Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Into Every Life, A Puppy Must Come

I hope to be back into blogging here soon. It's been very tough since Malea passed away three weeks ago. And unfortunately, Justin's grandmother is nearing the end of her life (at 97) and my mother is sick again as well. It's been a tough year.

But, in the spirit of not being too much of a downer, please meet the newest member of the Newton household.

Stonewood's Princess Gentle Spirit Sophie Malea
This little girl is so sweet and so gentle. Our vet brought all three puppies for us to look at and little Sophie kept coming back to me.

We will be getting her on Friday, since we don't expect her to sleep through the night for the first week or so and it's better to start that puppy stuff on the weekend. And we need to get the appropriate accessories - crate, bed, toys...I can see the pet store bill already.

Justin was as taken by this little girl as I was. We have to be at our pet limit now and I don't think we will be adding any more anytime soon, but then again, I said we would stop with one dog and now we will have three. I have been absolutely amazed at how empathetic dogs are and they are getting me through what is a very difficult time in my life.

I'm sorry I haven't been reading your blogs. I hope to get back to that soon because I miss you. Bear with me as I go through this very life changing time.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Memorial to My Beautiful Friend

Today was Malea's memorial service and I just had to share this memorial video that her family put together.

It was a beautiful, uplifting service, with her brother giving a wonderful eulogy and her husband, Jason, also speaking, as well as performing the song he sang to her at their wedding. There were many, many tears, but also much joy in remembering how special she was. The chapel held about 100 people and the chairs were packed, with people spilling out into the hall. Everyone dressed in pink and white and it was celebration of her life.

Now begins the healing (hopefully) and the advocacy (most certainly).

I felt joy after the service as I got to hold her beautiful baby granddaughter.

Amaryana has Malea's eyes and I could feel her spirit as I held this beautiful baby, a tiny piece of Malea that lives on.

Her family is grieving, but relieved that she is no longer in pain and suffering so badly. I am missing my friend more than I could ever have imagined. No matter how much you know it's coming, losing someone you love so much is a horrible thing. I imagine it will be quite some time before I can do anything without feeling the hole her passing created.

I dreamed about Malea for the first time this morning. We were at her memorial service, but she was there. I was distressed because I had to leave to go get my kids and she walked me to the door and told me, "Chelle, it's okay. You can go on." For a moment after I woke up, I could still feel her reassuring presence and I hope that she will visit me again. I know I can go on. I'm just not sure how.

Thank you, Malea, for always being such an awesome person and the "best of best friends." I will miss you more than you know.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rest in Peace, Malea

Malea Renee Kanoho
March 13, 1974 - October 21, 2012
Rest in peace, beautiful angel.
You are so loved and so missed.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Now Available at Amazon.com: Me!

It's here! It's here!!!!

In case you can't read that, it's The Butterfly Princess by Chelle Newton. Here's the link: The Butterfly Princess.

All proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to St. Baldrick's Foundation, the nation's largest non-government fundraising organization for pediatric cancer research.

As Elizabeth says in Funny Farm, "A book I wrote!"


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I've Learned Some Things

It's been almost two years exactly since I was asked to resign from my job. I suspect that they "allowed" me to resign to avoid having to pay unemployment, but I'm not sure if they were required to have unemployment insurance, since none of the employees except the owners worked full time.

But, that's not the point I want to make. I was reflecting this morning on all I have learned from that experience and all of the things I am now able to do because I no longer have that job.

Getting fired is extremely traumatic. In fact, my therapist told me that I had a true case of PTSD from that job and being let go from it. I still have some bad moments and this morning I had a nightmare from which I struggled to wake up about being at some university and being told that I had to leave because the chef in the dining hall had seen me eating cake in a way that he didn't like. The reason was bizarre and that makes sense, because that office was bizarre. There were rules I didn't understand but followed and there were rules I never knew about and there were rules that shifted, it seemed, just to make sure I would do it wrong.

In the dream, Joey was also at this school and I had to find him and get him out of there, because I knew he couldn't survive on his own at a place that big. Then I couldn't find my car. When I found my car, I opened the door and water poured out. And there were no boxes to pack my stuff, which had been thrown in a huge jumble. And no one would help me.

Yep. Still having flashbacks.

But. Here's what I wanted to say about that experience. I'm very glad I had it, because I learned a lot from some very dysfunctional people. I learned that if you are in a job that is making you miserable, there may be some things you can do to fix that, but there may not. And my feeling is that if you are miserable and cannot do anything to make it better, get out. Find what it is that makes you happy and do that.

It might seem easy for me to say get out and do what you love because I have Justin to fall back on and support me. But what I have realized over the last two years is that even if I had been single, I would have left that job, whether they asked me to or not. Many of you know that I receive social security disability for my bipolar disorder and that job threatened my benefits. If I had lost my benefits and then lost the job, I would have been completely destitute without Justin. But if I hadn't had Justin and left the job, I would have learned to survive on my benefits. I would have somehow learned to live on a meager income and do it properly. The job was paying me $12 an hour (for a person with a college degree in that field) and I was working three days a week. I couldn't have survived on that income alone if my benefits had been taken away because I was working three days a week and making $12 an hour.

With social security, there is a nine month trial work period. I religiously saved all of my paystubs and sent them in at the end of the trial period. They came back saying I wasn't making enough money to threaten my benefits  (which clearly means that I wasn't making enough to live on). But if I had gone to four days a week (still not enough to live on), I would have been in the place where my benefits would have ended and I would have been living on the money I made. And then I still probably would have lost the job.

So, my point is that if you can find a way to live without compromising your sanity, you should go for it. So many good things have happened to me in the last two years because I was no longer employed and I have learned a lot, matured, and realized why that job was a terrible fit for me. It's embarrassing as hell to say that you were fired from a job. I never had been before. It is also embarrassing to admit you have a mental illness. When my boss asked me why I was on social security and had to keep my hours to a limit, I just couldn't bring myself to tell him why. I was ashamed. I told him it was because of my fibromyalgia. And that was a true reason I couldn't work more hours. But I am not on disability for it. I am on disability for a mental illness that I cannot control. And I'm not ashamed anymore.

As I sit here, waiting for my first children's book to show up on Amazon.com, I am grateful for all of the things I am able to do today. Because I have fibromyalgia, working was terribly difficult for me physically. Because I have bipolar, it was horrible for me mentally. My therapist says it just wasn't a good personality fit and I am sure that is true. My anxiety fed off of the constant criticism and never knowing when I would do something wrong. I was a trembling wreck the day I left that job.

Today, I have written five manuscripts for children's books, have been published on numerous websites and in the Ask a Bipolar book that is linked here on this site. My first children's book should show up today.

I have been free to engage in the embroidery I love so much and have discovered many friends through the local embroidery guild. I now participate in two sewing clubs, one of which I formed. I have started another blog dedicated only to my sewing projects and I have made many online friends that I would never have known were out there if I hadn't had the time to go looking for them. I hope to get into cross stitch design in the future and also to enter some of my work in some needlework shows.

I am able to rest when I need to rest. I don't have to answer to people who micromanage my every move and ask things I can't give. I have been there when two of the most important people in my life got sick with cancer, something I couldn't have done if I was still working.

I learned while I was working that my children are not too old to still need me. Well, the younger two. The older one just uses a bedroom and eats our food and uses our washer and dryer. But the younger two, even being 13 and 15, still need me here. Maybe more than they did as babies. And that is more important than a $12 an hour job that made me miserable. In fact, the kids win, hands down.

The day I was asked to resign, I had asked Justin that morning if I should just go ahead and tell them I was quitting after Christmas or wait until two weeks before I had decided to leave. Because a little cash is always nice for Christmas, right? He told me to do what felt right. Well, they made the decision for me and ended the agony of trying to do the right thing by giving them plenty of notice. And I am actually grateful to them for that.

Because one thing I also learned is that I was trying to please someone that simply would not be happy with anything I did. I learned several months after I left that they had hired the intern that one of the people who worked there hand picked to replace me. I have a feeling I was never intended to keep that job for more than the 13 months I had it. And really, I'm fine with that.

Now, if I could just stop dreaming about chefs telling me I'm eating cake wrong and trying to get my kid to safety. Yep. That would be awesome.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Letting Go to the Universe

Since Malea and Jason moved back to Virginia, I have been a steady constant in her life. There were times that I wasn't there when she needed me. But I like to think that when she truly did need me, I was there for her.

There is no time I would rather be there for her than right now, as she goes into hospice care this weekend. I am frightened and overwhelmed with emotion right now and can't go an hour without bursting into tears. Malea is more of a sister to me than any I might have had by blood relation.

And honestly, I can't understand a God who would allow a 38 year old mother of four and new grandmother to die. Why do the good people get the worst breaks and the wretched, nasty, criminal people never do. Cancer should not be something a 38 year old woman should be fighting.

Malea has fought to live harder than anyone I have ever known. She has fought every battle since she was diagnosed in April of 2009 and gone through more pain and more ugly treatments and surgeries than I could begin to list here. (Most of her history is on the tab up above if you want to see what she's been through.)

Her family is gathering around her to support her at this horrendous, tragic time. She and Jason have a very large, extended family and they are all here now. Which means that I am having to let her go before I was ready and before the end comes. This is not an easy thing to do and I am really in agony right now. Her not being here and healthy is already taking its toll, as there is a huge hole inside of me where Malea belongs. No one will ever take her place, although I know I have a lot of people who support me and will be there for me while this everlasting grieving takes place.

I like to think of all of the happy times we shared. Of when we met at the bus stop when Jamie and Dallas were going off to kindergarten 10 years ago. The times we spent, every single day, at each other's homes, scrapbooking and me teaching her to cross stitch. I have a very special cross stitch that she made for me that I will be taking to have framed when I can find the time. It's beautiful and has so much meaning, so I am going to share it with you.

It is layered in meaning for both of us and I am so grateful that she made this for me. It will have a special place on my wall.

I am trying to think of happier times, which really weren't so long ago.

This picture was taken at the last fundraiser. I managed to go (with Justin driving), even though this is one of the biggest anxiety problems for me - a crowd of people and loud music. It was well worth it just to get this probably last picture of the two of us. Because damned if I didn't forget to have someone take our picture together when I was at the hospital snapping away on Wednesday.

I am hoping to start a new blog shortly with all of Malea's story, pictures, and information on metastatic breast cancer. If and when that happens, I will be sure to link you.

For now, I am trying to get through this as best I can, leaning on my family and my friends.  My facebook friends have been amazing and I thank all of them for continuing to listen to me cry on their shoulders. Justin is my rock and always here to help me get through this to the other side.

Malea is a one of a kind, beautiful spirit. I am heartbroken that her life is ending at the age of 38. Her life hasn't been an easy one, but she has faced every challenge with a grace I can only hope to achieve some day.

Letting go is never easy. Letting go of Malea is agony. Knowing that we will never get the red dress shoot, never get together for a day of lunch and shopping, that I can't text her whenever I want to and just shoot the breeze or bitch about life...well, that is one of the worst feelings in the world.

I am a better person for having known and loved her. I am so grateful for the ten years we have had as best friends. I know that people come into your life and people leave your life. I just wasn't ready to let her go yet.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Red Dress Canceled Due to Cancer

Yes, you read that right.

I talked to Malea on Monday and she sounded very good and very excited about our photo shoot on Tuesday. I had everything all set to go and was doing this and that to prepare throughout the day. I didn't hear from here again, but I had texted her a couple of times.

Around dinnertime, I finally got a text from her saying that she was unable to breathe and had been taken by ambulance to the hospital. They had her on oxygen and she was going to be admitted. The first thing she said was how sorry she was about having to cancel the photo shoot. Even in a time when her life is in extreme danger, she is thinking about others. That is who she is.

I waited to hear where she would be admitted and what the test results would show. On Tuesday, instead of doing our photo shoot, Misty and I went to Arlington to the hospital where Malea had been admitted. When I walked into her room, she told me that the cancer has now spread to her bones and her other lung. This was just horrible news. Of course, the more it spreads, the worse it is. And this explains why she had been having so much pain. Even the strong drugs weren't cutting it. I hate seeing her suffer this way. Nobody should have to suffer this way. I wouldn't wish this fate on my worst enemy and yet, here are my best friend and my mother both terminally ill with cancer. I'm so afraid and so overwhelmed with emotion that I can't seem to sit still or know what to do with myself.

I talked to Malea on Tuesday at the hospital and told her I wanted to help her get her son, Justyn, and his new infant daughter (her first granddaughter) out here from Seattle as soon as possible. Little did I know that Justyn had the same idea, because he called me after I got home on Tuesday night and told me that he had tickets for Wednesday for himself, his girlfriend, and their baby daughter, Amaryana. He wanted to know if I could come and pick them up at the airport and bring them to the hospital to surprise his mom. Of course I could. (It was Baltimore and I am in Winchester. The hospital is in Arlington. I won't lie and tell you this wasn't an extreme trip for me.)

I managed not to give the secret away and got myself to Baltimore with relative ease. I picked them up and we started on a GPS driven trip that got us lost in Southeast, D.C. in a very bad neighborhood, where I would not have wanted to stop to ask for directions. Streets were closed and the GPS kept wanting to take us up 13th street, which was closed and under construction. After a very stressful half hour, in which my Justin and I yelled at each other over the Blue Link because I was so scared and he was frustrated that he couldn't just come get us out of there, we managed to make it back to the highway and got to the hospital.

When we went in, we stopped for a restroom break. (I had been in the car for four and a half hours at that point and there was no choice. We were stopping.) While we were in the bathroom and Shakesha was changing Amaryana's diaper, I got a text from Malea, asking if I was still willing to help get Justyn his ticket to get him here. I texted back, "Absolutely! Just let me check some flights." We giggled and got on the elevator.

The reunion was amazing and Malea got to meet her granddaughter for the first time.

Photo by Chelle Newton, Editing by Misty Higgins

There were tears and an unbelievable amount of emotion, not to mention a huge uproar over the surprise of the whole thing. Malea and Justin both were overwhelmed and Justyn got the chance to hug his mom in person. The baby was passed around and I even took a turn.

This was not our red dress photo shoot and Malea and I were bitterly disappointed about the fact that every time we plan something, cancer seems to laugh at us and say, "Really? You thought I was going to let you do that?"

At some point, Malea let me know that they were going to be sending her home either today or tomorrow with hospice care. They can only try to keep her comfortable at this point. She will have a hospital bed, a wheelchair, and be on oxygen from here on.

Malea and Jason have a very large family. There are numerous siblings, children, and grandchildren scattered all around the country, as both came to their marriage with children already. I am hoping to raise money by spreading the information on Malea's website (soon to be updated) about her paypal donation button. With so many people here from all over the United States, there are going to be lots and lots of expenses. If you would like to help, please go to Save Malea and click on the Paypal button. Even $10 can make a difference.

Around 8:00 that evening, I decided I really needed to get home to Winchester, a two hour drive from the hospital. I was starting to feel the fatigue setting in and Malea needed the visitors to leave so she could rest. I was flying along when a police cruiser pulled out behind me and indicated I should pull over. At this point, I was pretty resigned to the fact that I had bought myself a speeding ticket, but after explaining to the very nice deputy where I had been and what I had been doing all day and why I was just trying to get home, he decided to write the ticket for the fact that I had my lights off only. (Why did I have my lights off? Because I thought they were automatic and I have never driven my new car at night before. No wonder all those people were flashing their lights at me.) If I had been in a better emotional state, I would have figured it out, but I'm glad they were off, because that gave my deputy something he could write me up on that wouldn't add points to my license. It could have been a reckless driving charge, but the man took pity on me and my overflowing tears.

I have been extremely emotional this week and it promises only to get more intense in the weeks to come. One thing that is helping is watching this video.

The young man with cancer in the video came up with the idea to do a lip sync at Seattle Children's Hospital to go with Kelly Clarkson's Stronger. If you ever wanted to know who a true warrior is, just watch this. Or watch someone you love fight cancer just to stay alive.

The red dress shoot is on hold indefinitely and most likely canceled. Cancer won again. It truly sickens me how much cancer gets to win.

Today, my cause is breast cancer. Get your yearly mammograms and do your self-checks every month. It can be the difference between life and a life sentence.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Our Own Red Dress Moment!

Jenny Lawson's Traveling Red Dress
It's been awhile since I've posted. Life kind of got in the way and my writing mojo (as I have mentioned several times) seems to have disappeared under the avalanche of the negative.

But recently, a very positive has happened and I felt the need to share with everyone.

If you haven't read about Jenny Lawson's Traveling Red Dress, please click on the link and go read what started this amazing phenomenon. Also here. And then it was covered in a  Katie Couric Appearance and also by Forbes and The Washington Post.

The traveling red dress project is something amazing that Jenny (The Bloggess) Lawson started to empower herself during a time when she was dealing with depression and a major anxiety disorder. Although it was a difficult thing for her to come out to her audience with her mental illnesses, the reaction she got was astounding, as thousands of people responded by telling her of their own emotional problems and mental illnesses. She says on the Katic Couric Show that she keeps a folder of people who were on the verge of suicide and decided to get help because of the response she got from people also suffering in silence. It was a mass coming out of the mental illness closet.

So, what does this have to do with me?

I wanted a red dress moment for myself and Malea. With Malea getting sicker and sicker and the chemo not doing its job, I so wanted to make ourselves a "moment" when she feels beautiful and normal again.

I had been looking around for a photographer to take a family photo (I think 12 years since the last one constitutes now as being a good time to take another one) and my hairdresser suggested Misty Higgins of Moments by Misty Photography here in Winchester. I met with Misty about the family photo and that branched out into a much more intensive meeting about doing a photo shoot with me and Malea. I explained the Traveling Red Dress Project and Misty understood immediately what I was trying to do.

After I met with Misty and we settled on a date and time for both shoots, Misty got to work behind the scenes. She contacted the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley and they agreed to waive their fee of $100 and open up their gardens (please click the link and see where we will be shooting on Tuesday!) to us for the photo shoot. She then got in touch with Judith Platz of Refinements of Shepherdstown, a vintage clothing consignment shop in West Virginia, who graciously opened up her shop and allowed Misty to bring back dresses, button bouquets, jewelry, and accessories for me and Malea to choose from for our photos. Thanks to Judith and Misty and the Museum, we will be able to have a gorgeous moment in the beautiful gardens and it will be commemorated in pictures.

Oh. I forgot the best part. I contacted the local paper to see if they would be interested in doing a story about our red dress moment and how the Winchester community has rallied to give us the best photo shoot possible and they are sending their own photographer out on Tuesday to take pictures and then I will be interviewed by a reporter. They will be running the story of our incredible 10 year friendship and how it has been affected by Malea's cancer, and how the community came together to help us. I will be sure to post up a link to the story as soon as it comes out.

I can't express how grateful I am to everyone who has made this possible for us. Malea is more like my sister than my best friend (although I guess she can be both!) and I want to give her the world right now.

Life is too short not to have your own red dress moment. Please check out all the links (I especially like the story by Katie Couric) and try to have your own red dress moment. You can also check out The Traveling Red Dress Facebook Community if you are on Facebook. I also understand that it is all over Twitter and that red dresses are flying around the globe.

So, if you need help having your moment, all you need to do is reach out. It's amazing what people are willing to do.


Bella Bridal of Winchester has offered any dresses we would like from their bridesmaid collection, along with any accessories on loan for no charge. I am so proud that my community is so incredibly generous. Misty went over yesterday and picked out some gowns to set aside and I am getting ready to go choose the gowns we will wear for the photo shoot. If you have a chance, please check out Bella Bridal on Facebook. They have a beautiful selection of both wedding and bridesmaids gowns.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Cancer, I'd Love to Kick Your Ass

I haven't posted in a long time and for that I apologize. You see, it's not just that my life has been busy. It's that the horrible word "cancer" has once again inserted itself squarely into our lives and somehow it has taken my writing mojo with it.

My neighbor came by one day last week and said that God had told her to read an article and then to give it to me. (Doesn't that immediately get your skin crawling?) She had her boys in the back of the van and was in a rush, but wanted to make sure she got it to me. It was a "miracle" cure for cancer. A holistic one and, as I read it, I found myself angry with her, even though I know how much she was only trying to help.

The last thing my mom or my best friend needs is another "cure" for cancer scheme. I mean, seriously, don't you think that if a holistic herbal way to make cancer disappear permanently and return people to their prior states of health had been found, people would be shouting about it from the rooftops? (By the way, it's called Essaic, guys, if you really want to look into it, but it just reeks of false hope and snake oil salesmen to me.)

Malea invested a shit ton of money into that holistic crap and she's right back in the chemo chair praying for a miracle.

Not that I don't appreciate it. It's just not what I need right now.

I find that people are genuinely sympathetic, but don't know what questions to ask. Are you okay seems trite, doesn't it? Because in these situations, there is no way on earth to be okay.

I've been struggling with what to do with this blog. I don't want to take it down, because there is a lot of good information in it. And I have poured a lot of my soul into it as well. Some of my best writing is on here and one day I would like to go back and do a hardcover book of my posts. Almost 500 of them. Almost 20,000 page views in two years. Not bad for someone who pretty much started as a nobody. I'm no Jenny Lawson, but I can turn a phrase. Apparently.

I know that this is a tough time. I know that tougher times are ahead and I am working out how I will get through that and get on with my life in the "after." I know that I will never be the same person because going through this experience changes you.

And we can still hope for two miracles. But I don't think they're going to come in the form of holistic herbal remedies. If anything, new drugs will be approved by the FDA and they will come before time runs out.

There are a lot of people out there who think that "big pharma" is only in this for the money and don't really want to find a cure. I just don't believe that. As much as I am against vaccinating babies multiple times over their first year of life, I do believe that without at least some of those vaccines, polio would still be around and killing people. The researchers want a cure. They aren't looking to get rich. Cancer drugs and treatments cost a fortune because it takes years to discover what works and create a drug that will be effective.

In the meantime, I will try to post on here a little more often and let you guys know how I'm doing. But I'm much more concerned with how two other people in my life are doing right now. And so, as my gift to them today, I have this to offer.

Rascal Flatts, "I Won't Let Go"

It’s like a storm
That cuts a path
It breaks your will
It feels like that
You think you're lost
But you're not lost
On your own
You're not alone

I will stand by you
I will help you through
When you’ve done all you can do
And you can’t cope
I will dry your eyes
I will fight your fight
I will hold you tight
And I won't let go

It hurts my heart
To see you cry
I know it’s dark
This part of life
Oh, it finds us all
But we’re too small
To stop the rain
Oh, but when it rains

I will stand by you
I will help you through
When you’ve done all you can do
And you can’t cope
I will dry your eyes
I will fight your fight
I will hold you tight
And I won't let you fall

Don’t be afraid to fall
I’m right here to catch you
I won't let you down
It won't get you down
You're gonna make it
Yeah, I know you can make it

Cause I will stand by you
I will help you through
When you’ve done all you can do
And you can’t cope
And I will dry your eyes
I will fight your fight
I will hold you tight
And I won't let go

Oh I’m gonna hold you
And I won't let go
Won't let you go
No, I won't


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sand Art

Justin and I were walking along the beach around sunset last night and something said I needed to draw in the sand. Very out of character, Justin snapped a few pictures of me "drawing."

I don't think Justin knows what to do with himself without his phone going off every 30 seconds and not having to check his computer constantly. He is reading, swimming, sleeping...and more relaxed than I have seen him in forever. This is the Justin I fell in love with. I will have to remember to do a little sand art heart just for him.

I like going down to the beach after dinnertime, when the sun's rays aren't so strong, there's a nice breeze, and most of the tourists have gone back to their rental houses. It's so peaceful. This afternoon, Ben took me out to lunch (and paid!) and we stopped at a little shop on the way back and bought chairs, so I think after dinner tonight, we will probably take the chairs and the boys down to enjoy the water one more time. It was quite chilly when we first got here, but has gotten much warmer today. I'm just hoping to avoid a sunburn. Apparently, I have enough Irish in me that just glancing out the window attracts those nasty UV rays and I burn immediately.

Although we are across the coastal highway from the beach, the walk is very short and people seem to be fairly considerate about letting you cross. No complaints about, well, anything! Except that this isn't home year round. We need to start looking into beach properties as soon as the last kid has graduated high school.

I'm in my happy place. Literally. I need lots of rest, but rest is available here in abundance. It's a fight as to whether I'm going to stitch (looking out the window from time to time at the ocean), sleep, go to the beach, or eat my weight in brownies. Justin and my mom seem to be enjoying the cooking, so I have happily handed that task over and am making up for it by trying to grab everyone's dirty laundry and take care of it.

View from our Deck
We've decided that next year will be the year of the (actual) oceanfront house. I told the kids they could choose between Christmas and having a kick ass beach house next year. I wasn't kidding.

I think I may have found the cure for fibromyalgia. It's not that I'm not feeling it. It's just that I don't care because all of my stress has disappeared. This needs to be a permanent situation and not just a week! (I'll start working on Justin to find us a place soon because we're going to need the five years we have before Joey graduates to find a place that we can afford and pay for the hurricane insurance.)

P.S. I think next year we need to bring the dogs with us. The furry ones are the only thing really missing here!


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Blogging Angst

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting much at all over the past few weeks. I just wanted to explain why I can't seem to get the words on the page.

Of course, there's always the writer's block excuse, but I don't think that's it.

A month or two ago, I wrote a blog post and made a joke that I thought was amusing about something that was going on in our neighborhood. Justin agreed that it was funny. I hit "publish" and thought nothing further about it.

Until I got the angry email from someone who had taken offense that I had written about what was going on down the street. I was horrified. The last thing I ever want to do with my writing is offend someone I like and admire. And the problem was that it never occurred to me that what I had said would be in any way offensive.

Ever since that happened, I've had a hard time writing on this blog. I got my stitching blog up and running and am very happy about that, but my daily spewing of my mental processes just stopped. I didn't connect the fact that I had gotten that email and the fact that I wasn't really putting myself out there anymore. But my therapist pointed it out to me on Tuesday and, sure enough, I'm pretty confident that's the reason I haven't been spitting out my regular nonsense and frippery on this blog.

Of course, there are also other things going on in my life that are making me feel a bit more introspective and making me not want to overshare. Which for me is like someone cut off my tongue. Me not sharing is kind of weird and very not like me. But life is kind of sucky right now and people get sick of seeing nothing but bad updates on blogs and their Facebook statuses. I don't know which is worse on Facebook - the sharing of sayings over and over or people who can never find anything positive to say.

I've had a rough time lately. Not more than anyone else's, but enough to really bring me down and to a place where I don't feel like writing much.

My best friend has stage 4 breast cancer, metastasized to her lungs and lymph nodes. I'm very sad that I can't do more to help her.

Every time my mom goes in for her regular lung scan, I hold my breath for three or four days. So far, she's had two and the last one was clean (yay!) and she doesn't have to go back for six months. But, it's scary to think about the cancer coming back, as the doctor told her that it in all probability will come back.

My oldest son has decided not to pursue a four year degree. He will finish up his associates degree while working a minimum wage job (he's promised me to at least finish the AA) and hopes to move out early next year. While I am happy that he made the decision that he really didn't want to run up student loan debt after he discovered that he really wasn't interested in being a history teacher, I am concerned about the example his father and I have set. I have my bachelors degree in psychology and a lot of student debt, 10 years after finishing. And no job, due to being disabled and not having an advanced degree. His father is a senior UNIX engineer for a major corporation, works from home, and makes a very decent salary. To Ben, it looks like getting a degree doesn't really get you anywhere, since his father didn't get one and look at how good he's doing.

I would have gone on and gotten my master's degree, but when I finished the bachelors, I had so much debt, not to mention three kids, that I just couldn't justify going ahead and adding to my debt. And a bachelors degree in psychology doesn't help much. But the point is that it never hurts you to have a four year degree. But we can't convince our 20 year old, who sees the reality of our home and not the reality of the real world.

Jamie, the 15 year old, failed his math SOL twice and now has to go to summer school for two weeks in July to take a special class to review his math skills and retake the test. I actually think this will be good for him, but it's kind of pissing me off that his unwillingness to study has become my problem because now I will have to get him back and forth to school for two weeks that I had planned on sleeping in. (Justin will probably take him in the morning, but he also walks the dogs, so I kind of feel like it's not really fair to ask him to do the driving.)

Not only did Jamie fail the math SOL that he has to pass to graduate high school, he also failed the test to get his learner's permit to learn how to drive on Monday. Which means I have to take him back to the DMV a second time and pray that he passes it that time. Everyone knows how much fun going to the DMV is. It's right up there with a root canal.

Banging. My. Head. Against. The. Wall.

And, to wrap things up, I found some type of growths in a place I'd rather not discuss and will be going to the specialist today to see if I need to have them biopsied. Although I can come up with a bunch of really cool names for the type of cancer I possibly could have (probably not, but that nagging feeling is always in the back of my mind), I have been doing everything I can to not think about the upcoming appointment and what may or may not come of it.

So, all in all, I've been in full retreat for weeks. The awesome thing is that we have managed to make arrangements to have the animals taken care of next week and are meeting my parents at a house in Nags Head for 7 days at the ocean. And the thought of that week of relaxation is about the only thing keeping me going right now. (Burglars beware - we have two very protective dogs, one of whom will chew your face off if you try to get in, an alarm system, and neighbors all around us who will be home and watching the house. I wouldn't try it. Plus, we're taking all of the cool stuff with us.)

Anyway, stitching has been my outlet for all of my angst in the last few weeks. If you want to see what I've been up to, just hop on over to my stitching blog. It's up there on the top right hand side. If you like sewing, you will really enjoy my new blog.

I don't know at this point what is going to happen with Life on the Domestic Front. I wonder if it may have run its course and served its purpose since I started it almost two years ago. I needed to get a lot of things out there and I have done that. Maybe now it's time to turn inward and be more introspective. And I know my mom would really appreciate it if I stopped oversharing on the internet. (Hi Mom!)

So, I'm off to the doctor in a bit and will hope for nothing but good news there. Please wish me luck!


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Catching Up Because I've Been Neglecting You!

I haven't been feeling well this past week in a way that is worse than my normal bitching and moaning. I have a doctor's appointment on Friday and I hope to get some answers then and I am also hoping against hope that whatever this problem is, I will still be able to go to the Woodlawn Plantation needlework show on Thursday with the Embroidery Guild.


Since I haven't been writing much and I feel like a major disappointment to all of my followers (who I love so much!), I am sending you three links to entertain you today.

First is a Washington Post review of Jenny Lawson's (aka The Bloggess) book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir. I am rereading Jenny's book right now and I swear it's funnier the second time around. If you would like to get a copy for yourself, go here. I promise you won't regret it.

My big news is that I am now a certified searchable author on Amazon! Ask A Bipolar, the website I did some writing for last year, has published a best of book which you can get here on the Kindle or here if you would like a print copy. (I am happy to sign your book for you. I can't believe I just wrote that!) Or just click the links to see my name as an author! Really exciting and it's making me rethink maybe self-publishing a couple of my children's books. If I could ever put down my other love (cross stitch, in case you hadn't noticed), I might actually have time to do some more writing.

The third link is to my stitching friend, Carrrie's, blog, Addicted to Stitching. I had asked her about her craft room and she obliged by posting up pictures of what turns out to be the stash I wish I had. If you are a crafter or a cross stitcher, you have to see this craft room. I'm green with envy and thinking that if my oldest doesn't move out soon, I'm going to force the two younger boys to room together so I can have a room of my own. Having a cross stitch "area" is just not making me giddy. I have thought about turning our family room into my craft room to make a point, but I don't think it would go over very well. On the up side, Carrie has given me some great advice by text on how to build up my stash of projects. I think she said she has 75 works in progress and maybe 20 more kits that are ready to start. That definitely is more than my five or six things that I am working on. Maybe I feel like I would be overwhelmed with that much stitching, since I'm kind of overwhelmed with what I have.

So, that's it for today. If I am able to go on the "field trip" on Thursday to Woodlawn, I will try to get pictures. A lot of the museums and old houses won't allow flash photography inside, but I am hopeful that I will be able to use my iPhone to get some pictures there. And there is going to be lunch and shopping at an awesome needlework store (Justin, take my credit cards; wait, don't!), so if I can't go, I'm going to be extremely disappointed. The problem with having a chronic illness is that new symptoms crop up and lay you flat.

Hoping you all are enjoying this awesome weather if you live on the east coast. If you're on the west coast and live in CA or NM, I'm so sorry about the heat.


Friday, June 1, 2012

I'm Published and I Didn't Even Realize It!

Check this out:

In case you're having trouble seeing it, here is the link: The Best of Ask A Bipolar: 2010-2011

I'm definitely going to have to get ahold of a copy for me, for my mom, for everyone who knows me....and please don't forget to download your own copy today! It's available on Kindle for $5.99.

This is truly a wonderful thing that happened to me today. And I have Marybeth Smith to thank. So thanks, Marybeth!


Thursday, May 31, 2012

24 Ways to Know You've Been Married 24 Years

1. You can't think of anything your spouse doesn't know about you.

2. You text each other grocery lists instead of love notes.

3. You text apologies after an argument. And remind him to pick up dog food.

4. You know exactly what to say to annoy each other.

5. You annoy each other just for the entertainment value.

6. One (or both) of you doesn't bother to close the bathroom door anymore while peeing.

7. You know he can't hear you, but you start talking to him from the other room anyway. And get mad when you have to repeat yourself.

8. You started your marriage with traditional gender roles. Now he does the grocery shopping because he's better at it. And the cooking. You have the sex talks with your sons.

9. You have at least one kid you can't get to move out who really should have moved out two years ago.

10. You used to look deep into each other's eyes and declare your undying love for each other. Now you discuss how much is in the checkbook and what you need from Lowe's.

11. You used to have little people who asked for your food. Now you have big people who sneak your food and raid your chocolate stash after you go to bed. And then put the empty bags and boxes back in the pantry so you'll think you still have food.

12. Speaking of bed, you used to spend the night in each other's arms. Now there are two cats and a dog on your bed and sleep actually is more alluring than sex.

13. You have a bedtime and your children don't.

14. Your husband's mid-life crisis is a bright red convertible that he plans to pass down in the will to whichever child actually moves out at some point.

15. You annoy each other just because you're bored.

16. When you first got married, you attended rock concerts or drove to the beach just to get away for a weekend. Now, a date is dinner out that you cut short so you can get home to let the dogs out. Because your kids won't.

17. You have totally different interests. His interests bore you and your interests bore him.

18. 24 years ago, you couldn't stand the thought of being away from each other for more than a couple of hours. Now, you never have the house to yourself and dream of an exotic vacation. By yourself.

19. You stream videos on your laptop while he watches sports on television so you can be in the same room without wanting to kill each other.

20. When you first got married, you wore sexy underwear that matched. 24 years later, you wear three year old cotton underwear that is a size too small and pray you don't get into an accident.

21. Fun in bed now consists of getting in some extra reading time.

22. He agrees not to tell you you've gained 20 pounds if you agree not to ask him, "Do these jeans make me look fat?"

23. You're driving a 12 year old car with 150,000 miles on it. Because it's paid for and the taxes on it are cheap.

24. You'd marry him all over again, despite all of the above. Or because of it. Because 24 years later, you still know he's the guy that's perfect for you.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Our Dogs Hold Hands

Here's an awwww moment. Justin and I were both immediately on it with the iPhone cameras.

Please don't take her away from me! I LUV HER!

They follow each other around all day and Jack tries to herd Charlotte, even though she is technically the "herding" breed.

Charlotte is bringing so much joy to our household. Jack is no longer lonely. He waits for her before he will go out. She won't go out without him. They play at who is more dominant and, because Charlotte is half his size, usually ends up with a head full of saliva and ears that look like they went through a wringer.

I'm feeling as if we have reached our animal quota. I don't want to be one of those people that the city discovers with the urine smell so overpowering they can't enter the home without masks. I think two cats and two dogs will do it for us at the moment.

Charlotte was in the right place at the right time with the right personality. Now, if I can just teach her that 6:00 a.m. is an ungodly hour to get up to pee!

Happy Memorial day weekend to everyone. I hope you are either at the beach or at least eating barbeque, but please take time to remember why we have this holiday and those that have given their lives for our freedom. There is no way we can ever repay the debt we owe our service men and women.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Own Ruby Slippers

Shouldn't we all have a pair of these?
The other day, I had a doctor's appointment. For me, this is a huge event, preceded by extreme planning - what to wear, how long to allot for the hour long drive if it is raining and there might (might???? hahahaha!!!!) be traffic, what meds to throw in my purse, kindle or book I might finish if they are ever running late (never with this doctor), should I bring my sewing...

I never cancel appointments with this doctor or even reschedule them. And with the distance, you would think I'd never get there. Because an agoraphobic, neurotic mental patient usually has trouble getting to commitments five minutes away. An hour? In a 12 year old Jeep? Usually, I'd be searching for a new doctor. But, I've belabored how much I love my doctor before and why he is so worthy of ditching my fear of the outdoors for the hour long ride and the eighteen wheelers on the two land road through the mountains of West Virginia.

After the appointment, which ended in a referral to a specialist that hasn't been set up or rescheduled three or four times yet, I spent the hour back noticing that I was getting very anxious to get home. And I wondered whether that is true of most people. When you get done with whatever you have planned outside, are you pushing yourself to get back inside?

I had two errands to run before coming home, both at the end of my trip. I convinced myself that I could do them, stopped off at the first store, made it to the second store, and then drove the last mile to the house. And stumbled up the steps with my bags, so incredibly glad to come home. And also incredibly glad that I had nowhere to go for the next two days.

I didn't realize this, but agoraphobia is not actually a fear of leaving your house. It's a fear of situations from which you might not be able to escape. Why this should include wide-open spaces, I have no idea, but it makes sense that after having panic attacks in crowds, at the mall, in traffic, all situations from which it is difficult to extricate myself, my fear of going out seems completely normal to me.

The difference between agoraphobia and claustrophobia is that claustrophobia is the fear of small, enclosed, confined spaces. It's way more specific. And it isn't related to the fear that you are going to have a panic attack. Agoraphobia comes about because you've had panic attacks in certain situations. In my case, I've had panic attacks in so many different situations that it has become more safe for me (in my mind) to just not go anywhere. And then when I do eventually manage to get myself out of the house, I find that I actually enjoy it, unless a situation presents itself where I am unable to escape. Like traffic. Or the mall. (The mall is the 10th circle of hell. I'm pretty sure that Dante would have added it if there had been malls when he was writing his Inferno.)

But back to the original question. Do all people start getting anxious when they are getting close to home after being out? I know people are usually glad to get home, but I can feel myself actually rushing when I know I'm headed away from whatever it was I was doing and heading back to my safe place. Which is different from my happy place, which only exists in my head. And Cabo.

I suspect that it's not really normal to have this kind of anxiety about the final destination of returning home and I suspect that most people do not rush the way that I do to get there. 

I think I would be pretty good if I was able to have everything I needed delivered, including healthcare (oh, those housecalls!), and never actually have to go anywhere. Justin often teases me a out how much I use online shopping and "taking things for a ride around the country." I have become an expert in seeing if I can get free shipping so I don't have to go out.

Of course, there are exceptions and things that I do like to do. I like to visit friends. I like to go to the embroidery group events. And I like the occasional lunch or movie with my husband or kids. But I still find myself rushing to get home.

As Dorothy said, "There's no place like home." I can see all kinds of uses for those ruby slippers.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Did You Ever Have One of Those Decades?

You know how people will say they are just having one of those days? Or weeks? Or months? Or even years?

I think I'm having one of those decades.

On the one hand, there are some really neat things happening in my life. I joined the Embroidery Guild. I've met some new people and think some are potential good friend material. Joey got to sit in on his very first IEP meeting and that was totally cool. I'm going to the beach and will spend a whole week with my parents next month. And then Justin and I are going to Gettysburg in August.

On the other hand...

Do things ever all of a sudden just crush your spirit to the point where you wonder what the hell hit you? Last year, I kept saying I couldn't wait for the year to be over because it was the worst year of my life. And really, it was a bad year. We lost Justin's dad. My mom was going through horrible treatment for metastatic cancer. My best friend's breast cancer had come back. So I figured that 2012 had to be better, right?

Fast forward to 2012 and holy cow, can we rewind the clock or something?

Malea's cancer is now stage 4 metastatic breast cancer and is in her lungs, pleura, and her neck. She is undergoing extreme chemo again and is having horrific pain. I don't know what to do to help her, but the best thing I can do is be her friend and just be here for her.

And, as I try as hard as I can to handle how bad things are for the woman who is more like my sister than my best friend, I am also having some health problems of my own. Some vague and unrelated symptoms have come together to a point that I am starting to think something might be really wrong - like possibly needing surgery wrong. Again.

Since moving to Winchester, I've had two major surgeries. Gall bladder in 2007 and hysterectomy in 2010. I think the hysterectomy has caused more problems than it solved and that is what is worrying me now. I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow to see what the hell they think might be going on.

Right now, I am terribly frustrated with myself. I'm angry that my body is breaking down on me again when my best friend needs me so much.

And between feeling like crap and worrying about her, I just can't seem to get myself together.

I spend more time in my pajamas than in clothes. And speaking of clothes, I keep having to go buy bigger ones, which is also depressing the crap out of me. I'm finally into the old lady section of the store, looking for pants with elastic waistbands. What the hell? In my mind, I'm still 16 and weigh 105 pounds and am too skinny. In reality, my pants size is in double digits.

I'm exhausted, but I can't sleep.

I can't get off the couch. Except to move to the recliner.

I'm not getting the sewing done that I would like to get done. I'm not reading the massive amounts of books I usually read. I am trying more than usual not to go out the door. Last week, I had something scheduled every single day and it freaked me out.

I'm not writing nearly as much as I used to. And I miss it. I've lost my rhythm and can't seem to get it back.

Yesterday, I got caught up watching a movie and didn't even shower until noon. I used to shower when I got up first thing in the morning because I didn't feel like the day had really started until I had a shower.

I know, this sounds like major depression. Except I don't think it is. I don't feel sad so much as I feel frustrated and angry. I want to feel better. I want Malea's cancer to go away. I want the three stress free days at a spa that we had planned.

I wish I had something pithy and interesting to say to end this post, but I'm just too tired to try to come up with something that smacks of wisdom.

All I know is that I wouldn't want to be 16 again. I like being in my 40's. Except that bad things are starting to happen all around me and I'm not sure I'm mature enough to handle it all.

So, I guess the way I will end this post is to say that things will get better, hopefully. And to stay tuned for a giveaway.  (I know, right? You weren't expecting that!)

If you would like to help my friend with her medical costs, please go to Save Malea. She is back with her regular insurance, but she still has costs at the center every week. Every penny helps. A huge thanks from me if you are able to help or if you have helped in the past.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Bragging and a Video!

I just have to take a minute to brag about my 15 year old son, who did an awesome job last night in his final concert in the high school band.

When Ben was in tenth grade, he was in the same band and they went to NYC for a competition. Apparently, some of the concert band players this year had older siblings who also went and they wanted to play the Broadway rendition of The Lion King that Ben and his classmates saw while they were in the city.

Here is the band, with Jamie playing bongos in his final performance with the high school band. He will be taking other electives next year, so I am very glad I had my iPhone and was able to catch his last concert. If you are interested, you can watch the other three videos.


I have other video I'd like to upload, but I'm not sure that my new (female) dog humping my (male) golden retriever is within their You Tube's terms of service. Of course, I'm pretty sure that You Tube is where the adolescent boys all go for the 2012 version of pornography these days.


Enjoy! I surely did. I only wish I had sat closer so you could see Jamie play, but he is in the last row, right to the right of the band director and directly behind him.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Today I'm Over There!

I finally got my stitching blog up and running with updates on my current projects. Please click on the The Next Best Stitch and wander around. Take your time, enjoy, and feel free to leave comments on how I can improve the site.

I hope to be back to writing more humorous, snarky things shortly. Life has a way of taking a toll on the humor portion of the brain.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

ANOTHER Kidney Stone? Really? Seriously?

It's 2:46 a.m. and all of the house is fast asleep. Except me.

I have this pain in my lower left side that started about the time I went to bed. It's an excruciating kind of pain that makes me want to scream, except then I'd wake up the whole house and there's nothing worse than a house where no one got any sleep.

I've had this pain off and on several times. The first time was on Thanksgiving Day. I had stayed home while Justin took the boys down to his mom's house. My parents hadn't moved to South Carolina yet, but my mom was in the middle of her chemo and I suspect she wasn't up to having Thanksgiving last year, although it's the middle of the night and I may be remembering that wrong.

No, I take that back. The first time I had this pain was when I was eight months pregnant with Joey and thought I had gone into labor. I should tell you that story sometime.

I do remember that the Thanksgiving pain last year came and went for several hours before ending in a crescendo of myself clutching the baby gate and screaming so loud that Jack came trotting to see what the hell the woman who pets him less than the man that lives here was hollering about. You've got to hand it to animals. They just know.

The pain eventually passed, in one way or another and I finally felt better. I missed Thanksgiving, but I remember Justin cooking Thanksgiving dinner for me on another day.

I got this same pain again sometime after New Year's and this time I went to Urgent Care because I thought for sure that something was going to rupture and I really wanted to be near a morphine drip when it did. After taking blood and urine and my vitals, the doctor was 99% sure I had a kidney stone because of the intensity of the pain and the blood in my pee. He sent me over to get a CT scan just to be sure and of course, it came back inconclusive. So, he left it at, "You had a kidney stone, probably." I love a man who commits.

Tonight, I went up to bed around 10:00, anticipating reading a little bit more of The Hunger Games on Joey's Kindle before falling asleep at 10:30, as usual. Since I discovered melatonin, going to sleep hasn't been a delayed nightmare for awhile. Now I get the nightmares after going to sleep (side effect), but I'd much rather have nightmares in my sleep than a nightmare getting to sleep. We got the kids and the animals all settled and read for awhile. We turned out the lights and I could tell that Justin was out like a light almost immediately. And then the pain hit.

I tossed.

I turned.

I rubbed my side, massaging, hoping it was something that might, you know, shift if I pressed hard enough and travel its way to its final destination.

Justin's phone rang and he turned it off. It chimed a voice mail. He got up and checked it. He came downstairs for awhile and worked.

I tossed. And turned.

Justin came back upstairs, got into bed, fell right back to sleep. He never knew I was awake because I had no desire to go to the emergency room.

I had to work progressively on not moaning and then not screaming. I went to the bathroom a couple of times and tried to pee.

The pain finally got so bad that I snuck downstairs for a double dose of my regular pain medication, hoping to knock myself out. I went back to bed. The minute I laid down, the pain hit again. I immediately bounced back up out of the bed and came downstairs and read some more of The Hunger Games on the Kindle while trying not to scream.

And I drank a lot of water, hoping to pass what must once again be a kidney stone. I debated waking Justin up and asking him to drive me to the ER, but since it is so much like the last time that it would be a waste of time and then he would be exhausted too. I have no desire to have the bright glare of medical land hitting me in the face at 3:00 in the morning.

I'm pretty sure the pain meds have finally kicked in or I passed the son of a bitch the last time I peed, because the pain has gone from a 10+ down to about a 7. Probably not down enough to sleep yet though.

The kids have to be up at 6:30. At this point, what's the point of going to bed?

Besides, I think I'm making Joey nervous about borrowing his Kindle to read the trilogy I downloaded for him because he asked me tonight if I liked the story and how far I had gotten. And then he suggested that I go to bed early and read like he does. (Not transparent at all, Joe. Not transparent at all. Good thing you're charming!)

So I'm up to part II in the book, I've been back and forth to the bathroom four or five times, I think I'm actually up later than my oldest son, who rarely hits the bed before dawn is on the horizon (which is around 4:30 these days - I now realize why we have daylight savings time, because otherwise it would be starting to get light in about a half hour or forty-five minutes).

But the pain has lessened for whatever reason and I am very happy about that. The daily, chronic, pain in the ass pain of fibro is one thing. The feeling that someone got angry at me and cut me with a very large, very sharp knife in my side is quite another.

Unfortunately, I don't think I'm anywhere near low enough on the pain-o-meter to actually go to sleep. Maybe I'll try to get a little farther through the book so that Joey will know he will eventually get his Kindle back.

P.S. On a side note, I have been working diligently on setting up my stitching website so I can stop boring stitchy people with my rather questionable writing skills and the people who are interested in the minutae of my boring life with my stitching. You'll note two new links on the right hand side of the page. The Heaven and Earth Designs link is for a specific project I am working on that displays only works in progress by that designer so that we can all encourage each other to keep going. (Because they are BIG. ASS. PROJECTS.)

The second site, The Next Best Stitch, is my new site and so far, I have managed to get pictures of most of my completed work and works in progress up. All that remains is for me to set up a tab for Love Quilts and actually put up a post and it will be all ready to go.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Best Kind of Mother's Day

When I was a teenager growing up in Vienna (Virginia, not Austria), my bedroom was directly over our front porch. The porch had an overhang which was directly under my window and I liked to climb out onto the overhang and sit on summer evenings. Sometimes my best friend who lived behind me and spent most of her time at my house and vice versa would sit out there with me. It was a good vantage point for 4th of July fireworks, but it was also a great place to people watch.

We also had a pretty mature tree in the front yard with awesome climbing branches. When my cat would escape, she would inevitably run right for the tree and claw her way up and then my dad would spend two hours cussing and trying to coax her back into the house. I used to climb that tree too and just sit and watch the neighbors coming and going. The tree was better because I could hide behind the leaves and imagine that no one knew I was there. I was "invisible." (Although I suspect my mother knew where to find me.)

I saw a lot from my vantage point in the tree and on the overhang over the porch. One set of neighbors had a messy divorce and one day all of the husband's clothes were all over the front yard. When things went south, I would come home from a date and find the wife in her car watching the house to see what her husband was doing. Sadly, they had a small son at the time. I babysat for them one time and they paid me $8 for New Year's Eve - prime babysitting time for teenage girls and usually fairly lucrative - and never asked me back because I spent the entire night on the phone with a friend and they couldn't get through to check on the child they later traumatized with affairs and divorce and visitation and stalking each other. $8 for New Year's Eve. They were hammered when they got home, but that's no excuse.

I had a kind of idyllic childhood. We moved every 18 months when I was little, as my dad kept getting transferred (not the military - he worked for Honeywell and they kept promoting him), but in 1977 we moved to Vienna and when the company wanted to transfer him to Texas (or somewhere equally unappetizing), he said, "I'm not moving my kids again" and found another job. So, I consider myself a Virginia native and that I grew up in Vienna.

We didn't live near any of our relatives (maybe by choice on my parents' part), so the little nuclear family of Mom, Dad, brother and sister was all there was. I have a lot of memories of growing up, going to high school, dating, spending the summers in long canasta tournaments with my best friend from behind my house, running through the hose, lying out on the back deck in a bikini slathered with baby oil for the best tan.

I remember the traditions my own mother established when we moved to Virginia for holidays, since we didn't have extended family to gather with. Christmas Eve was board games with my parents and brother (the one day a year) and brisket that cooked for 6 hours and came out of the oven falling apart that Mom would put out on a platter with cheeses and those little tiny bread slices and vegetables. Christmas Day would be the big turkey dinner. There was mistletoe in the foyer and a big tree that we would go out and cut down ourselves.

My parents made an effort to give us memories that we would take with us for a lifetime and, even considering the awful state of my memory today, I have fond memories of those teenage years. Later, my brother would rebel and there was lots of yelling and anger and sadness, but that came more after I left for college than while I lived at home and so there are a lot of good memories.

For these, I have my mother to thank.

Justin gave me a Mother's Day card today that says, in part, that I am "the heart of the home." I don't know how true that is about me, but it certainly was true about my own mother and I can only hope that my kids have as many good memories of growing up as I do about my own childhood. My mom truly is the glue that held us all together as a family.

I have done many things differently with my children. Part of it is due to my mental and physical difficulties. My oldest son once wistfully mentioned that we never did anything together as a family. That's not entirely true, but we did do more together when they were little than we do now. As teenagers, they have their own lives and they want their privacy and their freedom and we are trying to balance that with them needing to be a part of the family we have created. I don't know how I've done in the "mom" department, but I know my boys love me and I know they are empathetic, polite, respectful, and downright solicitous of how what they does will affect me. I know they love me. I know they care about me. Even if they don't spend time with me on a day to day basis, if I ask if they want to go out for breakfast or have dinner out at the local Italian restaurant, they are right there. If I say I want to go to a movie for my birthday, they go, even if it's not something they would see if they were choosing what we were seeing.

I started this post talking about how climbing that tree in my front yard as a teenager made me feel "invisible," but in a good way. Sometimes now, I feel invisible in my own house with my kids going so many separate ways and Justin working so much. I wonder if they would notice if I wasn't here and suspect they wouldn't so much until the laundry wasn't getting done and the glasses weren't getting down to the dishwasher. But I also know that when I go away, they are relieved when I come home. And that must mean that I'm not as invisible as I imagine myself to be.

I am blessed with three wonderful boys who care about me. I am blessed with a mother who raised me right. And I am blessed with a husband whose mother did an awesome job raising him.

All I want for Mother's Day is exactly what I have. And that's the best kind of Mother's Day anyone could ask for.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

May 12th is Fibromyalgia/ME Awareness Day

Do you know anyone with fibromyalgia? Chances are you do and you don't even know it.

Because its invisible.

But it still hurts. A lot. All of the time.

Please do something nice for your fibro friends today.


Friday, May 11, 2012

One Last (Hopefully) Stitchy Update

Just one more stitchy post until I can figure out a name for my new cross stitch blog. Thank you everyone for your ideas. I really want to include the word "domestic" in the title, but blogger keeps telling me none of my various combinations are available.

I dragged myself out of bed this morning and wasn't sure I could make it to embroidery club, but I knew I would be really sad if I didn't make it, so I forced myself to get up and get going. And here is the result!

I have a finished name tag! So thrilling. And the techniques I learned will allow me to finish the two Christmas ornaments I've got upstairs that I wasn't sure how to proceed on.

If anyone has experience with blogger, could you let me know? I really need to figure out how to find a name that is actually available. Is it possible that all of the name combinations are taken? Is the blogosphere full already? Scary...

I'm planning on a DMV trip tomorrow with Jamie, as we didn't get there last week. Not too thrilled about going to the DMV on a Saturday, but a promise is a promise and I know he is anxious to start learning how to drive Justin's sports car so he can wait until we go to bed and sneak it out to impress all the girls. "Hey, baby, wanna ride?"

I'm a little scared that he wants to learn to drive a stick shift. Ben never had any interest and still doesn't, which enabled us to keep our insurance costs down. Justin is insisting that he will start Jamie out on the sports car and teach him to drive the standard transmission from the get go. It is a good skill to have, but I worry about that car, because if something happens to it, Jamie's going to feel just awful and Justin will probably ground him until he's 50.

I should be cleaning bathrooms, since my cleaning person is out due to rotator cuff surgery and won't be back for probably another 3-4 weeks. I've been keeping up with the downstairs pretty well and have done a good job of cleaning the half bath every week, but just thinking about the upstairs makes me groan and find something else to do as quickly as possible. Upstairs is our master bath with soaking tub and standing shower and I can no longer reach across the tub to clean it. Overall, bathrooms are the reason I have a cleaning person to begin with. A 45 minute bathroom cleaning session will put me on the couch for 2-3 days.

Which is why I keep bribing Jamie to clean his bathroom and wipe down the surfaces in my bathroom. I have to get my perfectionistic tendencies under control and be glad that he's willing to let me hire him.

I think I'll just hermit and stitch, even though I have no idea if it is a hermit and stitch weekend!


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Help, I need a Title!

Just a short request. I am starting to work on my cross stitching blog and I need a title! It has to at least have the word "stitch" or "stitching" in it.

Anyone have a title for their blog that they ended up not using? There are so many that it may be hard for me to find something I can use! I'm being held up by lack of imagination...so what else is new?



I will keep putting names into blogger until I find one that isn't already taken.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words - Or Something

When you get down to it, every day life is kind of boring. You get up, you shower, you get dressed, you go about your day with your to do list. My to do list is generally not very long because of the fibro, but it always has one or two things on it.

But what I have realized in the last few months is that every day boring life? That's your life. And how many people can say they are really living their lives? How many are in the present moment? How many are telling the people they love how important they are and hugging their kids and stopping to smell the roses?

My life has recently been going through a series of decisions - what will I do with my blog, what do I want to focus my time on, what needlework projects do I want to work on. I need to pick up a prescription and get the new dog a pretty collar with some bling, because she's a girl and all girls need a little bling. I need a bubble wrap envelope so I can ship off my quilt square. I need to take Jamie to get his learners permit. I need to send my mom something for Mother's Day.

And while all of this mundane stuff is going on in my life, something much more life shattering is going on in the life of the best friend I have ever had.

As most of you know, Kaiser told her there was nothing more they could do for her metastasized cancer back in January. She found a holistic clinic that takes care of her as a person, not a number, and she and her husband proceeded to fund raise. Things were going okay. She looked healthy. She felt good.

And then things fell apart. In the last two weeks, it was determined that she has pleurisy in one lung and that the tumors in her lungs were not going away. And then the blood work came back and the cancer has spread to the tissue around the lungs.

A PET scan was scheduled. She had that on Friday. The pain was getting so bad that she couldn't breathe. Isn't it amazing how much we take breathing for granted?

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of spending the day taking Malea for bloodwork, for her IV treatment at the center, and to the pulmonologist, where they pulled 500 cc's of fluid out of her left lung and assured her that the pain would be gone within a couple of hours.

Instead, the pain has been getting worse. She can't find a comfortable position. She can't lie down or sit up. Her pain management is almost zero - I don't know why. She can't cough or sneeze or laugh because the pain is excruciating.

A call to her pulmonologist determined that she shouldn't still be in pain and that since she is in so much pain, it is most likely coming from the tumors that are clustered along her sternum and in her lungs. A CT scan has been scheduled for tomorrow and the PET scan results are in, but the report hasn't been written yet. The doctor told her today on the phone that there were "new findings" on the PET scan, but that she wasn't able to tell her what they were until the report came back.

None of this is good news. Malea is of course really scared and I am beyond scared for her. Right now, it is raining hard and it feels to me like the earth is crying with me because I am so anxious for her.

If anyone can beat cancer, it is my friend. But she is going through all of the what if scenarios in her mind right now and fighting back the fear that she won't be here for the birth of her first granddaughter in August. We are staying positive and believing that things will turn around.

But for now, my plans are on hold because I can't focus on them. I find myself staring off into the distance, sometimes with tears on my cheeks. Sometimes I find myself sobbing and Justin has to come and hold me until I can catch my breath. Sometimes I find a cat and lie down and just listen to him purr.

We had plans to go to the beach this week. We were going to have a girls' trip, just the two of us, to feel the healing of the ocean. Then we thought we could make plans once the fluid was drained, but she's in more pain now than before they did the procedure.

I want to give her a couple of really good, stress free, obligation free, cancer free days to just be herself and relax and enjoy the ocean or the lake or the mountains. It's the one thing I really, really want to do. I am praying that a miracle will appear and very, very soon.

Right now, I hate cancer with the passion of a thousand burning suns. It doesn't care who it picks on. It doesn't care that it ruins plans and causes horrific pain and suffering and it doesn't discriminate. It takes children. What kind of world are we living in when children die of cancer? Who is to answer for this?

Why is there no cure for this insidious disease? And why does it seem to be slithering its way into my life by striking the people I love the most?

The next time you are stuck in traffic, or in line at the grocery store, or your kid is driving you crazy, think about how lucky you are just to be able to breathe. I know I will.