Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Life Altering

So much has changed since my last entry.

I am now residing in Anchorage, Alaska.  Fate stepped in and made it happen....there are a lot of circumstances surrounding the move, but it is all for the best and I am happy.

Most of you know that I've filled the role of my grandma's caretaker for quite a while.  For the last 20 years, I've cared for her in some capacity....moral support, seeing her through many medical issues, taking care of her home, etc.  Yes, she's helped me out immensely too, mostly financially....but her help came with a huge cost.  She became mostly incapacitated around 2006, and since then I did all her cleaning, bill paying, doctor's appointments, pharmacy dealings, and grocery shopping.  As dementia took more of a toll on her mental health, she became extremely emotionally abusive.  The last two years have been absolute hell.  She has said things to me and told family secrets that hurt desperately.  I'm convinced that if I hadn't had to endure that abuse, I could have handled my own mental health issues much better.

When I met Richard, we fell in love very quickly.  I knew from the first few times we spoke that I wanted to spend my life with him.  He asked me to move to Alaska within a month.  Originally, we planned for quite a few months in the future....but that changed when grandma basically flipped her wig.

Unbeknownst to me, a distant cousin had been communicating with grandma on the sly and planting ideas in her head that I was taking advantage of her and not caring for her well enough.  In her demented state, grandma believed her and the two of them planned to remove me from grandma's care and as executor of her estate.  Thanksgiving day, she broke the news that she would no longer be helping me financially, and that this cousin would be moving there to care for her.  This was all I needed to decide to move to Alaska and be with Richard.  Faith backed up the decision....she was also tired of the abuse at grandma's hands.

So....we left.  She has no idea where we are, and that is for the best....When I moved away in 2000 to try to get away from her, she followed me within a year.  Now that she has a caretaker and cut me off so rudely, I see no reason to let her know where we are.  We need to move on with our lives, and I want my relationship with Richard to be successful.  He is an amazing man, and I love him more than I've ever loved anyone (besides Faith, of course).

As I sit here and type, a soft snow is falling, adding to the foot+ that is already on the ground.  I am safe and warm and comfortable in a beautiful condo, with everything I need provided for me.  You all know how independent I am, but it's nice to know I can rebuild our lives without having to suffer as before.  My life is so full of happiness right now that it almost feels surreal.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cost Splitting

Every month, I get a prescription for Lexapro; one of the higher-priced SSRI antidepressants.  My doctor prescribes 20 mg tablets, and I'm to take 1/2 a tablet daily.  Puzzling, right?  Why not one whole 10 mg tablet once daily?

Well, here's the thing.  A 30-count bottle of 10 mg Lexapro retails for roughly $125.  A 30-count bottle of 20 mg Lexapro is the same price, but lasts 60 days instead of 30.  So, obviously the larger dose prescribed at 1/2 the strength makes more sense, right?

Sure, if you're thinking from a financial standpoint only.  It is impossible for the manufacturer to distribute the medication equally between two halves of a tablet.  So, cutting a pill in half means your dose will be unstable.  In a medication like Lexapro, that means I will receive inconsistent relief from my symptoms of anxiety and depression.  In a medication that helps regulate your heart rate or blood pressure, it could be much more serious.

I've tried several types of cutters with very little success.  They either crumble the pill, or cut them in uneven pieces.  The best option I've found so far is a plain razorblade - I set it exactly on the cutting line and rock the blade back and forth while exerting more and more pressure until it breaks through.  It still creates powdery residue, and there's still the potential for uneven sizes.  I just cut this month's supply, and several came out with broken pieces.  It's very frustrating.

I'm going to request that my doctor prescribe the 10 mg tablets from now on and deal with the cost.  Inconsistent doses and frustration over cutting the pills isn't worth the money saved, IMHO.

Friday, November 25, 2011

What is Tradition?

For the first time in 19 years, I didn't do "the big dinner" on Thanksgiving.  I don't intend to do the big Christmas dinner, either.  I just don't have it in me to do them right now.  We had a Thanksgiving-style dinner, but it wasn't *my* cooking.  It's not just that I'm a good cook (which I am)....it's that the tradition wasn't there.

As a child, we didn't have many family events.  Mom and I were pretty solitary before she met my stepdad; even then his family was fairly small.  We still had "the big dinner" though, and the ritual was always so soothing.

Thanksgiving morning began with a fairly early breakfast; usually pancakes and sausage or something similar. Then, the women would start cooking.  Turkey, stuffing, ham, potatoes, several veggies, salads, deviled eggs, trays of olives and pickles, rolls, and pies.  Our dining room held a table that seated 10, a buffet, and a sideboard.  Every surface that could hold food did, plus some left in the kitchen.  The table was meticulously set with china and silver, cloth napkins, and all the good serving pieces.  The big coffee urn was filled, sodas set out, pitchers of iced tea, milk, and juice joined them on the sideboard.  Then, everyone gathered and found their seats.  The children were seated at a small table in the kitchen, while the adults sat around the table.  Then began the prayer of thanks, followed by the ritual of carving the turkey and passing dish after dish around the table.  Plates were loaded for us kids and brought to our table.  The food itself really has no memory for me (except the creamed onions - oh how I love them), but the spirit of the meal does.

After everyone had eaten their share, the kids were sent to the family room while the grown ups cleaned up.  This was before every household had TV with a million channels, so we likely watched a Christmas movie on one of the few channels we received, or we laid on the floor in a stuffed stupor.  Once the kitchen was clean and the dining room re-assembled, we would play fun games together like Charades and such.  There was such a feeling of joy and togetherness that I relished the holidays.

I've tried over the years to preserve that tradition.  I've done what I could to make each year's holiday as festive as those I remembered from the past.  I've spent as much as 8 hours in the kitchen at a time, toiling over pots and pans and fretting about how I would keep everything hot at once.

With the stress of grandma's issues and the tight budget we are living on, I had no desire to put the effort into the tradition this year.  My therapist challenged me when I told her I had decided not to do it and asked if I thought I was depriving Faith of a memorable experience.  Honestly, with what we have gone through recently, I don't think I am.  I know in my heart that next year will be amazing and new traditions will be started....but this year, my heart isn't in it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Just What Is Wrong With You Anyway?

I have new readers here on the blog, and a few new Facebook friends who have expressed interest in knowing why I'm in therapy and what my medical problems are.  Usually I'm not so open about these things, but it's best to lay everything out on the table, right?

I'll address the medical first since it's easiest.  About two years ago, I started having seizures and massive memory loss.  I was unable to even go to work for weeks at a time because I could hardly function.  The seizures (grand mal) became more and more frequent and my doctors frantically scrabbled for a reason.  I had CAT scans, blood panels, MRIs....with no resolution.  It wasn't until the MRI company accidentally scanned the wrong area of my brain that they found the reason for the issues...they discovered AVM lesions in a deep area of my brain.  Thankfully, they were small, but surgery would have had a poor outcome and carried a large risk of death.  The neurologist thought chemotherapy would be successful, so I underwent a short course in Medford.  Thankfully, it was mild enough that I only lost a small bit of my hair; but the mouth sores, constant vomiting, fatigue, and serious dehydration took a huge toll on me.  It was about six months before I felt better again, and my memory improved greatly.  The seizures got somewhat better, but I was still experiencing grand mals.  As a result, I went through several different seizure drugs, and I'm still on a trial with my current medication.  While controlled, I still have absence seizures and occasional eyelid seizures.  My body is on the road to recovery from the illness and the chemo, however slowly.  Unfortunately, I lost a lot during my battle....my job, many friends, and my longtime relationship.  I came to realize that they weren't worth keeping if they were that easy to lose.

As far as the mental issues, well....they are more complicated.  My actual diagnosis is:

All three are treatable, and I take medication in addition to the therapy I participate in weekly (well, when I get the scheduling down anyway).  So far, the agoraphobia has been the easiest to treat, although I still have issues in crowded situations.  By no means am I unable to leave my house, I want that to be clear....however, my home is my "safe" zone and it's nearly impossible to allow people inside.  I hope to have overcome that with EMDR when I'm finished with that therapy.  The other two issues are controlled with medication and can be cured with EMDR as well.

I have been in therapy before, but never found resolution.  The therapy I participate in now is much more aggressive and targeted to an actual diagnosis.  My hopes are high for success.

What does this mean?  What kind of person am I?  Easy to answer.  I'm a person with a life-long illness that can eventually become more serious.  I have a treatment plan in place, and intend to fight with everything I have to stay healthy and well.  I am also a person who has mental illness that is managed and being treated.

Most importantly, I am a loving mother to my daughter.  I am a person who is blessed with friends who love her, despite experiencing issues with my disorders.  I am a woman who loves the man in her life completely and will do everything in her power to ensure he will be happy.  I strive to protect those I love from experiencing the negative side effects of the above issues.  I am caring, nurturing, and loving.  My joy in life is giving others happiness.  I am not a whole person, obviously, but eventually I will be.

I hope that gives you all some perspective.  Life is worth living, no matter what obstacles we encounter.  My life from this point on will be spent finding happiness.  I'm so lucky to have it within my grasp.

Crying - Not a Release for Some

Last night was a rough one.  Sometimes the anniversary passes with little more than a sad thought, and sometimes I really struggle (like last night).  I don't know why it was so hard this year....perhaps because therapy is opening some doors to release emotions; perhaps because I have the loving support of the man I adore and I feel safer in expressing the memory of the pain.  It most certainly opened a floodgate of tears, which took a couple of hours to exhaust.  

Crying is physically painful for me.  Others speak of a release when crying, but the most it does for me is create a giant headache and cause a choking feeling in my throat.  It can occasionally bring about a seizure, more because of the stress it causes.  The headache and choking feeling come from the desire to control (swallow back) the tears.  If I let go and let the tears come, I cry so hard that I throw up.  Pleasant, no?

The compulsion to hold back tears comes from lifelong behaviors.  When my mom would punish me, she would get unreasonably angry when I cried.  I learned to be still and quiet, no matter what she was hitting me with (belt, spoon, hand....one time she spanked me with one of my dolls =/.  She wasn't gentle about spankings, either).  Her lesson was to be still and take the punishment I deserved.  So, I learned to hold back the tears.  I would only cry when I shut myself in my closet and stuffed a pillow to my face so she couldn't hear me.  My grandma had her own methods as well....she was not a corporal punisher, but she used psychological tactics.  "Ladies do not cry." "Crying is weakness, stop being weak."  So I had to bottle it up to avoid being admonished.  My ex-husband would become disgusted with me when I cried.  The man who beat me unmercifully that fateful night became more enraged when I cried.  From these events, I learned that tears were bad, and I stopped crying altogether.  For over a decade.  To be fair, a tear or two would trickle when I experienced something sad (a sad movie, for example), but never full-out crying.

My therapist is trying to teach me that tears can be good.  Every session that I cry is so exhausting that I can hardly drive home afterward.  I can't find any comfort in the tears.  Perhaps EMDR therapy will solve that problem for me.  

Last night, I feel like I crossed a barrier of allowing emotions to be expressed.  I am still holding back (mostly to avoid throwing up and/or causing a seizure), but the tears are flowing.  Nearly to the point that I can't stop them, which is annoying.  I still find no release in them, but maybe I'm on the path.  I just don't want to break down sobbing when a butterfly hits my windshield.  Please, universe....some balance.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Angel of Darkness

Thirteen years ago today, at 11 pm, I tried (nearly successfully) to end my life.  My life had become so dark and I was so lost that death seemed like the only cure to the intense pain I was feeling.  I took several different medications (including beta blockers I had stolen from my grandmother to overdose on), and laid on my living room floor, surrounded by photo albums, listening to "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan over and over, and sobbing.

My angel came to my rescue, in the form of my daughter.  I heard her shuffle in her crib and realized what a horrible mistake it would be to leave her motherless.  Unable to face my ex-husband as I knew he would be angry, I called a friend.  She hung up and called 911, then called back and woke my ex.  He found me lying on the floor, nearly passed out by this point.  Although we lived far, far out in the country, the ambulance arrived in record time, and the EMTs worked heroically to reverse the effects of the drugs I took.  I don't remember much beyond that point, aside from seeing my infant daughter crying while the doors of the ambulance closed.  I woke several hours later in the ICU, restrained and feeling like someone had ripped my throat open.  I found later the hospital staff had pumped my stomach....believe me, you don't want to know how much that hurts afterward.  I was kept sedated until the hospital psych came to evaluate me.  I spent 3 tortuous days in the psych ward.  There are truly frightening people in residence there....I knew I didn't belong.  I was only released after signing an agreement to enter treatment.

After an intense year of combined medication and counseling, I overcame the depression that nearly killed me.  I should have died that night - the staff at the hospital told me I nearly died twice.  The spirit inside me, combined with the love of my daughter, saved my life.

I've struggled with depression and anxiety since, but I've never sunk back into the darkness again.  There is goodness in the world, and even if I spend the rest of my life alone, I will continue to seek it.  Thankfully, fate has smiled on me and given me the love of my life.  With him by my side, I know the darkness will never return.

I still have a hard time listening to this song, but it reminds me that my angel saved me.  So, today, as every year on this date, I listen to it, cry, and realize that I belong here on earth....if only to watch over the angel whose love kept me alive.

Monday, November 14, 2011

What's Love Got to Do With It?

As you all know (all 7 of you who read this blog), I'm in an amazing relationship.  We talked about love in texts yesterday, and it got me thinking.

Love is pretty fickle, isn't it?  We're so sure we've felt love at some point in our lives, but when it happens for real, we realize all those times before were probably not love.  Let me explain my point.

My first real relationship, I believed I loved the man (boy, really) completely.  He was charming and receptive, but didn't give love....rather, we had a screwed up kind of brother/sister relationship.  Gross, right?  He treated me like a sister; he was protective and affectionate, but that is where it ended.  I was so hopelessly in love with him, but I never got back what I gave.  We did end up having a deeper relationship later, but I discovered things about him that made me uncomfortable and made me question the depth of his caring....so it ended.

I went through a string of really effed up relationships between 18 and 21.  Readers of my old blog know I was beaten severely by a "boyfriend" and left, bleeding and in serious condition, miles out on the sand dunes of North Bend.  Thankfully, I was rescued by kind men who raced back to the staging area to call for help.  If it hadn't been for them, I shudder to think how long I might have lain out there.  Not long after that, I met my now ex-husband.  Normally, I would never (and I mean NEVER) have found him appealing, but he was seemingly normal, and seemed to adore me....not to mention I wanted desperately to be married and put the bad relationships behind me.  He proposed to me on Christmas of 1994, and I said yes immediately.  We were married in August of 1995, and I realized only a few weeks into the marriage that I had made a horrible, horrible mistake.  The ink was hardly dry on the marriage certificate when he became the total opposite of the man I married.  He gave up on being loving and became lazy....putting no effort into our relationship and spending all his free time with his friends.  I was planning to leave him just 8 months after our wedding when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter...wanting to give her a life with two parents, I hung in for 4 years before I realized it was never going to work and left him.

After moving to Grants Pass and starting over, I stayed single for a looooong time.  I even made a vow of celibacy and forced myself to stop the cycle of one-night stands and "friends with benefits" relationships.  Enter MRE (most recent ex).  It was just a friendship at first....hot flirting, long nights of talking, movie dates....but no sex.  Once it did turn to sex, we made a mutual decision that it wouldn't be more than the friendship + sex.  And the sex....well, it was amazing.  Enough so that I ignored the warning signs, even though they nagged at me constantly.  We had a solid year of constant phone calls, texts, and nearly daily sex....but no other relationship-based interactions.  During a tough moment in his life, he told me he wanted me to be more than just a booty call, and asked me to be patient while he worked his issues out...and of course, I fell for it.  Shortly after that, the phone calls dwindled to nearly non-existent and our interactions became fewer and fewer each month; plus the sex became more about his pleasure than mutual satisfaction.  I put up with it for 4 1/2 more years, trying to ignore my suspicions and trying not to throw jealous fits.  When I did confront him, he made it seem that I was "imagining things" and being ridiculous.  It wasn't until I caught him out one night with a co-worker that I realized my suspicions were true...I was not the only person in his life.  I cut it off, but he made overtures to come back into my life.  I caught him once again at the coastal town Faith and I so dearly love and cut the relationship off totally.  I refused his phone calls, texts, and emails, and he finally went away.  Mutual friends told me that he had not just one, but several women in his life at a time.  It's sad....he's obviously looking for something that is missing, and hurting a lot of people along the way.

After the long process of healing, I lost hope that I would find anyone.  In fact, I embraced it and made it my new friend.  I set up a 5-year plan of celibacy and focused on getting my girl through high school and into college before I would focus on my personal life.  I also committed to remodeling myself....finally getting back into therapy and fixing the issues that had accumulated over the last couple of years.  I went through a major illness, fought it, recovered from it, and started addressing the wreck it made of my body.  In my fledgling stage of the remodeling, life threw me a curveball.  I met the love of my life.  I knew pretty much instantly that I loved him, that the love was very real, and that I would spend the rest of my life with him.  The trouble with that is how to change my 5-year plan to incorporate this new relationship.  I struggled with the decision....but I didn't need to.  When it's right, the decision makes itself.  I've never in my life been so comfortable, so loved in a relationship.  Everything feels like it's just falling into place.  I'm ready for a new life with someone I love deeply.  I'm ready to give my daughter a good, strong male influence to guide her towards her adult life.  I have no reservations about change, which is so NOT my usual reaction.  I'm just....happy.  Even when my life outside of him seems so bleak and hopeless, I know that he is there, being supportive and loving....and suddenly it's all okay.

I hate to be cliché, but when you stop looking for love, it finds you.  I had completely given up, and that's when I met my Richard.  I am so thankful that fate gave me the love of my lifetime.  My soul is complete.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Father, Stepped

I came across this picture of my step-dad in a box of my mother's things this weekend, and it has put him into the forefront of my mind since.

Mike was a beacon of light in my early life.  Up until he came into the picture, mom struggled with single parenthood and hard work as a cocktail waitress.  I practically lived with babysitters, and saw mom in the afternoons and Sundays.

I was too young to remember the evolution of their relationship, but I do remember he taught me how to ride my bike without training wheels.  That memory is very strong.  Soon, he and my mother married and our lives became a bit more stable.

Knowing that my real father had abandoned me, he stepped up and adopted me, giving me his last name.  For the first time in my life, I felt I had a father figure and a name to be proud of.  Also for the first time in my life, mom and I had the same last name (this is a big issue for me in a world where divorce is the norm and children grow up without identity).

Things weren't all happiness and light though.  We moved into the beautiful house his parents built in the country and while it was an ideal setting for me, mom found it too solitary and lonely so far from civilization.  Mike was a long-haul truck driver, so he was away from home for weeks, sometimes months at a time.  These factors evoked mom's alcohol use and mistrust of my step-dad.  After mom was involved in a car accident while she was drinking, Mike separated from her and filed for divorce.

After the divorce, I spent some time being shuffled around; living with family and friends until mom was able to take custody of me again.  By that time, Mike had moved on with his own life and I didn't see him or hear from him.  I spent five years in Bellevue, Washington struggling to get through a life filled with poverty and unhappiness.

Circumstances were so bad at the end of my Junior year in high school that I was failing terribly.  On vacation in Oregon, I met up with Mike again and he offered to let me move in with him to finish high school.  Against mom's wishes, I left Washington and moved in with Mike and his new wife.  I knew instantly it was a mistake....his wife despised me and I suppose she had good reason.  I would not have been able to handle taking in my husband's children from other marriages, especially one that he didn't father and had only an adoption relationship with.

While I did graduate from high school that year, it was terrible living with someone who disliked me so much.  The day of graduation, I packed my things and left their home.  I visited them a few times after they moved to another city, but I never really felt welcome.  To this day, his wife hasn't really allowed me to have contact with them (I've attempted to contact her several times through Facebook to no avail), and I have no idea how else to reach him.

I miss Mike very much.  It would have been nice to have him in Faith's life while she was growing up, especially since she has so little family and her father has basically abandoned her.  History seems to be repeating itself there - mom's dad walked out on his family, my real dad abandoned me, Faith's dad abandoned her....I sure hope it ends with Faith if she has kids of her own.  Children really ask for so little from their parents, and it takes so little effort to make a difference in their lives.  I wish so much that I had a dad in my life to share things with.  I don't have a mom anymore.  I've never really had a dad.  It's hard to make a go of life sometimes without those important relationships.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Heart Fulfilled

I am so wide awake right now, but for once it's not insomnia torturing my mind.  Tonight, I am awake because I'm in love.

I know, it sounds trite.  Honestly, I'm searching for words to describe the incredible feeling that is coursing through my soul right now, but none seem right.

I am not a woman who has experienced real love.  I've considered myself "in love," but I've never really, truly felt it.  It sounds as confusing to read as it is to experience, so bear with me.  I married my ex-husband because he was good to me at the time.  Did that mean I loved him?  Perhaps, but it was not a fulfilling love.  It was very one-sided, and I quickly grew away from my feelings toward him.  The most recent relationship I was in was the antithesis of love.  I thought what I was feeling was love, but it was not....he was able to manipulate me into believing his hollow words.  What I was really feeling was a deep need for him to cherish me, and that never happened.  In between these two men, there have been others with similar emotions.

Tonight, I felt what love really feels like.  I heard the words for the first time, spoken without expectation or manipulation.  My heart made a funny leap and my stomach filled with butterflies.  My head spun as I felt the impact of those beautiful words, and my breath was but a sigh.  For once, my mind didn't fight against the reality, rather it wrapped itself around the emotion and I felt a rush of endorphins.  There is no drug in the world that can compare to knowing you are loved.

The intensity of the love I have for him is deeper than I have ever felt.  I had emptied my heart long before I met him, convinced I would not find anyone who could love me with my flaws.  I became an empty shell, going through the motions of life but not really experiencing it.  Then, he came along and like a pitcher of hope, filled me until I was brimming with happiness.  As I said to a dear friend, that is a gift I don't know how to say "thank you" for.  I will make it my goal to show him every day how happy he has made me.

My heart is fulfilled.  I love you like I have loved no other.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Confidence She Wears

My lovely daughter gave me the most cherished comment in my life yesterday.  As we were walking through Fred Meyer, she said "Mom, I love the way you walk."

Astonished, I asked her why.  "You walk with your head held high; chin in the air, your arm swinging.  I love you." she said, almost shyly ("I love you" is used as a compliment in this context, more than as a statement of feeling - similar to "I admire you").

The full impact of her compliment was a burst of happiness through my soul.  It's an amazing thing to hear yourself so highly regarded by someone special in your life.  It brought about some insight that I thought I would share.

I walk with confidence.  It's not something I always feel, but projecting it can convince me that it's true.  Sometimes it's an armor against the world that I feel is judging me.  Other times, I feel it so intensely that it's impossible to contain.

My goal is to trust myself enough that self-confidence becomes a comfortable outfit, rather than one that is tight and restrictive and ill-fitting.  It will be a final step in learning to love myself and to accept love from others.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Eulogy of Time

(this is a poem I wrote in 1989.  A time when I still sketched, sang, and wrote with the abandon of a child-woman)

All this time gone on the wind
but I remember, because I'm with you.
The eulogy to the dying years
is my song forever to you.
As its light grows dim
through the milennia that has gone
remember me and the light will shine
just as the morning dew
which collects upon the petals of time
and binds my heart to you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fire Meets Water

(There are words that manipulate, then there are words that can melt even the iciest heart.)

He said to me
A kiss would be lively

And I said back
I would kiss you with the passion of the sea 
meeting the shore during a hurricane
If I could

Like nine kisses
The ninth being the deepest and most

Earth shattering

I was waving

And I was crashing on your shore

Fire woman who gets me steamy
Like the Hawaiian shore
with the lava flowing into the sea

Or the great divide in the Atlantic fire below
The stuff of legends and awe

Oh my water man
Who bathes me in soothing waves
And stirs me to vapor on the wind
Consumes me and rebuilds my glowing depth
With naught but his bathing kiss.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Manipulated by Words

Hmmm.  This is a hard blog to write, as it exposes a few things about myself that I've packed away in a corner to deal with later.  Perhaps it's time to pull them out and analyze them.

I had a very bad dream last night that shook me....is still shaking me a bit.  I felt such a palpable loss in the dream that I woke crying and in total fear that it had actually happened.  Once I had confirmed that it had not and the person in question was safe, the relief I felt was profound.  It caused me to wonder why the feelings were so strong, and I've wandered a path of insight all morning.

I suppose the biggest issue I have to deal with right now is hearing words (or phrases) that have been used against me in the past and not feeling suspicion that they have a different meaning.  An example - "I just want to spend time with you.  Even if we don't have sex, that's fine....I just want to be with you."  In my experience, that's actually translated to "I really only want you for sex, but you seem to need these words of comfort in order to let me in."  Another example is "I'm attracted to your mind, not your looks."  Translated - "These are the words you need to hear in order for me to manipulate you into believing that I'm a good person, and that you won't discover that I'm using you."  Not once have those words been said to me and backed up with actual meaning.  I've been burned by them time and time again.  Now, I hear them and I'm instantly suspicious.  A part of me still wants to believe the words are true, but the old adage rings true about sticking your hand in the fire - it only take a few burns to make you realize the fire hurts, so you should keep your hands out of it.

I want to understand why people manipulate.  Obviously there is a selfish need that is being satisfied....but at what cost?  You're hurting someone else, but what are you doing to your own psyche?  Does there not come a time when you look in the mirror and see what a monster you've become?  Does there come a time when you can no longer live with the ghosts of the pain you've caused?

I want to believe that in the end, those who manipulate wake up and realize what they've done and change for the better.  Unfortunately, I doubt this is the reality.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dashboard Photoblog: Selma, Oregon

 As the fall weather settles in, our drives become more about seeing the colors than escaping the heat.  Because I wanted to share a bit of my home with someone very special, I give you a trip to one of my childhood neighborhoods - Selma, Oregon.

 At the start of Deer Creek Road, with a gentle rain falling.  Yes, there will be dashboard in most of the pics.  Hence the name "dashboard photoblog."  Taking pictures while driving should only be done by trained professionals :).

 Farther along Deer Creek Road.  The rain has subsided, but the sky is still overcast.

 We pass through slightly dense arid forests on this drive.

 This gate was at the entrance to the Bates 40 Ranch.  I'm unsure if it still functions as a true ranch, but in my childhood they raised large quantities of cattle there.

 And....the Bates 40 Ranch.  The sky cleared, leaving fabulous puffy white clouds.  I love their shadows on the mountains.

 Another gate on the Bates 40.  I love the colors here, very Maxfield Parrish.

 The bridge that leads to my childhood home.  It crosses Deer Creek, which is running extremely low right now.

 On the dirt road to my childhood home.  Sadly, the foliage was too thick to see the house.  I had hoped to snap some pictures.

 The gate that now stands at the driveway to my childhood home.  There had originally been a HUGE piece of driftwood standing to the right, and no gate.  It was much more inviting then.

 A beautiful 4 point buck.  This is as close as I could get as he had jumped a fence, but I was still very close.  I had visions of ending up on "When Animals Attack."

 Turned around and heading back down the dirt road.  The colors are so contrasted - dry and brown and cool and blue.

 Deer Creek, as seen from the bridge posted above.  Very little water running.

 Continuing up the road onto a BLM/Forest Service chipseal road.  It's paved all the way to Williams and I've driven it a few times, but evidence of recent slides made me decide to turn around.  This huge boulder has been here since I was a kid - I can't imagine what it was like when it came down.  To give you an idea of its size, my head hits just under the sharp corner to the right.

 Deer Creek, as seen from the road.  this is my family's super-secret swimming hole, but at this time of year it's hardly a puddle.  Mid-July, it's 7-8 feet deep and super-cold.

 More of the creek.  The water is perfectly clear, but the rocks in it are covered in brownish moss.  The smell and sounds here are amazing.

Coming back down the mountain towards town.  The sun was finally returning.

Driving into the sun made pictures impossible from here out, so my final shot is of Lake Selmac.  The boat rental shack is closed for the season and there were only a handful of people around.

I hope you enjoyed a little corner of my world.  For local friends, the trip is - Redwood Highway to Deer Creek Road (in front of Ray's Market); turn left and follow DCR to end of county line and follow fork to left; travel as far up the mountain as you please or continue to Williams.  Follow DCR back towards Selma, turn left onto Lakeshore Drive and continue to Redwood Highway; return to Grants Pass.  Round trip - about 65 miles, depending how far you go up the mountain.  Please note - the mountain road to Williams is NOT passable during the winter months.  The road is only graded to the county line, and chipseal mountain roads do not provide a stable surface under icy conditions - plus there are no guardrails.  Travel with caution!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Saying Goodbye

Witchy 1996-2011

My dear little furface:

Saying goodbye to you today was the hardest thing I've had to do in a long time.  The last few weeks, I've watched you decline from the beautiful, regal creature you've always been and it has been breaking my heart.  When I had to carry you to your food bowl and stand over you while you ate, I knew your time was short.

We've been together a lot of years, my friend.  You got me through my divorce, a grueling year of college, moving to Grants Pass, two horrible jobs, and the end of a very bad relationship.  During that time, you offered me your love and support through snuggles and purrs, wanting nothing back but a pat on the head or scratch under the chin.  If only we can find such love in life from other people.

When I got you up this morning and placed you in front of your bowl, you looked up at me with a look of sadness that made me realize your time had come.  I knew you would panic in a carrier, so I put your towel in a laundry basket and set you in.  Your normal demeanor would be to glare at me and jump out, but you started purring and laid down.  Your calm acceptance made it all real and I lost my ability to hold it together.  I'm sorry to put you through that at the end of your life.

At the vet, you didn't even struggle.  Your acceptance was so heartbreaking; you knew why you were there.  You laid on that table and purred, looking at me with wide eyes.  I felt the life leave your body, and my grief was so strong I crumpled over you, sobbing.  For 14 years, I've appreciated your love so much, beautiful girl.  I hope your journey into the beyond is beautiful, and  your reward for giving me so much happiness great.  Rest peacefully my love, I hope we will find each other again.  I can't imagine my life without you.



Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Day We Remember Together

I had just finished my return to college.  Literally only a few short weeks before that day.  I was thrust into an already unstable job market after the "guaranteed" job I had lined up while still in school fell through.  I was still in a "honeymoon period" and enjoying not having to go to school or work.

My grandma was still living 2 hours away in Myrtle Point, and called often.  Still, 7 am was an unusual time for her to call, so when the phone woke me that morning I knew something was wrong.  "Turn on your TV." she said, her voice filled with panic.

I only had a 13-inch TV in my room at the time, but the tiny screen conveyed the events clearly.  I honestly thought I was watching a Hollywood stunt or something to that effect.  Grandma had other family to call, so she hung up with me.  I sat in the middle of my bed, huddled up with the covers, watching in a state of shock.

Faith woke up soon after, so I gathered myself and parked her in my bedroom with the TV turned to Nickelodeon.  She ended up spending the day in there, eating her meals on my bed to avoid exposing her to the horror.

I didn't have a laptop at the time, and Facebook/MySpace were not in use yet so I signed in to my blog and whatever messenger client I used at the time.  I spent the day running between the old office (now Faith's new bedroom) and the living room, trying to figure out what was going on.  At first, everyone thought it was a bomb, but once the 2nd plane hit, there was no doubt we were under attack.  Then the Pentagon....it was all so surreal.  By the end of the day, I was still in pajamas, wandering around the house in a state of shock.  I finally explained to Faith what happened, but since she was so young (not yet 6) I don't think she really understood.

It's so strange to look back and realize that all happened 10 years ago.  My memory is faulty at best, yet I still remember everything like it was yesterday.  So many lives were lost, for nothing more than the religious fervor of a few.

I'll leave you with a post from my old blog.  These are my own words, written that day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001
I'm still in shock. Sitting here, going between the tv in the living room and the many many websites I've been reading...it still doesn't seem real. Watching the plane enter Tower 2....it doesn't look real. It looks like a scene from a movie. I guess our minds can't fathom this kind of heinous act. The people in my area are in a bit of a frenzy...a rumor has gone around about the rise in the cost of groceries and gas so the gas stations and grocery stores are overrun.

The very first thing that came to mind this morning when I saw the towers come down was the movie the Fight Club. For those who haven't seen it...it's about a man whose evil side becomes real to him and he creates a terrorist group which ultimately blows up all the major buildings in New York City. *shudder* I kept seeing those final scenes in the movie where the buildings are going down and realizing how much the movie version looks like the real version.

I hate the things these people have done. I hope they realize that even if they get away with what they've done in this life....what awaits after they die will be their justice. I believe in a merciful and just God...and I don't believe He will allow these people His guidance into the afterlife. I hope these thoughts of a horrible eternal afterlife keep them up at night, because I'm sure no confession, no amount of holy water, and no penance will absolve them of the sins they committed today.
Public - 9:32 PM

Sunday, September 4, 2011

It's Good to Get Away

So much good has happened in the last few days.  I've been away from my laptop for most of the last 48 hours, and I have to say it felt good.  Sometimes it's great to unplug, even if I did cheat and read/email from my iPhone.

After a solid month of worry, a small financial windfall came my way and I was able to take Faith school clothes shopping.  Her spree was modest compared to previous years, but she's set for the start of school and a few months until the cold weather comes.

I've been living on a carefully planned budget all summer, so having some padding was a HUGE relief.  We've enjoyed a nice dinner at Olive Garden after school shopping, a trip to the river, and an impromptu road trip along the coast yesterday.

By impromptu, I mean literally the very last minute.  We left Grants Pass at 1:30, arriving in Brookings around 3. Unfortunately, it was totally fogged in and about 52 degrees there, which is not usually a big deal except we were dressed for 90+ degree heat back home, and hadn't brought any extra clothes.  Upon finding our favorite sushi restaurant closed for the holiday weekend (UGH!!  I wanted some escolar sashimi, darn it!), we decided to head north.  In Gold Beach, we found the other sushi restaurant had gone out of business.  It was then that I decided we would go further north to my old hometown, Coos Bay.  Need I mention it was already 4pm by this time, and we still had 80+ miles to drive?

The drive up the coast evoked some strong memories.  It was my first time driving that road since I left Coos Bay in 2000.  I'd only been back to the area twice since; once with grandma to settle some property she owned there, and once for a gymnastics meet with Faith.  Both times, I had driven the I-5 route.  Passing sites like Cape Blanco, Port Orford, Langlois all brought different memories.

It was astonishing to see how little Coos Bay and the areas surrounding it have changed in 11 years.  The Mill Casino is the star attraction of course, and it has grown exponentially, but otherwise the town looks like the day I left it.

We had a fabulous dinner at Benetti's, another memory stimulant.  They have a handmade gnocchi baked in parmesan and mozzarella that whops so much flavor and deliciousness in each bite that it was worth the 350 mile round-trip drive to get it.  When I lived in the area, I spent my birthdays here.  It was a bittersweet meal.

After dinner, we drove out to Sunset Bay state park and watched the sun set over the water.  We had intended to go out to Horsefall Beach to lie on the sand and watch the stars, but with the holiday weekend there were far too many people for it to be enjoyable.  It was probably a good thing, because by now it was 9pm and I was incredibly tired.  I eyed the local motels with Vacancy signs longingly, but I had left my seizure medication at home and we would have had to sleep in our clothes.  There were several friends I could have called that would have put us up as well, but it was not the right time to drop in on someone out of the blue.

After filling up with gas (OUCH), we started across Highway 42 towards home.  The traffic was light, and the road so familiar that I felt I could drive it with my eyes closed.  In Coquille, I pointed out the gloomy plywood factory where I had worked for several years to Faith, and she agreed that it looked grim.  Once back on the dark road, we enjoyed the beauty of a golden crescent moon, hanging low in the southern sky.

I couldn't pass through Myrtle Point faster.  The town holds so many bad memories that I get anxious when it comes into sight.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, aside from a man lying on the side of the freeway in Canyonville.  I almost called 911, but I saw a police car heading that way in my rear view mirror.  I did look at the news to see if there was a report of a dead body, but I imagine he was just someone in the wrong place.

I was happy to see home, probably for the first time in a while.  The day contained too many memories, and being here wiped them clean.  I'm guessing it's true....you can't go home again.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Of Peace and Starlight

(unaltered, from my iphone)

Tonight we took a well-deserved drive out to our super-secret stargazing spot.  While I was weather-watching a storm predicted to come through tomorrow, I saw from the weather website that there would be no moon tonight - perfect for seeing the stars.  With gas being so expensive, we haven't taken the 20+ mile (one way) drive out there all summer.  We've stargazed from other spots, but they all have some degree of light pollution.  Once I decided we would go, I was so happy I could have cried.

Sunset is around 8 pm right now, so we waited anxiously to leave.  We didn't make it out until 8:30 because of the relentless phone, but once we got away from the city lights, we rolled down the windows and enjoyed the warm breeze.

My favorite part of the drive is when we enter the canyon at Hellgate.  There are no streetlights, very few homes, and the road is only lightly traveled at night.  The air starts to smell slightly of the river, a mossy, green smell.  The closer we get to the river, the cooler the air gets.

The next landmark is the Hellgate bridge, where the river switches from the driver side to the passenger side.  The bridge glows eerily under headlights, with indigo twilight in the distance.  I can already see a few stars by this point, and I'm anxious to get to our destination.

Next we pass through Indian Mary campground, which is full on a warm August night.  The glow of the campfires is comforting, as is the sweet, spicy smell of the campfires.  We slow down to enjoy it as long as we can.

Beyond there, we wind through forests and more canyon, the river smell punctuated by roadside blackberries that ripened in the warm sun of daytime.  The river undulates in a beautiful dance with the road....sidling closer until she's nearly touching, then sashaying out of reach.

After miles of one-laned road, we pass over our final landmark....Graves Creek bridge.  A little known road takes us high above the river, until she's barely a glossy ribbon twinkling in the starlight.  Our secret spot slides into view, and we excitedly jump out of the car to claim our spots.  We always sit the same way, Faith facing east, me facing west.  I lie back and allow the peace to wash over me.  It's like a powerful tranquilizer, with peace and quiet and tranquility rolled into one.  The only sounds are made by nature - no engines, no talking, no music.  It's so amazing to realize the world can actually be silent.

We spend at least an hour pointing out stars to each other....laughing at those cheeky enough to flash us, making wishes on the falling stars we're lucky enough to find.  Sometimes we talk about life in a way that we seem to be unable to accomplish otherwise.  Other times we waste far too much time locating skittery noises with our cell phones (who needs flashlights these days?).  On the best nights, we just lie in silence and revel in wonder.

One of my favorite childhood memories is right after I got glasses.  Before my eyesight problem was discovered, the night sky was a blur of black covered in fuzzy white spots (only the brightest stars were visible to my unfocused eyes).  One night, when the sky was really clear and it was super-warm outside, I crept outside with my glasses and laid in the backyard.  We lived far out in the country, so there was no light pollution.  I was so astonished that the stars were actually sharp pinpoints that I spend too much time looking at the sky, and fell asleep.  Thankfully I woke before (a) something could eat me and (b) my mom found me.  I tried lying outside many times after that, but it was never again so wonderful as that night.  Now, as an adult, the closest I come to that joy is the nights we drive to our super-secret spot and share the sky.

Driving home is bittersweet.  I'm so relaxed that I'm sleepy, but still feel euphoric.  I want to stay out all night and absorb the universe, but reality awaits back home.  At least, until I can run away again.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Memories of Dinner

One of the issues I'm working on with my therapist is my perception of food.  When someone says dinner, I think of preparing food.  However, when I hear "meal," I think of special meals, like Thanksgiving or Christmas.  I put too much emphasis on the specialness of the event, rather than the actual food.

Anyway, when asked to think of a happy food memory, I recalled the days in my childhood when I was allowed to have a TV dinner.  Not the plastic tray kind that microwave in a few minutes that we have today; the old foil tray meals of the '70s-'80s that had to be cooked in the oven.  These:

Well, not this exact meal, but the kind that came with an entree, a veggie, a starch (almost always mashed potatoes), and a dessert.  It came in the same cardboard box, but the tray AND the wrapping were foil.  You had to cut the foil around certain pieces so they baked correctly, and then they took 25-40 minutes depending on what kind they were.  My all-time favorite was Salisbury Steak, with mashed potatoes, corn (or green beans, can't remember which), and a brownie.  I was sooooo fascinated by the fact that everything cooked perfectly together!

TV dinners were even more special when I was visiting my grandma, because mealtimes were always at the table with the TV off.  However, for an occasional treat she would bring out the TV trays, and we would eat TV dinners in the living room (while watching TV, of course).  Her house was always spotless, so we had to be super super careful with our meals.  I even got soda when we had TV dinners!  And we usually had a bowl of ice cream after dinner, even though our TV dinners included a dessert.

I kind of miss the specialness of those old dinners.  The quality of the food has certainly improved since then, but with microwave speed and dinners eaten away from the table on a nightly basis, it's just not the same.  Oddly, my mom thought of those dinners as junk food....but compared to a super-sized fast food dinner, the portion-size and quality of the food in TV dinners is actually better for you today!  

Some days, I really do yearn for the "good ol' days".....

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On Being Native

A few of my friends know I have Alaska Native heritage.  I'm not entirely sure of the exact percentage of native blood I have, but it's enough that I'm registered with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and entitled to benefits available to native Americans.  I do not live in an area where native medical services are readily available, so I don't use them....that is the only benefit I would even consider.  I feel I'm not native enough to qualify for anything else.

When my mom passed away in 1998, I inherited her shares in a very large native corporation.  It has created a comfortable cushion for us financially as it pays regular quarterly dividends and occasional large extra dividends. In 2000, it paid a very, VERY large (5 figure) dividend, which enabled me (financially) to finalize my divorce and provide a better lifestyle for Faith and myself.  I also inherited shares in a smaller corporation, but it has yet to pay dividends to its shareholders.

Due to family issues (a blog in and of itself), I was not notified when my grandma (mom's mom) died in 2000.  Not that I was too bothered with this as I didn't really know her, and what I did know was not in her favor.  So, I was surprised to be contacted by another smaller native corporation in 2009 stating that I had inherited a portion of my grandmother's stock.  It would have been my mother's, but since she was deceased the shares passed to me.  I only own 23 shares, but it enables me to benefit from other services offered by the corporation, such as scholarships and business loans.

You can imagine my further shock when I opened the mail today to find yet another corporation contacting me regarding my grandmother's stock shares.  Once I return the paperwork, the shares that were to go to my mother will be mine.  I'm sure it will be another 23 share percentage, but I'll once again gain access to this corporation's other services.

Honestly, the dividends (aside from the large corporation's) don't mean anything to me.  What's most important to me are the scholarships offered by each corporation.  Faith has announced her intention to attend the University of Washington (go Huskies!) after high school, so we'll need as much financial assistance as possible to make it happen.  Merit and academic-based scholarships are becoming increasingly hard to acquire due to overwhelming need, so these privately offered scholarships will be vital.  When I first went to college, I didn't know these corporations would help pay for my tuition.  Had I known, my life might have turned out quite differently.  I'm determined Faith will have the opportunities I didn't.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Life as a House

Isn't she pretty?  She also possesses one of the best views in the Rogue valley.  She was lovingly built in 2008, and then put on the market in hopes that a family would fall in love with her and snap her up.

It never happened.

For well over three years, she's stood empty, slowly losing hope that anyone will finally find her attractive.  It's always been a mystery to me, since the construction is top-quality and all the interior holdings are top-of-the-line.  She has a dream kitchen, fully-finished basement, giant master suite complete with fireplace, huge walk-in closet, luxurious master bath, and a beautiful bonus room over the garage.

With all that....why has she never sold?

I walked around her today, and was dismayed at the completely unfinished, ugly back yard.  Here is what it looks like:

Sad, isn't it?  Even the view isn't worth this tiny triangle.  At the farthest point, it's about 20 feet from the house.  The closest point, maybe 13-15 feet.  TINY.  Plus, being totally unfinished makes it completely undesirable.

Another deterrent is the complete lack of a deck of any kind.  Given the location and spectacular view, there should be huge decks to enjoy it.  There isn't even a patio off the finished basement:

Bleak.  I can see a pergola over the bottom patio doors, and a sweeping deck for entertaining.  If the back yard weren't so tiny.

Researching the property's ownership history tells quite a tale.  It was purchased in 2005 as a bare lot, then the structure was completed towards the end of 2008.  It was placed on the market in 2009 at $849,000.  Unfortunately, this was the when the recession began its terrible upswing, so luxury homes sat on the market unpurchased.  Those that did sell were "total package" homes, meaning the new owners did not have to face challenges such as the unfinished back yard and lack of decking this home has.  In the next year and a half, the sale price dropped OVER $200,000 as the builder became desperate to unload the financial burden.  Sometime in 2011, the bank took over the home.  Given that information, I imagine the state of the back yard may be due to lack of funds to finish it.  Unfortunately, it caused a vicious cycle for the builder - he saw the house as complete, but the potential buyers saw it otherwise.  Perhaps if he had finished the back of the house, it would have sold while he still had possession.

There is some hope for the house.  The lot to the south is vacant:

If a potential buyer could combine the lots, they could have a stellar estate.  I personally would level the lower lot with the upper lot, put in a nice multi-level deck system, pool (vanishing edge!), and landscaping.  Add some nice privacy fencing, and turn the hum-drum backyard into a lush, outdoor oasis!

I really hope this beautiful house finally gets some owners that complete her and love her.  It's truly a shame that she's been empty so long.

Click the address under the first picture to go to the real estate page for more info and pictures, if you're so inclined.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Turning the Darkness Inside Out

I've spoken about my struggles with anxiety and depression quite often....first on my original blog, then on Facebook, and now here.  I have pretty severe anxiety issues, for those of you who don't know me.  I've struggled off and on with depression, which came to a head and exploded in 1997 when I attempted (and nearly succeeded) suicide.  My release from the hospital's psych ward was only approved when  I agreed to a year of intense therapy.  After the year was over, I had faced most of the issues and was well enough to be off meds.

Around 2005, the anxiety became so out of hand that I went back on meds - at the time, Effexor XR.  Once I started dealing with other serious medical issues, it was found that the Effexor was interfering with the seizure meds I was taking, so I was moved to Pristiq.  Pristiq is a fairly new med, which translates to ridiculously expensive.  Thankfully, my doctor at the time gave me samples every month since I had lost my insurance coverage.  The new laws regarding drug rep samples caused my doctor's stockpile of Pristiq to end, and I wound up on Lexapro.

In the last few months, I've begun having more and more anxiety attacks, despite the meds.  I also changed doctors (to a clinic that would accommodate my lack of insurance), and while he was willing to continue my prescription, he leaned heavily on getting me back into counseling.

Since 1998 (when the year was up after my suicide attempt), I had only been back to counseling once.  It was in 2005 when I went back on meds, through my employer's EAP (Employee Assistance Program).  My personality clashed with the counselor's, and I ended the sessions after two visits because I just couldn't relate to her.  Needless to say, the thought of counseling had about as much appeal as pulling my toenails off one-by-one.

I broke down and agree though, hoping I could finally get a handle on this issue once and for all.  Today was my first session, and I'm really encouraged.  I really like my therapist, and we went through an astonishing amount of issues in one 1-hour session.  I'll be going back once a week indefinitely for the time being.

I'm hoping this really puts my life on an upswing.  Honestly I don't see that it has anywhere to go but up at this point!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

There But For the Grace of God Go I....

I had a horrible headache.  My body had decided the middle of Safeway would be a fabulous place to have a hot flash.  I had to go to the bathroom.  All these factors resulted in getting the barest of necessities and finding a place at the checkout as fast as I could.

She was in her 60s, I think.  She was clean and nicely dressed, but her anxiety over the register's total as each item scanned caught my attention.  Since I didn't want to be rude, I directed my attention to repairing my makeup, which was sliding down my face thanks to the personal sauna my body had created.  As the wait grew longer, I tuned into what was happening.  I watched as she handed item after item to the cashier to be removed from her bill.  I admit by this point I was feeling annoyed, but I softened when she turned to me and said "I'm sorry."  She had dark glasses covering her eyes, but I could see she was humiliated.  I assured her it was okay, and turned my attention away again to allow her some privacy.  Although I tried not to notice, I watched her hand eggs, milk, and bread back.  I was near tears - she had to be someone's grandma, why was she in such a bad situation?

Then I realized....she was trying to find enough room in her budget for a pack of cigarettes.  Normally, I am very against smoking, but it came to me that perhaps her pack of Parliaments were the only thing that took her mind off the awful circumstances she was in.

As she began to hand another item back, I reached into my purse and dug out a handful of change (of which I have far too much of).  I handed the cashier the amount she needed in order to stop her from handing the item back.  The lady tried to tell me no, but I shook my purse for her to show her how heavy the change was and told her she was lightening my load a bit.  Had I dug into my wallet and handed bills to the cashier, I instinctively knew the lady would have refused it....but since it was change and I had proven I had a lot of it, she thanked me and allowed me to help.  It was not a large amount by any means....but I hope it meant she was able to eat a little better tonight.  She walked out of the store with tears in her eyes, and the cashier patted my arm and thanked me for helping.  I told her I just couldn't stand by and watch her put one more thing back, even though she was doing it for cigarettes.  We all need comfort of some kind in our lives.

Looking back, I wish I had asked the cashier to put all her items back in her cart and paid for them - it would have been maybe $15 and I could spare that much.  I don't know if the lady would have let me or not, but the food items were essential staples and I would feel better about myself if she had gotten them.

The thought of this sweet lady going without food in order to support her cigarette habit is heartbreaking....but it was even more heartbreaking to think of her going without.  Had she been a young person or been rude, I wouldn't have helped....but I just couldn't turn away from her.  I think I'll be haunted by this situation for a long time.  As I said in the title, "there but for the grace of God go I."

If you're reading this, pay it forward.  That's the only return I would like to see - a few random acts of kindness towards those whose circumstances are not clear, but are obviously in need of a little help.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What Makes You Sleep?

If you've known me for any length of time, you know that I struggle with insomnia.  I've gone through the gamut of sleep aids (Lunesta, Ambien, Melatonin, etc.), but they either didn't work or they worked so well that I was zombie-ish for hours the next day.  After several years of "trialing," my doctor finally put me on Trazodone and it works wonders - at the right dose.  50 mg is not enough, but 100 mg is just right.  It has some side effects, but they are worth enduring to get a decent night's sleep.  I have stopped taking them a few times, and have not experienced any of the withdrawal symptoms other people have reported.  All-in-all, it's been my wonder pill to getting some sleep.  Not to say that I don't have a night or two of insomnia still, but compared to what my sleep was like before, it's 1,000x better!

I have established a ritual for bedtimes that helps as well.  I take the Trazodone, then head into the bathroom to wash up (my cleaning and moisturizing ritual for my face takes a good 20-30 minutes).  After changing into my jammies (I refuse to sleep in anything other than knee-length cotton sleepshirts), I settle into bed.  During the summer, I turn the fan on low.  Since I have a Sleep Number bed, I soften it until it my back is relaxed - it's not the type that displays the numbers, but it's fairly squishy.  It doesn't sound like it, but it truly helps keep my back in the right position to avoid waking stiff and sore (I have back problems at L4-L5 due to a car accidents and a few other traumas to that area).  I read a book on my iPhone (to avoid having to have a light on) until my eyes just won't stay open.  It works wonders.

I also listen to background music while reading.  My new iPhone 4 allows me to have more than one app open at a time, so I can run my eReader and ambient noise app concurrently.  I love Ambiance, but there is an app that absolutely blows it out of the water called NatureSpace.  NatureSpace is a true 3D sound environment.  The included tracks are so amazing.....Infinite Shoreline (ocean) literally sounds like the waves are moving from one ear to the other.  Night at Lake Unknown has amazing night sounds. The app is free, I highly suggest just giving it a try.  I was reluctant to buy the in-app sounds, but once I did I was so impressed. The only downside is that there isn't a sample of the sound, but I've never been disappointed in a purchase.  Right now, my go-to track for falling asleep is Helios Falling - it's like sitting in nature while night falls.  I also love Liquid Phase - it's very close to the sound of the waves at our favorite hotel on the beach - the Brookings Beachfront Inn.  The app has a sleep timer, which I set for 1 hour.  I've never, ever made it to the end of the hour without falling asleep.  

Ambiance has a huge library of free sounds, which you can mix to make custom tracks - although not 3D.  If that's your preference, I would suggest Ambiance.  If you want a terrific, perfectly 3D environment, NatureSpace is the perfect app.  While the catalog is not nearly as large, the sounds are perfectly produced, and the loops nearly undetectable.  They are great for blocking out noise, or allowing your mind to fall into a relaxed state.  I even like the thunder tracks!  Be sure to read the FAQ about earbuds vs earphones so you get the best experience.  BTW, I use $20 earbuds and the sound is still utterly fantastic.

Whatever Happened to....?

I'm thinking of making this a regular feature as my interest in blogging regularly has totally disappeared.  I'm really trying to keep going, but it's a struggle.

So, today I'm asking whatever happened to....the family pharmacy?  This may date me a little quite a lot, but today's "corporate" pharmacy is too sterile; too impersonal.

When I was a kid (and dinosaurs roamed the earth....), the pharmacy was often referred to as the "corner drugstore."  I can remember there only being a small few in town - Rite Aid (called Payless Drugs then, with two locations), Service Drug, McLain's, and Grants Pass Pharmacy.  Rite Aid was the "big box" store, and was our first introduction to the superstore-type drugstore.  In addition to the pharmacy, you could buy feminine products, makeup, cleaning supplies, shoes (this was the early evolution of Payless shoes), and small electronics.  The other pharmacies had just medical supplies and gifts.  I don't think any of them even had a drive-thru, but most did have a delivery system.  I think Service Drugs still does.  In fact, up until the early 90's, there were still drugstores that would "run a tab" for you.  Imagine that today!

Going to the pharmacy was a treat.  I loved the people behind the high counter in their white coats, counting multi-colored pills and counseling patients on everything from heart disease to athlete's foot.  You could ask them anything and they would answer honestly without having to worry about stepping on a doctor's toes or losing their license.  They knew your name and all your family's information off the top of their heads.  I thought they had such great jobs.

Over the years, we've seen the evolution of the mega-super chain drugstore and the integrated "pharmacy in a grocery store."  The corner drugstore began slowly being bought out by big chain suppliers (CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, etc.), leaving very few independent pharmacies.  Increased demand for medications and policies of the big box stores has turned pharmacy into a business, not a service.  Pharmacists no longer have time to offer much advice on problems.  Prices have sky-rocketed with demand.  Insurance has become so complicated that filling prescriptions can take days upon days to wade through the red tape.  All of these things have made being a customer harder to bear as well.  I read a lot of pharmacy-related blogs, and can see both sides suffering from this change.

While the independent pharmacy does still exist, they are being edged out by convenience and price cutting.  The only saving grace (it seems) for the independent is custom-compounding.  It's rarely offered at the corporate-owned stores (too time-consuming for their interest), so the independent can meet their margin with compounding.

It would be so wonderful to see the small pharmacy make a comeback, but unfortunately with a tanking economy and high demand for fast, cheap prescriptions....it doesn't seem likely.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Memory Lane Has Become a 4-Lane Freeway

I know, it's been a really long time since I last promised part 2 of the summer memoirs.  Sadly, it will still be delayed a while as I've been.....distracted with other memories.

It's Facebook's fault.  Honestly, when I first signed up for Facebook, I had no idea it would be the ticket to finding (and being found by) friends from my past.  At first, I just touched base with local friends.....but as time wore on (and MySpace's popularity died), more people started popping up.  Groups were created for high schools and middle schools I'd attended, bringing more names to the forefront.  Alumni groups brought in an even tighter circle of friends.

It's really hard to find where I fit in the alumni groups.  I graduated from Hidden Valley High School in Grants Pass, Oregon (where I live now), but I only attended the school my senior year, so I never felt like I fit in.  I met a few people and made friends, but as far as being close to them - well, not so much.  My junior year I attended Newport High School in Bellevue, Washington, but I hardly knew anyone there and was miserable at that school, so I don't even really acknowledge it in my memories.  Sammamish High School (also in Bellevue) is where I feel most connected, having attended my freshman and sophomore year (plus attending middle school for 8th grade with a lot of the students at Sammamish).  However, since I didn't graduate from the school, I really don't fit in the alumni group, right?  I really wanted to attend the 20th year reunion this last weekend,  but I had scheduling conflicts and grandma is just too unstable to leave on her own.  I've been looking at pictures and hearing stories on the Alumni Facebook page, and it's bittersweet.  How different things might have been had I been able to stay at Sammamish and graduate....but it was impossible.  We were forever moving (I went to 13 schools in 12 years), and my junior year we moved out of the school district.

I really envy those of you who have memories of growing up with the same people all through your school years.  It was the impetus behind staying in this town to allow Faith to have that opportunity herself....she's gone to the same schools with the same kids since Kindergarten.  I think it makes a huge difference in building character, not having to be "the new kid" all the time.

So.....forgive me if part 2 of the memoirs are a little late....I'm soaking in a different era of nostalgia right now :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Summer of a Lifetime - Part 2 coming soon....

I'm sorry y'all....my schedule has gotten crazy with the end of school (and my daughter's graduation from 8th grade).  I have part 2 half-written, but I haven't been able to sit down to finish the rest!  I promise it's coming soon :).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Soap and Restless Legs

We'll return to the summer chronicles soon, but I had to post this.

The last few nights, I've suffered horribly from Restless Legs.  I've always had a problem with it, but the "regular" medication (Requip) for it is super-expensive, so I've taken a different method to solve it.  Due to unforeseen issues, that different method won't be available again until Thursday, so I've been a twitchy, kicky, unhappy sleeper.

Four nights of unsatisfying sleep has made me a total grouch, so I knew I had to get a decent night's sleep soon.  When I laid down to drift off last night, the twitching started and I ended up flinging myself out of bed after 1/2 an hour.  I would rather stay up all night than toss and turn while kicking and twitching my legs!  Frustrated, I fired up the internet and began searching for home remedies for RLS.  Interestingly enough, pretty much every site I visited recommended putting a (dry) bar of soap under your bottom sheet.  Say wha....?  I was desperate for sleep, so I grabbed a new bar of soap (Bath and Body Works vanilla, from a motel stay.  What, you don't take the soap too?  Well this was GOOD soap!) and slid it under my fitted sheet.  Whenever I felt twitchy, I rubbed my foot over the soap and the twitches stopped.  In fact, I fell asleep around 12:30 and slept until 7 - a record for me!

There's no scientific explanation for why it works.  Some sites state that it must be a deodorant soap, and Ivory apparently doesn't work.  I don't care either way, I'm just so relieved I had a non-twitchy night!

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Summer of a Lifetime

Note:  this is the first installment of many reminiscing of my summer working at Glacier National Park.

(taken on a return trip in 2002)

The summer I turned 18, I was at a loss as to what to do with my time. When the spring term of college neared its end, I contemplated taking summer classes but with the limited offerings I would have far too much time on my hands. The local part-time job offerings were bland and dry – I could either work in food service or temp in an office. Unable to find a solution on my own, I ended up in the college counselor's office to see what she suggested. While waiting to see her, I perused the job board to see what was available. Amongst the flyers for McDonalds and Walmart, a beautiful poster of a snow-capped mountains, lush greenery, and a deep turquoise lake caught my eye. “SPEND YOUR SUMMER WORKING IN SPLENDOR” was the slogan, or something like that. After a disappointing meeting with the career counselor, I sent back the little postcard that was on the poster, unsure if I would get a response since I was cutting the hiring deadline super-close. Much to my surprise, I received a job offer, although it was in the warehouse. I happily accepted and counted the days until I was scheduled to arrive in mid-May.

(just a note here - this was in a time when the internet was not used as widely as it is now, so all communications were done by *gasp* snail mail.  The concept seems archaic and odd even to me, especially when a visit to GPI's hiring website shows all applications are done online now.  Ah, the good ol' days!)

When the day I was to leave finally came, I packed my gold '86 Honda Civic with a few suitcases and dorm room necessities and said goodbye to my grandma.  I had never been on my own before, and certainly never driven long-distance alone either. I was one of the few employees arriving in my own car (most employees arrive by plane, train, or bus), and I had planned my trip carefully. The morning I pulled out of my grandma's driveway in Myrtle Point, Oregon, I felt the bonds of youth fall away and the open road stretched before me. That day, I drove roughly 450 miles to Tri-Cities, Washington. I rented my very first hotel room at a Super 8, and explored Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick. They did not exactly make an urban paradise, but to me they were heavenly. Once I ate dinner and returned to my room, I was a bit apprehensive but still excited to be on my own for a change.

Since my trip the next day was fairly short, I left Tri-Cities around 11 and drove to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho (about 180 miles, give or take). There, I stayed with a distant great-aunt who turned out to be a horrible gossip and talked my leg off. Coeur d'Alene was another beautiful city, but I was in such a hurry to escape dear auntie that I didn't get a chance to explore.

My third day took me from Coeur d'Alene to Kalispell, Montana (just over 200 miles). Once I crossed over into Montana, the rugged beauty of the state became apparent. The temperature was much cooler, although I still drove with the window down because the air was so fresh and clean-smelling. I was surprised and then saddened when I saw my first roadside white cross, then the sign that explained their significance. It was especially sobering to pass multiple crosses at one location and realize many people had died there as a result of an auto accident. By the time I neared Kalispell, I was road-weary and a bit melancholy. My mood immediately improved when I crested a hill and the full glory of the Rockies came into view. The just-setting sun set them on fire, whitening the snowy caps to dazzling pools of white and casting purple and blue shadows on the land surrounding them. I had seen them before, but not in Montana and certainly not so close. I drove the remaining miles with their beauty framed in my windshield, enthralled with the scenery.

Now comfortable with renting hotel rooms, I set up camp again at the Super 8 in Kalispell.  I had given my schedule some padding in case an emergency arose, so I would be there two nights.  I was surprised to see Kalispell was about the size of my childhood hometown (and current - Grants Pass, Oregon).  There were two malls, one upscale and one strip-mall type.  The smaller town of Whitefish was only a few miles away, and reminded me of the classy, artsy town of Ashland, Oregon.  I cruised around, browsed the malls, explored the restaurants I could find.  Too soon, the two days were up and I was on my way into the park.

I left Kalispell early that morning.  While mid-May is warm in the Pacific Northwest, in Montana it felt a bit like winter.  I had gone from shorts and t-shirts to jeans and long-sleeves, and I drove with the heater on in the car.  I remember leaving the town of Columbia Falls (the last real town before the park) and the change of scenery was breathtaking.  Kalispell had been a moderately-sized town in a large prairie that had spectacular views of the mountains.  Columbia Falls butted up almost directly to the same mountains, and was thick with timber.  A few dozen miles more and I was winding up and down small hills, and the signs of civilization became fewer and fewer until they were nearly non-existent.  

Lake McDonald is the western entrance to Glacier National Park.  I passed by the entrance signs and the nerves began.  This was such a huge, new experience for me, and I wouldn't know a soul!  As my nerves became more jagged, the scenery grew more lush and wild.  I passed a beautiful area called the "Goat Lick," which was literally a sheer cliff wall with mountain goats climbing it like it was a grassy knoll.  I wanted to stop, but I had to be at the HR office at a certain time, so I couldn't.  I passed the Snowslip Inn and Summit Station, which looked promising for nights of fun.  Finally, I broke out of the mountains and back into prairie land, only miles from East Glacier (the tiny town the main lodge, Glacier Park Lodge, resides in and where all new hires begin their employment).  I stopped in the town for a few minutes, amazed at how much my life had changed in the last few days.  I had gone from a fairly rural coastal town to a totally rural mountain town.  I was away from my family and friends for the first time ever.  I was starting a new adventure at 18!  The town of East Glacier is nothing more than a few houses, a school that primarily teaches Blackfoot children, a gas station/convenience store, and two restaurants.  That's pretty much it.  In fact, the population is sparse in the winters, and goes up substantially during park employment.  

Knowing I needed to get to HR, I continued on.  The road to the main lodge passes under the Amtrak rails, revealing a HUGE manicured lawn that leads to an enormous log building.   In front of the lodge (not pictured above, darn it) is a huge teepee.  Oh, I have tales about happenings in there....but we'll save that for later!  With some guidance, I found my way to the HR office.

I was there a good 2 or 3 hours before I was finalized as an employee and given my dorm room assignment.  While not mandatory, it is recommended that employees live on-site in the dorms.  At the time, I believe $7 per day was taken from our pay....in return, we received a shared room (with 2-3 roommates depending on the room), access to a community bathroom with showers, and three meals a day.  The dorms were old and spartan, but it was an adventure so I didn't care.  I was placed in a 3-person room, and since I was first there I was able to claim the single bed rather than one of the bunks.  I was given the rest of the day to settle in, so I put my things away, spread my bed with my comforter set and pillows, and hung pictures on the walls.  I even created a curtain-partition around my bed so I could have some privacy....made out of the provided white sheets since I had brought my own pretty, decorated sheets.  

Once settled in, I met the few other girls already in residence.  We were from all corners of the nation, and thankfully got along immediately.  A few girls were already sharing quarters, but for now I was on my own.  Next I met some of the guys in residence, also from all over the nation.  I immediately made friends with a nice guy from Florida who worked in Reservations, and we hung out at dinner that night.  The food they served us was not awful, but it wasn't great either.  We quickly learned to squirrel away individual cereal boxes, snack bars, crackers, and other treats we bought with our meager wages to avoid some of the more bland meals.  Perhaps if I didn't have such a sensitive palate, I wouldn't have minded the food so much!  

There wasn't a structured schedule at Glacier aside from working hours, usually 8-5 for most of us.  The dorms had no TVs, and while there was entertainment in the lodge specifically for employees, we found other ways to occupy our time.  When warm enough, we could swim in the pool, or sit on the veranda facing the east side of the Rockies.  We were allowed to sit in the main lobby (pictured above) where we could listen to live music or hear a talk from one of the locals....but once the guests started arriving, it wasn't as fun.   

Of course, the natural way for young adults to pass the time was partying - and we partied HARD.  My first night, there was a big bonfire by the creek a ways away from the lodge and dorms.  I boldly bought my first underage pint of liquor (Jack Daniels, no less) and joined the party.  Being extremely young and only a little experienced, I drank far too much.  I don't remember much about the evening (aside from developing a HUGE crush on a chef, whose name I can't recall), but I do remember being half-carried up to the dorms by the dorm mom and another friend.  We had to pass over a cattle grate (Montana - home of the free-range cattle), which my drunken mind couldn't seem to negotiate.  At one point, I fell and took both my helpers with me.  Ahhh....good times :).  Thankfully, they got me back to my room and while I would like to say I learned a lesson, that evening was the catalyst for the summer's partying.

The first workday was not a fun one for me.  I had worked in restaurants many times, but my weeks as a pricing clerk in the warehouse was awful.  It was dirty, I didn't really get along with the others, and I fell off one of the loading docks one day while trying to negotiate moving a large box.  Not long after I started, I was offered a job in the accounting office, which I took immediately.  It was tedious, but MILES better than working in the warehouse!  

Once the lodges began their process for opening, new employees began arriving in droves.  As I said before, East Glacier is where every employee starts their journey at Glacier, so we saw pretty much all of them come through.  They stayed in our dorms where there was room until they were ready to move on to their locations. I went through several temporary roommates until I finally got my two permanents.  You can't imagine two such opposites!  One was from Kansas, she was quiet and shy and VERY prim and proper.  I can't remember exactly where she worked, but it was a desk job of sorts.  We later found she was a Hutterite, which explained her demeanor.  The other was from Florida, and was a total hellion.  She was a waitress at the Goat Lick restaurant (the fine dining room, now called the Great Northern dining room....guess the Goat Lick was too trivial), and was forever partying so hard that she would miss shifts at work because we couldn't wake her up!  I woke up several times to strange men sleeping in our room (a huge no-no that will get you fired immediately if you get caught) and with her passed out.  She was fun when you weren't trying to wake her up.

Now that our dorm was full of mostly permanent residents, I made friends easily, and started falling into a routine.  Work 8-5, then play as hard as I could until I had to sleep.  Having a car made me extremely popular, so I found myself included in hiking trips and other adventures.  I finally ventured out to places like the Snowslip and the Summit Station, where our age didn't seem to matter and drinks flowed freely.  In fact, I don't think I was ever carded or denied a drink the entire time I was there.  I even dared to venture onto the Blackfoot reservation on a day off....during orientation, all employees are cautioned to stay off the res, but I threw caution to the wind and enjoyed the little town of Browning.  

My routine was about to become anything but with the arrival of a new employee.  

Stay tuned for part 2!