Monday, June 30, 2008

Life Lessons

Little Mouse's birthday was over the weekend, and one of the gifts she got was an "Action Replay"--a special cartridge for her hand-held video game machine (Nintendo DS for those of you in the know). Action Replay is a product that contains all the different "cheat codes" for the video games you can play on the DS, which means that she can get unlimited money or have already caught all the critters she's supposed to catch, or what have you.

So she eagerly entered all the cheat codes for her favorite game, and spent most of the day crowing at her brother, "Look, I've got this! And this!" and "Look, I've got enough money to buy this! I bet you've never gotten so much money!"

Saturday night, after she'd gone to bed (seriously over-tired from the very late night she had Friday, and the short nights Wednesday and Thursday when she was so excited about the impending birthday that she couldn't sleep), she came downstairs in tears and told me how terrible she felt about cheating in her game. She said she felt like she'd done something wrong, and that the game wasn't going to be any fun anymore because she already had everything, and what was the point of playing anymore?

I pulled her onto my lap and hugged her and told her she hadn't done anything wrong, but that maybe she'd learned something? We talked about how we need to have goals and challenges to keep things interesting, and that if you're just handed everything you ever wanted, it's hard to stay motivated to do anything because you have nothing to strive for...and how that's as true in life as it is in video games.

She said her game was ruined now, and that she was going to start over because it just wasn't any fun anymore. Then she dried her eyes and hugged me, and I walked her back upstairs and tucked her back into bed.

I was smiling as I walked back downstairs. What a great opportunity to teach an important life lesson. I hope she remembers it and takes something from it.

Writing Prompt: What is one of the important life lessons you have learned? How did you learn it? Did you realize at the time that it was a valuable learning experience, or did that understanding come later?

Sunday, June 29, 2008


I know I said I wasn't going to post this weekend, but mother-in-law snuck out early this morning before I was even awake, and Little Mouse was so exhausted from the "sleep"over that she is still sleeping. It is quiet and I have own thoughts, even!

Books have played such an important role in my life. I have been an avid reader since I was very small. In our house, we don't have broadcast or cable television--our TV is used only for DVDs and video games, and even their use is limited. Many evenings will find all four of us sprawled across various couches, together, but each absorbed in their own book. I still read to my children every night before bed, even though my oldest is nearly thirteen, and they still look forward to this ritual very much, and are sad when circumstances do not permit us to do it.

Some books I adored as a child and read over and over again, like "The Swiss Family Robinson", and an old English novel by Ethel Noakes called "The House of Many Pages." It has been a joy to introduce my own children to these books, and to say reverently, "These books belonged to your grandfather when he was a little boy, so you must be very careful with them."

Books by Ray Bradbury, Sylvia Louise Engdahl and Octavia Butler opened my young eyes to the endless worlds of fantasy and science fiction, ignited the fires of my imagination, and started me down the path of telling my own stories.

Some books have come along at just the right time...Ann Maxwell's "Timeshadow Rider" came into my hands just after I broke up with my first love. It restored my faith in love eternal, and made me believe that my soul mate was out there and that I would one day find him.

Some books I feel I owe a lot to, given how they have changed (or even saved) my life. Pamela Peeke's "Body for Life for Women" and Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" got me off my butt and got my feet firmly on the path to wellness and health after I stopped taking my bipolar meds and needed to reclaim my mind, body and creativity.

Books by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mercedes Lackey, and Lois McMaster Bujold are like old friends that I return to again and again.

Writing Prompt: What role do books play in your life? What books did you love as a child? Which books opened your eyes to new worlds and new possibilities? What books have you read that still haunt your dreams? What books have you read more than once?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Trazodone Taper, Part 9

Last weekend I dropped my trazodone down to 25 mg from 50 mg. I've had headaches on and off since Monday, so that's not good, but next weekend I'm stopping it entirely, so we'll see how that goes. It's funny how some cuts I've not noticed anything in the way of symptoms, and others I've had headaches for a week after.

The stuff isn't doing anything to help me sleep anymore, which isn't surprising, considering that 50 mg never did much for me, either. I forgot to take my Benadryl the other night, and didn't feel anything from the 25 mg of trazodone after I took it. So one more week on trazodone and then I'll be done with it.

I think I should get Bonus Points, don't you? And not just for the trazodone thing, but for policing that slumber party last night. Bonus Points...redeemable for all kinds of cool prizes. I keep telling The Chief I want a Rewards Program of some sort, but he just laughs and pats my head. Sigh.

Writing Prompt: You are stranded alone on a deserted island for an extended period of time. Food and water are plentiful. What five things would you absolutely have to have with you in order to remain sane?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Okay, You Guys Can Have a Writing Prompt

Writing Prompt: What fictional character would you most like to have as a friend and why? This doesn't have to be a literary character, it could be from a movie or a comic book, or even for you writers out there, a character of your own design.

Busy Weekend!

Just popping by to say I'll probably be offline most of the weekend...Little Mouse's birthday is this weekend, and between the houseful of eleven-year-old girls arriving at 10:00 this morning for tonight's slumber party and my mother-in-law's overnight visit tomorrow, I'm probably not going to be spending much time at the computer. If I get a minute, I may whip off a quick post, otherwise I'll be back Monday! Have a great weekend, all!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Writing as Meditation

My friend Gianna over at Beyond Meds was up at 3 am last night writing out her anxieties over a trip she is taking this morning. Her post got me thinking about all of the times I have done exactly that--sat down feeling all wound up about something, scrawled my anxieties or pain or fear (or sometimes all three) across several notebook pages, and come out on the other side feeling, if not better, at least better able to handle the situation.

I don't think you have to be a writer or a long-time believer in the power of journaling to benefit from this sort of catharsis. I think that a torrent of words at the right time can have extremely healing and beneficial effects. I have used writing when I've been in the middle of a difficult situation. Writing helps me sort out what, exactly, is going on, and what, exactly, I'm reacting to. And it helps me figure out what I might do to ease my way through whatever it is I'm going through. It's something you can do, as opposed to just letting events take you where they will...and I'm all about doing something when I'm in the midst of a crisis.

And that's fine for those highly emotional moments when you just need to get it out. But what about for the everyday parts of your life? I have found writing to be an excellent form of meditation. Julia Cameron talks about writing as a form of meditation in the books from her "Artist's Way" series, which include "The Artist's Way", "Walking in this World", and "Finding Water", and also in some of her other books, including "Vein of Gold". Cameron calls it Morning Pages, and Morning Pages are three pages of longhand writing that you do every morning, first thing. They don't have to mean anything, they don't have to be about anything, they don't have to be pretty or spelled right, because nobody is going to see them but you. They are basically a brain dump. Whatever's on your mind, put it down, and you don't ever have to look at it again if you don't want to. It's about the process, not the product. My Morning Pages are usually pretty banal: I can't believe it's morning already. I wish I was still in bed. There is too much to do today and I don't want to do any of it: vacuuming, laundry, grocery shopping...I absolutely don't want to grocery shop because that means I have to figure out what we're going to eat and I don't know what we're going to eat because those kids won't eat anything...

Writing in this way, every morning, feels like meditation. It's part of my routine. It sets me up for the day. I come away from it feeling refreshed and ready to start my day. I suppose it does take a bit longer than your ten-minute mindfulness meditation... but for me, writing is how I make sense of my world, and so for me, writing is a perfect form of meditation.

Writing Prompt: Set aside twenty minutes or so and do a brain dump. Just write whatever is on your mind no matter how mundane or boring. Even if you have nothing to say, write that. The trick is to just keep your hand moving the pen across the page for twenty minutes. When you have finished, sit in silence for a few moments and ask yourself how you feel. Do you feel more collected? Less scattered? Consider whether or not a morning brain-dump might be a helpful thing to add to your arsenal of wellness tools.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Get That Woman Off The Dance Floor!

My knee is acting up.

Not that I'm looking for sympathy, mind you. Oh, no, I brought this on myself, playing DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) barefoot with my kids for the last couple of weeks. I guess 40-something women who still have a few pounds to lose shouldn't be mucking with that stuff.

But hell, t'was only five years ago I was tearing up the dance floors at some of the more fashionable night clubs at Mall of America every other weekend...with my hip-hugging, butt-crack-displaying, ultra-tight-with-the-funky-see-through-rivets-down-the-sides, oh-so-fashionable blue jeans. And heels, even!

Five years ago. That's not really that long.

Bloody hell, I'm not ready to get old yet. Bind up the knee, pop some ibuprofen, order up a properly padded dance pad upon which I can wear my ultra-supportive sneakers, and fire up the Playstation, folks, this old gal's not ready for the glue factory yet! Not without a fight, that is. The Barrister better watch out. His high score is in real danger now...

Writing Prompt: When I was a kid, I thought that when I grew up I would be this solemn, serious person with all this wisdom. Imagine my surprise to find that I don't feel a whole lot different at 42 than I did at 19! My mother confirms that she doesn't feel a whole lot different at 68 than she did at 19, other than those annoying aches and pains. The people I know who have truly aged gracefully have remained young at heart. Whatever your true age, what things do you do that make you feel young at heart?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Writing Prompt: Weather

Weather can have such a huge impact on mood. Some of us experience depression in the winter due to lack of sunlight (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and some of us (like me) have a really hard time in the summer when it is hot and humid.

Writing Prompt: What sort of weather makes you feel the most alive? What kind of weather is the hardest for you to deal with?

Monday, June 23, 2008

You Are What You Eat

Naturalgal has been running a series on foods that are healthy and foods to avoid. Reading her work and talking with my psychiatrist the other day got me thinking...

I find it interesting that my psychiatrist has never asked me about my diet. Nor does he have any interest in which supplements I am taking. Now, admittedly I'm not taking anything exotic, but so many substances that are marketed as "supplements" have the potential to cause harm or interact with psych meds that I find it curious that he does not ask.

It strikes me that part of the reason most psychiatrists don't want to look too closely at diet is that the typical western diet is so bad for you that for most people, eating healthier would mean a huge lifestyle change. And let's face it, it's easier to get people to take a pill every day than it is to get them to change their habits.

But all of the brain chemicals involved in psychiatry's pet theory of chemical imbalance--namely the neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine--are made by the body from the materials it has at hand, meaning whatever has gone into the mouth recently. And so it makes sense to me (although I am not a biochemist or a nutritionist) that if you are giving your body junk for building blocks, the quality (and quantity) of the things it can make from those building blocks may not be optimal.

Looking at all the junk that's out there on the shelves at the grocery store, it amazes me that the average human lifespan keeps increasing. Our bodies are extremely resilient, and they'll keep running for a long time, even if we do fill them with crap. But damage is occurring whether we notice it or not.

Maybe if our bodies just balked and stop performing when we ate junk--like a car with a gas tank full of water--then we'd all be a lot more mindful about what we put in our mouths.

Writing Prompt: While our bodies need good food to run optimally, our minds/souls/spirits also need to be nourished. What things do you do to nourish your spirit and keep it healthy? Could you do more? Are there things you'd like to try but haven't? What things get in the way of nourishing yourself?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Imagine My Surprise...

...when I checked my stats yesterday and discovered that my post about Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition was the top now I have to wonder how many of you actually do play D&D but won't admit it for fear of appearing geeky.

So for all you closet gamers out there, I suppose I will post something that only you will understand...the rest of you, please bear with me, it is only a temporary lapse in judgement...we hope...

Friday night I finished my two-year stint as DM (Dungeon Master for you rpg-illiterates out there). We finished the Shackled City Adventure Path, ate tons of Doritos and funky caramel corn with walnuts and those nasty red Cheetos that burn your hands if you hold them too long, and drank enough Coca-Cola to put a space shuttle in orbit. We also laughed a lot and had a darn good time. And I didn't kill anyone. Really.

Next week, I step down from the DM chair, which, for the past two years, I have occupied for all but the two sessions before this last one, where we gave 4th edition a whirl, and The Chief will take over. Ah, I mourn the loss of the ultimate power of life and death over my players! I mourn the loss of the power of evil DM laughter when they do something particularly stupid. I mourn the loss of rolling my dice behind the screen and cackling with glee so the players get nervous. I mourn the loss of being the Master of All Secrets and Spinner of Yarns. I mourn the loss of having an audience for all my funny voices and characterizations. And I most assuredly mourn the loss of the Comfy Chair, which the DM gets to sit in.

Yes, I mourn the loss of power and all the perks that go with it...but I am rather looking forward to going back to my position as the player who forces the DM to think outside the box...*rubs hands together with glee*.

Writing Prompt: Since today's post is about power, or lack thereof, this seems appropriate: If you don't have power, you cannot...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sensory Overload

I have been pondering silence lately. Silence and peace.

Silence is extremely important to me. I can't stand a lot of noise around me. I don't have television on, or the radio, or even music, most of the time. Sometimes I like it, but mostly I find it irritating. I even have my computer's sound muted because the constant blipping and beeping drives me bats.

It's the same with visual input. I can't watch movies or videos with a lot of fast cuts, and I find those new billboards that change pictures every few seconds extremely irritating and distracting. I guess I don't deal well with sensory overload.

Even artificial smells irritate me, particularly strong perfume. I can't stand scented soaps, scented shampoos, scented laundry products...all those clashing smells. And I can't stand next to some heavily perfumed person in an elevator.

It makes me wonder if there's some sort of connection between our noisy, flashing, smelly, overstimulating modern environment and some of the mental health issues many of us deal with. Particularly anxiety and depression.

Writing Prompt: What is the most irritating environment you have ever found yourself in? What was the most restful environment? What sort of place would be the perfect environment for you--a place in which you feel you would function your best?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Writing Prompt: My Life in Six Words

Clinically Clueless has challenged me to write my memoir in six words. Being a writer, of course I cannot resist...

Anxiously leaving myself to come home.

Writing Prompt: I'm not going to tag anybody specifically on this, but I am going to challenge you all to write your own memoir in six words...and if you did the exercise on naming the chapters of your life, perhaps you could write each chapter in six words.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Victory of Sorts

I went to see my psychiatrist, Dr. L., yesterday. We are on a 3-month check-in schedule right now, with me now off all meds except trazodone, and having been stable for the past four years.

It was actually a good visit. I was afraid I might be feeling rather hostile and bad-attitudinal, especially with all the feelings that my art-journaling experiment the other day stirred up. But I was in such a good mood yesterday when I woke up that I was quite well behaved (give that woman a cookie!).

He asked me what I was currently taking, and I told him I had cut my trazodone down from 200 mg to 50 mg since my last visit, and he was fine with that.

I asked about the aspartame connection and whether or not we ever get to talk about undiagnosing me, or misdiagnosis. He said not really, because regardless of the cause, I did have all the symptoms of a manic episode, and I have had several depressions. Neither of which I would deny, because, well, they did happen. However, he did concede that given my sensitivity to medications it is certainly a possibility that aspartame contributed to my mood issues. And he added that given what we are learning about different food additives and some of the effects they can have on people, it would not surprise him if aspartame was at least partially responsible.

So I felt like that was a victory of sorts: he listened to me, he heard me, and he admitted that I could be right.

And he didn't once mention Abilify!

Writing Prompt: Time Travel

Thanks to Shiv for the following idea:

Writing Prompt: You can go back in time for one day, and while you are there, you can tell anyone, including yourself, anything, possibly changing the future. When do you go, who do you talk to, and what do you tell them?

And if any of you have any ideas for interesting prompts, shoot me an email and I'll post them and give you credit.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

D is for Depakote

I've been visiting some of the websites that I have listed on the sidebar under "Resources", and I've been thinking about trying art and words. I've collected a lot of art supplies and scrapbooking supplies over the years, so it's not like I would have to make a substantial investment to get started. I just need to get myself past the critic in my brain that says, in glaring neon letters, Yes, but you're not the least bit artistic. It'll be a Disaster. With bells on. You'll do it completely arse-backwards and They will all laugh and tell stories about it to Their grandchildren.

Well, last night, I said to the critic, "Yes, well, you're just a disembodied brain with bright red duck feet and horn-rimmed glasses. What do you know about Disaster? Especially Disaster with bells on?" And with that I took up my coloured pencils and began to colour my world. Or at least my thoughts.

So I thought then that I would try to draw my impressions of my whole bipolar nightmare. And I had all these clever, arty ideas about the whole manic/depressive dichotomy, black vs. light, light and dark, day and night, all very cliche, you understand.

So she puts pencils to paper and begins...

And what comes out is this brightly coloured amorphous creature of light and colour and movement trapped behind criss-crossing barbed wire, and everywhere that two pieces of wire meet there is that grey pill with the stylized "D" on it.

D for Depakote. D for Doped up. D for the Dreams and the Days lost. D for the Darkness in my soul. D for the Doctors and Drug companies that do this to thousands of people like me every day.

Wow. Um. Yeah. That was unexpected. So obviously I am still angry and still bitter and still not at peace with that whole chemical restraint and over-medication and doctors who think they know best thing.

And here I thought art journaling was just pretty pictures.

Writing Prompt: Creativity is one of the most powerful tools we have. It can aid us in healing and recovery, and it can brighten our lives and even become our life's focus. To what unexpected places has your creativity led you?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Excused Absence

Well if Superlagirl can do it, then so can I.

Dear Blogosphere,

Please excuse Jazz from making a meaningful entry today. She has

a vicious jungle virus brought home from the wetlands of outer Mongolia

a large, purple creature with fangs and teeth sitting in the middle of her living room demanding food

a rift in the space/time continuum right in her own backyard

an appointment with the local dragon, with whom she must negotiate terms in order to protect the local populace and sheep from its ravages and rampages

a broken tailfin

nothing clever or even remotely interesting to say. She will be back tomorrow. Unless she's not.

my mother

Monday, June 16, 2008

Daisy the Spotted Cow

So I'm working with The Intensive Journal Process, which is described in Ira Progoff's book "At a Journal Workshop", which I picked up years ago and have only just now started reading.

I'm still trying to figure this thing out.

Rather than the rambling, several pages long Morning Pages (for those of you familiar with Julia Cameron's work) style entries, my daily entries, called Daily Logs, are supposed to be a concise listing of factual information--events and emotions--of what comprises "the movement of my day," a concept I am still trying to wrap my head around.

Apparently I am supposed to cultivate an awareness of my dreams and my feelings upon waking ('s morning already?), and follow the inner movements of my day. Which would be all right if I was a drama queen of sorts, riding waves of emotion all day and every day, but I fear that this stage of my life is fairly quiet and calm. I don't have stellar arguments followed by world-shaking making up with my husband. I stay away from family politics and relationships I find too stressful. My mother-in-law is doing well in the health department, my children are home on summer break so there are no homework struggles...

All in all, my daily emotional life is about as exciting as that of Daisy the Spotted Cow, who wanders out to the field every morning to munch on nice sweet grass and ambles back to her stall every evening 'round about sundown for a nice restful sleep in a pile of fresh hay.


The most exciting decision of my day usually revolves around which pair of underwear I should wear (they're all a bit tatty at the moment...I need to get some more...perhaps I can parlay that into an emotional crisis?) and which salad dressing I should put on the table at dinner.

Thus my Daily Log entries have been rather vanilla so far, and not very inspiring. No that I'm suggesting I need a dose of high drama, oh no, we can do quite nicely without that, thank you.

I'm just saying, that's all. (Moo.)

Writing Prompt: Daisy the Spotted Cow is not the only character floating about in the primeval stew I call "Brain." My critic, the part of myself that rags on everything creative I try to do, looks like a disembodied brain with bright red duck feet and horn-rimmed glasses. And my creative self is a small swamprat sort of thing with long whiskers and ever-so-fluffy ears. And of course, there is little-girl-me, who I talked about in my post about nursery school.

What other aspects of yourself are you aware of? What do they represent? Have you named them? What do they look like?

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Our lives are made up of a series of connecting moments, and it brings us a sense of comfort, safety, and continuity to engage in rituals--the little things we do that bring a sense of familiarity to a moment.

One of my favorite rituals is my morning tea and journal writing. Every morning after I have done the necessary things, which during summer break means walking and feeding the dogs, and preparing the Chief's lunch, I make a cup of Celestial Seasoning's Chocolate Caramel Enchantment Chai with a drop of honey (okay, a bit more than a drop, but somewhat less than a splash), and sit quietly at the table and write in my journal. The "quietly" part is negotiable during summer break, but I still sit there and do it, even if I am surrounded by noise. It has become the way I start my day, and if I can't do it for whatever reason, the day always feel somehow "off" or "wrong."

In our house, we have birthday rituals (Birthday Breakfast, which is doughnuts from the local bakery) on people's birthdays, and we have our holiday rituals such as kids jumping into bed with us on Christmas morning to open their stockings.

Writing Prompt: A ritual can be something you do every day, every week, or even just once a year. What rituals do you use to bring a sense of comfort and familiarity to the moments of your life?

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Home means something different to each of us. It can be the place where we first felt secure or where we put down roots. It can be the place your family comes from, maybe even a place you've never visited. It might be the first place you ever made completely yours--your first apartment, your first house. Or maybe it's a place you're still searching for.

I've moved around so much that I think for me, home is a feeling I carry inside of myself. It means the place where I am surrounded by the people and things I love, where I can dream my deepest dreams.

Writing Prompt: When you think of home, what do you think of? Is home a particular house you've lived in? Or is it a place, or maybe a person? Perhaps it is a flavor or a smell. What piece of home do you carry with you?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Trazodone Taper, Part 8

I dropped my trazodone from 75 mg to 50 mg last weekend, and yesterday afternoon I felt particularly fatigued. I'm not experiencing any other symptoms, and I'm getting plenty of sleep, so it's possible that this is due to the reduction in trazodone.

The good news is that I'm sleeping well and I'm not having any mood issues at the moment. I plan to stay at 50 mg for two weeks, then do 25 mg for another two weeks, and then stop it entirely.

The Chapters of Your Life

Writing Prompt: Think of your life as a book, and try to come up with interesting chapter headings for each chapter, or each period, you would divide your life into.

Mine look like this:
1. England
2. The Kid by the Fence
3. Fading into the Herd
4. Waking Up
5. A Herd of One
6. The War
7. Iowa Only Has Three Pigs
8. The F***ing Desert
9. Motherhood
10. The Bipolar Thing
11. Healing

Thursday, June 12, 2008

100 Things I Love

Little Mouse and I are doing writing exercises every morning...more focused on creative writing than journaling, because, being ten, she has yet to accumulate much baggage, and is much more interested in writing stories and poems than deep self analysis. Yesterday we worked with lists, and we each came up with 10 wild animals, 10 trees, 10 favorite foods, 10 favorite books...and then I challenged her to 100. Come up with 100 things you love. And so we did. And I thought I'd share my list and challenge you all to try doing the same. I have done this as an exercise in gratitude when I'm feeling low, and I have done it when I'm feeling scattered and not sure of who I am. If 100 is too much, just do 25, or even 10.

1. reading
2. the smell of my children's heads when they were babies
3. Siberian huskies
4. journal writing
5. Tazo chai latte with vanilla soy milk
6. dark chocolate...the European sort
7. strawberry pie
8. Dungeons and Dragons
9. that Evanescence song "Lithium"
10. Ann Maxwell's book "Timeshadow Rider"
11. Licorice Allsorts
12. dragons
13. writing for the blog
14. thunderstorms (w/o hail, high winds, and tornadoes)
15. yoga
16. fabric shopping...especially for batiks
17. the Empire Builder series of train games
18. Deena Metzger's book "Writing for your Life"
19. my studio
20. Lyle's Golden Syrup
21. the Pfaff sewing machine The Chief gave me for xmas
22. the notebooks with the flowers on the cover from Target
23. quilting
24. Kip Winger's voice
25. windchimes
26. homemade pasta with gorgonzola and walnut sauce
27. the smell of baking bread
28. Marmite
29. my computer
30. pens that write dark and smooth
31. agates
32. "Baten Kaitos" for Gamecube
33. my D&D dice collection
34. "Lady Macbeth", my 1964 Gibson acoustic/electric guitar
35. gargoyles
36. blue and white china
37. lilacs
38. Josephine Wall's artwork
39. thick, thirsty bath towels
40. the music of Clannad
41. jellybeans
42. the Lake Elmo Inn Restaurant
43. roses
44. "Firefly", the television series
45. applique quilts
46. Sumac Village (my childhood hangout)
47. James Herriot's books
48. books, books and more books
49. "Oblivion" for the PS3
50. The Order of the Stick web comic
51. the move "Ladyhawke"
52. Monty Python
53. rollerblading
54. playing my Native American flutes
55. my first dog, Snoopy
56. baby animals
57. sliding between clean sheets after a shower
58. the game "Balderdash"
59. logic puzzles
60. tea with good friends
61. the poems my nana wrote for me
62. "The Lord of the Rings" books and movies
63. the fresh peaches we used to get in WA
64. Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan saga (sci fi books)
65. ivy trailing everywhere
66. Fang...the most fun D&D character I ever played
67. my extra long, extra deep bathtub
68. trees and green growing things
69. the moon
70. mushrooms
71. crystals and gemstones
72. NMR elegant
73. autumn...October in particular
74. cashew nuts
75. swords
76. swallows at play
77. crystal chandeliers
78. cooking...sometimes
79. playing "Rage" (cardgame) with the family
80. creating D&D characters
81. the smell of burning leaves
82. designing quilts
83. doing jigsaw puzzles
84. Bailey's Irish Cream on ice
85. cheese
86. willow trees
87. long walks
88. rocking chairs
89. my digital camera
90. "Stargate" the television series, up through season 8
91. candles
92. boardgame nights with friends
93. forests
94. my ipod
95. vegetarian cookbooks
96. my homemade marinara sauce
97. back scratches
98. celtic mythology
99. dark blue glass
100. Gaelic

Writing Prompt: 100 things I love...or 25...or even 10...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hidden Trauma

What breaks your heart?

That was the journal prompt I was working with the other day. I wrote a series of short paragraphs about a number of different things that break my heart, and the one that struck me the most was this:

It breaks my heart to think of that little-girl-me who was uprooted from almost everything she one fell swoop she lost her home, her beloved Nana, her toys and books, all her friends, her favorite foods...the only things she didn't lose were her parents and her brother. Is it any wonder she was a terribly anxious child? And has grown into an anxious woman with a mind capable of extrapolating even the most innocuous occurrence into tragedy?

It's funny how I've only recently become cognizant of what a trauma that move from England to America must have been for three-and-a-half year old me. I've never thought of it as a traumatic experience before, seeing as I don't recall any of the emotions involved, really...just pictures of the different things--the plane, the hotel room where we stayed for the first three days, the furnished townhouse we lived in for the next three months...

My parents' story--the one I was fed from the moment I could understand--was that we were so much better off here than we would have been in England, and that there were so many more opportunities for my brother and I here than we would have had there.

But until now, I've never really stopped to consider what my own story was, and what a deep and terrible loss that move would have been for such a little person. There must be a raw wound buried deep inside me. A wound so well hidden that I don't even remember it and don't consciously feel it. A wound I suspect has been there all along, colouring my life in various and subtle ways.

What if is a dangerous question But I sometimes wonder, what if we'd never made that move? Who would I be now?

Writing Prompt

Writing Prompt: What breaks your heart?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Putting Myself Back in the World

I feel as though I am at some sort of cusp or turning point. For the last three years--since The Chief's heart attack and my subsequent liberation from chemical restraints--I feel as if I have been curled up inside myself. In a state of hurt bewilderment, I've been laying low and licking my wounds.

But over the last year or so there has been a gradual opening up, a reclaiming of territory I once thought of as mine. Medication and several emotional wounds turned my beloved home territory into a dangerous, alien landscape...but slowly, it seems, I have begun to reach out. I took a chance and invited someone I met at a school function over for tea one afternoon, and over the last year, a deep and mutually beneficial friendship has blossomed. I started writing again, and trusting myself to just do it, like I used to. And although my interests have changed, the passion is still undeniably there. And today I mailed off my application to teach a journal workshop of my own design through our local community education program, and I feel like that is the culmination of all of that healing work I've been doing...putting myself back into the world, as it were.

Writing Prompt

Writing Prompt: In my daydreams, I see myself...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Writing Prompt

Writing Prompt: If you could change one part of yourself, physical or mental, what would it be? How would this change affect you?

Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition Rocks!

Sorry, I know most of you probably don't have a clue what I'm talking about...I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) since the first set of hardcover rulebooks came out back in 1977 or so. The 4th edition of my beloved game was just released on Friday, so everyone in our Friday night group came over on Friday with their new rulebooks and we gave it whirl. It was a lot of fun!

And I am not a geek, either, so there!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Journaling and Writing Prompts

Okay, here's the plan: all six of you who read here regularly probably saw the Journal Series I did a few weeks ago. I really enjoyed doing that, and I'm working right now to put together a curriculum to teach a journal workshop through my local community education program this fall. In my research for this class, I've been looking at the benefits of journaling, and there are so many! Just a few of them are:

* The times of change that we all experience--such as changing a job, a move, a marriage, a shift in family dynamics, a death, an illness--can have a profound impact upon our established routines and lives. Examining these situations in the journal can help us make sense of these events and regain our sense of control and balance as we bring order to chaos.

* Writing is a form of self-expression that is accessible to most of us. We already know how to write, and many of us do it as part of our jobs. Writing does not require special training or equipment, unlike painting or sculpture or music, all you need is a notebook, a pen, and a few minutes.

* In our modern culture where everything is hurry-hurry, rush-rush, writing longhand in a notebook forces us to slow down and enter a more contemplative state of mind...something that's not possible during much of the rest of our lives.

In addition, the journal provides us with a healthy way to release emotions and frustrations, a way to develop and clarify our goals, a place in which to work on relationships and engage in some creative problem solving, a way to help discover your true path in life, a place where we can gain perspective and resolve and heal past issues, as well as a place to record meaningful insights and personal history.

I encourage everyone to grab a pen and a notebook and start a journal right now! And to help out, I'm going to try posting some writing prompts a few times a week (maybe even every day, if you're lucky!). These writing prompts are just a jumping off point, a place to start. You can write the prompt at the top of the page and then respond to it. The writing doesn't have to follow any particular form, and you certainly don't have to stay on topic. Just sit quietly and observe the thoughts that arise in response to the prompt, and then begin writing them down. Don't worry about spelling or grammar, don't worry about writing something clever or polished...this is raw journal writing, it's not supposed to be "good."

If you have time when you've finished, read over what you've written. Make a note of anything that surprised you. Think about whether there were other thoughts that arose while you were writing, things you didn't get to because they were off the track you were following, or you didn't want to pursue them at the moment. Jot them down as ideas for future entries. Perhaps some of them can become writing prompts you can use another day.

Don't forget to date your work--if you look back on your journals years from now, you'll want to know what period of your life those thoughts represent.

Writing Prompt: I am the child of...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Effective Organizational Strategies

The Chief and I are always looking for ways to increase the Barrister's awareness of how important it is to be organized, and often point out when someone has used an Effective Organizational Strategy to remember to do something.

Yesterday morning, The Chief was heading off to work, file folder full of insurance statements I needed photocopies of in hand.

"Oh, good, you remembered those," I said. "I'd completely forgotten I'd asked you to take them today."

He grinned and said, "Yes, well I put the folder next to my keys so I wouldn't forget it." He looked at the Barrister pointedly. "See, Barrister, how I made sure I wouldn't forget the folder by putting it next to something I knew I would need in the morning?"

"Yes, Dad," the Barrister muttered dutifully.

"It's helpful to come up with Effective Organizational Strategies that will work for you. See, I knew I wouldn't remember to take this with me this morning."

"Yes, Dad."

I kissed The Chief good-bye and followed him out to the laundry room where he left through the garage and I put on the morning's first load of laundry. When I came back to the kitchen, there was The Chief's lunchbox sitting on the table where he'd left it.

I pointed it out to the Barrister and we both had a good laugh about Effective Organizational Strategies.

The Chief called me when he got to work. I picked up the phone and said, "So much for your Effective Organizational Strategies!"

"Yes," he said sheepishly. "Maybe next time you could just nail my lunchbox to my forehead!"

If only!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Nursery School

As a child I lived in the shadow of fear and anxiety. I'm not sure where they came from...the easy answer is that my family moved from England to America when I was three and a half, but the way my mother tells it, I was an anxious, clingy child even before that.

I've heard the story of my first--and only--visit to the local nursery school some months before we left England, but I've only ever heard it from my mother's point of view--the exasperated, exhausted woman with the child she couldn't leave anywhere. Not even for a minute.

But what's my story in all of this?

...I run my hand along the black iron railing that separates the school yard from the pavement. Mummy walks beside me pushing the pram where my baby brother rides. I want to ride in the pram, too, but Mummy says I'm too big and must walk beside her like a big girl.

The big girls and boys in the school yard are very noisy and I press my hands to my ears to shut them out. I'm glad there's a fence to keep the big boys away. I don't like big boys. They are noisy and they frighten me almost as much as dogs. Big, loud, nasty things. I walk a bit closer to Mummy. I wish I could ride in the pram.

We get where we are going and I find myself in a room full of children. There are some ladies there, too. One of the ladies says I must go and play with the other children while she talks to Mummy. I think the big wooden climbing frame looks fun. It has a big slide, and I would like to go down the slide. I don't think I want to climb the frame to get to the top, though. It looks too high and I'm afraid of falling and hurting myself.

I go to the bottom of the slide and start to climb up. It's slippery polished wood. I grip the sides tight with my fingers. A boy shouts at me from the top. He wants to slide down but I am in the way. I want to slide too, but this is the only way I can get up to the top.

I finally get to the top and slide down. Then I look around for Mummy. She's not there, so I start to cry. Mummy should be here. Where has she gone? One of the ladies sees me crying and comes over to me. She wants to know what's wrong. I tell her I want my Mummy. She picks me up and asks me if I want to go and find a toy to play with. She carries me to a room full of toys. There's a hobby horse and a toy train, a red ball and some blocks. But I don't want to play with those toys. I just want my Mummy, and I don't know why she doesn't come. She always comes when I cry...

I'm told that my mother was actually there the whole time, watching through a window. She hated leaving me there, and felt awful when I cried, but she'd been told that she had to get me used to being without her for short periods...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I'm a Flower Smeller!

Thank you to Stephany at Soulful Sepulcher for bestowing upon me a Flower Smeller Award!

"This badge serves to acknowledge others who are, in their own way, smelling the flowers. They maybe regular visitors to this blog, one of our founders blogs or someone that could contribute here who is yet to visit! Maybe they have recovered from an illness, written a book, made waves in the blogosphere, won the lottery, made a major shift in their life, won promotion, quit the rat race, raising a family, discovering their greatness and on it GO!s as more examples from around the world start to surface. They may not even have an online presence at all - that’s where this award differs!"

I am now entitled to present this award to five others who are smelling the flowers in their own way. The five I would like to present this award to are:

Bipolar Wellness Writer


Bipolar Journey

Superlative in All Things

Tilting at Windmills

Check them out--they've all got an interesting take on the journey.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Summer Vacation

Summer Vacation at my house begins tomorrow at 11:57 am. I anticipate it with dread.

Hell's Barrister arrived home from school yesterday, flung his empty backpack to the floor and did a victory dance in the foyer, crowing, "No homework!"

Ten minutes later he informed me that he was bored.

Tomorrow my quiet times will suddenly disappear, making it difficult to write. I am hoping that since the kids are a year older (and hopefully a year more mature) that it will not be as bad as some past summers have been.

So depending on how things go, posting over the summer may be lighter than it has been. So far I've managed to get something up every day, but working conditions being what they will be for the next three months, I may not be able to keep up the pace I've set, although I will try, for writing is what keeps me sane, and I will need every sanity saver I've got this summer!

I need to take my own advice and be more mindful about this whole thing, don't I? But when I think about the next three months stretching out before me, I don't feel mindful at all. Just sort of...resigned. And a little bit desperate...


Roll on September...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

On Kindness

I was very sad to see that Gianna at Beyond Meds will not be blogging any longer due to cruel comments left on her blog. I cannot understand what drives some people to behave as badly as these anonymous commenters have. All I can do is shake my head and wonder at the state of this world...and ask myself WTF I was thinking, bringing children into it.

Years ago I read something about thinking before you speak, and it touched me. I cannot recall where I read it, or who wrote it, but I wrote it out on a notecard and stuck it on my fridge for my kids to read when they need a reminder.

We could all do worse than to follow its advice:

Ask yourself before you speak (or comment on someone's blog):
Is this true?
Is it kind?
Is it necessary?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Thoughts on Growing Up Bipolar

There have been many responses to Newsweek's recent article, Growing Up Bipolar in many of the blogs I read over the last couple of weeks. I wasn't going to comment on this, as much of what I have to say on the subject has already been said extremely eloquently by thememoryartist.

However, I do have a few thoughts on the subject...and I'm not looking for a fight here, I'm just wondering out it were...

The subject of the article, a ten-year-old boy named Max, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the tender age of two, and has since been on 38 different meds. The thing that struck me the most about this article was the part where Max said, "I don't have any control."

How many children who are growing up on psych meds grow up with the idea that they are not able to control their emotions...and how damaging is that belief? It strikes me that it may be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I wonder how many of these children manage to achieve any sort of emotional development whatsoever, when the very emotions they need to learn to deal with are dulled and blunted by the medications. Part of growing up is learning how to deal with one's emotions in a reasonable, intelligent manner. But if you've never been allowed to have an authentic human emotional experience, how can you be expected to have any level of emotional maturity at all?

What happens when these children, some of whom have surely been wrongly diagnosed reach the age of majority and say, "Screw you and your pills, I'm done."

Once you stop the meds, your emotional life comes back full blast. I know I had a rough time coming off my bipolar meds, and I did it at the age of 40, and had been on them for less than two years. My ability to handle emotions was already developed and in place.

I wonder how damaged these poor kids are going to be when they finally see the world without psychotropic blinders...and how much therapy they are going to need in order to live comfortably with their newfound humanity. Certainly their lives are going to become far more complex once those layers of emotional experience are added back in. And the skills needed to deal with those emotions won't be there because they've never been needed--the medication has done all the controlling.

And don't even get me started on the brain damage aspect. These medications can cause detrimental changes in a fully developed adult much damage can they do to a young, developing brain?

Nobody knows.

But I imagine we're going to find out as the current generation of "bipolar" children reaches the age where medical decisions such as whether or not to continue taking these medications become theirs and theirs alone.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

How is Writing a Novel Like Climbing a Mountain?

You stand at the bottom of the mountain and all you can see is this huge, sheer rock face, and all you know is that somehow you've got to make it to the top. Standing back and looking at it is frightening--the rock face is so smooth and the top is so far away.

You take a deep breath and you move in closer. You start nosing around at the bottom of the rock wall, and you notice a few hand-holds, and a little way up there's a ledge you could probably get to if you try.

But you have to get in close in order to see these things. You have to get so close that you can't quite even see the top anymore. You know it's there, and as you start to climb, you start to believe that you will reach the top. You don't know exactly how yet, because each step on the way up puts you in a different place, and you have to look around and evaluate, figure the best way to continue depending on where you are and what the lay of the land is. You don't know how long it will take, either, because you have no idea what the next day's climb will reveal.

Sometimes the mountain presents you with choices--an easy way and a not-so-easy way. And you can't always see ahead far enough to know which way will be best. Only know that the easy way isn't always the best way, and you can learn a lot from taking a risk. And if taking a risk doesn't work out, you can always backtrack to the last safe ledge and take a breather, look around again, and reevaluate.

Sometimes you realize, part way up, that you're climbing a completely different mountain that you thought you were. And sometimes when you get to the top, you find that the view is completely different from how you imagined it would be.

Sometimes you decide partway up that you don't want to climb this particular mountain, or that you cannot continue because there are simply no more hand-holds.

This is when you remind yourself that even though you won't reach the top of this particular mountain, you have kept in shape and improved your skills just by trying. And perhaps what you've learned will make the next mountain just a bit easier to climb.