An unforgiving Illness

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Sometimes I feel like a terrible daughter.  My mother who raised me the best she could for as long as she could suffered from mental illness. She is a Bi-polar Manic depressive to be exact.

She never wanted to take her medicine. She said she didn’t like the way it made her feel. I can’t imagine how it must feel to be in her shoes. Dealing with something so severe on a daily basis.

At her best my mother was soft spoken and loving. She loved to sing to us her children and she had a beautiful voice to match.

At her worst she thought the devil was trying to kill us and constantly moved us around all through out my childhood. Sometimes she would stay up all night talking to herself, and sleep all day when she had one of her mood swings.

My father  was never around when I was growing up. He is a Vietnam war veteran. I don’t doubt that he and my mother loved each other very much at one time. I have heard that as much hate as you show someone at the end of a relationship there had to be an equal amount of love at some point. They haven’t been together in over twenty years and to this day they are still legally married. So there is that.

I think war is a terrible thing and I wonder how different my life would have been had my father stayed in college instead of going off to fight. Would he still have abandoned us? I assume when he came back he must have been a changed man.

I have to think that it wasn’t just a character flaw and that the drug and alcohol abuse is evidence of that.

I don’t remember him ever being a father figure but my older siblings do. They say he was a really good dad at one time. I wish I had some memories of it. Once my father and mothers relationship ended he stopped coming around completely.

As I grew up my mother who lost her own mother at 12 years of age, was the one who raised us. Even as chaotic as my childhood was, I never doubted her love for us. At around 16 years of age and after moving in and out of my moms home several times it all became to much for me and I left.

11 years later the responsibility for my mother fell to me. I was the only child of six in the state of California who could take care of her. At that point I had children and my mother was rapidly becoming worse over time.

She still refused to take her medicine and her paranoia was ever present. Part of my mother’s illness is having paranoid delusions. This caused her  to throw things away all the time. In fact growing up I literally had no toys or pictures. Everything normal for children or famiy including school was deemed evil. I literally don’t have one picture of my mother and I together.

This made it impossible for me to live with her or subject my children to that. So my only other option was to find her a small studio near my house that she could afford.

It lasted one year before she was asked to leave because of her behavior. This went on for several years. In California the laws for the families of mentally ill are completely flawed.

The doctors would not commit her without her agreement, in a mental health facility because she wasn’t a threat to anyone. They would not tell me anything about her illness. They do however require her to have a payee for her social security disability check she received every month.

Of course I was good enough to be her payee and handle her money for her but I wasn’t allowed to be told what medications she was taking? The system set up for the mentally ill is fundamentally fucked in California. There is no safety net set up for them and my mother fell through the cracks.

After three and half years and moving her three separate times my mother was on the verge of a complete mental break down. I didn’t know how to help her anymore. Her health was rapidly deteriorating due to the high anxiety from her dilusions. Sometimes she would see things. Scary things. She would never tell me exactly what she saw but the fear she would show told me it was bad.

Finally my sister offered to take her out to Utah where she lived. The week before my mother left I stopped by to check on her. She was in a terrible state and whatever she was seeing scared her half to death. For the first time ever she begged me to take her to the mental health facility that for years she had refused.

A week later my younger brother arrived to get her. Of she course she was still in that place and was due to be released the next morning.

When I picked her up she was a mess but glad to be going to live with my sister and her boyfriend. All she ever wanted was to live with me and my family. As sad as it is, I couldn’t give in. I refused to let my children be subjected to what I was growing up. I was relieved and happy for her that she was finally getting what she wanted.

Six months later my sister called me and said my mom had left and she didn’t want her back. She was way to much to handle. She had stopped taking her medicine and started throwing everything out again. It was understandable. There was no way I could live with her myself.

Luckily my oldest brother stepped in and got her in to a facility in Utah. Surprisingly Utah does have a safety net for those with mental illness. She lives in a place that employs a full time staff. Her social security check covers most of the costs. She takes her medicine regularly for the first time in years.

I hadn’t talk to my mother in 8 months. I am terrible daughter. As soon as she was safe I went on with my life and didn’t even so much as ask about her. The truth is it’s to painful to think about.

Sometimes as selfish as it sounds I wish I could forget my entire childhood. My mother whom I love dearly is a constant reminder of that.

Her mental illness even with medication will never make her “normal”. She has set backs all the time. Today my brother went to see my mother and called me for her. She sounded drugged up but we had our first normal conversation in years.

When I asked her where she was she wasn’t sure. She had fallen and cut her chin open and she thinks she had 18 stitches. She thinks?

My heart broke just hearing that. How selfish am I? I haven’t asked about her. She’s been stuck alone in some facility I have never been to and I haven’t even checked on her.

Of course my brother is there for her but I am still her daughter. I should be there for her especially when she can’t be there for herself.

I once received a picture of my mother from when she was around 16 or 17 years old from one of her relatives. She was living with her older sister at the time, my aunt. It was the 1960’s and she was standing in one leg of a pair of men’s striped pajama pants. She was so tiny and had a mischievous look in her eye. She looked like she was quite a character.

I wish I could have known that version of her. Unfortunately her mental illness kicked in soon after I was born when she was 33 years of age. So I have no memories of her in a normal frame of mind.

I use try and imagine how she would have been had she been normal when I was growing up. Its hard for me but I imagine she would have been a lot like I am now.

Two weeks ago I turned 32 years old. I am not far off from my mothers age when her symptoms first kicked in. Talking to my mother today reminded me that she is still here and that I still have the chance to become the daughter I would wish I had, if I was in her situation. It’s not to late to be the daughter I should. It’s never to late to stop the regrets before they start.

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For my mother, who despite all the terrible traumas she has faced in an unforgiving world never gave up on her children

Choices

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Choices is what life is all about. We make choices from the moment we wake up till the moment we go to sleep. Sometimes they are little ones and before we know it years have gone by, and what started as little choices turn into huge regrets that you can never take back. That’s the problem with bad choices; you have to live with the wreckage.

I personally still deal with my own wreckage from the bad choices I made many years ago. I’m lucky enough to have  the chance to atone for my terrible decisions I made so long ago.

Recently I have had to watch a person who means the world to me slip back into that awful cycle of drug abuse, and it’s all I can do to not go running to try and save them. The truth is you can’t save someone from themselves.
It all goes back to free will.

When I think about all the things I want to say to this person it’s out of pure concern for them. Not just their own well being but all the friends and family that care for them and are affected by those bad choices.

The one thing I have learned about regrets is that my biggest one’s in this life, are the ones that affected those I care for.

Since I have changed my life all those years ago I can honestly say I have no regrets now. My life is my own. I am not that lost, hopeless person I once was. I have purpose and meaning in my life today. It took a lot of work to get that far, and I’m not finished yet.

When I look back on those lonely days I spent filling the void inside myself with drugs, I feel so blessed that I found the strength to change my circumstances. It really is your own choice what you become in this life.

My greatest joy today is my family. I get to be present in each moment that passes in my children’s lives. There is no drug around that could top the fierce pride I get from watching my children’s milestones. Some things can never be replaced.

Parenting done well, is a selfless act. The choice to give life must be honored. I’m not a perfect mother. I have my moments where my kids drive me crazy like everyone else. I am still working on it, and that’s okay. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that. You get back what you put in.

My advice to anyone in that situation is to figure out what it is you want out of life, and set the goals you will need to succeed. Even if it means you have to start your life from scratch. Build it back up piece by piece. One fucking day at a time. One fucking brick at a time. One fucking breath at a time.

I should add forgiveness as well. Not just for those you feel have wronged you but for yourself. You can’t move forward if you can’t get over the past. People make mistakes. That’s what we do. What separates us from the rest is how we learn from those mistakes.

In the song Stairway To Heaven by Led Zepplin their is a lyric that says “Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run there’s still time to change the road you’re on”  I find this brilliant in its simplicity. It sums up exactly how I feel about having regrets and recovering from them. We hold the power to stop making bad choices in our lives.

To me life is beautiful and ever changing. The choices we make today ripple through time and memory, and help shape our tomorrow.  The void I once filled with drugs is now filled with laughter, love, family vacations, bed time stories and so much more. And it all started with one brave choice…

Death Of A Flower

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                            Part 1

I saw Amy standing there. Alone. In

front of her old farm house. Just the way I left her the last time I saw her. It was dark but I could make out her form in the silver light of the moon.

She looked just as beautiful as I remember. Thick, long, straight dark brown hair, perfectly framing her slender oval looking face.  Her large almond shaped, amber colored eyes seemed to stare right through me.

Welcoming me.

With a hint of a smile and a wave of a hand she beckoned me to her. Just like when we were kids, and I would show up at her house and ask her parents if she could play.

She would always stand at the top of the stairs, with that look of mischief in her eyes. As if to say, what kind of trouble shall we get into today?

  I couldn’t help it I got so excited to see her I ran straight for her. Only the harder I ran the farther away she seemed to get. Always with that same hauntingly beautiful smile.

Finally I stopped as I felt the sting of hot tears hit my eyes. Why couldn’t I catch up to her? When I stopped she stopped.

We both just stood there staring at each other with tears in our eyes.  Suddenly I was under water. My lungs were burning and I couldn’t move. I looked over, Amy was there next to me.

We were stuck in a car that was plummeting into nothingness. My head hurt. The whole car was full of water and the doors wouldn’t open. The numbers 523 kept flashing inside my mind.

When I looked over at Amy I could see the smile was gone and in its place was sheer and utter terror. That’s when it hit me. We’re going to die. This is how Amy died!

I screamed a long silent scream and just like that I woke up. The scream which turned out wasn’t so silent, died in my throat. I was back in my room. Back in my bed. Shaking like a leaf. It felt so real. Why did it feel so real?

I looked at the clock. It was 3 am and I knew I wasn’t going back to sleep tonight. I never can after I dream about her…

The next day I drove straight to Amy’s house. It was empty now. Her parents had packed up and left town just shortly after her funeral, four years earlier. It looked just how it did in my dream last night.

A small shiver went slowly down my spine. Was it all in my head or do my lungs really hurt?

I shook the feeling aside and started to walk around the old farm house. Looking for what, I didn’t know.

I began to remember the last time I dropped Amy off here. We had just went shopping for our senior prom, and we were supposed to meet back up the next afternoon at our favorite diner.

I remember being so mad at her, when she didn’t show up that Saturday night. She wasn’t answering her phone either. Something that wasn’t entirely out of character for her. I finally ordered and ate alone. Sitting there all I could think about was how I was going to tell her off good the next time I saw her.

The following day I got the call. Amy never came home that afternoon, or the following morning. She was gone forever. Ripped from our lives with no notice. She was nation wide news for weeks. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about her. She was famous but in the most awful way imaginable. 

  It was an agonizing three weeks before they finally found her inside her car at the bottom of the lake. They classified her death accidental. They think she lost control of the car while on the interstate and knocked herself unconscious on the steering wheel, causing her to veer off the road into the Icy lake below.

They say she never regained consciousness. That she didn’t feel any pain.

It was hard to believe. It all happened so suddenly. And of course there was the nightmares. 

I had been having the same recurring nightmares since the day she went missing. I had no idea why or what they meant. Maybe this is my mind’s way of dealing with the tragic events surrounding Amy’s death I thought.

Maybe it’s just the guilt I feel for living while she’s lying in coffin for all eternity after such a horrific end to her very short life.

No matter how hard I try though, I can’t shake the feeling there’s more to Amy’s death then what we know. I don’t know how I know. I just do.  

                          Part 2

Weeks had passed with no nightmares. Was I just imagining the whole thing? That night I decided if I had another dream I would find someone to talk to about it.

After dinner I went upstairs to get ready for bed. As I was walking into my room I noticed a picture of Amy and I had fallen of the wall and where her face was I noticed a good size crack as if someone had punched it. I picked it up and placed it on the dresser, as I turned I did a double take.

Standing about five feet behind me was Amy. She was dripping wet and looked angry. I wasn’t sure what it was, but she was holding something in her hands. A piece of shiny white medal. When I looked closer I noticed it read Ohio birthplace of aviation. I knew what it was. I had seen it a thousand times before. It was the Ohio state license plate. What it meant I still didn’t know.

Just then Amy lunged for me and grabbed my arm. I could feel her cold, wet hands digging into my wrist and just like that my whole room vanished.

In its place was the inside of a huge truck except it wasn’t one I recognized. It was old and smelled of rust. I noticed a bottle of Jim Beam whiskey was lying on the seat next to me with half the contents gone. Again the numbers 523 were flashing in my mind’s eye. I looked to my left and noticed a man I had never seen before. It looked as though he had no idea I was in the truck.

He was middle aged with dark hair, brown eyes and a wide crooked nose. The stubble on his face told me he hadn’t shaved in awhile. The speedometer told me we were going way to fast. Faster than any truck this old should ever go.

The road was quiet. Not a car in sight. The slight back and forth movement of the truck warned of the impending danger. A few seconds later in the distance in front of us I noticed headlights. As the car got closer I recognized it as Amy’s little Honda Accord.  Just as we got close the driver of the truck I was in lost control and swerved into the oncoming traffic lane next to us, causing Amy’s vehicle to swerve to avoid it, and off the road into the water below.

Immediately after that I was back in my room and Amy was gone. The sound of my phone ringing broke the eerie silence that had settled over the room. It was my mom telling me to turn on the t.v. and find the local news station. She said she loved me, and she was on her way home.

Not knowing what I was looking for I flipped the channels impatiently. Within seconds I found what I was looking for. My stomach dropped. There on a split screen under the words breaking news was a picture of Amy, and a close up picture of the man I just saw in my vision, standing next to the front of a rusty looking truck, with a license plate that read Ohio: birthplace of aviation. The first three plate numbers were 523. Immediately a cold chill ran through my entire body. I knew then what those numbers meant. I wasn’t crazy. It was all real!

The news story went on to say that there had been a break in the case when a man came in to the police station earlier that day confessing to causing the accident that killed Amy. He had been drinking heavily that night four years earlier, and that was the reason he didn’t stop. He claimed to have been haunted by terrible nightmares of the accident and the girl inside the car. The police arrested him on the spot and charged him with vehicular manslaughter.

He would be punished and the world would know the truth of Amy’s death. I knew it was over. I could breath again.

The next day as I got out of the car and walked down the path to the old farm house for the very last time I felt a peaceful feeling come over me. I took the wildflowers I had in my hand and laid them in the exact spot I last saw her alive. I felt a soft breeze come up from behind me and watched it gently blow the flowers away.

Wild and free I thought, just like my Amy…

 

Three Freedoms To Look Forward To when Your Youngest Starts School

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The first day of school for your little one can be quite daunting to say the least. My youngest is coming up on her first day of full day kindergarten. Once she starts school, it will be the first time my little girl has been away from me for that many hours a day, ever. The closer that day gets, the more my excitement anxiety builds.

Currently I am a stay at home mother of two very entertaining little girls who always keep me on my toes. My youngest is four going on fourteen. She’s fairly independent. Most of the time.

She has for the most part, only been around our family since she was born; because of this, her first day of kindergarten camp did not go over well.

When we got to her class that morning my girl looked up at me with her serious face and said “You are not leaving me here!”  I explained to her in my calmest voice “Everyone goes to school, and now its your turn. I need you to be a big girl like your sister, until I get back to pick you up okay?” she began to cry and literally was clinging to my leg for dear life as I was trying to get out the door. They had to hold her back when I finally did leave.

Apparently it was not okay.

Eventually she acclimated to her new surroundings and by the end of the week was a completely different kid when it came to school.

Later after first doing a little victory dance in my kitchen (hey I have been consecutively taking care of two kids, 24 hours a day for 8 years straight!) I started thinking about all the freedoms that come with having all school age children.

Here are my top 3…

1. Free Time…

Okay, so maybe that’s not full fledged freedom, but free time is the kind of freedom that a parent who has been taking care of at least one child for years can appreciate.

Of course if you are a stay at home mom, you will have time for that book you have been meaning to read, or that class you have always wanted to take.

There are even more simple luxuries like; being able to use the restroom in peace without the added commentating of “it stinks in here” and my favorite “are you done yet?”

You can also take a shower all by yourself without the twenty questions that must have an answer as soon as you decide to get in like; “What’s that?” And then the follow up question of “Why doesn’t daddy have those?”

Now that’s freedom people!

2. Peace and quiet

Peace and quiet at home is a foreign concept to most parents, but for me, a stay at home mom, the concept is especially frightening. It sounds sweet really, but in the back of my mind deep questions like these lurk:

What is peace and quiet for such a long period of time feel like? Will it hurt? Will I be bored out of mind after the first day? What will I do without the constant barrage of simple statements and mundane questions like: “I’m hungry! Will you make me pancakes?” (at 2:30 in the afternoon) or “I went poop, come look!” peppered throughout my day?

I find it odd that kids that age get so proud of their poop. I don’t even want to see my own let alone someone else’s, but you do what you must as a parent. Whatever floats their boat right?

3. Having both your children on the same schedule

For me this is one of the best parts of raising all school age children. Now they both will be home at the same time, in school at the same time, and eventually doing homework at the same time. I dont know about you, but for me that’s a win win in my eyes.

Eventually our kids will grow older, and need us less. We will look back longingly on those days when they were solely dependent on us to get their daily needs met, and remember our now seemingly foolish excitement for them to grow up, and be more independent.

For now though, I will take whatever simple freedom(s) I can get, and maybe a few more…

Family: One Mothers Evolution

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Growing up I didn’t have an ideal childhood. My father wasn’t around and my mother suffered from mental illness. We didn’t have much money and we moved around a lot. Years later when I became a mother to my own children, I realized I had very few normal past childhood experiences to gauge my own parenting abilities on. It was like starting from scratch. Almost.

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My hot stuff and I looking hot n stuff

I was lucky enough to have an awesome man in my life who had a wonderful childhood and a very loving family, so I wasn’t completely stuck.

 I was blessed that his parents who are the salt of the earth kind of people, welcomed me in to their family almost immediately and never looked back. They have shown me the true meaning of family.

Im sure the first couple years my mother in law (who is a christmas specialist) was ringing her hands around Christmas time. I would get off work to find her and my daughter decorating a tree (her own) in my house a couple weeks before christmas.

She must have found it odd, my seemingly lack of interest in Christmas; especially because I was a mother to a small child.  For me it wasn’t so much a lack of interest, it was more a lack of experience.

I didn’t even know how to wrap a present until last year, when my husband refused to be my wrapping go to guy for Christmas and birthdays (that man can wrap a present like nobody’s business!)

Apparently my plan to wait till the last minute so he had to help (or I would never finish) wasn’t going to work anymore. I like to say: you’ll know your presents from me if it looks like it’s been kick down the street 😉

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Exhibit A: present wrapping at it’s finest

It took some time but I now am a huge fan of camping trips, family vacations and of course holidays, thanks to them.

Especially Thanksgiving. I love eating massive amounts of turkey and then skimming through all the sales papers so I can plot out my routine Black Friday (Thursday) shopping trip. They have shown me the ways of a Black Friday Jedi Warrior.

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The Black Friday Mishap Of 2014

Except for last years fail, I think they are quite proud of my growing expertise. One year I got 15 towels for 22$! Who cares if they were brown, beige, and avocado colored? Money well spent in my eyes.

You can never have enough towels when you have kids!

From chaotic family campouts to hectic holidays, it’s all the little moments with my family that make my life what it is today.

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The lost kids…

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I know what it means to be a lost kid….

I worked really hard to forget….

The pain and despair were a trial that most could not bare……

I know what it means to be a lost kid and have parents who don’t care

I know what it means to be a lost kid who runs away, trying to escape the chaos that continued to plague those they left behind….

I know what it means to be a lost kid and create your own chaos with other lost kids who welcomed you in without judgment  or fear, to a freedom you never thought you would find…

I know what it means to be a lost kid who dwells where no child should….

I know what it means to be a lost kid and realize that what all those lost kids thought was freedom, was actually chains in disguise…

I know what it means to be a lost kid, who wakes up one day to find that they are all alone, and all the other lost kids have gone away

To no one’s surprise….

I know what it means to be a lost adult who deep down inside is still that lost kid, who never really grew up….

I know what it means to be a lost kid who one day opens her eyes to see that she has broken free from the chains that held her down for so long….

I know what it means to be a lost kid who is lost no more…

The Four Cardinal Rules To Getting A Tattoo When You’re Young

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It was my 18th birthday when I decided I was going to get my first tattoo. I remember being really excited and not having a clue as to what I was going to get.

As I looked through the tattoo magazine that was lying around while I was waiting for the tattoo artist, I saw a huge winged angel and it spoke to me. I thought that’s the one!

Don’t judge me. I was only 18, and I never claimed I had the best taste 😉

I sat there for three hours give or take, until it was done (who knew if I would ever see that guy again since he was a friend of a friend, and just got fired from the local tattoo shop for being unreliable)

When it was all over, I was happy. My tattoo came out pretty good, not to mention it covered my entire left shoulder. Hey, go big or go home right?

13 years, 2 kids, and some on and off weight fluctuations later, and my sweet little angel doesn’t look so sweet anymore.

I later learned through experience I had broken the four cardinal rules of getting a tattoo

No.1 Never get a tattoo while still in your teens (or early twenties if you really want to play it safe).

The reason being; the older you get, the more your tastes will change. Weather because you got married, had kids or whatever else life throws at you, you are going to evolve.

You can never be positive you will still want that the giant Scooby Doo smoking a joint on the small of your back.

Not that I don’t love Scooby doo mind you, but I just don’t think it will be all that appropriate when your kid turns four, and wants to know what that is in his mouth and why his eyes are so red….

No.2  Placement is everything.

If your going to break rule one make sure it doesn’t cover an entire body part so its easier to cover up. Plus it will leave more options open to you if you do want to cover it.

No.3 Know what you want before you go in.

Give yourself time to think about what you want this tattoo to say about you for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!

No.4 Do your homework.

Make sure you check out the tattoo artist work before hand. Just because they can do tattoos doesn’t mean they are good.

Believe me, having a shitty tattoo sucks! I literally have to go four sizes bigger then my entire shoulder to cover it up! Were talking hours of work, and definitely more than one session.

So there it is my four cardinal rules for getting a tattoo. looking back now my tattoo reminds me of where I was in that moment on my 18th birthday, and that at the time I think I felt I needed a little protection and guidance.

Even though I wish someone would have mentioned all this to me before I got inked at least I can pass it on.

If I can just stop that one person before they get that giant colored mushroom with the weird googly eyes that covers the entire back of their calve then I will have made a difference.