Panic Across the Pond

Last year, my stepmother said that her wish for her 60th birthday (which is in June) would be for L and me to come to see her and Dad. Initially, we said yes because we hadn’t seen them in a year and 60 is a milestone.

L and I talked about it more and more, and decided that we should go earlier so that it wouldn’t be so hot and the flowers would be in bloom, etc. We finally decided to go in April.

Here’s the thing, though. My dad and stepmother? They live in the Netherlands.

I’ve been there twice. Once in 2000 and the second time in 2005. So it’s definitely been a while. And both times ended up being wonderful. I got to go to London the second time around and fell in love with the city.

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So I should feel fine about this, right?

I am not. I have been a wreck since we bought the tickets…in FEBRUARY.

I remember the first time I had a panic attack on a plane. I was in a window seat, sitting next to two very nice older gentlemen. All of a sudden, I felt this anxiety wash over me, and the man sitting next to me said, “You look green.”

Luckily, I didn’t need the air sick bag, but I never wanted to go on a plane again. And that was a problem because at the time, my dad lived in upstate New York, and Mom and I lived in Houston. I think other than those necessary arrangements, I didn’t step on a plane again.

That changed in 2000 when I finally figured out that depression medication would be the only saving point for me. The first one that worked was Effexor, and after taking it for a few days, I began to feel like I could do ANYTHING. In fact, just a few weeks later, I drove to Dallas from Huntsville for the first time. It was scary, but invigorating.

That’s when Dad started putting the idea of going to visit Holland. He actually flew to Houston so that he could make the trip with me. I am grateful, because I honestly don’t know whether I could have done it on my own. And since it was pre-9/11, people could sit with you at the gate. My mom came and brought me what I call my “comfort bear,” which sits on my desk to this very day and comes with me in any situations where I feel anxious: surgery, doctor and dental appointments, etc.

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But I digress. The fact that I haven’t been able to sleep at night and (when I don’t have a deadline, of course) sleep the whole day is unsettling. I haven’t been taking care of myself at all.

I am the heaviest I’ve ever been, and that’s heavier than the last time I saw my father. He was extremely upset at how much weight I had gained, and I don’t want to show him how I look now.

I can’t change much of that now. Because the reality is, we leave in less than TWO WEEKS. I’ll do my best to take walks, but I know that I may be in agony quite a bit and that scares me.

What I NEED to focus on is the benefits of this trip. This is the honeymoon that L and I have never had. We’ve been married for 7 years, but we’ve really never had the time or the money to go anyplace exotic.

This will be L’s first trip out of the States. I know he’s nervous, but he’s loading up his laptop with many…many computer games that should keep him occupied.

I’ve already started a list of what I’m going to take on the plane: coloring books, knitting, etc. I am hoping that the Zofran and Xanax will make the ride go smooth.

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Come April 21, we’ll be on our way…whether I’m ready or not.

 

 

Colorado

I looked at my blog a couple of days ago, and realized that I haven’t written anything in three years.

Three years.

I guess I could say that the first year didn’t give me much to write about, but I can’t say that about this past year. It’s been full of adventure.

Why? Because my husband and I packed our bags and moved to Colorado in April. After living in Texas for almost 40 years, we decided that we wanted new scenery. The mountains definitely provide that.IMG_1187

We got the bug in 2013 and decided to visit Colorado just to make sure it was where we wanted to live, and we fell in love. We traveled there in October, and the snow was falling. It was beautiful and magical. We knew that’s where we wanted to be.

We put our house on the market in March 2014. It sold in two days. Everything was falling into place. This move was meant to be.

We’ve been in Colorado for almost a year, and I now believe I’ll never get used to seeing the mountains outside our home.

There have been plenty of adventures since then, but that’s for another post at another time.

Too Many Thoughts

It’s almost midnight, and I’m not focused. I don’t know what to write about. My head is filled with thoughts that tumble around like clothes in a dryer, sometimes sticking together. Over and over. Sometimes I don’t mind it, but other times, like tonight, they are all screaming at me and won’t quiet down.

I wish they would let me sleep.

Home Sweet Home

It’s been four years since we moved into the house we live in now.

We had looked at a few places, but they were either too far from work, too expensive, or needed too many repairs. So, we decided to look into buying a new home. Or, rather, have one built.

It was an exciting process. First, we picked the lot. And then, we got to pick everything else, from “Brick or Stone?” to “Almond or Antique White?” to “Fireplace or No Fireplace?”.

It was fun choosing fixtures and granite and whatnot, and seeing how it all came together.

Floor tile for the house; tile backsplash, granite, and cabinet choices for the kitchen.

The biggest surprise for us was that the tile backsplash. We originally thought it was going to only be the one color. When we came to see the progress, we were pleasantly surprised that wasn’t the case.

Everywhere I look, I see what we (somewhat) designed. I love it. But I knew I had to do something else for the house to become our home.

M + L Heart

So I drew our initials in wet concrete.

I Made This!

One of the many things I love about knitting and crocheting (besides that it calms me down) is that I can make something that is functional.

I’ve knit socks,

I look like Punky Brewster today.

scarves,

hats,

Lee’s Jayne hat

and baby clothes.

Baby britches!

To have someone remark on something I’m wearing and be able to say, “I made that,” is a great feeling!

My first crochet project is a blanket. I don’t know how large it will be, but I’m hoping I’ll have it finished in time for Christmas!

The Physical Toll of Anxiety

This past week has been brutal for me, emotionally and physically.

Emotionally I’ve been sailing on choppy waves. There’s been a reprieve between rocking and rolling, but barely.

What always surprises me, though, is how anxiety can take such a physical toll. Before my trip to see Dad, I couldn’t sleep, I was weepy, and I was constantly grinding my teeth.

Last night, after we got home, I crashed. Because I no longer felt like I had to be on guard, my body just kind of…gave up. I ended up going to bed at 9 p.m. and slept until 9 this morning.

Today, I still feel rundown. I got out of the house to run some errands, but for the most part I was tired, and my body hurt all over. I don’t think I’m coming down with anything. It’s just that I’m not in “fight or flight” mode, like I have been for the past week.

It seems like the more I let myself get worked up over something, the worse I feel afterward.

I hope I can work on reducing anticipatory anxiety so that I can feel energized, rather than exhausted, and be able to enjoy more that life has to offer.

What…Me Worry?

I am exhausted.

I had built up so much anticipation, and was so tense, so sure that I was going to have to keep my guard up.

And then, my dad hugged me.

Everyone else greeted me with open arms as well, and it was the nicest time spent with family that anyone could ever hope for.

I would write more, but I am ready for a nap.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

What Are You Thankful For?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Usually at dinner, people often take turns saying what he or she is thankful for.

This year, I decided to participate in the 30 Days of Gratitude project. Being a part of this project has left me pleasantly surprised. Each day reaffirms that there are so many reasons to be thankful! I hope you’ll let me know what you’re thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!

30 Days of Gratitude (through November 21)

Day 1: I am so grateful for my husband, Lee. Never have I met a more loving, caring, supportive individual. Not a day goes by that I don’t say “thank you” to the Universe for bringing him into my life. I am truly blessed.

Day 2: I am grateful for Facebook. I have reconnected with a lot of friends who I haven’t seen or talked to for years (hello, Penfield and CCHS!). Facebook has given me the pleasure of reconnecting with my mom’s side of the family (All Hail the Romaines!). Even though we live miles away from one another, I feel closer to you than ever. I miss you all so much.

Day 3: I am grateful for comedians. I worship them. I listen to their podcasts. I try to go see them perform as much as possible. Because no matter what my problems are, no matter how anxious I feel, comedians provide me with a diversion. I thrive on laughter, and I am grateful because they make me laugh.

Day 4: I am grateful for lazy days. Other than taking Blue to the vet this morning (she’s in excellent health, yay!), I did nothing. And it was wonderful. 🙂

Day 5: I am grateful for organizations such as Austin Pets Alive that save worthwhile animals who would otherwise be euthanized because of overcrowding. If it wasn’t for APA!, we wouldn’t have met Blue or Buddy, who are wonderful companions.

Day 6: I am grateful for the freedom to choose. I voted last week, and to be able to exercise my right as a citizen and choose who I think is the best person for the job made me feel powerful.

Day 7: I am grateful for curiosity and the way it nudges me to try something new. Because of curiosity, I’ve volunteered at a wildlife sanctuary, ushered at an ice-skating competition, and learned to knit and spin my own yarn.

Day 8: I am grateful for knitting. It satisfies both sides of my brain. My left side loves following the patterns and seeing how every stitch fits together like a puzzle. The right side is enamored with the colors and textures of the yarn. And in the end, I have something tangible. What a wonderful outcome!

Day 9: I am grateful for Bob Ross. Trees and clouds look a whole lot different to me because of him.

Day 10: I am grateful for antidepressants. Before I started taking them in 2000, I couldn’t drive more than 5 miles from my apartment. Three weeks later, I was able to drive three hours to Dallas. I’m not always on an even keel, but they have definitely changed my life for the better.

Day 11: I am thankful for my cousin Scott, and all the men and women who have fought for our country. I salute you!

Day 12: I am grateful for sleep and the restoration I feel after some worthwhile shut-eye.

Day 13: I am grateful for cold weather so I can wear my handknit hat and scarf!

Day 14: I am grateful to be able to work from home most days and walk our dogs at lunch. Buddy, in particular, is serious about his walks.

Day 15: I am grateful for flexibility. I believe that being flexible is one of the keys to a happy life. I always try to have a Plan A and a Plan B, so that if something comes up, I’m not stressed out about it. It has definitely helped me in many situations.

Day 16: I am grateful for my mom. She’s always been supportive of me, she’s fun to hang out with, and she is very generous. If it wasn’t for her, I would not have been able to try freelancing. Thank you, Mom, for everything. I love you!

Day 17: I am grateful for the technology in my car that reminds me when it needs to be serviced. It even lets me know what should be done! So today, the Fit and I are going to Sears to get its oil changed and tires rotated. Thank you, Fit!

Day 18: I am grateful for books. While I’m happy to have a Nook, there’s nothing like the real thing. The *swish* when turning a page and the *crack* of a book’s spine. The intoxicating aroma of fresh ink on paper. Books are the perfect companion on any day.

Day 19: I am grateful to be an aunt. My ex-husband was also an only child, so I didn’t know what I was missing. I love my nieces and nephew. They are smart, funny, and talented. And they live in Austin! Hearing them call me “Aunt Merrie” truly brightens my day.

Day 20: I am grateful to be alive. Yes, there are bouts of depression and anxiety. But I truly have a great life and am glad that I am able to experience with all my senses everything life has to offer.

Day 21: I am grateful for recipes that have been passed down from parents and grandparents. Not only are the baked goods delicious, my mind is flooded with wonderful memories of making them with my family and friends.

 

Thanksgiving Anticipation

So technically I’m late and I missed a day, but I’m going to say that my clock is a little fast and it’s still November 20, dang it!

I’m having anticipatory anxiety. Big time. About Thanksgiving.

One reason I’ve already talked about: Dad.

The other is that we’re going to my aunt and uncle’s house, and I haven’t really spoken with them in four years.

When Lee and I decided to get married and were making up the guest list, it was easy to invite all of his family because they’re so close (physically and emotionally). My side of the family is a bit more complicated.

The majority of my family lives on the west coast. My dad and stepmother live in Holland, and because they had come to visit for Thanksgiving four years ago, they weren’t going to be able to come in for the wedding on New Year’s Eve.

But Dad asked me if I would invite his sister and brother-in-law to the wedding to stand in for him.

I didn’t.

I can’t say that it’s Mom’s fault. It’s not. Ultimately it was my decision to say no.

My grandmother, Precious I called her, my dad’s mom, passed away in October 2007. She died with my mom by her side.

Before that, she was in a nursing home in Dallas. She had dementia and couldn’t live on her own anymore. With her son living across the pond, and her daughter moving to another state for a job opportunity, my mom volunteered to have my grandmother moved to a place in Houston.

This is what I know. I know that Mom visited Precious several times a week. I know that she brought my grandmother her favorite foods and fed them to her. That she put moisturizer on my grandmother’s face and hands and lip balm on her lips. I know that, even though they didn’t speak for a long while after my parents divorced, that they both loved each other very much and were happy to be in each other’s lives.

I know my mom tried her hardest to advocate for my grandmother. I know that she gave my dad and aunt updates on Precious’s condition. I know she was frustrated with the nursing home.

I don’t exactly know what happened that caused Dad and my aunt to decide to no longer include my mom in family decisions. But I know Mom was deeply hurt. I don’t know if Dad told her why the decision was made. All I know is that my mom wouldn’t go to the funeral.

And she never wanted to talk to or see my dad or aunt again.

I sent my aunt and uncle an announcement. Maybe I should’ve explained my reasoning for not inviting them, but I felt like I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Yes, they are family. But ultimately, the day was supposed to be about Lee and me, wasn’t it?

I didn’t hear anything about it until my dad contacted me and told me that my aunt was upset. That I should contact her. What got to me was that she didn’t contact me directly. Maybe she felt she couldn’t. Whatever the case may be, it has been a battle between me and Dad for almost four years.

Dad told me a couple of months ago that he and my stepmother were going to be in Austin for Thanksgiving and they would be staying with my aunt and uncle. And that my aunt would be happy if Lee and I came to dinner. Initially he said that he would let her know that I would like to be there, but I told Dad I would call her. We had a nice chat.

I may be having anticipatory anxiety for nothing, but I’m afraid of what I will say if they ask. I’m afraid of the disappointing stares. Of us all acting one way when we’re thinking something else.

I just want to spend time with my family. Is that so much to ask?

Hard Work Pays Off

For many years, I’ve wondered what it would be like to freelance. I don’t necessarily mind working in an office environment, but the thought of being able to work from home, especially on days where I felt particularly anxious or depressed, appealed to me. I know many people who have been able to make ends meet, and while everyone has told me that it’s hard work, most have said that they wouldn’t trade freelancing back for working 9 to 5.

In the beginning, I didn’t think it would be possible. The only way I would be able to make it work is if I won the lottery, or had saved enough to live on for the months that I didn’t have money coming in. Well, I never won the lottery (because I don’t play) and my salary, combined with Lee’s, was enough to build a bit of a cushion, but not much.

If it hadn’t been for my parents’ help, I don’t think I could have taken that leap.

I received my first assignment toward the end of August. I knew that it would take a while, and I would have to work a lot of odd hours and weekends before I would see the fruits of my labor. There have been some days, just a few, where I wondered if I made the right choice.

Well, today, my decision has been reaffirmed. Today, I received my first check for freelance work.

I can’t tell you how excited I am. Well, actually, yes I can. I ran into the house yelling, “I got paid!” (The dogs looked at me like I was crazy.)

I know it may be some time before I see another check, but I’m just grateful that I finally have something to show for the work I’ve done.

I may not have won the lottery, but I feel like a million dollars!

 

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