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

brighterside

looking on the brighter side

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.

 

All In For God With Faith

faith

5The apostles came up and said to the Master, “Give us more faith.”

6But the Master said, “You don’t need more faith. There is no ‘more’ or ‘less’ in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it would do it.
–Luke 17:5,6 Message

Doesn’t that sound just like us? I mean, there were the apostles, they had Jesus, the LORD Himself, in the flesh, and they wanted more. It wasn’t enough.

I’m learning, slowly but surely, that faith is one of those I was given just enough of, and it’s up to me to do with it what I wish. Like concrete here in Michigan, it can expand and contract, but it’s still the same. The measure of it hasn’t changed. Maybe it’s shape, it’s edges, the form it can take – but it’s the same amount I was given at the beginning. Sometimes it might feel smaller because the ground is shifting, and sometimes it feels huge because everything is smooth sailing.

The last 48 hours have not been smooth sailing, but I had to make a decision – last night – to be “all in” no matter how I was feeling, and keep moving with the understanding that God knew what He was doing.

God always knows what He’s doing. I can’t always see it because I can sometimes only see as far as the nose on my face, and I can only see that if look through the corner of my eye. 😉

When I made that decision, when I pushed “all in,” something shifted . . . in me.

There’s still some work to be done. I still can’t see very far, but I don’t think I need to. I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Peace out.

Getting Down To The Knitty Gritty

I want to introduce you to a few friends of mine from my knitting group. Our group is very large, and many of them were shy, and some claimed they were not quite photogenic (which I so beg to differ). 😉 They are each lovely in their own special ways. Below each picture here I have explained who the person is and a little about them. 

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This is the incredibly talented Bev, who works a lot with complicated lace patterns, and this day she was wearing a cute and fun sweater hat. The “arms” can be worn down, as shown here, or tied together on top of the head. Bev is a wonderful, generous person who always has time to help others of us in the group who are not quite as far along as she is with our talents. For some reason I couldn’t get these two pictures to separate, so the top one is Bev holding the hat that Linda, another group member, made for me.

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In the top of these two photos is Brenda caught in profile. Brenda is very kind and compassionate, and she sat next to me the day I decided to try and stay the whole two hours. There she is working on another cowl for her Dad, who has Alzheimer’s. He likes the cowls, she says, because “they feel like hugs.”

Helene is our eldest and funnest member of the group. When I asked if I could take her picture, she said, “Well, sure, all right, but it might break your camera!” Boy, did we get on her for that remark. Helene Is a continental knitter, which seems very fast to me, and I would love to learn that method. I’m a plodder. 😛

So there you have it. There are many others, too many to mention. There are very few rules to knitting but there are some that ought to be mentioned. 1. Never take yourself too seriously. 2. Always have more than one knitting project going so that you don’t get bored. 3. Have a complicated and an easy project going at the same time to give yourself a break when you need to. 4. You can never have too big a stash. 😉 5. Mistakes can always be fixed. 

Peace out.

Taking Care of Ourselves

self care

Who do you think about first thing in the morning or last thing at night before you fall asleep? Who do you feed first in the morning? Remember the airplane instructions about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first before you put it on your child or even the hurt person next to you? There are reasons for those.

When I was a kid coming up in the world, the last thing I thought about was myself. Sure, there were a few times that were carefree, like I remember playing Red light, Green light; Red Rover; Hide-and-Seek; Say-say-oh-playmate; Mother May I; all those games that kids play in their neighborhoods or towns growing up. But underlying it all was that elephant of drunkenness, anger, and violence. Towering over the elephant stood the giraffe of secrecy.

On the outside we had to look the part of perfect normalcy. Very proper, well-cared for, every hair in place, not a bruise showing, no tears no tears, mustn’t let the world think you are anything but absolutely ordinary. No, more than that: extraordinary. After all, my father was an officer of the law. If his children couldn’t be expected to behave in public, whose could? Our outsides, of course, terribly mismatched our insides. We hurt, we ached, we carried bruises (some physical, some emotional) . . . we carried secrets about drunkenness and violence, secrets in the words only our childlike voices could tell.

In Al-Anon and in therapy I’m learning to take care of myself – not better care – but to actually take care of myself for the first time. Dori (my sponsor) helps me to see my limitations and what I can and cannot do, before I actually hit the wall of exhaustion (as I’ve done). There is a whole chapter in the Al-Anon Big Book, How Al-Anon Works: For Families and Friends of Alcoholics called -oddly enough- Taking Care of Ourselves. Hey, is there some plagiarism going on here? How did they know I was going to write this blog?

What’s best about the Al-Anon Big Book, for me, is it’s simple enough that I can understand it when I’m distressed. Because when I’m in a situation and I need it, if the language were too complicated or flowery, I wouldn’t be able to absorb, intelligence not withstanding. Intelligence goes straight out the window when one is panicked and in distress.

There is a strong connection, in many ways, between the techniques taught in the Al-Anon and in the AA Big Book. For instance, I was pleasantly surprised to read under the SETTING PRIORITIES AND LIMITS section of this chapter, the acronym for H.A.L.T., which is usually often discussed in the AA Big Book.

This reminds me of my doctor’s appt yesterday for a re-evaluation of my chronic fatigue syndrome. I’ve been feeling much worse, dragging all the time, and lots of “brain fog”, which is upsetting. Well, the nurse took at least 20 vials of blood and I have to go back in a week to get more blood for a cortisol draw, since that needs to be done in the morning, and to go over the results of the lab tests thus far.

Here’s hoping they’ll have some answers for me. Even the slightest hormone mishap can cause a lot of fatigue, and if that can be corrected, I’m all over it. Taking care of myself is one of my number one priorities right now! 😉

How about you? Are you taking care of yourself?

Going Along Faith’s Journey

“As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit.” – Emmanuel Teney

You’ll have to forgive me as I’m not feeling very well today and that’s why this blog is so late in being posted. My chronic fatigue is flaring something awful, to the point I’m wondering if I’m having a true mono episode. But I didn’t want to skip, so please understand if some of this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

I grew up in the Catholic faith, but am not of that faith anymore. I’m not here to bash Catholicism, so relax. It was a personal choice, borne more out of how my own father lived the “do as I say but not as I do” credo, and the fact that someone always ended up crying on the way home from church, if not in the lobby. It was not a pleasant experience. There was also something more personal that happened to me in my late teen years that I’m not comfortable sharing in my blog. Let’s just say I needed the church in a big way and it was not there for me. Everyone is human, even churches I’m learning, but at 18 and in a crisis, I couldn’t wrap my brain around that.

So I didn’t attend church for a long time when I went on my own to – of all things – a Catholic college. As a matter of fact, except for weddings and the occasional Christmas mass, I never went to church until I started seeing a therapist after a suicide attempt. He steered me to a protestant church in my area, to the single ministry there. I wasn’t interested in that, but I did go to a Sunday service, the 10:00 – the busiest time there could be – and “just happened” to find a space in the parking lot. My faith doesn’t allow for coincidences anymore. Through that protestant church, I converted my faith and became a born-again Christian on March 5, 1997.

It hasn’t been a straight-road journey, don’t at all let me lead you to believe that. Not all roses and chocolates. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever received a dozen long-stemmed roses in my life! But my faith has taught me that my personal journey wasn’t meant to be straight and narrow. God knows who I am. He, after all, made me. He knows where I am and what I am writing this minute. My faith helps me trust that the doctor tomorrow will find some reason I am feeling so much sicker. Because God made the doctor. And because I will pray for wisdom for the doctor, and He always, ALWAYS answers the prayers of His faithful.

How do I know this? Because God gave me my faith in the first place. I’ll leave you with this poem I found on the internet that just took my breath away.

A drunk man in an Oldsmobile
They said had run the light
That caused the six-car pileup
On 109 that night.

When broken bodies lay about
And blood was everywhere,
The sirens screamed out eulogies,
For death was in the air.

A mother, trapped inside her car,
Was heard above the noise;
Her plaintive plea near split the air:
Oh, God, please spare my boys!”

She fought to loose her pinned hands;
She struggled to get free,
But mangled metal held her fast
In grim captivity.

Her frightened eyes then focused
On where the back seat once had been,
But all she saw was broken glass and
Two children’s seats crushed in.

Her twins were nowhere to be seen;
She did not hear them cry,
And then she prayed they’d been thrown free,
Oh, God, don’t let them die!”

Then firemen came and cut her loose,
But when they searched the back,
They found therein no little boys,
But the seat belts were intact.

They thought the woman had gone mad
And was travelling alone,
But when they turned to question her,
They discovered she was gone.

Policemen saw her running wild
And screaming above the noise
In beseeching supplication,
Please help me find my boys!

They’re four years old and wear blue shirts;
Their jeans are blue to match.”
One cop spoke up, “They’re in my car,
And they don’t have a scratch.

They said their daddy put them there
And gave them each a cone,
Then told them both to wait for Mom
To come and take them home.

I’ve searched the area high and low,
But I can’t find their dad.
He must have fled the scene,
I guess, and that is very bad.”

The mother hugged the twins and said,
While wiping at a tear,
He could not flee the scene, you see,
For he’s been dead a year.”

The cop just looked confused and asked,
Now, how can that be true?”
The boys said, “Mommy, Daddy came
And left a kiss for you.”

He told us not to worry
And that you would be all right,
And then he put us in this car with
The pretty, flashing light.

We wanted him to stay with us,
Because we miss him so,
But Mommy, he just hugged us tight
And said he had to go.

He said someday we’d understand
And told us not to fuss,
And he said to tell you, Mommy,
He’s watching over us.”

The mother knew without a doubt.
That what they spoke was true,
For she recalled their dad’s last words,
I will watch over you.”

The firemen’s notes could not explain
The twisted, mangled car,
And how the three of them escaped
Without a single scar.

But on the cop’s report was scribed,
In print so very fine,
An angel walked the beat tonight
on Hwy. 109
– Unknown

Peace out

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