Leaving tonight?

I thought that things would be a little less crazy this week, but I was wrong.

My son was trying to sell something online for us and almost got scammed. A person sent my son a check for over the asking price for the object and told him to take it to the bank right away.  He did because the bank was closing soon and he didn’t know what to do. Then the person was going to have his “moving person” swing by and pick up the object along with the extra money for moving the item to another state. It seemed a little fishy, but everything happened so fast that I didn’t stop my son.

When Paul heard about it later, he worried it was some sort of money laundering scheme. He dug around online and found out it was a scam. The scammer sends a legitimate looking check for over the price and tells the person to give the money to the mover who is stopping by to pick it up. The person who picks it up steals the item and the money then the check bounces. Our item was scheduled to be picked up the day we are leaving for vacation.

Yesterday morning, I went to the bank and expressed my concerns about the check being fraudulent. Upon closer examination, the bank also thought it was a scam. Unfortunately, when the check bounces my son’s account with be charged. I feel bad that I didn’t stop my son from putting the check into his account. We both thought something wasn’t right but ignored it because they were pressing my son to cash it before the bank closed the night before. It really didn’t give me enough time to think.

It just started the day out bad yesterday. But it didn’t end there. Someone pulled out in front of me and I skidded on the ice almost hitting them. The roads here are still horrible. Last Monday we got a foot of snow. Then we had 4 days of temps in the double digits below zero, followed by an ice storm, followed by more cold weather so the salt didn’t melt the ice.

Oh, it gets better. Then my husband went to the dental hygienist and she refused to treat him because his blood pressure was too high. Yesterday Paul had several meetings with key clients to try to save accounts. After I lost my position at the company we previously owned, clients got a little skittish with all of the changes. The meetings were stressful for Paul and he was running late to his appointment. His blood pressure was 185/107. They told him he needed to see his doctor immediately.

Paul had appointments all day, but kept monitoring his BP. His BP has been borderline high for years. By the end of the day, his BP was still high and the nurse said to take him to the ER since he also had a slight headache. Off to the ER we went. I was paranoid by all of the illnesses we were exposed to last night. If I didn’t think my husband could wind up dead during the night from a stroke, I wouldn’t have risked it. Ah, the things we do for love.

We spent the evening with Paul in a hospital bed, in a gown with an IV in his arm watching the state of the union address. The nurse came in and jokingly said that the SOTU was giving her high blood pressure. Even though no fight ensured about politics, Paul’s BP was still high when we left so they gave him medication. We left to drive home through another snow storm. Big snowflakes and sleet pattered against the windows, but we made it home safely. I certainly did not want to go back to the ER.

This morning there was 4 inches of snow over glare ice. Arabella fell on her way out to the car for school. It’s just nasty out there. Paul spent hours plowing everyone out. Then tonight we are expecting freezing rain followed by another 6 inches of snow. Paul and I are planning on flying out early tomorrow morning for a sailing vacation in the British Virgin Islands with friends. I hope we can leave.

I will be taking some time off of blogging. You are probably sick of my whining and complaining anyway. When I get back, I will write a travel series about the trip and lighten things up a little. I try to do that after things get a little heavy. Then I will be back at it again.

Well, I better get packing.

Goal 10: Make peace with the past

For a long time I’ve outrun my demons and wondered how they could still catch up to me.

Writing this blog has been a great first step in making peace with my past. If that wasn’t enough, I started writing a book. I’ve found the process to be very therapeutic.

In a few months, I will start the process of public speaking about my experiences.

In doing all of this, I realized that I missed a very important step. I need to be open and honest with the people that care about me even if I get hurt. It’s not like I didn’t get hurt in the past and move on with my life.

I spent my whole life pretending to the outside world that everything was alright in my life. Life is good now. But I want to be able to tell people I am close to that things are not alright if they aren’t. I want to be able to ask for help instead of pushing everyone away and dealing with things myself.

Right now I’m trying to look back without having blinders on. Hindsight is not always 20/20. Sometimes I tend to wear sunglasses when I look at the darkest days. I make excuses and cannot face things as they truly were.

I tell myself that what happened in my life was completely normal. It wasn’t that bad.

Sometimes I think I will just be able to throw all of my painful memories into a book, then close the book and walk away. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to do that. But I do think that my story could help others and that I will be able to make peace with my past.

Geez, sometimes I wish my goal was to lose 10 lbs. Revamping myself on the outside sure seems a lot easier then stoking the demons within. But I feel like this is what I was meant to do.

Goal 9: Work hard, but take time to rest.

One of the hardest parts of losing my job is telling people what I do.

When meeting someone new, the first question that they ALWAYS ask is what you do for a living. The second question people ask is how many kids I have. Never fails.

Yesterday I went to the gym later than usual. Someone asked me why I wasn’t at work. I think people are just too nosy.

Two days after I lost my job some friends had a party at their house. Right off the bat, someone asked me what I do for a living. The question hit me hard and knocked the wind out of me. What? I didn’t have an answer prepared. I stumbled awkwardly through the whole story of how my husband and I sold our business last year and that the new owners recently eliminated my position unexpectedly.

My answer seemed to confuse people more. Is it a good thing that you lost your job or a bad thing? Yes, the answer is yes to both. Losing my job after working with my husband for 11 years was very hard. Not to mention that as a workaholic I wrapped a lot of my identity in my work. Yet it was a good thing because now I decided to write a book.

Now do I tell people that I am an author when they ask me what I do?? Then I have to explain what my book is about which is very personal and painful experience of growing up with a disabled sibling in an abusive home environment.

If I am a writer, I should be able to come up with a creative way to tell people what I do for a living in one word. If I tell people I am retired, that brings up even more questions since I look a lot younger than I am.

Then I decided to tell the next person who asks that I am independently wealthy just to get a good laugh. Would that shut them up?

The strange thing about not working is that I really don’t have any extra time. I am still running around like I am in a hurry. I keep a strict schedule. I drop my daughter off at school, go to the gym for an hour or two, write my book, then work on this blog. Plus I do other things like clean the house, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, and run errands. Now I wonder how I was able to do all of this while working 30+ hours a week.

You know how the saying goes, ask the busiest person that you know if you want to get something done.

I’ve always been a workaholic. I feel very stressed out if I don’t accomplish enough in a day. Resting is a form of torture and usually only happens when I am sick. One day I had doubt about writing the book and said that heck with it, I am going to watch a show on Netflix. My daughter came home from school, saw me watching TV, and was concerned I was sick. She felt my forehead for signs of a fever and was worried about my health.

Relaxing is something I rarely do. But it is something that I want to learn how to do. I’ve always had the harsh workaholic task master of perfectionism pounding constantly in my head. If I learned anything from losing my job, it’s that I can’t let how much I am able to work control my life and dictate how much I am worth as a person. It is a wonderful way to avoid relationships and look like a martyr.

Working hard was something I was good at and I ran with it. There are few that top my work ethic and determination. But it controls me. I’ve learned anything that controls me isn’t good for me. I am no better than an alcoholic looking for the next drink. I am always searching for the next project, the next goal, and I am viewed as an inspiration and a hero for doing it.

I am afraid of success. What will I do next? Running marathons is not enough. How about a 50k? I drive myself to the ground. Are you proud of me now? What more can I do to prove my worth?

It is a great way to avoid intimacy. I am in the middle of something and am too busy to talk with you right now. What a safe place to hide.

If you give me a hard time, I will condemn you of your laziness with great pride.

Then I wonder why I can’t relax. I am worried and stressed when my mind is free.

Here I am, a workaholic without a job. I never ask for help. I do everything myself. I think I am beyond reproach, but I can’t run from myself.

I am starting to see a wonderful coping mechanism being torn apart. Maybe it is a good thing I lost my job because I am now faced with myself.

You can only outrun your demons for so long.

 

Goal 8: Try not to be too hard on myself

When I was a child, my parents were very hard on me. They expected perfection and I tried to deliver. The better behaved I was, the more I was loved.

I was punished for not being good enough. My parents had a hard enough time with my autistic sibling, they didn’t need any problems from me.

When I got a bad grade in elementary school, my dolls were taken away from me for a semester.

I am hard on myself to this very day. If I don’t accomplish enough in a day, I feel very anxious.

So it is no surprise that when I had kids, I tried to be the perfect parent. I thought that if I was the best parent I could be that my kids would turn out the way I wanted them to. If I was loving enough, they would get good grades and like school. If they were disciplined right, they wouldn’t try drugs, etc…(Insert problem here).

Let’s be totally honest, if kids do something wrong the first place society looks is at the parents. What did the parents do wrong to have a child like that? I am just as guilty. There is some truth to that statement, but some kids just make bad choices against their parents wishes.

My own mother faced a lot of blame for having a violent autistic child in the 1980’s.

I tried to be the best parent I could be and that has to be good enough whatever my children choose.

It was so easy when they were babies. I had full control. I decided where we would go. I picked out the little outfits that they were going to wear. They ate what I made.

I tried to share my values and beliefs with them. But I’ll admit, as honest as I am, I lied to my children all the time. I lied to them about who I was. I tried to hide my faults. I pretended to like cartoons and Barney when I really wanted to be head banging to hard rock and watching horror movies. I didn’t swear around them and said a lot of nice words like please and thank you.

Hey, get me a beer was replaced by may I please have some more milk. Gangsta rap music was replaced with catchy tunes like I love you, you love me..we’re a happy family..

I hated pretending to be perfect and being someone I wasn’t. I always just thought that was a part of being a good parent though.

Then my kids grew up. I no longer picked out their little outfits. We stopped reading books together and listening to baby music. I was slowly more free to be me.

Part of the process of letting go is learning to fully be me again. It is losing some of my identity as a mother. Part of that is also showing my kids who I really am. I will share my book with them when they are ready and someday my blog as well.

I also have to accept that the choices my children make might not be what I have in mind for them. I have to be less hard on myself and them when they screw up. I also have to be less hard on myself when I am not perfect.

Perfection should not be my goal. If it is, I will live a life of disappointment because it is unattainable. Plus it annoys the crap out of my family. It is difficult to unlearn something that is so ingrained in me. But it is worth a try.

Maybe I would be a better person if I was a little less perfect. Now doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron?

 

Goal 7: Finish strong with parenting and be an enjoyable life partner.

Winter has finally arrived in Wisconsin. Yesterday we received a foot of snow and the next two days we will have wind chill warnings of 35 to 50 below zero. Maybe I will be able to dust off my cross country skis after all.

It has been hard to work out lately. Not only has it been impossible to exercise outside, it has been hard to get to the gym.

Yesterday school was cancelled. Today the kids had school. Some are already cancelling for tomorrow. The roads have been treacherous, but we carry on because this is where we live.

The final countdown is on. Alex has less than 4 months now until graduation. He passed all of his classes and signed up to go to tech school this fall. I have been very excited about the positive changes but there have been a few slip ups. Alex still is consistently late for school. It hasn’t been easier since we moved further away. Plus the weather has been bad and last week he had car trouble. I think a lot of his problems would be solved if he just got up 10 minutes earlier.

Arabella is no better when it comes to timeliness. Angel always had to be 10 minutes early which caused a lot of fighting among the siblings when she drove the kids to school. As a parent, sometimes you just can’t win.

Next year we are planning on hosting a foreign exchange student. Then for her senior year, Arabella wants to be a foreign exchange student. We would love to visit her and watch her graduate in a foreign country.

But after this parenting gig is all over, Paul and I will be on our own too. We weren’t even married for a year before our first baby came along. I want to be the life partner that is enjoyable to be with. Right now it seems like all of our focus is on problem solving and dealing with all of the change in our life. We concern ourselves with the urgent but not necessarily the most important.

Life is always a work in progress. My goal is to finish strong and keep working on my relationships. Instead of trying to change others, I need to change me. That has been a difficult realization to make. I need to be the change I want to see in the world. I can’t fix others.

Oh, and the next couple of days it will be colder here than in Antarctica. Maybe visiting all 7 continents wouldn’t be so bad after all. I am getting used to this now. I have to admit, it is very beautiful watching the swirling snow fall.

Time to update my bucket list and start working on my goals.

Doubt

Would you be willing to hurt people you are closest to in order to help strangers?

Fear that is toxic. Anxiety whispers an endless echoing rhyme. Worry incessant. Doubt creeps in like a vine that entwines the wrestling demons running around in my mind.

I’m not sure I can do it. It’s too risky. Who do I think I am? Do I really think this will be a bestseller? Do I really think that my poison will be a tonic? Do I really think that my story is going to make a difference, change things?

Really, Alissa, you couldn’t even save your own family.

The thoughts painfully pierce my poorly healed wounds. The scabs tear away and bleed onto my parched paper skin. The memories scratch at the demons inside. They wreck havoc on my mind. Tears slip from my eyes.

Now I understand why there aren’t a lot of siblings telling their stories. I get it now. It is too painful. If the story is going to be effective, I have to be brutally honest. But that honesty is going to hurt, not just myself but other people.

Tomorrow I have a meeting with a lady from the local autism group. She wants me to be on a panel representing siblings of autistic children in front of a group of parents. There are not a lot of programs available for siblings because they are ‘normal’. I think that is very tragic if a child needs help and doesn’t receive it because they aren’t special enough.

My goal is to write a book about my story as a sibling. I want to advocate for siblings. My thought was to write a book and donate a certain amount of the proceeds to go towards helping siblings that are struggling through support groups and therapy, etc. Just how it is all going to come together is not totally known to me at this time. I would be willing to donate my time and money to help other’s struggling through what I’ve experienced.

Maybe tomorrow I will have some answers. But as for today, I never want to write again. I want to delete my blog. I want to throw the book that I started into the trash. I feel unsettled, almost angry and sad. Restless.

I am at a crossroad of sorts. Will it make a difference? Am I just picking at scabs and bleeding out into my words? Will it heal me? Or will it hurt me and those I love? Should I just let it go?

Will I be able to help others? Am I being delusional that I can make a difference? Would it be worth it if my story can help someone contemplating suicide if  my family turns away from me? Maybe my vision is too grandiose?

I am absolutely terrified, but I think it will be worth it.

What if I don’t help anyone and end up alienating myself from my family? Do I have the strength and courage to do what needs to be done?

I have my doubts.

Goal 6: Try new things/explore different interests/be fun/enjoy lifelong learning.

When I was younger I was afraid to try new things. Now that I am older, I long for something new.

When I was younger, I never thought I was good enough or smart enough. But being older, I don’t really care if I make a fool out of myself.

This morning I went to an exercise class for the first time. I was the only one in the front row, all the other spots were taken. Front and center for everyone to watch me make mistakes. But I don’t care anymore. Besides I am old enough to know that everyone else is really concerned about themselves and how they look. If they make fun of me, shame on them.

Everyone has been very welcoming though. I took a strength training class for the first time this week and everyone introduced themselves and helped me set up my equipment. Someone even cleaned and put away some of my stuff. They even gave me helpful suggestions and asked if I was coming back.

I have to admit, I’ve been rather shocked lately about the kindness of other people.

I’ve been trying new things, like exercise classes. I also bought an Indian cookbook. I  tried making a few recipes this week. They turned out okay, although it has been a real challenge to find the ingredients I need.

The most exciting new adventure for me this year has been to start writing a book. I am still terrified about this! I’m not sure how it will turn out, but I keep pecking away at it every day.

I don’t have to be perfect nor do I even need to be good to enjoy trying new things. It took me a long time in life just to learn that.

 

Goal 5: Work on documenting and preserving family history

This month I got an Ancestry subscription. I just started working on compiling the family history. As of now, my parents, husband, and all of my children took the DNA test along with me. We are still waiting for some of the results. I just started a family tree with my mom online.

It seems like yesterday when I was walking around cemeteries with my grandma. We stopped by the family home of my great-great-great grandparents. I never would’ve figured it out if my grandma didn’t know where it was. We talked to distant relatives and found out that my ancestors were involved in politics, art, community theater, and had a love for cats. Not all that unlike our family today.

It is so wonderful to hear stories instead of just names and dates on a headstone. Next month my grandma will be gone for 10 years. You don’t know how much I wish she was still here.

Now I’ve decided to work on this project with my mom. It is amazing how quickly time flies past. I want to hear her stories and preserve them for future generations. I want to make them living characters in my mind. I want to attach names to faces in the black and white photos. I want to give everyone a story. That would be much more exciting than names and dates.

I want to take the stories I remember and that have been handed down to create a wonderful story for future generations. Today I found out that my 5th great-grandpa was hung. Such interesting stories. Too bad my ancestors didn’t have WordPress!

Goal 3: Start the process of writing a book

For a very long time, I was angry about the things that happened to me in my childhood. Why did my family struggle so much when other families had it all together? I think it was a miracle to survive with most of my sanity intact.

What is the purpose of struggle? What are we supposed to do with what we have been through?? Personally, I believe by successfully surviving my obligation is to reach out and help others going through similar circumstances. I have always felt this way but I was never sure how to do it.

Blogging has been a wonderful way to process my experiences in life honestly. But I found it to be lacking. I don’t feel like I have been able to reach my target audience so to say. They haven’t found me and I haven’t found them either. Maybe there are few that can relate to my life story. Where is everybody? Why aren’t you writing about it? Maybe it just takes a long time to process it like it did for me.

I told myself that once I retired I would write my story. I always put it off into some future place. Then I found myself without a job.

I’ve tried to find books even other blogs of people out their with similar stories and found nothing. How can there be a void? Nothing?? I decided that I am going to be the one to write the story. I don’t think that it will be easy, but I do think it will be worthwhile.

I am going to write the story of a sibling growing up in the 1980’s with a violent autistic brother. This was a time when autism wasn’t an epidemic. This was a time of very limited services. This was a time where my mother was blamed for his violent behavior. This was the time where I was expected to give up my childhood to be a caregiver. I also had two other younger siblings and an abusive father which will be woven into the story.

So I will be processing more journals from my childhood in the weeks to come and compiling everything together to start the process.

I also have some exciting news. My new friend Sue, who is a child psychologist that works with autistic children specifically, put me in touch with someone from her agency. I will be meeting with this person at the end of the month. I have been asked to be put on a panel as a sibling to work with parents. I don’t have all of the details yet, but I feel like this is a huge step forward in being able to help others who are going through what I have been through.

I am very excited about where this could lead even if I am only able to help one person through my experiences. Struggle does have a purpose, I just needed to find mine.

 

 

Goal 2: Spiritual growth

As I mentioned recently, a few months ago we left our church and started attending a new church. I noticed my ruby ring was stolen the morning I left to go to church right before Christmas. The following Sunday we sang a song stating that God was the God of miracles. I thought in my head, yeah I believe in God, but I don’t believe in miracles anymore. I was seeing more tragedy around me than restoration. Even in my own life recently, a precious gift from my mother was stolen.

We didn’t know who took the ring, we just knew that it was missing. We allowed my son’s friend back into our lives after I got a lock box for the remaining precious gems. We didn’t think it was the friend that took the ring. We honestly thought it was another boy whose mother told me that her son stole from her. This second boy was in our house over the time that the ring went missing along with the first.

We took the first boy back into our house. We told him that we trusted him. But through our misguided trust, I started treating him like he belonged here again. I cooked for him and did his laundry. It was through this act of trust that I discovered my stolen ring in his pocket when I was doing his laundry. A miracle occurred. I never thought I would get my ring back and I never thought I would catch the person who did it.

After talking to my son about the betrayal of his friend, I sent a message to the other boy’s mother telling her that the ring had been found. I couldn’t imagine the agony of thinking that my child victimized another parent, a friend.

A miracle happened, but I no longer believed in miracles. I didn’t trust God. Instead I put my trust in someone that intended to hurt me. How bizarre is that!?

I was betrayed by someone I considered to be a best friend many years ago too. But hey, so was Jesus. Right? I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. If I didn’t trust the boy, I never would’ve gotten my ring back. I learned a lot in the process.

I am a pretty good person. I live with few regrets. I’ve been hurt more than I have hurt others. I’ve even read the Bible from cover to cover, but I’ve never truly trusted God before. I wanted to do things my way. I wanted to be in control.

Then yesterday a big miracle occurred. A most precious gem was stolen, a child by the name of Jayme Closs. She is a 13 year old girl in our state of Wisconsin that was kidnapped after her parents were brutally murdered. She was missing for almost 3 months without a trace. Just gone. Yesterday she was found. ALIVE!! What a miracle!

I no longer believed in miracles, but I do now.

Now I have to wonder…What more can God do??

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Aren’t miracles precious and beautiful? Are you looking for a miracle in your life??