Creativity muscles: A-Z blog challenge

Tomorrow starts the A-Z blog challenge. As of right now, there are 1,498 people signed up, which sounds really exciting to me! I haven’t written in my blog for over two weeks, so looking forward to a daily ritual.

My theme will be something I talk about as part of my blog on a regular basis, “Taking Care of Ourselves,” and I only hope and pray I can make it interesting enough for anyone who reads. 🙂

It took me a while to get to that theme. I was going to do something entirely different but chickened out at the last minute. 😛

So, who’s with me? Are we all excited?

On the Brighter Side

On the brighter side
On the bright side

It took me a while to get to the place where I could even write today. I had to remind myself of my main destressor: knitting. After I’d knitted for a a good hour and still felt unequivocal and persistent self-pity, I searched the Kindle for something in my Daily Reads category that might kick me out of this gloom and doom.

While this is not a book review, I do want to note Amy Spencer’s Bright Side Up: 100 Ways to Be Happier Right Now, since I’ll be drawing from that for the rest of this post. When I read the chapter “At least you’re not . . .” that’s when light dawned, and a better, healthier perspective appeared before me.

Last night, I found myself screaming over a passed-out, drunken nephew on my sofa. Not my proudest moment. Also wrenched my back trying to help him “wake up” and get in the car so I could take him home with his mother.

This afternoon, after Aleve, a hot soak in the tub, some time knitting, and a shot in the arm from Amy, I wish there were do-overs. But there aren’t. He’s home now, sober. I’m here, feeling better.

At least I’m not living with zombies, after having been abducted. I heard one was sited in our neighborhood the other night. At least I’m not so poor I can’t even pay attention (sometimes). At least I’m not boring or unlovable. At least I’m not shoveling snow off the driveway. At least I’m not dog-less, without my Lucy.

And, with Amy, I had to recognize how blessed I really am. Sure, I hurt my back. But today, my head doesn’t hurt, my hands and feet are both functioning perfectly fine, my legs get me around without any trouble. And the Aleve really helped.

Maybe there aren’t do-overs in life. But I can always learn from what happens in my life and do better next time. Next time I can stop and take three deep breaths. I can walk away. Pray the Serenity prayer. Count to 100. Smile. It’s hard to scream when you’re smiling. 😉

Oh, life is a good thing. 🙂

Peace out.

Dear Lucy

Linus and Lucy Dear Lucy,

I remember April 2, 2009, like it was yesterday. Mom and I drove all the way out to Shelby Township to rescue you, which was very far for us. What we didn’t take into account was how scared you might be, so we didn’t bring a crate or anything. Mom just held you in her lap while I drove, and you shook, quaked, and trembled all the way home.

I fell in love with you on a website, a PetFinder website. I immediately locked onto your eyes and I couldn’t let go. Your coloring helped, too. All gray with butterscotch underbelly, paws and head. Just gorgeous. Since I’d been a Snoopy fan from way back, in fact he is my muse (sometimes fickle but always good for a laugh and dances like wild when he’s happy and fed), if you had been a boy I would have named you after him. But you were a girl, and I was overjoyed to christen you the oh-so-clever Lucy, Linus’s older brother, and Charlie Brown’s pain in the neck.

Since it is gratitude Wednesday, I want to take this time (yes, writer friends, I have just switched tenses in the middle of a letter  :P), to let you know how much you mean to me. Even when I threaten to trade you in for a different model, one with perhaps a bigger bladder, you know I’m only teasing, right? When I say I’ll drive all the way back to Shelby Twp.? Yeah, that’s just a bluff. I’m only holding a pair of two’s. 😉 You’re holding all the cards, and you’ll always have my heart.

When I’m feeling down, you seem to sense it, and you nudge me with your nose. You bring me one of your toys and plop it right down in front of me, which is really and truly a gift. Usually, when you want to play, when you know I’m feeling well and good, you’ll start to act as though you’re offering the toy, you make a quick pass around my hand and then – oh no – you zing safely out of reach! You’d make a good runner in football. Go for the touchdown, Lucy!

And Mom just loves you, and you sure do love your grandma, don’t you? As soon as you hear her moving around upstairs in the morning and you can hear that she’s making a move to come down, you start to head for the stairs, sit and wait for her. Then comes the wiggling, licking, petting. Oh, I was talking about you, wasn’t I? 😉

Lucy, little schnorkie o’ mine, you have made my life full, and I love you deeply. Since having you, I have not had to be hospitalized even once in-house. I wouldn’t want to leave you, that’s a huge reason. The second reason is you help me cope. You help me to see life is never as bad as I think it is. You make me smile and laugh. You give me a reason to stick around, someone to care about, someone who needs me. 

Live long, little one. Lots of happy chasing dreams. And let Charlie kick the ball once in a while, why don’tcha? 😉

your loving owner and friend

Book Review: Sober Siblings: How to Help Your Alcoholic Brother or Sister – And Not Lose Yourself

hope If you have a sister or brother struggling with the disease of alcoholism, and need help, look no further. Sober Siblings, by Patricia Olsen and Petros Levounis, M.D., M.A., provides some of the best help out there on the subject. In fact, it is the only book I have encountered so far in my search on alcoholism that addresses the difficulty of the sibling relationship.

Through Patricia Olsen’s own personal experience, along with personal stories throughout the book of other siblings of alcoholics, as well as supplemented by the experience of Dr. Levounis, Sober Siblings offers practical tips and advice on several topics.

From the Introduction, “To love an alcoholic is to watch in despair as that person sinks to a level he would never willingly choose.” (p. 1) To me it’s like Patricia Olsen really gets it, and I sensed that more from her personal knowledge than anything else. I mean, no one wakes up and thinks, “Gee, I think I’d like to be an alcoholic when I grow up.” But some people still believe it’s within one’s control and willpower to choose. In this book, Olsen and Levounis make it clearer than ever that alcoholism is a disease that robs one of willpower, self-respect and many other things before it’s through.

But what’s also clear is it’s important to take care of ourselves if we are a sibling of an alcoholic. It’s important to know what is our responsibility and what is theirs; to decide what sort of relationship we would like to have; creating and maintaining appropriate boundaries (even to know what a proper boundary looks like); to honor our feelings; and find help and support for ourselves.

There are wonderful examples of how to communicate effectively with our alcoholic sibling. Real examples, with actual scripts to practice. I found this very useful.

Family interventions are no longer thought of as a useful tool, as they are too confrontational to the alcoholic. It’s considered more helpful to confront the alcoholic on a one-to-one basis, one family member at a time.

It’s not an easy read. There’s even a section which discusses cutting off all ties with the alcoholic if it’s too difficult to maintain a relationship. This is as a last resort sort of effort. The authors are not at all judgmental, and provide stories of people in the book who had to do just that. It’s all very individual, as all alcoholics are different and all sibling relationships are unique.

All-in-all, I highly recommend this book. Professional expertise interwoven with personal experience and stories from other siblings make for a very well done work.

Progress Not Perfection

progress not perfection
My family physician – also board-certified in psychiatry – and I go back a ways. I checked with the receptionist, and their computer only goes back as far as 1995, but it was a return appointment, so we’re figuring at least 1994.

That’s a long time to know someone. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing, because I used to be a lot sicker than I am now. As I sit here, and I know I’m in for a wait, sometimes as long as three hours, I think of the progress that’s been made. Today, I come to Dr. Sack’s office with a bag of tricks to engage me. There’s a knitting project, two books I need to finish reading for possible review, and of course an old-fashioned notebook and pen to write this blog post for later transfer to computer when I get home. Plus my smart phone so I can stay in touch with FB friends and all of that. God forbid I should lose touch with the world for a minute. 😛

When I first began coming here, through the wayback machine, I was much angrier and impatient. I was in the throes of borderline personality disorder”, which – if you click on the term it will take you to a great website that describes and explains the symptoms and characteristics.

I remember feeling rage and paranoia that other patients had been called back into rooms before I had. Numerous times I’d storm the poor receptionist’s desk. “Do you have any idea how long I’ve been waiting? My appointment was at such-and-so, and here it is two hours later! I demand to be seen!” Like it had never occurred to me the other patients waiting in the room had been waiting just as long if not longer. 😦 Bless their hearts, they took that vitriol, and gave back nothing but calm, clear, kindness.

Part of the problem, I realized much too late, was my panicky feelings at being jam-packed in a waiting room filled with sick people. I wasn’t physically ill, I was mentally ill, and didn’t want to add strep throat to the mix if I could help it. Also, I did not know then that I was dealing with claustrophobia, which has still not left me today.

There is a theory bandied about that people can “age out” of borderline personality disorder, and I think that is what has happened with me. Then too, with the advent of cell phones, when the waiting room is packed, the receptionist is kind enough to take down my cell number and call me when it’s time for me to come back into a patient room. And, like I said at the outset, I bring things to engage myself and to keep myself busy.

It’s nowhere near perfect, but I’m a work in progress.

The Ruffle Scarf Pattern And Magic Knitting

ruffle scarf
Okay, so it’s not really magic. I mean, I don’t believe in magic. But I don’t know how else to explain the Ruffle Scarf Pattern, and I’m . . . actually, I’m enchanted by it.

I’ve always been, like addicted to patterns. When I get upset or stressed out, I count things in my mind. People don’t know it or see it; but I’m counting things – tiles, the number of people in the room, etc. Or I’ll repeat the serenity prayer a certain number of times in my head, then just the acceptance part. Over and over. I think maybe I have a touch of OCD. hehe

At least with knitting, that obsessive nature has a productive end to it. But the Ruffle Scarf – it’s such a simple pattern: Cast on 20 stitches, knit 20 stitches, knit 8, turn, knit 8 into the back of the 8 you just knitted, knit 6, turn, knit 6 into the 6 you just knitted, knit 4, turn, knit 4 into the 4 you just knitted. That’s it! Then you start again and continue until the end of the skein of yarn or your fingers fall off, whichever comes first. ;).

But the beauty of it is when the scarf begins to ruffle. It doesn’t happen for a while. You have to be patient, which I’m not good at. I’ve made a few of them, given them out as gifts, and made one for myself. I knit them at meetings, because they don’t take a lot of concentration, and I can still listen to the other members at the Al-Anon tables and watch as what looks like nothing starts to turn into a magical spiral before my very eyes and fingers!

It’s magic! I know, I said I didn’t believe in it, but how else can you explain it? lol

Same thing happens to us, doesn’t it? We start out pretty rough . . . ahem, some of us still are . . . and over time we become something God can use.

Positive Limits For Ourselves

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As someone who has teetered on either the manic or depressive side of bipolar, I’ve never been very good with limits. I’m not good at saying no to other people, let alone myself. I’ve only recently discovered, with the help of my sister and my sponsor, that no all by itself is all that’s needed. No long, drawn-out explanations about why I can’t do this or that . . . just – no. 

So – in keeping with the theme of taking care of ourselves, I’m still in a bit of a funk and awaiting lab results on Monday that may tell me why – I’m setting some limits. They are subject to change, because I’m new at this, and it’s okay to change our minds while we’re learning.

My therapist taught me to think of all of my “stuff” as one big file cabinet. So, for instance, I’m in the “blog post” file drawer right now. All the other drawers are closed and locked. This is all I’m focused on. That’s one way I limit myself. It’s also known as mindfulness. I learned this technique when I spent two years in a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy group. I could spend a whole blog post on mindfulness; we won’t go there right now. 😉

There are seven days in the week. I am committed to post in my blog on six days right now. So far I haven’t made it all six days. That’s a work in progress. I won’t post on Sunday. Sunday is a worship and decompression day for me. Another limit.

Some people lift us up and some people – well . . . they don’t. Whether their intentions are well-meaning or not, I can’t say. I only know that my hope is to surround myself with people who lift my spirits and tell me the truth in a way that doesn’t blow me out of the water. 😛 Limits. A very good thing.

I am reading and reviewing books for a blog, the first to appear on the 20th at Readers Realm. I love to read, and I love to review, but I also need to let myself rest when I need to.

Getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep (which hasn’t happened at all lately because I’m ill), remembering to eat something, keeping hydrated, petting Lucy and staying connected with people on a regular basis are all crucial.

Attending at least 3-4 Al-Anon meetings is my most important of all issues on here. Without Al-Anon, sometimes I think I wouldn’t even be here. 

What are your limits? What are your no’s in life? How will you take care of yourself this weekend? 

Peace out.