This Joint is Jumpin’

Just one bird now but there were six or seven.

Bird centralwas hopping this morning! I took a great video of the birds coming and going from the birdfeeder, but wasn’t able to load it on this page. (I know, I’m showing my inexperience with media.) I sat and watched as many finches, sparrows, warblers, and nuthatches flew in and out with some waiting their turn and others fighting for a seat at the buffet. Our hummingbird feeders that have been ignored all season also attracted several of those this morning.

So sweet

Not sure if it’s a sign of how old I am, how limited I am in my activities, or just appreciation of a new hobby, but I found myself feeling joy. I called my husband to see all the traffic. The four-sided birdfeeder had as many as six or seven birds eating at the same time with another couple waiting in the bar. I silently clapped my hands and hugged my husband. Unfortunately, when I go out on the deck, the feeder is abandoned immediately, thus pictures through deck rail. I thoroughly enjoy watching and listening to the busy birds.

Cooling off in the bar

Lots of birds perch beside the feeder watching out for threats and/or judging the best moment to go for the feast.

Standing guard or just waiting for a seat.

Squirrels get in on the action to and the birds don’t know quite what to make of them.

Squirrels like seeds too.

Sharing some of my thoughts about my neighborhood: This beautiful driveway was installed with heating pipes underneath to melt the snow away in the winter. One day I drove past and the guy who lives there was shoveling. Later, I mentioned to my husband that the neighbor was shoveling instead of using the heated water pipes. I wondered, “Why would he do that?” My husband laughed and said, “I’m sure if the pipes worked, he wouldn’t be shoveling.” Aaaah.

Neighbor’s driveway

The tree below has been leaning ever further across the street but no one seems concerned. The people who own that lot park cars and boats on the street below the tall pine. My husband swears it’s been like this since we moved in but I am certain its tilt increased during storms in which other trees have fallen. Wait until the next soaker with high winds, particularly if the wind comes from the north rather than the west as usual, and I can’t imagine this tree will be left standing. Crazy.

Timber!

p.s. I figured out why the birdfeeder has been so popular. When the birdseed was low, I bought a new bag and this one is “clean.” There are no shells the birds have to work on. It’s just wonderful seeds. It’l like ordering crab and having the plate come with no shells to work through, just the sweet meat. It’s so much busier than before. I will be trying to get a good picture of birds perched on every side but they move in and out so fast it’s hard to get a good catch. If I do, I’ll put it out, maybe its own post.

Four birds sharing breakfast.

Parent is Also a Verb 8/13/22

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Oh, but it goes so fast! Enjoy time with your little kids now. Before you know it, they’ll be grown and gone. You’ll miss these days later. And on & on & on.

At a big box store about 20 years ago, my two boys, ages two and three, sat side-by-side laughing together as they did not follow my directions. I was obviously frustrated, trying to get them under control as I emptied my cart onto the conveyer belt. An older gentleman called out to me from the next line, “Enjoy it while it lasts. It goes so fast!” My immediate response was, “Well, it feels like the longest three years of my life!” We laughed.

Those little boys are 24 and 23 today. They are wonderful young men, self-reliant and gainfully employed. I’m pleased to announce they are not still fussing with each other when in the same room. It has gone so fast. Do I miss those days past? Yes, in my rearview mirror those toddlers and preschoolers are so dang cute.

Last night, I dreamt that I was a volunteer in my youngest son’s classroom. Apparently, he allowed me to put product in his hair that day. (In real life, this son loved having me in his classroom, older son not so much.) In this mind movie, a video had been taken of the kids during a lesson. On the video, my son walked from the front of the room to the back, tapping each desk as he passed and singing a little song.

It was sweetness itself, bringing tears to my eyes – in the scene as well as now, recalling and writing. Two boys in diapers eating not-adult meals yet, ganging up on me for fun, jumping off furniture, and teasing the dog brought me to tears in real life then. I do reminisce now about how cute they were and I miss those little terrors.

As toddlers and preschoolers rule your life, driving you to distraction or aggravation, it is perfectly normal to react with impatience or frustration. There is no way to truly appreciate, when you’re in the midst of the whirlwind, that those ages and stages are passing more quickly than it feels. Crises in the teenage years may provoke a yearning for “simpler” days, but only with the perspective of time can you look back with truly rose-colored glasses. I think we earn them when our children are independent.

Be patient with yourself in difficult situations. Breathe. Set clear expectations and consequences. Be consistent as much as possible. Let the easier moments become short films in your memory, not with pictures on your phone but by being fully present. Let the love shine through. Someday, those recollections will be what you carry with you when the kids are gone.

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Sara’s education and experience: B.A. Ed; M.S. Counseling; teacher grades K & 2/3, educator for childcare providers, training in Positive Discipline and Growing, parent educator, program director of crisis nursery, including parent support, staff management & training, stay home mom 16 years with two sons born 19 months apart, medical transcription for 10 years in order to stay home, substitute teacher grades K through 12. Blogs about a wide variety of topics on survivingsara.net.

Spitting Nails

*Cursing ahead.

When our bathroom remodels were merely a plan, I was assured my bathroom would be done first. Both the basement and en suite bathrooms were taken down to the studs at the same time. My tiles hadn’t come in for the shower and backsplash, so the tile guys began downstairs. The installation of that tile is nearly complete. Mine? Still down to the studs.

Now, the tile guy has let my husband know he doesn’t know when he’ll get to my bathroom. Let me repeat, “HE DOESN’T KNOW WHEN HE CAN GET TO MY BATHROOM.” My face looks just like the little guy above. I am so pissed. My husband said he has other tile installers. My response, “Well, then call them. Don’t wait for two weeks for the current guy to tell us he still doesn’t know when he can get to my part of the project.”

I am sooooooo pissed off, I’m overheating. FUUUUUUUUCK!!! I can’t express in words how angry I am. This whole remodel was supposed to complete my bathroom first!

I already have some feelings about my mother-in-law moving in with us. She even said my bathroom should be done before the one she’ll use. There is a whirlwind of nails inside me ready for spitting. AAAAAAAAARRRGGGHHH.

Torpid

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lethargic
 · sluggish · inert · inactive · slow · slowmoving · lifeless · dull · listless · languid 

This here is a short tutorial on what it feels like to be engulfed in fog brain for whatever reason, fatigue, illness, fibromyalgia, depression, etc. Imagine it’s a clear day until your plane is suddenly surrounded by clouds, any view obstructed. Duration unknown, thickness of whiteness varying, and someone else at the controls.

Not all sloth-like people are lazy, choosing to avoid movement and activities. Some are unable to pick up the pace. Here am I today, slow of thought and motion. Even walking is made difficult, punctuated by interjections of “Whoa!” as I pinball from one piece of furniture or a wall to another, balance off kilter. Perhaps if my brain was working at full-speed as I now know it, or even three-quarters, I’d be able to react and compensate for such physical challenges; but with all of me shifted into low-gear, nothing will do but to let time pass until function improves.

Besides nausea, vertigo, and all kinds of pain, fibromyalgia visits upon me this slowness, random in both onset and cessation. Tongue-tied communication makes it incredibly difficult to explain to others how thought and activity are compromised, beyond my control. Feeling bad about this frozenness does nothing to improve the situation, but frustration can’t be avoided, both mine and my husband’s. Expressing myself in writing is a mite easier than verbal, but it also helps that I’m able to pause, think and then continue. When talking, more than a few seconds of searching in my mind for the elusive word or turn of phrase seems to urge my husband to fill in the blank. Trying to undo his idea, meanwhile still attempting to grab words from the tip of my tongue creates chaos in my head. Typically, he offers one thought after another, until I can land on an approximation. Considering in silence leads to a quicker resolution and less brain noise but requires patience on everyone’s part. All I need is quiet and some time.

Best option this day is to release myself from a to-do list. Nothin’ to do about it.

p.s. can’t vouch for proofreading

Rambling Club

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While Americans may join a hiking club, in England and Canada, rambling clubs are taking to the trails! How perfect is that for my series of rambling posts with tidbits and doodads that don’t deserve their own posts. I welcome you to join my rambling club. They’re typically named after the nearest city, but we’re not constrained by geographic limitations. One title I saw in my research (I googled the word rambling to see what came up. I was running out of plays on the word rambling.) was Reading Rambling Club, associated with Reading, England. So there it is. C’mon, join my club. Membership goes to anyone who reads my blog, particularly my piecemeal posts, such as this.

Woot Woot! I had a great doctor visit. For a very long time, maybe 20 years? every fasting blood sugar and A1C tests have been prediabetic. I’d also had gestational diabetes with one pregnancy, which is known to be a risk for diabetes. My dad was diabetic, too. Thus, every time I have a blood test it’s fraut with apprehension, although I don’t take active steps to avoid it, either. Just waiting to deal with it when I end up diabetic. (so stupid) Yesterday, I had my annual exam and they checked my A1C immediately upon my entry to the exam room. I wasn’t forewarned in order to work myself into a dither. When the doctor entered, she smiled and announced, “Your A1C is great! Not even prediabetic!” to which I raised both fists and cheered. We certainly didn’t expect that! I’m back to not eating chocolate or candy, which I used to gobble with little restraint. It wasn’t a strategy to stave off high blood sugar; it was a matter of exercising my self-control muscle. Lowering the sugar is a great bonus.

Countdown to my mother-in-law moving in has begun. ETA is September 7, 2022. My husband is in the thick of painting, rearranging rooms, and putting new carpet in the family room and her bedroom. Round about Labor Day Weekend, he’ll head down to Kern River Valley area in California, an hour up a gnarly canyon east of Bakersfield. Deadline has been established for when my mother-in-law has to be out of the home she just sold. I’m grooving on through it at this point. If my feathers get ruffled, I share that with my husband but I’m pretty sure he’s getting tired of fussing with my eider down. Breathing. Change is hard for everyone.

Physical therapy is moving to a home program, and counseling changing to bi=weekly, due to her situation, not mine. For this open future, I’m constructing scaffolding on which I plan to encourage a more positive slant on my circumstances as well as continuing to unfold, which began at the conclusion of the disability hearing. Do I want a routine? Should I go with the flow? A mix? Invariably, when I fix myself to an expectation of this activity or that, a fibro symptom recurs and responding to it dictates how I’ll spend my time. So, instead of deciding how I’ll spend my time, I’ll need to approach this differently. You know I’ll write about that journey.

Last night, I slept for 12 hours, 8:00 pm to 8:00 am. It really does feel like I’m recovering from stressing out about the disability hearing for months ahead of time, seriously heightened in the immediate approach, and excruciating for the actual hearing and the aftermath. I want to shed all of that, particularly because my claim was denied. Gonna let that shit go!

All of you are invited to join this Reading Rambling Club! Writing and posting more frequently are part of my scaffolding, for sure. Getting out on my blog trails energizes me and posting the result provokes a sense of contentment. Thanks for being a member of the Reading Rambling Club.

WARNING: Loud Ahead

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I was watching a video on YouTube of a symposium on decreasing stress and increasing peace in life. There were a couple of professors whose presentations I paid minimal attention while concurrently writing, tweeting, or playing games. Then an expert was introduced who surprised me. Here in the heart of academia was a Hindu guru (or a yogi?).

Staying seated at the round table, instead of taking the podium as the previous two professors had done, his first comment was, “When people come to me, they want to tell me all about what they’re thinking. I say to them, ‘I don’t care what you think. That’s just electrical currents at work.'” He went on to discuss the body and mind as related to stress and peace. “I don’t care what you think.” This was like a foreign language to my empath self.

In the current world, as I experience it in my limited way, it sometimes seems like everyone is shouting, well, nearly. Quietude is good for the soul. We need times of solitude and peace. I know a thing or two about aloneness, since it’s my usual M.O. It would be a paradigm shift for me to consider my solo time in a positive light, as compared to the current negative filter of being on my own as a sorry-ass way to spend my time, as though my life is only validated by going and doing as well as associating with people regularly.

Truly, I love being home alone. I don’t need to feel ashamed or less of a person because I live a solitary life. Yes, my husband comes home each evening. I text with friends and family regularly, which is my way of communicating with them. In fact, I’m transitioning to even more time alone because physical therapy will be ceasing, implementing a home program with occasional check-ins. My weekly counseling appointments are going to be bi-weekly, mostly because she started another job with good benefits. She expressed that I would be fine with spaced visits since I seem not to be struggling with suicidal thinking. I didn’t mention that I feel a sense of calm because I’ve identified an acceptable manner of passing and I already have the supplies. It was as we were ending our talk. I’ll break it to her next time if I’m still drawn to those thoughts.

My counselor noted that I’ve been thinking a lot and suggested I take a vacation from that. Admittedly, I spend waaay too much time in my head, but it’s aiding me in my unwinding, sometimes helping me see perspectives that hadn’t yet come to mind. There’ve been a couple ah ha! moments. I’ll try to remember those and get back to you.

I’m back. The first thing was an understanding that my chronic illess need not be coupled to my mood. For most days of the last couple years, my daily mood has been as bad or as good as the pain, vertigo, nausea, and muscle cramping I’m experiencing. Sometimes I’m able to curb symptoms with my medications but they rarely offer complete coverage of any one concern or relief all the symptoms at the same time. I have no idea what the second new view was.

I’m back. I remembered but it may take it’s own post. (If I can remember.) Now I remember this second thought was the topic for this post! So, I’ve gone off message. Do I edit? Do I include my rambling? I’m going to keep it all in, but this will be longer than most of my writings. Moving on…

I’m not sharing anything I haven’t told my husband already, so I think it’s okay to put it out here. My husband and one of my sons tend to respond to difference of opinion, surprise news, or any presumed slight with LOUD vocals. As the wife and mother, I did my level best to turn down the volume, but I wasn’t very successful. You can imagine how they interacted when they were opposed. When I tried to intervene, I ended up yelling so they could hear me tell them to stop yelling.

Several months ago, I exploded all of my repressed responses, irritation, and downright anger in the direction of my husband. I brought up long past situations, pointing out what I’d been thinking about at the time. My dear husband sat and listened for a very long time. Since then, I’ve begun voicing my opinions or feelings as we go. When I make a remark, and I can tell my husband has his hackles up, I actually say out loud, “I’m letting it out now so I don’t keep it inside.” To which my husband replies, “Let it out.”

Current bathroom makeovers have provided many opportunities to exercise this new communication. The worst episodes have involved decisions about the remodel of my en suite bathroom, because at some point I was told that I could do anything I wanted. There are parts of of my vision that my beloved project-manager of commercial flooring and tile was skeptical of things I described that he’s never seen in any of the thousands condos, apartment, lodges, etc. that he’s seen over the years. I very much love the look of my bathroom in my head, so I stood my ground, unless he explained why it was not possible. Then, I’d reluctantly accept that my desire could not be installed or used.

The walk-in shower will compete with the new vanity for jewel of room. One of the amenities I want is an elevated small triangle of tile as a place to put my foot for shaving my legs. This is one of those things he’s never seen and has tried moving me away from it. I do not want one of the commercial foot shelves available. A couple days ago, we revisited the details of my shower. As I explained again the short tile corner triangle, my husband did his loud confrontation response. Quietly, I asked him why he was getting so upset. He immediately acceded his volume was out of line and he committed to working on it.

Then came my epiphany. Looking back over the years, I’ve often wondered how I transformed from an assertive young lady to a woman refraining from expressing herself in her family. Here was the answer. In an effort to avoid the loud anger to which my husband and son reverted when challenged or upset, I had been the quiet. My other son was quiet with me. We’d roll our eyes at their out-of-control exchanges. It was part of my coping or strategy to avoid creating opportunities for the volume to increase, which invariably lead to a breakdown in meaningful conversation.

As a wife and mother, I stuffed comments or questions down, down, down in an effort to avoid the noise. The LOUDNESS we find all around ourselves in our society and politics can be ignored avoided, muted, or engaged. I, however, will not accept the spewing of aggression in my home, unless it’s shouts of happiness or surprise and just my son’s loud speaking voice! He doesn’t have an inside voice.

Along with the unfolding of myself with stress about disability hearing no longer in my head, I feel positive about expressing myself. There is hope ahead.

Dream a Little Dream

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Detailed, emotional dreams play in my night theater. Frequently, the plays have a theme, one to another night to night for a few days. No matter the characters or plot involved, I don’t quite belong. Sometimes I’m keeping a secret that would result in loss of esteem were it exposed. Other times. I skirt the edges of a gathering, not able to see what’s happening that drew the crowd. Don’t need Freud to figure out what that represents.

Watching as the clock nears 8:00 p.m., the earliest time I feel comfortable taking my night time meds, I imagine how sweet the sleep visited upon me with a low dose non-benzo anxiolytic, non-narcotic pain medication, and prescription sleeping aid I require to get even blocks of two to three hours’ slumber. It’s a wonder I dream at all, but I do. All my life I’ve had engaging dreams, the details of which I many times remember vividly. In rare, extreme cases, I have to tell my husband about the story I’d seen and starred in my head to unpack the intensity.

On terrible fibromyalgia days, the escape into dreams floats in front of me, a nebulous space waiting just for me. When I get to that dreaming place, I will be unencumbered by pain, nausea, fibro fog, or fatigue. Maybe I’ll feel as though I don’t quite fit, but that’s definitely preferable to real life fibro.

The dream adventures in which I find myself involve sun, ocean, and sand quite often, or dark , suspenseful scenes, dangerous at times. Although I’m active, my role is mostly wingman to the central character – until the going gets fiery, life-threatening and I’m all that’s left to take down the bad guys.

Many, many nights, I spend lengths of time harking back to my first profession as a teacher. Unfortunately, sometimes panic laces into the school-centered story. How sad is that? Most of the news references to schools, besides sports, seem to be school shootings. Columbine was shocking. The evil that took those little kids in the Sandy Hook massacre hit us like a brick wall, and we were certain something would be done to institute commonsense firearm laws, supported for years by a majority of Americans. Currently, mass shootings are commonplace, but then we watch the devastating scene of law enforcement officers of all kinds waiting outside Robb Elementary in Uvalde. I am so outraged on behalf of that community.

Given the pain and other fibro symptoms I have, and the combination of medications that allow me to sleep, with so many mass murders, no wonder my dreams spiral into panicky, deadly threats battle. In 2022, our country has suffered, on average, more than one a day. This is craziness! This is also not at all what I was thinking when I undertook to read and edit a draft about dreaming I’d saved. Glad I didn’t publish the original but “Oh my!” quoting myself reacting to the unexpected turn this conversation took. In the name of transparency, I’m publishing it all anyway.

Yes, I know I should watch less news but I am a curious woman.

Parent is Also a Verb 7/29/22

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Do you want your children to always be honest with you? Do you, or will you, tell them that they can discuss anything with you, that your home is a safe place to share difficult situations? Be careful what you ask for.

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At bedtime, when our kids were young, I’d sing a ditty of my own creation, every night for years, “There’s nothing you could say or do, that would make me stop loving you,” This was and is true and it laid a foundation for open communication. It’s pretty easy when they’re in elementary school and, hopefully, even when they’re tweens. Fortunately, I had one kid who would always tell me the truth, occasionally to the chagin of his brother. I capitalized on this to the utmost. I wanted my kids to see trouble could arise and we could work it out as a family.

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In their early teens, our sons continued to tell us about friends and events. About this time, though, my older son told me not to ever ask him about girls. He explained that his friends’ moms were always asking if anyone had a girlfriend. I respected his boundary and I didn’t ask him about peers of the female variety. A couple years later he asked, “Why don’t you ever ask about girlfriends? My friends’ moms are always asking.” I reminded him he’d requested I not inquire, so I hadn’t. I wanted my guys to know they could set boundaries.

The true teen years, for us probably 15-20, require more careful navigation through a minefield of spoken and unspoken concerns. Just because communication has been safe doesn’t mean teenagers want to participate fully. Indeed, healthy development through adolescence includes them pulling away and developing their own sense of self. This can result in parents being included only when a mine has detonated and you’ve been informed or your son or daughter brings it to you.

Out of respect to your kids, their issues should be confidential as far as you are concerned, with the exception of reaching out for professional help. So, pretend you’re on a social media site, playing a game, or preparing yourself for the next day’s work, and your teenager comes into the room, leaning against the entryway, swaying back and forth. I might be dense, but it always took me a few minutes to realize they wanted to discuss something. Because a teen doesn’t lurk near you for more than a couple of minutes to engage in small talk. Once the ice was broken, my teenagers were relieved; I could see it in their posture, body language, and in their sharing.

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Personally, there was more than one time I reacted calmly on the outside but on the inside I was thinking, “Oh, shit.” Don’t forget to breathe when your offspring share things which shock your consciousness or a circumstance you’d really hoped your children would avoid. As a high school partier myself, I worried about drugs and alcohol, but my kids kept out of it until my older son was a junior and the younger was a sophomore. We knew this when we caught the whole friend group smoking pot in the field behind our house. There were later involvements with drugs, mental health, school counselors, etc., which shall remain confidential.

Suffice to say, there were times I was in my room, screaming or sobbing into my pillow, but showing a resolute, reliable, and predictable mom to my sons. Yes, the parents are, or should be, more prepared to deal with the rammifications of a serious problem. It was okay with me if my kids saw me cry or be angry, but when the child is in a crisis, I wanted them to know backup had arrived in order to lessen anxiety or fear, helping them to regain their footing sooner rather than later. It’s important not to lash out at them with your own anxiety or fear. Heaping more responsibility, blame, or guilt on their shoulders while they’re already in a fragile state is cruel. There were always be time to discuss and lay out consequences.

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In spite of thinking, “No, no, no, no!” or “I don’t want to do this,” or “What the fuck am I supposed to do about this?” it’s crucial that your son or daughter receives the message that you still love them and will love them through whatever comes next. This provides stability, solid ground, for them as they work through their first major issues. It’s also okay to take breaks for yourself to breathe, vent to one very good friend or your spouse, and take care of daily life. One foot in front of the other, whatever that takes.

Remember, this, too, shall pass.

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Sara’s education and experience: B.A. Ed; M.S. Counseling; teacher grades K & 2/3, educator for childcare providers, training in Positive Discipline and Growing, parent educator, program director of crisis nursery, including parent support, staff management & training, stay home mom 16 years with two sons born 19 months apart, medical transcription for 10 years in order to stay home, substitute teacher grades K through 12. Blogs about a wide variety of topics on survivingsara.net.

I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet

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In 2021, our younger son, let’s call him Bob, was living with us while he went to school and worked. Late in the year, I’m not sure which came first, the older son, let’s call him Joe, asking to move back in after a couple years piy on his own or Bob announcing he was moving into an apartment with two friends.

And so it came to be that the 23rd and 24th of December of 2021 involved Bob boxing up his belongings and some furniture into my husband’s truck, making a couple trips the 10 miles to his new digs. We had a casual brunch on Christmas Day and dinner. With just the four of us, we can go with the flow. On the 26th, Joe began moving his stuff into the basement. He had a lot of furnishings, including our old over-sized living room furniture and a desk set-up for his work as a computer programmer. This required moving his things into the family room, which was already filled with a two-piece couch set, entertainment center, and desk with computer. Everything fit in like playing Tetris. (Does anybody still play that?)

A couple of weeks after our sons switched occupation of the basement, my mother-in-law lost her husband. My husband and I immediately recognized she would need support getting through all the hoops required when one’s spouse passes. As soon as my husband made reservations for travel to be with her, I broke my ankle. Over the next few months, I focused on my post-surgical rehab and he focused on a plan for his mom not to be alone in the middle-of-nowhere desert in central California. Given my husband is my MIL’s only relative in US, besides grandkids, the decision was made that she should move up to be near us. She’s moving in with us.

Seven months after his relocation, Bob is doing great in his new place and new job. Joe just got a new job, too, using his B.S. in Computer Science; it’s a well-paying job. Escrow will close on mother-in-law’s property the first week of September.

She’s bringing her living room chairs, tv, and other things, I’m sure, of which I am unaware. She did make it very clear she’s bringing her old, dried-out, plastic seven dwarves gnomes to put in the yard, make that six. My husband broke one while moving her things around for garage sales, donations, or discarding. She was sooo mad.

I heard Joe talking to his boss yesterday. I was at the kitchen sink, rinsing dishes. Due to headphones, I only caught one side of the conversation. Joe said, “Yeah, with my parents. I’ll be moving into my own place in a month, after I get paid.” I wondered what he was thinking about as far as timing, so there it is.

The last week of August, Joe will be moving into a place of his own. I’m sure he’ll use our truck and he’s got friends who will help transport the big furniture. I have no idea what my husband plans to do with the two piece couch set in the family room if his mom is bringing two recliners. I’m thrilled to get rid of our old entertainment center so she can have hers downstairs. Perhaps all of these items of ours will be donated. I keep reminding myself I’m staying out of this entirely. My husband will travel to California, probably the last time for a long time, to drive the rented moving truck as my mother-in-law follows in her vehicle, accompanied by her dog and cat. The first week of September, she will be moving her belongings into our home. Lots of changes goin’ on.

I feel the sky come tumblin’ down, a tumblin’ down.

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Stirred Up & Inside Out

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I’m standing at the kitchen counter cutting up an old credit card. My 24-year-old son is at the dining room table, working from home. He asks, “Do you need help?” I reply, “Me?” He says, “Yeah, it looks like you’re struggling.” To which I say, “I’m always struggling.” Good chuckle.

Brain isn’t working, hasn’t been for a few days. I start the Keurig with nothing to catch the coffee. I put it on too many ounces and have an overflow. My fingernails are a mess. I don’t chew them but they’re picked apart at the cuticles. There’s that pain when you tear off a sliver of fingernail or skin. I don’t usually mess with them. Stress is making itself known on the outside. Apologies for any typos.

Judge denied my disability claim. At least the decision came fast, very fast. She said six to eight weeks, but here it is only 11 days since. I think she made her mind up before the hearing even started. My attorney said we should definitely appeal because he sees errors the judge made. The council of appeals will look through the case and the judge’s statement. If they agree there are errors, I’ll have a new hearing with the SAME judge, so she has a chance to remedy them. Whatever. We won’t know for about a year whether or not I get another chance. I’m just going to pretend it’s over.

A constant ache reminds me stress is in my head, while nausea, vertigo, and brain fog are intense these past few weeks, reminding me the stress is throughout. I remind myself there is no current threat, no need for flight, fight, or freeze. Breathe.

Bathroom remodels continue. I’m getting more and more excited about how wonderful will be my new loo. The basement bathroom project is going much faster because it took a while for my tile to get to town. Pictures of the finished rooms will be posted, for sure. They’ll probably get their own entry.

My mother-in-law sold her house and will be moving in our home during the early days of September. I don’t feel stressed about it, so much as resigned. I have no capacity left to fret over more issues I can’t control.

Do You Remember Me?

To my sons,

There was a time I was active. We went on hikes after school, even though you couldn’t figure out “Why do we have to do this?” Watching out front when you went out to play in order to intercept fights with neighbors or general mischief. I did yardwork while you rode bikes and ran around.

Remember how I came to school for special days, events, and holidays? I volunteered in your classes, but you acted like you didn’t know me. Working from home doing medical transcription, I was able to care for you when you were sick or pick you up from school. I was also available to respond when the school called because there was trouble, but we don’t have to go there. I was able to pick you up from school to attend guitar or piano lessons.

Can you see me in your mind, running after a dog or climbing a trail in the woods? Do you recall I was present for your childhood? When one of you requested we do more homemade family dinners, I listened and made it happen. In 2009, after I almost died, one of you said you wanted to see me up and about more, so even though I was unknowingly severely anemic, I made sure not to lie down until you were home from school, did homework, ate a snack, and then went on to play, though my whole body ached for relief.

When you were younger, even during high school, I was working, fitting in school and sporting events. I was right there, supporting and cheering for you. The pride I felt watching you guys grow filled my heart, still does as I see you becoming men.

I hope you have memories of me coming to your rescue when an older boy took your bike at the park. How about me getting you out of trouble for throwing snowballs at a car? We went to Disneyland for spring break one year and you enjoyed the pool at our hotel just as much. After swimming lessons, we explored local lakes and pools; I swam out to the log jutting from the waters at Skookum Lake, suprising you and your dad.

My heart aches for you to remember me, not as I am now, but the way I was all the years of your growing up in Gleneden. Please don’t let my current condition be all that comes to mind when you think of me or describe me to others. Please, please remember more of me.

Love, Mom

45+3

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My mother-in-law sold her house, pending appraisal, less than a week after putting it on the market. There’s a 45-day escrow plus three days for moving. She’ll be relocating to our home immediately after Labor Day. The plan that was drawn up after the death of her husband in January is coming to fruition imminently.

The train ride down will take 36 hours, which is about the same as driving and far less stressful than flying. After my husband arrives in central California, his mom will rent a truck for her move out of the state in which she’s lived for a bit more than 50 years, after growing up in Germany. She’ll drive her own vehicle with her dog and cat, following my husband in the rental. The trip will take two full days on the road in the first full week of September.

The pets will be interesting additions to our home. Our blue heeler is nearly 11 years old and slowed down by a deteriorating liver for the last couple. Here come a seven-year-old dog and maybe ten-year-old cat my mother-in-law adopted from my sister-in-law when she was dying from ALS. She moved into her boyfriend’s house for safety reasons and he didn’t let her bring these pets. So, this cat and dog are special members of the extended family, just as our dog is to us.

Shiloh, the sweet dog, lived in town for a short while at the nearby home of a friend, so my SIL was able to visit for that time. They were unable to keep the dog long-term, so my MIL was happy to take them; she is very much an animal lover. On one of my visits to see her in Southern California, we spent time with the young dog just prior to him moving to central California. Driving away from his “foster” home that night, with him standing quietly at the fence watching, his eyes reflecting the headlights as we pulled away was so sad. Adjustments such as these made the reality of the progression of the cruel disease unavoidable. Five years later, Shiloh is coming to live here and he’ll have grass for the first time since leaving a small yard in southern California. This makes my heart happy.

Firmly dog-lovers, my husband and I have never had a cat. We both regard felines as aloof animals who do whatever they want and create the need for a litter box. I know we’re not wrong. I also understand they can be in relationship with their owners, purring on laps, etc. Growing up, we did have a couple cats, but they were outdoor cats. The last cat we had brought us a bat and, as soon as we got the rabies ‘all clear’ from the vet, Bandit disappeared following a night of coyotes howing in the woods at the end of the street. Apparently, this cat keeps itself to itself and will be seen only occasionally. We’ll leave the laundry room door open, so the litter box has a place. My MIL was offended when my husband referred to stinky litterboxes. She assured him no odor will accompany the cat shat. We’ll find out soon.

Crazy days here in the midst of two bathroom remodels and no bedroom yet cleared for our son to move upstairs before my MIL moves in downstairs. Fibromyalgia has not improved since I started reminding myself there is no threat, no need for fight, flight or freeze. The unwinding I credit to merely a few months rewiring of communication involving the amygdala by frequently reminding myself that there is actually not a current threat has been rewound as I juggle thoughts regarding the recent disability hearing, complexities of fibro, and the listing with fast sale of MIL’s home.

As predicted this winter when my husband and I played out what this process would look like as well as the timing, my German mother-in-law will be moving into our home in September. The plan worked out just as we thought it would. That’s one definition of success, yes?

Rest assured, updates to follow.

Haulin’ a Whole New Life

My mother-in-law listed her home Wednesday, July 13th. It’s located in middle California, east up a canyon from Bakersfield. She had one potential buyer come through this morning who is very interested, looking through the house twice this morning. It’s 11:30 a.m. PDT. Her house now has a few people looking, and she may benefit from a bidding war. Another buyer is scheduled to visit at 1:00 pm. The move from the Kern River valley to the home where my husband and I live in eastern Washinton State may come sooner, much sooner, rather than later.

The house is not yet ready for her to move in, with bathroom remodels under way and bedrooms still not cleared out. Our oldest son begins his new job on Monday and will soon be making plans to move out, but not until he gets a few paychecks. When I remind him he needs to start working with his dad to move his thingsfrom the basement, across the hall from our bedroom, I’m met with radio silence.

My husband responded to his mom’s news about several people looking at the house and making positive comments by telling her that she’ll probably be living in a bit of a mess for a while. She said it would still be a while; she’s hoping for maybe a 45-day escrow. That is still soon in my book.

When my husband sent her a picture of the vanity we’d purchased for the downstairs bathroom (Not her bathroom, I’ve had to remind.), she texted back, “It’s in two pieces?” After the explanation that these two pieces would make one, she texted, “With no handles?” to which my husband assured her there would indeed be drawer pulls. Her follow-up comment was, “Make it nice for your mommy!”

Should she complain about any of the accomodations, I will need to let her know we’ve done fine without her oversight. I won’t say it that coldly, but I will express that I’m not interested in her concerns or corrections. Any ideas about how best to deliver this sentiment are greatly appreciated, in the comments. Bitte schon.

Updates about the German mother-in-law revolution (I certainly wouldn’t use the term ‘invasion.’) will follow as events unfold. Danke.

p.s. For anyone wondering, my husband reads my posts. His reaction to this one? “Did you have to look up how to spell bitte schon?” and we laughed about my 20 minutes spent trying to type in umlauts, which I never did figure out.

Hearing Hangover

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Following my discouraging disability hearing yesterday, I yet felt weight move from my shoulders, down through my hands. I had my husband brush the negative energy down my arms and out my fingertips. Sleep was spotty with blurred edges.

This morning I woke up at my usual time, about 7 am, and had a cup of coffee. As I looked through news articles and saw what was trending on Twitter, my eyes got heavy and that’s a sign I am going to sleep very soon whether it fits plans or not. Lying back down in bed, I slept for a bit more than four additional hours.

After waking, again, and having my second cup of coffee a bit after noon, my body started talking. It felt as though all my pain spots were shaking their fists at the psych expert from the hearing yesterday, yelling, “Oh, yeah? We’ll show you!” Fortunately, they took turns, a few at a time. From the top of my head to the arches of my feet, moderately severe pain punched back at the notion I’m not debilitated by all my physical and mental pain resulting from years of illness. My body systems seem to mostly quieted down, but I do feel like I could go right back to sleep at 5:00 in the evening. And I just might.

Experience with hangovers has, repeatedly, schooled me in how to deal. Knowing relief is on the horizon does give one a lifeline when the cause is alcohol. Such certainty does not apply to a fibro flare.

Nevertheless, I am so relieved to have the hearing in the rearview mirror and thankful to be rid of the stress I couldn’t talk myself out of beforehand. I told myself I wouldn’t give the hearing or its outcome a thought, and I expect my plans to brush the notice of the ruling out of my mind, giving it none of my time or energy, will be just as successful. Lifey life. Cheers!

Hard of Hearing

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The problem with having slow thinking, trouble expressing yourself, and difficulty focusing is trying to describe your situation and limitations effectively in a disability hearing with an administrative law judge.

The hearing started with a medical expert who concluded I had no limittions. None. She referred to notes from my past therapist and more than once mentioned my last visit there. In her notes, the psychiatric PA described me as rude, angry, loud, disjointed, tangential, sarcastic, emotional and blaming. Today’s expert said without knowing the context of that episode, she really couldn’t consider it. “Anyone can get really emotional about something and become angry and this wasn’t typical for the complainant.” When my attorney referred the expert to my current psych provider’s notes, pointing out repeated references to being anxious, fearful, and irritable, the doctor stated that “anyone can get irritated. It doesn’t rise to the level of an impairment.” (For the sake of completion, the explosive exchange between the previous therapist and I was because I finally opened up and told her I couldn’t handle listening to her talk about the end of the world at every appointment when I’m trying to climb my way out of suicidal depression. Her response was, “Well! I thought you were a Christian!” I was just trying to stay with her to have her regulate my meds. So, yeah, I got emotional and sarcastic after she became offended at me, the patient, trying to set healthy boundaries! Did I mention this today, inserting it in when I had a chance? No. Was there an opportunity for that? I have no fucking idea at this point.)

My attorney asked me questions next. I’ve taken pages of notes, scattered pages addressing things I might say in response to questions about my circumstances. Last night, I distilled them all to a few pages. I don’t know what the hell I said today. I know I missed some info I definitely wanted to provide.

The vocational therapist spoke last. The judge presented him with a hypothetical claimant who had several limitations and then asked specific questions about availability of work. My attorney asked about the effect of chronically missing work and not being on task.

After the hearing, my attorney called. He said that medical expert was really bad, and he couldn’t believe how she refused to acknowledge current notes with discussion of symptoms. He was pleased that the judge did include a few limitations in the hypothetical. Eric said he definitely thinks we should appeal if I’m denied. The ruling will be issued in six to eight weeks.

I’m soooo tired. My body aches. The 45 minute hearing, for which I’ve prepared the last year or so in a process that’s gone on three years so far, is over. It’s over. I said whatever I said. I know my judge usually follows expert’s conclusion, so it doesn’t look good. Whatever. At least it’s over. Trying to let it go and relax. Sigh.

Paper Thin

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Shallow breaths are all I need. Feeling hungry is satisfying. If I can take in tiny sips of air and spend most of the daytime feeling the effects of eating a minimal amount of food, I can almost disappear. Just a slip of person, thin as paper. No matter my physical weight, I nearly disappear. When my self requires little and it’s just a wisp, I may absent responsibility and release myself to just be, not trying to “get better” or “have fun.” A handful of minutes in the hours in the day, maybe I can get distracted from pain, nausea, vertigo, cognitive impairment, etc. My stomach growls to remind me it wants food, and that reinforces my desire to be nearly nothing. My brain wants to predict everything that will happen at the disability hearing scheduled for Thursday, on the phone, but I’d rather be still. Quietness, shedding trappings of opinions and personality. Becoming minimal. I feel peace there.

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A New Loo!

Fortunate to have three bathrooms, we are currently remodeling two. The primary bedroom has a three-quarter bath, while the daylight basement has a full one. The only lavatory not taken down to the studs is the full guest bath upstairs.

For now, one of our adult sons lives in the downstairs but, so proud to report, he very recently got a job in his field and will be moving into a place of his own, just in time for my mother-in-law to move into his rooms. Her home reportedly goes on the market in California in the next few days, and as soon as it sells my husband will make final plans to bring her here, following months of prep. Due to the remodel, everyone in our home is using the full guest bathroom; this has led to urgent pleading with one another, but not as often as I’d have guessed. Hopefully, we’ll complete the renovation before my MIL arrives.

The two rooms we’re redoing had sinks and bath/shower original to the house from the late 1970’s. We’ve been in the house for 21 years now, and I’ve been longing for an updated bathroom in our bedroom. When my husband started talking about the need to remodel a bathroom for his mother, I was quite vocal about the need to redo mine. My mother-in-law told my husband she wanted him to remodel mine first, not wanting to get between me and my new loo! Thus, the decision was made to bring in a crew to do both at the same time.

The beginning of a project is all fun and games! It was so exciting to imagine the atmosphere I wanted to create in my little washroom. The shower had been a dark, single stall in a prefab pan. Everything needed updating. My husband gave me the go ahead to pick what I want and make it my own. He is, though, a project manager with a commercial flooring and tile company and, of course, he’d be managing ours. Given my license to shop decor, I thought his management would apply only to the physical labor. The following, though, is a typical conversation we’ve had as I share with him my choices of tile, vanity, light fixtures, etc.:

Me: “Okay. I found the (blank) I want.”

Him: “Let’s see. Did you take into account this, that, or the other thing.”

Me: “I’ve spent hours going through pages and pages online, looking at ratings, comparing prices….” perhaps defensively because the actual shopping was not so much fun, after all.

Him: “Huh. So, that’s really your top choice?” “You’re going to mix finishes?” “You don’t have that much space.”

Me: “Yes, I’m going to mix finishes,” something not happening in his condo and hotel projects. I also do not want the whole room in one color/shade. My husband has a hard time seeing my vision.

That said, I am relieved now that the shopping is done. It’s a lot of pressure to choose things that will be permanent, as far as we’re concerned; I do not see us remodeling these rooms while we’re still the owners. My part is mostly done, but I still need to pick my accent tile that will serve as backsplash behind the sink as well as the corners in the new shower enclosure, which is now twice the size, as the result of using dead space, and built out of tile. I’m thrilled with the final choices I’ve made and can’t wait to see them in place.

The basement redo is focused on durable, economical materials, which is fine by me. I shopped for the accessories and accents online, and they’re being delivered piecemeal along with features and fixtures for my bathroom. We’re making progress, slowly but surely. My husband is doing the work he can manage on his own, and the crew will return when we’re ready for the tile to be set. Believe me, after 21 years, a few months doesn’t seem long at all.

My husband and I always forget to take ‘before’ pictures when beginning a new project, but above and below are photos of the demo and I’ll definitely post ‘after’ pics upon completion!

The old, sad shower stall

Ramble Gamble

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Rambling posts are a collection of thoughts I have that don’t warrant a post of their own. I also include personal life circumstances, usually near the end.

Do you speak your mind? Are there folks with whom you avoid voicing your opinions? Is it a risk to share your thoughts? I find I keep many thoughts to myself, sometimes putting them on the table with my counselor because I know she won’t judge. Such a people pleaser am I, troubling or controversial ideas are rarely shared with friends and family at this point. Keeping the peace.

This has probably been addressed in one of my prior posts, but I have to say it. When you are referring to a specific point in time, use the word ‘when.’ Ex: When the plane lands, I’ll shoot you a text. If referring to a period of days, weeks, months or years during which something may occur or an open-ended time frame, use the word ‘whenever.’ Ex: Whenever you get a chance will be fine. Serious overuse of whenever seems to be the order of the day, but I will protest (evenly silently) to the end.

Several years ago, I worked in the garden center of a large retail store. There were two keypads for employees to use for clocking in and out, and sometimes this was the only chance I had to visit with people from other departments. One summer day, prepared for the outdoors with my straw cowboy hat and sunglasses, one of the butchers approached the time clocks, greeting me cheerfully, “Hey, garden girl!” I answered, “Hey, meat man!” before giving it a second thought, until it was out of my mouth. His response, “That’s one of the nicest thing anyone’s said to me!”

Our future housemate, my mother-in-law, is radio-silent. I’m sure she’ll let my husband know once her house is on the market and she hasn’t, at least as far as I know. When my husband was with her recently, they held a three-day garage sale and unloaded much of the furniture, tools, and other household items she won’t be bringing with her. My husband told her she can bring her yard art. He wants her to feel she belongs and to enjoy her last years. (She’s not ill.) So, she has a set of seven gnome dwarves on her front steps and onto her porch. They’re faded from years of sunshine in California. She walked past them and pronounced, “These are going.” My husband doesn’t know why these are so important to her, but I never wanted plastic dwarves or gnomes in my yard. As my husband moved things out of her house for the yard sale, his mother advised he should move those dwarves so nothing happened to them. He said it wasn’t necessary. Later, he carried a load out and the last dwarf, I’m assuming it was Dopey, fell off the step and broke. It’s plastic but very dried out. That’s how many years these plastic gnomes have been sitting outdoors. My husband’s mom was furious. He assured her he’d buy a replacement and her retort was, “Yeah, sure you will.” He’s in the middle of moving her into our home, taking care of her at significant expense of time and money. I can’t believe she spoke to him that way. Following, she gave him the cold shoulder for hours. (This is one of the topics, my German MIL moving in with us, I address but bury in the “Rambling” series,)

Overwhelmed by pain, depression, and cognitive impairment, I’ve been having thoughts I’m only sharing here, but I understand this topic may be painful. My husband will read my post and see that suicidal ideation is are predominant again; after he expresses his desire that I not opt out, he’ll explain that so many people have it so much worse and are able to keep going and take away the means by which I would quit life, if I told him. This morning I’m facing myself, unsure if I really want to make that choice. The most important reason I have to keep going, is my sons. They’re 23 & 24, building their own foundations for adulthood, and I wouldn’t want to cause them to go off the rails and have to deal with the impact of my choice on the rest of their lives. The need to protect them, above all, continues just as when they were 3 & 4 or 13 & 14. I do, however, feel like giving in to fibromyalgia and depression, quitting medical treatment and counseling, staying in bed without urging myself to go outside or keeping in touch with friends and family. I’m so tired of dealing with the wide array of fibro symptoms, especially the impact on my mental functions. In my previous life, I was super smart and sharp. Not bragging, just explaining the contrast I feel and the difficulty I have adjusting to impaired cognition. I will keep going, putting one foot in front of the other, wanting to see my sons’ lives unfold. Update 7/2/22: It’s not the end of the world today.

The fourth of July approaches and, as is true with most years since our sons began making their own plans, we aren’t going anywhere or going to see fireworks. It would require more trouble than it’s worth and I’d pay for it afterwards, at least for a few days. We’re in the middle of remodeling two bathrooms, so that is our focus. (You can read more about the ups and downs of this remodel in my next post, “Under Construction.” It will most likely be published July 2nd or 3rd.)

Do you have a barbecue happening or a day at a lake? Will you engage in conversations that go beyond surface niceties with your family or friends? Do you set off fireworks or go to see a large, professional display? Personal fireworks are prohibited where I live, but we’ll still hear several M80 fireworks, which sound like a really loud gunshot. They’ll be set off a bit over the weekend, and several will be heard on the holiday. My dog will hide behind furniture to escape the danger, but she does that every time I sneeze!

p.s. I found a great description for what I call “fibro sick.” There are so many symptoms. For me, I have times where my body feels the way you do if you have a really bad cold or the day before you realize you have strep throat. Just icky all over.

Parent is Also a Verb 6/30/22

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Dedicated to my late dad on his birthday.

My sons were both encouraged to sign up for sports and other interests they thought might be interesting. The older one preferred to achieve his personal best in track and cross-country, while the younger enjoyed competing on a team, including basketball and baseball.

In the early years, I was a full-time mom. Even so, I needed help when one boy had something going on at one setting while the other needed to show up across town. My folks were a huge help. Later, as a personal contractor doing medicial transcription online, I was able to set my own schedule and attend my kids’ sporting events, which were usually in different seasons.

One beautiful, sunny day I sat watching and cheering the 7th grade baseball game, in my comfortable outdoor chair with my waterbottle at hand. My parents joined me after the first couple innings. They set up next to me. We followed the game, appreciated the sunny spring day, and visited.

My dad smiled at me and said, “You really enjoy being here, huh?”

I agreed, “Yes, I do! Nowhere else I need to be or should be.”

I hadn’t given it much thought before, but it’s so true. Whether or not your child admits it, they love having you attend their games and events. Don’t think it’s a big deal? Talk to someone whose parents didn’t. So, whatever you have to do to arrange it, show up for some, even a few, if not all. They may profess embarrassment, as young teenagers are wont to do, and you might not get any feedback from your son or daughter.

As a teacher, parent, and parent educator, I can assure you the number one commodity your child needs from you is attention, whether they realize it or not. Attending games, events, recitals, concerts, and ceremonies is a wonderful way to provide healthy, positive attention. These are opportunities to expect sportsmanship, reinforce a healthy lifestyle, and show the importance of family time. You will model appropriate competition behavior by not going negative on the other team or arguing with a referee or umpire.

A few weeks after that baseball game, I sat on the grassy bank at the edge of a field for my other son’s track meet. Another mom sat nearby and we talked a bit about who our kids are, what school they attend, and the individual events in which they’d compete.

She said, “I just love this!”

I answered, “Me, too! There’s nowhere else I’d rather be or should be.”

“I know, right?”

“We’re good moms! just sitting here doing nothing!”

Batter up! – Go watch your kids explore their interests.

Sara’s education and experience: B.A. Ed; M.S. Counseling; teacher grades K & 2/3, educator for childcare providers, training in Positive Discipline and Growing, parent educator, program director of crisis nursery, including parent support, staff management & training, stay home mom 16 years with two sons born 19 months apart, medical transcription for 10 years in order to stay home, substitute teacher grades K through 12. Blogs about a wide variety of topics on survivingsara.net.

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