BACKGROUND

Friday, December 31, 2010

Take it easy on yourself

So here we are at the end of another year. Usually around this time every year, I am thinking about my goals for the coming year and mapping them out. This year though, I just don't care. Well, I care, but not in the same way I used to. I believe this is called personal growth. 

Every New Year's Eve, people make resolutions that they are not likely to stick to and then when they find that they have not stuck to them (usually somewhere around January 2nd), they get all depressed and fall into a cycle of internal anger, which is soothed by a cookie and there goes the weight loss goals, which begins a downward spiral into not exercising, which brings about more self-loathing, which is soothed by some alcohol...yeah, you can see where this is going.


People...TAKE IT EASY ON YOURSELF! It's not a bad thing to have goals and it's not a bad thing to map them out. It is bad to think this particular day of the year is the only time you can do so and that if you fall down on some of the goals, you have to be upset and let go of the goals until the next New Year's Eve. Do not put a huge amount of importance on this one day. Work steadily EVERY SINGLE DAY throughout the year to make progress toward what you want to do and if you fall down once or twice, get back up and keep on going.


We all put too much emphasis on particular days such as New Year's Eve and in the end, that can be harmful to our plans. Make your list of resolutions, but recognize that they are an all-year project and that it's OK if you "fail" on some of those days because you have 365 of them to work with. As long as you're doing well on the majority of the days, you're good. Remember that and take it easy on yourself. Your success is not defined by one day, it is defined by what you do every single day and whether that adds up to achievement of your goal(s). So give yourself a break and go forward!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Calm

Always

This morning, I prayed. I needed a favor from God. It wasn't anything major. In fact, it was something small, but I really needed it. I prayed hard this morning and then I got up to do the things I needed to do today. On my return home, I found out God had granted my request. And I realized, finally, what it means to have faith. To know that God does all the things for us that we need and that if we ask, He will provide. Sometimes it's not the way that we think we need it and sometimes, like today, it's exactly what we asked for.


Either way, I now know that God has it all under control. I've always known this in the abstract and I've had an incredible number of miracles take place in my life. I just didn't see them fully and completely for what they were. Today though, when He granted the request exactly as I had asked for it, I realized "Hey! God has my back. It's all good." And that my friends may be the greatest miracle of all - to finally know that I can let go of the anxiety about the millions of little things that I worry about. This was God's way of showing me that He is with me and that I do not need to worry. Thank you God for granting my request and for always, always being with me. I am never alone, He is always with me, always guiding me, always keeping me. Always.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tested

It's been an unbelievably busy week. Wednesday was a staff meeting/Christmas party at work, Friday was an afternoon holiday party and then an evening murder mystery "Who Killed Santa" holiday party for a company I do contract work for. Saturday evening was a birthday dinner for a friend of mine and today, I am hanging out with another friend doing a pizza and movie day. It's our Christmas gift to each other - the present of presence. I have wonderful, amazing friends and I am so grateful for every single one of them who loves me for all my great qualities and my, well, not-so-great qualities. My friends are a gift that I am given every single day.

It's a good thing those friends are in my life because 2010 has been really difficult for a lot of us. I blogged about that just recently. There has been a lot of loss and a lot of pain for a lot of people. A lot is the key word there. I know 2011 will be better for everyone. I feel it in my bones. The time of a lot of pain and loss has passed. 

There will always be pain and loss in life, but I am of the belief that it should be spaced farther apart than it was this year. I know that this year was about faith in every area of my life. It was about knowing that God is in control and will take care of my needs if only I will let Him. I have decided to let Him because He always does a better job of it than I ever will. I am grateful that God is as forgiving as He is. I have needed that this year. Faith untested is faith unknown. We must be tested if we are ever to declare that we truly have faith. Faith is easier said than done. It's only in the really hard times that we know if we truly have faith. I like to think I have passed the test.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Happy Pawlidays from Shutterfly!

Those who know me know that I love my dog, Peanut. She is more than a dog to me, she is my baby and I treat her as such. This includes taking a yearly picture of Peanut with her doggy brothers (and yes, I do love them too!). This year, I will be getting our Christmas cards from Shutterfly as I have done in past years. They have excellent card designs and they are super easy to make. I don’t know that there is another site that is more user-friendly.

Of course, I always take a million pictures of Peanut and the boys at Christmas so I may have to go with a card that allows me to use several pictures on one card. Shutterfly has those if I decide to go that route. Or, I could just go with a single photo on one of their many awesome card designs. It’s tough to choose. Whatever we go with, I know that our friends and family are going to love the cards! Peanut is just so cute and so are her brothers. I love taking their photos every year and sharing them with our loved ones.
I need to pick a card format. Tough to do, but these are some great ideas: 

How cute would Peanut and her brothers look in this Christmas Tree design? 


Or maybe, this single photo card so they can be seen with a neat border?




This one is great too because the blue would match the pink in Peanut's little pink coat. Hmmm...


You'll know which one we chose when you receive our card. Thanks Shutterfly for so many great options!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Me too

I have heard many people say that blogs are a reflection of narcissism - that is, that people who write about their lives are wrapped up in themselves and looking for others to supply them with adoration, self-esteem, etc. Clearly, I do not believe this.

There are two big reasons that a lot of people write blogs in my opinion. First, it's because we need to purge our thoughts and feelings. We need to be heard if only through the screen. People in real life are often very bad about listening and being there for others. We are often told to "suck it up" and "other people have it worse" as if our trials and tribulations are "less than." Other people's suffering does not negate our own. And yet, we are often treated as though we are not allowed to feel badly about a loss or disappointment. Blogging allows us to purge those feelings of sadness, of loss, of loneliness, of "DAMN THIS SUCKS!" We all need that.

Second, I believe people write blogs because it's a way to know that we are not alone in our feelings, our losses, our disappointments. There are few people in real life to whom you can say "I feel sad and lonely. I am hurting." Most people, outside of therapists, have no idea how to react to that kind of statement. They get flustered and awkward because they don't know what to say. In the blog world, people take their time to compose comments to your feelings, comments of hope, love, and most of all, of connection. There is great comfort in hearing someone say "I understand" and then, in the rest of their comment, they go on to tell you exactly why they understand. And you know they do. You know they really, truly get it. There is such peace in knowing that.

There is also peace in knowing you are not alone. It is a joy to read a blog and say to yourself "Me too!" To realize how many times you have felt the way the blog writer is feeling, how many times you have hoped you are not alone in your feelings. And then, to read someone else so eloquently express what you have felt, what you have suffered with, what you have been hurt by...well, there is nothing better. I can only hope that my blog has done that for someone. Feeling understood, feeling accepted, feeling as though you are not a freak for what you think - those are powerful and soothing feelings.

 We don't know everyone who reads our blogs and we never will. But someone, somewhere in the world is reading and thinking about how our words have, in some way, soothed their loneliness, their pain. And we are doing the same when we read someone else's words that seem to speak directly to us. That is not narcissism, it is kindness.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What we lose and what we gain

This has been a difficult year. It has been a year of great losses and yet, tremendous gains. This week, I had a conversation with two different people at different times, both of whom said "This year has been hard. Next year will be better."

Those conversations made me think about what we lose and then, what we gain. A dear friend of mine lost a baby this year at nearly 20 weeks along. The baby had genetic defects that caused his death in utero. My friend got pregnant again two months later and miscarried that child as well. She is now pregnant again for the third time this year. She has two healthy boys already so she knows she can have healthy, beautiful children. And yet - there is always a cautious outlook whenever you have lost a child (or two). There is always a tightness in the chest, a feeling of "what if," but at the same time a feeling of incredible joy that a new life is on the way. We lose something and we gain something - a feeling of joy born of previous grief and hope.

Death has been a central theme this year for me and for many others I know. On November 30, my mother's best friend of more than 50 years, Becky (known to us as Beck), passed away. She had battled health problems for many years and passed peacefully in her sleep at the hospital. She was like a mother to me and her son is like a brother to me. Her son and I went to law school together and survived some tough times both in school and outside of it. I ache for him and for her daughter as well. They are both such amazing people. Her son is married and his wife is pregnant with what would have been Beck's first grandchild. We have lost her, but there is a child being formed by God right now whose grandmother is watching the formation, and will forever watch over this very special child. What we gain...

The death of our loved ones is always a tremendous loss. There are no words of comfort, nothing that can make it better, nothing that will bring us the peace we so desperately crave in those first few days. We do not get over it, we simply get used to it. There is always a tiny hole in our heart where that person has resided for the time they were in our lives. But we gain the strength of having survived their passing and of knowing there are others who are grieving with us. We gain the knowledge that they are watching us, guiding us in those subtle ways that we don't always connect with them, but that upon reflection we know can only be their work in our lives. What we gain...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Geeze people, no one died.

Sigh. November has been tough and I am hoping that now that the first roughly (very rough in fact) two weeks of the month has passed, things will get better. It seems that everyone has had difficulties this month,  with jobs, finances, school, family issues, and on and on. I fall into the categories of finances and school issues and many of my friends take up the others and/or the same categories.

Much of what has happened cannot be helped by any of us. It's out of our control. Some of it is/was in our control, but either way, I think it's important to address a topic that I have recently been thinking about: Sympathy.

Sympathy is a beautiful thing. It is what allows others to know we care about them and want to be there for them. It is also the thing that can drive a person completely and totally mad if not offered in the right way. There is nothing wrong with the basic response of "I'm sorry." There is, however, something wrong with the response of "OH MY GOD!! I AM SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO SORRY" in either a loud voice or a soft whisper. That kind of "I'm sorry" should be reserved for death or major loss. Otherwise, they're just a little out of proportion, you know?

I know I'm not being very clear with this, so let me put it this way. Sometimes what a person needs in any given situation is something like this: "I'm sorry that happened. I am here for you. How are you feeling about it?" In other words, it's not made into a huge production (unless warranted - see above about death and/or loss), the sympathy is expressed, the offer of being there made, and then a discussion prompted about how the person is feeling.

Now, not everyone needs that sort of sympathy, but I am the type who does. Sometimes the time frame only allows for a quick "I'm sorry," but you can follow up later asking how someone is doing. I have found recently that a lot of people don't understand the type of support that is needed for a particular issue. Sometimes the person who has suffered the loss, whatever it might be, is really OK. It's those around that person who want to turn it into something catastrophic.

In my case, when I tell the people around me who do that, that it's not the type of support I need, they end up apologizing and going into practical hysterics about how they're so sorry they aren't supporting me the way I need them to and then I end up having to comfort them about not supporting me appropriately. WHAT. THE. HELL??

People, if someone tells you that you are not giving them the support they need, instead of freaking out and apologizing for that, how about just asking "What can I do for you, what do you need?" and REALLY listening to the answer and then doing it. Don't freak out and make your lack of support (in the way that particular person needed it) yet another thing for the person to deal with.

I really think there needs to be a class taught in every single grade about how to actively listen, how to appropriately respond to people either in crisis or who have had a minor setback, how to be sympathetic without being overwhelming, etc. That would be much more useful than learning about Catcher in the Rye. All that book taught us was not to be a disturbed prep school drop-out who picks up hookers named Sunny.

OK...so it may have taught us more than that, but you get my point.

Monday, October 18, 2010

To whom it may concern...

Dear Ice Cream Makers,
Don't bother advertising that your ice cream is an excellent source of Vitamin C. I'm talking to you, Dreyer's Berry Rainbow Sherbet. Let's face it, that is not a selling point for anyone. No one buys ice cream products of any kind for their vitamin content.

Dear Co-Worker,
Keep your germs to yourself. I appreciate the doughnut you gave me the other day, but you could have stopped there. You didn't have to give me your cold too.
Dear People Who Suck,
Please stop sucking you wastes of oxygen. Your arrogant attitude, your selfishness, and your general jerk-like behavior is not appreciated by anyone.
Dear T-Mobile,
For eight years, I have loved thee. Why must you allow third-party sellers to offer your phones, but then you refuse to let those phones be returned at any T-Mobile store? So I guess it's OK if you make money from the third-party stores, but if a customer needs to return something, you're gone like yesterday's garbage? I still love you, but I'm moving more toward liking you as a friend because of this.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Going with the flow

As of yesterday, I have been in San Antonio for a month. Seems weird to think I've been away from Houston that long. I have enjoyed my time here getting to care for Dad, but also getting to talk with him, watch movies with him, and just hang out with him. People should really consider just listening to their parents and being with them for a few days. You can learn a lot from them.

Dad is doing really well! We are walking every day as the doctor recommended and he's even driving again. He's eating healthy and has lost weight. I'm really proud of his recovery efforts!

Right now, my tentative return to Houston date is October 3. I am not looking forward to it to be honest. I have enjoyed getting to relax and not worry about schedules and such. It's just been me and my Dad along with the doggers and we plan our days out one day before or when we get up. 

Nothing is set in stone and we can just go with the flow. So nice to be able to do that. But real life cannot be ignored as much as I wish it could be. I will be doing some work here before I leave so I won't feel so behind when I get back to Houston - answering e-mails, drafting some legal paperwork, and so on. Right now though, my bed beckons me. Good Night All!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Post for Pets! Thanks Pedigree!

PEDIGREE will donate a bag of their new Healthy Longevity Food for Dogs to shelters nationwide for each person who mentions the Pedigree Adoption Drive in a blog. This ends on September 19th, 2010, so go to your blog and make a post. Oh, and read the rules here: Write a Post, Help a Dog!

It’s simple: Write a post, help a dog. Thursday, September 16 through Sunday, September 19,  the Pedigree BlogPaws bloggers will host a Blog Hop, to help raise awareness for the “Write a post, help a dog” effort.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Some of this, some of that, a little bit of the other

It's been a little over a week since Dad was released from the hospital and we are figuring out our routine. It's pretty laid back, but there are still things that have to be done every day. Dad has to walk for a few minutes a day outside so we make sure to do that. There are also breathing exercises that he does. Otherwise, we hang out, watch movies, talk, and just generally enjoy each others company. 

It's never a good thing when someone has major surgery or is ill, but I believe everything happens for a reason and it has been good for both Dad and I to be able to relax and spend some time just doing this and that without having to adhere to a particular schedule. We will be seeing his surgeon and his cardiologist on Monday to assess where he's at and what needs to be done from here. We are both expecting good news.

In the meantime, there are things to be done. I will be driving to Victoria on Saturday for a mandatory practicum meeting. This was not something I knew I'd have to do. It came up just recently because there are issues to be discussed with all the students. Yes, there's a story there involving a professor who seems to be easily offended and lacks a sense of humor (in my estimation). It's best I say no more than that, but that should give you an idea. Why no, I am not happy about having to do this, why do you ask?

While I'm in Victoria, I will attend a colloquium series on body language. I'm required to attend two of the four they present during the semester and since they have one on Saturday and I have to be there, I figured I'd get it out of the way.

To close, here is my Random Thought of the Day: Placing a medical office next to Sonic is rather efficient. Once someone keels over from the delicious fatty, cholesterol-filled goodness of Sonic Tator Tots and or the chili dogs, they can just be carried about 10 feet to medical help. I'm not sure if that encourages eating said tots and/or chili dogs, but there it is.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Released from Hospital Prison. Now on Cardiac Parole.

Dad was released from the hospital today! He had quadruple bypass surgery on Aug. 24th and came through it with flying colors. We arrived at the hospital at 7 a.m., got him checked in, the paperwork completed, and they got him prepped and on the gurney. They wheeled him out and I was left to wait in the waiting room. The surgical nurse took my cell number and said she would call from the operating room to give me updates. Her name was Faith, which I took as a good omen.

They called me about 9:45 or so to let me know that they had opened his chest and retrieved the veins they would be grafting. After that, I didn't get another call until 11:45 or so. The time between calls was hard because I kept thinking that something had gone wrong and they were trying to fix it/waiting to tell me. I did a lot of praying in that waiting room. I breathed a sigh of relief when the call came around 11:45 telling me that things had gone well and they were closing him up.

I was beyond grateful that the hospital waiting room had free Wi-Fi service. It really helped to keep my mind off things and give me something to focus on, although my thoughts were never far from my Dad.

After the surgery, they took Dad to the SICU, which is the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. He was in so much pain, I felt terrible for him. The anesthesia was wearing off and he was in and out of consciousness. They removed the tube from his throat after a couple of hours and he started saying how much he hurt and that it had to get better because it could not get any worse. I wanted to cry. My Dad is not a big complainer about anything so if he was saying he was hurting, then he was really hurting! They gave him some meds and he drifted off to sleep. Thankfully, he doesn't remember any of the first few hours he was in recovery. I'm glad there are no memories of the pain.

The second day he was in the SICU, the left side of his jaw became numb and his face began swelling up. He looked like a chipmunk. The nurse said it was because of the air trapped in his chest that was moving up. Apparently, it's not uncommon after removing a chest tube for air to be trapped in the chest and to move into the face and get trapped there. They kept an eye on it. Speaking of eyes, Dad's left eye was swollen on the bottom and then the next day that had receded, but the eyelid was swollen. Poor guy couldn't win for losing as they say.

He was moved after a couple of days to a private room one floor down from the SICU. He continued to improve over the next few days, the swelling gradually going down. There was some concern about him retaining fluids so they gave him medication to deal with that. I stayed with him for several hours each day, then I would drive 30 miles back to his house for the evening. On Saturday, I decided to stay overnight with him in his room and that was an interesting experience. 

He had fallen asleep in the recliner chair in his room and prior to drifting off he said it was the most comfortable he had been since being admitted to the hospital. I didn't want to ask him to move of course so I slept in the bed. The nurses came in every hour on the hour it seemed and they thought I was him since I was sleeping in the bed. I understand why they thought that, but I got almost no sleep since I was constantly directing them to the chair all night. I went home on Sunday and napped. That helped.
 
Of course, we were wondering when Dad might be released. The cardiologist and the surgeon were having a disagreement about when they would release him. It was supposed to be the cardiologist's call and he wanted my dad to stay through Tuesday and possibly Wednesday because of the air in his chest. The surgeon was saying he could go home on Monday.

Anyway, Dad was finally released today with several prescriptions to pick up. We stopped by the store and got the meds, then it was time to go home. Dad is resting comfortably in his own bed right now and I am hoping he gets some good sleep tonight. He really needs that after being in the hospital for six days where rest is impossible.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

RanDAMNess


Random thoughts, ideas, and things that have recently occurred. I do not promise logical segues between any of these things:

The other day, I got in my car to go to my practicum site. As I got ready to start the car, I saw a rather furry and scary looking spider on the windshield. Because there was the glass barrier between the spider and I, I got an up close and personal look at its anatomy, eyes, etc. Fascinating and creepy at the same time. Now, I am not a person who suffers from arachnophobia, but I didn't want to drive with the spider on my windshield. I have a thing about animals of all kinds - I like to do what I can to keep them safe. 

So I got out of my car and looked on top of it for a small twig or something. My car gets parked under a tree so there is often a twig or something lying on the roof. What I saw on the roof was the shed skin of what looked like a praying mantis. WTF?? Creepy spider and praying mantis skin? Well, you do what you can. I don't even know if praying mantises shed skin, but whatever. I attempted to use the shed skin to scoot the spider away. The spider wasn't having it and ran down into my hood. Hey, I tried. Hopefully, it didn't get cooked by the engine.

My practicum supervisor has a reputation for leaving long, rambling voice mail messages telling the therapists/students what to do that day. We need to know what she wants, but these are long messages. Anyway, the other day, she left me the requisite long voice mail. About a minute later, she sent a text saying "Listen to voice mail." Uh. Yeah. I'll do that.

My dad is having bypass surgery today. Yesterday, we went to do pre-registration for him and I noticed that the TVs in the waiting room had the news channel on. It wasn't possible to change it as far as I could see. Seriously? People are there for heart issues, which is a stressful thing already and they have the news playing 24/7 in their waiting rooms? Well sure because more stress never hurt anyone. Maybe it's their way of making sure they stay in business.

And that is today's RanDAMNess.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Heartsick

Last Saturday, Aug. 7, I awoke to find six missed calls on my cell phone from my Dad. He lives in San Antonio, which is about four hours from me. He never calls me that many times in one day unless it's really important. He also left two text messages saying he was in the hospital and to call him. Of course, I did so.

The short version of the story is that he thought he'd been having gas pain, but it moved into his chest so his doctor sent him to the hospital to have an angiography. That showed blockages in his heart so on Tuesday, Aug. 24, he will undergo a quadruple heart bypass surgery.
This news was shocking in many ways. My father is overweight, but despite that he has always been healthy. He takes vitamins, he sees his doctor on schedule every year for checkups, he has colonoscopies and other medical tests done as needed according to the schedule his doctor gives him. He is not one of those men who will never see a doctor. He's diligent about his health needs.

He was supposed to have a colonoscopy today (Friday) so I had planned to come up on Wednesday so I'd be here to take him to and from the hospital for that. Because of the impending heart surgery, the colonoscopy was canceled, but I still came up and will stay through Monday when Dad and I will see his cardiologist. I brought Peanut with me, which has been very helpful for both Dad and me. She gives tons of doggy love whenever needed.

I will go back to Houston on Monday. On Saturday, Aug. 21, I have to be in Victoria for a mandatory psychology seminar. I thought I wouldn't have to drive there again, but then I got the e-mail about having to attend that seminar. Le sigh. Anyway, I will go from Victoria to my Dad's house in San Antonio and the surgery will take place the following Tuesday.

I will be staying with him for at least two weeks following the surgery. I am lucky in that I can take this time off from my practicum site and still get the needed hours. There is never a good time for this sort of thing to happen, but if it had to happen, now worked out well for me in terms of being able to be here and take care of my Dad.

I am scared and so is he, but I am reassuring him and my friends are reassuring me so that works out well. All prayers and good thoughts are appreciated. My Dad is not only my parent, but also a best friend, confidante, savior, comforter...I love him so much.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Off Road

I finished my classes this week, which means no more driving to Victoria twice a week! Over the course of the term, which is eight weeks long, I drove 4180 miles just going to school. The cost of gas was, well let's just say more than I might have liked it to be. I started thinking about buying a net and just driving out to the Gulf to collect some oil and make my own. I hear the Gulf has a lot of oil...

I have been pursuing my M.A. in Counseling Psychology since August 2007. In that time, I've had four semesters where I've had to drive to Victoria. It was always just once a week until this last semester, when I was doing it twice a week. The worst part of doing the drive twice a week was how wiped out I'd get. Driving to and from school on Mondays and Wednesdays and going to class would take up about eight hours. I had other things to do on those days as well so it made it very difficult. 

I was lucky that I was able to carpool with a friend so that I drove to her on Mondays (110 miles round-trip) and she drove the rest of the way (190 miles round-trip) and then I would drive the whole way on Wednesdays after picking her up. That helped a lot, but it would still wipe me out to be gone that long and then have to get up the next day and get things done. I would get home at midnight and just be exhausted.   

Now, that is done. I will have to drive to Victoria once this fall to take my comprehensive exam, which must be done on-site. I still have my practicum hours to complete for the summer term and then I will do a practicum in the fall and spring. That will finish the degree. WOO!! Looking forward to that.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Going loco, but sanity is around the corner!

Although I changed my schedule to try and make July easier, it has still been very difficult. I am sleep deprived and generally fatigued in all areas of life. August will be easier because I will be done with driving to Victoria twice a week for classes. I have three more classes, the last being August 2. I have enjoyed the class very much and I love my classmates, but I will be relieved to be able to stop driving and have that time free, not to mention saving a ton of money on gas.

I will continue my practicum through August, but I will have more time to spend at the hospital thanks to not having to go to class so I should be able to finish my summer hours quickly. I am hoping to have at least a one-week break between the end of my summer practicum and the start of the fall practicum. We shall see how that goes.

In the meantime, I am catching sleep where I can. Tonight, I took a three-hour nap. I just needed the sleep. It helped a lot. I will be up for the next few hours working on a paid project that I need to complete by tomorrow if possible, although I fear it may be Monday before it's in the shape I want it to be in. Once I have completed this project, I will have a major weight off my shoulders. Next week, I will be finishing up my practicum papers. Still crazy busy, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.