Uncomfortable? Think of Other Guy

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An old Scottish pastor, upon hearing I have Bipolar disorder, asked me what it felt like. I’d never really had anyone ask me what it “felt like.” I’m not sure there are words for it. But, pictured here is what it  looks like.  I have been stable with medication for a while. But, I painted these two examples of what bipolar is and what it feels like only yesterday. “But,” you may be thinking, “You just said you were stable.” Well, see that’s the whole thing about bipolar.

Bipolar means manic depression. Some folks may be more depressed – some more manic. And still more may be mixed-yep, depressed AND manic at the same time.  And that’s where it gets complicated. That’s when there are no words to describe it because iit all becomes too much. Too many feelings racing through my head, too many things that irritate and agitate me- too much noise, too much frustration- just too much. Overwhelming sadness, overwhelming hyperactive behaviour- all at once. Organizing, cleaning, music, laughter, crying- all symptoms of mania.

Overwhelming, crippling sadness, the inability to get out of bed, the inability to care, the inability to move.The tears, the screaming, both in my head and out of my mouth.

A call to my doctor decreases a med here and maybe add a med there. An atypical anti psychotic, she says. “I don’t want to if i can get away from it,” I say.” It makes me feel flat, takes away my imagination, my ability to write, communicate and paint. My creativity gone- in one fell swoop. That is why folks diagnosed with bipolar don’t stay on the meds they are prescribed. Ridiculously expensive and highly effective as far as curbing the feelings, non-feelings, voices, weird behaviour and activity, they come with a bevy of side effects not the least of which is flat affect or no real feelings at all. More of a numbness. So, the plight of the mentally ill  is basically too many feelings, thoughts and more or none.

I have a wonderful psychiatrist who has worked with me for long about 20 years or more now and my therapist is so in tune to the cycles in my mind. She can usually help me ward them off before they actually come to the surface. I waited too long to go see her this time. I’ll know better next time.

Mental illness is debilitating at best. I have tried to use words to describe what happens- what goes on- but it is difficult helping a non-mentally ill person sort it out. The triggers that set a mentally ill person off may be nothing to someone else. That is why it is so difficult to understand and so difficult to relate to. It is like folks say, ” Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not a disease.”

People are sometimes not nice to people like me. I don’t really have that problem since i’ve been stable. But, just let me cycle- let me go manic or depressed and then some people think “pulling myself up by my bootstraps ” should do the job. Righty-o. Please try to have patience, empathy and if nothing more than a modicum of understanding if you see someone on the streets talking to themselves, making gestures to no one in particular. If you think it is uncomfortable for you- imagine what it is for us.

And the Water Turned to Wine

Wedding at The Gathering
Wedding at The Gathering

 

My husband and I worship in downtown Dallas – Thanksgiving Square on Ervay and Pacific . We call it The Gathering. It is a service meant for the unhoused as well as housed folks. So, that means anyone can come to it.  Kind of interesting how we got involved in this mission. 

The church we helped start in Royse City had just merged with another church out in Caddo Mills. Caddo Mills is not all the far, but we felt God was calling us to do something else. We were not sure what, but it was something we prayed about and talked about. One day in late August, Stephen asked if I’d ever heard of a church called The Gathering sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese for the unhoused people of Dallas. I had not heard of it, but it piqued my interest. So, the following Sunday, we visited . Our lives have not been the same since that day.

I am not sure what I expected, but what I witnessed was the most amazing thing. I watched people,with little to no material things, worshipping the Lord- raising their hands , thanking God for everything they had- for life, for the chance to worship. I was humbled. Here I was, a housed person- a person who had grown up with ‘things’ , a person who didn’t take the time to thank God for my life, for what I had, for the little things I had experienced. I didn’t thank God for the ability to go to the doctor, the dentist, to buy a Dr. Pepper or a sandwich. I was so ashamed.

I never felt unwelcome. I felt loved and I felt immediately part of something bigger than any of us knew. I hugged and was hugged. I loved and was loved. I felt at home. I was home. I’d found my place in this world with the unlikeliest people in the world. Turns out God has a great sense of humour. 

It has almost been a year since we began going to The Gathering. I was blessed to meet Jim Webb, the founder- whose dream it was to have a church without walls for the housed and unhoused people of Dallas. I am sad to say he lost his battle with cancer not long ago. Father Charlie Keen is the pastor, Tom Hauser, Lyn Burgess and others who are just as important, but names escape me at the moment. 

Rev. Charles Keen listens while the Word of the Lord is being read.
Rev. Charles Keen listens while the Word of the Lord is being read. He wears his tee shirt “The Church has Left the Building.”

Today was the first wedding held at The Gathering- Nikki and James. They’ve been together for a while and wanted to make it a lifetime. They are perfect together. Funny thing- turns out my daughter, Amanda, went to school with Nikki . It also turned out Nikki was from my hometown of Richardson. Small, small world we live in.  Nikki made the most beautiful bride and James , a handsome groom. The love was evident in the way they looked at each other. 

Once , at a wedding in Canaan, Jesus turned the water into wine. He did it again in downtown Dallas today – at Nikki and James wedding at The Gathering. Thank you Jesus!

 

for more information about The Gathering, check out these resources:

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/park-cities/headlines/20140110-dallas-homeless-find-place-to-worship-in-thanks-giving-square.ece

http://www.transfiguration.net/1118/the-gathering

Labor of Love

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Last night, after I wrote my blog, I was pretty tired and decided to go to bed. It  was a bit late- not too bad though. I crawled in bed and watched all my late night shows. Stephen, by now , had been sleeping soundly for a while. His steady breathing, rhythmic, his snoring… well, loud. 

We had brought our pregnant dog in the house earlier that morning after noticing she was separating herself from the other two outside dogs -even snapping at them when they came near. I had a feeling it may be time for her to deliver, although we hadn’t even realized she was expecting except for the ever filling teats she had been recently displaying. 

She slept in the laundry room, in her crate, quietly all day. Stephen let her out just before bed and let her stay in the bedroom. Well, we really had no choice after she scrunched under our bed and proceeded to carry on a little conversation with me in order to inform me it was about time for her to deliver. Soon after she quieted down, I thought I’d heard a little squeeking sound, but couldn’t believe it had been that fast for her first puppy to come. Pretty soon, I got up to look, poking Stephen and hollering, “We’ve got a puppy!!” Twig is an off white Pyrenes/Shepherd mix and this first puppy was jet black. Interesting- interesting indeed. We had seen a black dog earlier, but neither of us recognized it. It had a red collar, but could it be the dad? We just didn’t know.

Next, came a kind of mottled puppy , a blonde, three off white puppies like her and her brother and sister (whom we own as well), a gray puppy and another black one. Eight puppies? Where the heck had she hidden them? She didn’t look pregnant at all. Especially with eight puppies.

I’ve owned a lot of dogs, but have never had the opportunity to see any puppies born.It’s such an amazing process. Of course, I couldn’t help but think about God while Twig was delivering her little litter. The little puppies were delivered in a bag of sorts and Twig would lick the bag off- giving her puppies the “kiss of life.” God does that for us when we are born into our family of origin and again when we are reborn into His family. We have life already, and when  we join God’s family, we have life more abundantly and everlastingly. 

After joining in the family of God, it is our job to sort out how our own lives can bless God and bless others. Being nice to each other is helpful, but is it enough? I don’t think so. I feel like it is my job to make my life sing God’s praises. Anything I do is because God has given me the ability to do it. Left to my own devices, I know I would fall short of His expectations. I love that everyday God breathes new life into our bodies, opens our eyes to new opportunities to show His love through our actions, words and deeds.  Is that what you love in your life? Do you love to find something new God has in store for you? He may well take you out of your comfort zone. He has definitely done that for me. The funniest thing happened when he did- I felt more comfort than I ever had before! Hope you do too!

Relaxation? For Me it is.

My husband and I adopted two horses from a rescue in  Rockwall, Texas a few months ago. We already have 6 donkeys, lots of dogs, 2 inside cats, a barn cat and her unofficial friend, and 4 hens.

Some people wonder why anyone would want so many animals. My question is why wouldn’t anyone want as many animals as they could have?  I have always loved animals- really any kind of animals. Heck, we even have coyotes in the woods behind us. One day one was in my yard looking for food. What  a beautiful animal she was. But,she was starving and a  mama at that. I did not occur to me it was a coyote until I realized how scared she was. Coyotes are intensely afraid of humans. In fact, the only time they come out in the day is if they are hungry or sick. She finally scampered off, too afraid to take the food I offered her. I can honestly say I have only been afraid of one animal. A boxer. I was jumped by a boxer when I was a little girl and I’ve been afraid of them ever since. I’ve never gotten close enough to another one to resolve my fear. Maybe one day.

My husband, Stephen, used to be the one to feed the donkeys . He also fed Prince, the barn dog and Barn Cat. I thought the object of having a barn cat was to eat the rats, but I was mistaken. I took care of the inside animals…until… we adopted Licorice, the Tennessee Walking Horse and Houdini, the miniature horse.  They changed my life … and my mind.

I wake up about seven in the morning and begin feeding the animals before tasting my morning coffee. I feed the donkeys, the horses, water all animals, check for eggs, wash out the henhouse and freshen the water kept for the dogs. Then I just go about my day. I don’t mind waiting a while for my coffee. Most days, the animals start my day off perfectly, so no worries.

I go about the day, cleaning here and there, maybe folding clothes – maybe doing nothing, if I choose. At one o’clock, I watch General Hospital-  a show I’ve watched for over 50 years. Yep, I’m a charter member of the club. At four o’clock, I’m in for an hour of Judge Judy. Judge Judy is my hero! She says what she means and means what she says and that’s something these days. After Judge Judy- feeding time.

I’ve really gotten to where I love this time with my animals. Since Houdini is a bit heavy for a miniature horse, he only gets grass or hay , but I must tie him up while Licorice eats pellets because he loves to eat her food. She is a feisty 22 year old horse and needs to have the additional pellets to keep the weight on. While she eats, I go feed Bambi, who has just become a mama donkey for the second time. The other donkeys get hay – pellets in the morning, but not so they become overweight. It is never good to have an overweight donkey. After I feeding everyone, I sit in the pastures , watching Licorice eat.

Licorice has a funny little ritual during feeding time. When I bring her food, she waits at the gate, nickering- welcoming me – the food. She turns circles at the gate until I whisper gently, “Back girl- get back.” She backs off from the gate while I open it and set the food down. She dives in, nosing some of the food out of the bowl, and stomping her right leg. Pawing the ground, she eats her food quickly. She is not a dominant horse and she will walk off if Houdini say, were to walk up behind her. She is much larger than he, but he’ll get her food.  I sit in my lawn chair and marvel at this animal. She is majestic.

After eating, Licorice saunters over to the salt block, and licks for a good two minutes before she gets a long drink of water. Back to the salt lick, and back to the water. She eats a little grass and then comes to my chair for a pet on her brow as if to thank me for feeding her.

So, the truth of the matter is that my afternoon ritual

Houdini
Houdini
sweet Licorice
sweet Licorice

especially, is the most relaxing part of the day. There is nothing quite like sitting in the pasture, hot wind blowing in my hair, watching my animals being nourished with food while I am being nourished by God.

Telephone Etiquette? Say What?

One of the things my mother taught me was telephone etiquette. Remember, when answering and talking on the phone owned it’s own set of rules? I am not sure parents teach their kids that kind of stuff anymore. For one thing, it’s not really a top priority- not something we think about now. Most younger people would rather text than talk . Not me. I can type fairly quickly on the computer or typewriter (remember those?), but  a phone is too small and my fingers are too fat. Especially my thumb. Who are these folks whose thumbs can go 90 to nothing texting ? 

Nope. I’d rather call someone . It’s easier for me to dial a number and run my mouth for a few minutes or more. Not only is it easier, it’s faster. “State your business and get off,” is my husband, Stephen’s, motto. He talked on the phone all day, every day for a living. So, he never liked talking on the phone. As I remember (and quite fondly, I might add), he never liked talking on the phone. But, I digress.

Some kids I grew up with were taught to answer the phone thusly: “SoandSoResidence?”  At our house, a polite, “hello?” did the job just fine. After the person stated who they would like to speak to, one was to answer, “just a minute,please.”  Of course, after that, we kids screamed, “SoandSo!!!!! it’s for you!!!!!!” We knew better, but no one wanted to take the time to actually go get the designated person. 

I have to say though, my biggest pet peeve is for someone to call me and then talk to someone else in the background. Have you ever had that happen?  I’m in the middle of a conversation and suddenly, the person I’m talking to is mumbling and I can hear someone mumbling back. “Sorry? What did you say? Are you talking to me or somebody else? Didn’t you call me? ”  Pregnant pause. “Can you hear me? Who are you talking to? ” 

phone

My daughter, Amanda, is the world’s worst! Oh my gosh! I taught her phone etiquette, but, maybe she was busy or tuned me out during the lesson. She’s good at tuning me out when she wants to. Obviously! She does it when she calls me! Okay, I might exaggerate a little- not much, though! I do tend to get quite frustrated though because I don’t want to listen to anyone talk to someone who is sitting right there. The other person knows the caller is on the phone, but seemingly doesn’t care. Or, it could be they are just nosy and want to horn in on the call.  

So, for those of you who are guilty of this mortal sin , stop it now! Finish your convos with the folks in the room with you before you make a call to – say – your mother, grandmother or any older person (who knows there is a sort of etiquette that should be followed). We are old. We get confused. Talking to someone else while we are hanging on the line really is kinda rude, crude and socially unacceptable. 

 

 

 

 

Comic Books- Man, Times are a Changin’ – Just my opinion.

I just read a news report- news, mind you, that Archie Andrews, of Archie, Veronica, Betty and Reggie fame, in the comic books, don’tcha know, is fixing to be killed off by a bullet meant for his gay friend , Kevin. Really? It seems the comic book wants to use real social issues as a way to show Archie’s character. Archie would do anything for his friends and this is one way to prove it. Gimme a break.

I read Archie comic books all the time as a kid- a teenager. A comic book was fun to read, an escape of sorts. Some kids have never even heard of a comic book, but I have to let it slip that even one of my sons read the Archie Digest (pronounced dee guest in his little world). 

As a teenager, most of the girls I knew who read Archie comics would chose either Betty or Veronica as the favorite girl- the one she would most like to be . For me, it was hard to choose because Veronica was the epitome of every girl’s dream- dark, mysterious, sexy , beautiful. But, Betty was really the girl next door. She had that innocent quality about her that Veronica didn’t really have. Veronica’s family had money and she knew how to get her way. Betty, though, just seemed real. Believable. Then there were the guys in the comic. Archie, the do-gooder – red hair and freckles. Not really my type, but I could deal. Jughead, the goof, in my opinion. Not the kind of guy I liked. Reggie, the bratty, wealthy dude- too stuffy. These were the characters I knew well and loved anyway. I could dissolve into their world in an instant. It was a comic book, for heaven’s sake.

I thought comic books were supposed to be- fun, entertaining, easily absorbed, something to do for a bit. I can’t imagine reading a comic book that also makes a social statement. I do not formally condone escape from the real world, but don’t you think it’s nice , just every now and then, to get away. I mean, after all, if you watch the news, it is gloom, doom, war, decay, shootings, protests etc and so on ad nauseum. 

I am not going to get involved with my feelings on being gay or any other social issue other than to say, I do not believe people should have to hear or read about or otherwise be exposed to them every minute of every day. I  know me. I would not read a comic book in which it addressed social issues. Just my take on what they were in my day and what they should be in this day and age. 

I love living in the real world with real issues , but escaping said world is something we all should do at one time or another. 

archie
Veronica, Archie and Betty

I’m going to jump on my horse from behind, yelling, “Hi Ho Licorice, Away!!!”

 

 

Anything for an Easy Life? Not Really, Thanks Though.

a young me
a young me

I’m one of those people who has done things the hard way all my life. If my parents said, “NO!”, I said, “YES!” and did whatever it was anyway. I could never take anyone’s word that  this + that would equal disaster. Somehow, I just knew if I did the thing, it would turn out like it should. But, it didn’t. Ever.

I was even a difficult baby. I had colic for three months. My mother said she walked the floor with me day and night, trying to keep me from screaming and crying. I was the kid who had stomach aches, headaches, was nauseated when someone else threw up in class and wanted to go home. (not sure if Mother came to get me or not that day).  I was the kid who could be playing “Witch” (chase), get caught, climb up on the doghouse (the jail) and fall off only to fracture her elbow  ending up in a cast for 6 weeks or so. I even had seizures. So, life has not been easy in many ways. Sure, I got everything and more that I asked for- I took tap and ballet lessons, piano and violin, participated in church programs – all that kind of stuff. But, inside, I often felt lonely, left out, afraid. No one ever “made” me feel that way- I just did.

As a teenager, I eloped, had a baby at 17, divorced at 18, lived with my parents, went to college, was suspended from college for a poor GPA and really just went my own way . Listening to anyone was not included in my lifestyle or agenda.I was a free spirit with my own ideas – some pretty far out! 

I think, looking back on it all, my feelings of insecurity, my lack of self confidence and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder were all contributing factors to my outright rebelliousness. I’m not going to say I was a bad kid- the bad seed- although I will say I was  the black sheep of the family. To me, even though I complicated my own life and those who lived with me by being so stubborn and independent in my thinking , in doing things my own way, it was a God-thing.

I wanted to test things – limits, patience, love, friendships, even God Himself. I pushed the envelope every chance I got, daring anyone to defy me. I wanted to know that those who loved me and cared for me really did. I was a little girl who was scared the people she loved would leave her. Some did. I found out it wasn’t the end of the world. The people who counted never left me- my family of origin, my husband, sons and daughter- stayed beside me always. No matter how far away I tried to be, they were there. In fact, I divorced my husband, Stephen in the ’90’s. He told me later, ” I felt God telling me not to see the person you were during this time, but to see you as His child.” So, he did. And he waited and loved me anyway- even though I had a boyfriend and lived 4 hours away. Even though we were apart for a couple of years, I felt him loving me every time we talked on the phone- every time my car was broken and he would drive down to Austin from Dallas just to fix it. I felt his love when he saw me on the weekends. We were truly terrible at being divorced. So, on Valentine’s Day 2000, Stephen asked our boys if it was okay if he asked me to marry him again. He did . I did . And I realize that this is the way God loves us. Even though we test Him, back away from Him, perhaps curse at Him, shaking our fists when things don’t go our way- God is still there for us, He still loves us.He waits to welcome us back into His fold. Isn’t that wonderful? 

My husband teases me, saying he’d do anything for an easy life. Me? I’m glad I tested the limits , thought on my own, went my own way… back to God. 

If your life isn’t easy- don’t wish for it to be so. You may miss something important-something like God’s blessings.

It’s Funny- Not Funny HaHa, Funny Odd

I have three children- 2 sons and 1 daughter.One of my sons, my youngest, Micah,  has Cystic Fibrosis. If you have never heard of Cystic Fibrosis, I would not be surprised. I’ll give you a quick  summary. Here goes:

We all have mucous in our bodies. “Normal” bodies have mucous that is thin and slippery and is throughout our bodies. A child with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) has mucous in his/her body that is very thick and sticky. When the mucous is thick and sticky, it clogs organs such as the lungs, the pancreas, the liver. A child sweats profusely, cannot digest food properly, does not usually gain weight well , gets  lung infections, pneumonia and the like often . The mucous, because it sticks to the lungs during infection causes the lungs to scar and the child or young adult to lose lung function. Some people with CF get lung transplants because of this. Some are too sick to transplant and some don’t want transplants. There is no cure as yet, although the medication breakthroughs have been tremendous of late. For many children and young adults (and occasionally old guys)- well, they die young. 

So, when Micah was diagnosed with CF at about 9 weeks of age, I had a lot to learn quickly. My schedule was busy  (remember, I had two older kids). So, Micah would wake very early in the morning ready to eat, but he had to have a breathing treatment first. Next, chest physiotherapy (CPT) (clapping his back, sides and chest 3-5 minutes a side) and then I had to make sure he got his applesauce (which hid digestive enzymes that were bitter tasting) before I gave him his bottle. His formula had been changed many times, but we finally became a test family for Good Start Formula before it went on the market in 1989 or so. While I was taking care of him, I was also getting breakfast for David and Mandi . Mandi was about 12 or so , so she could get her ownself ready for school. David watched “Zoobilee Zoo.”  Okay. After breakfast was naptime for him and an hour or so later, I’d start all over again. Most of the time, he had breathing treatments three times a day, but if he was sick, it could be as often as every two or three hours. 

Well, fast forward a few years. Micah is almost 26 years old! By all accounts, he should have died before he was one year old. God has had His hand on this boy all his life. He has lived 25 years longer than anyone thought he would (except us). The other day, while doing a breathing treatment, he coughed up some blood – not a good sign, we all thought. He wisely called the doctor and went in for a CT scan of his chest. 

Today, I received a call from him saying the doctor called and said he had a subtle pneumonia going on- so subtle that it was not seen on xray. I am so grateful God chose to bless Micah with that blood. No, I’m not some kind of crack pot. But, I know my son. Had blood not been a factor, Micah, as diligent as he is with his health, might have missed that he was not well and just carried on until the pneumonia got worse. As a result, he has only home IV’s to do instead of a 14 day hospital stay. 

Isn’t it funny how God chooses to get our attention? Thanks God!