To There and Back Again

Six months ago in the wee hours of a Sunday morning I dreamed about my oldest son. In this dream, a police officer told me that my son had been hurt and was taken to the hospital. I kept asking over and over again, what happened? Was he going to be okay? There was never a response, just a click and then a dial tone on the other end.

A mother’s intuition can sometimes be unsettling and I woke up with a terrible sense of foreboding.

The next morning I received a phone call with the caller I.D. displaying West Virginia. Normally I don’t answer calls from another state because more times than not they are solicitors. However, I knew from the dream that I had that this call was going to be different. From my solar plexus, I knew that it wasn’t about my daughter overdosing again on heroin. I thank my lucky stars every day that she has gotten her life together and our relationship has blossomed because of her recovery. No, this was definitely different and I knew that I wasn’t going to be prepared, dream or not, for the news coming from the other end of the line.

I was relieved to hear that he was fine and that he was going to be okay, but he was in the hospital.

And then the story unfolded with information that I found difficult to process.

It was Two weeks before the incdent that he called me. He didn’t need money or anything, he just wanted to talk. He was living less than an hour away from us in Portland, but his daily life was busy with working full time and going to college.

I knew that he was stressed, his girlfriend of three years went off to college out of state and the long distance thing wasn’t working out too well. It was on again off again for 6 months before they officially ended it. He hated his job and had taken on too many classes. Add to that, he was having to deal with his alcoholic father who called him incessantly, all hours of the day and night while in a drunken stupor asking for favors that my son would inevitably give in to.

This was a 20 year-old who had reached his breaking point, but I never knew just how bad it had gotten for him. Yes, I knew these things were happening in his life, but the more I pried, the less I knew. He was careful to omit the sordid details; details that would eventually be revealed. He was always one who didn’t want to burden others with his problems, so he kept the conversation light, thanked me for listening and told me he loved me.

A few days later he just up and left at 3 a.m. He packed his car and headed to Kentucky of all places, to visit “friends” he had met on an online game. When he called me from Missouri, I was shocked, but he was an adult. As hard as it was, I bit my tongue. I couldn’t very well ask him what the hell was he doing or demand that he come right home. He was in good spirits and sounded happier than he had for several months.However, this journey he was on wasn’t all he had hoped it would be. He realized that no matter how far he went, he wasn’t going to be able to escape his problems.

So he had decided that there was really only one solution to his misery. After some quick research, he found what he was looking for. He got in his car and drove four hours east. With a Sharpie he wrote his first and last name on one arm (to make sure his body could be identified) and the password to his phone and laptop on the other. He then climbed out onto the ledge of a bridge that is known as a hot spot for suicides. People are drawn to this place with its impressive height and view of the Appalachian Mountains. It was a sure thing to extinguish feelings of hopelessness.

It just so happened that on this sunny day a sheriff’s deputy was on patrol and saw a car illegally parked alongside the bridge. This usually meant only thing, and sure enough he was found standing on the 3 foot wide ledge. This situation was very personal to the deputy because she lost her sister to suicide just three weeks prior. She called for backup and they were able to talk him into being helped from the ledge and taken to the psychiatric unit at the hospital.

The next 5 days were a blur as we caught a flight across the country to West Virginia. We got his car out of impound, and met with the doctors at the hospital. The relief that I felt when I saw him walking down the hall overwhelmed me. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t help the tears that flowed. My hands were trembling when I hugged him. Through his own tears, he kept apologizing for what he put us through, just as he had apologized to the sheriff’s deputy for causing a traffic jam on the bridge. At that time, I could only tell him how much he was loved, and how happy I was that he was still “here”.

The drive home was more of a rollercoaster ride for my emotions, and we sought intensive outpatient care as soon as we got home. We also began family counseling, where we learned that he began thinking about self-harm at 11 years-old. By the time he was 12, he was cutting himself on his upper thighs where the wounds would be hidden.

But he seemed so happy! He laughed; a lot. He played with his younger siblings who were 9 and 10 years his junior. He loved sports. He had lots of friends. But deep down, where we couldn’t see, there was a sadness that grew and grew. We have talked about why he didn’t come to us then. He explained that with the chaos and anxiety surrounding his older sister and her addiction, he didn’t want to add more to our stress. So he kept it in. We didn’t see. We never knew. Not until it was almost too late.

Fast forward 6 months and we are still trying to navigate the choppy waters. The treatment is ongoing and he is still living with us. He recently got a new job that he likes and has begun to think about his future in constructive, positive ways. He now will talk honestly about his emotions and we can only take it day by day, dealing with the ups and downs of life. We notice and appreciate the small victories. But then there is the underlying fear that my husband and I share. I’m not sure if it will ever truly go away. It’s a familiar fear, but it’s a different sort of vibe, because each child is unique. Things are far from perfect, but I see subtle changes in all of us and how we connect. There is now hope where once there was only invisible hopelessness.

***This event made me aware of how preventative measures are desperately needed to close the communication gap. There needs to be a willingness to talk about depression and other mental health issues between parents and children and the teachers that we entrust them to. There also needs to be a willingness to listen and give support. Enough of the avoidance and looking the other way. Uncomfortable as it may be, learning about depression and feelings of self-harm should be just as important as the (sometimes controversial) 5th grade health films they show our kids in school. These issues need to be included in the topics covered in said films to hopefully lessen the stigma for those who reach out for help.***

Just Keeping it Real

Wow. I don’t even know where to begin so I guess I’ll just start by writing about the Good in my life. I have so many things I feel incredibly thankful for, but I want to share the fact that I am officially off of the opioids! Yay!

No thanks to the pain management doctor though. He was becoming less and less helpful in working with me tapering off. I think the pain clinics will take your money as long as they can while they push for you to try the “new and improved” spinal cord stimulator or another spinal injection (I’ve had 18 of those injections and they never worked, but I knew it kept my doctor(s) happy and me leaving the office with new scripts).

I had been at a standstill for months and was really, really frustrated. Then the morning of my last scheduled appointment (in August) I simply woke up and said, “I’m done.” That was a defining moment for me. Not showing up to an appointment could easily break my pain management contract. And with the opioid epidemic, it was no secret that it was getting harder and harder to find pain management doctors that would accept the responsibility of new patients.

But I truly felt those words, “I’m done”. They were Soul Words. It was a Body-Mind-Spirit moment of consciousness; the kind that can make your toes curl, like the blissful moment you fall into an orgasm. But unlike orgasms, Soul Words tended to elude me. This was profoundly different than saying “I’m working on getting off these meds that I’ve been taking for the past decade”, which I always meant each time I said it, but during that mind-blowing moment it became crystal clear to me that I would be on the meds as long as a dr. told me I needed them; that it was okay; go on, have some more. It was all simultaneous, and from the very center of my Soul, the Source of those two powerful words, I faced honesty and truth without judgement and without doubt. I was done. So I didn’t go to that appointment.

The next day I felt a little uneasy, but I put on a new fentanyl patch (which would end up being my final one) and began to take note of when I actually “needed” a pill for the breakthrough pain. I was still being prescribed 180 of the 10mg oxycodones for the “breakthrough” pain each month to take along with the fentanyl. I’ve been prescribed as many as 210 pills with the 15 patches; but this didn’t change the fact that I had way more than I should. Way more than I needed. People without the opioid tolerance are usually sent home after surgery with 30 pills of 5mg oxy, vicodin, percocet, etc. with maybe one refill, if they’re lucky. For me, that would be like getting a box of Tic Tacs, because every month the pharmacist would hand me enough opioids to kill a pack of mules.

Making the decision that I was done made me realize what a habit it had become to just take a breakthrough pain pill at the first sign of pain, even the slightest twinge. You see, it had been drilled into my head that “you can’t let the pain get too bad because it’ll be harder to get under control”. Well, of course I didn’t want that to happen!

Now I had to face the unpleasant task of re-shaping my thoughts and begin to lessen my fear of something getting out of control. Oh, the irony! At first it was awful to make myself stop each time I reached for pill and ask, what else can I try first? (and not in conjunction with?). I knew I would have to deal with some additional discomfort than what I already lived with every day.

I knew I could try an ice pack. A warm epsom salt bath. Some gentle yoga. Qigong. Meditation. The tens unit. The compound cream. Writing. Creating. Reading. Even that awful acupressure mat. I had this mental list of the things I knew I could try first and If those things failed, I took some Advil or Tylenol. Then I took an oxy. Sometimes another one an hour later. Then I began to notice that as I reached for the pills less and less, the first options were working better and better.

It took a long time though.

And I am not a patient person.

I knew I had hit a milestone when I began breaking the oxys in half. Little by little, day by day, I made progress. Then something totally amazing happened. I went a day without any pills and didn’t even realize it until I went to bed and saw half an oxy from the day before still sitting there on the shelf of my medicine cabinet.

I’m in no more pain than when I was on the opioids. I haven’t had any worse Fibromyalgia flare-ups either (my rheumatologist had once told me that long-term opioid use can actually cause Fibro). Well, no dwelling on the past decade, eh?

My therapist told me it could take another month or two to get my serotonin and dopamine levels back to normal, but at least he’s not suggesting we increase my antidepressants. I will more than likely be on the neurontin the rest of my life because of nerve damage from surgery #1. But I’m okay with that.

Moving forward, I ended up flushing 6 leftover patches and 97 oxycodones. l still have the other half of the last oxycodone sitting on the middle shelf of my medicine cabinet. When I see it every morning and night when I take my other meds, I think about how it no longer has any power over me. It’s a reminder of how far I have come.

Many Blessing on Your Journey )O(

Little Strands of Hope & Grief

Well, it’s officially month 2 of my stepping down from the meds. I’m wearing a 37.5 mcg/hr patch, but have started taking Clonidine to help with the withdrawal sweating/shaking. We haven’t lowered my oxy dose, in fact it’s increased by 20 mg per day to keep me at a more regulated level.

Last month fell into a sort of blur. Not at first, of course. In fact, I took advantage of a partly sunny day and the kids and I headed to the pumpkin patch. I thought, “Hey, this’ll be a breeze!” But that was only day 1. I managed to go to the serpentine costume “parade” at the school on the following Monday but I was hot flashing big time, majorly woozy, and actually bumped into a wall on my way out the door. (geez, I hope nobody saw that) I didn’t go trick or treating w/the kiddos. The pumpkins never got carved. My husband called the dr. and picked up an rx from their office for a 25mcg dose and I stuck that thing on immediately, like the fiend I was.

I did a lot of coloring. So much so, I don’t think my hand will ever recover.

Slow and Steady.

This week I began to feel pretty darn good. Finally. I’m feeling really encouraged and am looking forward to the day I’m done with all of it!

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But tonight I got some pretty devastating news. Our white German Shepherd (my constant shadow) will be put down next Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. They will then cremate her and her ashes will be scattered over a rose garden dedicated for those purposes.

There are many reasons why, the number one being that her health has rapidly declined over the past several months and she is having a more difficult time holding her bowels, which is distressing to her because she doesn’t want to make messes.

She has always been fiercely protective of strangers, but things took a turn for the worse when she bit a child who had come over to play. It nearly broke the skin, and would have, had she wanted it to. The boys were roughhousing and as I was walking to the room to tell them to calm down, but she had already bitten him on his forearm. The mom was very understanding though. In fact, I was more upset than she was.

I already feel tremendous grief and a growing sense of loss. That gaping hole will only get bigger between now and Tuesday afternoon.

I’m trying to decide on how we should tell the kids.

Thyme in a Bottle

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Since my last post I have been working really hard to keep up with my daily tasks and routines. I’ve followed through to the best of my ability, which fluctuates from day to day. But everyday I give conscious effort to do the best I can with what I’ve got.

That means remembering who I am and what makes my life feel “good” and “on track”.
The crazy thing is that I haven’t even beat myself up for not accomplishing everything on my “list of the day” and that in itself is a major triumph.

When I woke up this morning, before I even got out of bed I asked myself a simple question; How will I choose to spend my time today? And the question didn’t make me anxious.

I say this because two weeks ago, time management was difficult. At the end of a day where all those things on my list seemed to remain one step ahead of me, I was mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. I ended up being a crabby bitch when I started thinking about all the things I didn’t get done. I felt like I just couldn’t keep up with life.

So I took 3 cleansing breaths and wrote out the bare bones of this spell, which in part was a letter to myself, (but really, aren’t most spells merely letters to that aspect of ourselves that we are trying to connect with?) and then had a heart-to-heart talk with the Goddess.

Thyme Management Spell

Gather your items:

Your three minute egg timer
1 orange candle
1 small bottle
3 drops patchouli oil
3 drops cinnamon leaf oil
3 drops orange oil
30 drops sweet almond or mineral oil
A pinch of thyme (go ahead and make it a big pinch)
A piece of paper and your pretty purple pen that makes you happy.

Remember your simple altar setup. K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid). You know that during this time in your life simplicity avoids confusion and saves time!

So set it up and quit over-thinking, because I know you will want to. You just love second-guessing yourself. Keep acting that way and all the thyme in the world will not be enough.

Cleanse, cast, and invoke. Then move forward.

Prepare the oil in the bottle with a dropper, add the thyme, cap and shake to mix well. Imagine that while you are shaking the oil that you are also dislodging any negativity or frustration that comes with simply trying to keep up with life. But be careful not to break the bottle with your built up ick, because then you’ll have to start all over again, thus wasting more time.

On the piece of paper write your petition to the Goddess, feeling your deep personal need for successful time management. And remember, K.I.S.S.

I wrote to Her during my ritual, expressing my longing for less chaos and more peace throughout my days. I didn’t want to feel rushed, and I didn’t want to be angry at myself anymore because anger physically hurts me. I wanted her to know that I was willing to keep my priorities in focus, and to take charge of my actions, as each one leads to the other, and so on.

I folded the letter and held it in my hands feeling my fingers tingle with energy. When it felt right, I placed the piece of paper under the timer. Then I dabbed a small amount of the prepared oil to my wrists and rubbed them together.

I lit the orange candle and started the timer.

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I gazed into the candle flame and pictured myself going through a typical day at a calm even pace. Things were running smoothly. Appointments were remembered and household duties were under control. My mind wandered into the darkness a few times but I reigned it back in.

When the timer had sounded, I extinguished the flame and went on about my day. When that feeling of tension began bubbling up, I would bring back into focus the orange candle’s flame and feel the loving support from Her. I was then able to trust in my ability to take back control of my day.

I did this every morning for 3 days, and every other day since. I read the letter, dab on the oil, light the candle, start the timer, and then visualize a smooth sailing day. It only takes a few minutes, and within those first 3 days I began to see a noticeable difference in how I reacted to situations, and how I made better choices in managing my time.

I’m going to do this as often as I need, (replacing the candle when needed) but I choose not to waste my time obsessing about it! I will do it and then go on about my day.

The best part about this daily “blessing” is that I’m finding that if my day didn’t go exactly as planned, I don’t beat myself up about it. One of the things I’ve learned since starting this is that successful time management is the ability to take on unforeseen challenges without causing negativity to creep in and slow me down.

 

Many Blessings on Your Journey )O(

To Start Where I Am

Since chronic pain came into my life 9 years ago, I’ve been trying to deal with a new way of living and with it a whole new way of thinking. And I’ve done a lot of thinking in the past few weeks as I’ve hit some highs and then some low-down lows.There were times in the past week and a half that I couldn’t get out of bed. There have been days in the past week where light and sound were excruciating to my senses. Two days ago I dropped a dinner plate when my hand spasmed and all I could do was helplessly look at the shattered pieces on the floor.

The feeling of helplessness just builds up…and up…and up….

When I’m having a really bad episode and all I can do is lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, I notice a cobweb in the corner. I’ll turn my head and see an empty water glass that needs to be washed. When I turn the other way I see that my closet is messy. For days, sometimes weeks, (at one point about five years ago it had been almost 6 months) my eyes and mind will focus on all the imperfections in my home and see it as a reflection of me as a person. Me as a wife and mother and how I cannot care for those I love the most.

Then when I begin the upswing of good days, I can’t simply snap my fingers and make all the stress disappear. I fill up with anxiety every time I see my overloaded inbox, the empty refrigerator, and the giant piles of laundry. Then I’m like a lot of chronic pain sufferers in that when I have one decent feeling day, I will run around frantically trying to catch up. I’ll clean like a maniac in hopes I can get it all done before the pain returns. And it always does, and at that point it’s usually pissed.

Even after all these years, I’ve yet to fully come to terms with my illness and pain. I’ve read countless books on my conditions and have seen the top specialists. I’ve been coaxed into getting reacquainted with my body (a body that seemed to no longer like me) in order to be more in tune to our (its) rhythm. I’ve learned about energy management and how to create a schedule that works for me. I have seen the need to pattern my week so that I have active days followed by more restful days. I know I have to to do a little bit at a time to prepare for holidays, vacations, or long, hectic days. (I’m eternally grateful that things were good for the California trip) I’ve been schooled in the ways of expressing what my needs are and how to drop my pride when I have to ask for help.

Easier said than done.

I readily grasped the idea to make an outline for my life. I’m excellent at brainstorming ideas and making plans and schedules, but I’m absolutely terrible at following through. You see, I’m a list-maker. I LOVE to make lists. I have a list for nearly everything. Things I need to do, things I want to do, things I need help with, menu planning lists, shopping lists, need to follow-up on lists, home project lists, and on and on it goes.

During the bad times I’ll have short-term memory issues and terrible brain fog, getting easily confused (especially with dates and phone numbers). So I have spiral bound notebooks in every corner of the house (and in my project studio, but let’s not even go there) so that I can jot down ideas and plans as they come to me. Then when I get too many of these ideas and lists and sketches scattered about, I will tear them out and slip them into clear sheet protectors and then place them in the correct three-ring binder, complete with labeled tabs.

Then after I have everything in order, I don’t know where to begin. Which binder was the kids’ back to school supply list in? Where was the list for treatment plans? Where was the mind-map for my dream week? This eventually leads me to the fact that the current organizational system isn’t working.

So I’ll spend time flipping through the shiny plastic coated papers and sort them into new categories. Then I’ll begin to rearrange the tabs, like I’d like to rearrange my life.

I know what you’re probably thinking. That I’m a control freak. Anal. OCD. Manic. Micro-manager. Perfectionist. Hypercritical. Persnickety. Wonder Woman Wannabe.

I raise my hand in surrender. I’m all of the above…most of the time.

So here I go again. I have pared down to one small binder and I’ve put the other binders away. I am back to the basics with my original, simple day to day plan. I know it works because some of my best months in the past few years have been when I followed it. The problem has always been easing back into the routine after being out of commission for more than a few days. The perfectionist in me doesn’t want to just jump in where I am. I want to start with a clean, perfect house. I’m even sure there is such a thing. Or I think it’ll be best if I start at the beginning of the month. Or after ___________.

Well it’s Monday. I suppose it’s as good a day as any to start. I got out of bed and showered. I even followed my ‘routine’ for the day. I’ll be honest. I had a little bit of difficulty following my plan today. It wasn’t hard remembering what needed to be done, but hard to pace myself. To not panic. To not work ahead. To make myself stop between things. To not do two things at once. To have realistic expectations. And to celebrate the small successes as long as I was making progress.

Today wasn’t perfect, but I think I can call it a success.

Many Blessings on your Journey )O(

The Swamp Thing; Sweat, Tears, and Triumph

I think back to my sappy post from a few weeks ago and am amazed at what all happened between then and now.

I will admit that yes, my husband is sweet and caring and thoughtful and good in bed. And yes he missed us like crazy while he was gone. Yet I found myself rolling my eyes when I saw the fourth text from him within an hour. Wasn’t he supposed to be busy doing all that fancy biomedical training?

He left us with big hugs and kisses and even the sweet little journals, but he also left the pool looking like shit. I mean Swamp Shit. I asked him for weeks if he could get the pool up and running before he left on his trip. I never really paid much attention to what he was actually doing, just that he was working on the pool. Besides, he knew what he was doing. And what a relief, because it was going to be getting hot and the kids were going to want to swim. Come to find out after he left (he was lucky he had already left the state of Oregon) he actually filled it with water after almost a year of non-use. My only guess was that he thought he could do shock treatments daily and the pool fairy would come in the middle of the night and voila! (I’m sure there is a pool fairy, but she’s probably a smart, sassy undine who didn’t want to help him anyway). He had to have been hoping I didn’t go and look over his shoulder or check on the progress he wasn’t making. Honestly, I don’t know what he was thinking, but I sure as hell know what I was thinking.

It was very warm that first week, and the kids were wanting to swim so badly. But after one look at that nasty water I knew I wasn’t letting them so much as dip their big toe in that pool.

So I did what any crazy Mother Bear with fibromyalgia, CFS, ruptured discs, spine hardware, and an “I’ll show him”attitude would do and spent the day draining the pool. Early the next morning I scrubbed and shop vac’d as much and as fast as I could because I desperately needed to refill it before the plastic hardened (the temperature was going to reach the high 90’s that day). I refilled it, scrubbed and rinsed both the filter and the pump and sprayed out the skimmer. For the next several days I spent hours using the broom and net. I checked the chlorine and pH, and added more chlorine. The levels were fine but there was still some debris floating in the water. The skimmer wasn’t doing as good a job as I had hoped. It was also still a bit cloudy. So I gave it a dose of shock treatment and by the next morning the water was clear but all the the debris had sunk to the bottom forming a gross sludge.

Here I was at the end of week one and also at my wit’s end. But I wasn’t about to give up. I began rigging a pool vac. I had no idea what I was doing other than slowly morphing into an absolute lunatic; but I was cleaning that pool even if it killed me. I had wielded my nightmare into becoming my quest and I spent 5 hours, a ton of duct tape, an extra garden hose, pool hose, and shop vac hose…. and after a ton of trial (the original pool vac was completely useless by the way) and error, cuss words, and more trial and error, I must say I’m proud of the crazy looking thing I thought up. With a good siphon trick, (with a little added suction boost from the pool fairy who had been watching all of my hard work and was obviously now on my side) I was well on my way to victory. I was going to conquer the monster from the bottom of the pool and the demon within.

Towards the end I felt a burst of much needed energy as I pictured my significant other sleeping at the Marriott getting fresh towels daily and his bed made for him. I was sure he had already swam plenty of times while I had been here working my butt off so that our kids could get the chance to. He was fed meals during his classes and given a $27.00 per night dinner allowance while I was too tired and in pain to cook, doling out freezer meals to the kids that I had warmed in the microwave.

Several hours after I had finally finished the pool my husband called. He asked why I hadn’t answered any of his texts. I curtly responded that I hadn’t had much of a chance to look at my phone. Without much pause he told me about his Sunday afternoon. He went for a walk to the city center where he decided to watch the new Star Trek movie and then wandered around the mall for a while. Then on his leisurely stroll back he sent me pictures of the scenery, the park, the neat statues, etc. He then made an offhand comment about me sending him some pictures of myself later on.

That was it. I felt like an enraged cartoon character (think Tom the blue cat or Wile E. Coyote) red with anger, whistling like a steaming hot tea kettle about to blow. I had held it together, kept my complaints to a minimum, was supportive of him. But now all bets were off. I spoke through a clenched jaw to keep my voice down as I explained to him what kind of Hell I had been living in. My fingers were cracked and raw from all the stupid tape and I had a horrific sunburn. And on and on went my tirade. I felt so much better afterwards and had a good cry. All while he was still on the phone.

I had done one of my crash and burn cycles plenty of times before, and I spent the next 7 days recovering from the pain flare that I caused myself. The kids did get to swim a lot the next few days while I lounged in the adirondack watching them splash each other and play “shark”. All I needed then was a cute straw hat and an ice cold lemonade.

And as much as I hated to admit it, I also felt a deep need for my husband. Maybe it was my triumph. Maybe I was proud to prove to him I could do it. Perhaps it was because I realized I had the strength to do something so physically challenging by myself. Or quite possibly it was after faithful daily Qigong practices of the 8 Brocades, some heartfelt journaling, meditation, a myofascial release massage, and extra helpings of pain medication and supplements. Maybe a combination of all those things. All I knew was that I actually missed the lazy ass.

Many Blessings on Your Journeys of Triumph )O(

Vanity and the Choice of Ego; Careful, You Just Might Get Burned

We fly out in less than a week. I haven’t been back to Southern California in almost 13 years. I was born and raised in sunny Southern California but it’s hard to call it my “hometown” or “where I’m from” anymore. It feels like a lifetime ago.

I most certainly don’t feel Californian anymore, but apparently when I’m angry, tired, hurt, or frustrated I’ll react in unflattering ways (like a toddler, now that I think about it). When this happens, my husband will simply fold his arms and give me a wry smile and call me his “Cute Little Valley Girl.” He has also become quite good at mimicking my squinted-eye glare. Sometimes to my horror, I still give him the satisfaction of an involuntary hair-flip.

I really need a new shtick.

So when he called me on my immaturity today, I became embarrassed rather than angry. But you see, I need a new bathing suit because the one I have is literally 11 years old. Granted, swimsuit season is pretty short where I am now, meaning my old swimsuit could easily live to see another 8 years. “But dammit”, my ego tells me, “you deserve a nice bathing suit. Just think about all that time you’ll have to hang out at the hotel pool with the kids…with your husband…with lots of other women who will be in bikinis and look waaaayyy better than you.” (granted, it’s the Disneyland Hotel, not a Laguna Beach resort).

I decided to go to the specialty swimsuit store in Portland. If their clientele was just as ego-driven as I was, consisting of beyond pale moms who were insecure with their bodies, I would surely fit in.

This was a smart store, (brilliant really) where the dressing rooms had lighting that flattered, a salesperson who acted genuinely interested in what a bathing suit could do for my boobs as well as my gave birth to 4 kids tummy. They even served free beer. I accepted it (there were cup holders inside the dressing rooms). The fact that they knew I was going to need alcohol in order to take my clothes off in front of a complete stranger was not lost on me but I recovered quickly thanks to the amber colored beverage that snaked its way down into my belly.

Finally, after trying on 8 swimsuits, I found the perfect one. Except when I turned around. Wow, I was pale. Very pale. I’ve been trying to be good and haven’t laid out in the sun for the sheer purpose of a tan for well over a decade. But truth be told, I’ll sometimes look back on those California days of built-in swimming pools in my backyard that resulted in deep, golden tans. Back in the day when my teeth were a dazzling white and I didn’t need beer in order to take my clothes off in front of a stranger. I turned to the side and sucked in my belly. I stuck out my chest. If I just had a little bit of sun on my legs, just enough to take away some of the glare….maybe some of the dimples…

Besides, whoever said Witches can’t have a tan? When did that become the rule? I’ve done the pale Stevie Nicks thing long enough, and in my defense, I’m very deficient in vitamin D. I mean, isn’t that what happens when there’s not a lot of sun? I think so.

My next stop was the tanning salon. This is coming from someone who just a few months prior looked at herself in the mirror, completely naked and admired her female body and all its flaws. But the salon smelled like pina-colada. The bubbly girl behind the counter explained all the package deals and as a lightly bronzed woman was leaving, she was asked how her session went. She answered with, “it felt amazing, as usual.” So I did what any nonsensical witch would do, I signed the release, consenting to new wrinkles and further skin damage. All in the name of ego.

I went the full 10 minutes in the “platinum” bed because I needed a tan real quick.

Of course I didn’t tan, I burned. No, I fried. I should have known better. I did know better. I could have simply painted my toenails. I could have remembered the way I lovingly saw my body, with all its honest flaws. I could have remembered what truly mattered; We were taking the kids on their first plane ride, on their first trip to California, to spend a week at Disneyland, “The Happiest Place on Earth” for their first time.

And here I was thinking about how myself and how I would look to others. That night as my husband was smearing aloe-vera gel on my back, I felt ashamed at my selfishness. I had gotten caught up in my own petty self-consciousness because I was comparing myself to a body from a lifetime ago and worried how I would stack up to others. Anxious about how others would see me. I spent far too much money on a bathing suit that I’ll hardly ever wear because I was burnt to a crisp. Instead, I would have to be covered up and wear a sunhat.

All in the name of Ego.

I knew better, and now I realize how much more I liked myself before I allowed my ego to get the best of me. Before I got burned. Just Live, Learn, and Love your Body.

Many Blessings on Your Journey )O(

The Accidental Marvel

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My youngest daughter fell off the bike at school yesterday. The class was riding on a gravel path and she rode down the hill way too fast, didn’t see the big rock coming right towards her, and…well….the result was a big, deep hole in her knee. She’s now got plenty of stitches and I must say she was pretty brave. Me, not so much. Now I’ve seen a lot of things over the years being a mom of 6, but when they started scrubbing with wadded up gauze and saline….well…they scoured her wound like I would scour my bathtub. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
On our way home from Urgent Care we stopped by and picked up her very first pair of glasses. I had gotten a phone call last Friday letting me know they were ready but I didn’t feel like I had the time to drive into town to get them. Besides, what was a few more days? She’s come this far without glasses, so what difference did it make?
Maybe the fact that she (perhaps) would have been able to actually see the rock up ahead in plenty of time.
I have felt guilty watching her limp around on a stiff leg while wearing her new glasses and then bumping into walls because her depth perception is off. It’s a good thing she has a sense of humor, otherwise I would have had a hard time keeping my laughter in-check. Shame on me, I know. But like most parents, I’ve learned to at least try and make light of minor yet unfortunate events; for the sake of all concerned, whether guilt ridden or not.

But hey, let’s not stop there. (yes, there’s more!) To help heap on the guilt, her class is heading out on an end of the school year field trip tomorrow that she has been excited about for months. The doctor wasn’t very helpful by way of opinion and told me to use my own discretion on whether or not she should go. I guess I wanted a green light. However, it’s a two hour hike including some switchbacks. I didn’t think the field trip was going to happen for her now. In fact, it was pretty obvious, I just needed to find a way to tell her that.
And there, in the midst of my dilemma, a touching moment occurred that made me take pause. While eating her cereal my daughter looked thoughtfully out the window (she had put her glasses on first thing this morning) and she said, “Momma, I never knew leaves looked like that. They are so…so vibrant!” Her statement, though a tad bittersweet, made me smile. She continued looking out the window, pointing out birds in the distance, the defined puffiness of the clouds and their trailing wisps….and on and on she went, not caring that her cereal was getting soggy.
With her big, beautiful gray eyes, she gazed upon the world with new-found wonder and curiosity. She explained to me how excited she was to see everything in a new light. To really see. She couldn’t believe how different things looked now that they were more clear. Such surprise in how blurry things were before. She just never knew.

I didn’t want to tell her the field trip was off.
My daughter’s fascination with how clearly she now saw the world reminded me of a moment we had when she was two years-old. I was holding her on my hip and we were both watching the big snowflakes land in her bare hand and I vividly remembered the way she would marvel at the sight of them melting before her very eyes. This memory made me pause. If she only knew the significance of her words. How often am I just going through the motions, not really looking at my life as I live it. The only way I really know how far my mindfulness has wandered is when I pause to refocus. To actually look in order to be aware.

I stopped emptying the dishwasher and went over and sat down next to her at the table. She came over and sat on my knee and together we looked out the window and watched the world happen. She took a big sigh and said, “I know I can’t go tomorrow, but it’s okay. I shouldn’t have gone down the hill so fast.”

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My little girl (who’s not so little anymore) has no idea how much she continues to prompt me to open my eyes and marvel at my surroundings, which at the moment included her. To see clearly not just with my eyes but with all of my senses. If I can find the patience to pause and take in all that surrounds me then the better my chances are of finding the strength to pull back on the force of my whirling world; a world that can all too easily become a blur. To remember that ‘shit happens’ but you learn from it in order to move on to the next marvel.

Many Blessing on your Journey )O(

A Beacon of Light; a Lesson in Trust

 

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I recently spent a sunny afternoon gazing up in awe at the simplistic beauty of a lighthouse. It stood tall and proud against the crashing waves, ready to weather another storm as sentinel upon the cliff.

 

It was a fairly clear day, lacking most of the coastal fog. Looking out over the water, I sensed ethereal silhouettes of bygone ships that had traversed those choppy waters from the time the lighthouse lamp was first lit in 1873. Even in the bright midday sun, it continued flashing its beacon of light, reaching out to guide those who became vulnerable to the whims of the waves. The lighthouse could be trusted 24 hours a day to send out its never ending pulse. I had watched it the night before from the hotel room balcony, mesmerized by its rhythm; two seconds on, two seconds off, two seconds on, and 14 seconds off.

And there I was the next afternoon, standing in the sunlight and within arm’s reach of the lighthouse. Even though I was unable to see the flashing light, I found myself just as captive as I had been captivated the night before.

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How many times had I been like the ships on the crest of a wave, holding my breath in moments of vulnerability, when I knew more than ever it was time to trust. When I really had no choice but to trust.

Dare to Trust.

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Trust is precious and more easily broken than it is earned. Trust is something I struggle with every day. Trust frightens me because to trust means I am allowing myself to become vulnerable to betrayal. Many of my fears and difficulty with trust are based on past experiences such as abandonment by both of my parents as a young child. Many of my basic needs were not met and oftentimes I went hungry.

Dare to Trust once again.
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Trust is complex and delicate. I’ve seen trust lead to success but I’ve also seen it lead to loss and sorrow. To make the brave decision and go all in means I must set down my battle sword and shield. I must remove my armor and place it aside. The possibility of being wounded, to have my heart crash upon the rocks, is a powerful driving force reminding me of my priorities, my loyalties, and most of all, my worthiness.

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Dare to Trust that I am worthy of love.

I know how badly I want to fully trust, but in the same vein I also know how badly I want others to trust me. When I stand strong like the lighthouse, I can trust that others will choose to do the same. I can trust in my resiliency to bounce back from hurt. I can trust that I have learned from past experiences. I can trust in the goodness of other people. I can trust in the Goddess. And I know without a moment of hesitation that others can trust in me.

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Dare to Trust that I am not alone.

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Many Blessings on your Journey )O(

May We Honor Mother Earth Today and Every Day

When we heal ourselves, others are healed. When we nurture our dreams, we give birth to the dreams of humankind. When we walk as loving aspects of the Earth Mother, we become the fertile, life-giving Mothers of the Creative Force. When we honor our bodies, our health, and our emotional needs, we make space for our dreams to come into being. When we speak the truth from our healed hearts, we allow life abundant to continue on our Mother Planet.
~Jamie Sams

Many Blessings on your Journey )O(