Gratitude week 159

  1. A lunch date with my friend Jen.
  2. My best friend came over and surprised me with a gift, a beautiful design she cross stitched and framed for me.
  3. The salvage yard came and took my son’s car which hasn’t been running since this past summer.
  4. Volunteering and feeling like it makes a difference. A woman came in with her baby. It was cold outside and the baby didn’t have a jacket. The woman found a sweater for him to bundle him up in. I’m grateful to be a part of an organization that helps families in need.
  5. My husband and I had a nice visit with my cousin from out of state.
  6. I started working on my book again.
  7. A lunch date with my husband and daughter Angel.
  8. My cat is back on his meds. With the vet office closing, I had to switch his OTC arthritis pills around. Also, his thyroid meds were on back order so he didn’t have any pills for several days. I noticed he seemed more agitated than usual. He was crying more, scratching, and biting at his paws. He is 16 years old and sleeps 90% of the day. He was awake a lot more and uncomfortable. Now he is back to normal and that is a good thing.

The blame

This past week I finished reading A Father’s Story, a memoir written by Lionel Dahmer the father of notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. I found a renewed interest in the story after watching the Dahmer Netflix series. I remember the story unfolding as a teenager in the early 90’s. At the time I tried to find out everything I could about the case which wasn’t much because…well…pre-internet and 4 TV channels. I did read a couple books back in the 90’s but nothing like this.

I gave the book 5 stars. The memoir was very emotional, dark, and painful to read. I could find myself relating to Lionel. I have to think that every good parent tries to seek the answers deep down within themselves as to why their child went astray. What did I do or not do that could’ve caused this? What part of me do I see in them? Why do we have this need to know or blame ourselves or others?? It was very clear to me that he was reaching at every little straw to blame himself for what his son did. He could’ve trashed his ex-wife but he didn’t. He blamed himself for his traits he saw in his son. He talked about the hopes and dreams he had for his son before he knew he was a killer. He wrote about thoughts and feelings every parent has.

At times while reading this, I found myself in tears. I could relate to Lionel’s analytical mind and his tendency to throw himself into work as a way to cope. Although I can’t relate to what it is like to have a child who is a killer, I can relate to how he felt. The book was challenging and triggering to me at times. It’s impossible to not blame yourself as a parent. I still struggle with that as a parent of a child with mental illness. I had big dreams for her before this all happened. We were going to go on college tours. But instead of going off to college, my daughter spent the end of her senior year in a residential mental health facility after multiple hospitalizations, threats of suicide, and an outpatient program.

My dreams of her living a normal life were gone. Just seeing her is a painful reminder of that. Her body covered with hundreds of self-harm scars so deep they will never fully heal. I feel somehow that some of it was my fault. I remember at one of her earlier hospitalizations one of her doctors blamed me for her condition. The research says that Borderline Personality Disorder is a trauma based disorder a majority of the time. But not always? I don’t want this kind of life for my child. She has a hard time taking care of herself and holding down a job. Nobody cares. The system doesn’t care. The dozen therapists she burned through don’t care. The multiple doctors and health care systems don’t care either.

It falls back to us as parents. Investing our time and resources trying our best to help her help herself. That’s not the life I wanted for her or myself. It’s painful especially after my daughter accused me of abuse and neglect, others thought poorly of me, and I’ve blamed myself. I can relate to trying my best and sometimes it is just not good enough. There is grief in letting your dreams for your child die. It’s so painful that at times I deceive myself with false hope. It’s awful having a child who wants to kill themselves. I can’t imagine the weight of having a child who kills other people.

The other day my son walked in while I was crying for one of the first times. I didn’t want him to see me like that. He choked up with tears in his own eyes telling me he felt sad by my pain. He tried to comfort me in the moment. He was calm, kind, and empathetic. I showed him a side of myself he doesn’t usually see and in return I saw likewise. It feels good to have the support of my spouse and other adult children for the times I blame myself for having a child who is not everything I dreamed of her being.

This week I’m reading I’m Glad My Mom Died, a memoir by childhood actress Jennette McCurdy. Oh boy, it might be a long week…

Gratitude week 142

  1. We experienced a notably warm summerlike weather pattern this week after three days of cool and rainy days last weekend. The cold rainy days made me appreciate the warmth more.
  2. Cool nights and a campfire.
  3. Friday afternoon relaxing on the patio by the pool.
  4. Finding dress clothes and shoes for my son to wear to the wedding within 15 minutes at the first store. After one day of dress shopping and a cancelled order, my best friend and I are taking Arabella dress shopping again this afternoon. I’m really hoping and praying we can find something today…
  5. I ordered a wedding gift for my daughter and her fiancé and it arrived the same day.
  6. I finished the book Don Quixote which was a challenge due to it being over 400 years old and over 1,000 pages long. There was a lot of wisdom to be found in it. It was interesting to get a glimpse of life back then. I couldn’t help but notice how different life is today. There definitely was not an emotional component to the book, yet I never dreaded to pick it up to read.
  7. Yesterday we went out to eat and sailing with friends to celebrate the September birthdays. The weather was perfect. It only started to rain right after we got off the water.
  8. We had Angel and Dan over for supper on Friday night. Oh my gosh, the wedding is less than two weeks away! Thankfully my daughter is very organized.
  9. I’m grateful Angel’s future mother-in-law is a seamstress. My mom and I went in to get our dresses fitted this past week.
  10. Mom and I got a massage.
  11. My son got together and practiced with his band this week. It’s been the first time since COVID. I didn’t know if they were ever going to meet again as several of the members are older retired school teachers. This group has had a positive impact on my son’s life and I’m grateful they are back together again because I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen.

Timshel

I first heard of the concept Timshel in the book East of Eden by John Steinbeck. It means thou mayest in Hebrew. Timshel is saying we have a choice between good and evil. You can choose the path you take. Will others rejoice upon our passing or will there be great sadness based upon the choices we made in how we love one another. I know I am not giving the 600 page book justice with my mere 600 words.

I wouldn’t consider the book to be a happy story. But it was a feel good book because of its realistic perspective. Some of the big themes dealt with relationships between siblings, sibling rivalry, and the parent/child relationship. One of the things that really hit home for me was the struggle the characters experienced within. If my parent chooses evil, what does that make me? The book brings up the thought that although your parent may choose evil doesn’t mean that you are destined for the same choices. They have a choice just like you do.

I won’t lie to you, I sometimes struggle with this. I try hard to be a good person, but plenty of times I fall short. My dad did a lot of evil things. Does that make me evil even though I did not make the same choices he did? Sometimes I see him in myself. I hate to be reminded of him when I look in the mirror, how I talk, or how I walk. But it’s there. I have to wonder if that is the only thing there. Maybe he passed his evil down to me.

Logically, I know it’s crazy to think that, yet sometimes I do. The weight of his decisions has brought many people down. My mom is really struggling with her mental health over it. My brother Luke will not have his kids around my dad. I rarely see my brother and haven’t seen him, his wife, or my nieces yet this year. My dad is not invited to holidays. He is not invited to my daughter’s wedding. We always wonder if and when the police will be back to my parent’s house. But those are all just the external things which make life difficult and complicated.

I think the internal pain is worse. The anxiety that somewhere deep inside I might be guilty just for being his daughter like choosing evil is an inheritable trait. Sometimes I have to keep telling myself I am not responsible for my parents. I am not responsible for my adult children. I am responsible for me and my choices alone.

I don’t have a dad I can be proud of. He has brought nothing but shame to the family name. I wish I could say his choices affected only himself. If the evil choices other people make cannot be attributed to us then neither can the good. Having a child who chooses good does not equate to having good parents any more than having a child who chooses evil equate to having bad parents. Why is this so hard to understand? Why do we need something or someone to blame for the bad choices others make? It’s true some people have more obstacles than others. But is that really a good excuse? Maybe they just made a bad decision because that is what they wanted to do.

My grandparents were wonderful people. My dad, not so much.

Timshel. Everyone has a choice.

Again, I would highly recommend reading East of Eden. It’s very well written and thought provoking. It had a lot of interesting twists and turns in the classic drama by John Steinbeck. I’ve read several other books by the same author decades ago, Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath were among my favorites. I hope to read more of his books in the near future. They always have a way of making me think about things differently.

Life lately

I started having bad dreams again, nothing too terrifying. Last night it was the wild animals. I spotted a bear in the distance that wanted to get inside of my house. Then there were the dogs. They snarled and clawed outside my door if I tried to lock them out. It was horrifying to let them in, but if I did they ran through my house then were gone.

Sometimes I feel memories clawing through my mind. Memories I want to repress, but the more I do the more they nag me swirling endlessly awaiting connection. Incomplete memories, a camera, the fish tank upstairs that I don’t remember being upstairs, other things…

My therapist asked if remembering would change the way I feel about myself. I said it could go one of two ways. I could be more bitter than I already am. Or I can think I survived more than I thought I could with a certain courageousness.

My therapist asked if it would change how I felt about my parents. I said I didn’t think so. I will always view my mother as weak. She always seemed to protect the wrong people. My dad, I don’t even think all my children would even attend his funeral. He never made an impact on anyone’s life. Oh, I stand corrected. He never made a POSITIVE impact on anyone’s life. At this point, what would it matter?

I did learn something new about my dad. When my brother Luke called he told me about some things my dad did to him that I didn’t know. But the new details weren’t upsetting as much as my brother calling me to vent. You see, Luke is the strong one. Most times I think he is stronger than me. He rarely calls to vent. He said that time wasn’t healing his wounds, instead they are oozing and festering. I feel sad he can’t escape the pain anymore than I can.

Then Arabella came to visit for a few days. She lost her job. She is never to work on time and has a tendency to not get along with her managers. It is hard not to get wrapped up in my worry for her.

Then my mom came over. She didn’t sleep well the night before and emotionally was a big mess. I can’t help but feel some of it is her own fault. She has had several therapists tell her if she doesn’t like her life, she should change it. They tell her she should leave my dad, but in the end she always leaves the therapists who tell her that. My brother Luke said if my dad dies my mom will either wake up and realize she was in a bad relationship all along or she will immediately find someone else just like him.

I think about that a lot lately, my parents dying. My mom is in a really bad head space right now. It wears on me. Then I am worried about my daughter and my own aging. My doctor appointment is less than two weeks away. My therapist said I should focus more on my wisdom and insight versus the aging process. She is right. I might not have all the cards I want in my hand, but it would be smart to play my strong suit.

My therapist also said I have an extraordinary amount of stability for everything I have been through. I sometimes wonder…shouldn’t I be crazier? I found her words to be very encouraging. Yet I have to be careful. Last week I read the whole childhood portion of my book. I thought to myself, what a bit pile of shit. I got into a ferocious mood. I have to take writing and reading in small doses. I can’t do it when I am under a lot of stress. Writing has been healing for me. But it also can be the sword that cuts open my wounds if I am not careful. Having nightmares and a hard week with family is a good time to back off a bit.

I have not be happy lately. I feel as if I have been neglecting this blog. I am going to try to write more even if I don’t have anything to say.

Gratitude week 122

  1. It’s May!! March and April were difficult months weather wise with cold, windy, and rainy/icy/snowy weather most days. We even had snow a couple days ago. It been a very wet wintry spring, but it might warm up a bit by next weekend…
  2. I’m pretty much done with my spring cleaning. This past week I washed the windows and put on the screens. Now I’m just waiting for spring.
  3. I got my 1st birthday video back. It was neat to watch, however a 50 mm film translates into about 3 or 4 minutes of video without audio. I was hoping for something longer with more family in it besides me and a short clip with my mom. Oh well! My grandma had a tradition where bread, a book, and money were placed in front of a baby at their first birthday. I have video proof that I picked the bread which supposedly means I will never go hungry…but my husband said maybe I am smart because I actually picked the only edible object. LOL
  4. I met my husband’s therapist this week.
  5. I was able to spend time with all my kids this week.
  6. My brother Luke called me to vent. He rarely does that, so I am grateful for the call to talk.
  7. I’m grateful to have our best friends over for Paul’s homemade pizza and swimming.
  8. The neighborhood had rummage sales going on, so yesterday Paul and I went to check it out. I bought some of my favorite things to buy…clothes, puzzles, books, and candles. Next weekend we are planning on going out rummaging again..
  9. Clean sheets.
  10. I was able to work on my book.
  11. The finale of Ozark is out.

Gratitude week 114

  1. We had a nice long weekend with the family at the waterpark in WI Dells. Everyone got along and had a lot of fun together.
  2. It’s good to be back home again.
  3. I finished the childhood portion of my book I am writing.
  4. I met up with my friend Jen to check out a new restaurant. She invited us to their cabin in upper Michigan this summer.
  5. I went to an antique store with my mom and scored some ‘new’ albums for my record player. I bought a Nirvana, Guns ‘N Roses, and The Doors records to name a few. It was a totally unexpected find.
  6. I found a new bumper sticker that I like…Locally Hated…my family is not impressed but I am. It just came in the mail.
  7. I was able to find my dad a birthday card. The outside of the card read: You are at the age when people don’t really give a… The inside read: gift. When all else fails, funny works.
  8. I got a TikTok account. I’m trying to stay up on things.

Gratitude week 109

  1. My husband is feeling a lot better after being sick. Since he very rarely gets sick, this was really eye opening. Thinking about losing him made me realize how much I love and appreciate him.
  2. Paul was feeling good enough to go on the annual guys ice fishing trip.
  3. I’m grateful for the safety of the men who went on the trip. They went fishing on Lake Superior which is always a little scary for me. One year they were up there an ice fishing guide died on Lake Superior, an expert died. A couple days it was bitterly cold. Paul’s 4 wheeler didn’t start and the next day Paul’s step-dad’s truck wouldn’t start because it was 18 below.
  4. My son and his buddy were able to make the long trip to ice fishing camp in his junker car without breaking down in a remote area with no cell coverage and freezing to death.
  5. Angel and Dan were supposed to close on their house last week, but Dan ended up having to go to Texas for work. Now they are closing on the house tomorrow. I’m grateful Dan made it back safely this morning after the 18 hour drive from Texas.
  6. Tomorrow my daughter will be a home owner. It’s hard to believe she will be moving out this week. The house will be a lot quieter without her and I will miss her a lot. But I’m grateful she is getting married and moving on with her life.
  7. Yesterday I went along with Angel and her bridesmaids to pick out the bridesmaid dresses. It was a lot of fun.
  8. It’s puzzle time of year again. I just finished a puzzle and am working on another one.
  9. I spent three days this past week working on my book and I started reading The Bell Jar which was a Christmas gift from Angel.
  10. Arabella’s boyfriend got a new job and Arabella has a job interview on Wednesday.
  11. When the guys were gone, Angel and I watched a couple good movies-Requiem of a Dream and The King of Staten Island.
  12. I went cross-country skiing today for the first time this season. It went better than I thought it would.

Goals for the new year

To be honest, I haven’t done New Year’s resolutions in years. But every couple of months I try to come up with some bucket list goals and check my progress on making them happen.

Today I decided to go back to my first blog post in May of 2015. I wrote a list of goals. Here they are:

  1. Write something that gets published. I’ve wanted to write a memoir for the longest time. I am currently working on the second edition of my book. I hope to complete it in 2022.
  2. Run a marathon. I wrote I ran 18 miles that day without stopping. I am totally jealous of myself! Since then I’ve run multiple marathons and a 50K. I just stopped running after doing it for 15 years. Now I want to focus on stretching and yoga. I mean, I haven’t started yet but I want to try to at least maintain if not gain some flexibility. I have been having joint pain and stiffness but I still want to remain active as much as I am able to.
  3. Travel to all the continents. I haven’t gotten too far on this. I did check off Asia since then. If it wasn’t for COVID, I would’ve checked off Europe and Africa too. Instead I have been trying to visit all 50 states. So far I’ve checked off 39 states. I visited 8 states in 2021 and plan on adding another 5 in 2022.
  4. Read the Bible in a year.
  5. Be a lead singer in a band. I still think this would be fun, but I don’t want to do this as much as I did before. It sounds like a lot of work.
  6. Drink green beer on St. Patrick’s Day. That one was pretty easy.
  7. Get a tattoo. I got my first tattoo this year of an anchor. I am planning on getting my second tattoo in 2022.

I have some other new goals for 2022. I would like to be more bad ass. Ha ha ha. Actually I want to get my motorcycle license. I picture myself on something loud blaring my rock music as I drive down country roads on sunny summer days.

I would like to get half way done with the remodeling project on our garage apartment. I also have a list of home renovation projects. I would like to cross off half of my list this next year on house projects as well.

I also want to continue growing and working on my self-improvement projects. I want to be more accepting of myself as I age. I have always been a go, go, go person. It’s hard to adjust to being a go, go, go slow person. This coming year will be the first full year that all of my children are adults and out of school. I no longer have parenting commitments. I want some time to just be responsible for me. I want 5 years of not being responsible for others. I will not take on any long term foreign exchange students, foster children, or new pets. I will also keep working on the relationships that are important to me.

That’s about it. See ya next year!

Have a happy, happy new year!!!

Fortune cookie wisdom #39

Dwelling on the negative simply contributes to its power.

I think the key word here is dwelling. I recently heard on the radio that negative experiences are more memorable than positive ones. I think that is true.

Yesterday I spent 3 1/2 hours writing. A small portion was writing on my blog and the rest I spent writing my book. I added a journal entry written by my mom to the book describing Matt hitting my brother Mark and also hitting and kicking me. I wrote about my brother attacking me from my mom’s point of view. I can’t even describe what that feels like. In some ways I felt totally detached since the journal entry was almost 30 years old. Mainly I felt sad for the little girl that was me.

Then I wrote another entry remembering a time my mom asked my dad to help her by watching my brothers and I swim in the lake up north while she made supper. Any time my mom asked my dad for help he did things aggressively or half assed. Let’s just say I didn’t have the dad who would sweep me onto his lap and read books to me on the couch.

This is what happened that day when my mom asked for help. My dad came in the water with us. When Mark and Luke were swimming my dad would grab them by their feet and yank them backwards. My brothers would choke and sputter swallowing water and getting it up their noses. Then they would cry and dad would laugh saying they were just playing a game.

I was terrified of the weeds so my dad grabbed me and forced me to stand in the weeds and muck. He laughed at me while I cried and called me names. When he let me go, he threw weeds and a dead fish at me. It didn’t take long for my brothers and I to be done swimming. My dad got out of doing something he didn’t want to do. He got his jollies by making us cry, calling us names, mocking and humiliating us.

That pretty much sums up my childhood. My brother Matt frequently attacked us with no consequence because there was something wrong with him. I wouldn’t consider my dad to be physically abusive per se. There were times he hit and manhandled us, but he seemed to enjoy terrorizing us more. He liked taking what we were afraid of the most and taunting us with it like my fear of weeds. When we would cry he would laugh in our face and call us babies. He often called us stupid.

If my dad was taunting a sibling it was best to ignore him or better yet to join him because that would ensure your safety. Comforting a sibling often meant your next. Pretend not to care. Pretend nothing scares you. Show no vulnerability or weakness where he could worm in.

I spent several hours writing about the physical abuse from my brother and the psychological abuse from my dad. By the end of the afternoon I was spent. I was feeling depressed and wanted to just emotional detach from everyone. Thinking about the negative things that happened to me really wasn’t doing me any good.

My husband said maybe I shouldn’t continue writing the book or just do it in small segments of time. I told him writing this book gives my life purpose and meaning. The question is how can I write about painful experiences without dwelling on the negative? I end up spending a lot of time in a place I no longer want to be.

I do think writing my story is very therapeutic and healing, but I can’t deny there is a dark side to it as well.