Wednesday, January 30, 2013

TdJ: Travel

For someone who has never been anywhere, I am obsessed with travel.  I often fantasize that "some day" I will have a chance to go where I want to go and the list goes on and on.

My top choice is Ireland.  My mother's father's family is from Ireland, departure points from Dublin to the US in the years spanning 1850-1870.

Insomnia, wanderlust and a subscription to can be a dangerous thing.

I am not sure what I expect if I were ever able to get to Ireland.  Having a friend who lives there now, I do know that I would get health care when I needed it.  I know the country is also having an economic crisis.  And that I probably wouldn't make  a living wage with my educational background there either. At this point, air fare and lack of energy are still the only reasons I don't pack up and move there.

(this image of Wicklow Mountains from Ireland Chauffeur website) 
Another place I dearly want to go is Jamaica.  When it was younger I just wanted to go for the spliffies, mon.   And then I started doing some research into the culture there and Rastafarianism.  No, I am not Rasta, mon.  But every friend I have ever known who has vacationed there loved it.  Also pretty sure I could not make a living wage there doing what I do.  Alas.  But I do believe the overall climate is warmer and there would be way more access to the coast (and hopefully easier breathing) for me.  
(this image from and courtesy of Jamaica Tourism)  

I think that the urge to travel is part escapism and part thirst for new sights and experiences.  Workaday world can be awfully landlocked, both mentally and emotionally.  Travel signifies for me the ability to get a break from all the daily demands of the average of 100 people at work and the family that depends of me for everything.  Given the chance to travel "some day,"  I might be able to reinvent myself into someone who actually enjoys life for a few days. 

Some people I know enjoy travel.  Some see it as a chore.  I can understand that it could be tiring.  I have friends who fly across the country to see their families a couple of times a year and I can see that it wears their kids out.  

An aside: My 17 year old pointed out to me last week that she had never been on a plane.  She was very accusatory, and stated that I would not let her go anywhere or enjoy anything.  It breaks my heart to know that this is true - financially I have never been able to take her anywhere or go anywhere.  I know the resentment that builds from being tied down to oppressive burdens of responsibility. (Just take a look at my daily life.)  When I was her age, I graduated from high school and wanted to travel so much, but my mother chose my college (telling family members if it was good enough for her, it was good enough for me, even though it did not offer any of my top 5 career interests in majors and I had at least partial scholarships to a couple of good [Vanderbilt and Duke] schools).  Thus my downward spiral began.  I have told my daughter that if she can make the money work, she can go to an out of state school.  My parents did not pay one cent of my college education, so I really hate to do that to her.  However, the Republicans refused to sign the bill which would have saved them from capitalized on my student loan interest that had already been capitalized, so the $79,000 I borrowed for my Bachelors and Masters degrees has now been made into $127,000 and will be over $140,000 soon.  So there is no way I can sign on for her student loans too.  If I live, I will be paying on my own until I am between 80 and 85.  Since I have no retirement and no health insurance, I am hoping I don't live that long.  What a conundrum.  I want to live long enough to see my children grow up but not long enough to pay my student loans or have to be put in a pauper's nursing home.  

Then there is the ultimate travel.  I would love to go tramping about this planet.  I actually hunger to do so.  But the only trip any of us is guaranteed is the Underworld.  I think this is why I am so drawn to reading about different forms of spirituality.  When I was younger I was afraid of death and dreaded it like I was running up the down escalator.  Now I can think about passing through into another destination.  There's too many Books of the Dead that illustrate it.  Even if it all myth, it can be my myth, until it ceases to matter.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

TdJ: Priorities

This will be a short post this evening.  Yesterday was long.  Today was not near as long.  But I am still exhausted.

Today's topic is priorities.

I am happy to report that I am better than I used to be when it comes to priorities.

I still set too many, but I do know, more than ever, what is important to me.

Reading.  Writing.  Spending time with my daughters.  Spirituality.

So tonight, I am going to go to bed early - it's not even 10PM yet - and read and relax.

Because this is going to be a new priority.

Monday, January 28, 2013

TdJ: Balance

This topic falling on this day is a very nifty cosmic joke.  And yes, I am laughing.  Because I have been at it for about 15 hours of work and am just now taking a break to write my daily blog entry.  The ironic part is that I also went to an Al-Anon meeting tonight and asked that we talk about the topic of insanity.  And then I come home, finally get a chance to look at the Topic du Jour list - and the topic for the 28th is BALANCE.  Yummy.  As soon as I complete this blog entry I am going to get to spend another 3-6 hours catching up on typing up paperwork.  The good times, I got 'em.

Balance is something I do NOT have in my life.  This actually falls into the worry category, as I am very concerned that I may some day lose my mind.  If not go actually crazy, I am pretty sure I will have a stroke.

Today I felt so overwhelmed by everything, everyone making demands, that I almost cried.

I have no idea if it's because my mom is so sick she can't sit up at the moment.  She apparently has some stomach virus and throws up every time she tries to sit up.  I came home tonight and cleaned her bedroom.  She didn't want me to, but it needed it badly.  It's hard to know when she is sick if it is from the cancer, the chemo after effects, the radiation, the diabetes or if she has this damn rotovirus that is going around.

It may be that my youngest is sick too.  She hasn't been able to go to school in almost a week.  I don't deal with her - or my oldest either - being sick very well.  My first ten years of motherhood were lucky; Chloe is preternaturally healthy.  She is 17, has had three stomach bugs and one ear infection her entire life.  Tara gets sick constantly, is allergic is Zithromax and Omnicef, and has had like 20 ear infections and at least ten stomach viruses, in her 7 years.

It may be that financially I can never catch up.  A couple of weeks ago the gas was shut off.  Now I have a disconnect notice for the electric and water.  The rent is paid, thank goodness, but we've had a car I haven't been able to afford to get out of the shop in months.  At some point they are going to sell our car or whatever it is that they do.

It may be the physical pain just draining on me.  Hurting every single day for the past eight years has taken its toll.

It may be that I am just exhausted.  Spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically.

It may be that it just doesn't matter.  Because sooner or later, the Universe will make me find balance.  This usually happens when I get too ill to work or move or participate in society.  It hasn't happened in almost 6 years.  But it has happened.

I really don't want it to get to that point again.  So I try, little by little, to relax my standards.  The housework can wait.  I can only do so much for other people.  I start saying NO more and more.  (That part feels pretty good, I cannot lie.)  I go to Al-Anon meetings and I listen to my straight-talking, smart as hell sponsor.  I read and I pay attention to great writers and I really feel, not just look at, their words.

I write my ass off.

And I seek truth, learn lessons when they present themselves to me.  According to Mary K. Greer, the High Priestess is my Soul Card.  Sometimes I gotta shut up and listen to the High Priestess.  And she rarely teaches me with words.  For some reason, I think she could guide me in balance.  And I am so ready to learn.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

TdJ: Friendships

And not to be outdone, get out of order, I burden you with yet another blog post.  Since I missed yesterday, today requires two.
Since it is Sunday, I am tap these out on the laptop at home in my bed, and only get interrupted occasionally.  People here are up and out of bed before noon today - who would have thought it? - simply because I wanted to some quiet time to write.  When I want them to socialize with me (see last post) they are too tired or must stretch the week's small tasks into weekend tasks that support the agoraphobia.

Friendships.  I have a few.  By that I mean, I have people I know for whom I hold positive regard and enjoy time spent with them.  However, I do not have a "best friend," or anyone to confide in (hence this blog is an insane ramble of vomited emotion, good times) that can listen without judging me harshly.  There are people who I am sure could fulfill that role, but I haven't seen them in months or years.  We keep in touch through facebook, basically.  I am happy beyond belief that they exist at all, and would walk over hot coals for them.  However, by the time I realized that the hot coal walking was needed, those coals would be ashes, because our communication is not immediate or daily.

So why do I not have friends?  Well, friendship takes a time commitment, and I have to work long hours with no breaks, sick days or vacations.  When I do get time, it is tiny increments and I am so exhausted that I just want to be alone to rest.  Friends deserve more than I can give.

When I was young, I had no model for social boundaries of friendships.  My mother had no friends.  She was consumed by my father.  My father had friends and as soon as he was finished with work he lit out for parts unknown to go fishing or hunting or gun shopping or motorcycle shopping with them.  With my father gone, my mother would grade papers or watch television holed up in her room.  I was not allowed to have peers inside the house.  I call them peers, because kids my own age scared the shit out of me.  (Come to find out later, it was a good thing.  Every kid my age on the street where I grew up ended up in juvenile detention sooner or later.  Some made it into a career gig up at various penitentiaries.)  My sister had better luck with a younger crowd.  In later elementary school years, I had one friend.  I always went to her house, she never to mine.  On my 11th birthday, my parents let me have 4 people over for a slumber party.  One was mean to another, while the other two looked at me as if to say, "Oh hell, make it stop."  My solution was to turn to the nastier of the two, the one who had instigated the petty nastiness, and say, "Stop being a bitch."  Artful negotiator, I was!
Throughout puberty and high school, I made two more friends.  Nothing major.  They were good people.  One disappeared from my life almost instantly.  The one I do know the whereabouts?  Also facebook friend.

Evil Kvetch: Alert:  I can close my eyes and picture a some day.  Some day I will have time for friends who come over for tea and share their work and their writing.  Friends who can be supportive and not judge my awkwardness.  For most people my age, they allude to this "some day" as retirement.  Alas, at 43, I also have no retirement and see only that I will have to work at this pace until I die.  Or until I am unable to drag my broken self to work 18 hours a day and I get slapped into the worst nursing home available, as I have no long term financial future or long term care possibilities either.

Best not to think about it.  It only depresses me further.  Best to instead pray for an instantaneous death while I am still able-bodied, right after payday, so my children will be able to survive another two weeks financially.

It's not like they could pack up and go to one of my friends' homes, is it?

Okay, end of Evil Kvetch.

To end this on an upbeat note:
I do want to introduce one of my old friends.  She was of the furry variety, and could be very entertainingly rude (a quality I apparently adore in friends).  She was wonderful and loyal and convinced me I could be a good mother.
And there is my friend of fur now, who greets me at the door almost every time I walk in (unless he is eating something tasty, and then I don't blame him).  He cries and mopes when I leave.  He always comes when I call him.  He is the very definition of unconditional love.

TdJ: My Temper

Ironically enough, I did not not post yesterday on MY TEMPER because I was in a shitty mood, in a severe amount of pain (headache,year-long toothache, and sinus infections as well as fibro noise).  I spent most of the day doing the bidding of the people who live in my house that I support, and what time I did have to my myself, I took OTC pain killers (like I do every day), and I slept.  I actually took a  2 1/2 hour nap, but the older kid woke me up and told me to get up, drive her and her friend to the movies (which I paid for).  I got up, did so, and then lingering, bought a third ticket and went to see a movie by myself.  The husband refused to go to dinner with me Friday night, as being unemployed is exhausting apparently, and then refused to go to lunch or to the movies with me yesterday.  There won't be a fourth invitation.  At any rate, I went to see a movie alone yesterday.  It was fine.  The movie was "Gangster Squad."  It wasn't earth-movingly good, but it was entertaining and I didn't hate any of the characters.  It had an actual plot.  There was some good acting.  (Sorry, apparently, my temper makes me a shitty movie critic.)

So on to temper.  I have quite the temper.  Although, from all accounts, I have earned it.  I've had the great fortune to have been raised by, grown up with, and married into situations where I was the last priority - or no priority - for the people around me.  I learned early to keep quiet, not raise a fuss, be the model child, what everyone wanted me to be.  This was a matter of convenience for them, and set a pretty high bar of being neither seen nor heard as a pinnacle of perfection.  Everyone's needs trumped mine, even as a child.  My sister's sickness, illness, whatever, meant she needed more care and attention.  This created a bonding between her and my mother which, however dysfunctional, will never be broken - and fortunately for me, I am not a part of it.  This is a blessing as it simplifies things for me greatly.  Then my mother's horses, my dad's hobbies, all came before me.  It was perfectly acceptable to go care for horses miles away on a daily basis, but driving me to orchestra practice one a week was a pain in the ass, not to be endured.
All this is in the past and cannot be changed. But it did set the stage for me to enmesh myself with other users, marry a couple of them, and to this day wear myself out doing what they are unwilling, too lazy to do or what they find repugnant.  Like work a job.  Support themselves.  Take responsibility for anything. Plan and cook a decent, balanced meal.  

Much of the time I trudge through my life working 12-18 hour days, occasionally going to an Al-Anon meeting when I can finish work before 6:30PM, and then eating and trying to sleep 2-4 hours between bouts of excruciating physical pain where I wish to be delivered by death - which I find more likely to occur than health insurance or health care I can afford, before I start the day all over again.

Forgive my lack of Pollyanna cheer most days.

Being in physical pain makes me a bitch.  Pure and simple.  Chronic physical pain makes my temper much worse.  My fuse is shorter when I hurt.
This apparently defeats the ideal that was instilled in me from childhood - to be angry, or demand any attention at all makes one imperfect.  Wrong.  Repugnant.  Bad.


I work now with people with disabilities.  I teach a 10-12 hour training at least quarterly on Crisis Prevention and Intervention.  In doing that, I make a huge priority to explain that anger can be a reasonable reaction, and sometimes the only way people can get their needs met.  And that to prevent angry outbursts, maybe we should get to know people and understand their needs.  And help, where we can, to assist them in getting their needs met.  Because then there would be less use or need for anger.  I honestly believe this.

Wish I was smart enough to use it in my own life.

Ah, in 2014, when the government here is supposed to sponsor/offer/promote health care, maybe I will have less of a temper because I won't be in physical pain.  That is, unless the ultra-Conservatives/Republicans who only want the rich to live and the poor to die from lack of health care once again have their way.
Maybe my temper will be lessened when Republicans stop trying to kill us (sorry, maybe some hyperbole there.  What I mean was "stop trying to let us die.").  

Maybe not.

Friday, January 25, 2013

TdJ: My Mother's Health

On my Topic du Jour List, this was listed as a worry.  Since the middle of last year, this is a daily worry of mine.  Prior to that, it was one of those nagging, ever-present but sometimes-pushed-aside-for-crises worries.

My entire life I was somehow certain that my mother's health was not good.  She herself traces it back to being pregnant and giving birth to my sister - one of the greatest joys of her life, ironically - in 1972.  That's just over 40 years of (not so) silent suffering for my mom.  She had a Cesarean birth for my sister, then had to feed my sister through a tube for the first few months of her life.  Then she had an appendicitis which ruptured in the late 70s.  Then she developed septicaemia from that.  Then she had an ovarian tumor which was benign when I was in high school and had a total hysterectomy.  Then she broke her foot or ankle or some shit.  Then she was in an automobile accident about 2 or 3 years ago and broke her back.  Add to this an absolute addiction to Coca-Cola and Type II diabetes which she wouldn't stop drinking Cokes for so she has to shoot herself up with two types of insulin.  She has always been, in one way or another, a fucked up little pup.

Then this past spring and summer she started urinating blood.  She ignored it, being too focused on babysitting my nephew (who happens to have autism) to schedule and attend a medical appointment.  The quack she calls a primary care physician is fond of just calling in an antibiotic for her without actually seeing or examining her.  However, the day she finally made the call, at the urging of some woman at her church (having ignored my sister's and my suggestions/urgings/pleadings/veiled threats), luckily her quack was unavailable.  She ended up being placed that day in the care of a nurse practitioner, who actually made her come in, give a urine specimen, and who immediately referred her to a urologist.  The long and short of it is my mother had kidney and bladder cancer.  One kidney, ureter and part of the bladder was surgically removed in August, 2012.

She spent the fall and winter of 2012 in chemotherapy, 12 days in all, (four sets of three days for you math whizzes out there).  A scan on the last few days of 2012 showed that the chemo was effective in getting rid of the kidney cancer, but there is still a "dark shadow" in what remains in her bladder (cue vampire music here).  On the 14th of January, she began radiation treatments for this.  She hates radiation as much as chemo.  Other than her trips to get the radiation and a stop to buy more junk food on the way back if she isn't too tired, she does not leave her bed.  She has even lessened her obsessions.  She is reading more, and even reading more than magazines and newspapers, so that is a good thing.  But other than that, it is hard to watch her consciously make decisions in her lifestyle that are working against her healing.  She has always been a junk food junkie, and has sneaked and rationalized drinking Cokes all throughout her diagnosis of diabetes, even through being placed on insulin.  She is a pessimist about her own life, always has been.  There is no magic wand or formula for me to get her to eat a real fruit or vegetable, even when I guilt her into drinking one of my protein fruit smoothies (22g protein, 3 servings of fruit).  There is no way she is ever going to drink water instead of carbonated beverages.

This has been a long, hard road for her.  Even more thankless, I would hazard a guest, than birthing me.  I do know that there is no way I can "feel her pain" or understand.  I don't have cancer and don't go to doctors.  I feign health even when I feel like shit, and I have no patience for illness in my own body.  I am not so naive that I think I am going to save her.  I may want to.  And I do feel like when all this is over, she will have a good prognosis.  At least I hope so.

The Serenity Prayer states, in my version:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can, and 
The Wisdom to know the difference.  

My mother's health is a topic over which I need serenity.  Maybe courage to change my attitude and approach.  And wisdom to keep my mouth shut.  

Having said all this, I do ask for tonglen or groovy thoughts from you towards her health and healing.  If you are one of those Christian types, prayers work too.  She is Catholic, so she is all about the prayers.  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

TdJ: Reading

Slept late today due to taking medicine for the toothache that actually worked last night.  First time in a year!  I still woke up at 2AM, but was actually able to get back to sleep in a little over an hour, so was not up all night for the first time this week.

So today's topic is reading, my absolutely favorite way to pass the time.

Once upon a time I got a Bachelor's degree in English (literature) and often miss this field.  I went in a completely different direction when I got my Master's degree not quite 15 years ago - Counseling, and I have regretted it most days.  Not just because it has taken 15 years to get to a living wage, either.

Most days I have to make a real effort to steal a few moments to read.  I just feel sad when I cannot do the things I actually enjoy, reading being chief among them.

A couple of days ago, I finished a book about ACIM by Jon Mundy.  At the moment I am wrapping up Rachel Pollack's Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom.  I have a stack of books in my room that is both taunting and tantalizing.  And some day I hope to have time, without losing my livelihood that supports my family, to read them.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

TdJ: Vehicle Maintenance

Today's topic is one of those things I need to make a better effort to accomplish.

My entire life I have been the person who lets the car go way more than 3000 miles between oil changes.  I don't take care of cars - or other things, for that matter - like I should.

As I age, I am seeing this is a problem.  It doesn't mean I am undergoing a radical conversion, but it does mean I am valuing all things more and treating them a bit better.  Cars included.

I hope to continue to do better on this.  In the meanwhile, I introduce you to the cars that inspire me:

If you have one of these taking up space in your driveway, I will be happy to take it off your hands.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

TdJ: Marriage

Today's topic is a loaded gun for me.  So I will try to handle it well and carefully, with the safety on.

I've been married twice.  The first time was out of a sense of guilt and thinking it was what I should do. The second time was out of delusions of domestic bliss which is embarrassing, because I was way too old (34) for any kind of romantic illusions at that point.

In my mid-twenties, I had the urge to procreate.  As an afterthought, I thought I should get married.

Skip ahead almost 10 years later, I had the illusion that I wanted companionship and that marriage would supply that.  Apparently I had learned nothing from the first experiment.

The saving grace from the social experiments of my marriages are my daughters.  I am very happy with them and feel as if they justify my illusions.  However, it is ridiculous for me to have expected anything else from the institution of marriage.  In my experience, marriage does not guarantee companionship, financial security, intimacy, or much of anything else either.  There are those who will say that marriage is one of those bizarre set-ups where you get what you put into it.  That may be true, and I have two responses.  First, kiss my ass.  Second, I have so little left to give when I am doing all the work to support my family and make all financial decisions and handle all crises and issues that befall my family, I have nothing left to give.  Marriage is just one of those things that exhausts me in practice and irritates me in theory.  (And no, I have no desire to hear about your perfect marriage with a working partner.  I've heard that story already.  And no, don't pray for me or my evil heart to be turned.)

Since both the poor victims who have had the misfortune to be married to me are still alive, I am limited as to what I can say about marriage.  Let's just say I am no expert.  And I won't be doing it again.

Monday, January 21, 2013

TdJ: Music

Today's post was to be about music.  Well, it will still be about music, but it is being written at 4:30PM in the afternoon after I have trained new hires all day, so it may be less coherent that my other posts.

When it comes to writing, I am a morning person.  Who knew?

To simulate the morning experience, I am having the morning tea (sans milk, as I am at the office and milk is hard to keep at the office).

Music is one of those things I enjoy as a matter of course during the day.  After a particularly long day I have been known to blast some metal.  But most of the time, the music nearest and dearest to my heart falls into two categories: Classical (actually, Baroque, but this may mean nothing to most of you) and 1980s alternative.  I could - and do - spend hours enjoying this heavenly art.

Back in the day - meaning in my early teens - I played in orchestra and band.  And I don't mean marching band.  I enjoyed hanging with musicians even at that young age.  For a while I entertained thoughts of going to college on a music scholarship.  If I had stuck with it, I probably could have pulled it off.  But my parents moved us out to the middle of nowhere where the county high school had no orchestra and nothing but marching band.  I sang in the chorus, but my heart wasn't in it.  It wasn't like I was a child prodigy - I got started way too late for that.  Hell, even in elementary I failed "flutophone" class.  I hated that damn plastic whistle.  Strings were more my thing.  After all, my mother's Siamese and I shredded my mother's guitar when I was just a toddler.  Good times.

I still like listening to things I played in orchestra thirty years ago.  I find that calming and soothing, and - hello - if you have read my blog you know I need all the soothing and calming I can get.

I also like listening to things I liked in high school.  I was never much for the Top 40 or overplayed stuff.  While some were oohing and ahhing over Def Leppard, I was listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees.  I absolutely hated country music.  Still do.  And most Top 40.  Mention Taylor Swift to me and I throw up a little bit in my mouth.  I've only heard one song in the last year or so that got popular radio airplay that I liked.  Then they played it to death so people hate it.
I also had a major girl crush (which continues to this day) on Adam Ant.  I defy any red-blooded heterosexual (or bisexual) female to watch his "Wonderful" video and not be happy.  Sure, it's a sad story, but it is a beautiful thing.

And I think I will leave you with that for today.  I know this wasn't much of an entry, but this is all I have for the moment.  Watch this and forgive me:

Sunday, January 20, 2013

TdJ: Writing

Writing is the only topic that appears in this list twice.  On the 12th of the month, it is listed as a joy.  On the 20th of the month, it is listed as something to pay attention to.

So writing, something I need to pay attention to.

First, it made this list because it is something I enjoy, but do not do for pleasure -or non-work-related endeavors,  For the last week, this has changed, as I have blogged every day.  However, in the most recent past, I have been really lax about the blog, even about journaling, which I was doing only slightly more than blogging.  So at last week's Night of the Mothers, I had very little to give meat to my year.  Where had it gone?  It was lost in a soup of long days of work, bitterness, and physical pain.  My regular calendar was full of work events and days bills were due.  Even my We'Moon calendar just listed my useless menstrual calendar and my headaches, fibro flares, and toothaches.  Only two entries on the calendar about something wonderful.  So I vowed the next day to get a Slingshot organizer and therein to write things positive.  However, it has sadly sat empty this week.  It's time to change that.  I don't want to be looking on 2013 as a lost bitter year.

Second, writing made the list of something to pay attention to because I want to get MUCH better at it. In the last year, I have developed less obsession with my own words.  I can scratch out or hit the delete button with the best of them.  I can do what Natalie Goldberg instructs, just wild free writing and hate it all and not be saddened by it.  I am learning I have to exercise the writing muscle like any other and hopeful it will be lithe and limber some day, not arthritic and sedentary.

Third, writing made this list of something to pay attention to because I would love to do it more.  I still have hopes that someday I will be able to make a little money at it and not have to work such long hours for someone else, or at least be in a life situation that supports me having time to write.  I don't want to be sneaking off furtively to do it forever.

Fourth, writing made this list for an interesting reason.  When I write, I am get along better with others. It makes me feel okay about truly being an introvert at heart.  When I write, it is perfectly fine to see human interaction as a social experiment, interesting but not devastating.  It helps me get distance between me and my temper, or my need to think aloud, or blurt out every thought that enters my head.  (This last habit gets me into alot of trouble, let me tell you.)  When I write, it's okay for me to be a curmudgeon or for me to like people globally but be misanthropic on a personal level.  Well, it may not be okay, but it can make for slightly entertaining writing product.  When I write, I can take time to parse and present my words, thoughts and intended deeds in a format that is more palatable, understood, and even more acceptable.  It shuts up my monkey mind in a kind way, and yet still lets my cerebral chimp have its say.

Yes, I need to pay more attention to writing.  I need to journal more, keep on blogging.  No one may ever read the blog, but at least I am actively putting words together.  And that, my friends, is like wordy sit-ups.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

TdJ: Weight

This may or may not be an emotional post for me.  I'm glad it fell on a weekend so I wouldn't have to get up at 4AM to have time to write it before dashing off to work.  As it is, I have gotten up and enjoyed a cup of tea while giggling through an episode of The Green Hornet and another episode of The Invisible Man.  Good stuff.

Okay, weight.  As a woman I have been conditioned to hate my body.  No surprises there.  The surprising thing is how seduced I, the chick who always wants to subvert the dominant paradigm, have become with the idea of being wafer thin (for Monty Python Meaning of Life fans, an allusion).

I was not overweight as a child.  I was not the most active child, always preferring a book to whatever else was going on.  I liked being outside, but if it was especially hot or cold, I liked being in air conditioning or heat with a good book more.

Sometime in my high school years I started thinking I was fat.  The first culprit was looking at fellow female classmates.  Some were thinner, some were the same, and some were heavier than I was.  But I couldn't get past the idea that some were thinner.  This became secondary only to grades where I felt the competitive edge..... Don't panic, it passed.  Not the desire to be thinner, but the desire to compete with others.

To put this in perspective, I submit the following photo from the evening of my high school graduation:
Funny, isn't it?  The dress was a vintage, one that had belonged to my aunt in the 1940s, I believe.  It was a size 8.  I felt 300 pounds.  But I was happy to be finished with the social experiment others called high school.  

Fast forward through almost 26 years, and my inner image of myself then is much closer to the outer reality.  No, I am nowhere near 300 pounds, thankfully.  But most days I feel like there is nothing I am doing or not doing that would prevent me from weighing 300 pounds.  Weight in general seems to be a mystery to me.  I don't feel fat, I don't feel thin.  All the same, I avoid photographs like the plague.  Case in point, I tried to take a "vacation" for the first time in 7 years this past summer.  It consisted of walking around the town I live in, as I had no money and still had to carry the emergency on call phone so ended up working at least 5 hours a day anyway.  Tim snapped a photo with Tara and me in the capital, which is less than a half mile from our house.  
I was horrified!!!! Who was that fat woman holding my child?  And the hair, oh lord, save me from that hair.

So I managed another six months away from the camera.  However, in the interim the scale says I weigh about 10 pounds less than when this photo was taken.  I feel thinner, as I try to stretch and be as physically active as the fibromyalgia will allow.  But who knows.  I still feel mushy.
The bottom line for me is that I am not about what is on the outside.  But at this stage in my life, I have to live with what is on the outside.  So I either make peace with it, or I go screaming into this good night.  And every time I try that, the phone rings or someone needs something.  So damn.  Here I am, deal with it.  Maybe this is MY grumpy cat photo?  

Friday, January 18, 2013

TdJ: Baking Bread

When Chloe, my 17 year old daughter, was a toddler, I baked my first loaf of bread.  I used the recipe found in the bread bible of my twenties, The Laurel Kitchen's Bread Book.  It was for a yeasted whole wheat, just the basic loaf.  I was one of those rare lucky ones, and my first loaf turned out almost perfect.  It had heft but also a crusty fluffiness as well, with an almost nutty aftertaste.  I was enamored. My ex-husband was intrigued but alas not sold, as he grew up with plastic white bread and to this day, well into his forties, will consume nothing else.  My little blonde, blue-eyed enigma however, toddled into the kitchen and devoured a slice slathered with herb butter.  Thus an informed, more nuanced palate was born. A fact which I am sure she both blesses and curses me for.

And like all meaningful events, that first loaf of bread has eclipsed all others.  My last loaf was born almost 7 years ago.  The last baby was just a baby, and her father was nonplussed (as he is only slightly more adventuresome in palate than the other one) and my heart wasn't in it.  I had baked it in response to drunken taunting from my husband, "You say you can do it, but I've never seen it.  You're probably lying about it."  In the midst of severe postpartum depression, I trudged into a cold kitchen with a baby tied to my hip and made that damn bread.  From the process emerged a hefty albeit tasty brick.  The husband staggered into the kitchen to cut himself a slice, pressing the loaf into a patty as he sawed through.  The brick was further decimated into an inch or so remnant.  I tossed it into the trash, never tasting it myself.

Baking bread is an exercise in faith.  In hope the ingredients are assembled.  It matters where and how long ago the flour was milled from the grain.  Science enters the picture as the yeast is dissolved in a bath of perfect temperature.  Like life, you have to get in there and get your hands dirty as you knead and knead again to form the dough.  There is also the time of hibernation, where the loaf proofs, the yeast working its magic, as your efforts rest under a clean dish towel like a little nap in a warm room.  And finally the risk of shoving all this work into the oven, like sending your child into the world, and not really knowing what will result when the loaf emerges from the fiery furnace.

One of these days I hope to have the time off work, a moment to myself, and some stolen moments from exhaustion and pain to bake bread again.  I'd like to exercise some faith.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

TdJ: Housecleaning

I assume this post should be entitled, "Housekeeping," but I am not sure this is a topic I can write much about.

There's not much housecleaning that goes on at Chez Terre.  With my current schedule and feeling crappy or exhausted most of the time, housecleaning is usually relegated to the weekends, where I cram 7 days of living in a day and a half.  It's a lackluster effort to be sure, but it is better than nothing.

If I used the Martha Stewart measurement to assess my domestic duties, I would be lucky to get a C-.  Fortunately, I grade myself on a steep curve.  In my head, I envision the family dynamic as measured against a sepia-toned 1950s sit-com, except in this version, I am the dude in the suit.  I'm the one who shoves off each day to work while the spouse stays home.  Just like Tim doesn't wear pearls or greet me at the door with slippers and a cigar, I don't often make it home in time for dinner - unless dinner is served at 9PM or later.  And I do way more housework than Ward, and nowhere near as much as June.  I do more housework than Carol Brady however, simply because Alice doesn't live here.  Ever.

When I close my eyes and picture my perfect household, it's not perfect.  It is clean, no tumbleweeds of dog hair.  And it smells good.  Like bread baking, or soup simmering, and clean wind sun-kissed from the clothesline.

So what would it take for the housecleaning to be all it can be?  Well, me to have a normal schedule for starters.  And then for me to manage what time I do have in such a way to dedicate more time more than once every 7 days.  For example, tonight I have slept one hour and then woken up in pain and can't sleep for the pain.  If I could clean through the insomnia, perhaps.  Or if I could sleep and then feel better so I have energy for cleaning as well as working and interacting with humans....  At this late hour, it all feels like fantasy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

TdJ: Physical Health

Today's post will have to be short, as I have overslept this morning.  I came home last night and the gas had been shut off so we have no heat and hot water.  It's hard for me to sleep when the bedroom temperatures slip below 60 degrees, so I did not sleep well and woke up with severe congestion and a pounding headache.

My physical health is a concern simply because so much depends upon it.  I am not permitted to take sick days and so becoming sick can jeopardize my job.  My job takes on mythic proportions because I am the sole working adult in my household.  If I take a sick day my children may become homeless.  At least that's how I see it.  I mean, I haven't taken a minute off work and we don't have heat or hot water. I guess that's kind of telling.  It's always all up to me.  And so I can't get sick, ever.  And if I do, I have to work through it, keep doing everything that is expected and demanded of me.

As far as my physical health goes, I have the usual laundry list that a typical fat 43 year old would have: fibromyalgia, migraines, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, this weird years-long tooth/jaw/neck pain, chronic sinus and allergy issues, plantar fasciitis, back pain, sleep apnea.  Good times.

I also get a bit crazed about my physical health because, as I have said before, I am not one of the Chosen Americans lucky enough to have health insurance.  I am the first person in my family in two generations not to have health insurance.  It is has been pointed out to me that my income and lack of benefits mirrors the value of my job and what I do, and I just hope that is not true.  It's not to me.  I prefer to think society is just really skewed in its priorities when people who play basketball are paid millions and people who work with people with disabilities are not paid enough to support their families or have health care.

So this is all I have time for for.  I could kvetch for pages, and have in the past, so I am going to let it go  today.  I feel too sick to write about physical health.  Ironic, isn't it?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

TdJ: Cooking

And today I come to a joy.
Basically, with Topic du Jour every third post is a joy in my life.  The instructions were to alternate with a worry, then something I need to pay attention to, then a joy.  Hence, this is the third TdJ, so this is the joy.

I love to cook.

Sometimes I am fabulous.  And I don't just mean, "Damn right I am great in the kitchen, I could eat for hours."  Although I used to be able to eat for hours, but then again, that is another TdJ.

I actually enjoy the act of cooking.  I like throwing some ingredients together - especially organic, home grown (i.e., farmer's market - no garden for me the last few years), working the alchemy and then savoring the results.

Usually my results are pretty good.  They range from sublime to edible.  In the process I have been able to educate at least one child's palate.

Case in point: Sunday night I had created a dipping oil for some sourdough to go with our shrimp scampi and pasta and wilted in garlic oil rainbow chard.  I used the new bottle of olive oil to wilt the chard, but the EVOO (which has been around and loving used for a few months - not so extra virgin olive oil any more, whore) on the dipping sauce.  The husband slurped it up.  The 17 yr old took one swipe with her bread and then said, "Disgusting!  What the hell is that?" and pointed to the dipping oil. I took a tentative taste: rancid.  Husband cannot taste that oil is rancid.  I am not sure why - perhaps the 50 years of eating shitty food has ruined his palate?  Maybe because he is a yankee and eats weird shit? Or maybe because his childhood gourmet delights were shit on a shingle and creamed peas?  Who knows.  At any rate, I am proud of my elder daughter, who caught it right away.  She is the one I raised with less male interference.  The younger daughter ate pasta with cheese on it that night.  No shrimp.  A crust of dry bread.  She is fighting the education of her palate all the way.  I suspect that when I am not around, her father is telling her that food not on the dollar menu is not worth eating, or some shit.  Because she is the least adventuresome consumer I have met.  Even my mother and sister will venture out on a culinary limb more often.

However, sometimes the results of my kitchen witch alchemy are less than sublime.  I've already told you of Sunday's rancid dipping sauce.  I have made things from recipes which were hideous.  I have also gotten a bag or two of vegetables at Trader Joe's that sounded wonderful by description but fell flat in the meal.  I have made things that were perfectly fine but by the time they were served I was no longer in the mood for them.  I have also made things - and this occurs most often - that my family loves but I cannot for the life of me understand the allure.

I am an impatient cook.  I am not afraid of the high setting on the stove.  I do not panic when pots boil and a little water sloshes.  My husband, however, if he hears a pot boiling, will go shut the stove off entirely or turn it down low.  A real problem if the recipe calls for boiling for longer than 30 seconds, which all of them do.  I am not a fan of overcooked pasta, yet my husband eschews al dente for mushy.     The most entertaining experiment in my household has been the whistling tea pot.  When I first started using it again (instead of the electric hot pot I've used for years for my tea), Tim and Chloe would go insane when it would whistle, run into the kitchen, turn off the stove and yell for me that the pot was whistling.  Now he will lie on the couch and she in her bed and ignore that thing until it boils dry.

I am also in love with garlic.  It features in at least two meals I cook each week.  My herb and spice cabinet is three shelves in a dedicated cabinet, and when I cleaned and organized it - New Year's Eve, of course - I counted over 100 varieties.  I had 11 kinds of curry, which I do feel is excessive, as I only make curries a couple of times a month.

I don't cook as much as I would like.  This is usually because I am so exhausted when I get home from work, or so overwhelmed and over life in general on the weekends.  There is also the fact the kitchen is usually a mess from the culinary efforts and grazing of the rest of the family, who inhabit the house a great deal of hours per day than I do.

Cooking is comfort.  It is a way to exert a tangible effort to nurture my daughters.  And it's a creative outlet.  I am down with that.

Monday, January 14, 2013

TdJ: Sleep Habits

I was all set to write about how I never get any sleep.  And this may be true tomorrow and for the rest of the week.  But I snoozed last night from about 9PM until 5AM this morning.  None too shabby.  Of course, my husband and my mother came in and woke me up.  My mother just wanted to give me a newspaper article on fibromyalgia (ironic, since that was my TdJ yesterday and the newspaper article said WAY less than yesterday's bog post), so that was nice.  But Tim came in and woke me up twice.  Once to look at what was playing on my television ("As Time Goes By," I am a sucker for the older BBC stuff} because my mother was watching television in the living room and Tim was suffering from some kind of withdrawal not being lulled by the idiot box for an hour or so.  And then again to tell me that I needed to move my books off the bed so he could put Tara (our 7 year old) in my bed because he had decided that she needed to go to bed right then, that she needed to sleep with me, and if she did not go to sleep, I would be the one to wrangle sleep from her.  Oh, and I forgot about the third time he came in to wake me up.  He had lost his phone and was looking for it.  Said he needed to set an alarm to get up this morning to get the little one ready for school.  He forgets he has an alarm clock on his television which is now less than three feet away from his couch nest.  

Last week I started the week on no sleep at all.  Mainly because of my teeth aching so badly that I could not sleep, but also because of the child's sleep similar trick.  She had slept until 3PM last Sunday because I spent the morning reading and writing, and so she did not sleep at all.  Of course, she came right home on Monday afternoon and went to bed.  No such luck for me, as I was scheduled in five counties and drove home from Richmond (through Madison, Fayette, Scott, Woodford and Franklin counties, if anyone is counting) at almost 7PM Monday night with the windows down, freezing myself and blaring the radio and trying to stay awake to drive....  

I give these vignettes as illustrations about some of the reasons why I don't sleep.  There are more, of course.  

Back in my mid-thirties I was diagnosed with sleep apnea.  I snore.  I stop breathing while I am asleep and sometimes wake myself up when I do stop breathing.  I do sleep much better with a C-Pap machine.  I even have an old one.  Of course, it needs filters, hoses, etc. changed regularly.  I last did this about 4 or 5 years ago.  It cost me over $200.  It was an ordeal.  I had to call around and finally go meet a lady who reminded me of nothing but Mr Rogers' grandmother in a strangely quiet office building.  The room she led me to had a desk or two and several boxes on the floor.  She furtively slid my C-pap hose, a bagged filer and mask shield, all wrapped in flimsy plastic across the desk at me.  
She kept clearing her throat and saying she was nervous, she had never sold to anyone without health insurance before.  I felt illicit.  The entire transaction felt like a drug deal.  At any moment, I thought the Republican proprietary police would burst in and convict me - without trial, of course - of trying to purchase goods and services reserved for the Chosen Americans, lucky enough to have health insurance, running vehicles and Clean Modern Homes.  A fifties nightmare.  

So the sleep apnea is another reason why my quality of sleep is slightly shitty.  When I do sleep, I don't get the sleep "normal" people get.  

Another reason I don't sleep is anxiety.  I think many of my physical problems can be traced back to anxiety.  At the core of my being, I feel like an impostor pretending to be an adult.  Being the only adult in a household - the only working adult who worries about things like working, paying bills, having food, feeding the kids, keeping a roof over their heads, not living in filth, the kids' educations, the kids' health, et cetera - scares the shit out of me.  I know that, no matter what, no matter how sick or bad I feel, no matter how overwhelmed, that I have to get up and pretend to be an adult, ignore my interests, desires, and needs for 12 to 20 hours a day while I go to work.  Once at work, everything is my problem.  Toilets need to be cleaned?  I do it.  Trash need to be taken out? I do it.  Phone ringing?  I answer it.  Filing needs to be done?  I come in on a weekend for a full work day and do nothing but that.  Someone wants to blow off their 4 to 6 to (maximum!) 8 hour day?  I do their work and mine too.  I am the only one not allowed to have an "off" day or a day off.  Back at home, I am an asshole because I work too late.  But I am also an asshole because I don't make enough money to fund the 17 year old's  social life while supporting the husband's cigarette habit while allowing us to live in a palace.  I am also an asshole because I bitch about money and feeling overwhelmed.  I also am an asshole because I don't care if the other two adults got to watch their soap opera that day, or what time in the afternoon they decided to get out of bed.  I am also an asshole because when my family gets sick, unless I have at least $50 cash in hand, they have to stay sick and weather it through.  No diagnoses or antibiotics for us.  We aren't Chosen Americans, despite my 60+ hour work week.  

So, you see, I am slightly stressed.  This does not promote good sleep habits.  

I also do all the things you aren't supposed to do.  Fall asleep with the television on.  Keep it on all night.  Read a stack of books and fall asleep with them cascading all over the bed.  Drink too many fluids after 7PM so I can visit the Tinkletorium all night.  Ache with the fibro/toothache/migraine/arthritis/irritable bowel syndrome/gastric hell du jour and not be able to sleep.  Have a kid who sleeps whenever I am not in the house to interact with her so she cannot sleep at night when I am home.  I nap at inappropriate times on the weekends (occasionally).  

When it comes to sleep, I am an idiot.  

Sunday, January 13, 2013

TdJ: Fibromyalgia

Today is the 13th of the month and according to my list, I am supposed to write about fibromyalgia.  Since I am currently only dealing with a slight flare, I will make this one public and write about it here in the blog rather than in my journal.

With these topics I will most likely blog about each rather than journal, unless the topic is very private or sensitive in nature to me or others.

- An aside.  Once I wrote something on my blog and my sister let my mother use her computer to read my blog and my mother did not like how I disclosed something, so she made a comment back.  At the time I was extremely angry about the whole thing, but through time I have realized that member of my family have their own slant on reality so each to their own.  As one of my idols, Emily Dickinson, once wrote, "Tell the truth, but tell it slant."

So... fibromyalgia.

Having fibromyalgia can - on a good day - be likened to having a really shitty roommate in college.  This roommate trashes the damn house, always fucks up your plans, has loud parties so you can never sleep, and basically puts everything you want or need just out of your reach.  Fibromyalgia is - at least partially - responsible for the fact that my bedroom, my haven from the world, is usually a freaking pigsty and why my office at work is never truly as clean as I want it.

Fibromyalgia is the reason that I feel I have no energy left when it comes to being a "real" (whatever the hell that means) mother to my daughters.  My 17 year old would say that she keeps expectations low for me.  My 7 year old is still a baby, so she loves me no matter what.  Puberty and socialization with shitty capitalists has not yet ruined her capacity for unconditional love.  Basically fibromyalgia is the reason that I have to push every bit of physical energy into working 12-18 hours a day and have nothing left for anyone at the end of those days.

In a word, fibromyalgia is a real bitch.  And an asshole to boot.

So what does it feel like?  Well, there is feeling like I have the body of a 90-100 year old woman.  Sometimes the hinges in my body don't work.  And they hurt.  Even where there are not hinges, such as the wings of my shoulder blades, it hurts.  And it doesn't hurt because I moved it this way or that.  It just hurts.  I've read it as described as "diffuse muscle pain."  If that means all over, then yeah.  But it rarely diffuses and goes the hell away.  It is always there, a seed of agony in each muscle fiber of my being, almost palpable with the power to say, "I may be feeling generous and let you do what you want today.  Or I may tell you to kiss my ass and the idea of getting anything done today goodbye."  Fibromyalgia is a fickle bitch.  On the days it is feeling generous, I may not hurt too bad.  However, I will be exhausted within three to five hours of getting up, no matter what the day.  Constant is the the companion of the lovely fibro fog.  I have to write everything down at work just to keep track and have to organize my methods of organization constantly just to keep on track.

For someone who tries to appear that I have it all together, this is a real kick in the head.

There are things that work, however.  Most of them cost money or require health insurance, or I haven't tried them yet, but other swear by them.  Here is what I have tried and what helps me survive:

1. Getting to sleep as much as I can.
I don't want to write too much about this today, as tomorrow's Topic du Jour is SLEEP HABITS.  Stay tuned, my loves.

2. Vitamins.
Yeah, really.  I found these vitamins called Bio-35, and they are actually good.  I need to order another bottle, as I am getting kind of low.  And for you jaded folk, of which I am a member, NO, I am not getting paid by them at all.  Money between me and the Bio-35 folks has only gone one way - from me to them, in me buying a bottle of vitamins.  I get the soy and dairy free, but with iron.  Next time I order I am going gluten free as I've had some gut issues lately.  You can get them here.

I also like taking vitamin D-3.

3. Gentle movement, stretching.
I don't go to a yoga class.  (That requires money, and my money is rarely spent on me, but on keeping up the household of five people on my one  income. Keeping that income going is why I try to push through this fibromyalgia stuff and not let it win.)  I try some basic yoga stuff on my own.  Not consistently enough, of course.  Moving my big old fat body through time and space, as much as I can tolerate as often as I can tolerate keeps me moving.

4. Massage.
Basically, I am a massage junkie.  If I could afford them, I would get them weekly (or more).  I can't even afford one a month, or one a quarter.  I get about one a year.  However, when I do, I usually feel better.  With regular massage I think I could get my body to do my bidding way more often.  The last few massages I have had have included lots of trigger point work, which hurts like hell when it is happening, but feels phenomenal when it is finished.  You can check out my massage therapist here.  Visit her page and book with her, as she deserves the business for working magic on me and I wish I could pay her to work her magic more often!

5. Eating right.
This means many things to many people.  But I do best on a minimally-processed, mostly vegetarian diet.  Alas, I am not a vegetarian, and since my mother has been staying with me for her cancer treatments, my menu has run more to convenience or her taste, not mine.  As a result, I am having more pain and way more gut issues.  Another one of my Topics du Jour is COOKING, so I will save more on this for another time.

I have more that I can say about fibromyalgia, but I am trying not to dwell on the negative.  I also want to remain positive and focus my physical energies on housecleaning (another topic!) and going to the grocery today.  My rowdy housemate, fibromyalgia may not like it, but I am going to do what I want today.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Strength in Numbers

Today I spent the day at PenHouse Retreat Center, attending an event called "Night of the Mothers."  A friend of mine had urged me since September to take part, and I am so glad that I did.

We spent the day journaling, our material a retrospective of the past year (2012) and setting intentions for 2013.

I came up with some good material, and at some point I may share some of this here.

Most helpful was an idea of "Topic du Jour," where we came up with worries, concerns and joys which can fuel our writing for a month, insuring we don't get bogged down in our writing, journaling, or in my case, my blogging and journaling.  I look forward to using this technique as well.

Probably most empowering was the presence of other writers, open-minded spiritual seekers.  I enjoyed sitting and listening to the wisdom of others.

I would like to do more of that in 2013.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013: Wishes, not Resolutions

I was looking upon my New Year's post from last year - a mere 4 or 5 entries away from this one, proving I did not, as I avowed, actually blog much at all. I noticed something interesting. All my "resolutions" were written in negative language, that is, "stop doing this, I won't do that," et cetera. My messages - not hidden, but actually shouted - were not of healing but of self-hatred and denial. Words of victimhood, words of someone who was not living her life, but (barely) surviving it.

One of the gifts of 2012 was being a part of a journaling class on the Tarot, led by the luminescent Normandi Ellis. By listening I learned that words are more that just my favorite toys or tools. Words hold power, and so in choosing them I must choose well.

A word about "resolutions." Melody Beatty said, I will write down my goals "not to control, but to do my part in living my life."

So without further ado, I present my "Wish List" for 2013. Not resolutions, but wishes and soul intentions for the year ahead.

1. More time for Happiness
2. More thoughts of Abundance
3. More feelings of Abundance
4. Embracing a rich, succulent Present and Future by Letting Go/Releasing the Past which no longer serves me
5. Higher Level Awareness
6. Abundant Health
7. Balanced Sense of Responsibility
8. Love time and memory-making with my daughters
9. Gratitude
10. Meditation and Peace