Empowered Relationship

Okay, okay, this is a bit off the beaten path of this blog, but the core theme of this blog is ’empowerment’.  So, I’m stopping for a moment to talk about something near and dear to my heart–relationships.

Raising kids will do a number on your relationships.  It’s very hard work.  Gone are the days of putting dinner on hold and having sex anywhere you’d like.  There’s too much to do, not enough time, and relationships start to feel a lot more like a tax-paying corporate entity than what you dreamed about when you were young and watching “The Princess Bride” (or is that only me?).  Figuring out how to communicate in a way that’s effective rather than corrosive seems to be important not to mention remembering why you even embarked on such an absurd experiment in the first place! Men want to “fix it”, women just want to be heard, and, for the love of baby hamsters, whose freakin’ socks are these on the bathroom floor and why am I picking them up yet again? Ahem…

There is a common argument in my home.  Actually, we have two arguments, and I should just record them and play them at random times throughout the year because they are scripted! It annoys me to no end.  They go like this:

Argument I:

I’m tired of begging for sex.  Please…have sex with me.  My ego can’t take much more of this.

It’s not that I don’t want you…It’s just that….

(Don’t assume that the gender roles fit here.  You’d be surprised…)

Argument II:

I cleaned the kitchen.

Why didn’t you ask for help?

It needed cleaning.  I saw that it did.  So, I did it.

Well, sorry.  You should have asked for help if you had wanted help for that.

(Assume that the gender roles fit for this one.  I am The Cleaner in this scenario as I am in almost every other one.)

Argument I is and will continue to be a work in progress.  I suspect Argument I will not be resolved soon, and my self-esteem will be stuffed through the proverbial meat grinder for years to come.  Such is life in a longterm relationship.  That’s what Iron Man movies, erotica, chocolate, and my girlfriends are for.

Argument II, on the other hand, is something I finally figured out! I have been dealing with Argument II for a VERY long time.  After talking to my married-with-children girlfriends, I have learned that Argument II is also afoot in their homes as well.  It’s a problem.

Let’s break Argument II down.  Is there anything in Argument II that is worth taking note of? You bet.  Women often fail to ask for what they need or want.  They assume that their partner should “just know” based upon what? In my home, we call this a Theory of Mind Failure or ToMF–“You know what I’m thinking.”  Well, dudes don’t know what women are thinking, and we do need to communicate our wants, needs, likes, and dislikes using actual words rather than making weird faces, sighing loudly, rolling our eyes, and withholding sex to make a point.  What’s more, we need to practice being disappointed.  We are not always going to get our way even when we do communicate.

Would you please empty the dishwasher?

Well, I’m in the middle of something right now.  I can do it in an hour.

Okay…::inward sigh::

or

Would you like sexy rumpus later on?

No.

Okay…::inward sigh::

But, practicing asking for help or stepping out and asking for what you want are all better than being passive-aggressive or stewing silently because your partner isn’t a psychological Superman–“You were supposed to be able to see through my skull and read my mind, jackass!” As far as I know, Psychological Superman only exists in lady porn.  I digress…

pornForWomen0513

You read my mind…

Wherein lies the “fallacy” in Argument II? I’m going to call it personal responsibility.  My husband and I have been going round and round for close to two decades about this one, and I have had the hardest time putting words to how I feel when I am confronted by his statement: ” If you want help, then ask for it.”  Of course, what he says makes sense.  If I’m beginning a new project, trapped under something heavy, being attacked by a rabid squirrel, or having an allergic reaction, I would indeed need to ask for help.  I can’t assume that he would just know that I needed help.  But, what about a dirty kitchen or his children or a dirty bathroom that he uses or laundry to which he contributes or a yard that he owns or household maintenance on a home that he also owns? One either takes an adolescent stance and says, “Should I be helping you out with this?” or “What is my role in this since we are partners?” There is a huge difference between those questions.  The first implies passivity and a lack of a sense of ownership while the other implies collaboration and initiative.

Last night, my husband said he would clean the kitchen.  He was sitting next to the kitchen while I gave Grace and Milly their dinner and medication.  In order to put their dirty dishes away, I had to empty the dishwasher.  He was sitting right there not more than 15 feet away as this was going on.  I just continued talking to my children and cleaning up the kitchen because it needed to be done.  I am not my husband’s mother.  I am not here to say: “Darling, you said that you were going to clean the kitchen.  The kitchen needs to be cleaned now, don’t you think?”  It was 9 PM.  At what point did he think it was going to be an appropriate time to get down to business? He had been sitting at his laptop for two hours! I finished the kitchen, got Grace to bed, and told him the kitchen was done.

I said I would do it.  You should have asked for help.  When did you clean it?

You were sitting here the entire time I was doing it.  I even talked to you.

I wasn’t paying attention.

Well, here’s the thing.  I’m responsible for asking for help when I need it, but I’m not responsible for you.  I’m not responsible for whether or not you are paying attention.  i’m not responsible for whether or not you follow through or whether or not you are paying attention to the time.  That is not my job.  You don’t have a cognitive disability.  You know that the girls have a medication schedule.  You are their father, and you are the other responsible adult in this house.  I am not responsible for keeping you alert.  That is your job.  If you were my son, then it would be different.  But, you are not my son.  You are my husband.  Big difference.

You can imagine how that went over.  I wasn’t angry or even mean when I said it, but this has been one of the bigger issues between my husband and me.  He has been putting the responsibility for his behavior and choices on me and calling it “a failure to ask for help” when, in reality, it’s been a failure on his part to take the initiative in his role as father and husband.  This relational dynamic is very common.  Now that I have a response for it, I will be able to do something about it.  In partnerships where there are children with special needs, working out these dynamics is very important because there is often one parent who is the primary caregiver.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed and stressed.  When that happens, healthy and respectful communication can break down quickly.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not implying that I want this:

2884131572_92796377ed_z

or this…

9

or even this, but, I’ll admit that I’ve had fantasies…

porn-for-women-inside2

And, fine, I’m woman enough to admit that this turns me on…

funny-pictures-porn-for-women-10

At the end of the day, I don’t want my husband to be anyone other than who he is, but part of being in a relationship involves growth and maturity.  I am not who I was five years ago and nor should he be.  I can’t develop new skills while he remains stagnant.  This will cause overcompensation and emotional fatigue.  Change is actually a good thing, and we should always being evolving and developing as humans so that we continually bring something worthwhile to our relationships.  When one partner gets comfortable, depends upon the other to pick up the slack, and refuses to engage in their own process of development, then you end up with gridlock.

I strongly dislike gridlock, but gridlock is often necessary because the tremendous discomfort that it brings causes us to begin asking important questions like, “Why am I feeling like this?” and “Why have I never noticed that I hate the way he chews his food?”

Where do we go from here? Well, I do what I do.  I put things into perspective.  I will not engage in catastrophic thinking and blow anything out of proportion even though I wanted to slap my husband across the face last night for his blatant insouciance.  Take the high road, call up a girlfriend, vent, eat some chocolate, clean something, drink some coffee, clean something, go on a walk, clean something, look at something that makes me laugh, clean something, and, once I’ve got my head about me, engage The Husband.

It’s my process, and it works for me.

So…this is marriage.  It is what it is.  The Good, The Bad, The Annoying.  It’s also glorious at times, and my husband is actually a wonderful human.  He did bring me chocolate yesterday for no other reason other than because he thought I would like it.  See? If there can’t be sex or a clean kitchen, then let there be chocolate.  One out of three ain’t so bad…I guess (What am I saying? I’m dragging his ass to a psychiatrist and asking about Wellbutrin.  SSRIs are killer on the libido!)

Advertisements

The Case of The Mystery Invoice

I am posting this because I want everyone involved in caring for someone with any kind of disability or health condition to be empowered and knowledgeable.

So, what was the deal with that $700 bill we received yesterday?

Well, my husband made some phone calls in addition to me.  I don’t know who he called, but whatever he said motivated the physician behind the bill to call us this morning.

Enter Dr. Berry.  The phone rang before 9 AM, and my husband looked at the Caller ID.  A local hospital? Dr. Berry himself was on the line.  My husband was civil but direct: “Who are you? Why are you billing us? Did you treat my daughter when she was in the hospital? Why were we not notified of this when she was in the hospital since you were not a part of her care team? Did you produce a report? Where is that report? Why are you billing the wrong insurance company, and where did you get that information in the first place?”  It’s a good thing my husband has training in HIPAA.  He had his Data Security and Privacy Policy guns locked and loaded.

Dr. Berry was very…compliant and willing to be cross-examined.  He explained that Dr. Whiskey called him in as a consultant.  Is that right? Dr. Whiskey! He never told me that.  Shame on you, Dr. Whiskey.  You were supposed to keep me in the loop.  He also explained that he got whatever insurance information that he had off Grace’s chart.  Is that right? Poaching our insurance information off her chart? Did I sign a release for this? If there’s a report, I would like to see it.  He also explained that we should not have received a bill.  I should never have seen that $700 invoice.  Well, that’s all well and good, but I’m sort of glad I did.

What exactly goes on in these facilities?

I’m annoyed because the staff and psychiatrist that took care of Grace during her stay at the last inpatient facility claimed transparency.  I was never told of an outside consultant coming in and evaluating Grace.  I am not daft.  I understand that when a person is in the hospital all sorts of specialists have access to patients, but a specialty inpatient hospital such as the one where Grace stayed is not the same as a hospital.  What’s more, she’s a minor.  When she has labs scheduled, I have to sign off on them.  I have to sign off on practically everything that she does there.  So, if a doctor is brought in from the outside to evaluate her, then why wasn’t I told? And, if he generated a report, then why don’t I have a copy?

I understand that doctors are going to seek each other out concerning Grace.  She’s a zebra in a herd full of horses.  They want to talk to other clinicians who might have seen or even treated another zebra, but she’s also 12 years-old.  She is not a lab rat.  Just because she’s in the hospital doesn’t mean she can be subjected to evaluation upon evaluation to satisfy their curiosity or quash their insecurity.  They need to talk to me first or, at least, keep me in the loop.  Dr. Whiskey should have called me: “Hey, I’d like to get another opinion.”  I could have asked some questions like Why? From whom? What is their specialty? Her current psychiatrist is the department head of the only program in the state for children with psychotic disorders.  What exactly do you need a second opinion for? Her diagnosis or treating that diagnosis?

This is why many parents get nervous about leaving their children in an inpatient setting.  No matter how great the reputation is, there are always antics.  I’m not happy about this.  I’m also not happy about the billing runaround we’ve endured and the lack of follow-up.  Welcome to mental healthcare in America.

So, what can you do? Ask questions.  When you are sitting down for that intake, ask these questions:

  • Will you be bringing in an outside consultant to evaluate my child?
  • Is it your policy to notify the parent when you bring in an outside consultant to evaluate a minor patient?
  • What if the outside consultant that you choose is not in-network under my current insurance policy? 
  • How do you bill insurance for consultants?
  • If a consultant generates a report, will I receive a copy?

Once these questions are answered, then you can proceed whether it’s being clear that you want to be notified when a consultant is brought in and given a copy of the generated report or even speak to the consulting clinician on the phone.  It’s imperative, however, that you know what is going on in the inpatient setting so that you are 1) not surprised by expensive invoices after the fact and 2) kept up to date on exactly who is interacting with your child.  This requires being assertive, but it’s a necessary part of advocacy.

Bitchin’

No, not bitchin’ as in “Dude, your new Prius is totally bitchin’!”  I mean bitchin’ as in “I’ve had a long day and I feel like bitchin’ about it.”  I rarely engage in bitchin’ about my day except to a few lucky individuals (you know who you are).  Today, however, just feels…UGH.

Grace saw Dr. Awesome today for her pre-summer check-in and medication check-up.  We enganged in the usual chitchat.  Does Grace need any refills? How has she been doing since the increase in her Neurontin? What are the summer plans? Everyone is almost overly concerned about Grace and our summer plans.  Should I be afraid?

Well, Grace will have skills training this summer.  A therapist will come into our home a few times a week and work with Grace.  Skills training is a bit like Phase II of therapy.  Therapy gives you a direction to go in your life, shows you a new way to think, and gives you homework to do.  Skills training provides you with the help you need in the moment.  It begins where therapy stops.  Grace has had a lot of therapy, but she forgets what she knows in the moments when she requires that knowledge.  So, skills training will be very good for her.  She will also swim.  Swimming is very good for her.  This discussion led to another topic.  Her odd gait and ataxic-like coordination issues.

Grace has an uncoordinated gait at times and muscle tonality issues.  She also struggles with swallowing from time to time.  It’s worse when she’s tired.  When Grace grows weary, her gait transforms into that of Shaggy from the cartoon “Scooby-Doo”.  I would say that it’s comical if it weren’t so strange.  Combine these issues with her headaches, her issues with hearing music and smelling odors that aren’t there, and Dr. Awesome insisted that she thinks something else is going on with Grace outside of her mental health issues.  She thinks that it’s either epilepsy or neuromuscular in nature.  We need to go back to the neurologist and also get an OT consultation.  Can you tell how thrilled I am to hear this? Why can’t she just have schizophrenia? Hmph.

Anyway, I nodded my head and felt tired upon hearing the latest medical advice.  There’s too much going on right now in my life.  I put it aside, and  we headed home.  I came home and found some obscure $700 bill from some random LLC that I did not recognize.  I started calling people to inquire and no one was around! I kept getting the same message: “You’ve reached Miss Talking Head in the billing department.  Leave a message.”  I tried calling five people, and no one was answering! How was this possible?! I finally reached a person who was able to give me some information, and it appeared to be a billing error.  No one knew anything for certain.  An hour later…I’m talking to people who all claim not to bill for the doctor that is billing us but who never actually treated Grace.  Who charges $700 for not doing anything? Apparently, this doctor does (I tagged this doctor under “stupid people” on my blog just because I can).

I told you I was bitchin’.

Nothing is solved, but I’m done slaying dragons for the day.  I don’t know what normal is anymore, you know? I feel like it might be alarming if a doctor told a parent that they suspected epilepsy or a neuromuscular disorder in their child.  For me, it just felt like one more thing.  Like a hassle.  I think a doctor could tell me that Grace was going to develop Porcine Syndrome wherein she would develop a pig’s snout which would soon be followed by Equine Syndrome wherein her feet would turn into hooves soon to be followed by Caprine Syndrome wherein she would grow a ram’s horn.  I’m sure I would say something like, “Good God! Really? That’s a thing? Grace will turn into…uh….Pig Girl? No, wait, Pig-Horse-Goat Girl? That’s terrible! What do we do now? What steps do we take?” And, that would be that.  Because, in truth, that’s essentially what’s been told to us this year.  “Your daughter is deeply depressed.  No, wait, she’s bipolar.  No, wait, strike that.  She’s schizophrenic, and she might have epilepsy or a neuromuscular disorder.  Wait…we may never know, but she looks weird.  You should get her checked out.”

In the meantime, I have to keep a log of Grace’s mood lability, headaches, and the days that we use Seroquel.  Dr. Awesome would like to track Grace’s instability.  She is in research after all, and she is watching her for pure schizophrenia to emerge since that runs in my family.

I’ve got one thing to say today: My family genetics are totally not bitchin’.

I must go eat something very fatty and sugary now because you know what else isn’t bitchin’ today? My coping skills.  Now…where did I leave that book I was just reading…50 Shades of…

images-7

Erect Chicken never looked so good…

Snowbell’s Log

When my girls and I went up North for Spring Break in March, I started getting emails from a rather surprising character.  Who might that be, you ask? Surprisingly, these emails were from one of my cats, Snowbell.  No one was claiming ownership for these emails although I suspect the person responsible for typing up what came to be called “Snowbell’s Log” was my good friend caring for Snowbell and Ginger in our absence.  In any case, “Snowbell” continued to add an entry to her log every day, and it made its way to my inbox every night.  I would read these emails aloud daily, and the girls cackled with glee looking forward to hearing what our nefarious feline was up to while the proverbial cat was away.  How exactly did the mice play? Apparently, she watched “Star Trek” and discovered the Borg among other things.

Well, much to my surprise, Snowbell has started emailing me again.  If any cat could do it, then it would be her.  She is…crafty, and I’m convinced she’s plotting some kind of world domination.  Don’t believe me? You’d have to meet her to understand.  There’s something just a little bit frightening behind her eyes.  In any case, I’d like to introduce you to another member of my family who is, apparently, introducing herself to you as a guest blogger here on Empowered Grace.  And, no, I did NOT write this.

imag0158

Snowbell The Guest Blogger In Her Own Words…

Snowbell’s Log, Day 54

I don’t know what was happening with my biped keepers this past week, but they were awfully self-absorbed. It started on Monday when the tall female biped received a call from someone they call Doctor. From the conversation, this Doctor is like a vet but for bipeds. I wonder if the young bipeds resist getting into their carriers for visits to the biped vet as much as Ginger and I. Perhaps this is why the biped vet calls instead of insisting the bipeds visit.

Anyway, the tall female received a call, and when she spoke to the male biped she spoke of pertussis and antibiotics and pulling the two older young ones home from school. After more phone calls, she shook her head and used a word no being on the planet wishes to hear – quarantine.

Ginger was quite excited to hear that most of her bipeds would be home for the week. In her mind this meant she would have more snuggle time and wouldn’t have to walk anywhere as the bipeds would carry her around like a royal cat. She’s gotten quite lazy after watching a Discovery Channel documentary on Ancient Egypt and the cult of the cat. It’s no wonder the bipeds purchased her a walking harness and stuffed her sausage body into it for a walk last week. She’s my sister, but I have to admit, she’s let herself go in the last year.

I was not as sanguine about the news of the quarantine. I have seen the biped young when they are ill, and it’s not pretty. There is much moaning and sniffling. Sometimes there are even tears. They lie on the couch, languishing. Suddenly they don’t know there is more to life than Double Divas, NCIS,  or Adventure Time. I swear, if I have to watch another episode of Double Divas, I may grow boobs large enough I will need a brassiere. The ladies of Double Divas will have to devise a bra for [how many teats does a cat have]. The thought, it’s enough to make me shudder.

Youngest is already at home, coughing and wheezing. As soon as the two older young came home, my fears were realized. I yowled in protest as they lay on the couch watching some nonsense when all I wanted was more Star Trek. I do so love the Borg and continually hope there is an episode where the Borg win. Would they turn the channel? Of course not. Forget that I have needs. No, during this time of illness I will be forgotten.

I yowled and mewled and cried for a couple of hours. Mostly to annoy them. If I annoyed them enough perhaps they would snap out of their funk and think of me.

I failed. Other than the tall female biped laughing at what she referred to as ‘my antics’, my bipeds ignored me. At least the rodent was entertaining. I took to sneaking into the youngest’s room and stalking him while he ran about his cage.

The only biped in the entire house who hadn’t come down with this awful malaise was Grace. She continued with school and got out of the house daily. I think that was good for her. If she had been stuck here with the other inmates she would have melted down. Ginger has quite the fondness for Grace. She says Grace is special and in need of gentle care. Me, I think Grace is made of sterner stuff and treat her like I treat everyone else. Okay, so I check on her at night to make sure the men with guns aren’t inside. If they are, I give them a swipe with my formidable claws, and they retreat immediately. No stupid men are going to hurt my Grace.

Grace was rather excited this week as her class had a performance in which she was going to juggle scarves. I assume this scarf juggling is just another way to entertain me. I can think of nothing better than swiping at their gauzy tails as she floats them through the air. As of now, she has yet to pull out any scarves. I may have to drag one or two out of the tall one’s room as an enticement.

I have to go. Ginger is killing Kermit the Frog again. That poor stuffed animal is going to need years of therapy to get over this trauma.

Perspective

I live in a rather tightly-knit inner suburb of a large city.  I tend to see the same people at our local grocery stores, and I have gotten to know some of the cashiers at my local Target well enough to invite them over for holiday celebrations.  There is a distinct sense of community in our little city; so, when something bad happens we all feel it.

Well, something very bad happened yesterday.  Two classes from one of our elementary schools went on a field trip to a park to hunt for fossils.  There was a landslide.  It was a freak accident.  We’ve had a lot of rain lately.  The ground gave way, four children dropped down a 30-foot bluff, and…one was killed while another went missing.  He was buried underneath the gravel.

Families with children in the school district started getting “phone blasts” yesterday at 3:45 PM with the announcement that there had been an accident during the field trip with serious injuries.  Parents started arriving at the school in a panic.  I paced the floors last night wondering if I knew the two children.  Did I know the families? Names had not been released, but I couldn’t let myself be at peace.  These families weren’t at peace.  What right did I have to enjoy a restful evening?

I imagined what the teachers, parents, and other children who attended the field trip must be feeling.  What must the teachers of the two children who died be experiencing? What about the two children who survived the fall? What about the children who would go to school and see the vacant seats of their fallen classmates? Nothing would be the same again.  I couldn’t bring myself to imagine how the worlds of the children’s families had changed–their pain and grief.  Their utter shock.  I cried in the bathroom last night.

The first thing I did this morning upon waking was check the news.  Had the body of the missing child been recovered? Had this child’s family been allowed to at least get closure? Yes, his little body had been found underneath mud and gravel.  I cried again.

The media surrounded this event.  There were photos all over the news of little children getting off the bus, holding stuffed animals to place at a makeshift memorial in front of their school.  Comfort dogs were at the school today along with grief counselors.  Somehow everyone in our community has to keep going even though there are two families whose world has come out of orbit.

I felt stricken with sadness and guilt as I drank my morning coffee and observed that the weather was remarkably beautiful.  Our lilacs are finally blooming, and our peonies look to be peaking up through the soil.  I stopped and thought of the boys who died.  I thought of the people who loved them.  When would they enjoy a sunny day again without remembering May 22, 2013–the day their world stopped turning? How was it fair that I got to just shoo them from my mind and pour cream in my coffee and enjoy the song of the Purple House Finch while they were thrust into untimely loss? It’s not.  This tragedy is not fair.

It has reminded me, however, that no matter how difficult my circumstances feel, no matter how trying they become, they are only temporary.  Everything in my life is really evanescent except for what is not.  And, what is not? The love I feel for my husband, my children, and my friends.  The hope I carry in my heart that regardless of diagnoses or circumstances, there is potential in all of us to overcome and become something more than anyone ever imagined.  This hope is what allows me now on the night after learning about this tragedy to believe that their lives will not be lost in vain.  It allows me to believe that their families, in time, can do something with their grief and the memories they carry.  I don’t know how, but I know that there is hope.  I know that there is hope for some kind of redemption nor only for their families but also for everyone associated with these circumstances.  It’s this very hope that gets me out of bed in the morning (yeah, it’s not just coffee after all).

In the meantime, I will not soon forget May 22, 2013 or the two beautiful boys that passed from my community all too soon.

I have perspective.

Sometimes I wish it took lesser things to give it to me.

Brain Management

I’m reading a few books all at the same time which, for some reason, is what I like to do.  There is one book, however, that I want to recommend to every person I meet.

images-5

This book is not another stress management book.  It’s really a brain management book; a kind of How To Reset Your Brain To Thinking Clearly Even When Your Brain Would Have You Run Into The Bathroom And Curl Up In The Tub.  So far, it is proving to be outstanding, and it’s confirming practices that I have spent a decade fumbling around in the dark trying to develop in an attempt to get my brain out of an acute PTSD response to stress.  I might appear placid on the outside, but I can foam at the mouth with the best of ’em.  In fact, I can work myself up to such high levels of stress and anxiety that only Xanax will bring me down.  It’s not a good thing.  I’ve been spending years learning to short-circuit my panic response because, let’s face it, it was getting old.

Stress and even panic can be a reality for all of us particularly if you have a child or a loved one with mental illness.  As soon as suicidal ideation begins, the alarm bells start ringing in your head, and your amygdala takes over your brain.  I’m actually a champion in a crisis.  It comes from years of dealing with a mentally ill parent.  What am I not so good at? Adjusting to normalcy.  My brain thinks that everything is a crisis.  So, the issue with my brain is that I must remind it frequently that I am not facing a crisis even though I might be.  Grace has schizophrenia.  There are days when we might be dealing with something comparable to a crisis.  So, what I have to tell my brain is: “Thanks for alerting me to this.  I can handle it.  You can calm down now.  I’m okay.”  What I am learning from reading this book (which you need to read) is that this very kind of declaration is what an anxious, stressed, or panicked brain needs! We want to activate the learning part of our brain, and it’s that activation that calms the alarm centers in our brain–NOT deep breathing or attempting to relax.  To me, this is a wonderful breakthrough because my husband and I live in an intense environment as do my children.  This is something worth teaching.  It’s empowering.

And, because this is our family, I had the opportunity to practice this very thing yesterday.  Being quarantined by the state’s Department of Health simply wasn’t enough fun.  Nope.  My husband came home and said, “My car is making a bad sound.  I’m calling Tony.”  Tony is our lovable, straight-shooting mechanic.  He named our family minivan ‘Beeker’ because the last time he worked on it, the van was making a whining sound much like Beeker the Muppet.  Beeker resented this nickname, I think, and gives Tony a hard time whenever she needs attention.  Her real name is ‘Bessie’, and she puts up with a lot.  Anyway, my husband limped his car down to Tony and returned five minutes later.  He looked pale.  My heart started beating.  I felt the adrenaline dump.  “What did he say?”  My husband’s mouth was just a flat line.  “It’s toast.  The engine blew.”  I stopped breathing.  I immediately started running numbers in my mind.  I have our budget memorized.  I know every bill, every due date, every creditor.  It’s not intentional.  It’s just how my brain works.  The side effect of this kind of brain is that my budget likes to come alive at night and torment me.  Have you ever seen Disney’s animated film “Winnie the Pooh”? If you’re familiar with Pooh Bear’s melodious nightmare “Heffalumps and Woozles”, then you now have a sense of what my Budget Nightmare is like except Wells Fargo isn’t as cute.

images-6

We’ve come for your next mortgage payment.

“But, it only has 70,000 miles on it! It’s still under warranty! We haven’t finished paying it off!”  He sighed.  He explained to me how the warranty worked because Tony explained to him how the warranty worked.  Did we save every oil change receipt? No.  Then, the “warranty” company wouldn’t replace the engine, and, even if they did, they would do an engine teardown to inspect it first in an attempt to prove that it was neglect on our part which we would pay for either way.  “So…we are now left with a completely broken car that we essentially have to replace but still owe money on? And, Bessie is 10 years old.  She’s going to need replacing soon.  Aaaand…this means two car payments for one car? Wow.  And, only one car in the meantime until we get this solved? How will that work?”

We live in an urban area with the worst public transit ever.  Plus, my husband is a consultant.  He needs a car.  And, I can’t be housebound.  We did the “one car thing” for three years.  That’s another kind of nightmare that I won’t be doing ever again.  So, this new situation gave us a great opportunity to put some “brain management” principles into practice.  How did we do? We did well.

I did not lock myself in the bathroom, cry, foam at the mouth, or tremble.  My husband did not turn into Lizard Man which is saying something.  That man can transform into a Monitor Lizard faster than Clark Kent can rip off his Oxford shirt in a phone booth! There are, of course, decisions to make and numbers to crunch.  I, however, have not panicked one time, and this is an achievement.  I look at this as an opportunity.  An adventure.  I’m not kidding.  It’s a choice really.  I could freak out which is my habit, or I could reframe it and develop a new habit.  I’m a person of faith.  Why do I have faith if I’m running around freaking out all the time? So, I’m choosing to view it as an opportunity for God to intervene and act on our behalf because He’s really cool like that.  I don’t mean that in a church-y, pious way at all.  I’m very “rubber meets the road” where God is concerned because our lives are lived out in that space–right between the tires and the road.  My faith has blood, bones, and tears.  I digress…

What is another reason to practice better brain management? My kids are paying attention, and they don’t miss much.  Grace is very sensitive to changes in my mood, and she was immediately next to me, asking, “What’s wrong? You look upset,” as soon as her dad came home with the bad news.  She relies on me, in part, for her own stability.  Mothers are powerful figures in the home.  There is that saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, Ain’t no one gonna be happy.”  Children with severe mental illness rely on their caregivers for stability.  What am I saying? Children, in general, rely on their caregivers for stability! It is, therefore, very important that I learn to deal with high levels of stress because life is not going to suddenly become easy.  In fact, I predict it will just get harder.  Grace hasn’t hit puberty yet nor has Milly.  Do you see where I’m heading with this? I must take responsibility for my responses to stress.  Yes, I have PTSD, but I still have to show up with a brain that can function well and think under pressure.  This is why I am such an advocate for self-care.  If I’m hiding in the bathtub weeping and refusing to come out, then I’m no good to anyone (and, yes, I’ve done that before).  Believe me, I know how hard it can be to walk the highway of Difficult Circumstances.  I’ve adopted a part of that road, and my family and I are out there cleaning it up every month.  We know it all too well.  I, however, believe it can be trod with…humor, energy, and hope.  At least that’s what I’m telling my brain because, I’ll admit it, there was a moment last night when the Wells Fargo Woozle and the Second Car Loan Heffalump came for me.  It was a bit touch and go…

But I made it through.  I didn’t even lock myself in the bathroom.  Not even once.  My husband was so proud.  You probably think I’m joking…

I’m not.

a36224c1f83009599ae7c720da0cad3df47db863

Oh look! Another car loan come to torment you…Mwahahahahahahaha!!!

The Shinning

images

Once upon a time, there lived a happily married couple with four daughters and two cats…and a gerbil.  The husband went on a business trip for three weeks leaving his wife alone to care for their home and four daughters and two cats…and the gerbil.  The wife felt cautious but confident in her ability to call upon her alter ego, Wonder Woman.  Wonder Woman is able to “do it all” as the old saying goes–even manage a psychotic child and direct an autistic 9 year-old.  She could do it! But, Wonder Woman slipped on some ice and fell spraining her elbow, thusly, knocking herself out of commission.  The wife lost her superpowers.  She had to go it alone.  She really looked forward to her husband’s return.  And, return he did…with a very strange cough.

He coughed and coughed and coughed.  He coughed in the morning.  He coughed in the evening.  He coughed at midnight.  He coughed until he vomited.  He coughed until his larynx spasmed and he began to suffocate.  The wife urged her husband to see a doctor, but the husband said that he was getting better.  “I’m fine.”  The wife was incredulous.  The wife was ignored.  The husband left on another business trip, and the youngest daughter got sick.  She developed a strange cough.

She coughed in the morning.  She coughed in the evening.  She coughed at midnight.  She has asthma so her coughs were even more worrisome than the husband’s coughs.  The wife realized that she had been taking care of children alone for over a month.  She was beginning to feel…trapped.

images-1

Another child developed the strange cough.  She coughed in the morning.  She coughed in the evening.  She coughed at midnight.  The wife urged her husband upon his return from his business trip to see the doctor.  He finally agreed to go.  He returned with a diagnosis of pneumonia and antibiotics.  He took his antibiotics and he coughed.  He coughed and he coughed and he coughed.

Another daughter developed the strange cough.  She coughed in the…you know the drill.  The wife checked the calendar.  She was feeling squirrelly and mean.  How long had she been inside caring for children? How many weeks had her husband been ill? Six weeks.  Six weeks of The Mysterious Cough.  This had to stop, but The Cough had taken over.  When would it stop? What was going on?! Why was no one getting better?!

One day, the youngest daughter stopped getting out of bed.  She continued to cough and cough.  The husband was still coughing, his face turning blue.  Every child, excepting one, was home tormented by The Cough.  Had the husband’s doctor made a mistake? Could he perhaps have something other than pneumonia? Could the wife potentially go crazy?

images-2

The wife took her sickliest daughter to the doctor and said, “Test my child for Pertussis.  I think she has Whooping Cough, and I think she caught it from my husband.”  The doctor tested the sickly girl, and on Monday morning at 0800 a call was received.  “Your daughter has tested positive for Pertussis.”  The wife was shocked.  She glared at her still-coughing husband.  He couldn’t express emotion because he was too busy attempting to catch his breath.  “You gave our children Whooping Cough.  You should have gone to the doctor.  WHY DIDN’T YOU GO TO THE MOTHER-CLUCKING DOCTOR??????!!!!!!”

A woman from the state’s Department of Health called the home of the husband and wife.  She was an epidemiologist.  She wanted information about The Cough.  She also ordered that every member of the family be treated with antibiotics.  She also quarantined every coughing daughter to the home for five days.  FIVE DAYS.  Three of the four daughters are not allowed to attend school for five days.

images-3

FIVE DAYS?! Do you know how many hours that is? Do you know how long I’ve already been in the house with these children? DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE IMPLICATIONS OF THIS QUARANTINE?”

Pertussis aka Whooping Cough is also known as The 100 Day Cough.  Why? Pertussis isn’t just some benign childhood illness.  It’s a bacterial infection that eats the cellular lining of one’s airways.  It takes the body 3 months (or 100 days) to regrow this lost tissue.  It is particularly hard on infants and those with underlying health conditions like asthma.  It can kill you.  This is why there is a vaccination for it.  Regardless of when you receive treatment, you will cough for about 100 days.  This infection is very hard on the body.  Increase group immunity and get vaccinated.  Adults get vaccinated with a Tdap booster.  There is misinformation in the world now due to Andrew Wakefield and his very fraudulent research studies regarding vaccinations and autism.  For the record, it was all counterfeit.  The rate of ASD diagnoses is the same among vaccinated and non-vaccinated children.  Vaccines do not cause autism.  Vaccines prevent illnesses that cause severe health problems and deaths.

So, wash your hands, get yourself vaccinated, and don’t forget the moral of this story: Listen to your wife when she tells you to go to the doctor because vomiting after coughing isn’t normal.  Your wife is almost always right anyway.

images-4

DAY 2 of QUARANTINE: Go crazy? Don’t mind if I do!