"Success is not measured by what you accomplish but the opposition you have encountered and the courage
with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds."

Orison Swett Marden

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Vacation 2011

Because of the “idiocity” of the Minnesota state legislators, the state shut down for nearly three weeks: they couldn’t all agree on a budget. Among other things, what that meant is that state parks closed. And if you know me and my family, you know that is our life-blood in the summer. We had planned to mark the tenth year of week-long annual camping trips by returning to where it all started: Itasca State Park (that’s where the Mississippi River starts, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it). Instead, we paid five times as much and went to a private campground. We got some extras but it was still a painful bite to the pocketbook.

We ended up spending seven days just north of Bemidji, MN, at Summer Haven RV Resort. The swimming wasn’t the greatest but we got our own slip for the boat for the week and we had full hook ups. What does full hook ups mean? Water and holding tank space was not an issue. A bit akin to RV heaven, for me at least.

We arrived on Sunday, July 10th. Our son Craig brought his friend Tyler with us. He’d come along with us or a weekend before but never a week. Allen and I decided we were glad we stopped with our first one. Monday, our first full day, we took the boat out for a spin. I am trying to learn everything I can about the boat so I got it ready to launch while Allen was napping. Save for one thing he never mentioned and I never noticed, I got her ready to go just fine. Oh, and with no emergency room visit for me after getting in and out of the boat while still on the trailer. That’s always good. After our boat ride, we decided to check out the lake for swimming and headed to the beach. Unfortunately, while the beach was level and sandy as promised, it wasn’t the most beautiful. First there was the constant odor of dead fish because when there wasn’t one just laying on the beach like our first trip there, the fish cleaning house was right nearby. Can you say, ewww? Upon taking a couple of steps on the beach I was mesmerized, and not in a good way, by the number of snails lining this sandy beach and huddled in bunches at the bottom of the lake. I do have to give them the fact that the water was clear enough so I could see all those snails. Except the time I didn’t wear my glasses…it felt like shards of glass on my feet even when I was trying to avoid what little I could see of them. And then, when you finally thought you didn’t have to worry about the snails, there were weeds hiding the snails. Can you say, ouch? And Nancy doesn’t like weeds. Not in my garden, not in my lawn and especially not in my swimming area. Sure I grew up camping and I swam in lakes all the time, but I am also a city girl and I’m used to the concrete lake painted a wonderful shade of blue, perfectly clear water and nary a weed in sight. This not being the case at the time, how did I tolerate it? Floaties to the rescue! That’s me below with my famous noodle chair.

Craig got his inner tube, Allen took the air mattress and Tyler….well, Tyler was special. Tyler came on this trip with us with a broken wrist and a full arm cast that, of course, couldn’t get wet. We proceeded to put Tyler in the big tube we pull behind the boat and then tethered him to the dock with the tow rope so he wouldn’t float away. Pretty good idea I think. When at the lake, usually I get a burst of energy, albeit a small burst, to do some real swimming. We were out far enough in our floaties that I didn’t have to worry about weeds (as long as I didn’t let my legs go down straight) so I relinquished my noodle chair and glasses to Craig and set out in a crawl toward the middle of the lake. I did the breast stroke coming back to retrieve my noodle chair and glasses. I said it was a small burst.

I had a chance to do some writing on our last full day out. Here’s a sample…

“Last day at Summer Haven RV Resort. Heading home tomorrow. Today I determined I was going to do anything I wanted—despite kids and husband. Why didn’t I do this earlier in the week? The guys went to the Bog Walk at Lake Bemidji State Park. I’m done walking for a while. My foot doesn’t hurt a lot but it’s very tender because of my chronic pain problem (long name for it when “it hurts” will suffice).

“I started my most-grateful-to-receive alone time by doing some crocheting. I brought it outside to enjoy this lake front view we paid for. It’s humid but the temperature is tolerable as long as the sun stays under the clouds or I stay in the shade. I would never sit outside in weather like this at home but I’m willing to tolerate it—at least for a while. Especially since my kingdom will soon enough consist of a lot on the 1200 block back home and not lake front property. After crocheting a while, I decided it was time to write. I’m also going to enjoy corn chips and the cheese sauce I hid at the bottom of the cupboard. With two teenage boys around, I had to hide it if I wanted to enjoy any of it myself.

“Around me, over the hum of the neighbors A/C, I can hear some birds raising a ruckus in the woods on the other side of our trailer. Occasionally I hear a loon sing its beautiful song ( Loon song.  Here's a link to hear a sample of a loon song. Scroll down to Songs and Calls and Listen to Song to hear it). Willy, our dog, is in his usual spot—under the trailer. Just when I think he’s sleeping, I see those eyes moving, surveying his “property.” This has been a different trip for Willy too. Being at the end of the row of camper lots, he’s had little traffic of any kind to get excited about. Not sure if that’s good to give him a rest too or if that’s what he looks forward to. Here’s Willy taking a stretch break.

“I appreciate so much this kind of life and I have my parents to thank for it. Especially all the hard work it took my mother to get a family of five ready for camping—starting in a big canvas tent no less. When he was younger, my brother used to ask her, “Mom, why are you always so crabby when we go camping?” As youngsters, we had no idea all she had to go through. And while I have a pretty good idea why now (I get a little crabby myself), I only have a family of three. I have told my mom several times how much I appreciate all of her hard work. It instilled in me a great passion, respect and wonderment for the nature God created for us; respect for my fellow campers; thankfulness for being able to “get away from it all” for personal time as well as quality time with my family—immediate and extended; and the willingness to work unsparingly to have those few days away.

“A lot of people ask me what it is about camping that I love so much. I talk about what’s mentioned above but perhaps what is most important to me is who I am when I am camping. The pressures of life can really get to me, especially with a mental illness. But, almost unknowingly, I seem to be able to leave a lot of that at home. In a way, I feel like I become the Nancy God intended me to be. I do what needs to be done, I’m not afraid to be friendly, I’m relaxed and can usually stay in the moment and sometimes I even feel a little sense of that elusive emotion of contentment. Especially after my quiet time today, I feel a bit of that peace. I’m so glad I grabbed on to that before I went home. It makes the thought of going home to the 1200 block more pleasant and I don’t feel so much remorse about leaving.


“Well, I just took a break and took the boat for a spin with Allen. I wasn’t up for a long ride but wanted to take Dad’s boat out for a bit. Whenever I say something about “Dad’s” or “Grandpa’s” boat, my dad always corrects me. “It’s not my boat.” Even though it’s been through my brother and now me, I still think of it as his boat. I remember how happy he was to get it. Riding in others’ boats had gone on long enough and he was ready to have his own. It is a Lund fishing boat and it’s pretty simple but it’s got four comfy seats, a steering wheel and a decent motor. We feel lucky to have it. Like most though, we wish for something more—something bigger and fancier. But if that ever comes, it will be after the trailer, truck and two credit cards get paid off. Might be a while. (Yes, I know the boat is still tied to the dock in the picture below. It was just easiest way to take the pic. I really do drive the boat.)

“So…last day. I think the only reasons I am looking forward to going home tomorrow are because I’m about out of energy to deal with two teenage boys and we can’t really afford this place. Despite the cost, it’s been nice to have the lake front lot and full hook ups. It’s been heaven to shower in my own bathroom. I know that probably sounds strange but other campers can relate I’m sure.

“Last day…what waits for me when I get home?

“Unfortunately the first thing I think of is bills. But we’ve spent all of our money on this trip so I can’t really do much about those right away. Oh well.

“Phone messages. We either have about ten or none. I sit there with my pen ready to take notes and most of the time there is nothing pressing so I never put pen to paper anyway.

“There is the inevitable: unpacking. This is even worse than packing and oh how I hate it. If the forecast is right, it’s going to be miserably hot. Won’t be fun. I’m so glad Craig is old enough to help out with those kinds of things now.

“Laundry. One of my least favorite chores. Thankfully I have a husband who is willing to do quite a bit of it.

“OK, I’ve done my unpacking, started laundry, checked messages and emails and such. Does anything positive await me?

“I hear it’s supposed to be hot all week. Thank heaven for air conditioning and the pool in the backyard. I can hear the pool just calling my name. Craig and I will make use of it. Maybe I can even my tan out a little. Here even Willy enjoyed the pool a little when he was a puppy. Yes, we spoil our pets.

“Friends. Yes, I actually have some friends to go home to. And Monday evening my book study group meets. It will be so good to have some female companionship!!!

“The computer and my Netflix. I love watching movies and TV on Netflix while I’m working on my craft projects.

“And speaking of crafts, I’ll be able to get back into my beloved craft room. I found some beads in Bemidji to make a unique necklace for myself and as well as one for a friend. I’m also in the process of making a necklace and earrings for someone with a birthday coming up so I need to finish that. When I get my gifts done, then I think I’ll switch over to sewing. I have a skirt to make and I’m going to be brave and make my own pattern from a dress I already have. I’ll make another one with some fabric I bought a while back. This, of course, is all dependent on me figuring out the thread tension on my sewing machine. I got so frustrated with it before that I put it all away. Hopefully a fresh start will help. I have a special tote bag project too that I need to get to.

“There is also my afghan. An afghan in the summer? you’re probably asking. Actually it’s a mini-afghan I’m making for the trailer. There are always one or two weekends when we’re camping and it’s cool, causing me to want to snuggle into an afghan so I thought I’d just make one. Plus, it’s really a good distraction and it’s relaxing when I’m all “ahhhhhh.”

“By far, the projects I look forward to the most are my jewelry projects. Like I say about my floral arranging, it is so fun to take a bunch of pieces and put them together in a way that makes them beautiful. And jewelry making is such a major outlet for creativity. Forget books with patterns, I want to make my own designs!

“Well, I’ve found some positive reasons to go home—but I’d rather stay at the lake. Especially being lakeside and in such a private area, I can’t really get this same feeling at home. And I like this feeling. This feeling of being who God intended me to be. Hopefully we’ll be able to make our planned trip to Itasca in a couple of weeks. It’s beautiful and there’s great swimming. While I’m doing my beading, sewing and crocheting, I’ll be praying for nice weather for so that we can celebrate our 10 years of camping trips."

2001 Itasca State Park
2002 Scenic State Park
2003 International Peace Gardens
2004 Duluth, MN
2005 Lake Mille Lacs Kathio State Park
2006 Lake Shetek State Park
2007 Scenic State Park
2008 Lake Carlos State Park
2008 Medora, ND
2009 Savanna Portage State Park
2010 Lake Bemidji State Park
2011 Summer Haven RV Resort, Bemidji

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year...Are you making resolutions?

I was writing on my Facebook wall that I don’t really like New Year’s resolutions. They are too easy to break. In 2007, I was very creative and made a small accordion-folding scrapbook that I’d seen in a magazine. I took pictures of things that represented what my goals were for the year. It was actually pretty good. And I did pretty well with my “goals” that year. Hmm…wonder if that would help me this year?

In any case, if I do have a resolution it’s to remember to send birthday cards out. I am so bad at that. And as a grandmother, it’s practically disgraceful! But, I made our 2011 calendar this year and I have all the birthdays on it…even have each person’s picture on their date…so I have no excuse not to remember! And…I have several cards home already so I am going to go through them and figure out what additional cards I need and I am just going to go buy them at once (I know…that will be spendy…cards cost so much these days). I have a special folder to put them in and I should be set! So, if you want me to remember YOUR birthday with a card, make sure I have your birth date and address!

AND....I have a GOAL to start exercising again. I've kind of slacked off the last month. I am going to burn 3 different CDs with rockin' music so I can put it in our new stereo and blast it so I can really get into exercising! I only wish I didn't have arthritis...I'm pretty much stuck to my Gazelle so it gets kind of boring sometimes. Hopefully the blasting music will help!

Beyond that...finish room switcheroos by organizing and cleaning my office and get some ceiling hangers to hang a couple things in my rooms. Further organization of my craft room (I’ve got a lot of stuff). Oh...and after so many years, I want to finally paint our bedroom. It's a boring ivory...I'm going to liven it up with some green! And of course, I want to get back into my scrapbooking. I have a few sewing projects planned too. I guess I need to finally hang that bulletin board up in my craft room and start a to-do list!

On the personal side...find a new therapist who is willing to work with me on my terms. Try to close the books on a few things. Write more. Try to "enlarge my territory" (comes from the Prayer of Jabez)...not sure how I'll be doing that, but I'll try. Continue to be a HopeCoach for TheHopeLine/Dawson McAllister Association. Maybe through that I can somehow enlarge my territory. Also, keep working on that household budget…start paying back for help we’ve received. I’d like to find room in our budget to make sure we make our monthly gift to church and I’d like to start giving to the ASPCA too. Protection and care of animals has become so important to me. I know our Claire did not come from a good home. I don’t think she was outrightly abused, but neglected for sure. We’ve had her for four years…so she’s about five or six…and she is just now finally learning how to play! It’s so fun to see her batting around a toy mouse or something like that. She was deprived of that as a young cat and my heart goes out to all the animals that need help.

OK…anything else? My list has gotten longer as I’ve been writing. Maybe I do need to make another accordion folding book! If you’re curious, here’s a look. On the front pages I listed those things I wanted to get done. On the back pages, I printed different sayings and quotes that might help motivate me. Like, 12 steps for getting things done, 5 steps for completing a task…”Organization helps keep your goals in focus and you work area and living space orderly, so you will have available the tools you need to accomplish your goals.” “Don’t let time dictate how much you get done. Instead, control your time so you get done what needs to be done.” And there are several others too. Here’s the finished product.

To close, I think I will tell you the actual meaning of the word “resolution.” That’s the first thing in my resolution book.

1) Resolving something; the process of resolving something
2) Formal expression of opinion
3) Decision: of mind or purpose
4) Determination; firmness
5) Solution; an answer to a problem
6) Separation into constituent parts: the process or act of separating something such as a chemical compound or a source of light into its constituent parts
7) The disappearance or coming to and end of symptom or condition such as fever or inflammation
8) Satisfactory conclusion of a harmonic pattern; the movement from a dissonant to a consonant chord or note
9) Part of a story when conflict if resolved

Here’s wish you good luck to YOUR resolutions or goals and to a better and prosperous 2011.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye...and I'm happy to see you go...2010.

Christmas 2010 Photo

Happy New Year to you! It’s been months since my last blog entry. So much for writing regularly, huh? Unfortunately, with depression sometimes comes a loss of concentration and that is what has made it so difficult for me to write. But I couldn’t let the last day of 2010 go by without writing a review of my year. My niece is so positive in her last blog entry that I feel like the most negative person on the planet, but I write it as I see it, I guess. I’ll do my best not to paint too black of a picture for you though.

2010. On one hand, this year has flown by. On the other, it’s dragged on and on. My depression took its hold very firmly in the first months of 2010. I spent time in the hospital in February, March and April, plus an additional month in a daily outpatient program. The month I spent in March and April was like a roller coaster ride. I’ve been in the hospital many, many times since my first admission in 1982, but this was one of the worst. Some pretty bad stuff happened and it has made my life hell but thankfully I have not let it get the best of me and have not been re-hospitalized. I was forced to change therapists so I spent six months with someone that didn’t help me a bit. It wasn’t until talking to my doctor earlier this month did I realize that I felt like all my power was taken away from me. It seemed like all the decisions about my health were being made by others and I realized I needed to take that power back. I hadn’t seen my therapist for about a month so I just wrote a letter and told her I was no longer going to be her client. After doing some research, I made an appointment with a therapist at a small private clinic. I have a couple more weeks to wait for that appointment but it’s going to be very different this time around. I am calling the shots. I know what I need and if he can’t give that to me, I will look elsewhere. I have an awful lot of stuff to work through, even from just from this last year, and I’m getting nowhere on my own so I need to find someone who can really help me…on my terms and not someone else’s. Wish me luck!

At the end of August, I finally started doing my volunteer work for the Dawson McAllister Association. I am a HopeCoach on TheHopeLine (http://www.thehopeline.com/). It is a national help-line for young people ages 13 to 29. I had signed up last fall but with my own health problems, I was not able to start right away. I usually take calls on Sunday nights when the radio show is on, as that is when the need for volunteers is the greatest. Even though I continue to experience my life in all its drama, once I sign on and open the line for calls, I am the furthest thing from a victim. In my time talking to these young people, I have realized that I have learned SO, SO much over the years. I’ve even pulled stuff I learned back in 1985 and used it to help my callers. I’ll tell you, sometimes I am amazed how together I sound when I am being a HopeCoach! One gal even told me one night that I was the most amazing person she had ever talked to. Can you believe that? Oh, that was nice to hear!

I have thought for so many years that if I could not give back and use the things I have learned from all the terrible things that have happened to me in my life, it would all be in vain. I am finding that, as a HopeCoach, I am using those experiences, the things I’ve gone through, the things I’ve learned, often the hard way, to light the way for someone else. It’s a fascinatingly wonderful feeling. And it so cool to see how God works in all of it because I feel like most of the calls I get, I get them because I am supposed to. It’s also helped me a lot in my prayer life…in learning how to pray for others as well as my personal prayer life. That has been really cool too. I am so glad I am involved with this wonderful organization and I thank God for leading me there and giving me the courage and strength to keep doing it.

So…2010…I think it will go down in my record books as the Year of Broken Trust. Yes, someone broke my trust and in a very big way. In a way that still has me reeling and it’s been months. But it took a long time for that trust to develop so I suppose I could use the analogy “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” I honestly believe things could have been handled better but that’s how things went down…in a flurry of disappointment, confusion and anger. On the other hand, I did learn something about myself. When I trust someone to that level, I end up trusting that person more than myself. I am still deeply hurt by the whole situation but I know that this person is gone now and I have to learn to trust myself. I don’t know how much trust I have ever had in myself…that would explain some of my troubles with low self-esteem.

But I’m taking it all back now. I will never trust another person to the level that I trusted the person I lost. Partly because I don’t want to get hurt like that again, but also because I don’t think it’s the best thing for me. I am the only person I am going to be stuck with for 100% of the rest of my life so I have got to be able to “get along” with myself and trust myself. I have to take care of myself, stick up for myself and my rights, because no one else is going to do it for me. That’s why I have been forming a clear picture in my head of what I need out of my new therapist. I am not going to be pulled back into thinking that they always know best…because I know they don’t. I know what I need. My last therapist said that the past is past, over and done with, so it’s no use talking about it. What the hell kind of theory is that? I was molested when I was a teenager and I haven’t completely dealt with it. I had some awful things happen this year to me at the hands of providers, no less, and I need to work through it. I haven’t been able to get past it so I continue to place blame, feel the disappointment, confusion and anger. I’ve got to deal with this. So if my next therapist isn’t willing to talk about the past, I’m just going to say, “Sorry, this isn’t going to work out” and walk out the door. I trust that I know what is best for me at this point. And it’s not like I’m new at this game. I’ve had to find a way to deal with mental illness one way or another since I was 12 years old. I’m 46 now. That’s a lot of years and it’s about time I start giving myself some credit.

So to put it in a more positive light, I guess I could call 2010 The Year of Taking Back My Power or The Year of Self-Trust. After all the events from the beginning of the year, I have learned some things about my illness, or perhaps my eyes were just finally opened enough to see some things I needed to see. My new crisis plan is exactly what I needed and I actually use it now if I have to. And even though I have felt like a basket-case most of the year, it is to my credit that it does not look that way on the outside (at least not since my hospitalizations). I don’t know if someone like me will ever be completely rid of self-harm thoughts, but I’m finally realizing how that will harm others in my life and it helps me keep them in-check. I don’t know if I’ll ever be hospitalized again. Only the Good Lord knows that. With my track record and my kind of illness, it’s likely. But I won’t sit around and wait for it and I’m going to do the work I need to do, and maybe, just maybe, sanity will prevail. Wouldn't that be nice?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The "Wise Mind"

This morning I posted this as my status on Facebook:

“I think I need a double-shot of that 5 Hour Energy stuff...just not looking forward to dealing with my day but I don't really have much choice now, do I?”

We all have “those” days but unfortunately my depression makes me prone to them more often than I like to consider. We just came back from a fun weekend in Minneapolis (including a family reunion on my husband’s side of the family on Sunday) and I think I spent all of my energy…physical, emotional and mental…down there so there isn’t any left for me to use to deal with this week. That was OK yesterday. I managed to put off my 14 year olds pestering to DO SOMETHING and was able to finish a book and hang out in front of the TV. But I won’t be so lucky today. I have to make up for yesterday with him and then “extended family” time begins tonight. My brother and his family are coming from New Jersey and then this weekend we have the family reunion on my side of the family. It all takes energy.

Now I can imagine my family members reading that and thinking, “Gee…we take that much energy to deal with????” Please don’t take it that way. I can’t come up with the energy just to take a shower some days (but don’t worry…I’ll be clean this weekend!). It almost comes down to an art…trying to deal with all the things that are floating around in my head and still be in “the present.” That’s one thing that they are teaching in mental health circles nowadays…being in the present. It’s part of DBT. When asked, I always tell people it stands for Diabolical Behavior Torture. That kind of tells you how I’ve felt about it. It’s actually Dialectical Behavior Therapy and it’s all about staying in the moment and basically balancing your thoughts and emotions.

I’ve gone through two DBT classes in addition to everything they teach when you’re inpatient or in day treatment. My providers know that I’ve been sick to death of hearing about it, but this past winter and spring, I actually began to embrace that which is DBT. I told my psychiatrist not to fall of his chair after I told him that. The two big things about DBT: 1) Staying in the moment, which I’ve already mentioned. It’s about fully putting yourself in your current situation…not letting your mind wander to what is past or future. And you do so in a non-judgmental way…what is happening around you is neither good nor bad, it just is. 2) Wise Mind. Wise Mind involves balanced thinking. Here is the diagram for Wise Mind.

As you can see, the Wise Mind takes into consideration both what is rational and logical and what is emotional. There are times when it’s OK to be totally in one mind. Take for instance, a wedding. Emotions run high…and that’s perfectly acceptable to let yourself feel those emotions and let it show. However, if you’re sitting in court as a witness or for whatever reason, it may not really in your best interest to get all emotional. Wasn’t that Joe Friday on “Dragnet” who used to say, “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”? (You have to be pretty old like me to get that reference!) But that is what the rational mind is about…staying with the facts, what is logical and rational.

But our lives are not simply built on facts…we have these sometimes-messy emotions that make their way in and we have to deal with them. I have had to practice Wise Mind more in these last seven months than I think I ever have. Not only have I had to deal with the ups and downs of my illness, but also losing the person I trusted pretty much the most in this world…and having absolutely no say about it. I have been going through the grieving stages. This included denial, which is a really crappy one to deal with. That is where my Wise Mind has really had to work. I have all these feelings about this relationship and I don’t want it to end…I feel like I won’t even be able to survive it’s ending…but no matter how much my feelings make me fall apart, the fact remains that he is gone. Once I finally started to give up the denial, all I can do is focus on the rational and logical part of the whole situation. He is gone, I can’t do anything about it, and now I have to pick up the pieces of my life. The rational mind tells me that I can’t trust another person so implicitly again because then I start to trust that person more than I trust myself. And I think that’s what happened. When he was ripped away from me, and that’s exactly how it felt, it burned enough to make me realize that even though there may be other people there to help, in the end I can only really count on myself. It’s up to me. As one of my motivational sentences on my whiteboard says, “No one is in charge of your happiness but you.”

This whole entry today went in a totally different direction that what I had planned. A few weeks ago, when we were actually in town on the weekend to go to church, the confession that we read dealt with self-esteem and that’s what I wanted to write about. As thoughts began forming in my mind, I was seeing a connection between DBT and self-esteem...how you can use the DBT skills to work on your self-esteem. If no one is in charge of my happiness but me, I have to take that charge, don’t I? For so much of my life my self-esteem was in the pits, to put it very nicely, but it’s improved and I think the DBT skills can help in that area. And when saying the confession in church, I realized that I don't have to rely on just myself. I have a Godly Father who knows who I really am, without all those messy emotions to cloud the view. Maybe the confesssion will hit home for you too.

Dear Loving Father,
I must confess my self-esteem feels like a bobber in the ocean during a hurricane. It goes up and down, and all around, tossed to and fro, depending on the moment. I try to base it on other peoples’ opinions of me, and those opinions seem to change daily. I try to build it upon my successes and achievements that soon fade with time. My view of self always comes up short when I compare myself to others; my talents, looks, gifts and accomplishments. I’m sorry, Lord, for ignoring and forgetting your view of me. Restore in me a right, clear and true view of who you made me to be in You. Let me build my esteem on the rock of your love, acceptance and forgiveness as a true child of God. Not on the always changing ways of the world. Amen.

That confession involves some Wise Mind too. Comparisons bring up so many feelings about ourselves, but God is not in the comparing business. He loves us equally, fully and individually. If I rely solely on my emotions to tell myself who I am, it’s no wonder I can’t stand myself sometimes. But I am more than a bundle of crazy emotions. When I look at myself rationally and logically…and in a Wise Mind state…I see that I am thoughtful, caring, smart, fun, and a bunch of other things that God made me. I guess that’s the tough part…remembering who I am in God’s eyes...because he has the wisest mind of all.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

And they say there isn’t a perfect?

Not surprisingly, we went camping this past weekend again. We went to Itasca State Park for the second time this year. Craig’s best friend Tyler came with so we were a four-person family. That was very different for me…all this testosterone around! We kept busy, I only had about an hour to sit and relax and read, but that’s OK. Friday night we had our usual dinner and since it was such a beautiful night, I suggested we go for a boat ride on Lake Itasca. The water was pretty much like glass and it was almost majestic-like on the lake. We saw a couple of loons, even a deer on the hillside…something we rarely see. And one of the nicest things about the outing was that I think we have finally learned the right way to get the boat on the trailer. Amazing in itself.

Tyler had never been to Itasca so Saturday we went down to the Headwaters of the Mississippi so that he could experience that and after lunch we took the boys to Lake George and did some serious tubing. They had so much fun! I took a few pictures. I haven’t looked at them yet but I hope they turned out. It’s hard to take a picture when the boat is rocking up and down! And of course, I can’t tell you how much I love driving the boat! Allen finally had to ask me if he could drive. When the boys had gotten enough, we headed back to the campsite, and after being asked, literally, about 10 times what we were having for dinner (they were really trying to get on my nerves!), we had our taco hotdish (delicious and easy). Allen and I did the dishes and then we all headed to the beach.

Temps must have been in the upper 70s or low 80s and there was no wind at all. Since it was evening the beach wasn’t very busy. After we unloaded all of our stuff, I started walking into the water and didn’t hesitate a bit. It was just perfect. I kept walking and pretty soon just took a dive straight in. After being hot and sweating from working with the boat, fixing dinner and doing dishes, I could feel the comfortably cool water envelope me as I swam. It was heaven.

It was nearly dark by the time we got back to the campsite and Allen got a fire started. Even though I had been refreshed by the swim, I was too hot to be close to the fire. We threw one of these chemical packets that Craig has in the fire and it turns the flames different colors. It’s really neat.

This time we didn’t have one of our usual sites so we were back in the woods a little. I made the reservations almost a year ago so I don’t always remember what I’ve done…and of course it depends on availability too. Even though we didn’t have any grass, we were secluded and surrounded by shade (and we were able to put our awning down this time). We were afraid we were going to be totally attacked by bugs over the weekend being in that woody area, but we sat around the campfire Saturday night and not one bug or mosquito bothered us. The clouds had disappeared so we could see the stars between the trees and it was cooling off. It couldn’t have felt more perfect.

I sat there in my rocker in complete amazement. We had such a great day…down at the Headwaters, tubing, a perfect swim and now a campfire with no bugs and stars illuminating the sky above. Again…how lucky can I be? So much in my life seems to be falling apart, and even packing up on Friday was getting the best of me, but nothing and no one can take that splendidly contented feeling away from me. It may not come very often, but when it does, I own it and I basked in it Saturday night.

This morning the guys went to climb the fire tower (my bad ankle got me out of that) while I stayed behind and made fresh caramel rolls for breakfast and enjoyed a little quiet time to read. After that, as the mercury began to rise, we started packing up. We rolled out at 2:00 and headed to the beach for a couple hours. We like to do it that way so we can get cooled off after working up a sweat while packing up. It was a nice day although the wind was starting to pick up a little. I managed a bit of a sunburn on my face (I know…bad Mary Kay Consultant…I didn’t use my Day Solution with the facial sunscreen). After a swim and a change of clothes, we headed out. We stopped in Park Rapids at the Dairy Queen for a quick supper. Willy had his supper too and of course he got his small vanilla cup. I was walking toward him and he was just staring at me until he finally realized what I had. Oh, did he get excited! We spoil him, obviously.

So, another trip that has come and gone. Not too many left. Two family reunions, a weekend off (if it’s nice we may still go out to the lake for the day), and then its five days in Sioux Falls for site seeing and the LifeLight Christian Musical Festival—our second annual trip. We haven’t talked about September yet. We’ll have to see what it brings. It’s kind of sad knowing we’re counting down now, though I won’t miss the work. But its weekends like this one that I have to hold onto to bring me through the long no-camping winter. It's good to have the ability to close my eyes and meditate a little, bringing myself back to a campground and a wonderful night like Saturday night. They say there is no such thing as perfect, but Saturday came pretty close.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hitting you sideways...

I know I just posted yesterday, but I’m in the mood to write again today. It’s been a hot day here in the metro area. Allen had a fishing outing planned with the Men’s Ministry at church so we didn’t see him until about three this afternoon. Craig and I did some shopping. We’re doing some room switching…he’s moving to the downstairs bedroom and my craft room will be upstairs (I’m happy about that because I’ll actually have more room for my stuff). I’ve pretty much let Craig dictate how he wants his bedroom to look. I know I’ve heavily influenced his d├ęcor in the past so I wanted to give him more say this time. His bedding and posters have already arrived and we got paint today along with some other items. Now just to conjure up the energy to start painting! Didn’t start today though…spent some time in the pool instead.

In my first blog entry, I told you that this blog is about the “zoo” that is my life. Lately I’ve just been keeping you updated on what we’re up to, so I thought I should do a real check –in with you since it’s been a while.

I’ve seen my new therapist four times now. It’s going OK. She seems to be asking me the right questions, even if I don’t always like them. The mental health staff at MeritCare/Sanford aren’t doing anything to make me feel very welcome anymore. I had wanted to keep my same psychiatrist because I also see a neurologist at MC/S for migraine headaches. Medications prescribed for migraines often crossover to psych meds so I thought it would be better for those two doctors to be at the same place. But when I saw my psychiatrist last week, I felt a boatload of indifference from him. Of course, he told me it didn’t matter to him who I saw, but I still felt an attitude of “whatever” coming across. So I may end up getting a psychiatrist at Lakeland Mental Health just because I’m sick of MeritCare/Sanford and how they have treated me this year.

Unfortunately I haven’t been doing much journaling lately. I have been feeling somewhat depressed and have very little energy, but it seems that I have been choosing not to deal with the feelings that are lurking beneath. Cheryl, my therapist, manages to get to them when I see her and I don’t like that very much. Can you say DENIAL????? Last Wednesday I kept saying over and over to myself, “I’m not going to cry. I’m not going to cry.” Damnit if I couldn’t keep those tears back. The $64,000 question was: Is it OK to have these feelings? My answer: well, it’s supposed to be. Meaning…I’m not feeling like these feelings are OK. I’d like to treat them like TV mobsters treat their enemies: put them in a bucket of cement, let it harden and then throw it out to sea.

But I should know better than that. I’ve been dealing with unwanted feelings most of my life and my “homework” is to journal about my current feelings as well as the facts. I tend to distort facts and feelings often, as most people with measureable mental illness do (well, even those without mental illness can be prey to distorted thinking). I’m so sick of what has happened to me this year I just want to pull out of everything. Why do I need a therapist right now anyway? Cheryl told me she thinks I am making decisions based on emotions rather than fact. Well, uh, shit. I suppose she’s right.

But it’s hard to be in this place. I’m confused. I’m not supposed to trust people as much as I have in the past but yet how do I know where the line is? When pushed, the feelings that surface are, at the very least, uncomfortable. Feelings of sadness and loss. Abandonment. Frustration. Betrayal. Grief. Who wants to feel that stuff? And even more so, who wants to deal with it all? I’ve got things hitting me from all angles: mental health therapy, physical problems (my foot and ankle as well as my migraines), the lack of energy to keep up with “normal” day to day things, family concerns, financial concerns, etc. And clouding over everything is that feeling that I just don’t think I can deal with it all. Of course, I should know better there too because I have already been to hell and back a few times in my life…this is definitely not the worst year I’ve ever had. It’s easier to give in to the negative though.

I drew an Angel card before I started writing. I wanted to put it back and draw another but I know that’s cheating! My word is “Light.” Light can mean many things. The first thing I thought of was the light at the end of the tunnel. Have you heard the one about it being an oncoming train? That seems to be the way my life is a lot. If I look inside and find my spirituality, my relationship with God, I do remember that He is the Light. The Light and the Way, as a matter of fact. I think I am missing the crucial component of spirituality in my life…my personal relationship with God isn’t full of a lot of light right now. All the pastors I relied on for many years have moved on so I’ve kind of been in stasis for a couple years. I need to find someone who “gets” me and who can challenge my spirituality on my level. I don’t know where to find that person, but I do think it would help me…to get some Light back in my life again. To get in touch with my spirituality in God again. That may help everything else too.

For now, I need to look in the cages of my “zoo” that are messed up and start being honest at least with myself about the feelings that are rattling around in there. I do see where I’m holding back. My first psychiatrist, who I think is an absolute genius, said that you can’t avoid your feelings. If you do, they will hit you sideways when you’re not looking.

Been there, done that.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Home Sweet Home

We came home from our vacation at Lake Bemidji State Park last Sunday night. Rolled into the driveway about 8:00. It was such a beautiful day that day it was harder than usual to leave. As we often do, we got packed up and ready to roll, then after getting all hot and sweaty, went for a wonderful swim to cool off for the ride home. After about 30 miles, we passed Itasca State Park. I was tempted to radio Allen and Craig to ask them if they wanted to go camping there for another week.

We were having trouble getting internet service the last part of the week so I wasn’t able to keep up with my writing…I figured if I couldn’t post it, it would be “old news” by the time I did. I read two enjoyable books, however, which was nice. It’s hard to concentrate with my depression so reading isn’t very easy so I was happy to be able to get through two. We had pretty good weather last week, with a few rain storms. One evening, about 6:30, it had been raining and we heard a loud pounding on our trailer door. It was the campground host. There was a tornado warning out for the area and we were instructed to go to the basement Visitor’s Center or the restroom buildings. That was interesting to be in the Visitor’s Center with over half the campground…many people soaked to the skin from running to the building from their sites. Children, pets, teenage girls. We must have been there about 45 minutes until the warning expired. Apparently a tornado had touched down somewhere but we were fine. We used that as a movie night since we couldn’t do much else.

Saturday was another beautiful day, though it was a little windy. I didn’t have a lot of energy so I finished my second book but then I was anxious to get out on the lake. Craig wasn’t interested so Allen and I headed to the marina. On the way, I qualified the little expedition by telling Allen, “Only if I can drive.”

We don’t have a very fancy boat. It’s just a 16 foot Lund fishing boat with a 40 horse Johnson motor for power. Willy likes to lie underneath the steering column when we go out. The boat has actually been in our family for a few decades. My memory for dates is usually right on but this one is a little fuzzy. I’m guessing it was probably 1983 when my father bought it. You can see pictures of it in my blog entry dated June 3rd. After Dad felt he was done using it, it was passed on down to my brother Mark and he had it several years. A few years ago he was ready to upgrade so I jumped at the chance to get that boat. Allen has had a couple other boats during our marriage but none that really suited me. The first was a leaky fiberglass boat in which the trailer was as ugly as the boat. The next one was a little better. My stepson Kevin actually found it for us. This one had a floor in it but parts of it were rotten. Such a good kid…he replaced the floor and all of the indoor/outdoor carpet. It had a 30 horse motor on it, which was an improvement for us, but still didn’t take us anywhere very fast. I’m guessing it was 2005 when we inherited Dad’s boat. Finally¸ a steering wheel! And the extra 10 horse power really made a difference. It wasn’t long and we invested in a good tube, which even Allen, at his age, rides in.

A little background…
In 2005, we spent our week’s vacation at Lake Mille Lacs Kathio State Park near Brainerd. It was one of our favorite vacations. Craig loved it there. There was so much wildlife to see…deer all over the place. They had a great naturalist program. We learned about white-tailed deer, frogs and how the Native Americans made rope out of wood. My favorite part of the week was going on a canoe ride with Craig down the Rum River. The river was crystal clear…I saw a huge northern and we enjoyed paddling by the marshy sides.

The worst part of the week came the day before we left. Allen’s back went out. And I mean completely. He couldn’t move at all. I had to call an ambulance. Luckily my stepson Brian and his girlfriend were able to come to us so Brian could drive a vehicle home (because we had both the camper and boat with). At the time we still had our pop-up camper, which is relatively easy to handle so I didn’t have a problem with packing up and getting us going, even though it was tough doing both my jobs and Allen’s. The moral of this story is that I need to know how to take care of things if Allen isn’t able to. For instance, last weekend I had my first official lesson on how to hook up the trailer. It needs stabilizer bars and all this so it’s a little more complicated than the pop-up. Then there is the boat. What if we were out in the middle of the lake and, God forbid, Allen had a heart attack or something and I didn’t know how to work that boat? For that reason alone, I knew I had to learn.

Saturday as we reached the marina, I didn’t want Allen to do a thing. I did everything from hook up the depth finder (I like to know how deep of water I’m in), pump the air out of the gas line and prime the motor. I got her started on the second try. :)  I’m learning how to maneuver much better now too, backing up and such. I got us out of the channel and out on Lake Bemidji and pushed the throttle down. I pretty much circled the whole lake.

There is another side to this story though. Even though we are the third owners of the boat, in my mind, that boat is still my dad’s. When I’m sitting in that driver’s seat, I feel a kind of spiritual connection to him. Just about every time I’m in the boat, I think, who knew, 20+ years ago that I would own his boat and would be flying across the water, loving the feeling of the wind whipping through my hair? While towing the guys in the tube, I can’t help but think that Dad would be proud that I remember the lessons he taught me about boating and that I am able to handle it so well. Even the trailer. I’m the one who takes the boat so I do all the backing up and such. I get so frustrated with Allen because I think he still thinks I’m a “girl” and don’t know how to do that! But I can back that thing up into its tight little space between the garage and utility pole without a problem! (Hah!) And each time we launch and load, I get more involved so I can get to the point where I’ll be able to do that by myself as well.

So, another annual vacation has passed us by. We have four more camping trips scheduled and may add some in the fall. Next weekend we’re headed to Itasca again and Craig is bringing his best friend Tyler along. They are both very excited about that. Then to Minneapolis for a family reunion on Allen’s side. We’ll celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary that Friday, Twins game Saturday and reunion Sunday. The following weekend is my family reunion on Lake Sarah, near Mentor, MN. Then we get a weekend off before we take a five day trip to Sioux Falls. We’ll be staying at a state park near there. We have a couple of days for doing our own thing, but for the weekend, we’ll be at the LifeLight Music Festival to hear some of the best Christian bands out there. It will be our second trip to the festival.

It’s been a busy summer camping for us. Years ago, a psychologist told me that if I could just go on a perpetual camping trip, I would have no problems with my mental health. Well, I’ve had some very difficult stuff thrown at me this year so maybe that’s why I was prompted to fill our calendar so full when I was making reservations last year. Somebody up there is looking out for me.