Drivin' back by

        It IS snowing!!  YAHOOOOO!!!

        Yes, I know I'm crazy, but I LOVE snow and living in the south for the past five years has left me feeling very deprived.  It's beautiful outside.  I am ridiculously happy because of tiny bits of ice falling from the sky, and I'm okay with that. 

        Let it snow, let it snow....

Being mom

        Yesterday was tough.  January and February are generally somewhat difficult for me....less sunshine, post-holiday blahs, etc.   The depression tends to try and kick my butt a lot more frequently, and with greater force.  Yesterday was one of those days when my mood went up and down faster than the stock market.  I was fine, I was crying....fine again....nope, angry....it's tiring just trying to keep up!  Years ago I would have totally lost it, but now (thank God) I've learned that it's just temporary, and so I keep plugging away.  

        The problem yesterday was that I wasn't the only one struggling.  All three of our kids have anxiety and/or depression issues in varying degrees, and I hate that.   I hate it with every fiber of my being, because I feel like it "came from" me (whether there's any factual basis for that feeling is irrelevant, it's how I feel) and that means that I should be able to fix it.  Right?  I mean, I caused the problem, it's my job to take care of it.  Sigh.  Obviously that's not a realistic or even particularly rational line of reasoning, but there it is.  I'm the Mom, I must fix everything!....she says, with panic in her heart.   I know what an uphill battle this is, and it kills me that my kids have to fight it.

        Since Thanksgiving all five of us have been sick one way or another - bronchitis, ear infections, sinus infections, you name it.  Lots of antibiotics and antihistamines and anti-whatevers floating around here, while we keep the tissue companies in business and wander around the house like snot-filled zombies.  Youngest son had a  particularly nasty double ear infection coupled with a sinus infection, so he was "blessed" with some pretty strong  meds.  The drugs seemed to be doing the trick as far as his infections, but it wasn't until yesterday that we realized they were doing another trick - they were setting off his anxiety like crazy.   He'd been saying that he felt more anxious than usual, and he was very jittery, but yesterday it peaked and he had a hard, HARD day.   He'd planned to spend the day with his girlfriend before she went back to college, and he wound up cutting that short by several hours because he just couldn't function.  Thankfully she's a sweetheart and she gets it, but still....my heart just hurt for him.  

        This is what's so hard for me to accept: my kids - all of them - have struggles that, even though they may be similar to mine, are uniquely theirs.  Theirs to deal with (or not), theirs to work through and fight against and live.   And I can't fix it.  Not even a little bit.  It's much easier for me to be philosophical about things like one of them failing a test or not getting a job; those issues are not unique and are most definitely conquerable.  But the other stuff?  Wow.  I spend hours lying awake, wondering if something I did or didn't do caused them to have these struggles, if I "ruined" their lives by somehow afflicting them with anxiety and depression.  I'm the mom.  Don't I get the credit - or blame - for laying their foundations?  Was my work so faulty?   I believe most parents worry that they haven't prepared their kids sufficiently to deal with the world in one way or another.  But this - this is more.  Worse.  This is beyond teaching them a good work ethic; this is realizing that my child may never be able to hold a "normal" job, because of overwhelming anxiety.   This is worrying that some incident will be too much and one of them will decide to quit fighting altogether.  This is praying that their future spouses are tender-hearted and supportive and understanding enough to help hold them up, as Jon has done for me all these years.  

        This hurts.  And I can't fix it.

     Still, this morning is a little better.  There was lots of talking and praying and hugging yesterday, which helps. My boy's meds are finished now, so it's just a matter of waiting for his system to settle back to normal  (yeah, "just").   And once again, we've all reaffirmed that we're here for each other; that even though we can't fix things, we can and will be there to support and encourage and love, no matter what.   I'm thankful that we have that blessing.  I'm praying that God makes that enough, because me being mom just isn't. 

It's a song

        I love music.  If I'm working on things around the house, there's usually music playing in the background.  I have to have music when I'm making beads, and I actually really enjoy traveling alone because I get to pick ALL the music.  :-)   One of my Christmas gifts this year was the latest Pentatonix album, and I've really been enjoying it.  I was playing it today while I was out running some errands, and one of the songs really hit me.  It's called "Light In The Hallway", and part of the chorus goes as follows:  Count your blessings every day, it makes the monsters go away.    That line triggered some memories for me.

        I've said that I deal with depression.  I try not to make a big deal of it, because - well, because that's just how it is, and I know a lot of people who have it far worse than me.  That doesn't mean it's easy, and when it first started....well.   Since my depression is chemical  (I don't make enough serotonin), it would be reasonable to assume that there wasn't a big traumatic event that triggered it, and there wasn't.  What's weird is that I remember how it started, and it was literally overnight.  I was 16 years old.  I'd been talking to a friend at school that day about a mutual acquaintance who was having a rough time emotionally, and we had said we hoped he wouldn't do anything drastic.  The conversation moved on, we went our separate ways, the end.  I went home, did my chores and homework, blah blah blah, went to bed.  At some point in the middle of the night, I bolted upright in bed, wide awake and completely terrified, with one thought in my head: suicide.  It was like a neon sign blinking in my brain.  I dragged my mom out of bed in a panic, and she sat with me and talked to me and prayed with me until I settled down, but that was it.  Something - I don't know what - had changed, and it stayed different. 

        Anyway, listening to that song today reminded me of those early months of trying to deal with the depression and the fear that came with it.  Even though I didn't really want to kill myself, I was scared to be alone because I honestly feared that I was losing my mind and might do myself harm.  So I made a point of not being alone during the day, and at night - most nights I slept on the floor in my younger sister's bedroom.  I'd put down a sleeping bag and a couple blankets and tuck my Bible under my pillow.  Then I'd settle down and alternate between praying, repeating Bible verses, and listing off every person I could think of who loved me.  And that's what the song made me think about.  For me, a big part of the depression is feeling worthless; it's like there's someone in my head telling me that I'm pointless, useless, that no-one would miss me if I was gone and anybody could fill my spot in the world better than me.   So I'd lie there and fight the only way I knew how - by reminding myself of all the people in my life who I knew loved me.  I counted my blessings, and it made the monsters go away.   I still do that sometimes, and it still helps. 

        The other thing that helped me the most during that time was finding a verse that seemed meant just for me.  It's Isaiah 41:10:  "Fear not, I am with you; don't be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."  That first phrase - "fear not, I am with you" - held me together more times than I can count.  I guess you could say that's my "life verse", because God used it to keep me alive.

        Anyway, all of this surfaced in my memory today because of a song.  It's kind of funny how things like that happen, but I'm glad it did, because I can always use a reminder to count my blessings. 

Getting started

        Look at me, will ya?  Two posts in two days!  Wooohoooo! 

      Seriously, I'm pretty amused at myself right now for doing this.  Moderation is not my middle name, folks.  Feast or famine, that's how it is.   But for the time being, I'm going to enjoy the feast!

      I sat down yesterday and spilled a lot of stuff  (that's a technical word for it), mainly just to get it out so I could look at it and see if it made sense or not.  Surprisingly, most of it did.  Even more surprisingly, I actually feel better - lighter? - for getting that all out.  It felt like a decent first step toward what I want to do/be, and that's encouraging.  I've spent most of the past year wallowing in my woes, and I am very, very tired of that.   I also heard from an old friend who read yesterday's post and was very kind and supportive, which was lovely.   One thing in their message that hit me was the comment that I appeared to be doing things pretty well, and that we're our own worst critics.   That lines right up with what Jon is always telling me, which is that I am far too hard on myself.  So, in the spirit of trying to shift my perspective, I'm going to look at some of the things that I believe I do well. 

       Marriage - obviously this isn't all me, but we have a really good marriage.  We've been together for more than 29 years now, and we've had some rough times, but I would still rather be with Jon than anyone else on the planet.  (He says the same about me, which is good!)   I love that man with everything in me, and I do my best to show him that in every way I can.  He is my hero.  I may fail in many other areas, but my husband knows I love him more than oxygen, and that will never change. 

       Kids - this isn't as clear-cut, but overall I think I've been an okay mom.  Again, even if I screw up everything else, I'm pretty sure that my kids know I love them.  There are things I wish I'd done differently, but I'm so proud of them and who they are now.  They're all such neat people in their own ways.  I feel like I have a good relationship with each of them, too - they're always willing to talk with me, and they've never acted like they're embarrassed by me.  One thing that does my heart good is how much they like to bring their friends here and have them interact with us as a family.  All three of them have told us that they don't know anyone else who has the kind of fun, close-knit family relationship that we do,  and their friends all seem to enjoy being here too.  I see that as a sign that we've done something right! 

        Sister - I only have one sibling, my sister, who is almost four years  younger than me.  When we were kids we did not get along very well.....shoot, into adulthood we didn't get along very well!  We had completely opposite personalities, tastes, interests, you name it.  But the older we get, the more common ground we're finding, and the more we enjoy each other's company.  We talk almost every day now - frequently several times a day.   I'm really happy with how our relationship has changed, and I wouldn't trade her for anything.

        You know, looking at this, I realize that (by the grace of God) the most important things in my life are all good.  Yeah, I have a lot of "personal improvement" issues - diet, exercise, etc. - but God's blessed me with a tremendous support structure of people who love me just as I am, but will be behind me as I'm trying to change.  Sometimes I forget how many people out there don't have any kind of support or encouragement at all, even from the people who should be their biggest cheerleaders.   So really, I'm in a better place than I thought I was.  That's pretty nice. 

Changing my settings

        I knew I hadn't been posting much this past year, but I was shocked to realize that my "not much" was actually only two or three posts.  That's pathetic.  I've been thinking a lot about simply ending the blog but I couldn't quite bring myself to do it.   Now I think I finally know what the problem is, at least in part.  

      When I originally started this blog, the idea was for me to have a place to just "vent".  We were living in Germany and I was feeling pretty overwhelmed with life most days, but I didn't want to spill on hubby all the time because I knew he was in the same boat.  Actually, it was worse for him, because he was overwhelmed with all the same things I was, PLUS a very demanding job.  Anyway, even though I made the blog public, it was really meant to be more of a journal - a way for me to let out my frustrations and worries without drowning Jon in them, or running up a truly horrendous international phone bill.  But somewhere along the way, I started worrying about what people thought of what I wrote.  What they thought of me.  Was I being too whiny?  Too negative?  Did I need to try harder to be funny?  Gosh, I don't want to be one of those people who is always moaning and groaning about their life.  So the writing slowed down, because I was censoring myself for an invisible audience.  It seriously never occurred to me until very recently that I could make the blog private and take care of the problem.  (If it really was a problem, which I doubt.)

      When I opened this up today and really registered that there were just two posts for the past year, well.....I was disgusted with myself.  Ashamed.  Discouraged.  Pick a negative, I spit them all out at myself.  This is just another example of me not following through, not finishing what I start.  Being too lazy - and too scared of others' opinions - to do what I really want to do.  And I've been here before, sooooo many times.  This is very familiar territory.  The question is, why do I keep coming back, and how do I stop it?

      I think that a lot has to change this year.  I have to change this year.  In July 2015 I turned 50, and I've been bummed about that to some degree ever since.  It just feels like I've wasted so much time being lazy and indifferent, and now I'm afraid that I'm stuck here in this - this blah that I've let myself become.  The thing is, I can't be stuck.  I have to try to make real changes, because time is slipping by, and my body is letting me know that I need to take better care of it, and my kids aren't "kids" anymore, and nobody can do it for me.  

      So if anyone does read this, and you can spare a prayer or encouraging thought, I'd sure appreciate it.  I honestly feel as if I need to re-make myself in many ways, and it's overwhelming.  I do know enough to not try and change everything at once, but it's still going to be a lot of work, and I'm scared.  Really.  Scared to try, but even more scared of failing again and what that would mean to me.  I know that there will be some failures, but I really need to see an upward trend, just to have that encouragement.   I realize that I sound a bit panicky, and that's probably because that's how I feel.  It may not be rational, but there it is. 

     There is no reason I can't do the things I want to do except for me.  I'm the reason.  So I need to move out of my own way and get busy. 



        I have color in  my kitchen!!  Yes!!  *insert Stephanie doing extreme happy-dancing*  I don't think it's ever taken me this long to decide on a color for a room, and as I said, the kitchen walls were starting to look like a crazy quilt from all the samples I had in there.  But now - huzzah!  And oddly enough, it was darling daughter's bedroom that provided the inspiration.

        I have a bit of a fixation with citrus colored kitchens.  For the past - oh - 12 years, at least, my kitchens have been yellow, yellow and orange, or lime, and I loved it.  There's just something about those colors in a kitchen that makes me feel happy.  The cabinets in this house, though, have a distinctly orangey tint to them, and none of the  yellows, greens or oranges I tried looked right next to them.  I was getting very frustrated, until the day Faith and I painted her bedroom.

        Darling daughter had decided her bedroom was going to be a bright, oceanic blue.  In fact, the color is called "beach sparkle".  It looked really pretty when we started working, and I thought I'd just slap a little on the kitchen wall for grins and giggles.  I really didn't expect to like it....and I didn't.  

        I LOVED IT.

        Something about that shade of blue brought that room to life.  It's the perfect contrast to the cabinets, it pops against the bright white trim, and looking out to the myriad shades of green outside is so restful.  I painted and rearranged some, and it's like a new kitchen.  Even the kids and husband are delighted with it.  Now I'm really itching to get to the living room and the rest of the house - I think I found my "color mojo" again and I'm bursting with enthusiasm.  (My joints aren't so excited, but that's what I have ibuprofen for, right?)   Vanilla, you're goin' down! 


Making it home

        Spring has sprung here in North Carolina, and as usual, it's inspired me with all sorts of crazy notions about gardening and flowers and spotless houses.  I think I've said before that I am really not good at anything plant-related.  In fact, there have been times as I walked past the plastic plants in the store that I've heard whispers of fear.  :-)  But hey, we live in hope, right?  So I'm trying to find some me-proof bushes and flowers to brighten up our place.  The house and yard are nice, but the previous owners were elderly and apparently spent a great deal of time somewhere else, so there's zero landscaping.  No flowers, no bushes, no nuttin'.....well, there is a row of beautiful crepe myrtle trees along the line between us and the neighbor up the hill, but that's it.  The rest of it is bare, bare, bare.   I'm trying to decide if I want to be brave and plant a little garden too, but the jury is still out on that one.  

    On the other hand, one thing I'm usually pretty good at is painting rooms.  I'm one of those weirdos who actually likes to paint.  There's just something magical about how some color on the walls can completely change the feel of a room.   When we bought this house, everything was vanilla.  Everything.  I knew immediately that would have to change, but what I hadn't expected was how the different architecture of this house would throw off my color-choosing abilities.   Every other house we've owned has been a ranch, with lots of natural light.  This house is a story and a half, and while it has a fair amount of light, it's not the same.  Plus the ceilings are quite high and the style is slightly more structured (formal?), which also throws me.  So there are only two rooms with color so far, and I'm getting twitchy.  There are so many sample patches on the kitchen walls that it looks like a crazy quilt (although I think I finally found my color!  Yay!); there's a splotch of green in the living room that I fondly imagined would be mossy, and instead is boogery; and I'm dealing with an overwhelming urge to paint the master bathroom pale pink, which is COMPLETELY bizarre for me.  I am NOT a pink person. 

    Still, I'm not really discouraged.  The two unfinished rooms upstairs are nearing completion, thanks to my menfolk.  The yard is full of wild violets and strawberries.  And I found an awesome desk on Craig's List to use as a work center for my jewelry-making projects.   Besides, when the people who live in the house are as colorful as my family, what does it matter if the walls are vanilla?  :-)

The Prodigal

    Bet you all thought I'd died, didn't you?  Nope, no such thing.  We just moved.  Again.  And oh, how I am hoping and praying that it's the last time!  :-)

    Hubby was offered a position in North Carolina that just suited him to a "T".  He accepted the job and started working mid-July, and by mid-September we'd sold our house in South Carolina, bought one in NC, and moved ourselves, critters and all.   Obviously that is a HIGHLY simplified description of everything that took place during that time period, but the end result is a much happier husband and family.  Jon's really enjoying his job and feels that he's able to be much more effective here.  The kids and I are happy to be in the mountains and a bit closer to family.  I don't know what the pets think, but they seem pretty content too! 

    Of course, there had to be some fun along the way.  On Jon's first day at the new job in NC, I was striding through the front yard of our house in SC with a large "For Sale" sign and a hammer in my hand when I stepped into a hole and went down like I'd been shot.  Suffice it to say that ankles are not meant to rotate or bend like mine did in that moment.  The pain literally left me speechless and gasping for air for a few minutes.  I'm sure passers-by wondered what the crazy woman was doing, lying in the middle of her yard at 8:00 in the morning like fresh roadkill, but nobody stopped.  Once I could speak, I dragged my cellphone out of my pocket (thanking God that I'd grabbed it) and called my boys to come collect my sorry carcass.   They came racing out, horrified at the sight of their mother sprawled in the yard whimpering, and helped me back in the house.  Within half an hour my right ankle was swollen to approximately the size of New Jersey and had already begun to display a range of colors that would have made Picasso proud.  By the next day I had a big, fat, black and green and purple lower leg that didn't feel good at all.  I spent several days with my foot in the air and ice wrapped around it, carefully hobbling from couch to chair, chair to counter....I honestly had no idea a sprained ankle could hurt that much for that long.  In fact, it still hurts off and on. 

    The plus side of that (yes, there really was a plus!) was how amazing my kids were during that time.  Jon came home on weekends, but during the week they kept everything running like pros.  They did yard maintenance, house repairs, errands, packing - you name it, they tackled it and did a great job.  I was so incredibly proud of them. 

    Another huge blessing was how quickly our house in SC sold.  We put it on the market July 14th and had an offer July 26th.  What really tickled us is that the buyers had tried to get the house two years ago, when we bought it, and we'd beaten them to the punch.  They were absolutely delighted to get the property, very sweet to work with, and the whole sale process was smooth as could be.  

    Of course, trying to find a house when yours is under contract tends to light a fire under you, and we were getting a little panicky about the situation.  I'd made two or three trips to NC househunting, and nothing had panned out.  The very first house we saw, I absolutely loved, but at that point we weren't in a position to make an offer and someone else got it.  :-(    We found another place we liked and made an offer, but someone else's was accepted over ours.   Finally our realtor and I set up a marathon day, and it paid off.  Almost everything we looked at that day would have been a reasonable option for us, but the last house of the day was, like Baby Bear's porridge, "just right".  We'd almost decided to skip it because we were exhausted and the listing pictures just weren't that impressive, but as soon as we pulled in the drive we were intrigued.  A walk-through of the house, quick look at the property, and we knew we'd found our place.   (A good piece of advice - don't make a decision based just on the pictures!)  We now have a roomy, story and a half Cape Cod on 6.8 acres, with woods to the rear and beautiful views of the mountains.  There's a huge pole barn for all our projects.  And upstairs, we found not one but two unfinished rooms that are now being turned into Seth's bedroom and a movie/media room.  The kids are thrilled. 

    We're still getting used to our new space - funny how different it is to go from a ranch-style to something with two stories! - but we all really like it.   I've been working on getting my Christmas things out this week, and it just feels like home.  In fact, there's been quite a bit of company through our doors already!   Not to mention that I've made three trips to Ohio since we moved - my sister had major surgery in November and I spent a week with her two different times, then we went to Mom's for Thanksgiving.  It's been crazy, but I'm really happy.  We want to find a good church, so if anybody knows of anything between Statesville and Wilkesboro, NC, let me know.  For today, I'm going to finish my decorating, maybe do some baking, and enjoy being home. 

Another goodbye

        Yesterday we had to say goodbye to our sweet dog Zeus.  About 5 or 6 weeks ago we noticed that he wasn't acting like himself and seemed to be losing weight.  Initial tests didn't give us any conclusive answers, but that was the beginning of a steady downhill trend that took him from a bright-eyed, healthy, muscular dog to a skinny, slow-moving shell of himself.  There were many more tests, but eventually the diagnosis was a type of cancer that is essentially untreatable.  We were all heartbroken, but given the speed at which he was losing weight and strength, and the fact that he pretty much stopped eating the last few days, we chose to have him put to sleep.  The whole family went with him, and we were all around him as he closed his eyes for the last time.   It was so hard, and we miss him so very much, but we couldn't stand to watch him getting worse just so we didn't have to let go.   But to not see that sweet face, or feel that gentle nudge when he wanted attention...it's going to take a while to get used to that emptiness.   We love you, Zeus.  Be well.