Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Monthbook Entry for July

Outside my window ... day is breaking. After a phenomenally rainy summer, the past two days have been beautiful. We spent one of those days at Max Patch, where Scout and I could twirl and sing "The Hills Are Alive." It was great fun.

I am thankful ... to live in such a lovely part of the world. Western North Carolina has its faults, sure, but I will never get tired of these mountains.

In the kitchen … I cleaned the floor yesterday and then dropped a plate full of (cooked) chicken on it last night. Thanks to my happy pills, I did not fly into a tearful rage and purposely proceed to break more plates.

I am wearing … an Ohio State t-shirt and LSU boxers.

I am creating … several pieces of writing. The goal is to have three pieces ready to send off to all the "little" magazines (including online ones) in the fall, which is submission season for a lot of them.

I am going to … try to finish a story this week. The working title is "But Now I See." In order to finish it, though, I need to take a long walk. I'm not sure where. I just know I need one.

I am wondering ... Honestly? If I will ever complete anything I start, creative-writing-wise.

I am hoping ... I can accomplish the above.

I am looking forward to ... seeing my doctor today. How weird is that? She's the one who introduced me to my miracle drug back in February, so I guess I have a soft spot in my heart for her.

I am learning ... that I need to pick what I'm going to be really good at, and not worry about being great at everything else.

Around the house … I've become a floor-cleaner. I admit it. I am cleaning my floors several times a week. (Lucky, we live in a very small house, so it doesn't even take an hour.) Why do I clean the floors so often? Because I love the feel of a clean floor under my bare feet. (Oh geez, I sound like a domestic-goddess type, don't I.)

I am pondering ... the money issue. I need to make money to help pay the bills, but all I want to do is work on my creative writing. Something in me is furious that I've always pushed the muse away to make room for money-making jobs. That something is making it terribly hard for me to get into "job hunt" mode.

I am reading ... Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews, and The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

I am watching ... nothing these days. I've so loved not having television. The days are limited, though; Hubster wants to get cable (or DirecTV, or whatever) next month for football season.

I am listening to ... the blessed silence of a house where I am the only one awake. Of course, the birds are probably making a racket outside and I can't hear it because I haven't put my hearing aid in yet!

I am thinking ... that I really don't like this "day book" setup.

One of my favorite things ... is my new library card!

A favorite quote for today: Sorry ... I'm too lazy to look up a quote for today.

A few plans for the rest of the week include … meeting a friend for a bars session, and seeing two doctors: my "crazy" doctor and my "female" doctor. After that, no more doctors for a while!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Daybook Entry for Tuesday, June 25

Outside my window ... who knows what is outside my window? The blinds are closed and the windows in this room are behind me anyway.

I am thinking ... that Scout is going to be up any minute.

I am thankful ... for the word "trump," which is what we call a fart in our family. The word makes me laugh every time.

In the kitchen … my counter is clean! That almost never happens!

I am wearing … my old glasses that make me wonder if I'm going to be prescribed bifocals the next time I go to the eye doctor.

I am creating … a plan for Scout's early education. Of course, it involves money, which we do not have, so I'm also creating a plan for somehow putting away that nonexistent money for Scout's education.

I am going to … work out today, for the first time in weeks. I will.. I really will.

I am wondering ... if we're going to watch The Sound of Music yet again today.

I am hoping ... we can afford a classical education for Scout.

I am looking forward to ... seeing my parents again. They'll be back in NC soon.

I am learning ... my way around our new town.

Around the house … there are still boxes to be unpacked and clothes to be hauled off to Goodwill. I'm thinking there will always be boxes to be unpacked and clothes to be hauled off to Goodwill.

I am pondering ... the challenges of being alone with a three-year-old for hours at a time. I do some things well as a mom, but motherhood definitely does not come naturally to me.

I am (re-)reading ... nothing at the moment. I'm between books.

I am (still) watching ... The Sound of Music at least once a day.

I am listening to ... the blessed silence of a house where I am the only one awake. I love that sound. I wish I could drag myself out of bed earlier so I can hear more of it.

One of my favorite things ... is Scout's love for music and dancing.

A favorite quote for today: Sorry ... I'm too lazy to look up a quote for today.

A few plans for the rest of the week include … vacation-planning. Blah.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Daybook Entry for Monday, June 17

Outside my window ... are so many trees I can barely see the sky. Ah, life in my little tree-full neighborhood.

I am thinking ... about how good coffee really is, first thing in the morning.

I am thankful ... for The Sound of Music. (Yes, Scout and I are still on that kick.) Sure, it has its cheesy moments, but they are far outweighed by the wonderful music and singing. And that gazebo scene between Maria and Captain von Trapp ... I've seen it at least a dozen times in the past week, and probably twenty more times in my life, and it still renders my little heart all a-flutter.

In the kitchen … are the leftovers of a cherry crisp dessert that I made Hubster for Father's Day. It was pretty good. Scout helped me make it. It was a little sad when she tasted it and didn't like it. (It was good; she just has a problem with the texture of most fruits and doesn't like to eat berries.)

I am wearing … my jammies and an oversized sweatshirt that belonged to Hubster's dad. I normally wouldn't write a blog post first thing in the morning, but I left my journal in the car and am too lazy to go get it.

I am creating … a home. We've come a long way toward settling in. There are still pictures to hang, and we still need to find a cheap dresser, and our garage is a mess, but the house is definitely looking more and more like a home.

I am going to … work on a story today! For the first time in three weeks!

I am wondering ... why I can't wake up in the mornings. I want to wake up and work out, but it's like I'm drugged when the alarm goes off. All I want to do is snuggle up next to the Hubster and go back to sleep.

I am hoping ... we can stay in this town, in this house, for a while. Hubster's work and promotion regulations pretty much rule out staying here forever, but I'd like to be here for a full year at least.

I am looking forward to ... the week ahead. This is really pretty amazing, considering my life experience with severe depression. Depressed people don't look forward to anything, except maybe the nothingness of death. Ah, better living through chemistry!

I am learning ... to recite the entire Sound of Music movie. That was never a life goal of mine, I must admit, but it's kind of neat to have it all in my brain like that.

Around the house … the dust motes are collecting. Time to begin shifting the focus from "moving in" to "housekeeping."

I am pondering ... how Scout and I will spend the day, now that her babysitter has texted me to say her son is sick.

I am (re-)reading ... Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider.

I am watching ... nothing at the moment. But Scout and I will probably watch The Sound of Music at least once today. :-)

I am listening to ... the dishwasher running in the kitchen, and Hubster puttering around in his room. Oh ... and there's Hubster's cell phone going off. The work week has begun!

One of my favorite things ... is how Scout likes to "switch roles" with me. Lately, we'll sit on two pillows on the living room floor and she'll say "You're the little baby and I'm the big mama." She'll turn and "buckle" me into my car seat, and then ask me if I want a snack and a drink. Then, she'll ask what song I want to hear. I have to say either "Do-Re-Mi" or "My Favorite Things" because those are the only two she has memorized (so far). So the pretend-presses a button on the dash and starts singing. She tells me that we're going "to the playground, and then to Ingle's [the grocery store], and then home." When we get to the "playground," she tells me that I need to leave Froggie in the car so he doesn't get dirty. Then she slides open the pretend van door and "unbuckles" me, and then we play on a pretend playground. (We do go to "real" playgrounds with the weather is nice!)

A favorite quote for today: Here's another one from Emerson: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

A few plans for the rest of the week include … finishing up some paperwork on the sale of our house, planning the week's meals, cleaning up around the house, exercising, planning a visit to our old town so Scout can see her old friends and I can hang out at my old coffee shop, and planning a visit to my sister's (30 minutes away from our new house) so Scout can play with her cousin Ella.

Pic O' Week:
From a year or so ago ... one of the first words Scout learned to spell.
It's where we'll be going for Phase I of our road-tripping family-visiting vacation.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Daybook Entry for Tuesday, June 11

Outside my window ... is a parking lot, but I almost wouldn't know it for all the trees. The wind is blowing lightly on this beautiful afternoon--the first non-rainy day in over a week.

I am thinking ... about how I miss my Franklin friends now that we have moved away. I'm also thinking about how glad I am today to have some quiet time, with Hubster at work and Scout with a babysitter.

I am thankful ... for Julie Andrews. Scout has moved from her Mary Poppins obsession to a Sound of Music obsession (of course I had nothing to do with that ... ha ha). So much listening so so many of these wonderful songs has made me realize that this woman whom I will probably never meet has enriched my life beyond measure. She's done the same for so many people, of course, but she's made my world better and happier and more free, and that's why I'm thankful.

In the kitchen … everything is unpacked and put away, even the baking supplies that got left in the garage and were coated with cocoa (the lid popped off) when we finally found it.

I am wearing … tan hiking pants and a t-shirt (pretty much my uniform these days). Today's t-shirt features a turtle with a hiking pole, and it says "live your dreams."

I am creating … I wish I could say "a poem" or "a story" or even "a song," but the truth is, I've been pretty focused on moving for the past week. Hubster hasn't been able to help much (because of work and night meetings), so I've done a lot of the work myself, often with Scout at home and wanting me to stop and play with her. Which of course I do. But starting today, I'm giving myself time to write in the mornings. We're finally moved in enough that I can start thinking about developing some semblance of a routine again.

I am going to … love living closer to my family.

I am wondering ... if one of my college friends no longer considers me a friend. And I'm thinking that she would be justified in not wanting to be in contact with me. I know she's probably just busy and I'm probably just being paranoid, but I still have that empty feeling in my chest--that "rejection" feeling.

I am hoping ... to start my ChaLEAN Extreme workouts again tomorrow. A relative of mine has degenerative bone disease and is having a very hard time. Because I'm a petite white girl who avoided milk for the first half of my life, I fall into the "most at risk for osteoporosis" category. Of course I've made sure to get my calcium, etc., in other ways for many years now, but I know that a major defense against osteoporosis is weight training. So I'm ready, after a 10-day break, to get back to it.

I am looking forward to ... the day when we're all settled in and there are no more boxes to unpack.

I am learning ... my way around Asheville again. :-)

Around the house … messes rule. Boxes, stuff for Goodwill, stuff yet to be put away ... they're all there, and I think they're reproducing when I'm asleep or away from home.

I am pondering ... the power of music, literature, and visual art to touch our souls in a way nothing else can.

I am reading ... lots of books to Scout, and not enough books to myself. Meanwhile, Inferno awaits ...

One of my favorite things ... is a college picture of me with my dear friend Amy. (Can you tell I'm looking through old stuff that brings up memories?) We are each holding a half-empty bottle of Boone County Strawberry Hill wine and we look as happy as we felt ... which was pretty happy!

A favorite quote for today: Scout was singing along to "Something Good," one of the songs from a sound of music. After singing the line "Somewhere in my youth, or childhood," she stopped, turned to me, and asked, "Mommy, what's childhood?"

A few plans for the rest of the week include … settling into my new little house!

A picture thought for this week:

Finally some quiet time at The Green Sage Coffee House and Cafe in Asheville

Friday, May 31, 2013

Daybook Entry (for the year, most likely!)

Outside my window ... The leaves on the trees are droopy with humidity, and the sky is a sheet of blue-grey, with patches of light blue trying to peek through.

I am thinking ... about how busy the week ahead of us will be, with packing up and moving and getting our current house ready for the new renters.

I am thankful ... for my husband. Twice in the past week I’ve had to drive the distance that he drives every day to get to work—the distance he has driven every day for five years. All because I thought I wanted to live in this remote small town where I used to have a job. It is a brutal drive, and I didn't even have to deal with end-of-workday traffic.

In the kitchen … the dry goods are waiting to be packed into boxes for Sunday’s move. The refrigerator and freezer are emptier than usual, as we’ve been trying to consume as much of the perishable stuff as we can. The bananas are starting to look spotty … maybe my first “meal” in my new oven will be banana bread …

I am wearing … a pink and blue tie-dye made for me by my friend Joelle back in 1997. It’s the second-oldest t-shirt I own, and among the most well-loved.

I am creating … to-do lists for the move. And I am looking forward to a week from now, when I’ll be able to resume my regularly scheduled programming of working on stories and poetry for four hours each day.

I am going to … wake the family in just a little while so we can get breakfast, get dressed, and get started.

I am wondering ... if I should go get another cup of coffee, or wait for Hubster to wake up and get it for me. (Yes, I’m spoiled.)

I am hoping ... today will be productive. We have a lot of work to do.

I am looking forward to ... spending the day with Hubster while Scout spends the day with her friend Jen.

I am learning ... that if I applied my perfectionist's eye to housekeeping, I would be one of those people who cleaned all the time, to the point that I had no life outside of cleaning.

Around the house … there are boxes, boxes everywhere!

I am pondering ... the fact that I have no regrets about leaving this house to live somewhere else. I have made some good friends here and will miss them, and I hate the thought that Scout will need to make new friends, but I have no twinges of sadness whatsoever about leaving this house. Why did we ever buy it in the first place?

I am reading ... Dante’s Inferno. We read parts of it in AP English back in the late 1980s, and I've read bits and pieces here and there over the years, but I’ve never sat and read The Divine Comedy, start to finish, on my own. I’m surprised (though I shouldn't be) at how much I’m enjoying it so far.

One of my favorite things ... is seeing my daughter’s new-found love for The Sound of Music (speaking of favorite things). She calls it “the Maria show” and wants to listen to the CD every time we’re in the car. I’m thrilled, as "Do-Re-Mi" is much preferable to “The Wheels on the Bus”!

A favorite quote for today: Oh, I don’t know. I’m not big on quotes for the day. So I guess I’ll just quote one of my favorite quotable people, Ralph Waldo Emerson: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Sometimes I have to differentiate between what is a foolish consistency, and what is a wise one. I tend to opt for no consistency at all, ever, and that's not good either.

A few plans for the rest of the week include … MOVING!

A picture thought for this week:

Ready to hit the trail!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Morning After

A few years ago, an e-friend of mine's husband had a type of heart attack called the "widow-maker." Thanks to closely available medical care, he survived, but it sure threw both of them for a loop ... and in many ways they're still wildly spinning.

The idea of the "widow-maker" haunts me as well. As do the ideas of aneurysms, strokes, car accidents, freak murders, terrorist bombs, and other means of sudden and unexpected death. (Of course, I am a pessimist, so I think the haunting comes with the territory.) 

But I'm not a fearful person, even though I do have this awareness. Instead, the awareness is a sort of compass that gently points me to true north. For example, if Scout is driving me crazy (as she sometimes occasionally often does, now that she's a willful three-year-old), I'll take a deep breath and say, "At least she's here. She's alive, her blood is flowing inside her skin and her body is warm and active." And the compass moves a little from "annoyed" to "appreciative."

When I recently started writing poetry again, I thought about my friend's experience. What would it be like to suddenly lose your husband? Even worse, what would it be like if you, like my friend, had young children facing that abyss of the future with you? My first thought was, "I couldn't imagine." But then I decided to try and write a poem about it. It turned into a not-awful poem, so I submitted it to an online literary journal ... and it got published.

So here it is, "Morning After." I appreciate Rose & Thorn's editors for choosing my little poem to be part of their final edition.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Five Years

Five years have passed. Five long, crazy years have passed since we left Maggie Valley and moved to the little town of Franklin, North Carolina, so I could be closer to the job I loved so much. Five years have passed since Hubster and I made perhaps the biggest mistakes of our marriage: leaving Maggie Valley before selling our house there, and buying a house in Franklin. Heck, hindsight tells us now that leaving Maggie Valley and moving to Franklin was a mistake in itself, all housing SNAFUs aside.

Except.

Who knows if Scout would have been born if we'd stayed in Maggie Valley? Maybe she would have, maybe she wouldn't. I have no way of knowing.

I've also made some very good friends here in Franklin. I will miss them, but Facebook makes everyone a click away, so I'm not as sad as I might have been in the pre-Facebook days.

Five years. These have been a difficult five years. They have aged me; for the first time in my life, I look my age, sometimes older. They've thinned me down. I don't know how or why, but I often look downright frail, with hollow cheeks and such. I've been actively working to gain weight while maintaining a decent weight-training regimen. Kind of a challenge.

For four of those five years, I was a technical writer. For two of them, I was an adjunct English instructor. And for three of them, I've been a mom. That motherhood thing has been harder than I ever imagined, but (and I know this sounds cliche) I wouldn't trade it for anything. Baby Scout, who is now almost three and a half, is the best thing that ever happened to me and Hubster, and in so many ways.

Five years. In five years I have managed to find a medication cocktail that works for me. My moods no longer swoop wildly, and I can actually depend on myself to function from day to day.

Five years. Five hard-as-hell, life-changing years.

I'm glad we're leaving this place. I'm ready to head down a new path.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Time Finally Begins to Race

I won't lie. Ever since Scout was born, I've felt that time has crawled by. Someone would say, "The time goes by so fast, doesn't it!" and I would respond, "Not really. I feel like she should be at least 10 by now." Even when she was a delightful two-year-old who completely skipped the "Terrible Twos," I felt that time was crawling.

No more. And I don't think it has anything to do with Scout's age. I think it has everything to do with my miracle drug. I try to think about what life was like before it, and I can barely even take myself there. Because here is such a better place. I'm not high or loopy or some other version of myself. I'm just normal. Sad that I have to take a miracle drug to be normal, but oh well. I didn't want to succumb to yet another pill, but I was tired and I caved. But now I'm glad I did. I think Hubster and Scout and my parents and the rest of my family are even more thankful.

Anyway, about time a-flyin'. The other day, I watched Scout as she sang a song she made up and got all misty-eyed, thinking, "I just want to freeze time right now and keep her at this age, never to grow up." Folks, I have never thought that. On the contrary, I've thought, "She's a cute baby and everything, but can't she be 10 already?" It's because I was so tired and felt so hopeless. But now that I'm better, it seems that time can't go slowly enough. And that's good.

The last few days of my life have been some of my happiest of recent years. On Thursday, I met with a writer who critiqued one of my stories and we discussed how I could improve on it. He looked past the writing (which was pretty good, if I may be so bold) and called it a "non-story." For some reason, I was happy to hear that. I'd suspected it needed more "plot," but I was at a loss of how to give it more. It's frustrating to know that you have all these writing skills but can't set up a simple plot. (Part of it is that I've read too many postmodern/literary/plotless short stories.)

So it's strange that I liked hearing a somewhat negative critique of that aspect of my story. It was  affirming (in a weird way) to be told there was what the big shortcoming was and discuss ways to rectify it. (It was affirming because I agreed with him, at least once the smarting of the criticism wore off!)

Also on Thursday, Scout's new sleeping bag came in the mail. She was so excited. We set up the tent in the basement and "camped out" for two nights. And then, on Saturday night, we went to Camp Daniel Boone and camped outside. She was so excited. She loves to camp outside. Even though she got too cold in the night and had to crawl in my 20-degree mummy bag with me, she still had a great time.

The next morning, Hubster had to shuttle some hikers to the Davidson River trailhead of the Art Loeb Trail. Scout and I were on our own. It was the most beautiful, clear day, and the mountains circling the camp were absolutely breathtaking. Scout and I ran back and forth across the camp's parade grounds, chasing each other, twirling until we fell down, and just having fun.

On the way home, she said she wanted to go to the bookstore. The bookstore in our town is closed on Sundays, so we stopped in Waynesville at Blue Ridge Books. After a snack in their cafe, we went to their children's corner, and Scout sat on my lap while I read her book after book.

I got all misty-eyed a couple of times that day, getting that old wish that I could freeze time.

What a great day we had. Last night, she said, "Mommy, the best part of my day was playing with you all day."

I told her I thought playing with her all day was kind of fun, too. ;-)



 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Friday, March 22, 2013

And On the Creative Writing Front ...

Hmm. I've considered myself a creative writer for almost 40 years, yet the majority of my professional writing has consisted of software documentation. But let's not dwell on that.

First, the poem. I wrote a poem last fall and submitted it to a journal. It got accepted. It's not a prestigious journal or anything like that, but it's a journal, dammit, and it's going to publish my poem. So there. (More details on that once it's out!)

Next, the story. Back in 2001, I came up with an idea for a story. It wasn't really a story--it was more a scene that would occur at the end of a story. I came up with the title. I came up with the main character. And that was it. Everything else in life (jobs, marriage, moving, etc.) always came before my creative pursuits, so I put the story on the back burner, where it stayed until 2006.

Then, the sob story about the story. Long-term followers of this blog might remember the hellish ending of my high-school teaching career and how I had to take time off from working for a while. That was in 2006. So, with nothing to push my creative writing to the back burner, I decided that the character deserved a novel, as she was much too complex for a short story. So I started writing one. It was pretty good, I thought ... or at least the first sixteen chapters that I actually wrote were pretty good.

That fall, I took a fiction-writing workshop with an award-winning regional writer. I more than held my own in there.

Then, the following spring, I got another job in software documentation and, just like that, the novel was moved to the back burner. In the next four years, I wrote only one more chapter to the book. It was in maybe 2008 (pre-baby). Hubster had to be away for a week on business, so I took a week's vacation time and spent it in the local coffee shops, writing. Thus was Chapter 17 born.

But then ... life. Oh, life. Crazy work schedules, teaching, motherhood, illness, and of course the always present depression (and all the medication experimentation that comes with that). No more book. For all intents and purposes, the novel was dead. Abandoned by the wayside. It wasn't what I wanted, but it's what happened.

But there's hope! In 2012, history (sort of) repeated itself, and I left my teaching job (like in 2006) and found myself with time. Yes, I was recuperating, and yes, there were days I couldn't function, but I started writing again anyway. Seriously writing. For the first time since ... 2001? 1996? 1989?

Back to the story. First, I wrote some poems and was thrilled at the poetry that could come out of my head. Some of it was awful, but quite a bit of it wasn't too bad. (Did I mention one of my poems is going to be published? Oh, OK. I did.) But I wanted to write that story that I'd started thinking about in 2001. I didn't want to go back to the novel (yet). I just wanted to write the damn short story and get it over with already.

So guess what?

Yes! You guessed it! I wrote it! I wrote the story! It's about 5,000 words; I cut a good 500 out just this morning. I'm going to put some finishing touches on the draft tomorrow before sending it to a couple of readers--one who is a friend and a fan of my main character, and another who is a respected author here in Western NC who's agreed to look at it.

So yeah, I'm on top of the world. I can't begin to tell you how good it feels to have written that thing. It's been hanging over me all these years. I don't know if it's a good story or not. I don't know if the funny parts are funny or the subtle parts are subtle. But it feels so good to have a draft in my hands.

And I always have an analogy for everything, so ... I think the experience is similar to when you start working out again after a year or so of being out of shape. I'm exhausted but thrilled that I'm writing. And I know that, if I keep it up, I'll be in infinitely better shape in the weeks, months, and years to come.

And that's good.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Life is Better

I know my last couple of posts haven't been paragons of optimism, but hey--I'm a pessimist at heart. However, I do have some great news to share here on this lil ole blog.

I've started a new medication. It has been amazing. A miracle, really. I actually look forward to taking it in the mornings and evenings. I am now able to function, and I don't feel sick all the time. I've put on a few pounds (which I needed to do), so I no longer look like a sick person. Not only that, but I've written drafts to several short stories. I've become more perceptive. I'm learning how to see again. Life is good.

On top of that, my three-year-old is adorable and precocious. She's whiny on occasion, and can be stubborn as hell, but she's mostly adorable. Her latest game (which is driving me crazy) is to say something like, "You're Megan [my sister] and I'm Ella [Megan's daughter, and Anne's cousin]." Or "I'm Daddy and you're Anne." Or "I'm Mo [her best friend] and you're Angela [Mo's mom]." And then we pretend we're those people. Yesterday she decided, halfway through her PB&J sandwich, that she didn't like PB&J because "I'm Ella, and Ella doesn't like sandwiches" (which is true). It was cute the first couple of times, but after a few weeks of it, I want to yell, "No! You're Anne and I'm Mommy! Let's leave it at that, kid!"

But she really is a sweetie. I'm happy to be well enough now to enjoy her.

That's about it for this update. That, and I can't wait for spring to spring. This will be the first spring in years and years that I've had the leisure to hit the hiking trails in the area--and Anne is now old enough to hike, even if she can't go very far yet.

Until next time ...

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Human Condition?

It was 1986 or so. I was in high school, on a ROTC trip to Ole Miss. One night at the motel, after we'd done ROTC things all day, a friend told me that she didn't want to be around me anymore because I was such a downer.

This friend was a real friend; she was an honest friend. I hate to admit it, but I really was a downer. My first "depressive episode" (to use the clinical term) had been a couple of years before. I was in another one on that trip. It was as if I were thrashing about alone, inside a zipped-up sleeping bag: My whole world was dark and suffocating, and it seemed futile to try to escape it.

I would love to say that the depression was just part of the usual sturm und drang of adolescence. Even I hoped it would be long gone by the time I became an adult. But it hasn't gone away. Here in middle age, I still have mornings where I am so depressed that I can't get out of bed. I still have days where I can't stop crying all day. Despite medication, exercise, and good nutrition, I still find myself alone, thrashing about in that zipped-up sleeping bag.

But I wonder how alone I really am. Just about everyone I talk to is taking an antidepressant of some kind. People who seem perfectly fine turn out to have stress-related illnesses. I've read in numerous sources that depression is the most common illness there is. There are now names for things that baffled everyone, including me, in the 1980s: For instance, those weird "freak out" occasions that landed me in the ER more than once? There's a household name for them now: panic attacks.

I suppose it's not really an illness. It's just the human condition. It has to be, if that many people are on medication for it. And before medication? People wrote great literature and created great art and music that spoke to people on a level that everyday chitchat could not reach.

Maybe that's not the way things are. Maybe I really am just a hopeless depressive. But I've somehow been given the "gift" of depression and the gift of writing. For most of my life, the depression has overshadowed the writing gift, and the medication, while making the depression bearable, has dulled my experience of this "human condition."

I don't know where I'm getting with this--just that it's really odd that we all have to take pills in order to avoid our natural responses to reality.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Tennis Elbow

I have no idea how I managed to get tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) in my right arm. I haven't played tennis since 2006, and even then I didn't play often. I didn't want to blame my workouts, but I did the research anyway and still couldn't find a link between those and tennis elbow. I did have some repetitive motion going on: I'd been taking Anne to the playground nearly every day for a year and pushing her on the swing for at least 15 minutes. The repetitive motion was the flick of the wrist when pushing the swing. Often my wrist hurt so bad that I would have to either switch hands or or push the swing with the back of my hand.

I don't doubt that the ChaLEAN Extreme and TurboFire workouts aggravated the problem, even if they didn't cause it.

In the past two or three months, I have spent a good $400 or so on multiple visits to a chiropractor. I've spent $200 on two visits to my M.D. Add to that $100 to a massage therapist/bodyworker and $100 to Urgent Care one particularly painful morning, and you can see how this tennis elbow has been expensive as well as painful. The M.D. said to take lots of ibuprofen and offered to give me a cortizone shot in my elbow. There were several times when I seriously considered going in for the shot (and I am a person who hates to take painkillers because they muffle the body's signals that something is wrong).

I've also had to curtail my writing, my computer use, and just about anything in life that requires right-hand use for a right-hander. I haven't been able to lift anything that requires my hand to be facing down or sideways. And by anything, I don't mean just heavy stuff; I couldn't even hold a coffee cup without wincing, and forget about picking up the coffee pot to pour the coffee.

The chiropractor, the bodyworker, and the ibuprofen all provided temporary relief, but the pain always came back. I think I've finally found lasting relief, though. Two things: (1) soaking in a hot tub twice a day (poor me), with a jet of hot water directly to the elbow and forearm, and (2) sitting in a chair, with my arm resting on the top of  the chair arm, and lifting a light (2-lb.) weight (more like curling a light weight upward) 15 times, two or three times a day.

The tennis elbow, I'm happy to say, is almost gone after two weeks of hot tubs and the weight exercise.

Now I'm dealing with piriformis/sciatica pain, and it is a real pain in the butt. Once I figure out how to fix that, I'll post it here, too. Because I know all four of my readers are dying to know.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Reflections


The year 2012 kind of sucked. It was a year of overwork, anxiety through the roof, and penny-pinching. But then again, 2012 was great in that I came to some difficult truths (and finally accepted them), which puts me on a good road, I think. I also got to spend more time with my daughter than I'd spent during her first two years. That was the best part of it all.

Here are some reflections on how the past year has been for me. Questions are from Simple Mom.

1.  What was the single best thing that happened this past year?

"Spending lots of quality time with my daughter" isn't really a "single" thing, but it was the best thing. I guess the single best thing would be that I wrote my first poem in many, many years back in October. And I've written quite a few since.

2.  What was the single most challenging thing that happened?

Our houses not selling. Not even coming close to selling. And arguing with Dan over what we should do about that.

3.  What was an unexpected joy this past year?

While I didn't expect to have to quit my teaching job, it was definitely an unexpected joy to find myself with quiet time. After several weeks of panic attacks and nightmares, I finally started learning to relax again.

4.  What was an unexpected obstacle?

Anne getting sick a lot more then previously, since she stopped staying with a sitter and started going to daycare.

5.  Pick three words to describe this past year.

Frustrating, stressed, lost.

6.  Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your year—don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you.

Distant, depressed, angry.

7.  Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their past year—again, without asking.

Stressful, overworked, stuck.

8.  What was the best book you read this year?

Mary Oliver, A Poetry Handbook

9.  With whom were your most valuable relationships?

My daughter and my husband.

10.  What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?

I now feel like I have room to breathe. In January, I constantly felt like I was suffocating because I was so stressed.

11.  In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?

I think I finally accepted that I was a mom. I finally got over the shock that came with having a baby. With that, I've become a much better, more open, more laid-back mom.

12.  In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?

Not sure if this constitutes spiritual "growth," but I stopped trying to make church, Bible study, etc., work for me. As I look back, I wonder why I ever started trying to make it work again, back in 2003. I seem to have taken a decade to re-learn things about myself that I already knew.

13.  In what way(s) did you grow physically?

Most of this year, I did not exercise and my diet consisted mostly of bagels and cream cheese, cookies, coffee, and Diet Coke. I rarely slept. I started doing ChaLEAN Extreme in the spring, and it transformed my body. I started drinking Shakeology during the summer, and it seriously curbed my cravings for sweets and gave me more energy. So I'm a lot healthier now than I was a year ago. I also have smokin' abs. :-)

14.  In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?

My daughter and I became much closer. We became "mother and daughter"--to her, I think I am no longer the lady who drops her off at the babysitter every morning and picks her up every evening.

15.  What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?

Professionally: My students!! I loved my students. (Most of them, anyway.) At home: Becoming an amateur homemaker.

16.  What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?

Professionally: As with every job I've ever had, I got into a cycle of perfectionism-based overachieving. That led to lots of self-neglect, which led to some pretty serious health issues. I had to quit the job in order to get my life and my health back in order.

At home: Finding time for myself.

17.  What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?

Ha! Facebook, of course!

18.  What was the best way you used your time this past year?

Selfishly: For a couple of months after I stepped down from my teaching job, I followed a very strict schedule that called for three hours of creative writing every day. Those writing sessions--which mostly took place at local coffee shops--were so valuable to me.

As a mom: Taking advantage of the mild winter and spending an hour or more every day at the playground with my daughter. And on bad-weather days, going to the library.

19.  What was biggest thing you learned this past year?

Even at 42, I still care far too much about what other people think. Not sure if (or how) I will ever shake that off. Lord knows I've tried.

20.  Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year for you.

Two thousand twelve was intense and unbalanced. I love intensity and am allergic to balance, but I'd like to pursue a less intense, more balanced year in 2013. For my own sanity and for my family's sanity as well.