Thursday, December 23, 2010

With Wonder and Awe

I listen to the birds outside my window.  It is almost Christmas, there are several inches of snow on the ground, and those birds are still here.  Still chirping away.  And I wonder.  What kind are they?  What keeps them here?  How do they survive?

As I've gotten older I'm afraid I've lost much of my ability to wonder.  Things just don't amaze me like they have in the past.  Is it age?  Is it depression?  Who knows.

But there are still moments.  Moments when time stands still. 

When I hold a sleeping newborn.  I look at this being.  I behold this creature.  And I am filled with awe.  I gaze lovingly.  I glory in its magnificence.  I am overwhelmed by its very being.

I sit on my porch at midnight on a summer evening.  All is quiet.  Except for nature.  Nature composes the most incredible symphonies.  And she plays them in the dark of night.  The crickets.  The wind.  Leaves rustling.  An owl.  And the stillness.  The stillness is a player in the orchestra.  The stars play their chords.  It is breathtaking.

A moment of clarity.  In a room full of people.  During a busy day.  All has been rushed.  Then something clicks.  A look.  A word.  A phrase.  A thought.  All is made clear in my mind in that moment and I am awash in peace.  Clarity.  Calm.

These are the moments when I know I am more.  We are more.  More than we can possibly understand.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Being a Video Game Character, Smartly

My Envy of Video Game Characters is up over at Smartly.  It's one of my earlier posts, so many of you probably haven't read it yet.  Plus I tweaked it a little, so you should definitely go check it out.

Then come back and tell me which video game charater you would be.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Depression as a Part of the Family

Sometimes it feels like Depression is another member of our family.  I've seen him walk with various other members.  He has been around for so long, he doesn't seem like a visitor anymore.

At times he will hang out in the background, examining things, taking it all in.  Other times he will invade our lives like a child having a tantrum.

It's tough to be sad about it.  It's part of who we are.  To wish it away would be to wish away all we've learned from our walks with him.  It would mean we weren't as strong or understanding.  It would mean we were a little more hollow.

I mention this because today I re-read a post my daughter wrote about it last year, while at college (which you should go read).  It is such a part of her as well.  Kind of a travelling companion.  Like taking a friend with you wherever you go. 

I know it sounds strange when I describe depression this way.  Like a friend.  Like a family member.  But if you've experienced it then it probably makes total sense.  It can be a comfort.  It can help you understand who you are.  It can give you strength when you have none.  And like friends and family, it can be very trying.

Learning to understand Depression for the part he plays in our family helps.  It's part of why we understand each other, enjoy each other, even while we kind of freak other people out.

Just think of Depression as the crazy cousin who got drunk and passed out on the couch.  Yes, he's tough to deal with but he's still family.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Why Did I Get Out of Bed?

Let me set the stage a little.  I was very dizzy yesterday so I took some anti-dizzy medication.  Mixed with the Xanax I am taking let's just say I was VERY tired.  However, I still didn't get to bed until about 12:30am. 

Since I am the human alarm clock in my house, my day started at 5:00am.  Wake up one daughter so she can study for a test.  6:30am start waking other kids.  7:00am wake son.  7:07 wake son again.  And 7:14.  And 7:21.  Son is already grounded from the computer for other infractions, so what do I threaten him with now?  Finally scare son enough (pretty loud yelling) that he gets out of bed at 7:28am.  Keep in mind that I have to walk down the hall on my very painful foot each time to do this.  To say that I am irritated with him does not come close.

Spend the next twenty minutes trying to get him to move faster than a sloth so that he will be ready when his ride comes.  As he purposely pushes every single one of his sister's buttons.  When his ride comes he makes them wait a minute or so while he hunts for his jacket.  I am just glad to have him out of my house.

I lock the doors and go back to bed.  I can barely keep my eyes open.  I am still feeling the effects of yesterday's medications.  I set my alarm for noon.  I will surely be able to get up by then.  Or not.  Many snoozes and alarm changes later, I finally get up at about 1:30pm.  My foot hurts so bad I can barely walk.  I have to eat something so I can take some anti-inflammatory meds without extreme stomach pain.  I stumble to the kitchen and have a bowl of cereal (after I wash a bowl and spoon because the dishes have stacked up -- again).  Of course, the kitchen smells of something really nasty that I'm sure is buried under all the dishes.  I get my frozen water bottle and take it to my room so I can put my foot on it.  I try to catch up on some blog reading.

Half an hour later, I take the water bottle back to the freezer.  Passing through the living room on my way back to unlock the door so the children can get in, I notice a discoloration on the carpet.  Not a subtle one.  Cat puke.  Of course.  So I limp into the kitchen and get what I need to clean up the cat puke.

I get a text message telling me my daughter is on no-credit status because of unexcused absences or tardies (which I know I have called and excused).  I get an email that another daugher is failing one or more of her classes (she says the teacher hasn't entered all her make up work).  I find myself in the basement looking for something and can smell cat poop.  Somehow, as strong as the smell is, I can't find it.  I eventually have to give up and decide to try again later.

One daughter comes home, very sick.  I send her to bed.  It's her turn for dinner so now I have that as well.  Did I mention that my foot is killing me and my meds are sending me into a depression?  Just walking around my own house is hard.  I need a shower.  But now I have to go out in public.

Two more daughters come home.  Aside from their irritating cheerfulness, things seem to be okay with them.  I realize it's getting kind of late and I haven't heard from my son.  I decide to give him a little more time to check in.

Oldest daughter comes home and collapses on my bed.  Super tired and stressed because it's finals week at college and she is pushing every limit she's got.

Finally decide I can't wait any longer and I have to track down my son.  I try to call the only friend I can think of and their phone isn't working.  I decide I'm going to have to drive to his house.  I look like death warmed over.  I drive up there.  She says they were there but they went to do parkour somewhere.  She doesn't know where.  She can tell by my face that he's in trouble.  We each promise that whoever finds them first will make them contact home.  It is now 2 1/2 hours since school ended and since it's winter it's dark.  He's fourteen.

I am a pretty relaxed parent in many ways.  My kids get away with a lot.  But I have one major rule (other than don't kill anyone) and that is that I must know where you are and who you are with.  Always.  You do not leave the school to go anywhere but home unless you call first.  You do not stay at the school to practice your instrument or work out in the weight room unless you call first.  You do not say you are going one place and then go to another place without checking in first.  You do not leave me wondering where you are.  Especially if you already ticked me off that day.

I drive around for half an hour checking parks.  No sign of him.  The street lights are now on.  I go buy Little Caesar's pizza because I'm in charge of dinner now.  Still looking like garbage.

I decide to go home and wait it out.  On my way, he calls.  Our conversation goes like this:

"Hi, mom." (sounding cheery and nonchalant)
"Are you at T's house?"
"Yeah."
"Get your binder (which he left there last week).  I will be there in five minutes to pick you up."  (It's now three hours since school has been out.)
"You mean I can't stay?"
"GET YOUR BINDER.  I WILL BE THERE IN FIVE MINUTES TO PICK YOU UP.  ARE WE CLEAR NOW?"
"Yup."

I pick him up.  I can't even speak because I am so angry.  (Okay, fine, the meds may have something to do with my aggression.  But this is also not a first offense for this boy.  He's been warned and grounded before.  Several times.  I have had it!)

We get home.  I kick his sister off the computer and tell him to log into his facebook account.  Then I send him to take out the over-flowing trash.  As he does that I change his facebook status to:  "This is Nik's mom.  He is grounded from any contact with friends for the next two weeks.  Do not invite him to do anything or call until after Christmas.  He is unavailable.  Thank you."

I go in to make sure he puts a new liner in the trash can only to find that someone spilled something nasty in the trash earlier when it didn't have a liner and just put a new one in anyway.  So whatever they spilled has now fermented.  I get the Lysol and paper towels and start to clean it out, only to find that there is also an entire serving of mashed potatoes in the bottom of the trash can.  Soft and gooey mashed potatoes.  This is a 30-gallon trash can so I have to practically climb inside to clean it.  Awful smell.  And now choking on the Lysol.

People eat their pizza.  Husband finally gets home.  I am a little irritated at him, too.  He forgot to charge his phone last night so it's been dead all day.  This means I couldn't call and ask him for help finding my son, to pick up dinner on his way home, or complain about the horrible day I was having.

I finally take a bath.  Now I no longer look like an unearthed zombie with a hangover.  I head into the kitchen to see if there's anything I can eat (I hate Little Caesar's pizza).  I finally make a couple peanut butter and honey sandwiches.  I go back into the kitchen to put my dishes away.  I don't have the heart to make the daughter in charge of dishes do them because she's the one studying like crazy for finals.  I have other daughter unload the dishwasher and I load.  In the process I find that both sides of the sink are clogged because my family simply cannot resist the urge to throw solid food into the sink.  Our disposal has been broken for over a year.  I have been lecturing for about that long.  They aren't getting it.  As I do the dishes I find chunks of curdled milk, soggy Cheerios, sandwich baggies, a box top, the sharp removed top of a tin can, and bits and pieces of no-one-wants-to-guess.  And a seriously disgusting rag that could easily be used for a science project in its current state of stench.  I end up using our mini-plunger just to get the sinks to drain.

My head is killing me.  I'm tired.  I have zero patience.  I have done no Christmas shopping because my foot hurts so bad and my meds are playing havoc with my system.  We don't even have a Christmas tree.

And my daughter just sent me a text asking me to wake her at 5:30 tomorrow morning.

Today, I am Scrooge.  And I am completely and 100% okay with that.  Wake me up in January; I'm skipping the rest of this holiday.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shutting Up, Smartly

I have a new essay up over at Smartly.  It's all about learning to shut up -- or not.  You should check it out by clicking here.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

You're Much Happier in Person

Recently, as part of an improve-your-writing challenge, I asked for feedback on my writing.  A few brave souls trusted that I meant it (I did) and offered some.  Kudos to you for your bravery.  And thank you.

To me, feedback is like telling someone they have spinach in their teeth.  It might be awkward, but it helps them avoid future embarrassment.  I believe you should ask a person if they want feedback before offering it (unless they ask you for it).  And I believe feedback and criticism are two very different things.  It's not feedback if you are telling them about something you don't like that they have no way to fix.  It's not feedback if it's meant to hurt or tease or make you look better than them.

One thing that a couple of people told me was that I seem much happier in person than I come across in my writing.  That my writing seems darker than I really am.

Being the introspective person that I am, I thought about this.  Is it true?  Am I misrepresenting myself in my writing?  Am I misrepresenting myself in person?  Why don't these two personas align?

Like most things in life, it's complicated.

While I would like to be incredibly genuine at all times, sometimes I still put on a happy face when I'm out.  Not as much as I used to.  Not to people I trust.  Usually just in passing or with people I don't really know.  Or if I'm not up to talking about what's bothering me. 

And then there's the fact that if I'm outside of my house, I'm probably feeling better.  If I feel better then I'm happier.  It's that simple.

Plus, being with people, especially certain people, makes me happier, too.

I can also be more intimate in my writing than I can in everyday situations.  There just aren't that many opportunities to sit and chat for hours with a friend.  Privately so I can get it all out without worrying about being judged or others overhearing.  Writing serves that purpose for me.  Writing is very intimate.  I can say what I feel without anyone else's emotions coloring it.  And things come out in my writing that I might not have known about myself, that I might not have even known I was feeling.

When I don't feel well I stay home.  I stay in my room.  Just me and my computer.  That leaves more writing time.  When I feel well I am out and about and don't have as much time (or need) to write.

I also feel a need to capture the dark times.  For me and for others.  It's so difficult to communicate those feelings to others.  It's difficult to remember them when they pass.  But it's important to try, if only so others know they are not alone.

All of that said, I know my writing has been darker for a long period of time (until maybe the last week or two).  I have been in a darker place.  One that won't break.  But even in the midst of this I don't feel sad most of the time.  People sometimes think that because I write about dark feelings I am sad.  That's not always the case.  I have sad moments and happy moments, just like everyone else.  Some are just longer than others.  I don't think my life is horrible or tragic.  I also don't think it's peaches and cream.

Realizing that my writing has been dark, I have asked myself if I should write more positively anyway -- in spite of how I feel.  No one has asked me to do this.  But some people do miss my positivity.  (It didn't feel like criticism, just that the other me was missed.)  Maybe my dark writing will drive people away.

Trust me.  I have thought about this a lot.

And this is my conclusion.  I will watch for this in my life.  I will watch for more positive things.  I will look for happy.  And I will make it a point to try to write when I am in a better place.

But I won't fake it.  As much as I love having other people read my writing, it's not really for you.  It's for me.  If it is meeting your needs and not mine, then it's just not worth it to me anymore.

And that's another thing that's beautiful about feedback.  You can examine it, weigh it, and decide what you want to do with it.  Implement all, some, or none of it.  Without this freedom it loses it's power.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pedmeregocide

Last Sunday was a little ugly.  I'm not afraid to admit it.

We're a go-to-church-every-Sunday family.  (Except for dad, although that only plays a small part in the story.)

I got up early to work on my lesson.  I'd been up for an hour or so showering, curling my hair, making cute little handouts.  Things like that.  I was in a pretty good mood.  It was going to be a lovely day at church.

Then it was time to wake others.  One daughter was out of town.  That took a little pressure off.  One daughter was exhausted from performing in the orchestra for her school play the night before, but she's kind of a morning person (at least compared to the rest of us) so she groaned and got up.  One daughter is in college.  She got up, looked at the clock, and said she was going to be late (I'm thinking, "Then why don't you get yourself up in time to get ready like an adult?" *grrr*).

The morning started to turn at this point.  Oh, did I mention that I started new meds a day or two before that have been affecting my moods?  No.  Well, that could possibly have played a part in the day as well.

Last two.  These two are the toughest.  They have never been morning people anyway and are both at that age when their bodies need a lot more sleep.  And they haven't gotten to the point where they will get up and do something they aren't dying to do if they are still tired.

I wake my son.  Four times.  Every five minutes or so.  The last time I am not pleasant.  "Get up here now or you are grounded from the computer for a week!"  (You've got to know their currency.)  He stumbles upstairs like the living dead.  I tell him to find his clothes before he eats.  He groans an assent.

I wake my youngest.  She tells me she is *cough, cough* sick.  I tell her she is tired and to get up.  We argue back a forth a bit, me getting more impatient every minute. 

My husband and I have a deal that I won't force the kids to go to church.  (And really, if you're forcing someone to go to church will they be getting much out of it?  The gospel isn't really about force; it's about choosing.)  I agree with this in theory but it's a little tougher to live up to Sunday morning as my stress is climbing.

I tell her that it can't be a decision every Sunday.  You just have to plan to go.  Otherwise you're going to choose to sleep in more often than you think.  Soon you won't be going at all.

I hear my son eating.  I ask if he found his clothes.  He tells me he did.  (Let me add here that he has grown many inches lately and now only has one pair of church pants and one church shirt.  I know, I need to get on that.)

The daughter refuses to go.  We are both grumpy and snapping at each other now (fairly loudly).  I tell her I am leaving and I am disappointed that she won't go.  Son is still eating.  I tell him he's going to be walking (only a few blocks) and he'd better get there soon to do his duties.  Two older daughters are ready and head out to the car with me.  As I pull out of the driveway son peeks his head out the door, gets my attention, and tells me he can't find his shirt.  I tell him good luck and he'd better look harder.  I drive away.  (I am now cursing my sleeping husband for not being up to help me.)

Youngest daughter gets to church just as it's starting and tells me her brother still can't find his shirt.  (I'm fairly certain there is smoke coming out of my ears now.)  I get in the car, drive back home, and start hunting.  I can't find it either.  He gets a lecture for lying to me about having found his clothes.  And another one about learning to put his clothes away. At rather high volume.  He finally ends up wearing one of dad's dress shirts (at least four sizes too big).

We drive back to church (son has missed his duties) and I am trying desperately to let it all go so that I can get something from the meeting.

Throughout this morning the thought that kept running through my head was, "I'm going to kill him/her."  I must have thought that ten times.  Maybe not the best mood to go to church in.  But, if you're in that mood, I guess church is the best place to go.

At this point, the wordsmith part of my brain kicks in.  What's the word for wanting to kill your child?  Homicidal is too general.  Fratricidal is wanting to kill your brother.  There's got to be one for wanting to kill your kid(s).  I can't come up with anything.

After the meeting, and before the others, I speak to a couple of my friends I know pay attention to Greek and Latin roots, like me.  I ask if either of them can think of anything.  They can't.  Although we consider Youth-anasia.  (I know, it's only funny if you're a nerd.)

By the time I get home I still don't have a word, but I've come up with a complex.  I declare that I have a Medea complex, which still doesn't entirely apply because she just killed her sons and I have daughters involved.

I mention to my oldest that I've been trying to come up with a word and does she have any idea.  (She's an English major so she's dealt with root words more recently than I have.)  She starts working on it.  Soon my other daughter and son are working on it as well.  They are on the computer, looking up root words.

And I just start laughing.  I have just told my children that I spent the day wanting to kill them and they are working to figure out what to call it.  As if I've just asked them to define the word shoe.

They said they knew I didn't mean it.  And that makes me happy.

The final word they came up with was pedmeregocide, a mix of Greek and Latin roots.  Ped - child, mere - part, ego - self, cide - kill.

And that's what teamwork looks like in our family.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holidays from Hell

So I want to know how many people actually look forward to the big holidays.  And how many people live to regret it.

Seriously.

For every happy, cheesy, life-is-wonderful-and-everyone-in-our-family-loves-each-other-so-much movie there are ten about the dysfunctional, we-got-together-and-we're-just-glad-no-one-killed-anyone movies.  Do you think this is just because Hollywood has a grim world view?  I don't.  In fact, I know it's not because I've experienced my share of holidays from hell.

There was the one when I was on the phone with my grandma telling her how much my Christmas presents sucked and found out my mom was on the other phone listening.  (Yeah, I learned a lesson about gratitude that day.  Through my mom's tears.)

There was the one when we were all around the Thanksgiving table and my brother in-law revealed to everyone at the table that our niece was conceived out of wedlock (she knew, others didn't).  Very religious family; it was a big deal.

Or the Christmas when this kid hit that kid with one of the Christmas chimes.  The father of the victim thought there should be an apology.  The father of the perpetrator didn't think it was a big deal.  They ended up in a yelling match, others got involved, someone got shoved into the wall, several people were pulled apart by others, and as we watched everyone storm away in their cars my husband and I looked at each other wondering if we should lock up (we were the only ones still there and it wasn't our house).

And none of us even drink.  These were all without alcohol.  I know there are other, much more intense, stories out there about family holidays gone bad.  Ask anyone who works in the emergency room or as a cop and they'll tell you.  Holidays are ugly.

Why?

I have a few hypotheses.  Nothing proven, but I think you'll agree that the ingredients that go into big family holidays are like mixing bleach and cleanser -- you're lucky if no one dies.

Recipe for a big holiday family get together:
1.  High Expectations - this one's going to be the best; everyone's going to have a great time; everyone's going to show up (on time) and bring what they said they would; things are going to go exactly as planned
2.  Family - we belong together; we love each other so much; we hardly ever get together (maybe there's a reason); we know everything about each other (secrets, maybe?); we have a history together (which often means a few grudges)

I'm calling those two ingredients bleach and cleanser, because really with those alone you're already in the danger zone.  Adding anything else is just for kicks to see how big the explosion will get.  But let's toss some in anyway.

Optional ingredients:
New people who don't know where to tread lightly; the girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/guest who drives you crazy even on a good day; alcohol; grandma's dementia which leads her to say whatever comes into her head (some of which turns out to be long kept secrets); poor communication/unspoken expectations (we wanted to watch movies vs. we wanted to watch football, we should pray vs. why does God have to be part of everything?); one part of a couple enjoying themselves while the other wants to be anywhere else; food that doesn't go as planned (the turkey timer that won't pop even though everything else has been ready for over an hour); and did I mention high expectations?

Maybe the only real solution is to change your expectations.  Expect things to go wrong.  Take bets on who starts arguing first, who plays one-upmanship the best, and who reveals the tastiest tidbit of illicit information.  Have a backup meal waiting at home or the hotel (as the case may be) just in case it turns out there's nothing edible.  Make sure you have some Excedrin handy.

And if none of these plans give you any hope, do as my therapist once advised.  Go ahead and take a Valium.  Your desire to kill, and your ability to do so, will be greatly diminished.

Good luck!

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nectar of the Gods

Ever have one of those days?  A day when everything goes wrong?  When everyone hates you?  A day that seems to be neverending?

It's finally over.  You've made it home, to your refuge.  Your haven.  Your day has been horrible, but you've done your time and now you get to relax.

You go to the fridge and see that lovely bottle.  Just holding it in your hand eases the tension.  It's cool; it will bring relief.

You twist the top and hear that sound.  The sound that promises to quench a thirst deeper than physical.  That promises to drown the day's sorrows.

So you take a swallow.  That first precious swallow that tastes better than anything humans have a right to enjoy.  That swig that burns all the way down.  Followed by a sigh of relief.  You have just partaken of the nectar of the gods.

Diet Coke.

And life is good again.  You're going to make it through the night.  All is right with the world.

*ahhh*

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Monday, November 15, 2010

About the Mess

You may have noticed there's another little tab above this post.  Hopefully, this is my last housekeeping job on my blog for a while.  I don't write a lot about my family, especially not details, or post pictures of them.  However, I decided to do a simple introductory page for those who have asked.  You will find a picture and description of each person I live with at About the Mess.  Enjoy it -- it's all you're going to get.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Favorite Blogger

I read a lot of blogs.  And there are some incredible writers out there.  Some fabulous storytellers.

But if you were to ask who my favorite is, it would be an easy choice for me.  My favorite blogger is also my favorite author.  And she's got years ahead of her to keep filling my life with entertainment and wisdom.

My favorite blogger is Singing Devil.  And, yes, I will admit that I am biased.  She is my oldest daughter.  She has not branched out into the blogging community, so she doesn't have many followers.  That is sad, because she is such a great writer.  She has been published a couple of times.  And I have no doubt that she will eventually produce several works for commercial consumption.

She is currently on a countdown toward her 20th birthday.  She is also going to college full time and works as a custodian at 4:00am.  She's busy and a little crazy.  She's also brilliant.

If you're looking for something a little different, please visit her.  I think you'll be glad you did.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

About the Author

The SITS activity for this week is to rewrite my About Me page using the tips provided (see here).  Since I didn't have an About Me page, I figured this would be a good time to put one together.  I even put a picture of me on it.

So, above this post, there is now a bar of tabs.  One of these is About the Author.  Check it out.

As always (during this month of exercises, at least), feedback is welcome.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

My NOT to Do List

SITS activity number 2:  write a list post in 10 minutes.

**********

I am fairly certain that everyone reading this has made a To Do list at one time or another.  Whether you've lived up to it or not is a different thing entirely.  Some people like to keep a running list, prioritized, with whatever is unfinished at the end of the day rolling over to the next day's list.  Not me.  I like to finish everything on my list; I'm kind of maniacal about it.

Since I've been unwell, I have had to alter my To Do lists.  Sometimes there is just one thing on it for a day.  And I get so frustrated by my inability to complete a real list.

So today, to honor myself and all others who may be struggling to check off their entire lists, I offer a Do Not list.  Some of these will be a little tricky to accomplish, but I have faith in myself.  And in you.  Please accept the challenge to check off everything on this list.

Do NOT:
   * Turn stupid, irritating people into frogs.  No, none of them.
   * Throw rocks at your children's heads no matter how much eye rolling they give you.
   * Shoot, eviscerate, and roast on a spit the neighbor's eternally barking dog.
   * Use mind control on people to get what you want; it's just not nice.
   * Accept the nomination for President of the United States (or any other country).
   * Spike your family's food with a sedative so that you can get more sleep.
   * Walk on the ceiling just to prove that you are stronger than the earth's gravity.
   * Stage a military coup to overthrow the government.
   * Use a fire hose to clean your house by blowing it all out the back door.
   * Burn the house down as an alternative to cleaning it.
   * Travel to Mars just to prove that Martians are not green.  (They are red, duh.)
   * Reveal your secret identity.
   * Follow the rainbow and steal the Leprechaun's gold; again, not nice.
   * Create a clone of yourself so that you can rest while she works.
   * Take over the world.  (That will have to wait for another day, Pinky.)

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Depression, Smartly

My depression post, with a few tweaks, is up over at Smartly.  If you haven't read it, I invite you to pop over and give it a read.  I also invite you to visit Smartly on a regular basis.  They publish one essay a day, by various authors.  Great writing on a wide variety of topics -- a little something for everyone.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Letter to a Friend -- Take Two

I think it's safe to say that I am in a heavily therapeutic place right now.  Focused on healing so much that I miss a lot.  One thing that proved this to me was my last post.

I don't think it was overly negative or anything, but it didn't even occur to me to write something positive.  Something praising.

Today it occurred to me.  So I want to try again.  There are so many people who have touched my life.  So many who saved me.  From myself.  From bad situations.  Whatever.

This is for them, with one in particular in mind.

**********

Dear Friend,

My heart is overflowing.  I have so much gratitude I don't know how to express it.  When I think of you, and the time we've spent together, I am ovewhelmed at my fortune.  I know God brought you into my life.  I am sure of this.

Do you know that you are God-like in your nature?  Do you know how much you radiate His love?  His tenderness?  His compassion and acceptance?  Do you know that hugging you is like being wrapped in His arms?

You make me feel safe.  You make me feel valued.  You make me feel wanted.  Do you know how rare that has been in my life?

You are amazing.  You fill me with awe.  I look at your life, at all you've been through, and wonder how you became so radiant.  How were you able to endure the darkest things in life and still shine so brightly?  It was your light that got me through some of the darkest times in my life.

You are such an example to me.  I aspire to be like you.  Sometimes when I'm trying to figure out what to do I ask myself what you would do.  I want to be like you.  You are one of the most Christ-like people I have ever met.

The way your face lights up when you see me.  It's overwhelming.  It floods me with love and value.  And I've watched as you give this gift to others.  Like whoever you are with is the most important person in the world.  Like there is nothing you would rather do than sit and be with this person.  With me.

Do you know your power?  Do you understand your greatness?

And no matter how long we are apart, I am welcomed back with love every time.  Never judged for staying away, for being busy, for not staying in touch.  Just loved.

Do you understand how rare you are?

I love you.  I love you so much it makes my heart hurt.  I love you for what you've done and for who you are.

And I praise God every day for bringing you into my life.  Thank you for being willing.  Thank you for letting Him guide you.  Thank you -- for everything.

Love,
Robin

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Letter to a Friend

Activity 1:  Write a letter to a friend as if she is sitting beside you.  How is this writing different from your blog posts?

This prompt immediately brought to mind an incident from high school.  A time when my life was in flux and I chose to exclude a friend.  I did not get the chance to resolve it then; I would like to address it now.

**********

Dear Carol,

What would I say to you if you were here now?  I have regretted my decision for so long, but I don't know if I could find the words.  I don't know if I could even speak.  I think I would have difficulty looking at you because of my shame.

The guilt of our decision, our pact, was weighing heavily on me.  I couldn't keep silent any longer.  I couldn't keep lying.  I knew I needed to tell the truth.

But I should have talked to you before I did so.  Instead, I hung you out to dry.

Why didn't I talk to you first?  I'm not sure.  I think maybe I was afraid.  I was afraid you would get angry with me.  I was afraid you would disagree and talk me out of it.  I was afraid I was too weak to stand up to you.

And I was selfish.  I was more worried about clearing my conscience than protecting my friend.

I don't know how we lost each other so quickly.  One minute we were inseperable.  The next minute you were gone.

I have searched for you.  I have watched for you.  I think of you often, and my heart is filled with regret.

I may never see you again.  I may never have the opportunity to make things right.

But if you were here now, I would tell you that I am so very, very sorry.

Love still,
Robin

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Little Housekeeping

No, I'm not going to write about housekeeping.  If you thought that, you really don't know me.

I just want to let people know what is coming up on my blog.  I generally steer clear of conducting business on my blog, but I don't want people to misunderstand.

I have a lot of followers who aren't bloggers.  People who follow me because they know me and like me.  Or my train wreck of a life is entertaining.  Whatever.  I want to clear some things up for them.  Because if there's one thing I've learned in the past year that I've been blogging it's that blogland has it's own set of guidelines and it's own language.

Now if you know me, you know that I'm not a stickler for following the rules.  Commandments and laws, yes.  Societal rules and expectations, not so much.

So as I've been adjusting to this new blog world, I've picked and chosen which rules I'd live by.  I've avoided a bunch of the everybody does it areas.  Because they weren't me.  And if I can't be me on my blog then I won't play anymore.  I'll take my ball and go home.

But I have participated in a few things.  One of those is a blogging community called SITS.  It's all about developing yourself as a blogger and connecting up with other bloggers.  It's about supporting each other.

Truthfully, I've boycotted a bunch of the activities they do.  Just not my thing.  But this month they are all about writing.  It's Content is King month.  That's something I can get on board with.

In particpating in this event, I am choosing to do several of the suggested activities -- all with my flavor.  I will do two of them here and one on my other blog (heavier topic).  That's this week.  Who knows what next week will bring?

The focus for this week is Finding Your Voice.  I think this is something I'm generally pretty good at.  But I usually pick my topics.  Doing this with someone else's prompts may be a challenge.

This month is all about improved writing, so I am throwing out an open invitation.  If you have feedback for me, please share it.  If you see things I could improve on, please tell me.  I'm open.  I promise we'll still be friends afterward.

On with the challenge.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Crying Uncle

I don't know if it was family upbringing or just my natural state, but I grew up fiercely independent.  I didn't ask for help; I researched it on my own.  I learned how to do what needed to be done by myself.  I cowboyed up and got myself through the tough times.  For so many years.

Giving help was fine.  Receiving it was not.  Asking for it was an abomination.

Enter chronic illness.

Wow.  Let me just tell you, independence goes out the window with chronic illness.

Yes, I've studied psychology and had enough therapy to know that interdependent is the healthier place to be.  Knowing that wasn't enough to get me there.  I had to be dragged there kicking and screaming.

I'm still not good at it.  I still think I should be able to do everything I used to.  I still want to be everything for everyone.  I want to solve all the problems.  I want to be the hero -- not the damsel in distress.

But life doesn't always turn out as we planned.

Tonight I had a lesson in interdependence.  Tonight I cried uncle.

Lots of things have slipped since I got sick.  The house (a wreck).  My job (gone).  Volunteering (non-existent).  All of those things are difficult to accept.  But for the most part they are just irritants.  The one that was dangerous was money.

You see, I've been in charge of the money and the bills for most of our marriage.  When I got sick, things started to slip.  We bounced checks.  Bills didn't get paid.  Collectors started calling.  (I hate the fact that my kids are well trained in the art of avoiding the bill collector calls.)

I went through good periods and bad ones.  I'd catch up and then fall behind again.  But all along the way, I was sure we had enough money and I just wasn't managing it well enough.  And I would pledge to get on top of things.  Tomorrow.

Somehow, tomorrow didn't seem to want to appear.  I kept waiting for that magical day to happen when I would be able to conquer the piling debt and stress and get that monkey off my back.

But it didn't come.

I don't know why.  I don't know what kept me from being able to do it.  I know how.  I have the capability.  But I just couldn't do it.  (I have theories, but they would take too long here.)

And now the money problems are at a dangerous level. 

So tonight my husband and I had a meeting.  Not confrontational.  Not a fight.  Warm and open.  Supportive and affirming.  A meeting where I said, "I just can't do it.  I hate that I can't, but I can't."  And he said, "You've done everything for so long.  It's my turn."

And that was it.  He is now in charge of the bills and the money.

I promised to let him do it his way.  I will not interfere or correct or complain.  And when I do (as we both know will probably happen) he will kindly remind me that I promised to trust him.

Lots of feelings of failure.  Lots of feelings of inadequacy.  And so many tears.

And then peace.

Sometimes crying uncle is the right thing to do.  No matter how hard it is.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Person

Everyone has one.  That pivotal person.  The one who changed your life.  The one who helped define you.  The one without whom you wouldn't be who you are.  Hopefully, the one who taught you to believe in yourself.

For me, that was my grandma.  And today would be her 100th birthday.  I miss her.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

What I Hate Most About Chronic Illness

Take your pick on what qualifies me as chronically ill.  Chronic fatigue.  Chronic headache.  Chronic depression.  Or whatever diagnoses we haven't made yet.  Basically I feel horrible all the time.  On a good day I just feel yucky and drained and my head hurts.  On a bad day I can't get out of bed.

And, while there are so many ways this has changed my life, there is one area that bothers me the most.

It's difficult to not enjoy things I used to, to not want to do anything or be with anyone.  It's more difficult to want to do things but not be able to.  But the most difficult isn't the things that I am missing out on.  It's what my kids are missing out on.

For the first ten years of my marriage I was a doer.  I played with my kids.  I took them places.  I cleaned house.  I made meals.  I read to them.  I volunteered at their schools.  I did crafts with them. 

But that was a long time ago.  At about the ten year mark, my health started going down hill.  And I started to do less and less.  And because it was so long ago, they don't remember all those things.  They don't remember me pushing them in the swings at the park or having picnics on a quilt in the living room.  They remember me asking them to be quiet because my head hurts so much.  They remember me telling them to ask their older sister for help on their homework because my mind isn't clear enough.  They remember me sending them to do things instead of doing things with them.

I expected to teach them about hard work by working with them and by modeling the behavior.  But they see me do one small job and then crawl back into bed because I am so dizzy.  I expected to teach them about service by volunteering in various ways and doing family service projects.  Instead, I try to encourage them to work with their youth groups when there is a service opportunity.  I thought I would teach them spirituality by doing all the things our church suggests we do to teach in our homes.  I often don't feel well enough and so those things fall through the cracks and I have to be content with just getting them to church.

I planned to have a beautiful home where my children could find a place a refuge.  A place that was warm and welcoming to all who passed through our doors.  A place where our family could feel peace.  But I can't clean like I need to.  And I am often tense and isolate myself in my room, leaving them to their own devices which leads to mess and fights.

There are so many things I thought I would be as a mother.  So many desires I am unable to fulfill.  For years I waited, hoping that it was just a matter of time.  But it might not be.

This might be as good as I ever feel again.  And I am mourning that today.

Yes, there are great things in my life.  Yes, I have found other ways to teach and show love to my children.  Yes, I have found value in the life I have.

But it's important to allow ourselves to mourn our disappointments.  It is a loss.  And it makes me sad.

**********
Oh, and this is my 100th post.  It's been just over a year since I started blogging.  It's amazing how quickly time passes.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

I'm Not Who You Think I Am

I spent most of my life letting others define me.  They told me what to be and that's what I became.  Or they told me what I was and I believed them.

I was so many different people, depending on who I was with.

And this was such a part of my life that I really had no idea who I was.  And sometimes I still slip up.  Sometimes I still believe what others think of me.  Or I know it's not true but it still makes me question myself.

It's so easy to look to others for our value.  It's easier to believe what others tell us about ourselves than to decide on our own.

Some people like me.  They think I'm kind.  They think I'm honest.  They think I am strong and dedicated.

Others aren't so fond of me.  They think I'm a snob.  They think I'm selfish.  They think I'm judgemental.

Still others claim to like me but constantly tell me what is wrong with me, how I don't measure up.

I'm an angel.  I'm a witch.  I'm self-centered.  I'm compassionate.

All, some, or none of those things may be true.  There is probably someone out there to vote for each trait, who would assign it to me.

But no matter how others perceive me, no matter who they say I am, I know what is in my heart.

I am a person.  A small person in a big world.  A person with a purpose who is just trying her best.

I am okay with that.  And that's all that really matters.

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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Where's My Duct Tape?

Often, when people ask me how I am, I reply that I am holding on -- with both hands and a roll of duct tape.

I misplaced my duct tape.

I say this because my life slipped out of my hands a bit recently.  I was stuck doing triage.  Hitting those life or death things, but missing the details.

I kept the electricity on.  We had food in the house.  My kids went to school.

But I fell down on some things, too. 

I have been sleeping too little at night and too much during the day.  I haven't been eating much.  I stayed home almost all the time, usually not getting dressed for the day until my kids were about to get home from school.  Or after they did and I had to take them somewhere.

Basically, I quit doing things for me.  I spent so much time trying to put out fires that I forgot to make sure my firesuit was secure.  And I got a little burnt.

Once I find myself there, it's tricky to get out.  It's a steep climb without any gear.  Because I left all my gear on the ledge I fell off of.

But it's still there.  I know where it is this time.  I have some spotters who will help keep me from plummeting to my death.  I've made the climb before.

And I've finally figured out what the duct tape is.  It's self-care.  I've got several rolls stashed in various areas of my life.

Now if I can just remember what I'm looking for when I walk into the room that has it.  Then I'll be all set.

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Friday, October 8, 2010

A Smartly Metaphor

I have a new essay up over at Smartly.  A metaphor for life.  You should check it out by clicking this link

And I will have a new post here sometime soon.  I hope.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Octoboween

Huzzah!  The day has finally arrived.  The day I've been waiting for all month long.  It's the first day of Octoboween and I am so excited!

Seriously, not a lot of things excite me.  But the first day of October does.  It really, really does.

For most people, one day of Halloween is plenty.  For some it's too much.  But not for me.

I love the dark and scary stories.  I love the rats and spiders.  I love the macabre.

I grew up on scary movies, some much scarier than my children have yet to see.  Edgar Allen Poe movies with Vincent Price.  Stephen King.  All the original scary movies of the '80s (Halloween, Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday the 13th) and then some.  Plus lots of Hitchcock.

I don't go in for the hard stuff anymore.  Nothing R.  I just can't stand the gore.  And I've found that a good scary movie doesn't need it.  A really scary movie can freak you out without showing you anything.  It lets your mind scare you.  That's where the fear happens.

So a few years ago I decided I wanted more out of Halloween.  Thus, Octoboween was born.  Every day in October we watch a Halloween movie.

Halloween movie is a somewhat loose term.  If it has ghosts or monsters, it qualifies.  If it has Halloween in the title, it qualifies.  If it's scary, it qualifies.  So we end up with quite a broad range.

We will watch several M. Night Shyamalan movies (Signs, The Sixth Sense, The Village, Lady in the Water); probably a few Hitchcock movies (Rear Window, Rebecca); some more recent classics (Young Frankenstein, Labyrinth, Disney's Haunted Mansion, Ghostbusters, The Addams Family); definitely some Vincent Price (Fall of the House of Usher, Pit and the Pendulum); some original classics (Dracula and Frankenstein from the '30s); possibly Monsters, Inc. and Jaws; and we will end with Disney's Legend of Sleepy Hollow on Halloween.

It will be fun.  It's a great family bonding time for us.  Some days it will be just us; other times we'll have friends over.

It's the way we welcome fall.  It fits our family.  We revel in the ways we are weird -- together.  And isn't that what family traditions are all about?

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Why the Cue Ball is So Sexy

Cue Ball.  Chrome Dome.  Mr. Clean.  Whatever you call him, if he's bald then he's sexy.

I am ready to declare publicly my affinity for bald men.

I have found bald men sexy ever since high school.  Today I tried to figure out why.  I analyzed it and found out some surprising things about myself.

I reject the idea that I like bald men because my dad is bald.  Trust me, I have daddy issues but this isn't one of them.  Sorry, Freud, no Oedipal complex here.

I do like older men.  Even in high school I was attracted to older men.  Not a few years older, 15-20 years older.  I liked the idea of someone wise.  Someone above the need to impress.  And, yes, someone who could protect me (the feminist part of me gives way to the injured little girl part in this instance).  So maybe this is part of it.  Bald usually means older.

But there's more to it.  Especially now that shaving their heads is more common among men of every age.  It's a hairstyle choice.  Now I see thirty-year olds with bald heads.  That's younger than me.  Do I find them sexy?  Why, yes I do.

So it's more than age.

It's confidence.  Men who are going bald naturally and embrace it rather than fight it with the dreaded comb-over, hairpiece, or plugs.  Men who know that they are not defined by their hair, something so arbitrary.  Men who roll with what life hands them.  That is sexy.

There's also an element of honesty.  This is who I am.  Honesty is sexy.

And then there's the elusive element.  Why do we like anything?  Just because we do.  Sometimes there's not a logical reason behind it.  A certain smell or taste pleases me just because it does.  I find bald men sexy just because I do.

You can keep your Hugh Jackman and Brad Pitt types.  I'll take Sean Connery, Patrick Stewart, and Anthony Edwards.  Men who are confident in who they are and wear it well.  I love bald men.

Now, Johnny Depp is a rare exception; him I'll take.  Sometimes attraction just doesn't fit the rules.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hee-eere's Robin!

Old Tonight Show reference.  You probably don't get it unless you're over 35.  (It might make a little more sense after you read my post -- so go check it out.)

I am guest posting today over at depressions and confessions.  (I can't capitalize it because she doesn't.  It's kind of making me nuts not capitalizing it, but I'll try to let it go.)

depressions and confessions (okay, that one really makes me crazy because it's at the beginning of a sentence) is written by Alexis, a beautiful and very intelligent young woman.  No wonder people are afraid of her.

She is direct and will discuss anything and everything.  She's struggled with depression and believes it's important to discuss mental health issues, to take away some of the stigma.  Remind you of anyone you know?

Maybe that's why I enjoy her blog so much.  If she has an opinion, she shares it.  She doesn't apologize for it.  And she welcomes differing opinions (but please try to be respectful about it).  She's open about her life and her flaws. 

I love her Awkward Thursday posts where she writes about things that may be tough for some.  One of my favorites is self-sabotage and the modern woman.  Another important post was the life that might have been, about her miscarriage.  A topic too many people understand personally.  And her favorite recent post is marriage before midgets, or how she chooses to put her marriage first.

Some of her writings get people all stirred up.  I love her no-apologies, make-you-think style.  I think you will, too.

And if you're new to my blog, welcome.  It's pretty easy to navigate.  My favorite posts are over there on the top right corner.  Make sure you read the Warning and About Me boxes so you know what you're getting yourself into.  My blog is where I empty my head.  These are some of the things my blog will never be/have.  I'm known to get a little snarky.  I also fight depression on a semi-regular basis; sometimes I win, sometimes not so much.  I try to keep the heavier mental health issues on my other blog, The Difficult Things.

If I haven't driven you off yet, stay a while and take a look around.  Welcome to my world.  And don't mind the mess.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

I Got a Little Distracted

So I guess I got a little distracted with that annoyance I like to call life.  I say this because I had another post go up at Smartly two days ago and kind of missed it.  It's a repost of Real Simple for the Barely Functioning.  If you haven't read it or it's been a while, pop over and read it.

Also, a heads up.  Check back tomorrow.  I'm doing a guest post for another blogger.  I will have the details here Saturday.  If you haven't read her stuff, and lots of you have, you'll want to check her out.  I mean, check out her blog.

Please excuse this confused interruption. 

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Monday, September 13, 2010

It's All Downhill From Here

Remember when you were a kid and the word downhill was magical?  It meant you'd made it to the top of the hill and could almost fly down.  The thrill of danger.  The joy of easy speed.  The pride in your hard work that got you to the top.

Once you hit 40, downhill doesn't mean that anymore.  Downhill is now a bad thing.

Your health is going downhill.  Your looks are going downhill.  Your memory is going downhill.

Now I know that there are plenty of 40-year olds who are doing better than ever.  Plenty who still look great and have it all together.  For now.  But they're just delaying the inevitable.

Because it's not like it used to be.  When you were a kid and something went wrong with your body, it healed.  You felt miserable, for a few days.  You worked hard and were tired and sore, the next day.

Now it might take a week or more to recover from an intense day.  When something goes wrong with your body or you feel miserable it might not get better.

And it requires a mind shift. 

I'm not saying to give up.  I'm not saying to quit trying to improve your health.

I am saying, "Be realistic."

You will never feel like you did when you were twenty.  Never again.

Suck it up and deal with it.  You're more than a grown up.  You're a grown old.

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dressing for my Moods

It seems like my mood determines my life.  Like it is something out of my control that pushes all the buttons.  Like my moods are the man behind the curtain.

I do not believe that my moods are in charge.  I believe I have the power to change them, to subdue them.  Sometimes.

My moods are like an ever changing beast.  A metamorph that can change into any shape at will.  And can do so instantly.

And when there is a beast in your life your options are limited.  Fight it.  Find a middle ground.  Be devoured.  I vacillate among these three.

One of the ways this is evident in my life is in the way I dress.

When I am feeling strong I can fight.  I am willing to spend extra energy to win the battle.  I go the extra mile.  I shower.  I do my hair.  And I pick clothes that make me feel like I can tackle the world.  Usually it helps.  Sometimes the beast and I both know I'm fooling myself and it's not long before I'm craving my pajama pants.

On those days when I'm willing to compromise with the beast, things are a little different.  I don't shower, but I do brush my teeth.  I don't curl my hair, but I do brush it.  I don't dress up, but I do get dressed.

Then there are the devour days.  The days when I'm just out of bed long enough to give someone a ride or go to the bathroom.  No effort at hygiene.  I don't change out of whatever I fell asleep in.  And because I look so horrible, I avoid people as if I were contagious.

But a funny thing can happen on those devour days.  There's power in staying in my pajamas or my worn out flannel shirt.  The power that says the beast may be setting the agenda, but I still choose the wardrobe.  And I choose to wrap myself in comfort.  I choose clothes that serve as a hug for myself.

And that little bit of defiance keeps the beast from swallowing me.  Until I can claw my way out of its gullet and back out into the sunshine.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Writing Smartly

I have recently joined the ranks of conributing writers at smartly, a writers collective showcasing one essay a day.  My first essay, Creatures of the Night appears there today.  It's a new essay so none of you have read it yet. 

You should go check it out.  You know, like, now.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dinner Training -- an Experience in and of Itself

A while back I wrote about my struggles with food.  Food and I just don't get along.  I understand that it's necessary for life, but it's hard for me.

Now take that and imagine being a mother.  Someone who is theoretically in charge of keeping others alive.  In charge of feeding them.  Ugh.

It was tough enough when they were little.  Three meals a day, plus snacks, actually spoon-fed to them.  All grocery shopping - mine.  All preparation - mine.  All clean up - mine.  And they would eat most of what I offered.  When they were small.

But as we all know, growing up tends to allow us to form our own opinions.  Even about food.  Pretty soon they were refusing what I offered.  I was cooking to make them happy.  I wanted them to eat so I prepared what they liked.

This wasn't usually too hard for my husband.  He'll eat almost anything.  He's just glad when someone else makes the food for him.

For me it was tough.  I wanted them to have balanced meals, but I don't really like meat.  So they would have meat, vegetables, fruit, dairy.  I would have a potato.  Or corn.  It was more important to me to feed them than to feed myself.  And easier because they liked food.

Now they are teens (yes, I just promoted my baby by a year).  They are practically adults (one is).  Shouldn't they be feeding themselves?  I thought so.

So we divided up the week.  Each of us has one day a week that we are in charge of dinner.  Choosing it.  Purchasing the food for it.  Preparing it.  Serving it. 

Doesn't that sound lovely?

When it works, it is.  At least one day a week they know that they will like what is prepared.  If they don't like it, they are in charge of feeding themselves.  I don't care if they eat cold cereal, ramen noodles, or just tater tots.  As long as they take care of it.

This sounds like a great way to teach them tolerance and understanding of what it's like to be in charge of the food.  Or a great way to teach them to cook.  Or shop for groceries.  Whatever.

But we have cheaters.  Rather than learn to cook or actually do any work, they want Little Caesar's.  Or they buy turkey, rolls, and cheese and announce that we're having hoagies.

And I am just too tired to fight it.  Which is why I gave them the responsibility in the first place.  I'm just too tired to care about food anymore.  We're not quite at the if-you-want-to-eat-you'd-better-go-kill-something stage, but we're close.

It's not without flaws, but it's functioning for now.  Barely.  It will get us through for a bit.

And every once in a while we have a magical moment when one of them comes to me and wants to cook an actual meal.  "Mom, can you teach me how to make chicken enchiladas?"

It's a glorious moment.

And then I remember that I really can't cook.  But that's another story.

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Moment of Success

It tried again.  That stupid, sneaky darkness.  It hides and waits and watches.  For that moment of vulnerability.

The moment when too many things are going wrong.  That moment when I haven't had enough sleep or healthy food.  That moment when I'm feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders.

Then it starts its dance.  Its entrancing, bewitching motion.  It weaves and undulates.  It sedates.  And it pulls and welcomes.

Tonight it tried again.

But this time I saw it for what it was.  This time I remembered who I was.  Where I'd been.  What I'd done.  All I'd learned.

And this time I won.

Isn't the light beautiful?

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why Celebrate?

I am here to admit that I just do not understand celebrating.

The first time I went to therapy, my therapist told me to celebrate the good work I'd done.  I was absolutely clueless.

Since that day, I've pondered the idea of celebrating.  Is it really important?  Am I the only person in the world who just doesn't get it?

I don't really have any answers.

Planning celebrations is tough for me.  I guess in my head a celebration is meant to be a happy time.  A time when there is so much joy that it must come out.  And my moods and health are so variable that I just can't predict that I'll feel that way when the time comes.

No matter how wonderful the event.  No matter how much I love the person/people involved.  Sometimes I am just not in a celebratory mood.  I can't just turn it on and off like others seem to be able to.

But I have found my own kind of celebration.  I don't necessarily celebrate like others do.  On the big holidays.  With a trip or a party.  Those days are usually more quiet celebrations if I have anything to say about it.

I celebrate moments.  If I have the chance to be with a good friend, I rejoice and revel in the moment.  If it has been a really great day, I am elated.  I celebrate little things.

The big things are too pre-programmed for my taste.  Too packaged.  Too mundane.  Too everyone-else-does-this.  They can be fun enough but they don't touch my soul.

A text from a friend to check on me because he knows I've been having a tough time.  Hearing that one of my friends had something wonderful happen in her life.  Seeing my children do well at something and be truly proud of themselves.  These are the moments I celebrate.

I've been known to decide to celebrate out of the blue. 

Let's go get ice cream.  Why?  Because I'm happy today and I adore you guys.

Let's spend an entire day on an Alice in Wonderland marathon.  Why?  Because we are such good friends and I am so happy about it.  I want to do something with you that I couldn't really do with anyone else.

Let's spend the whole day in our pajamas.  Why?  Because it's the first day we have had no commitments.  Because the entire day is ours.

I celebrate the moments.  In unusual ways.  Because that's where I find joy.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Paralyzed

Please excuse my absence. 

I have wanted to write.  I have needed to write.  But I just couldn't do it.

No, wait!  Don't run off thinking this is another writer writing about writer's block.  It isn't; I promise.

If it were writer's block then the only thing I would be having trouble with would be writing.  And it's not.  I'm having trouble with everything.  I am paralyzed in my life.  Stuck.

I guess it started a couple of weeks ago when the darkness hit.  From out of nowhere it came over me like a black cloud.  A cloud made out of tar.  And everything in my life became a lot more difficult.

I get like this sometimes.  And I have yet to figure out why.  It is so incredibly frustrating.

I was doing so much better.  I was getting stuff done.  Spending time with people.  Really enjoying my life.

And then it went away.  The joy was gone.

There was no big crisis.  There is no obvious explanation.  My life is in a pretty good place right now.  I should be happy.

But I'm not.

And I am frozen.  I look around and see how much I need to get done.  Cleaning.  Bills.  Contact with friends.  Church obligations.  Food for my family.  Each and every one of these things became a monumental task in and of itself.

It's hard to start eating the elephant when you know there is another one right behind it.

I quit eating well.  I quit sleeping well.  I started hiding from family and friends.

I was back in survival mode.  Doing the bare minimum.  Relying on old coping strategies that I know don't work long term but get me through. 

I have new tools.  Things I have learned in therapy and through my own experience.  Healthy ways to change my focus and find my way back to the light.  But they don't appeal to me.

All I want to do is sit down on the curb and watch the world go by.  Without being seen so no one talks to me or expects anything from me.

But I'm not.  I'm trying to go on.  I may not be up and running, but at least I'm crawling.  And if I keep crawling long enough, eventually I will turn the corner.

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

I Wanted to be a Cowgirl

It's safe to say that there were parts of my childhood that sucked.  No doubt about it.

But there were also parts that were idyllic.  One of those was my life on the farm.

I don't know if every family has this, but growing up our family had another family that were our best friends.  Our parents were friends and there was a child to be a friend for each of us.  We spent lots and lots of time together.  And they had a farm.

I spent a lot of time on this farm.  As much time as possible.  And it truly was a heaven on earth.

Whether I was playing hide and seek in the old chicken coop, climbing on top of or in the silo, climbing the giant apricot tree, or sitting and reading in the white birch tree I was happy.  It felt like a step back in time.  I felt like I was living Little House on the Prairie.

I got to have all the perks with very little work.  My brothers hauled hay and moved sprinklers.  They helped drive the cattle and brand all sorts of animals.  Not optional.  Anything I did was because I wanted to, because I was a girl.  One time when a sexist mentality served me well.

Between this farm and our house with the pasture I spent a lot of time with animals, animals my kids haven't really gotten to know.  Horses, cows, mules, ponies, chickens, ducks, turkeys, sheep, pigs, and lots of work dogs (blue healers for the cattle and German shorthairs for hunting).

Just thinking about this place makes me happy.  It was a different pace there.  Relaxed.  Accepting.  Valuing.

Cowboys, and I mean real cowboys not just guys who try to look the part, are different.  They are hard workers.  They don't feel the need to impress people.  They are not easily impressed.  Nor are they likely to be judgmental.  Everyone is accepted.  I loved my time with cowboys.

And I wanted to be a cowgirl.  I wanted it desperately.  But I always felt a step away.  Like a visitor.

I knew how to saddle, bridle, and ride a horse, but I never shoed one.  I watched calves and colts being born, but never assisted.  I played in the alfalfa fields, but I never participated in the harvesting.  Little things like that.  I felt like I fell short as a cowgirl because I didn't live on the farm and do all those things.  I didn't have horse toys (the expensive kind) or the little John Deere tractors.  I didn't know the names of all the different horse breeds.  And I wore tennis shoes when I rode a horse.

I recently took my family to the rodeo.  It was so much fun.  I felt like I was reliving a part of my childhood, a good part. 

As I mentioned the rodeo to others, I found that many of my friends have only ridden a horse once or twice -- some not at all.  They really didn't know much about horses, cows, or tractors.  It got me thinking.

So I reevaluated.

I have ridden horses more times than I can count.  On the mountains, in the fields, through the town.  I spent most of my childhood in a pickup truck instead of a car, sometimes in the cab but more often in the bed.  I crossed many dirt roads, very bumpy dirt roads, on a regular basis.  I had to get out to open the gate.  And close the gate.  I bottle fed lambs and a calf.  I herded sheep.  I fed horses.  I've seen, touched, and tasted a salt-lick.  I've been to many, many rodeos.  I know the proper way to shape and store a cowboy hat.  I've helped butcher elk.  I know how tall horses are and how long they live.  And I spent many Saturday mornings and afternoons at the auction, in awe of the auctioneer and the entire bidding process.  Watching as men nodded or tipped their hats to buy this lot of cattle, this horse, or that saddle.

I had so many experiences that others didn't.  Incredible experiences.  Joyful and miraculous experiences.  That I didn't appreciate at the time.

But all things are relative.  And looking back I can see that, compared to most, I was a cowgirl.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pet Peeves

We all have them.  Those things that really irritate us no matter who does them. 

One of my biggest pet peeves is poor etiquette at concerts and plays.  Seriously, I want to throw rocks at those in the audience.  Sometimes I get so worked up about it that I can't even enjoy the production.  I've tried to get over it, but I just can't seem to let it go.

But this post isn't about my pet peeves.  Or your pet peeves.  It's about the term and idea of pet peeves.

When I look it up in the online etymology dictionary it brings up the connection to peevish.  Peevish is an adjective that describes a person showing irritation or annoyance.  That certainly fits.  That's definitely how I feel when my husband does any one of the hundreds of things he does that annoy me.

What about pet?  Aren't pets those cute little things we bring into our lives that add joy and comfort?  Things we choose?

Sometimes.

Sometimes they are those things that your child talked you into on a day when you just didn't have the fight left to deal with it.  Or the thing you agreed to keep thinking it would keel over dead before long.  Or that thing that was so cute when it was small and just makes a huge mess and takes a lot of work now that it's big.

One more thing to take care of.  One more thing to clean up after.  One more thing to worry about.

And I guess we do feed our pet peeves.  We do care for them and carry them around with us, nurturing them as if they were a pet.

Just something to think about.

Now, I'm off to try to overcome some of my pet peeves.  I'm starting to become the crazy cat lady with more pets than I can keep track of.  No wonder my life stinks.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Racism: A History

A history, not THE history.  I don't believe the history of racism can be written.  It would fill volumes upon volumes and never be complete until everyone has told their story.

This is my history of racism.  My experiences with it.

I am white.  I have spent my entire life in a mostly white community.  My experience with racism is extremely limited.  I don't know that I have ever been the target of racism.  And I have only seen it on a limited basis.

I have heard relatives, friends, neighbors talk about someone and make judgments based on that person's race.  Make jokes about people.  Complain about people.  Not about the one person they know or have had experience with, but about all people they associate with that person.

Prejudice is a prejudgment.  Deciding something about a person or group of people based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, whatever without really knowing that person.

When we expand it to talk about prejudice instead of just racism I have slightly more experience.  I have been treated like I was stupid because I am a woman.  And my religion has been slammed over and over, especially recently.  Since I am Mormon, people think they know what I am like.  That all Mormons are the same.

I do not understand.  I do not understand prejudice.  I do not understand writing someone off because of how they look or where they are from.  It's a logical fallacy.  A sweeping generalization.

This apple is red.  This apple is sweet.  All red apples are sweet.

Most of us can read that argument and know that it's not true.  We've probably all had red apples that were tart, so we know that's not true.  It's obvious.

So why isn't it obvious when the same argument style is used about people?

This person is from Pakistan.  This person is a terrorist.  All Pakistanis are terrorists.
This person is a woman.  This person doesn't know about cars.  Women don't know anything about cars.
This person is Mormon.  This person is closed-minded and judgmental.  All Mormons are closed-minded and judgmental.

I could go on and on.

I do not understand judging a person based on a group they are affiliated with.  I do not understand people who hate African-Americans.  I do not understand people who look down on Latinos.  I do not understand people who shun homosexuals. 

I believe much of it is based on fear.  A fear that something about that person threatens our way of life.  A fear of the unknown. 

And I find it difficult to process that our country's struggle with equality is still going on.  I can't believe that the struggle for civil rights was still going on in my lifetime.  It seems like something from ancient history.  I can't believe that as advanced as we are in so many ways we still get so hung up on personal and ethnic differences.

Maybe it's because I grew up on Sesame Street and The Electric Company, very forward-thinking shows.  I really grew up believing that we are more alike than we are different.  That we can be friends.  That we can learn to work together.  And that we can do all of this with respect and understanding.

I am sad that this still has to be a wish for the future because it isn't the present.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Girlfriend Therapy

There are many kinds of therapy.  Physical therapy, chemotherapy, psychotherapy.  Some people believe in the powers of retail therapy.  I'm a big fan of caloric therapy.

Basically, therapy is meant to heal.  Whatever is wrong, we try to find a therapy to fix it.

Now, even within the field of psychotherapy there are many different disciplines and styles.  Each therapist has his or her own way of trying to help people.  I've seen several different therapists professionally and while they each helped, they did so in varying ways.

Therapy can be scary.  The idea of going to see a therapist is intimidating.  I know.  I had to overcome this, too.  And sometimes only a professional therapist can help.  Sometimes you need answers that only they can give you.  Or sometimes they can recommend exercises to help you work through something.  Or maybe you need medication.

But in all my experiences with therapy over these last few years I have learned one very important thing.  The most important element in therapy, for me, is having someone listen to me.  Having someone value me.  Having someone give me a reality check and tell me I'm not crazy for feeling the way I do.

Some therapists are better at this than others.  Some have difficulty remaining silent long enough for me to say what I'm trying to say.  Others think they know what I mean without checking in to see if they've interpreted me correctly.  Then there are those precious few.  The ones who get me.  They understand.  Much of our communication is unspoken but completely understood.

And now that I've worked through most of the major things I've found a less expensive way to get the validation I need.

I call it girlfriend therapy.  Me and one or two friends out at lunch, talking for 2 or 3 hours while we eat.  Listening to each other.  Validating.  Valuing.  Or maybe it's a quicker session and we go get ice cream or a slushie.  We talk in the car on the way there and back, and for longer than we normally would in front of her house when I drop her off.

It's more than just being with another adult.  It's more than just a break from the everyday routine.  It's knowing that I'm with someone safe -- emotionally safe -- who cares about me and truly wants me to heal.

Sometimes a night out or a lunch with a big group of women is wonderfully satisfying.  But nothing can beat that one on one intimacy.  That moment that says, "I put the rest of my life on hold to be with you today because you are important to me.  How can I help you?"

And the funny thing is that it is healing for everyone involved.  Even if I go intending to be the listener, the giver, I still come away feeling so much better.  So much stronger. 

And most importantly I feel valued. 

Just like with therapists, if it's not a good fit keep looking.  If you haven't found the right friend to truly help you feel more like yourself when you're with her, keep trying.  Chances are there are many women out there searching for the same thing.  A relationship of mutual caring.  A confidant.  A listening ear.  Some truly healing girlfriend therapy.

Not only is it much cheaper than traditional therapy, it's also much more rewarding.  And right in your own neighborhood.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Consciences

Remember Disney's Pinocchio?  Cute, sweet, little wooden boy?  All he wanted was to be a real boy.  But he didn't have a conscience, so Jiminy Cricket volunteered.  He followed him around and helped him make difficult choices.  And sometimes, as we all do, Pinocchio blew off his conscience and did whatever he wanted regardless of the consequences.

Pinocchio was so lucky.  He only had one conscience.  I have several.

I have the one I came with.  It's standard with the human model; we all have one.  Some function better than others.  Mine works pretty well most of the time.  But there are times when it fails.  Or at least, others in my life think it does.

The first external consciences I remember were my parents.  When I was griping about someone, they were always quick to point out that I didn't know what kind of a life that person had experienced.  I didn't know what kind of trials they were going through.  I didn't know the intent of their heart. 

Okay, I can accept this.  I learned a lot from them.  We'll call them training wheels for my conscience.

Sometimes my husband tries to fill this role.  Guess how well that goes over.  Now, he's learned a lot over the years.  He doesn't do this as much as he used to.  But every once in a while when my PMS is particularly bad I get a little . . . how to describe it . . . let's say snarky.  A little testy.  A little short-tempered.  A little less kind.  With a lot less compassion (which I don't have an abundance of to begin with, but that's another post).

During this time one of my children will push a button.  One of my buttons.  One of my bite-your-head-off buttons.  And since they pushed the button I all too often oblige.  This is when he steps in.  Sometimes it's a look.  Sometimes it's, "I don't think that was very nice."  Sometimes it's even, "Hey!  You're out of line."

Do I appreciate this?  Am I grateful for his protection of these beautiful children I claim to love?  Um . . . no.  Usually he will get his head bitten off as well.  This is when I start to realize that maybe my buttons are a little too sensitive right now and I should probably go to my room.  Time outs aren't just for children, you know.

But the ones that bug me, that I truly value the most, are my children.  I have great kids.  I'm not sure where they came from, but they are awesome!  Yes, I want to beat them at times -- I'm not afraid to admit it.  But usually they rock.

Occasionally I will not be at the top of my game as far as behavior.  I wish I could say this only happens when I am PMSing, but it doesn't.  Sometimes I get catty.  Sometimes I talk behind someone's back.  And sometimes my kids are there when I do it.  Yes, I am ashamed.  But it doesn't seem to stop me from doing it again.

Or sometimes my husband will deliberately try to irritate me.  You may think that he doesn't actually do it deliberately.  If you think this, then you obviously don't know my husband.  Yes, he does.  He thinks it's funny to watch me try not to lose it.  I think he likes watching my face turn that particular shade of red, while the blood drips from the tongue I'm biting (yes, my own).  Look!  I think her head is really going to explode this time.  I've had it and I swear at him.

If one of these things happens in front of my children you can be sure that I will hear about it, sometimes with scripture to back it up.

Do I know that what I am doing is wrong?  Yes.  Do I care?  In that moment, no.  But then my daughter gently says that it makes her sad when I talk that way.  She looks at me with disappointment.  I am two inches tall.

And I am proud. 

As much as they irritate me, I am proud that my children have the courage to stand up for their convictions.  I am proud that they love me enough to care about my behavior.  I am proud that they are mine.

So I guess I am really the lucky one.  Pinocchio only had one conscience.  I have many.  And I am grateful for them all.

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Monday, July 5, 2010

The Measure of a Patriot

Yesterday in church we were greeted from the pulpit by our ecclesiastical leader.  He welcomed us and announced that The Star-Spangled Banner would be our opening hymn. 

(Now, I know that many religions stand when they sing.  We generally don't.  Sometimes during an extra long meeting we will stand during a rest hymn to give people a chance to stretch.  But generally we remain seated.)

As he made this announcement my mind began working.  I think we're supposed to stand when we sing the national anthem.  Aren't we supposed to stand?  I want to stand.  I don't want to be the only one who stands.  I hope people stand.

I looked up and in the front of the room two young men stood.  These are fine young men.  Devoted scouts.  Dedicated to service.  Evident patriots.  They didn't wait to see if others would stand; they chose to lead.  They knew they should stand and would do so whether anyone else joined them or not.  Soon everyone was standing.

As we all stood together, singing our national anthem, I felt proud.  I felt unified.  I felt patriotic.

When I was young we said the Pledge of Allegiance every day at school.  In high school not only did we say the pledge on many occasions, but since I was in the marching band I also played the national anthem several times each football and basketball season.  I felt patriotic. 

When I go to parades, scout meetings, or funerals where the flag is displayed I stand and place my hand over my heart.  I feel patriotic.

I love the fourth of July, Independence Day.  I love paying homage to all those who made our country possible.  I have tender feelings for those in the armed forces as well as civil servants.

But in that moment in church, where I have so many friends, I did not want to stand alone.  And I feel a little ashamed of myself for it.

How do you measure patriotism?  Is it what you feel or what you do?

I think that's a tough question.  I think it's kind of like defining a person's faith.  We look and we see so we think that we know.  We see each other's behavior and think we know if someone is a patriot.  But would you want someone to judge whether you were a patriot or not based on just what they see?  How do you judge what's in a person's heart?

Obviously, it comes down to not judging others.  A tough thing to do, but so important.

Today, I feel like a patriotic person.  I feel like there is room for growth, but my intent is good.  I love my country.  I am glad I am here.  I am grateful for all it affords me.  And I will try harder to find opportunities to stand up for my country.

And I imagine that people all over the world feel the same way about their countries.  That they are patriots.  Like me.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Things My Blog Will Never Be/Have

I have been participating in the blogosphere (why does that word make me cringe?) for several months now.  Let me just say, I have learned a lot.

There are a lot of fantastic writers out there.  People who will never be published in a book, but who have awesome stories to tell and tell them well.  I swear real life is so much more interesting than fiction.

But there are also, um, how do I put this?  There are also a few . . . who struggle . . . to connect with . . . reality.  Maybe that works.  This post isn't about these people. 

I'm not talking about mental illness or those who blog about it.  I love these blogs.  These are truth at its most raw.  Open and vulnerable.  Striving to find the surface while life tries to pull them under.  I connect with these blogs.

And, if you're reading, I'm sure I'm not talking about your blog.  I'm sure it's wonderful.  And I'm sure that you will know and understand that all of these things I'm about to gripe about don't bug me when you do it on your blog.  You rock!

Blogging is so much more than I knew when I started.  It's a bunch of social networks, among other things.  Not like in high school.  Not full of cliques.  It's all about support.  So many of these blogs are written by women.  And all of us women know that women just don't get the praise they need and deserve, so the networks strive to provide some.  And they are wonderful.  I've picked up some new readers this way that have added to my experience.

But there are also things that kind of bug me.  Okay, they irritate me.  I understand why people do them, and I will keep reading the blogs that have them, but I will not have them on my blog.  Deal with it.

Ads:  I understand the need or desire to make money from blogging.  And more power to you if you choose to go this route -- I hope you make lots of money.  But my blog is about writing.  It's mostly for my own enjoyment.  I like my writing.  I like reading my writing.  And I'm big on sharing so you can read it, too.  But sometimes those ads on other blogs get so distracting that I'm tempted not to go there anymore.  They flash.  They scroll.  They show close ups of body parts that I both try to identify and try not to look at.  I've finally had to change the size of my window at some blogs so that only the post shows.  My peripheral vision is just too good.  That thing that flashes or scolls gives me a headache.

Memes:  I'm not positive about the definition of this one.  I think it's like a writing game that one person starts and all of their followers participate in and then they all link up to each others' posts.  Is that right?  Sometimes it's a bunch of questions.  Sometimes it's 100 words on such and such a topic.  Reading one person answer a bunch of questions might be fun.  I get bored part way through the second one.  There's no way I'm going on to the third one.  I understand others like this.  They must or it wouldn't be so prevelent.  You guys have fun.

Awards:  Okay, I tried this one once.  It didn't fit.  It wasn't me.  Different bloggers make up different awards and design a button and rules for it.  Then they give it out to other people.  These people follow the rules and pass it on to other people.  It's part of the giving praise thing.  I understand that it's fun to get an award, but this one just feels too much like chain mail for me. 

Writing Prompts:  Some blogs provide pictures, questions, quotes to use as writing prompts.  Something to get you started.  I understand the need for this.  I have been at that point where I just don't have anything to write about.  For me, I've learned that at that point it's best not to push it.  If I write during that time it just comes out forced.  I know some people have the desire to write regularly as an exercise to keep their writing muscles strong.  I don't feel this need.  I have enough things in my life that I have to force myself to do, writing is fun for me.  When it becomes work it is no longer satisfying.

Daily Themes:  Hmm.  How do I illustrate this without offending anyone?  I probably can't.  Forget about it Friday.  Weather Wednesday.  Toy of the moment Tuesday.  (I made those up, by the way.)  It's all about the alliteration in the title.  And something to write about.  A few of these I love, like Musical Monday at Kazzy's Ponderings.  But mostly they just seem cheesy to me.  Like I can't come up with stuff to write about on my own.  Plus, I don't want to commit to writing every Thursday.

Family Stories/Pictures:  In fact, pictures of any kind.  At first this was just because I knew that having to find and link pictures would be tedious and make it so that I didn't write as much.  I don't want my blog to be a journal or a family update or a mommy blog or a travelogue or a food blog or a craft blog or anything of the kind.  I like these blogs.  I follow several of them regularly.  I enjoy the pictures and the stories that remind me why I'm glad my kids are finally growing up.  But that's not what I want to do.  I want to write.  I want to think.  I want to share my conclusions or lack thereof.

Giveaways:  Why would I create more work for myself?  I'm not going to buy followers.  If you read my stuff, that makes me happy.  If you don't, I'm okay with that.  You do what works for you.  Giveaways will never be found here.  And I don't participate in them on anyone else's blogs either.  If you missed my post on shopping, go back and read it.  I have more than enough stuff.  I hate stuff.  Anything more than necessary to live is too much for me.  Why would I enter a contest to try to win more?

Begging for Comments:  I understand the need for validation.  It is a natural human need.  It feeds our souls when someone tells us good things about ourselves.  But if I have to beg for comments it's like begging for a compliment from my husband.  It just doesn't mean as much and isn't entirely believable.  That's just me.  If you long for comment-love so much that you want to ask for it, go ahead.  I've never been good at asking for things and I'm not going to start begging now.  I love comments, mostly because then I know who's reading.  But if you aren't so inclined I will love you still the same.

Girliness/Gushing:  I wrote one post about how much I love people.  That's as gushy as I get.  If you ever read one of my posts and hear giggling, squealing, and perky girliness then go back and read it again.  You read it WRONG.

What you will find on my blog.  Strange ramblings with way too many metaphors and similes.  Things that make you glad you don't actually know me in person.  Thoughts that seem like they came from someone who doesn't get out much (which, I guess sometimes, I really don't).  Variety that leads you to believe that not all of my mental illnesses have been diagnosed yet.  And a profile picture that is a gargoyle.

These things are me.  My blog is me.  I have spent way too much of my life trying to be what others want.  I'm not going to let that happen here.

Lots of people love all of these things.  And that is part of the beauty of the blogging world; there's something for everyone.  I was not talking about your blog, trust me.

If I offended you, go back and read the warning at the top of my blog.  I kind of knew I would.

*****
Author's Note:  As my friend, Kazzy, so kindly reminded me -- it drives me crazy when music automatically starts as I'm trying to read a blog.  I usually had my sound up to listen to something else and it startles me no matter how great the music is.  Not a pleasant experience.  Scaring me is not a good way to get me to follow you.

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