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Sunday, February 26, 2012


We have a local race that takes place in mid-May every year. One year we ran it as a family and placed third--and that included DJ who walked backward for most of the race and took time out to swing with his friends at the park. Tabitha's time was second for her age group, and mine was, as well. The girls in the family bailed out the slow boys. Thank goodness Darrin had to work and couldn't compete with us.

For the past few years, however, I've not been able to participate because I've been performing and accompanying at festivals and competitions on the day the race has been scheduled. Tabitha has traveled with me and been my faithful page-turner, so she's not competed in the 5K either. However, this year I have no conflicting performances in May, so my goal is to run in the race--and if I can't run, I will walk it. I need to be able to run at least 3.5 miles when mid-May comes around. This means no more injuries or setbacks in my therapy progress. It also means I'll be running regularly at that point. This makes me very happy.

The past three weeks have brought intermittent snowstorms. The snow is beautiful, but last week the highways in and out of our small town were closed for nearly eight days. While it's not unusual for the roads to close, to have them shut down for so many consecutive days is not a regular winter occurrence. Now the storms seem to be over for awhile, but the wind has been howling. I hate that sound. Fortunately I hear it for only about a week during the year, then the wind calms and we can enjoy our plentiful sunshine even on the coldest days.

I checked my pansies this morning. They have buds all over them and one stubbornly blooming orange flower continues to defy the snow and ice that have nipped its petals. This is the first year the flowers have bloomed throughout the winter. Usually a hard January frost sends them into dormancy for a month or two, but for some reason it hasn't happened this year. No doubt we'll get more snow throughout March and even into April, but typically the flowers begin blooming again in February and last even through the springtime snow. Since February is finished, I suspect they'll not stop blooming again until next January. Somehow, the silly pansies never seem to get the message that winter is here and as long as the sun shines, they try to bloom.

Tolkien Boy would find some sort of lesson in their hardiness/stubbornness. I prefer to just enjoy them--always surprised and delighted when their spots of color appear in the melting snow. I'm not dismissing TB's moralizing--no doubt it's applicable and appropriate--I simply don't want to work that hard.

And now I'm going to sleep. In the morning, if the virus Tabitha is harboring will allow her to join me, we'll go to the gym at 5:30 a.m., then get her ready for school and me, for physical therapy. I'm hoping she feels better.

Oh! I have a new nephew. He weighs 9.5 pounds and is just shy of 23 inches long. Tabitha was less than 17 inches at birth. New Nephew's giantness is the equivalent Tabitha and Adam's birth weight combined and neither one of them hit nine pounds until they were about three months old. While I understand that my kids were premature and tiny, the size of this new baby boggles my mind a bit.

Okay--to bed. Good night!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Customer is Always Right

I know there are people who grouse about stores anticipating holidays two months in advance, but I never do. It means I can find cinnamon and cherry gumdrop hearts from late December until February 14th, Cadbury mini eggs and Dove truffle eggs from February 15th until whenever Easter happens to come and mint chocolate or raspberry chocolate Lindor balls from October 31st until Christmas. And to be completely honest, I have no problem celebrating holidays when they're not scheduled on the calendar. I'm flexible like that.

So last night I bought Easter candy (the Cadbury mini eggs) and we watched movies and ate chocolate. It was actually a double movie night because we went to the theater, then came home and watched a video. I don't know that I've ever done that before. It's a lot of screen time, especially when one adds the fact that I was also working online during the last movie.

And just in case you get the idea that my entire life is centered around chocolate, allow me to disillusion you--it's not. It's centered around cookies; chocolate is simply a nice substitute. Although, right now I'm a little bit obsessed by tomatoes because we bought 20 pounds of them through Bountiful Baskets. They came to a little more than 40 cents a pound and they're amazingly good. Who gets good tomatoes in the winter? However, 20 pounds is a lot. We've eaten half but I think the rest might become homemade salsa. Recipes anyone?

I met with an odd man yesterday. He wanted me to prepare his taxes. We began the interview and he handed me a list of all the items he wished to have deducted. I looked at it for a few minutes, then said, "I'm sorry but the majority of those things cannot legally be deducted. And for every item you do deduct, you'll need a receipt as proof of purchase or a canceled check." He looked at me blankly, then said, "My last accountant deducted everything I asked him to. He just found a place for it on the form. And I never keep receipts."

I picked up his list and handed it back to him. I said, "Well, I'm not an accountant, I'm a tax preparer, but it sounds like you will have your needs better met by your last accountant." The man said he'd heard good things about me and wanted me to prepare his taxes. I said, "If I prepare your taxes this year, I will not deduct anything that has no proof of purchase, nor will I deduct items or services that are not legitimate according to the IRS codes." He said, "You're really so well off that you can afford to offend clients? And did you forget you would be working for me?"

I stood up. I said, "Mr. Prospective Client, I work for no one but me. I provide a service for which I am paid, but I am not on your payroll, so I am not your employee. And I have a motto: 'Never go to jail for a client.' I've been preparing taxes for many years and I've never yet gone to jail. I don't intend to do so for you. Thanks for stopping by."

So Mr. Prospective Client got mad. He started saying weird things about making sure I never work again and how the client's interests should be my first priority and then I stopped listening. My dad came into the room and asked Client to leave--which he did, but first he said we would regret our rude treatment of him. It felt like I was in some strange black and white movie. The Client continued to rant all the way to his car. We couldn't hear him, but we could see his mouth moving and his abrupt movements.

My dad and I looked at each other for a moment, then my dad asked, "Where did he come from?" I said, "I have no idea. He told me I'd been referred by a former client and I said we could meet and I'd look over his paper work for the year and give him an estimate." My dad answered, "Maybe it's time to stop taking new clients." I answered, "Yeah, that's a great way to keep a healthy business on its feet."

I'm left with one thought: No matter how insane I may become, there is at least one person crazier than I am, and I am not preparing his taxes.

And now I believe it's time for a cookie and some chocolate...and maybe a tomato, too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

The rules of time-out state that one should remain there one minute for each year of life. I must be 11,520 years old.

Valentine's Day is my anniversary. It is also my favorite holiday. For many years I have obstinately thumbed my nose at those who would call it Singles Awareness Day out of sensitivity for those who are not paired romantically, because in my mind this has never been a day about romance. While I have no argument with those who wish to celebrate with their significant others, Valentine's Day, to me, is simply about love--all kinds of love.

I believe I was fifteen when I decided I needed to celebrate this day. I'd been listening for three years to the drama of high school and junior high romances...would that special someone send flowers? would there be a card or a gift? would they kiss for the first time? or go out to dinner and a movie? It seemed completely silly to me. If you're in love with someone, why should a particular day make a difference?

I wasn't immune to teen hormones. I had people with whom I was in love. We made special plans to spend time together or wrote love notes or exchanges gifts/chocolate/flowers, but it always seemed strange that one must make some sort of statement on Valentine's Day. I did those "Valentine" things often. If I was in love with someone--they knew it and I never apologized for showing how I felt.

Valentine's Day was special to me for other reasons, though. It was the one day in the year when my mother made it a point to give me a love token. Cards were important to her. She spent hours finding the one she thought would "fit" the person for whom it was chosen. The words didn't mean as much as the illustrations. Mine always had cutesy little girls with dark eyes and curly hair, and she always signed the cards, "Lots of love, Mom and Dad." There was never a message. She never said, "I love you Sam." But I pretended she did. Even when I was older and I hated her with every fiber of my being and wished she would die, I still wanted to be loved by her.

I saved every card she gave me and I cried each year as I opened and read the cards. It's the only time I remember crying as a teen. I remember vowing that every person in my life whom I loved would know how I felt, and I would never be embarrassed or ashamed for loving them.

And so, every year on Valentine's Day I gave cards and cookies and hugs to the people I loved. I had some friends who suggested friend Valentines were for elementary school kids. My response was to say, "I make really great cookies--you should try them--and by the way, I love you!" Eventually they got used to my celebration and by the time I was a high school senior, they joined me.

We made large, gaudy, elementary-school-style envelopes and put them on our lockers the week before Valentine's Day. We bought the campy cartoon character Valentines and left them in each other's envelopes. I expected that by the time Valentine's Day came, the envelopes would be torn from the lockers and all the cards scattered down the hall. To my surprise, not only did they remain intact, but others appeared on lockers of people outside my circle of friends. I added Valentine cards to those, as well.

On the day of love, we had a large Valentine's Day party in the school hallway. The administrators had said we could set up tables for goodies and everyone brought something. My friends and I opened our envelopes, laughed at the funny Valentines, rolled our eyes at the innocently suggestive ones, and exchanged hugs with those who had written heartfelt notes on their flimsy cardboard Valentines. We had all had gotten a few from people we knew from class associations, but who were not close friends, so I was glad I had randomly distributed cards to all the locker envelopes that popped up during the week. We ate cookies and cupcakes and chocolate until we were sick, and we made a vow to never make this day about getting stupid romantic gestures from our girlfriends or boyfriends.

Probably I'm the only person who kept that vow.

To this day, I celebrate Valentine's Day by sending cards, or making phone calls, or giving chocolate to my friends. My children always receive a gaudy pink heart filled with chocolate truffles, as does my dear friend, Darrin. I've stopped broadcasting my love quite so widely in recent years because several of my single friends made it known that on the day I celebrate love, they mourn the fact that they don't have a significant other, and nothing that expresses love from me can put a dent in their sorrow. That's okay--I'll take my love elsewhere--but not until I've let them know how unfortunate it is that they've spurned my enthusiastic offering. After all, I have always said that people should consider themselves blessed to be loved by someone like me, and no, I don't really care how egotistical that sounds. I believe it.

I believe it because all kinds of love are special. I believe it because it took me years to acknowledge that regardless of how I had been treated and no matter what had been done to me, my love was valuable and I was entitled to give and receive love. I believe it because even when my love is not reciprocated, or even when I may love someone more than I'm loved in return, love makes people "better." It heals hurts and builds strength and reaches out and protects the hidden, vulnerable places people long to share but fear to reveal.

"How do I love thee?"

If you are someone I love, this is a question you might be able to answer yourself, because I will have told you many, many times, and hopefully, I will also have shown you in many, many ways. And I will continue to do so, not just on Valentine's Day, but on many, many days in the years to come.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Time Out

I'm a believer in time-out for misbehavior. I also believe in using time-out when a child just needs a break and a little bit of calm silence. My children's time-outs were not punishments. I explained the unacceptable behavior, told them they needed time to rest for just a few minutes and when the time was up they would be given a second chance to try to make better choices. Sometimes I would say, "This is a calming time-out. It won't be long and I'll stay with you. We just need to do something quiet to help us rest for a moment; then you can go play again."

As time passed, I realized sometimes I, myself, needed a time-out. I would tell my children when that time arrived, explain why I would be missing for a few minutes, and ask not to be disturbed while I took time to regroup. Darrin was always afraid those moments would seem like "anything goes" times and the kids would erupt while I was absent. To his surprise, they almost always retreated to their bedrooms to read or do some quiet activity until I emerged from my isolation chamber.

My life has spiraled out of control. I am overwhelmed and in constant pain. Emotionally, I am unable to navigate even the smallest of stresses. It's time for me to take a time-out.

I'll be back soon. I need this place to express my thoughts and work through intricate details of my life. Right now, however, I just need to be able to live again.

Thank you to those who have emailed, texted, phoned, or otherwise communicated with me to lend support and offer prayers. I appreciate you and hope you'll continue to communicate with me through those venues even while I'm in time-out.

And while I'm gone--please don't make any big messes or get into large amounts of trouble.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

I know I said all that stuff about being more upbeat, having a better attitude, managing life more positively...there are times, though when I'm just not sure I can do all that's being asked of me. This is not having a bad attitude; it's me, acknowledging the fact that there are many things in my life beyond my control and I"m having difficulty dealing with them.

Tabitha got her first speeding ticket last week. It happened in the morning. She was going 35 mph in a 30 mph zone. She came home in a panic. I told her everyone speeds occasionally, she wasn't going extremely fast, and made a deal with her to cover the ticket and she could pay me back by filling the car with gas a couple of times when she started working. Then I hugged her, told her I loved her, and this would be okay.

The same afternoon while driving on a residential street, Tabitha hit a spot of ice and slid into a parked car. By the time I got to her, she was having an extreme anxiety attack and had become suicidal. The attending police officer was gentle and accommodating. He allowed us to postpone the reports and escorted Tabitha and I to the hospital to have her admitted so she could get immediate help.

There were no rooms in the inn. I was sent home with my anxious, depressed, suicidal daughter.

Tabitha's problem with cutting escalated. It was clear she was very troubled and not getting the help she needed. Her therapist/psychologist discussed changing medications but we made no decisions. Two days ago I drove my daughter to school. She was not feeling well and I knew it. She grabbed her mountain of bags and books and her violin and struggled up the sidewalk. I waited.

A few minutes later Tabitha returned to the car, threw her stuff on the back seat and said she was failing anyway and she didn't need that stuff. Then she told me goodbye and headed back to the building. I waited.

Again Tabitha returned to the car. She asked me angrily why I was still there. I said, "Well, I thought maybe later you might need one of those books, and I don't really have a full schedule this morning, so I'm just waiting here in case you need me."

Tabitha got into the car. I heard a tirade about giving up, not caring anymore, nothing mattered, she just wanted to go back to bed and stay there forever...I listened and I realized, she's not getting better and I can't help her.

I drove Tabitha home, finished getting ready for the day, and checked on her. She was still angry and hopeless and more cutting had happened. I called the hospital. They told me they had a bed available for her. I called the school to notify them that Tabitha would not be there for awhile, then I had my daughter get into the car with me.

Tabitha did not refuse. She followed me to the car. On the drive to the hospital she told me she would be dropping out of school and working at Walmart the rest of her life. She said what we were doing was a waste of time and money. I said nothing. She yelled at me because I had confided in a family friend that Tabitha was having difficulty and my friend's daughter had reached out to Tabitha--they've been friends since first grade. Then she accused me of not listening because I wasn't responding. I said I was listening--I just didn't want to interrupt.

We reached the hospital. Tabitha said again that we were wasting our time and money and then said she was just going to go through the motions, do whatever they told her until she could come home, but nothing would change. I told her I was sorry she was upset and sometimes it was okay to waste money on things like this. She said, "No, it's not!" But she didn't fight me when I asked her to please come with me, nor did she refuse to go inside.

In the emergency room, my daughter was congenial and cooperative. She answered all the questions honestly, gave a urine sample, and allowed blood to be drawn. There was a wait of about three hours during which we were visited by various nurses and a doctor. Tabitha ignored me during that time. I said nothing.

The ER doctor who did the initial evaluation asked me to leave the room while he interviewed Tabitha, then joined me a few minutes later in the family waiting room. He told me Tabitha was bright and lovely. I agreed. He said when he asks parents to leave during an evaluation, the teen usually spends about ten minutes verbally abusing the parent. He hears all the reasons the teen hates his/her parents and how useless and horrible those parents are. He said, "Tabitha speaks very highly of you. She cares for you deeply and admires you. That's unusual. I don't remember the last time I heard a teen in crisis tell me good things about their parents."

I started crying. I said, "She's very angry that I brought her here." The doctor said, "That's a healthy response." I nodded. I said, "I think she's really scared." Again, the doctor said, "That's very healthy and understandable."

Tabitha was admitted at 10:30 a.m. I was allowed some time alone with her before I was asked to leave. I sat on her bed. I said, "I'm so sorry you're angry. I didn't bring you here because you're being punished or because I want to get rid of you. You're here because I love you so much, I know you're hurting beyond your ability to manage it, and I want you to get the help you need so you can feel better. I can't help you. I don't have the training and I don't know how."

I continued, "I did tell my friend about you. She's known you since you were six. She drove you to school every morning for five years. She's watched you grow up. You've spent the night at her house and gone on vacations with their family. She loves you. I'm sorry if you feel I breached trust when I did that."

Finally I said, "Tabitha, the only thing I want for you is for you to stop hurting so much. I want you to feel you're able to take care of yourself and that people love you. I wish so much that I could take you home with me--but that won't help you."

Tabitha whispered, "I know. You did the right thing." Then she hugged me and said, "I didn't mean the things I said. It's okay that you told our friend. I'll work with the people here and try to get better."

And so I left her there. I'm not sure there is a more horrible feeling than leaving your child because they are beyond your help.

We met with her treatment team yesterday morning. Tabitha was there for the first hour. She confessed that the bullying problem at school had escalated recently. She has been a victim of bullying most of her life because she's very small and likes to spend time alone. She felt she was old enough to try to deal with the problem herself so she hadn't reported the newest attacks to me or to school administration. Tabitha has also been feeling more isolated since Adam graduated last month. She's alone at school now. Even though her interaction with Adam was sparse, knowing he was there gave her peace of mind. He'e not there now.

The doctors and therapists on the treatment team feel that Tabitha's cutting and depression are a response to the bullying, but also an empathetic response to the difficulties I've been having recently. They believe she is unaware that her stress is related to mine, but because she loves me she feels trapped in that stress.

What do I do about this? I said, "I can pretend I'm okay, but I don't believe that will be healthy for Tabitha or for me." The psychiatrist said, "This is a no-fault situation. It just happened. I believe you're handling it correctly; Tabitha just needs to be given the training and tools to learn how to support rather than empathize. She doesn't know how to do that yet, but she's bright and capable and I think she can learn."

We have a follow-up meeting on Monday at which time it will be determined how much longer Tabitha needs to stay.

I'm trying to stay positive. I'm trying to remember Tabitha is in a safe place where she can get help I cannot give. I'm trying to remember I did the right thing.

It's not easy. All I want to do is cry.