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Farewell

I am absolutely horrible at dealing with death.  Having a person here one day and gone the next is something I’ll never quite get used to.  It doesn’t help that I’m slightly terrified by dead bodies and act like a royal idiot every rare instance I am in a funeral home.  When it comes to properly dealing with death, I am completely clueless.  I cry randomly when it makes no sense, but remain dry-eyed in moments I should be in tears.  I never know what to say or do or how to act.  I almost prefer to be notified via text message so I can deal with things in my own way without embarrassing myself or offending anyone.

Everyone deals with death in a different way, and lately I’ve had front row tickets to all the different ways we try to process the loss of life.  Some people blame themselves, even though in just about every instance, there was nothing they could have done to prevent whatever happened.  Some people blame the deceased, wondering why they couldn’t have done things differently so they could still be here.  Anger is a big one; we get angry at the family, at friends or coworkers, at ourselves, or at anything we perceive as not right or proper.  Others just withdraw into themselves, as if hiding will make the death something that was all a bad dream.

People have a funny way of coming together in times of tragedy.  Estranged family members are suddenly best of friends, hugging and crying and laughing together as they work through each day and try to heal.  Sometimes the change is a long lasting one, but more often than not, everyone goes back to ignoring each other within a month or two.  It’s a shame that the effects never seem to be long lasting ones, but I suppose it’s better than nothing at all.

Right now, I am dealing by avoiding as much as I possibly can.  From the get-go, people have been horrendously ugly with each other, even going as far as saying certain family members did not have the right to attend a viewing.  Some people seem concerned with who gets what, totally driven by money and objects while completely ignoring the fact that someone is gone from this world forever.  There are plots and theories and things being said that are better suited for an episode of CSI.  I simply cannot deal with it anymore.

Call me selfish if you will, but I decided to skip a memorial service earlier today.  I declined to go because I did not want to deal with someone who planned to block the door and not allow certain people inside (even though it’s a public service, so it wouldn’t have worked in the end).  I declined because I can’t listen to one more theory about what REALLY happened and who is REALLY responsible.  I declined because I find it disgusting how certain people are behaving when we should all be honoring someone’s life and remembering them fondly in death.

I am terrible at dealing with death.  But I’ve discovered that there are a lot of people who deal with it a hundred times worse than I ever have.  I’ve learned that in the end, the way you deal is not important.  What is important is that the memory of the one we lost is honored somehow.  Differences are put aside and we all treat each other like human beings for a while.  Death is a reminder of how short and fragile life is.  When someone dies, we shouldn’t waste time hating each other and acting like self-absorbed strangers.  That’s no way to live.  If I’ve learned one thing this past week, it is that I waste too much time on negativity.  I don’t want to do that anymore.  And when I die, I want the people I’ve left behind to get along, not argue over who gets what or blame each other for my passing.  Life is too short to be wasted on bullshit.

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What About Me

I’ve been getting a lot of new visitors to my page lately and I wanted to open up a little to anyone who is willing to read.  My morning was spent Google searching About Me questions that I can answer for you.  Below are a few of the ones that I felt were worth answering.  Please feel free to answer some yourself in the comment section!

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DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
I have an eight year old son, who is smart as a whip but as stubborn as his mom.

PHOBIAS?
Spiders!  I still have a small fear of the dark; I’m not afraid of the boogeyman but I don’t like that something unknown could lay right in front of or behind me.  Heights don’t bother me, but I do have a fear of falling, so if I’m up high I had better be secure.  Scientologists also frighten me a bit.

WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
I want to say yes to this question, I really do.  But honestly, anything extreme such as bungee jumping, skydiving, or cliff diving scares the piss out of me.  I’m not afraid of heights, but the whole possibility of death is enough to put me off of taking that particular plunge.

TWO PET PEEVES?
Rude eaters; keep your mouth closed and keep the sound effects to a minimum.  Bad drivers; use your turn signals, drive somewhere close to the speed limit, don’t tailgate, and get off your phone!

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ARE YOU RELIGIOUS?
I am not.  I was raised Catholic but began to doubt the existence of a God once I was able to educate myself about other religions, science, and was able to directly expose myself to different types of people and beliefs.  I am a proud Atheist.  That said, I DO in fact have morals and values and I encourage my son to believe what he wishes (he was baptized as a baby and currently believes in God in the way you’d expect an eight year old to believe).

DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
I do.  I’ve been through a lot of hellacious situations and I somehow have survived them all.  Health scares, financial turmoil, family turning against me, losing nearly everything I’ve owned, and things I’d never mention in a public forum.  I don’t often give myself proper credit for it, but I am definitely a strong individual.

WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
How they are dressed, their hairstyle, etc.  I’m not looking for fashion statements or designer labels, but looking for whether or not a person seems put together, neat and organized, clean, and respectful.  If you’re covered in filth or wearing socks and crocs, I’ll likely write you off.  If you’re clean and you look like you made sure you were properly put together prior to leaving the house, I feel that you’re worth my time.

ARE YOU SHY?
I’m very shy upon first meeting someone; I tend to lean on someone I know until I become comfortable with the new person.  I also become shy and withdrawn when thrust into unfamiliar situations.  Public speaking is only an issue when I feel unprepared; if I’m asked to stand and say a few words unexpectedly, I will likely freeze.

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WOULD YOU FORGIVE SOMEONE FOR LYING TO YOU?
It depends what the lie is.  If my husband lied about an affair or something else of that nature, forgiveness would come hard or not at all.  If someone tells me I look pretty when I look like I just ran a marathon after being mauled by a tiger, I’ll forgive that lie and love you for it.  Lies that protect me from silly things of that nature or that protect you because you’re not ready to tell me something about yourself can be forgiven.  Lies about serious things (you once killed a man, you stole my cash last night) may eventually be forgiven, but certainly not forgotten.

ANY TATTOOS?
I have ten.  I’m a big fan of body art and I love expressing myself through the pictures decorating my body.  I hope that one day, people will stop associating tattoos with criminals, deviants, and slackers.  I do plan on getting more; I’m working on a half sleeve and I want to add to a couple existing pieces.

BEST PIECE OF ADVISE?
If you have to poll your friends and family about your situation prior to making a decision, chances are you already know the answer and are simply looking for either an assurance that you are correct or looking for someone to talk you out of something.  Trust your instincts.

REPUBLICAN OR DEMOCRAT?
Neither.  No party out there has it all and I don’t want to align myself with any of them.  Some definitely have more valid points and better views than the others, but none of them have gotten things right enough for me to jump on their bandwagon.

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DO YOU PREFER EMAIL/TEXT OR PHONE CALLS?
My current cell phone plan has 400 minutes, of which I use about 20 per month.  I’d decrease the minutes if Sprint would release a data plan with fewer.  I used to be big on talking on the phone, but now I prefer to text or email.  I can’t really carry on a conversation here at work, and when I’m home I’m busy with my husband, son, and dog.  I’ll text you immediately, but if you call, I’ll probably let it go to voicemail.

WHAT IS YOUR GOAL IN LIFE?
I want to eventually earn money for writing, be it through books or blogs or articles for a newspaper or magazine.  I’m slowly getting there, as I do earn a bit of cash from this blog.  I want to become fully financially stable, for myself, my husband, and our boy.  I want to be happy with who I am; I know I may never be 100% satisfied, but I need to be close to it.  I want to learn to relax and take things in stride.  Whatever happens around that doesn’t matter so long as I can do those things as so long as I have my family with me as I do them.

My Father

My father has cancer.

It’s a very odd thing to type, even a stranger thing for me to say.  On September 10th, he told me that he has prostate cancer, the same thing that claimed his father a few years back.  When I heard the news, I began to cry at my desk at work.  Then I laughed for being so emotional.  Then I was simply numb.  It’s stage 1 and was caught early, so chances are they he will be just fine except for side effects from the treatment.  That doesn’t change the fact that it frightens me.

It’s not a secret that I don’t exactly get along with my parents anymore.  I haven’t spoken to my mother since moving to Indiana and haven’t received any correspondence from her since last Christmas when she told me how worthless of a person I was.  My father has refrained from the low blows, but he’s always been that way.  He and I are a lot alike and have always gotten along, but since my mother’s wishes come before my own, he has been following her lead on making my life slightly uncomfortable.  We see each other once a month but rarely speak.

Cancer changes things.  It made him vulnerable in my eyes for the first time in my life.  It makes me come face to face with the fact that sooner or later, my parents will be gone from this world.  It makes me angry that my mother is still being so petty, holding on to anger and cutting me out of her life and the lives of my family members.  It makes me disappointed in myself for accepting that they are not part of my life and for not including them in it.  It makes me afraid.

I am one of the worst people in the world when it comes to dealing with anything related to death.  I never know what to say when someone has a loved one pass away.  I loathe funerals and would rather skip them and pay my respects in another way.  I don’t even want a funeral held for myself when I go; just cremate me and go about your business in private.  Since finding out he has cancer, I’m not too sure how I should be acting, feeling, or doing.  I feel lost.

I’ve spoken to a few people who have had parents battle cancer and who have lost their parents to it, but none of it really helped.  It’s either “don’t worry” or “it sucks.”  I’m not sure what I need to work through it and I’m not sure if I should even be allowing it to affect me as much as it is.  I’ve researched it online a bit and that helped temporarily, but there really is no easy fix when it comes to dealing with this sort of thing.  I guess all I can do it hope for the best.

Diagnose Me

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often persists into adulthood. ADHD includes some combination of problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. Children with ADHD also may struggle with low self-esteem, troubled relationships and poor performance in school.”

Stimulants are the most common treatment for ADHD in children and adolescents. They include methylphenidate – Ritalin or Metadate — or amphetamines, including Dexedrine and Adderal.”

When I was in elementary school, I was misdiagnosed twice with ADD and ADHD and declined twice to begin taking Ritalin to treat my symptoms.  Once I began flooding myself with extra projects and extra credit work and once I started becoming heavily involved in the gifted program, my so-called symptoms vanished and my diagnosis went from ADD/ADHD to being nothing more than a child that was bored with her schoolwork and wanted a greater challenge.

On February 15th, my husband and I went to a parent/teacher/social worker conference to discuss our 6-year-old, Dominick.  Prior to going, his teacher and I both filled out a questionnaire as part of the Connors test.  Upon reviewing with the social worker, we were told what we already knew; Dominick is an incredibly smart but incredibly hyper and sensitive little boy.  His hyperactivity is multiplied when in daycare and kindergarten, which put him in areas of concern on the Connors scale; at home he showed only slightly above normal.  The social worker then pulled out a separate page with ADHD written across the top in giant letters.

Around the time Dominick was two, he went to be evaluated because some daycare worker without a degree decided he had ADHD.  The psychologist who evaluated him reported that he was bright and perfectly normal.  At three and a half, a new daycare worker (the Dragon Lady from the school we pulled him out of) decided he was learning disabled, so I called the First Steps program and was told that he didn’t qualify for evaluation as his “symptoms” weren’t those they see with the disabilities they deal with.  As soon as the social worker pulled that ADHD paper out, my brain went into FIGHT-mode and I was ready to leap across the table.  To my surprise, she informed us that while she isn’t qualified to make a diagnosis, any physician would look at the Connors test results and immediately conclude that Dominick does NOT have ADD or ADHD.  He’s just a bright, excitable, sensitive little squirt.

The social worker told us a couple of stories about children who were initially thought to have ADHD but ended up having more serious issues; one had epilepsy and the other had pinworms.  She didn’t believe that Dominick had any underlying health issues, simply that he’s excitable and presents a challenge to teachers who try to get him to sit still and use his quiet voice.  It concerns me though that ADD and ADHD are the go-to diagnoses for children who act up, and too often the go-to solution is medication the child doesn’t truly need.  Growing up, while I was insisting I didn’t need Ritalin, I was spending a great deal of time with Emily, a girl who desperately needed it.  Seeing first-hand what ADHD looks like and what happens to a child who NEEDS Ritalin once it wears off allows me to be a better judge of whether or not ADHD has invaded my home or not.  Had I listened to the first two people who insisted Dominick was affected and sought out a physician to “fix” him with medication, there’s no telling what damage could have been done or how his development would have been hindered.

Perhaps the reason so many people jump to ADD and ADHD is because it seems to be the easiest and quickest way to solve a behavioral problem with a child.  Pop in some medicine, kid calms down, everyone is happy.  Except for the child who doesn’t need to be on the medication to begin with.  In my case, my ADHD-like behavior was caused by boredom; the teacher would go over and over a lesson that I had learned the very first time and I had little patience in hearing it repeated while my classmates asked silly questions.  I suspect my son is the same way; he’s known his alphabet for ages now and has little interest in sitting around while his classmates catch up.  Some children are just strong-willed and don’t want to stick to a lesson plan when they think they know a better way to get their work done.  Some are having problems adjusting.  Regardless, the answer should be researched fully prior to going to ADHD/ADD and popping meds.

There’s a big difference between being a protective parent and being in denial.  I know my kid isn’t perfect, I expect him to screw up and hope it’s not as badly as I did, and I know that most of his teachers are looking out for his best interests.  I also know enough to not accept that he has ADHD or ADD just because someone who works with children decides that is his problem.  I’m hardly the ideal when it comes to being a mom, but I am going to give myself a pat on the back for not caving and accepting that my son had any sort of developmental disability or challenge just because a couple of people said so.  Hopefully my husband and I can help him deal with his excitability so he can stay out of trouble in school and excel.  I’m open to suggestions.

Writing To The Past

Dear 16-year-old Jamie,

I’m writing you from 14 years in the future in the hopes that your stubborn brain will at least take some advice from yourself.  I don’t blame you for taking the move from Connecticut to Georgia hard, especially since it happened right in the middle of high school.  The thing is, it’s not the end of the world and you have to stop acting as though it is.  Your core group of friends will change time and time again and these people in Connecticut that you think you can’t live without honestly won’t matter much in a couple of years.  You know you won’t lose your best friend even if you move to China and you also know you’ll meet new people, so settle down.

Right now, you’re torn between your middle school crush and your current boyfriend, one of which isn’t even in the same state as you and the other who definitely isn’t on your level in any way, shape, or form.  Your mother hates them both because she’s a hateful person, but this is one of the few times that you should take her advice and forget they both exist.  What you’re feeling right now isn’t love.  It won’t be love when you’re in college either.  Have fun, but don’t stress.  What seems important now won’t matter whatsoever down the road.

It’s not good to obsess over getting old, but it also isn’t good to pretend that it’ll never happen.  You’re going to get to a point in your life where you can’t eat Waffle House every day and have burgers and fries every night.  Those abs you’ve somehow obtained without doing any work aren’t going to hang around if you don’t learn to exercise.  Treat yourself to junk food, sleep in on the weekends, but start getting into healthy eating habits and an exercise routine NOW.  It’ll save you a lot of heartache and fat days later in life.

Stop spending so much time worrying about what your parents think of your choices and start living for yourself.  They’re going to hate the major you choose in college and they’ll hate the people you meet there.  They’ll hate every single job you hold and every guy you date.  When you get married, they’ll hate your husband, the place you live, and just about everything about your life.  In 14 years, you will be in the best place you’ve ever been and you’ll be happier than you’ve ever been before.  It sounds harsh, but you need to put a bit of distance between you and your mother now and be confident that your choices are the right ones.  You’ll screw up and fall on your face, but you’ll learn and become stronger for having gone through it.

Life isn’t all sunshine and happiness.  I could tell you people to avoid living with, jobs not to take, and choices to make but it wouldn’t result in a worry-free existence.  Shit happens and if you can learn to laugh it off now, you’ll make things a lot easier on yourself.  Take comfort in knowing that you’re not that far away from having the good life.  Popularity in high school doesn’t mean a thing after graduation; you and your friends may be on the lower level of the social totem pole, but you’re definitely going to have more fun than the kids that have the specific image to uphold.

Because I can’t help myself, I will spill a few things that will hopefully make sense as the situations come up and people enter your life:

1.        IP addresses

2.       Travis steals trash cans

3.       You’re a terrible arm wrestler

4.       It’s NOT a love story

5.       There’s nothing good at the Mill Stores

Good luck…..

True Love Isn’t Blind

I’ve noticed that the most bizarre events, the ones that should result in nothing but anger and destruction, serve a positive purpose and result in me feeling closer and more connected to my husband.  Sometimes it stems from things that were put in place with the intent to hurt one or both of us, other times it’s life itself acting like a spiteful teenage girl and slashing our car tires, and at the worst we get hit with a chain of events that qualify as the definition of FML.

Yesterday, I awoke to a barrage of bad news and bullshit.  My car passed away after giving me three wonderful years.  It was a ’98 with over 200,000 miles on it with an engine carrying about 70,000 miles.  I had just replaced the brakes a few months back, four new tires a year and a half ago, and exhaust repairs 2 years back.  I received the car in a very used condition, but it was MY car and I loved it; I get very attached to my vehicles.  A few weeks back, it began stuttering so we purchased a new fuel pump thinking that was the issue.  Turns out my fuel pump is fine, but my valves are trash and repair costs start at $1500, and that doesn’t include the belts that need replacing or any other issues they find.  Having been without a car more than a few times, I’m used to the loss but it still hurts my heart.  I’m glad my husband was supportive and able to cheer me up rather than do the “it’s just a car” speech I’ve heard so many times.  I expected him to be angry since this means for a little while he will be the sole driver, but he acted like it didn’t faze him one bit.  I’m glad he was strong for the both of us and didn’t allow me to be a girl over the bad news.  Rest in pieces, my poor car….

The other half of the FML portion of the day was somewhat of a continuance of negativity from weeks past.  It’s sad that people feel the need to try to tear me down, especially in a condescending way or under the veil of the “I care” excuse.  I think one of the reasons it happens is due to the same motivation that is behind why I vent on a blog; it makes me feel better about my situation/problems/dilemma/etc.  It’s a lot better for all parties involved for me to vent quietly rather than act like a brat towards those people I feel wronged me.  I can laugh at my office nemesis because I vent my frustrations on here and at home rather than start a problem at work; a coworker told me today that if she was in my position she would have gone off on this woman months ago.  My husband and I share a wonderful ability to tear people down verbally, especially when properly motivated.  I love that about him, but what I love even more is his self-control.  He’ll let a couple of things rip when speaking to me, but he has enough respect for himself to not wallow in the mud and engage in the Let’s Trade Insults game.  He’s taught me that it’s much better to go through life knowing you have the ultimate last words than it is to engage the other party and speak those words aloud.

It would have been easy for the two of us to give up on the day and sit around wrapped in anger.  As fun as that sounds, we washed away the negativity in the shower and got on with our day.  I did slip and do a pouty-face once we arrived at the auto shop to retrieve my broken mess of a car, but my husband managed to make me smile about the situation, plus we were able to get it home without the assistance of a tow truck and right before the engine started smelling like death.  The repair shop didn’t charge me for anything, plus I have $144 credited back to my account for the fuel pump I couldn’t use along with an envelope full of cash that was going to go towards repairs.  We grabbed lunch at Applebee’s, then headed down the road to schedule delivery on our new couch!  The sectional we currently own was a lesson for us on what features we do NOT want in a couch, mainly the stationary cushions.  Afterwards, we retrieved the boy, gassed up the ride and invaded Meijer for groceries.  My husband ordered us Papa Johns for dinner which was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!  We’ve been Papa Johnsless since last October, so you can imagine how good it was for us!  My son wanted to watch The Karate Kid, his new favorite movie, so my husband and I got some much needed alone time.  Plus it was House marathon Wednesday, and you can’t beat that!

My husband isn’t perfect and he’ll tell you himself that he can be an asshole at times.  He’s direct, he doesn’t bullshit around, and he’s truthful with himself and everyone around him.  People always say that love is blind but I think that only applies to lust or puppy love, where pure emotion overrides common sense in a whirlwind relationship that is bound to crash to a bitter end.  True love isn’t blind, but it is open, accepting and honest.  People are flawed, some more than others.  I spent my youth looking for the perfect man and the perfect love, only to realize that it’s unattainable.  My husband and I are two imperfect souls who found each other from 1000 miles away and fell in love.  We’ve become one of those couples I used to envy and our relationship feels as though it’s spanned 3 1/2 decades rather than years.  We’re affectionate without overdoing it and putting on a show for those around us.  Our marriage is anything but the typical definition of perfect, no fairy tale crap here, but somehow it gets better with each passing day.  I was lucky enough to find someone who looks at life in a very similar fashion as myself.  We’re at the point where we are so comfortable with each other that our disagreements are quickly diffused; we understand it’s healthy to fight but we resolve it quickly and shut it off without yelling and slamming doors.  We rise above our obstacles rather than allow them to weigh us down.  We don’t keep secrets and while it took me some time to learn it, I found I can tell him anything without fear of judgment or ridicule.  We’ve done so much growing together and I know I wouldn’t be where I am now if not for his support and loyalty.  We love, value and respect each other… at the end of the day, isn’t that all that matters?

Without Reason

“Everything happens for a reason.”

I used to believe that.  I thought that the good things that came to me were due to my favorable actions, and bad things were tests, trials, or learning experiences.  I believed that God had a plan for me and every bad thing He threw at me was part of this big plan to shape my life and turn me into something wonderful.  I dismissed my mother’s hatred towards me as being tough love; even though she treated my little brother like gold and me like dirt, I assumed there was some grand reasoning behind it and the universe knew what it was doing.  When I had to leave my friends to move to Connecticut and left them again to move to Georgia, I figured that God was moving me in order to bring me to something better.

I started to see the false notes in that statement soon after I got engaged for the first time, which was also the first time I got my ass kicked by the person who said they would love me forever.  Surely there couldn’t be a reason for that.  Nor could there be a reason that I would get pregnant at the worst possible time, have to live in a small room to rent, then in a trailer with potheads, then on the living room floor of a friend twice my age.  There definitely wasn’t a reason for me to get a black eye and have to quit my job, or be thrown in jail after receiving a beating at the hands of my son’s bio-father or for my son being abandoned by that same man.  I could try to justify it by saying it was the reason I eventually met my husband and found love and a great dad for my son, but that sounds like I’m making excuses for the bullshit I went through and those who caused it.

“Everything happens for a reason” is what you say when life gives you a pound of bullshit and you want to believe that it’s not for nothing, that something good is bound to happen sooner or later to make up for the hardships you have now.  No one can honestly tell me that God ignored my prayers and allowed me to be an outcast in school, to deal with multiple traumas as a teen, and to become an abused single mom with a deadbeat baby daddy and a mountain of debt given to me by aforementioned baby daddy after dropping my classes to pursue a career that was a dead end from the start.  It was definitely a learning experience, but there is no divine reasoning behind it.  Shit happens, it happened to me, and that is that.  Trying to find reason causes me to dwell on it, and dwelling on it prevents me from moving on to bigger and better things in life.

I’m struggling now to learn to live in the present and work towards the future.  I’m not a kid anymore and the days of living in a fantasy world have to end; I determine my path and not some prewritten destiny or a chain of events to come.  I’m not cynical or depressed or angry in any sense, it’s more about being realistic and wanting to be proactive.  If I sit back and believe that things will happen because they happen for a specific reason or because God wills it so, I’ll never get anything accomplished.  Things are easier to deal with if you attempt to find reason behind it and while I might prefer easy, I tend to be a difficult person.  From now on I believe I will find all the reason I need in busting my ass down the difficult path in life and see where it takes me.  Maybe I’ll see you there.

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