Gratitude week 2

  1. We spent the weekend in Chicago and didn’t get murdered. The girls and I went to Chicago with Paul. He attended a conference and we went shopping. I had a nightmare before we left that the girls got murdered. I was a little nervous being the “chaperone” of my daughter and our two foreign exchange students. I was afraid because they do not understand our culture and might not know what is safe. All the people that we met were wonderful. We walked 6 miles then took an Uber back to the hotel and didn’t get murdered. I don’t know what I was so worried about. Ah, I am too much country mouse.
  2. We were supposed to get a major snowstorm on the way back from Chicago. Instead we only got a dusting of snow which made the drive a lot better than we were expecting. Gotta love when the weather forecasters are wrong!
  3. I met with my therapist who read my book over Christmas break. She said it was a Christmas present to herself (which is good I told her, since I didn’t get her anything). She thought it was so wonderful she wanted to read it again. She thought I should go deeper with my writing. I am grateful that so far two out of three readers were very happy with my book. I am meeting with my third test reader tomorrow.
  4. I decided to get an even shorter haircut this week. I also am growing out my blonde hair color and letting it go grey. I think it doesn’t look the greatest. However, I got complimented by two strangers on my hair this weekend after wearing a hat on it most of the day. Bizarre. Two people raved over my unbrushed hat hair. Then another stranger complimented me on my new glasses.
  5. I am grateful my son was in a really good mood all week. Although now that I think about it, maybe it was because we were all leaving for the weekend and he had the house to himself. I also found a really cool shirt for him that he loves.
  6. I am grateful to find a beer that I am not allergic to. Also, I am grateful for goat and vegan cheese so I can enjoy macaroni and cheese and pizza. Although we had good Chicago style pizza, I am grateful that my husband makes the best pizza around that I can eat.
  7. Although I love to travel, I am grateful to be sleeping in my own bed tonight with fresh clean sheets.
  8. I am grateful we stayed at a really unique hotel called Fieldhouse Jones in Chicago. The decor was amazing, all antique sports stuff. Our bedroom wall was about 10 feet from the L which was cool. Paul and I played a game of air hockey in the hotel basement this morning. Although he beat me by one point, it’s been a long time since we had fun together.
  9. Although there were periods of rain and snow, I am thankful it wasn’t too cold to walk around Chicago.
  10. I am grateful that I don’t have a lot of plans for the rest of the month and can finally have some down time.

New year, knew me

It’s a new year and I can see clearly now that it is 2020. Literally! After I wrote the post about getting a sliver underneath my fingernail, the next day I went to the eye doctor. I am now sitting on the couch writing this post wearing my new bifocals. BIFOCALS!!

Seriously, I feel so old. The only thing that could make me feel older now is being a grandparent or having a child get married. My daughter Angel did not get a ring for Christmas. Okay, that might not exactly be truthful. My daughter did get a ring through her nose. She got a botched piercing the week of Christmas and ended up having to get it re-pierced this week. But nothing from her boyfriend.

I’m not going to lie, 2019 was a really tough year. I’m glad to say good riddance to it. Just a quick recap..I started the year off losing my job. I had a very important piece of jewelry stolen from me. I found my ring in the pant pocket of my son Alex’s friend while I was doing his laundry since he was practically living with us. We said he was no longer welcome here. We were worried about our son graduating from high school. Thankfully he did.

Then we had a nice break sailing with friends in the BVI. There was some smooth sailing. The year didn’t totally suck!

My daughter left home for good. Although Angel was away at college, she always came home over summer and holiday breaks. My baby got her driver’s license. We decided to fill our emptying nest with two foreign exchange students. It’s been an adjustment going from two to four teenagers in the house.

My husband and I had some marriage issues over the summer. We were arguing a lot. For the first time in 22 years of marriage, I wondered if things weren’t going to work out. Thankfully we are both willing to work on things and it has improved.

I also had some health issues and watched close family members struggle with ill health as well. I ended up having to go dairy free and give up my favorite foods and drinks from allergies. This has been a real struggle for me. Despite not feeling the best, I finished my first 50k and plan to do another this year.

My husband’s hours got drastically cut at work and he started a new business. We are uncertain about our finances. I applied for a job working for the census and my husband might apply for another job as well.

Most recently, my dad really screwed up. The PG version I am telling the children in our house is that grandpa and grandma might get a divorce. What really happened is more of an X rated version for a mature audience. I can’t really talk about it right now. The only people that know the full story are my husband and adult children.

In 2019, I finished my book. I got a lot of great feedback from the test readers. They both loved it (and also wanted to give me a lot of hugs and play dolls with me).

I hope that in 2020 I’ll have a clear vision for my life. I want to find meaning and purpose. Finding peace and joy would be an added bonus. I haven’t had a lot of that in my life. What I want more than anything is to keep writing. The funny thing is that I never wanted to write more than one book.

I have been struggling a lot lately over the holidays with depression. This whole situation with my parents has really been getting me down. Since Thanksgiving, I’ve hosted five parties. This weekend I’ll be hosting the foreign exchange student Christmas party. There will be somewhere around 30 people at my house that I don’t even know. I will be happy when it is all over. Having large groups of people over makes me feel stressed and anxious. It’s the cleaning, the cooking, and the cleaning again after everyone leaves and everything in between.

I don’t think it would be a big deal if I wasn’t already so stressed out about my parents. Then when nothing is going on, I feel bored and depressed. It’s not like I have nothing to do, it’s just that I don’t feel like doing anything.

I haven’t wanted to write a lot over the holiday time because I have been feeling so low. I think the holidays should be a happy time. I was rather disgusted with myself for being the Debbie downer, the victim, the person who’s life sucks although I have been blessed with so many things. It’s been very difficult to write about. It’s easier to write about past pains than the raw, fresh, gushing gashing wounds.

It’s my time of grief and sorrow. It’s just a season that I hope doesn’t last too long. But the clock keeps ticking. I wish with the changing of the calendar year that it would just end like the turning of a page. I don’t think it will end anytime soon, but it will end eventually.

New year, knew me.

What else could go wrong??

Seriously, what else could go wrong?? Have you ever muttered those words to yourself only to regret them a few minutes later?

It’s been one of those days.

After I got home from running 5 miles at the gym, I got ready to wash a load of towels. So far, so good. I grabbed a dirty towel off the rack in the bathroom and went to turn off the light. The light switch is next to a door frame made of rough wood. As I was turning off the light my finger went down the wood frame and I got a splinter under my nail. It was extremely painful.

I got out the tweezers and tried in vain to get the splinter out. After a half an hour I sent a text to my husband to come in from his office to help. He tried a couple times, but it was so painful I started crying.

I decided to call the doctor’s office, but they were fully booked until like August or something. This is a horrible story, but I was thinking about a friend of ours that had a sliver under his fingernail that got infected. A couple months ago he ended up having to get his finger removed from that infection.

I decided to go to fast care. I didn’t want to have any more problems over the holiday. When Paul and I got there, they said that they didn’t have the tools to help me. So we walked around the store while I thought about what to do next.

In the meantime, my aunt Jan texted me saying I needed to take care of my mom. The devastating news I got was about my family. I wish I could tell you everything, but I can’t right now. Anyway, I was kind of upset about the text. Why do I need to take care of my mom? I am also going through hell.

While we were in the store, my aunt Jan called Paul. She wanted to make sure I got her message and Paul told her how he felt. He said that I have been taking care of my mother since I was a little girl. Who is taking care of Alissa? Why ask me about my mother? Why focus on my autistic brother? No one ever cared enough to ask how I was doing. I was just expected to be strong to take care of everyone else.

Paul told Jan that I have my own family now. I have 4 teenagers in the house. Alissa just needs to take care of Alissa because she is having a really hard time now too. It felt good to have someone stick up for me. But it didn’t feel good to have a personal conversation in the store while I was stressed about my finger.

Next stop, urgent care. The lady at the front desk asked me if I wanted to pay for my care. I mean, not really. Who does? But I wasn’t in the mood to make wise cracks.

Thankfully I was able to get in right away. The doctor tried in vain for a half an hour to get the splinter out. It was very painful because he had to dig in my nail bed. I was bleeding.

He said I had a couple options. First, I could do nothing. It most likely wouldn’t come out on its own, but it might. He could give me antibiotics. If it got infected or continued to be painful, I could contact a hand surgeon to have it removed. Or he could give me anesthesia and keep trying to dig deeper under my nail. Even then he gave himself a 50% chance to be able to get it out.

I just wanted it out, so I opted for the anesthesia. The anesthesia numbed my finger, but it still hurt. It was just like going to the dentist. I could feel everything even though they gave me enough anesthesia to take out my tooth. The doctor gave me a second dose of anesthesia. I could still feel pain, but it was muted a little.

I felt like I was going to pass out. I was in pain off and on for a couple hours at that point. I felt sick although I didn’t eat hardly anything all day. After another 20 minutes of poking underneath my nail, he was able to get it out.

While I was there, I heard screaming in the background. Someone else was vomiting nonstop, and another guy went into cardiac arrest. Call 9-1-1. When I got back to the reception area, it looked like a crime scene. There were several squad cars and ambulances. People were huddled together crying.

I debated whether or not Paul and I should burn our clothes after our trip to urgent care. Who wants the plague for Christmas??

Then I came home and did a head lice check on one of my kids. Thankfully, I didn’t see anything. Oh, and I almost hit a deer picking up the girls from school.

Honestly, I’m not even sure if it is safe for you to be reading this.

 

 

Let it snow

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It’s winter again in Wisconsin.

Since last winter, we had about 5 months of April. It rained, and rained, and rained until Lake Michigan was ready to overflow into Minnesota. We broke the record for wettest year ever. It was cold too. In July, summer finally arrived for about 6 weeks. Then we had a couple of weeks of fall. Now we are back to winter again.

The picture says it all. Actually it is rather deceiving. I took this photo in October. Since then it snowed 3 more times. We actually had wind chills below zero this past week. Can you believe it? Was it because I signed up to run 5 miles on Thanksgiving day?? Somebody is certainly giving me the bird!

Our foreign exchange student from France is beside herself freaking out in excitement about the snow. Her winter is like our October. I wonder if she will still be excited in April when the snow falls? I’ll let you know.

This year I broke down and started listening to Christmas music the day after Halloween when it started playing on the radio. In my mind, the holidays are very distinct. After Halloween you start celebrating thankfulness and Thanksgiving and all that stuff. Pumpkins are still okay. The day after Thanksgiving is when you start celebrating Christmas. Then it is acceptable to listen to Christmas music. Not before then.

It is so dark, dreary, cold, and snowy it feels like January. It’s like skipping the holiday season and going right into seasonal depression. I just cracked. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. Might as well accept it.

Today I ran on the treadmill. I know, I know. I was trying to run outside to get ready for the race, but the roads are so icy. I almost fell yesterday on my sidewalk. I will save breaking a leg for community theater.

My son’s buddy hit a deer and slid into the ditch already. But not to worry. My son always says if he sees that he is about to get into an accident, he will slide on his seat belt super quick. Why not just wear it?? Now it makes sense why car insurance costs more for teenage boys. I will be finding that out since my son got another car today. I also found out the DMV is a really popular place to hang out on a Friday afternoon if you are looking to find a new place to meet people.

I have to tell you that the car is a God send, literally. I don’t have to drop off and pick up my son from work anymore. Hopefully I won’t even be called to pick him up in the middle of the night when his friend goes in the ditch either.

Seriously though, God send. This morning I went to the mechanic to get new snow tires for my car. I figured it was time since my 16 year old daughter called me freaking out about driving on bald tires through the snow already. I was hoping to wait until actual winter. But sometimes things don’t go as planned, like all of this unexpected snow. While I was at the mechanic, I asked if he had any cars for sale.

Sure enough, underneath the glistening snow was a rusty old Honda. It was perfect. The last time my son got a car it was an overpriced piece of crap we bought for sale in someone’s driveway. It looked sharp, but was garbage inside. I seriously don’t even think the salvage yard wanted it. The good news was that my son’s car was technically totaled the same day we bought it because it stopped running 6 weeks later.

I can’t even make this crap up. He was out the day he got his car squealing around town with his friends when some losers my age chased him down and smashed his car with a tire iron. The good news was that the money he got from the court case pretty much covered the cost of his new to him car. I probably won’t see my son until spring now. Whatever, just as long as his car isn’t totaled today. That shouldn’t be too much to ask.

I told my son God was providing for him. We tried to find another car but don’t trust private sellers. Our friend that sells used cars didn’t have anything under $6,000. We didn’t know where else to go. But we trust our mechanic. If it didn’t snow early, I wouldn’t have needed snow tires and would’ve missed out on the car.

That’s winter in Wisconsin! My husband is thinking about ice fishing this year instead of hunting. I have a feeling that it is going to be a long hard winter. Time to wax my skis. But that it all since I celebrate no shave November.

 

 

Update

It seems like I am blogging less and less. This is not what I want, but there are a lot of things that I don’t want happening right now.

Last week went by in a blur. It’s been a whole week since the salvage yard came by and picked up not one but two of my son’s cars. One has been dead for a long time, the other was at the mechanics half the summer and was deemed unfixable. The little bit of money we got for them was gone the same day because the dryer broke later that afternoon. Tuesday the dryer was repaired. Wednesday I dropped a weight on my foot at strength training class. Thursday I woke up to a flat tire on my car. The mechanic was throwing a customer appreciation party when I got there. I am suspicious that they were throwing it because my son’s car was towed out of there never to be seen again.

It’s a sad time here. The boats are coming out of the water this week for the winter. Last week was brutal. We got tons of rain and broke the record for the wettest year ever recorded in history. We still have 3 months of rainfall left on the year. It was a rough summer. A lot of people had to change plans because of all the flooding and rain. We only had around 6 weeks of warm weather. So we have to go into the dark days feeling like we didn’t have much of a summer this year.

I haven’t been feeling well. I think I am still anemic. I don’t have much endurance at all anymore. I’m still having insomnia and nightmares. Pretty much everything I eat goes right through me. I feel nausea and acid re-flux every day. I’ve been sticking to my diet too. I haven’t had dairy for 6 weeks and avoided all of foods I am sensitive to for 2 weeks.

It’s been killing me to watch my friends drink beer and eat pizza while I can only have the salad bar. A salad without cheese, eggs, tomatoes, and dressing. Plus I still feel sick. Some days I can barely eat I am so miserable. There is nothing I can eat that I want to eat anyway.

It’s been emotionally challenging being on a special diet too. I feel like an outsider looking in. I feel lonely and left out. I don’t want to go out to eat. I don’t know what to make for supper anymore. It kills me to make and serve dishes I can’t eat. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I actually felt better. It’s been dragging me down. I’ve been having a hard time with this. I feel so angry and impatient with myself for feeling sick. But it is important to keep to my regular routine whether I feel up to it or not. I haven’t cancelled any plans, although some days I don’t feel like getting out of bed. Friends and strangers alike have been coming up to me and ask me if I am alright. I hate feeling weak.

The good news is that tomorrow I have an appointment set up with a health and wellness doctor. Maybe I can get my body back on track again.

Other than that, I have been doing a lot of running around now that my son doesn’t have a car. I have 4 teenagers in the house. In the morning I drop the girls off at school then come back to take my son and his friend to work. He practically lives here too. Then this afternoon I dropped my daughter off at work, picked my son and his friend up from work, and picked our foreign exchange student up from after school sports. Plus I went grocery shopping, have to make supper, clean up afterwards, and then go pick my daughter up from work.

Every day is a variation of picking and dropping off kids. I feel very busy but like I don’t get anything important done. It’s been frustrating and I feel like blogging has been the last thing on the long list lately. I am going to try to blog more and be more positive. We’ll see what happens.

Expectation reflections

It hasn’t been too much of an adjustment having 4 teenagers in the house.

Our foreign exchange students have been very quiet and friendly. When we told others of our plan to have 2 foreign exchange students, they cringed. Most shared horror stories of wild teen exchange students that made every effort to sneak out and party. So far there haven’t been any problems.

It’s probably because they are not comfortable being family yet. There aren’t any fights or talking back. We are all on our best behavior, no belching or farting. My husband has been giving them special treatment. He is buying the foods they like, taking them to places they are interested in going, asking if they are too hot or too cold. It’s hard not to treat them like visitors.

This is going to sound insane, but I felt a twinge of jealousy. It triggered something inside of me that reminded me of my mom’s special treatment of my autistic brother Matt.  Everything in our house revolved around Matt and what he wanted. I honestly wasn’t expecting to feel that way.

Of course, the students paid a lot of money to have a great experience here. I want things to be wonderful for them. Things are going really well. The girls don’t seem to be too homesick. If anything, at times they seem a little bored. But I’m sure that will change once school starts and they make friends.

It’s fun because they get excited about all of the little things, like going to the grocery store. They eat differently than we do. They use their knife and fork to cut things more. They cut up grilled cheese sandwiches instead of just picking them up and plunking them in their soup like I did.

Today Clara made homemade German potato salad for our friend’s Octoberfest party tomorrow. Real German food!

I also didn’t realize how much Hitler and the nazi’s were the butt of American jokes in TV and movie comedies. Awkward! But none of us were alive when any of that happened. If anything, countries that were once at war can be friendly towards each other again.

Hopefully in the next couple weeks the girls will come out of their shell a little. As for right now, I’m really happy that things are going better than I expected.

A new family

Last night our foreign exchange students arrived, Clara from Germany and Estelle from France.

I felt anxious all day. I couldn’t believe it was really happening.

I worried. Would our new “children” like us? What will this next year be like?

My oldest two children are not as excited about it as I am. I think they think I’m replacing them. But maybe in a way I am. They are adults and don’t need me being a mother hen to them anymore. They are off living their own lives like they should be.

I am excited about this new adventure, but as with anything new a little frightened too.

I wonder what it would be like to see everything for the first time through their eyes. Maybe even for us, the old will become new again.

I hope it is a wonderful experience for all of us.

 

Extreme empty nest solutions

On Sunday I received a phone call from the foreign exchange student coordinator a couple hours after my daughter moved out.

Sunday was a bittersweet day.

On Sunday, my best friend became a grandma for the first time.

On Sunday, it’s been a year and a day since my close friend lost her daughter in a fiery car crash.

On Sunday, my daughter moved 4 hours away and is not planning on living at home again.

I was feeling down as you can probably imagine.

My oldest daughter moved out, my son is off pet sitting this week, and my youngest daughter is volunteering this week as a camp cook. I’m feeling the empty nest kick in. I realized that I may have a harder time with this whole empty nest thing than I thought.

I’ve been a caregiver since I can remember. I was my autistic brother’s “second mom”. I also helped with my other two younger brothers.

In college, I was a caregiver for an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s and a middle aged man with Paranoid Schizophrenia. I took care of my brother Matt up until after I had several kids of my own. I also took care of my Aunt Grace when she had dementia. I provided day care for several children when my kids were little.

I don’t know what it is like to not take care of someone and the thought is a little scary.

As I was crying and feeling sorry for myself, the phone rang. The foreign exchange program coordinator called and said she had an emergency situation. One of the host parents for a student from Germany ended up getting into a serious motorcycle accident and broke her back. This student was really into music and needed a home.

I was wondering what to do with my daughter’s empty room. So we filled it. Now we will be hosting two foreign exchange students starting next month, Estelle from France and Clara from Germany.

I feel like my life has meaning again. I suppose most people get another pet once they start emptying the nest. Not me, I guess you could say I am rather extreme.

Even though it might be stressful having 3 teenagers in the house again, I am going to enjoy this last year of chaos before I have an empty nest.

By the time next year rolls around, I might actually be okay with only taking care of me.

 

More than a shot

I took a pregnancy test today.

I had to take the test before I got the MMR vaccination which contains a live virus. Back in the 1990’s, when I was pregnant, my titer showed I was not immune despite receiving the shots in the 70’s.

I decided to get a booster shot because of the recent outbreak and my love for international travel. I might want to go on a mission trip in the next couple of years which will also take me off the beaten tourist trap path.

I started to think a bit more about vaccinations, more specifically the MMR vaccination. With the measles outbreak, I saw a lot of hateful comments made towards the anti-vaccination folks. I saw babies that wore shirts in photos saying, “I’m vaccinated because my parents aren’t morons”. I found this to be offensive because I’m sure most parents that don’t vaccinate are not morons.

Perhaps my opinion is not popular, but stick with me for a moment.

I had my first baby in 1998. In 1998, an article was published in a medical journal linking the MMR shot to autism. It caused a huge scare that I believe hasn’t been fully eradicated to this day. At that time, I was more fearful that my children would be severely autistic like my brother than to get measles, a disease that I’ve never seen anyone contract in my lifetime.

Later, after the article was published, we were told that the link was a sham. Being a very logical person, I wondered what kind of medical journal would publish crap research findings. Can anybody publish any research article that they want in a supposedly reputable medical journal?

I also thought about conspiracy theories. Here you have huge pharmaceutical companies making big money off of vaccinations pitted against a small probably under funded research doctor. Of course there wouldn’t be a link. Follow the money. What were concerned parents supposed to believe? You can’t just erase something you already saw. Shame on the journal for publishing the article in the first place if there were so many issues with the study’s validity. It caused so much unnecessary fear.

It was horrifying and I struggled with making the decision to have my children get the required vaccinations. I am happy to say that my children are fully vaccinated. I thought the best way around it was to vaccinate my children with the MMR shot after they safely passed the age when most cases of autism are diagnosed.

I feel angry with people who quickly judge others for not vaccinating. They are usually not morons, they might just be fearful like I was. My babies were born at the height of the autism linked to vaccinations scare.

I think that most people who choose not to vaccinate have their reasons not to. It is not lazy parenting. Believe me, it is a lot more work to choose not to vaccinate. I did receive some criticism for doing things on my timetable. But even if there was a small iota of a chance that vaccinations caused autism, I needed to be careful. Where those people that shamed me going to come in my house and take care of my child if he/she became autistic?

I honestly don’t know if I would have the strength to live through it again this time as a parent.

I have a lot of respect for people that grew up with a special needs sibling that end up becoming a special needs parent. I don’t think I have the courage to fight that battle twice.

I get angry about talk of forced vaccinations. Shouldn’t parents have the right to make that choice for their child?

I think pro-vaccine people would be more successful listening and being empathetic to the concerns of parents who don’t want to vaccinate. Don’t treat them like they are a bunch of morons because that won’t get you anywhere. Morons blindly follow. But educated people question and try to make the best decisions they can.

I am pro-vaccination, but I strongly believe that the parents should make the decision and be treated respectfully whatever they decide.

 

 

My life with a teen driver

I wonder if Arabella will ever get her license. She is 16 now, but I am hesitant to set up her driving test appointment because I don’t think she will pass.

My life is in danger. Just yesterday, she blew through a stop sign. She almost ran a red light. I had to yell at her to stop. Generally a relatively patient person, I screamed an obscenity as I watched my life pass before me as she changed lanes into another car’s path on a roundabout. The other driver pulled over as if my daughter was driving an emergency vehicle with sirens blaring. I simply screamed as I saw myself going towards the other driver as if in a nightmarish bumper car ride.

But that wasn’t all! Yesterday she cut off a driver on the highway almost causing an accident. The elderly man drove past her wagging his finger at her violently. He must’ve been a nice man. Most drivers lay down on the horn screaming what I can only imagine are obscenities while shaking their middle finger at her.

Maybe if she goes one week without someone flipping her off, then I will schedule her appointment. Even if she passes her test, I will worry about her driving. It doesn’t help that a close friend’s daughter died in a car accident last year when she was 16. Having a new driver is one of the most horrifying steps of independence for a parent.

To make matters worse, Arabella has zero sense of direction. I have to give her directions to places that she has been to a million times.

She also knows everything about driving and doesn’t want to listen to my 30 years of experience. Even though I never got any tickets or was ever in an accident. I didn’t even hit a deer which is unheard of around here. I did run into a septic tank cap up north a couple weeks back that I didn’t see which caused some front end damage to my car. But we won’t talk about that today.

I wish I could help Arabella be a better driver. It’s really no wonder I feel anxious. Maybe things will get better…