A day in the life…

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7:00-7:30 a.m.  Scritch, scratch.  Lulu is at the bedroom door.  It isn’t her feeding time.  She doesn’t go outside.  So, what does she want?  Company.  Me.  Sometimes I get up and let her in to snuggle for a while.  Other days I get up straight away and go downstairs with her.

Almost every day I get out of bed with an “itch” to write.  As regular readers know, I haven’t written much in the last few months.  So if I get up with a desire to write, what’s keeping me from doing so?  In part, it’s because I’ve been as busy as a honey bee in a bed of clover.  There was a while that I couldn’t write because I was seriously depressed.  That is no longer a problem, thanks to antidepressant medication which has worked a not-so-small miracle in that regard.

My upbeat mood and new-found energy have given me a joie de vivre that I haven’t had in a very long time.  I’m finding my schedule almost over-booked these days simply because I feel like doing things and seeing people.  Who knew there were so many entertaining endeavors waiting for me?  Well, I did.  But I couldn’t get past the lethargy that depression causes.  I’m grateful for another chance to live my life, and to enjoy doing so.

In the past couple of months I have been walking regularly with two of my neighbors.  (It’s lots more photo(19)fun when you have company.)  I’ve attended numerous grandchild functions:  a pre-prom photo session, an elementary school graduation, a high school graduation, two engagement parties, a gymnastics celebration banquet (the end of a rather lengthy gymnastics career–happy and sad), and more that I can’t remember at the moment.

In addition to the fun stuff, I have taken on a front yard project.  I’m wondering if my meds have made me a little more wacky than I normally am–not an easy feat since I’ve always been pretty wacky. As some of you know already, I don’t grow grass very well, so I decided I should construct some around-the-tree gardens in order to have less weedy grass to mow.photo(16)  I started by digging a v-shaped trench around the tree.  My research tells me this is a Victorian edge.  I didn’t want a brick or stone edging because it makes using the weed eater a bit fussy.  I thought the digging would be the hardest part, but abundant rain had saturated the ground and digging was a breeze.

The next step was to cover inside the circle with newspapers.  The newspaper kills weeds and unwanted grass in the finished product.  Then I spread four (or so) inches of soil on top of the newspapers.  Next came a nice thick layer of mulch on top of the dirt. Viola. The garden is ready for some shade-loving plants.photo(20)

I took this photo shortly after I planted.  We’ve had a great deal of rain and sunshine since then, so I’m able to see growth almost every day.  Only two more trees to go.  My neighbors are waiting patiently.  I’m still a little surprised (and proud) that I was able to do this by myself.  Gave me a nice sense of accomplishment.

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Pretending to be normal.

201200003769_003The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well. ~ Alfred Adler

Definition of normal:  not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle; conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern; free from mental disorder — Merriam-Webster

I stashed this picture and the beginnings of a post in my files a long time ago, knowing that one day I wanted to write about it, but having no idea what I wanted to say.  It seemed important to me at the time.  Also, I love the cheerful, happy women in Suzy Toronto’s work.

At the time, I think I was exhausted by trying to be normal.  At the same time I wondered, “Why would I want to be normal?  I want to be more than normal.  I want to sparkle. I want to shine.  I want to leave my mark!”  The sad truth is I couldn’t get to normal, so how was I ever going to sparkle, let alone shine?  What on earth was wrong with me?

I have mentioned before that my family is rife with alcoholics/drug addicts.  I don’t remember having talked about the other family scourge–depression and/or anxiety.  I think that if I made a list of relatives who suffer from depression, it would be longer than the list of those who do not.  Most of my life I would have put my name on the those-who-do-not list.  Even after having taken an anti-depressant (SSRI) to help me through my divorce, I still would have considered myself a non-depressed person.  I have, in the past two or three years, admitted that I sometimes have bouts of depression.  But did I consider myself a depressed person?  Never!

This last bout of functioning-well-below-normal depression has changed my mind.  “And why is that?” you might ask.  I’m still trying to figure out the answer.  This time it went on and on for a very long time–close to a year, I think.  I was anxious.  I was worried.  I was tired.  I was so very, very sad.  I was short-tempered, impatient, critical.  The biggest clue of all was, I think, that I started to have numerous physical symptoms.  Test after medical test turned up nothing.  I started to realize that the chest pain I went to the emergency room for was probably an anxiety or panic attack.  The digestive symptoms I was having may have been due to what was eating me rather than what I was or was not eating.

I have spent a lifetime resisting the depressed label.  There are a couple of reasons for my attitude toward this particular illness: 1) I don’t like to admit to being less than healthy (as in it seems like a weakness to me), and 2) there is too much stigma still attached to any type of mental illness.  Number two is changing slowly but there’s much educating to be done before it becomes just another illness.

I believe that my reasons for thinking the way I did probably come from my attitudes toward my parents as I reached adulthood.  I saw my mother as weak because she played the poor-pitiful-me role her entire life.  I needed her to pull herself up and take control of the family.  I realize now that she couldn’t.  I saw my father as the drunk who didn’t provide well for his family.  I know now that he suffered from depression, too, and was likely drinking because of the anxiety and depression.  His drinking then exacerbated the problem.  I now believe that both parents did the best they could under very trying circumstances.

I’m happy to report that I no longer have to pretend to be normal.  I feel normal.  I’m not sure I’m shining just yet, but I’m beginning to notice a few sparks on a fairly regular basis.  I’m planning to sparkle soon.  About two months ago, after taking a long, but gentle look, at myself, and recognizing that I have spent most of my adult life depressed and anxious, I decided to be kind to me and I put myself back on antidepressant medication.  One month ago I told my doctor what I had done.  She asked many, many questions about how I had been and how I was on medication.  She agreed with me.  I did the right thing.

photo(9)Disclaimer:  I am not suggesting that anyone reading this post should do what I did.  If you think you are depressed, please see an appropriate professional.

Summertime blues.

“…and there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.”  ~ Eddie Cochran, 1938-1960

Back in 1959, young Eddie Cochran wrote and recorded “Summertime Blues.”  It has since been recorded by many other artists, including Roger Daltrey and The Who.  It continues to entertain me whenever I chance to hear it.  I included the link so that you might enjoy it, too, if you choose.  Music, as I have said before, soothes my soul and brings me great joy.

I have mentioned in previous posts that I have bouts of depression.  Some of the worst times come in the summer.  I am at my core an outdoor “girl.”  When we have days, sometimes even weeks on end, of ninety-five plus temperatures, it starts to wear on me.  Walking in the mall isn’t my idea of satisfying exercise.  Walking outside is out of the question–even dangerous.  Stubborn soul that I am, I try hard to outwit my depression and negative thoughts.  Tonight I’m looking back on my last twenty-four hours and remembering the things/people/events that brought a spot of happiness into my world.  For example, red flowers in a summer bouquet as seen in the photo above.  I bought these for myself at my local grocery.

Stella and her mom spent the night with me last night.  This is her Bananagrams message on our Winnie the Pooh rug in her favorite room.  You can see Pooh’s feet, lower right.  We rocked and I sang the songs I used to sing to her mom when she was little.  S sings with me on You Are My Sunshine.  We read books, ate chocolate cake, watched a bit of Sponge Bob Square Pants (a very funny show for adults), and lots of other fun stuff.  No time for depression with S around.  She’s a joyful little girl.

This is Stella’s t-shirt for the day.  She didn’t want to pose long enough for me to snap a picture but she finally relented so I would “just get it done” and leave her alone.  I’m proud of her parents for teaching this message to their children and for promoting it in the community via t-shirts and attitudes.  Title IX lives! and I’m glad for that.  In fact I can gratefully add that all three of my daughters encourage and support this message.  Thank you, Daughters, for your open minds and progressive thinking.

High on my list of hot-weather activities is visiting my nearest book shop, so I don’t need to tell you that I was delighted when Daughter #1 (numbers established by birth order) texted and asked if I wanted to meet her there.  Of course I did.  It’s a large store and it’s wonderfully cool.  I often spend a couple of hours browsing, and I admit it, I buy far too often for one who has an electronic reader.  It helps that there’s a Starbucks there.  This time of year it’s the coffee frappuccino that calls my name.  Yum!

I keep telling myself that I must start to spend more time at the nearest public library so I won’t buy books.  It would be just as cool.  Of course they don’t have a Starbucks and the library is farther away.  One of these days.  Maybe.  I’m considering it.  Really!

Do your best.  Give.  Eat good food and share.  Celebrate tradition.  Cherish family.  Look back.  Look ahead.  LIVE NOW.  Play games.  Dream.  Accept change.  ~~  These are the messages on a lovely, handcrafted Lazy Susan which sits on my kitchen table.  Today, I’m happy to say, I did most of these things.    It was a good day. 

Birthdays are not for sissies.

I had a birthday recently.  I’ve also been a little sad of late.  Are the two connected?  I don’t really know.  Maybe.  My mom did not age gracefully.  She fought it like a tiger.  I asked her once if she had thought of having a “friend” or another husband.  Her answer was classic Mom:  “I’ve thought of it but the way I see it I’m too old to get a younger man and I don’t want an older one.  I DON’T LIKE OLD MEN!”  I decided to rib her a little and told her that she was, in fact, an old woman.  She stood her ground as she told me she knew that but “I STILL DON’T LIKE OLD MEN!”  I conceded and I don’t think I ever mentioned it again.

I’m not sure why I brought this up or where I’m going with it but I will tell you that I don’t dislike old men as long as they don’t act old.  I think that order gets taller the more birthdays I have.  Now I shall return to this most recent birthday celebration.

Through and throughout the malaise of depression sadness I never lose sight of the fact that I’m very fortunate to have family and friends who are kind and giving and supportive.  Witness the beautiful rose bouquet pictured above or the chocolate-covered strawberries (right) which were delivered to my front door.  Yum!  Equally important are the thoughts and wishes that aren’t or can’t be pictured here.  Lunch out AND dinner cooked in by my best buddy who loves me no matter what dumb thing I might say or do.  All-girl family dinner with two daughters and two granddaughters where we named the worst and best things about our day and some of us couldn’t think of a worst.  How great is that!  A Barnes and Noble gift card to cover my nook-book purchases for quite some time.  Hugs and kisses from my Latino friends and a loud “Happy Birthday to You” sung in Spanish.  The Face Book greetings, the phone calls and the snail mail printed cards.  The handmade cards made by the grandchildren.  My favorite birthday quote comes from a card my grandson F made:  “I hope you have a great birthday but I know that it will be great because you are with the people who love you.”  My second favorite comes from a card his little sister S made:  “On your birthday, can you take me to the toy store?”

Life is good.  As I wind down this little essay I leave you with what I consider to be my funniest card.

The fog is clearing.

When I awoke this morning I had the vaguest feeling that maybe the fog around my head was a little less dense than it’s been for the past ten days or so.  I didn’t really trust the feeling so I rolled over and sorta snoozed for another half hour.  During that half hour, though, something kept nudging me to get up, that today will be better.  Depression is a mysterious, seductive mistress.  Sometimes a fatal attraction.

Fortunately for me the desire to feel better, to be joyous and free, is more powerful in the long haul; and so today I’m up and bathed and dressed and ready to start that sometimes rugged road back to health.  It helps that the sun is shining and that I’m leaving the house early for a date with daughter #1.  Having somewhere to go and someone to talk to helps to ease my transition.

I’m seriously behind with my blog reading.  I’ve missed all of you and I’ll try to start catching up soon.  In the meantime I’ll get outside and enjoy the sunshine, enjoy my daughter’s company, and live this one day–now, today.

I hope you have/are having a good day.

Hello blue skies; bye-bye depression.

Blue skies                                 Smiling at me                          Nothing but blue skies                     Do I see.  ~ Irving Berlin

A brisk walk in brisk weather is a cure-all.  The sky is blue but I’m not.  I have places to go, things to do and people to see.  Better get busy.

Peace to us all in this fresh new year!

Christmas weather.

A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.   ~ Steve Martin

Monday, December 19–A beautiful sunny day with a beautiful sunny ten-year-old boy.  F and I went shopping for his Christmas present.  He’s at an age where I need his help choosing what he will enjoy.  We spent quite a long time in the toy store while he made his decision.  Granted, it won’t be a surprise but he will be a happy boy all the same.

After all that hard work we needed a snack.  So we walked down to Brueggers Bagels to get F a late lunch.  This is an unusual Brueggers in that it’s housed in the same space as a Caribou Coffee.  While I was waiting in line for bagels, F informed me that Caribou has the best hot chocolate in the world.  I simply couldn’t resist a line like that so I gave him money and he bought hot chocolate while I took care of the food.

As we sat and ate and sipped, he informed me, “I like spending time with you, Grammy.”  (As if those bright blue eyes hadn’t already melted my heart.)  We try to have these outings ever so often but it’s probably not often enough for either of us.  We talked about why we like being together.  We always have lots to talk about and we feel comfortable in each other’s presence.

Tuesday, December 20–Cloudy all day.  Very dark.  A lights-on-in-the-house day.  I absolutely need company on a day like today so I’m glad that I have a standing date with Daughter #1.  (You may already know that I have three daughters and they are numbered by birth order just for convenience.)  Number One and I meet every Tuesday morning from 10:00 to 12:00 and visit with each other.  We’ve done this for about two or three months now and I have come to look forward to it immensely.  In fact, I guess I’ve learned to depend on it.

We don’t have an agenda, thus there are no expectations other than spending this bit of time together.  I drive to her house one week and the next she drives to mine.  We talk.  It’s amazing to me how helpful it is to say what’s on my mind and then have her say it back to me as she understands it.  It’s good to have another human being tell me what she thinks I just said, especially when that human is as astute and intuitive as she is.  And I guess I’m not surprised that I generally express myself better in writing.  It helps, doesn’t it, to have time to think it through.

I hope we will continue to have these tete a tete for a very long time.  It’s just good to have my daughter all to myself.  We didn’t get to do this when her children were younger.  I wish I had equal time with Numbers Two and Three.  Maybe one day.

Back to the weather report.  Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and yes, Christmas Day–rain, rain and more rain.  I try not to project about things such as the weather but sometimes it helps to realize what I will need to do to scare away doom and gloom.  I will be smiling and spreading sunshine as I finish my shopping, make toffee, and complete my crochet/knit Christmas gifts.  And I will seek smiles and sunshine at the same time.  One grandchild and one daughter at a time will carry me through to the other side and to a Merry Christmas.