Friday, October 21, 2016

Dealing with Grief

After a text conversation in the middle of the night last night, I got to thinking about grieving. One thing that is for sure with grief is that you never get over losing your parent or your child or your spouse. It's supposed to get better over with time, but after having my mom in my life for 48 years, I am still in deep mourning for her and I still reach for the phone to call her. She was my moral compass in life and I am sure I have made many mistakes since her passing in 2013. I know that my grief is getting worse and not better. It happens in the car. I'll hear a song that reminds me of her and burst into tears. I have to drive by the cemetery twice a week, but I have not been able to force myself to go in. It's too much like acknowledging she's gone and, frankly, I don't think she'd want me standing at her grave sobbing (which has also happened) instead of living my life.

I was doing a lot of thinking last night about grief when I couldn't get back to sleep after that text came in. Most people have enough family to get the support they need when someone dies. But I come from a very small family. It was me, my brother, my dad, and my mom. When my mom died, it felt like someone had ripped out my heart. Three and a half years later, it still feels like someone ripped out my heart.

As a support system shrinks, life becomes less worth living and depression and grief set in again. As grief takes over, I have been less available to be a support for others, making my support system shrink even more.  The more people in your immediate circle that pass away, the less you feel like making an effort and life becomes about what you've lost and loneliness. You either learn to cope with your loss or you self-medicate. If you have a traumatic event, say a car accident where you break your back and it takes years to heal, you lose your physical independence and your ability to take care of yourself financially. Eventually, your family can't even stand to be around you.

Being unable to pick up and make changes to your life, to start over, seems to lead to an inability to work through your grief as you continue with the same life you had, but you are still missing a huge part of your heart.. The ability to make a move in a positive direction would most likely bring a new life and new supports. Staying in one place because of the financial and family commitments you have made becomes like being a tree. You can't just pick up roots and get away from the place you feel the most pain. I still live in the same house as when my mom passed away and I hate it because she visited me here many times. If we could just sell the house and move, I might feel like it was easier to move on. Unfortunately, I don't have that ability. I'm waiting on kids who are almost grown up to move on with their lives and support themselves and then I will be able to make a decision about what I want to do with my husband for the last part of our own lives.

I have been living in a deep depression and horrific mourning for my mother that I feel every single day. I am reminded of her everywhere I turn, as her quilts are on my walls, her picture on my walls, special gifts scattered around the house.

We are coming up on the holidays again. I used to love the holidays. Now it feels like just one more thing I have to suffer through and get to the other side so that I can regain some semblance of "normalcy." My new normal, as my mom used to say when she found out she was terminal.

My mom left knowing I love her more than life itself and that I would never get over missing her. I know it has to be even harder on my father, as he lost everything when he lost her. They were married for 50 years and every year when their anniversary comes around, I don't know whether to say anything or leave it alone. This year would have been 54 years. My dad lost the love of his life, someone he counted on and who was the only partner he would ever be able to love. In a way, we share the grief, because I feel the same way, even though she was my mother. There is a mom sized hole inside me and nothing will make it better.

People keep telling me that it gets easier over time. How much time does it take to get used to not having a mother? I don't have that answer.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Book Worth $479 (Really???)

So you know how you google your name (don't judge me!) just to see what comes up? On the first page, I found lots of things to embarrass my children with in later years. On the second page, I found THIS:

In case you can't read that, you too can have my little paperback book for only $479 through Mercado Libre. First of all, who the fuck is Mercado Libre and why are they selling my book for $479???

So I went back a little toward sanity, stopped reading my listings under my Googled name and just tried to send you to the appropriate site. That's when I found THIS:

Who is C. Michael Newton and why is he selling my book for $64.04 and $80.33?

I used to think the internet was my friend, but you know what they say? No, I don't know what they say either, but apparently it can be used for good or harm.

If you'd actually like to buy my book and have the proceeds go to St. Baldrick's Foundation to aid the cure for childhood leukemia, here's the correct link: Real Book. I promise you that the $11.99 version is just as good (read exactly the same) and some of your money will really go to charity. I can also promise you that buying it for $479 or anything above $11.99 gets you the same book for a lot more money and none of it goes to charity.

I want to know who these people are and whether they've actually sold any books for those amounts because if they did (a) I want my money and (b) I really want my money. There's a lawsuit here, I think.

Buy the book. But for $11.99. Even though I'm flattered they think someone would actually spend those amounts for my little paperback book.

I've sold a few. I'd like to sell more. I'd like to sell them for $479. I'd like to know who C. Michael Newton is and why he is reselling my book at 10 times the cost. There are a lot of things I'd like to know.

The internet can be a strange and wonderful place or a strange and dangerous place or a strange and weird place where people steal things that aren't theirs. I guess you have to decide who to trust and where to go on the internet. It's like high school, but with people who want a lot more than your lunch money and try to shove your book into a locker.

I'm at a loss.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Gone to the Beach, Automatically Depression-Less?

Sunrise, Topsail Island, North Carolina

So yes, we are on vacation at the beautiful beach. We took Joey out of school for the first three days of his senior year, hoping there wouldn't be a lot of people here, but that somehow backfired, as the beach is as crowded as I've ever seen it. That's not saying much though, because the island is not built up with a lot of condos and hotels, so it's all people that have rented houses and there aren't a ton of houses where we vacation every year.

It's why we keep coming back and plan to move here.

I mentioned in my last post that I was in a car accident about a year ago. It was a horrific accident in which I lacerated my spleen and my L-1 vertebra exploded, leaving nothing but shrapnel where that part of my spine should have been. I don't remember a lot about it, except that it was a one car accident that was caused by a moment's distraction. Luckily, no one else was in the road and therefore no one else was hurt. Because if I had hurt someone else, I doubt I could have lived with it.

When I woke up from the back surgery, I had the attitude and mood of Oh. My. God. I survived! I'm not paralyzed! I am going to kick this injury in the balls and appreciate every single day I live from that day until my last day (as they say on Game of Thrones)! Of course, with the pain of recovery, that fantastic, happy to be alive, kick ass mood didn't last. I'm still working on recovery, which has been made difficult because my fibromyalgia tends to complicate matters. But I'm walking and not in a wheelchair and I slid between two big trees, so I'm not dead because I didn't slam into one of them. I actually felt my mother's presence in the car with me, protecting me from being taken before I was ready to go. I'll always be grateful for that feeling of her being there and watching out for me, whether it was real or only something going through my head as my car was jumping medians and curbs and sliding down an embankment.

So, we are now on our yearly vacation to Topsail Island, NC and have a beachfront house which is absolutely beautiful. My dad and brother flew in from California to spend the week with us and everyone came except my oldest son, who wants to visit California and couldn't get a second week off to come to the beach. I miss him.

We have done a little house hunting, which has been a lot of fun and we are getting an idea of where we might want to move or build a house down here in about three years. I've enjoyed that immensely.

But the depression has been hanging over me for several months. It didn't go away when the beach week came. It hasn't gone away because I really can't go out on the beach when I want to. I didn't plan the tides right, so low tide is during 90 degree blazing sun and I can't get overheated with the medications I am still on. Overdosing because I was too stubborn to stay inside is not my idea of a good vacation, so I am behaving and staying indoors except at dawn (see above picture) and at dusk, which I get eaten alive by sand fleas. I've only found a few small pieces of sea glass and I'm upset, mad, depressed that I can't go out there and walk the beach. It's really the only exercise I find entertaining. I've been walking on my treadmill at home and doing pretty well, but it's just not the same as beachcombing.

I know depression lies. I know the voices in my head that tell me this was a horrible idea and that my family is having an awful time are lying. I know that this horrific sadness I feel over my mother being gone will pass for awhile. It will all pass. But in the meantime. I'm angry that I'm depressed. I shouldn't be depressed on vacation - not. fair.

Tomorrow should be better, as my son and his beautiful girlfriend are taking me out for a late birthday lunch and shopping for a t-shirt. We will be going to dinner with one of Justin's old friends from high school who lives down here tomorrow night. I don't have time to be depressed tomorrow.

I don't know about you guys, but I feel as if I am so inconsequential right now. I feel like an irritant to my family because I can't stop talking - something I've always had a problem with. I plug in the headphones to keep from interrupting. A habit I just can't seem to break and one that really bothers everyone who is trying to have a conversation around me. So it bothers me and contributes to that feeling of uselessness and self hatred that I know I shouldn't be feeling.

How can I be on a beautiful vacation and be depressed? Sad? Missing my mother like crazy? Crying too much, so it bothers Justin enough to tell me to stop? I want to go out and stroll on the beach alone and think everything through that I'm feeling, but it's too damned hot - how could I pick the hottest August in years for our beach vacation? What's wrong with me? I feel like I should have known, but how could I have known? Depression is a lying bitch.

I know it will get better. I know I'll go home to my animals and my routine and I start pool therapy on Monday, so that should help with my flexibility and pain levels. I did the whole regular physical therapy, but it was over before my body had completely recovered and if I face it, I probably won't ever completely recover. I have eight screws and two rods in my back and a ten inch scar that won't ever go away. And mentally, I still run through the accident and being in the hospital over and over in my mind, where the dilaudid they gave me for pain made me a different person and I hallucinated very strange things while I was outside the ICU nurses' station. I hope to never have dilaudid again because it makes my brain do very strange thing and I made up soap operas that never happened while I was on it. It's good to know which medications you really shouldn't take.

So I know I will regret this depression, because I can't even run to the beach to get away from it for a week. It's like that cloud on the commercial, where the depression follows the person around like a black cloud and then they try to get you to ask for dangerous mood stabilizing drugs. I know this depression is situational and will get better, but I'm so far down the rabbit hole right now, that I can hear the sad and awful feelings laughing at the idea that it will go away.

It's a beautiful beach. It's a beautiful place to think about living. Thank God Justin is here to provide me with some perspective, but I know my moods and my craziness get him to the point where he feels kind of stabby and then I feel depressed because of that.

We have a 6-7 hour drive home on Saturday and I spent most of the ride down asleep. I have to lay the seat back and lie on a pillow to keep the pain low enough to tolerate the ride. But I will be glad to be home and get back into my normal routine. I miss my comfortable bed and my animals. This seems to happen every year where by the end of the week, I am very ready to go home. In a few years, this will be home, but I will be able to walk the beach in cooler weather and live close enough to it that my back doesn't flip out from the drive.

Hope you all are having a good week.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Pink Dress Moment in 2012

Hey guys,

It's been a long time since I took to writing on my blog and I have spent the last three+ years kind of wandering around in a fog, wondering what to do with my life. About a year ago, I got into a really bad car accident and broke my back, but I'll write about that another day, if I can keep the momentum of this writing thing going.

You'll have to bear with me, as it's been so long since I did a post that I keep forgetting to save my work before exiting to retrieve something I want to use and this might be fairly jumbled.

Today, I wanted to write about hope and what I tried to do for my best friend during her ferocious fight with terminal breast cancer. If you read Jenny Lawson's blog (The Bloggess), you might remember the Traveling Red Dress Project. It was a way to drag yourself out of whatever mental illness you might be fighting at the time and feel beautiful for a day. Or empower yourself if you were feeling particularly unempowered. Or help with horrifying anxiety that makes you want to hide under your desk at home because your mind has convinced you that under your desk is the only place you feel somewhat safe You can read about that in my post here: Our Red Dress Moment.

The day before the shoot, I went to a local bridal store to try on dresses and send photos to Malea, since she was unable to come out and try them on for herself due to being sick as a dog. She and her mother planned on coming out the next day and picking one of a few dresses that I had brought along and we would have a wonderful shoot that for just one day would make her (hopefully) forget about the cancer and once again celebrate what a wonderful friendship we had. Malea is the only woman who I ever was as close to as a a sister. I wanted to have one more of those moments of feeling that close.

The evening before the shoot, I got a call from her saying that she had been taken to the hospital by ambulance because she couldn't breathe. There would be no photo shoot. No sister moment. No feeling beautiful for a day. We had even set up my hairdresser to do makeup and my hair (she was without hair at that point, but we hoped to find a pretty headband or something to complement her beautiful baldness). I had tried to cover every base I possibly could. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be.

On October 21, 2012, Malea passed away. It was the end of a beautiful friendship, but not the end of my memories of our wonderful friendship over the past ten years, when we met at the bus stop when our sons were heading off to kindergarten. Those kids are now 19 years old and adults. It's hard to believe so much time has passed.

As some time went on, I had an idea. I was going to go ahead with the shoot. But it would be me and it would be pink. I was changing up the color to honor the fight Malea had put up against breast cancer. It took a little planning, but here are a few shots of that photo shoot:

Photo Credit: Misty Higgins (Moments by Misty - Winchester, VA)

 In the last photo, You can see a round sphere of light. Misty actually changed this picture to black and white to try to remove the sphere. The minute I saw it, I thought of the belief that orbs and spheres that show up in photos but don't show through the viewfinder are actually the spirit of someone who has passed away. I like to think that sphere represented Malea's spirit and that she knew what I was doing to honor her memory.

I don't have a good way to wrap this up, mostly because I didn't get any sleep last night, but I had an impulse to get back onto my blog and catch you up on everything that's happened since 2013. There's so much in those three+ years that it's hard to know where to start, so I thought I'd put this one out there. I hope that I can somehow show Jenny Lawson what I did and let her know that it was a direct result of her Red Dress Shoot that she did so many years ago. I just finished reading her new book Furiously Happy, and I needed to tell her that she has had so much influence on my life. I got to the last page (again) and since I didn't have anything in my nightstand I wanted to read, I turned back to the first page and started over. No pressure, Jenny, but I read everything you write. Ok, I want to read everything you write - I've had a couple of bad years, but I've read both of your books many times and I have your third on preorder. I think your third book is going to be my favorite.

Jenny, I am your number 25. I know you have a lot of them, but I am one of them.

Thanks for reading and if you have any connection to Jenny, please let her know this is dedicated to her.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Life After Death?

I think it will come as no surprise to anyone who used to read my blog that I was obviously devastated by the loss of my mother in March of last year. I spent the first 9 months on automatic pilot, getting done what had to be done and ignoring pretty much everything else that could wait or that I used to love doing. My mom would have hated that I did that, but I couldn't seem to get myself motivated.

Then things got really tough when the holidays hit. We were in our own house for the first time in 25 years for Christmas. Even though my dad came up, all of us were missing my mother. I fell into a black hole after Christmas. I know the first year is supposed to be the worst. I don't know how I got through the first months and the first anniversary is coming up on March 12th. The black hole was so deep that I started sleeping more and more until I was in bed at "night" for 12-14 hours and then napping three hours in the afternoon. I couldn't wait to go to bed and sleep, so I didn't have to think about my mom not being there.

I also lost my best friend to breast cancer five months before my mom died of sarcoma. Talk about bad karma. My phone just went silent.

I was mad at a God I wasn't sure existed. Really, really mad.

There is no sense to losing someone you love to cancer. No. Sense. I was with my mother until the end and that kind of suffering is something no one should ever have to go through or watch. It was the worst thing I had ever seen.

My black hole got so bad that Justin got worried and shuttled me off to the psychiatrist, who promptly assessed the situation and got my meds adjusted so I could function. And happily, it worked. It didn't take away the sadness, but it allowed me to get up and face the day, every day. It allowed me to go to stitching camp last weekend, something I never thought I was going to be able to handle. And I had fun.

This morning, I was trolling my facebook feed, because that's so much easier than actually doing anything and I realized something. That God that I've been so mad at? Maybe he has actually been there all along. Maybe he doesn't control who gets cancer. Maybe that's the result of our toxic environment that we've created. But, it hit me like a ton of bricks that some people have come into my life over the last couple of years that have made me realize that I still have things to look forward to. I still have people to rely on. Maybe God puts these people in your path to help cushion the blow of his taking away the people who are so important to you.

Everyone has a life span. We're all living on borrowed time. And we all choose not to think about that because death is scary. I saw somewhere that your life is really that little dash between the date of your birth and the date of your death. All of your growing, loving, living is represented by that tiny little dash. Is that sad?

While I was going through hell losing Malea and then my mom, maybe God was quietly working in the background to help me through it. I had met new women through my sewing group who cared about me. I don't even know how I found the courage with my agoraphobia to join that group, but I did and they were there.

My son met a wonderful girl on the internet. As a parent, of course I always worry about what my kids are doing on the internet, but in this case, he met the loveliest girlfriend I could ever ask to be in his life. He was withdrawn and depressed before he met her. Now, she makes him so happy, I feel that I no longer have to worry so much about him. And bonus. She actually likes me and wants to talk to me. It's almost like having a daughter. They're young and who knows how it will work out, but for right now, I am happy just to think that she might stay in my son's life and in mine, by extension.

While I was in South Carolina when my mom was so sick, another young woman came into my life in the form of my youngest son's assistant. Joey's DD waiver had finally come through and we were looking for someone to come and work with him now that we could pay for it. We found someone who has an autistic brother and knows a lot about how to deal with autism. Sometimes Joey has to fight me for her attention because I love her so much. Did God put her in my path? Another daughter type figure to help me get through the darkest time of my life?

Some of the women who I have met in the last year or two are older. I have become friends with the woman who started our EGA chapter and we went to camp together last year and again this year. She's about my mom's age and actually reminds me of her. Did God put her in my path to help ease the blow?

Before Malea and my mom passed away, I would have told you I didn't believe in God. We aren't church people, even though our neighbors have been trying to convert us for as long as we've lived here. But can it be coincidence that all of these wonderful people have come into my life at a time when I needed them so desperately?

I'm pretty sure my mom didn't believe in an afterlife. But I've still been desperately trying to contact the Long Island Medium, Teresa Caputo, to get a reading. Because I do believe there is something that comes next. (After going to Gettysburg enough times, you start to become a believer.) I don't think it's angels and harps and golden gates, but I do think people stick around to make sure their loved ones are okay.

One last thing. If you believe in coincidences, this is a pretty big one. Every time I go out and go into a store to buy something, my total always comes to an amount that ends in $.99. So I always get a penny back with my change. Pennies from heaven? I'd like to think so. It happens a lot.

I still don't know what I believe. And I'm still not going to go to church to try to find an answer, because I don't think the answer lies within the four walls of a building. But I feel as if there must be a Supreme Being, God or not, something that helps you deal with the tragedies that we all face.

Yes, parts of life are horrible. Maybe that's why we are supposed to live, love, laugh, and get as much out of our time here as possible to make the good at least even out the bad. I think of all of the joy my mother and I had and I know that her cancer was something that just happened. And I miss her every minute of every day.

But I am also thankful for the people that have been put in front of me that are helping me cope. We really do have so much to be thankful and grateful for.