Sunday, January 29, 2017

On MDD and Marriage

This is going to be one of the most gut-wrenching posts I've made yet. Honestly, if this gets published, it is a serious act of bravery (or stupidity) happening. Maybe it will just be shared among a few close friends, maybe the link will show in Facebook. I'm not sure yet.

Owen has a mental illness. It is tearing us up. I am not strong enough. I'm lost as to how to help him anymore. It is a demon, a curse, a chemical imbalance combined with brain damage which has made home life so very difficult. I'm scared we won't make it. There. I said it.

Major Depressive Disorder with Social Anxiety Disorder came formally into our lives about five years ago. Owen was working in an abusive environment, and we thought the change in his behavior was due to that. Only, when he switched jobs it stayed and then progressed even more. I saw the man I love start to lose interest in things he once loved. Hobbies he had just started to thrive in were left to gather dust. Our conversations grew shorter as I spent more hours looking at the side of his head as he was more and more lost in his own sad world. Engaging him in meaningful conversations were constantly turning into disasters with his tone showing strain, voice louder, going from calm to rage in an instant. It was like living with a hurricane whilst being on a roller coaster. It was frightening and I wasn't sure what to do. It took a member of his family committing suicide, and Owen asking me to remove the guns from our house, before he first sought help. Medications were tried and failed. More were tried and we had some successes. For a time, he had a great psychiatrist who engaged him in behavior therapy as well. Then the psychiatrist left, his neurological issues became more prominent, and this new crisis became the focus. The new psychiatrist was an idiot who didn't understand the part PKU and brain damage played in his disorder.

It took us two long and painful years (and threats to contact patient advocacy groups) before a referral was made to neurology. By then, Owen couldn't walk without stomping, shook constantly, had horrible vocabulary aphasia and could barely work. Dopamine Reactive Dystonia (otherwise known as PKU Parkinsonism) was diagnosed, and Owen was put on dopamine. Feeling great again, he jumped back into HAM radio and quit his medication for the depression. At first it was okay enough, but he quickly regressed. This time, though, it was different. He was coming home from work, barely speaking, going to the computer, and I wouldn't see him until dinner. Even then, he'd engage for a few minutes only and then be back in his own sad world. I made attempt after attempt to get him to spend more time outside of it. This time, he'd act like there was no attention span. More than one direction or comment at a time and he'd get flustered and shut down. If I was too long in answering, moving, giving a next step, he'd get frustrated and shut down. He'd start to work on a basic task and if one thing went wrong, or I didn't fly to his side when he called for assistance, he'd shut down. He started blaming everything that happened on everyone and everything else. Over the past months an obstinate streak has started, and I have no idea how to handle any of it.

I've tried so many different ways to work around these things, but to no avail. He was insistent that it was ADD or maybe his thyroid or his PHE levels from the PKU (he has a wide selection of low phe foods to eat in this house at all times. I make much of it from scratch... yet he cannot "be bothered" with microwaving it.) I've heard that because I did something x years ago and it damaged him for life (the offense varies with whatever is currently setting him off) or someone said something ten years ago and he never could get past it. He'd say I didn't put the laptop away enough to spend time with him, even when I'd stop everything I was doing to sit next to him while he was at his computer or put my arms around him there and try to engage him in conversation, or I've kept it closed while we watched a show so he could curl up with his head on my lap. It was a cut on his finger which stopped all assistance in the house for a week. A small foot issue kept him freaked out and at the computer only for three months (recall I function with daily severe pain, dislocations and a heart condition... but, as he says, I'm "used to it.") Anyways, the story changes constantly. He'd change his mind or retell a story differently just to be the opposite, make it sound like I was lying, leave in the middle of conversations, or go to bed because he didn't get his way in something. The subject for digging in his feet changed constantly. I never knew what was coming through the door.

After speaking with genetics again (and going to patient advocates over the same dawdling by them) Owen had a neuro-psych evaluation in November. It isn't ADD. It is not his thyroid. It isn't even the Dopamine Reactive Dystonia... all of this is from the mental illness Major Depressive Disorder. This Wednesday he starts intensive behavioral therapy. If we can get psychiatry to call back (one referral Dec 26th and 3 follow up calls later and still no appointment) he is to start back there with a proper doctor and not a resident. They also recommended couples counseling. Owen told them I take the brunt of everything and shouldn't. We need that counselling...

Because I'm broken. I'm confused. I'm out of ideas. I'm about to collapse under the strain of what mental illness has done to us. Nothing I do is helping make progress with Owen. If anything, it makes things worse. If I ignore the behaviors and focus on his needs, it isn't enough for him. If I try to talk him through an issue, he gets upset or shuts down. If I work day in and out, going above and beyond... still not enough. If I use half of my paycheck on keeping a house cleaner because the state of the house is a trigger and I cannot keep up with it all, nope, still not enough because a scrap of food is on a plate or clothes are not folded. I'm going to the Lord in prayer constantly.

I miss Owen. I miss the man I married. I miss our conversations, our laughter, the hours cuddling, all of it. Can I continue here with the way he is now? Yes. I won't leave him. I'll fight with my dying breath to help him. I love him more now than ever, even with all of the pain and sorrow. It is so hard. So very hard. Yet, I hold out hope for the next phase in treating him, the next therapy, counselling, medication, whatever it takes. Even though it seems I can do nothing right, I must remember it is mostly the mental illness and not him. There is hope that, one day, we'll get this demon back in the box, and I'll once again see more glimpses of the man I know is still there. He'll get back into his hobbies. We will go back to more time together. One day, mental illness won't be tearing our marriage apart.

*Note* Please do not attack me or go telling family etc just because I've put this out there. Writing is how I survive. I have pages and pages of ramblings from these past five years. No one sees them. No one really knows. I'm tired of being in the dark, dragged along by what this disorder has done and wrote this out so those who I know love Owen and me so much can really know what is happening.*

Friday, December 16, 2016

On Another Year Racing By (The 2016 Christmas Letter)

     There have been so many times I've sat on this blog page with something to write about, thoughts to put into words for anyone to see, then backed away and written them in a digital journal I've kept. It is my hope to soon move those thoughts over here. In the meantime, we never did get that dying printer replaced. It works for a needed page or two, but it wouldn't handle the 60 sheets of the Christmas letter, so once more it is in digital format.

My Beloved Family and Friends,
    Another year has raced by. It seems only three months ago we were moving into January 2016, yet now here we are staring down 2017. I hope this letter finds you all well and happy. As usual, it has been a busy year here on the homestead, just not in the way we had anticipated.
    The year started with Owen finally having a much needed neurological evaluation. Not surprisingly as, he had the shakes, vocabulary aphasia and the stiff walk and stomp of feet hitting the ground flat. We left with a "hold over" diagnosis of Dompamine Reactive Dystonia and a warning that it could be changed to something scarier. Owen responded instantly to being on dopamine and, for awhile, seemed to be on the up and up. He also moved from the job at the county to working as a System Admin for the town of Culpeper. It was a much needed change. He's still into HAM radio and online gaming, despite the challenges, and I'm happy he has those hobbies.
     We were able to get the garden started on time, spent a great weekend with our awesome friend and "adopted" brother Alex when he got back from deployment and prepared for a spring and summer of travel and projects being completed on the property. We went to Ohio again to HamVention (Amateur Radio convention) and made a couple of day trips to visit friends out there. We love camping!
     That strong start skidded to a halt when my already problematic right knee took a turn down the "dislocate daily" route. Before much longer, surgery was recommended, then scheduled. We had a short period of time to decide what to plant, what to leave out, and for me to teach Owen what to weed, what to harvest and other tasks. We managed to get the more dangerous trees taken down and the new HVAC put in beforehand. On July 21st (yes our 9 year wedding anniversary) I went in for a knee repair/reconstruct. The surgeon wasn't sure what he was going to find once in, so was prepared for everything - including a possible knee replacement. Thankfully, I woke up with the knee realigned, scar tissue removed, debris cleared out, and a donated tendon. Recovery went really smoothly, and I was back up and better than before within about 8 weeks - which is really unusual for an Ehlers-Danlos patient, but that donated tendon made all the difference. I was active in time for harvest and

preserving and we put up enough sauce, ketchup, salsa, green beans, corn, beets and dried beans for the year. I still work for Bridgeway Homeschool Academy and love it there! This July will be 5 years with the company. I'm also still sewing and quilting every chance I get. The picture to the right is one I made for my mom. I'm also back to writing again, and that means the 18 month long writers block for Sunrise to Shadows is over and I'm making huge gains on it (despite losing the ending and having to write it over again.) I'll be doing a new editing for Midnight to Morning, then re-releasing that shortly before Sunrise comes out. I'm looking for a good editor and someone to do the cover art right now.
     As I was getting better, Owen was starting to get worse again. We were not sure what was really going on, but the decision was made to get him completely evaluated for Neuro-Psych for those more dangerous diagnosis. That just happened and we left with a totally different and completely unexpected diagnosis than what we had been expecting. We've made the best of it and continue to push through the various challenges a couple living with genetic disorders can have.
   At the end of October, we became a household of three, as my goddaughter, Amber, moved in with us. She is trying to get her life back on track and has started to do so by leaving NJ and all of the bad which happened there and seeking help here in VA. She's been doing really well with getting a job right away, working on saving for various things, paying bills, going to therapy and helping us out around the house. At times it is exhausting, especially with driving her around everywhere, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I love having her here! Alex visited us in November and everyone pitched in to get the last of the raised beds rebuilt with cinder block and vole fencing. This makes nearly the entire garden accessible to me once more.
     Ginger and Hobo dog are still doing well. Hobo is starting to show his age a bit more, but he's still the biggest sweetheart of a wiggle-butt. We've had to put him on a zip
line run this year, because he is losing some of his sight, and I don't want to risk him going off on one of his "gotta mark the neighborhood" wanderings. Ginger is my shadow and cuddle pup. She responds to "Where is my space heater?" and "Hey, cuddle pup!" She is quick to take Owen's place on the bed as soon as he gets up - sprawling out to lay alongside me and doing her little Aussie Cattledog grunts to show she's content there. She adores Owen and loves to curl up on his lap, even though she overflows it. She has been known to try to sneak into Ambers room too and insists on going outside with her to "protect" Amber. Erwin is now 15 and a half and going strong. The little twiddle bird gave me a scare earlier in the year, but has rebounded. He likes dancing to Amber's choice of music and being a little clown. Fledgeling is his normal adorable self, always giving me heart-wings and kisses and talking only when he thinks someone isn't listening. He is totally a mommy's
     Our hope for 2017 is progress in managing the health issues. We also are hoping to go to Wales for our 10 year wedding anniversary. For the homestead, getting the driveway repaired, putting up the fence, and putting pavers around the garden are the goals. When it comes to family, we want to spend as much time with my infant nephew as possible (the baby Adam and Mysti are adopting) making better connections with Owens family, and take a trip to NJ where Owen can come too. We shall see! It is a crazy life we live, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The 2015 Christmas Letter

** Our printer decided it wanted to start its death throws as I was getting ready to print this letter**

Dear Family and Friends,
Here we are staring down 2016 already. This year has, again, flown by. I hope that it has been a positive and healthy one for you all. Everyone reading this means very much to us, so we
have been praying for you all.
This year started out as a positive note. Owen and I were doing well, as were our fur and feathered babies and our family. We had our dear friend (adopted sibling really) Alex up at the first of the year. He helped Owen take apart and rebuild 3 of our raised garden beds with cinder block. This made it higher, sturdier and easier for me to use. I wasn't having to bend over as much for our shorter crops or weeding. They also installed vole fencing so I was able to grow root veggies again. Between that and the greenhouse my parents bought for my birthday... well... From the picture below you can see that was quite a success! We had so many beets and sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
In May, Owen and I went out to Ohio again for Hamvention, the international amateur radio event. I was dealing with a sore hip and foot, but managed to walk through a good chunk of it. The second day, Owen went alone while I visited close friends. It was after we returned that I noticed something was "not right." That continued into the end of May when we had the 100th anniversary of my moms moms side of the family coming to America. The original farm is still in the family and we had one amazing celebration!

From there I went to graduation at Bridgeway Academy, as several favorite students were graduating. I ended up in bad shape and barely made the drive home. We found out a week later that the heart issue I was having was much worse than expected. Dysautonomia is nothing to shrug off, espeically with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and my heart was "struggling" and "was out of reserves" and I heard "you are a lot more sick than you think" a lot in the month that followed. Thankfully, I responded to a medication currently on FDA trial to be "on label" for such a condition. Now is the long, and very hard, process of regaining strength. I no sooner had turned a good corner when that "sore foot" became a "fall and fracture said foot." Months in a stirrup brace and home exercises did nothing. A trip to the foot/ankle surgeon led to learning of a bigger problem. I get to spend the next 5-6 months in intensive physical therapy to work on the foot all the way up to the hip. Surgery will happen if that fails. Along the way, the garden was neglected a bit and I never did get my winter crops going in the greenhouse. Hoping to still do that and catch up on winterizing. On the positive, I have really gotten into sewing and am starting to sell the items I make in craft shows, going beyond the just for friends and family. It has been a great experience! Especially since an issue with disability left my payments on suspension and us in a financial bind. It has been a lesson is leaning on God and how He provides.

Owen has had a roller coaster of a year. He continues to work for Culpeper County Human Services, but is on the lookout for a new job. He has completed his goals for the organization and would leave them in a much much better shape than when he arrived. We are hoping for a few options he has to become a reality in form of a better position. In the meantime, he continues to be big into the Amateur Radio world, and we have 2 antennas in the yard and a handheld device on almost every day to prove it. He's been out helping others with their set ups and soon we will be installing a massive tower in the back yard (soon as in after a few trees come down first.) He has had struggles with the PKU and we are seeing some of the brain damage manifest in upsetting ways. He will be seeing a neurologist soon and we hope for a better path to help him from there. In the meantime, we are enjoying time together, movies, watching Scifi series, and our fur and feather kids.

We did suffer the loss of our beloved Aspen back in early July. He fought for as long as he could, but old age and end-stage kidney disease took its toll. Though we had hoped and prayed he would go peacefully in his sleep here at home, we ended up having to escort him over Rainbow Bridge. I spent 14.5 years out of his 15.5 years with him and it hit harder than any loss I have experienced in a long time. With loss comes rebirth and we inherited Ginger. She was my cousin Bill's dog. When he died suddenly, she became ours. She is the most amazing little girl. Ginger is very empathic and has a gently spirit. She is a typical Aussie cattle dog and very possessive of Owen and myself. She is bonded to me for sure. Just as I lost my "boy" I gained my "little girl." In the spring she will be undergoing training to be a hospital therapy dog. Hobo, Erwin and Fledge continue to thrive.

As you can see, it has been a roller coaster.. more than the usual mess two people with chronic genetic conditions have on average that is. Through it all, we remain strong in our love and our faith continues to grow. Our local and online friends and our family are our lifeline and we love and appreciate all of you. Here is to a better 2016!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

On not being a coward anymore

The first song has been in my mind most of the evening. What about the Love? Where is it when we condemn those who sin just like we do but who used to have to live in shadows, kept hidden from our society?
  We know what it feels like, as God has been taken out of so much. Yet right now we don't have to hide, we have that freedom still (though it is threatened), and we are just as lost as they are. Our hypocrisy is right there for all to see, our hatred, just because you can now see them being supported. We are digging a deeper hole that very well could lead to us being forced into hiding (like in other countries), as the world sees us more and more for our despise and not for our Love. No wonder we are being persecuted here in America. No wonder people are fighting to remove anything that has to do with God from schools and businesses. We've made a mess of things and now God is being removed from the public. We know what it means to fight for a basic right, and we've forgotten that so many in other countries have it much worse when it comes to being a Christian. So when we see someone fighting for the same thing, to be allowed out of the shadows, out of the basement of society, why are we kicking them back into hiding? If they see our love, they won't be as likely to join those trying to take Christianity out of America. If you want to bring morals and values back to our country, you are not going to succeed until you go among those who have threatened it and use God's love to guide them onto a better track.
  Didn't we go through this last generation? Did we forget already how wrong they were?
   I used to think like other Christians did, that these people really can cure themselves - until I noticed tendencies in the preschools my mom worked in, with their parents going "no, you want to play with the cars and not the dolls. (or the other way around.) I followed them as they grew and the feelings never changed, but their pain grew worse because they knew what was coming - being kicked out of clubs, kicked out of youth group, some were kicked out of their own homes.  I have had too many friends, as well as current and former students, who have had those who mean the most in their lives turn their back on them when that support is needed the most. They cry out because they cannot help how they are. They've tried to be how their families expected them to be. Some have prayed for years to be "fixed." These are people, hurting like you and me. But we have Hope. We are to be light, welcome them into it, show them the Love of our Lord Jesus.  Does it mean you have to accept their way of life? No! It just means you accept them as a person who wants to not have to hide. A person who hurts and needs God's love and to know that God accepts them - they are just like us... broken. You might not be able to change who they are, but you can change where they are going now and after death. And bit by bit we can bring America back.
   There is so much "boycott this because of an image, write to x because of it." If life was being lost (abortion) or we are losing a vital right, sure I am going to speak up!  If you don't like the content of a commercial, mute it and walk away. An ad in a magazine? You can turn the page. Denying your spouse or child something to help them because the main company has one of those ads? It comes across as petty.
   I understand fully what some of the fuss is about, but honestly don't get the constant whining over the rest of it. I just see people who have been trampled on and who now are grouping up to be lifted. Of course there are extremists who are purposely finding businesses to sue. There are extremists on "our side" too (Westboro comes to mind.) What there needs to be is more of God's love. It takes strength to provide it, to not look down.  It takes wisdom to look through the Bible and see what no longer has to exist, to see what Christ wanted of us, to not take a single line of a verse and use it without seeing the whole picture.
I expect a shorter "friends" list after this post, but I have been getting aggravated by what I've seen by so many other Christians here and I got tired of hiding how I feel. I got tired of being a coward and feeling ashamed every time I was hanging around my bisexual best friend. I lean on Christ every day to get me through. "I Need Thee Every Hour," that song is my mantra. I prayed about this post, thought long about it, asked God to put in my heart what to say. His answer was "What About the Love" and oh did we have a conversation about this while I was sewing. Wrote this hours before it was posted, going over it with Owen, walking off and coming back to it. What you read is basically His answers to my questions.
#loveoneanother, #AllSinIsEqual, #realChristians, #LoveisaVerb, #LoveWins

Monday, February 23, 2015

On Shadows and Shades

You saw it all over the place in the past months. People going back and forth on #pullingbacktheshades versus those who really cannot see 50 Shades of Grey for what it is - a book glorifying relationship violence and a controversial "lifestyle." I read a lot of these posts and their comments, shared a few, prayed a lot for the hearts of women and men to be protected if they did read the book or saw the movie. I heard of people coming out of the film almost in shock at the violence. Honestly, if it wasn't a rich person doing those acts, would people still be praising the story?

Time to get a bit personal. Eleven years ago I went through a divorce. I had been married for 3.5 years to a man I had been a relationship with for two years before that. While I knew he had bad traits and that I was "settling" and thinking he could improve, I was very... very wrong. Within 9 months he had me lying to everyone about what happened in that house, finances, with friends, all of it. He was a master of manipulation and knew just how to get me to return to him when I'd try to back away. When his "brother" moved in, I was already under the strain of the verbal and emotional abuse. He brought drugs into the house and I nearly lost my job and teaching license over it. Not that I could do anything about it as he was already angry because I had been on antibiotics (making birth control less effective), he had assaulted me in a drug and alcohol filled moment, and I had become pregnant. Thankfully, I miscarried two weeks after we found out.  When I stood up for myself and spoke back to him about the drugs, I spent three days locked in a room. My best friend flew out to Colorado right afterward and spent eight days pointing out all he was saying and doing. The blinders came off on day three. I left him four days after she went back to NJ.But it left me with flashbacks, nightmares of what he had done to me, the feeling that I had failed because I couldn't "fix" him- all of it...even though I had fledgling independence now. I submerged myself into music and books... unhealthy books at that. A year later, we moved back to the east coast. I was living in a camper on my brothers property and had started through the Chronicles of Narnia and then Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. When I returned to my fantasy series, something snapped in my mind. I started to feel horrible, like my mind had been run though a mud puddle. I couldn't get scenes out of my head. Right then and there, I put the books down and never picked them back up again.

Fast forward to now. Much as I want to avoid the topic, the storm surrounding the release of the movie was in overdrive. Battle lines had been drawn for the minds and souls of women and men. It is kind of scary that, out here by UVA, we are in the middle of a storm over rape and the mistreatment of young women... yet there they are filling their minds with the most unhealthy concepts. I read one article where the woman went through the book, a woman with a story like mine, and found 50 scenes of abuse - all before she made it midway through the second book. She posted the sentences and surroundings. Just that article was enough to start the flashbacks over again. The scenes she posted burned into my mind and went on repeat. Reading the comments to her article, hundreds of women felt the same way.

It seeps into everything, you know? Everything. I am a gamer and I work very very hard to keep my guildmates safe. They chose me to be their leader. They entrust me with the stories and boundaries and I do all I can to not betray them. But this kind of evil runs far and wide.  Let me set the stage: A young woman in a complicated relationship and a complex friendship has a visitor to where she lives. This visitor is a former instructor from when she was at a university. She trusts this woman, has listened to her in the past and knows the instructor cares about her. However, as they talk and the young woman tells her elder about her situation, the elder starts to make comments about darker ways to take control. She asks if explicit actions have every been taken, then says it is a shame and she was missing out on so much. The young woman isn't even sexually active with the two people she is discussing - but that doesn't seem to matter. The elder feels she needs to learn how to be more of a leader, to be more dominant and she knows just the way to do so. She encourages the young woman to stay near her for a time and "learn."  Do you see where this is going? Right there, over the weekend, concepts which were in that book (bdsm) was spewed across digital text inside the safe environment I had worked so hard to build. Those two who were in this complex situation saw it, were in bits of the conversation, and we were shocked. Nothing is sacred. I had to dig in my heels, put the story on pause, and verbally make my point very very clear that this was forbidden. Oh, I was accused of so much... especially of not being "tolerant" or "open minded." My guildmates were in shock over the whole thing. One became angry at me for salvaging the scene by using something he said, in a different context, as a way to divert the conversation. Me? It did the same as before, just those concepts the elder brought forward to my young woman, the violence to "teach how to be dominant" burned into my mind. I shuddered.

How can we, Christian or not, keep ourselves - and those we hold dear - from abuse, being stalked, coerced to do what we don't want to, if we keep glorifying it? How do you clear your mind after being exposed to something that makes you want to vomit? How can you undo damage after it has invaded a safe place you worked so hard to build? It is very hard, as I am learning.

#pullingbacktheshades, #roleplaysafety, #shadesofabuse,

Saturday, December 27, 2014

On the Long "Season"

It has been a long month, considering we had such a "short" time between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. Amazing what just a few days can do right? No. It was long and somewhat painful.

Each year, since I was a teenager, there has been some mental struggle during Christmas. That reality of early Christians ignoring the blatantly obvious calendar of events of just a few hundred year prior and doing what was "cool." They bent to the will of what was popular or what would turn the most heads at the time. Ancient social media at work you might say. The choice to take a series of "pagan" holidays and twist them a bit to make them into the day chosen to celebrate Christ's birth. Did you know that I look for when the Jewish high holidays start and wish Him a Happy Birthday?

Anyways, what goes around comes around. For a time, it worked. Those holidays blended as word grew of Christianized versions of the trees and other beloved items. For hundreds and hundreds of years, Christmas was just that - the celebration of when Christ was supposedly born, and so so many just went along with it. But now look at what has happened? Santa Claus, his original history buried under a fairy tale arrives, and parents wince. We put ourselves in debt for months to come so the "giving season" can teach our children about getting. Me, me, me! Fights at the stores for items people want for themselves and not for others. Items for families who have so much, while those with nothing sit in the shadows and cry out. Out of guilt, some with throw a bone of a jacket or food, but rarely with their heart. They turn their backs until the next winter when the consumerism catches up to them again and one corner feels a little twinge once more.

Christ is left by the wayside until Christmas Eve when thousands pack into churches for their twice a year fix. It eases more of the guilt for all the things they bought, people they ignored, logic thrown by a case of the "wants."
Christmas has once again returned to its pagan roots.

We let it happen. We allowed ourselves to be dragged in by our wealth, for even us who are struggling financially still have more than over 90% of the world. We are free to choose a TV sale on Thanksgiving day over being truly thankful, and it drags on from there.
I heard a woman in Target say she was tired of Christmastime. Well, we allowed the stores to put up decorations in October and drag the "season" out. We go from Halloween to Christmas and ignore being thankful in the middle...

It bothers me, even as I fight being part of it, even as I look to what I can give to those in need and what I can make instead of buy. I have a long way to go, but each year brings progress in breaking free from the cycle.

This year I was in NJ before Christmas instead of after. While there, with a new Christmas CD in the player (a rare treat) I heard lyrics that smacked me upside my head and left me in tears every time I drove from one relatives house to the next. Christmas used to be so beautiful here. Mornings with my parents, afternoons with moms side of the family - all in one place- then evenings with dads side of the family - also all in one place. Fireplaces, hams, kids taking turns opening presents and all being thankful. I watched videos this year of everyone opening everything at once and thankfulness being lost in the hollering back and forth. In seconds it was over. I remember it taking us hours to get through it all. Slow, beautiful, nothing huge or super expensive, joy on faces, lots of hugs and laughter and sharing. We've lost it.... and many times this week I cried over it. Can we, as a family and as a country, get back what we've done? Can we undo this mess? Can we get back to the heart of Christmas - even if it really isn't anywhere close to the proper day. Can we see it once again as the day chosen to celebrate the ultimate gift coming down to be a infant born in squalor? Will we ever be a people who give to those who need it all the time, instead of just when a holiday hints that it is what we should do?
I don't know... but it weighs on my heart and I hope yours too. Come, make the change with me.
Candles in the window, 
Shadows painting the ceiling,
Gazing at the fire glow, 
Feeling that gingerbread feeling,
Precious moments, special people,
Happy faces, I can see
Somewhere in my memory, 
Christmas joys all around me,
Living in my memory, 
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, here with me

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On Forgiveness (Part 2)

There is something strange about my childhood. From around age six until age ten, I have practically no memories at all. From ten until twelve, they are scattered. My brain woke up three days shy of my twelfth birthday. The day my grandmother died.

He had been around for a couple of years by then, but there are only shadows of him sitting at a Thanksgiving table or at the Nintendo. But my mind vividly remembers the second night of my grandmoms viewing. He stayed behind at the house with me and we built with my new Lego set. We started to talk and connections were made.

Fast forward a couple of years and there are memories of sitting on a desk or bed and hours upon hours of talking and listening. I did a lot of the listening side. It lead to a lot of learning too. Music was shared, lyrics learned, logic skills tested to the brink, all of those memories were there. A lot were good and I yearned for more time talking to him. There were bad ones too. He had a temper and I sometimes got in the way. However, over time I learned how to diffuse the emotional bomb... I learned diplomacy between him and his grandparents.

A couple of years after that and there are a trio of upper teenagers sitting at a table playing blackjack and a middle teenage girl learning really quickly how to keep a straight face when crude jokes fly. There were walks outside and hours talking at the side of a old pickup truck. There were secrets, sometimes trouble with the other cousins, more music and a lot of hugs. I mediated between him and other family members sometimes. But we always had laughter.

Then he asked the biggest favor of my life. Would I stand in the middle for his daughter. Would I promise to be there for her. She hadn't even been born yet and it was the night before his wedding. We were on the couch and tears had just been shed. I was only fifteen, but I knew exactly what he was asking. And I have spent the last 20 years doing just that. But it tore us apart...

Far apart.

I advocated for her and what was right for her, spoiled her, listened to her, and disagreed with just about every member of the family over her at one point or another. He and I argued. He acted in ways I despised. One day the line was crossed one too many times and I severed contact. For the first time since memory, I wanted nothing at all to do with him. And it lasted... for four years. It was a burden too, because of his daughter, mother and grandmother. However, it kept going.

But time scabs over wounds, and if you don't pick at it, those wounds heal. It was December, and I just crossed the bridge into NJ and stopped to call his grandmother to say I was an hour out. He picked up the phone. A few words were exchanged and I hung up. He called back a few minutes later, saying we needed to talk. So, I pulled the car over and we did. And the next day I went to where he was living and visited again. But communication didn't continue past that. Then, just a few weeks ago, I was in NJ again. He was at his grandmothers doorstep minutes after I arrived and we visited three different times. Forgiveness, on both sides, really happened. I was there, on the bed again, talking and listening - just like old times. It felt good, real good. The weight was lifted. No, it won't ever be the same... but for now, it is a start in the right direction.

Forgiveness. One word with such power.