Wednesday, September 16, 2015

When Your Heart is Broken

Nothing can prepare you for the overwhelming heartache that envelopes you the first time you walk into your house after having put your dog down before her time. You can't be prepared for that moment when you look around and see it all: the empty crate, the empty bed, the basket of toys, the dog bowls still on the floor. 

No one tells you how you will stand there, sobbing, unable to catch your breath, and your heart will break more than it already has. No one tells you about the guilt that will come with those waves of tears, and how you will instantly begin to second guess your decision, despite knowing in your logical brain that you made the right choice for everyone, including your dog. 

Nothing can prepare you for the insensitive people who judge your decision, and make heartless and cruel statements about you to others on the most painful days of your life. No one can know the path we had to walk to get to this point, or the heartbreak that it took to make such a difficult decision, but they can judge our actions in less than a minute. 

No one can help you to clean up the house, or pack away the dishes and toys, because that is a task you have to do on your own. No one tells you that for days afterward you will continue to find things in places that you forgot about: YoPups tucked into the freezer, hiking bowls stashed in the closet, training meat in bags in the fridge. No one tells you that each time the grief will hit you like a freight train all over again, and you will start to think that you might never stop crying. 

Nothing would have made me happier than to be able to keep my dog. Putting her down was one of the most painful, heartbreaking decisions that I have ever had to make in my life. My logical brain knows that we did the right thing, which was confirmed after a long consult with our trainer and our vet, but my broken heart feels like we failed her in some way, and wishes she was still here. 

Nothing we did led us here, and I know that, in my logical brain. My broken heart questions all. I wonder what we could have done better. How we could have helped her more. Why we couldn't have saved her. What we failed at that sent her spiraling backward when there seemed to be hope for such a short time. My broken heart holds on to that hope we had, all those months ago when we thought she could be fixed. 

No one saw this photo, taken on April 23rd, when she was just 12 and a half weeks old. She was enrolled at Puppy Kindergarten at the MHS at the time, and we hadn't started our work with a private trainer yet. She was 3 months old, and had been with us for only a month. She had issues with biting, poor impulse control, lack of self-control, low tolerance for frustration, anxiety, issues with being handled (pet, touched, hooked to a leash), and she was fearful and shy around other puppies. That look on her face, as she bit and tugged at that leash, became known to us as "danger". 

No one saw this look on her face when she was a 60 pound adolescent dog, pulling at the end of her leash on a walk, because she was suddenly frustrated about : not getting to meet another dog, go the way she wanted, fill in who knows what here. In addition to the biting and tugging, she would also jump up and bite at the leash, right near my hand, and pull and fight, until something else distracted her, whenever that was. It was a scary time, and our walks were no longer enjoyable. 

No one saw her spiral downward, unable to be at rest, unable to deal with the smallest bit of frustration, unable to keep her teeth off of everyone, and eventually turning on me, the person she loved most in the world. No one saw her fight the vet in her last minutes, fully sedated, a fighter to the end. 

 No one will ever know how worried we were when we first got her, and she couldn't keep her teeth to herself. No one will ever know how hard we fought for her, wanting to raise her up to the potential that we saw in her.  No one will ever know how much we loved her, and how much joy she brought into our lives. No one will ever know how much we miss her, and how broken our hearts are without her here. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fallow Does Not Mean Failure ..

In the agricultural world, farmers often will leave a field fallow, or plowed and unsown for a season, so that it can rejuvenate and become fertile once again to be planted with a different variety of crops. Bystanders, unfamiliar with this practice, often view these fields as failures as they pass them, assuming that whatever the farmer planted in them during the course of that year failed to thrive and grow. Fallow doesn't mean failure, however.  It is a time to rest and renew, and to cultivate something different to ensure the success of the farmer and his fields.

This last season of my life has been particularly challenging and I have been struggling to thrive. I made a commitment to myself last year that I would set out each day with a positive attitude, looking for the positive things and not focusing on the negative. "Find the joy" became my motto, and it was something I really challenged myself to do each day. That school year struggled along, and then I was moved to yet another new school, and like a newly sprouted plant, I fought to reach toward the sun each day. The weeds of despair, unhappiness, and stress began to grow large around me, blocking the life giving rays of the sun, and each day that went by just complicated the situation more.

Instead of being able to say, "I have survived xx amount of days, there are only xx amount of days left", I was barely keeping it together enough to get through each individual day. I cried on the way to work. I cried on the way home. I tried to come home and do my college work, and for the first half hour I was home, I would sit in my desk chair and just stare out the window. I was paralyzed by the heaviness of it all, and was barely keeping my head above water.

To complicate matters further, I started coughing around Thanksgiving, and developed a tightness in my chest when I was outside for recess duty or in the cold. It ended up being pneumonia, which didn't clear up for the rest of the winter. In early February I got sick, and then during February vacation, I got sick again, but much more severely this time.

Still fighting lingering pneumonia, never ending exhaustion, and on the brink of an emotional breakdown, I quit my job on the Sunday night at the end of February vacation. I was at such a low point that I could not figure out how I was going to manage to get out of bed and go to work the next day, forget the 3.5 months that were still left ahead of us. It was reckless and a little crazy, and more than anything it was desperate. My closest friends said it was brave. Almost two months later, I still can't believe that I did it.

It was single handedly the hardest decision I ever had to make for myself. I loved my job when I first started. I loved working with children, and helping the ones who needed that extra support be able to thrive in the classroom. I didn't love where my job had ended up these past few years, with the focus on passing the test, and geared more towards behavior management. I don't miss that part of it one bit. One of the little boys I worked with this year sent me a card the week after I left that said how much he liked working with me, and that he loved me, and it about broke my heart. It is nice to know that I have made a difference in the lives of kids over the last 11.5 years, but it was coming at too high of a cost.

So, I am taking a break from education. I found a fabulous job working in a church office in the next town over. I might stay there just until I am finished with my college work, or I might stay there until we decide what the next phase of our life looks like. I don't know yet. I know that it's calm, stress-free (compared to school), and I am happy there. I know that I will get back to teaching, because I want to teach at the secondary level, but right now, I need to rest and renew, much like the fields.

I don't consider myself a failure for quitting, even if it was 3/4 of the way through the school year. It was an act of self-prervation, and perhaps the first thing I've done solely for myself in a long, long time. I am looking forward to recharging and finding myself again. I know that in time I will emerge stronger, healthier, and replenished, much like the crops that come out of the once fallow field.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Birthday Letter to My Son as He Turns Twenty

It has been three weeks now since your twentieth birthday, and I'm finally sitting down to write your birthday blog post. For an entire year I have been mentally preparing myself for the idea of you being twenty, and I think the idea of it still hasn't quite sunk in yet. This past year was the year I turned forty, and everyone asked how I felt about it. "Forty," I would reply, "is no big deal. Let's discuss the fact that Corey is going to be twenty this year."

You see, this year, when I turned forty and you turned twenty, is remarkable for several reasons. The first is that you are now as old as I was the year that I gave birth to you. I think about that year, and where I was in my life, and I look at you, and where you are in your life, and I am so proud of you. By twenty, we both had overcome huge hurdles, and unthinkable adversities, and while I felt like I was still struggling to get out from under the weight of mine at twenty, I look at you and feel that you have risen above yours. Life is not always easy, and your path may continue to twist and turn, and there may be mountains for you to climb still, but you should feel encouraged knowing that you have the strength to overcome those challenges. You have done it before, and you will be able to do it again. If you ever doubt yourself, all you have to do is reach out, and I will be your biggest cheerleader. I'll even get the stupid pop-poms, if that is what it takes.

This year, you have been alive for half of my life. Moving forward, you will have been a part of my life for more than half of it, and that is so mind-blowing to me. The part of my life that was before you, will be smaller than the part of my life with you, and eventually, it will be of little significance. For almost half of my life, you have been here, at home, and now you are moving into a period of your life when you are making preparations to move on with your life. I am excited for you, and sad for me at the same time. Your life is just beginning, and you have great potential and are going to do amazing things, I just know it. I cannot wait to hear about the places that you go, and the projects that you work on, and the things that you are part of, that mostly I will not understand. Never forget that you will always have a place here as well. Never forget that even if things don't work out, and the project fails, or the job falls through, I am still proud of you. Never forget that I love you with all of my heart. Happy birthday.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

My Life is a Series of Piles

Behind me on the counter in my office where the printers live, is a stack of magazines that I have yet to find the time to read. Many of them are October and November issues, but only because sometime last weekend when I was not feeling that great, I sat down and read through a handful of them. I can testify to the fact that there were at least three, if not four, issues from the summer still hanging around.

In the kitchen, at the end of the counter in front of my Cuisinart food processor, is a stack of mail belonging to my daughter. Most of it has been opened, and all of it is college related. The fliers, postcards, and packets arrive on a daily basis now, offering her waived enrollment fees and campus tours. I add the new pieces into the pile and wonder how she does not become overwhelmed with all of the choices being presented to her. She tells me that she gets dozens of emails a day, sometimes multiple emails from the same school, trying to convince her that she wants to attend these institutes of higher learning.

Next to me, on the table that has served as my desk for all of these years, is a pile of papers that I keep meaning to deal with. A guide to updating my resume, so that I can begin searching for a new job. A letter from the credit union that holds my mortgage payments, offering to refinance my car loan, and the last statement from the bank that holds my car loan, so that I can see if it is worth my effort. Somewhere in that pile is to-do list of snacks to make when I get a chance, and what I plan on eating this week for lunch and dinner.

My yard is littered with piles of leaves, needing be raked up before the first snow falls. The wind has blown them into piles against the house, the fence, and the hedges. My neighbor hired a young kid to come and tend to his leaves, and he showed up one drizzly day last week with a leaf blower, and began blowing leaves into my yard. I would like to say that this was a huge help and I am grateful for the head start, except that in his youthful eagerness to be finished with what appeared to be an overwhelming job, he basically just made a mess of leaves everywhere he went. It's a start, however, which is more than we had before.

In a basket next to the TV stand, not too far from my favorite chair, is a pile of unfinished knitting projects in clear storage bags to protect them from the sharp claws of my cats. I thought if I took the projects that I was in the middle of, and put them out by my chair, I would be inspired to work on them when I sat down to watch TV in the evening, or when I had a free afternoon to watch a movie with The Boy. The problem with that plan, is the lack of time to watch TV in the evening, or a free afternoon. Life has been hectic these past few months with the fall marching season and the start of school.

There are piles of belongings left behind in Corey's room that need sorting through, and organizing when he comes home over Thanksgiving break. The fall cleaning got off to a great start back in August, and then quickly stalled. The calendar reads November now, which puts a pressing urgency into my mind, knowing that soon the calendar will be flipping over again, and Christmas will be upon us. I feel like if I could just get my life in order, everything else will feel a little bit more settled. I think I will start with some of these piles.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Light Shines Through the Darkness and the Darkness Does Not Overcome It

I love fall. I love the smell of wood smoke in the air, and the way the light changes in September  from a warm, summer color, to a cooler, fall color. I love the crisp, cool mornings, that turn into warmer, summer-like afternoons. I love crunching through the newly fallen leaves, and raking them into big piles of red, orange and yellow. I love tall boots, warm sweaters, and cozy blankets.

Despite all of these things, each year I dread the arrival of fall.  As the sun begins to set earlier each evening and the morning light begins to change to a glowing orange color that arrives later each day, I am forced to face the harsh truth that soon the days will be long, and the amount of daylight we have will be short. You see, I suffer from seasonal depression, and in the quiet places of my heart, fall signals the return of the season of darkness. I know that once the leaves have all fallen and the calendar turns to November, I am going to begin an uphill struggle for my emotional, mental, and even physical well-being.

I have referred to the hardest times in my marriage as a "season of darkness", and it is for many of the same reasons that I refer to winter as the season of darkness. When I fall into a seasonal depression, everything becomes dull and meaningless. It is hard to find the joy in everyday things that normally bring happiness, and even the easiest tasks become a struggle. In the darkest days of my marriage it was hard to find the joy in the every day tasks of living, and it felt similar to being in the middle of a depression. I don't believe that it's any coincidence that our problems often feel large and overwhelming in the middle of the night, when the darkness is large and overpowering. I find that it often helps to get up and turn on all the lights. Once the darkness ebbs, or morning comes, those problems that seemed so huge and larger than life in the middle of the night, often become more manageable. It is the same with seasonal depression. Once spring comes, and the light returns, my mood beings to improve, life beings to look up again, and everything falls back into what I like to consider "normal". In Genesis chapter 1, it says, "God said, "Let there be light, " and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. The light shines, and all is right again.

Last winter, I began taking Vitamin D supplements, and found that they really improved my mood drastically. I also infused my house with more light. Extra lamps spread throughout the rooms I frequent the most helped, as did an influx of candles.

This fall, just in time for the holidays, DaySpring is launching their new Everlasting Light collection, which includes these beautiful new candlesticks. Perched on a mantle, or gathered in the center of a table, they are the perfect solution to holding back the darkness of the shorter days of fall and winter. They would also make a wonderful gift, and come in the set of three, shown in this photo.

They are made of mango wood, and range in size from ten and a quarter inches to fourteen inches high. They are handcrafted in India, and the candles are not included.

If you are looking to make your space feel a little bit bigger and brighter, this gorgeous sunburst mirror might be just the thing you are looking for. Hung on a wall, set on a mantle, or even perched on a shelf as part of a small grouping, it is sure to add a bit of sparkle to your day.

It is also made of mango wood, and has a sawtooth hook for hanging. It is twenty-four and a half inches in diameter, and is just the sweetest thing ever.

I can envision it hanging in a college dorm room, with white twinkle lights surrounding it. How cute would it be in a nursery with a celestial theme? It would be perfect on the wall of a guest bedroom or even a small bathroom. There are so many decorating possibilities to choose from. The neutral color of the mango wood will match just about any decor. Right across the bottom it is etched with the verse, "You will shine.. like stars in the sky" Phil. 2:15.

In addition to home decor pieces, DaySpring also has several pieces of beautifully crafted inspirational jewelry pieces in their Everlasting Light collection, in both silver and gold tones. I was particularly drawn to this pewter bracelet that reads "Shine Your Light". It is made of nickel-free, lead-free pewter and is adjustable from six inches to seven and a half inches.

The back is engraved with "Phillipians 2:15".
The verse is the same as the one etched on the mirror, "You will stars in the sky".
There is an enclosed card that reads, " Each piece in this collection captures the awe and wonder of the heavens and reflects the creative of our Creator God. Look to the starts and remember- God has separated the light from the darkness. His light is in you too- so shine on! 

Whatever season you find yourself in right now, there is sure to be something beautiful and encouraging in the new Everlasting Light collection from DaySpring. The darkness is coming, but the light shines through the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it. John 1:5. 

Saturday, October 04, 2014

When Your Teenager Refuses to Be Helped

My daughter is a cutter. I have known this for at least a few years now, and there is nothing I can do to help her. She blames me for the fact that she cuts herself, and that simple fact breaks my mothers heart. She started cutting to deal with the pain of her father and I not having a very positive relationship for so many years. She claims she didn't know how else to deal with it, and so she took to cutting. Something her brother had done in the darkest depths of his depression, when he needed to know that he could still feel something. A mimicking act, maybe, but that is neither here  nor there. I noticed right away, as her body part of choice was not hidden and called her out on it. She vehemently denied it, and then told me what was up, and that she was going to stop.

My daughter is a habitual liar. She has been lying to me since she was old enough to string sentences together. She will lie to get out of trouble, to save face in front of her friends, and to hide things she would rather you did not know. She will continue to lie even when  you have called her out on it, convinced that she will somehow get away with in the end. There are very few things my daughter has successfully lied to me about.

What my daughter doesn't realize, because she is too wrapped up in her own self-absorbed world, is even on the days that my husband and I continue to not get along, we are making progress. We stumble, because we have a break down of communication and someones needs are not getting met. But we work through it, better than we ever have in the past, and we move forward, having learned from each experience. All she hears is the disagreements and decides that her world is falling apart.

My daughter cannot have a healthy relationship with any boy, because she was in a bad relationship with someone that ended because he tried to go too far against her wishes and she has not dealt with it in a health manner yet, and it haunts her.

She suffers from poor self-image issues that started right around the time she was diagnosed with food allergies. I have spent her whole life telling her how beautiful she is, but she looks in the mirror and sees someone who she feels is fat and ugly. It breaks my heart. As someone who has suffered from crappy self-image issues for 30 years myself, from being abused as a child, I don't know how to help her. Just when I was finally starting to feel good about myself, my health went to crap and my body failed me. I have wasted away to nothing and my hair is falling out, and how can I tell her that it's so important to feel beautiful, when I don't feel that way myself?

She has written suicide notes, whether because she felt she was at the end of her rope, because she wanted to see how it felt to actually do so, or for dramatic effect. That she would do so, knowing that her brother attempted to take his own life, feels like a slap across my face and the biggest "fuck you mom" that I can imagine, pardon my crass language.

In the end, you can choose to either accept the help you are offered, or continue down your own self-destructive path. Over the winter, I called a local therapist, on the recommendation of a good friend who suggested another therapist who was full, and gave me this one instead. Highly recommended. They hit it off right away. She went for several months, and worked on everything except her deepest, darkest issues. The things that were most broken in her life and needed the most fixing. As a mother, who is watching her daughter self-destruct before her eyes, having tried to help her, I don't know what more to do.

I wish I had a positive roll model to give her. An adult that she trusted, or a couple she could look up to. Someone that she could talk to, who was not me, because clearly we don't have that relationship anymore. She lies to protect me from the things that I already know, and I cannot tell her I know them because I would violate that fragile bit of trust we have left. Raising teenagers has to be the most heart-breaking, difficult job in the world.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Best Yes is Saying No, Often

We moved at the end of my third grade year, and I left a private Catholic school, where I was thriving, and doing very well, and entered into public school at the start of fourth grade. I left behind my friends, and started school as "the new girl", in a town that was rooted in old, established families and status. On top of being new, I came from "the city". A poor city at that, over the state border, and one with a bad reputation. I left a daily routine of wearing uniforms and attending mass on Fridays, and began having to choose what to wear each day, and pausing for a moment of silence after the Pledge of Allegiance. 

I struggled to make friends. I did not fit in to any of the already established "cliques", and I am an introvert by nature. Until a few years ago, I didn't even know what an introvert was. I took a personality quiz for school, and discovered I was an ISFJ; the nurturer. My son, a classic introvert, has known this about himself for many years. I am only starting to discover my true self over the last several years. A lonely, outcast girl, who was battling demons at home, I turned to books to escape. 

At school, I was what we would label an "average" student. The problem with labels is that they begin to define what we think of ourselves, and eventually we become the person that we have been labeled as. I struggled in math. I had a hard time with spelling. I didn't get any support at home, and I did the best that I could on my own. I never heard the words, "I am proud of you" come from my parents the entire time that I was growing up. When I graduated from high school, I had no faith that I would be accepted into college, or that I would receive any kind of financial aid to be able to afford to go. I did not understand how student loans worked, and I had no guidance to support me in making this all important decision. 

Fast-forward twenty-one years, and last fall I found myself enrolled at SNHU. Starting college, while working full time pushed me right out of my comfort zone. In the wake of the end stages of my friend's journey with cancer and the way she lived life to the fullest, especially during her last year, gave me the motivation I needed to pursue this dream I have harbored in the quiet of my heart for so many years. 

It has not been an easy road. Finding the balance between working, taking two classes every eight weeks, and caring for my house has not been easy. Sometimes I feel like I have it all under control and others it all seems to fall apart. On top of that, I am still working hard at rebuilding my relationship into something better than it has ever been. My priorities right now, are my marriage, my family, and school work. After that comes my job, and my house. Everything else is falling to the wayside. 

Being a type-A first born, with OCPD tendencies, this has not been an easy adjustment. To walk through my house and see rugs that haven't been vacuumed in a week, or dust that has been accumulating on flat surfaces for two weeks or longer gives me an enormous twitch. When I realize that I have spent an entire day working, then doing school work, and it's time for bed and I haven't spend any quality time with my husband, is especially challenging. When we start to have many of those days in a row, I find that my mood starts to deteriorate. My love language is quality time, and even though I'm the reason my needs are not being met, I have to stop and make time for us to spend together, so that I can keep going with the important work that needs to be done. 

Right now, I need to focus on me, and my school work, which seems selfish, but it is where I have been called to be at this point in my life. In order to do this, I have to say no to meetings, and social commitments. I have to say no to going for walks with friends after work as much as I want to catch up and visit. I have to say no to movies with my family that start late, and keep me from being able to get up early to get my school work done before leaving for work. I have to say no, so that I can say yes to this calling that I have taken on, because that is where I am right now.

 It is not where I will be forever. This season will pass, and I will be able to say yes again, to those things that I cannot find time for right now. Right now, however, my best yes is an answer to being asked to step outside of my comfort zone, and pursue my dreams, even though I was scared. I said yes, and intend to be more than just an "average" student. I am giving college my best, even if in order to do so, I have to keep saying no.