Gratitude week 12

1. And more compliments on my hair. This time I received them at the grocery store.

2. We haven’t killed each other yet, nor has the virus killed us. Seriously though, I am grateful for the health of family and friends. I hope you are in good health and good enough spirits under the circumstances we find ourselves in.

3. We finished one puzzle and still have 11 left to go before I run out. What a great time to renew an interest in old hobbies. I haven’t done a puzzle in years.

4. I am reading a good book and have 2 more left before I run out.

5. I’m grateful that my husband is willing to do a lot of the cooking since he is a better cook than I am.

6. We have enough food to eat.

7. I am thankful to be an introvert in this time of isolation and solitude. I am not alone since my family is home more.

8. I am grateful for the start of spring. Although it is pretty cold outside, it is not as cold as it would be in the dead of winter. It is a little easier to run outside than it would be in January.

9. After struggling with insomnia nearly every night for the past couple months, I am thankful I was able to sleep well twice this past week.

10. I am thankful for a cat that snuggles at my feet every morning while I drink my coffee. Time to get in touch with the simpler things.

I miss the life I planned

Today was a sad day. We cancelled our trip to Florida.

There has been a lot of feelings going around our house lately from sadness, anger, and anxiety.

We are preparing to spend the next two months at home.

Our foreign exchange students are having an especially hard time because they are not at home. The separation from their families has been heartbreaking for them at times. Both students have shed tears of sadness and fear.

Some of the foreign exchange programs are sending their students back home. But as of right now, ours is not. My daughter is uncertain about whether or not she wants to be a foreign exchange student next year.

What isn’t uncertain at this time?

Prom has been cancelled. My daughter’s college graduation has also been cancelled. Thankfully she lives off campus because otherwise we don’t have extra room at our house for her to move back home.

One of the host parents of a foreign exchange student said she could no longer handle the responsibility of caring for a child that is not hers. They decided out of fear to abruptly stop hosting. Now the child does not have a home.

The foreign exchange students are panicking. Will they be sent home? What will they be sent home to? Will they have to stay longer? Their whole experience is off the rails now.

Our foreign exchange student from France, Estelle, has parents who are not together. They disagree about what should be done. Her dad wants her to come home, her mom wants her to stay.

Now I long for the days when I had to convince my kids to get out of bed to go to school.

This is the beginning of the new normal.

All of the restaurants and bars closed in Wisconsin. I never thought I would see the day the bars would close on St. Patrick’s Day. The churches will be closed on Easter. They closed the mall today. We can no longer order items on Amazon.

I’m trying to get everything done before I can’t do it anymore.

Today I got fingerprinted for the census job. I tried to make an appointment immediately after I got the link but apparently the link was not active right away. I called their 1 800 number and got a recorded message. I figured I needed to get in ASAP because I didn’t want to call that number again.

I plucked my eyebrows and shaved my legs. I even painted my nails. This will be the last time I leave the house in awhile. Normally I wouldn’t shave to get fingerprinted. I mean, it is too cold to wear shorts.

Yesterday I ran outside. I won’t lie, it was cold. I had to be careful too because the roads were icy in spots and I nearly fell. I really miss the gym. I even miss my stalker. I miss the guy that sweats on the machines around him. I miss the lady my age who runs and smiles at me. I imagine we are friends although we never spoke.

I miss the life I had planned. This is my new life now.

On a good note, I should not have an excuse not to write everyday.

Stay safe!

Gratitude week 1

I’ve decided to do something new this year. Once a week I am going write 10 things I am grateful for. Life has been pretty stressful around here lately and frankly I don’t think it is going to get better for awhile, so…..in an effort to be more positive…I want to also write about the things I am thankful for. Some really awesome things are happening too.

1. I am thankful to start off the new year with a pajama day. I only do this twice a year (unless I’m really sick), but maybe I need to do it more. It forced me to slow down and relax. Plus I wore the new pajamas and socks my mom got me for Christmas.

2. I am thankful that I am done hosting Christmas parties.

3. I am thankful half the people I expected turned up for the foreign exchange student Christmas party on Saturday. I honestly didn’t know where I was going to fit 30+ people in my house (that I didn’t know) in the winter. I wasn’t happy most of the people that didn’t attend went to a funeral instead. Maybe I shouldn’t be grateful for that. Hey, I’m new at this whole gratitude thing…so…bear with me.

4. I’m grateful to take down the tree and all of the Christmas decor. It feels like a crisp clean start to the new year now.

5. I’m grateful that I had my best workout this morning in months. I ran 6 miles at a pretty fast clip. Maybe it was just the anxiety, but I felt energetic and motivated.

6. Although the parking lot and machines at the gym were full, I was grateful to find a treadmill open in front of the TV so I could watch Family Feud. It’s a distraction from the pain and boredom of running inside.

7. I’m grateful to run into my aunt and uncle at the gym. I wasn’t too excited that my uncle’s ex-wife was also there at the same time. But hey, it makes things more exciting on a Monday morning. I’m grateful friends and enemies alike are opting for a new year of improved health. LOL

8. I’m grateful to meet yesterday with the first person who test read my book. My friend Sue is a child psychologist who specializes in autism. We had a long conversation about autism then versus now as far as diagnosis and theories go. She also explained autism in the education system. When my brother was growing up, the teachers were taught aversion therapy and punishment. Now they offer a reward based program to autistic children. I am grateful that there are so many wonderful resources out there for families now so they don’t have to go through what we went through. Sue also loved my book!

9. One of the host moms commented at the party that our house is like a resort. It’s nice to have people appreciate something we worked hard to earn. I am grateful to live in a beautiful house debt free.

10. I am grateful, although I struggle with depression, to be able to pull myself up and keep fighting the good fight.

 

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.

I finished my book!!

Last night I finished my book, my life story. It stirred within me many mixed emotions. I felt like I was covered in a blanket of deep sorrow, yet at the same time I felt joy. It’s been a journey of remembering and releasing in words previously unexpressed.

Last night I sent my book to two test readers, a friend who is an author and a friend that is a child psychologist who works specifically with autistic children. I also sent a copy to my therapist. After I receive feedback, I will edit my book again. Then I want to send my book to my husband, my daughter Angel, my son Alex, and my brother Luke. After that, I am going to find a publisher. Then I will share it with you.

Perhaps this will start the healing process, perhaps not.

I figure if I can do some really difficult things (like running a 50k or writing a book revealing my trauma), then I probably can figure out a way to do something almost everyone can do. Relax. Heal. Let go.

I have been working with my therapist on brainspotting. I shared my first session with you and that was a very positive experience. After that session, things took a dark turn. I have been releasing all of the negative garbage I’ve been holding inside. It stinks! I’ve been working hard on trying to express my feelings. It has been painful, yet beneficial. Through this process, my lifelong struggle with insomnia and nightmares has gone away.

For a long time, I understood myself. I know what triggers my depression and anxiety. I understand the attacks of my trauma on my well being. But I’ve never known what to do about it. Visiting a therapist is taking the next step. Self-awareness is important, but it isn’t a catalyst for change.

I’m trying to give up control. It’s not like I had any in the first place. Just like being a clean freak never seems to make the dirt go away. Being a control freak doesn’t give peace and serenity to the voice that cries out for it. Worry is a waste of time. It doesn’t bring me peace.

I am trying to figure out who I really am. For most of my life I lived in survival mode. Now who am I? The person I needed to be to survive? Or who I really am? It’s hard to be myself if I don’t know who I really am. It’s a new time for self-discovery and growth. I want to fully experience my purpose in life.

I started meditating. Maybe I will try yoga. I always burned my anxiety off by hard workouts at the gym. This is how I process my anger. I am going to keep this, but add to it by including relaxation exercises.

I am going to read a Bible verse a day. This will incorporate inspiration for spiritual healing and growth. I want to trust God more. I also want to trust the people that care about me even if it means I might get hurt. I want to cultivate meaningful relationships. I want to cut off unhealthy relationships altogether, and if I can’t then I’ll set healthy boundaries.

I also started visiting a wellness clinic for physical healing of my body. My nervous system took a big hit from the long term stress. I suffered from stomach and GI issues my whole life. I’ve been working on avoiding the foods I am sensitive to and rebuilding my gut for optimal physical health.

If I can train my body for a 50k, I can train my body for growth and healing. My book is done, but I will never stop writing. The story hasn’t ended yet. The best is yet to come.

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.

 

 

My first 50k

I did it! I finished my first 50k.

The ultra marathon started at 6 AM. I got up at what would’ve been 3 AM my time at home after a restless night’s sleep.

It was still dark when the race started. I borrowed my cousin’s headlamp. I thought that I could just use my cell phone, but was told that a headlamp would work better. I never ran with a headlamp before. It was disconcerting and took some getting used to. I felt like I was running with a strobe light.

I felt tired and had stomach issues for three quarters of the race despite my best efforts to get enough rest and not eat anything that could possibly disagree with me. My body likes routine and kept cuing me that something was off. I did a lot of walking dragged along by my cousin who was always in front of me. He kept encouraging me along and everyone else along the path.

As the day grew long and the end neared, we greeted everyone and were greeted with a great job, keep going, looking good. It was a difficult course despite near perfect weather conditions. I saw runners vomit, covered in dirt, lay on the ground, and fall in front of me. Some were running the 100 mile race that started the afternoon before. Some looked strong and others looked like they were barely holding on.

Every muscle in my body screamed at me to stop after I ran the length of a marathon. My feet ran along in a slow shuffle. In my mind my movements were exaggerated. I thought I was picking up my feet high enough to get over several roots on the trail. Twice I tripped and caught myself from falling. My body jolted in a pain so fiercely never experienced before.

There was no way I could keep up to my cousin after that, but he wouldn’t finish without me. He told me how strong I was and to keep going. The closer I got to the end the more my mind told me just the opposite. I sucked at running and was despicably weak.

Meanwhile, Paul and my cousin’s wife followed us around routing for us. They stopped in the middle of the woods for a picnic lunch which prompted a runner to ask them if they were real.

C’mon now, we only have a 10k left…now a 5k. After another mile, we just had 3 miles to go. Wait you told me that a mile ago. Are you lying?

The last two miles were the hardest. It took everything I had to just keep walking. I never ran that far before. I didn’t trust myself to run. I felt like I was going to pass out. But I was determined to finish even if I had to crawl. My cousin said he would carry me across the finish line if he had to, but I said I would never allow for that.

My cousin is a very kind and caring person. He stopped to offer help to everyone he saw struggling on the path.

Finally we were about a mile away. I saw some fortune cookies left on an almost empty snack table. In only one package, there were two fortunes. I convinced my cousin that those were for us.

Ability will enable a man to get to the top, but character will keep him from falling.

Seems fitting, I guess. I am quite the character.

Finally, the end was in sight. I ran with all the strength I could muster across the finish line.

Fortune cookie wisdom #20

Courage comes through suffering.

This fortune cookie blew away from the rest and was found the same day I found my lost ‘I am courageous’ sock. I only wore the socks once before losing one in Paul’s shirt for a couple weeks.

It seemed like a sign of some sorts. But what does it mean?

What does being courageous even mean? The dictionary defines courageous as not deterred by danger or pain; brave.

I would like to think that I am courageous. In the next couple weeks I am planning on doing courageous things.

This weekend I am running my first 50k. It takes a lot of courage for me to do this and probably will entail a lot of suffering too. There is no guarantee that I will succeed. I am very fearful that I might not be able to achieve the goals I’ve set in place for myself.

Within the next two weeks I will be submitting a 45 minute presentation for a local autism chapter about what it is like to be a sibling of someone with autism. I really need to put myself out there about the most difficult experience in my life. It is going to require a lot of courage. I am finishing my book on what life is really like with a disabled sibling. I’ve had to face my scars and demons.

As an extra test to my bravery, over the holiday weekend a filling fell out. I went to the dentist today to get it fixed. They said I could probably do it without being numbed. I would rather run a marathon with a broken leg. I was horrified and then they said I could get anesthesia just in case. But I decided to brave it despite my fear.

Then this past weekend I spoke to my dad about God. I don’t feel like he has much time left. For some reason he has softened his heart toward me lately. He told me that he loved me for the second time in my life. The first time was on my 18th birthday prompted by my mother. Then this weekend I asked him to come out and sit with us, his family, by the campfire. Surprisingly to everyone, he did.

Before this, I justified to myself that someone else should talk to my dad. My brother Luke sat down with my parents awhile back and aired out all of his grievances. It seemed like a good thing. I thought that he was getting along great with my dad. I felt like Luke is a better Christian than I am so he could carry the weight of talking to our dad. But my eyes were opened to the fact that Luke and my dad do not get along.

My mom is a devout Christian and my dad is a Christian bashing atheist. I bet you can guess how that worked. I believe that the best marriages are of those that have the same religious beliefs. Because, we the children, have to take sides. I feel the need to talk to my dad about God. I most likely wouldn’t have that burden if both my parents were Christians or atheists if I followed their beliefs. It causes a lot of disharmony and stress.

So on the way out of the cabin this weekend I said to my dad that I hope he finds God before God finds him. My dad laughed and said fat chance. I knew that my words probably did no good for him, but it released me. I did everything I could and if it is the last time I see him I will know that I did not leave a coward.

I don’t think that I am more courageous than the average person, but I am trying to be brave when there are demons to slay and fears to conquer.

 

Life’s good

I feel happy with life right now. It’s been a long time since I felt this way. Things are finally coming together. I think I actually slept two full nights this week following a week of insomnia and nightmares.

What makes me happy is that everything is coming together for my family.

My daughter Angel just started her last year of college. She is dating a guy that I would be happy to call my son-in-law. I think they might get engaged soon. Her future looks pretty exciting right now.

My son Alex just started tech school. He is joining a band that I approve of. It’s all I can ask for right now.

Things are going better than expected with the foreign exchange students. I have been busy getting them registered for school and trying to do all of the fun stuff around here before summer ends. Weather wise, it pretty much has ended. It’s been a cool and rainy summer.

Arabella is doing good with her diet and one of our foreign exchange students offered to host her as a foreign exchange student next year. Things are coming together.

Paul is starting a new business, not a start up company this time but a franchise. We are getting along better now than we have before.

I am excited and nervous to be traveling to Michigan next week for my first 50k. Paul and I are taking the car ferry across Lake Michigan for the first time. I love planning trips, even if they aren’t very far. Off to another adventure which I’ll be sure to tell you about.

I don’t know what the future brings. But as for right now life is good. I’m going to hold on to that as long as I can.

What is happening? Part 2

We left the wedding that night before the clock struck midnight. Not because something magical was happening. My car wasn’t turning back into a pumpkin. But on that day, when the clock struck midnight, my princess was turning 21. I told Angel that I would take her out for a drink at midnight. We got back home just in time for me to freshen up. When I came out of my room, Angel was fast asleep on the couch. I didn’t really want to go anyway. I was exhausted.

We took Angel out for lunch instead. We were surprised to see that a lot of restaurants were closed from the storms. Some restaurants had no electricity. The restaurants that did have power said they didn’t have enough help to cover for the restaurants that were closed and people that went out to eat because they didn’t have electricity. It caused a storm surge of customers.

It was sad to see Angel leave. It was the first time she was home after she moved out. It made me realize how much I missed her conversations. I’m not sure when she will be coming home again. After she left, I was exhausted.

I decided that I was going to go for a long run the next morning. The plan was to find a point to get on and off the trail to run to my parents house and back. I was hoping to park my car on the trail and run 10 miles one way. I wasn’t sure how it would work because of the storm damage and because I never ran the trail there before.

I left later than I wanted to the next morning. It was a nice day, not too hot and not at all rainy. The trail was heavily wooded but beautiful. The first half of the run was well groomed. I ran into a lot of people on bikes. There were several trees down and at some times it felt like an obstacle course.

But the second half of my journey was very remote. The bottom two pictures were taken on the second half of the trail. It would be a great place to hide a body. Wouldn’t it? There were fewer people along the trail here. At times I feared for my safety. It ended up being 14 miles to my parents house. I had a late lunch with my mom and headed back home.

My mom walked with me for the first 3 miles, then got picked up by my dad. She was afraid for my safety. There were times that I was too. I did something that I wouldn’t want my daughters to do. I felt vulnerable. At times I would look behind me and no one was there only to be passed by someone from behind a few minutes later without knowing they were there. It was creepy. It was starting to get dark. My mom wanted to give me a ride closer to home, but I refused.

I spent a lot of time walking. I thought I would spend a lot of time thinking, but I didn’t. My mind was empty and free. No problems, but also no solutions. It was starting to get dark. I was running out of fuel. I didn’t have much water. My feet were starting to ache. But I made it! I ran 28 miles. It was the furthest I’ve ever ran/walked and 25 of the miles I was totally alone.

I think I am ready for a 50k. I feel confident now. I wasn’t as sore as I thought I would be, but I was sore. The next day I went in for a massage. I should’ve waited because I was almost too sore.

I’ve regained my confidence, but my mom was so worried that I promised her I would never take the trail to her house again.