Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Do You Take for Granted?

E has become BFF with a little 10 year-old girl in our church. They are the same height and have similar interests and the 10 year-old is extremely innocent so they make a great pair. But I really feel for this girl because she has had a rough life and carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. For the purpose of this post, we'll call her A.

When she was 4 her dad had an affair with another member of our church. The woman was in an open marriage (even though he wasn't) so the affair became public knowledge and quite painful for A's mom. They tried to reconcile for a year but couldn't and divorced when A was 6. From then on, things went downhill. Her father went through some sort of mid-life crisis and stopped paying full child support. The couple had owned 2 houses together and the dad lived in one while the mom and her two daughters lived in the other. Each paid their own mortgage even though they were both signers on both houses. The father decided to stop paying his mortgage as well, sending the house into foreclosure and ruining the mom's credit rating.

Before the foreclosure, her mom went back to school and got an education degree but hasn't been able to find a job. She's been subbing at the local schools, but it is not enough to make ends meet. Things have been extremely tough. Hubby has been trying to slip some church money to the mom, but it is only enough to help a little. Things are tight all around and giving has been down. Now A's mom has put her house on the market in hopes of moving out and getting an apartment.

So here is this little girl who knows the score- she's losing her home, her mom can't afford to buy any extras, they eat Chef boyardee a lot and they NEVER go anywhere because the cost of gas is an impediment. A is stressed to say the least. A's mom did a lot of her Christmas shopping at the Dollar Store and 10 year-old A received Tinkerbell gloves. She needed gloves, but Tinkerbell for a 10 year-old is embarrassing. I saw her mom talking to her about them and A lifted up her chin and refused to complain because she knew it was the best her mom could do. It just made my heart hurt.

So today we took A with us on a road trip. We drove 2 hours to one of the local history sites. E had missed her school field trip to the site because we left early to go to Florida at Thanksgiving and we wanted to make it up. We don't go on road trips often, after all, we don't have a lot of money either. But when we go, we let E splurge. We get snacks when we get gas, she gets $10.00 for the gift shop and we eat one meal at a nice sit-down restaurant. So of course, we gave A the same treatment. A was shell-shocked! When we stopped the first time and got snacks, she was afraid to ask for anything. I told her that we had received a little extra Christmas bonus from the church that money was paying for this trip and she could get what she wanted. If I hadn't made that fib up, I am not sure she would have let us buy her things. But that was all it took. She got a bag of chips AND a drink. She felt so guilty, but I could tell just letting some of that stress go, if only for a moment, did her a world of good. For the rest of the day she laughed and smiled and just seemed to feel relieved.

It's hard to believe just two years ago Hubby and I couldn't afford to buy groceries and I actually had no snack send to school with E. That was the worst feeling in the world to me, but no matter how bad things got or get for us, we will always have a church-supplied house and church-paid for utilities. This little girl doesn't have that safety net and she's still holding her chin up high. And looking at her I realized just how much I take for granted.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dear Friends

The Christmas Eve service is a memory; my parents and family devoured our annual chese fondue and wine tonight (no Velveeta, Wide Lawns, I promise); my holiday french toast is soaking in the refrigerator for tomorrow's breakfast and the traditional flounder is thawing in preparation for its yummy pecan/crab stuffing. My daughter is anxiously awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus and even the raptor is contentedly chewing away at a bone. We are ready.

I know this year has been a difficult year for a lot of people. Jobs have been lost, loved ones have become ill, divorces became painfully final. But I hope, for just one day, you can have a glass of wine, take a breath and find a moment of solace and rest in this crazy world.

Peace and joy!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Please Don't Squeeze the Pastor's Wife

I hate being touched. Unless you are my Hubby or my daughter, please stay at least 2feet back from me. I have a very defined sense of personal space and if you cross that, I get edgy. I'll shake your hand briefly, but I don't want to sit there and hold it for longer than the perfunctory 3 second greeting.

I have one friend of about 6 years who is a hugging menace. She hugs everybody- church members, her school kids, even homeless people she comes across, complete strangers. She knows how I feel about hugging, but grabs me anyway. I hate it, but I allow it because she has been a great friend over the years and accepts my quirks, so I try to deal with this particular one of hers.

This new church is lousy with huggers. There's even one 94 year-old woman with a cane who, when she sees me, makes a slow, decrepit bee-line for me so she can plant an old, dry kiss on my cheek. I try to slip away before she gets to me, but she hunts me down. She insists on doing this every Sunday even though I try so hard to avoid her. For someone so old, she has an amazing radar for finding me.

This past Sunday one of the new members (who is also a mom) cornered me, grabbed my hand and said, "You are such a wonderful and light spirit. I'm just so blessed to have you in my life. I would love to have some time to get to know you and learn more about your spiritual journey." WHAT THE HELL DO I SAY TO THAT???? I stuttered out a stunned thank you but didn't offer anything more. She persisted and asked when we might talk. I told her I am always at church and she was welcome to sit down with me here, all the while I was trying to extricate my hand from her death grip. That's all I said. I didn't invite a phone call or a lunch date, nothing. I have no desire to "share my spiritual walk" with anyone. What am I going to say? Well, I have a pack of tarot cards that I used to be pretty good at reading...oh yeah, I speak to dead people...and I believe in the Native American religion more than I do hers? Something tells me that's not what she wants to hear.

But the worst part about this anti-hugging battle is this is such a small town that I run into church people everywhere. I was at the Y this morning and an old woman who had just exited her exercise class, came up to me and asked "You're LIMW aren't you?" When I said yes, she grabbed my neck and squeezed. A sweaty, old woman whose name I didn't even know was perspiring all over me. ICK!!! Thank goodness we weren't in the locker room!

I've tried telling people how I feel about hugging. I think Hubby has even talked about it in one of his sermons. Sometimes I think people believe that Hubby and I have some kind of magic pixie dust on us that, if rubbed on them, gives them special access into heaven. Well I've got news for them, if I did have magic powder, I sure wouldn't share it with the huggers!

Friday, December 18, 2009


For those of you who think I have gone over the edge, I wanted to let you know I am fine. I landed in the doctor's office again this morning. Apparently I am not a good candidate for antihistamines. The Allegra I have been taking brought on pseudo-heart attack symptoms, anxiety and OCD-like tendencies.

I stoppped taking it two days ago and noticed a 75% improvement in my mood and pain. Since my heart still hurt this morning I went to my doc who gave me a thorough check, EKG and spent an hour talking to me. He thinks this continuing cough is allergen related and the pain is mechanical from the trauma my body experienced from the infection causing the cough. So I have been cleared for take-off.

I apologize for taking you all on my wild-emotional ride. I had no idea it was all medically induced. I'm off for my date day with Hubby. Tomorrow maybe I'll tell you about the people I am working with in my theater. One is a former Miss State (as in, contender for Miss America) and the other is, well, that's going to take a while.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I Know How I Don't Want to End Up....

My therapist must be able to read my mind. Either that or she has found my blog. She called last night to remind me about my 9:00 AM appointment today. I didn't have a 9:00 AM appointment today but I needed one, so I went.

The past 4 days I have been suffering from near heart-attack conditions. I have had tightness in my chest, pain in my neck and jaw, light-headedness and severe anxiety about the physical symptoms. I knew it was anxiety and panic, but I couldn't figure out why it was unending. It never let up unless I was completely absorbed in something I was doing.

It got worse when I went to bed or if I let myself wallow in my bed. I've really been struggling with wanting to just cocoon myself in my room and escaping from reality. But when I would do that, the anxiety would become worse. I was hopeless.

But remember a while ago when I said my mom used to disappear into her room for days? I am determined not to do that to my daughter. So my body was panicking because it needed to rest with everything I have been doing, but I couldn't rest because I was going through a depressive stage and flashbacked to my days with my mom. I was in a vicious cycle and couldn't figure out for myself that it was my PTSD. As soon as my therapist told me it was a PTSD attack and not just a panic attack, the pain lessened and I could breathe again. I was floored. I should have known. But I guess that's why I am in therapy.

Anyway, while I was in with her, her business phone kept going off over and over again. She usually lets it go to voicemail, but the caller was so insistent she checked it. I could tell it was someone in crisis but also someone who tries very hard to keep her on the phone talking. You know the kind of person I am talking about. They get you on the phone and then won't let you hang up? Anywho, she told the person her 10:00 had cancelled and she could come then.

When I was done I left and walked out to see the person seated in the waiting area. I was floored. It was a woman, a very large woman with wild hair and lots of make-up. None of that is what floored me. I am used to that, it's called the South. But what I couldn't get over was the blanket on the woman's chest. Or should I say, what was going on UNDER the blanket. The woman was talking to blanket as if she was nursing a child. Having breast fed for 16 months I took a furtive glance, I didn't want to gawk at her, but I wanted to see the baby. ONLY IT WASN'T A BABY!!!!! The woman was trying to nurse a DOG!!!!

There's very few people who make me speechless. I have been a pastor's wife for so long I have dealt with all kinds of people in all walks of life. But this woman nursing her dog just disturbed me to no end. Maybe because with each therapy session I am realizing just how damaged I am. Maybe I know that if I didn't have a supportive husband and loving daughter I might end up walking a very similar road. I didn't feel pity for her, just horror that something so horrible had happened to cause her to need to nurse that dog. I hope my therapist can help her.

I love my raptor and for all his struggles I would do almost anything for him....But I won't do that!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

How to Quit Smoking-English Father-in-law Style

Before I begin this story, you have to understand the relationship my husband and father have. It's tense but cordial. My father is a fanatical atheist and doesn't like that my love for my husband took me 600 miles away from him. But they manage. Whenever there is a visit on either our part or theirs, my Hubby and father always go out for a beer together.

My hubby was always a sneak smoker. He claimed he could take it our leave it, but you know that is never the case. He rarely smoked a lot, but I would find packs of cigarettes hidden in odd places. I thought he had kicked the habit entirely because that was the only condition I had put on our marriage. I refused to be married to a smoker (my dad smoked until I was 10 and I was always sick). My dad knew he was smoking, though. I guess it takes one to know one. Just this past year I learned my Hubby was smoking in our first church during a very tense semester in seminary.

Anywho, when E was 13 months old, my prissy English uncle was visiting for Christmas so we packed up and made the 10 hour trek home to Ohio. Hubby was having a really rough time at school being a newish dad, student and pastor. So my uncle and dad took him out drinking to blow off steam. But before he went out, we all ate pizza together at Donato's....meat lover's greasy pizza. Hubby who normally doesn't eat a lot, ate a lot of this pizza. One, we rarely get pizza and two, we never order it with ALL of his favorite meats! So this was quite a treat for him.

My dad was very good friends with the Scottish man who owned the local pub. When Hubby got to the pub he was treated like family, which meant free drinks. He started out simple, drinking a few glasses of Boddington's. No problem, he wasn't driving. But then the owner pulled out his special stash of cigars. Hubby loves cigars, but he hadn't smoked anything stronger than cigarettes in years. The owner insisted so Hubby pulled out a cigar and started to enjoy it.

But, according to my dad and the owner, you can't have a good cigar without a good stiff drink. The owner pulled out his Dalwinnie and insisted on giving Hubby a few glasses of it. Meanwhile, Hubby was totally happy. Meat pizza for dinner, a good cigar, an expensive scotch. What more could he want? Have you ever heard the expression beer then liquor, never sicker?

He smoked the cigar until it was too small to hold. But my dad told him he couldn't waste the best part, so he convinced Hubby to put the butt end of the cigar on a toothpick and walk around smoking it like a cocktail weenie on a stick. He was quite the rube, I'm sure. But he was happy.

He was happy that is, until he came home. He walked in the door and turned green. He then proceeded to throw up, several times. He went straight to sleep, only waking up to vomit again. He was still vomiting the next morning. Still green, too. But he never smoked again.

The bar where this happened closed down a few years ago, but if you are from the Lane Ave area of Columbus, you very well may have heard the story because for the rest of the time my dad went into the bar, they always mentioned his son-in-law with the cocktail weenie cigar. Yes, that's my hubby!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Two Things

First, I have to tell you what happened today. I have been bartering one of my skills with someone who has something I want for Hubby for Christmas (remember, I can only spend $15). Well, the woman I was bartering with told me she thought this $15 thing was just being stingy. That took me back a step. I never once considered this odyssey we are taking as stingy. In fact, it is the only thing that is keeping me going right now. Up until that moment I was having fun coming up with truly meaningful gifts that came from the heart and not my wallet. Have we lost our sense of Christmas so much that people think that you can't love someone unless you lavish them with gifts you can't afford? That's just sad. Just a 100 years ago kids were happy to get an orange and a corn husk doll as their total Christmas. Oh well, I refuse to consider myself stingy.

Second, as many of you have been reading for a while know and have probably figured out from my last few posts, I am once again spiraling into my depression mode. I take heart in the fact that this is the longest I have gone in my adult life in between "episodes" and my therapist told me to expect it to happen right now especially, so I was warned. But it doesn't make it easier.

I've noticed my posts about my obsessive need to do everything get the most hits and the most comments. Many of you can't understand why I just can't say no to things and just let things fall between the cracks. I don't either. That's part of the reason I am in therapy. In fact, one anonymous commenter suggested: How do you let things go undone? Just don't do them. You will find out that the world doesn't fall apart. I suggest taking just one day at a time. The first day, don't make the bed. Find out the world still functions. Then maybe the next day try something else. You will feel such a great relief to realize that not everything has to get done! That comment alone almost sent me into a panic attack. Things that don't get done weigh on me until I obsess so much about them I get out of bed at 2:00 AM to take care of it. So just saying "don't do it" isn't the answer for me.

But I hear what you all are saying. I want to get to the point where I say no. I do...really. I did say no to something. We were going to have some new church members over for lunch this Saturday and I just said I couldn't do it. I couldn't do the cleaning, cooking and preparing that that would entail. I am trying to change...it's just not easy.

So if anyone has anything more than "just don't do it", I'm listening. I think I am just a worse case than you think I am, because I also justify my actions by saying "what's wrong with being in control and responsible?" Anywho, I ask that you bear with me over the next few weeks because I suspect my next few posts will be about this subject as I mull over why I am the way I am. But I bet there are more than a few of you who are walking the same road I am, so maybe, just maybe, me talking about it will help you this season.

Oh, and Assassin, I miss you, too. I still haven't made any real, kick you in the shins when you are down to get you up kind of friends. I think that is part of my problem right now.

Lastly, my malignant cough seems to be releasing its hold on me. The death rattle is now just a wee little wheeze. Hopefully getting my health back and being able to exercise again will help, too.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Just a question....

So what would happen if:

I didn't run the kid's Christmas program
I didn't bake the 10 dozen cookies for shut-ins and church functions
I didn't make the Christmas meal or breakfast
I didn't feed the homeless on Christmas Day
I din't sweep the mud off the floor that my family dragged in
I didn't do the laundry
I didn't walk the raptor
I didn't volunteer for the PTA's Santa Shop
I didn't sing in the band
I didn't sing on Christmas Eve
I didn't empty the dishwasher, print the Christmas programs, buy the gifts, plan my lessons, attend the parties, send the cards, send the thank-yous, wrap the gifts, make the ornaments that the youth will sell and make the bed.

What would happen if for just one day I opted out...because I need to opt out for a day...would the world stop turning on its axis? I mean, I AM the person that everyone turns to to get things done. The only time the Assassin ever hurt my feelings was the day she told me my lot in life was to be the Arranger. I hate that title, but it is so true. Even Hubby commented last night about the one time when we were dating that I blew off a meeting to be with him. He said he knows now what that meant because he has never seen me since that day not be responsible.

How does one do that? How do you say enough and follow through with it? I have control issues so it is really hard for me to relinquish my tight-fisted grasp on EVERYTHING, but I want to....

How do you just not care and let things go?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I Survived!!!!

This past weekend was the required district wide Christmas party for pastors and spouses. I hate attending this event. Every year it is the same thing: buffet style dinner, cheesy entertainment and a bunch of pastors trying to one-up each other in the showing out department. I swear, you get a bunch of pastors in the one room and they all try to outdo each other with booming voices, religious jokes and their biblical quotes. If I have to hear "Man can not live by bread alone....eh, eh, eh..." one more time.....

Now something you may not know is that pastors are notoriously unhealthy. Our health insurance costs $1,000 a month and the conference had a hard time getting it that low because most pastors don't exercise or watch what they eat. Seriously, when do they have time? Congregants get upset if their pastor doesn't work at least 6 days a week and attend all of the night time meetings. Then there's all the church dinners and lunch meetings and meals at church members' houses. The food is either cheap (bbq is a staple here) or something that is exremely caloric because the host wants to make "something special." It's all a bit much sometimes.

But what gets me is the behavior of the pastors. First, the buffet. Now, Advent is supposed to be a time of preparation, fasting, looking at what you have and evening the playing field for those that have not. One of the main tenets of the Advent season is to simplify. This includes eating. But we get to the dinner and the people are loading their appetizer plates with huge mounds of shrimp and cheese. It was disgusting and completely inappropriate. An appetizer is supposed to be small, whet the appetite and stave off hunger until the main course. These people had dinner-plus on that one plate.

Then came the main course. It was a very good, albeit fattening pasta dish. Again, people loaded up their plates and then went back for seconds. Pastors are not a starving group, there was no need for seconds. But what really got me was the dessert. The host church had caterers filling our drinks, clearing our plates....when it came time for dessert, they were attempting to cut the cake and serve it while the people where sitting at the tables. Only, apparently, dessert wasn't coming fast enough because about a 1/4 of the people got out of their chairs to walk over to the cake istelf and grab a piece as it was being cut. SO RUDE!!! And not a little bit germy.

But the highlight of my night came in the seating arrangement at my table. I had to sit next to someone who was a big-time advocate for the Retreat. If you missed the Retreat post, go here. This woman (who was a pastor) kept trying to engage me in talking about the Retreat and how I had to go. I told her that I had no plans on attending. So she changed her tactics and said I could attend the Southern State retreat or the Middle of the State Retreat. I finally had to very forcefully tell her that I do not leave my family for that long and I WILL NOT BE GOING!!!! She turned her back on me and didn't say another word to me the entire evening. Hubby, of course, was seated on the other side of me but he had a good friend sitting next to him whom he talked to all night so I was left to twiddle my fingers and count the number of "Amens" (27) I heard during the cheesy band's attempt at singing Christmas carols.

But thank goodness it is over. I survived. Now if I can just get through the children's program (which I am in charge of). Ho Ho Ho....

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

I think I have been a very good girl this year. I haven't hauled off and hit anyone who asked me when I was "saved." I have made sure to tell my husband every day that I love him and sometimes I tell him more than once a day. I have suoported my daughter through a move that was really hard on her and I tried very hard to be pleasant and nice to the new moms I have met. I have even started talking to someone who might be able to help me take care of me. So as you see, I deserve everything I am about to ask for.

First, I would like to be able to make Christmas cookies again with my friend Jenn and her three kids. For some reason, my Christmases have never been the same since we both grew up and she stopped spending them with us. Everytime I have to tell someone about a great Christmas memory, I always talk about the time we misread the recipe for candy cane cookies and instead made candy cane doorstops. She's kind of my Christmas spirit and without her I struggle. So if you could send her an extra hug and maybe let her know that I really miss her at Christmas, I'd appreciate it.

Second, could you please let me know if my brother has passed on to a better place? I don't care if it is heaven, or some great beyond or even to a rock concert in the sky. I just need to know that the spirit that has been haunting me and now my daughter is not my brother, because if it is, I'm going to kill him. That violently rattling screen door yesterday really scared me and E, plus the voices that woke me up last night...yea, I'm thinking I would like that to stop. Can you do that for me Santa?

Third, could you send me a big sign that the Raptor can wear that says "PLEASE DON'T PET THE DOG!!!" He's doing so much better. Kids can now come over to our house and play without being growled at or bitten; he walks past people quietly if they just ignore him; he even has learned he can go out in the backyard by himself and he will not be abandoned. I love him so much but I just need people to work with us instead of against us. Do you have a sign like that?

Lastly, my therapist says that I need to accept that it is time to worry about what makes me happy and not try to make others happy at my expense. Hmm...that's kind of tough at Christmas time since I am the person who makes the Christmas cheer for my family and some church people. I know that I am not going to solve this problem this Christmas, but if you could Santa, can you help me see the things again that make me happy? Help me focus on my husband and daughter. Help me see all the good things that I have in my life like a comfortable home, food on the table, not one but two jobs (one of which is actually in my field) and hopefully, after I see my doctor next week, my health will return. Yeah, if you could take away this malicious cough, I would REALLY like that.

So that's it, Santa, that's all I want for Christmas. I hope it isn't too much to ask for. I'll leave you some lovely non-doorstop cookie for you!