Category Archives: Life

What makes a FRIEND and how do you keep them?

What is a friend? Does it have to be someone that you see daily? Talk to on the phone daily?

I guess everyone has their own definition. When you are a child a friend could be anyone or anything. Who hasn’t seen a child carrying around a tattered doll or toy of some sort that they consider to be a “friend”.  A little boy with a toad or insect that he really likes and considers a friend.

As children get older and become teenagers, a friend is usually someone who does the same things they do and thinks like them. High school is full of those separate groups of like minded people. Not thinking like the masses can leave the unique minded alone and ostracized.

Once the school years are behind, all bets are off. You are an individual, an adult. Life is now your responsibility.  So are your friendships.

Any relationship requires effort. So do friendships. Make that phone call, see how your friends are doing. If you feel alone and have no friends around then make some. How? Well that is up to you.

I am nearly 57 now and over the years I have made many friends, at work, around the neighborhoods I have lived in and more recently online. In the past it was always the telephone that kept everyone connected. The costs of long distance phone calls would limit us in our contacts. I’ve lived all over the country, including Hawaii and the cost per minute of phone calls was something everybody had to be conscious of. Holidays and birthdays were the days that we would reach out.

Now everyone has cell phones and for many of us ONLY a cell phone. I gave up a landline a few years ago due to the costs of keeping both. The older generations still have a landline but now those are usually bundled together with their television services and they maintain cell phone service as well. Most people have some sort of internet service, whether it is for a computer, tablet or just on their cell phones.

What I find rather sad is that with all these devices for communication, ways of keeping in contact, the personal touch is being lost. Life these days is packed with so many things, jobs, families, money worries, kids and activities……it is easy to get overwhelmed and stressed and too busy to think of things like the friendships you have made in the past.

Your friends are going through similar things too. Busy lives, too many things to do in too little time. In days past when you found time for yourself, you would sit down and write a letter and keep in touch that way. Your friend would receive that letter and respond in the same way and the friendship would continue. When was the last time you actually wrote a letter? The postal service is still there but people use them for packages and not so much for letter writing. Everyone thinks to themselves that they will keep in touch by making a phone call…….one of these days.

When you are friends, really friends, you can lose touch but the second you reconnect it is like magic. The years drop away and the friendship is still there. But it takes effort. You have to make those efforts.

Reconnecting is easier now with the internet and Facebook. Looking someone up is easier and sending emails is a lot easier than buying stamps and going to the post office. But all of that still lacks the personal touch. When you reconnect, consider making the occasional phone call. Yeah, I know, you are busy……but hearing someone’s voice, someone that actually cares can make all the difference in the world. For BOTH of you.

If you say to yourself that you really aren’t interested in connecting with the old friends you had, perhaps they were a toxic combination that wasn’t good for you or your life has changed and you really can’t relate, have no fear. There are people out there just like you. New people that like the same things you like or are suffering from some of the same illnesses or trials that life sometimes throws at you.

The internet is a great place to connect with people. Now I am not saying that everyone on the internet is a great person. There are bad people everywhere and people that will try to take advantage of you and people that are just plain mean. But there are also some really great people out there and people that you might not have the opportunity to meet any place else.

Years ago I began playing online games. My son was working for a company that had a huge online game that was wildly popular and when he would talk about it I couldn’t quite comprehend what he was talking about. In an effort to understand, I tried playing the game. I was totally lost. I thought to myself, baby steps. There was another online game being put out by Disney that was brand new, so that meant everyone playing it was new to the game as well so I started playing Pirates of the Caribbean Online. I got to be quite good and became friends with people playing the game at the same time. In these online games you are able to “talk” to each other in real time and play together, team up together to solve problems and achieve goals. The Pirate game quickly became way too easy and I decided to give the other game another shot now that I understood the gaming universe a bit better. My Pirate friends also played World of Warcraft and we decided to switch to that together and off we went.

That was the beginning of MANY wonderful friendships. Tim and I are still friends to this day. He introduced me to his friend and now mine, PK and for years we have had many phone conversations and played games together. Even after they both stopped playing World of Warcraft we have remained friends. When my marriage broke up they were there for me when I cried. Moral support now for many years. I have been there for them through relationship breakups and new relationships. A marriage and the birth of a child.

Through World of Warcraft I met my friend Jeff, aka Viperhawk in the game. When I moved to California after my marriage broke up, I knew nobody in the area. But I did know Viperhawk and Bmbyf, from my game. They both lived relatively close by. Jeff and Ron, their real names, both told me to call them if I needed anything. Little did I know that my first week and first grocery trip would involve the break down of my car miles away from my house at night. One phone call and Jeff drove the 26 miles from his house to rescue me and my perishables. Years of online friendship but this was the first time we met in person. A true friend indeed.

With Thanksgiving only weeks away, Ron and his wife Carol, opened their home and Jeff and I spent my first Thanksgiving at their house. Someone ran into the telephone pole at the end of the block shortly after we arrived and all the power went out. Luckily the dinner was already cooked and candles were available so we ate and chatted for hours by candlelight. All because I made friends online in a video game.

Jeff passed away a year ago and left a bit of a hole in my heart. He was always a great friend and we talked often in-game and out. I am thankful for the years of friendship.

My friend Pam and I met the same way. She lives in Delaware I live in California but we have had years of phone calls and even though she no longer plays the game we call each other Sis, our minds are so much alike.

Amy lives in England, she and Pam and I have maintained the friendship for about 6 years now.

Donald, the best friend I have had in many years. He and I would talk daily and helped each other fill out online dating questionnaires. A few years ago, he was concerned about me spending the holidays alone and paid for my expenses, along with my dog Frosty, to drive from California to his house in Georgia where he and his girlfriend Alicia made me feel like part of the family for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. I was there for 3 months and it helped me get through some depression and made me feel cared for.

Breakdown, my dear friend from Utah, aka Mike, has always been such a wonderful friend. He has driven down to California more than once and spent some of his vacation time hanging out at my house. One year he drove the 12 hours down just to take me out to dinner for my birthday and turned around the following morning, took me to breakfast and made the drive back up. When my youngest son was getting married up in Utah, Mike went to the wedding with me and provided a buffer between myself and my ex. He knew I was stressed about seeing him and provided a shoulder to lean on. Luckily he has the sweetest girlfriend and guess how they met? Online dating.

Friends are out there for you to find. There are online groups for just about everything. If you have a hobby or are looking for one, there is a group. You have to put yourself out there, chat with people. Ask questions and of course always be safe. Keep in mind that people are not always who they say they are. I have a headset and chat with people over the internet and there are things like Skype and Facetime that let you SEE the people you are talking to as well. I have taken the time to ask questions and really get to know all of these people before I met them. I have many more online friends that I hope to meet in person in the future and no doubt I will make more friends as time goes on.

A few of my online friends have met their significant others this way. Three marriages that I personally know of and others that I have heard of.

If you are lonely, feel like you have no friends, get out there in cyber space and connect with other people. You never know. Your new best friend may just be waiting to hear from you. A little bit of effort can bring the greatest of rewards.

 

 

Blogging for Sanity

It has been a couple of years since I set aside my blogging to pursue other things to keep my hands and brain busy.  It hasn’t worked out so well.

I am a creative soul and while Frosty and I were on our grand adventure traveling across the country to Georgia and back, I took up creating jewelry made from beads, wire and special beading wires and threads. I loved it. I created some beautiful pieces that made some of my family and friends happy but unfortunately the expense outweighed any profits. I sold only a few pieces to a nurse at my doctor’s office and to some relations by marriage.

I really do enjoy making the jewelry and wear it often when I leave my house and am running errands. I get compliments and have had people ask for my number so they can buy jewelry from me. Unfortunately they never call and order anything and the money I put out for tools and materials far outweighed the amount I collected. It is therapeutic to create and it does help calm me to go through the process but it doesn’t help my bank balance in the least.

My health has not improved, I am still on disability with Fibromyalgia, degenerative disk disease, osteoporosis, a bad knee that I haven’t even bothered to get a doctor to look at yet, depression and since I last blogged now a brand new diagnosis of Breast Cancer (again). It has been 17 years since I had my first diagnosis of Breast Cancer and many things have changed since then. I now live alone, my kids are all now grown and live scattered around the United States, the closest one being about 2 hours from my house.

My financial situation is worse in that my bills have increased but my disability payments have not and my ex-husband refuses to comply with the court ordered support payments that he personally signed in front of a judge in open court. The last contact I had with him he said he might possibly have some money in APRIL of next year. Our divorce is not yet final since that requires more paperwork, more ink for my printer and more courage and fortitude than I currently seem to have. I am working on that.

Depression is something that I fight with and when I sat down and thought back over the past few years I realized that I was happier when I was blogging. It helped me vent, it helped me think and plan and overall kept some of the depression at bay.

Now I am facing multiple surgeries, a double mastectomy and reconstruction. I have a long road ahead of recovery and pain. My financial situation is dire and food is becoming hard to come by. Each month I get my disability on the 3rd and pay my utilities, gas, electricity, water, internet, 2 credit cards, insurance for my car and house and of course my mortgage payment. All of that on $1029 per month. By the time my bills are paid I am hard pressed to buy food. My pride gets in the way a bit and my location makes even finding a food bank a difficult thing. I am in Kern county and the main food bank is in Bakersfield 70 miles away.

Last year I made some Hamburger Helper and stretched out the portions to cover me through Thanksgiving. My ex taunted me and sent me a text saying they were going out for Mexican food the day after Thanksgiving when I sent him a message begging for my support money. My youngest son did one of those GoFundMe things and raised about $400 to get me groceries for December and I was so very grateful. I bought a turkey and froze the cooked meat to get me through December and into January.

This year isn’t looking very bright. I find myself hoping that they schedule my mastectomy right before Thanksgiving so I get a good meal. Pathetic I know but that is the truth. After breaking down a few times alone in my house with just a cat and a dog for company I decided to work on my mental health by starting to blog again.

So here it is, me blogging to keep my sanity and maybe share with others that find themselves in similar situations.

Midnight Madness – Part Two

Part One began when I had the crazy intrusion to my home of a woman scared for her life. In the middle of the night, around midnight. I never did tell you all what happened with that. After my 911 call to the local police I was left in the position of being alone with this semi hysterical woman in my living room. Now what do I do?

It wasn’t like she was a friend or even a close neighbor. But she was a frightened woman and with my personal experiences in dealing with a schizophrenic male in my house I understood her fear. She babbled on nervously telling me that her son, whom she described as being 6′ 10″ and aged 35, kept saying that she stole his invitations and that he needed those invitations. She said she had no idea what he was talking about, that she had never seen invitations to a party or anything like that but that he liked to go to raves. She said he began tearing things apart and when she attempted to use the phone all of the phone lines were dead. She said that he must have cut her phone lines. She also said that he had grabbed her purse and taken all of her money. She continued to tell me of violent rampages and him urinating on her carpet deliberately….who does that?

Crazy talk. Why does the midnight hour bring on such craziness? I have no idea what happened in her house, I could only nod sympathetically and offer her some water. I no longer keep sodas or things like that in my house and pretty much only drink water and tea. Occasionally coffee but at that late hour coffee was kind of out. So water it was.

The dispatcher had said that the officer would be heading out to her house and would be getting her son out of there. Perhaps I am a bit naïve here, but to my way of thinking if this guy is getting violent and she is saying she is afraid for her life…shouldn’t the police be getting this guy evaluated? Living in California I have often heard people joke about “5150” which is code for the California law for an involuntary psychiatric hold. This allows qualified police officers or clinicians to detain individuals that may be a danger to themselves or others. If he truly is schizophrenic then it doesn’t take much for a violent situation to turn into a tragedy. On the other hand how did I or the police officer know what really went on in that house?

Sometimes it takes an eye witness to truly understand the crazy part of schizophrenia. You see the person with the schizophrenia BELIEVES with their whole heart that what they are seeing and hearing is real. So if you talk to them their delusions rule the conversation and nothing you say or do will get through because they believe what they believe. The voices the urges they are all very real to them.

So here I am alone in my living room with this strange woman that I didn’t know babbling all kinds of crazy things. It began to occur to me that she might be suffering from the same thing as her son. Or was it her that was the one with the mental illness?

How do you know the truth?

With my step-son I can only tell you what I myself witnessed. He had moved out of our house after The Big Fight and we had moved to Utah. It really didn’t take long before we heard from him and his relationship with his girlfriend and her mother had deteriorated as we had known it would. So he moved back in with us. I still remember the first day he was back with us. We were living in Heber City, Utah in a rental house. I remember driving him around in my ’96 Trans Am with the t-top off and showing him the beauty of this new area and for awhile he was the sweet kid that I remembered although he was now 18 and 6′ tall. I was so determined that his time in Utah would be different from Vegas.

It took a lot of research and fighting with my husband, but I got him enrolled in the alternative school to try to get him a high school diploma. I also got all of the paperwork filled out for him to get Social Security Disability for his schizophrenia. It took awhile but he qualified and had all of the records to prove it. Of course we listed my husband as his representative so the checks went into a separate account with just my husband’s and his name and his living expenses came out of that. With some assistance from the local governmental agencies we got him signed up with some job services and the one and only psychiatrist that was employed by the county.

It was a constant struggle with my husband. By this time I had already figured out that there was something seriously wrong with me. Every time someone bumped into me it was excruciating. I was 2 years post breast cancer when we moved to Utah and according to all of the books my side effects from the surgeries, chemo and radiation should have been gone. But I was tired all of the time and was hurting all over my body.

Every time I walked into the kitchen my step-son would come out there and say “What’s for dinner?” It didn’t matter that he had just eaten breakfast or lunch or whatever. It was like it was a compulsion. He would also crowd me in the kitchen and deliberately bump into me. He knew it caused me pain but he kept doing it to the point that I started refusing to be in the kitchen if he was in it.

When he took his meds he was fairly calm but slept a lot. He got a job at the local grocery store as a bagger and for a short while things were relatively normal. We found him a small duplex and my husband paid for his rent and he used his paycheck to supplement what he got from SS Disability. Of course he didn’t get much when he worked so it was a constant struggle to keep his bills paid. Then he got a girlfriend.

Once he met the girlfriend things spiraled out of control. I explained to her early on that he needed, ALWAYS, to stay on his meds. Of course he stopped taking them. He went to work one day and then just left when he was supposed to be bringing in shopping carts. He was never able to explain what happened, if anything actually did. He just left. End of job.

The next thing we knew he was tossed in jail. When you have someone that is a paranoid schizophrenic, jail is not a good thing. They don’t belong there, they belong in a mental health facility where they can get the meds and the help they need. But he had gotten into a shoving match or something with his girlfriend and the police were called. There were no injuries but the woman that owned the duplex was upset over the frequent complaints of loud noises from him and the girlfriend so he was kicked out of his duplex. Most of these noise complaints were late at night. He is tormented at night by the voices and shouts back at them.

He and his girlfriend reconciled and moved into an apartment. They did of course finally break up for good but not before she had a baby and he became an absentee father. She did not trust him to be around his own child. Sad.

Over the years, well past that original diagnosis when he was 14, he has become worse and the people in the small town he lives in now know him and refer to him as “Crazy Johnny”*. He accepts the name and is in his own world now anyway. I haven’t seen him in a few years now but I have heard  from others that there are incidents where the neighbors have called the police because they hear screaming and the police have had to come in and check to make sure everyone is okay. They found him alone. All the noise is him by himself. He is now 30 years old. His diagnosis was 16 years ago. Sixteen years of torment without medication. I think of him often and feel such sadness. His father always felt that I was “picking on him” when all I wanted was for him to have a full and productive life instead of being tormented by the voices in his head.

All of this has been on my mind since the woman showed up at my place in the middle of the night. When the police did finally show up at my house they asked me to keep her there until they removed her son from her residence. The officer also appeared to already know the woman. That isn’t good. He said something to her along the lines of “Well here we go again huh?” When he left to go to her house she told me that the same officer had been to her house when she had to kick out her abusive boyfriend recently. There was something about the way she said it and the way the officer behaved that made me think this was a regular thing with her.

When your life becomes a series of conflicts that bring on repeated visits from the police it is time to make some changes. Some people seem to get stuck in a vicious cycle of craziness where that is their new “normal”. I know because that was how things were living with my step-son. Nightly rants coming from the attic room that was his room when my step-daughter lived with us, then from the second floor when she moved out and he took over her old room. He would be laughing like a hyena……really, I’m serious….a hyena…and then talking and answering questions it seemed. Crazy. My husband would frequently get out of bed to shout up the stairs telling him to “Shut the FUCK UP!”. His brother and my son would both be trying to sleep to go to school in the morning and nobody was getting any sleep. Every night the same shouting and laughing and extreme anger all at the same time. He told us he couldn’t control the laughing and that made him angry so he would shout. Tormented by the voices every night. His rages would sometimes involve hitting walls or throwing knives and darts into the walls.

Fear was constant on my part. He would be laughing and saying “I ought to just shank her….”. Since I was the ONLY she in the house I could only assume he was talking about me. When my husband went out of the house to go to work it was usually just myself and the crazy guy in the upstairs rooms. Not a comfortable living situation. When he was on meds he slept more and raged less but taking the meds was up to my husband. He refused to let me even discuss the issue telling me it was none of my concern and that he would handle it. Legally I had no right to even talk to the psychiatrist or psychologist although they both made a point of telling me to make sure I kept my own meds away from him because he admitted to stealing some of my pain meds to his doctors. After that I hid them.

My husband refused to acknowledge what the doctors had told him about the use of marijuana by a schizophrenic. They told him that frequently the use of marijuana increased the paranoia and psychotic tendencies. He ignored them and continued to give his schizophrenic son pot on a regular basis. He hid it because he admitted that his son had broken into our bedroom and taken some of the pot he had in the bathroom that was off our bedroom. I was already in counseling myself to deal with living with an addict. My husband often claimed that he wasn’t the one with a problem, that I was the one with a problem since he was never going to stop smoking it. Possessing and being under the influence of pot is a felony in the State of Utah and I felt that as parents of teenagers we had a responsibility to show them a positive and good example by not committing felonies.  He saw nothing wrong with what he was doing and as for the violence and manic outburst from his son, well that is now all on him. I am out of it but that doesn’t mean I don’t care. I still remember the kid that was my buddy for so many years before the schizophrenia overtook him. It still saddens me but I can now sleep at night without fear that he will finally take action and knife me in my sleep.

As for the hysterical woman and her son……well the police removed him from the house that night, I drove her home then went back to my house thankful that my own Midnight Madness period had ended and I am now blessed with peaceful nights and no crazy relatives in my attic.

* not his real name, changed here to protect his privacy

Midnight Madness – Part One

I am not sure what it is about me, but I somehow manage to attract crazies or people in crazy situations and last night was more of the same.

Night time is my time. Mornings are horrible for me. My Princess and the Pea Syndrome hits hard before noon.  Once I have taken my meds the creaking and groaning of my body commences and after a few hours I am able to partially function. I absolutely do not make any appointments before noon unless I am forced to. So I am usually up during the late night hours and frequently go to bed after 3 a.m.

Last night was more of the usual. Frosty was patrolling the back yard, this is a job he takes very seriously and there are some nights that I cannot get him to come back in. He hates 2 things with a passion. The first thing is sirens. He really hates those and will sometimes cry the most pathetic sound you can hear from a ginormous pup like him. The second thing is coyotes.

Frosty is a rescue. They told me that he had been found wandering around out in the desert and he weighed only (hey, he is a tall dog!) 75 lbs when I got him. He was very skinny for his height and was full of parasites. It cost me about $150 to remedy the parasite issue but I love him to death and he adores me and is very protective. VERY. I have a chain link fence around my entire back yard. There is not much behind me but desert brush and a few dirt roads over there is one house. It really is mostly open desert behind me and it is a well known coyote hunting path. I see them often at dusk and early in the morning and they drive Frosty absolutely nuts. My working theory is that he had some run ins with coyotes when he was wandering around in the desert. If he scents them he will start barking. If there are none in the area he will patrol the perimeter of the yard, come in to check on me, then go back out and patrol some more. Recently my next door neighbors acquired a bunch of chickens. Oh joy, not only do they have a weird idea of what morning is (they start crowing at about 3 a.m.) but they are like coyote magnets. The neighbors should be glad Frosty is here or I am pretty sure those coyotes would be having chicken dinner.

During the day he is a couch potato and will either be laying on his love seat or laying on my feet on the floor. He hardly ever barks during the day. He will get excited if people actually ring the doorbell but one look at him and solicitors run for the hills. He is a very intimidating presence to some people just due to his size. I kind of like it that way.

It isn’t that I don’t like people. I do, when I am out and about. I just don’t like them showing up at my door at midnight. Especially if I don’t know them, have never met them or been told about them or whatever. I really don’t know too many people that look at a midnight visitor as a welcome intrusion…..unless maybe a person of the opposite sex with a naughty visit planned….okay, that was my fantasy…sigh….now back to reality.

So I was reading up on some blogs I follow and considering what I was going to be working on next. Frosty was barking his fool head off and I was just about to go out and see if he had something in particular bugging him or if a coyote was just getting too close to the fence.

Knock, knock, knock. Somebody was pounding on my heavy duty screen door at the front of my house. I usually open up my house at night to let it cool down without running my air conditioner. I live i the desert but for those of you not familiar with the High Desert of California, we get some darn cold nights in the fall and winter. Once the sun goes down it goes from 90 to 65 pretty darn fast. It doesn’t usually take too long to cool the house down and I like it a little chilly when I go to sleep. But I am also a bit cautious and even though my front door is open I have one of those heavy duty barred screen doors meant to keep people out and dogs from destroying it.

There is never anything good that comes from a visitor past 10 p.m. in my experience. I found a strange woman standing there. It was pretty obvious that she was very upset and she was visibly shaking. She was also holding a cigarette. Bleh. I thought that maybe she was here to complain about Frosty barking. He was pretty agitated and after She started babbling out her story I realized he had probably been barking because of the turmoil this woman was going through and the fighting that had started a few desert blocks over.

Her story was not unfamiliar to me unfortunately. She began telling me that she lived a few streets over and had gotten into an altercation with her adult son. He is schizophrenic. THIS I understand. My step-son was diagnosed as schizophrenic when he was only 14 years old. I have lived with the heartache that comes when someone you love turns into someone you don’t know and suddenly terrifies you. She told me that he began tearing up her house demanding things that she didn’t understand and cut her phone lines and took her purse.  She said he urinated on her carpets and she was afraid for her life. There is something about night time and schizophrenia. It gets worse at night.

She asked me to call for help. I did. I took a chance on her and let her in the house. Normally I wouldn’t do that but obviously this was not a normal situation in any way. I had 911 on the phone before I opened the door and let her in. I also shut my front door and locked it in case the schizophrenic son had followed her. I brought Frosty in and locked the back door as well and we hunkered down waiting for the police. I had a bit of a dejavu feeling and thought of my step-son. He was all I could think of even as she babbled her story over my iPhone to the police.

Mental illness is so hard for friends and family to understand and sometimes the people that need the help just don’t  get it. The person that is suffering from schizophrenia is frequently unable to function well enough on their own to get themselves help. It is heartbreaking and it is more common than a lot of people know. It can also be hereditary. This I knew from personal experience. My husband’s ex was also schizophrenic and I had experienced some of the horrible results back when we were originally dating. She would show up at my house in the middle of the night screaming and yelling and was totally irrational. She was and still is, a scary person. In her case she was also a meth addict and had been diagnosed as schizophrenic when she was a teen from what I understand. I’m not sure why she was never hospitalized and given help or maybe she was and I just never heard the details.

My step-son was a sweet kid when I met him at the age of 9 and we were buddies. When I started noticing the unusual behavior he had just turned 14. It is not unusual for puberty to trigger schizophrenia. In his case the worst started showing up when he was at school. He got suspended for stabbing sharpened pencils into the seats of the school bus he rode on when we lived in Las Vegas. It was the odd outbursts and the strange hand motions and things he said that had me insisting that he be evaluated by a doctor. My husband fought me every step of the way. He did not want to admit that there was anything wrong with his son.

At first he was very open with the doctors. He told them that he could read minds and that he heard the thoughts of everybody around him. He thought he had super powers. This was back when the Sci Fi show Roswell was on television. The show centered around a group of alien teens that had landed in Roswell and somehow the show managed to get into my step-son. In the show the alien teens had different taste buds and frequently poured massive amounts of hot sauce on their food. He started eating everything with Tabasco on it. He told the psychiatrist that he thought he was an alien and we were hiding his real heritage from him.

The problems at the school increased. He would suddenly strike out at fellow students thinking that he heard them saying stuff about him. My husband continued to be in denial and I fought as hard as I could to get him help. My husband accused me of “picking” on him and kept saying that he could beat this problem if he put his mind to it. He didn’t “believe in”  psychiatrists, psychologists and medications for mental illness. I continued to fight him on his son’s behalf. It took its tole on our marriage.

The older he got, the worse the schizophrenia became. While we lived in Las Vegas I was also fighting for my own life and battling breast cancer. My nights were spent working in a casino and my days were spent grabbing sleep here and there and getting to my doctors and chemo treatments, then radiation and trying to get help for my step-son as well. During this period my own son was beaten with a belt by his biological father and I found myself involved in a court fight when I refused to let him see him without getting counseling himself. He also suffered from mental illness that I believe was brought on by drugs he did way back in the 1970’s. When my son’s biological father showed up for the meeting with the counselor….well they ended up calling 911 on him back then. It is everywhere. So many damaged people from so many things.

I know there were a lot of things that should have been handled differently. I felt like I was battling alone. I loved my step-kids. They were my kids from the time they were 3, 6 and 9. Their mother had nothing to do with them from 1993 on. Our years in Vegas were hard ones for me. There were some good memories from the first few years but once the cancer hit I was trying my best to just keep my head above water. My husband had an alcoholic father that would get drunk and hit him as a child to correct him. He was determined to be the exact opposite of his own father and took the position that anything the kids did was on them because it was their lives and they would learn from their own mistakes. My position was that we were the parents and it was up to us to guide them and correct them. It was a constant battle. I was trying to fight for their well being and yet I was always the bad guy. They thought I was being mean, I was trying to be a good mom and employee and stay alive.

That first year of the big C, my daughter was pregnant and having difficulties with her pregnancy. She and her husband lived in Henderson, a suburb of Las Vegas. We consulted each other frequently and tried to support each other through our mutual doctor appointments. I had kids at home and my step-son’s issues and I was pretty sure I was going to lose my mind as well. I regret not being more open with all of my kids and step-kids about the pain and agony I was going through at the time. All they knew was that I snapped at them over things like getting their chores done and school work and would be cross over that they didn’t understand. At first when we were trying to deal with the schizophrenia the rest of my kids and step-kids thought it was kind of funny. They would tease him and go along with his delusions of his super powers. Even my husband would poke fun at him when he would start telling them that he knew what they were thinking and when he would spend 3 hours in the bathroom….in the dark….in the bathtub…because he thought he was creating fireballs in his hands.

My husband seldom participated in any of the counseling that my step-son went to. He didn’t take him to appointments, I did. Then came the big fight. I don’t know what started it, but we had been having a lot of problems with aggression from my step-son. This is pretty common. Imagine if you had voices in your head constantly telling you that everyone around you was out to get you. He would thrust his chest out and bunch up his fists and push you. When he took his meds things would calm down. But just getting the meds into him was a war with my husband. I had to leave it to him to get his son to take the meds because I was heading to work late at night when he needed to take his meds at bed time.

All I knew later was that my step-son had started getting aggressive and supposedly swung his skateboard at my husband. There was a knock down drag out fight and my step-son ended up with a black eye and was thrown out of the house. He was 17 by then. He moved in with his girlfriend and her mother and out of our house. I was horrified by the whole thing but had no control over any of it.

I had multiple conversations with the girlfriend’s mother who herself believed that he shouldn’t be on meds, he needed a good church. This was along the lines of what my husband believed. He was Catholic and thought that maybe a priest could exorcise the demons that were tormenting his son. I cried a lot during that time.. We were in the process of a job transfer to Northern Utah for my husband and I was still trying to recover from all of the medical treatments and get my health back. So we left Las Vegas and moved to Northern Utah, leaving my step-son behind.

 

There Is A Missing Man, Now I Know Where He Is

There was a familiar face on our televisions for years. He snuck in between favorite television shows and was familiar to many a stay at home mom. His sad face as he stared dejectedly at the telephone that never seemed to ring was like seeing a familiar family member. He slowly aged yet that phone never rang.

I realized where he went just today.

He ran for the hills because he knew a million frustrated housewives (and househusbands…..) are out to kick his lying ass for fibbing to us all those years!

Who is he? The freaking Maytag Repairman! That bastard. All those years of claiming to be sooo darn lonely because he never got called to fix a Maytag appliance. It was all a big fat hairy LIE! Maytag sucks beyond belief. And I suck for buying into the lie!

I have been fighting with my washer for awhile now. First it wouldn’t spin, then it wouldn’t drain and spin. Then it would drain on one cycle but not another. The first few times I thought it was a fluke. Then it started happening more often. I thought it was just the heavy cycle so I stopped using that. Then it wouldn’t spin on the “casual” cycle.

Then I would open the darn thing and it would be full of water. I would put it on the drain and spin and have to drain it but the clothes would still have soap so I tried the rinse and spin but no. That wouldn’t work at all. WTF?

The darn thing would make all sorts of clicking and clacking and lock then unlock noises. Lights would flash both red and green and I consulted Maytag. I hate Maytag. They talk to you like you are obviously slow.

“My washer won’t drain and spin.” Me

“Is it plugged in?” evil Maytag woman

“Of course it is plugged in.”  well duh

“Does it fill with water?” evil Maytag woman

“Why do you think I want it to drain?” ummm another duh

“Does the Lid Lock Light come on?” (by the way, that is almost impossible to say without twisting your tongue, but she made it sound easy)

“you mean the annoying red light? Yeah that sucker comes on and off and on and off and makes lots of clicking noise then stays on after the rest of the machine shuts off and holds my clothes hostage inside. I had to unplug the machine to get it to turn off then plug it back in and then it went off and unlocked the lid.”

“Well there you go” she says

“What?”

“That’s probably the problem.”

“WHAT?” I know that she heard me, but I had to raise my voice to let some of the steam escape lest my brain explode.

Now she is speaking slowly again

“That was probably the problem, your lid lock light lights up when the lid is locked and that is the noise you hear.”

By now I want to bang my head against the wall or better yet bang her head against the wall. I am gritting my teeth and I can already feel the clicking in my jaw.

“That wasn’t the problem, the problem is that my clothes are very, very wet and I don’t want to burn out my MAYTAG FREAKING DRYER because my clothes are too wet.”

Heavy sigh on her end. “Ma’am the light indicating the lid is locking is lighting up and the lid is locking and unlocking so the washer won’t spin when it is off.”

Huh?

Now me, slowly….”Soooo, you are saying that the lit lid locking light means that it can spin and if the lid locking light isn’t lit then it can’t spin?” I was really proud that I actually got that out…..I’m pathetic.

“Exactly.”

“So you are saying that it is a faulty switch?” Me

“Possibly, or it could be the board”.

Now I am a total nerd so I know that once we start talking computer boards I might as well buy a new washer and since this one had been purchased new 3 years ago and had only washed my clothes for 3 years all my faith in that lonely repairman flew straight out the window. That bastard.

She rather smugly informed me that my washer was no longer covered by warranty but I could pay $75 for a repairman to come out to investigate the matter and that if it was the board they could credit the $75 toward a new washer or toward the parts should I give the go ahead to make a repair.

I declined and turned to Youtube. I almost wished I hadn’t. I found complaint after complaint about the Maytag Centenniel Commercial Washer FOR THE EXACT SAME THING.

How is this possible? It is obviously a known issue but apparently I am not the only person that was tricked by those lonely Maytag Repairman commercials. That bastard…..gonna keep saying it…..makes me feel better.

I did learn that I can run a self diagnostic test (which was fun…nerd remember?) and after messing with it a bit I got it working and managed to reset it. I have no doubt I am going to continue to have additional problems with it but thanks to Youtube I now know how to replace the lid locking assembly all by myself and I now know that if the lid locking light isn’t lit I need to fiddle with the lid locking mechanism until the lid locking light is lit.

I need to go take some aspirin now.

Love and Pepper Spray

Sometimes love is shown with flowery hearts and large boxes of expensive chocolates. Other times it is in the words printed and embellished on heavy card stock and given to you on Valentine’s Day or other holidays.

For me LOVE  was shown with a late night gift of a pink canister of pepper spray. IMG_0266 (2)

First let me say that I am very grateful to even have a roof over my head. My income of $1013 per month (after they take my payment for my Medicare out of my disability payments) is right at what is considered the Poverty Level cutoff in the U.S. The fact that I am able to purchase my home is due to the fact that my mother and step-father happened to own a rental house that had recently become vacant. No bank would be crazy enough to loan $60,000 to me with that kind of income.

I love my house. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms a yard that is fenced in with chain link fencing in the back. That keeps the coyotes that wander through the open lots behind my house, away from my yard. For me it is the perfect size to allow me to have friends and family come visit should they so desire.

HOWEVER…..this is a big however here, the area has slid downhill in the years since my step-father started buying houses to fix up and rent out. Years ago there were grand plans for California City, or Cal City as it is known to the locals. At one time the area was booming with Aerospace being a big draw for young families to come and live and work in the area. We are fairly close to Edwards Air Force Base and both military families and civilian support staff as well as employees for the big aerospace companies flocked to the area looking for affordable housing and a shorter commute to work. My step-father worked for JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) yeah he was an actual honest to goodness rocket scientist!

The economy in the area has been circling the drain for quite awhile now. Jobs out here are practically non-existent. The local paper’s job section is rarely more than one column and most of that is space fillers. As I was writing this I checked online with the local paper, The Mojave Desert News and found zero jobs and no classified ads at all. That tells you a lot. The local news includes details as to why Sex Offender Laws are being repealed because the city is afraid they will be sued by sex offenders. Really? The actual law that they repealed? One concerning Halloween…..The law prevented sex offenders from decorating their houses in a way that would attract children to them and prevented the sex offenders from leaving their porch lights on (the signal in the U.S. at least, that the home has candy to distribute on Halloween) and from answering their doors to small children as they Trick or Treat on Halloween night.  They are more concerned about what  sex offenders MIGHT do, than they are about protecting the children of the law abiding citizens of the city. Mind you there are no sex offenders protesting the laws, nobody suing the city. They are repealing the law over something that MIGHT happen.

As a parent and a grandparent of small children I am HORRIFIED by this.

But all of this is just another indication of how the area has declined since my mom and step-father left the area and retired to Missouri where my step-father’s family is from. When I visited them here years ago the town was a quaint little desert town with one street light and one main road in and out of town. There were tiny little shops here and there and one small market with the basic necessities. You had to drive 15 miles to get to a decent sized grocery store and that is still the way it is. They did get a Dollar General Market recently but that still has very limited groceries and to get any decent food items you still have to go to Mojave.

There are other more serious indication of decline if you know where to look for them. Now there are graffiti covered stop signs and abandoned, boarded up buildings. If you look up you will see pairs of shoes tied together with the laces and tossed up to hang from telephone lines. I had learned during the years we lived in Las Vegas that this is a gang thing. Yes, gangs have now made their way to small town America all over the map and they have made their way here.

Los Angeles is a mere 108 miles from here and slowly the poverty stricken masses are moving away from the city centers and out to places like Cal City. Section 8 (low income housing subsidy program) residences are common out here and welfare recipients go where the Section 8 housing is.

When I visited here years ago the streets were quiet, people nodded at you in the stores and everything had a clean albeit windswept look to it. Now half of the stores are vacant and trash is blown up against empty store fronts. Where you used to see people riding about in their personal golf carts you now see young punks walking holding their baggy ill fitting jeans and empty shopping carts scattered about empty lots. A visit to the local gas station and liquor store takes longer now as the lines contain many men, young and old alike, purchasing their daily malt liquor.

The gas station on the corner closest to my house has rolling papers and hookahs prominently displayed along with large signs posted everywhere regarding shop lifting.

My son took one look around the town and began asking about the safety here. It was when we stopped to pick up pizza that he finally had confirmation of his suspicions. The chatty cashier at the pizza place confirmed that there had been a drive by shooting as recently as 2 weeks ago. Oh boy, goody. She confirmed all of my son’s worst fears.

And so it was that on this late Friday night, my son and I drove to Rite-Aid on the corner of our only 4 way light and after telling me to lock my doors, he ran in and bought dear old Mom her first can of pepper spray.

Never have I felt so loved.

Halloween, Teens and Party Time

I love this time of the year, Halloween, then Thanksgiving and as the topper, Christmas!

For years our house was the go to place for Halloween in the small town we lived in up in Utah. Flyers were printed, decorations hung in the trees out front, complete with flying witches, ghosts and pirates. We built on to the decoration list each year and each year I called the Domino’s pizza in town and ordered several hundred dollars worth of pizzas. Did I mention the part where the flyers were distributed to the ENTIRE high school? Oh, and there was only one high school in the entire county? My son was a bit of a social animal and always managed to line up a band of some sort. My step-son kinda just went along for the ride, he wasn’t anywhere near as social but he loved the party too. My step-daughter was there for the first party but had moved out and was starting her own family by the time the others rolled around. My other step-son, well we will talk about him some other time because my heart aches to talk about him.

I made little mummy fingers from Vienna sausages, strips of tortillas and ketchup. There were witches hats made from Keebler cookies and Hershey’s kisses. Spiders made from little peanut butter filled crackers with pretzels poked into the sides for legs. There was Jello filled with gummy worms and chocolate pudding and crumbled Oreo’s (graveyard “dirt”) with marshmallows and candy corn. Yeah it was a junk food heaven. (if anybody wants recipes let me know) What more could a teenager want?

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For the punch we had rainbow sherbet mixed with Mt Dew for a cool greenish tinged and quite frankly really gross looking but delicious drink. To give it a little extra pizzazz I dropped a chunk of dry ice down in the bottom for a bubbling smoky looking brew. The kids loved it and I loved seeing the looks on their faces when the fog bubbled up from the bottom of the punch bowl. After the first year I made sure I had extra Mt Dew and sherbet because it went faster than I ever would have dreamed.

Now you might think I was crazy to take all of this on and maybe I was. My ex wasn’t much help when it came to doing….well anything, involved with this party. But I wanted this to be filled with good memories for the kids down the road when they were adults and looked back on their high school years. I did all of this for them.

I am also a realist. These were teenagers and this was a party. The bottom of the flyers had our contact info for the parents of the kids and a brief statement that anybody caught drinking or smoking pot or whatever would be immediately ejected from the party. The flyers also invited the parents to stop by anytime should they wish to. Against my ex’s wishes I also called the Sheriff’s Department that covered our area and invited them to the party as well. Every year. This was clearly stated on the flyer. I know to a lot of people that probably makes me sound like a total party pooper. Well I really don’t care what anybody thinks about that because I took my job as a parent very seriously. My ex….well he had different views. We lived in a very tight knit community where the majority of the residents were Mormon. We were not, but we had relatively good relations with all of our neighbors. I was never really sure what all of the adults thought of the parties but the kids raved about their memories to me on more than one occasion so I was satisfied.

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I have some bittersweet memories of these parties. My sons (yes I looked upon my step-sons as mine as well) had a lot of friends that were frequent visitors in our house and called me “Mom” as they walked in and out of our house on a regular basis. I spent many hours preparing for the parties with my sons and my pseudo sons. The decorations were elaborate as well with the animatronic 6 ft. tall Butler at the door and the motion activated ghosts, witches and pirate tied to the trees, upstairs balcony railing and front porch. There was a fog machine, strobe lights and black lights. By the time that our “guests” started arriving I was usually so exhausted and in so much pain that I personally was unable to really enjoy them.

I was forced into the position of being the party Nazi, walking through all parts of the house, yard and even the street to check the parking situation and make sure nobody was out there drinking or smoking pot. My ex was supposed to share this duty but wasn’t really much help. To this day my heart becomes filled with pain as I recall catching him coming out of our bedroom smelling of pot himself. Parents are supposed to guide their children and show them by example and this was a constant war between us. For the record, at the time of the parties ( I really don’t know the laws now) possession or being under the influence of marijuana was a felony. Utah is harsher than most states.

Our driveway in front of the detached garage became the stage and concert venue and we had strict rules about the noise and the cut off time. I made sure ahead of time that the neighbors knew what to expect. My ex was supposed to be keeping an eye on the bonfire that was in the backyard. This was a popular part of the Halloween party since this was Northern Utah in October and was pretty darn cold most years. My pseudo sons were always very helpful and I loved them more than they will ever know. I thanked them for their help every year but I never told anybody about the physical pain I was in due to my fibromyalgia and my blown disks. I kept soldiering on.

Looking back at the parties I really can’t think of anything I would have done differently except maybe to express my thanks again and again to the kids that helped me set stuff up. I don’t know if I should have told them of my physical pain or not. There was nothing anybody could do.  A couple of years ago when I went to retrieve all of my belongings from the house my ex and his girlfriend now live in, I took all of the Halloween stuff. He said he would never use any of it and so I took everything. He made the nasty remark that he could afford to buy new stuff and I couldn’t. Yeah, real nice.

When I decorate now I have memories of putting up these same items with all of those boys that helped and when I see the looks on the faces of the little kids that come to my door I am happy. I won’t be here at my home this year, I will be on another grand adventure in Georgia, but I am looking forward to decorating again next year.

Facing Your Fears

“Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway” John Wayne

I was surfing the net and perusing tons of other blogs to see how everyone else was doing….well EVERYTHING. Blogging is new to me even though I have had ideas and stories wandering around my head for years and years AND YEARS (I’m an old broad) when I came across Mo’s Musings and it took me back to a wonderful/horrible day that forced me to face once of  my worst fears.

Traveling has always been a love of mine. I have this insatiable curiosity about people, places, animals, especially animals and nature in general. Hiking is something that I can no longer do, due to the condition of my back, but even through the horrible pain that comes with both the back pain and my fibromyalgia I have pushed through and taken some amazing walks through places that many people have not been lucky enough to see. I have traveled through both Yosemite and Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse and even the Valley of the Temples and Nu’uanu Pali Overlook in Hawaii.

My ex-husband (well the divorce isn’t final but…) and I created a company that serviced golf courses, parks and many state and county agencies all over the Western United States. Due to the large area that the customer base covered, we spent many hours on the road and traveled to many different states. One of the customers was located in Big Sky Montana in an exclusive…..well I should underline and put in bold that word….EXCLUSIVE place with properties adjoining a super exclusive private golf course. So exclusive in fact that they wouldn’t let ME on the property. Say what? I was a partner in the company but unless I was actually performing manual labor I wasn’t permitted on the property. Alrighty. So we decided I would spend the day in one of the local nature trail areas with a couple of books. (I read really fast)

Here’s the thing, when I was a child there was this horrible incident at a campground wherein 2 women were killed in the same night during horrible vicious bear attacks at a national park. The attacks were brought on by ignorance and the habits of humans to actual dump trash to ATTRACK bears. Back then nobody really understood the dangers and what could happen with these wild animals.  This was during the sixties and was one of the incidents that prompted the national park service and others to implement new standards in parks for bear safety for both the public and the bears themselves.

I was nowhere near this incident but even when I was young I was a voracious reader and had a vivid imagination. My father had a second job he did at night delivering newspapers to the machines that dispensed the local papers. On the weekends I would often go to help and it was my job to count out the proper amount of papers to go into each machine. The headlines this particular night were about the horrible bear attacks and the deaths that resulted from the attacks. Over and over and over, all night I carefully counted the papers and by the light of the overhead light in our van, I read. I still to this day, over 40 years later, remember those headlines and the horror that paper contained. To this day, I will have the occasional nightmare featuring a bear. It doesn’t matter how often I remind myself how remote the chances are to have a fatal bear attack, the fear remains and I am forced to face it.

Try facing a fear of bears while stranded in a remote park in Montana. Yeah right. Just to make things clear, there are GRIZZLIES in this area. We had been told by locals that there were bear sightings of black bears all of the time at Ousel Falls and the occasional grizzly. Mmm hmmm.

My heart was racing before I even got out of the truck. We had checked out of the hotel we were staying at the night before, it was on the other side of the mountains closer to the first job we had done. There was no café or any other place for me to wait within miles.

So he dropped me off at the trail head for Ousel Falls. I have heard that since then they have put a port a potty or something at the top of the trailhead. At that time though there were no facilities of any type. There were the usual signs telling you to keep your dogs on a leash and to clean up after them and a sign telling you to pack out what you pack in. (In other words don’t leave trash here)

There wasn’t even a trash can at the top of the trail head because well, that would attract BEARS.

We had actually walked this trail together with our kids on a previous trip. I was scared then but we were in a rather loud group (boys, ’nuff said) and the more noise the better as far as bears are concerned. I recalled that the very bottom of the trail had a little area that would be suitable for me to prop my ass on a rock and read. I really was trying to be brave but my hands were shaking as I tucked a water bottle into my jacket.

There has been a lot of interest in the Big Sky area, fantastic skiing (if you are lucky enough to have the coordination to keep from falling on your ass all the way down like me) and gorgeous views that are to die for.  Over the years man has slowly wormed his way into this heavenly spot and residential areas are working themselves into the valleys and up into the mountains. Even back then, about 2005 or 2006 or so, houses were under construction ever closer to the wildlife that called this home. Yeah, that is just asking for trouble.

So here I was, water bottle, 2 books and no toilet. WTF did I think I was doing? Be brave, be brave…….I was an adult, the bears were more scared of me than I was of them……as if.

Often when in bear country I have well, yearned is probably the best word to describe it. I have yearned for one of those canned air horns that you hear at track meets and athletic events. I mean really, aren’t bears supposed to be afraid of loud noises? In most of my bear nightmares I am unable to scream or only a squeak comes out. My fear is that if a bear doesn’t high tail it out of the area my squeak won’t deter it in the least. It might think “mmm yum a little critter for my picnic basket” and try to eat me.

There are bear pepper sprays out there somewhere. I’m not sure what the spray range is, but I am pretty sure that in that situation, given my complete lack of coordination and extreme fear, I would end up taking the full force of the pepper stream in my face. Sigh. I am a klutz.

Now you might say “well why didn’t she stay at the top of the trail?”. Short answer….there was nowhere to sit. I have been fighting my back issues for more than 20 years and sitting on the ground is not an option unless I want to lose all feeling in my legs and well that just wouldn’t work should I encounter wildlife. And then there was the whole Face Your Fear issue. I was trying to be brave.

So I hiked down the trail, notice that I said down…..the opposite of down being up, the way back was gonna be a bitch. The first time we had hiked this trail, my ex our boys and I, we had followed the very well groomed trail to the bottom and beyond. My ex is one of those guys that sees a sign that says “stay out” and has to step over a fence to take a picture there. There wasn’t a sign saying to stop, there was one telling you that beyond that point the trail was not kept up and you were on your own. Sigh. During that trip I end up on my ass, perched on the crumbling edge of the trail crying in fear because I thought I was gonna fall. It took me 30 minutes, a lot of tears copious amounts of snot (I don’t cry pretty) and some very bad words, to inch my way to safety. I was convinced then that they would have to leave me to the bears and go get help.

With the previous trip in mind, I headed down the path. The path through this section of Ousel Falls isn’t really a long one by hiking standards, but it is winding and steep and not something somebody like me should really be hiking alone. But I was a good little wife and did what was necessary. I sipped the water only occasionally, I wasn’t gonna squat and pee on my shoes.

There is nothing like the beauty that you can find in Montana. Just the smell of the pines and the fresh mountain air will touch even the most hardened of travelers. I hiked down about a half a mile and stopped just to look around and absorb the beauty and of course to listen for any unwelcome visitors. They tell you to keep making noise so the bears will go the other way, since there was nobody there to talk loudly to….I talked to myself……loudly.

That was all fine and dandy until this couple with their dog came power walking through. Really people, when you see someone else on a narrow trail is it necessary to up your speed and wiz past them like they are standing still? Well, okay maybe by that time I was cowering in fear that the noise was, well, you know, a BEAR!.

That winding trail down the side of a mountain lush with greenery of all types doesn’t exactly give you a clear view of anything. The couple had brought their dog and obviously they were unable to read because the dog was bounding through the brush zig sagging across the trail, nary a leash in sight. It wasn’t until they were about 20 feet from me that I could see the couple and the dog. I am lucky I didn’t wet my pants. Of course I smiled and said hi, I do that everywhere by the way, I am not the eye averting shy type. They nodded and continued power walking at a high rate of speed down the trail. They may have looked at me a little oddly as they passed, might have been the loud talking to myself stuff.

I was tempted to up my pace but had a quick vision of rolling the rest of the way down the trail and opted to follow at a more leisurely pace. Some of my fear started to ease with the sight of the dog. I figured that either the dog or a bear would sense each other before I even had an inkling that there was a bear around and so I continued on a little lighter at heart and was able to enjoy the beauty and the views all around me. By the time I reached the bottom of the trail the couple was down by the water with the dog playing happily so I settled down on a boulder to read.

It was peaceful and beautiful beyond belief. Although my fear was still there it was pushed back and hiding behind the illusionary wall created by the presence of other people. They didn’t stay long. Perhaps the smell of wet dog?

Ignoring me totally they headed back up the trail, still power walking with their walking stick and their dog. Why hadn’t I thought of getting a walking stick? En garde bear! Yeah, that would work.

I was there for six hours. Six long wonderful yet horrible hours. We had agreed to meet at the top of the trail after six hours. He had estimated how long the job would take and how long to drive back to where I was at and so for about 4 hours I enjoyed the beauty and jumped at every rustle of leaves. A couple of other hikers came and went and I felt the fear rise and fall more than once. It had taken me about an hour to walk down so after about 4 or so hours and into the second book, I began to make my way up that steep ass trail. This was not, I’ll repeat that, NOT an easy task for me.

I was about five or six years post breast cancer and was just starting to realize there was something seriously wrong with me. The first few years I could easily blame my exhaustion on the surgeries, the chemo, the radiation, moving into a new house, moving again to a new state and another house and another and all the while working my butt off. My back was a known issue but the all over body pain and sensitivity was only now finally being diagnosed. I had fibromyalgia but refused to slow down, I was a wife, a mother and a business partner. I didn’t have TIME to stop doing everything for everybody.

So I plodded up the trail. It took forever. Each step was torture after about the first quarter mile. Sitting on a boulder when you have back issues, yeah, not a good idea. I had shooting pains down my right leg, I was exhausted and my legs trembled with the effort of walking up the steep trail. Halfway up I was half wishing a bear would get me, it would have ended the torture. A couple more ridiculously athletic people walked down past me cheerfully waving at my sweaty growly visage. I hated them.

It took everything out of me, but I made it to the top. Not a bear in sight. I thought I was going to die. There was something else not in sight. The truck. Well shit. I was afraid to attempt sitting on the ground lest I be forced to crawl my way into the truck when he finally showed up. So I paced….and then realized something else, I was okay. In pain yes, but I had made it through and I had faced my absolute worst fear.

I’m proud of that day. It wasn’t my smartest day, but I made it and faced a fear that has been dogging me for years. I had conquered the mountain, alone.  My body hurt head to toe, but I was okay. He showed up late, asked how the day was, I looked him straight in the eye and said, “fine….Get me to a BATHROOM!”

Return My Phone Call!

Don’t you just hate leaving messages that never get returned? I have been attempting to get someone in my neuro surgeon’s office to return my call for several weeks now. Not the surgeon himself mind you, just someone, anyone that can answer a question that I have.

My surgeon recommended a drug therapy to me that would increase the strength of my bones prior to me having a much needed surgery on my lower back. A recent bone scan revealed that I have osteoporosis in my lower back and left hip. This is a serious concern when facing back surgery due to the possibility that my bones might fragment during surgery. That does not sound like fun thank you very much. I would rather avoid having that happen.

When I met with the surgeon weeks ago (on a Saturday!) he recommended a newish drug that unfortunately is not always covered by insurance and even when it is covered is usually only partially covered. That figures. I would have to have a pretty big ladder to climb up to poverty level so anything that requires money out of my measly disability payment is kinda out of the question unless my soon to be ex-husband starts paying me the alimony the judge ordered (sigh anybody know any pro-bono attorneys?) yeah that is not gonna happen. But the surgeon said they have set up a special clinic within his office wherein they work with the drug company that produces this new drug and work it out so the patient doesn’t have to pay the uncovered part. Woot! Sign me up! He gave me the information on the drug to read up on and to talk to my regular doctor about.

Here is the kicker and why I am so annoyed. In the fine print it says to “tell your doctor if you have……” and then lists a long list of things. One of the things on there is radiation treatments. Well poop. What does that mean exactly? Does that mean that if I have had radiation treatments I cannot take this drug? Or does it mean that precautions need to be taken? I am a breast cancer survivor and had 7 weeks of radiation treatments in 2000. These are simple questions. That is all I need to know before I make the decisions I need to make.

My first call to ask these questions was on the Wednesday following my Saturday appointment. I managed to speak to a real live human and detailed my concerns. She said she didn’t know and then told me she would pass the message on to the nurse practitioner that ran the clinic within the surgeon’s office. Apparently she is only there on Tuesdays. Of course.

Three Tuesdays have now come and gone. I am going to be leaving on a grand adventure of a trip in 3 weeks that will have me out of the area for a couple of months. The surgeon was agreeable to putting off my surgery for a bit while I build up my bones but it sure would be nice if I could start working on that! After yet another Tuesday wherein I left yet another message on yet another voice mail…….well I am getting pretty darn disgusted with the whole process.

Complaining to someone’s boss is not something I like to do. I’ve never been good at standing up for myself, standing up for those that I love I do in an instant. I will be right there on the front lines of any controversy involving my loved ones and protecting them like a mother bear, but for myself I hate to rock the boat.

This time I think I must, but I don’t have to like it.

Foggy, Foggy Day

Fog followed my every step today. Living in the desert there is rarely a day that involves the heavy grey mist that blocks your vision and forces you to slow your every move lest you run into something else. Today was no different as far as the desert surroundings go. The skies outside are clear and blue. The fog is inside my house, in my head.

It is called Fibro Fog and it is the bane of fibromyalgia sufferers everywhere. Everyone has those moments where you walk into a room and can’t remember what you walked in there for, but this is like that amplified. Every step I took felt like I was walking in molasses. Walking to the refrigerator found me standing there staring blankly in… What? Why was I there? This happened all day long. I overdid everything yesterday. I managed to get my creative project done and did a little bit of preparation for another project that I planned on starting today, but when today started it was all I could do to get the blog posted about my project from yesterday and I had already composed most of it last night.

My intentions for today was to start the mosaic pot to go inside the little painted chair pot holder from yesterday. I had already used my tile clippers and had separated them into little containers all ready to glue and grout for my little pottery piece. My brain couldn’t follow through. I could barely manage to make breakfast for myself. Wandering around my house to gather my supplies was torture. Room after room puzzling over why I was there, where were my supplies? What the HELL was I doing?

At first when I started having these foggy days I thought it was from the chemo I underwent for breast cancer. There is something I have heard referred to as chemo brain that happens to people that undergo chemo. The information obtained from the women’s center talked about so many possible side effects said that these all went away with time. Well hell, this never went away.

For years now I have struggled and sometimes feared that I had early onset Alzheimer’s or a brain tumor or something equally scary, really it is sometimes that bad. As a child wiz kid my memory was always something I took for granted. Phone numbers, addresses, trivial facts all stuck in my brain for YEARS. Suddenly I was struggling with everything. You know that phrase everyone likes to joke with “Of all the things I have lost I miss my mind the most” well that is me.

I know I am not alone. I belong to several fibromyalgia support groups online and am always looking into studies being done to find a cure. For the record, it is very hard to find a cure for something that they have not even discovered the cause of.  Many people go through this and we all find ourselves wondering if we are doomed to go through this forever.

Daily pain is hard, any chronic condition is difficult for the person going through it. Careful use of pain medications can ease some of the pain but it never goes completely away for me. The chest pains from the costrochondritis is the worst pain ever, it feels like a heart attack and is mostly on the left side of my chest and my shoulder. Toss in the fibromyalgia all over your body pain and the pain meds are a vital part of keeping me relatively sane. The pain medications can make it hard to think sometimes and I am always conscious of the dangers of actually becoming addicted to them and there is controversy over the effectiveness in their use with fibromyalgia. Some studies even say that it may make fibro worse. Personally I find myself unable to think or function when my pain levels are high so I use the meds carefully and walk the tightrope between dependency and addiction.

The fog set in before I had even taken my meds so there was little doubt that I was going to have a foggy, foggy, fibro day from hell. Yesterday between coats of paint on my little painting project I sat and broke down ceramic tiles to smaller pieces to create a mosaic masterpiece from an old terra cotta pot. Normally I don’t eat first thing in the morning, some meds I am supposed to take on a daily basis before eating, others say take with food. Since my brain was not working well I decided it needed some fuel. It didn’t help.

I continued to struggle for a few hours but just could not get myself functional. Every task I started is still sitting waiting to be completed. The only thing I had any success with was taking a nap. My nap lasted 5 hours and I woke up exhausted all over again. The majority of people that have fibro also suffer from sleep disorders. I have a C-pap machine that I have to sleep with and just writing this is agony. My body is aching and I feel as if I have run a marathon….to make matters worse I keep falling asleep while writing this. Yeah, so much for that 5 hour nap. So this is me being human and accepting that for now at least this is my lot in life. The fog will eventually lift for a bit and I will get back on track.

Now it is time for me to give in and take another unwanted break in my quest for creativeness and sleep yet again. Even as I write this I am falling asleep sitting straight up. There is no quick fix for fibro fog you plod through and hope the following day will bring some clarity. Life is a Journey and someone else is holding the map.