Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Yay! NaBloPoMo Day #1

I'm still up, and it's after midnight, so I figured I'd get an early start on things.

Hi, everybody!

How was your Halloween? We got about 10 Trick or Treaters, total. And more than half of those were 12 year olds in wigs, with pillowcases. And eggs. But, whatever. My two favorite Trick or Treaters showed up, even though I was beginning to doubt that they would make it, and that was enough for me.

Here's what made my heart happy tonight... it's a good thing to start the month off right, that's for sure. (even if I didn't get the red eye out yet... you know they're not really demons, right? )

: Deep Breath :

Well, I'm gearing up for National Blog Posting Month, determined to post once a day, just like last year. (Although it seems to be more organized, and a bit more intimidating this year.) I'm committed to it, since cutting back on blogging because things have been crazy here hasn't cut back on my urge to blog (or the guilt from not blogging). So get ready for at least one post - every single day! Can you imagine? I'm quite looking forward to it, and to reading all of your posts as well.

Hope this Halloween finds you happy & healthy!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Taking Care

Sorry, but I've been too busy watching the World Series to post.

Yeah, I didn't think you'd buy that, but it gave me a chuckle to write it anyways.

No, in reality, it's more I've been trying to take care.

Care of SisterJ whose connection to the world seems fragile at best, and who needs so much, and makes me wish I had better answers (or, indeed, any at all).

Care of SisterCh who did the totally selfish thing last week, instead of supporting her sister, and now feels even more isolated from our family. Which is what I knew was going to happen when she decided to go back to Loser Boy, so I'm setting aside my anger at her behavior in order to help her see that she's still loved. Care of Youngest Sister, who spend all week 'preparing' to write a 7 page paper, totally intimidated by her first Harvard assignment. Helping her move past the fear to get to the actual writing took us 7 days... and she finally finished it at about 3 this morning, 5 hours before it was due. I know the next one will be easier, but jeesh...

Care of Lil Girl, who (like her brother before her and Oldest Nephew before him) helps remind me that there is happiness in the world, that I am doing something important with my life, even if it's not what I'd planned to be doing.

Care of Grandmother, when we found out one of my uncles (her second oldest) has lung cancer - a tennis ball sized tumor, but not metastisized, thankfully - on the 7th anniversary of another of her son's death. (PS. Typing "Lunch Cancer" instead of "Lung Cancer" probably isn't worth a chuckle, but I'll take them where I can get them these days.) Care of my other grandmother, Nana, whose doctors think she also has lung cancer - and taking care of her, in this case, means convincing her to not bury her head in the sand like she would like to: to at least have the (non-invasive) PET Scan (hell, I've already had 2!), so that they can have a better idea of what she's really facing.

Care of Mum who pretty much refuses to let anybody take care of her, and I seem to be the only one who's recognizing that this is all ridiculously difficult on her too. No, that's not true, but SisterJ can't feel better just for her - although she'd like to - and the rest of them just aren't helping as they should. So I try to make her eat, by eating. Or TiVo stuff for us to watch together and ask her to sit with me. Or nag her until she calls the eye doctor about her weird rash and makes her (2 years overdue - like Nana, like Mum!) GYN appointment.

Care of a cousin, pregnant with Twins - her first, very high risk pregnancy. Who's now confined to 'light bed rest' (meaning she can go to the doctor's appointments and the bank, all in the same week, but only if she absolutely has to) with more than 2 months left to go. Who never thought she'd have kids, but, now that she is, spends all of her time worrying over how not to lose them - and throwing up so hard it comes out her nose.

I'm trying to listen, I'm trying to help. I'm just showing up, because it is all I can think to do. I'm having trouble showing up at all the places I want to be though - a friend's housewarming, the other end of College Roommate's phone calls, this blog, friend's blogs - and because I'm also trying to take care of me, I'm giving myself the space to not feel guilty about that right now.

However, this is definitely one of those weeks where I'd like to dissect alive, piece by tiny piece, the people who wrote The Secret: "Law of attraction - really? Well, let's see... my scalpel seems to be unnaturally attracted to your pinky toe nail, whoops, I meant the whole toe... and also your kneecap...and..." Because there's only so much 'thinking your way to the positive' you can do when your body is trying to reject your babies, or when your brain is telling you that the only time you are safe is when you are asleep, so wouldn't "sleeping" forever mean you'd be safe forever?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Some things I've read this weekend

I am a constant reader - we all know this. Without reading, and being able to escape into books for all these years (and now into blogs), I can't imagine what would have happened to me. I've decided to start sharing some of the more interesting/unusual/entertaining things I'm reading here, because keeping the two places seperate really doesn't make any sense to me.

So, here's some stuff I've read this weekend that I think is worth sharing with all of you:

First, this passage from my St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital 2007 Holiday Hope Gift Book: Breakthrough discoveries at St. Jude have helped push survival rates for childhood cancers from less than 20 percent to more than 70 percent overall. In fact, in 1962, the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) was only 4 percent. Today it stands at 94 percent at St. Jude. I had to go back and reread that about 6 times, because it was staggering - in the past 45 years, the most common form of leukemia in children under 19 has become nearly 100% curable. Not all of the advances in treatment were made at St. Jude, obviously, but I'm so impressed with their facility, with their philosophy, and with their standard of care. I've done some fundraising for them in the past (Hello, would you like to receive a form letter from me asking you to send them money? Because I can totally send you one...), but I honestly don't get why people aren't just shouting statistics like that as they pass each other in hallways - "Up to 94%!! Can you believe it??" - (See, Janice, statistics could be good for something, I guess.) Anyways, please check out their site , check out their partners in Thanks & Giving, and do a little shopping, if you feel like it.

Next, and I hestitate to even think this in the same blog post as the whole St. Jude thing, but I'm not one to shortchange my readers, and besides your minds are probably as all over the place as my own. I've been on a Lisa Kleypas kick, just recently ~ Having started her Wallflower series completely out of order (and still having only the vaguest idea of what happens in Autumn), and when my mum went to the local library's book sale yesterday (which, unfortunately takes place in a tiny little room), I gave her that name to add to our list. She came back with Suddenly You, and I read it this morning. -- Just as an aside here, I find that Lisa Kleypas' historicals seem to all have gorgeous covers, and I'm sure other authors are routinely jealous. -- Anyways, the book was good, I loved the plot (30 year old spinster decides that she's had enough of being untouched and seeks out a local madam to help her out, local madam fascilitates misunderstandings to send a gentleman to her door at the appointed time, I bet you can happen when the gentleman shows up) & the characters were interesting, but this is not my favorite Kleypas, by far. I will say that it was certainly one of the more erotically written titles I've read by the author though - not just in the number of scenes, but in the content of those scenes. I don't think I'll look at raspberries the same way for quite a while...

I've also been doing some reviewing for another site (where I use my real name, so I can't show you the link, unfortunately), and one of the books I had to read was Understanding Sibling Rivalry the Brazelton way, which was pretty good. It was helpful to see experts write about sibling rivalry as something "natural and unavoidable," which we all know it is, and also to get their takes on how to best handle certain situations. The rivalry between Lil Girl and her big brother has been going on since he found out she was coming, and now that she's getting old enough to hold her own in her interactions with him, it's pretty interesting to watch how they squabble, but also how he's learning to show her compassion and understanding and she's learning more patience. Of course, she's also coming right into her "throwing myself on the floor is a great way to get what I want" years (which she's already started, and I am totally ignoring) while he's still stuck in his "I can't believe I have to share my room with this little loud annoying thing" stage. Which I didn't get over until I left for college... ok, so maybe I'm still living in fear of having to share a room with any of my siblings again, but that's only natural, isn't it?? Either way, it's so amazing to watch their relationship grow and change.

Lastly, there's a scene from another library sale pick, this book, Slightly Single by Wendy Markham, where the heroine describes herself wearing a teddy - only she's about 2 sizes too big for the teddy her boyfriend bought, and so she's wearing a regular bra and her ordinary, non-seductive panties underneath it, and the visual I got had me laughing out loud. Unfortunately, the book wandered into "I'm a fat girl who's unhappy, so I know that in order to be happy I will ultimately have to lose weight" territory rather quickly, and it didn't wind up being a keeper for that reason, but still - a teddy, with a bra and underwear underneath? Totally something that I would do. Because teddies look damn uncomfortable, even for the people they're supposed to fit.

So that's a little glimpse into what I've read in the past few days - some of the things up next for me include a present from my fabulous friend, I am America and so can you! by Stephen Colbert; a stack of magazines from this past month; Boys Adrift; and, hopefully, the latest In Death.

That should last me till tomorrow, anyways. :)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Big Kisses - My Best Shot Monday

I made the background black & white, but the rest of this picture is unedited. Here's lil Girl sharing her Tigger-iffic love (she loves Elmo more, but that picture came out pretty crappy). Hope everybody's day is going well! I'm off to visit more Best Shot Monday's over at Picture This

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sniffling, sneezing, stuffy head...

I'm a DayQuil commercial, people. I should buy stock in Kleenex. I should be back on Monday, for MBSM. Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 08, 2007

My Best Shot Monday

Welcome to another week!

MBSM-ers: I've changed a lot of my Flickr photos from Public to Private, in response to what seems to be an overwhelming number of posts about pictures being stolen and re-purposed. I'm still not happy about having to do that, for a few reasons:

1) My blog gets very little traffic, and this may be a huge overreaction on my part ... to which I respond to myself, well, 'if you can't be overprotective of the children in your life, who are you going to be overprotective of?' Plus, Flickr is a lot more public than my blog, so that's where I've made the changes.

2)Sharing my photos - here and on Flickr - & sharing in other people's photos, has really been inspiring to me. It helps me feel creative and gives me joy, and I think it's really horrible that something like this would interfere with that.

3)It feels sort of like giving into bullying, even when I know it's more just being proactive. I just hate that I have to take this step because a bunch of people are ridiculous and don't understand boundaries. At which point myself responds with 'but you know there are some sickos out there, which is part of why this blog is anonymous in the first place, so just shut up and do it anyways.'

Well, I obviously listened to the little voice, but am still feeling petulant about it. Petulant is better than regretful or frightened though - which is what I would be if any of my pictures of the kiddos wound up somewhere else (even if that place were 'harmless.'

So, the point of all that is - If you have Flickr, please click through my sidebar shots, and add me, so that we can be friends! Or leave your Flickr URL and I'll add you as my contact... I definitely want to be able to share photos with all of you.

Even though I've taken those steps, I still am going to post pictures of the kiddos here. That feels like a pretty reasonable thing to do, since I am not willing to just stop doing something I love. I'm interested in hearing what reactions you all - all my creative, photography minded friends - have had to this, and what, if any, steps have you taken...

Now let's get to the program here and I'll show you My Best Shot Monday.

I wasn't quite feeling up to a practice run this weekend, so I decided to watch Youngest Nephew and Lil Girl while everybody else went out and partied. We had a sleepover! Which was exhausting! But, also, these kids are amazingly awesome. Youngest Nephew added "Drive Auntie NTE nuts" to his checklist and then put three empty squares next to it, so he would "remember to do it a bunch of times." Lil Girl sang the Blue's Clues song when it came on the radio (I didn't know she watched Blue's Clues!) and has decided that my name is either 'bay' or 'me' - At least 'me' makes sense, since when she points to a picture with me in it, I say, "Yup, that's Auntie NTE, that's me." But 'bay'??? Trust me when I say that is nowhere near my name. And they got along, mostly. And behaved, mostly. And slept till almost 8 in the morning, which, their parents assure me, is a kind of a miracle.

Also, it gave me something to do all night long, such as take a million pictures and try to figure out F-stops. (Which I still have not).

Friday, October 05, 2007

All over the place

SisterJ (the bride-to-be) has had, in the past 10 or so years, at least one bout with serious depression. She's been battling it again for the past year or so, in combination with anxiety, and trying different meds to find the right cocktail for her brain. It has been a frustrating, and, at times frightening, process - with physical and mental side effects that have caused major problems. One pill made her throw up all the time; another took away the anxiety but made her hyper. Her current meds are controlling the anxiety to a point (she's now experiencing a sort of social phobia), but the depression is roaring away, unchecked.

I know all of this, but when your sister sits you down and tells you that, if she and her fiance could afford it, she would commit herself because she's afraid she'll hurt herself - well, there's really just no way to be prepared for that.

Her doctor has advised her to take 2 weeks medical leave from work, while she tries again to adjust her meds (adding another pill, subtracting one, fudging with another's dosage), so that she can do so in a less stressful environment. That would be nice, if we were in a perfect world, but even the idea of it just added to SisterJ's stress and fear - how would they be able to afford that? Would her boss fire her just for asking, considering she certainly hasn't been doing her best work in the past month or two? If she got fired, not only couldn't she afford her doctor and her meds, but they couldn't afford to live in their condo. You can see how this may not exactly be the most comforting of thoughts.

But she did have some vacation days that she could use, and she has Monday off anyways, so she went into a meeting with her immediate supervisor today, prepared to use her three vacation days and an unpaid day, giving her all of next week off. The meeting went just as badly as she feared it would - yes, they had all noticed that her work has been sub par, and she's now on probation, having to report in at all times during the day. Supervisor was not happy about her taking next week off because of health issues. She is one step away from being fired, and there's little hope that she'll come off that step positively, no matter how much they like her or the job she'd been doing before things took a turn for the worse.

She arrived at our house in tears, and wouldn't tell us what was wrong right away. We played with the baby, distracted her for a bit, and then, when her fiance got off work, she started to tell us. About how much worse the depression is right now. About how she's had serious suicidal thoughts. About how worried she is all the time and how it seems overwhelming and never ending and unbearable. About her doctor's advice, her plans for next week, her horrible meeting with her supervisor.

And we talked and cried and laughed and tried to make plans - what she needs us to do (just listen; let her cry if she needs to; remind her that there's hope still), what her fiance needs us to do (be available whenever he needs to talk; listen to what he needs to say), what they need to do for us (keep in contact; stop hiding things; ask for help), and then they went home for the night.

About 10 minutes ago, she called me in tears and my heart plummeted. But these were happy tears - she failed to mention that after the horrible meeting with her supervisor, she'd gone to see the big boss, (it's a small company - there's the two partners/big bosses, her supervisor, then SisterJ and people below her) to let her know exactly what was going on. She explained what she hadn't been able to say to her supervisor - about the depression and her doctor's advice, about the paralysing fear and inability to feel like anything actually matters - and her boss set up a meeting for the Monday she returns with all four (two big bosses, supervisor, & SisterJ) of the main players, so they can move on from there. She was sympathetic and appreciated that SisterJ came in to tell her about it.

Apparently, after SisterJ got home and checked her work e-mail, she had a message from the big bosses that said that they think she should follow her doctor's orders and take the two weeks that she recommends. They'll cover the extra week, paid, because they have faith in her & because they value her as an employee, and want her to be able to stay and be a part of their company.

If I had their number, I would call them right now, regardless of how unprofessional it would be. I would send flowers, or trek over there to hug them myself: SisterJ called me crying because she couldn't believe that people could be so nice. That something good like this could actually happen to her.

(Hello, I'm depression - I will now convince you that you are worthless: always have been, always will be. I will terrorize you until you think that the world consists only of pain and heartbreak, and that your only shot at avoiding this horrendous torture for eternity is to remove yourself from the playing field completely. And immediately. And you will believe me in all things, because that's the way I work.)

And they, just by virtue of being nice people, by doing something that feels right to them, have put a little piece of hope and happiness in my sister's heart.

At this point, they could declaw cats for kicks, and they'd still be some of my favoritest people on the planet.

It may still be a far cry from a perfect world, but these two people are doing there best to help us get there.

Two other notes -

First, I've noticed a lack of positive posts here lately, and am attempting to make myself focus on some of the better things that are going on, so you all get to share in those too. They are here, I promise.

Second, my family has a rather large history of depression (and at least one suicide attempt), I myself have suffered as a result of chronic illness, and still, I find that I'm not sure if what I'm saying is the 'right' thing. I know a lot of the 'wrong' things to stay clear of ("Just smile!" or "Think positively" being two of the tops there), but I'd still appreciate your wisdom here. If you've suffered from depression, what were some of the things people around you did/said that helped or hurt? If you've loved someone with depression, what are some of the things you think I should know? Of course, I am doing my research (yay Internet!), but I know you all are pretty much interpersonal geniuses (see "Why is it so hard?"), and always have something useful to say. Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Things that are worrying me about the wedding (episode 1)

(of probably 1113 episodes)

We're 227 days and counting away from my sister's wedding, the save the dates are in the mail right now, and the number of things I have to worry about in regards to it seems to be ever expanding. But for today, I'd like to focus on this -

I can't remember the last time I was outside of my house (and expected to be social) past, like, 7:30 at night. Usually by around that time, the pain and fatigue and achiness and dizziness have all worn me out, and I'm not up to my normal, fake-believe-everything-is-ok levels. And this wedding starts at 5:30. After what I'm sure will be a very full day.

So, I'm a bit concerned. Because, even though I am good at delegating, I will still need to be doing some things, such as keeping Sister J sane and the rest of the bridesmaids focused, and that's before all the intense stuff.

And, the thing is that my disease(s) are pretty are changeable, so even though I was in my roommate's wedding back in 2001, my cousin's in 2002, and two separate cousins for each of the following two years, I'm not the same kind of sick now as I was for any of them, so past experience isn't really helping me out too much here. I mean, I know I'll have to do what I can laying down in the days and weeks before, and on the day of especially (or else disasters will occur, and if there's anything worse than being 'the bride's sick sister,' it's being 'the bride's sick sister who passed out in the middle of their vows' or, even better, 'the bride's sick sister we had to call the ambulance for'... Shudder.); I know I'll have to be taking all my meds and have emergency meds for pain and breathing and all sorts of stuff on my person at all times (or, rather, on my chair at all times); I know better than to take even a sip of champagne, what with all the meds; I know enough to cross everything not absolutely necessary off the to-do list in the weeks leading up to and the month or so following the date; I also know that there'll be stress and stress is not good for me, so I've got to remember to take it slow and keep eating healthy, or things will be worse.

And, I know, that I'll fake what I can because that's what I have to do to get through it. And that I'll have fun at the same time, because that's the kind of multitasking people with chronic illnesses are awesome at!

But, since I don't actually know how I'll do at night, I think I'm going to do a trial run at the surprise party for one of my (other) cousins this Saturday. It's much more low-key than a wedding, but it's late, it's loud, it's all of the things that I'm going to have to deal with come May, so I'm going to make the effort and give it a shot. Of course, it's Tuesday, so my plans could totally change by Saturday (stupid sinus infection needs to listen to its antibiotic friends and DIE!), but for now, I've just made my first after dark outing plans at least 2 years. Yay!