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Saturday, June 30, 2012

A few of my favorite things...


On my trip to a public bathroom this afternoon, I experienced the following:
1. A drain grate edged with mysterious green, the source of which I refuse to contemplate.
2. Paper toilet seat covers which shredded as they were removed from the dispenser--completely ineffective.
3. An automatic toilet which flushed before I sat down.
4. Nail clippings on the floor of the adjacent stall (toe? finger? who knows?).
5. An automatic toilet which flushed while I was sitting.
6. A cute toddler's face peering at me beneath the door of the stall (while Mom whispered, "Stop that!").
7. An enthusiastic automatic toilet which spewed while flushing, after I stopped sitting.
8. Empty paper towel dispensers and overflowing trash cans (yay for wiping hands on pants).
9. An older couple in their 60s sitting at a table near the restroom, making googoo eyes at each other while the man slid his hand up inside of the woman's thigh.

Probably there's a tenth one, but at that point my eyeballs could stand no more and I just stopped looking and made a beeline for the exit.

It could have been worse. I might have accidentally dropped my phone in the toilet, or lost my shoe while walking near the green grate or not had pants on which to wipe my hands. Or I might have been the older lady having her thigh felt up...that would definitely have been worse...

I need to stay away from public restrooms for awhile.

Friday, June 29, 2012


No. Not the game nor the insect.

This morning I was awakened at 4:45 a.m. when Tabitha's beast bounded across my bed.

Darrin and I have been taking turns feeding Cricket the Sugarglider while Tabitha has been at girls camp. Someone fed her last night and forgot to close the door of her cage.

That would be me.

Cricket (nocturnal creature that she is) had gotten lonely and decided it was time to play. I grabbed one of the bags she likes to sleep in and followed her as she scampered out of my room and into the family room, leapt onto the back of the couch and sat there with her tail in the air, waiting for me to chase her. I looked at her for moment, then, knowing full well I would probably have to find her if I left, I went to the bathroom. Some things cannot wait even for Sugarglider captures.

When I returned to the family room, Cricket was in the same place, still waiting for me. She ran back and forth across the back of the couch several times, pausing briefly to put her head teasingly into the bag, then jumping out when I was certain I had her. I said, "This isn't funny! Get into the bag now!"

Cricket decided that was her cue to run up the stairs. I followed her, thinking to myself, "Please just get in  your cage." To my surprise, I found her perched on top of the cage when I got to the top of the stairs. She jumped onto the arm of a nearby chair as I approached. I opened the top of the cage (it's about four feet tall). Cricket jumped to the edge and sat there, staring at me. I'd had enough of our game, so I shoved her over the side and closed the lid. I saw the little beast running purposefully down the side of the cage and remembered, just in time, that I still hadn't closed the side door of the cage. Cricket and I got to it at the same time. I poked her into the cage and quickly shut the door.

Then I surveyed the damage.

Cricket had opted not to eat the food we left for her before going to bed, and instead had sampled every peach, plum, and apple in my fruit basket. The plastic bag covering a loaf of bread on my kitchen cabinet had a hole chewed in the corner and Cricket had burrowed through four slices of bread before losing interest. A nearby cube of butter was no longer a cube.

I sighed. I am not meant to be a pet owner. Cricket is cute and a lot of fun, but I will not miss her when she leaves my home with her mistress in a couple of years.

I left the mess and went to the gym. It's not like it's going anywhere. Besides, I was hoping if I ignored it, Darrin might take a stab at cleaning it up before he went to work (yeah...I knew he wouldn't, but delusional thoughts are strong at 5:00 a.m.).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I have a technicolor dream...

It's time for me to write this post. It's been kicking around in my head for years and some people have already heard from me portions of what I have to say today.

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints. I have personal reasons for my membership in this church which are relevant only to me. I do not share them.

I had a young friend who, when he studied and researched and thought for a long time, decided that not only is God a fabrication of man, all churches are evil. When he set out his ideas for me, he believed I would join him in his quest to free mankind from the God myth. I didn't. At that point, all his care and respect for me began to dissipate. If I was unable to agree with his beliefs, I was deluded and brainwashed and by my association with the religion of my choice, bigoted.

For awhile I was hurt by what I deemed his close mindedness. Then I realized I was hurt because I wanted him to agree with my philosophical views which are thus: I have always believed that differing viewpoints are valuable, that people should not always agree but should share their ideas and thoughts regardless of whether or not those are popular. I think it's important to allow others to think and speak for themselves even when what is thought or said disagrees wildly with what I might believe.

So I stopped being hurt and I hoped that one day my friend might grow enough to make room for me in his heart again. It will probably never happen, but he is a good person and I would like to believe that with time he will see that the world is not and has never been black and white, but instead ripples with colors of every hue, and sometimes the colors blend beautifully or appear in sharp contrast. And there are definitely spots of black and washes of white, but those with eyes to see and ears to hear will find in their world a depth and breadth absent in the one devoid of color, because they will understand there are things they don't understand, answerless questions, and a multitude of choices and beliefs that conflict and contrast...and that's okay.

Do I believe that in my religion I have found the truth?


But I also claim that belief for myself alone. I do not expect nor entice others to believe something simply because I am certain it's correct. I encourage them to think, to study, to search their hearts, and decide for themselves.

I am recording all this because of a recent conversation with a friend I love dearly. She's been in my life sporadically for nearly 17 years. She is not well-educated. She is more comfortable working in her chicken coop than at an executive meeting. She prefers life to be simple and pure and uncomplicated. I adore her.

She asked me how I reconcile my religious beliefs with "the gay agenda." I laughed and asked what she meant. She said, "How do I love people I know are gay without betraying my God and my religious convictions?"

I said, "How is that possible? Why would loving a gay person ever offend God or present a situation where you felt your religion was compromised?"

She thought for a moment, then expressed anxiety about setting a good example for her children. I asked again, "How could inviting someone you love to visit you in your home be a bad example for your children?"

She thought maybe it would look as if she was condoning homosexual behavior. I said, "Why does it matter if you condone or condemn it? And who are you afraid will notice whether or not you are judging the lives of others?"

She said, "Okay, I understand what you're saying. I'm not trying be judgmental. I've just never really thought about this before. I need you to help me understand."

This is why I love her. She has been brought up in a closed-minded, judgmental, gossipy environment where the entire community knows the details of each person's life right down to the brand of toilet paper used in every home. But she recognizes the danger of allowing herself to conform to traditions and common beliefs. She wants to grow beyond her roots. She wishes to see new ideas. She invites color to invade the boundaries of the black and white beliefs instilled in her as a child, teen, and adult.

So for the first time in my life, I shared my thoughts on the matter we were discussing. Normally, I would say, "Maybe you need to just spend some time thinking, praying a bit, and getting to know the people we're talking about. Once you've spent time with people who are gay, you'll understand better how you wish to include them, or not, in  your life." But this time, because I love her and I know she will not belittle my beliefs even if she disagrees with them, I spoke some of the thoughts of my heart.

I did not disclose my sexuality. She's not ready to deal with that yet. She needs time to sort through her preconceived notions, separate truth from rumor, and decide what is important to her before I muddy the waters by telling her that I experience the feelings she's been taught are sinful. This was what I shared with her (most of this was in response to her subsequent questions or comments and not a one-sided lecture):

1. Members or former members of the church who are gay do not need other people to tell them how to live their lives. Most have grown up learning the gospel and have gone through a period of time when they studied it intently in order to grow closer to the Lord or to make a decision about its truthfulness. Some have spent what amounts to weeks, months, even years, on their knees begging God to make them heterosexual. They don't need rhetoric about their choices thrown in their faces. They need human beings who are willing to accept that they have the right to decide what is best for their own lives. They know what active members of the church believe. We do not have to tell them.

2. There is no need to "condone" or "condemn." The only time I would ever speak out in judgment about a loved one's life decisions is if I could see that a relationship was abusive in some way--and even then, I would not place myself inside that relationship. I would mention what I saw as tactfully and sensitively as I know how, then refer the person to a professional who could help. In all other cases, I believe it's important to remember that if we believe gospel principles, we understand that agency is a gift from a God who trusts us to use it to govern our own lives--not the lives of other people. In my opinion, it is a greater sin to try to coerce or control another person's beliefs or behavior, than any other thing one might choose to call a sin.

3. Those who choose to exclude people from their lives based on sexual preference, are missing out on experiences and relationships which would, without doubt, enrich their lives and increase joy. One cannot discriminate against any group of people and call it a god-dictate. Christ has clearly taught otherwise. It seems to me to be bizarre and unhealthy to first think of how a person has sex before deciding if he or she is allowed to eat dinner with us.

4. I have no answers. I don't know if there are any clear-cut answers. But I don't need them. All I know is that there are many, many people on this earth and we have a commandment to love them--and I can do that. It's not always easy--but that has nothing to do with sexual preference and everything to do with being human and having disagreements that must be resolved and wrongs that must be forgiven. I am deeply saddened that men and women in our midst have felt that life is too difficult or too lonely, and have ended their lives because no one was there to hug them, to tell them they were worthwhile and beautiful, to allow them a voice to speak for themselves.

5. Other people's life choices have no reflection on us. Anyone who judges us for loving others, based on their own bigoted beliefs, is wrong. I will never back down from that statement, nor will I bow to the social dictates of a religious myth which says if I associate with gay people I'm condoning a lifestyle I should condemn. If that is what they believe, so be it. I'm unashamed to say that I would never wish a religious group to ostracize me because of the person with whom I chose to spend my life, and I will never allow my religious beliefs to become so twisted that I feel I must do that to the people I care about. And for those of my loved ones who have ultimately chosen to believe and live differently from me--I have the greatest respect for your journey, and I'm deeply honored that you would allow me to continue with you even when  our philosophies do not agree. And always, I admire you for thinking for yourself, understanding there would be a cost to taking that step, but having the courage and conviction to take it anyway.

6. When I meet Christ, I want to tell him how very much I love his children, how I kept his commandments to the best of my ability, how my world has been colored by the beauty of each unique soul who has touched my heart and shaped my life. I want to express how grateful I am to Him for allowing me to live in a world filled with diversity of opinions and beliefs and people--how that has forced me to grow and think and learn, but mostly how it has filled me with an appreciation for others. I want to thank Him for not giving us all the answers, but allowing us to think for ourselves and develop the ability to reason and make decisions. I want to acknowledge that I've made mistakes, sometimes huge ones, and let Him know that I'm very glad for the opportunity to do so, and to take His hand as I try to recover from my folly.

When I left my friend, she hugged me. She said, "I don't know yet what to think about all this. Thank you, though, for challenging my belief system a little bit. There is so much more to this than what I've been told. Maybe I worry too much about what I'm doing on the outside and it's a lot more important to change on the inside."

On that we can agree.


It's everywhere. There are moments when I feel I can barely breathe. Someday the rain will come and the fires will ease and I will inhale clean air once more. I don't know when that will happen. I hope it's soon.

I told Darrin I was looking forward to last weekend. My sister got married. For the first time in about four years, my entire family was together. Most of the in-laws made it. There were more than thirty of us gathered together.

I said I was ready to rejoin my family--to be a part of them. I felt my demons had been laid to rest and it was time for me to strengthen relationships.

And at first if felt nice. I was glad to be with my sisters and brothers and their families. They were happy to see me. But soon, very soon, I was invisible. I found myself avoiding the clusters of people, cutting short any attempted conversations someone might start with me. I sat in quiet corners, watching.

It felt as though the smoke from the forest fires had permeated my soul, creating a hazy screen between my family members and me. Darrin disappeared into the fray--he loves my family. DJ and Adam found their cousins and started a game of some sort. Tabitha went for walks with various girl cousins and played with my younger nieces and nephews.

There are good people in my family. I don't know why I don't fit.

There was a lot of noise. I don't like that, and maybe it's why I retreated.

I think, though, there is still some resentment floating about inside me. It seems unfair that all my sisters are tall and blond and beautiful--I'm not. It seems unfair that I'm not a part of their circle unless I'm entertaining. I listened as they traded stories and life details with one another. I was not asked about my life. It seems unfair that there is no interest nor concern about me. It's not that I need to talk; rather, I just would like to know there was someone in my family who wonders about me occasionally.

I know. All that stuff in the above paragraph is self-centered. But I think everyone has moments like that. People have often told me how lucky I am to have such a large, family circle. I don't feel lucky. I feel lonely. And part of me believes they're all missing out, because I'm an okay person and they don't know me. They don't want to know me.

I guess I hoped that after all these years of therapy, one of two things would happen:
1. I would learn how to become someone of worth and interest to my siblings and parents
2. I would learn how to stop caring that I don't really matter to them.

Neither happened. No one questions why I don't often attend reunions. No one really notices when I'm there. I don't want a parade, but it would be nice to talk quietly with someone, to find out what's happening in their world and let them know the things that go on in mine.

My oldest sister left the family gathering first. As she walked by me she stopped and said, "Oh! We didn't get to talk much. You should call me!" And then she left.

We didn't get to talk much.

For three days I attempted to talk with her. She did not wish to be engaged by me.

I should call her...

But the phone works both ways. Perhaps she could call me?

I decided I'd had enough. I gathered Darrin and the kids and said we needed to leave. I hugged each sibling, in-law, niece, nephew...

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it's not yet time for me to have family relationships. Maybe I don't know how. Maybe I'm just someone who functions better in a work environment. Maybe I want too much from my family. Maybe I really am the black sheep and I won't ever fit in. Maybe it's time for me to find a hobby or something.

I do not understand why I fail at family stuff.

Monday, June 18, 2012

In Defense of Being a Bitch

I've been waiting to post this until the furor over Josh Weed's post has died down a bit. And for those who have followed my blog for awhile, Josh is "Jason." I tell you this just because there's a slight chance I might revert to the former pseudonym and this revelation might help avoid confusion.

When Josh and Lolly published their "coming out" post, I spent a short time reading comments, most of which were supportive, loving, and favorable. However, one comment had me raising my hackles. The commentor did not identify himself, but insisted he knew Josh, personally. I find this cowardly. Granted, I was using my pseudonym, but Josh knows who I am, so anything I said would track back to me. Anonymous the Jerk did that thing where he can say what he wants because, well, he's anonymous. I hate it when people do that.

Beyond that, however, was the essence of what Anonymous the Jerk said:

1. I could have easily ended up gay myself, but I chose differently. it's something you can choose. And if you could choose, in a world full of heterosexually slanted individuals, why would someone choose to limit their sexual interest to 10% of the population (the estimated percent of homosexuals)?

2.  I don't believe anyone can know by 11, 12, or even 16 that they are gay... (i.e. they are not really gay but because of teasing, bullying, enticing, or other external reinforcement they become gay)...

Sigh...okay, I'll grant you your belief while completely believing myself that it's WRONG (if I grant yours, you must grant mine), but really, even if that's what you believe, it doesn't make it fact, nor does it make it universal if it's applicable to even one person (yourself). I'm pretty sure that by the time kids are 12, they know which gender makes their hearts palpitate, their mouths dry out and their feet sweat. And while it's a confusing and stressful time of life, most kids are NOT confused about this particular part of being a teen.

3. Some of the most powerful words in the English language are "I am". It is how God used to describe himself to Moses. (Ex 3:14) When a Gay man (or woman) "comes out" and says, "I am" "Gay" it has a certain finality to it. The problem is God did not send us to a destination, but on a journey. You are challenging my belief in that by "accepting who you are" and that you cannot change.

I don't necessarily agree with the "powerful words" statement. While I know the power of words, I also know that this is something one can choose. One can buy into the semantics and implied meanings, or one can say, "They're words. I'll use the ones that suit my purpose for now. Should that purpose change in the future, I'll use different ones, but I refuse to be bullied or intimidated by people who believe they know who I am better than I know myself." Acceptance of self never implies an inability to change. In fact, it's a springboard which allows us to better explore the depth and breadth of our souls and decide where we wish to go from there. Right now Josh sees no problem with being gay. In his mind and vocabulary, that word simply describes the natural tendencies and desires of his persona. He is also promised to Lolly and he chooses (see--this is where choice enters in) to honor those promises and covenants because he's happy in that situation. The gay part of his life has been acknowledged (and continues to be acknowledged by both partners), and it's not a point of shame or contention. I don't know why this bothers you beyond the point where you refuse to understand that other people can think and believe differently from you.

4. There have been men that change their sexual orientation. There's no question that some men have changed to BECOME gay. If that is true then gay men can CHOOSE to become straight. There are many stories on and that reinforce that.

Actually, no. There aren't that many. And I love Rich Wyler who was the founder of People Can Change. The truth is, people change constantly. Rich knows this. And the changes he talks about are those that will allow men to not feel bound by their sexuality, or the change of heart that bring us unto Christ (which really has nothing to do with those to whom one is attracted). There are some who profess to have made a sexuality change. I don't disbelieve their stories. But more often than not, men find ways to make peace between their sexuality and their belief systems--and that is an incredibly healthy change, even if it means leaving the belief system behind. From my standpoint, your logic is flawed from the beginning because I have yet to find one person who admits to choosing to BECOME gay. Unless that point is supported, the following attestations are false.

5.  I find it difficult to believe that a man such as yourself finds no arousal from your beautiful, and very sexy, wife, Laurel. It is unimaginable to me that if she were to wear a something skimpy and try to seduce you that you would simply go, "eh!". If that is true then I truly do feel sorry her because women need to feel sexual and wanted. I've been married over 20 years and still find my wife attractive, sexually stimulating, and lusting after her. It's such an important part of our marriage.

I'm still trying to get beyond the "ick!" factor of this statement. The fact that you would refer to another man's wife as "beautiful, and very sexy" when you should be looking only at your own wife, sort of sickens me (and other commentors as is seen by this comment: "How can you question his ability to be "turned on" by his wife? For one, inappropriate question. Was it not made clear by him stating he has an active sex life and 3 children? Not only that, but he made a WONDERFUL statement above about how attraction is not only in looks and lust. Attraction is through love and understanding and common goals (he says it much more beautifully and elegantly above, I recommend a re-read)."). Quite honestly, I think lust is different from desire or attraction and I feel very sorry for your wife not just for the former comment you made about another man's wife, but also for the way you cheapen your relationship with her by your nasty lust. Your judgement of Josh's marriage relationship has no relevance and it is, quite frankly, none of your business. Should you wish for more information, you would need to identify yourself and form a trust between yourself and Josh before you ask prying questions about the intimacy he shares with his wife. I'm not sure such trust is possible for one who comments in such a cowardly way on Josh's blog, but stranger things have happened.

6. To be honest, I wish you wouldn't have shared this part of you, that you wouldn't have "come out". I guess I feel that I just didn't need to know that about you. It's one thing to tell your story anonymously and say, "I am straight but I struggle with homosexual attraction." It is another to say "I am gay". "I am" is such a powerful way of defining yourself. It does lead to prejudice and intolerance, and I can only pray that when we say hi to each other that I can look beyond it.

Yeah...way to make this all about you. Nice. When you pull your head out, I suggest getting over yourself, remembering that the only thing that's changed is that you judged someone who, by your own words, you've "had nothing but love and respect for you since I've known you, and many times found myself wishing I could be more like you." Still, it's not too late. You believe you can CHOOSE to be gay, so if you do that, you'll be more like Josh! Yay!

In my normal, in-your-face-because-I'm-sure-you're-wrong way, I replied to Anonymous the Jerk:

SamanthaJune 8, 2012 8:36 AM
Psshh...really??? It's a word, and Josh has every right to describe himself as he sees fit. My goodness, even the "Little Pioneer Children" got to call themselves, "merry, and happy, and gay..."

The bottom line here is that you missed the point, which is that this is Josh's blog and he gets to say whatever he wants to here, and while you're welcome to comment, what you've said hinges on semantics and comes off as churlish and judgmental. 

That being said, I bow to Josh's words: "It's okay that you feel that way." Because he's right. Allowing other peoples viewpoints and feelings opens the door to validating the views and honesty stated on this blog. But I still believe it's unfortunate to get hung up on how something is said, rather than hearing the meaning of the message.

I know. I'm offensive. I have no defense. Nor am I willing to take back my words even though Anonymous the Jerk tried to make believe he didn't understand my point, and who proved he could be just as nasty at me as he was at Josh. I took the bait and responded:

SamanthaJune 8, 2012 10:18 AM
Alder is correct: "...the trouble come[s] when we try to tell another person that their experience was skewed and try to give them an alternative explanation that fits in with our own."

Clearly you, Anonymous, have difficulty allowing Josh to use his words and to define them within his own experience. He's not a straight person who "struggles with homosexuality" (and he not only has the personal, but the educational and professional background to validate his claims)--he's Josh, and he says he's gay. Who are you to tell him otherwise? It's fine for you to describe yourself as you see fit. It's silly for you to say others must do so within your parameters.

As for questioning Josh's ability to be attracted to his wife sexually, I believe he answered it at great length as it applies to him. Simply because it doesn't belong in your one-size-fits-all definition, does not mean it's invalid.

This made him mad. Clearly, he's not used to being opposed.

Anonymous the JerkJune 8, 2012 11:00 AM
Sorry, Samantha, but you are "clearly" putting your bias and bigotry into what I am saying. I did not say he was a straight person with SSA. I wish he would have. I SAID there is a finality to saying, "I am gay". It means that he's accepted it, can't or won't or doesn't want to change, and he is now letting the world know about it. That is disappointing to me.

I personally know Josh, do you? I am disappointed that he "came out" at all. I didn't want to know that about him. I'm not proud of him for it. I have little tolerance for anyone that doesn't want to change or improve their lives (has nothing to do with being gay as it affects welfare-aholics, alcoholics, dead-beat dads, etc.) It's the ATTITUDE I have a problem with. Sure, IT'S MY PROBLEM, you are right.

I read his post three times and he did NOT answer, at any length, if he is "turned-on" at all by his wife, Laurel. If he is, then by the 0-100% SSA scale Alder brought up, he is not gay. It IS a valid question.

Now get off your high-horse.
Yes. I added "the Jerk" to his commentor identifier. I also loved this comment:

Alder: "Please don't try to tell josh he has not understood himself. " YES! THIS!

Samantha: "It's fine for you to describe yourself as you see fit. It's silly for you to say others must do so within your parameters." AND THIS! <3
 Naturally, I loved it because it validated my former comment, but mostly I loved it because it was written by a person who has a name and uses it. And of course, I couldn't let it end there: 

SamanthaJune 8, 2012 1:04 PM
Nah, I think I'll stay up here and leave you to muck around in all the crap you're spewing. If you do know Josh, you're living proof of the saying, "With friends like you, who needs enemies?"

I've known this man and his family for more than seven years, spent time in their home, and I know from personal experience exactly where he's coming from when he describes what it's like to be gay, LDS, and married. Honestly, he describes his sex life in detail, but it's really none of your business whether or not he decides to say more about how he's affected by his wife, physically.

Whew--so very glad Christ will judge the hearts of men and your small-minded, bigoted judgments will belong only to you.

To which he replied: 
Anonymous the JerkJune 8, 2012 2:08 PM
Samantha - you are a bitch. Nothing more to be said.

Now, I'm not arguing that last statement. I wasn't nice, for sure. But the truth is, I'm not a bitch, but if you say stupid things and I feel like expending the energy, I'll call you on it. People don't like that--especially ones who are very certain they're in the right. No one likes their dearest beliefs questioned. No one likes to be thrown into the grey area when they're certain they've made everything in life black and white. And when they get tired of being challenged, the more juvenile ones call names.

Probably Josh and Lolly would be unhappy that I was nasty to their blog reader. Normally I would feel badly for offending them, but right now, I'm just sad they know Anonymous the Jerk. They deserve better friends. And there's a good chance that, should I encounter a similar situation, I'll be called a bitch again because being quiet when people are spouting crappy rhetoric that has no basis in fact and is meant to cause pain, does not come easily to me.

Final note: I have no idea if more was said. Once the name-calling card is played I lose all interest in continuing communication. Name-calling says you're no longer (if you ever were) using your brain, you're feeling desperate to cause harm, and you're not intelligent enough to consider a viewpoint beyond your own--in which case, further communication is pointless.

I'm not offended that I was called a bitch. I defend my right to be one when the occasion calls for it. Chances are, it will happen again and I probably will never apologize.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

I think (and I'm saying this cautiously) things are on an upswing.

Thursday marked the first day in nearly a year when I felt like myself. I woke at 5 a.m. (normal waking time for me), went to the gym where I did my therapy exercises and ran about 4 miles on the elliptical (still having difficulty with impact running but I'm adding more and more resistance on the elliptical), then I came home and spent the morning finishing a formal gown and altering dress pants for Tabitha, who was selected as a Girls State delegate which requires a new wardrobe (they're only allowed to wear formal and business attire during the time they're attending the 8-day seminar).

At noon I went to work for a couple of hours, then to a doctor appointment, then back to work until 4:00 p.m., when I went grocery shopping, went home, and made dinner (which was spectacular: lemon/herb baked salmon, butternut squash risotto with pine nuts and fresh sage, and spinach/mango/rasperry salad). After dinner I took a three-mile walk, then went home and worked until 11:00, at which point I decided bed was in order. And I didn't get tired.

That's the Sam I'm used to.

Yesterday was equally filled with energy and activity. I skipped the gym and instead spent two hours walking up and down steep, rocky, rutted dirt hills. It's time for my hip to learn how to do that again. Today I awoke to incredible soreness (to be expected), but was still able to do my physical therapy and I ran five and a half miles. I think next week I'll increase my impact running time and see what happens.

And I'm better, finally. No more pneumonia. I would like to never have that again.

I realized this morning that I've been battling poor health for nearly a year now. It has definitely taken its toll on my ability to manage emotions and PTSD symptoms effectively, and I've been exhausted for months. I've not been doing my best work in any of my jobs and I'm fairly certain my parenting skills haven't been stellar either. In an effort to stay on top of things, I allowed some drugs to be prescribed for me that were to help with nightmares and depression. What I ended up with was more depression, severely low blood pressure, insomnia, fatigue, vertigo, and digestive problems (read: vomiting blood). We (doctor and I) nixed the drug therapy after about 10 days of fighting side-effects. While I understand that there are myriad of other drug possibilities and I may have simply stumbled onto the few that would cause me difficulty, I'm not excited about continuing the crap shoot.

So I'm back to my original daily routine: meditate, get morning sunshine, intense physical activity paired with moderate exercise later in the day, good nutrition (still working on remembering to eat--it's a problem), and 4-6 hours of sleep. I'm working again on trying to manage my dreams. It takes a great deal of concentration and energy and sometimes I'm too tired. When I began doing this I chose a partner to work with me which was incredibly helpful, but for reasons of my own, I'm not doing that this time around which makes the process much more difficult.

Welcome to my life.

In the midst of all the poor health issues, many of the therapy issues I was working on lost ground--lots of it. I had lunch with a friend yesterday; one I have not seen for more than a year. She told me she had heard rumors that I'd been ill, so I told her, as briefly as possible, about my year. She said, "I had no idea you've been so sick--that you've had injuries and surgeries and everything in-between. I'm so sorry I didn't know." I said, "Why would you? You have to care for your family and you're very busy. It's okay that you didn't know. Few people do unless they see or talk with me frequently, or they're my students or business associates. I've been in hibernation for awhile, trying to get better."

I realized when I said those words that I hadn't even known I was doing it. I don't remember the last time I did something I enjoy--or if I did, the enjoyment factor for me was very low. I've gone to lunch with people, but I've had to schedule it and I haven't really wanted to go at all. I've been playing the game of life and wondering why for quite awhile.

I also realized that the people who really care about me know what's happening in my life. There are a few friends and family members who have checked in with me regularly, making sure I'm okay, asking if they could help. Always, I've said no. Don't help me. I'm fine. You have more important things to do.

But I wasn't fine--not at all. I'm not sure there's been a time when I cried so much or so often. There were days when getting out of bed felt beyond my ability, days when I yearned for the sun to set simply because it meant that I'd made it through another 24 hours, nights when I woke drenched in sweat because of nightmares or pain, and always the dread that this was it--this was my life--and it was never going to get better.

I tried, though. I made certain to watch the sun rise and remember that there was a time when I thought that was a beautiful, amazing event. I forced myself to notice the leaves turning in the fall, the snow when the sun made it sparkle, and my crazy pansies which try to bloom even when the temperature is below zero. And when I got so tired that trying felt it was an enormous effort, I cried a little bit and tried some more.

There were nights when my prayers to the Big Guy went like this: "I know I'm supposed to start by telling you how grateful I am--and I am--but I'm also tired beyond coping. I'm trying to do the things I know are right. I'm trying to choose joy every day. I'm trying to get better. Will you help me? And I know I'm supposed to pray for all the people who are going through things much worse than what I am, but I'm really tired--so pretend I just did that, okay? You know them better than I do anyway. Thanks."

Yeah, I know, I'm lame and probably the Big Guy stopped listening after a couple of weeks of such prayers, but it was the best I could do at the time. I'll have a talk with him about it in a little while, when I'm feeling more settled.

In the meantime, my house has become an absolute disaster. I see laundry-folding, vacuuming, dusting, and mopping on my agenda for this day, along with some online work. But first--stretching and a shower. I need to wash off those five miles I ran a few minutes ago.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My mother was obsessed with scrapbooking before it was a fad. She would spend hours making cut-outs and finding cute stickers. Used wrapping paper and greeting cards became paper art within the scrapbooks. Childhood anecdotes and important moments were recorded on the pages in my mother's perfect penmanship. And when it became known that much of the paper products and glues she had used were filled with acids and other nasties that would destroy photographs, she began each book again.

Mine is different from my siblings. There are fewer pictures. Many of the initial anecdotes describe how I, as an 18-month-old and toddler, was very interested in cameras and the end result of my interest was that I opened the camera repeatedly and exposed the film, destroying all the pictures. I remember reading those stories when I was older and asking my mother, "Why didn't you just put the camera where I couldn't reach it?" She would reply, "Sam, there wasn't a place where you couldn't climb. If you wanted something, you found it."

Hmmm....I sound a bit like my Adam.

Tabitha has recently become obsessed with my scrapbook. She looks for a long time at each surviving picture, reads the stories, looks at the Valentines and birthday cards, and traces each saved, childish drawing with her finger. When I asked her why my scrapbook is of such interest to her, she asked, "Mom, how could anyone not love you? I don't understand."

I think my mom loved me. She just didn't really want me, preferring instead, my blond, blue-eyed sisters. You can love someone without wanting them, I think.

I explained to Tabitha about bonding. I told her how my mother suffered debilitating postpartum depression in a time when it was taboo to speak of it. I talked about the miscarriage which occurred when I was less than a year old, in a time when the remedy for miscarriage was to get pregnant again as soon as possible.

Tabitha said, "I still don't understand. You were beautiful. I would have loved you--bonded with you."

And that's true. Tabitha bonds with every baby she meets. She's been a tiny mother since Adam provided her first Batman action figure when she was nine months old. She rocked and fed her Batman and even gave him a tiny black diaper--just in case. The mothering moved to nearly every possible toy she could find--stuffed animals, baby dolls, even a very large Frankenstein monster which she stole from her brothers (this was a two-fer, because the toy had a hollow head intended to store plastic tools--Tabitha ousted the tools and stored snacks in the head instead).

There's no question--Tabitha would have loved the baby Samantha with all her heart. I know this. It's just a part of who she is. It's not, however, a part of who my mother is. The part that mystifies Tabitha is why my mother bonded with most of her children, but not me.

I tried once again to explain, then gave up. Tabitha cannot understand. I told her that was okay--it's sort of incomprehensible. She said, "And now you won't ever have a mom who loves you like she should because Grandma's brain is dying."

This is true.

So I said, "You know, Tabitha, there were a lot of things that happened that shouldn't have. But there were also things that happened that were good--things that many children don't receive." And I listed them for her:
1. My mother read to me. This is a gift for which I will be grateful every day of my life. There are children whose parents don't read at all. They (both parents and children) miss out on a great deal.
2. My mother taught me basic life and homemaking skills. Tabitha perceives me as being extremely capable when it comes to keeping a home and taking care of a family. Those skills came from my mother.
3. My mother taught me appreciation for art, music, literature, and dance.
4. My mother loved beauty, and she, herself, has always been beautiful.

Tabitha said, "You love your mom."
I said, "Yes. I do."
Tabitha said, "Grandma is very lucky to have a daughter like you."
I said, "You know, Tabitha, I've never really thought about that."
Tabitha said, "I think you need to think about it."

Perhaps my daughter is right.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Eye of the Beholder

There was a time in my life when I wore a ribbon in my hair every single day. I believe I had about 30 ribbons of different colors.

This habit began shortly after I left home when I was seventeen. I took a job in Teton National Park. Naturally, because it was a resort in the middle of nowhere, employees lived in onsite dorms which came with a meal ticket attached. Our room and board were deducted from our monthly pay which meant we ended up making next to nothing, but when one has no other bills or obligations, and has just escaped from what felt like a living hell, the resulting independence and freedom is well worth the tiny monthly stipend remaining after one's meals (which I rarely ate) and room are subtracted from the paycheck.

The dorm arrangement in which I lived amounted to a huge warehouse-like basement with cement floors and sort-of walls creating the illusion of rooms, which went up about seven feet and then stopped. Some of the "rooms" had two bunk beds, some had rows of twelve or more. There were no doors and we could kneel on the top bunks and peek over at the occupants of the other rooms for chitchat whenever we wished. Viewed from above, I'm certain it looked like a crazy maze filled with walls papered with movie posters and pictures of home, and girls in various states of undress running about the passageways during the day, and sleeping or whispering at night. I loved it.

A couple of days after I had arrived, I was in the community bathroom trying to tame the curls I was blessed with--and I was frustrated. I heard my mother's voice saying unkind things about my unruly hair as she walked about without one strand of her own out of place. I wondered why none of my sisters had hair like mine. And then a perfectly beautiful stranger appeared beside me. She watched for a moment as I struggled with my hair, then said, "You have the most gorgeous curls. I would die for hair like that."

I paused and looked at her. She was probably 21 years old. She was tall and blonde and blue-eyed. There were tiny, light-colored freckles on her perfectly straight nose. I thought about falling in love with her, then decided that would be a very bad idea. Being in love with a straight girl for an entire summer did not sound fun at all.

I said, "I hate it. Everyone in my family has straight hair. It goes exactly where they want it to. Mine's like a pile of snakes."

She laughed, "Have you noticed the color? You have dark brown with streaks of lighter brown and red. Mine's just plain blond and it's always straight."

I sighed, "I don't know what to do with it. I have to be at work in 30 minutes."

She told me her name and asked if I'd let her help me, adding that she'd been wanting to play with my hair since she saw me check in a few days before. I shrugged and told her to have fun.

My new friend wet down the hair that had become a mane. She introduced me to hair products which encourage curl, not frizz, gently detangled the curls, then produced a thin red ribbon which she used as a headband, and tied a small bow on the side of my head. While she messed with my hair, she told me she was going to be a beautician, how she planned to go to some beauty school in the fall because she had received her associate degree, but didn't want to go to a university. She told me about her family and said I reminded her of her little sister, whom she missed a great deal.

Then she turned me toward the mirror and said, "See--you look so pretty!"

I don't know if I did or not. I took her word for it. I floated around all day, just being pretty because she said I was. That night I returned her ribbon to her. She took it from me and told me to follow her. We went to her room where she opened a box on her dresser, pulled out five more ribbons of different colors and handed them to me, instructing me to keep using them.

And I did. For a long time I used those ribbons, added some of my own, and remembered each time I tied the bow that a very beautiful young woman had once told me I was pretty.

Today I use a flat iron to tame my curls and I don't use a hair ribbon anymore. But I have one in my top drawer beneath my folded socks. It's red and not very new--a gift from a stranger I will not forget.