I’m done!

And just like that, I am finished.

My baby turns 18 today. I am no longer a parent of children. I mean, I don’t think that fact is going to change much. But I am officially done with the active parenting years.

Yesterday we picked Arabella up from residential. All day I felt very anxious. It was a mixture of the negative emotion of fear and the positive of excitement. I found there really is a fine line between the two. This isn’t an emotion I frequently experience together (it’s usually only negative anxiety).

I felt the same way when I got my first tattoo. I was terrified and utterly exhilarated at the same time. Afterwards, the terror of getting a tattoo was replaced with this feeling of complete peace and calm which is also something I rarely experience. My body and mind for the most part fails to relax together.

Or maybe if you can’t relate to anything I am saying, it might be similar to waiting in line for a roller coaster ride. That is like the whole experience on steroids.

Everything went pretty good yesterday. But I still feel anxious today. Some of it has burned off. Yesterday before we picked up Arabella I just felt off. It was a weird anxiety. I felt like something was wrong like a loved one was going to die. I felt like I forgot something really important. I felt rather jumpy and hyper-vigilant. That is how my anxiety manifested itself. But in all reality, I feel a tremendous amount of fear. Placing Arabella in residential was our last ditch effort to saving her life. We used our trump card. Now the rest is really up to her and that is scary.

I feel excited to start this new chapter with Arabella. It is what it is. I am excited to have all of my children close to home. I am a little apprehensive about their ability to live in harmony. The peace I long for alludes me like a poor man’s chase of the dollar. I will keep working on it. But as for now, I am happy that at least I am in touch with how I feel about everything going on.

I am anxious, and mysteriously that can be both a positive and negative experience at the same time.

Living in the real world

Right after Arabella started outpatient, I spoke to her case manager there and she told me of a safety concern. The case manager mentioned that Arabella talked about wanting to overdose again. She suggested that I search her room before she got home that day.

I have never been the room searching type of parent. It reminded me of that one time as a teenager my mom went into my room when I wasn’t home, found my diaries, and read them. Then she got angry at me for the things I wrote, some of it from many years before. I will never forget feeling upset over my privacy being violated for no particular reason. Even my innermost private thoughts were not safe. So I was totally against violating the privacy of my teenagers unless I thought maybe my children were unsafe.

I did a sweep of Arabella’s room that afternoon. I found some contraband, but I didn’t find a stockpile of pills. Granted my daughter is a bit of a hoarder. It made it harder to search every nook and cranny amongst the clutter.

But I did make sure that the pills in my house were hidden away out of reach. Nary a bottle of Tylenol could be found in my medicine cabinet at the time. This was problematic at times. Around that time, my son had his wisdom teeth removed. I had to keep his pain medicine locked up along with the Tylenol. It was a royal pain because it made it hard for him to manage his medication himself.

It’s hard to live in a world where I had to keep hyper-vigilant of every little pill and sharp objects. It wasn’t convenient for other family members. It was a lot of hassle and work. As if she couldn’t find a way around it if she wanted to. But that is the advice that every doctor gave me. Lock everything up. It wasn’t practical. I couldn’t lock up every knife and have my family ask for permission to unlock them if they wanted to make themselves something to eat. I felt guilty that I didn’t lock up every knife.

But sometime, somewhere my daughter was going to have to live in the real world.

Certain uncertainty

If we traveled back in time to January 1st of this year, I would imagine quite a few of you had inspiring goals and new years resolutions for the new decade. It’s 2020, finally we would have a clear vision of the future we wanted for ourselves like never before. This year was going to be the best.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like change. Maybe it’s not even change that I don’t like. I mean, I’m always striving to be a better person and that involves change. What bothers me more than anything is uncertainty and not knowing what is happening.

If you asked me in January what I would be doing this weekend, I would have told you that I would be attending my daughter’s college graduation. At the time, nothing except death or being deathly ill would have kept me away from her special day. I found the perfect dress to wear. Maybe it was a little too dressy, but it was on sale. I should’ve been going in to have my nails done to match the dress and getting my hair done.

But that brings me here to today. I won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Me, the person who has to have a plan. The person who schedules spontaneity 6 months in advance.

As most of you know, I just went through a 10 day bout of colitis. I went through expensive and uncomfortable tests to get some answers, some certainty, about my health. The morning of the procedure I brought along all of my paperwork from the wellness clinic. The doctor brushed me off with the comment that he does not approve of me seeking help at a wellness clinic and refused to look at the tests that were done.

I thought that the doctor’s bedside manner was horrible, but if he had the answers and could help me I didn’t care. When I called the doctor’s office on Monday expecting answers the nurse said that I had colitis but they have no idea why.

The doctor’s office told me something was wrong with me but they have no idea what. Is this going to happen again? What can I do to prevent this if I don’t even know what caused it? What the hell is going on? I was sick and all you can tell me is that I was sick?? Yesterday I fell into a deep despair. What is wrong with me? I wanted an expert to give me answers so I would know what is happening in my life. I want a plan that I can follow. I want to have a map to see where my life is going.

If I learned anything in 2020, it’s that everything is uncertain. It’s been a big lesson for me to learn. Everything I took for granted as certain has changed. It’s okay to grieve what has been lost. Then it’s time to continue on down the dimly lit path.

It’s time to throw away my security blankets of structure and routine. The only thing I can cling onto is that uncertainty is certain. That is now a big part of my life. I can’t be afraid. I have to think of this as an opportunity for growth. It’s time to strengthen the non-dominant hand I’ve been dealt. Maybe going with the flow won’t be all that bad. I DID say I wanted to be more easy going and laid back. Of course I wasn’t expecting to achieve that goal by having everything literally wiped off my calendar.

I’m being forced to change but maybe I will be a better person because of it. At least that is what I’ve been telling myself.

Last summer, this summer

Maybe I was naïve to think after my son graduated from high school last year that it would be smooth sailing. Sometimes I can be like that, overly optimistic. And things were good for about a month. Then my life fell apart again in a different way.

It was last summer that my health went to crap. I found a new doctor and she was appalled that my last provider had me on 2 pills a day for a duration of 5 years for acid reflux. These were pills that should be taken once a day for a course of 10 days. She took me off my medication and had me scoped. She told me to take a few Tums for my gushing gut wound and sent me on my way. Besides being anemic nothing else was wrong with me.

But something was wrong with me. I’ve even had a doctor once say it was all in my head. She only said that once because I never went back to her again. Please if it is all in my head, fix it.

After being very strongly encouraged by my mother, I decided to go to a wellness clinic for allergy testing. I was found to be allergic to 22 foods. The biggest culprit was dairy. I said good-bye to my favorite comfort foods. But I still wasn’t feeling better.

I scheduled an appointment with the wellness nurse. She said I had a level of inflammation in my gut that she has rarely seen before. I had more tests done and started a treatment plan.

In the meantime, I discovered that I have Complex PTSD from childhood trauma. I have been seeing a great therapist. I have been working through my lifelong struggle with depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Meanwhile my life fell apart in other ways with family problems that really had nothing to do with me.

Over a month went by where every single night I did not sleep the full night. Some nights I would just get up and sit looking into the darkness. Nightmares were common. If only I could sleep then my problems would be solved. With help from both my therapist and wellness nurse, I am now able to sleep a couple of full nights a week. With sleep, my mood improved greatly. I was feeling a little less like a zombie.

Once again I become overly optimistic. I had more tests done. I’m getting better. I was going to finally be able to do the 30 day detox diet and get my allergies retested. I imagined myself this summer eating my favorite foods again. This summer it was going to be cheeseburgers, mac and cheese, pizza, cheese, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese curds, lasagna, and cheese. It was so close I could almost smell it.

I went into my follow up appointment last week with great expectations only to have them dashed. My results showed that only 5% of the healthy population got test scores like mine. I have several parasites. I also have Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). This means that I have good bacteria in the wrong place which interferes with food absorption. This could explain the anemia.

So now I am on an even more restricted diet. Limited sugars, starches, carbs, processed food, and fiber. Too much of these foods can make the bacteria grow and make me feel sick. Pretty much the only thing I can eat now is meat. If it weren’t for living with a meat and potatoes man and ham I would probably be a vegetarian. This has really taken the joy out of eating.

The nurse also gave me a prescription for an antibiotic to kill off the parasites. It will help a little with the SIBO too. She said she only prescribed it to two other people but thought it was necessary in my case with my chronic gut issues. I was a little terrified to take the first pill. I read about parasite die off and it sounded miserable. So far I don’t feel great, but I don’t feel awful either.

It was hard going in with the expectation of good news. But I am on the road to recovery however long that might be. I know what I’m up against. It’s good to know it all isn’t in my head.

Gratitude week 13

I’m not the superstitious type, but week 13 pretty such says it all for me right now. I’m having a hard time feeling grateful. Whose stupid idea was it to do this gratitude crap anyway? Oh well!

Right now I’m supposed to be touring New Orleans for the first time with our foreign exchange students and family. Instead we got the news today that Clara’s parents want her to go back home to Germany. We are so sad it has to be this way. We also decided not to have our daughter be a foreign exchange student.

This week the last thing I put in pen on my calendar is gone. We will not be visiting my brother and his family for Easter.

The Europe trip open to students and their family that got cancelled is not refunding us all of our money. They are keeping almost 1/3 of the travel expenses. Parents are angry and a petition is being sent around to try to get everything but our security deposit back. It’s a huge mess.

My husband and I have been fighting like crazy.

Everything keeps breaking. Now my son is having problems with his car.

Need I mention the economy.

So…it might be hard to find ten things this week.. Here goes..

  1. We are all healthy.
  2. We have enough food to eat.
  3. I only left the house once this week. That being said, the only compliment on my hair was from my husband. Just for the record, the last time I colored my hair was in September. I started doing this before it became cool (the hair salon’s closed).
  4.  I spent some time working on our new business today and it felt good to be productive.
  5.  In some ways I kind of like not being so busy.
  6.  The weather is going to be nice this week, sunny and temps around 50. It is so hard to exercise outside when I am freezing so this will be nice.
  7.  We named our indoor pool Florida. We can go to Florida now.
  8.  I think I am doing pretty well holding things together.
  9.  We will only have 3 teenagers in the house, although I am very sad Clara is leaving early since we get along so well. But it isn’t good bye forever and she will be reunited with her family.
  10.  I had a couple nights this week that I slept fairly good.

Garbage day

We were supposed to leave for Florida today.

Today we found out that our music trip to Europe for this summer has been cancelled as well. I was going to go on the trip with my mom and daughter Arabella.

I suppose it’s just as well because I don’t know if we can afford to go any longer anyway.

I just want to take my 2020 calendar and toss it in the fire. I wrote too many things into it in pen that will no longer happen. Every time I look at it I will be reminded of that.

With everything going on, I don’t think my daughter wants to be a foreign exchange student anymore. She was planning on staying with Estelle’s family. But Estelle and Arabella haven’t been getting along that great. The honeymoon is over and now they are like real siblings. I don’t think Estelle wants her at her house anymore anyway.

Yet we will continue on with our foreign exchange students. Although I have a new worry. What if one of their family members die at home while they are stuck here? It is stressful having four teenagers in the house and sometimes I just want to send them home.

I am feeling really bummed out by the change of plans. I’ve always lived by structure and routine. Now everything I thought was certain is uncertain.

The gym closed so today I dug out one of my old exercise videos. In the process I found out that my DVD player no longer works. Maybe it conked out in the 1990’s. Who knows? Then I got the video to work on my computer but messed up my TV. My 45 minute workout turned out double than that. In the meantime, Estelle fell asleep on her exercise mat.

Then I thought to dig out a puzzle. It seems like half the pieces are missing to make the edge. I might have to throw that out too. What a way to clean the house. If this never happened, I might still think these things worked into the next decade or two.

I’m afraid I might lose track of time. The garbage truck never came yesterday. Did I have the day wrong? How will I remember without my schedule?

Ah yes, today. Today is the day we were supposed to leave to go to Florida. It is still written in with pen on my calendar.

Getting viral

Life changed in the last 48 hours.

As if the time change, full moon, and Friday the 13th in the same week wasn’t bad enough…now we’ve got a pandemic on our hands.

Just 3 days ago, life was normal for us. My husband had plans to see the Bucks game with friends. The girls had track practice. Clara had play practice. The girls were planning on going to state. We were planning our trip to Florida in the following week. Then upon our return, we were going to Angel’s recital. We were going to visit family for Easter.

Today we were planning on going bowling for my brother Matt’s birthday. Tomorrow is a bridal shower.

Then everything changed.

It seemed strange, but the basketball game was cancelled.

Then we found out my daughter’s college is closing until after Easter. The dorm rooms are closing and everyone was sent home. The recital cancelled. Graduation? Who knows?

Angel’s boyfriend Dan works at a hospital and developed a fever a couple days ago. Should we be concerned about corona virus or is it something else?

We had our friends over last night to plan our trip to Florida. Should we even go? Disney and Universal closed.

We received word yesterday that all of the schools in Wisconsin will be closing for almost a month after Tuesday. The track meets are cancelled. The girls aren’t going to state. Will they cancel the play? What about prom?

It’s as if someone took an eraser and wiped our plans away like they were insignificant.

People are panicking. Toilet paper is flying off the shelves.

Angel came down with a fever last night. Is there even a place where we can go for testing? What should we do? Angel has been waiting for the last two hours for a call back from the doctor’s office.

My mother stopped by yesterday right before Angel got sick. The bowling birthday party is cancelled for today. I decided not to go to the bridal shower because my aunt whose future daughter-in-law it is for has some serious lung issues.

We are supposed to leave in less than a week to go to Florida. Our friends still want to go, but I am the only one that no longer does. I want to go, really I do. But is it wise? Our discussion got rather heated. Everyone is extremely emotional about this. We don’t know what to think or do.

What happens if my parents get sick while I am gone? They don’t have to worry about that. My closest brother is 3 hours away and has health issues.

What happens if we get sick on the road? What if we need to be quarantined in an unfamiliar place? What if we get stuck somewhere? What if we can’t find restaurants that are open? What if we can’t find a place that has food and toilet paper? The what if list goes on and on.

Yes, we want our foreign exchange students to see America. But is this the America we want them to see? Life seems different now. People are not at their best.

I have images in my mind of the apocalypse. Check points with people in contamination suits. We will be taking our visitors to a dystopian world. Tylenol and test kits.

Right now the allure of an adventure is gone. I think it is safer to stick with what we know even if it means being stuck at home for the next month. It’s hard because we were really looking forward to our trip.

Maybe we are already sick and don’t even know it.

 

My salvation fantasy

I used to find solace in God.

I prayed and yearned for my whole family to seek serenity there.

Then a miracle happened. My dad really made a mess of his life. Before this every time he invoked the name of God it always had a damn after it. He laughed at my mother for her faith. He sneered at the very essence of God. He knew a lot about theology and always could find a loophole in our faith. It was easy to seek sanctuary in a place where my dad refused to go.

But then my dad sunk to the very bottom. It was the only way he could open his heart. He started listening to my mother’s words about God. He started reading the Bible. He shed a few tears. He said a few prayers.

Soon afterward, God sent old friends of my parents to their door. My mom didn’t recognize her old friend. They haven’t seen each other in 15 years. The friend said that God had my parents on her heart. She came over to invite my parents to a Bible study at their house. They knew my dad didn’t believe. They had several heart to heart talks with my dad and he was very receptive.

My mom even tried out their church which has a low sensory room for people on the autism spectrum to participate in the service. My mom could take my brother to church without worrying about whether he was going to act appropriately. It seemed like the hand of God was all over this.

It was everything we ever wanted. Right? Then why does it seem like the closer my dad becomes the further I am cast away? Seriously who wants their parents to go to hell if they sincerely believe in God??

But this was not how I played it out in my mind. I thought the first thing my dad would do once he became a Christian is give us a call and ask us for forgiveness. He would apologize for the abuse he heaped upon us. Then we would have a great father-daughter relationship. He would all of a sudden be everything he wasn’t. He would be loving, supportive, encouraging, and would want to get to know me and love me the way he never had.

But it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t even close. My phone isn’t ringing off the hook with his bright shiny new clean heart. I didn’t receive any handwritten letters in the mail. I haven’t even spoken to my dad in two months. I was deceived by this salvation fantasy in my head that if my dad accepted God everything would be perfect.

I know this is going to sound crazy because isn’t this after all what I prayed for. More than anything, I feel abandoned by God. This is not what I wanted, nor expected. I feel like maybe there is still a God out there, but he doesn’t love me.

All I wanted is one person to reach out to me. I, myself, am drowning in sorrow. Just show me God’s love, tell me he hasn’t left me. I sought but found nothing.

I just wanted a normal loving family. Is that too much to ask for?

I can no longer find solace in God because now my dad is there. Spending an eternity in heaven with my dad sounds like hell to me. I can’t hide under God’s wing anymore. It is no longer safe.

I am not at peace. I have stopped seeking. I can no longer pray.  I don’t even want to go to church. I feel very confused and afraid. It’s strange, I never thought my dad finding faith would threaten everything I’ve ever believed in.

Traveling with friends

All I can say is proceed with caution. We’ve had some good experiences and some bad. The first trip we took with friends didn’t go that well. We knew what they were like ahead of time so we should have known. They have been known to drink too much and get into arguments. Sure enough, it happened on vacation and we weren’t sure if we would still be friends when we got back home.

Last year we went on vacation with another group of friends. It went well because our friend Cara insisted on planning everything a year in advance. You can pretty much trust someone who is a project manager to plan a good trip. All I had to do was show up.

Fast forward to 2020. This year we are planning a spring break vacation with Cindy and her family. We started talking about it last spring. I wanted a commitment by late summer, but didn’t get one until Thanksgiving. By the time I looked at a trip to Disney for 10 people all the deals were gone and nothing was left in our price range. So I started looking at places to stay outside of Disney.

My friend Cindy wanted me to do all the planning. I have the time, plus I am very detailed, organized, structured, experienced traveler who tirelessly thinks about and searches every option. I had no problem with that. I researched flying vs driving. They were pretty convinced they wanted to drive. Again, I looked at all the options. I even called a place that rented out a 12 passenger van. I researched the driving route. Everything. Then I presented it to them and they said they didn’t like the van idea because it had bench seats which weren’t comfortable. Okay.

Then they wanted to fly again. So I searched all the airlines again. Now the prices were sky high, pun intended. They baited you with an affordable flight but once you wanted to return home you had to add on another $250 if you wanted a good flight. What I mean by good flight is not leaving late at night and getting to our destination the next morning, leaving very early morning, or having 2 layovers.

From our home airport the going rate to fly to Orlando was almost $1,000 per person. I flew to Thailand for less than that price. Insane! We couldn’t fly anywhere out of the state of Wisconsin for much less than that. Yes, I checked. Everyday I checked. We could fly out of Chicago for $750 per person which is still pretty expensive. But we were leaning towards doing that.

We are now less than two months from our trip. I asked Cindy to give me a call and we could sit down at our computers to book a flight together. I just sat down to eat supper with the whole family, nothing short of a miracle, when my phone rang. I didn’t answer the phone because I have the boundary that no one is going to disturb supper with my family. It was Cindy.

By the time I was done eating, Cindy had already booked their flight by phone. Yes, by phone! She told me she was able to find a flight for half the cost and wanted us to do the same. I was like, no way! My husband looked up the company they purchased tickets from. The company had several complaints filed against them with the BBB. Some consumers were calling this company a scam. Sure, they got a cheap flight but they are also taking a big risk. They received their ticket confirmation from a gmail account. Geez!

I was very upset. They couldn’t wait until I was done eating to talk about it? They totally circumvented me in the process after all the work I did. But then I realized something. Our friends are very spontaneous, disorganized, and impulsive whereas I probably ruminate the details more than a serial killer. Honestly, I was so upset and hurt that I didn’t even want to go on vacation with them anymore. We’ve had such a rough start before the trip even started. It all could’ve been prevented if they were more organized. But I already knew this about them.

It took a couple of days to feel better. Last night our family made the decision to drive down to Florida. We want an adventure. We want to do our own thing. We will head out after school on Friday and spend the night in Chicago. From Chicago we will drive to Chattanooga, TN. Then we will spend almost a week in Orlando with a couple days at Disney, a day in Universal, and some down time at the beach. Then we will spend a couple of days in New Orleans before heading back to WI.

Today I spent the morning planning out the rest of the trip and I almost felt happy. I love planning trips. I’m glad we are taking two separate vehicles now. We have the option to do different things. We can be structured and they can be spontaneous and hopefully our worlds don’t collide.

Stay tuned…

 

 

 

Before the storm

My whole life just fell apart, again.

I guess I will start the Tuesday of Thanksgiving. Paul came home from several days of deer hunting empty handed. A storm was rolling in on Wednesday. I told Paul that Angel was coming home from college right before our Thanksgiving meal on Thursday due to the weather. Boy was he surprised when she came waltzing through the door on Tuesday night. Who doesn’t love a good surprise?

Wednesday went by in a blur. Thanksgiving morning most of the household woke up early to participate in a race. I ran 5 miles as fast as I could muster and was happy with my time. It was a cold day, but not too bad for the end of November in Wisconsin.

After the race, Paul and I ran into an old friend of ours. She was still drunk from the night before. Her eyes were bloodshot and she reeked of alcohol. But she ran the race. She told us how a mutual friend’s teenage niece just died in an alcohol related accident. We promised to get together sometime but probably never will because we chose different forks in the path.

Then we went home and started getting ready for the 20 plus people we were having over that afternoon for the holiday. Just a quick word of advice if you are thinking of running in a race and then throwing a holiday party the same day. DON’T! I was so dead tired even though all of the guests brought a dish to pass.

Paul’s step-dad Darryl brought over his new girlfriend. She was wonderfully nice and I’m not sure how he is planning on keeping her. I introduced her to my best friend Cindy and my mom piped in that she thought she was my best friend instead of Cindy. No, mom, no.

Plus there was the special diet. My autistic brother Matt has tons of food allergies. My youngest daughter Arabella wants to go into culinary arts and wanted to make a lot of the food for the celebration. How could I say no to that? One of the dishes that Arabella made was cheesy potatoes. My mom got upset with her for not setting aside some of the food for Matt before she added milk to the recipe. Don’t you love your uncle Matt, Arabella? Matt, Arabella doesn’t care about you.

I never asked Arabella to set aside some potatoes. I was going to make sweet potatoes, but as I was preheating the oven I was told that we needed the oven for the turkeys. I wish my mom would’ve just said good job to Arabella for cooking. If you don’t like how I do things at my house, why don’t you do it then??

We also had our new pastor over with his family. They didn’t have anywhere to go. I asked them to bring desserts and none of those were dairy free either. That is the thing about being dairy free, I don’t want to ask people to make things to cater to me. My mom told the pastor’s wife that I was dairy free and she felt bad all evening. But other than a few hiccups, things went fairly good.

The next day we went out with a million other people trying to find that perfect tree. We finally found it after trudging another 5 miles through the mud! The girls spent the rest of the afternoon decorating the house.

We heard a huge snowstorm was blowing in for the weekend. Angel was thinking of making the 4 hour trek back home Friday night, a day early, but she lost her glasses. The following morning, the snow started to fall earlier than we thought. Angel found her glasses, but we weren’t sure if she was going to be able to make it back home safely.

She decided to stay. We were so excited for a snow day. We could watch movies and play games. But there was a break in the storm and she decided to leave while she could. She was scheduled to work all day Sunday and didn’t want to miss work or class on Monday if she stayed. The rest of the day was a real downer. It was the first time she was home since school started again and we hated having her leave after we thought she was staying.

Sunday morning the storm raged. We awoke to no power. The power was off and on all day. That was the night the real storm came in and changed my life. I don’t think things will ever be the same. It almost seems like time didn’t exist before it happened. The things I thought were big all just drifted away until there wasn’t anything left but the weight of the heavy snow.