Weekend in Alabama

Since Monday was a holiday (no school for any of us), I went to Alabama on Friday, to work on The New House and see assorted family and friends. It was a most successful trip.

Updates on the house at A New House . Dad and I worked on it.

#3 and Fine Wife are making plans to rebuild. It’s exciting! The community where they live has been incredibly generous, and they have started gathering up furniture and household items. I’m impressed at how frugal they are, and they are obviously having fun with it. Grandpunkin, of course, at 18 months old has no clue what’s going on, as long as there’s macaroni and cheese to eat, and a dump truck to shove around.

Saturday night we had a fairly spontaneous Gathering On The Front Porch. Mom and Dad’s house has a massive wrap-around porch (literally it goes around all 4 sides of the house, and is 8 feet wide) full of rocking chairs. #3 and Friend W/Kids showed up after a gun competition, and a 6-pack of Corona materialized. Soon after, Fine Wife and Grandpunkin appeared (all this resulted in 4 pickup trucks parked in the yard). FW also had a tiny, tiny baby goat (born 10 days premature and rejected by it’s mother) and a bottle of colostrum that she was feeding it a few drops at a time. The dogs were loving attention by one of the kids, 2 of the other kids were running around the porches, and trying to keep Grandpunkin from face-planting off the stairs. 4 generations of people were talking and laughing and running around, dogs were scratched, beer was consumed, all for a couple of hours. At one point a car came in (one does not accidentally go down this road, what with the gates and all, and it is pretty obviously a private road) that no one recognized and the younger generation of grown men got up and looked threatening (not to mention all the trucks and dogs and beer on the porch rail) and the car turned around and left. We have no idea who it was but were not happy about it. The gate had been left open but diligence in closing it commenced right after.

It was a good weekend. AND the house here in Georgia was NOT a disaster when I came home!


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Everything is temporary

One of the lovely things I’ve learned about depression over the last 26 years, is that it’s always temporary (for me, anyway. I don’t write about other people’s experiences). The problem, however, is that when you’re in the middle of it, it doesn’t FEEL temporary at all. That must be what leads people to suicide. Which I totally understand. Seriously, right in the middle of it I can’t help but wonder if I’m capable of feeling this way for the rest of my life- years and years of it seem…more than daunting. Terrifying, even. The idea of feeling so incredibly low, in that existential pain, for years and years is the most…(something pretty awful). Mainly because on top of just feeling bad physically, it’s layered with the feelings that you’re worthless and the whole world would be better off without you. (no, I’m not suicidal…mainly because I know it’s temporary and I’ll feel much better soon) (stop worrying)

Now, I know that isn’t true. I have work left to do here or else I wouldn’t be here. Knowing that intellectually is what allows me to plow through it. Remembering that it *IS* temporary, and that God’s right there with me even when my renegade feelings demand otherwise, well, that’s what keeps me grounded. However, in order to keep the steam pressure of my psyche from building up and popping rivets where they don’t need to pop, I have to allow myself to *be* depressed for a while, until it passes on it’s own rather like a bad headache.

A long time ago, I had a very wise and wonderful pastor, Thomas Lane Butts.  Dr. Butts held my hand, both literally and figuratively, after I’d received the diagnosis of bipolar disorder and was deeply depressed. I had been suppressing the emotions of it all (having a husband and 3 young children, I didn’t think it was appropriate to *be* depressed and was determined not to show it). He told me that I was like a boiling teapot, and holding everything in like I was would be as if I’d stuffed a cork in the spout, and all that steam pressure was building up. Eventually it would come out somehow, and inappropriately. I would start popping rivets and people would get hurt. He helped me learn how to deal with my emotions appropriately, how to allow myself to be depressed without letting it consume me and everyone around. He helped me personify the depression, and as such, I could talk to it, tell it how it was wrong for making me feel worthless. I learned to write about it, use the writing to make sense of it, congeal it into a form that can be managed, instead of letting it be a grey swirling mass of smoke. Have you ever tried to capture smoke, form it into something? He taught me that depression itself isn’t ungodly, but it’s how we deal with it that determines that. After all, Christ had times where He was depressed-Isaiah 53:3 prophecies that when he says ” “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”.  Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Our culture today tells us we must be happy. It shoves in our face all these images of happy people, of things to buy to make us happy, pills to take if we aren’t happy. There are drugs, both legal and illegal, that fool our brains into thinking we’re happy, or at least not sad. I’m guilty of that, sometimes. A stiff martini can wrap the sad in a temporary blanket and at least muffle it’s noise for a bit. When I realize what’s happening, I stop with the martinis and switch to a big glass of water and an early bedtime. The truth is, constant happiness isn’t possible. Some folks aren’t meant to be happy. God never promises that we will be happy, in fact, He pretty much promises that life will be difficult, the world won’t like us, and holiness is more important than happiness. In John 16:33, Jesus says “”I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we are reminded “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (1:6), and it’s going to take a while.

By reminding myself that everything going on- both inside my head and outside in the world- is work meant to make me grow, and every single time…I mean  that…Every. Single. Time….I go through a depression, I learn a little more about myself, and about what God’s doing.(ok wait I can’t figure out that sentence but I think you understand what I mean…I mean I don’t know if the sentence is over or not…) Each depression brings me a little bit close to understanding what a hot mess I really am, and how I really REALLY need God right there next to me, making sure the rivets are solid and the cork is on the counter and not in the spout. Each one reminds me that I am not really in control of what’s going on around me, nor do I really need to be. Every time I try to control it, it all turns into smoke and mocks my attempts. Darn people- so unpredictable and why can’t they just do life the way *I* want them to?! Probably because…y’know…I’m not God (Thank You, God, for that!)

You know what else? Writing all this down is probably the best medicine ever. God gave me words for a reason, and putting all this down in words makes it solid and manageable, even if the managing consists of understanding it isn’t manageable. (does that make sense?) Writing somehow congeals the smoke a little, puts the thoughts in order, and makes me feel more in control of myself. For someone who’s pretty much a control freak, that’s really important.

fire smoke ball neat any

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I’m tired.

The past month or so has been pretty…rough. Eventful in all the wrong ways…well ok there were a few lovely bright spots but those have been completely overwhelmed by things like a house burning down and the wrong paint color. Today is Himself’s birthday- he’d be 53 if he were here, which he’s not.

I think the biggest part of my problem is that I don’t have my Person- the one I could lean on when times were hard. I can’t say “well, at least we still have each other!” And I feel like if I say anything to that effect, someone will come out of the woodwork and say something about Jesus and leaning on Him. As if I’m not. I kind of resent that, the implication that if I’m having a hard time dealing with what’s happening it means I’m not Trusting God, when the truth is, if I weren’t trusting God I’d be even more of a basket case, and probably doing rash and unhealthy things like running away from it all.

I’ve had this running away fantasy for a long time, like since the kids were very little and Life Was Hard because I was having to juggle them and bipolar disorder and a husband with a career that required me to be a Perfect Wife.  I dreamed of getting in my car and driving a gas-tank’s distance, then swapping the car at a shady used-car dealership for something untraceable, then driving to North Dakota to get a job as a Waffle-house waitress (do they even have Waffle House there? I’ve never checked) and change my name to Katherine, and just disappear. See how well I have that worked out? I won’t do it, of course, because it would cause more damage to others than it would help me, but the fantasy exists and seems, sometimes, like a really good idea. They are all grown, and will be fine without me.

Except now I have this overly attached dog, and traveling with him, while not impossible, would make it hard to get the waitressing job unless it’s at a biker bar that lets me bring him in, and I don’t look good in leather miniskirts nor are my boobs very big.

The house is kind of overwhelming as well. I have a lot of shi…er…stuff. Much of it is pointless stuff that might be useful one day but probably not, and might be worth something but probably not and I’d really like to get one of those construction dumpsters and go through and throw everything out that I don’t REALLY love and just be done with it all. Another dream along those lines is to move everything I REALLY love to The New House and give the keys to this one to Habitat for Humanity and let them have everything left, but none of it would be worth much and I hate the thought of imposing on volunteers to come in and sift through it, looking for something of value.

Also, I’m just tired. It seems like every time I turn around, people need me. While most of the time I’m fine with that, and quite able to compartmentalize and all, right now I can’t. I’m also disinclined to lean on others, as I don’t want to impose or cast my burdens upon them because most people have their own problems and don’t need mine on top of them. Then someone has advice that sounds real good but isn’t nearly as easy to implement as they think it is. Himself was really good at following through with the difficult jobs of life. He was able to make the tough calls where family was concerned, be the Enforcer and let me relax and be the one who softened the bow and maintained the relationships. He was able to tell me when to back off, or step forward, to tell me what I needed to do in a given situation. I draw on those experiences a lot, but sometimes, like when a son’s house burns down and they lose it all, or when I can’t figure out if I need to cajole/encourage or back off and let him make his own decisions…I can’t figure out what would be the right thing to do.And I become frustrated and exhausted and confused and honestly want to go away and not come back until everyone else has their collective shits together. I want to leave them all a text message that says “Don’t call me until your life is in order and I don’t have to help.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love them all very much but I’m having a hard enough time with my OWN life right now.

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ahn yer mark….git set….

When a person has been through a series of traumatic events, the person wants to protect herself from the next one- be prepared for it so perhaps the hit won’t hurt as much, or at least so she can be prepared for it and know what to do.  I’m a Specialist at Being Prepared For The Worst. “Expect the worst, so when it happens, you’re ready, and if it doesn’t, you’re pleasantly surprised” are words I live by. Himself hated that, he thought I was the most extreme of pessimists, but I call it realism. I don’t think there’s one single thing wrong with being prepared for the worst. It has worked for me several times, not the least of which being Himself’s untimely demise.

And now, with #3 and Family’s house fire, being (somewhat) mentally prepared for Whatever Disaster Looms Ahead has meant an ability to do what I can for them- which, to be honest, isn’t much beyond emotional support at the moment, but I am also seeing #3 react with that same sort of behavior- digging in immediately and figuring out what to do, rather than standing around in a hand-flapping panic and having no clue, waiting on someone else to solve the problems.  I’m proud of him. It is also (selfishly) nice to see one of my kids responding in a way I would in that sort of crisis. It means that I didn’t just incubate those kids, but actually have had a real impact on who they’ve become as adult. Which, I recognize, is a totally self centered way to be, but there it is anyway.

The community in Alabama continues to amaze me with their response and help. The generosity has been astonishing and heartwarming and all those things. When you’re standing around, watching everything you own go up in flames and smoke, it is natural to wonder just what on EARTH you’re going to do…where will you sleep, what will you wear, how are you going to pay for anything? Replacing the wardrobes of 3 people, buying furniture, what about those steel toed rubber-soled boots he has to wear to work? Those aren’t something you can just go pick up at Goodwill.  Oh no what about diapers for the Punkin? How do you prioritize whether to buy steel toed boots or hay for the goats? So much was going through their minds and every last thought was written right on the surface. And then…the people showed up. Complete strangers, absolutely anonymous, sticking envelopes full of money and gift cards in their hands. Friends setting up Go Fund Me pages and churches organizing donations….Someone showed up with bales of hay and bags of animal food. Someone else offered appliances for their new place, when it gets set up. A brand new pair of shoes for Fine Wife. Toys for Grandpunkin.  It won’t be so hard after all.

#3 has a friend who’s house burned several years ago. While I am not happy his house burned, I am profoundly thankful he’s in #3’s life and can guide him through the process. “You’ll have to swallow your pride and accept the gifts” he told #3. “Don’t be too good to take anything that’s offered”.  He knows #3 enough to know he needs to hear that, probably more than once.

It’s too early to know what they’re going to do heading forward. If I’ve learned anything from losing Himself, and the shock of it, it’s that moving forward is necessary. Take some time to wrap your mind around what happened, then plow on.  The Fine Wife will return to work today, and that will be a blessed way to think about something else for a while, and cuddle some critters (she’s a vet tech). #3 will be at work as well, but knowing him, his mind will be on figuring out a way to get a roof over their heads, tut suite. Currently they’re staying with her parents, thankfully they have room for everyone. But, y’know, staying with one’s parents, no matter how comfortably, isn’t the same as being in your own place where you can walk around in your unders, give your spouse a personal squeeze, or generally let your hair down entirely. So, here’s hoping a solution happens that is satisfactory and expeditious.

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well, that was not how I planned it

But then, it’s not all about me, is it.  Here’s what happened: Last week, I went to Alabama, to work on The New House. It’s ready to paint and while I didn’t know how much would get done, I knew some of it would. The plans were to get the 3 rooms (2 bedrooms and a bathroom) primed and painted. So, Thursday and Friday were spent doing just that. I got one room entirely primed and painted, and the other 2 primed. Then…

Friday night, I went to supper and a movie with #3 and his Fine Wife. Grandpunkin was spending the night with the other grands. The Fine Wife left the movie early, as her contacts were bothering her. As #3 and I were leaving the theater parking lot, he got a panicked call from her…”THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE”.  A 15 minute drive was made in less than 10, and…well. The house was on fire. Utterly and completely, flames out of all the windows in that “there’s no hope for that house.” kind of way. Firetrucks, police, the whole thing. Fine Wife was in a state, #3 was panicking about the dogs (I saw them in the truck and was able to reassure him), it was…well. It was a real thing to go through. I don’t know what else to call it.

The next morning, it was all still smoldering, but just rubble. 3 of their cats had been caught in the house and were found under (what remained of) the bed. That was really upsetting. However, the barns, goats, chickens, and one cat were fine (other than the obvious emotional trauma) (Ok the chickens didn’t seem upset but they’re chickens.)

I think the hardest part is seeing my kids losing a lot of their touchpoints, bits of their lives that were so significant. #3 had stuff that belonged to Himself. Fine Wife had collections from her childhood. There was furniture Himself and Himself’s father had made, some from over the years, and some for Grandpunkin specifically. As we stood at the fence and watched the house burn, Fine Wife turned to me and said “oh no….my wedding dress!” (I’d made it for her). I said “I still have some of the fabric left, it will be ok.”

I’ve never lost (most) everything like that. Losing Himself was the big loss I’ve been through, so I understand what loss feels like. However, I haven’t lost the stuff of my childhood, or the gifts from times past, wedding gifts, or special things with precious memories attached, so I can’t claim to know how they feel. I can only understand the sick feeling. I know it’s different, and like any big deal thing, I don’t think anyone can say they know how it feels unless they’ve been through just that very thing.

They’re going to be ok. A lot of people have helped with donations and time. They’ll get a household set back up in good time. They won’t ever get back the childhood stuff and maybe this will force a growing up that would have come anyway,  but slower. I am not sure about any of it.  I am proud of them for the way they are handling it all. They have people in their lives that know what to do, and how they really need to be helped. I am very thankful for that.

It would be very easy to despair, to yell at God and demand an explanation. That didn’t happen, though. They accepted that things happen, however unpleasant those things might be, and no one is too special to be immune from it.  They know that things are going to be complicated and messy for a while, but they are smart and resilient and will do just fine.

And I realized I don’t like the paint color I chose for The New House.

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Existential Pepto-Bismol

Yesterday was hard. I put up the small fake Christmas tree, and while doing it got nauseous- both physically and emotionally. Have you ever been there- emotional nausea? That’s what it sure felt like. I had to sit down and let the sweats and dizziness pass. Then i had to get out of there. Sure, maybe I was running away from something, but isn’t that why we have cars and shopping centers- to get away from stuff?

I went to Hobby Lobby, to get some stuff to make a couple of small things (the shorthaired dog let me know she couldn’t handle the cold, so I got some fleece to make her a coat), and spent some time wandering around. I like wandering because, as a basically creative person, looking at pieces and parts makes me happy…or at least content. While in the artist aisle, amongst the canvases were some stretch and printed ones, with mandalas on them. Like those coloring books for grownups, only ready to hand on the wall. So I bought one. Which meant markers were needed. So I bought some of those as well. Did you know there are sets of markers that are nearly $80? I didn’t buy those. I got the $8 set, because it had some pretty pastels colors in it and I was of a mind to color the mandala in pastels that would look nice hanging on the wall of the new sewing room. Likely I’ll go back to the store and get a couple more, to have a trio.

While coloring that mandala didn’t cure the blues/existential nausea, it did get my mind off of it for a while, which was enough to settle things down a bit. I also had Little House on the Prairie going at the same time. The entire afternoon and evening was spent on the couch, binge-watching and coloring. It was kind of soothing. Probably horribly self indulgent and I could have spent the day tidying up the garden or something but dammit, I didn’t WANT TO.

Missing Himself, that’s what it was. #2’s Girldfriend asked if she could do anything to help, and I grumbled something about “bring Himself back” and I think it sort of shocked her. Normally I’m more cheerful than this. I think she’s actually seeing what’s really going on, since the mask I’ve been wearing cracked open. I wasn’t even this grumpy last Christmas. It isn’t possible to avoid Christmas entirely, so I’m not trying, but I have to say it is making me queasy and anxious. I don’t like that.

But, it also isn’t all about me. There’s a bunch of other people involved here and I don’t want to piss in their teacups over it. (wow, that’s…crude…but there it is)  So, I’m doing the best I can right now. I’m reminding myself every day that the deal about Christmas is recognizing the Incarnation- yes. I know it started as the very early missionaries appeasing the pagans over the mid-winter celebration of the Solstice by changing it to Jesus’ birthday…but the idea is still there- that God came to Earth as a Man, who dealt with all the shortcomings of mortality and a frail human body. and for that I am grateful. When that is celebrated is incidental, in my opinion. If people want to do it in the middle of the cold winter, then fine. It makes for something to do and an excuse to have a party and some highly-caloric food. So, Merry (or something) Christmas and Happy Birthday, Jesus…I think His birthday deserves a whole month of of it, even when I have to force my way through it.

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It’s all about the STUFF

So, in the interest of Sharing the Love, I’m putting in links for all the cool stuff I’d like for Christmas…because I’m materialistic like that. Here goes:

The Fondoodler. That’s right, it’s like a hot glue gun only for cheese. Seriously, who doesn’t need one of these! Imagine the possibilities!

Image result for fondoodler

Dog coin bank…seriously the cutest thing ever.

Some great socks because my feet are bored.


and other things. But yeah. Those.

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