Zen: (noun) A Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism emphasizing the value of meditation and intuition.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Google is making me move...

After several months, Google has approved my AdSense application...FOR MY OLD BLOG.  Sigh...

Anyway, I'll be posting over there again because, as you all know, I plan to get incredibly rich and powerful using Google ads.  Yeah...that'll work.

I hope you put me on your blogroll and stick with me...I PROMISE I'll won't move again.



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Late Night Phone Calls

I hate late night phone calls.  If you grew up with drama and alcoholics, I know you understand what I'm talking about here.  If the phone rings after 11:00 pm, it is usually not good.  In fact, it's usually really, really bad.

I remember being a little girl and my parents getting late night phone calls.  It was rarely a good thing.  I was 15 when my dad's dad passed away.  To say that there was unfinished business between them is an understatement.  The phone rang, he answered, he hung up and said, "He's dead."  That was it.  Then he started to cry.  What I remember most is that my mom didn't come out of the bedroom to comfort him.  It was really uncomfortable.  We were such a healthy family...

Once I moved out, my phone rang all the time.  Seems my parents couldn't survive without me.  Well, okay, my dad was blind and really did need my help but my mom just wanted to be sure that if she was up and troubled, everyone was up and troubled.  My dad called one night when my sister had freaked out on PCP and put her arm through seven windows of the house and then dumped a trash can full of water on him.  She probably would have gotten more violent with him but she saw the blood and that brought her back to reality.  He called 911 and then me.  I cleaned up the house for him.

Then she freaked out once and attacked my parents after the hubs and I had taken her out for dinner.  She drank too much (duh) and insisted we take her home (where my niece was with my parents - she was all of two).  Long after everyone should have been asleep the phone rang - this time they called me BEFORE 911.  Really?

Lots and lots of other calls like this.  A car accident.  Someone's sick and needs to go to the hospital NOW.  Your dad has had a stroke.  Your husband's sister has passed away.  Someone needs to be picked up because they can't drive or they are with someone who can't drive (YES I'll be there right away.)  Someone is drunk and just wants to talk (NO call me when you're sober).

For a long time I would unplug the phone at night because my sister got more "active" after the sun went down.  Then I had kids who were out and about in the evening and so the phone had to stay on...thank goodness for caller ID and voicemail.

But those times have passed.  I haven't had a late night phone call like that in over 10 years (since my nephew deleted my phone number from my sister's phone).  My mom lived with us until she died so I knew what was going on with her.  You'd think I'd be over it.

But I'm not.

Last night my nephew called.  He used his fiance's phone.  When I saw her name, my first thought was, "Oh my God, what has Michael done now."  My heart started beating in my ears and a pit the size of Chicago formed in my stomach.  I answered the phone and heard his voice.  It was only 10:00 my time but it still freaked me out.

He needed the email address and password to the Netflix account.

I spoke with him for awhile, laughed with him and gave him the info.  Then I hung up and thought, "When will this reaction ever end?"

Answer...probably never.  I'm a product of conditioning.

Just call me Pavlov's pooch.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Trading Addictions

Well duh...

My life prior to recovery was all about control.  Controlling my thoughts, controlling my eating habits, my drinking habits, my smoking habits, my home, my family, my children, my finances.  In other words, controlling my addictions.  Some of these things are good (finances for example) and some are not.  But for most of my life I had a clenched fist, white knuckle hold on my life.  As I got older, I learned to chill the hell out a little and the only thing I maintained control over were cigarettes, food, alcohol and money. 

Then shit got real.

First, I quit smoking.  This was in 2001.  The year I turned 40.  The year we took the kids to Disney World. 

The year those bastards hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and killed thousands of innocent people. 

We practically lived next door to Andrews AFB at the time so the impact to us was palpable.  In the aftermath, our local economy tanked and my husband, a sub-contractor and small business owner, saw his company begin the slow descent to its demise.  For a year that started so well, it ended horribly and signaled a pivotal turning point in my life.

That's the year I lost control.

I had quit smoking, so while we were losing money and the world seemed to be crumbling around us and, at the time, God didn't seem to be listening, I didn't have anywhere to turn for an outlet for my feelings.  No where to go to numb.  Yes I did yoga, I exercised, I had long conversations with the hubs - but none of it could touch the feeling of lighting up and making things go away for awhile.

Well...that is...except for wine.

I always had a hard and fast rule that I didn't drink at home.  Ever.  In 2001, I started drinking at home...on Thursday nights...one (large) glass of wine while I watched House Hunters on HGTV.  That lasted about three months.  It quickly became a bottle on Thursday night, then on other nights, then more than one bottle at a time, then every night.  Over the course of the next 8 years my drinking took off and soon became the full blown alcoholism from which I am now recovering.

I had traded the feeling I got from smoking for the feeling I got from drinking.  That feeling of ahhhhh...and the world goes away for a little while.  Life is happy and carefree, if only for a minute.  During this time I also flirted with spending way too much and that threatened to get out of control as well.  Thank God I had the good sense to turn the finances over to the hubs.  I still get a thrill out of just walking into a Target or Nordstrom.  Sometimes I'll go to Target and just walk around and look at things...just to get my fix.

Then I got sober.  Now what.

Food.  Sugar most specifically but really, it's just eating that does it for me.  Since puberty I have had a hard time keeping weight off.  In my 30's I figured out the perfect combination of food and exercise that kept me fit, healthy and within a good BMI range.  I maintained control.  I seldom ate candy, never ate chips, regularly turned down birthday cake and would rather die than eat at a fast food restaurant.   I exercised good portion control and never went back for seconds.  I worked out seven nights a week with a combination of yoga, cardio and strength.  AND I LOVED IT.

Then I got sober.

Now I eat candy (chocolate) almost every day.  I keep milk chocolate chips in the cabinet so that I can have them after dinner at night.  I go to the little store in our building at work and get mini candy bars in the afternoon (three of them...because I don't want to eat a whole candy bar...really?).  I eat chips on a regular basis.  I still try to practice portion control but consistently overeat when it comes to pizza and pasta.  I bake...and I eat what I bake and I bake what I like.  I've even started dipping into ice cream and I'm a little lactose intolerant.

It's not enough to "just say no".  First of all, I have to eat.  It's not like with cigarettes and alcohol where I could dig in, make my mind up and go with it.  I must have sustanance.  Secondly, I have the same exact dialog going on in my head when it comes to food that I did when it came to cigarettes or alcohol.  The same exact rationalizations go on and on and on.  The same excuses. 

The same result.

And as a result, I've gained 50 lbs over the last 5 years.  Some of it came from the booze but most came after the booze left.  I have a long standing account on My Fitness Pal where I log calories in and calories out.  I've lost about 15 pounds doing that...which I gained right back two or three times over the years.  I've signed up to Jenny Craig twice.  Lost those same 15 pounds only to gain them back...both times.  I've done Weight Watchers both online and in person.  Same result, lose some...gain it back.  All the while beating myself up for my failure...over and over and over.

Then an angel, Annette over at Just For Today, mentioned a book in this blog post about a woman who battles mental illness and addiction.  Hmmm...sound familiar?  I devoured that book and came to a startling revelation.

I am never going to conquer this thing on my own.

I need to surrender.

I need help.

So I surrendered.  I prayed and turned it over to God.  I admitted defeat and that I am no longer in control.  Okay...I'm still working on this part but I'll get there.  What I did do right away was also significant to my recovery.

I made an appointment with my psychiatrist.

I've been clinically depressed for 18 years.   Except for a few misguided attempts to ditch the meds, I've been medicated successfully all of that time.  I've had good shrinks and bad ones (this current one is great) but overall I've been lucky and I've guided my own mental health journey.  This is a lot of work for me AND my family but it's better than the alternative.

What this book did for me however, was to educate me on my illness.  My depression could also be related to my compulsions and lack of impulse control.  The neurotransmitters that fire in my brain may not be doing their job correctly and I may not be helping them all that I can.  Who knew?

So I'm going to talk to an expert (August 20th...it was the first available appointment...ugh.)  I'm going to see if I need therapy or just a medication change.  I'm tired of being a slave to my addictions and my compulsions and my impulses.

It's time to get control...for reals yo.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

What the world needs is a good sarcasm font...

Yesterday I was reading a post over on Renegade Mothering who wrote what I consider to be a brilliant post on offending people.  (Warning:  If you don't understand or particularly like sarcasm as well as irreverent and over-the-top humor you should probably NOT click on that link.  However if you, like me, enjoy the hell out of it then by all means check her out.)  In it she discussed how sensitive we've all become and how she really doesn't care if she offends you because it's a fact of human nature.  At one time in all of our lives we will either be offended or offend someone.

So. What.

Please don't get me wrong...I would never, ever get out of bed and start my day with, "Hmmm...today I think I'll offend someone and totally piss them off!  That will make my day!"  In fact, I'm a people pleaser (I'm trying to stop it but it's hard) so to do this would go against the core of my being and would likely cause me to spontaneously combust.  Nevertheless, I have, on occasion said something or done something that has offended.  I know it's hard to believe but it is true.

So. What.

Apologize, or don't.  Move on, or don't.  Put on your big girl panties and/or boxers (I don't judge) and deal.  We're all grown-ups here. We've all become so politically correct that All In The Family wouldn't even make it on the air now (probably why you never see it in reruns) which would be a crime.  We're so sanitized that we're afraid to open our mouths for fear of offending someone.  The only thing not politically correct in this world are the politicians!  But I digress...That's not really what this post is about.

I went back and read the post in question - the one that apparently created a firestorm of comments, hurt feelings and trolling.  The post was...meh.  But the comments!  Oh my good gracious!  Obviously there are way more people out their with way more time on their hands than me because they were (and continue to from what I can tell) engaging in a full on web-based bitch slap session!  Who has time for that shit?  I feel the same way about this that I do about television, radio and social media...if it offends you, TURN IT OFF.

If what is on TV is not to your liking, then remove the television from your home.  If you're worried about what your children are watching then parent them, monitor what they watch, use the child block feature on your TV or call your cable network and block the channels.  Or remove the damn thing and hand them a book.

If you stumble on a blogger that you don't agree with and you comment and express your view, than move the hell on.  If subsequent posts continue to offend you then don't go back to that site!  When you stumble upon a radio station that's playing music or talk you don't like do you continue to listen?  Not me, I push those buttons and find something that I can sing along with and annoy the hell out of my family.  After all, we're usually in a car and I have them captive and I get so few opportunities like this anymore...

If I knew Renegade (which I don't but I wish I did because I think we'd be besties) I would tell her that once you've apologized for offending and explained over and over and over again that sarcasm is, in fact, an effective form of communication and that obviously the post was meant to be a joke, you should let it go and not have to apologize any longer FOR WHAT YOU WRITE IN YOUR OWN FUCKING BLOG!

Then again, she certainly doesn't need my advice.  She has thousands and thousands of readers and some of her posts have even gone viral while I have tens of readers (whom I adore) and am fairly new to this.  So actually, if I knew Renegade, she would obviously tell me to shut the fuck up and stop giving her advice because we're not, nor have we ever been, besties and I'm just a creepy lurker on her blog that worships the ground she writes on.

And if the world had a good sarcasm font that entire last sentence would be in it and you wouldn't be scratching your head right now wondering where my good sense has gone.

End of rant.  Thanks for listening.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Boats and Blogger

Okay, sometimes I'm dense.  Sometimes I don't always see things when they are right in front of me.  But most times I'm sharp and intuitive.  I can tell what someone is feeling just by being in their presence.  I can pick up on clues from my students and use those clues to guide the room to the learning I want them to have.  I know what my husband is thinking before he does.

Then why can't I figure out what the hell God wants me to do?  

There's an old joke that goes something like this...
A terrible storm blows through a town and leaves it flooded.  An old man who lives alone in his home, climbs to his roof to escape the rising water and begins to pray.  "Lord," he prays, "save me from this rising water...don't let me drown."

About that time a rescue boat comes by and tries to get the old man to get in the boat.  He refuses.  "God will save me," he says.

Two more rescue boats come by and try to save the man and each time he refuses with the same refrain, "God will save me."

He drowns.

When he gets to heaven his asks God, "Why didn't you save me?  I prayed and prayed and you let me drown."

God replies, "Dude!  I sent you three boats!"
I don't want to be that guy but I also don't want to be the whack job that thinks every time she stubs her toe that it's a sign from God she needs new shoes!  Wait...that might be a good one...I might want to rethink that.

ANYWAY...Suddenly there are a wealth of new roles coming up in my particular expertise.  With the blessing of my current boss, I have applied for a couple of these.  I try to say, "if God wants me to go down this path, then everything will come together."  I try.  But then I think, have I done enough?  Should I be reaching out to people and greasing the skids so to speak or should I just sit back and let the Big Guy work?  Then, if nothing happens, is it my fault or was it all just meant to be?  Does He have bigger plans in store for me or did I totally miss the boat (get it...miss the boat...haha)?  How do I know when to let Him do the heavy lifting and when I should be lifting as well?

It's all very confusing.  Or is it just that I can't let go?  I have a headache and I need some chocolate.


PS - and my Blogger is acting very, very weird.  I'm not sure if they're on to me at work or if it's Blogger but I'm having to click a bunch of formatting buttons before it will let me type in the text box AND I can't use my mouse. 

Maybe it's sunspots.  Or maybe it's a sign!  Nah...it's probably sunspots.

Friday, July 5, 2013


I have these individual metal letters that spell out the word 'family' that sit on my mantle in my family room.  My husband and kids think it's funny to rearrange the letters to read other nonsensical things.  Things like ima fly or ifamly or mafily...you get the picture.  They know that it upsets my sense of order and balance so it makes them happy. 

I aim to please!

But the rearrangement of the letters got me thinking about the concept of 'family' and what it's really come to mean to me.  When I was a kid, I bought into the whole Norman Rockwell, Currier & Ives version of family.  The Brady Bunch and Father's Knows Best version of dad goes to work everyday and comes home to mom and the kids.  Everyone is well fed and doesn't want for anything so, therefore, they're happy.  Since my home life was more along the lines of Arrested Development, I couldn't figure out what we were doing wrong.  NO ONE was ever happy in my house.  We had moments but when I look at the relative bliss in which my kids were raised, I'm pretty sure that "happy" wasn't an adjective often used to describe my younger self.

What I should have been doing was paying more attention to Disney and my fairy tales.  Cinderella had no biological parents and the step-mother and step-sisters she had left were narcissistic bitches.  We have no idea where SnowWhite came from but she ended up living with seven dwarfs who became her pseudo-family.  Daddy issues anyone?  Then there's Hansel & Gretel who's father didn't have the balls to stand up to his wife when she banished the children from their home which means he was likely an abused spouse.  (In some versions of the story he finally turns on his wife and goes in search of the kids but geez!).  Then there is poor neglected Little Red Riding Hood who's parents didn't give a rat's ass about her so they sent her alone to grandma's through the woods for Christ's sake! 

Now that's more like the family I knew and loved.  Kinda makes you all warm and fuzzy inside - or maybe that's the pizza I had for lunch, but I digress.

As I was got older and realized that my home wasn't exactly the poster child for functional, I looked for examples of what I should do to make my home more NORMAL.  I tuned in to...The Cosby Show.  Come on!  A doctor and a lawyer?  Living in a brownstone in Harlem (80's price roughly 2.2 million).  Yeah...not going to happen in my house.  Bankers...we're simple bankers.  Simple poor bankers.

But really, that was about it for functional.  Just about the time I started building a functional life, TV gave me dysfunction that was functioning.  Mork & Mindy?  Alien and humans.  Kate & Allie?  Single moms raising kids.  Webster?  Inter-racial family with a cute kid and EXTREMELY rich white parents.  Punky Brewster?  Another cute little kid without parents being raised by some old fart. (That one always gave me the creeps...refer to yesterday's post.)  Newhart?  Inbreeding at its best.  (Darryl and Darryl anyone?)  One Day at a Time?  Single mom, out of control teen, goody goody teen, busy body super.  Roseanne?  Puh-leeeeze!  My real life was too much like that...you know, minus all the functional parts.

Then comes the 90's when I actually had children and the concept of the traditional "family" went all the way to hell in the proverbial hand basket.

Seinfeld - a group of friends who merely tolerate each other and all hate being around their parents.
Friends - a group of friends who really love each other and still hate being around their parents.
Married With Children - okay...this is even too much for me.
Home Improvement - closer to my version of Norman Rockwell but are men really this stupid? 
Full House - cutest baby of all time but who the heck are these men living in a $10 million dollar home in San Francisco?
Fresh Prince of Bel Air - money on top of money on top of more money.
Murphy Brown - angry woman in DC.  Not really that far fetched when you think about it.  Did I mention she lived in Georgetown?  In a brownstone?  Yep, you guessed it - money!

What that all said to me was that in order to be normal I had to be abnormal and have lots and lots of money because cleary, money solved all of what was wrong in the world. 

Yeah...not so much.

This is about the point we turned off network TV and began watching only animated or educational shows during the day and either HGTV, Food Network or the History Channel at night.  Now I only have to feel inadequate when it comes to the way my house looks, the meals I feed my children and the crimes against humanity that my race, gender or country may have committed over the last 2000 years or so. 

But family?  That part I think we've figured out in spite of the messages sent to us over the airways.  For us it's a house open at all times to whomever needs a hug, a meal, or a sanctuary.  My nuclear family is a hodgepodge of people drawn together by love rather than blood who actually enjoy each other's company.  The complexion and dynamic of this thing we call family changes every minute and we adapt and grow and bloom right along with it.

And we don't need TV, or Disney or fairy tales to tell us how it should be.  We write our own story every single day.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Letter to Me

Brad Paisley has this amazing song titled "Letter to Me" in which he sings to his 17 year old self about things he should or shouldn't do and why.  It's funny and beautiful and I cry every time I hear it.

This morning when I was considering a blog post the idea of me as a little girl popped into my head.  In my head, my little girl is always sad, and anxious, and frightened.  She never wants to go home and all she wants is to be loved.  I have no idea if this is how I really felt, only what I think I felt.  Who knows how life has tinted my memories?  Perhaps and little bluer than it actually was?  Probably.

But, if I could speak to that little girl what would I say?  What would I tell her?  I don't want to change any of the events of my life no matter how difficult, they made me who I am today.  But I would like her to know a few things...

Dear Sherry -

If you're reading this then you are about 8 years old or maybe you are 12 or maybe you are 15.  It doesn't really matter.  At any age, you likely spend most of your time apologizing and trying to figure out how to fix what's wrong with you and your family.  You think everyone else has it all figured out.  You don't feel like you really fit in anywhere.  You dont' fit in your own skin, don't have the right clothes, don't have enough money, aren't there at the right time....whatever. 

I'm here to share a few insights... 

First, you are a beautiful girl.  You are smart and funny and people love to see you smile.  Your presence lights up a room and people are drawn to be near you.  There is nothing wrong with you.  God made you perfect and in His image and Jesus loves you exactly as you are.  You are a loyal friend, fiecely honest, and when you open your heart to people it's all the way.  Unfortunately that makes you vulnerable and you will be hurt.  Don't let this change you.  It's worth the risk.

The problems that exist in your life right now, are not of your making.  Your parents had very difficult lives as children and they are broken.  They are doing the best they know how but unfortunately no one ever taught them so they don't know how to love you.  This has nothing to do with who you are or anything that you have done or will ever do.  It's really not about you little one.  You are perfect.

One day, your grandmother's boyfriend will molest you and your sister.  When this starts, stand up for yourself and refuse to be treated this way.  Scream it, report it, tell your father and your teachers.  It's okay.  The man is sick and your grandmother is afraid.  Don't let them stop you.  Fight for your right to be a child.

One day when you are much older, your father will make these advances too - remember that it's the alcohol and try to forgive his attempt.  Nothing will happen because you are strong and smart - but don't let the attempt wound your heart forever.  Let it go.  Forgive.

Your little sister is very cute now and will be a very beautiful woman one day.  Do not compare yourself to her.  You are also beautiful.  The acne will clear.  You will fix your teeth.  Convince your heart right now that you are beautiful and deserving of love.  Carry yourself with this certainty.  Feel it in your heart.

Your sister will have many difficulties and make many poor choices as she grows.  Know that you are not your sister's mother and are not responsible for anything that she does.  Let her walk her path and you walk yours.  Try to help her if you can but one day, when you have to let her go, know that it's okay.  Nothing she has ever done is or was your fault.  You didn't cause it, you can't cure it and you can't control it.  (Don't worry, you'll learn what this means one day.)

Learn to pray like God is your friend.  You don't have to pray the way the nuns and the priests say you have to pray.  You can just talk to God like you're talking to your bestest friend ever.  That's because He is your bestest friend ever and will never leave your side...no matter what.  Talk to him.  He listens.  It's okay to ask for stuff too.  Sometimes the answer is no but He will always answer.

One day when you are grown, a gentle and sweet man, who is a little older than you, will come along and tell you he loves you and that he'll always be there for you...believe him.  When he tells you that you are beautiful, believe him.  When he says he'll love you "at least until tomorrow", know that it's his way of saying forever and go with it.  This man has truly been sent by God.  He is meant for you.

Do not start drinking wine or beer or anything like it.  No matter how much you want/need to escape.  Think of it the way you will come to think of drugs.  Bad news...You will experience many bad things because of drinking.  Things that happen to others at first, and then to you.  Don't start.  It's just not worth it.

When you think that you will never have a child...don't despair.  God has wonderful plans in store for you.  Be patient.  You won't ever regret a moment of being a mother.  And don't be afraid to be a mom.  Follow your heart and your husband and you will turn out wonderful children...all six of them!

On a cold and icy day in February in 1996, you father will leave you to be with Jesus.  Let yourself cry.  Grieve.  Break down.  Let others love and support you through this. You do not have to be the strong one.  You do not have to carry the entire load.  Your husband and your friends will be there - lean on them.

And one final thing.  When you leave that cardiac care room to go home on December 13, 2006 and the urge hits you to turn around and say, "I love you" to our mother, please don't hesitate...just do it.  You will regret it forever if you don't...trust me, I know.

Your grown self