Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Yearly Reckoning...Not!

New Year's Eve once more, and I find myself not at all reflective or seeking closure of the year just past. Unusual for me, but at the moment, it seems like such an arbitrary thing, to say this is the last day of the year and so you must reflect, sum up, list accomplishments, and set goals for the coming year.

It seems so very is a dynamic process, and it doesn't always fit into those nice, neat little boxes that you can stack in alphabetized (or colour-coded, for the more visual among us) rows.

So this year I'm going to do something I never do...I'm going to poo-poo the Yearly Reckoning. No lists of accomplishments (I swear that's a lingering side effect of spending twelve years in academia with that whole publish-or-perish imperative), no goal setting, no angst about how little I've actually done. Instead, there will merely be a nod to the new calendar, and a desperate attempt to remember to write "2009" on my checks...

Writing Prompt: Do you have an end of the year ritual? What is it? Why is it important to you? If you don't have one, why not?

Friday, December 19, 2008

In Which I Win an Award and Attempt to Warp the Space-Time Continuum

A big thank-you to Matt at It's Quite an Experience for bestowing the brand new A Hoy Award upon my humble little blog (which I haven't been paying nearly enough attention to lately, and it's amazing that it hasn't wandered off to find someone else who will love it and nurture it a bit more than I have lately).

I am to pass this award on, and I fully intend to do so, but at the moment...

Xmas is less than a week away and I feel like it is rolling inexorably towards me...the gift shopping is mostly done, the food shopping is not. The tree is up but the baking hasn't even begun (it was attempted, but after two disasters in a row of which we shall not speak, I am living in fear of trying again lest the Wrath of the Universe be vented upon my white chocolate cheesecake which the whole family waits for in hushed anticipation. No pressure here, dudes). One hand-knitted scarf is finished, but three are still on the needles. The wrapping is not done, though that should probably happen today because as of 2:57 this afternoon, the children will be home on break (we will not discuss for whom this is a "break") and it will be relegated to a Clandestine Late Night Operation, which I'd really rather not have to perform...And all of this is on top of the usual cleaning, scaling Mt. Laundry, polishing the dogs, and trying to remove questionable sticky substances from floor and table. (Any advice on warping the space-time continuum to allow myself a whole lot more temporal leeway here would be appreciated right about now...)

So a big thank-you to Matt, and I will be passing this award on...just not right away...patience, my friends. And sweet holidays to you all!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Does This Mean I'm a Grownup?

Sad, but true...the first thought I had last week when the kids started wondering when we were going to put the tree up and decorate the house was, Didn't I just take all this stuff down?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Holiday Meme

Most memes are kind of annoying, but I found this one on one of the knitting blogs I read, and I thought it was kind of neat, so I thought I'd do it. Anyone else who wants to can consider themselves tagged. Go for it, dudes!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper.

2. Real tree or Artificial? Artificial. And way too big. But we're not going to go there.

3. When do you put up the tree? Soon...probably this weekend.

4. When do you take the tree down? As soon as I can without my kids calling me "Scrooge" and "horrible mother"...which generally means once they have gone back to school.

5. Do you like eggnog? *gag* Bailey's Irish Cream is my alcoholic beverage of choice. That or a nice, cold Guiness.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Mastermind (the game...when it first came out it was only available in England, and one of my English friends had gotten it from his Nana for his birthday, and I wanted one desperately, and my Nana sent me one for xmas that year.)

7. Hardest person to buy for? My dad.

8. Easiest person to buy for? My mum.

9. Do you have a nativity scene? No--we're not religious.
(ETA--although after RamblingMad's comment about having a Lego Star Wars Stormtrooper in the manger, I may have to rethink that one...)

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Neither.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? The Dreaded Clown Cookie Jar that my sister-in-law gave us the first year we were married...even if clowns never ever gave you nightmares before, this thing would have!

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Hogfather...and we also have a fairly new tradition of trying to watch the entire Lord of the Rings extended cut over the xmas holiday.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Summer...I give a lot of homemade gifts like wall quilts, beaded ornaments, and now, knitting, so I generally have to start pretty early if I'm going to meet my own expectations.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? No. (Given the number of friends and relatives who read this blog, I dare not say otherwise, do I?)

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Wine gums (English candy, which I've just started finding in the international foods sections of some of the grocery stores over here) and anything drenched in chocolate...decent chocolate, I mean...

16. Lights on the tree? As many tiny fairy lights as we can get on the thing...
(ETA: 1050 lights this year...the most ever...the kids were ecstatic!)

17. Favorite Christmas song? Anything on any of the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas albums...and I also like George Winston's December CD.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Home.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Yes, and I even know about Rudolph and Olive...

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? A teddy bear, actually...

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? Rampant consumerism and loud xmas music in the stores.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Homemade beaded ornaments (made with all those sparkly little glass seed beads...I haven't done any yet this year, I've been too busy with the knitting...)

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Lasagne (The Chief is Italian, so there's not a whole lot of room for negotiation on this one, and since I am a vegetarian, I have to make two trays--one meat, one veg).

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Yarn. Although I've been thinking it might be interesting to learn how to spin, so maybe I should just ask for a sheep?

26. Will you bake any cookies? Oh, yes...Death by Chocolate Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies, which are used for the crust for my white chocolate cheesecake, gingerbread men (and women)(which are so yummy they are death to any diet plans I may have), chocolate covered digestive biscuits (an English thing), cranberry-white-chocolate chip cookies, and crunchy bar...which is more candy than cookie, but since it is made in a 9x13 pan, I consider it baking anyway...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Gravity Must be a Bit Screwy Over There...

The Chief and I have shared living space for over twenty years now and I fear I shall never enlighten him regarding the difference between in the laundry basket and next to the laundry basket.

The difference between in the laundry basket and next to the laundry basket is, in actual, three-dimensional, Euclidean space, about six inches, possibly less.

In The Chief's own little world, however, that distance might as well be 20 light years. The socks, the boxers, the T-shirts, never seem to make it in the laundry basket. The man would have me believe that it is not that he is deliberately dropping his clothes a mere six inches from the laundry basket, oh no. He would have me believe that he begins putting his clothes in the basket with the best of intentions, but no matter how hard he hurls the socks, no matter how carefully he takes aim, they simply will not go in the laundry basket. There must be--and I quote--"something screwy with the gravity over in that corner of the room."

He would also have me believe that a man who can find his way into the bathroom, perform his nightly ablutions, get ready for bed, and find his way into bed amongst the various canines who may or may not be stretched out on the floor or curled up on the bed in the dark cannot get his clothing in the laundry basket, which has occupied the very same space for as long as we have lived in this house.

Now, I have ventured into that corner of the room many a time, let me tell you, both to deposit my own dirties in the laundry basket, and to scoop up the pile of clothes that have been left next to the laundry basket, and near as I can tell, there is absolutely nothing wrong with gravity in that part of the room.

Neither of the children, both of whom are considerably younger (and possibly brighter) than The Chief has any difficulty with this concept (although their grasp of the difference between in the dishwasher and on the dishwasher is tenuous at best, but we'll save that one for another time). Their laundry baskets are always full of dirty clothes, and aside from the occasional sock that escapes the heap, I rarely find any laundry on their floors. (Clothing that has been worn by Little Mouse for about 6.5 seconds before being flung off and hurled to the floor because it is not exactly right and then left there is an entirely different story, and we will not speak of it here lest I completely lose it.)

After twenty years, I guess I am mostly resigned to my fate, and to put it into perspective, there are a lot worse jobs out there than scooping a pile of dirty clothes off the floor and depositing them in the laundry basket every morning. But hell, I thought when I married him that he would at least be trainable!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Maybe I'll Catch Fire...

Every year about this time I get Anxious and Worried about some Terrible Event occurring just before Christmas. Like someone ending up in the hospital or worse. So every time I have to go out, I'm imagining ending up dead in a car wreck. And every time The Chief goes out, I'm imagining him ending up dead in a car wreck. And if it's not that, it's some other unlikely, convoluted event that only my dark imagination could come up with.

Can't help these thoughts...

Whenever something good or fun is coming up--like Christmas or a vacation or something--my mind has to conjure up all the ways that something horrible could come along and twist it all up.

When I was on antidepressants, I did not feel this way. Of course, when I was on antidepressants, I didn't feel much of anything, so I suppose that's not really a fair comparison.

Writing Prompt: What kinds of things make you Worried and Anxious? What do you do to help yourself when you feel that way?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Clarification

After yesterday's post extolling the virtues of snow, I thought I needed to clarify a November when you haven't seen snow for a number of months and have been scorched/drenched by heat and humidity all summer, then snow is quite a welcome relief, and very beautiful. However, in late March, when you are standing out in the middle of your driveway clearing out a foot of snow for the third time in as many days, and you are so sweaty that your hat is making your head itch, but the wind is too cold for you to go hatless, and every muscle in your body hurts because you've spent the last three days shoveling snow, and you know how futile it is, because they're forecasting forty degrees in a couple of days and it's all going to melt anyway but you have to clear it out because you have to go to the grocery store to buy food and your hubby has to get to work, and he can't help because he had a heart attack a few years ago and snow shoveling is at the top of the Activities Not to Engage In list, then, my friends, then, snow is not beautiful at all.

I speak from bitter experience.

Friday, November 7, 2008


It is snowing here in lovely Minnesota...wet snow that is sticking to the bare trees and turning my neighborhood into a gorgeous white fairyland. I love the snow and I hope it sticks around. My dogs love the snow, too. Being 3/4 husky, they are dressed for it, with thick fur coats and soft, downy undercoats (that end up all over my floor in wispy drifts when it's shedding time...which is most of the year...). This morning, though, Canis Feisticus decided that she really didn't want to go out in the cold (it wasn't that bad...33 degrees isn't really cold in Minnesota) and the wet...I let the dogs out the back door and Canis Dafticus went bolting out into the snow and did a funny little leap and came down on his elbows with his butt in the air (this is dog for "play with me now!"). Canis Feisticus, on the other hand, stepped daintily out, sniffed the air, and turned around and came back in. When I finally convinced her that she really did need to go outside, she went, ever so slowly, ever so carefully, picking her feet up high and planting them back down reluctantly, as if she really didn't want to get them all wet and cold. I felt a bit sorry for her. How would I feel if I had to go and do my business in the cold and wet at 5:30 am?

Perhaps I will have to knit her some doggie booties?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Industrial Accident

Some of you...well, okay, one of you (Tamara, you know who you are!) has asked about the Industrial Accident I mentioned in my last post. I am not sure if I am ready to speak of it, but in the interest of healing and "letting it go" I shall try.

Let me begin by saying that if Draino weren't so darned caustic, it would make an excellent floor cleaner. The fact that it removes the finish on the floor along with any dirt is a bonus...I didn't really need that finish on the kitchen floor, did I?

This particular Industrial Accident involved a (full) bottle of Draino, my living room carpet, and me being royally pissed off at a certain Manipulative Relative (who was not even present). No names, I will say only that it wasn't one of my family, it was one of the out-laws.

After being informed of said relative's latest manipulative antics, I was so mad I thought I should just do some housework to let out all that energy. In a tempestuous display of fury and barely controlled anger, I swiped the bottle of Draino off the counter where it had been sitting for the past couple of days to remind me that I had a tub drain full of dog hair (Canis Feisticus and Canis Dafticus had their Semi-Annual Bath only days before, which is a whole other adventure). The bottle of Draino slipped from my fingers, hit the floor, and the UNOPENED CHILDPROOF CAP came flying off and Draino spattered all over the kitchen floor and then schlorped over onto the living room carpet.

I stood there staring at it for a moment and thinking, How the f*** do I clean this up? I can't even touch the stuff... Fortunately, The Chief had some rubber gloves in his workshop (let's just gloss over the fact that he had rubber gloves in the first place, and that they were in his workshop in the second. I don't want to know) which he promptly found, and we began the arduous process of cleaning up.

Which was a great moment for a chemistry lesson:
Barrister: Mom, that stuff's going to burn a hole right through to the basement!
Me: (from between clenched teeth) No, dear, that would be an acid. This is a base. It will just turn your skin into soap and burn like hell while doing so...

The kitchen floor now has one very, very clean area. And the living room carpet has a large spot that is quite fashionably marbled in appearance.

I'm thinking about doing the entire living room so it will match.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Dinner Rebellion

4:20. (p.m.) (perilously close to dinner time)

Dudes. I am totally having a dinner rebellion. I have no will or desire to cook dinner. All the good intentions to make healthy food for my family have been sucked out of my brain and I am left in a limp, coagulating puddle in the middle of the living room floor. About six inches from the Industrial Accident. (Do not ask about the Industrial Accident. I will enlighten you when I can do so without bursting into heart-wrenching sobs.)

Honestly, I had no idea that baking a batch of cranberry-white-chocolate-chip cookies would so completely sap my will to live. Cookies and gummy bears don't sound too bad for supper, do they? I think cookies qualify as a food group....they've got oatmeal in them, after all. And cranberries.

Fortunately, I have chili in the freezer and rotini in the cupboard. Chili-mac, anyone?

It's one of those nights when, if the economy (and therefore my hubby's job) weren't so perilously teetering and I weren't so freakishly adamant about not using credit cards, I would throw up my hands and cry, "Let's go out to eat!"

The fact that there is very little for vegetarian me to eat in any reasonably priced restaurant within reasonable driving distance would completely escape my tiny little mind until the moment in which I was confronted with The Menu. At which point I would remember that most restaurants' only concession to vegetarians is pasta with some mysterious white sauce and limp vegetables.

You'd think after being a vegetarian pretty much since I moved out of my parents' house, I would have figured this out by now...

So chili-mac it is! Or cookies and gummy bears. I'm putting it to the vote as soon as hubby gets home.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Adventures with Socks, Part One

No, gentle readers, "socks" is not a cat (or a chinchilla, although The Chief's first pet chinchilla was named Sock, as she was too small to make a coat out of...). "Socks", in this context, is an article of footwear I am attempting to knit. Attempting being the operative word, here.

Actually, I am attempting a sock. Just one. I probably don't have enough wool for two, and who am I kidding, this thing is not actually going to be wearable, so why on earth would I want two? I have some chai, some green wool (like I've ever worn green socks in my life), and a set of bamboo needles (because, you know, I'm a klutz, and bamboo sort of grips the wool so you don't have to be overly dextrous...that's the theory, anyway. We'll see if it holds up.). My process looks something like this...

1. According to the sock book, my knitted cast-on that my mother taught me over the phone back in August is neither flexible nor strong enough for socks. I realize with a sinking heart that I am going to have to attempt the finger gymnastics required for the "long-tail cast-on"...and I can't make head nor tail of the instructions in the sock book, so it's back to my beginner book to see if I can figure it out. I'm persistent, and I have chai, so it's only a matter of time. Really. (For those who do not knit, casting on is getting that first row of stitches onto the needle; there are a number of ways to do this, all of which, in my opinion, are not for the spatially challenged.)

2. My beginner book says nothing about this vaunted "long-tail cast-on", but does show a "slingshot" cast-on. Which looks like it involves as much finger gymnastics as the "long-tail cast-on", and might even be the same thing, but what do I know? I take a sip of chai and hope that they are the same thing. Any normal person would be able to tell, just by looking, if they were the same, but I am, as we have noted before, spatially challenged, and I will just have to close my eyes, wait, closing my eyes is probably not going to work...I mutter a swift prayer to the Universe and begin.

3. Long pause and much inappropriate language.

4. I realize that this "long-tail cast-on" is just as complicated as it was the last twelve times I tried to do it. No matter which way I turn the book, it still involves me visualizing a two-dimensional drawing of fingers and yarn and somehow transforming this into a three-dimensional process. Translation: it ain't gonna happen.

5. My thirteen-year-old son hears me muttering dire imprecations under my breath. He sidles up to me and glances at the picture in the book for about three seconds (I swear, his eyes just sort of brushed over it), takes the needle and yarn out of my hand, and proceeds to cast on three stitches. He hands the needle back to me and says all innocently, "So what's the problem?"

6. I put away the knitting in disgust and decide that the only thing I'm likely to knit in the next twenty years is scarves. Lots of scarves.

7. After dinner I decide upon a new tactic. With coloured pencils I carefully colour the little strands of yarn in the picture, each one a different colour, so that I can see what, exactly, is going on in the picture.

8. I take a deep breath and try again. After a while, I begin muttering to myself again.

9. My son glances over at me. "You're holding the yarn wrong," he tells me. How he can tell this from six feet away, I have no idea. He comes over and loops the yarn around my fingers in the proper arrangement, then holds my hand and guides my needle up and down and in and out...and something clicks and I finally get it.

10. Moral: my son should be doing the knitting around here, not me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Universe is Watching

School conferences last week went amazingly well. I am starting to think that Hell's Barrister may finally be starting to get it together as far as the whole Organization and Time Management business is concerned.

*slaps self up side of head*

Oh, dear. I've gone and said it. Well...typed it, at least. And thought it, which is generally more than enough.

Now I picture the Universe cackling with glee to hear my delusional thought that my son may actually be starting to "get it". It's probably rubbing its hands together and busily thinking up ways to trip me up right now. I imagine it kicking back in an easy chair, a beer at its elbow and a stubby #2 pencil tucked behind its left ear as it thinks up new and thrilling ways to complicate my life.

And I'm not being paranoid!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Pinnacle of Creativity

In a daring move, demonstrating that I am currently at the pinnacle of creativity, I have (dramatic music) invented a new knitting stitch! The stitch was created out of absolute necessity, and I'm sure it will take the knitting world by storm.

The new stitch is called Remove Ubiquitous Dog Hair, and is abbreviated RUDH. It is performed by gripping the offending dog hair between thumb and forefinger without losing tension on your yarn, and then yanking hard, with a few colourful words thrown in for good measure.

With this new stitch in place, the lace row on the wrap I'm making now becomes, K2tog (3x), K1, yo, RUDH, K1, yo, RUDH...and so on. It's quite exciting to be the inventor of a new stitch, you know.

Of course, there is always the question of what to do with the piles of Ubiquitous Dog Hair once I've finished a knitting project. In keeping with the spirit of my frugal upbringing, I'm considering the benefits of learning how to hair sweater, anyone?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Yarn Barf

The lacy pink scarf I was knitting for Little Mouse for xmas has morphed into a grey wrap with a pink stripe...I attempted to take pix over the weekend, but it just looks like a tangle of grey yarn, and until it is blocked, I fear it will continue to look like a pile of yarn barf...

Still, I'm getting on with is nearly two feet long already, and I've used up nearly half of my grey wool, which is about right, as the final product should end up being about 52" long...before blocking...and since I've never knitted (or blocked) lace before, I shall not be at all surprised if the finished wrap ends up being seven or eight feet long!

Regardless of how long it ends up being, I think Little Mouse will be thrilled...she's quite admiring of it already, even though it just looks like a pile of yarn, and has no idea it's for her...she thinks it's a practice piece.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Waiting for Someone

I am waiting for someone.

I know he's out there. I have a vague picture of him in my mind, and some restless ideas about who he is and what he wants. But he hasn't shown himself yet, nor has he spoken to me.

"He" is the main character of my next novel. He doesn't have a name yet, or a story, but I have that sense that someone is out there, lurking on the edges of my mind, waiting for the right moment to leap in and demand that his story be told.

Once he shows himself, my life will change. His story will consume my thoughts and my dreams, and I will write on fire to get it told until it's done. Floors will gather even more dog hair than they have now (anyone who tells you huskies don't shed is lying through their teeth), dishes will pile up in the sink, and bathrooms will become...unmentionable. Er...more unmentionable.

It's probably the knitting that has brought this on. For those of you who don't knit, I've found it to be a lot like crochet in the sense that it can be a meditative experience. Once I know what I'm doing, my hands sort of take over and the creative part of my mind goes wandering off into unexplored territory.

Which is all well and good if I actually feel like I want to write a novel, but right now I don't. A novel takes a lot of work and time and energy, and I don't feel like I have that much to give right now. And I don't like the feeling of this restless, creative tension coiled up inside me. It feels like the air before a summer storm, dark and brooding, and full of energy.

Whoever this guy is, I hope he shows up soon...I'd like to give him a piece of my mind; a much smaller piece than he'll get if I decide to tell his story. I could use a good argument right about now. I'll just tell him to go bother some other writer and leave me alone.

Yeah. Like that's ever worked before.

Writing Prompt: This is how I look at my process. What does your creative process look like?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Silver Lining

I just heard from the director of the community education program here, and not a single soul has signed up for my journal workshop, so they are having to cancel the class. I'm not too terribly disappointed...while it would have been a good experience and probably fun to meet other journal writers, I am by nature a shy, quiet sort of person, and so I am just as happy not to have to do any sort of public speaking. Besides, now I can devote my mornings to knitting instead of organizing my notes!

Still, I have to wonder why there would be so little it just our community? I live in a fairly affluent suburb of Minneapolis...maybe everyone is too busy playing tennis and going out on their boats and impressing the neighbors to worry about taking a class that might make them realize how shallow and meaningless their lives are? Or perhaps they found out who was teaching it and decided that since I don't really fit in with this neighborhood anyway, there's no way I could possibly have anything of value to say? Or perhaps I'm just being paranoid...

At any rate, my mornings have now opened up, I no longer have to nervously rehearse my lecture to the dogs (who are getting rather tired of listening to it, truth be told), and I can knit to my heart's content.

Still, the money would have been nice...think of all that yarn I could have bought...

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Knitting Fool

This whole knitting thing is going quite remarkably well. I have knit a couple of dishcloths using simple stitches (sorry, no pix yet...I'm just not tech savvy enough to figure out how to get them out of the camera and into the computer without them running out through the wires and ending up all over the floor, and The Chief has about had it with computers lately, as he's had to do a number of fixes on our network around here). The good news is that the dishcloths actually look like dishcloths...they are square and everything! The bad news is that I would never in a million years actually use a dishcloth that looked like that, and besides, I was getting really bored with knitting them.

Cheryl Fuller over at Jung at Heart, who does some absolutely superb lace knitting, suggested that I get away from the dishcloths and start knitting some simple lace patterns, since that is what I really want to do...she said if I was comfortable with knit and purl and could keep the right number of stitches on the needle, I was probably ready to do some simple lace. The perfectionist in me had other ideas. She had this knitting thing all mapped out--she had decided that we were going to knit a dozen perfect dishcloths, all in different stitches, and in a variety of colours, and only then would we be sufficiently practiced to even think about trying our hand at lace.

Well, I told my perfectionist to go to hell, bought some lovely dusty rose yarn, and began knitting a simple lace scarf. And it's actually turning out pretty well! (Maybe well enough to put in Little Mouse's xmas stocking, but don't tell her!) I'm quite proud of myself for actually being able to do this, because for years I've had this mental block about knitting: I'm too stupid to learn to knit...even Mum couldn't teach me, and she's got the patience of a saint...

Pictures soon, I promise!

Monday, September 15, 2008


So much for the oodles of time I was supposed to have once the kids got back to school. Between dealing with contractors for some repairs on our house and dealing with school (would someone please explain under what educational paradigm it is acceptable for a sixth grader to be getting four hours of homework a night?) and dealing with my mother-in-law moving into her own apartment (AAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!) I have had little time to call my own...I haven't even finished my notes for the journal workshop, which is coming up soon, so don't be surprised if I'm not around much the next couple of weeks!

I started knitting a pathetic little blue and white cotton dishrag in my few moments of spare time (like waiting for Little Mouse to get her haircut and in the cardiologists waiting room when I went with The Chief for his annual checkup), and when it's finished, I shall post a's nothing like what I intend to be able to knit eventually, but journey of a thousand miles and all that zen stuff...gotta go there to get here and all of that...

Canis Dafticus has an ear infection, which Canis Feisticus is not helping, what with having her tongue stuck as far into his ear canal as she can manage at every opportunity. Personally I don't see what the attraction is. I mean, I love The Chief, but the last thing I want to do is stick my tongue in his earhole!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thoughts on Success

Ever since I was given the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom, and once the children were in school, the time and energy to pursue my writing, I've been trying to understand why it is that I have no interest in the whole publishing game.

I've written. I've written volumes. Novels and a writing book and reams of poetry...and of course, pages and pages of journal stuff. But I have absolutely no interest in sending it out.
Friends and family have read my work, and when they have finished, I am always asked, "Are you trying to get this published? You really should, you know."

And I always want to ask, "Why?"

I used to think that maybe the reason I didn't want to send it out was fear...fear of rejection, fear of failure...but I have sent stuff out, and honestly, it's no big deal. I am well aware that the publishing business is purely market driven, and that what sells is what The Herd likes to read. Unfortunately for my future as a "professional" writer, the only person I have any interest in satisfying with my writing is myself.

Artistic success, as this culture seems to define it, is only important if you hold what other people think to be more valid than your own soul's truth.

Or maybe if you have any interest in where your next meal is coming from...

Writing Prompt: How do you define success? By your own definition, do you consider yourself successful?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Letting the Side Down

Canis Dafticus has allergies. He has been chewing on his presumably itchy feet for about a week and a half now. Last week I started him on Benadryl (you wouldn't believe how much Benadryl a dog can take, and it doesn't slow him down one bit!), but he had gnawed a very sore spot on one of his feet. It wasn't looking any better today, so I took him to the vet.

Talk about pathetic.

Canis Dafticus may look quite fierce--he is a husky/german shepherd mix, so he has a rather wolfish look to him, and he's quite large, pushing 70 lbs--but he (like many men I know) is a complete wimp at heart.

The whining began when I put him in the car without his beloved sister, Canis Feisticus. It went on, full volume, until he was safely back in the car and on the way home.

We put him in the car to go to the park, no problem, no whining, much excitement and tail wagging. Put him (or both of them) in the car to go to the vet, and somehow he knows. There must be something in my body language that says "VET" loud and clear.

Once at the vet, he dug his claws into the linoleum and refused to enter the building. He had to be dragged into the exam room, where he promptly hid under the bench I was sitting on. His full, bushy tail, which is usually curled in a lovely tight loop over his back was practically inverted, down between his legs so far it was covering up his nether regions. He peed when we lifted him onto the exam table. The vet knows Canis Dafticus quite well after being soaked on his first couple of visits--Canis Dafticus gets taken into the back room and examined on a grated table with a sink underneath, and has a yellow label on his chart that says, "Submissive Pee-er."
Once on the table with a vet assistant leaning over him to hold him still, he buried his head between my arm and my side and whined even louder. After a physical exam, an ear cleaning, and an allergy shot, Canis Dafticus was more than ready to go home.

I would much rather take Canis Feisticus to the vet. She's not a wimp. She "talks" to the vet in her howly way, and wags her tail at him and eagerly accepts a treat (hmmm....maybe Canis Dafticus isn't the daft one after all...). In short, she doesn't embarrass me. Or the rest of her gender.

Poor boy. I know he's scared, but he makes males everywhere look bad!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Back To Normal--Whatever That Is!

*Breathes huge sigh of relief*

Finally, a normal quiet day with kids in school and no noise! It's been a terribly busy and chaotic few days. Thursday and Friday I had a construction crew here replacing hail damaged siding on two sides of our house, so there was loud pounding and much doggie nervousness and doggies-cooped-up-in-the-house-ness for two very long days. But it is done now, and they did a great job, and cleaned up after themselves nicely, so that's all right.

I spent the weekend at my parents' house; my auntie, whom I had never met, flew over from England, and she was visiting my parents for a few days before going on to visit her daughter on the east coast. She is very intrepid--84 and flying off to America all by herself! She is my father's sister, and they hadn't seen each other in over fifty years, so it was quite the reunion. She's a lovely lady, and I only hope I'm as sharp as she is when I'm 84!

Little Mouse and The Barrister both had good experiences their first two days back at school. The Barrister is quite excited and very positive about school this year, which is a big change, and Little Mouse is feeling very grown-up now that she is in middle school and has more responsibilities.

So now I am by myself in a quiet house for the first time in months, and I am planning to enjoy my day...once I get the laundry and the shopping and the vacuuming and the tidying up all done!

Writing Prompt: Some of us are more comfortable in a regular routine, while others seem to thrive on chaos. What does "normal" day look like for you? Do you enjoy being in a routine, or do you prefer the excitement of having no particular schedule? Why do you think your preference falls where it does?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

First Day of School

I put my first baby on the high school bus this morning. He's not even a high school student yet...he's taking an advanced math class at the high school and then being bussed back to the middle school for the rest of the day. Judging from the kids I saw at the 8th Grade Back to School Event a couple of weeks ago, he's just about the shortest kid in the 8th grade...I am hoping he manages all right on the bus with all those big kids...

I put my second baby on the middle school bus this morning. She is just starting 6th grade and is very excited to finally be in middle school (she even traded her beloved leggings for jeans when we went shopping for school clothes!), and to be one of the 60 or so kids selected to be in the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program. But this year she will have to deal with the whole locker/switching class periods/changing for gym/more homework stuff. Being in the IB program, she has an extra class--Spanish, and she's got band on top of that, so I'm hoping she hasn't bitten off more than she can chew.

Last year's first day of school was a lot easier--both kids were going back to familiar schools...this year, I was feeling a bit teary as I walked away from the bus stop. Well...from Little Mouse's bus stop, anyway. The Barrister insisted I wait down the block (I can't see the bus from the house, and I like to get an idea of exactly when it's coming so I can send him out the door with only seconds to spare on those really cold winter days).

I was thinking about spending the day relaxing, messing around with some knitting, doing a bit of work on the journal workshop (class starts October 1, so I need to get moving). But I'm probably going to spend the day wandering around here wondering what to do with myself and worrying about my babies!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What a Difference the Right Tools Makes!

I have knit.

I mean, really, made a cute little swatch of knitting with no mistakes in it! If you use your imagination, it actually looks like it could be part of a sweater or a rather pathetic little scarf instead of something barely alive that the cat dragged in.

The key was finding a book that had pictures in it that I could actually follow (and showed me a left-handed method different from what my other books showed!), buying a pair of bamboo knitting needles (much less slippery than the metal ones I had), and buying some real wool, mysteriously harvested from real sheep, rather than that nasty acrylic stuff I had in my crochet basket. I've always been appalled at what they do to those poor helpless baby acrylics when harvesting their pelts, anyway, so I'm glad I don't have to support that industry with my tacky crocheted afghans anymore.

Five minutes after looking at the pictures in the new book, I was knitting away. Slowly, to be sure, but over the past few days I've picked up speed, and have even ventured ever so timidly on to the next page where I confronted the dreaded "purl" stitch, something I never dreamed I would ever be clever enough to figure out. Ah, the mysteries of knitting, unravelling before my very eyes!

At the moment, I am trying to disentangle myself from several hundred yards of wool that attacked me when the dogs knocked over my knitting basket. It has somehow come free of its skeins and wrapped itself about me spider-web fashion. Typing is becoming quite difficult as my left hand is almost entirely immobilized. I shall blog more when I get free...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Spatially Challenged

So, I know I've been silent for a few days, here, so I just thought I'd pop in and let you know what I've been up to. I have a new passion...knitting. Not socks and mittens and booties kind of knitting, but elegant cobwebby lacy shawls kind of knitting.

You know, the sort of knitting that takes years of practice and oodles of talent.

You know, the sort of thing I don't have.

In spades.

So the other day, armed with
1. an extensive set of knitting needles (given to me by my husband's mother, who prefers crochet),
2. a pile of worsted-weight yarn in rainbow colors left over from various abandoned crochet projects (I can crochet, which makes this whole thing doubly frustrating),
3. several books promising me that I would be knitting scarves, jumpers and various undergarments in no time, and
4. a burning desire to knit,
I opened my book to the page for absolute beginners and prepared to cast on (where you get your first row of stitches onto the knitting needle).

And here is where my inability to translate two-dimensional drawings into three-dimensional movements of yarn and needles trips me up. I cannot follow the damn pictures. All those squiggles of yarn going every which way...I tried three different methods and couldn't figure out any of them.

In desperation, I called my mother. "I'm a complete moron!" I wailed.

"No, you're not," she said. "Let me get my needles and yarn and I'll talk you through it."

Five minutes later, I had my first thirty stitches cast on.

It feels dreadfully awkward, though, so I'm sure I must be doing something wrong. Of course, what my mom told me is the "right handed" method, which is the way she knits and the way all my books demonstrate. And me being left handed, I wonder if I'd be better off doing it left handed...but although the books show how to knit left handed, they don't show you how to cast on left handed, and I'm so spatially challenged that I can't translate right handed instructions to left handed...

So at the moment, I am feeling extremely useless, awkward, stupid, and slow, and I'm starting to wonder if I ought to just give up my dreams of delicate, fussy lace and go back to crocheting pot holders.

Oh, well, at least I've managed not to stab myself with a knitting needle.


Writing Prompt: Mastery of anything takes time, and too often we are unwilling to put in the time and practice it takes to master something. Is there anything you would like to master but have not tried because you feel it would take you too long to learn? What's really stopping you?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Taking a Break

Friends, I will be taking a break for the next couple of weeks. I have a whole lot to do with getting the kids ready for school, and I am feeling the strain of a long summer with little time to myself. I will try to get around to your blogs now and then, but I probably won't be posting much for the next couple of don't panic! All is well!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Summer Fun and Llama Poo

The dreaded sniping has begun. This summer was going fine up until the last couple of days, but now, as we enter the home stretch (three more weeks til school starts), the kids are suffering from an overdose of togetherness.

I suppose it doesn't help that neither one of them is particularly social. My son has always found pre-arranged playdates to be agonizing, and my daughter would prefer to spend time by herself creating things or with one special friend, who, unfortunately, is in day care most days.

So they end up turning to each other for company (they are only 22 months apart, so their interests and abilities are pretty well in line with each other). This is a good thing, as long as they are getting along. But the last couple of days have been a strain...particularly on me. I value my quiet time, I value my solitude, and in the summer, I get very little of either. And it's worse when they are arguing all the time.

Example: We have a whiteboard hanging in the family room. It's used for showing the kids how to do math problems, practicing spelling words (you'd be amazed how much more fun it is to write the words on the whiteboard than to write them on paper!), and explaining complex concepts to them. It's also used for drawing whatever anyone feels like drawing. Yesterday, The Barrister drew a rather lovely llama on the whiteboard, complete with cute little hooves and funny little llama ears. Little Mouse thought it would be fun to add some llama poo to the picture. The Barrister took exception to this sullying of his art, and an afternoon of sniping at each other was begun.

This morning, the sniping started before breakfast had been consumed.

Twenty-one days and counting...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Reflections on the Moon

Last night, after a quick thunderstorm had cleared the air and the clouds had moved out, I went out into the front yard, perched on a rock and stared up at the moon. I have always felt drawn to the moon, but it is a very subtle sort of feeling. I feel certain that our bodies, made of so much water as they are, must be subtly affected by something that is powerful enough to influence the very oceans of our world.

We have uncovered so much of what is hidden, and now we probe the secrets of the cosmos itself...I wonder how we will feel when it is all laid out in cold hard numbers, and all the mysteries are gone. Will the lives of those future people seem empty and hollow because there is nothing left to marvel at? Or are there some mysteries that we will never solve?

I think it would be better if there were. I think humankind needs mysteries.

Writing Prompt: What mysteries do you find yourself drawn to? Why do you think you are drawn to them?

Monday, August 11, 2008

I Feel Like a Terrible Parent

I feel like a terrible parent. Aren't I always supposed to know what to say, what to do, how to make it better? As my kids grow older, the number of things I can make better seems to be dwindling rapidly...

About half an hour after I had tucked her into bed tonight, Little Mouse (who is eleven) drifted into the family room where The Chief and I were relaxing with a movie. She was clutching her two stuffed dogs, Polly and Ester (her names, not mine), and a little green beanbag frog she calls The Flying Frog of Doom. She folded herself into my lap and began to cry.

"I keep thinking about how one day I'm not going to be here anymore, Mom. And I won't be able to feel anything or think anything, and it scares me."

I put my arms around her and kissed her head, glancing helplessly at The Chief. I never know what to say when she comes to me with this particular fear. My gut reaction is to hold her tight and say whatever I have to say to make it better. But I cannot bring myself to feed her candy-coated platitudes to preserve her innocence a little longer. Besides, she's a pretty smart kid...I have a feeling she wouldn't believe me anyway. She blew the lid off the Santa Claus racket at the tender age of four...

I cuddled her close and I told her that no one really knows what happens because no one has ever come back to tell us about it. And that part of what is so scary about the whole thing is the not knowing. I glanced at The Chief again--Come on, say something helpful!--and started telling her some of the different beliefs I have heard about and read about. Then I told her that she wasn't always going to feel this way. That as you grow older, you start to accept the idea (do you? Or are you just too busy to worry about it much? I haven't quite figured that one out yet!). And that once you have a family of your own, you worry about it more in terms of those you leave behind than you do for yourself (that part is true...but at eleven she's got a way to go before she gets there!).

We talked a little bit about heaven and how that might work, and then The Chief told her that he found the idea of heaven quite worrying, because of all those people watching him go to the bathroom or take a shower. Then he did a wonderful imitation of his grandmother--complete with folded arms and glasses perched on the end of her nose--watching him and making rude comments.

Little Mouse went back up to bed laughing, but I always come away from these conversations feeling completely inadequate, and longing for the days when all that was required to make her world better was a cuddle or a diaper change. Those days were a lot harder physically...but at least when she was a baby, I could fix everything.

Writing Prompt: Write about a situation you have been in where you wanted to fix something, but knew that you either couldn't or shouldn't. Did you try to fix it anyway? Or did you leave it alone? Why?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Family Feud

My in-laws are Italian. I'm not sure if that's supposed to be an excuse or an explanation, but they are at it again, trying to stick me in the middle of a family feud. And it's a tough situation, because, as usual, I have the empathy to understand both sides.

It's funny how families own mother would never dream of enlisting one of us kids to side with her in an argument with the other, but my in-laws seem to thrive on conflict. Whenever a disagreement arises, no one is allowed to remain neutral for very long...and however you really feel about a situation, whomever you express sympathy to first feels they have you firmly on their side. I've learned through painful experience that it's better to keep my mouth shut and let them get on with it.

So here's me, keeping my mouth shut.

Wonder how long that'll last.

Writing Prompt: Being stuck in the middle is never an easy place to be, especially when you can empathize with both sides of the situation. How do you handle family conflicts? Do you allow yourself to be drawn in, or do you withdraw and let them sort it out?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Pandora's Box

"Instead of elders, we now have elected politicians who speak with corrupt and self-serving voices; instead of fragrant local wisdom we have homogeneous civil law and institutionalized religion to guide us." --Caitlin Matthews, "The Celtic Spirit"

I often find myself yearning for a different time, a simpler time, when we lived in harmony with the turning of the earth. Although technology has done much to improve our lives, in many way it has also impoverished us. The society we live in is driven by the holy dollar, and there seems to be very little room here for the idea of the "common good".

Our media-driven culture teaches us from infancy that the most important people in our world are those who have everything and look good...not those who have the wisdom to guide us and have lived in the world long enough to speak from experience.

We live in a world where human connections are transient, fragile, and even unnecessary. Families are separated by oceans and divorce is easy with no real consequences.

I'm not saying the world was perfect before all this technology came along. I think that in many ways it was a harder, grimmer place. But I think there was much more of a sense of family and a sense of community.

We may have gained a lot in our technological achievements, but I think we have lost a lot, too. We have an entire nation full of lost people with empty lives, many of them popping antidepressant medications because they know that something is wrong...they're just not sure what.

I'm not sure what the answers are, though. All our technology is like Pandora's Box, and there's no stuffing it back inside and slamming the lid shut once it's out there. Perhaps part of the answer lies in listening to what's really in our hearts and stop letting other people tell us what we think.

Writing Prompt: What does your heart tell you about how to live an authentic life? What kind of life resonates with your inner self?

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves have so much power over us. They shape our self-concept, mold our identity, because in the ways that count, we are what we believe we are.

So it's important for me to decide which story I want to believe about my "bipolar" adventure. That "manic" episode I had that was so out of control, that drove me to a psychiatrist and into chemical restraints...which story do I tell myself about that? Which one is my truth?

Do I tell myself that it was bipolar disorder? That the mood swings I experienced from ages 19 to 40 were due to that? But there is no family history of bipolar....depression, yes, but not bipolar. And I'm not even having mood swings any more...haven't had any for four years now...even my psychiatrist is calling me an anomaly. So I don't think that's the right story.

Do I tell myself it was just me letting off steam after having been trapped at home with infants for 7 years, and finally tasting freedom? A partying mid-life crisis sort of thing? But that smacks of complete irresponsibility, something I've never been known for. Knowing myself for what I have been for most of my life, I cannot quite buy into this story, either.

Do I tell myself that I had bipolar symptoms due to my ingesting large quantities of aspartame? That seems to make the most sense of any of the stories. But somehow there seems to be something wrong with this one, maybe it's a cop-out, an easy way to absolve myself of responsibility for some of my behavior...

It all seems so clear in retrospect, doesn't it? I should have done this, I should not have done that...

I need to tell myself a new story that will not make me feel like crawling under a rock or beating my head on the ground for being so stupid...problem is that I'm still not sure what the real story is...and upon reflection, I'm not so sure it's about figuring out the story at all...because the past is immutable...what happened--happened. I can't change it now. What I can change is how I look at it. My perspective.

So maybe it's about acceptance rather than story...I need to:
* stop beating myself up...the past cannot be changed, much as I might like to change it.
* accept that I probably had a toxic reaction to chemicals I was putting in my body because I didn't know any better.
* accept that modern medicine--especially psychiatry--does not understand nearly as much about the human psyche as it thinks it does.
* accept that I did the best I could with the information I had.

Whew...that's a lot of acceptance there. But I think that's what I'm needing. Acceptance.

Why is acceptance so hard?

Writing Prompt: It seems that it is much easier to accept things about other people than it is to accept things about ourselves. What things in your life are you still trying to accept? What do you think makes acceptance so difficult sometimes? What can you do to make acceptance easier?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Arte y Pico Award

Terra Incognita has given me the Arte y Pico Award...which I feel really guilty about accepting considering what a lousy posting job I've done over the past week or so...but that's just my insecurities babbling inanely, so pay no attention...and thank you, Terra!

“This award is given based on creativity, design, interesting material, and overall contribution to the blogging community.

"Here are the rules:
1) Choose 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award based on creativity, design, interesting material, and overall contribution to the blogger community, regardless of the language.
2) Post the name of the author and a link to his or her blog so everyone can view it.
3) Each award-winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award.
4) The award-winner and the presenter should post the link of the Arte y Pico blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.
5) Please post these rules."

The five blogs I would like to present this award to are:

Create and Live Happy: Hanna blogs about all of her creative endeavours. She has lots of intriguing pictures on her site, and is always trying something new. I've read about art journaling, glass fusing, quilting, crochet, and making your own fancy papers on her site, along with a lot of other intriguing things. If you're looking for artsy-craftsy inspiration, this is a great blog to visit.

A Therapist With Bipolar: Annie writes beautifully about her connection with nature and how it helps her deal with her illness. For some beautiful and insightful writing, pay her a visit. You'll be glad you did!

Joyously Becoming: Katie is an artist/photographer and her blog has lots of interesting pictures of all of her creations. She writes beautifully about her art and her life.

Beyond Meds: Gianna is truly an artist in the way she is handling and writing about her own recovery from being seriously overmedicated on psych meds. Her journey is fascinating and heartening, and her writing speaks of so much hope for anyone who is finding their own path through the maze of psychiatric recovery.

Superlative in All Things: Superlagirl usually manages to make me laugh...and if she doesn't make me laugh, she makes me think. I really enjoy her blog...her writing is awesome, and she has a truly snarky side that I can really relate to.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Serious Lack of Inspiration

I haven't been very good about posting, have I? To be perfectly honest, there's just not that much going on right now.

Mother-in-law is back home and doing fine, although I'm not sure if this latest episode was enough to get her on track to becoming more healthy.

The kids are getting along with each other better than ever this summer, so it's been a lot less stressful for me.

I'm off the trazodone, sleeping well, and my moods are as stable as ever, so there's really nothing to report on the so-called bipolar front.

I'm still working on my notes for the journal class, so I don't feel inclined to write more about that here for the moment...feeling a bit saturated, as it were...

I haven't even been writing much in my own journal at the moment, because I just don't feel like I have anything much to say.

Not that this blog is only about bitching and whining...I guess I'm just suffering from a serious lack of inspiration.

I wonder if there's a drug out for that...

Writing Prompt: What do you write about in your journal when you don't feel like there's anything going on in your life worth writing about? How do you handle it when you just don't feel like writing? Do you excuse yourself? Or do you beat yourself up about it for being lazy? (I think I'm bored. I need a new diversion...whaddya think? Any ideas for cheap, interesting hobbies?)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Family Emergencies

My mother-in-law is back home now, crisis averted for the moment, and we all breathe a huge sigh of relief...until the next time. Thank-you, all, for your supportive comments and emails.

Warning: extreme snarkiness at your own risk...and if you'd like to preserve your image of me as a sweet, gentle, understanding soul, well, perhaps you'd better not read at all...

Over the last five years or so, we've had quite a few family emergencies involving my mother-in-law and her myriad medical conditions. Family emergencies often bring out the best in people. Unfortunately, the women in my extended family do not exemplify this. Quite the opposite. I've learned a lot about human behavior just by watching them, though...when crisis rears its ugly head--which it does with alarming frequency in this family--one can count on the following:

Sister-in-Law #1: (The Chief's sister) will be furious. This is the last thing she needs, and it's so damn inconvenient on top of everything else. The fact that her constant harping and complaining about how this is all she needs puts Mother under a tremendous amount of stress which probably isn't doing a whole lot to help her recovery will not occur to her. Although she will spend more time at the hospital than most of us (with the possible exception of Sister-in-Law-Wannabe, see below), she will refuse to speak with the doctors or be any sort of advocate for Mother because "I don't understand all that medical crap."

Sister-in-Law #2: (The Chief's brother's wife) will visit once, for the sake of appearance, and when she does, she will be dressed like a runway model, wearing a plethora of expensive jewelry she cannot afford. She will sweep into the room with an air of self-importance, being sure to wave her rings and bangles in everyone's face so they get a good look at what her massive credit card debt has bought her. The fact that she will be required to don gloves, mask, and gown before entering the room will probably cause her to rethink her visit--what's the point in showing up if no one can see how much money she's got?--so if MRSA protocols are being observed, perhaps she won't be showing up at all.

Sister-in-Law-Wannabe: (The Chief's other brother's girlfriend) will spend almost as much time at the hospital as sister-in-law #1, but she will wander vaguely about the room with a shell-shocked look on her face, wringing her hands and making whispered comments about How Awful It All Is. She will let everyone know that she's been so worried that she hasn't eaten or slept in spite of the fact that she has taken large doses of narcotic medication and sleeping pills. She will make sure that she is seen hovering solicitously over Mother in the hopes that we will all forget that she was an instrumental factor in other brother's divorce. If this does not garner her the appropriate amount of attention, she may pass out dramatically across Mother's bed.

Family emergencies often bring families together...but this family is enough to make me want to run for the hills...


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Family Emergency

I may not be around much this weekend...I've just had word that my mother-in-law has been rushed off to the hospital. She has a history of heart problems (quadruple bypass surgery just over a year ago), so I do not know what the weekend will hold.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Social Anxiety? Or Just Me?

I quit my quilters' guild. I was supposed to go on Monday night, and I just couldn't deal with sitting in that room with all those women that I don't feel I have anything in common with...except that we all make quilts. Of course, my quilts don't look anything like theirs...mine aren't these pretty, traditional things in country blues and pinks with perfect points and lovely neat blocks. My quilts are abstract-flowing-full-of-rivers-of-color things that look like someone spilled a paintbox and then threw water all over it...

Okay, well I like them!

So anyway, I'm not sure what it is with me...I have a really hard time belonging to groups. Part of it is never feeling like I have anything in common with the people in the group. Part of it is not wanting to commit to anything too far ahead (this comes from the bipolar thing...not knowing if I would be too depressed to get my butt off the couch when push came to shove). Part of it is me being me, which is to say, shy and introverted and just not needing or wanting to have a whole lot of people around me. Crowds irritate me to the extreme. I can't stand that amount of energy around me.

I'm sure my psychiatrist would be happy to diagnose me with Social Anxiety Disorder and put me on Seroquel for life. But what if I'm quite happy with the way I am? What if I've learned to adjust and accommodate for my needs, and know what I need to do to keep myself happy and functional? Is that still a disorder? Or is it just me?

And why should someone else decide that I'm not the way I should be, that I should be more like everyone else, and that I should therefore be medicated?

Writing Prompt: In what ways are you different from the rest of the world? Do you see these differences as strengths, or do you wish you were like everyone else?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Product of My Environment

For yesterday's writing prompt, I asked what is one thing you are thankful that you learned, and one of the responses I got was from Susan at Wellness Writer, who said:

"By her example, my mother taught me how to write. She wrote a neighborhood column for a community newspaper for 40 years. And from the time I was child, she wrote poetry to tell us how much she loved us, or to make us laugh! I just assumed that everyone's mom wrote poetry!"

Susan's response made me think about my own experiences growing up. I never had a mentor like that for my writing. My parents both grew up in London during WWII, an experience which molded them into the serious, practical, financial-security-seeking people that they are. When I showed an interest in writing around age 10, I was indulged and told how lovely my poems and stories were, but I was not really taken seriously. The prevailing attitude was that it was fine for a hobby, but really, one had to be practical. How was I to support myself?

And so I grew up with the idea that art was something that other people did for a living. People who had lots of money, or people who didn't mind living in rat-infested garrets. People like me had to be practical, had to support ourselves. A career in the arts wouldn't allow that, and was not even to be considered.

I wish it had been different. I wish I had defied my father and majored in English or art anyway. And I hope that when my own children are ready to make decisions about what they will do with their lives that I will not influence them to abandon their hearts' desires. One of my greatest fears as a parent is that by being a product of my environment, I have influenced them in some way that they will regret, but only realize later on.

Writing Prompt: We are all products of our environments. The things we are told growing up can have a huge influence on us. In what ways has being a product of your environment been an advantage for you? How has it been a disadvantage?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Some Snippets

Two weeks after my last 25 mg of trazodone, and I finally feel like I am sleeping normally again without it. I am falling asleep quickly, and staying asleep, and I feel much more rested and alert. I'm still taking Benadryl...but that's normal for me this time of year. I have allergies, and as August and ragweed season approach, there is no way I can leave off the Benadryl right now. Once we have a killing frost I will stop taking it.

It sounds like the Journal Workshop class will be happening this fall. Now I just have to keep my momentum going until October...I've almost finished my notes for the first of the four sessions. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Gianna at Beyond Meds posted the abstract for a very intriguing looking paper the other day, all about how iatrogenic illnesses may be caused by mitochondrial damage, and how the psych meds many of us take may be the greatest culprits. My initial response to reading it was that I'm not at all surprised, and it would be arrogant in the extreme for medical science to assume it knows everything about the ways in which our bodies function. And if it's true, well, no wonder psych meds have so many horrible side effects and can do so many awful things to people. Case in point right here...

Also of note, Philip Dawdy over at Furious Seasons is celebrating his one-year anniversary off meds. Congratulations, Philip!

Writing Prompt: What is one thing that you are thankful that you learned to do? For me, it would be sewing. My mother taught me how to sew when I was about five. By the time I was twelve, I was making some of my own clothing, and when I moved into my first apartment, I made all the drapes and home dec. stuff for it. Now I work on art quilts, things which have very little in common with the little pin cushions and doll clothes I first learned to sew. But I will never forget that it was my mother who first opened this door for me.

Friday, July 18, 2008

What is a Writer?

What, exactly, is a writer? I think a writer is someone who writes. And I think a real writer isn't necessarily someone who has been published (as some of those who have will tell you--like it's some sort of exclusive club or something), but I think a real writer is someone who can't not write.

It's a mind-set rather than a list of accomplishments. Because when it comes down to it, published or not, we're all doing the same thing. We're all writing. Sometimes it sings, sometimes you cry. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes you sweat blood. Even the professionals--those who've "made it", those who've published a dozen books or more--admit to fear of the blank page.

For me, like anyone who I consider a real writer, writing is an integral part of life. If I'm not-writing, there's a problem. Every big not-writing period in my life has corresponded to a time when I didn't want to face the truth the writing would make me face head on. Writing cuts through the shit. Writing reaches the essential core of my being, brings forth the dreams, the truths, and the mortal dreads.

A writer writes.

Writing Prompt: What is your definition of a "real" writer? Do you consider yourself to be one? Why or why not?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Knowing When to Slow Down

Part of being well and staying well is knowing how to pace yourself. Sometimes we load too much on our plates and then we get stressed out and don't do any of the things we're trying to do to our satisfaction.

My sleep is still disturbed after my trazodone withdrawal, and I'm trying not to take anything to help because I feel like then I'm just trading one chemical for another. As a result, I'm a little more tired than usual, and a little less alert.

I think I need to slow down and be kinder to my body and mind.

I am not doing well with coming up with anything to say today. In addition to it being summer and having the kids home all day and needing attention, I have a couple of other projects going--coming up with the curriculum notes for my journal class this fall, and working on a book about bipolar disorder and wellness strategies. I think I need to post a bit more I will try to get something up a few times a week, but I think I need to slow down a little...I'm running out of steam, I don't want to push myself so hard that I end up dropping the blog entirely. I'll still be visiting your blogs, but I don't think I can keep up the pace I've set so far!

Writing Prompt: How do you know when you are trying to do too much? What signals does you body give you? What signals does your mind give you? Do you listen?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fitting In...Or Not

Ever since I was a little kid, I've felt like I was on the outside looking in. While I was growing up, much of what the people around me felt was important--the "right" clothes, the "right" hair, being part of the "right" group--all bewildered me no end, and still does. I find it very hard to relate to this culture's value system, and now, as an adult, I have realized that I will probably never find a place where I really fit in. And I have to wonder if perhaps this is the source of the anxiety that has dogged me as far back as I can remember.

Oh, I've found a few like-minded travelers in my journey. My husband, for one, and a few dear friends that have come and gone through the years, but for the most part, people and what they want out of life are so hard for me to understand.

I often wonder why this is so. Is it part of whatever anomaly made me chemically sensitive and prone to mood swings? Is it because of my experiences of alienation as a child, having been brought to America and dumped into a world where everything that was familiar to me was gone? Is it because of the way I was raised? But my brother doesn't seem to have had any problems taking this culture's value system to heart.

Saying I don't belong here, of course, begs the question, well, where do you think you would fit in? Honestly, I don't know. I often think that perhaps I would do better in a place (or perhaps a time!) where people live in tune with the rhythms of the earth. Where time moves slowly through the turning of the seasons, and my days would be set out according to the seasons' demands rather than the siren song of the holy dollar.

I guess the best I can do is try to find peace within myself...but I find it sad that I have never found my "herd", never felt like I truly belonged.

Although I must note that since I started blogging, I seem to have found more individuals who think like me than I have ever found in real life!

Writing Prompt: Belonging seems to be an important human need. Where do you think you belong? Are you content with where you are now, or do you find yourself wishing you belonged somewhere or somewhen else? What are the consequences to you of not feeling a sense of belonging?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Positive Feedback and Goals

One of the things that has helped me stick with my wellness routines--such as eating healthy, exercising, meditation, and sleep hygiene--has been the positive feedback I've received. And I'm not talking about positive feedback from other people--I'm talking about the positive feedback I'm getting from my own body.

Since I put these routines in place, I have lost 45 lbs, and the benefits of this are enormous--I no longer huff and puff going upstairs; I don't get a sweat rash on my thighs in the summer; my feet don't hurt anymore, and I'm actually finding that I'm able to do exercise involving some impact work, something I thought I'd never be able to do again.

I also have a lot more mental clarity. Some of this is due to stopping the psych meds I was taking, but I am convinced that a large part of it is due to my instituting a sleep schedule and being absolutely rigid about sticking to it. Getting the right amount of sleep is extremely important for your mind and body.

My moods are much more stable, and I attribute this to my stopping aspartame, stopping antidepressants, eating a much more nutritious diet, and getting myself into a regular exercise routine which includes yoga. I also have a greater sense of peace, and a greater sense of contentment. I think that my mental health is better now than it has been for most of my adult life.

The only problem with this scheme is that it has been slow to incorporate and slow to show results. The difference over time is amazing... but it has taken a long time for me to fully incorporate these wellness activities into my life, and a long time to see results. And I still have times when I backslide. I've been working on losing my Depakote weight for two years now, and I'm still not finished (I'm close, though! Fifteen pounds to go!). I know intellectually that losing weight slowly through a combination of sensible diet and exercise is the safest, most-likely-to-be-permanent way to lose weight, but it has not been easy, and I would like to see those numbers going down faster!

So while it's nice to have someone notice that I've lost weight, it's even nicer to be pain free and to feel happy and content most of the time. When I get impatient, I just have to think about all the positive feedback I'm receiving from my mind and body--and that's enough to keep me going.

Writing Prompt: Many things that are worth achieving take time, and in our culture of quick fixes and I-want-it-now, a lot of people don't have the patience to work slowly towards a long-term goal. Are there any long-term goals you have been putting off working towards because they look so big and so impossible? Reaching those goals is a matter of small steps, taken successively.

When I started losing weight, my long-term goal was to lose sixty lbs. Sixty! Even at a healthy two pounds a week, we're talking the better part of a year, and that was assuming I could lose two pounds a week. So I broke it down into smaller parts. I wasn't going to concentrate on losing sixty pounds, I was going to concentrate on losing the first five. Losing five pounds was a small amount that I felt I could lose in a reasonable amount of time.

What is a small, positive step you can take today towards achieving a long-term goal? Is it possible to break the goal down into smaller parts that don't look as daunting? What is a reasonable way to break it down?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Media Break

I really need a media break, so I'm going off-line for the weekend. I'll be back Monday to check up on everyone's blogs! Have a great weekend!

Trazodone Taper, Part 10.5: Sleep

While tapering off of trazodone has been really good for my mental acuity and creativity, I am still struggling with sleep. I took my last 25 mg of trazodone last Saturday night, and since then I have had a difficult time falling asleep and staying asleep.

Sunday night I tried Sleepytime Tea (by Celestial Seasonings)--the one with valerian and chamomile...which did actually make me sleepy, but not sleepy enough to ignore the fact that I had to get up to go to the bathroom several times because I drank tea at bedtime!
The next few nights it took ages to fall asleep, and it felt like I was awake a good part of the night...although I didn't feel too bad in the morning, so I must have gotten more sleep than it seemed.

I wonder if maybe when I'm not on trazodone, I just don't need as much sleep. I got it beaten into my head by my psychiatrist that I needed to get 8-9 hours a night or I would get hypomanic...but before my diagnosis, I did fine on 7 or 7 1/2 hours. I'll have to play with my bedtime and see what happens.

Last night was actually much better...I think because I made an effort to avoid caffeine after lunch. I fell asleep fairly quickly, but was rudely awakened at 1:30 am by my weather radio telling me we had a severe thunderstorm watch (a watch, for Pete's sake! I think that after 10:00 they should really only have the thing go off if a tornado is bearing down upon my house...anything else, I'd rather sleep through, thank you!). I had no sooner gotten back to sleep when the storm hit, keeping me awake for over an hour.

Writing Prompt: Yesterday I wrote about journal writing rituals, and now I'm thinking about bedtime rituals. Do you have a bedtime ritual? If so, what do you do to get your mind ready for sleep? (If you've got any good ideas, go ahead and post them in comments--I'd be interested to hear what other people are doing to get to sleep!). My kids have a bedtime ritual, and it seems to help them settle down. Me, I don't really have anything other than grab a glass of water, go upstairs, brush teeth, hop into bed and read for fifteen or twenty minutes. Maybe I need to do some yoga or meditation before bed...I think it's a matter of, well, I know I should do this, know.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Journal Writing Rituals

Rituals can be extremely helpful in centering ourselves and preparing our minds for journal work. If we engage in a ritual for long enough, it can help give our minds the push they need sometimes to get into the mental space where we do our journal work.

Journal writing rituals are as varied and individual as the people who come up with them. What's important is not so much what the ritual is, as that you have a small thing that you do before each journal writing session. Eventually, this ritual signals your mind that it is time to slide into your mental writing space. Over time, the ritual can facilitate getting you to that writing place even during stressful times when it would otherwise be a difficult place for you to come to.

Rituals I have used and enjoyed include the following:
* having a special place where you sit to journal, or a special time of day when you do it.
* lighting a candle before you start and allowing it to burn during your writing time. Blowing out the candle is a signal that the session is finished.
* if you like incense, choose a favorite scent and reserve that scent for journal writing. The scent of sandalwood and frankincense means journal time for me.
* reserving certain music to use during journal time. I find that instrumental music works best--vocals can be distracting, unless it's something like a Gregorian chant.
* reserving a favorite tea to make to accompany your journal writing time. I used to drink Numi's Monkey King Jasmine Green Tea sweetened with a bit of honey during my journal writing time...and I still get in the mood to write whenever I drink it!

Writing Prompt: What are some rituals that you have used for journal writing? Did you find them helpful? In what way? If you have never used rituals for journal writing, consider what kind of ritual might be helpful for you and give it a try.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Unsticking Yourself

Beyond Meds has an interesting post up today about a Newsweek article in which Dr. James Gordon is interviewed. Gordon is the author of the book "Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression."

I read the interview, and it really struck a chord with me because these are exactly the recovery methods I used to get myself off of bipolar meds and to stabilize myself: excellent nutrition, plenty of exercise, and meditation.

The fact that Gordon has had success working with people suffering from PTSD is particularly encouraging, as the number of people with wounded psyches coming home from Iraq increases.

Gordon's method sounds like plain old common sense to me, although I suspect it will be a hard sell to a culture that would rather pop a pill than do the hard work involved in a radical lifestyle change. Still, it's nice to see some alternatives to medication getting some press. It's important for people to know that there are other ways to get through depression than to take potentially dangerous medications.

Writing Prompt: What are some small, common-sense things that you can do to improve your quality of life right now? Remember, they don't have to be big things...some ideas: coming up with three things to be grateful for, or three things that you find beautiful, every single day. Taking a ten minute walk...or a five-minute walk, if that is all you can manage. Lighting a candle and sitting quietly for a few minutes watching the flame and centering yourself. These are all small steps we can take toward wellness...and even a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Beginnings, Endings and Disclaimers

I just filled up another journal notebook. This was volume 51. Volume 1 was begun when I was thirteen years old. So for those of you doing the math, that's 51 volumes in about 30 years, since I started around December of 1978 (when I got a blank book for xmas and decided that it should be a journal). The last 25 volumes were filled during the past ten years.

I don't know what it is, but I have this thing about beginnings and endings...they ought to be special somehow, they ought to be marked or noticed in some way. So whenever I begin a new volume of the journal, the first page always starts with a sort of where-I-am-now entry. When I finish a volume, the very last page is reserved for a summary, where I write about where I've been during that volume, whether there were any huge life-altering events, or whether I had any life-changing epiphanies. And then there is the little ceremony of naming the volume, and taping an index card on the front with the title, the dates, and the volume number written in permanent marker.

The last thing I do is tape my Standard Journal Disclaimer on the inside of the front cover...this is an open letter to anyone who might find the damn thing after I'm gone...I'm paranoid about my mother reading my journals and thinking she's raised a's one of my Mortal Dreads, to borrow Harlan Ellison's words. Not that I have a bad relationship with my mother or's just one of those little things that keeps me up a night.

My Standard Journal Disclaimer goes like this:

Jazz's Standard Journal Disclaimer (version 1):
The following should be understood by anyone attempting to decipher the ramblings which lie herein.

1. This is not, strictly speaking, a diary. I always thought of it as a writer's notebook or a writer's journal. In these pages, the lines between truth and fiction often blur imperceptibly. Some entries are traditional diary entries; others are pure fiction. Many fall somewhere in between.

2. The writing is often cathartic. Entries are often emotionally charged. I write in the heat of anger/frustration/annoyance/(insert your own emotion). It's better than strangling someone. Or breaking something. And provides a wealth of raw material to be mined for my fiction later on.

3. It is practice. It is where I play with ideas and characters that may not be all bunnies and flowers. Things I need to work out or understand. So if it seems, for a while, that I'm obsessed with something unsavory, well, it's probably because it's part of an idea for a story or character. I have these thoughts on paper so that they can be mined later. You who don't write don't need such devices. But I do. I can't possibly remember every scene that's ever played through my head, can I, now? Especially when the movie never stops.

4. I never asked anyone to read this stuff, so I make no apologies for what you might find here. Remember only that living and personal growth are dynamic processes, and the best you can hope to glean from these pages is a snapshot of my thoughts, my process, at any given moment. The journal speaks of who I have been, not necessarily who I am.

5. If you're reading this, I'm probably dead.
I wrote this for me. Not you.
You hold my soul in your hands.
Come into my garden and play for a while…
Happy Hunting…

Writing Prompt: If you keep a traditional paper-and-pen journal, chances are that unless you've left explicit "Chuck it All in the Bonfire" instructions to be carried out by someone you trust implicitly, someone is going to get their hands on it after you're gone. What would you want that person to know before they read it?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Trazodone Taper, Part 10 (The End!)

Last night, for the first time in a few years, I didn't take any trazodone. I had a cup of chamomile and valerian tea before bed...which was a mistake, because then I had to keep getting up to use the bathroom. The tea did make me sleepy, but not sleepy enough to ignore my brain, which kept yammering on at me in a particularly shrill tone that I hadn't taken my trazodone and that I would never get to sleep.

I did not sleep well. It took hours to fall asleep, and then I kept waking up...and looking at the know the drill: if I get to sleep now, I'll get five hours...hmmm...I can probably get by on five hours... and an hour later: if I get to sleep now, I'll get four hours... I know I'm not supposed to be looking at the clock, I do know this...but I looked at the clock anyway.

Still, I shall persevere, as overall, I'm feeling much better than I did on 200 mg of trazodone. I imagine I will adjust and hopefully tonight will be a better night. No naps today. No caffeine this afternoon.

Writing Prompt: Sleep is an essential part of our lives. We spend approximately one third of our lives sleeping. What role does sleep play in your life? Is it a time to mine the subconscious for dreams and wake up clutching a fistful of gold? Or is it something that interferes with the things you really want to do? Do you welcome sleep, or do you dread it?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

If it Ain't Normal, Drug It!

The range of behaviors society is willing to call "normal" seems to be narrowing at a rather alarming rate. Behaviors that only twenty years ago were considered part of the incredible diversity of human expression are now considered pathological, and we are encouraged (every night during numerous television commercials sponsored by Big Pharma) to seek help and take powerful medications (whose actions on the brain and long-term effects are only vaguely understood) to control our symptoms.

When I look at the sweeping changes the Age of Technology has wrought in our society just in the past twenty years or so, I have to ask myself, is it any wonder that some of us just can't deal with our environment? Our genetic heritage has us hard-wired to be running around outside in the sunlight, foraging and hunting in order to feed ourselves, not slumped in front of a computer or a television screen under artificial lights eating processed chemical cocktails marketed as food day after day. But instead of asking what we can do to make the environment more healthy?, we ask what is wrong with these people? and medicate them so that they might better fit society's ever-tightening definition of "normal".

I'm thinking about something Furious Seasons reported on a while back about workplaces offering ADHD screening for their employees. And I'm thinking about antipsychotics being used for "social phobias" including fear of public speaking. And I'm thinking about the questionnaire I got on depression the last time I went to my GP's office for a thyroid check.

This trend to medicalize and pathologize every emotional condition that deviates even slightly from the norm worries me. I foresee a grim future in which all that is unique and brilliant and different in a person, all that sets us apart from each other, will be drugged out of us so that we better fit in the nice little boxes society uses to classify and control us.

Brave New World, anyone?

Writing Prompt: When I was about fourteen, I refused to grow up to be anything like my parents. I thought they were dull and boring, and I told them so (my mother has never let me forget this!). I wanted lights and music and excitement, and I couldn't figure out what was so great about a weekend spent sewing and reading and gardening. The Box People, I called them, all fitting so nicely into their middle-class suburban boxes. It's easy to label people when you're looking at them from the outside in. What labels have you carried? Do they tell the whole story? Why or why not? What labels would you give yourself?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Identity Theft

One of the most insidious effects of my bipolar diagnosis was the way it robbed me of my identity...

I was not suicidal, nor was I psychotic, or even a whole lot out of control. I initially went to my GP because I couldn't sleep. I hadn't slept more than a few hours for nearly a week, and wasn't feeling tired, and I figured that wasn't normal, I ought to be maybe I better get this checked out. I was also under an enormous amount of stress, and my anxiety levels were sky-high due to some extremely stressful Family Bullsh*t that was going on at the time. Did anyone ask about that? No. Instead, I was asked if I'd ever been depressed. And since I said yes (although I'd never been diagnosed or medicated for it), I was sent home with Zyprexa and Ambien, and told I should call a psychiatrist.

This led to an ever-descending spiral of self-doubt. In my reading, I learned that my writing highs--those times when I could just let go and write for hours on end--were actually "hypomania". And those times when I felt like I just loved life and really enjoyed everything I was doing--that was "hypomania", the last two or three years of my life, which had been wonderful, happy years in which I felt productive, and excited about my future, suddenly took on the sinister aspect of an "illness". Which must be "managed." I learned that if I ever felt that way again--exuberant and loving life--that I should talk to my psychiatrist immediately, because I urgently required a "medication adjustment." And that if I didn't have my medications adjusted, the hypomania could steamroll on into full blown "mania" in which I would be completely out of control and need to be hospitalized (even though I had never been close to being "out of control"). I also learned that if I felt just a little bit sad, I needed to consider that a "warning sign" and to talk to my doctor because I might be getting "depressed". Which would require that another medication or three be added to my "cocktail" in order to prevent me from becoming so ill that I might kill myself (even though I'd never really considered that seriously before). Overnight, my perception of myself went from creative, confident and happy to "very sick and in need of medication for the rest of my life."

For the next two years, I would be haunted by the question, "How much of my personality is me and how much is it?" The answer, according to my psychiatrist, was that a lot of my drive, my energy, my productivity, and my creative whirlwinds could be attributed to it. So I figured whatever was left over once the medications were working, that was probably the real me. And since I lost my ability to think, laugh, create, write and enjoy life once I was medicated, I began to think that the real me wasn't worth very much, was she? She was actually a hopeless, dull-witted, exhausted lump who couldn't even speak without stumbling over her words, and didn't want to do anything but sit on the couch.

Life was pretty dismal for those two years. I no longer had the capacity to enjoy life, and the medications I was taking actually made me more sick. My moods began to cycle, and within a year I'd had three "episodes" each requiring that my medications be adjusted (read "increased") and that new medications be added. My doctor pointed this out to me as proof of just how sick I was.

I am so glad that I retained enough clarity and sense of self to say Enough. Unfortunately, it took a near-tragedy to shake me back to my senses (my husband's heart attack and my inability to respond to it in any sort of normal way). But however it happened, I did finally see the light and realize that my misplaced trust in psychiatry was only making me sicker, and that there had probably been nothing wrong with me in the first place that a little therapy or education in stress management wouldn't have taken care of.

I stopped taking medications over a very short period, probably too short, but then I didn't have much in the way of medical support--my psychiatrist's view of stopping medications was that it would be "stupid" and that I would "ruin my life". He didn't say It would be a bad idea, but if you're hell bent on doing it, here's how to do it safely, no, he just said Don't.

When I came off of meds, I was a mess. I had no idea who I really was anymore. After being told that all the things I had loved about myself were due to my illness, my self-confidence had taken a serious hit. I was terribly overweight and out of shape and dreadfully ashamed of myself for having let myself get into that condition. It took a long time for the anger to fade, for me to accept what I'd allowed to be done to me. And in some ways, I think I am still working on that acceptance, because the anger is still smouldering away in there.

After I was off most of the drugs, my sense of self, my sense of humor, and my ability to enjoy life slowly returned over a period of a few months. It took a longer time for my creativity and my confidence in myself as an artist to return--after all, I'd been told that all of my artistic achievements were actually manifestations of my "illness". For a long time I wondered if my drive to create--to write and to "make stuff"--would ever come back, or if the medications had damaged my brain in some subtle way and I'd never be able to create again--or worse, even want to.

Thank goodness I took my life back into my own hands. I dread to think where I would be now if I hadn't. I certainly wouldn't be myself.

Writing Prompt: Has there ever been a time in your life when your identity, your sense of self, was threatened by a label, an event, or a person/group? How did you deal with it and in what ways did this experience change you? If you've never experienced a threat to your sense of self, what sort of event do you think it would take to do this? Where are your vulnerabilities?