Two weeks ago, I shut the door to my childhood home for the last time. I lived in this home for eighteen years. From four years of age to twenty-two years of age. These were my formative years. People asked me if I would miss it. Some asked if it makes me sad to sell this house? My response was always a definite “No”.
I hated going home to visit my parents after I left. Now I realize why. It was that house. I have not a single happy memory of living in that house. When I walk into the bedroom I spent many years in I remember shoving furniture against the door. My brother would have fits of rage and I was the recipient. If I shut and locked my door he would take the doorknob off. I would shove furniture against the door and hide in my closet. He always managed to find his way in. Rage is a powerful motivator.
The dining room has many memories for me. The wall in the dining room is where my father pinned me against the wall and told me to take it like a man. This was the same room my father told me he was going to kill me and then chased me out the front door. The dining room was where my father threw a heavy object at me when I placed it the wrong way on the dining room table. It was also the place where I took my final beating from my father, the day I finally told him it was going to be me or him and I didn’t care which.
My bedroom was where my father sent me when he could no longer stand the sight of me. It was my refuge. The place I cried, the place I dreamed of my future life somewhere I was safe. The place my secrets were kept from the world.
When I left this house at twenty-two years of age I knew I would never live there again. No matter how bad my life got, I knew without a doubt, I would not come back to live in this house.
So, no, I won’t miss the house or what it represents for me. Shutting the door for the last time was shutting the door on my little house of horrors. The place where I was never safe and no one protected me from evils. The same place mental health issues went ignored and untreated. I am not angry or holding grudges. I am relieved I am finally free to move on and heal. Now when I go back to visit my mother I can stay in a hotel and maybe, just maybe, enjoy my stay.
This past week I flew to my home state of Texas with a friend. I needed to sell my mother’s belongings and I gave myself a rigid deadline. I would have an estate sale, sell my mom’s house and two cars all within a week. I knew the amount of work would be enormous because I had seen how well my mother hoards. The house is neat and organized but there are items stored everywhere. She loves paper clutter and plastic tubs food comes in from the grocery store.
When we arrived things got off to a rocky start. The door that should have been unlocked was locked and all the keys were inside the house. I had to call a locksmith. Once in the house, we thought we could relax but the doorbell rang. It was the Police. Someone thought a burglar paid a locksmith to into my mother’s house.
By this time I had a chance to look around the house and note the overwhelming amount of items that needed to gotten rid of. It’s amazing how we spend our lives collecting things and then spend the end of our lives getting rid of it all.
What happened next reaffirmed my belief in the goodness of people. To be more specific, people who grew up poor. One neighbor brought home made meals and iced tea to drink. Two local friends jumped in and helped me sort through things as well as sell items at the estate sale. One of the friends had been up all night at his dying grandmother’s bedside. He joined us for several hours despite the lack of sleep and was an excellent salesman.
The other friend stayed by my side during the entire week, helping me sell, move things and get the house ready for sale. Once we sold all our furniture he and his wife offered us a couch to crash on for our final night. The thing is, I did not have to ask for anyone’s help. Everyone just jumped in and helped where they could.
I had forgotten how well mannered the people of the south are. Everywhere we went, men waited for us and held doors open for us. Even if we were several steps behind, they waited. At each place we went, people greeted us with a friendly hello and a smile. There were lots of yes ma’am’s and yes sir’s thrown around. The kindness offered to us while we were there helped make a tough week bearable.
When I came back home, a friend invited me to her house for a home cooked meal. We talked for hours about her homeland in the Philippines. What struck me was the stories she told were the same as what I had experienced in my home town. Even though living in extreme poverty, the people would do anything for you.
When it comes down to it, I think what makes people who come from poverty special is their humility and generosity. I know I am humbled and grateful for all the kindness shown to me these past two weeks.
Earlier this week I had a chance to catch up with an old friend. The conversation turned to the people in our lives who are not doing too well. My friend’s eyes began to tear up as he told me about how his wife’s cancer flared up again. She is going through another round of chemo, which has been hard on her body. She has lost her hair again as she did the last time she went through chemo. Her hair is a feature she was quite fond of. Now it is falling out in clumps leaving her partially bald with tufts of hair in random places. She wears scarves and headbands to attempt to cover her balding head. My friend got choked up telling me about a recent cruelty his wife endured. She was out in public when an elderly man made a rude comment about the bow on her scarf. The comment hurt her feelings, as she was already terribly self-conscious. My friend kept asking me why someone would do that. I had no answer and no comfort to offer. What would prompt someone to be rude to someone instead of just offering a reassuring word?
Also this past week another friend posted on Facebook that she needed urgent prayers. She added a comment pleading people to please not ask what it was for. It’s unfortunate she had to add that comment to keep people from prying. It reminded me of a time I had surgery on my foot. I wore a walking boot for several weeks while my foot healed. I was surprised at how many strangers asked me what happened to my foot. Not only did I not feel like explaining my injury but also I was astonished at the intrusiveness of a complete stranger.
Why do we think we need to know everything about other people’s lives? Does asking about someone’s injuries fulfill some kind of morbid curiosity?
That brings me to my final frustration. Often people will say, let me know if there is anything I can do for you. When someone is going through a challenging time and you make that offer, you put the burden of getting help back on them. Someone who already has their plate full is not going to ask you to do something for them. Figure out what you would need if you were in the same situation and then just do it. Maybe they need a home cooked meal, their kids may need a ride to soccer practice, maybe they can’t get their lawn mowed. Do that random act of kindness.
I don’t think people want to know what is going on in other people’s lives. It seems asking how are you is just a nicety. If you don’t want to know or to help, then don’t ask.
The day started out like any other summer day. My dogs and I got up; we ate our breakfast and slowly got on with our day. This early summer has been a record breaking series of hot days. The temperatures keep the dogs low in their energy levels. They prefer to stay inside where the house is air-conditioned. We were having a nice peaceful day until about five in the evening.
My pack of five dogs is a group of four senior dogs and one middle-aged dog. My oldest dog is fourteen and my youngest is six. The four oldest dogs are all very close in age. I have watched them go from young energetic dogs to old pained dogs in what seems to have been a very short timespan.
There are many changes associated with advancing age I was aware of and could plan for. The aching joints, the reduced appetite, the slower movements, I was ready for those. What took me by surprise was the onset of noise phobia in two of my calmest and most stoic dogs. My third oldest dog has always had the hardest time with fireworks and thunder. I always have medication on hand for him because he shakes and whimpers inconsolably.
Just this past year, I have gone from one fearful dog to four fearful dogs. I had no idea what the trigger was until I did some research. I found an article here: http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+2110&aid=616. The article stated older dogs could become overly sensitive to noise. It sited cognitive dysfunction, the inability to get away from the source of the noise and decreased ability to manage stress as contributors to noise phobia.
Unfortunately for my dogs, a hot summer day that falls on the fourth of July means plenty of fireworks can be expected. I held off giving medication for as long as I could. Both TV’s were on and up as loud as I could stand it. It did nothing to drown out the heavy fireworks that seemed to have been lit off right next to our house.
My oldest dog was not phased and never has been. My second oldest dog was a train wreck. Despite medication on board she would get up and pace and a pant. I would have to repeatedly get her to lie down and sleep a bit. My third oldest needed two doses before he slept peacefully in the corner of my closet hidden behind my hanging clothing. My fourth oldest was hovering between peaceful and anxious but he succumbed to the medicine. My youngest got as close to me as possible, facing me and staring at me while I petted him and reassured him.
I know many dog owners find themselves in the same situation every Fourth of July. I pity the large farm animals and wild animals that have no comfort from the noise. I used to like the Fourth of July but it is hard to enjoy the day when your pack is frazzled. Maybe there should be a quiet celebration for dog lovers on the Fifth of July.
This Monday I will be joining the Facebook community of Fit Men Cook https://www.facebook.com/FitMenCook?fref=ts for a five-day no sugar challenge. I am ready for the challenge and I believe I will do well. I started my anti-sugar journey by trying the Paleo diet. I did not lose any weight but found I no longer needed sugar. As a positive side effect, I also did not need my acid reflux pills. My memory improved and I no longer had uncontrollable cravings. The next step was the plan I found in Jorge Cruise’s latest book about keeping sugar at or under 100. (Link on the right of the page) Again the weight loss is not there but the benefits outweigh the lack of progress.
Sugar is a powerful, addictive drug. It gives us a rush and then drops us when the insulin kicks in. Still we keep coming back for more, because it makes us feel better. Sugar is no different from any other addictive drug. It is not an illicit drug but it’s addictive powers are equally impressive. Sugar releases the calming hormone serotonin. It’s no wonder we reach for the ice cream when stressed out. Often times addicts will have triggers which will set them right back into their addictive behavior. How many times have you attended a birthday party at work when you are on a diet. How easy was it to walk away from the cake? Or did you?
Sugar will add inches to your waist, mess with your insulin and metabolism and impair your brain function. The last one is the scariest to me. Research is showing a strong link between diabetes and dementia. Research out of the UCLA, suggests that sugar forms free radicals in the brain’s membrane and compromises nerve cells’ ability to communicate. This causes issues with memory, ideas and moods. Brain fog is not normal and it is not a part of the again process. I was amazed at how much sharper my brain was the further I got away from my sugar addiction.
We have to work really hard to cut the sugars out of our lives. There are sugary products just about anywhere you look in a grocery store. Go to get a cup of coffee and you will see a plethora of pastries yours for the taking. If you dare to read labels, you will find sugar in almost every processed food. The next time you are in a grocery store, look at a can of tomatoes or even green beans. You will be hard pressed to find one without added sugars.
I am looking forward to strengthening my resolve to say good-bye to sugar once and for all. If there are any of you out there that would care to join me I would love to hear how you week goes. More importantly I would love to hear how you feel and the effects your sugar-free week had on your mind and body.
What do you do when you are on overload? There are times when life pulls you in several different directions: a friend or a family member needs help, chores need attention, an emergency situation arises, the phone call keeps ringing. You still have to work and function as a member of society. No one wants to hear your excuses about why you can’t deal with the right this second.
We do what humans do, we compartmentalize. People focus on a crisis; deal with it, then move on to the next one. To the outside world we seem unaffected by these emergencies even if we have not processed the preceding emergency. Some of have become masters at this and the world is none the wiser.
Wikipedia defines compartmentalization as an unconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid the mental discomfort caused by a person’s conflicting values, thoughts, emotions or beliefs. Compartmentalization allows these conflicting ideas to co-exist by inhibiting direct or explicit acknowledgement and interaction between separate compartmentalized states.
My job forces this compartmentalization process on me so I can continue to be productive. We deal with the crisis at hand, stuff it into its hole then move on to the next one never fully dealing with the effects of each crisis. What happens when the crises move into our personal lives? Now we have a crisis at work and a crisis at home. Crisis mode becomes our daily living style until all the compartments are full.
Compartmentalizing is in fact an excellent defense mechanism. It allows you to deal with a situation when you mind and body are telling you to just run away. The problem being the emotional backlash is waiting in the compartment we stuff our crisis into. The stress slowly builds until it cannot be ignored. It will not go away on it’s own.
What is the answer? It varies for every individual but here are some thoughts.
What ever it is that works for you, make sure you find some way to get rid of the stress. As for me, I am going to read a good book, scratch my dog’s ears and get on to that sleep. I hope you have a peaceful week ahead of you.
Last weekend I had two seventeen year old boys come to my house to help me catch up with my spring yard cleaning. I have known the one boy, David, for several years. He has always been a quiet, polite, kind young man. David is a hard worker and pleasant to spend time with.
When David said he would help me he asked if he could bring his friend. I told him I could only afford to pay one of them. I then told him I supposed they could split the money. David told me he wasn’t coming to help me for the money, just to help. He said he would give his friend most of the money and keep what was left. This kid has never asked me for money and he fights me every time I pay him when the job is done.
On the day they were to come help, the boys showed up early, eager to get to work. We were joined by my friend Sam who also came to help. We four worked side by side, laughing, joking and getting a lot done. The boys were polite and constantly asked what they could do next.
Sam brought food for the four of us and we made lunch while the boys talked and played on their phones. When it came time to eat David’s friend stopped himself from grabbing food and told me to go first. I refused because in my house, guests eat first. The chivalry was not lost on me. I was deeply impressed by this polite, well-raised young man.
I paid both of the boys $50 each. They told me they did not want the money but graciously accepted. The following day I went to check my mail and found $50 in my mailbox. David had finally outwitted me.
Yes indeed there is hope for our future in the fine young men. I am sure there are many more out there like them. Thank you to the parents that work hard to raise such gifts to our society.
These past six months have been a whirlwind of learning, frustration and loss. I learned my mother has dementia and she has rapidly declined in her mental capacity. I decided I needed to educate myself on the disease since no one involved in her care is helping me understand this disease.
I picked up a book, “Inside the Dementia Epidemic: A Daughter’s Memoir” written by Martha Stettinius. I hesitated to read it at first, wondering what nightmarish tales was within the covers. But, I read it and I read it quickly. I found myself identifying with Stettinius’s in so many ways. The book was educational and I finished the book feeling like I wasn’t as alone as I perceived.
This brings me to my most recent conversations with my mother. In two of the latest conversations I had with her she did not know who I was. She thought I was her cousin, even though I corrected her. She spoke to me only in Armenian both those times, since this is her native language. It was hard to take but I played along. I had lost my mother for the first time. I would loose her again at her death. The hardest part is not having anyone in my life I felt like I could share this with. Being vulnerable is the hardest trait for me to express.
What I learned from those conversations was my mother forgot my brother died three years ago. She also forgot my father died over a year ago. My mother said to ‘her cousin’ neither my brother nor me had been to visit. I saw no sense in opening old wounds so I offered the excuse, “Maybe they are busy.” She said we weren’t we were just away at school and did not have anyone to bring us to the rehab center. My brother and I had never gone away to school so I don’t know why she thought this. It made me wonder how old she thought I was.
This past weeks conversation was different. This time she called me by name and spoke English to me. It was a happy semi-lucid conversation. At one point she again forgot she was talking to me so I asked her how old I was. She said, “35”. Good for me! I lost 12 years in that conversation. I corrected her then asked how old she thought my brother was. She said he must be 40. I told her no her was 49. (The age he would have been in July) She was surprised then said, “Oh, I’m getting old!” We laughed. I had not heard my mother laugh in months. She then complained that the facility kept moving her from one place to another. They have not, but again, I didn’t see the need for a correction. I asked why they kept moving her. She said she did not know. I said to her, “Maybe you are in the witness protection program.” She asked me what that was. I told her they were trying to hide her because they thought she might be a spy. She laughed and said, “Well they are just stupid”. We both laughed. Yes, it was at their expense but she deserved some joy in these years of misery. She now waits for my Dad to come and tell her what is going on with her situation. It will be a long wait but I’m not going to tell her he’s not coming. I will continue to lie.
Disclaimer: This post may not be for the squeamish. It is intended to be tongue in cheek and not mean to offend anyone. I love all animals, even the wild ones. But I understand some things we cannot change about the animal kingdom.
Last week, we in the Pacific Northwest had a stretch of beautiful spring weather. The sun was shining, the birds were nesting and the dogs were being dogs. They too were enjoying spring’s bounty of sights, sounds and most of all baby critters.
I had come home from a long day at work, played with the dogs then went to work out. This is our workweek routine. Then finally, I will feed the dogs before I feed myself. On this day, I was unaware an incident would soon set off a comedy of errors on my part. My dogs were going to teach me some important lessons.
I fed three of my dogs and had them shut in their individual rooms. I prepared meals for the other two but they were still frolicking outside. I was going to have to go get them.
I stepped outside and left the front door open. This was mistake number one. I called my dogs and soon spotted them on the grass in front of a tree line. I walked towards them since they were ignoring my calls. That was when I realized the reason I was being ignored. One of them had a lifeless wild rabbit in its mouth. This is the part where I ask you not to judge. I love all animals but I know dogs and cats hunt. It is a part of their instinct we humans have not bred out of them.
At this point I should have just walked away. But I didn’t. My dogs did though. One of them picked up the rabbit and started to trot towards the house. He was proud and he wanted to share the moment with his friends. It was then I realized my first error, leaving the front door open.
Panic was moving in as quickly as my dog picked up his pace. Then I made another mistake. I chased him. And another mistake, I yelled at him while I ran. “Do not go in that house!” This must have seemed to be an extension of the game. Now a crazy, screaming, two-legged feeble runner was chasing the hunter. What fun that must have been for my dog. The thrill of the hunt was over and it was time to play the keep away game.
Yes, he made it all the way in the house. I had my roommate hurry home and get the bunny away from Moose. He was guarding it, panting from his exertion. He was proud of himself and I had to deal with it. He is after all a dog and I am a fool who maybe learned a lesson or two.
Fifteen years ago, I answered my first calling. I felt my whole life had led to my becoming a police officer. I thought long and hard before deciding to test for the job. I consulted with friends, went through the pros and cons, and my strengths and weaknesses. I was determined to make sure this was the right job for me and I was right for this job. After much deliberation, I decided to do it. It’s hard to believe fifteen years have gone by. Being a law enforcement officer has made me question my sanity many times. For the most part, it has been a fun ride and a fulfilling career.
I am drawing near the end of this path and need to find a new career for the next several years of my life. I can hear my next calling. I know I want to work in animal rescue. I have once again begun to explore my options.
Over the years I have developed many skills I can use in this new line of work. I have even attended specialized training. I know I can do this and I know I can be good at it. Yet there is the catch in this plan, my limitations.
I cannot stand to see animals suffer, especially at the hands of humans. Animals forced to fight each other to the death is something I cannot stomach. The sights, the sounds, the smells, they all bring me to my knees. I never entered sex crimes investigations for the same reasons. Having seen child pornography haunted me for weeks on end. The images and sounds are forever burned in my mind. I admire my coworkers that can fight this battle and not loose their sanity.
So where do I go? What direction do I take? I hear my calling but I don’t know how to answer it. The skills are there, the passion is there but where it the niche? Where do I fit in?
Answering our calling is not an option. Unique gifts, talents and skills are give to us and others we develop over time. We are compelled to answer that calling. What would the world look like if no one answered his or her calling? What a lackluster world it would be. Both sides gain from an answered calling. The giver wins fulfillment and a destiny fulfilled. The receiver gets the help they could not give themselves.
So I ask you, what is your calling? Can you hear it? Do you plan to answer it?