- It’s the last day of February and it feels like spring is coming.
- I enjoyed a spa day with my mom. Her COVID anxiety dropped drastically after the second dose of the shot.
- My daughter’s name finally came up on the waiting list for residential care.
- Arabella finished all of her high school coursework online and will be graduating on time! I’m grateful she has completed school before residential. I honestly didn’t think she would be able to pull it off, but she did. Yeah!!
- My daughter Angel achieved great success with her hobby business and her work will be displayed online with a popular brand.
- I’m grateful for a coffee date with my best friend.
- I’m grateful I was asked to give my testimonial for the wellness clinic. I thought maybe they just wanted me to write a little something. But they want to do a video of my success story. I think it’s pretty cool to have the opportunity to share my story.
- I’m grateful that my hard work paid off so I could have a success story to share.
- I’m grateful that my daughter Angel spent a couple days visiting at home. We watched some old movies while I worked on my puzzle.
- I’m grateful that my husband and son are on their way home after spending a couple days on their annual fishing trip with the guys.
Romantic films have happy endings. In real life only the beginnings are happy and nothing ends well. But then, nothing really ends.The Daughter by Jane Shemilt
I picked up the book The Daughter at the airport in Chicago as I was waiting for my flight. I brought a book with me but almost finished it on the long layover. I bought the book because it looked intriguing. I know, I know, one should never choose a book by its cover. I didn’t know the author. How risky!
The main character of this fictional book was a physician whose daughter went missing. I don’t want to give anything away so I won’t. I’ll just tell you that I really liked it and think you would like it too. It struck some heavy chords such as if I wasn’t so busy at work I would’ve known something was wrong with my daughter.
Blame. It’s so easy to get into that trap as a parent. I’ve asked myself many of times what I did wrong. Maybe if I was paying more attention I would’ve known my daughter was depressed. Maybe she wouldn’t have tried to kill herself. Maybe she wouldn’t have mutilated her body so badly from cutting that she needs plastic surgery to look like she did before. But maybe, just maybe, I am part of the reason she is alive right now.
It’s hard not to blame yourself as a parent in the transition from everything’s normal to there is something really wrong. It’s easier to brush it off as a one off even though the patterns indicate it’s clearly not. We tend to trick ourselves into believing everything is fine and blame ourselves later when it’s obviously not.
At the end of the book I read the write up on the author. She is currently a full-time physician and mother of five. In her free time she went back to school to get a Master’s degree in writing and wrote a couple of books, one is a bestseller that I didn’t read yet. How impressive is that?? The author has a brilliant mind and it comes through in her writing. I loved the above quote from her book. Her quote pretty much sums up why I don’t like romance novels. Sometimes life is messy and things don’t work out in the end. I read a book a couple of months back that was a real mess but everything magically worked out in the end. I hated it because it offered false hope and not real life.
My favorite genre of books are psychological thrillers, mysteries, and dramas. I love reading self-help books too because who doesn’t want to fix themselves and everyone around them?!? I also love the classics, historical books, and survival stories fictional and non.
I don’t always want a happy ending. I want real characters and personable honest people. What are you really thinking and experiencing? I want problem upon problem. I want to know how people handle adversity. I don’t want things to magically work out in the end. I don’t know about you, but that is not how my life has been. I want to analyze how people deal with difficult circumstances. I want to know about the things you don’t want to tell anybody.
I finished my book that I was writing. It’s been over a year now. I even sent it off to test readers. But things changed. Since then I found out about the crime my dad committed. My daughter started struggling with serious mental health issues. I was no longer constrained to writing about my experiences as a sibling of someone with serious mental health issues. I could now write as a mother.
I am hoping to process everything I’ve experienced within the past year and write about it on my blog. From there I would like to incorporate it into the first edition of my book. To me it’s not all about happy endings, it’s about learning to live with what we have been given. There is beauty to be found in tragedy. That is where real stories of hope, courage, and inspiration lie.
Maybe she just needed a break. That always makes me feel better.
We had a trip planned. Paul and I were renting a van to drive down to Florida. We were taking Arabella and our two foreign exchange students with us.
I imagined how perfect spring break was going to be. Sunshine and shorts after another long winter. Estelle and Arabella together on a long road trip becoming best friends once again. My daughter becoming a functional depressed person like I am. She said it was a mistake and wouldn’t happen again.
But our magical trip wasn’t meant to be. The week we were scheduled to leave Disney World closed. A new virus was sweeping through the nation. In my lifetime I’ve seen many viruses come and go, but this was different. People were panicking. We didn’t know what was happening. We didn’t know what to believe. It reminded me of when HIV first came out and people were afraid to use public bathrooms. With a world of information at our fingertips, we still didn’t know what we were dealing with.
We debated whether or not to take the trip after Disney closed. Since we were driving, would we be able to stop to have sit down meals after a long drive? Some states were closing. Would gas station bathrooms and rest stops even be open? Was that the America we wanted our foreign visitors to see? What happens if someone gets sick? Could we get trapped somewhere? What if our decisions caused sickness and/or death in the children who weren’t ours that we were responsible for? The beaches in Florida started to close. We decided to stay home.
The high school closed and schooling went to online. The spring play, going to state, track, and prom all were cancelled yet the school work remained. Everyone felt the loss of what was planned that could no longer be. The beautiful prom dresses hung in the closets unworn. Time lost that could never be recaptured. Our German foreign exchange student Clara went home a couple months early whereas Estelle stayed an extra month.
I thought that Arabella and Estelle would be forced to work out their differences because they would have to be together all the time without much outside contact. It didn’t work out that way. Arabella withdrew into herself and snarled at me to leave her alone when I reached out. She would take long walks or drive to the park to sit by herself for hours sometimes after dark or in the rain. Estelle grew very close to me. She would fight with Arabella if she felt like Arabella was being mean to me.
Florida was gone. Arabella’s opportunity to be a foreign exchange student was gone. It was all she ever talked about for over a year. She was already signed up and the paperwork completed. Thankfully I could say that she wasn’t going because of COVID versus a suicide attempt. We were going to tour Europe in the summer, but that was gone too.
With everything that was lost, I’m grateful that we didn’t lose Arabella too.
- I’m grateful that the arctic blast (two weeks of subzero temps) is now over!!!!
- With all the snow on the ground and the departure of the bitterly cold weather, I am able to exercise outside. I went snowshoeing this morning and am planning on going cross country skiing later this week. This is the first time I have been out this season.
- I’m grateful that my daughter’s frogs should be able to eat crickets now that it is warmer out. With the snowstorms and cold weather, the shipments for crickets has been severely delayed or the crickets arrive dead. After my daughter’s pets went a whole week without eating because we couldn’t find crickets anywhere, my husband bought some fishing worms for them so they didn’t starve. Yeah again for warmer weather!!
- My appointment with the wellness nurse went very well this past week. I graduated!! Yeah, I only need to go in once a year now. I went from having acid reflux, colitis, multiple parasites, SIBO, and over 20 food allergies to being back to a state of good health. Today the clinic called and asked if I would be willing to give a testimonial. I told them absolutely!
- I had lunch with my friend Jen this past week. I was kind of embarrassed though because I always order the same thing and the waitress joked with me that she didn’t even need to bring a menu because that’s what I always order. So much for being a wallflower!
- Paul and I went to our sailing club cruise planning meeting. Nothing feels better than getting out my calendar and scheduling the summer. We have some fun trips planned and are planning on crossing Lake Michigan for the first time in our sailboat.
- My daughter Angel and I spent the day together on Saturday. We went out to eat and had pizza at a restaurant that offers gluten and dairy free options. The pizza I chose was absolutely amazing. Afterwards we had vegan ice cream, again it was amazing. Then we spent the rest of the day thrift shopping. My big find was a murder mystery game that I haven’t played before. Once things settle down I’ll have to host a murder. I’ll also have to find a tape player as some of the clues are on cassette tape.
- My mom got her second COVID shot this past week. We have plans to visit the spa in a couple days. It will be nice to be able to visit with her again. Hopefully a lot of her fears will be put to rest.
- I just finished a wonderful book call The Daughter. I’m grateful to find a new author that I like. There is a quote from the book that I want to post later this week that I thought was profound.
- I am grateful for the opportunity to document my life mainly through writing but also through photography. I’m excited about starting the series regarding having a teenager with mental health struggles. Talking about my dad and now my daughter has been very challenging for me. But I know how beneficial writing has been in my healing journey and I am hoping that by doing so I can reach others who are also struggling with similar circumstances.
Maybe she was crying out but I wasn’t listening. Her problems seemed so petty, like the fight with Estelle. I had given her everything I wanted but never had as a child. In my mind my problems always trumped hers because I was shielding her from life’s real problems. I didn’t listen to any complaints about how hard she had it for anything.
But in reality I really was trying to protect her. She just didn’t know about it. I didn’t tell her anything about my dad. I didn’t tell her that several weeks back her older sister found child porn on their grandpa’s computer and turned him in to the police. She was a child. I wanted to protect her from that. She seemed so innocent, carefree, and happy. Why take that from her?
I developed a plan. Arabella was going to be a foreign exchange student. Maybe she wouldn’t find out about her grandpa until it was all over. But I was worried. There were a few problems with the plan for the children in my house to have the perfect childhood. The police could arrest him any day and then the world would know what kind of monster my dad is. Our foreign exchange students might get sent home. Their parents might not want them here although they would have nothing to do with my dad.
Then there was the part about me being a complete and total mess. I fell into a downward spiral of depression and despair after I heard about my dad. I suffered greatly from the blow and the trauma I experienced as a child resurfaced in the worst way. I knew I was suffering from Complex PTSD. But that knowledge didn’t stop me from going through what I did.
I pushed everyone away. I pretended everything was okay. But I wondered how anything could ever be fine again.
I experienced moments of extreme anxiety and hyper-vigilance. One day I thought I could try to calm myself by listening to music in my earbuds. Arabella came up behind me unexpectedly to give me a hug. I freaked out and screamed at her to not touch me and get away from me. I was horrified. I apologized and tried to explain to her not to touch me if my back was to her. But I could tell she didn’t understand. She felt rejected and I blamed myself for it.
After Arabella’s suicide attempt, we had a long talk. I decided to tell her everything that was happening with my dad. I told her that I was having a hard time with it and me pushing her away had nothing to do with her. Together we cried.
Inside, though, I was furious. If my dad didn’t screw up my life once again I would’ve noticed that my daughter was depressed. I didn’t call him on his birthday. I didn’t even send a card. I blamed him for what happened with Arabella. I was so focused on his mess that I didn’t even notice my own child was suffering.
I wasn’t doing well before the suicide attempt and I certainly didn’t do well after. I suffered severely from insomnia and nightmares for over a month. I thought I was going to lose my mind. That all happened right before the pandemic.
It’s been a year and two days since my daughter tried to take her life. It was on a day like today. It happened while I was sitting in the same spot I’m in today, writing my post oblivious to what was happening a couple rooms away.
It came out of nowhere. I blamed myself for not noticing something was wrong. Me, the hyper-vigilant one. I was focused on other things, other problems.
There was a fight between my daughter and our foreign exchange student Estelle. Before then things were great between them, better than I could’ve ever expected. Arabella and Estelle were best friends. We even signed Arabella up to be a foreign exchange student hosted by Estelle’s family. Then there was the fight. Arabella accused Estelle of trying to steal her friends. I thought it was temporary, petty even. They would work it out themselves. But a few days later my daughter tried to kill herself.
She tried to OD and laid down in her bed to go into a forever sleep. She was filled with horror and threw up the pills she ingested. She reached out to her friends, then she reached out to me. That is when she found me writing my post on a day just like today. She came into the room sobbing hysterically. I literally thought someone had died. She said it was a mistake and it wouldn’t happen again. I don’t know why I believed her. We were naïve and new to her mental health struggles back then. We didn’t know what to do and certainly had no idea what would happen next.
One of the first feelings I felt was enraged. I screamed and kicked the garbage can across the room spilling its contents everywhere. I can’t remember a time of such anger and uncontrolled rage in myself. I wanted to punch a wall or through the glass in the door. Looking back it seemed like an unusual response because I usually suppress my anger. But that is what happened.
Sometimes I wonder what it would’ve been like if she succeeded that night in February. Succeeded, what a horrible word to describe something like that. I don’t think I would’ve made it through to share my story. My demons could have me. I just wouldn’t have the fight to run from them anymore.
For a long time after that night, I would awake in the middle of the night to see if she was still breathing. I would watch for the rise and fall of the blankets. Sometimes I couldn’t see and would reach out to touch her gently as to not wake her reminiscent of the early years when I checked on my sweet baby to see if she was still breathing after she stopped crying out for me in the middle of the night.
Now there was a new fear that robbed me of my peace both day and night. Will my daughter choose life today? I rejoice that it’s been over a year and she is alive!!
It was the start of a new journey. I was no longer just a sibling of someone with serious mental health issues, now I am a mother.
We drove across a bridge for a half an hour and entered a whole new world called New Orleans. We saw many different things we don’t see at home like houses on stilts, moss covered trees, and interesting looking boats. I remember feeling a certain kind of melancholy, a homesickness of sorts, that happens when I’ve reached a place far from home. It’s hard to believe that I never left my country.
The city of New Orleans itself was bustling, busy, and congested loop of bridges and old style European houses. To be honest, the city made me feel rather trapped. All the houses were so close together. Plus there were so many people. (Although everyone was saying how dead the city was because of COVID). We stayed at an AirBnB in the French Quarter. It was a good place for adventure. The place we stayed was over a hundred years old.
We unlocked the gated door after parking in the fenced in driveway. I’m not used to gates for doors.
The yard also hosted a grapefruit tree which Paul and I went round and round upon. Was it an orange tree? Or a lemon? Paul finally asked the owners and they told him to help himself. He said it was the best grapefruit he ever ate.
The city was also very pet friendly. A lot of people walked with dogs and there were cats everywhere. Several people had signs to not feed the animals. One of those signs was at our AirBnB.
We even got a wake up call from a cat in the morning which was the only thing that reminded me of home.
When we arrived in the city, we had our hottest day of the trip which was 75 degrees. It was incredibly humid but felt different than our high humidity days at home which doesn’t even make sense. By the time we left the high temps were in the mid 50’s.
We spent a lot of time walking around the French Quarter. We checked out quite a few shops and bought souvenirs for the kids. We even checked out a shop that sold Mardi Gras type costumes. I would’ve loved to have bought one, but they were quite expensive and people would look at me as if I totally lost my mind if I dressed that way at home. I did buy some beads with rubber duckies on them which were super cute. People in New Orleans dressed with such flair.
We spent a good chunk of time walking on Bourbon St. Since we were one of the few tourists, we got targeted more often by beggars and scam artists. We had about 3 people ask us a day where we got our shoes. They bet if they guess right, you have to give them money and they get mad if you don’t. Then they tell you that you got your shoes on Bourbon St. Thankfully I heard about the scam online before we left.
I did have a guy put beads around my neck and ask for money. We did give him a couple bucks and I also gave him my leftover food which was appreciated.
Bourbon St. was creepy at night. But it was the most happening street with restaurants and live music outside. What really really bothered me is that we got approached at night by young kids asking for money. We were approached first by two pre-teen girls, then a little later by little boys alone. They had to be anywhere between 8 to 10 years old. I couldn’t imagine the life of those children or the things that probably do or could happen to them out in the streets. Personally I would not feel safe alone there at night.
Paul really loved the food in New Orleans. Almost every night he ate raw oysters. We tried different Cajun and Creole dishes and ate po’ boys and gumbo. I liked the fried alligator. It tasted like chicken.
One of the major problems of the city was that bathrooms were hard to come by. I saw several people unzip and pull up to the wall in broad daylight. The city has serious drug and alcohol problems which I guess probably isn’t unusual for a big city. We got offered edibles countless times. We saw a man having an angry conversation with himself. We saw another too drunk to stand although he was trying. We came across a scene where someone on a bike had a close call with a car. The lady was screaming expletives at the man holding up traffic. It was a great place to visit, but I would never want to live there.
We walked around Jackson Square and walked inside of the oldest continuous Catholic church in the USA. It was very beautiful and ornate as expected. One thing I wasn’t expecting was that there were fortune tellers right outside of the church. I didn’t understand it because in my mind they blatantly didn’t belong there. It was like accepting a one way ticket straight to hell and I’m not even Catholic.
We were hoping to take a paddle wheeler ride but the day we were hoping to go it was very windy with a high of 55. For some reason they cancelled the tours for that day so we went to the aquarium instead.
By far our favorite thing to do near New Orleans was to go on the Airboat Adventures tour in Lafitte. Thankfully we were able to see some alligators in the wild. Apparently the tour the day before did not have any alligator sightings.
One of the other things we enjoyed was visiting the Oak Alley Plantation. This was a sugar cane plantation with hundreds of slaves. We saw the slave quarters. It’s really hard to think that people were forced to do such brutal work in the heat with inadequate food and housing. We got a tour of the plantation house which was rather awkward. The tour guide was a black man and three other black people were on the tour with Paul and I. I felt horrible sadness for the way black people were treated as slaves. There even was a job for a child slave to pull a rope for the fan over the massive table. I couldn’t imagine a child having to do that. Sometimes history isn’t pretty.
The trees in front of the plantation house are several hundred years old and were planted when they were adult trees to show off the wealth of the owners. The trees created good air flow in the summer for the huge house.
One of the other things I really enjoyed doing in NOLA was taking a cemetery walk. Unfortunately I didn’t realize the cemetery was closed for renovations before I bought the tickets. I was hoping to spend all of our time in the cemetery on the tour because it was so fascinating. Instead we walked outside the closed gates and spent the rest of the tour looking at mansions of the rich and famous in the Garden District.
All of the cemeteries we saw in New Orleans and surrounding areas had raised tombs because of hurricanes and flooding. I wondered how it all worked because there seemed to be a lot more people that lived in the city than tombs. What I found out was that more than one person can be buried in the tomb. When someone dies they put the body in a casket in the tomb. After a year or two the bones are removed, placed in the back, and it is ready for the next person. Hopefully there is not a plague or pandemic where multiple people need to use the tomb at once. The tomb can be used for multiple generations of family or sometimes clubs get together and purchase a tomb for burial of its members.
Sometimes the tombs are abandoned or fall into disrepair. We purchased the tour through Save Our Cemeteries which uses most of the money from tours to upkeep tombs. They go through great lengths to try to find the owners of the tombs, but if it is found to be abandoned the tombs can be sold. From what I gather, a lot of people choose cremation.
I wasn’t planning on ending this post with death and despair, but here we are. New Orleans is a great city to visit, but again I wouldn’t want to live there.
- While it was really wonderful to get away. I’m grateful to be back home again.
- I checked another 4 states off my bucket list. Only 14 states and 5 continents to visit before I kick the bucket.
- Talking about kicking the bucket, our dog is feeling 100% better so we didn’t have to put him down. I don’t know, maybe it was the fried eggs. LOL! I’m grateful for more time with him.
- My son is moving out this weekend with a couple of friends into our partially finished garage. My husband’s office is out in our detached garage now which will be moved into our son’s bedroom. The garage already has two finished bedrooms, a full bathroom, and a partial kitchen. We are going to use the money we charge for rent to finish remodeling the garage apartment. I’m getting excited about the remodeling project and also thinking of ways to update our house.
- We ended up getting a lot of snow a couple days ago and now it is bitterly cold, but it is absolutely beautiful outside. Even though I complain, I am grateful for very distinct seasons. When we were on vacation it was anywhere between 45 and 75 degrees. I don’t know if I would like a cool winter without snow. It was funny because a news station in New Orleans was talking about the cold Wisconsin weather while we were there. There is some pride in being a hardy people, plus our summers are absolutely perfect.
- Arabella is making a lot of progress on her online schooling which is wonderful. I was kind of worried about if she would be able to graduate on time.
- I’m always grateful for a warm house to live in on a brutally cold winter day.
- I’m grateful to be back in planning mode. I’m thinking about the next trip I want to take, getting ready for summer, and hopefully a graduation party as long as things wind down with COVID.
- I think the next couple months are going to bring a lot of changes. I felt very apprehensive about things because I really don’t like change. But sometimes change can be good. In the next couple months all my children will be adults and although I do worry a lot about my kids I feel like a lot of responsibility will be lifted. Technically I could go from 3 kids living at home to being an empty nester. Instead of viewing this as a negative thing I can view it as an opportunity to grow like I haven’t been able to before because I always had to be responsible for someone else besides me.
- I am grateful for my husband who has been putting a lot of hours in since we got home to keep things running around here.
- I’m back!! Seriously, I’m grateful that Paul and I made it home without getting stuck somewhere on the day we were scheduled to be back home. Our original flight ended up being cancelled so instead of two flights we ended up with three flights with two less than an hour layovers. Oh, and one of the flights was to Chicago during a winter storm warning. Fun times! Despite emails suggesting cancelling my route to Chicago then home the airline told me my only way to my home airport was through Chicago.
- I’m grateful that despite the storms we flew over the flights home were really smooth.
- I checked Louisiana off my bucket list.
- I also checked Alabama off my bucket list.
- The kids and pets are still alive and the house is still standing. Unfortunately, however, it is not a good idea to have two adult children manage the house while we were gone as there is currently a war going on between them that is still waging.
- My husband has the goal to quit drinking for a year. He struggled with that goal while we visited Bourbon St. in New Orleans. It was always in his face. Sometimes we had to sit at the bar because there was no where else to sit. Even a wine truck parked in front of the place we were staying as we were enjoying some time on the porch. I know it wasn’t easy but I’m really grateful he was able to stick to his goal on vacation.
- I’m thankful that January is over. I find it to be the most difficult month to live through in our climate. It’s the letdown month after the excitement and joy of the holidays. We usually have the coldest temperatures of the year along with a lot of snow.
- I’m grateful to be able to travel and experience new things even though it was not what I originally planned before COVID.
- I’m grateful that my parents and brother Matt received the COVID vaccine without any issues.
- I feel really grateful for the gift of writing and being able to share my story. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I’ve had a break from blogging. I feel like writing is the creative masterpiece of my life. I’m not the most vocal person. I don’t create beautiful portraits. But I create with words and am happy to discover how important it is to me.
1. I’m grateful that we were able to go on our vacation.
2. I’m grateful that so far things are going pretty good at home.
3. I checked visiting Arkansas off my bucket list.
4. I’m grateful I planned ahead and was able to get an appointment for a couples massage and healing soak at the Quapaw Bathhouse.
5. I just crossed Mississippi off my bucket list. We are driving through it now.
6. I’m grateful that I was able to find the Packers playoff game on the radio so I can go back home still married.
7. It’s awesome to be able to write a post on my phone during a long car ride.
8. Tomorrow my mom is getting her COVID shot. Maybe we’ll get to see more of her now. I’m hoping that this will ease her extreme anxiety.
9. I’m grateful to be heading towards warmer weather.
10. I’m grateful for a husband that not only loves to travel but is also athletic with me. We hiked all day yesterday at Hot Springs National Park. The high temp was 44, but it was still 40 degrees warmer there than at home.