"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

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.

Monday, July 19, 2010

It Doesn't Feel Like Monday

It’s Monday. We’ve rested up after our first night. I don’t think I was ever as tired as I was Saturday night. We got here around 5:00 but it took us a couple of hours just to get set up. Somewhat of a camping nightmare. We found out just driving up to our site that it was not going to be user-friendly. It wouldn’t be so bad if you had a smaller trailer but our 26 foot trailer was feeling a little squished…even though I did request a big enough site. Turned out that if we parked the trailer in an “ideal” position, we couldn’t open the door. Not actually “ideal.” And we couldn’t back up the trailer further because there wasn’t enough clearance for the stabilizer jacks to pass over the cement slab. So we were stuck. We had to pull the trailer forward to clear the door and we are unable to use the awning. Which I really miss…especially since we will be here a week. I love sitting under the awning. It’s especially nice when it’s raining to be able to sit under there. Of course, not when there are gale force winds, but a soft rain makes it kind of relaxing under there. We do have a screen tent, however, so Craig and Allen did put that up. Which is good, because there are quite a few more bugs here than we’ve had to deal with this summer.

In any case, we had a heck of a time just to get the trailer level. One block, two blocks, back to one block. Allen even had to re-hitch the trailer to move it again. And then there was the boat. No good place to put it. Well, there’s a good place to put it, but next to impossible to back it up in there. Allen had this one bright idea to push it onto our site perpendicular to the road. It would not work. And so much for Minnesota-nice. Our neighbors sat there and stared at us like we were a three-ring circus, not offering help of any kind. In the end, I finally got Allen to listen to my idea and we got it backed up and parked. By this time we were hot, sweaty and sick and tired of all the rig-a-ma-roll. We managed to have a good supper of “best-ever hamburgers” and salads that my loving mother made for us. Craig actually loved the Spam salad! After supper I was so tired I didn’t even think I could make it through washing my face without falling asleep, but I did and then crawled into bed about 9:00 (I know that’s a shocker to my late-night friends).

Yesterday was a pretty lazy day. We tried to get internet but couldn’t…only to find out last night while it doesn’t work inside the trailer, it does work when we’re sitting out here at the picnic table. Go figure. Craig and I did some reading, Allen took a long nap, I tried to take a nap, we played some Wheel of Fortune with Craig. Nothing very strenuous. After dinner we went for a walk and ended up at the beach. Allen and Craig weren’t bothered by the humidity but it was killing me. Craig and I waded into the water, and once we got used to it, it felt kind of nice. Hence, the decision to go swimming. We walked backed to the campsite and got our suits on and went back to the beach. We washed our hair and enjoyed a good splash fight, all the while Willy was barking up a storm on the beach. I found a pail and filled it full of water and splashed him. He loves it. He barks and jumps, trying to catch the water.

I felt 100% better after that swim. The water was clear and felt just the right temperature after getting used to it. I was ready to come back to the camper and get ready for bed. I slept good last night and we had our breakfast muffins out on the picnic table this morning when Willy provided us with a wonderful laugh. We were watching as a small chipmunk was making his way to the screen tent. As soon as he got up to the tent and started rustling the bottom edge, Willy was on him like frosting on cake. He set a speed record going from the opposite side of the screen tent and under the picnic table. That chipmunk ran so fast I didn’t even see which way he went! And you’d think he’d learn. That little chipmunk is still hanging around the campsite. He’s been exploring the firepit where Craig put his breakfast plate. I’m not sure if Willy is going to figure out he can actually get out of the tent by going under it. Then there will be madness!

Cloudy day here today. Only about 70 degrees. We’re about to have some lunch and then I’m not sure what’s on the agenda. It’s sprinkling on and off so we may take a trip into town. Craig always wants to know what we’re going to do…and I don’t want to figure it out until we’re going to do it (when we’re camping at least), so we’ll see what the rest of the day brings.

P.S. I know the sign includes Claire's name but she's not with us. So far the camper has scared her to death, but we couldn't leave her name off! She is on guard duty at home.

A Different Point of View

This post was written on Saturday, July 17th.

It has finally come. Our annual week-long camping trip. This year: Lake Bemidji State Park.

It was “dual driving” for this trip. Lake Bemidji is not entirely located on state park property so they do not have the “no wake” laws and we can go tubing and such so we definitely wanted to have the boat with for our week here. When we both drive, Allen takes the trailer with his truck and I take the boat with my Explorer. When we first started the dual-driving, I always led. I suppose it could have been a “ladies first” thing, but I think Allen was mostly concerned that if I had a problem he wanted to make sure he didn’t keep going if I stopped. Since then, we now have a pair of good walkie-talkies to communicate with each other (and now all three of us have cell phones too) but I still lead. As I drive, I spend my time singing to whatever CD is blaring, talking to Willy, looking ahead to where I’m going and in the rear view mirror to make sure Allen’s still behind me. Sometimes I get a little heavy-footed for him, so I have to slow it down. He is pulling over three tons, after all.

Saturday I was having trouble getting situated though. My back was bothering me and my little pillow just wasn’t sitting right (my automatic lumbar support doesn’t work anymore). We weren’t even into our drive 30 minutes, and I had to pull over in Lake Park to get myself “re-situated.” I called Allen on the walkie-talkie and told him what I was going to do and asked him if he wanted to pull over with me or just keep going and I’ll catch up. He opted to keep going. So I pulled over into a liquor store parking lot (what else is there in Lake Park to pull into?) and adjust my pillow and whatnot. A few minutes later I was on my way again.

It’s kind of funny. I figure when people see me, a woman, pulling this boat around, then they see a man pulling a trailer behind me, I think they automatically assume we’re together. But at this point, I was on my own. Just a woman and her dog driving down Highways 10 and 34. I always think they must be wondering what in the world a woman is doing with her own boat. As if we can’t own and operate such things ourselves.

Anyway, I got through Detroit Lakes and onto Highway 34 to Park Rapids but I still hadn’t caught up to them. I tried the walkie-talkie, but with the hills and trees, I didn’t get a response. Finally my phone rang and it was Craig. Just then, on a long open stretch, I spotted them about a mile ahead of me. We’d meet at the Casey’s store just as you enter Park Rapids. That’s kind of our usual stopping place.

Usually when I drive, I see a picture somewhat like this in my rear view mirror:

Now, of course it doesn’t look like this, but I didn’t think to actually take a picture of my rear view mirror for you. That’s probably a good thing because I really should concentrate on my driving a little more the way it is.

I kept driving and pretty soon I caught up to them and this was my view.

I was struck by the difference. As we (meaning Willy and I) kept getting closer, there was this feeling of anticipation…we were getting closer to our family. When we were close enough, I excitedly told Willy, “There they are…there’s Papa and Craig!” He instantly woke up and put his front feet on the console between the seats, looking expectantly out the front window. I kept wondering if he actually recognized the trailer. The rest of the way to Park Rapids I just kept thinking how different it felt to be the follower instead of the followed. Driving alone, I felt a bit out of place. Like I was missing something. But when I caught up to Allen and could make out the “Wildwood” on the back of the trailer, I thought, “That’s mine…that’s ours. That is where I belong.” I felt part of a matched set again.

After our stop at Casey’s, Allen offered me the lead again and we were off…about 50 miles left. I took our usual route through Park Rapids and I started the familiar pattern of driving, singing, talking to Willy and checking my rear view mirror.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fourth of July Weekend

July 7, 2010

Well, we all survived July 4th for the year. We spent our weekend camping. No surprise, I’m sure. We went to Itasca State Park, home of the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Humidity was pretty much the word for the weekend. I just can’t deal with heat and humidity very well so I was happy to be able to escape to the trailer and air conditioned air. No, I am not spoiled, remember. I’ve paid my dues to have that A/C so I won’t feel guilty about it! Except for a very long-lasting thunderstorm Friday night to Saturday morning, at least it was decent weather aside of the H&H. After setting up, we were warm so we headed down to the headwaters. We always have to stop at the gift shop, no matter how often we go there. I got an unbelievably soft t-shirt—one that just makes you melt right into it. At the headwaters, we were all able to get in the water, including Willy, and cool off. Still dealing with foot pain, all the walking I did over the weekend was tough so I’ve been trying to stay off it the last couple of days. Can’t tomorrow though…gotta clean house.

Sunday night we went into Park Rapids for their fireworks display. It was phenomenal! We sat in a vacant lot with many others, right next to the river, where they seemed to have been shooting them off from. Some of the fireworks were so big and so close, it seemed like I could reach out and touch them. I actually had to slump down in my chair and rest my head against the back to see everything! They constantly had 3, 4, 5 or more rockets going off at a time. My regret: I didn't bring the camera. I could have had some awesome pictures for you. Oh well.

Going back to Friday...

Friday night I sat in my rocking chair under my awning…just sitting there and looking at what was going on around me. Mindfulness. Concentrating on just what was happening at the time, just what I was feeling at the time. I was amazed how contented I felt. Contentment is a feeling that is rather allusive to me. The trait can be found on my list of “characteristics of my ideal self.” It prompted me to pull out my journal.

From journal: Friday, July 2, 2010

Coming to you from Itasca State Park for a three-day weekend. It must be about 9 or 9:30. It’s a little humid but nice out tonight. I’ve been sitting here under my awning, rocking in my rocking chair, eating sunflower seeds to keep my hands busy and thinking how lucky I am. This is not a feeling that overtakes me very often. Usually I am dwelling on all of the bad things in my life and stand in puddles and puddles of negative emotions and distorted thinking. But right now, I sit here in all my “me-ness,” and I still feel lucky. I feel good. It’s like this is my kingdom. We may not have the longest or newest trailer in the park, but it provides us with everything we need and a lot more. We have the biggest awning made and I have nice outdoor carpeting under it so I can go barefoot and not get my feet full of sand and dirt. I love to go barefoot…especially when I can only wear one pair of shoes like right now. Red lantern patio lights flicker from the awning, a beautiful wood name plaque sits on the front of the trailer, next to our truck that doesn’t look like it’s falling apart…and again, this lovely trailer behind and around me.

All those years in a tent. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything (well, maybe a few I would…but those trips make for good stories—like the night I was visited by three skunks in my campsite). But now I sleep on a real mattress, I can take ice cream and other frozen items when we head out, we don’t have to lug coolers and worry about ice, when the heat and humidity get to me, and I can escape to air conditioned comfort, I can microwave a snack or bake cinnamon rolls in the morning.

I suppose all those appreciations are the difference between me and someone who started camping at this level. They take for granted all the amenities: refrigerator/freezer, microwave, oven, hot water, shower, etc. They don’t feel lucky. They probably don’t sit out here in near darkness writing in their journals about how lucky they feel to have what they have. Yes, we’re in debt up to our eyeballs, but being out here in this kingdom is really the only thing that brings that feeling of contentment for me. My life greatly lacks that quality. But here, tonight, under the awning of our 26 foot trailer, I sit with a smile on my face for a couple hours. All the bad stuff in my life is gone right now and I’m a contented person feeling so lucky to be having this experience. And it makes it all the better knowing how many more times I will sit in this spot yet again this summer.

Feels like nothing short of a miracle that I can feel this way.