Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pets, Mania, and Shopping

Since I've been doing things for other people (yes, I still love you guys first and best!), I thought I would link you up to the entry I wrote for the website yesterday:

Today, I will be heading up to the greater city of Ashburn with my mom, dad, and brother for a little lunch and retail therapy (although how much retail therapy you get to do with your dad and brother around, I'm not really sure yet).

I hope to back and boring you by tomorrow. In the meantime, there's always this:

Ya gotta love his dorky face.



Monday, August 29, 2011

You Want to Talk about WHAT????

Courtesy Google Images

Joey and I had something of an argument yesterday morning. This happens occasionally. My youngest is growing up with rather strong opinions and he does not hesitate to express them. Sometimes inappropriately, but I tend to cut him some slack because he's still working on the whole concept of social relationships.

It started when I realized that he was streaming YouTube videos of other people playing Mario Brothers games. I was trying to explain to him why watching other people play video games on his computer screen would rot his brain and he said, "But, Mom. Doesn't watching TV rot your brain?" And he was pretty indignant about it. And shut my mouth, cause I am way too guilty of turning on the television for distraction and surfing the approximately 900 channels we have with nothing decent on any of them.

The argument did not go well. It ended with my telling him in exasperation that I did not want him streaming videos on his computer that were of other people playing video games because I thought it was a complete waste of bandwidth and him crying, with his entire body (including his head) under his quilt after shutting off his laptop.

I went downstairs to tell Justin about it and, by the time I had gotten downstairs, I had decided that life is way too short for me to argue with my youngest son about his watching other people play video games when my greatest form of entertainment right now is Facebook. To which I am probably addicted. So I went back upstairs and said, "Forget everything I just said. You can watch the Mario Brothers videos on your computer. Just don't do it all day."

It occurred to me later that YouTube was also the source of (probably) every bad video my older two sons got their hands on behind my back when they hit puberty, so I needed to set some guidelines as to what Joey is and isn't allowed to watch on there. Time to talk about what my 12 year old's computer is allowed to have on its screen.

Why do the sex talks always happen when Justin is somewhere else? The first one was when Joey wanted to know about babies when Justin had left for the entire day to go to a Redskins game. I was texting him furiously that since I handled the birds and bees discussion with the older two, it was not fair that I had to talk to Joey too. He texted back something to the effect of "haha" and I had to figure out what to say on my own.

I thought that I had skirted this issue a few days ago, when Joey asked me how the babies came out and I had to explain how girls have vaginas and boys have something else. No, I could not look into his eyes and say the word "penis." I have to get better at this. He was amazed that something as big as a baby could come out of a some unknown place between a woman's legs and then we got onto the whole "did it hurt when you had ME?" conversation. Oy.

Yesterday afternoon, I was taking Joey to buy new shoes and I needed to stop at the office supply store for some school supplies. While we were in the car, I figured that was as good a time as any to try to set some parameters on the YouTube watching, but I was in way over my head before I could get to the word "sex"...mostly because I didn't want to actually say the word "sex."

(Just for the record, I got through the "talk" pretty well with the older two, but they never looked at me once during the conversation and not for several days after that. Actually, come to think about it, they may still not be meeting my eyes when I talk to (at?) them.)

Conversation in the car with Joey:

Me: Joey, you have to be really careful with YouTube. There are things on there I don't want you looking at.

Joey: Like what?

Me: Well, adult things. Do you know what adults things are?

Joey: You mean swearing. I can't say those words until I'm 18.

Me: Well, those too. But didn't they talk about puberty last year in health class?

Joey: Yeah, they did.

Me: Did they tell you your body is going to be changing and you may feel weird sometimes? That's the hormones.

Joey: Yes. I'm going to get taller.

Me: Well, yes, when you go through puberty, your body will change in ways that might seem strange to you and you will start thinking about things that might confuse you. Those things aren't something you should look at on YouTube.

Joey: Like what?

Me: Why do I always have to talk about this when your father isn't here????

Joey: I don't know. (Very puzzled.)

Me.: Okay, did you read the part of that encyclopedia you have that I told you to read? (My last ditch attempt to skirt this discussion entirely.)

Joey: Yes.

Me: Did you understand it?

Joey: Yes. Well, sort of. It tells how babies are made.

Me: But do you really know what has to happen to make a baby?

Joey: No.

Me: (Oh, crap.) Okay, well there's a word you've heard all over television and in movies and it's all over the internet. It's an adult word. Do you know what it is?

Joey: If it's an adult word, I can't say it until I'm 18. So, I'm not going to say it. I can't say swear words.

Me: It's not a swear word. And it's okay for you to say it here if you want to talk about it with me.

Joey: I don't know what the word is.

Me: (Dammit) The word is "sex." Have you heard it?

Joey: Oh, yeah, that word. It's on TV all the time! (This from a kid who actually does not watch television.)

Me: Yes. It happens between boys and girls after they go through puberty. It usually starts with kissing a girl.

Joey: Ewww, Mom! I'm not ready to kiss a girl. I don't want a girlfriend!

Me: Yes, I agree. You are too young to have a girlfriend. But I want you to know all about what happens when you do have a girlfriend, so you will be prepared. When you have sex, you can make a baby, so if you ever have a girlfriend and think you want to have sex, you have to be careful so that she doesn't get pregnant. (By now, he is probably thinking that kissing a girl will get her pregnant. Should I tell him to use a mouth condom?)

Joey: Because babies shouldn't come unless you're married.

Me: Yes. You should wait until you get married.

Joey: Well, I'm too young to even think about getting married and having babies.

Me: I know, you are way too young to even have a girlfriend, but the thing is that I don't want you watching certain things on YouTube. You need to know that anything that says sex or has XXX on it or girls with skimpy regular without underwear, you are not allowed to click on it.

Joey: Or X?

Me: Yes.

Joey: Or double X?

Me: YES!

Joey: Because that's for adults?

Me: Yes. And if you have any questions about anything specific, I want you to come to me or Dad (please go to Dad!) and ask us, okay? Because what you see on the internet is not really what love is and you should love any person you have sex with.

Joey: Okay. And I shouldn't tell H. and J. about this, right? (Much younger friends.)

Me: Yes, it's like the Santa Clause thing. They should hear it from their parents.

Joey: Are we going to Staples now?

At this point, I am trying not to claw my eyes out and looking around for a paper bag to hyperventilate into. I still have to get through shoe shopping and then go back out the hospital to visit my mom. I had to parcel out the anxiety attacks today.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that my 12 year old just figured out the other day that Santa is really Mom and Dad. I had to tell him. Otherwise those nasty little seventh grade boys were going to beat the snot out of him. Now, we're having a talk about girlfriends and kissing and what happens after that. I simply cannot force myself to give out the pertinent, detailed details.

I hear they are doing "sensitive topics" in seventh grade this year. Maybe they will cover the birds and the bees for me, since I seem to be doing such a crappy job at it.

There has always been a point in time during each of these conversations with my other children where they realized that their mom and dad must have had sex three times in order to have them. I don't know about you, but realizing that your parents had sex at any time in the past is traumatizing. And then their mind starts to wondering whether you are still having sex, OH MY GOD! My parents might still be having sex!

At least Joey didn't seem scarred for life. (Probably because he didn't make that really important connection yet. Why not? Well, he is autistic. I'm sure it's going to come to him sooner or later.) I'm pretty sure my older two are going to need therapy and be blaming all of their problems on their mother and the "talk" in a few years.

Why does it always get blamed on the mother? And why do I always end up having to have the "talk" with my boys? Justin obviously has good timing. Well, three times anyway.


Friday, August 26, 2011

My Kingdom for a Pair of Pants (That Fits)

Courtesy Google Images

My mother is a tiny woman.

Her mother was a tiny woman.

I used to be a tiny woman.

If you've been reading along with me from the beginning, you might remember that I posted (at least once) about my struggle to locate a pair of pants that didn't hurt me when I buttoned them. What I neglected to mention is that the problem seems to be that my waistline is getting bigger; not that my pants are getting smaller.

I have no trouble with the fact that I am apparently going to weigh a little more in the last half of my life than my mother or my grandmother. I'm fine with that. What I am not fine with is that I cannot, for the love of all that is holy, find a pair of pants that fits me without them either being way too large or unbearably tight. What is up with the fashion industry that they feel they have to torture women whose bodies aren't perfectly small? Or who are vertically challenged? Or who like chocolate? Or, for that matter, who like to eat?

I didn't understand (and looking back, this was incredibly stupid of me) that when my pants were getting tighter, it might have been because my waist was getting bigger. (Hello! Earth to Chelle! Your dryer is not shrinking your pants. Have you thought about maybe taking a walk?)

Because of the addition of several new prescriptions in the last year or so, all of which have the side effect of weight gain, I have watched the scale creep up, up, up. And now, there is not one pair of pants in my closet that fits me. Literally.

I've heard of living a minimalist lifestyle, but don't you kind of have to wear pants? Especially in the winter time? I'm really not into that whole frostbite thing.

I've been living for the last month or so in two pair of Old Navy activewear capri style pants. They are made of sweatshirt material, but don't have the fleece, so they are bearable even in the August heat. They are also, unfortunately, not pants I would wear out to, say, the grocery store. Or a flea market.

And not only is my waistline getting larger. Apparently, so is everything else, because the only shirts that seem to fit me are Ben's old XL men's shirts with sayings like, "For a minute there, you bored me to death."

Oh, and for that matter, whoever invented high heels and the tie must have also invented the bra. I would like to find whoever was responsible for any and/or all of these inventions and either beat him to death with the shoes or strangle him with the tie or the bra. I'm not picky. And you know it was a guy who came up with these torture devices because women really want to be comfortable. Well, normal women; not the ones you see whose thongs are sticking out of the top of the back of their jeans (which are a couple of sizes too small).

I recently ordered two pairs of those "skinny" jeans from Old Navy and the first pair arrived yesterday. (I can admit this because there were no shipping charges involved. Otherwise, I would be hiding the package and saying to Justin, "Oh no, I've had this forever!") I ordered up. You know what I mean - a bigger size. In fact, I ordered up two sizes from the size I was before my hysterectomy. Guess what? I tried wearing them out to lunch today and thought they were going to cut off the circulation to my brain (which already is having enough trouble functioning) before we could get home. It seemed like the lights were taking forever to change. When we finally got home, I was running up the stairs, flinging things off in a mad dash to get to my comfortable clothes. Luckily, Ben had gone out.

But when I got to my closet, I realized that the only comfortable clothes I have are the two pair of sweats/capri pants and I have to go back out again today. (Here's where I start cursing, so just pick a word, any word...!)

I finally settled on an old, comfortable, cotton, empire waisted dress that I used to wear when I worked with leggings. It doesn't have a waist and it's the most comfortable thing I've had on in, well, I can't remember. Isn't it sad when you are resorting to dresses in an effort to find something comfortable to put on your body? Does it matter that the elastic from the empire waist is not exactly under my boobs anymore?

I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of cooler weather because I have a drawer full of sweat pants. Except they are from two years ago, so I probably should go through the drawer and see how many of them I will no longer be able to wear. Maybe I should just order some bigger sweat pants right now and be done with it.

I will be returning the jeans to Old Navy when the second pair arrives and trading for yet another size up. I mean, the length was perfect. I just couldn't keep them fastened without crying and gasping for air. I wonder what I will wear to return the jeans.

Someone suggested those pajama jeans to me way back when I first started complaining that my pants seemed to be shrinking. Those look very cool, except that they have those weird, flared openings at the bottom that just don't look right on me. If they ever make pajama jeans with straight legs, I am so ordering three pairs. That's how many I need to make it between wash cycles.

And no, I haven't found a bra that is any more comfortable than anything else. But that's a different rant and probably one for which the men will want to leave the room.



Thursday, August 25, 2011

Writer's Block, Oh My!

Courtesy Google Images

Things to do when I have writer's block:

  1. Call my mother and talk to her until her ear is bleeding and she's begging my dad to shut his finger in the car door just so she can get off the phone
  2. Sit on Facebook; hit refresh every 30 seconds
  3. Make snarky comments on other people's blogs
  4. Do laundry - why do we always have laundry???
  5. Ponder why life is so unfair
  6. Ponder why I'm so negative; take benzos and anti-depressants
  7. Bother Justin while he's working
  8. Take video of the dog freaking out to post to YouTube; learn how to post to YouTube
  9. Go through my kids' rooms to find (insert whatever they stole from me here)
  10. Stalk Stephen King's fan page to see if I can figure out whether he's in Florida or Maine; send letter from "his biggest fan" asking why he hasn't come out with another 1100 page book yet
  11. Think about how much my chronic pain hurts; take painkillers
  12. Play words with friends (Really addictive, if your friends are responding)
  13. Put away the laundry; find new laundry; repeat
  14. Ask Justin what he wants for dinner (always entertaining because we never know what we want for dinner and he's working; see above)
  15. Write words on the bananas for Justin and/or the boys to find later
  16. Remove clothes from closet that no longer fit me; go online shopping because I have no clothes
  17. Put sunglasses on the cat who is too lazy and fat to fight me; take pictures; post to Facebook
  18. Eat junk food; remove new clothes from closet; go online shopping again for bigger clothes
  19. Check mail for new People magazine; live vicariously through celebrities; wonder why Kim Kardashian doesn't give all of her wedding money to charitable causes
  20. Make lunch; trip over the dog; drop lunch all over floor; allow dog to eat lunch; mop floor; repeat
  21. Get mail; open credit card statement; begin returning new clothes
  22. Marvel over people who are able to hold down a real job and get paid for it
  23. Go to the Apple website and drool on my computer over the iPad2; reach for credit card; remember bad experience with credit card people above and put away credit card
  24. Take a nap; wonder why I can't sleep at night; and 
  25. Watch Coyote Ugly for the 1207th time on cable. 
What do you do when you are uninspired?



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ahhhhh!!!!! Okay, Now What?

Courtesy Google Images

Wednesday, August 24, 2011...the first day in 14 months that all three of my children have been out of the house at the same time for any extended period of time. The first day back to school for the younger two. The third day back to college for the oldest.

My oldest son began college last fall, but he is going to the local community college to get a transfer degree. This is good in so many ways, as it is way cheaper than a four year university and he gets his general education requirements out of the way. But it also means that he is still living at home. If you have ever lived with a 19 year old male college student, you know what it's like. If you haven't, just imagine a kid that doesn't want to talk to you, won't respond when you talk to him, arranges his class and work schedule around the fact that he would rather sleep than be productive during the day, comes to you as if you are an ATM (the only time he talks to you is when he needs money), hasn't washed his sheets in months, and who no longer has to legally show you his grades. It's kind of like having a really messy renter that doesn't pay rent and who eats your food.

As the kids have gotten older, my husband and I have kind of given up on the whole idea of ever having any privacy. They now stay up later than we do and I can hear them coming to life after we shut off our lights at 10:30 to go to sleep. Doors slam, footsteps go down the stairs for food and come back up, the bathroom light is turned on which shines right into our bedroom because our cats are never on the right side of the door and keep flinging it open. It's like they are just waiting for us to get out of the picture. I didn't see much of my two older kids all summer and Jamie finally confessed to me yesterday that he was kind of ready to go back to school because he was getting bored. Hallelujah! Hopefully he will keep that attitude when the algebra assignments start rolling in.

Joey spent most of yesterday off and on in tears. I knew he was upset about summer coming to an end and I think the thing that bothered him the most is that Garfield comes on the Cartoon Network at 2:00 and he won't be here to watch it. I know we have access to a DVR type of deal, because there's a button on the remote, but even if I could figure out how to do it, I refuse to DVR the Garfield show because, well, it's just horribly stupid. I'd much rather he spend his time reading a book. Which, by the way, isn't that what we used to do all summer because we didn't have all of this marvelous technology by which we could completely tune out our parents?

So, what the heck do I do now???? Wow. I don't even know what to do with this feeling. I can get my lunch whenever I want to instead of when the kid is reading what I am writing over my shoulder because he is waiting for me to serve him. (Which is incredibly annoying, by the way.)

If it was fall or winter, I could opt to spend all of the hours they are gone in the hot tub, but since it's in the 80's outside, I'm kind of putzing around, not quite knowing what I am supposed to be doing. It's a novel thing not to be interrupted for a drink, a request for food, a request for the Cartoon Network while I am trying to work, tears because I've been told for the 19th time that someone is going outside and I finally have to say enough already!

I went around the kids' rooms and their bathrooms this morning and found 7 glasses and two of our missing soup sized spoons. Even though I have a fairly strict no drinks upstairs unless it's water policy, apparently that has been ignored all summer long. Since nothing appears to have gotten spilled onto the carpet, it looks like they were being careful in order not to incur Mom's wrath. They just forgot that the minute they were all out the door, I would be doing inspection.

It's already almost 12:30 and I'm feeling a little panicked. I should really be enjoying this more. I'm just not exactly sure how to do that. I think I'll go switch the laundry.



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

You Make Me SO MAD!!!!

"So in searching deep inside, dredging through the swamp to discover what really creates this massive stronghold emotion is in my life, I discover it's caused as much by other people as it is by me. In my reaction to these people. And I may not be able to change them, but there is one thing I can change, and that is what I allow their actions to do to me."

I was trolling through the blogs that I read every day and this came up at the end of Leah's post. And I thought, wow, that is exactly the kind of thing that I should be thinking right now.
I have heard many, many times in therapy and from other people and from self-help books that it is healthier to change the way that I react to people instead of trying to change other people. It's a powerful thought. It's also hard to do. Because really, no one else can make you feel anything or any way, but we believe that they do, don't we? Our emotions come from the way we react to other people and to the events in our lives. But the fact of the matter is, unless someone physically punches you (in which case, you have a more serious problem than handling how you are reacting to events), you control what you are feeling in response to anything anyone else does.

Directly relating this to my own situation at the moment...

I have lived across the street from this woman for six years.

For six years, she has tried to convince me that if I do not have her religion, I will never be a happy person.

She is now resorting to lying to me about what my autistic child told her to guilt me into buying into her religion.

She made me very, very angry by this and by a number of other things that have happened. No, wait.

I reacted angrily to many things that she and her husband (and her children) have done over the last six years.

I think the last statement is more true than the one before it. She cannot make me feel anything. If I am angry about her actions, I have two choices. I can remove myself from the situation permanently or I can tell her exactly why I am angry and see what happens.

Being the passive-aggressive total wuss that I am, I will probably elect to walk away and distance myself from her as opposed to confronting her about what has happened. It's not just that I am a passive-aggressive wuss. This situation presents itself summer and summer. Summer after summer, it's an issue. And when fall comes, it ceases to be an issue because her children are 5 and 7 years younger than my youngest child, so they go to different schools, meaning the amount of time they are really able to spend together decreases directly in proportion to whether or not school is in session.

Once the daily contact between the kids stops, so, mostly, do the issues. So if I can make it just one more day (since school starts tomorrow) by breathing deeply, the situation is about to diffuse itself in 24 hours.  Since I don't actually spend any time with this woman, other than when our children are getting together, tomorrow this will no longer be an issue. Until next summer; but maybe not...

Joey should be hitting puberty any time now. Even with the autism, I have to believe that he is going to eventually lose interest in "playing" with children who are so much younger than he is. I have put up with a situation to which I would normally not expose myself because he enjoys the company of her children a great deal. Because Joey is still learning what it is to actually "be friends" with someone, the advantages of his spending time with them have (mostly) outweighed the disadvantages.

Am I still angry? Yes. But I can choose how I am going to feel about the situation. I have a lot of other crap that is way more important going on in my life than what is happening with this neighbor right now. I think that because of the other crap, I am feeling more vulnerable and have allowed this person to believe that I might be more open than I actually am to what she believes. Maybe this is because I do not know what I believe and what she believes looks like it makes her really happy.


If I don't feel it in my heart and it is not speaking to me as "truth," then I think it is time to walk away from it and not allow her to believe that I am open to it any longer. Whether or not this will require yet another conversation remains to be seen. I am really leaning towards the distance thing at the moment, because is a confrontation really worth it over something that I have managed to "manage" for six years?

This does not mean that the actions that have annoyed me and angered me are okay. It does not mean that lying to me repeatedly is okay. And technically, I should be hollering foul. But I talked to Joey and it would appear that she has not been preaching to him, nor have her children. With that being the case, I can let things lie as they are for now. The next time I start to get the religion lecture, I will cut it off and let her know that I am no longer open on the subject and that I consider it closed. I believe in diplomacy if possible and I see no reason to make an enemy of a neighbor.

Plus, the fact is, that if I did get angry and confront her, she would simply tell me that she will pray for me...and I'm not exactly sure how I feel about that.



Monday, August 22, 2011

I Think I Have An Anger Problem

Courtesy Google Images
I did a google images search for "anger" and it's amazing the pictures that came up. I have to say that this one really captures how I felt during that phone conversation I had that pissed me off so much about my kid not being exposed to "proper" religion.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about it and I realized that I am not just angry at this person for lying to me about what Joey said to her. There has been a pattern in this relationship of non-truth telling for the sake of getting me to do or believe something that I do not want to do or believe. And frankly, it's pissing me off.

Justin told me yesterday that I should wait until the kids go back to school on Wednesday to talk to this person so I could think about what I want to say. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it's not just the pushing of her religion that is bothering me. I am angry about the entire relationship. I want to think this is a good person. I believe her intentions are good. And I also believe that she has lied in the context of really wanting to be my friend. But the fact remains that there have been multiple lies and I am extremely conflicted about how I feel.

I started a post this morning about the whole religion thing, just to see where I would go with it and by the time I got about 2/3 done with it, I realized that I could not actually post it. But it really felt good to get all those feelings about the lying out onto the page/screen/whatever. The problem is that I have trouble confronting people and I am always the first to back down in the face of an argument. I will apologize when nothing is my fault just because I want people to like me and I can't stand it when anyone is angry at me. It seems like I am always saying I'm sorry, just to avoid conflict. This is not a good way to go through life.

Justin told me this morning that he knew that I was angry, but not about what and that's why he suggested I wait to talk to her. I told him that since I have discovered I am so angry about so many different things, maybe the answer is to not confront her at all, but just to distance myself. The kids will be going back to school on Wednesday, different schools, and Joey is so much older than her children. Maybe I can encourage less and less contact with her and her children as the school year goes on, without having to confront her with angry words and accusations. I have trouble distinguishing between an honest, let's clear the air and get things right conversation and an argument. Since I have so much trouble saying what I mean and sticking to my guns in the face of a barrage of reasons why I'm wrong, maybe it's better to just not have the conversation. But that's kind of running away from what needs to be done. I'm supposed to be the adult here and I'm supposed to protect my child. Can I continue to run away from this issue when it keeps coming up over and over again?

How do you deal with conflict? What do you do when someone lies to you and you catch them in the lie? I would love to hear any suggestions on how to deal with this and how to feel comfortable enough in my convictions to actually have an uncomfortable conversation and stick to my guns. Suggestions are welcome.



Sunday, August 21, 2011

Submissions for Chronic Illness Book

If you look to your right, you will notice that I have changed the information about the chronic illness book I was hoping to put together.

Because of everything that is going on in my life at the moment, I have decided to put this project on hold indefinitely. I am still, however, accepting entries for consideration at a later time, so if you are writing something for me, please feel free to send it to the email listed. I will check it from time to time and save anything that I think is worthwhile and let you know.

Speaking of the email, I noticed when I went to proofread the change this morning that I had the email listed as This is an error. The actual email address is So if you sent an entry to the first one, please resend it for consideration to the right email address and, again, I will get back to you.

Thank you for reading.



Saturday, August 20, 2011

What do YOU Believe?

Courtesy Google Images

I have to admit that I struggled a little bit with what image to put with today's post. Because I am touching on a "touchy" subject that I usually do not write about or discuss, I wanted to make sure that I didn't put a picture to my words that did not express how I actually feel. This picture pretty much sums up what I believe.

I am having a problem right now. My problem is with someone whom I like very much and think is a very sweet person. The problem is that she has overstepped her boundaries and I do not exactly know how to make her stop. I have asked her politely in the past and she just isn't getting it. Now, her overreaching has extended to my youngest child, who has autism, and I am not happy. I do not want to upset this person or make her angry or argue with her about what is right and what is wrong, but I cannot allow her to force her beliefs on my children.

Okay, here's what I'm dancing around. Religion. It's one of two topics I swore I would never touch on in my writing (the other is politics) because I don't have the answers, I don't know enough about it, and I don't know what I believe. I have a pretty good idea of where I stand on both subjects, but not enough information to effectively argue my position on either, so mostly I just respect what other people believe, hear them out, and go on my way, making my own decisions based on what feels right to me. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to allow me to do that in peace and, when someone will not stop trying to bring me around to their way of thinking or insisting that what they believe is right and I need to believe it also, it starts to get under my skin. When it touches my children, especially my youngest child, I start to get mad.

I firmly believe that every parent has the right to educate their child in the area of religion. The schools do a fairly decent job of educating my kids in the things they will need to know to be employable. I feel that the moral compass of my children is something that Justin and I reserve the exclusive rights to.

I was thinking of posting exactly how the conversation on the phone went yesterday, but I'm going to just sum it up for you. Because I still, despite the attempts at religious conversion this person is pushing on me and my child, consider her a good friend. I know she believes that she has the answer to peace and happiness. She is one of the most content people I know. But I also am tired of her trying to convert me to her beliefs. And yesterday she really stepped over her bounds and told me that my son had told her that he was afraid at night and was scared of ghosts. She said something to the effect of, "I just wish he knew about God, because if he could just pray, God would be there for him and give him peace."

Wait a damned minute.

When I later asked Joey if he was having trouble with being afraid at night, he looked at me, kind of puzzled, and said, "No." I said, "well, Miss T. told me that you told her that you are scared at night."

Joey: "I never said that."

My son is the most honest kid on earth, mostly because he's autistic. I know that kids lie, but this is not something he would have any reason to lie about and generally, I know when he isn't being honest with me, so I believed him.

We then had a discussion that went something like this:

Me: Well, Joey, if you are ever scared at night, you know where I am and you can come get me any time.

Joey: Well, the only thing I'm really scared of is that a baselisk might come out of my closet.

Me: Why do you think a baselisk would come out of your closet?

Joey: I think I've been reading The Chamber of Secrets too much!"

Me: A baselisk couldn't come out of your closet because you don't speak parseltongue. A baselisk only comes when it's called in parseltongue and none of us speaks parseltongue, so we couldn't call it. Also, it wouldn't fit inside your closet. In fact, it couldn't even fit inside of our house.

Joey: Mom. Baselisks aren't real.

I guess I can be grateful to this person for sparking this imaginative conversation, one of those that I have with Joey every so often that makes me think I should be writing a book about him. For awhile, I was writing these conversations down with the idea of a book and that still is something that might be a workable idea. These conversations are not only priceless to me. I believe they should be shared with the whole world because my son is so awesome. Who wouldn't want to hear that conversation?

But, back to my original point. First, I believe this woman fibbed (I won't say lied) to me because she was trying in a nice way to guilt me into teaching my son what she believes to be the truth about religion. To be honest, I was kind of horrified when I realized that she used my doubts about my parenting abilities as a way to try to convert me and my son to her brand of Christianity. Second, I worry about what exactly is going on over there when Joey goes over to play with her children.

In the past, she has asked if she can pray for me when I am going through a tough time or pray for members of my family and I have always graciously accepted the offer. I have even let her pray with me, even though it made me uncomfortable. But, where I get upset is when she starts to say things like "If you would only Seek and read the Word, God is there for you. God can lift you up and give you peace when these bad things happen." Or something along those lines, for, like, two hours on the phone. With me saying, "uh huh, uh huh" and mouthing to Justin to "Help me!"

She keeps professing sorrow that Justin and I do not have an organized religion, that we do not teach our children about God, that we are not true Christians, that we do not pray. Who says I don't pray and why am I not a true Christian? How does she know what goes on inside of my head or whether I am asking God for strength or thanking him for the things I have to be grateful for? And how does she know what I am teaching my children? I think it's a little presumptuous of anyone to butt into something so incredibly personal as what I teach my children about religion. And frankly, I am growing tired of the conversations where she tries to bring me around to her way of thinking.

I know that she honestly believes that she is trying to help. I know that she thinks it would help us if we would only believe what she believes, read the bible every day (or other religious books), pray daily with our children, go to Christian counseling about the bad things that are happening in our lives, and go to church every Sunday. The problem is that we don't believe that and we would like to raise our children to make their own choices when it comes to religion without outside intervention or "help."

As far as religion goes, I do not know what my beliefs are. Do I believe in the afterlife? I don't know, but I have been to Gettysburg and had some weird things happen, so I don't rule it out. I don't think life stops when we die, but I don't think we're going to all go sit on clouds with God and play harps. Frankly, I would find that boring. The "kingdom of heaven" doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun. After I die, heaven would be to find myself on a beautiful beach somewhere, pain free, seeing my loved ones and pets who have passed before me, being able to swing in a hammock, walk on the sand, wade in the ocean (no crabs of course), soft breezes blowing, napping whenever I pleased, and feeling pleasantly peaceful. And I like to believe that everyone gets the heaven of their choosing, where they are not old, sick, confused, in pain, disease riddled, and are happy. Does God figure into this? I have no idea. If God is the benevolent entity that he is supposed to be, won't he grant us our vision of heaven when we die? If there really is a God, which I am not sure that there is.

What it boils down to is this. I value this person's friendship a great deal. I appreciate the fact that her beliefs give her peace and contentment. But they are her beliefs. We have lived here six years and for six years, she has tried to convert me to what she believes. I have told her very nicely on several occasions that I simply do not believe what she believes and I would prefer not to discuss it. And she keeps bringing the conversation back to it. Frankly, she is getting to be insistent about it, as if my not believing is something she simply can't live with. While I understand that this is her life's purpose, I do not want to come along for the ride with her. And I certainly do not want her teaching my kids her view of what religion is because what my kids believe should be up to myself, my husband, and my kids. Justin and I will teach them what we believe they need to know and give them the option of choosing a religion that they are comfortable with and that makes them happy.

We are giving our children the ability to look at every religion and decide what appeals to them and what most fits with their personalities and beliefs. We are not pushing them to believe something simply because we believe it. And we appreciate it when others do the same.



Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why I Love My Husband

This may seem cheesy, but I thought it was probably going to be too long to put as a Facebook status. I was just sitting and thinking about all the reasons I love my husband and I thought, "Hey, I should let everyone else know!" So, at the risk of sounding sappy, I love my husband because:
  • He will drive anywhere at any time, day or night, if there is something I want.
  • He remembers when I mention something I want and goes and gets it for me to surprise me (i.e. the Baskin Robbins ice cream that is currently saving my sanity).
  • He runs errands so I don't have to.
  • He does the grocery shopping every week and makes stops when we need extra stuff. He also gasses up my car for me.
  • He works his ass off to support me and our kids.
  • He respects his mom and calls her regularly. He loves her unconditionally, just because she's his mom. I could not ask for a better role model for our kids for the way they should treat their mother!
  • If I say "chocolate," I will have Ghiradelli or pretzel M&M's after his next trip to the store.
  • He always tells me I look nice, whether I have showered or not, whether I am wearing makeup or not, whether I have gained weight or lost it (yeah, lost it, haha), whether I am dressed up or in my sweats.
  • He doesn't make me feel guilty about bringing home our gigantic, neurotic golden retriever and then asking him (without words) to walk him every morning so I don't have to. He just did.
  • He cooks because I can't. Without him, we wouldn't eat. Well, not anything edible.
  • He takes care of me, the kids, the pets, his mother, his grandmother...always before he takes care of himself. He is the most selfless man I have ever met.
  • He doesn't look for recognition, no matter how much he deserves it. He just does things for other people to be nice and never claims the credit. And never even expects or asks for a thank you.
  • He understands when I need to break down and cry on his shoulder and when I need to be left alone. And he celebrates with me when I am happy. He has ridden out my mood swings for the last 23 years while staying on an even keel.
  • He never fights dirty. Ever.
  • He demands that our kids treat me with respect.
  • Whatever I want, whatever I need, he is always there for me. He has been there for every childbirth, baby milestone, personal achievement, hospital visit, numerous surgeries, fibromyalgia, and bipolar disorder. And a million other things that we have gone through in 23 years of being married.
  • He doesn't ever question that I have two chronic illnesses, even though he can't see the pain I am in. Some guys would run the other way if their wife had ONE chronic illness, but he sticks with me even though I have two.   
  • He loves my parents like they are his own. And...
  • He does not put up with any bullshit from me. He calls me on it when I am not being truthful or the kind of person I should be and that makes me a better me.
Justin believes in for better or for worse. I can only hope it's more better than worse. I know it has been for me.

I am sure that there are a million things I have left out of this list and I love him for all of those things too that I didn't think up for this list. I reserve the right to add to it later.

For those of you who don't know, we are going through a very tough time in our family right now. I hope that I have been there for him, because I know he is here for me. My parents could not have asked for a better son-in-law or husband for their daughter.

Justin, I just wanted to say thank you for all of the things you do to make my life so wonderful and so easy. I know being married to me is a lot to handle, but you do it with so much ease that you make it seem effortless. You are my best friend, which goes without saying but I'm saying it anyway. I appreciate and respect you. I also love you, but sometimes I wonder if appreciation and respect mean more than love in relationship. Luckily, I don't need to make a choice.



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Bipolar Disorder in the Workplace

Where, oh where, was the good advice when I was working last year? I was alone except for the sympathy of my husband, who thought everyone I worked with had personality disorders.

Since the question today over at Ask a Bipolar is about how to deal with having a mental illness in the workplace, I thought I would talk a little bit about what happened to me between September 2009 and September 2010.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in July 2000. I am not ashamed of it, but I am sensitive to the stigma that is attached to it and I think that one of the places we still have major stigma is in the workplace. Employers see mental illness as a huge liability and, even though legally they are not allowed to discriminate because a person has a mental illness, most people do not share that information when they are trying to get a job. I had been on disability for so long because of my mental illness that when I decided to go back to work in 2009, I was very leery of letting anyone I was interviewing with know about my disease.

The place where I ended up working was a small psychological practice in town for a ridiculously small hourly wage. They did counseling, but they also did a lot of testing and evaluation. One of the things I was required to do when I interviewed was to take a couple of psychological inventories. Being a psychology major in college and having a bachelors degree in the field helped me a lot in figuring out exactly what answers they were looking for on those tests and I guess all the results came back okay, since they called to offer me the job the next day.

I found my new employers intimidating, to say the least. Everyone seemed so well put together, educated, smart, and proud of it, and there was a clique-ish atmosphere that I just could not break into. I did not belong there from the day I started, but it took them not so gently "nudging" me out the door a year later for me to accept the fact that that particular office was an extremely toxic environment for me and not a good fit. It made my mental illness symptoms worse. There was absolutely nothing I could do about it because I was right out there in the front office, trying to get my job done with as little fuss as possible. My anxiety was at a fever pitch from the first day and my focus and memory problems seemed to get worse every time I went to work. I would dread Tuesdays because the one girl who was really nice and who seemed to actually like me did not come in. On Tuesdays, the middle school atmosphere was unbearable. I felt like I was living an episode of "Mean Girls." There was whispering behind my back and discussions I was not included in. These were grown women who never got over wanting to be the popular girls. I was uncomfortable from the first and I am sure that showed. And did not make me any more likeable than when I started, although I tried very hard to do everything that was asked of me without question and to have a good attitude.

Being so incredibly anxious did not help me at all. Because of my anxiety and memory problems, I made more than the average number of mistakes and I was spoken to time and again about what I had done wrong. The rules were numerous to the point of absurd. It didn't help that it was a very small office and there was no one for me to talk to there about how I could perform better at my job. My boss would call me back to his office at least once a week to give me a talking to about this little mistake or that little mistake and my anxiety would go higher and I would make even bigger mistakes. I would ask how I could improve and was told over and over again just to not do that again. I was never given anything I could take as constructive criticism. I tried for a year to follow their rules exactly and never, ever got it right.

Having two chronic illnesses, when I started looking, I didn't try to find a full time job. The one I found seemed to be a good fit, because I would only be working three days a week. When I interviewed, I tried to pin the owner of the business down about whether it would be three or four days, because the ad had said it might start at three days and go to four eventually. He did not seem to think that four days would ever really be necessary when I talked to him, so I thought it would be okay. Unfortunately, he either lied to me or misled me, because it wasn't long before they were asking me to come in four days a week. I compromised on three and a half. The extra half day pushed me over the edge, both physically and mentally. After having major surgery last April, I asked him to keep me to three days a week for the summer, since we had an intern.

Because the office manager's husband had a major heart attack while I was on medical leave from the surgery, I went back to work early to accommodate her being out, even though I was nowhere near ready physically. I was constantly working around her schedule and coming in on days that she was out on her numerous vacations. She was a world traveler in every sense of the word and actually an incredible photographer. The problem was, she only worked for vacation money and she had been there so long that she got whatever time off she wanted. It didn't matter whether it was convenient for the other employees. When she wanted to be out, she was out. The other girl who worked in the office got absolutely slammed after I got there, because I was so limited in what they would train or allow me to do whenever the office manager was out.

My nine month trial work period for social security came up in July of last year. Since I receive disability income from the government, there are certain rules I have to follow if I have a job to keep my benefits.  I saved pay stubs and receipts for the first nine months I worked and then sent it in to have it evaluated to determine if I could keep my benefits.  It was determined that I was not making enough money to lose my monthly income from disability in July, but I had to keep my hours down and they kept pushing me to work more.

So, I asked my boss if we could meet so that I could tell him that I was on disability and that I needed to keep my hours down and only work three days per week. I had struggled with the decision of whether or not to share this information, and felt like (a) it was none of their business what my financial situation was and (b) that it would definitely affect how they looked at me. But the end of the trial period forced my hand and I had to do something because they wanted me there four days a week. I was barely handling three and a half days and was asking them to reduce my hours.

I think I intended to tell him about the bipolar disorder when my trial work period was up, but the only time I ever lied at that job (that wasn't a lie by omission) was when he asked me why I was on disability. I told him it was because of the fibromyalgia. I found this man so intimidating that I simply was too afraid to tell him I have a mental illness. He has been a psychologist for over thirty years and I knew he would not understand. I shouldn't have worried so much, because he didn't understand about the fibro either and, without my knowledge or telling me they would need me to leave, he and the other professionals in the office began looking for my replacement. She came in the form of a hand picked intern (by one of the professionals who really didn't like me) from a local university. The writing was on the wall and I just didn't see it. A fax came in sometime in August from this woman asking for more details about my job. I saw it and wondered if I needed to worry, but my job was clerical and she was working towards a masters degree. I figured any job they would be talking to her about would be professional. Apparently not, because I later found out that they hired her.

I had been watching the politics in that office from the time I started and it seemed clear to me that there was an "us" and a "them." "Us was the "sane" people who worked there and "them" was the crazy people who came in for counseling or evaluation. Because of the negative comments of the staff, including two of the psychologists that worked there, the more time that passed, the more certain I was that telling them I was bipolar could only result in a negative outcome. I didn't like the job at all by the time my trial work period was up, but I was planning on staying at least another three months to get through the holiday season with a little extra money. I also did not want to quit without them having the opportunity to find a replacement for me. Ironically, the day I got fired, I had asked my husband if he thought I should let them know then (September) that I was planning to leave after Christmas and he had told me that they didn't deserve that much notice because of the way I had been treated.

There has been some research done that indicates that working in a hostile environment can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. I completely believe that. It is almost a year since I worked at that job and I still have trouble going to that part of town. I am still afraid that I might run into someone who worked there, so I avoid going out as much as possible. This is not normal behavior and I know it, but I can't seem to help myself. I still worry that I will see one of "them." Not long after I started my blog, the two women who I had the most trouble with found it and started making anonymous, nasty comments. I had started my writing by talking about the fact that I had been fired and they tore me apart mercilessly. I do take some of the blame for that, because I was absolutely not nice in those posts. I eventually took them down, because I thought it was the right thing to do, and set my comments so that nothing could get through unless I had read it first. Eventually they stopped reading, or at least they stopped commenting. Hopefully they have moved on to torturing someone else at this point.

Before I was diagnosed 11 years ago, I had a fairly high level job at a small law firm as a legal assistant to the managing partner and quasi-office manager.  Although I was very, very good at my job, I also had something of a reputation as a "bitch" because of my anxiety and my inter-personal problems with some of the staff. I didn't know then that my conflicts with some of the people who worked there were really a result of my mood disorder, so I couldn't figure out how to fix it. But I liked the job, I was good at it, and it helped me to focus. I was very organized and I got things done. My boss never had to worry about missing a deadline because I implemented a calendar system for him. He told me in a phone call last year that every attorney he has taught that system to since I worked for him has never missed a deadline. Attorneys who refused to follow it didn't do as well and some of them got into trouble because they missed a court date or due date for documents. I made sure that every file was up to date and that if something needed to be done and I couldn't do it, it would be on his desk for him to do. I helped with trial preparation, worked personal injury cases, and wrote drafts of legal documents. By the time I left, I had gotten so good at the writing part that my boss would barely look at what I had written before signing off on it.

When I decided to go back to work, my old boss asked me fairly insistently to come back and work for him. He was even willing to create a position for me by firing someone who he wasn't happy with. If we had lived closer to that office, I might have seriously considered it. It was a great offer and I knew I had been good at the job before I had my breakdown in 2000. But I knew that with a very long commute and the fibromyalgia, I was going to be burned out both physically and mentally before I even took my bipolar problems into consideration. I had to regretfully turn the job down. And unfortunately landed the job in this town for very little pay and a lot of aggravation. I missed being able to make decisions and having the autonomy to get things done without someone over my shoulder all day. I do much better at a job when my employer believes I am intelligent and doesn't sweat the small stuff. I also make fewer mistakes when I don't have someone constantly watching me. That legal assistant job was the best job I ever had, but it is no longer something I am capable of handling. As hard as it is for me to admit that, I am getting there.

Last year, I got accused of sending out a report that wasn't properly formatted or on letterhead. I checked the date it was sent out, afraid that I had made the mistake, and realized I wasn't working on that day. But, despite the fact that I tried to meet with the doctor who was supposed to review the report before it got sent out (the same woman hated me and who found my replacement), she wouldn't talk to me about it and I ended up in trouble with the owner because of it. It was pretty much the last straw for me and it became more of a matter of when I would leave the job, not if.

I worked very hard at that job. I did everything possible to make it work. I was nice, even when I wasn't being treated nicely. I came in on days I wasn't supposed to work. I thought I was doing my absolute best, but my best was not good enough.  I had problems because of my bipolar disorder. I was told after they fired me that I had a "negative" attitude. Did I? Maybe. Does this mean I should not work? Maybe. I certainly qualify for the disability payments I receive, but it was an emotional blow to realize that there really is a reason I am on disability.

Before having so much trouble at this job, I kind of believed that if I just tried hard enough, I could go back to work. After trying as hard as I possibly could to do a job that I thought I should have been great at, I know now that I cannot work for anyone who increases my stress level. The office environment is simply not a place where I can work. It has taken me a year and I am still bitter and hurt. But I can get through the day now knowing I am working on something I enjoy so much more, setting my own hours and deciding when I am able to work. Even though I have not made a cent yet from my writing, I am happy doing it. And I am lucky that the government agrees that I cannot go out into the work force, which allows me the opportunity to do just that.

I really hope that someday the disability laws are enforced the way that they are meant to be enforced and that employers will see mental illness as just another disability. Accommodations should be made for mental illness just as they would be for people in wheelchairs. It's a shame that we still feel as if we can't tell potential employers up front about our illnesses. But it is the sad fact of life. The bald truth is that no matter how badly I was treated, I should have been able to deal with it and figure out how to handle it and I couldn't. Would it have made a difference if I had told them up front that I am bipolar? We'll never know, but I suspect I would never have even been hired.



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sorry Guys

Courtesy Google Images

Unfortunately, this is all I've got today...

Maybe, as Scarlet O'Hara said, tomorrow actually will be a better day.



Monday, August 15, 2011

Happy Monday!

Courtesy Google Images

Ugh, if I bounce up and down a few times, will I wake up? Who am I kidding. If I bounced up and down, I would hurt myself.

I used to think I was a morning person. I was always the first one into the office when I worked full time. I would scoff at people who would drag themselves in yawning and complaining about how early it was. I was scornful that my boss couldn't seem to get there before I did. (This was a long time ago in a far away land where Princess Chelle was in charge of the office and had the reputation of being something of a "bitch.")

Then fibromyalgia hit...

This morning I dragged myself out of bed at 7:50 and decided that really was as late as I could possibly sleep because the kids go back to school next week. I have got to get myself on some kind of schedule that does not involve my saying to Justin, "I think I'll go downstairs and read for awhile" when he turns out his light at 11:00 p.m., finishing my book while the dog snores, and wondering if I will ever be feeling sleepy again.

The answer is yes. I will be feeling sleepy when I try to wake up in the morning and become something resembling a human being. I'm not a coffee drinker - I can't stand the taste and I suspect it would make me be the usual, complaining, non-morning person I am, but on crack. I'm couldn't sit still long enough to type two words and the caffeine would probably make me shout, "What the fuck was I doing?" periodically. I don't see how that could possibly be a good thing. I'm trying to teach my kids to swear less in the hope that they will not get suspended from school this year (at least for swearing).

I hate being a night owl and having insomnia. Justin believes that I have decided I won't be able to go to sleep, so I have talked myself into it. I say that since I have never been able to go to sleep, we will never know the answer to that question. I do know that if I try to go to sleep before I am sleepy, it's pointless because I will just lie there, getting increasingly frustrated (and even more awake). It's a losing battle regardless of what whether I have already decided it or not. Whether I have made that decision makes no difference because it is such a deeply ingrained and long-term problem that it doesn't matter anymore.

I've started participating in this really cool website called Moodscope, which allows you to chart your moods on a daily (or more than daily) basis. I've done it four times and I seriously suspect that what time of day you take the test determines the outcomes. Since I am awake and alive at 9:00 at night, my score would be probably around 40% or 50%. I just took it this morning and I was at 18%. I think I will come back and try again this afternoon, because I suspect after a shower and some food, I will be much more energetic and happier. Or maybe not.

So far, I've gotten a 44%, a 19%, a 37%, and an 18%, in that order over four days. My chart looks like the stock market. Up, down, up, down...

Fibro definitely affects mood and mood affects fibro. That is the vicious circle I am living while struggling with bipolar disorder.

This morning I opened up Facebook and had no notifications since I signed off last night. I think I need a Facebook addiction treatment facility, because the fact that this made me sad is a serious problem.

I'm going to go take a shower. Maybe I will look less like the pathetic kitty above once I am finished. After all, I will be seeing my mom for lunch and going shopping. It's going to be a great day! Once I wake up.

What was I doing again?




Saturday, August 13, 2011

What is Swimming in my Children's Gene Pool?

Courtesy Google Images

If you are a parent, do you ever wonder what you might have unwittingly passed along to your children when you were having them?

This is a question that bothers me a lot, because neither Justin nor I are blessed with the best genes for actually surviving on this planet. While I think we were lucky enough to pass along some good looks to all three of our children, there is also a large selection of diseases in our family tree, including but not limited to:
  • Cancer - skin, lung, kidney, rare sarcoma
  • Diabetes
  • High Cholesterol
  • Heart Disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Obesity
  • Mental Illness - Substance Abuse, Depression, Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorder
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
  • Enamel Defect of the Teeth
  • Poor Eyesight
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Autism
  • Asthma
  • Bringing lots of massively shedding animals into the house that either keep us from going to sleep or bark us awake repeatedly (okay, that's not a medical problem, sorry)
We seem to have drawn the proverbial ace of spades when it comes to diseases that can be passed along through our genes. My kids are not even adults yet and some of the things I listed are things they are actually dealing with already.

I have been doing a little bit of internet research on what the cause is of diseases such as bipolar disorder. The currently accepted theory seems to be that there is a genetic predisposition to a disease or disorder and then something in the environment triggers it; at least in the case of mental diseases and autism. Could that also be true of all of the other disorders I have listed?

For instance, one of my children already has high cholesterol and is borderline diabetic. The other two have neither of these (yet). All of my children inherited our poor eyesight and wear either contacts or glasses. The reflux disease that both Justin and I have has only manifested in one child consistently, except for a short period of time when my oldest son was having a little trouble with it that went away. We have no idea where the autism came from, except that in some of my research, I have discovered that there is a link between mothers with mood disorders and children with autism. I have no idea if this is true, but if so, I have unwittingly and unknowingly caused my son's autism. That's a hard fact to live with if it's true, but sadly, one that I can't make go away. It is what it is.

We have come to a point in our medical history where people are living longer with diseases that previously would have been fatal. My psychiatrist, his physician's assistant trainee, and I had a very interesting, scholarly discussion last week about the ethics of babies that are born prematurely and at what point in fetal development is it fair to the child that is born prematurely to save it. What is too early for the child to live a good quality of life? This opens a whole kettle of fish that I am not willing to get into, because I do not know the answer to that question. All I know is that we are saving babies that would not have lived 100 years ago and we have developed treatments that are allowing people to live with diseases well into old age that would previously have been deadly fairly quickly. Just look at how far we have come, for instance, in treating HIV/AIDS. People are now living with this disease, instead of dying from it, thanks to anti-viral medication.

The other day, I saw that there has been a breakthrough in the treatment of leukemia. Scientists apparently developed a method of gene therapy where they can make a person's own cells attack the cancer cells and kill them off. They only had a sample of three people, but two of them were completely cured and one of them had significant improvement. This is amazing and what Justin and I have been working toward with things like the St. Baldrick's event earlier this year that raised over $300,000 to find a cure for pediatric cancer. Could this mean that a cure for cancer is on the horizon and could it be in our lifetime? We can fervently hope so. Most cancer treatment at this point is extremely toxic and has lots of later side effects, but they are saving more and more people, so you have to weigh the risks versus the benefits. I will take nasty side effects if it means more time.

It is my fervent hope that by the time my children are well into their 20's or 30's, science will have found cures for all of the things that we might have passed along to them. I also hope that my grandchildren and great-grandchildren and so on will have therapies available to them that we cannot even imagine to deal with anything that we have genetically passed along. I would love to see that list I wrote above be just a part of our family history that subsequent generations can look at and say, oh, that's really interesting. I'm so glad we don't have to deal with those things anymore!

And I also hope that my children will not breed any politicians because I think that politicians have their own sort of genetic defect that causes them to completely ruin a perfectly good country. So far, the politician gene seems to be one that we have escaped. But that is for another post.



Friday, August 12, 2011

Chronic Illness Book

Courtesy Google Images
So, I haven't heard much of anything from anyone lately about my chronic illness book. In fact, I've been working on a bunch of other stuff myself and reading other people's blogs and getting our new hot tub moved in and working and going on vacation...whew. Now I need a nap!

But seriously, people, do we want to write a book here? I have four (yes, only four) entries for chapters in the book and that is not nearly enough. Even if I ramble on for 10,000 or 20,000 words, that still does not a book make. I want this to be about your stories. I mean, yes, I plan on putting in my own chapter, because, after all, it is my idea.

But, what are you guys waiting for?

Come on, I promise not to bite! If you have a story about a chronic illness that you want to share, please write to me at chronicbook @ gmail dot com. If you are already working on an entry and are waiting until the deadline, quit procrastinating!

Get to writing, people!

If I do not get 20 stories for this book, I think I will have to give up on the idea and I really don't want to do that. So, if you have a story or are writing a story, please write to me and let me know.

Thanks. That is all!



Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness

Courtesy Google Images

Yesterday, I went for my three month psychiatrist visit. I have to really psych myself up (so to speak) to make that drive into West Virginia for my 15-20 minute med check. The only saving grace is that I love my psychiatrist. He is a wonderful doctor and so worth the drive. I also find his medical students to be interested in what I am going through. They want to talk about what bipolar disorder is and how it affects my behavior. And how I got to be as functional as I am today.

Make no mistake. I will always have bipolar disorder. It is not something that is curable at this time. But, with treatment, it is manageable. My bipolar is currently "managed" and if you had just met me, you would have no idea that I suffer from either bipolar disorder or panic disorder. Unfortunately, my anxiety does come out in certain situations, like under the pressure of working for uptight people, and that is why I no longer work for uptight people. It's a much saner and easier thing for me to work on my writing career and not have to worry about whether I remembered to change the toner cartridge or pushed the lock on the filing cabinet in too far. Or whether I didn't answer the phone in exactly the way I was told to answer it. What I find interesting that is if you look hard enough, pretty much everyone you meet has some sort of mental "issue." It's just that not everyone is willing to be open and honest about it.

I admit to the fact that visiting the psychiatrist is much more traumatic for me than visiting the therapist. I have a fantastic relationship with my therapist and she has helped me immensely to deal with things I never thought I would be able to handle talking about. But needing to see a psychiatrist for medication is something that I am still ashamed of and that really, really bothers me.

When my husband goes to his primary care doctor for diabetes medication or to his pulmonary doctor to check his lung function, there is no stigma attached to that. And just like diabetes and asthma, bipolar disorder is a disease. It is nothing to be ashamed of and yet, here I am taking a full day to recover from my three month psychiatrist med check.

I started this blog because I lost my job last October. I was angry, bitter, and hurt. Over time, I realized that yes, the reason I lost the job was because of my mental illness. It is simply not possible for me to work at a regular job without becoming extremely anxious. But I also realized that this shame about who and what I am needs to stop. I was working for psychologists and was too afraid to tell them that I am bipolar. What does that say about how far we have come in getting rid of the mental illness stigma?

I had a conversation with my oldest son about an hour ago and I asked him if he would be upset if he read about the horrible things that I did when I was manic. He said no, because bipolar disorder is a disease that causes you to behave in ways you wouldn't normally behave. I am happy that my children are understanding that just because a disease causes strange behavior, that does not make it any less a disease.

I hope that through my writing about my own disorder, I can not only show people what bipolar does to you, but also how far I have come in fighting this disease. Have I had to make accommodations for it? Sure. But I also have to make accommodations for my fibromyalgia and there is absolutely no shame attached to that. I don't understand the difference.

There are still people who refuse to admit that they have mental disorders and say that they don't need or want help. It's valid that sometimes a person with a mental disorder will probably not get the help that they need until they are either forced to because they have made a suicide attempt or because they have been arrested and held for psychiatric evaluation. And the most important part of getting better with any mental illness is admitting there is a problem and asking for help. It took me a long time to admit that the problem was me and not everyone around me. But once I got there, I started working on it and trying to change my behavior. If it had not been for medication and therapy, I would never have lived to talk about this thing that is wrong with my brain.

Mental illness has no cure. But it is manageable with treatment. If we continue to hide the illness behind a curtain of shame, how will we ever find a cure? Or even be willing to treat it properly?

I actually feel sorry for those people that I worked with, because even though they were psychologists, they could not see the good work that I had done for them and that I could have continued to do. Wouldn't the right thing for them to do be to ask me what was going on and whether I needed help? I remember many conversations with my boss about the things I was doing that he didn't like. And yes, on one occasion, he asked me what was going on. I was too afraid to tell him that I have a disease that affects my brain.

I was too afraid to tell a psychologist that I have bipolar disorder. What is wrong with this statement?



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Textbook Prices - Are They SERIOUS?

Courtesy Google Image

So, yesterday Ben went to buy his textbooks for this semester. I'm no fool (shut up!), so I knew that it wasn't going to be cheap.

Get this.

My oldest son is taking five 3 credit courses and one 1 credit course this semester. He is taking a full load at the local community college, trying to get in as a transfer student to JMU next fall. He needed five books for these classes. Even with renting three of them, the total cost for the semester was $608.80.

That's six hundred eight dollars and eighty cents. For one semester. For books.

Where the hell do these people get off???

While lots of people are self-publishing right to e-books and selling them for 99 cents or $2.99, the publishers of my son's Spanish textbook believe their book is worth $230.66. The other one he had to buy because there was no rental available cost $235.25. That's $465.91 for two books. TWO BOOKS! Is anyone hearing me???

Rental prices aren't much better. To rent his history book for the semester was $41.67. I am looking at the receipt in front of me and can't tell what the other subjects were, but the rentals on the other two were $62.04 and $39.14. These are books that have to be returned at the end of the semester to the bookstore or he gets charged for the full price. Thank God for rentals, but these are the prices that I believe the books should actually cost. You know, like to actually buy them.

I guess college textbooks is the one place that the dodgy, stuffy old publishers know they have you by the proverbial short hairs. You've already paid your tuition and to pass your classes, you need the books. At just under $2,100 for 16 credits, the community college is obviously a bargain and I am not complaining about the tuition costs. I want my kids to get their education and this transfer degree program is fantastic, because they can get their general education requirements out of the way at a fraction of the price of a four year university and only need two years at regular "big school" prices.

Any way you look at it, college is expensive. Virginia has announced tuition increases for the past two years straight. With a child in his second year of higher education now and two more coming up behind him, you can bet the word "college" sends us into screaming hysterics. Well, just me. Justin doesn't really do screaming hysterics or get upset when we have to spend money on things like educating our children.

I just keep looking at this receipt for Ben's books and thinking that if anyone ever decides to write their own textbook for the class that they are teaching and self-publish it on an e-reader for, say, $25, that professor is going to be unbelievably rich. And those publishers who are gouging us for books that our kids will only read once and then never use again will be out of business. If that happens while one of my kids is in college, I will be laughing all the way to the bank.

$608.80. Get over yourselves! 



Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Writer's Block or I Don't Want To Write About That?

Courtesy Google Images

I am having a horrible dilemma right now. I have two deadlines for the Ask A Bipolar website coming up and I find myself completely unable to write a thing for either one of them.

Writer's block? Or I don't want to write about that, but I committed to it?

Tomorrow, I have my three month psychiatrist appointment for a refill on my medication and I already moved the appointment once. Since I am about to run out of one of the meds, I need to go. That will be the majority of my day, since it is a matter of actually getting myself ready (which I have proven I can do in half an hour, thanks to the Gettysburg/Trolley incident), driving to West Virginia to see the doctor, stopping at the pharmacy on the way back, and then coming home and recovering from the trauma of needing a psychiatrist. So, not much writing time tomorrow. Which leaves...

Thursday. The day before the first deadline to write about something that I am just not sure I can write about. Well, I could write about it (and have in the book I am writing), but if I wrote about it for publication on the internet, I would not want to write about it exactly the way it happened. But, I also do not want to put out some cleaned up, sanitized version of it either. Hence, my dilemma.

The second deadline is looming on the 22nd to answer a question for the website. It's a question I proposed and that I now do not really want to answer. I put it out there because I think it bears an honest, hard look at the issue and I thought I could write about it. Now, I'm not so sure. I'm trying to get a different question, but the website admin is so inundated that I haven't heard back from her. Maybe I can nail her down in our meeting online tonight by chucking virtual twizzlers at her and TALKING IN ALL CAPS. (Don't you hate when people forget to turn off their "all caps" key and start shouting at you?)

I can write about any number of mundane and trivial issues easily and quickly. I can do 2,500 or 3,000 words on writing obscene messages to my husband on banana skins or why our dog is the most neurotic animal on the face of the planet and definitely needs the prozac he is getting. But ask me to write about traumatic events in my life and my fingers freeze.

What I wonder is how people write about their experiences with bipolar disorder and are so freaking honest. Don't they have families that they've already hurt? The last thing in the world I want to do is dredge up my past manic behavior in an effort to further my writing career at the expense of those who (still) love me.

I don't think it's writer's block. I think it's a matter of trying to do what's right by the people who I never, ever want to hurt again. I have come so far in this bipolar journey that I think it's high time to start holding myself accountable for my actions. A big part of that is being able to keep my mouth shut when it matters. And in these issues, it matters.

So, tonight, I will pose the question again as to what I am supposed to do with these two deadlines. Hopefully, I will get an answer to the first one that I can work with and a new question to answer. I love that I have been given the privilege of writing for a web site that is read by so many people. I don't want to mess up this chance I have been given and I want to do a good job. But I also have to balance the needs of my family against what I am writing and make sure that no one gets hurt in the process.

It's a fine line. Mental illness really sucks.



Giant Metal Chickens and Gettysburg

(Warning: You are going to need more than 5 minutes to read this. Fortunately, the trip was so good, it's going to have to be split into multiple posts. This is a brief summation of the first three days from my point of view.)

Well, my mom was right. You can't please all of the people all of the time. *SIGH*  Maybe I need to start putting parental warnings on my blog updates.

Since I only had one comment on the banana post and it was that basically I was oversharing, I guess I will move on and talk about our trip to Gettysburgh. Which would not have been complete without the requisite giant metal chicken:

I had been told about this awesome huge metal chicken, so I was all eyes looking for the lawn ornament store.

Justin had gone up to Gettysburgh on several occasions over the past months to map out the drive route for the car club meet (he has a Honda S2000 convertible and is the president of his chapter of the Honda S2KCA club) and had passed the chicken several times on Chambersburg Road. Knowing my love of all things metal chicken, he had told me that there was a huge one sitting on the side of the road on the drive up. I, of course, needed to add it to my metal chicken photo collection that I am keeping in the hope that one day I will put them all together into a coffee table book that makes us rich enough that Justin will no longer have to work. (I might be a bit optimistic with this plan.)

The metal chicken, which did not appear to have a price tag, unfortunately would never have fit into this:

Justin had that trunk packed to the brim (I didn't overpack - really!) and it wouldn't have held that chicken's foot. I would have happily offered to give it my seat on the passenger side and have Justin come back for me, but it was too big! In order to buy this chicken, we will need to go back with a pickup truck. Anyone have a pickup truck? I think we need a large metal chicken. Just think of the variety of places I could put it and how much I could prank my neighbors.


We got up to Gettysburg on Thursday, only to discover that since Justin had not been one of the first to book us a room at the hotel, we were in a room with two double beds. I don't know about you guys, but sharing a double bed for me is seriously not. an. option. I said to him when we walked into the room, "Um, honey, did you ask for a king room because I think these are double beds."

Justin: I think they're queen size.

Me: Um, okay.

(I never pick a fight when we are staying in a hotel with room service.)

We tried it the first night and after about an hour, when he rolled onto his back and flung the covers over onto the floor on my side, I was all, "I am so getting into the other bed." When I finally woke up on Friday, he said, "Why did you get into the other bed?" I just pointed at the covers lying on the floor and said, "Honey, I think these really are double beds." He promised to book a king room next year.

Because of the fibro, I decided to pace myself by spending Friday afternoon with three of the wives from the club doing something that I do well. Shopping. I do not do shopping as well as I do lazy, but it's a close second. Justin and the guys had decided to go out and run the route one more time before the actual drive on Saturday to work out any kinks. He made the mistake of saying, "Go out with the girls and have a good time." And forgot to take away my credit cards. Silly husband. Had he forgotten from the trip two years ago that there was a trolley and an outlet mall? Who needs a car to spend a couple hundred bucks?

This trip was good for more than one thing, because I discovered that I can actually shower and get ready to go in a half hour when someone is saying, "You have fifteen minutes; you have ten minutes; you have five minutes; you are going to miss the trolley!" This is handy information to have. My hair definitely suffered, but since I didn't know these women I was meeting, I figured they would just assume I was always that unkempt and leave it at that.

I already knew that car club wives were lots of fun and, since it was only 3 women, I managed to hold off the panic and force myself to meet them in the lobby.  When I realized I hadn't put on deodorant and, after running into the Giant where we were waiting for the trolley, they covered me while I applied it, I knew I was going to be okay for this trip. Turns out, they were marathon shoppers and I knew I was in trouble when I saw the Old Navy outlet. Realizing I had a zero balance on my Old Navy credit card, we immediately found a way to have fun. Then, I discovered the Zales outlet and knew I was in big trouble. (More about why I needed jewelry that my husband didn't buy in another post.)

By the time we were headed back, I was texting Justin obscene messages, begging for forgiveness and offering to make it up to him in ways I can't share. Buyer's remorse sets in so fast after the shopping high wears off.

Did I say buyer's remorse? Um, okay. I am. not. sorry. I saved him the shipping on that necklace that I would have paid if I had ordered it online because I hate to go to the mall. Until I actually get to the mall, where there are lots of places with pretty things where the sales women are really nice to me when they figure out I have several lines of open credit.

So, Friday was lots of fun. I got to go do something I enjoyed with some really nice women and then go back to the hotel and watch The Two Towers on cable while half-napping on my very own double bed and raiding the gourmet chocolate I had bought at Harry and David. Friday night, we had a pizza party during registration for the meet and I only had one panic attack where I had to go sit in the ladies' room, hyperventilating and texting my best friend that I was at a table by myself and didn't know anybody. The first day of any group situation can really freak you out when you have severe social anxiety.

Saturday morning was the official drive and I had already told Justin, "I am not riding in that thing for two and a half hours with the top down and you guys revving your engines and taking turns sideways." Justin, being the understanding guy that he is, got his group of 12 cars together at 8:30 and peeled out of the parking lot for the event. I slept in and went to lunch with another very nice woman from the group who also thought the drive didn't sound like a whole lot of fun because she gets carsick in her husband's S. I wasn't sure how she made it all the way up from South Carolina, but then she told me about Dramamine and everything made sense again.

Okay, yeah, they went through the battlefield and I missed out on that, but we were going to the battlefield on Sunday anyway. I went to lunch on Lincoln Square. (Again on the really cool trolley. I should have gotten a picture, but I didn't want to carry the camera in my purse, which weighed 19 pounds already.)

Saturday night was the banquet which was at one of the buildings (now a B&B) that was there during the battle in 1863. How cool is it to know that you in a room that might have been used as a hospital? You can smell the "old" when you walk in. If you ever get to Gettysburg, I highly recommend Herr Ridge for dinner at least one night. The atmosphere is amazing, the food is fantastic, and you can check out the different period rooms (which I unfortunately didn't think to do, but Justin tells me are beautiful).

After the banquet, we had the ghost walk. Which turned out to have an actual ghost on it!

I know, it's hard to see. Well, everything except the round white orb to the left of the flag at the top of the picture. Which had to be a ghost, because it wasn't there when I snapped the shot. The two round lights in the bottom half of the pic were there. The round, eerily white orb is not the moon. The moon was behind us.

The story goes that this cupola, of which you can really only see the flag up top because it was so dark, is haunted by a Confederate soldier who paces back and forth keeping watch on the Union troops. Well, apparently something is still keeping watch because the ghost tour guide looked at my digital shot and said "Yep. Good one." You know you've got something when the tour guide is applauding your efforts. The ghost tour was, for me, the funnest activity even though it poured rain off and on. I love the stories of all of the different ghosts of Gettysburg. This tour was given by Mark Nesbitt's group, which is the premier, paranormal, author of the "Ghosts of Gettysburg" tour group.

Did you know that Gettysburg College is haunted? That building where I got the ghost picture has an elevator that goes back in time to the battle and opens onto a surgeon looking for nursing assistance. Here's the building from the front:

Spooky, right? There's a reason they give those tours at night!

(Tomorrow - our very own Apple iPad advertisement that made me realize I need an iPad desperately and our tour of the battlefield on Sunday.)