Friday, August 29, 2014

lots of happy

The past few weeks have been a blur.  An out-of-town, oh-my-aching-back, and that-was-such-fun blur.

Work had me in Charleston, D.C., and Plymouth for three of the past four weeks.  I seem to remember blogging about Charleston and Plymouth, but somehow missed the trip to D.C.  It wasn't really a trip to D.C. for me, I was in Maryland across the Potomac from the D.C. airport.  But Jack and Jr came along on this trip and they rode various public transportation methods (subway, bus, trolley, water taxi) for several days to do some sightseeing while I attended class.  After the classes ended, we headed down to colonial Williamsburg for a few days of fun that also included a trip to the ocean (of course).  Jr had a blast at Virginia Beach, even in a torrential downpour.  This is him in the ocean (on the right of the row of three people in the ocean) and maybe me taking a selfie while wearing Jr's new, soaking wet, hoodie in the downpour.  See even in the rain, the ocean is the best.

This is us with Neptune.  He is really big and so is the turtle in his hand.  We were drenched but happy.

After we got back from Maryland/Virginia, I headed to Plymouth.  Then Jack picked me up from the airport and we headed to Bryce Canyon for my birthday the next day.  Or maybe we went there so Jack, Stu, Shi, Herschel and Whitney could run another race, this one a five mile around Bryce Canyon.  Since it was five miles instead of 5K, and since Bryce is nearly 8000 feet up, they all seemed to be a bit less competitive.  Sort of.  It was a walk/run thing I think.

While they were out running, Audrey, Ellie, Calvin, and I headed to the gift shop where we found new things to play with.  We were clearly happy.

Before we knew it, the (obviously) least competitive of the runners was passing us and crossing the finish line.  She came and went so quickly I almost missed her.

Next came this one:

 Then these two:

And then this girl, who, remember, has an adorable seven-month-old baby boy but she still completed the race:

Incredibly, nearly everyone in our group won a medal this time.  Apparently this race has fewer competitors, but lots of guys in certain age groups (thus more competition).  But everybody finished even at that elevation.

The race was sponsored by the local scout troop as its annual fundraiser.  One of Jessie's friends owns a running shoe company that was at the race selling their shoes.  Jack got involved in an auction for a pair of running shoes and used his ebay skills to get this sweet pair of red--no wait, they aren't just red, they are RED shoes, and the troop got a little closer to having enough money to buy a trailer for hauling their camp gear.  Everybody won on that deal.

After the race there was a little bit of goofy posing:

And this boy is such a good baby.  No, I didn't give him any Diet Coke.  Please.  I would never give a seven-month-old Diet Coke.

Then there was a lot of hiking and laughing and eating and good times in another of my favorite places--Bryce. 

After we got home and back to work, Stu reminded us that since one of the former Grizzlies hockey players was on the team that won the Stanley Cup this past season, he (the player) would get to have the Cup in his possession for some period of time, so we all headed up to the Capitol to see the Cup.  Not gonna lie, it was very cool.  Like, give you a buzz of excitement in your stomach cool.

 Calvin agreed.  It was awesome.

During this period of nonstop travel, my back decided to do its muscle spasm thing.  Boo.  This was not good.  Riding on planes and sitting in classes or office chairs for hours and hours over days and days and days is not a way to settle down those wound-up muscles.  Eventually I stayed in town for long enough to get in to physical therapy for a couple of sessions.  My back is much happier and before long I'll get to go back to zumba and get my jiggle back on.  And I'll also do a bit of core work to try to save my back from future trouble.  Or I'll mean to do that but forget until the next time it freaks out.

So, except for the pain in the back part and a few other parts of life that kind of suck but hey that's life, it's been a month of good times and fun memories.  Just like August should be.  Since it's my birthday month.  And this year had a little bonus related to my birthday.  I'd been thinking for some time now that I was 56.  Guess what?  I was only 55.  So it's like I had a birthday but didn't get older.  See that's totally a gift I've got going on there.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

things i now know

Today I know two new things that I didn't know yesterday thanks to my visit to government contracting boot camp here in Plymouth.

1.  Having access to all of the everything in the world (thank you internet) is a good way to lessen my ability to remember stuff.  Said another way, without access to the internet, you have to start remembering stuff.  If you can't look it up on the internet, you might just have to find it in your brain's filing system.  This gives me hope that my memory files aren't quite as corrupted as I thought.  Might not need to refrag my brain after all.  This seems good to me.

2.  Until I came to Plymouth, I'd never seen a sign on a freeway entrance that read, "Watch for buses on shoulder."  I've puzzled over that every morning on my way to class.  Why would buses be on the shoulder?  Does this happen often?  This bus-breaking-down issue?  Is this because of the cold weather?  What happens to the school children on these broken down buses?  Why are buses taking kids on the freeway and breaking down?  Yes.  These have been my thoughts.  Today I figured out, firsthand, without the Internet, what those signs really mean.  I figured it out when a public transit bus passed me on the right on the shoulder of the freeway.  Yes.  A bus passed me on the right.  At first I thought it was simply an aggressive bus driver, tired of waiting for traffic to clear, but it turns out public transit buses are allowed, no encouraged, no expected to drive on the shoulder of the freeway during rush hour.  Who knew?  And aren't I glad I didn't move my big-ass SUV over in front of that stinkin' aggressive bus driver.  Yes,  I'm glad.

So there you go.  I probably won't make it to the headwaters of the Mississippi or to the MALL OF AMERICA (which is so big I think it needs to be in all CAPS), but I did learn two new things.  So there's that.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Not the car.  Not the rock. 

No, I'm in Plymouth, Minnesota, this week, for another contracting class, this one about federal government contracting.  In depth, memorizing required, interesting, and a bit nerdy all rolled into one week.

In case you're wondering, Plymouth seems to me to be the Ogden of Minnesota, which likely means I won't get to go in search of the headwaters of the Mississippi River, which I think is somewhere around Minneapolis.  So I'm kind of bummed about that.

However, this trip has confirmed my love of and dependence on Siri.  That smart girl gets me everywhere and never once shows the slightest irritation with me when I miss a turn or an exit.  Possibly the best app ever invented.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

about depression

Lately I feel the need to write, but can't seem to find the release valve to let out the words.

And then Robin Williams died. 

Perhaps I am na├»ve, but I've been stunned by the reactions I've seen about his death.  I've also been deeply moved.

I only know the things I know from my own personal experience.  What I've seen with my own eyes, heard with my own ears, felt in my own self. 

I come from a place where "Children are to be seen and not heard."  It was easiest for me to be a good girl, invisible, nice to other people--always--so people would like me. 

It is very difficult to live always being more concerned about what other people need, to refuse to acknowledge you have anything other than good, nice, happy feelings.  Because if you have any other feelings, you are bad and people won't like you.  So you be nice and up, always, because you have to be that way.

But life isn't always about good, happy, nice.  Shit happens in every life.  All around.  Nearby, immediate, everywhere.  It becomes more and more difficult to stay up and be nice when hard things, hurtful things are happening in your life and in the lives of people you love.  You know that's life really, but if the only way you know how to behave is up and nice, you find yourself in this deep inner conflict that you cannot resolve.  And so the inner battle is on.

I remember clearly the first time I considered suicide.  It was as though a voice outside of my head offered me relief from the inner conflict from which I could not escape.  I remember looking around to see who had come up with that brilliant, frightening idea. I knew it was crazy.  Unacceptable.  I considered it, horrified, and quickly realized I was too responsible to kill myself.  But it offered such relief from the pain.  And it was crazy and irresponsible so I set it aside.  Until it came back.  Often.

The idea of ending the pain stayed with me for several years.  I considered various methods, the pros and cons of each, always concluding a nice, up person wouldn't kill herself.  It would be irresponsible. 

I am alive today because I got through each one of those moments intact.  Moments.  When I didn't have a gun, or the right combination of pills, or a clear understanding of hanging, or a certainty that a fall or car accident would be fatal, in those moments when I didn't think I could stand the pain of living anymore.

I've had a lot of back pain in the past few weeks.  Thought I was getting better but it kept coming back.  Finally went to the ER yesterday to get it checked and to be treated before leaving town again for work.  The ER doc ordered an MRI that showed the pain is still caused by muscle spasms.  She gave me a couple of prescriptions for medications and one for physical therapy.  In a few weeks, I'll be good as new.  My pain will be gone again for now and I'll be able to move again. 

If I had cancer or heart disease or diabetes, I would want the same outcome.  I'd want to find out what was wrong and I'd want to understand the treatment and I'd want to feel better and get on with life.  There might be people who would think I could have avoided the cancer or heart disease or diabetes by living a different lifestyle.  And maybe I could have.  While I've never had cancer or heart disease or diabetes, I've certainly seen others who have died from these diseases, loved ones who have done everything possible to live for as long as possible.  I suppose some might have said enough, no more pills or tests or pain, just let me go.  I've heard people say after someone dies that they gave up or they lost the fight or now they are at peace.  I'm just not sure we are in charge in these situations.  After all, every body dies in the end, no one gets out alive.  It seems clear though that humans are wired to stay alive, to keep breathing for as long as their bodies can do so. 

In my experience, there is depression, a real true brain illness, which, in my case, eventually led to suicidal thoughts, which led to suicidal ideation, which in just a moment or maybe five minutes, could have easily led to death with its sweet release from the pain of depression.  Luckily, so far, I've gotten through those moments still alive. 

Like my back pain, the depression pain comes and goes but so far, I'm 100% for getting through it alive.  But it is a part of me, just like my back pain.  It goes against everything I've ever thought--doing something that will ease my pain but cause tremendous pain to everyone who loves me, doing something that is so completely opposite to what our minds and bodies are supposed to do, that is, keep ourselves alive, no matter what.  It makes no sense, but I suppose it makes total sense because it comes from an ill brain.

When I heard about Robin Williams, a tiny part of me hoped he can finally be at rest.  I'm grateful to feel good right now, staying in this real place where I experience all of the feelings and recognize when I need to see the doctor for my brain, just like I finally saw the doctor for my back.

Obviously, this is a complex topic.  I'm just thinking that if I could have one wish, I'd wish for more compassion, more understanding, more whatever it takes for us to be less judgy and more kind.  But that might be exactly how I got into this place.  Maybe I would just wish for safe, effective, complete treatments for brain illnesses--or maybe for starters, for everyone to recognize brain illness as just that, a real illness that causes real pain that people sometimes can no longer endure.