Monday, November 30, 2009

Merry Ho Ho Or Whatever

In the words of Roseanne Barr: "It's beginning to look a lot like crap!"

'Tis the Christmas season, and I'm trying to get into it. Trying, because my wallet is starving and every time I open it, I hear a scream. I sold one of my cars today (one that didn't run) but the money was accounted for before it even reached my husband's grasp. I know that Christmas is not about money or gifts, but ever year I think to myself that maybe NEXT YEAR we can buy that huge tree and not freak out every time we purchase a Christmas gift.

Kids, stay in school and go to college. Just a tip from your very poor Auntie Julie.

Now, that's not to say you can't make your crib look decent on a next-to-nothing budget. It is possible. The dollar store is my best friend. I have a snowman fetish, so I'm always on the prowl for more to add to my collection, and I'm picky about it. I don't want it to LOOK like it's dollar store material, you know? If you look hard enough, you can find cute stuff. I found a beautiful table runner for $2.99 today and Santa salt shakers for even less.

Still, I dream.
My dream is to have an A-frame log home on a nice piece of land. A fireplace, maybe two. High ceilings to allow for a 12-foot tree (or larger!) An actual mantel filled with live greens and holly and candles out the wazoo! A place big enough for the entire family to convene for Christmas dinner.

Most of the time, if you tell people you're low on dough, they don't get what that means. They're like, "Oh yeah, we're struggling, too." And then they go on to tell you they had to cut their vacation to France short by two days, or it's hard to fill the tank in their Cadillac Escalade or something. One friend complained about how hard it is to pay her $13,000-per-month utility bill. (You know I love you, but this was the best example I could come up with!) When I use the term "broke" I mean I'm counting out change to buy a pack of gum.

Ho ho ho!

This is not my way of bashing rich people. I know a few rich people and they're all really cool. I'm just saying, it's all relative, and your idea of "broke" goes along with the standard of living you're used to.

I don't usually feel this way at Christmas, though I have had very few Christmases where I was really rolling in the dough. I find that I am trying to "do it up" more than usual this year, I guess because I feel an extra sense of loss this Christmas of 2009. I can't even go into all of it for various reasons, but I've blogged about many of those reasons, and I assure you, Prozac gets a lot of credit for helping me maintain my sense of humor right now.

The annual Christmas Eve party will be held December 27 this year, and I'm hoping that a quiet night with my husband will allow me to reflect on what really counts - the Son of God, born to die for our sins, who came to earth in the humblest of ways to bear the weight of the sadness, the loss, and the disappointment that all of us feel at different times in our lives.

If I can just get THAT in my scope, hopefully I can tune the rest out. Pin It

Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's My Blog - I'll Cry If I Want To

So, my neighbor informed me this evening that "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" is going to be on TV back-to-back five times this week, and I'm thinking this would be a great time to shut out the world and spend a few days in my jammies. First, because that's my favorite movie of all-time and I don't think I could ever get tired of it. Second, because I'm down & out and just want to shut out the world for a while.

And I could, too, if it weren't for that whole having-a-job thing.

I'm feeling alone tonight. You know how sometimes one thing goes wrong, and all the little things pile on top of it to make it seem like a huge mountain of crap? That's sort of how I'm feeling at the moment. Not that anything "went wrong" but just that they didn't go the way I'd want them to. (Yes, there is a difference.)

First, everybody got pregnant.
Our best friends are expecting in May. My sister-in-law is expecting in March. The other night we were at our best friends' house for a pre-Thanksgiving meal and there was an infant there, so we discussed lots of parenting-related things. Pregnancy, childbirth, rearing, first teeth, that stuff.
Our best friends were our last perpetually child-less couple that we hung out with on a regular basis. We're ecstatic for them, but... it was a reminder that we are still child-less, and from a physical standpoint, that's not going to change anytime soon. And, yeah, we want to adopt. We're seriously thinking/praying about it even as we speak, but I'll never get to tell people I'm pregnant, I'll never feel a baby kick inside of me, I'll never nurse my child or be able to say, "He looks just like his dad."

Unless God changes something, which he may, but right now... it's not happening.

Then our best couple friends announced to us they might be moving far away.
These are people we spend a lot of time with. We've gone through our marriages together - we even got married 2 weeks apart. Scott was the husband's best man.

Today I got an email from my friend of 18 years. We were best friends in middle school, high school, college... We met in the 7th grade and there wasn't anything we didn't go through together. When my mother was unbearable to live with, she talked about giving me the money she saved in a pantyliner box so I could run away. And I guess, because we had been best friends for so long, I assumed we would always BE best friends.

Well, she's getting married in October.
I'm not going to be in her wedding - she hopes there are no hard feelings. It's going to be just her sister and some other chick I've never met in the wedding party.
We haven't seen each other in a few years. She went on to get a great education and make good money working in DC. She went overseas with another of our best friends, time did its thing and I got pushed out of the picture. Not because they're mean, but because I didn't have the money or the time off. I just never had the money to throw down to go to France or wherever. I couldn't hop a plane or even fill up my gas tank half the time, so our visits became fewer and fewer. But she was my maid of honor, and we'd planned on being in each other's weddings from the time we were in training bras, worshiping the ground Amy Grant walked on together.

I'm hurt. It doesn't matter if it's ridiculous and stupid, I'm still hurt. I have this fifth-grade feeling of, "Who's my best friend now?!?" I'm 30 years old. I just have to get over it, I guess.

So I went out on my deck for some fresh air, and I remembered, just three years ago, sitting out there in that exact same spot, talking to my cousin, Jay. He was still talking, still walking a bit. He was HERE. And the air seemed extra cold and the night seemed extra lonely...

...I started thinking that God designed us to need and love each other, and yet it's never permanent. Something will separate all of us, be it time, distance, or death. And yes, I believe in Heaven and I believe that this earth is not our eternal home, but it made me think that investing in relationships is ridiculous. Investment means pain and disappointment - it means missing people desperately that don't desperately miss you back.

So I'm sad, and I know I need to pray and focus on the blessings in my life... but I'm sad and I guess... well, I guess I felt like telling the world about it. Pin It

Thursday, November 19, 2009

At Long Last... The Neighbor Blog... Part 1

It really seemed like a nice joint when we pulled into the parking lot; it really did. A lovely, flowing creek nestled beneath a blanket of brilliant autumn leaves, a quaint park across the street, and a seemingly nice fella who came out to show us the apartment.

AND - this is the important part - the apartment was NICE. You had to see where we were living at the time... we were growing alien-like mushrooms alongside our toilet, in our bedroom, in all of the places you never thought you'd ever see mushrooms growing. The ceiling leaked. On any given day, the place could randomly smell like an egg factory or a funeral home for no explicable reason. The neighbor in the apartment next-door ran an illegal daycare out of her one-bedroom apartment, the guy downstairs had sex with a lady and her daughter - at the same time - and the man in the house next-door killed deer and threw the bloody carcasses in our dumpster. It was not the kind of place you'd want to raise kids in... unless you're a psychotic, crackhead of an abusive parent.

It was so nice, we were convinced we'd never get it. So much for positivity, huh? But we did get it, and we were thrilled. The man who showed us the apartment (let's call him Ed) lived in apartment #1 and he seemed so sweet. He was a burly, carrot-topped dude in his late fifties; an ex-Marine. He lived with a younger guy we'll call Steve. Actually, our first thought was that they were gay. We didn't really care one way or the other, it just seemed... well... stereotypical, frankly. Either way, they were nice guys that made a hobby of smoking on the front porch all day. Hey, whatever floats your boat.

We thought surely nothing could be worse than what we had been living with, so chain-smokers on the porch was no biggie. And so 2 weeks after getting the go-ahead from our landlord, our small group at church moved us in, I decorated for Christmas, and we were good to go.

It was great at first. Ed told us everything we needed to know, from how to turn up the water temperature, to how get on the landlord's good side (paying the rent helps), and he helped us out with a few things here and there. He took care of the gardens out front and called me "sweetie" and seemed the grandfatherly type. There was a family downstairs consisting of a husband & wife, and two sons, one around 10 or 11 years old, and a baby. The boy and his father fought constantly, slammed a lot of doors, and screamed, but we sucked it up. Not much you could really do about family drama. Everyone else was nice but kept to themselves and that was fine with us.

I have since concluded that as long as you are living among the rest of society, there is no "nice" place to live. There's no Mayberry. It's all Crazy Town.

I don't remember when it all started to tank. There is no one incident in my mind that tipped me off to the reality that this place was just as much of an insane asylum (typical that I would live in an insane asylum...) as The Bates Motel where we came from. It was in a nice area. It was a nice building coated in fresh paint. No leaks, cracks, or salad items growing in the bathroom. Heck, Ed even drove a Jaguar. Never judge a book by it's cover... or a parking lot by its Jag.

Slowly but surely, Ed's "sweeties" became "honeys" and eventually "babies" and eventually we graduated to "sexy." Pats on the back became hugs. YAY! HUGS FROM GRANDPA! Right?!? RIGHT?!? Wrong. Hugs turned into kisses on the cheek. I'm not a naive person. I know it sounds like I'm totally naive and my Mormon mommy never let me ride my bike down the street alone, but seriously... I've been around the block. Still, I let the old sleaze ball kiss me and thought it was innocent.

Till that hickey.
Yes, that's what I said. I said hickey. He gave me a hickey. I was standing out front commenting on the weather one day when he leaned in to give me what I thought was going to be a peck on the cheek, and instead he grabbed my neck with his yellow-stained smoky chops and started sucking.

OK, I take it back. That was the first time I realized I was on the threshold of hell. Because, honestly, I can stick up for myself just fine. I come from a family where you can't be heard unless you're able to scream above everyone else. I'm not easily intimidated. But when an old man sucks on your neck... it's... something different. Can you slap a veteran? Don't you go to hell for that? I didn't know what to do.

I told my husband, who promptly proclaimed that he was going to kick some [expletive]. But he's not the [expletive]-kicking type. (And, yes, I'm very grateful for that.) He said he would at least say something to him, tell him he needed to leave his wife alone, go give Steve a hickey or something.

Just one little problem.
By that point, we had figured out that Steve was a druggie and a drunk. We're pretty sure he deals. He got violent a few times, slit his wrists once, even went after Ed with a knife, and was hauled away for it. I had visions of Scott telling Ed off, and Steve coming after him with an axe or something, his eyes all red and bloodshot. After much begging, pleading and arguing, I got him to agree to let it go. I'd just avoid his chops as much as possible. I'd rather have my carotid sucked on then slashed by a drug addict.

But Ed and Steve could not be avoided. They lived on the front porch. They didn't work. They just stood around and smoked and spit. When I walked out the door or got out of my car, they hooted and hollered and called me sexy and told me to "work it." If I wore high-heel boots, things really got out of control. I didn't tell Scott about that part. Listen, I've lived through sexual abuse and rape. I figured I could handle cat-calls. Looking back, I have to say that was ridiculous on my part. I might as well have hung a sign around my neck that said, "PLEASE ABUSE ME AGAIN!" But it wasn't a matter of self-respect. I just wanted to live. And the rent was affordable. Plus, there is admittedly a part of me that desperately wants to seem non-prudish. Prudes freak me out - I don't want to resemble one. Again... stupid, but that was my thought process.

In case you're wondering how we concluded that Steve sold drugs...
Well, there were the subtle things. The fact that he wore designer clothes, didn't have a job, and didn't even have a driver's license. (Lost it because of repeated DUI's.) He bought antiques and electronics and ferociously played the stock market. Random "friends" stopped by at random times during the day, and they'd disappear into the backyard. If we went anywhere near them, they promptly changed location and stood about 2 centimeters apart to talk.

Oh... and they grew pot in our backyard. At first, we didn't know it. It was hidden among the trees and we didn't know it was there until Ed flat out told us one day. But then Steve brought home an enormous pot plant... the thing was the size of a tree, no joke. It was growing in a pot and they kept it next to the picnic table out back. The landlord's kids mowed the lawn and raked the leaves and their mom waited for them while they did so, so clearly they either have no idea what marijuana looks like, or they were like us - they just wanted to live. As they say in the hood - "No Snitching."

Now, if I had seen Steve across the street at the park selling dime bags to little kids on the see-saw, yes, I would have called the police. Otherwise... OK, fine, great, you grow and sell drugs. Please don't kill me.

And, you know, it just sucks because I always told myself I'd never be one of those jerks who turns a blind eye to that stuff. But when it's literally right in your own backyard, you don't know what to do. Scott was worried about me; I was worried about Scott. It doesn't matter how far you hide in the land of Suburbia, the crap will find you, and it found us... or we found IT, however you want to look at it.

But things were about to get worse, when Steve's mother moved with him and Ed.
More to come... Pin It

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Who Or What Is Responsible?

A man believing himself to be a prophet kidnaps a 14-year-old girl from the peaceful slumber of her own bedroom. His wife washes her feet and dresses her in 'sacred' garb for a wedding ceremony where the girl will become a polygamous wife alongside the aforementioned wife #1. Incidentally, wife #1 calls herself "mother of Zion" and believes God reaches out to touch her via her television set.

Just another day in the wacky lives of Brian David Mitchell and his old lady, Wanda Barzee. For Elizabeth Smart, it seemed like the nightmare that would never end.

Both Mitchell and Barzee have been diagnosed as being delusional. Barzee was forcibly medicated in order to be declared competent to stand trial. Faced with the reality of what she had done, Barzee offered this apology:
"I am so sorry, Elizabeth, for all the pain and suffering I have caused you and your family," Barzee said, taking an emotional pause between sentences. "It is my hope that you will be able to find it in your heart to forgive me."

Now, Bipolar is different from Schizophrenia or delusions, but one thing most of us with some form of mental illness can all relate to is the weight of "getting better" only to be faced with the path of destruction we left behind. Fortunately, most of us will never have to be faced with kidnapping charges or worse, but a lot of us have garbage to clean up. Sometimes it's money we shouldn't have spent, family members and friends we shouldn't have hurt, jobs we wish we hadn't lost. But for almost all of us, the aftermath of being sick requires some janitorial work.

To the Smart family's credit (which sounds so odd because Smart is my maiden name), they have opted to forgive Barzee:
"We all make mistakes in life," he said. "If we can't forgive each other, heaven help us."

And, yet, forgiveness doesn't necessarily mean erasing responsibility.
Elizabeth's father, Ed Smart said of Mitchell:
"To me, he should never see the light of day out of prison," Ed Smart said. "I believe mentally he is an extremist and that extremism is not going to change. If he were ever to get out, he would do it again."

So my question is simple, but the answer is not.

Mental illness is a brain disease. When I think about it, for whatever reason, an image of a Swiss cheese-like brain comes to mind. A skull full of gray, gooey Swiss cheese. And if there are holes where circuits and chemicals and connections should be... how responsible are we for our actions? Do we deserve to pay if we honestly cannot help our actions?

And if we SHOULD pay for our transgressions, whether intended or not, which makes more sense? To lock Mitchell in a prison cell where he will continue to believe himself a prophet, or a mental hospital where he will be medicated, cared for, and brought back to a healthy place where he can see the surreality of his reality and possibly feel genuine remorse?

I'm looking for logic over political correctness. I'm not concerned with pleasing NAMI.

Anyone have the right answer?? Pin It

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It Pays To Be Humble

'Ninja' Man Impaled On Fence After Jump
..."he insisted he was just a ninja trying to clear a 4- to 5-foot-tall fence."
Pin It

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sad End To A Sad Case

I've been following the story of little Shaniya Davis, the little girl who authorities say was basically sold into sexual slavery by her drug-addicted mother. Shaniya's father, Bradley Lockhart, felt that Shaniya's mother, Antoinette Davis, had gotten her life together enough to raise her daughter and become a part of her life.

Unfortunately, a father's well-intentioned attempt and uniting mother and daughter ended in horror after Antoinette gave her child away, and today Shaniya was found dead in a wooded area in central North Carolina.

They will undoubtedly report that she had been sexually assaulted.

When I worked in a group home for teen moms, there was one girl who had a similar story. Her mother had A LOT of kids, I can't even remember exactly how many. One by one, she lost custody of them. She was busy drinking and sleeping around. The girl told stories about living in dank hotel rooms with her brothers, and how they would get into fist fights over who got the last hot dog in the mini-fridge. Eventually, her mother - who wouldn't work and lived off the government - "traded" the girl to neighbors and such for sex, in return for the perpetrators paying her rent, utilities, etc.

When she was 14, she got pregnant to a 25-year-old man. And throughout her stay at the group home, her mother did her best to keep the two in touch.

When you do those things for a living, you see a lot of sad crap - parents who just don't care and let their kids run wild, parents who overlook their child's drug problem because they don't want to be bothered, and moms who bring a string of shady guys in the house all the time. But nothing ever blew my mind like the mom who sold her child for sex, in return for some cash.

These are the things I sincerely hope we learn the answers to in Heaven. Either that, or we're just so dang happy to be with God, we forget it ever existed. I'll take whatever I can get. Pin It

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Back to Jesus

A long time ago... in 2003... God spoke to me. Not really in an audible sort of way (maybe because He figured I have Bipolar Disorder and hearing voices would freak me out?) but in my heart. I decided in June '03 that I wanted to be a writer. I had spent the last several years working with adults with mental retardation and it started out very rewarding but quickly went downhill the first time one of my clients came after me with a railroad spike. I was in desperate need of a change.

When you first decide to become a writer, you have no idea where to go or what to do. God never dropped a magazine on my lap and said, "Write to them" but He did tell me:
If you write about me, you will be successful."


I mean, seriously... how moronic am I that I would doubt what GOD told me? And not just about writing. About, just... everything. Ministry. Life. My focus has shifted in the wrong direction.

God, I'm going to shift it back. I'm going to fight the bipolar and fight what I feel, and live in obedience and do the things you've told me I need to do. I want to live the way my cousin lived in his last days on earth, accomplishing things that touch people for eternity.

I'm going to fight my natural reflex to run and avoid.

I'm going to obey.
I'm going to be successful. Pin It

"Make it good."

So I told my husband I was going to put up my first post on my new blog tonight, and he told me, "Make it good. Don't write 'I'm back' or something and that's it."
It's almost 1am, but I promise to write more than that, though I really can't update you on EVERYTHING in this post.

As much as I'd like to tell you that things are the "same old, same old," I really can't. Life has changed rapidly over the past few months. I quit one job and lost another. My cousin, who originally told me about Jesus, died of ALS in September and I traveled to California to attend his memorial service. I have been struggling since I returned because I feel very numb. I was so angry at God for the almost 4 years that he was sick, I think I had already made my peace with God when he died. So I feel almost guilty that I don't... well, feel more. My sadness, now, centers around the rest of my family, the ones he left behind, and how they are going to move forward and cope in a world without Jay.

Those of you who know me probably remember that I've been having neighbor "issues" for a long time now. Actually, if you know me, there's no way you could NOT know that. I've had neighbor issues my entire life. Even when I was growing up, we had crazy neighbors. From flashers to drunks to hunters dumping bloody deer carcasses in our dumpster, I've seen it all. When I was growing up and somebody new moved into the neighborhood, my mother used to say, "I'll be cordial, but I don't want to be anybody's friend." I used to think that was so cold, you know? Well, I still don't agree with that, but I definitely understand where she was coming from. I frequently tell Scott we need to buy a house in the middle of the woods with no neighbors around for miles. I'm happy to report, however, that the wackadoo couple living in apt. 6 broke up and they both moved out, proving that miracles really do happen. I would go into more detail the trials and tribulations we've dealt with over the past few months, but there's not enough space on this blog.

More later. I'm falling asleep. (Thanks, Seroquel.) Pin It
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