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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Triggered


This meme is Inconceivable.



Triggered...

It's become a hashtag on Twitter. A Facebook meme. A joke. A sneer. Just another word that's carelessly and thoughtlessly thrown around until its meaning is battered from our universal consciousness.

What does "triggered" mean to a PTSD survivor?

It means a crippling sense of overwhelming anxiety. Literally being physically unable to function due to a breakdown in the psychological function of our minds. It may create a violent outburst, a crying fit, a panic or anxiety attack, or a period of deep depression. It may create a temporary break from reality. It could mean a flashback to the most horrible thing we've ever experienced- literally re-living the moment in our minds. This is the reality PTSD and trauma survivors live with. We are careful about "triggers" because they are events which re-open the wound and require care to regain our ability to function normally. Triggers are exhausting to deal with.

To a survivor, a "trigger" is not a joke. It's not a meme. It doesn't mean "I'm really angry about what I just saw/read/heard." It doesn't mean "I'm frustrated," "I'm sad," or "I'm upset." It doesn't mean "I strongly disagree with what's happening here," or even that I'm upset with a societal or personal injustice.

It means that a trauma survivor has been re-injured and may be in need of professional intervention. When it's used as a joke or taken out of context and used by, or to make fun of, "Social Justice Warriors" et al online, it steals our collective recognition of the PTSD and trauma survivors' experiences. It steals any cognition that their very real injuries exist. It makes an invisable wound even more invisable, and makes it even more difficult for the survivor to feel less alone, less isolated, and less ignored.

Please stop using it as a meme. Stop using it to express your outrage, frustration, or anger. Please stop belittling and mocking the condition that some of us live with. Misusing psychological terminology is not cute, clever, smart, or funny. It's cruel and thoughtless.

Trauma survivors are not special cupcakes in need of kid-glove, Politically Correct(tm) treatment. Would you make fun of a person who was recovering from physical injuries or permanent disability for their inability to function normally? If not, then why are you doing it to trauma survivors?

Please, stop hashtagging "triggered."

"You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means." -The Princess Bride

Friday, October 7, 2016

Don't Sh1t Where You Eat

Guys, something bad happened today.

Not horribly bad, not earth-shatteringly bad. Thank heavens, my family and friends in the path of Hurricane Matthew are all safe and accounted for. My kiddos, visiting their father in Arizona, are having a good time (so far.) Life, in general, is fairly normal in the Teens & Other Wild Things household.

At work, however... Well, not so much. Work is a frigging mess.

Have you ever experienced that weird feeling of devastation, like the world is falling apart around you, but nothing's moving? 


I work for a small store. There are five of us- A store manager, two assistant managers, and two cashiers. I know that sounds like a lot of managers, but there must always be a "key holder" in the store- so they need to split up the hours the store is open between the Store Manager and the assistants. We're a small, fairly tight-knit group. Right now, our Store Manager is out with an injury. She's unlikely to come back any time soon. Fortunately one of our assistants is experienced and well able to take the store over. We talked about it, and thought, hey we can do this. We've got a good manager, and we can pitch in and get 'er done. No worries!
Great, right?

Hey, no worries! We've got a great team, right? He's got this. 

Well... Not so great, because today I learned that the second assistant was arrested yesterday. It was a gut-punch. I literally felt breathless when I got the news. I teared up. I didn't want to believe it. I've worked with this guy for a while. He's funny. Goofy. A decent manager. Just an all around good guy to work with. I wanted to believe it was a misunderstanding. A false accusation. But no... I saw the evidence with my own eyes. He was definitely stealing.

I just don't understand. WHY would anyone steal from their own store? It just makes no sense. There's an old saying: Don't shit where you eat. It's basic survival. In this case, it translates to; Don't steal from the people who pay your bills! You idiot.

Now, I'm no angel. I don't mean to come across as a sanctimonious holier-than-thou finger-pointer. Stealing's not just wrong in a moral sense; it's goddamn stupid because you will always get caught, eventually, and nothing you could gain is valuable enough to weigh against your reputation, your conscience, and your future employment prospects.

A reputation is a terrible thing to waste. 


When my kids were small, they each went through a common stage- the pocketing a package of gum at the grocery store stage. When I caught them, in two separate incidents, I did what my own Mom did when I was about that age and pulled the same stunt- I marched them right back into the store, made them pay for the gum, apologize, and throw it away. Mean mommy? Maybe. But I pray I have instilled in them some sense of right and wrong, and that I will never get a call from my child seeking bail because they were foolish enough to believe they could steal from their place of employment (or anywhere else for that matter!!) and get away with it.

It shouldn't even have to be said: Stealing is never ok. :(


I don't know what else to say, guys. I'm sad. I'm confused. On some level, I even understand- I know what it's like to scrape for every dime on paychecks that never go far enough... but still, I'm having trouble realigning my view of this person to include the idea that he's been blatantly taking advantage of the trust of the entire team. Oddly enough, even though I'm only affected indirectly, I'm hurt. I trusted this guy. Thought he was one of the "good" ones. I'm disappointed and sad.

Goodnight, Friends.
Tomorrow is a new day.
Hopefully it'll be a better one.

All we can do now is clean up the mess and move on.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Please don't call me special

I've been called a lot of things through the years, but by far the most hurtful has been "special."

I know that sounds insane. Reverse humility, attention seeking... No, it's really not.

The fact is, hearing that I'm "special" because I survived the trauma that led to my PTSD is like a knife to the gut. If I'm "special" for surviving, what does that make the other victims who did not? Less special? Less deserving? Those ideas send survivor's guilt into a spiral.

I'm not special because I survived. I'm not special because I pieced myself back together, hid the entire thing from my family, and tried to get on with my life. None of it makes me special, or conversely, less deserving.

Hiding was a form of survival.


What happened was not an object lesson. It was not God carrying out some mysterious purpose. It was not a sound bite, a media clip, or a podcast topic. It was horrible, tragic, terrifying, and awful. It was loss. It was hate. It was anger and terror and the stuff nightmares were made of. It was not "special," and it did not make me a better person.

The idea that God "has a purpose for everything" is ingrained in much of Christian culture. Some take comfort in the idea that, in an out of control world, God is in control always. And (I believe) he is. However:

We live in a fallen world. That means that God's vision of perfection- humanity working in harmony with one another and with the Earth, was derailed. We got too much knowledge too soon as a species, and, like kids exposed to something we weren't ready for too young, we're still acting out the consequences.

As a friend is fond of saying "Death, loss and separation were never in God's plan for us.
We were not meant for death. Eden was the plan. We were made for Eden."


We are fallen human beings. God is sovereign. He is omnipotent- that is, he is capable of controlling everything. But does he? No, and for a very good reason- Free will. If God controls every human action, what would be the point of Creation? The entire experiment becomes completely pointless if He controls everything. Free will was the entire point of creation- we are created as autonomous creatures. That means that sometimes, we do truly awful things to one another. Out of our brokenness. Out of our own hurts, failures, and fundamental flaws, we sometimes do the worst things human imaginations can produce. The idea that God controls everything, and has a "purpose" for everything, is fundamentally mistaken.

Bottom line? Not every event has "meaning." Sometimes, incredibly shitty things happen to people who don't deserve it. The trick to finding peace, at least for me, is to learn to be OK with that, to find peace in the center of a storm of chaos. Not being "special," but rather, acknowledging being caught up in the swirling insanity that was unleashed when that fatal first bite was taken.

Please don't call me "special" because of what I've suffered.
Being myself is quite enough.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Her name was Rachel

I'm sharing this in honor of the brave folks of the Twitterverse, who participate each week in the #PTSDChat hashtag conversation on Wednesday nights.

Sometime I may tell more of her story, but for now, this is as far as I can go. 


The rain is falling outside and I’m not thinking of anything really. Just watching the drops come down, splattering on the grass and road and window, when you come to my mind, uninvited, rushing in as always all bright eyes and out of control curls, grabbing my hand and pulling me from my reverie.
Come dance! It’s raining! Come dance with me!

Giggling, tugging, skipping, you lead and I follow, pulled by an unstoppable force, unadulterated joy in its purest form. We dance… You dance, and I watch as you spin and twirl and run and stumble and move through the rain, letting it splash over you, letting it wet your hair, which makes it even more unmanageable, letting it wet your face and your teeth as you smile into the sky, laughing all the time.

Dance safe my beautiful sweet girl. Let the rain fall and splatter on the grass under your brown bare feet. Let it soak into that wild hair and make it even more wild. Spin around and laugh and laugh. Let heaven ring with your laughter. Let it embrace that joy and keep it safe. Someday, maybe, I’ll be able to dance with you again. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sticky Fingers Rant

Dear Jerkwad-

Yes, we're on first-name terms now. I hope you don't mind. I figure that cleaning up after your little "prank" this afternoon has earned me the right to call you by your given name.

Did you think it was clever, opening five separate beverages, drinking about half of each, and leaving them behind the shampoo on the shelf for me to discover when I recovered my store tonight? Normally, recovery consists of making the shelves neat and pretty again after a long day of being shopped. Shoppers are notorious for making a mess of the shelves as they peruse the product lineup. This is normal and expected.

Open bottles of pop on the shelf, stashed behind the shampoo? Not so much.

Coke creates a sticky mess on a retail shelf.


So, dear Jerkwad, I hope you'll understand if I am less than amused by your shenanigans, and if I happen to catch you leaving your ill-gotten (stolen!) beverages behind, I will surely rain down the terrors that only a provoked Mama Bear, who has spent far too many hours scrubbing, cleaning, and straightening over the years of raising her own offspring, and more recently earning minimum wage and cleaning up after thoughtless customers (which is surprisingly similar to cleaning up after children,) can unleash.

You don't want to make me angry.
You wouldn't like me when I'm angry. :-p

There may be bloodshed. Or, at very least, a call to the local constabulary. At any case, be warned. Your days of pop pilfering and vandalism are limited. Next time you come shop(lift)ing at my store, I'll be waiting.

Sincerely,
The Fed Up Cashier at Your Local Shop

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

How Not to be a Jerk to a PTSD Survivor

Never read the comments section. It's my mantra. I know better. I truly do... but sometimes I click, and sometimes I read, and sometimes some idiot will write "triggered" when what s/he meant to type is "butthurt," and my bloodpressure starts to rise.

Sometimes my family or someone I love will say something that hits me like a clothesline to the knees. Sometimes I can catch my balance and stop myself from pitching head-first, but not always. Sometimes I have a bad week, and all the ignorance and well intentioned but misguided words add up, and the result is a rant. So, guys, I apologize in advance, but this is most definitely a rant.

I hope it's a rant that will educate and edify you, if you happen to love someone with PTSD. Or, if you know someone who lives with it, like me. If you're reading this because you want to understand, thank you.


Things to never say to a PTSD survivor:

1) You've got to let it go.
2) It's in the past.
3) Why can't you just get over it?
4) Why does it still bother you? That was years ago.
5) I don't know... it just seems like you want attention.

Let's break these down just a little, shall we?

1) If I could "let it go" it wouldn't be called a DISORDER.

Stop and think for just one minute. Break it down. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

2) It's in the past. Yes, I know. That's what Post means- it happened in the past, yes. My condition is a result of something I experienced in the past.

3) Getting over Traumatic Stress?- What happened was an extreme trauma. It left me deeply wounded. Do you tell a car accident survivor who's left a paraplegic that they should "just get over it," or "you know, you could walk if you tried hard enough?"

Of course not. That would be unsympathetic, to say the least. A denial of the physical reality of their injuries. Asinine.

So, why do people say things like that to PTSD survivors? It's ignorance, plain and simple- they don't understand what PTSD is, or that the damage, although there's not always a visible physical component- has left scars.

4) It was years ago. Yes, it was. And yet, I re-live some moments as if they're happening right now. Confused? Look back at #2.

5) Attention seeking, seriously? Do you think that's what this is about?

Think about the word, Disorder. That, my friends, is the kicker. PTSD is a disorder.
Granted, it's a disorder of the mind and emotions, rather than the fragile nerves that make up the spinal column, but the damage is equally deep, permanent, and disabling.


The point of this brief rant? It's not to shame or lash out. It's to educate. If you love someone with PTSD, it will be difficult to understand them at times. You may not understand their emotional out bursts, their moodiness, their withdrawal, nightmares, or other symptoms. You might not understand why they can't "just let go" of something from their past. Why they keep mentally revisiting such a dark place. Trust me, we don't do it purposefully.

Have you ever seen someone put themselves into a wheelchair "to get attention?"
Of course not, because although a wheelchair is an incredibly useful tool for someone who needs one, and can be fun to play with for those who don't, it's an inconvenient way to live. No one who has the ability to walk normally will put themselves through the inconvenience of using a chair all the time.

The anxiety, depression, and other symptoms of PTSD are inconvenient, too. We don't use our coping skills because they're fun. They are our lifelines, necessary to our ongoing mental health.

What can you do to help your loved one with PTSD? Just listen. Be there. Learn to recognize the bad moments, and what helps your person, whether it means giving them some space or just being there with them. Educate yourself. Learn about the disorder. Trust the survivor to know what works for him or her. Respect their need to make their own decisions. Respect their self-knowledge. Most of all, just think. Develop empathy. Educate yourself, and remember that the disorder is not the person. It's a part of their lives, but it's not who they are.

Love,
A PTSD survivor

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Thinking Out Loud

When your legs don't work like they used to before

And I can't sweep you off of your feet
Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love?
Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks?

Just a couple of crazy kids. :) 


Dear readers... So much has changed in these past few weeks. So much has changed, and yet so much remains the same. I feel as if I've walked through the door, into Narnia, and the world is so much bigger and brighter and more real than I ever could have imagined. 

How did Lucy feel, I wonder, when she passed back through the wardrobe after her tea with Mr. Tumnus, trying to convey to her sister and brothers all that she had seen and experienced? It might be something close to what I'm feeling now, trying to find words to tell you how weird and wonderful, scary and joyous it is to be falling in love again at my age. 

I can tell you the facts- His name is Mike. He has a daughter, Heather. They both love animals and babies and are fanatics for an author I never heard of before, Christine Freehan. I am learning so much in a short time... how to live with severe food allergies (Heather's,) and how he likes his coffee. I'm learning to live with the fact that he's a Green Bay fan. It's not easy, dear readers, for a diehard Giants fan, but I'm learning. 


He's a brave man...


There is one more thing, something that seems like a small obstacle to me, but one that does present its own unique challenges, and something I have had to consider as I fall, headlong, into a relationship I never dreamed I'd find.

Mike was born with cerebral palsy. 


I didn't know much about CP before I met him. I vaguely knew it existed but not much beyond that. I've learned a lot since then. After the first date, a coffee meeting that started at 10:30AM and ended up stretching until 9 at night, I came home and hit up Google, because that's what I do. When I'm feeling overwhelmed and as if my life is spinning out of my control, I anchor myself with facts. I learn. I search out the information I need to make decisions. I tried to grab on to what I'd need to know- because I already knew that it was hopeless. Even if CP turned out to be an insurmountable challenge, it was too late. I was already in love with Mike and there was no turning back from the course life has set us upon. I was reading, not to discover whether I could handle loving a man who lives with CP, but how I would live with a man who lives with CP. 

I am still learning, my friends. The process is exhilarating and terrifying and joyous. It is like learning to ride a bike again- wobbly, and with some bumps and falls along the way, but that glorious feeling of flying... there's nothing like it. 


I'm thinking how people fall in love in mysterious waysMaybe just the touch of a handWell, me I fall in love with you every single dayAnd I just wanna tell you I am 

There is so much to learn. So much to know. So much to discover. If you'd have told me a few months ago that I'd be planning a wedding for sometime next summer, I'd have laughed. Today, we picked out rings and talked about dates. 

Could this be any more perfect?
Life. Peace. Love. <3


When two hearts that have been wounded by past losses come together, the fireworks are spectacular. 

So honey now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I'm thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are

I will keep you informed, dear readers. For those of you who have been with me from the beginning, and for those who have joined later in the journey, thank you, so much. Your support and kindness has meant so much, and I want to share this joy with you all.

God bless!


~*~*~*~*~

Lyrics quoted are from "Thinking Out Loud," by Ed Sheeran, courtesy of MetroLyrics.





Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Second Chance Living

So, I've been thinking about writing this post for a long time.

I've been thinking about the events that led to my dealing with PTSD. I've been thinking about how much I would share, and what I would not say. I'm still thinking.

There are stories, friends, that are better left untold. There are things that happen in real life that make the scenes from books that keep you awake at night seem like shadows under the bed, easily dismissed by a flashlight and a mother's kiss. There are real-life monsters, and they walk around in human skin. I don't like horror stories. I don't read them, and I don't write them.
I have decided that I do not want to talk about the past. I don't live there anymore, though my mind occasionally conspires to drag me back. I live in today, in the present, with my kids and my friends and my family. This is where I choose to take my stand. This is where I will stay, and this is what I want to write about.

Sometimes the only way to move forward is to take a stand.


Life is weird sometimes, when you're living on your second chance. Some of us made bad choices as teens and young adults. For some, those bad choices led to endings, of freedom, or of life itself. I have mourned friends whose choices led them away, along paths where I could not follow. I have learned from their mistakes, but have, to my continual amazement, been spared. I am a living second chance. I often feel that I owe it to those who were not given that gift, to make the most of it.

Living on a second chance means that I don't take anything for granted. It also means that I don't have the same perspective as many of my friends and family. I don't see opportunities in the same ways they do, and sometimes that causes frustration. Why wouldn't I want to go for the management position in the company I work for? I could do the work easily enough, and the pay is reasonable. But it would mean giving up too much of the precious time I have remaining with my kids- while they're still young and living at home. I can't make that sacrifice- the money's just not worth it.

My heart. My loves. My life. 


Why do I "waste" my time on writing fan fiction and making silly Youtube videos, playing a children's game and hanging out with people who do the same things with their spare time?
Because, friends, there simply is not enough joy in this sometimes-dark world. There aren't enough smiles to go around. There are shadowy places in minds that are too often left unexplored and unlit. If my goofing around in a Minecraft world, or my writing stories that bring heroes to life brings even one person a bit of joy, a glimmer of hope, and gives them the nudge they need to feed their own creative spark, I will gladly labor for as many hours as it takes to make that happen.

The further I get into Youtube, the more fun I have.


I am one of the lucky ones. I fell into a pit, and was trapped there, by the subsequent depression and anxiety related to trauma. But I have a pretty amazing family. We're not perfect- who is? And parents who, while they made mistakes, loved me and wanted the best for me, always. Those are powerful weapons in the fight against depression, and I consider myself most fortunate.

The purpose of this entry, and of this blog, is to light candles. To reach out to those who are living in that dark place. To let you know, you are not alone. You can fight back. You can find joy. You are worthy. You are loved. You are wanted. I've been where you are, and I've found my way out again. You can do it. I believe in you.

"What if I fall??"
"Yes, but what if you FLY?"


Remember that life is an adventure. Live it. Learn from it. Never stop believing. There is power in faith, and in hope, and in love. Light always wins over darkness. Always.

Safe travels, friends.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Attack of the WHAT???

Dear readers, I am, at this very moment, having an emotional meltdown. Over a video game. With real tears trickling. It's not pretty. It's an ugly cry, and it comes from down deep, because this is more than "just a game." This is the full circle. This is the infinity snake catching up with itself. The mobius strip making the connection... It's just a game, to be sure, but to me... it's more.

Some of you, if you know me in real life, have heard me talk about Minecraft. About the connection forged between myself and my troubled tween. My son has been playing Minecraft almost from the beginning. He played the truly early stages- the first releases of the game. He would get SO excited when updates were released. He, quite frankly, drove me half mad with his chatter about creepers and endermen and zombies and mobs and mods and downloads.

Redstone was a complete mystery to me. It still is to some extent. I didn't understand the appeal of this blocky, weird game, until one day, seeing the disappointment in his face when he caught me rolling my eyes at just one more rendition of "Me and Brody got cornered by these zombies but his wolf was fighting for us and then this creeper came along and..."

For an instant, I caught sight of just how deeply my little boy, whose father had just walked out of all our lives, was hurting. I decided to appease him in the only way I knew how- I asked him to teach me Minecraft.

It was the beginning of an era. With a lot of frustration and some swearing (mostly me) and some "Geez, Mom, you're REALLY bad at this!" eyerolling comments, he introduced me to the game. And then, in an effort to understand it better, I did what I do best - research. Research took  me to Youtube, to explore the gaming channels... and that's when I discovered a whole other dimension of minecraft- Mods.

The very first modded Minecraft "lets play" Youtubers I watched were Generik B, Chimney Swift, and BDoubleOO, playing "Attack of the B-Team." Their commentary was engaging. The gameplay was intriguing. Chimney, in particular, caught my attention with his infectious enthusiasm and his mischievous approach to multiplayer gameplay. Soon, my son started playing B-Team, too, and got me to play it. I eventually upgraded my computer to better handle the modpack. Together, my son and I discovered this world. We explored it. We built things together. We laughed. We shouted. We got frustrated. We created and destroyed. We argued and collaborated. We learned... and we grew.

These days, my son doesn't really play with me. For a while, we played servers together and built incredible things. He showed me his creative world in which he built some insane redstone projects. Even now, when he has a girlfriend and a life that is slowly carrying him away from the childish pursuits of Minecraft and further toward the interests of an older teen, he can still be drawn back in. We still watch Etho, another Let's Player, together. We discuss his builds and talk about how crazy his "sand worm" project is, and how cool. Even as my son is growing away from his early interest in Minecraft, I am building a small hobby channel and immersing myself in the community that nurtured that early interest.

And now, a new era is opening up. Attack of the C-Team will be a sequel to the early Attack of the B-Team series. Many of the same Youtubers who participated the first time around will be involved in this remake. To call my reaction "excited" is like comparing Mt. Vesuvius to a sparkler.

This new game is about more than Minecraft. It's just a game, after all. There may be mods in this pack that I don't care for. The changes with the update may not appeal to me. I might not be as excited to play once I see what's been added and what's been taken away. Knowing all of that doesn't dim my excitement one bit.

These past few years have been... difficult.
My kids and I have navigated some rough waters. Not only has the divorce caused enormous emotional upheaval, we subsequently lost my best friend and my sister. Both deaths were sudden and unexpected. The devastation was deep and is lasting. For the past year or more, I've been knocked off my feet with grief, just keeping my head above water. It's only been in recent weeks that I've begun to feel as if life might have a chance of returning to some semblance of normalcy, and that the gaps left by the losses might close enough so that the feeling of continuously falling into them will end and our feet might once again touch the ground.

While no game, no exciting news, and no new adventure can possibly begin to touch the depth of the losses we've suffered, there is a moment, after one has been walking through darkness for so long, that a flicker of light can be seen. There is a moment when you realize that the tunnel you've been walking through isn't endless after all, that you will step out of it. The sun will once again warm your face, and you will feel the breeze against your fingertips. Spring will come, even after the longest winter. What is lost to the past can never be recovered, but there will be new experiences and new joys and new chances to laugh and live and breathe together. There is healing, and that, my friends, is something worth celebrating.

My kids have both expressed interest in exploring this new modpack together. The idea of playing together again, and discovering the ways in which we've changed, as players and in our relationships, is exciting beyond words. The fact that they still want to play with me... It's a balm to the soul.
So, forgive me if I dance just a little too exuberantly at this announcement. If I get a little carried away, and get just a little too excited. It's been a long, cold, dark night. I'm ready for the sun.

Bring it on.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

To Catch a Thief...

Some of you may know that I've recently taken a part time job outside the home.
It's the first time in over 15 years that I've worked away from home, and the first time in over 20 that I've worked retail. It's been quite an experience.

This looks more familiar to me than the computerized register I use now.
It's been awhile since I've worked as a cashier!

First, I'm not giving up writing. I'm still a full time freelance writer and editor. I still feel that my teens need me more than the corporate world, and prefer my home-based work for full-time employment. This job provides supplemental income, but I'm not seeking a potential career, even though there are numerous opportunities to move up within the organization. Retail can be an excellent career path for those who are willing to work hard and who enjoy both the challenges of business and customer service. To be perfectly honest, I enjoy both. Yes, customer service has its moments, and we all like to groan now and then and share horror stories from the trenches about unreasonable customers or the ridiculous situations we find ourselves in, but overall, our regulars will be some of the nicest people we know.

Unless they're not.

There's an ongoing situation at my store right now that is surprisingly exasperating, and, I suspect, is representative of the root of most retail resentment. Our store is  being plagued by a thief. Not just any thief. We have the usual spate of children, teenagers, and even adults who think nothing of opening a package, pocketing the contents, and leaving the tell-tale trash tucked behind some product on a shelf. What they don't seem to know is; we'll find that trash within hours or even minutes of their theft. Every time.

Is it worth it? Seriously? Dude that DVD costs $2. Grow up. 

This particular thief has proven to be more nervy than most. He or she isn't just pocketing the items. They are consuming them in the store. While it's not technically "stealing" if you open and take a sip of your Coke before you get to the register, it's generally considered improper shopping etiquette. A lot of internal eye-rolling goes on in retail, but we stifle it. As long as the customer pays for their items, even if they're doing some illicit sampling first, the customer is always right.

Seriously. Nobody cares about a couple sampled grapes, or an open soda- as long as you're
not actually opening packages, taking a bite, and returning it to the shelf. 

The Ensure Bandit, however, does not bother with trivialities like actually paying for the items they steal- that's why it's stealing and not just bad manners. This person has apparently decided they are above petty considerations like the law, courtesy, or just plain common sense. They've been coming into our store every single day, and stealing a single bottle of expensive supplements- the kind that were designed for cancer patients and the elderly who have trouble getting enough nutrition from normal meals. They simply take one bottle from a 4 or 6 pack, leaving the opened package behind. They then drink their stolen loot while walking around the store browsing or shopping, and simply stash the bottle behind things on the shelves. I've worked there for 2 weeks and I personally have found four of these bottles. My manager tells me they've found one every single day. Since each package costs between $6-10, that's a hefty hit for a smaller store like ours to take.

Added up over time, thieves cost our store thousands. Not just in stolen
merchandise, but in extra personnel for security, as well as those expensive, annoying
little security tags that set off the alarm when you're walking out. 

Here's one of the things you might not know about retail- we're constantly checking shelves. It's called "recovery" and it's a big part of my job. I go around every day and straighten the product on the shelf, bringing things forward when someone's taken the first one on the shelf, moving things back to their proper space when someone's changed their mind and tossed it carelessly down.
(A hint for shoppers- if you've carried something half way through the store, and change your mind, bring it to the register when you check out. Never leave it out of place- it creates more work for the employees. We don't mind putting rejected items away, we all shop, too, and have changed our minds. We roll our eyes a LOT, though, when we find things out of place due to laziness. It's frankly a pain in the butt.)

Those annoyances are minor, however, compared with the anger that bubbles up when we find those empty packages. We tag everything with security tags for a reason. We are not amused when the tags are circumvented by "clever" thieves who think they're hiding their crimes by stashing the evidence behind product on the shelves. And we do find it. The theft never goes more than a day without being discovered.

We do inventory frequently. It's the only way, in a mid-sized store like ours, to ensure that we have enough of popular products on the shelf, and we don't over-order things that haven't sold. Even with today's electronic inventory systems, these counts are necessary for accuracy. We WILL find the empty package, and we will wish the fleas of a thousand camels to infest the thief's crotch and their arms be too short too scratch.

So beware, thieves. We know about you, and we are plotting your downfall.
Especially you, Ensure Bandit.
You're going down.


Pretty sure they don't serve Ensure in jail. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

For the Sake of the Children

"For the sake of the children..."

How often do divorce parents hear that phrase? How often is it spoken by well meaning folks giving advice?

"Stay together if you can. You know, for the sake of the children."
"Surely it can be worked out. For the sake of the children."
"You really shouldn't speak badly of your spouse, for the sake of the children."

Although the first two did not pan out in my marriage- we were not able to stay together, nor were were able to work out a compromise that included him staying in contact with an old girlfriend, I have done my best to remember the third. My kids have big, absorbent hearts. They soak up everything that is thrown at them, whether it's love or judgement or dismay or dislike. They've grown stronger as they've gotten older, and gotten better at discerning between the opinions of others and their own realities. They're old enough, now, to understand the deviance between their father's protestations and arguments and his actions.

I rarely write about the failures of my marriage, not because there are any secrets, but because it's a cliche'd story of a foolish wife who was blind to her husband's wandering ways. I actually encouraged his online friendship with the old flame, secure in our 15 years of marriage, and in the thought that he'd long gotten over his high school sweetheart and moved on. I had a similar teenage flame, and while I retain friendly feelings, even affection, I recognize the folly in trying to go back and even since becoming single again have not sought to rekindle the old spark.

If left unattended, it can burn everything.

I thought we were happy. I thought he was content. I thought she was no danger to my marriage... And I was right. She wasn't. The danger to my marriage was not a woman willing to cheat with a married man, disregarding her own family and marriage in pursuit of a teenage fantasy. The danger was in trusting in our past to cement our future. Trusting in a man who had proven over time to have narcissistic tendencies, favoring his own desires and needs over those of his family. One of our most frequent arguments was over the fact that he resisted taking our daughter for an eye exam, insisting that she "could see just fine," yet had money for his yearly hunting trips out of state and didn't hesitate to spend freely when a new gun or tool caught his eye.

To be fair, we lived comfortably enough. We spent nearly 10 years renovating This Old Heap, as I have titled the 200 year old farmhouse we live in. He invested in our home. We went on an annual camping trip, which were some of our best times as a family. When he left, he readily agreed to my insistence upon retaining the house- where else would I go with our kids? Physical custody was never really a question- I'd been a stay at home mom for over 12 years.

This Old Heap, with siding added, doesn't look so bad.The upper half
and porch were the results of our hard work. My brother added the siding,
in order to make the house more economical to heat, so that the kids
and I could afford to continue living here.

What has made me sad, since the split, what has taken me through the stages of grief, from anger to bitterness, and finally to letting go and to peace, has been the abandonment.
When he left, I understood that our life together had come to an end. It had, in fact, come to an end months before. I hadn't allowed him to touch me since learning of his second round of cheating. I no longer trusted in the safety of monogamy. To be blunt, I didn't know what he might have picked up in his illicit travels and wasn't about to risk an STD. I knew, when he left, that "we" were over. And, although losing the love of 17 years was devastating, I was able to accept it.

What I couldn't, and can't accept, is his continuing disregard for his children.

A father should not have to be ordered by the court to support his kids.
A father should recognize that children have ongoing needs, and that the "gift" of a house to the spouse who spent over a decade forgoing an income in order to raise the children does not buy them clothes or shoes, or food once he has decided to move on.
A father, even if he is financially strained and/or unable to be with his kids physically, should make a consistent, on going effort to maintain communication and a relationship with his children.

As I sit here reading this over, considering the words I am dropping onto the waters, to allow to drift out into the world, I am considering whether it's right for me to share these thoughts, to express the hurt and the anger. I am considering whether it's the right thing to do. I'm wondering if I should simply delete the post for the sake of the children.

The year he left, they both returned to public school, in order
to allow me more time to build my business. Because they're amazing,
empathetic hearts. #SoBlessed 


But, I feel to do so would be disrespectful to my kids. Although I try to use my words carefully, they are not stupid. It is not my thoughts or experiences that have molded their opinions. It is their own.
My kids love their dad, but they understand his limitations. They have a realistic view of what they can expect from him, both physically and emotionally. They take whatever opportunities they have to talk and spend time with him, but don't actively seek him out in defense of their own hearts. In spite of his assurance that they can "call him any time," they know that he is simply not able to be there for them in the ways the need him to be.
I can not, and will not, pretend that our circumstances are otherwise, or that by not sharing this post, reality will somehow magically alter. It is what it is.

I will, however, share this post, in hopes of reassuring other moms and dads who are dealing with this kind of situation- with a spouse who is not abusive or addicted, but is simply uninterested in doing their part as a parent. While abuse and addiction are horrors I am grateful we have avoided, abandonment carries its own consequences, and the scars are deep and painful.

If you've been abandoned by a spouse or parent, my messages to you are:
You're not crazy. Even if he didn't hit or yell, it's not ok to abandon children who depend upon you for support and emotional connection.
You're not alone. There are many of us out there.
You don't have to let this make you bitter. Anger is justifiable, but dwelling on the unfairness isn't healthy. Seek out healthy relationships, for you and your kids. Build supports into your lives. Let the person go- there's no sense clinging to someone who doesn't want to be there.

If you've read this far, thank you, for listening. May God keep and bless you and your loved ones. If you're a parent, remember, please, that divorce is not about your kids. It's NEVER about your kids. You really are responsible to be a parent, even if you're divorced. Even if you don't like your spouse anymore. Even if he or she is a raving lunatic- you're still responsible to BE A PARENT.
Your kids need you, and that is all that matters.
All of it.
Your kids are ALL OF IT. Never forget that. For the sake of the children.

Godbless.
~*~*~*~*~

To be in your children's memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today.” ― Barbara Johnson

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Been a while...

Hasn't it? It's been a while since I've revisited this page. The reasons are many and mostly mundane.
Holidays. Thanksgiving, and Christmas, while lovely, did take up a lot of my time and attention. I'm happy to report they were among the best we've had in the past 3 years. The kids were happy. I was relaxed. We all just enjoyed one another's company.

It was lean, as always. Their gifts required careful planning and saving, but the looks on their faces when they opened them, and the use they've put them to in the weeks following, have made it all worth the effort. I rarely see Babygirl without her phone (an unlocked, off-brand that works with our text-and-talk plan, with which she can pick up wifi when she wants "data.) Thing1 carries his camera- a beginner's DSLR with more knobs and twiddly bits than I could navigate- with him nearly everywhere.

And me? I got the precious hours spent with my kiddos. I got to welcome Thing1's girlfriend to spend time with us. She's got a very special place in his heart, and I'm dreading the day they split, and hope it won't be too high a drop from the clouds he's riding right now. Ah, young love... So precious, so poignant... and so fleeting. They've been friends for years. Dating for weeks. I don't know how long it will last, and, like, I'm sure, the adults in my life when I was young and in love, I'm not telling him that the ending will be inevitable and bitter-sweet.

The goofy pair at Halloween. 

They are too young, their lives yet unripe for the stresses of marriage and babies and commitments. (and yes, we've talked, extensively, and continue to talk about the more serious side of this floating infatuation he's in now. About respect. About care. About safety and using the upper brain to control the lower one.) Let's let it suffice to say that he knows, at the very least, to keep it covered or keep it zipped. I hope that, when they part, they will retain the depth of friendship they've enjoyed since he crushed on her in the second grade.

On a lighter note, I also got a gift from my kiddos, unexpected and beautiful. I had shown Babygirl a pattern online for an apron made of an old pair of jeans, and she tried her hand at sewing, with a little help and encouragement from her brother. The result was that I now have a beautiful apron, which I love. It has pockets. I love pockets. I also hate having flour all over my clothes when I'm done baking, and this is not only a beautiful gift, it's also functional. It's easily the favorite thing I've received for Christmas since I was 13 and got a Brooke Shields doll. (Hey, don't laugh! I'd just seen The Blue Lagoon, and Brooke was my heroine.)

You'll have to excuse the mess. It was the end of Christmas Day's
dinner and we were still cleaning up when Babygirl insisted on snapping this photo. :)


Life, especially life with the challenges of mental illness, is no easy task. I could say the same, of course, of life with Crohn's, or diabetes, or lupus. I don't think I have some special burden; just the same burdens that many carry, in different forms. Some days it's not easy to get up and get out of bed and keep moving forward, especially with the uncertainties of freelancing for a living. The income is sporadic, and a client's disappointment may mean the loss of a job. I have to strive, with everything I write, to stay on point, to stay relevant, to stay connected and to express the client's expectations and desires. That sort of constant effort can be exhausting, but it's also what keeps me moving forward. It gives me purpose.

Parenting is, in many ways, the same. We all carry our personal burdens, but the children we're responsible for must be shepherded, fed, clothed, sheltered, and led. Their disappointment doesn't lead to the mere loss of a job; it can leave lasting scars that destroy lives and carry forward into new generations. The time I've put in these past few months, the efforts to put together a simple holiday celebration and to invite in those who are connected to our family by the unfamiliar strands of teenage ardor, seem to me to be the most important job I could've been doing. I may be putting things too high, thinking that these  hours will have a stronger impact on my growing young adults' lives than they will. I could be wrong about Thing1 and his lovely young partner. They could go on to marry and have children of their own, as my own in-laws did, marrying when she was just 17 and he was 19. Fifty years and counting, they're a walking love story.

But for now, all I have is experience to go by. All I have is my own memories of young love, and memories of the hours contentedly dressing up a Brooke Shields doll while Mom prepared the meal and Dad smoked his pipe in his chair while watching the Macy's Parade. Those are the memories that reassure me that my son will come out of this relationship changed, with new experiences and a new perspective. Perhaps with new scars, but ones that will heal and that will shape him, and make him, in the end, a better man. Those are the memories that assure me that my own kids will look back, one day, and remember the holidays as a happy time with their family and loved ones, something that they will want to recreate for their own children.

All we can do is keep moving forward, and doing our best.
I hope, if you're reading this, that you had a beautiful ending to 2015 and that 2016 brings you new joys, new experiences, and new hope.

God bless, Friends.
A belated, but sincere, Merry Christmas to you and yours.

~Mary

There is no such thing as a "broken family." Family is family, and is not determined by marriage certificates, divorce papers, and adoption documents. Families are made in the heart."-C. Joy Bell