I Love Ya, Tomorrow

Dear
Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Dear Reader; Apply sarcasm or we could go with facetious. Could even be satirical considering some past posts I’ve done. You choose.😉 Personally, I’m going with unintentional satire.

Tomorrow, regardless of intensity of pain, how rotten the nausea or heavy the fatigue, I am going to:

  • Do 30 minutes of stretching like I did five years ago.
  • Take a shower & put on a little makeup.
  • Wear real clothes instead of staying in pajamas all day.
  • Eat healthy, substantial breakfast & lunch instead of waiting hours, when I feel “empty stomach” low-sugar sick, before I get some food in me.
  • Drive to the library to check out some books, even though I have books, many books, I really wanted to read & never have.
  • Walk my dog. (This one is imaginative frosting on top.)

Tomorrow’s pain doesn’t hurt as badly. Tomorrow, I’m not fatigued & my balance is fine.And all of tomorrow’s activities will not bring on a fibro flare. Gotta love it!

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Parent is Also a Verb November 21, 2021

The most important thing to keep in mind when parenting is making sure the message of love gets through. No matter the age or issue, whatever the looming consequences or agonizing disappointment involved, you are the adult. It’s important to guide your child, more closely for kids in their preteens and younger, but let them make age-appropriate choices. And love them through it all. In order for young people to grow up to be confident, grounded adults, they need to know they are loved unconditionally by family, the first group to which they seek admittance and belonging.

Now, how to ensure your kids know beyond any reasonable doubt that they are lovable and loved? From the early years through those strange teen years, do not engage in power struggles. Resolving a tug-of-war terminates with a winner and a loser; do you want your son or daughter to be a loser or will the parent/child relationship be skewed by you taking a loss? That’s a lose/lose proposition. You don’t have to display and exert power over your children in order to be a successful parent. And how exhausting, for both parties, to engage in continual struggles.

Be on the same team. You’re the coach. You introduce and model decision-making, giving those little ones lots of practice. Do you want apple slices or crackers? Which book shall we read, this or that? The tiny seed of seeing themselves as having the ability to choose for themselves takes root. In the back of your mind, build in opportunities for your kids to make appropriate choices at all ages, starting where you are.

How do choices relieve power struggles? You’re giving them bits of power, allowing them to explore who they are. Additionally, like every good coach, you’re teaching the rules of the game, which change as the young person grows and spends more time on their own and with friends. Again, you’re not setting a limit once and then shouting it at him or her when they cross that line. You’re calmly explaining situations that may arise, because you know they will based on your own experience, and helping them apply critical thinking skills to different options they may face.

The most difficult aspect for me of the parenting verb was the part where you stand back and let them live a lesson. Remind yourself you’ve done your part, giving choices, setting limits with clearly defined consequences both at home and out there in the big world, communicating regularly through words and actions the unconditional love you have for them; now just be there regardless of which way things unfold. Breathe. Do it all over again.

  • First: Make sure the message of love gets through no matter what. This does not mean being a pushover or a “yes” person. It also will include allowing your child, knee-high or towering over you, to feel the pain that occurs in life.
  • Second: Empower your child by allowing them to make all age-appropriate choices. This is not a free-for-all. The number of choices per day needs to start out small, like the toddler, and grow in number and type as the young person goes through middle and high school. The plan is to give them more and more choices until they’re making them all.
  • Third: Avoid power struggles. Clearly teach the limits and outline consequences for violating them, communicating always that these are in place because you love them. Bring to their attention all of the choices they have and explain, unemotionally, that those are balanced with guardrails you set up to keep them out of situations they’re not ready for yet.

I’ll write more about those three tenets in upcoming posts, same title but different dates and pictures. Believe me, parenting is time-consuming and messy if you’re doing it right, no getting around it. If your family is so controlled there are no issues, you’ve got kids who want to express themselves and be accepted. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I have some good ideas to share!

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. Home now.

Strategic Existentialism

I’ve been running from myself so long, no wonder I’m exhausted. Two years into disabling illness, one ability hasn’t left me. I run in an unending mental marathon, but I can’t escape my broken mind and body. I’m with me wherever I go.

Because my perspective on personal circumstances has proved untrustworthy in the past, obscured by the scrim of depression, I’ve been trying to keep myself to myself. That phrase I hear frequently on UK television has resonated with me strongly.

Everyone who loves me has given up encouraging me to see a counselor; I’ve been without since my last counseling relationship ended disastrously. When that unhealthy, untherapeutic mess blew up, and I do mean blew up in spectacular fashion, in 2020, I was looking for someone to manage meds only.

Fast forward to the present, when many professionals are urging me to seek out counseling. For months, I haven’t had the energy to seek out anything, let alone initiating and coordinating care with relatively little information about the provider. Feels like I’ve got a blindfold on, hoping to pin the tail on someone who will competently and ethically assist me in clawing my way up and out of the sludge in which I’m mired.

So, I took a deep breath and dialed the number provided by my psychiatric clinician. And……I go on a 4-6 month waiting list. Whatever. I’m ambivalent at best. Two days later, much to my suspicious surprise, i receive a call from a therapist. Caught me off-guard, for sure. Additionally, she had lots of appointment times available. What did this mean? Two days vs four to six months? Choice of day or time? My counselor spidey senses stayed on alert. She’s probably brand new and, having a Master’s in Counseling myself, I’m really not sure about this.

Once I figured out how to join our telehealth appointment, my new counselor and I met and went through intake paperwork. When asked what my goal is for therapy, I answered, “I want a new perspective. I want to let go of who I was, stop grieving, and enjoy living here, this day, and look at the future without dread.”

As we wrapped up, she said, “What I hear is that you’d like to develop coping strategies and self-comforting techniques.” My counselor brain kicked in. The phrase “coping strategies” rang a bell. I’ve been so low for so long, waiting for a switch to flip and grant me a brand new, bright world, longing for my purpose to be visited upon me. Using coping strategies? So much less enigmatic. I can learn and apply lessons I already know but need to learn again. I can do this. Oops, there’s that. My can-do spirit. Need to remind myself, as I would a friend, I don’t have to do all the heavy lifting alone. I’m not in this by myself and I can let this unfold.

Mulling around in my mind, I consider perhaps there is no cosmic purpose i must discover anew in order to live a loving, meaningful life. Mindfulness, the ability to be truly present and engage sensorially, is one key for me. I recognize that it’s helped in the past. I see a glimmer of hope, a bit of color peeking at me through a tear in the scrim.

I do like my counselor. What a relief.

Parent is Also a Verb 11/17/21

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In life B.C. (before children) I was trained in two parenting curricula in my capacities as a public health educator and, later, as the program director at a crisis nursery. So, in my late 20’s/early 30’s, I found myself teaching parenting classes to a high risk population, some court ordered. Having zero real life experience of my own. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be a parent. Ever.

Having nearly a decade of teaching under my belt, including adult instruction in child development and positive discipline, I was confident I could teach the lessons effectively. Credibility, so participants would consider employing the new strategies, was something about which I was concerned.

Suffice to say, clients appeared to accept that I was qualified to teach based on my education and experience. I had the great fortune of teaching great parenting education over and over. This is the best way to really learn new material. And I was paid to do this!

Besides best practices for raising a child, I also learned that, for me personally, I didn’t want our kids to go to a childcare center. At 33, I birthed our firstborn. Next baby arrived the following year. They’re 19 months apart. I stayed home with them full-time, and I’ve had plenty of practice applying those parenting lessons.

After writing a parenting tip in a tweet, it occurred to me that I am in a good position now to blog ideas, strategies, and tips regarding child development, discipline, & parenting. These posts will share the same title but dates and pictures will differ.

So, for today, besides pointing out that parent is both a noun and a verb, I’d like to introduce the true meaning of discipline. It is derived from the Latin word discipulus which means to learn. Unfortunately, in our society, discipline has become synonymous with punishment. When you change your focus to a more positive approach to communicating with and relating to your child, think of guiding, training, educating, instruction, and knowledge. I’d like to add playing and reading with your kids.

Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

I’m very excited to start blogging in a new area. Parenting blog posts will be published frequently but in rotation with other topics. Feel free to share my blog if you know someone who wants help. If you have questions, please post them in the comments! Remember, title will stay the same; pictures and dates will change.

Les Vents de l’Amour

Photo by Mitch Kesler on Pexels.com
I see your love, like I see the wind.
Just as the wind floats a leaf on a gust or 
sails a flag,
I see your love as I read your sweet messages or catch you smiling at me when I didn't know you were watching.

I sense the aroma and flavor of your love, like I experience the wind in my face.
Just as the wind carries the message that our neighbor is grilling or a warning that a wildfire is near, 
I breathe in the scent of flowers you gave me or the delicious meal you're preparing for me.
Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com
I hear your love like I hear the wind.
Just as I hear leaves rustling and evergreen branches imitating the sound of ocean waves,
I hear your love when you say my name with a smile in your voice or ask me if there's anything you can do to ease my pain.

I feel your love like I feel the wind.
Just as I feel a gale push me down a path or a draft brush across my skin,
I feel your love as you hold me tight while I cry and when you gently massage away the pain, again and again.
Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Through the Wringer

What a week it’s been. Whew. Over the last several days, excruciating pain plus symptoms of shaking, temperature dysregulation, sweating, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and uncontrollable tears have wrung me dry.

A week ago, following a tooth extraction by an oral surgeon, I was in bad shape; I did have oxycodone prescribed and it helped, a 5-day course. A strong non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug was also part of recovery meds. I chose not to tell the surgeon I’ve been told not to take NSAIDs. Monday of this week, I finished those scripts. On Tuesday, serious pain, worse than most daily fibromyalgia pain, began to spread from head to toe.

The area on the left side of my head was understandably painful; the removed tooth was an upper, left molar. But the level of pain was through the roof. My pillow felt like a concrete block, making relaxing quite difficult. Pain wrapped around the top of my head, so severe I wondered if I was heading into a migraine. The stars I see with a migraine never appeared. The other major site of pain was my hips and down my long bones to the knees. I sobbed into my pillow Wednesday night, overcome by pain and hopelessness. By the third day, both hips were burning despite use of acetaminophen. I asked my husband to take the day off to take me to a chiropractic appointment, which is something I never do. I used NSAIDS, although I’ve been told not to use.

The chiropractor released tightness all around but most especially in my glutes. I was pleasantly surprised by the relief I got. He also strongly recommended I see my primary doctor because he was unable to say what caused, what he called, a “nervous system crash.”

Fortunately, there’d been a cancellation at my physician’s office so I was able to get in same day. We discussed the symptoms that had wreaked havoc in my body. When I reported that my chiropractor referred to what happened as a “nervous system crash,” I could see she considered his wording problematic and unhelpful. One cause I considered was use and discontinuation of an opiate. I did know I’d get a fibro flare after the oral surgery, but this was 9.5/10 and I didn’t know how to handle it.

The doctor said she was unaware of anything in current medical literature regarding major negative effects after short-term use of opioids for post surgical or injury related pain. If I was having such a response, she said, it would be very unusual. In her opinion, I was most likely experiencing a severe fibromyalgia episode following the tooth extraction, and oxycodone had masked that while I was taking the opiate.

Whatever the cause(s), she asked me what I wanted to do about it. She’s like that. She doesn’t assess what’s happening and offer treatment modalities that she thinks would be appropriate. I told her if I had the okay to take ibuprofen, though it’s an NSAID, along with acetaminophen, I felt like I could handle the pain, following relief achieved by chiropractic care. Of course, I’m used to pain. Next week, I’ll see the chiropractor again and receive a regularly scheduled massage.

Modern wringing appliances do the same thing as the old but are easier to use. Medical community reacts to and treats chronic pain, and fibromyalgia in particular, much the same way they have for years. I’ll “take two pills and call in the morning.”

Seriously, we’re going to see how things go through next Wednesday’s massage therapy. If pain increases again to sky high levels or if I don’t feel some good measure of relief, I’ll phone my primary practitioner. Staying relaxed and allowing things to settle are my main concern. As we wrapped up, she noted, “Your chiropractor released something.” First time for everything, including an MD appreciating results of chiropractic care! I don’t know what caused my body to be fed through a wringer, but it was a scary, excruciating process. Tumble dry? Been there, too.

p.s. If you’d told me back in the day that in my 50’s I’d be walking on the wild side by taking Advil as well as, gasp!, drinking a mini rootbeer, I would’ve laughed my ass off and had a shot with you!

It’s Just Me

Wow, I’m having a tough time. I first was thinking I shouldn’t write this. Why put this out there? Wah, wah, wah. But then I thought that mood is how I’m feeling, and maybe there’s someone out there who would feel even a little less lonely if I publish a post reflective of my difficulties.

I’m sure a great deal of my pain & melancholy are rooted in my recent tooth extraction. (See what I did there?😉 Gotta grasp that weird humor when I can.) Jaw pain worsens throughout the day some, just enough to really bug me. That pain radiates up the side of my temple as well as down my neck and across my shoulders. These are always trouble spots but super tight, all at once, since surgery.

Now, I’m in a fibro flare. I’m writing this from inside my brain fog, so it takes forever. Apologies for mistakes. A friend once said that crying for me is like turning on a faucet, and the water is flowing. Hard to talk without tearing up. Severe pain alternates hips and leg bones daily.

I will breathe. Blessedly, that’s all I have to do today. Maybe go out to the mailbox. That’s it. Nothing much. I’d say I’m not myself today, but that would be untrue. It’s just me.

Thanks if you read this far. I cannot figure out what I mean to say. Seriously. I just hope you’re able to find a little of what you need today.

A Message from Above?

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Just a newsy update: Following a necessary extraction of an upper molar, my body is in a full fibromyalgia flare. Given the surgeon said the tooth seemed to be seated in concrete, safe to assume the lower and upper jaw was traumatized. Pain and tightness cover my neck, temples, shoulders. In addition, a current fibro symptom is trembling in such a way I think I may end up on my tush or drop whatever I’m carrying.

Dietary needs that are part of the solution instead of the problem have taken priority over changes I’ve recently tried to incorporate. Most days in the past week, dinner has been milkshakes and fries. Regular snacks include Ginger ale with ice, protein drinks, oatmeal, cream of wheat, you get the idea. Oh, and biscotti. My husband made delicious blueberry pancakes this morning. They don’t require a lot of heavy duty chewing.

That bright line of sugar has definitely been crossed many, many times. What are ya gonna do? Will I work my way back now? And then… the answer appeared out of nowhere. I wondered if it was too good to be true, but it seemed to hold. My husband weighed himself and the scale broke! It now says we each weigh 12 pounds. Perhaps it’s the energy of the universe releasing me. Yes? No? I’m not sure what I’m going to do, but who am I to ignore this important sign?

I chose the picture above because it’s awesome, literally, naught to do with this post. Here’s another.

Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

Is There Bonus Pay for This??

How the surgeon describes the extraction beforehand.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of fillings, root canals, crowns, extractions, etc. This past Tuesday, I underwent removal of an upper molar, and the aged oral surgeon’s hands shook.😳

No sedation provided by this guy. He does extractions with serious local numbing. Less risk. My prior extraction occurred while I was in the twilight. Holy crap! The drilling, pushing, pulling, and chunks of tooth coming out one by one was a rough ride, indeed.

According to the oral surgeon, this tooth must’ve been set in concrete. Boy, it sure felt like that. Three roots, instead of two, with the longest one resting against the bottom of my sinus caused my dentist to refer the extraction to a specialist. Very few oral surgeons in our area take my particular insurance. So, shaky hands, no sedation, old dude it is.

As uncomfortable as I was being fully aware, though numbed, during the process, the aftermath has been worse. I have a swollen face and black eye. Today, 48 hours since surgery, I’ve had nausea and vomiting along with severe fatigue. Ate and held a piece of toast down just now. Hoping I’m through the worst of it. The thing with fibromyalgia is that it complicates any other event, illness, or procedure.

If I were to put the numerous pieces of tooth under my pillow, would I get a pay out? Alas, no. Oh, would that there was a tooth fairy available to adults who go through a difficult removal.

The Long Weigh Down

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In early October, at lunch with my mom and sisters, we discussed Bright Line Eating. I’d never heard of it but one of my sisters has had great success with it. (See post ‘Bright Lines’ from October 6, 2021.) This is an update on my weight loss efforts.

When I lamented about the rollercoaster effect of regularly standing on the scale, both my sisters recommended weighing myself just once a month. In the early days, I looked forward to eventually reaping the reward of my hard work, wondering how many lbs I’d shed. As November 1st loomed large, my wondering anticipation changed to dread. “Please don’t let me have gained weight!”

Admittedly, my eating habits did not conform completely to the bright lines of no flour, no sugar, 3 meals a day, and weigh everything you eat. Right away, after trying to enjoy my coffee with no creamer, I knew I’d need to make allowances. For the most part, I did exclude flour and sugar as well as sticking to three meals a day with no snacks. Fortunately I purchased the least expensive food scale available, because I haven’t used it once, yet. Another issue on which I’ve taken a pass is 22 ounces of veggies a day with much less fruit. I include both on my plate but I prefer berries, apples, and bananas, so I’m sure I exceed the recommended quantity of fruit and fall short of the vegetable goal.

All was well until this week. Halloween candy remained in an unopened package and I did not breach the seal early. Once opened on Halloween, however, I did help myself to chocolate candy for the first time in four months! Must say, it tastes much better when eaten rarely, as opposed to shoveling handfuls in one’s mouth daily. Celebration of my oldest son’s birthday, which is the 31st, included a diner breakfast. Mine, a Hot Mess (on the restaurant menu as such) was slathered with Hollandaise sauce, but this is a tradition. What’s one to do?

Scheduled weigh-in occurred this morning. Drum roll please………

I lost 1.2 pounds. 😆😆😆😆😆😆 Seems like molting a few feathers at a time!

Although I’m tempted to ditch efforts at weight loss, which have been sluggish at best, I wonder what the numbers would’ve been if I hadn’t made adjustments. I’m going to continue the efforts most effective for me: 3 meals, no snacks, serious boost in fruit and veggie intake, and avoiding most flour and sugar. The next weigh-in is going to occur on December 1st. If there’s more than a one-point change, I’ll let you know.

p.s. Re: the magic pill – I continue to take two daily. Increased energy has been experienced on a couple days but fibro and depression fatigue complicate this picture. The fat isn’t melting off yet. I’ll keep you posted if it seems to have a noticeable effect in the future. At this point, I’ve been taking Glucofort for just a little more than two weeks.

Lone Goose Blues

Canadian geese have been migrating overhead for a few weeks by now. In the past 20 years, I’ve not seen or heard many lone geese. Yes, there’s frequently a straggler in the V formation and I’ve become familiar with the adolescent rebel straying out to the side, as if to say, “Hey, look at me, guys!”

This fall has seen a few solitary geese. I felt really bad for each, imagining it lost, confused, honking loudly, desperate in its search for its particular family.

Good news, people! No need to be troubled. It’s not unusual at all for one of the big birds to find itself without a gaggle. It takes to the skies, yes, communicating loudly to other geese in the area and they join up. Just like that. A new community welcomes the lone goose or gander. What a relief.

Something else came through, though, as I sought to understand if a lone goose was in distress, having found itself away from its tribe. When one of its kind is injured, sick, or dying, that bird is not alone. Two or three geese stay with the weakened friend until it either gains strength or dies. In the case of a death, the companions hang out a while and then look to find a new V. Sad, but sweet.

Fall is definitely my favorite time of year, and the traveling geese a treasure.

After the Ink

Reggie drew up a beautiful tattoo for me, not as uptight as the original little bouquet of wildflowers I considered but not as loose and abstract as Chihuly glass.

(He did keep moving his mask up & it kept sliding down. They had good “mask required” signage. Everyone in the shop wore them, including customers.)

The actual tattooing took a little less than an hour-and-a-half. I don’t mind the feeling of receiving the ink but, man, that lavender on the shin bone made me cringe and breathe deeply. Reminding myself of pain borne while birthing a baby, this paled.

When I sent a picture of the finished artwork to each of my sons, they both remarked that it was pretty and asked if it hurt. I said to my eldest, who will be 24 on Halloween, “It was nothing compared with the doctor trying to turn you while you were still inside me.” For the 22-year-old, “It was nothing compared to birthing a 9 pound baby – you!” I crack myself up sometimes.

Reggie used an after-tattoo covering that he said is fairly new. It’s called Saniderm. Just saw that they have it on Amazon under wound care and tattoo aftercare. It’s used in burn units, providing second skin healing, and to cover sutures or staples to keep them free of infection. I’ll leave that on for 4-5 days. It’s supposed to heal 30% faster and skip the stage when scabs may form.

I am relieved the process lasted only an hour and 45 minutes from check in to paid and out the door. I’d taken a muscle relaxer and Tylenol ahead of time. Even so, walking was quite difficult due to stiffness and poor balance. Lying on my bed at home was wonderful. Today, I’m pretty sick and there are many sites of aching or sharp, shooting pain. I’m not even trying to put laundry away or empty the dishwasher.

Suicidal thoughts yet pass through my mind, so I was thinking maybe it would be hypocritical to get a permanent reminder that I choose life. My husband assured me that I’ve already chosen life many, many times. Yes, I have, and the evidence is that I’m still breathing.

Nada

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Two pieces of bad news yesterday have got me emptied. If I speak, my voice will crack and tears will fall. Stop thinking. Don’t dwell. No feelings. Tears roll down cheeks if they must. Vague melancholy bests sobbing. Television provides distraction for brief respites, but physical pain permeates. Hollowed out currently. Too painful to think about the future. Likelihood of dog becoming quite ill cannot be processed. So little in reserve, it takes only a couple roadblocks to burn available energy. Bag of skin and bones. I got nada.

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. 😉)

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 👇 https://images.app.goo.gl/y356qmuQGJ2NrAm18

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