with many people), it still makes me smile a little.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A list

I love reading children's books.

Sometimes I dance in my kitchen.

There are days when I go to work wearing my pajamas.

I sing when no one else is around.

I love pink grapefruit--the taste, the smell--all of it.

I go barefoot even when I'm freezing to death and I've been known to drive my kids to seminary wearing flipflops when there's a foot of snow outside.

I have a recording of Tolkien Boy singing in Italian (and he has no idea what he's singing). Sometimes I listen to it when I'm running.

I keep a box of the craft items made by my kids at various stages of their lives. I have no idea what to do with it.

I write terrible poetry. I think I've perfected the art.

I love really old movies.

I rarely think jokes are funny, but I laugh a lot.

Sometimes I don't do my hair after I shower. This means, three hours later I have unruly curls all over my head and I look like I'm wearing a frightened poodle on my head.

I don't like to wear make-up and I often go without it.

I love smelling nice.

I change my toothbrush every three to four weeks.

I floss every day.

Touching someone's feet, or letting my feet be touched by someone feels oddly intimate.

I like to climb trees.

Lying on the grass beneath a shade tree on a warm summer day seems, to me, to be the ultimate luxury--doubly luxurious if I'm with someone I love who is quietly enjoying the moment, as well.

I find more depth of communion when I'm spending a moment of silent time with someone, than if we talk nonstop for hours.

I hate spending money on restaurant food and wishing I'd made something better at home.

I don't like ice cream, but I love Haagen-Dazs dark chocolate covered chocolate ice cream bars.

I think neckties are weird.

Construction sites of any kind are creepy.

Sometimes I crave pancakes and mashed potatoes at the same time. I've never eaten them together, though.

I don't like cuddling but there are a few people with whom I would cuddle daily if given the opportunity.

Touching meat, raw or cooked, makes me shudder.

I love to play games--online or in person. And I don't care if I lose. I just like to play.

I don't have dimples. This concerns me. I believe all people should have at least one dimple in a clearly visible place (i.e. on the face).

Until three years ago, my ears had Spock points. Tabitha and Adam both inherited my Spock ears. They don't think they should have to wait as long as I did before the points become less pronounced.

My children all have larger mouth capacity than I do. I blame Darrin.

This time last year:

Darrin had been out of a job for a month and I was starting another job--which made, at the time, six jobs. Fortunately, my teaching contract for the university last year was only for fall semester, so I was finishing that job up and only had the final projects left to grade. But I was tired mentally, emotionally, and physically. When it came time to put up the Christmas tree I wanted to weep. I had no energy left to decorate or spread cheer. Somehow, though, I managed to finish Christmas gifts and make cookies. I went through the motions of most of our traditional baking and singing and parties. And I played in Messiah.

It was grueling. I think I cried every night as soon as I was sure everyone was asleep. I didn't send Christmas cards.

It's not like I was trying to be miserable. I did things to keep moving. I crocheted four afghans. I gave away Christmas carols to blog readers. I helped write music for our church Christmas program.

But I also worked like a crazy person. I worked six days a week, and I worked through the holidays, as well. I didn't take Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's off, and the trend continued until July when I was told in no uncertain terms that I MUST take a vacation.

This year Darrin has a good job. He just started it three weeks ago. I've been told I need to quit one of mine, but we're still playing catch-up. I'm not sure when that will happen.

I've been playing Christmas Carols for the past two weeks. As long as there's snow on the ground, Carols are allowed to be played in our home--one of a few traditions I kept from my growing up years--and I'm making plans to bake with my mom for the first time in many years. I think it's time. I also think she needs me to help.

My mom had a mini-stroke three weeks ago. At her follow-up the doctor said all indications point to the fact that this was probably not the first. She'll have a bunch of scans done in the next week, to locate any damage to the brain, check for cancer and clots, and see if there's atrophy of any kind.

My siblings and I are not exchanging gifts this year. We started drawing names when I was in junior high because there were so many of us and the tradition has continued until now. But one of my sisters is now living in Armenia. She wrote of the need for clothing, basic necessities, and the corruption in government which makes it difficult to obtain medical assistance for most of the people. We decided to use the money we would have spent on each other to contribute to the needs of those people. My sister has sent us information about items needed and reputable places to send monetary contributions. It feels better to do this, somehow. We've always enjoyed exchanging gifts but we've done it for so many years now, it's nice to have a change and one which will, hopefully, make a small difference in the lives of others.

I'm still tired, but it's a different kind of tired. I don't feel beaten down. I'm not waiting for the next disaster. My life is utter chaos but it's okay.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Paying the Piper

Adam is miffed at me. I let him know yesterday, after a sizable snow dump, that people who drive my car are responsible for preheating it and cleaning it off in the winter time. He suggested we wait until another day before enforcing the edict, so he wouldn't be late. I suggested that I had told him this more than once before the snow came and I thought today would be a fine day to try it out. Then I stayed inside and watched him struggle with the ice-bound windows for at least three minutes before lending a hand.

Tabitha walked by, saw me watching and said, "He hates you right now." I responded, "You'll get to hate me tomorrow."

I'm a good mom.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

This is yummy:

Yes--I am a vegetarian--mostly.

But sometimes my family rebels.

Especially when I buy fake meat things...and don't tell which point Adam becomes incensed and says, "I don't mind if we eat vegetarian--just don't try to recreate meat--EVER!!"


Although, I have to admit the sausage we tried did taste a bit like what I imagine cat food would taste like.

But now we know.

So to make up for my mistake, I promised chicken (the real stuff) for dinner last night. We pounded it thin and filled it with:

cream cheese (fat free, because Darrin does not need the fat and cholesterol)
Feta cheese, crumbled
Parmesan cheese
chopped artichokes
chopped roasted red peppers
minced garlic

Then we rolled the chicken pieces (secured with toothpicks) in seasoned breadcrumbs and baked them. We had baked sweet potatoes, fresh green beans, and garlic bread sticks and everyone got too full.

And Adam attempted chocolate chip cookies for dessert--which means he got out all the ingredients, then stood around looking bewildered, which means he wants me to come bake with him. So I did.

And DJ came for dinner and we played cards until 9:30 p.m., at which point Tabitha demanded Mom-time (and she drove us to get hot chocolate--in a snow storm--max speed = 15 mph), DJ went home, and Adam decided it was time for Dad to teach him to drive a standard shift car in a snow storm (which lasted all of two blocks).

And Tabitha and I made great headway in her room cleaning project which has lasted more than five years. I love nights like this.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I'm not playing that Facebook game.

I'm not posting a gratitude as my Facebook status every day until Thanksgiving. This is not because I'm ungrateful, but rather, because it irritates me. Some of the things posted are:

1. Untrue ("I'm grateful for state representatives who really care about my political stances and represent me well"... um ... pretty sure they don't even know you and their votes only represent the corporation which gave them the best reason to vote that way ... which means you align with Corporate U.S., as well ... which is fine, I'm just think your post should say you're grateful your state representatives are easily swayed by lots of money).

2. Nauseating ("I'm grateful for the sweetest, cutest boyfriend in the world"... I don't need to know that ... I don't want to know that ... and clearly you need to expand your social circle because I'm fairly certain there is a boyfriend cuter and sweeter than the one you have ... I think your post should just say, "I love my boyfriend").

3. Stupid ("I'm grateful for toes"... fine--I'm glad you're grateful, but how sad for you if this is the only thing you're grateful for ... toilet paper seems much more gratitude worthy and this just has the feel of someone trying to be too cute and triggering my gag reflex again).


4. Misdirected/Generalized/Obvious ("I'm grateful for my family" ... tell them? to their faces? individually? because the rest of us assume that's true all ready and you're stating nothing earth shattering unless you give us reasons your family inspires love in you).

Call me Gratitude Scrooge.

However, here, on my blog, I'm joining the throng briefly--not on Facebook, because for whatever reason, the things I'm grateful for are too precious to post in that forum. I can't really explain more. This seems an appropriate place because it belongs to me and I write other personal things here, I guess.

Today I'm grateful, in no particular order, for:
1. Really wonderful kids. They've never complained when their dad lost his job, mom started working like a crazy person, and our income decreased. Instead, they helped out as much as they could, asked for very little, and got jobs of their own. They've told me they miss having me at home, and complained because Darrin became cranky and quirky--but I think that's completely forgivable. They're not saints, after all, they're teenagers, and I think they've handled this beautifully.

2. Jobs. I work too many hours and it's taking a toll on me, but I'm grateful I was able to continue working when Darrin couldn't. To find work as I did, given the economy, was a great blessing.

3. Flowers. They make me smile. Some of you have received them from me--and some of you have sent them. For me, there are few tangible things that tell me I'm loved as much as flowers do. I fill my garden with them in the spring. I run in the wildflowers from May-August. I reserve them for birthday gifts for the people closest to me. And while I understand that others don't really care about them as I do--I can't help it. I love flowers. And some days, when I'm feeling less happy than I'd like to, I pretend that The Big Guy had me in mind when he created them. Truly. I believe this. And I also think I was at his side, telling him all the improvements and inventions I would add just to make them a tiny bit more beautiful. And just so you know--he didn't listen to me when I told him blossoms as lovely as geraniums and marigolds should smell better.

4. Me. All of me. Today, finally, I'm grateful for every part I separated out and recently integrated. I understand why I was afraid of those parts, and why I need them. I'm grateful for treasured memories they bring and I'm learning to sort through and cope healthily with the memories which bring me grief or pain. I'm appreciating the depth of life an entire person can experience. Often it's awkward or uncomfortable. Sometimes it's sad or scary. But it's real, and I'm grateful for that.

5. Blessings. I've had so many lately. My life feels charmed suddenly. I'm glad I'm finally in a place emotionally and mentally, where I can notice the good things that bless my life daily. And it's nice to feel, finally, that I'm not trudging through life alone. I never was, I know that, but there have been times when it's certainly felt that way.

6. Friends. And even though I hate the word, and understand that those were invented so we could have disposable relationships, or ones that we only visit when we feel like it, I'm still grateful for them. I'm glad for the friends who reenter my life after years of absence. I'll never glorify that visit by saying, "It's like no time has passed! We picked up right where we left off!" because I don't believe in that. It's not true. If you've been out of my life for five years, you missed key events which shape my life. Time has passed and we've both changed. But I'm grateful for such reunions which remind me that friends remember, and even if they don't necessarily wish to be close to me, they still wish to connect infrequently, and that can be enjoyable and delightful.

7. Not-Friends. I don't know what your collective name is, but you're the people who stay in my life--the ones who want to know how I'm doing and who check in with me several times monthly, if not weekly or even daily. You're the people I adore, the ones I would choose as family, my confidantes and comrades, partners in crime. You cook with me, laugh with me, and sometimes we just sit quietly together. You're not offended if I fall asleep during a movie. You'll hold me when I cry and listen when I rant. You'll forgive me over and over again and expect I'll do the same for you. I didn't know you existed outside of spouses and families--but you do, and I'm thankful for you.

8. Darrin. He still loves me after living with me every day for many years. He lets me talk about silly things and doesn't get upset when I can't talk at all. We've been through childbirth, illness, poverty, and loss. He still makes me crazy aggravated when he does things that seem perfectly normal to him, but illogical to me. He argues with me, resists my belief that I'm always right, is determined to be who he is--always (as he proved to me last night when he insisted that the only reason restaurants put whipped cream on hot chocolate is so that one can get it all over the face--and yes, he had it all over his). I'm grateful he still believes I'm beautiful and still wants to make love to me after thousands of lovemaking times. I love him. Oh--and I'm incredibly grateful that after a year, he has a job again. Yup. That's a tangible gratitude I cannot deny.

And now this post is becoming way too long so I'm ending it. But I'm not putting this on Facebook. It doesn't belong there. However, I'll try not to grumble anymore about the game. If I'm not playing, it's only fair that I stop complaining.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Things will get better despite our efforts to improve them." ~ Will Rogers

I understand that my running outside mornings are probably over for a few months but I can't stop checking the weather forecast. I'm not sure what I'm looking for...some miraculous all-the-snow-will-melt-and-it-will-be-70-degrees type of November...sigh...

Today our high will be in the 30s, but we have plentiful sunshine and the birds are noisily partying in my crabapple tree. My pansies still don't believe it. They are unscathed by this week's two snowstorms and insist on blooming if the sun is shining. Interestingly, the purple daisy I brought indoors before Halloween has finished opening all the buds existing at its cutting and has made new ones as it sits in its glass of water. There is new greenery growth, as well. I'm wondering how long it will last.

Darrin's father had been talking about coming to live with us for four months each year. Last night he called to tell us that might not happen. He's been able to find an apartment opening in a retirement complex and he wants to stay on the East coast. He's excited about the prospect of living on his own and in that community. To my surprise, Darrin is thrilled. He's said nothing prior to this, but he really does not want his dad to live with us right now. He felt that would place a huge burden on me when I'm not ready for it. I think he's probably right.

I'm finding, for the first time in a couple of years, after I run each day, I have a period of peace and well-being lasting anywhere from fifteen minutes to three hours. This actually began about a week ago. It gives me time to regroup, to rebuild, and allows me to lucidly plan what must happen next in my life rather than simply waiting for the next crisis with the hope that I'll survive. And although difficult things are still happening, they don't feel as devastating or personal.

I think today is a good day to play Christmas music and make double chocolate almond biscotti...or homemade pretzels...or enchiladas...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Yesterday my snow sparkled--today it's just cold.

Each bout of PTSD begins with an intense need to connect with people I love. I start missing them, wanting to talk with them--to BE with them. This is followed by certainty that those feelings are displaced,  not reciprocated and just plain wrong. Even in this moment, after being told by people that they wish to spend time with me, I am overwhelmed by the feeling that they have said something untrue.

Yes. It is beginning again.

I want to scream--rant about the unfairness of it all--run for hours without stopping...

I'll probably just take a few minutes and cry, instead, and then, while I'm still me, I will make a list of things I will do to stay healthy, ideas of how to cope with the feelings, and I'll probably end up pleading with the Big Guy to make this PTSD episode as short as possible.

Therapist says to remember to take time for me, and to do positive, building things in those moments. And he says in this case, taking time for me means spending time with people who help me feel whole. I have enough alone time. This seems an impossible assignment. I have yet to do it successfully.

One time Therapist asked me what helps the most when PTSD is bothering me. I surprised myself with the answer. I told him just sitting quietly beside someone who loves me...sometimes touching, sometimes not. I didn't know I felt that way. I still wonder why that's what helps. I think, maybe, it's because in that moment I feel cared for by someone else, someone who is demonstrating a desire to spend time with me even in my worst moments--I don't have to be the only one who cares about me--which frees me to work through the feelings and sort out the destructive ones which are untrue. I'm not sure this makes sense.

1. I will go to bed early enough to sleep at least 7 hours nightly. During PTSD bouts, it's not unheard of for me to average 12 hours in a week. No one can be sane on that amount of sleep.
2. I will be militant about my study/meditation/prayer times. Sometimes, when PTSD is at its worst, I can't sit that long which means my day usually ends in misery. I think getting enough sleep will help with this.
3. I will moderately exercise and not give in to the impulse to run every time things feel stressful. I need to find other ways to work through stress.
4. I will eat at least one meal daily.
5. I will make an effort to speak with at least one person every day. This means I will have a real conversation, and does not include communication necessary to get Darrin off to work and the kids to seminary and school. This conversation needs to include laughing at some point.
6. I will read a book which makes me smile.
7. I will remember I am loved.
8. I will remember I am loved.
9. I will remember I am loved.
10. I will remember I am loved...

I am not going to be afraid of this. I don't have to love it, but if PTSD plans to stay in my life for awhile, I will do whatever is necessary to maintain my sense of self-worth while it is present. Wish me luck?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Stop asking me to jump on your bandwagon.

I have little patience with people who "know."

Actually, I need to qualify that: I have little patience with people who expect me to agree with them because they "know."

Example: I don't have a problem with people bearing testimony appropriately--that is, in a meeting set aside for that purpose or in a situation where there is a receptive or interested listener. I probably don't mind if someone is preaching on a street corner or proselyting at my door (as long as they don't expect me to let them in). You're welcome to say what's on your mind...just don't expect me to endorse you.

When someone confides in me personal thoughts, feelings, or beliefs, I'm honored. When someone tells me those things, confident that I will somehow "join up" with them, I'm insulted. When I'm approached in that way, I don't care how erudite you are, I have no interest in how much study you've put into your premise, and I honestly don't feel threatened if I believe something different. Don't recruit me.

I'm touched by sincere beliefs stated for the purpose of sharing. I'm aggravated by those who assault me with their certainties.

Bottom line--from the day I was born I began studying and researching in different ways, all for the purpose of drawing my own conclusions. My beliefs may be hideously wrong--but they belong to me. beliefs might also be spot on, which means if they differ from that case we should both be greatly relieved that I'm never swayed by charisma, charm, or rhetoric.

I applaud those who use the brains they were blessed with to seek out truth. I admire those who recognize that truth is found in many venues and often one truth conflicts with another, and that truth is limited by the intelligence and experience of the person who encounters and interprets it. And I revere those who understand that each person must find his or her own truth, and never rely on the findings of another, and who allow differing opinions to be aired and discussed without repercussion, fully recognizing that one truth is often exchanged for another and such things shift throughout life's experiences.

Do you know what is true? Please--share it with me. But do not expect me to cling to your truth. I must find my own.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Moving on's over.

I'm always a little amazed when the PTSD symptoms completely subside. Life suddenly swings back into focus and I find myself groping for ways to make sense of what I've felt, said, and done. About a week ago I was telling Tolkien Boy I'd appreciate it if he didn't ask me any personal questions. I suppose there are times when this is said in honesty because the timing is wrong for discussing life's difficulties. I said it because I meant: Don't ever ask me anything personal ever again--I don't trust you and I'm not going to discuss my life with you--and I'm angry that I ever did in the first place.

Sigh...this is not going to be forever. Therapist believes this, and I believe he's always right.

Today I am hoping Tolkien Boy (and every other person who encountered me while I went through this last PTSD cycle) will remember that I do share with him, probably more than he would like, and perhaps he'll view this last PTSD thing as a much needed vacation from Samantha overshare. I stopped closing myself off from people a few years ago and have tried with my whole soul to be honest and open with the people I care about. I had this conversation with Therapist last month:

Therapist: You know, Sam, there's not much more I can tell you about strengthening relationships.
me: Yes, there is. I'm bad at relationships.
Therapist: (laughing) Actually, you're better at them than most people I know.
me: I'm not. I build a good relationship, and then I have stupid PTSD symptoms and I destroy it.
Therapist: How many relationships have you allowed your symptoms to destroy in the past few years.
me: None. But that's because I try to do damage control when they subside.
Therapist: I don't call that damage control. I call that communication. You identify feelings and behaviors you feel are misplaced, and you talk about those things with the person they affect. Not many people do that.
me: They don't have to. They're sane.
Therapist: They do have to--and they don't. Which is why we have parents and children who become strangers, and a huge divorce rate, and people who are lonely almost all the time. They don't talk about the things that are uncomfortable. You do.
me: Because I have to.
Therapist: No. You don't have to. Remember that uncle of yours who would just disappear when the symptoms hit...
me: Yes. But while I understand what he did, I've also decided he and I are nothing alike.
Therapist: I agree. But here's what I'm saying: Even if you didn't have PTSD disrupting your relationships, you'd still talk with those you love when something cropped up that was negative or concerning--and it wouldn't matter if it resided in you or the other person, you would still address it.
me: How do you know?
Therapist: Because every time we've discussed a person in your life, along with the things that are concerning to you about your relationship with that person, I suggest something and you say, "Yes, I've talked with them about that," or "You're right. I'll probably talk with them about that...." and then you name a day when that conversation will take place. And when Tolkien Boy has come with you to therapy, he's confirmed that you do, indeed, talk with him about the things that cause concern, and Darrin has told me the same thing.
me: Yes, but everyone does that. You have to talk about things when they're small or they get too big and can't be solved.
Therapist: Everyone doesn't do that. I could be out of a job if they did. And you haven't always done it, although you probably have to some extent--you've just learned how to make it a regular part of your life.
me: I don't always talk about relationship problems with people, you know. We have other, more fun conversations, as well.
Therapist: No, which is why when those things crop up you can discuss them. People don't feel threatened if you bring up a problem (which could be something they're doing which is problematic, or something you're feeling, or something which was said), because they trust that you're saying something because you want the relationship to become even stronger.
me: This makes me tired.
Therapist: You still see it as a negative thing that you do this?
me: That I have to do it.
Therapist: You don't have to--that's the point. You do it anyway--that's the other point.
me: Okay, but someday, I don't want to have so much to talk about, and it will be because my PTSD symptoms are no longer messing with me.
Therapist: You'll still have "so much to talk about." It's who you are. You'll just choose different topics.
me: Sometimes it's okay to just sit with someone and not talk.
Therapist: You're right. I vote for that, too.

Okay, I'm leaving this for now.

Last night after dark I walked to my dad's office to do some work for him--without a sweatshirt or jacket. I don't remember ever doing this on November 6th. We often have warm days, but when the sun goes down it becomes very cold. We usually wake up to frost. Not this year. There was no wind and the night was soft and beautiful. I'm certain there's some dire scientific explanation for the warmth this month and throughout October. I'm refusing to be alarmed right now, and choosing instead to enjoy the gorgeous weather, soothing my conscience by reminding myself that I was not contributing to carbon emissions in the moment because I was walking...such a lovely walk, too.

When the first hard frost came last month, I harvested all my green tomatoes and put them in a box to ripen. This year I had a purple daisy volunteer in my garden. I'm not sure where it came from, but the blossoms were large and plentiful and welcome. I waited a few hours after the tomato harvest, then went out and cut the plant. It had three blooms and a bunch of buds. This was two weeks ago. Today it's blooming in a small glass of water as it sits on my kitchen windowsill. The three original flowers finished within a couple of days and were cut off, but now five more blooms have opened and two more buds are waiting.

In the meantime, my pansies recovered from the frost and are a vivid, colorful riot spreading through the less hardy brown remnants of other flowers, basil, tomatoes, rosemary, and oregano. They seem to bloom better when the temperatures are unpredictable.

And I have committed myself to learning Brahms this year. Right now I'm playing the Rhapsodies and have two left to memorize--I need them finished before mid-January when they have to be performed.

My last flashback took place on July 31st. YAY!

I have nothing more to say.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

We all live in a yellow submarine...

Each time something healing happens inside me, I go through a period of intense insecurity. I question everything stable in my life, and expect losses, betrayals, and abuses which never occur. It's a pattern I would like to circumvent--I just don't know how. When the episode subsides, often after many days, I'm left feeling embarrassed, exhausted, and guilty. I understand that my recent ideas and behaviors were unnecessary, and often inflammatory. I do not understand why, after going through this with me time after time, people are still in my life.

The problem is, the closer you are to me, the more likely it is that I'll try to involve you in my delusional behavior. I don't even realize I'm doing so until all the feelings have subsided and I remember what I said, and the emotions accompanying our conversations. I don't know how to apologize. I don't know how to make amends. I don't know how to proceed from that point.

I'm not finished with this particular bout of nastiness, but it's on its way out. This time I was convinced that all my friendships were too close, too dependent (on my part), and unhealthy. It's not the first time I've felt this during a cycle of PTSD symptoms. However, it might be the first time I felt more than just defeat and sadness that I was so bad at relationships. I found myself determined to change things, which left me cranky and more stressed than I've felt for awhile--thus, the panic attacks which didn't seem to wish to go away.

I remember talking with Jason at the onset of the feelings. I think I had some half-witted plan to idea exactly what... But we were on the phone. Somehow, when I can hear the person's voice, I'm able to recognize which feelings are real and which are PTSD symptomatic. I'm able to look at things rationally. Jason and I have been known to talk for hours, and for most of the night. When I was staying with his family once, he and I talked until after 3:00 a.m., ignoring the fact that we had scheduled a 7:00 run for the next morning. Needless to say, we didn't run, as scheduled.

Jason and I enjoy talking with each other. We have many things we share and about which we speculate. But this does not indicate an unhealthy friendship, and for whatever reason, my stupid emotional state was signaling that I needed to separate myself, back off, do whatever was needful to healthify (yup, making up words again--it's what I do) the relationship. So--fortunately, we chose to talk on the phone, rather than chat or email, and I was able to nullify the stupid feelings and focus on what was really happening: Two friends talking about life events, laughing at inside jokes, and discussing anything that was on our minds. This is not unhealthy. This is authentic caring and friendship. I just need to convince my subconscious of that. Stupid subconsciousness!

Poor AtP bore the brunt of my panic attacks. More than once I caught him online and begged him to talk me through them. Stupid panic attacks! I hate having to bother people when they hit, but there are times when I'm alone, if I don't take them out, they become overwhelming to the point of causing me to vomit, and it's not unheard of for me to pass out. Yup--I'm amazingly lame. Still haven't figured out how to circumvent the sick/passing out phase, but if I can catch the attack while it's still brewing, and distract myself by talking to someone, I find the panic subsides a bit and I can manage life for awhile. Darrin usually is the person I talk to, but he was unavailable--so--AtP was not, so I asked him for help. And now I feel like I used him somehow, that I should have been able to work through things without bothering him. Add to that confusion, because if our positions were reversed, I would have been happy to talk him through something similar, grateful he trusted me enough to let me help.

Hm...I think I hit Jason up for help, as well. I must have had way too many panic attacks in the past week.

At some point I decided that my friendship with Tolkien Boy ought be be one in which we stop talking online and just communicate with occasional post cards. I had a long talk with him, during which I said pointless things intended to help him understand why this would be a good thing. I think I became so muddled that I was never able to present the post card idea.. Probably a good thing. I think he also was grading papers, or reading, or writing, or chatting with someone else, or dancing...something...whatever it was, I don't think he was paying much attention to my drivel, which is also a good thing. However, he must have gotten a tiny idea of what I was trying to say because before he said good night, he said, "I'm happy our friendship is the way it is." Not helpful to my cause. Not in the least.

If you are female and my friend, you escaped any friendship modifying efforts this time. My confused mind had decided I need more time with women, less time with men, therefore there was no need to establish a postcard-sending relationship.

Meanwhile, as I was frantically trying to make my already healthy relationships become healthy, my emotions fluctuated between anger, sadness, and frustration, all of which were leveled at those friends who were being supportive and kind. Yup--I repay kindness... tonight, as the effects of this last bout of PTSD are subsiding, I'm sort of wondering what comes next. Possible scenarios:
1. Those who conversed with me when I was batty will limit future exposure to my insanity, thus supplying the impression that our relationship is somehow normal and working toward the moment when we have perfected postcard communication.

2. Those who conversed with me when I was batty will understand that this particular phase is temporary, driven by past events, and really has nothing to do with them or my feelings for them. They might even love me a little bit more because I need them to and I'm feeling a little vulnerable and a lot embarrassed.

3. Those who conversed with me when I was batty were a little stressed and sort of preoccupied with their own problems so they didn't even notice I was talking crazy and there is no need to speak of this ever again. Until the next time it happens. Which I hope is never.

And now I am going to bed because it's after midnight and no one ever deals well with emotions when lack of sleep is involved. But, yeah, I need some advice on how to deal with this "thing".

Okay, going to sleep now.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Just a little bit tired

Today is the first day in six that I did not wake up with a headache and a panic attack. This might possibly be attributed to the fact that I only had two hours of sleep last night. However, not having a panic attack, for whatever reason, is a good thing. 

There are many things driving the panic attacks, not the least of which is the fact that I'm getting tired again. Balancing work and family is problematic. I've been making time for my kids at the expense of work hours which means I have to work until midnight or later--then get up in the morning around 5:30 to get a start on work and help get everyone out the door on time. Add to that Adam's physical therapy (he messed up his knee), helping a close friend through the death of her father-in-law (meals, visits, taking walks, funeral--all good things, but time consuming), trying to keep up with house/laundry/grocery shopping/meal prep...where is Darrin? 

I'm always amazed that Darrin often believes if he works eight hours he gets to rest when he comes home. He offers, always, to help with dinner, but before I can suggest ways he can help, he's off to the shower where he stays for at least 30 minutes. I don't have time to wait for him. There aways seems to be something in the evening causing us to rush through dinner. It's become common for us to start eating without him so the kids can have a meal before they have to leave again. I'm not complaining--Darrin helps with clean-up and tries to fold laundry (which he doesn't put away, so it just goes back on the ginormous folding pile), and fixes things...sigh...I love him, but I really wish he wasn't always fixing things...

I drove past the Hampton Inn on the way to the grocery store on Saturday. I told Tabitha every time I see it, I want to check in for a night. When she wondered why, I told her if I'm spending a night at the Hampton I can rest. At home there's always something waiting for me...laundry to fold, rooms to clean, online work, meals to prepare, phone calls to return...Someday, I think I'm going to do it. Not the work--it's perpetual--but the checking in to some hotel for a night. And I think I'll sleep for hours.