Monday, February 15, 2016

Mama's Kids

February 15, 1919 was a grand day.  Like many marvelous events it started fairly a tiny town, in a humble home, with a new baby.  Her Grandmother delivered her into the world in her parent's bedroom.

Sarah was the first child born in her family.  There was a bit of disappointment.  Her Father was a sheep rancher.  His occupation was incredibly intense.  He hoped for a son to help carry the load.  America was still very narrow in their view of what women should do.  Working on a sheep ranch was NOT in that particular definition.

Her eyes loomed large and lustrous in her tiny baby face.  Her Mother held her close and served up her first meal.  This closeness to her Mother lasted for ninety-one years.  I don't suppose that it is surprising that this maternal bond would carry forward into Sarah's children and family.

I'm going to jump forward now, another 40 years or so.  Sarah was married and had three children.  She had lost a full-term son along her life's path.  His earthly remains were tucked away in a cemetery in the town where her husband had earned his collegiate degrees.  She had lost three other babes when they had been mere possibilities.  Disappointed, she and her sweetheart kept their faces towards the future, the goals and dreams that lay for them there.

I remember my Mom telling me many, many times over the years, "You don't have to give birth to be a Mother.  She lived those words actively.  First she "fostered," many children unofficially.  Children with parents in crisis.  Friends of her own children, children that she knew about from her activity in her church group.

Next came the "official," foster children.  She heard at church about a program to bring Native American children from the reservation where the schools were seriously lacking, to live with a family that could offer them better educational opportunities.  This was a long time before being "politically correct," was important.  She did not try to erase their Native American heritage.  Sarah did her best to help them understand the traditions of their heritage.  Four girls were brought into her home.  She did her best to stay connected through the years.  One of the girls continued communicating by letter until Mama passed away at 95.

Then there were the three state welfare children.  A darling 2 year old daughter, a 6 year old son, and the oldest, another boy was 8.  Imagine the sorrow of hearing a 2 year old say matter-of-factly, "My Mama is in prison."  Gratefully she did not understand that her Mother was imprisoned for prostitution and petty theft.

These three brought joy and torment into Sarah's family.  They were adorable children.  She told the rest of our family through laughter about the time that the youngest said to her husband, "Dad, when you go to the store we need bum wipers, we're all out."  Her extremely refined husband almost choked on his dinner.

Sarah and Wendell were in their late forties.  After caring for these three for two years they applied to adopt them.  They were informed that they were too old to be adopting these young children.  In addition, the state refused to take away the Mother's rights.  That same Mother who had abandoned them for a day here, a week there.  The way they were discovered being all alone?  Leslie, an eight year old at the time, was shoplifting at a grocery store to get food for his siblings.

After the bid to adopt the three State Services decided it was time to move them.  So my two brothers, and my little sister, were pulled away to a home where the woman had already given birth to seven children.  That did not last long.  She came unglued, physically and mentally, and again the children were uprooted and dropped into a different home.

That was the last time that Sarah fostered "official" children from State Welfare.  It was too heart breaking to see the children pay over, and over, and over again, for the sins of the parents.

Did she stop fostering?  Not even a little bit.  She just loved dear ones who had Mother's far away, or whose Mother had died.  Of course, her nurturing and loving spirit just found other ways to nurture and love.  She was the first person her friends and acquaintances called in emergencies, or to share joy and success.

I love my Mama, forever and always.  I have been truly blessed with a wonderful Mother.  I'm grateful for her unselfish example of love and caring.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Squirrel or Wolf?

I was in a very large field.  I was HORRIFIED to see a gray wolf running towards me.  His eyes were filled with hunger.  I couldn't move.  My feet were firmly sealed into the ground below.  The wolf crouched ready to spring...and came closer, and closer.  His fangs were bared.  I couldn't cry out or scream.  Every time that I tried not one saving whisper came out.

I suddenly realized that everything seemed out of focus.  I rubbed my eyes.  (Apparently my hands still worked)!  The creature I had perceived to be a life threatening gray wolf, was actually a gray squirrel that bounded up into a tree.

When I awakened, almost instantly I knew the meaning of this dream.  Dreams are very personal, and generally they are just your mind ruminating refuse from your day to day life.  On the other hand, some dreams can teach  you.  This was one of those kind of dreams.

In my life I often build up challenges and problems in my mind until they seem enormous.  Yet times when I focus and face the problem they turn out to be squirrels.  Many, many times in my life I have felt paralyzed by a challenge, worry, or problem.  I often blow the trouble out of perspective.  When I finally face my difficulty, I often find that the worry was actually much smaller than I originally considered.

Why do I share this personal experience?  I share it because I'm pretty much certain that others in the world have this challenge beside me.  Have you turned any gray squirrels into wolves?  What ARE the issues facing you?  Can you focus, concentrate, use creativity, and turn your wolf into a squirrel?

Perspective is a gift.  It tells you, "You've done hard things before.  You can do this again!"  Today, take ten minutes.  Go in a room all by yourself with paper, pen, or some technological device.  Turn off the ringer on your phone.  List the problems you are currently holding on a slow simmer in your mind.  Face them squarely and write down any types of positive coping mechanisms that you have.  (NO CHOCOLATE IS NOT a positive coping mechanism).  lol  Write a plan of action that gives you the strength to face these problems.

There is an old story that my Mama used to tell.  A man came to a wealthy farmer to get a job.  The farmer asked about the man's job skills.  The man was a yes or no, and only talk when you have to kind of guy.  He said tersely, "I can sleep through thunder storms."

The farmer thought that was an odd reply, but his need for help was great.  He hired the man.  Six months later a tremendous thunder storm hit.  When the farmer looked for his hired worker he found that he was in bed asleep.

Angrily the farmer said, "Why are you in bed?  Get up!  We have to close the shutters, make certain that all of the animals are safely in the barn, and that they have food and water access in the barn.  We must make certain that all things that could blow away in a storm are in the the shed for tools, and other things that blow away.

The man smiled, "I can sleep through a storm."

The farmer decided the man was crazy.  He didn't want to deal with this man's seeming craziness.  He stalked out into the yard to do all the things he had listed.  Everywhere he went every task had been done and done well.  Finally he understood his employee's words.  He literally COULD sleep through a storm because he was always well prepared.

In the morning he apologized to the wise employee and begged him to stay at his farm.

The man smiled broadly and said two words, "Of course."

The good news is that our feet are not sealed to the ground.  We have voices, and we can articulate things that matter.  What are you fearing today?  Is it better to postpone it or should you face it and overcome?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Agoraphobia and Mental Challenges

The Greek root of the word agoraphobia is agora.  Agora is marketplace, or open place.  Phobia indicates a fear.  So literally the word means fear of the marketplace or open place.  To put a more modern day spin on it, fear of leaving a controlled your own home.

I was born with severe allergy asthma, chronic bronchitis, and an impaired immune system.  I was pretty close to being a bubble baby as a child, teenager, and even into my adult years.  The worst time of year for me is January and February.  Last year I was ill throughout both months until the second week of March.

In spite of these challenges I have always been a very social soul, adoring to spend time with others.  I'm grateful that for almost ten months of the year I enjoy meeting with others, especially at church, or visiting in others homes.

Then comes January and February.  January and February with short days (and LOOOOONNNNGGG nights), fill me with agoraphobia.  I do not wish to proceed very far beyond my front door.  I do not sit contentedly at home.  I'm terrified to leave my home, but I'm also bored with my own continued company.  One might say that it puts me at odds with myself.

Throughout my personal life journey I have experienced illnesses that are still falsely referred to as "Mental illnesses."  Through research I have come to believe that the diseases should be reclassified as physical illnesses with mental manifestations.

Nobody would accuse a diabetic of having an illness that was imaginary.  It would also be extremely foolish to tell someone with a brain tumor that the experience was psychosomatic.  This is a long word that refers to things that are supposedly only in our own personal realities, and can't be proven by human senses.

With this old-fashioned idea in mind, why would you believe that if your body is not creating the proper chemicals to keep a mental balance it would cause you to experience feelings of DIS EASE?  The word actually means what I just spelled out, a feeling of being unwell.

Our brains are extremely complicated organisms.  They virtually are the control center for the rest of our body.  It takes an extremely well balanced chemical balance to provide the simple sense of being at rest within our bodies.

Clinical depression, or other mental manifestations of physical illness are far different than discouragement.  Discouragement is an emotion riding on the circumstances in your life.   Clinical depression, agoraphobia, and other challenges of this nature, are rarely connected to circumstance.  Oh negative circumstances can definitely worsen them, but often they are present even in times we typically consider positive and successful. Consider the actors that have had every type of success that we generally feel should create and maintain happiness.  Marilyn Monroe, for example, suffered clinical depression.  Her death was suspicious, a possible suicide.  The extremely rich have many, many stories of clinical depression, in spite of their wealth and social stature.

Unfortunately, mental manifestations are often tied to genetics.  Yet I find comfort in being forewarned of that possibility.  It does not mean that I am DOOMED to face the disease.  It means that I can do research and be prepared in ways to cope with my own, and look to the future in case my children or grandchildren inherit this.

Mental illness is NOT the end of the world.  Especially in this current world, there are so many wonderful ways and means of coping with and improving any illness that impacts our moods and brain function.

PLEASE! The most important thing that we can do about mental health challenge is to remove the stigma.  For centuries, people with mental health issues have been locked away so that they did not embarrass their families.  When there was no treatment, often people have been institutionalized for "their own protection, or the protection of others."  We live in a progressive time when we know so much more about these magnificent bodies that our spirits inhabit.  It's important to remember that mental illness is not an imagined experience.  When you are living through your bodies inability to regulate your brains functions, IT IS ALL TOO REAL!  

Joel Stein's discussion of public shaming...and possibly being shamed

Joel Stein writes for Times magazine.  I am completely and utterly jealous of the fact that he earns a living writing!  That is truly a dream for a writer.  I write.  I feel the need to write in one format or another each and everyday.  I have written two novels that are published, I have one more that is in the last stages of getting published, and I have written portions of another 7 novels.

Back to that getting paid to write.  Unfortunately, each and every human on this planet needs money.  It costs money to keep a roof over your head, and the weather out.  It costs money to eat, to pay for the utilities so that you can turn on lights, and be warm inside that place where you keep the weather out.  If you manage to afford a vehicle there are monthly payments to own it, and it costs money for insurance, and to maintain it.  Even if you manage to pay all of those expenses, it costs money to put fuel in the tank so that it can take you where you need or want to go.  Pretty much on this planet you need money for survival.

Now back to Mr. Stein's article.  In Africa there was an old lion named Cecil.  He was known across the globe.  Somehow, someway, a rich dentist gained permission to come and shoot and kill the venerable old creature.

What could possibly motivate someone to hunt a creature that is elderly?  It certainly wasn't the thrill of hunting an intelligent animal.  I believe the poor old animal waddled arthritisly (new word but any over 50 will totally get it) by the dentist that hunted him, and was mercilessly shot down.

Did the shooter want a lion head to mount on his fireplace mantel?  There is an old fashioned phrase, "Long in the tooth," which refers to being old and having your teeth getting lower as you age.  I'm not even certain that Cecil had any teeth left, after all, and this dentist probably knew this already, oral hygiene and dental care is not widespread for HUMANS, let alone lions in most of Africa.  I simply can't think of a single motivation that would send someone excitedly out to kill that old lion.

The internet is a marvelous educational tool.  In a heartbeat we can gain all types of information (some of it not so wise or true).  As a wannabe writer, the internet is an important tool.  I can sit on my bed in one state, and do research all over this great country of ours.

On the other hand it can be a powerful tool for those who like to stand on their mythical high ground and judge the actions of others.  Cowards are those that stand in judgment of others without knowing the entire story, or remain anonymous while they tear down others maliciously.  A quote that Joel quoted, and now I'm quoting Joel quoting the quote, "Moral psychology has a very sinister property."  Truly tragic that something that has purpose and values, morality, can be used in such a negative manner.

His last paragraph is very interesting to me.  He says, "Maybe it's best to stop shaming others.  Sure, that will slow progress, but it will prevent fascism.  Unless a lot of you disagree with me.  In which case, I totally think whatever you do."  Ditto Mr. Stein and please keep up your writing so that I may enjoy reading.

I state this with all the sincerity of my heart.  Oh did I mention that I use a pen name?  A nom de plum?  A pseudonym?