Category Archives: Life Lessons

Working on Me!

Admin Stairs - topThese are the stairs that I have mastered, twice a day.  There is a matching set at the other end of the parking lot that we circle three times to make up one mile.  It has not been easy and I huff and puff, but I have achieved some success. Around 20 pounds since Thanksgiving, 40 pounds in the last year.  That’s three dress sizes!  The last one is a little slower to come off.

It’s easy to do something for someone else, not so easy to be your own best friend.  Fitness is one of my goals for this year.  My weight was starting to signal early signs of medical problems ahead.  When your feet scream at you in pain by the end of the day, check your weight first.  My loving daughter let me know that one pound of fat can exert 7 pounds of pressure on just your knees.  No wonder my poor feet protested!

Seriously, diabetes and other medical problems run in my family and I am doing my best to beat the odds and avoid it all by eating right and exercising.  That means getting my weight down another 40 pounds.

While I’m at it, I’m working on my financial fitness as well.  Selling some stock, why was I keeping it anyway, some of it was a negative rate of return and some down in the 2% range.  I’ve kept the good performers and dumped the bad.  I have a new financial guy and he wants to manage all of it, but I’m a little on the cautious side.  I decided to compromise and keep my star performers, liquidate the bad actors and send the cash to him to invest.  He has one year to convince me he can handle my retirement money.  I can do about 5-7% on my own.  He was a little surprised when I told him that.  The money in my 401k was doing 3-4%, time to make some changes.  So I rolled the account out for him to handle it.

We all know that God has just two rules for us to live by, Love God, Love others.  That little rule that goes like this:  Love others as yourself.  Somehow we are able to lie to ourselves that we are doing good by giving away all our time.  Giving all your time to a cause, even to your family, is not a good thing.  Balance is a good thing.  If you do not spend the appropriate time taking care of yourself first, the quality of the remaining time degrades.  It is not giving your best to others.  Spending an hour on fitness at least 3 times a week keeps you healthy.  You are able to give to others a rested healthy persons time as opposed to a tired, run down and possibly sick persons time.

I’m sleeping through the night for the first time in my life.  No more sleepwalking, RLS and insomnia.  They finally figured it out; after a lifetime of extremely low REM sleep waking up felt like I was swimming through mud.  I am so grateful that they did since I have much more energy and as a result, I can exercise more and get in shape!

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Filed under Fitness, Inspiration, Life Lessons

My Brain is Broken – Why RLS?

I’ve always had what my mom called the wearies.  Even as a child I would shake my legs to fall asleep.  I remember my cousin shaking her whole body to get to sleep.  This was more normal than not in my family, so why would I question it?

I’m getting ready to retire in a few years so a round of medical appointments and routine screening.  My generalist was not happy with the non specific pain in my legs and my chronic exhaustion.  He sent me to a neurologist.  What seems like a million questions later and his diagnosis, broken brain.  Actually, low dopamine levels.  Just talking about my history of sleep walking, sleeping a few hours a night, waking up and trying to fall back to sleep resulted in almost no sleep night before last.  I’ve started on a very low dose of a drug given to RLS and Parkinson’s sufferers.  It’s so low that I didn’t expect to really notice any difference.  I managed to sleep approximately six hours straight through and was able to get out of bed before the third alarm went off.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still exhausted.  Just much less exhausted.  I’m hopeful that I will someday soon wake up rested and wonder at the experience.  Just think how much Mrs. Winchester could get done if the hammer didn’t feel like it weighed a ton and I could keep my eyes open!

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Filed under Homeowner, Life Lessons, Medical

Don’t Wait to Say You Care!

life-handle-with-care

A friend of mine recently posted some wonderful family photos on FB. I miss her, we grew up together and her Mr. Man took her to the opposite coast. They have had a wonderful life as far away from tragedy they could get and still be in the United States. Her FB photos of her handsome grandson triggered nightmares for me. I’m writing this post to try to exorcise the negativity and avoid stress eating my lunch. My nightmares centered on the dichotomy of the following paragraph. I’ll try not to be in too much of a rant in the following comments.

My friend’s father is the reason that I am a Christian.  Mr. P. was the kindest man I had met growing up.  He demonstrated his kindness as a Christ follower in ways that the rest of us aspire to in more flawed ways.  (So glad I don’t have to work my way into heaven!)  He was a loving father, husband and son.  He served his fellow man in all the ways he could.  Isn’t there always a “but” with humans?  But, he suffered from multiple personality disorder.  We never knew until a horrible thing happened.  He was tried and convicted of the horrible thing and went to jail, never remembering the horrible thing that Jack did.  It left Mr. P. a broken man to think he did this horrible thing and a week of this life was forgotten. What was left was a soul shattered life missing important pieces.

Fast forward to this morning: My co-worker brought her coffee cup into my office today and expounded on the self-centered nature of drivers. On and on she went as if she had saved up all her words to use on this one subject. I agree that we have become a self-centered and sometimes narcissist culture. My co-worker was upset because a vehicle was slow moving, often at erratic speeds. Her niece was driving, yelling at the man, her 18 year old friend in the back seat flipped him off as they passed. My co-workers concern was for possible retaliation, not that the driver might be impaired or the young adults need some anger management and road rage training.

The nightmare, still fresh in my mind, of Mr. P. driving around for a week before being picked up by the police stumbling, hungry, dehydrated and incoherent, rambling as one of his lesser personalities asserted himself. What if Mr. P. had been that erratic driver? What if it was one of my military heroes who suffer daily with PTS? There is a host of mental illness, medical conditions, grief and stress that could result in an erratic speed, not just distracted driving or a jerk driving as a self-appointed traffic monitor . Caution should be a virtue practiced at all times. I tend to practice the negative form of caution, cynicism. Either would have worked, as well as a touch of empathy, during this driver training exercise between my co-worker and her niece.

I have driven at erratic speeds, appearing fine to the world, while grief was crushing my chest like a 500 lb. weight. I would give much to say thank you to Mr. P. for all his kindness and unconditional love to an awkward young girl. I would give even more to erase the horrible thing from their lives. I would trade the rest of my life to be able to be with my beloved. The opportunity is gone. I must wait until my time to see Jesus is due and then I can see them all again. I grieve words not spoken, the road not taken.

Tell your loved ones you care, not only that you love them, but that you care about them. Give them a hug! Cut people some slack and eliminate provoking behavior from your daily life. How much better would this life be if we didn’t swear at each other, call names or gesture obscenely? Consider how you can improve the quality of your life in how you conduct yourself. Dare to care for the human race by being kind!

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Filed under Grief, Inspiration, Life Lessons, Marriage, PTSD

Anxious Much?

I was raised by a bitical woman (bitter + critical = bitical).  That explains where I learned to fail so well but it does not explain why, equipped with this knowledge, I can’t seem to shake it off.  I ended the relationships that were so toxic and damaging to me completely when my beloved died and they (plural) saw it as an opportunity to attack me personally when I was at my lowest.  I had all but ended relationships with them before but, without my beloved protector and personal encourager, it was no longer possible to have contact with them.  That is their problem, my problem remains but is different.

I set wonderful goals with appropriate steps to complete them; good time frames and even plan outside influences to create my success.  I have great technical plans and then I fail to follow through until completion.  My big girl pants just don’t seem to stay on as long as I need them to.  I shoot myself in the foot on a regular basis and when I get close to the goal line, I fail to finish.  I have volumes of stories that have never seen the light of day. This blog is the first time I have freely let my words leave without rushing to pull them back and protect them from harm.  It is a learning experience for me and, perhaps because I have so few followers, I’ve been able to let it go and be myself.

NaNoWriMo has been a great experience for me to “turn off my inner editor” which is really a technical writer and the child of bitterness.  Coaching others to complete the 50,000 word count has helped me grow and throw out my inner bitical critic. Seven years as a staff volunteer for the San Francisco Writers Conference has provided me with healing encouragement and hundreds of success stories and relationships with people who are happy to see me when I walk into the room.

To stretch those new confidence muscles even more, I have started my own critique group and am going to submit two short stories for publication in an anthology.  It is not so important that I get accepted for publication as it is I actually submit it.  I sent one of the stories to a beta reader.  Not just any beta reader but, one I consider to be a true American hero.  He served as an Army Ranger and later as an undercover police officer.  He gave much for his country, including the life of his mother when his cover was blown.  He is quiet, humble and extremely smart.  The story deals with PTSD, a subject he is an expert on.  I highly value his opinion.

I sent the story to my friend yesterday at 5:00 p.m. and was awake most of the night.  My anxiety level was sky high.  I expected one of two things; he would read it and politely say little or nothing or attack it with a full offensive.  Neither happened.  The time stamp was 10:27 p.m. the same day and he liked it!  His wife liked it! He gave me 12 suggestions (some I should have caught if I wasn’t so anxious).

It is time for me to succeed!  I have awesome friends and an awesome God!  Now Tessa, let it go and get it done.

Worry for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

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Filed under All Things Crafty, Grief, Homeowner, Life Lessons, SFWC, Writing

Bitter Fruit – Introducing – the Limequat

Limequats

Limequats

The Limequat tree is a cross between a Lime and a Kumquat or so I have been told. Why? The fruit is so bitter that it will numb your mouth, your tongue or any other mucus membrane it touches on its way down to your stomach. If you don’t throw up first. Just nasty. I have found no known use for this prolific fruit.

Contrast that with the very sweet fruit I tasted on my trip to Italy. I was very impressed with the community in Sant’ Orsola, when I visited with family a few years ago. It was my only trip, so far, and I loved it! I was loved and accepted unconditionally and it was a bit overwhelming at first. It was a happy discovery! My cousin, Paolina, and I walked through the town and up the hill on the paved road. She speaks no English and I speak very bad German and even worse Italian. She speaks Italian, Mochini and some German. It was fun to communicate with each other as she pointed out different things and gave me the Italian or Mochini words.

What was the most surprising is how the community reinvented itself to revive the economy. They have a thriving tourist economy, host sports events, and grow fruit, one among the many different types is Lemons. Yes, Lemons in the Alps. I was there during the summer but I could see the structure around the trees ready for the sheeting that would turn that section of the valley into an enormous greenhouse. Not sure how they handled the snow?

My California yard should be able to grow just about anything. I have a pretty little tree that produces fruit like crazy. The only problem is I have not been able to find a single use for the fruit.   A co-worker didn’t believe me so I brought some in. He tried it, only to spit it quickly into the trash and say; that’s just nasty! I told him it was.

So the nasty tree is at the bottom of my epic to do list. The list was at 75 items at the time of my beloved’s death and I have managed to whack it down to 34. The easy stuff is done, can I call the list nasty? It is certainly bitter that my beloved is not here to partner with me in finishing the list but, I am vigilant not to become bitter. I keep telling myself that I can’t retire until the list is completed It’s the journey not the destination, right! At this pace I will be 75 when that happens as I keep adding to it almost as fast as I complete items. Sigh! When is my next vacation day?

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Filed under Garden, Grief, Life Lessons, Projects, Urban Farming

Modern Day Shunning

We seem to be fascinated with the Amish in today’s society.  Breaking Amish is a popular reality TV show.  Why are we so curious about a people that not only dislike but generally refuse to be interviewed or photographed?  Is it just the unknown that attracts us?  The individuals I spoke to all commented on the ridged, inflexibility of the lives of the Amish and their harsh penalties.  My in-laws came from Amish and Mennonite stock so I have a slightly different take on those harsh penalties.  I am by no means an expert but will try my best to draw a parallel that is flawed and incomplete.

What others consider harsh is, in part, just life.  You are never far from a natural disaster when you live extremely close to nature.  Drought, fire, flood, pests (you get the idea) can descend on your home, crops and way of life rendering you helpless.  The time to prepare is before the natural event.  You prepare for the off-seasons when you can’t grow your food by setting aside for it.  This is a way of life for the Amish; they set aside for the winters, for a slow or no growing season.  They set aside to provide for themselves as well as for their children, livestock and even a little bit more for their neighbors.  They are extremely hard working people and like any group of people there will be an extremist. The strict attention to providing for themselves without outside aid is often misinterpreted as harsh.  It is not harsh but a chosen way of life, each child is given plenty of time to consider and make that choice before joining the church.  The television “stars” that have joined the church and are now “breaking free”, are pursuing something similar to a divorce.  The commitment was made and then broken.   My in-laws chose to leave the community when their approved time to choose arrived.  They were not shunned but the chosen way of life set them apart from the friends they grew up with.  All Amish are given the choice.  Not all outside the Amish community are given choices.

Then there is the shunning, what’s that all about?  The shunning is to protect their way of life.  If you join the church and then break with it, you are usually shunned because you have broken one of their most sacred commitments.  It is a matter of trust.  If you don’t join the church, the shunning doesn’t always happen.  You are not included in many of the “church” activities but the harsher shunning is not automatic.  Social opportunities are limited because they usually occur within the church but the level of shunning is up to the local leaders.

Contrast this with the modern high-tech world.  You wouldn’t think our society practices shunning, right?  Well, we do, and we do it big!  Social media is the preferred method of communication for many young people and the young at heart.  I even have four social media accounts.  Almost everyone has a smart cell phone these days.  How do you communicate?  Do you sit down and linger over a cup of coffee, spend the evening at a friend’s house for dinner, dessert and a few hours of conversation?  Plan a shopping trip for the new season of fashion?  Probably not?

We are fast paced, hurry, leave a message, post a status so you don’t have to tell everyone individually and generally rush through life.  How quick are people to defriend, block and remove from social media people they would never openly tell them they are doing it?  This is modern day shunning.

Vaugebooking is the disturbing passive aggressive practice of withholding information in an extremely immature way in order to elicit attention and sympathy.

From the internet:

“Today has gotten the best of me. I’m just not feeling it. Some people just don’t understand how their actions affect others. Signing off now.” What do you think, hide them from your newsfeed or full out shun them?  Do they need help or are you enabling sick behavior?  Is it your job to see to their mental health?  Are you your brother’s keeper?  Is this a friend in a face to face relationship? Perhaps it would be best to not feed the bear and ignore vaguebooking by refusing to ask the questions the author is trolling for.  If it is a friend, then you have a phone number to use.

I assert that lasting relationships are intentional and love is not a just a noun but a verb.  My best friend has already retired, yet she is intentional in keeping our friendship alive.  Today, we have a lunch planned.  She will pick me up in front of my office building and whisk me away for a few minutes of catch up, food and laughter.  When my beloved died, she paid a bridge toll and drove the 30 minutes to my house every day for a month.  We send emails; have regular phone calls and the occasional outing or lunch.  It is intentional and Facebook is not where our friendship is maintained.

Social Media is a euphemism for a relationship.  It looks and feels like shunning from real relationships because it is popular but, as time progress and you find yourself needing a friend with skin on, will your thousands of “friends” be there?  When you call for help because you have fallen in life, who will come?  Who have you invested in?

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Filed under Life Lessons, Social Media, Writing

Broken

system failure

I haven’t posted in a few months and have spent my energy recovering after mono and strep.  I am back to work and have built up enough stamina to do one or two activities after I get home.  I take care of the fur and feather needs, my own nutrition and then try to lay some more flooring.  I usually manage two or three rows of boards before something starts to ache or I just run out of energy. I’m tackling 1,300 sq. ft. of flooring one row at a time! It will get done just not fast!  I have not planted a single vegetable in the garden either.

While my body may be slightly worn down, my heart is absolutely broken.  I cannot help someone who does not see the problem and we all know that “fixing” someone else’s problems is at best hypocritical and condescending and is not healthy behavior.  I do not want the responsibility for controlling or making someone else’s choices.  That being said, I cannot keep the tears from falling.

I have met a young mother of three, I will name her Phoenix here.  Phoenix comes from the most heartbreaking childhood that was splashed across inter-national media when the details became known.  Both of her biological parents are now in jail, her mother for at least 15 years and her father on consecutive life sentences.  I am grateful they are out of their now adult children’s lives but the terror and havoc they wrecked still continues as it is ingrained into their very DNA after so many years of continual abuse.  Because all of the victims involved are “aged out” and poor, they have exhausted all social services has to offer.

The father of Phoenix’s three children also comes from an extremely dysfunctional home that barely borders on legal behavior.  Phoenix looks to me as a mom figure because we are both domestic violence survivors.  I have made my own personal success my revenge and for years my mantra was “living well is the best revenge”.  I caught on early in my recovery days that getting even or snarky would only further hurt me and not the person I wanted to hurt.  I let it go, it was squealing like a piglet when I let go, but I was able to do it.

Phoenix has been to counseling, she has overcome so much.  But, this family is trapped in an economic cycle of poverty.  It is like trying to scale the wall of the Grand Canyon without climbing gear.  She doesn’t even know she can climb much less what a carabiner, harness, belay or an ascender is.  Telling her she can climb makes no impact on her.  Opportunities have presented themselves to her in the last few weeks but she does not take advantage of them.  Phoenix professes she is not afraid of the opportunities, just not interested.  She does not see a better way of life for herself and her family.

You have heard of the Stockholm Syndrome where the captive begins to love the captor.  Similarly, Phoenix is trapped in extreme poverty and poor living conditions because she cannot see the opportunities or where it will take her.  Where she is at now is better than before.  She passes on opportunities because she cannot see how they will benefit her future and presents indifference to the world.  It is possible that she just does not believe she could be successful and it may even be mixed up with some survivor guilt.  It would take a full time team of psychologists to unravel this depth of damage.

At times like this, I truly miss my beloved.  He understood this so well.  He came from this type of horror but moved past it.  He loved me in spite of my own past. He would know what to say to comfort as well as to motivate someone to invest in themselves.  He could convince people into believing in themselves because he could share his own story in a way that gave them hope.

Please pray for me as I make myself available to Phoenix when and if she ever decides to take the next step.  Please pray for Phoenix, her partner and their three children.  Pray that I will remember to love her in a healthy way in the hope that she will someday see better choices and opportunities.

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Filed under Family Times, Foster, Grief, Life Lessons

Mortality

Sorry for the break in posts. A few weeks ago I was arguing with God about my own mortality. The two men I have loved most in this world and who loved me, mostly unconditionally, have gone to be with their maker. (my Dad and my Beloved) I do not fear death, I do not seek it, but the fear is in the how and not the why or when. I have been very ill and the rampant infection in my throat threatened to completely close off my ability to breathe. Three trips to the emergency, $1,500.00 in co-pays, several prescriptions and a lot of sleep later, I am on the road to recovery.
Obviously, God did not see any validity in my arguments to just take me now. I have a fire insurance policy (that pre-paid free salvation plan provided by Jesus). I have a high tolerance for pain but, this was beyond my ability to handle.
I have a new understanding for the folks in my life that suffer with chronic pain. It takes a very special person to be able to function with constant severe pain.
My remodeling efforts have been put mostly on hold until I can build my immune system and stamina back up. About all I manage day to day is taking care of my own basic needs, tending the chickens (picking up the eggs) and the cats. Thank heavens the bee’s can take care of themselves for a few weeks, I’m praying the wax moths died out in the drought and won’t find them!
I wanted to finish up the cement work out front and end the mudworks. I’m 1/3 of the way through preparing the first floor for new hardwood flooring. The patio needs to be torn up (overhead is causing water damage to the wall and the cement is all cracked). I need two windows replaced and the eves cut back (head bangers). Oh, and the drainage pipe is plugged about 20′ in. That is a must before heavy rains. I guess God wants me to finish up some of these projects before I’m done with this temporary home. My daughter certainly votes for the finish category! I’m thinking broke just writing this list.
I have to constantly do something; it’s hard for me to sit still, even if I need to in order to get better. This week my main agenda will be paper destruction. Those little piles of paper that seem to collect everywhere in my house. I swear they mate and reproduce at night!

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Filed under Grief, Life Lessons