What’s with all the Plant Photos? 

What’s with all the plant photos when this blog is not about plants?

I put photos of plants from my garden in my blog, because due to the content, it has to be an anonymous blog. I can’t say the things I say about my mom and about my cannabis use and then put a bunch of pictures of my kids on here. And honestly I think it is pretty short-sided and inconsiderate of parents to put pictures of their kids online in public formats, but that’s beside the point. I can’t give you my mom’s identity, because I haven’t asked her permission to write about her. But a blog needs pictures, so I put in pictures of my garden plants. They may seem unrelated, but I appreciate my garden as a place of mental calm. In the midst of an anxiety attack or questions about the future of my faith or health issues in my extended family, there’s a sense of contentment in the pollinators still pollinating, the plants growing and completing their natural life cycle.
That’s kind of the crux of the matter. Life can be full of upheaval and chaos, joy and sorrow, strength and weakness, pain and peace. Plants, especially annual flowers, give such a concise picture of a life cycle: from planting to the hope of sprouting to the work and waiting of growing to the glorious (or not so glorious) bloom to the drying and dying of the flower as the plant creates seeds, and thereby leaves a possibility of a future generation.

(Also, I am sorry that all my posts contain parenthesis.)


This effing tooth

Readers of this blog know I am an Affordable Care Act fan. What I really would like to see is Universal Healthcare in the US, aka Single Payer. I did not grow up in poverty, but my kids are growing up in a weird white middle class kind of poverty. We are admittedly isolated from some of the elements of poverty that so many Americans face, because my kids’ grandparents (baby boomers who have finished or are finishing their careers) have money. We live in a house that’s paid for. My kids’ grandparents help pay for extra-curricular activities. But we get Food Stamps and state-sponsored health insurance for low-income families, and our low monthly income leaves us in constant fear of emergency expenses.
Such as major dental work.
We get medial and dental care from a local low-income clinic. I’ve always felt that the medical care was high quality, some of the best I’ve received in my life. The dental care is generally sufficient, but the clinic is short-staffed for the number of patients they are trying to serve. 
They bring in a specialist once a week for root canals and such.
 In March I was referred to him for two root canals. I went to the consultation and made the first appointment for the first half of the root canals. It was to be in May. Then I got a letter that the specialist was no longer with the clinic. The tooth started to hurt enough that I needed nightly ibuprofen. 
They hired someone else within a few weeks and I made an appointment with him. A consultation. He prescribed an antibiotic and said we was working extra hours next week, so he’d see me then, but when I got to the front desk to schedule the appointment, they said he was booked out three months, so the root canal appointments got scheduled for August. They scheduled 2 of 4 appointments. Their policy is not to schedule more than 2 appointments per patient per provider at a time. 
I’ve had two or three appointments for fillings with my regular dentist, while I have been waiting for the root canal appointments, which is good, because if it gets infected, she will be able to prescribe another round of antibiotics. But, damn it, I’d like to get these expensive treatments finished. I’d like to stop worrying about infection. 
The tooth isn’t hurting persay, but I can feel it at night when I try to go to sleep and sometimes at work when I am sitting still. There’s a large visible hole in the side of the tooth. I avoid crunchy foods most of the time.  I don’t want to take ibuprofen daily, so I take a little cannabis for it most nights. 
And I just got a call that the doctor is going to be out of the office those two days in August, so my appointments for the first root canal have been rescheduled to October.
They could refer me out to a dentist with a private practice, and he could do each root canal in one appointment. (Two appointments total instead of four, before the crowns.) He’d almost certainly be able to get me in within the month, but the cost would be almost double what the low-income clinic is going to charge me, and I’m having trouble figuring out how I am going to afford the clinic’s “low” price. 

And for the record, my underemployed husband is looking diligently for work. He’s had five or six interviews in as many weeks, but he still hasn’t been hired anywhere. 

Poverty sucks.

You Don’t Wanna Waste your Life

I seem to be dealing with an anxiety attack right now. I’m going to try my best to document it here for documentation purposes.  Step One in dealing with anxiety is determining the cause. Because if it is a cause that can be dealt with, we can deal with it and move on. Right?

I have two hypotheses about the cause of this particular attack.
1. Social Anxiety

2. Being out of a routine.

Last week the girls and I went camping with a bunch of people. It was really great (in retrospect—of course while we were camping it was a standard camping trip: dust, heat, exhausted kids, exhausted parents, weird social situations, etc–but all the memories are great of course. That’s the whole point, right?). Despite it being great, I had a level of social anxiety beforehand, some social anxiety while I was there, and some residual anxiety even now. 

Next week we are doing our annual cabin weekend with my dad, stepmom, step sister and her kids. I am looking forward to it, but also feeling social anxiety about being with my stepmom for that long and parenting my kids in front of everybody. So that’s the social anxiety piece.

I am a person who needs routine. During the school year the routine is fairly straightforward. Get up, get the older kids to school, get home, do whatever I am doing that morning (downtime, meal prep, gardening or going to moms group). I go to work in the afternoon, get home, do bedtime routine and go to sleep. In the summer the routine changes. I still work in the afternoon, but the mornings and evenings are wonky. Kids are staying up later, but not necessarily sleeping in. One week they have swim lessons in the morning, the next week they don’t. One kid had theatre camp for a few weeks in the afternoon. My oldest daughter had plans to go to church camp next week, but that fell through and the church has changed the schedule a few times, so I don’t know what the routine will be like next week. And of course, I need to get organized for that cabin weekend.  It’s stupidly overwhelming.

And when I am already overwhelmed with “reasonable things,” it’s super easy for other random little things to be “the straw that broke the camel’s back”: Realizing I have hairs on my face that need to be plucked, having the low fuel light come on in the car…

I’m having trouble eating a balanced diet. I get to work and realize I am SO hungry. But it’s hard to eat at home in the morning, because of the routine thing. And the heat. I figured this out two days ago, so the last two days I brought a balanced snack to work, which helps.

To deal with the anxiety (and some tooth pain) I’ve been smoking pot every night. Usually I smoke a few days and then take a week off and I am happy with that pot-smoking routine, but I’m been smoking almost daily, and the Cherry Pie strain in particular might be messing with my head a little bit.  The 15-year-old in me just wants to get high and listen to music all day long.  I wonder if I did that for an entire day, if the desire would go away, but just doing that for an hour at a time hasn’t quenched the desire. 
In any case, last night I listened to my favorite track ever, Counting Crows’ “A Murder of One” from August and Everything After Live At Town Hall. Adam is so passionate with the line, “You don’t wanna waste your life and I don’t wanna waste my life…” It got in my head. And then later I listened to Cat Steven’s “If You Want to Sing Out.” And it got in my head, “If you want to sing out, sing out and if you want to be free be free, there’s a million things to be…” And this morning, out of my routine with no kids activities, I was making pancakes and watching CNN’s The Sixties, an episode about civil rights. And I thought, “I cannot go through another Martin Luther King Day at my office full of ignorant Republicans, who don’t see that the civil rights movement is real, necessary and it is every bit as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.”  

Bitterly, I updated my resume and submitted a job application to the local university. This is something I’ve thought I should do for a while, but I haven’t gotten back to it. So today, angrily, in the midst of some self-loathing and angst, I submitted my application. I don’t know that I even want that job, I’m just so fucking tired of my job and my poverty and I feel like I need to take more responsibility to change.

Looking on the bright side in the mist of this anxiety attack:

  • The kids have not to my knowledge heard me say, “Jesus Fuck.” which is my new go-to expletive. Not proud of it. Yep, it is particularly ugly. Glad I have enough of a filter intact to only utter it under my breath or in the garage alone.
  • I’ve witnessed the kids and I acknowledging each other respectfully today. You know, respectful acknowledgements such as, “Thank you for getting your swim stuff ready to go,” and (my 13 year old to my 4 year old) “You are a beautiful person, because you are generous and kind.”
  • When the phone rang at work, my phone voice took over and I handled calls as a good customer service rep, as if I felt sane. 

June Mania

My paternal grandmother is in her 90s and she lives locally at an assisted living facility. My mother, her former daughter-in-law, has maintained a relationship with her even 35 years after getting divorced from my father. This, I guess is the nature of having your child’s grandparents in town. 

My mother visits my grandmother in her assisted living apartment ever week. My grandmother who is blind–like my maternal grandfather–appreciates these consistent visits. That is until my mom gets all manic and my grandmother gets worried. 

She’s very worried about my mother right now. She reported to me a couple weeks ago that my mom had come over and talked for hours about a bunch of things, jumping from subject to subject: a story about my youngest daughter, something about a car she purchased 40 years ago, a long description of a blade of grass. WTF? 

I didn’t catch is at the time, but my grandma also mentioned something about the sherriff. My uncle just called and told me that a week or so ago the sherriff called him to get some information about my mom. Someone apparently was concerned. My uncle, who has the same last name as my mom, because he is my dad’s brother, gave them my phone number, but I did not get a call from the sherriff, so I’m a little confused. 

My mother has been having mouth pain since February, but has only gotten vocal about it since her most recent manic started a month ago. It seemed to start with biting her tongue and feeling like there was loose skin in her mouth, where there is not any loose skin. She says it’s the worst pain she’s ever been in and she has always had a high pain tolerance.  She’s been to several doctors (her general practioner, a neurologist, a dermatologist, her dentist, an ear nose and throat guy and her psychiatrist, all of whom refer her elsewhere, because no one can figure out what the hell is going on. 

Most recently, it sounds like there’s a possibility that it may be a related to a side effect of going off of her medication. I did not know it at the time, but she told this week that in March her psychiatrist had her stop taking Abilify. At her appointment last week she mentioned to him m that she was having tongue, foot and hand movement involuntarily. He advised that that could be a side effect of discontinuing the Abilify. 

“When will it go away?” 

“The Abilify is out of your system in three weeks…” he said. 

“It’s been almost three months.” She said. 

“Then it may be permanent.”

Needless to say she is upset about this. 

My husband wonders if involuntary tongue movement might be causing her to bite her tongue and causing the pain. Seems like such a simple explanation that one of these doctors should have figured it out by now. 

I’m frustrated with the Mania-induced communication. I’m frustrated by the responsibility of needing to be involved in her medical care and the privacy laws that generally make it difficult for her doctors to communicate with me.  I’m frustrated because I don’t know how safe my kids are with her when she’s is this phase. I’m frustrated that she’s on so much pain with no help in sight. (The doctors keep prescribing various mouth rinses, many of which she finds intolerable.) I’m frustrated by the pharmaceutical industry in our culture and I’m skeptical about the effectiveness of her treatment for bi-polar, as well as for this mouth issue. 

2017 Goal Check In

Earlier in the year I shared some Priorities and Boundaries for 2017. We are halfway through the year. How am I doing?

1. Raising kids who enjoy life. (Modeling downtime, valuing one-on one time with each child, finding things to do as a family that do not involve screens), batch cooking dinners ahead of time, so that I can enjoy my evenings more. 

A few months ago we got our middle daughter into karate which is something she had wanted to do for a while. Our oldest is involved in a theater production this summer. I have seen my kids enjoying life this summer swimming and playing and I think we are doing good with this Priority. 

2. Getting adequate sleep, approx 8 hours per night. 

Our youngest has been sleeping through the night consistently for a quite a few months now. With summer’s laid back schedule I often smoke a little and sit outside for an hour after the kids go to bed, but by and large, with my sleep uninterrupted, I feel like I’m getting enough sleep. 

3. Spending time in my garden weekly.

It’s over 100F this week, so this is not the time to be in the garden, but I did get plenty of time out there this spring.

4. Fostering deeper friendships by making time for social interaction. 

With our new neighbors being friends of ours, I’m getting more social time, which is good, but part of this goal is to socialize with different people intentionally, which, as far as I can recall, I have done monthly. This month I went bowling with 6 people from church, 2 old friends, 1 new friend and 2 people I do not know well. It was really fun. 

5. Frequent downtime to maintain mental health. 

See #2 above, smoking in the backyard.  Lol. 

6. Practice the mindful habit of acknowledging the value of my time each day, especially when I don’t get things done that I hope/plan to. 

I’m not entirely consistent with this, but on rough days, this mindfulness really helps. I often feel like I am doing too many things at once, or like I have way too much to do (laundry, cooking, work, checking in with kids, sex, budgeting, stupid errands…). On the days when I can’t get it all done, it helps to sit back and acknowledge how my time was spent. 

Today’s an unbearably hot summer day, so I don’t have a lot on the schedule. The younger two are watching cartoons and eating frozen bananas. My husband is at a movie with the oldest. Later I need to take her to buy shorts for her performance. I watered the plants this morning and spent some time writing, so the value in today is rest, relaxation and reflection.

Twice a year–May/June and November/December–my mother goes through a manic phase. She gets excited and really enjoys being able to communicate. She talks a lot. She sends long emails. And she reports to me about having communicated with multiple people. She feels great. She spends money. She needs very little sleep and she feels really productive.
But sometimes she doesn’t make sense when she is talking. She speaks frequently in a stream-of-consciousness sort of way that is difficult to follow. She lacks a filter and says things that embarrass me. And when I ask a question she frequently takes an hour to get from the beginning of her response to the end. 

And when I am on Facebook and I see that she’s commented on a post, I get pre-embarrassed. Then I click on it and read what she wrote. So far in this particular manic phase she hasn’t posted long comments about my childhood, so that’s good. 

I’m fortunate that my mom stays on her meds. I’m fortunate that she isn’t a drug addict and that her manic phases don’t include promiscuous behavior.  We’re fortunate that she was able to keep a good job until she retired in a satisfactory financial position. 

But when I pull back some of the layers in my mind, I wonder if I would be a more whole person if she had not been mentally ill while I was growing up. 

  • Would I be more emotionally attached to her, and, in turn, could I be more emotionally involved with my daughters? 
  • Would I value the concept of FAMILY more? I feel cynical about the concept of family. 
  • If my mom had been more present (emotionally involved and opinionated) would I have finished college? (Would she have had the wherewithal to advise me not to get married until I finished college and would I have listened?)
  • If she and I had been closer when I was in high school, would I have had a better sense of my identity and not gotten caught up in the weird evangelical movement? In my late teens and early 20s the message I was told by the churches I was most involved in centered around the idea that “reaching the lost is too urgent to allow you to really pursue higher education. Jesus is probably coming back before you graduate.” WTF? 

Communication Frustration

I find myself getting really frustrated with communication sometimes.  You could say communication triggers my anxiety. Sometimes I get frustrated with myself because of this.  Anxiety is a frustrating thing to deal with and communication is so constant that the combination is overwhelming.  Am I constantly anxious because I am constantly communicating?! Not really.

So here I am, taking a step back to define things.  If I get this straight in my head, just like anything else that causes anxiety, it will be that much easier to handle in the middle of an episode.

I find that when I am communicating with only one person on one topic (blogging in the middle of the night for instance) I am not frustrated.  The communication is on my terms.  I’m focused. I’m not in a time-crunch. I’m not dealing with other people’s emotions or my own hunger or fatigue. I’m just saying what I have to say.

I get frustrated when I am constantly being communicated with in multiple ways or by multiple people all at the same time.

At home this looks like my husband trying to tell me something, while the 12-year-old interupts with a story about a friend or some other non-essential and poorly timed comment or obnoxious sing-songy noise, while the three-year-old tugs at my pants whining for attention, while the timer on the stove beeps to alert me that something–what was it?–in the kitchen requires my attention.

At work this looks like answering the phone to talk to a client who has a question, then submitting a request on their behalf through a website while hearing the text alert on my phone go off multiple times.  Then checking my email and finding three or four requests from other clients and vendors that require my attention, but before I even get through the first one, the phone is ringing again with another request.  And for fuck’s sake why is the gossipy girl hired to work at the front desk talking to me about her step daughter and her trainer at the gym instead of answering the goddamn phone!

It’s frustrating and overwhelming and yes, I do swear under my breath quite a lot regardless of my location.  Not something I am proud of, but I’ll admit it here.  And I’ll admit it to most people.  I do try to have a filter. I do try not to drop the f-bomb when kids are within earshot or when I am in public at all, though I do fail in the office frequently.  I’m a bit embarrassed by it, but there’s something about the f word that communicates frustration effectively.

I’m not going to type an easy solution here, because there isn’t one, but at least I’ve put words–and not just profanity–to the frustration, so when I face it tomorrow, maybe I’m slightly more equipped to deal with it.