Wednesday, May 24, 2006


This is why I love blogging: not only do you have a place to put down your thoughts, but you have wonderful people inside the magic box who read them and write back to you! Seriously, your comments mean so much, I wanted to address them in a separate post.

Tucker is doing much better, we played ball for the first time in a month yesterday – you’ve never seen a happier dog! For the first couple of days after the split was taken off he continued to hold up his leg when he was standing still, and only putting weight on it intermittently. We kept telling him to “put his foot down” and now he’s starting to forget to favor it. Our other dog Bailey continues to have problems with one of his ears, an on-going infection that gets better then gets worse again once the medicine has been used up. I’m stopping by the vet today to see if they’ll give me some other treatment to try without seeing him, no need to pay for a 5 second visit when he’s already been diagnosed. *sigh* It’s always something! And I want another doggie. At least I feel like I’m taking care of living beings that need me.

Avonlea, as usual, was right on the money. She said, “My experience with depression has been that it's a feeling of loss and anger that I've pushed down as far as I can, feeling those feelings does tend to alleviate the depression.” Part of my problem with resolving depression when it hits is figuring out which one of my myriad of issues I need to tackle to access the feelings. When I went back to therapy a couple of years ago I thought it was to deal with infertility, but after a few sessions we were right back talking about dear old mom again. “This can’t be about her, AGAIN!” I cried to my doctor. Alas, she is the root out of which all the other branches sprouted.

Avonlea also said, “But always waiting for something bad to happen - that's PTSD and that's the hardest thing to deal with. It sounds like your mother's "illnesses" were a traumatic force in your life and that you grew up without a sense of security.” She could not be more right. One of the dichotomies I struggle with is how afraid of my mother I always was. She was always sick, which in my mind is a sign of weakness, but she maintained the fear level partly by physical violence.

Partly she was just plain scary sometimes. Our cat had kittens when I was maybe 7 or 8 and instead of taking them to a pet shop or trying to give them away, she put them all in a sack and drowned them in the backyard. My sister and I cried and screamed and pleaded and clung to each other like survivors on the Titanic. She was unmoved.

She had a rubber strap that she used to “spank” us. I have no idea where this thing came from, maybe she had it made special, or made it herself? It was more of a paddle than a strap I guess, one piece of half-inch thick black rubber with a hand grip, perhaps 18 inches long in total. Looked sort of like this, without the festive dots. When we moved out of our original house when I was 16 my sister and I found it in the hall closet and destroyed it.

Once, after she had used the strap on my sister and I for some minor infraction of her rules, we went together to my Dad and asked him to help us, to see if he could make her stop. He said, “I don’t want her mad at ME!” We were crushed. At the time I thought that meant he didn’t want her to hurt him, but now I realize he meant he didn’t want to upset the fragile balance of civility he tried to maintain when he was home, and also he wanted to ensure he could get laid. Sorry, I know that’s crass but it’s the truth.

Any shred of security we might have felt was gone after that day, we realized we couldn’t count on him to step in no matter what she did.

Cricket advised me to “tend myself, because nobody else will do it, and sometimes that means to pause long enough to wallow.” Wallowing tends to sink me deeper into despair, I find myself thinking constantly about whatever is bothering me and I have to literally say to myself, “No, stop thinking about that.” There’s a fine line I’ve not yet mastered yet.

Sandy said, “There is a certain joy in finally being able to experience the emotion, but it does suck to feel it.” My question is, why do I have to keep feeling the same emotions and having the same feelings over and over? How many times do I have to grieve for it to take?

Coloratura inspired me to take advantage of the beauty around me. I’ve made a point of leaving the dogs inside and just sitting on the front porch with a cup of tea or coffee every day, listening to the birds and the Yurt Family next door, to the dogs in the neighborhood communicating and the wind in the trees. The other day I was driving with the sunroof open and my senses were overwhelmed with the perfume of Spring. It smelled like Nature’s candy – a mix of jasmine, bay, eucalyptus, freshly cut grass and wet fertile soil.

Bird asked about meds…I’m hesitant to mess with my Rx but I will do some research. I started taking it when I was having debilitating panic attacks, and it has basically eliminated them so I don’t want to mess with that. It doesn’t do as good a job with the depression, obviously. My sister is bi-polar and has been on lithium for many years. One of my many fears is that one day I will become full-blown bi-polar, which is highly unlikely, but I witnessed her rapid descent into the illness and it scared me.

Fertile Soullovingly stated that I’m not my mother. I can’t hear this enough, honestly, so thanks for that.

Kross-Eyed Kitty reminded me that my mother is mentally ill and there’s no ground to be gained in trying to fix, change, reconcile or understand her.

Tiff, Kath, Sue and Chee-Chee, you continued support is greatly appreciated, especially given that all of you out there have your own issues to deal with. I’m still working on that first memoir post. I found out last night that I’m finally going to meet my step-grandson this weekend! I’ll let y’all know how that goes. Every Memorial Day in recent memory we've attended a picnic with a bunch of D's old work buddies. This year I told D I was sick of being the only childless couple there so we aren't going. We'll be attending our local Art & Wine Festival with the dogs instead. I think that counts towards taking care of myself.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Comfortably Numb

Quick update on Red Dog – he’s splintless and coneless as of this morning. The wound has closed completely but still looks a bit sore, and he’s favoring the leg after not walking on it for 3 weeks, but otherwise is extremely glad to be rid of all his extras.

My depression is still with me for the most part. When I get engrossed in good TV or a work project I forget about myself for a while. I’ve been on an SSRI for quite a while now but it doesn’t prevent depression and anxiety completely.

The thought that keeps coming to me is this: I’m not comfortable with comfortable.

Perhaps things are going too well. I’m on the lookout for the next giant boulder or anvil that’s going to come flying off the cliff anytime now.

If I can just keep my focus off of myself I won’t have to feel whatever it is I’m keeping myself from feeling. If I can focus on an external issue (money, work, the fact that my car needs washing) or someone else and their issues and the way I feel about them (dog, mother-in-law, all the sadness in the IF blogosphere), I will be safe.

My earliest memories of my mother are about her being sick. Having to be quiet during her daily naps, not being able to do this or go somewhere because she wasn’t feeling up to it. If you told her you had a headache, she would say something like, "I've had a headache since 1974, and it feels like someone is stabbing me in the head with an icepick." She would happily prattle on about her various ailments to anyone who would listen (or who was trapped by a line in a supermarket or elevator and forced to listen). My sister and I called this Seven Major Illnesses Time. She’s spent her entire life going from one medical crisis to another. Once she’s healed or gotten over something, she’ll come up with something else that takes her back to the doctor, gets her another prescription or (best of all) onto another operating table. She’ll keep getting referrals to another specialist until somebody agrees to cut her open. A couple of years ago she became convinced that she’s diabetic and now checks her blood sugar many times a day even though the diagnosis is still “borderline” – she’s a fucking genius. I thought for a while she was just addicted to painkillers, which I’m sure is true, but she’s really addicted to the attention and doesn’t know how to get it any other way. She also loves to be the martyr and play the sympathy card, and well, who doesn’t feel bad for someone who feels bad? When my brother died last year it was her Golden Ticket, her ace in the hole to always win the Whose Life Sucks Most contest.

I have very little tolerance for myself feeling bad, can ya tell? I do not want to be like her in any way. I hate going to the doctor, so making the decision to enter the world of ART was a difficult one. How’s that for irony, eh? Well irony can take a flying leap. As my good friend C says, I hate ironing.

I will work on being more comfortable with being comfortable, and try to stop wondering when I’m going to crash my car on my way home from work or when that anvil is going to find me. It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

Monday, May 15, 2006


I am not well. Physically, I’m fine; I don’t have a cold or anything antibiotics will fix. Inside, I don’t feel right. My thought processes and emotions seem to have a life of their own.

Perhaps the day after Mother’s Day isn’t a good one to take emotional inventory. I sent my mother a card. It’s hard to find cards that aren’t for The Best Mother In The World Who Always Took Care of Me. Inevitably I purchase a card that’s in the “For Anyone” section – a nice picture of flowers and a wish for a nice day. Why do I even send a card, you might ask. It’s just easier to send a card, with its empty sentiments, than it is to deal with the fallout of not sending one. Is that disingenuous? Dishonest even? You bet.

Yesterday we took D’s Mom out for lunch and a bit of shopping. She is 85 and is feeling the brunt of her age. She has fairly advanced arthritis, but other than that is in pretty good health. She uses a walker to walk even the shortest of distances, and has a wheelchair for longer durations. She is also losing her hearing but hasn’t gotten to the point of needing a hearing aid (or maybe doesn’t realize how bad it’s getting), so you have to repeat a lot of the things you say to her. Everything is such a struggle for her. Getting the just-purchased sheet set out of the plastic zippered packaging was a 10-minute exercise. Half the time when I am around her I feel sad that her life is so difficult and painful, and the other half I am waffling between impatience and guilt for said impatience. Instead of taking every opportunity I have left to make our visits fun and interesting, I can’t stop thinking about her death. I know someday soon we will get that phone call and D’s world will come crashing down, and that makes me very sad too.

Next on the inventory list are my feelings about one of our dogs. He had two benign cysts removed from one of his front legs, and the incision was right near the wrist joint. After a week the vet decided the wound wasn’t healing with just a wrap and put on a split to keep the leg immobile, which required basically a soft cast to be built up around the split. We’ve taken him back twice now to have the wound looked at and today again they decided to re-do the split/cast and told me to bring him back on Friday. By then he will have been on antibiotics and a mild sedative for three weeks, not to mention having to wear what the vet calls an “e-collar”, better known as The Cone of Shame. He hasn’t been able to play fetch or even go outside in the sunshine for two weeks. If you knew this dog you’d know why we have to keep him mildly sedated – he LOVES his ball. It just breaks my heart to see him this way. We made the decision to have these cysts removed and now he’s been suffering for weeks. Good grief, maybe it’s a good thing we could never have kids – I’d be a basket-case all the time.

I feel like I’m withdrawing. I get headaches almost every day. I used to loathe all the time I’d spend by myself at home, now it’s all I want to do. If you’re not my husband I generally don’t want to be around you. When I go to the gym I have my iPod earbuds in even when I don’t have music playing, because I don’t want to interact with anyone. I’m sleeping a lot, more than I need to. I can’t get excited about anything, despite the facts that the new job at the financial consulting company is going great and we have two vacations planned this summer. I can keep up a false front indefinitely, its how I got through the years I lived at home. I guess that’s what scares me.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Take it Easy

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about what is being called the Slow Down Movement. I probably have some of my facts wrong, as I haven’t done that much research, but it seems like this all started with the Slow Food Movement, which was formed by Carlo Petrini in 1986 in Italy after a McDonald's opened in Rome's famous Piazza di Spagna.

Here’s a very good article from August 2001 that goes into some detail about the organization which, according to the official Slow Food website, “boasts 83,000 members worldwide [in over 100 countries] and offices…in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, the USA, France, Japan and Great Britain.” Their aim is to “protect the pleasures of the table from the homogenization of modern fast food and life. Through a variety of initiatives, it promotes gastronomic culture, develops taste education, conserves agricultural biodiversity and protects traditional foods at risk of extinction.” I can get behind that. But I do love the Crunchwrap Supreme.

The good folks at have put together a great list of resources for those of us in need of inspiration. And yes, they have a blog! If you click on the Slow Animation link it will bring up a cartoon that is right on the money. This leads me to Take Back Your Time, which is a “major U.S./Canadian initiative to challenge the epidemic of overwork, over-scheduling and time famine that now threatens our health, our families and relationships, our communities and our environment."

I can also get behind this, in a big way. As you might recall if you’ve been following along, I am an independent financial consultant with multiple clients, but still manage to work part-time most of the time. I feel that I am able to provide better work product in less time by having the ability to work from home and working flex hours. Does it make sense to leave at 6am to be at work by 8am? No, not in my book. By leaving at 8:30 and arriving at 9:30, I spend less time in the car and have a better attitude when I get there. How many people do you know that never use up all of their vacation hours? You won't find that happening in this house!

I find it hard to argue with their “Time to Care” public policy agenda:

1. Guaranteeing paid leave for all parents for the birth or adoption of a child. Today, only 40% of Americans are able to take advantage of the 12 weeks of unpaid leave provided by the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

2. Guaranteeing at least one week of paid sick leave for all workers. Many Americans work while sick, lowering productivity and endangering other workers.

3. Guaranteeing at least three weeks of paid annual vacation leave for all workers. Studies show that 28% of all female employees and 37% of women earning less than $40,000 a year receive no paid vacation at all.

4. Placing a limit on the amount of compulsory overtime work that an employer can impose, with our goal being to give employees the right to accept or refuse overtime work.

5. Making Election Day a holiday, with the understanding that Americans need time for civic and political participation.

6. Making it easier for Americans to choose part-time work. Hourly wage parity and protection of promotions and pro-rated benefits for part-time workers.

Here’s an exerpt from MSN of an article in Marie Claire, an interview with “former speedaholic and London-based journalist Carl Honoré" who wrote about the movement in his best seller In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed. He's got some great ideas on how to make time for the really important things.

And finally, just to prove there are asshats out there covering every topic, I give you,the Cult of Speed (which, in all fairness, is pretty damn funny).

I do believe it's time for a cup of tea then a nap.

Monday, May 8, 2006

Friday, May 5, 2006

Pandora's Box

Earlier this week I logged into our online banking account, as I often do, to check the balances and see what had cleared. There were two pending charges from a mortgage-related company totaling over $800. I immediately emailed D to ask if he knew what they were; we did have our house reappraised for insurance purposes a while back and generally D takes care of that type of thing. He didn’t know either and did a search based on the little information we had. He called the bank and they couldn’t do anything until the charge cleared (which seemed ridiculous, isn’t the whole point to prevent the fraudulent charge if you know about before you get your money taken?). D called the company that posted the charges and got the voicemail of the “account manager”. Ummmm, we don’t have an account with you people, how can we have an account manager? He also emailed the customer service address from the website. We got a response via email the next morning indicating they also had the charges flagged as possibly being fraudulent because they were initiated from out of the country. Neither charge made it through the pending phase to clear, I presume because the mortgage company refused it on their end. Seriously, if you got your hands on a valid debit card number, wouldn’t you use it to buy bling, or expensive shoes, or airline tickets to Fiji?

Anyway, the bank told us it was MY debit card number that was used. Yes, I buy stuff online all the time, from reputable companies that have secure sites, but I live by my debit card, so the number has got to be all over the internet by now, I’ve just never had it stolen before. We canceled both our debit cards, which turned out to be a royal hassle, even checks weren’t accepted by companies I do business with all the time. Hopefully we’ll have the new cards by Monday.

My point in telling you all this, and I know it sounds cliché, is I feel so violated. And ashamed. I feel ashamed because I was violated. Hmmm, does this sound familiar? The eloquent Avonlea Spring wrote a post recently titled Shame where she asks about an antidote. I wish I knew how to counteract this instinctual behavior, but alas, I believe the way my brain works was literally changed by what I endured. I wrote about this in March, wherein I referenced this article, as well as a piece from the April 2006 Discover magazine by Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel. I’m not saying there is no hope for change, just that the way in which change happens might not be the way we think it does.

The presence of my husband in my life, along with my friends, has literally been my salvation. Yet, despite the very good life and the support system I have, it doesn’t take much to send me into a depression or panic spiral that takes several days to unwind from. An unexpected phone call from my mother, a trip to the vet and the aforementioned bank hassles were enough to write off much of this past week.

Meeting D enabled me to open Pandora’s box and deal with the misfortunes and sorrow that were released. The first time I was in control of the raising of the lid; now it seems like it happens on its own. Every time the box gets opened, even a tiny bit, more sadness and hurt comes out, like there is a never-ending supply. Like Pandora, I’d like to believe I keep shutting the box in time to keep the one thing it contained that I wanted to keep: hope.

Pandora by John William Waterhouse, 1896

Monday, May 1, 2006

Digging In The Dirt

Last night’s episode of Crossing Jordan left me jittery and unable to fall asleep. I missed the first part and started watching after Dr. Macy was already chained up in the basement of a deranged homeowner, where he finds a young boy who had been kidnapped some time before. In an attempt to prevent puberty, the man wants Dr. Macy to assist him in castrating the boy, so he can “remain pure”. I don’t usually have this high an emotional response to shows like this; after all, the show takes place in a morgue. There is an expectation of seeing the worst human behavior, the things that one person can do to another or themselves. But when the cruelty of one human being to another involves a child, the bile rises in my throat and my stomach lurches. Yet, I was unable to turn to another channel. The story had the outcome I wanted: the crazy bastard kidnapper ended up dead and the child was returned to his parents. Somehow this wasn’t enough, as I knew that was not the end of the story for the child.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve always been fascinated by man’s inhumanity to man…I can’t count the number of documentaries I’ve watched on Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, serial killers, cannibalism, satanic cults, etc. I’m still no closer to understanding how the mind of a person who does terrible things makes it reasonable to act this way.

Last night I had a dream about my mother. I find it fascinating that I never dream about my abuse or the rape, but I often dream of her. The dreams always start out benign, taking place in a place known to me, usually the house I grew up in or my grandmother’s house. The family is eating dinner or watching TV, when suddenly I am filled with fear and everything turns dark. She always wore red lipstick (but no other make-up), and in my dreams her dark lips are huge as she screams and rages at me.

I spoke to her on the phone recently, I know this is why she’s in my subconscious. We have an understanding, finally reached after many years of struggle, that there is a limit to the amount of contact I can have with her. By speaking with her twice in the last month, I’ve obviously exceeded my limit. I am so sad that it has to be this way, but I need to trust myself, and that rock-hard lump in the pit of my stomach.

There are three wooden whiskey barrels next to the front deck that are waiting for me. I am generally an immediate gratification kind of person, so when it comes to gardening I will pay the extra money and buy plants that are already flowering. I changed my thought process this year and bought seeds for the first time. I’ll be mixing together Bachelor's buttons (Blue Boy & Cyanus double mixed colors), zinnia, Shasta daisies and delicate white baby's breath seeds; hopefully I will end up with something resembling a French wildflower garden. If nothing else I will have planted a seed, and that's got to count for something.

Peter Gabriel -- Digging In The Dirt mp3
Buy "Us"

Photo credits: Me
Claude Monet's estate, Giverney, in Normandy, France