Countdown: 3 Days

New tattoo being inked on Sunday, October 24th! When the tattoo studio manager called to confirm my upcoming appointment, he asked if I had reference photos. Apparently, the first email they requested back in August didn’t land in the correct inbox. I was, actually, relieved. I’ve given my new tattoo a lot of thought since then.

Although I was satisfied with the information I’d sent, there was a new perspective I wanted to share with Reggie, my tattoo artist. I’d initially specified I wanted a “spray” of wildflowers, including sunflower, calendula, lavender, and cherry blossom, and invited Reggie to use his artistry to design.

In my recent email, I told Reggie I didn’t particularly want the little bouquet. The individual flowers are the focus and, if one needs to be excluded, the cherry blossom could go, because the tattoo as a whole represents a time of renewal and appreciation of life. I welcomed Reggie to design something and suggested, perhaps, a wheel with stems woven together, braided stems, or maybe even inspired by Chihuly.

Now, I am very excited to see what Reggie’s got for me! Suicidal thinking continues to plague me, so I was thinking maybe I shouldn’t get my tattoo. I am still breathing today, evidence that I’ve chosen life many, many times. This artwork on my skin will celebrate and remind me of my commitment to choosing life. I’m getting it, damn it. Update and pics to follow on this upcoming Sunday or Monday, the 24th or 25th of October.

Incapacitated

My brain is taking a break, apparently. It affects everything. Being unable to come up with a word is foreign to me. I was so sharp and I thought it would be so as I went through my fifties and sixties. Never imagined I’d experience deterioration in my mid 50’s.

Fog moves in, curling around the language section of synapses. My ability to process

There you go. I have no idea what I intended to express. Coming up with the idea takes tortuous stewing and stirring. Getting that same idea “on paper” is a slow, painful process, revisiting the original thought repeatedly to get the next word. You should’ve seen how long it took me to grind out the title for this article.

Why am I writing this? Wanted to share the difficulty of brain fog with people who have heard of it but don’t know what it’s like. Stopping now. My eyes are closing. Napping is going to happen; it’s not optional today. Keep on keeping on, friends.

We Have a Winner!

Dear Reader, You may want to read the previous post, “A New No,” before this one, but not required in order to enjoy! ~ Sara

When friends and family extend invitations, I’m excited about the prospect of a get-together, a barbecue, or birthday drinks. Immediately, I think about what I’ll wear, a major concern following weight gain. Whatever, I’ll think about that later. I’m in – 100%!

It’s not until a day or two before the scheduled event that doubt creeps into my mind. Where will I sit comfortably? What if I’m nauseous? Fatigue is a major symptom right now; am I going to have enough evening energy? When friends ask how I’m doing, what can I say that’s not a wet blanket? If I don’t throw out “fine” or “good,” what will I say?

If I open the door to the topic, my chronic illness and pain may become the subject of discussion, and that frequently begins a game of BINGO. Although I understand that ideas and encouragement are offered out of love, I end up feeling like I need to defend myself, explaining what’s worked and what hasn’t, things I’ve learned and tried previously.

The day arrives, the one on which I’ve been focusing my positive thinking and visualization. Only now, the swirling doubts are intensifying because dealing with all the variables has become immediate. I committed. I accepted that invitation or even extended it myself! I very much planned to go and do. Somehow, after all this preparation, I find myself still with pain and illness in my body, Each time, I feel almost surprised and, oddly, satisfied with confirmation that I am chronically ill. It’s definitely not in my head. There is no reprieve in order to see family and friends.

Now, the challenge presents itself. Do I just push through to keep plans? That has worked recently on a couple of occasions, lunch with my mom and two sisters as well as lunch with my nearly 24-year-old son. There was a price to be paid but worth it, for sure. It helped that both were close to home, early in the day, and the time involved was limited. I’m starting to get nervous about making my tattoo appointment next week, but I will definitely have to push through that.

So, how best to cancel or decline a plan or invitation on short notice after I already accepted. When I’ve taken stock of my current situation, measured that against what would be required of me, and find I’m not able to attend, how do I cancel without offense? How to say “no” after I’ve already said “yes”?

As I write this, I’m thinking that if I was completely healthy but didn’t feel well on a specific day, I’d just call and tell my friend I’m not able to make it. I don’t have to give a lengthy explanation, but I find myself wanting to head off BINGO squares, imagining the person on the other end is disappointed in me. Truth is, I’m the one who is disappointed. Positive thinking doesn’t transform my health on demand. Going forward, if I need to cancel, I will say, “I’m not going to make it today because I’m not feeling well.” Niceties will follow. Most importantly, my best effort will be made to avoid assigning blame or shame to myself.

A New No

20 years ago, my nextdoor neighbor asked me in her ever-chirping voice, “What are you doing Thursday?” Unknowingly, I plunged headlong into the quicksand.

“Nothing on Thursday,” imagining she was going to ask if I wanted to go to a movie or something.

Even more cheerfully, she responded, “Oh, good! Doug and I have concert tickets. I need you to watch boy #1 and boy #2 at 6 pm.” She was expert at this, so smooth. It was over before I even realized she needed a babysitter!

Now, I’m stumbling, tripping over my tongue. What can I say? She already checked on my availability and I just told her I have nothing on my calendar. Damn. I agreed to babysit and, in fairness, she watched mine once in a while when I asked. It wasn’t the actual time spent watching her sons that rubbed me the wrong way; it was the way she finagled the whole thing. Bait and switch.

It wasn’t familiarity that made her comfortable with this kind of ask. When her family originally moved onto the extended cul-de-sac, she took a stroll with the one son she had at that time. Down the street, a neighbor was out front; they introduced themselves and chatted. When the chirpy mom found out this woman was a teacher, her response was, “Great! We’re going out to eat tonight! We’ll bring our son down later.” Fortunately, the teacher neighbor doesn’t take shit from anyone and clearly established that she was not a babysitter.

It was the third such exchange between the neighbor mom and I, playing out as above, when I realized it was happening again, but not before I’d committed my typical blunder. Walked right into it and left myself open. I vented to my husband and questioned another friend on the street who was mom to a preschooler and a newborn, both boys. That’s right. Three stay-at-home moms with six little boys among us. Bless our neighbors.

Now, a challenge. I knew I had to fnd a different way to handle this. I wanted to interrupt her ploy so she couldn’t hijack my ability to decide for myself. And then it came. Olden days landline phone rings. We have a little chat, and then she asks, “Are you busy Friday?”

My new strategy is unveiled, wait for it, I replied, “Why? What’s going on?”

There it was. After a time or two of receiving this response, she stopped “asking” in that way. I probably took an inordinate amount of pleasure in hijacking her hijack.

Currently, I need to consider a new no. Adjusting to chronic illness and pain requires that I say “no” after I’ve said yes. (to be continued this weekend)

Shakespeare Said What?

There was nothing much exCiting going on in my childhood neighborhood but, nonetheless, thE first interest I had in spying type aCtivities was sneaking between baCkyards and eating tomato sandwiches a la “HarriEt The SpY.” I noted anything seen in my spy boOk, just like Harriet.

I recently watcheD some of “Crack the Shakespeare Code” on YoUTube. I’d heard debate over whether other authors wrote under ShakEspeare’s name but hadn’t heArd about hiDden messages. Had you?

There were a variety of codes and ciphers written into some Shakespeare’s works, often using page and line numbers in complicated ways. This is thought to have been a way for freemasons to cOmmunicate secretly. It seems no matter how many shows about masons and illuminati I watch, I have a haRd time understanding what meaning the members derived from all the rigmarole. Growing up, I thought Freemasons were just like the Elk Lodge or Oddfellows. I guess seeing their symbols on the U.S. dollar bill should be enough to evidence their influence. Do you think they’re still acTive in seats of power today? I just don’t Know. Do you think they’re wielding power in the sHadows still? Share your thoughts on, or solutions to, this purposeful puzzling.

Life in Color

One of the whitest areas in the country is where I grew up. The racial makeup of the city where I lived in 1980, as well as changes in the population since 1970, is seen below.

So, you see; I was not exaggerating when I described this area as one of the whitest in the United States. Then, after graduating from college, I moved to northwest Los Angeles County. (See post “Owning My Bias” from June of 2020, a couple weeks after the death of George Floyd.) My favorite place to spend a day was Venice Beach. The tapestry of diversity felt right.

In the Mojave desert, I taught in the middle of nowhere; yes, if you’re in the Mojave desert, most likely you’re in the middle of nowhere. The population of the community was diverse but less so than L.A. The overall racial demographics of Los Angeles County back in the day (1990) were as follows:

Living in Southern California for seven years in my 20’s was so much fun! I married in 1992 (2/29/92 at 2:29 in the afternoon. See “We’re Going to the Chapel” and “We’re Gonna Get Married” posted April 18 and 23, 2020 respectively.) and then we relocated to Spokane where we could afford to buy a house. The four seasons, trees, mountains, and lakes persuaded us this would be the right move for us, before we had children, because we went with no jobs. I tell you, the pasty whiteness with such a lack of diversity was shocking! It made me sad to see. The racial make-up by 2010 Spokane County as compared to the U.S. as a whole was as follows:

You can see the difference in Spokane County vs the U.S. as a whole. I’d been back to visit a couple times a year but spent my “vacation” time with friends and family. Not a very diverse group, but it’s my group. Seems I didn’t go to large gatherings during those years. Back full-time, I was keenly aware of the whiteness.

Over the past 28 years in our current home, I have seen the population in the area diversify in a meaningful way, at least visually. There are people of color living in every part of the county, attending school and living life in this community. Housing growth exploded here and the influx of Californians increased all shades of skin. (Just kidding, the new folks aren’t all from California. πŸ˜‰)

Here’s an example of how this played out: For years after we moved into our current home, it was rare to see people of color at the local supermarket. By 2019, there was usually a diverse crowd shopping.

So, why am I writing this post? Because of this:

The only people I’ve seen display this flag, t-shirt, or decal are white males. Now, I’m just relating my personal experience. I’m sure there’s a white person in my county who would dispute my perspective, but I can honestly say that 100% of snakes pledging allegiance to this flag, seen by me, are white males. A guy moved into our neighborhood and had his flag hung over his garage right away. Someone else in the home moved his to one side and added another – Peace, Love and Happiness with flowers. Inside I seethe every time I pass the yellow stain, even if it’s a micro moment. I hate that he can put that out there but a couple houses down across the road, there’s a family proudly flying a Black Lives Matter flag. We’re all allowed to express ourselves and this is the trade off.

This is how I process this sick, poisonous, yellow allegiance to ‘fuck you all day, every day, and twice as much on Sundays.’ One can demonstrably prove the percentage of white people here is still over 80% white. We’ve gone from 97% white in 1970 to 82% in 2019. That’s what these guys see, the 17% drop in white population over nearly 50 years. This gradual decrease occurred in spite of a less than welcoming atmosphere in general.

Richard Butler’s aryan nation camp was in Hayden, Idaho, 38 miles from Spokane. They held marches in Coeur d’Alene, a resort town close to them in northern Idaho. There were always protesters and it was contentious, but even negative attention is better than no attention. They probably wouldn’t even consider it negative. Mark Furman moved here, after the O.J. trial debacle, even a little more north in Sandpoint, Idaho and had a daytime talk radio show for a Spokane news station for a few years. We also have many folks living off the grid and not paying taxes, the sovereign contingent, between here and Canada. Sometimes the circles of racism and anti-government sentiment overlap in the Venn diagram, often in my opinion. We had a backpack bomb placed on a downtown sidewalk, intended to explode nails and other debris at people participating in the annual march for Martin Luther King, Jr. day, ten years ago. Fortunately, someone saw it and said something. They called 911. The parade route was changed and the bomb squad defused it.

Can someone tell me who, exactly, is treading on these snakes? Is it in anyway similar to the focus of men in the colonies rebelling against King George III of England? Are there parallels between white supremacists/ survivalists and men struggling to replace a monarchist system for a democracy? Am I missing something? How insecure and fearful they are to imagine they’re subject to tyranny. Do they think their plight is on par with slavery, people kidnapped and imprisoned in work camps called plantations?

It’s so obvious that white males are not in dire straits. Are they scared to compete in a diverse workforce? This guy around the corner from me may be focusing solely on hating the government and not paying taxes, which is stupid for a whole lot of reasons on its own. It always strikes me as a symbol of racism, every time I see it. He’s gotta know that’s one of the responses he elicits. What is so hard in his life that he feels as though he’s at risk of being trod upon and by whom? I applaud the family member who made an effort to balance the energy.

I have no conclusions, no tidy wrap-up to offer. Thank you so much for allowing me to vent, to unload all of this. I am more thankful than I can express for the years I had in the Los Angeles area. My now 23-year-old told me, when he was in high school, that as his generation came into adulthood there wouldn’t be racism anymore. He was convinced of this and I thought that was so sweet, which I did not share with my teenager. For me, I knew it was a dream worth believing but unlikely. As Trump emerged as the GOP candidate and his followers came out of the woodwork, it was clear my son was a dreamer. And that’s a good thing.

Misadventures of an Accidental Ministry Leader

Although my husband and I enjoyed our little, liberal, Presbyterian, gray-haired, 100-person congregation, we moved to a large church down the road, located on a private university campus, in order to provide our kids with a children’s program. I had no idea, until then, how much more conservative Presbyterians might be. In the 2000’s, as a schism grew in the nationwide church regarding allowing gay men and lesbians to serve as pastors, my current congregation voted to ban them. 😳 (I know, I know, should’ve trusted my inner voice.)

Most of my time and attention were on the Mom’s Group, though. There were many great people and without them I wouldn’t have kept my sanity with two preschool boys born 19 months apart. Eventually I served on the planning committee to do my part and took on the job of emcee for our Mom’s group brunches with guest speakers we did as a whole group once a month. On the other Tuesdays, we met in small groups for bible study, seasonal crafts, etc.

Typically, emcees shared a daily devotional entry and a prayer before welcoming the women to go through the brunch line. Before my first time as emcee, I decided I would write my own “devotional” instead of reading one out of a book, having found personal experiences or thoughts on scripture to be more meaningful. Before a monthly brunch, I carefully considered how to open each meeting. Once I shared my framed, cross-stitch first verse of the Serenity Prayer and then read the entire prayer with which most are not familiar. (My first and only cross-stitch project,)

At the planning meeting for the next brunch, the proposed agenda read at the top, “Welcome and prayer – Short! This is NOT the speaker.” Did anyone approach me personally to discuss timing, which would seem the Christian thing to do? No. Just put it on the agenda. I stopped doing the emcee gig after that upcoming one. Anyone can read a printed devotional and pray thanks for the beautiful food provided by the older, retired women of the church, and obviously my take on the emcee role was not welcome.

At the February brunch, the first where I was not acting as emcee, I found myself seated at the same round table as the invited speaker. We were directed by the new emcee to share one word to describe our own personal spiritual life. Others offered up, “strong” or “quiet.” When I shared “desperate” and my voice cracked, holding back tears, my fellow diners were silent for an awkward moment before moving on to the next. No one ever approached me to touch base, clarify, or offer support – not even the speaker who’d been invited to share her spiritual insights. And I wonder how long it took for us to do that icebreaker. Ah, there we go. I don’t just break the ice; I dive into an ice-fishing hole.

This reminds me of an experience I had a couple years later. I was asked to be part of a team of women who widened the scope of people served by the Tuesday morning brunches and small groups to include all the women of the church; we revived a formal, volunteer Women’s Ministry. In that vein, I attended a countywide group of women that met once a month to discuss leadership particular to women’s church programs.

When we talked about speaking in front of groups, more than one participant referenced nerves and needing a bathroom stall immediately prior to delivery of their God-inspired messages. I pipe up with, “Do you sometimes find yourself in that bathroom stall struggling with not wanting to make yourself vulnerable by sharing personal things from your past, praying, ‘Please don’t make me talk about this!'” You could’ve heard a pin drop as ALL the other members of the cohort, about 20, stared blankly at me and shook their heads, “No!” (Exclamation added by me because that’s how it felt.) I knew, then, that this was not my tribe.

When I related this story to my Women’s Ministry board back at our next meeting, my great friend and the director of our group laughed, “They weren’t expecting you, Sara! Speak the truth!” If it hadn’t been for this wonderful community, liberal people, I probably would’ve left the church, and the Church, much earlier than I eventually did. Not to mention, I would’ve saved my sons from the director of children’s programs who expected 1st and second grade boys to act like they were at school; as a result, my boys were always on the naughty list, so much so that this woman required the presence of one parent if we wanted them to come on Wednesday evenings for Kids’ Club, which was supposed to be the time my husband and I usually met with a small study group of parents. When she told 3rd and 4th graders they would go to hell if they committed suicide, I learned she came to us from a lifetime of Baptist preaching.

I’ll be sharing more misadventures during my time in ministry. I was definitely a square peg who didn’t fit in those round holes.

I’m including picture and link below just because it gave me a good laugh!

To read the satirical article, click here πŸ‘‡ https://images.app.goo.gl/y356qmuQGJ2NrAm18

Tinnitus?

Imagine you attend a sporting event, arena concert, or any large indoor event with cheering and clapping. At the conclusion, you walk out to your car and notice the sounds around you are muffled. Inside your head, a loud ringing noise, so annoying!, fades away by the time you get home. Now imagine it never goes away. Ever.

I was diagnosed with tinnitus 40 years ago. You say ti-night-us, I say TIN-nit-us. In the early years (feel like a little old lady telling stories, oh wait 😳), the volume of my ringing was as low as it could go and still be heard constantly in the background. I saw all the same remedies y’all saw, but not one made any impact. Presently, I’m relieved that tinnitus established itself in my teens. Having it suddenly turn on as an adult would be startling and adjustment very difficult.

Over time, the volume has turned up, particularly with intense stress. 2009 was a crap year. The loudness increased markedly and I didn’t know if I could cope. My sons were 11 and 12; the noise they and their friends made constantly was a distraction. The volume is pretty high now, maybe medium-high.

When I go to sleep, I like to fade off with the t.v. or a podcast low in my ear. That ringing is amplified most in silence.

Bright Lines

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Okay, okay, okay. I call do-over. I can do that. That’s one of the rules you agreed to when you followed my blog….just kidding. I am in a mood today. I wrote the post below last Friday, October 1st. I’ve thought a lot about this topic in the past five days. If you are interested, you can read it to see what I was thinking, or skip to the new thoughts in the last paragraph.

Just yesterday, I first heard of Bright Line Eating. Upon arriving at lunch with my mom and two older sisters, I was particularly pleased to see the oldest; we hadn’t seen each other since COVID started. She was thinner than I’d seen her in a long time. It’s been a battle for her most of her adult life. She’s tried many, many diets and programs, and some were successful for weight loss but not as much for maintenance.

Now, she’s rocking form-fitting jeans while I’ve invested in leggings and roomy dresses/tops, owing to currently weighing more than I ever have. I know a thing or two about making long-term changes to what I eat and drink. Alcohol quit me two years ago this month, and it had been something I’d very much enjoyed. Next, I quit chocolate; my June 26 post, “All Things in Moderation,” discusses the need. Three months on, I haven’t had chocolate or sugary treats. For the record, the uplift in mood and energy experienced in the aftermath of removing a lifelong staple of my diet was fleeting. The most recent major adjustment I made was dropping dairy in order to increase kidney function; it worked!

Imagine my disappointment when I learned my sister’s success story, using Bright Line Eating, involves cutting out all flour and all sugar. For crying out loud, all my food-related vices are falling by the wayside, one after another. I’m approaching these new deletions gradually. The other two bright lines, besides omitting sugar and flour, are eating three meals a day with no snacking and weighing food rather than eyeballing serving sizes. I’m including below the kind of resources I know I’m going to need.

My sis says she feels so much better. Inflammation is down so she doesn’t have joint pain anymore. She says after about ten days she woke feeling alert, really awake. Sleep has also improved greatly. She allows herself to have something off-plan occasionally. After eating flour or sugar, though, she feels it and is motivated to return to the program because she knows she’ll feel better. One tip she gives is to eat cucumbers and tomatoes because they weigh the most and 22 ounces of vegetables is a lot!

After lunch, I picked up the online grocery order I’d already placed. Many items don’t fit Bright Line Eating, so I’m going to get a food scale and prepare myself with the next shopping list. I’ll keep you posted – blog posted. πŸ˜‰

p.s. My sister has loved baking all kinds of things, from pies to lefse, since she was 17 or 18 years old. Don’t suppose we’ll enjoy any more of those treats in the future.

October 6, 2021 – I definitely want to lose weight but I won’t be a strict Bright Line eating. With my fibromyalgia, I don’t think that’s for me. The first hint I got was the fact that I am not going to be able to give up coffee creamer. No can do. Also, I’m able to eliminate foods when I decide to, like quitting chocolate and sugary treats three months ago. (See “All Things in Moderation.”) The Bright Line quiz shows I probably don’t need to follow the plan strictly. I will seriously cut down on flour and keep sugar intake low. I also plan to make a real effort to increase fresh fruits and vegetables. I’m good at buying them; gotta eat them! I ordered a food scale and it will be here any day, and I will use it. My birthday is one week from today. I don’t really care but, I confess, I use it as an excuse to eat whatever I want, dinner on Saturday with my best friend and her husband as well as take-out on the 13th. What can I say? I have ordered a magic pill that will make my fat melt away as it regulates my blood sugar by improving function of pancreas. Not going to share the name until I give it a try. I know, I know. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But if it works….. I’ll post an update. My birthday gift is a new tattoo. (See “Before – Early October.”) I’ll be writing about my tattoo process and showing the end result after October 24th. Onward!

Living on the Edge

Twenty years we’ve lived in our home and, though we would like to downsize, we’re reluctant to leave the wildlife corridor our lot borders. When we initially purchased this house, it was located on the outer limits of suburbia, so much so that the neighborhood was just newly able to have pizza delivered and only by one, locally-owned restaurant with the unfortunate name of Fat Daddy’s.

Over the years, we’ve been blessed to see many, many squirrels (who will eat hard-boiled Easter eggs and peanutbutter birdseed pinecones meant for birds), quail, turkeys, bucks, doe, and fawn as well as moose. We hear coyotes and owls. Osprey made a large nest near here, but eventually the power company had to remove it from atop a powerline pole. Hawks circle over the field, hopefully culling the number of mice making it home. One summer, our dog barked every evening at a possum in a tree on the other side of our chain link fence. My son has seen a porcupine lumbering across a neighborhood street. A woodpecker just reminded me to include it. All manner of bird are neighbors of ours, from hummingbirds to magpies. And my husband will never forget watching me high step through the field of tall grasses after seeing a snake underfoot, back in the very early days.

Each fall and spring, I love hearing the Canadian geese flying directly overhead. Ten years ago, a flock of geese flying low and making a really loud racket sent our blue heeler puppy hiding under a low deck. About six months later, we walked in the field, my dog and I, when she spotted a huge gaggle resting in the grasses. Our young blue heeler put her ears back and ran at them fast, circling wide. The birds laughed at her and moved just a bit, not unlike a stadium crowd doing the wave. They scared her more than she scared them!

Deer travel through regularly, sometimes in the field we border and many times walking down streets and across lawns, snacking on flowers and more. When I worked in a local garden center, shoppers frequently asked which plants the deer would leave alone. I would share the disheartening information that they’re less likely to eat more fragrant choices, such as lavendar, but individual animals may not realize this until they try. Personally, we had deer pull up all of my onions; they didn’t eat them, just left them all lying on the ground. It’s a trade off for enjoying the beauty of where we live and the joy of watching wildlife.

A park in our area is officially named after our housing development but everyone calls it “Moose Park.” It was an Eagle Scout project completed in the late 1990’s. Originally there was a zip line swing, bathroom, walking trail, a large grassy area, and a life-sized statue of a moose lying down. With two boys, 19 months apart, we made frequent trips to play there. Since, swings and a slide have been added. When new home and apartment complex construction picked up around us, there were rare actual sightings of moose for several years. Now that the surrounding community has been built up for the most part, they’re using this corridor again.

Twinning seems to be not unusual.

Just three weeks later, in my own backyard…

After eating, mama moose walked all around our yard, checking out even the side of the house, and then rested in the grass for a short while before heading back to the field. The twins only stopped eating to check that mom was close.

She seemed completely unconcerned with their movements and activities, and just two weeks later she’d left them on their own. We know this because they lived in a backyard two miles away from us for their first two weeks without her (communicated to me via our cul-de-sac chat group). The cow recently came back through our neighborhood by herself, but I didn’t get any pictures. Apparently, it’s time for her to mate now and she’ll be up in the mountains… until next year, hopefully.

It will be very difficult to leave here someday.

p.s. When I put out the call for photos of deer (rather than charge my old phone), my neighbor across the street, Dawn Donahoo, provided this security cam pic of a deer caught eating her roses at 1:23 a.m. I told her it’s a little dark and that we shouldn’t reward bad deer behavior with press. On the other hand, be on the lookout for this thieving deer…..

Love my neighbors!

Before – Early October

In late October, I’ll be receiving a tattoo on my lower right leg. (I just typed ‘left leg.’ Oops. Better get my story straight.) I made the appointment in August and emailed ideas to the artist. Here is the description with photos for a design. I’ll post “After” to let you know how the experience unfolds and include pictures of the tattoo.

To tattoo artist: I’d like a 4-5 inch spray of wildflowers including cherry blossom, lavender, calendula, and a sunflower. This is to remind me that I choose life. Feel free to do your own artistic take so it doesn’t look like a common wildflower tattoo. Attached are pictures and the meaning of each flower.

  • lavendar – love
  • Sunflower – optimism, longevity
  • Calendula – joy, grace
  • Cherry blossom – time of renewal, life is short

Dear Reader;

My tattoo represents my acceptance and embrace of life, however long I live. Most important to me are optimism, joy, grace, and, above all, love. No matter how terrible depression gets, I make this commitment to myself: I will choose life. Look for the “After” post the last week of October!

Sara Z

Yayoi Kusama

One of her early art pieces was her lying down naked in the middle of a busy city street, New York I think. Couldn’t find a picture of that one. She also worked on paper.

After seeing a segment about this fascinating artist on CBS News Sunday Morning, I was thrilled to hear the installation of her Infinity Mirror exhibit from 1965 would be just a four-hour drive away. I felt an immediate connection to her and her artwork. Yayoi Kusama lives in a home for people who are struggling with mental health issues. She’s battled serious depression much of her adult life. She goes next door to her art studio every day. She says creating is her art therapy.

My husband and I left our 18 and 19 year old sons home, made the trip 250 miles, and stayed in a downtown hotel. That evening we went to see Mike Love, not the Beach Boy. He’s a reggae artist out of Hawaii. This tour was “The Beginning of Days 2017.” My husband is a huge reggae fan and couldn’t believe Mike Love would be in town the same weekend we’d be there. Great show!

Previews of the Kusama show advised arriving early to get a same day ticket to see the show. Planning ahead, I’d had my husband load up the beach chairs that carry like backpacks. We got to the museum at 7 am and there were only ten people ahead of us. Before the doors opened, the line wrapped all the way around the city block. Many folks unabashedly coveted our chairs and I was so glad we had them. While we waited, a one-legged, Buddhist monk came by, holding out his wrist to display several bead bracelets. I waved to him. I chose one, asking how much. He shook his head no. Taking my hand in his, he prayed over me. I don’t know what he was saying except for “peace” every few words. He put the beads on my wrist and my husband handed him cash. I felt blessed.

Our early arrival paid off and we had our choice of time slots. We returned the chairs to our car, ate a late breakfast, and went back to the museum. I didn’t know that the show was, in addition to Infinity Mirrors, primarily about Yayoi’s love of pumpkins.

The actual Infinity Mirrors artwork was made up of small rooms people could go in alone or with just one or two others in some cases. Lines waited outside each and ushers moved folks through.

Other artwork involved rooms large enough for people to walk through, again entering and becoming part of the display.

The obliteration room below begins the installation with plain white walls, furniture, etc. As people come through, each places a few dot stickers wherever they please.

The funky furniture was not a participation thing!

In one corner, a video of the artist played on a loop. Yayoi Kusama spoke about her desire to share love through her work. She is 92 years old today and continues to create.

The visit to her show was everything I’d hoped it would be. The weekend and the love flowed effortlessly.

Exceeding Expectations

My brilliant son was in his senior year of high school, excited for his next adventure – attending college out of town. Since he was a freshman, I’d been talking to both our sons about the need to engage in extracurricular activities and volunteering for solid college and scholarship applications. Occasionally, I’d see and mention an opportunity that might fit for the oldest; our youngest son gravitated toward these things naturally. The older child, on the cusp of these things becoming a reality, had earned all A’s thus far, in advanced/honors classes, and participated in cross country and track all four years. While incredibly proud of his accomplishments, I had a more realistic view of his competition for top universities.

In the fall of his last year as a Panther, my husband and I began urging our oldest child to apply for scholarships. I’d perused just some of those available online, and suggested where my son might start. Weekly or biweekly, I’d check in with him to see how many he’d done and if he’d heard back from anyone. As the fall season passed, the kid became more and more angry when we asked about his progress. Over that same period of time, my husband and I got more and more tense, because we knew for certain that he needed scholarships to get where he wanted to go, a top public university in-state or one private school across the border in a neighboring state. One day early on, he casually threw out Stanford as a consideration. Not sure if he was serious, I asked, “Stanford?” When he confirmed, I assured him he was not a candidate for Cardinal. I explained to his quizzical countenance that his peers heading to Palo Alto had impressive applications including all kinds of activities in and out of school as well as being highly accomplished in music, sports, the arts, etc. This obviously gave him pause.

Some time in December, I went into my son’s room and asked him how confident he was about the application and scholarship processes. He assured me he knew what he was doing. I clarified that he didn’t need or want guidance from his dad or me, and he agreed wholeheartedly. The strife occurring with any mention of procuring funds prevented a meaningful review of same anyway.

From that point forward, I embraced this opportunity to employ and trust everything I’d learned about raising an independent, accountable, young man, from the parenting class curriculums for which I’d received teacher training before I had children, to the now 18 years of experience under my belt. My son was taking responsibility for his college career. I also explained this choice to my husband. “But he’s not doing it! He doesn’t get it. We have to be on him.” My response, “How is that working for us? Is it having any influence besides causing negative interactions?”

My husband did his best holding back – until Easter brunch. With all four of us together at the table, he brought up the topic and my son immediately got defensive and fired up. Voices raised, frustration exploded, and our oldest son punched a hole in the wall on his way to his bedroom. This was a first in our family, in our home. Our younger son and I sat stunned. I was most concerned about my husband’s reaction. Would this escalate? No. The three of us ate silently and eventually the fourth rejoined.

Hallelujah! Acceptance letters came from his three top choices and one of the local schools, he’d thrown in just for the heck of it. The biggest university instate offered nothing in the way of scholarship. The second one instate did offer him a couple thousand dollars per year as long as academic requirements were met. The third packet that arrived was from the private school; they were proud to offer him the Presidential Scholarship of $72,000 – spread out over four years!

With May 1 looming large, the reality check finally came down. Oh, I knew this was going to be so painful, but he had insisted on doing this without our “interference” and, now, the bulk of my parenting skills would be required to let the chips fall where they may. The financials broke down like this: instate schools’ aid both required my husband and I to borrow tens of thousands of dollars which had to be paid back after one year; and we’d need to do this each year. I had to explain why this was not an option, not even a little bit. We turned to the private school information. Even with the generous offer of $76,000 over four years, we would still need to come up with $20,000 per year!

The next few minutes are etched in my memory. I asked if he’d gotten some or any of the online scholarships, knowing full well he hadn’t. I would’ve heard if he had. He said no, didn’t get one, but said it wouldn’t have helped anyway because they were all so small. “Right. That’s why you have to get a lot of them.” His response, “I did, like, the ones you showed me. I was supposed to apply to all those on the website?” Sigh. As the fact that he wasn’t in a position to attend any of the three soaked in, he shrugged and said, “Well, looks like I’m going to (insert name of local university.) I requested a look at the financial aid package for that school. “Well, I don’t have that one. The app for that isn’t due until July 1.” “Honey, your dad and I cannot commit until we see the numbers.” “But letter of intent is due.” It was my turn to shrug. He erupted, “What do you mean? There’s nothing else, nowhere else to go!” I stayed quiet for a minute and quietly replied, “Yes, there is somewhere else to go.” The realization sunk in and he looked incredulous. “What? Are you talking about the community college? No fucking way! Community college?” I explained that this was a completely viable option; he could go there for two years and transfer; universities are always looking for transfers to make up for the students who enroll as freshman but don’t stay. “Then what the fuck was all this work for? It’s all for nothing if I’m just going to community college. I could’ve gone there without being a valedictorian!” Reassurance that hard work is its own reward fell on deaf ears. I reminded him that his very successful aunt and uncle both started with two-year degrees from that same institution.

He moved his bedroom to the basement, something he’d not done earlier because he planned to be moving. He had great workspace, shelving, and file cabinets, and he got colored light bulbs. When he earned top rank in his graduating class in math, we attended a countywide banquet where certificates would be given to all and one student in each academic subject would be granted a scholarship. Top finalists’ accolades were delivered and my son finally saw what I had been trying to tell him for years. There were kids who had spent summers studying at John Hopkins or at a music conservatory and people who pursued many interests simultaneously. All of the scholarship recipients had formidable resumΓ©s. Overall, when student names were announced, the university they would be attending was, too. My son was one of just a handful who were going to the local community college.

It was so difficult to watch this whole thing play out and to see the pain experienced by this wonderful young man as he saw his future plans fall apart. He was very relieved to know that his incredibly accomplished uncle, in particular, had attended community college. It seemed to make everything okay.

He moved out just after turning 21 and has now graduated with his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from (insert name of local 4-year school.) When I asked him recently how his paid internship was going, he told me, “Good. I’m exceeding expectations.” He certainly is.

p.s. After writing, I just remembered this: As reality came crashing down, in exasperation he asked, “What was the plan? Did you guys even have a plan?” Took a moment, kinda knocked me back, and then I replied, “We moved into this school district, regularly in the top ten for academics in the state, and did whatever it took financially for me to stay home with you guys. We told you that you would need scholarships.”

This is my thinking about kids taking responsibility – When my sons turned 15 and started talking about driving, we told them they needed to enroll in classes and then manage getting the learner’s permit and, eventually, the license. We explained that they were responsible enough to drive when they were able to complete the process. I feel the same way about college. My older son says he’s really glad things worked out the way they did; he worked his ass off and graduated with no debt.

My View

Shhhhh

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Don’t talk about it. Keep your feelings to yourself. Oooh, do I need to treat you with kid gloves? You’re really gonna go there? I did not sound that way. It wasn’t meant like that. Makes you feel bad? Listening to you nitpick everything I say is making me feel bad. That’s how I feel about it!

I won’t bug you. Minimal texting while you’re at work. When you get home, you’ll talk to me while you change into comfortable clothes. I’ll drop a couple lines, trying to fit what’s important into a couple lines, taken by surprise as you rush in early, full of purpose. When you get busy gaming, I’ll stay quiet. If I want to talk, I’ll signal before I speak and wait for you to mute your phone.

Don’t tell me what pains you today. That gets really old. You know what? Go ahead and mention your daily complaints. I won’t let it soak in, glide right over with whatever’s on my mind. Yeah, I know you don’t feel good. Ever. Nothing I can do about it. Nada. It’s not like it’s gonna change.

When pain takes my breath away, I’ll hold it until the sharp pain passes because it usually does. I won’t even mention it. If it becomes repetitive or impairs function, I might not be able to keep it inside. I won’t bore you unless it’s absolutely necessary because I don’t want to add to the burden you always have taking care of me, but talking about it is definitely a coping mechanism. I wish it didn’t bother you so much.

I’m not a bad person. What do you want from me? I’m doing my best to keep things going at work and shopping and cooking and cleaning. Picking up a prescription for you every other day, when are you getting on that program where all your meds refill at the same time, anyway?

"Hey, honey."
"Hello. How was your day?"
"Good. I got the project done ahead of deadline so I decided to get the fuck outta there." 
"Nice."
"I took out some fish for tacos. Are you super hungry or okay until later?"
"Later is fine. You can do your thing for a while."
"Cool. There's a new map on my game."

Wishful & Wistly

Always, it seems, an echo of wistfulness reverberates in my soul to which I assign sadness and loneliness. It occurs to me now, though, that the best course may be to uncouple this sensation from depression. Experiencing wistfulness doesn’t have to be negative. Perhaps nostalgic is a more apt synonym than melancholy.

Wistful vs nostalgic. Memories of my summers at Liberty Lake, where I spent my high school years, come to mind frequently: the $1 hamburgers down at Sandy Beach resort, a mom-and-pop owned set up with cabins built in the 50’s, I’d guess, and a mobile home community now. My boyfriend lived across the street, his family cabin right on the beach, with lots of toys, including ski boat, hobie cat pontoon, windsurfers, mopeds, etc. Nothing particularly unusual or exciting in those mental snapshots, though I’m certain my teenaged self had sufficient drama. I do appreciate how fortunate I was to enjoy the year-round beauty and benefits of life at the lake. In any event, I don’t wish myself back there or that things unfolded differently than they have.

Various sources online describe wistfulness as a sadly pensive longing, homesickness, or a bittersweet yearning for things of the past but other synonyms include grimness, despondency, moroseness and moodiness. Then I looked at merriam-webster.com and found this:

Given this etymology, the closest original meaning seems to be intently wishful or silently wishful. So, both experentially and according to the vernacular, nostalgia does seem more fitting for fond recollections of my youth. Wistful, however, intently wishful strikes a familiar cord. Silently wishful, but wishful for what?

And there it is, some more. Another “aha” moment. Wishful thinking. I really wish I didn’t struggle with anxiety and depression. I very much wish fibromyalgia didn’t interact with those illnesses in such a way that each of them makes the other two worse and makes it harder to deal with all of them effectively. So which wishful is my wistful? Am I expressing a desire or hope for restored health that might happen or is it actually impractical or unfeasible? I had a year of the former but now it feels more like the latter.

Wistful some, wishful a bit, and, yes, nostalgic for those summers at the lake.

*off topic* I am loving writing so much! Thank you to anyone who reads this. I can’t believe 149 people have clicked the follow icon; the steady flow keeps me blogging. I appreciate you.

Splitting Hairs

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The first professional haircut I’ve received since COVID shut everything down at the end of March and beginning of April came at long last. In the spring of 2020, the appointment that had to be canceled was important; we’d tried a little bit of fringe, and now I needed to decide if I would go with real bangs or grow them out. Some of you know, bangs are a commitment and they’re in and out of style so quickly.

Coronavirus took care of that. Over the course of the next several months, my natural hair color grew out and I cut it myself. I’ve always had a no-confidence vote as regards my ability to trim locks, mine or anyone else’s, so this was a first. I brushed it out well and pulled it up into a ponytail on top of my head, lopping a few inches. Twice. Two times I did this, months apart. The result? Meh. Luckily I have natural curl that hides mistakes, and I wear it up most of the time anyway.

Recently, my mom asked if I wanted to come with her and get a haircut myself. My sister who lives out of town would take us, so I wouldn’t have to drive. Manning the steering wheel flares my neck and shoulder muscles. I said yes but worried it would be really difficult to be up and out for an extended period of time. I knew it would be good for me and believed I’d probably be fine.

So, a fresh reset was in order. We, all three, were able to get trimmed. Yes, it felt great to get a few inches of straggles chopped off. It was very interesting to finally meet my mom’s hairdresser, about whom I’ve heard for 30 years! We visited and laughed. Pain was manageable, although a headache did keep me from joining them for a meal afterwards.

The objectives of the appointment were met, and we got haircuts besides. My mom and sister got me out of the house and checked out how I’m doing. I stepped out of my comfort zone and was able to evaluate my ability to go and do. It was so good to spend time with family. I really appreciate their care for me. Of course, all of this went unsaid because that’s how our family operates. 😊

I am faced, though, with a difficult decision. Do I stay with my natural color, which looks golden brown in some lighting but mousy gray in others, or do I go back to coloring? Considering I do it myself for less than 10 bucks, yeah, I feel some highlights in my future – hair color and life!

The Purpose of My Purpose

I’m still here, damn it, purpose identified or not; so what’s the plan? How long has it been since I set out to discover a sense of meaning for this next chapter of my life? Feels like it’s been plenty of time, but nothing has materialized, no opportunity to set a course defined by a new interest or need.

Previously, I mentioned a desire to paint, wondering if creating with oils or acrylics could actually be my purpose. Seemed unlikely given a complete lack of skill or experience. Nevertheless, paints and brushes are organized atop a tablecloth on our dining room table, which has served more as a desk, since COVID, for when my husband works from home. The art supplies sit, untouched.

In preparation for designing and constructing artwork, as unlikely as production of a masterpiece by me would be, I found an app! Of course there’s an app for that. Once a picture is selected, the full palette is revealed. My role is to choose one color at a time and search for all the locations where the selected hue belongs. Falling far short of an art class, it has shown me the wide variety of colors and shades involved in even a simple composition. An apple isn’t just red; one may add brown, green, or a spot of yellow for this particular piece of fruit as well as establishing lighting. At the completion of each design, the app encourages me with “a great painter is about to be born!” and “Brilliant!” I appreciate the feedback. What can I say? Apps provide so much false positive reinforcement it’s no wonder narcissists abound. I don’t actually believe this will turn me into even a competent artist, but I am learning about the importance of using far more shades than I would have employed on my own.

Research proceeds, irrespective of actual painting occurring or really any reason to believe my new purpose could relate. Bob Ross has been teaching me about working with oils and urges me to decide where I want some happy trees, making it look so easy. I’ve seen online the end result of viewer participation in comparison to the Bob Ross creation and, based on these, it obviously isn’t so straightforward. Still, his calm demeanor is soothing, and I’m learning a lot regarding different brushes and the use of each, the variety of brush strokes, and layering colors to provide depth.

Now, I still doubt that my practice of painting, or the process of learning the art, will be foundational to the identification of a seminal purpose which will inform my decision-making and activities heretofore, providing a sense of earned contentedness.

Double checking correct usage of contentedness, I see this:

Hmmm. Writing out my desired outcome for establishing a new purpose, it boils down to procuring an “earned contentedness.” I find that very interesting. Why do I qualify it with “earned” and is this actually just the latest incarnation of a lifelong search for a sense that I am, indeed, enough? What is the formula for giving sufficiently of yourself so as to qualify as useful to completion?

And why am I still in my head, puzzling how to be enough??? How many times do I need to learn that I must get off the hamsterwheel of thinking, thinking, thinking??? If I stay there, I’ll never be enough, never be content.

I’m going to show myself some grace. I currently await results of a process over which I have no control, so it’s not a surprise I’ve been overthinking EVERYTHING.

Although I’m sure this lesson is a redo and I may have even written about it in a prior blog post, this is what occurs to me – it seems reframing my circumstances and allowing myself permission to enjoy the positives is not only acceptable, it could be the foundation of contentment. Any future ability to be of service to others…

Wait. Just a minute. I’m writing what I’m thinking, but as it appears on my screen, competing ideas are already causing me to doubt what I’m typing. Is it selfish to think I need to be content before I identify a meaningful purpose? Is service to others a characteristic of all purposes? What’s the purpose of a purpose besides creating meaning so people feel contented?

What’s your purpose? What’s the purpose of your purpose?

The hamsterwheel is spinning so fast it’s hard to get off!

to be continued, I’m sure….

The Light

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No one, besides me, has quit church. Sure, some folks have checked out a different house of worship and moved on; but regular attendees, including actual members of the church and people who study the scriptures, they’re not quitting. If the current pastoral staff and worship programming aren’t meeting a parishioner’s needs, they’d transfer to a new church home, not out and out quit! Run into someone at the grocery store who you’re no longer seeing in the pews, first question is, “Where are you going now?” Almost everyone answered with the name of a church, but a few would say they were church shopping. It was hard for me to say, “Nowhere.”

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Recently, I stumbled across a video, and then a podcast and YouTube channel, from MormonStories.org. I’ve never been a mormon and what I’ve heard from LDS neighbors about the control the organization has over the lives of members always bothered me. Mormon Stories interviews, for the most part, people who have had a faith crisis and are leaving mormonism. Listening to people who have been devoted mormons come to a place where they describe themselves as post mormon or ex-mormon has been startling and extremely reassuring. If they can summon the courage to tell their truth and untangle themselves from generations of LDS theology, I can feel okay with walking away from a church with some wonderful people but problems that pushed me away, a religion about which I increasingly had questions.

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These interviews last hours, laying out the story of childhood, adolescence, and then adulthood that people experienced leading up to becoming inactive, nonmembers, or excommunicated. I may not share the same religious sect, but I identify so closely with the faith crises described. As certain as they’d been that they knew the one true way to live this life and enter the eternal hereafter, I had believed I was on the correct path. Billions of people around the world believe they have the true knowledge and practices to achieve their best life, now and forever. But who has the real truth? They can’t all be right, can they?

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The older I get, the more I don’t know, the less sure I am about these matters. Being okay with uncertainty takes time, maybe in direct relation to the strength of conviction held. What I do know for sure is the same sun shines on all of us, rising and setting on each of us no matter where we are in this world, whatever we believe, and irrespective of our achievements or struggles. We all share the same light, indeed.

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Brain Fog

It’s that kind of day, no coffee cup under the Keurig. Last night was spent more awake than sleeping; at least, that’s how it felt. Besides a couple wanderings around during the 2-3 o’clock hour, I heard my son come home from his night security shift at 4:30 a.m. and was still awake when my husband rolled out of bed at 5:30, a half hour before his alarm would sound. I almost said, “Good morning,” but was well aware that initiating conversation would definitely establish wakefulness. Was I done trying to sleep? Was there a chance I still could? I stayed quiet and snuggled into my bed and pillows. It worked! For two hours. Sleeping deeply, something caused me to stir. I opened my eyes, but my brain was reluctant. Those folks at Keurig smartly designed the catch tray, on which one sets the mug, perfectly sized for those of us who forget to put our cup in place.

Alas, two subsequent, successful trips to the giver of caffeine were not enough to clear my mind today. That first strange, sleepy moment when you are pulled into awakening, spending the day without that sensation clearing, that’s fibro fog.

Core Strength

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I worry that I’m not strong enough in the face of chronic pain and illness because I’m no longer working and haven’t been walking or doing yoga. Tightening my core muscles for more than a few minutes or walking less than a hundred yards causes my back muscles to spasm in a way I describe as “seizing up.” Burning, gripping pain.

But you know what? It just occurred to me that some days it takes a lot of strength just to go through each painful moment of the day. This is such a day. (written 8/28/21)

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