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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Days Of Old

A wilting white rose next to an embroidered handkerchief

In this day and age, we have come to expect everything to be convenient, prepackaged, and disposable. I think there was much to be said about the way things were done in the past. I think we need to go back to some of the old ways, and slow down, and take a breath.

You may be wondering what prompted me on this subject. It was something as simple as a linen handkerchief. I know many of the younger generations will be scratching their heads trying to figure out what that is. Quite simply put, it is a cloth Kleenex, a hankie as we used to call it back in the horse and buggy days.

I, unfortunately, suffer from year-round allergies. I decided to try and save money and trees by using linen hankies. They are re-usable and feel better on a sore, chapped nose. As I was sitting here folding my fresh clean snot rags. Yes, that is another term for them that I learned from my Dad. It got me thinking about today’s subject.

It was, in fact, my Dad who introduced me to handkerchiefs. As a hard working garbage man, he didn’t have the time to carry around a tissue box, and he couldn’t carry them in his pocket because we all know what happens to a flimsy tissue in a pocket. My Dad kept the bandanna companies in the business. When other kids were buying their Dad’s ties, we were buying our Dad those red and white or blue and white squares of nose blowing freedom.

If you are unsure what a bandanna is. Here is a photo.
a photo of a red, white and blue linen handkerchief or bandanna
These days they come in all kinds of colors and designs.

They are quite versatile. You can use them to blow your nose, wear around your neck, and pull up to protect your nose and mouth, (or in the Wild West to rob a bank.) They are also good to tie around your forehead to keep the sweat out of your eyes. My Dad used them for all of these reasons, well except for the robbing banks part but who knows.

As usual, this post got off track of the subject. Don’t ask me how I ended up talking about my Dad. He must be on my mind today. Now back to the subject of slowing down and going back to the simpler things in life. This is something we all need to do. 

All the already prepared meals, the ability to stream TV and movies on your phone as well as access the Internet makes our lives easier but it has also taken away our sense of family, of togetherness. We have become a single-minded entity who has lost any individuality. We no longer talk to people, we text. It is pretty bad when on a holiday that brings friends and family together. Everyone sits staring down at their phone and instead of engaging one another, and talking, they will message one another.

What happened to human interaction? Has our world become so defensive against the hate of others that they would rather not have any human contact. We are alone eating our fast food while staring at the small computer in our hands, isolated. Maybe if we return to the family dinners and sitting around the living room watching TV or, God forbid playing a board game together there would be less hate in the world because we would remember that we are after all a social creature. We need interaction with our fellow humans to remain human. When we separate ourselves we become selfish and hateful. We destroy because there is no one there to inhibit us.

In this way, we stop caring about our fellow man, our wildlife, our planet. It becomes all about number one. If we are to save our world we need to remember what it means to be human. To show ourselves and all of our flaws to each other to better grow as a species. I think if just one night a week to begin with we choose to make dinner from scratch, don’t get me wrong, I think using a jar of spaghetti sauce with packaged noodles would suffice. Just add a nice garden salad, some garlic bread, maybe some green beans and call the family together. As they enter the kitchen or dining room have them turn off their cell phones and place out of reach. Spend some time getting to know the humans that you share a home with and branch out from there. Call your friends over for an afternoon or evening of sitting around playing cards and gossip. Simple things like this will reactivate our ability to care and listen to one another.

I think I need to buy some new hankies, maybe a bandanna or two in memory of Dad. Take some time to reconnect with those I love and turn off my cell phone, shut down my computer and just spend the day remembering what life was like in the old days. I might even dig out my recipe for homemade chocolate chip cookies and do some baking. Take the time to slow down and breathe. I hope you will give it a try also. Leave me a comment on how you can slow down and reconnect. I hope you continue to love fully and laugh often.

a baking sheet filled with raw cookie dough balls.
Image by Aline Ponce from Pixabay.com




Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Pulling The Trigger


I was in my late twenties when I first started hearing the word “Depression” from my doctor. They brought it up at almost every visit but didn’t prescribe anything for it until my early thirties. This was in the early ’90s, and yes, the stigma of having any mental illness made you cringe when you thought that such a diagnosis would find it’s way into your medical files. So I balked at the thought of my being depressed and just pushed it off as exhaustion. I was simply tired, too tired, for everything going on in my life. I convinced myself that it couldn’t be Depression because I didn’t want to kill myself. This was something my mother battled, not me. I was the strong one. I wasn’t depressed.

I have written before about how at the age of fifteen, I did want to kill myself and even tried a half-hearted attempt. I think what stopped me from succeeding was as someone born and raised in a strict religious household, I was scared of the consequences of suicide. In the bible, it says that someone who commits suicide cannot enter Heaven. I was a strong enough believer to not want to go to Hell for killing myself. That fear saved my life on more than one occasion. Even at that time in my life if you had asked me if I was depressed I most likely would have told you no. I lived in denial of so many aspects of my life, for so long, I believed my own lies.

I was finally prescribed medicine for my depression when I was thirty, maybe thirty-one. A lot happened in my early thirties so the timeline is a bit fuzzy. I became a member of The Prozac Nation. The doctor prescribed me the drug Prozac and it did help. I was still tired of life but I didn’t care anymore. Prozac wrapped me up into a nice fluffy cocoon and kept all the bad emotions away. My friends and relatives noticed my change in mood and they seemed to think it was for the better. This would not be the only depression medication that made me feel this way. What I didn’t realize at the time was that not feeling my emotions and dealing with them was causing something to grow within me.  Something that would rear it’s ugly head shortly after my Dad’s death.

One of the emotions that Prozac stifled in me was my anger. I have always had a slow burn temper, that when set off burned bright and then died away. While taking my miracle pill, I didn’t have any temper flares, I did, however, have mini breakdowns where life would seem too much to bear and I would feel like I was going to shatter into a million pieces. All a result of holding my anger in, burying it deep, thinking it was gone. It wasn’t. It was just waiting, percolating into something far uglier. Rage.

The first time I felt the rage rising to the surface, I pushed it back down. The deep-set anger scared me so much my old friend denial came out to play. IT was just a momentary thing, it wasn’t anything to worry about. Deep in my thoughts though I knew that it was only a matter of time before it resurfaced. I was scared of what I would do when it did. I began to live in fear of it being triggered. Being wrapped up in cotton didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore. I brought my concerns up to the doctors but at the time I was going to a clinic and never saw the same doctor twice. One of the unfortunate side effects of not having any medical insurance and not making enough money to buy any. I was just thankful that there was a free clinic in our town.

The first time I let some of my rage out was when my Dad died. Most would think that this was a normal part of the grieving process but it was more. I was truly devastated by my Dad’s passing. I felt betrayed, scared, and alone. I had never lost someone very close to me. I had lost my grandfather when I was four so I never really knew him. I also lost one of my favorite uncles when I was eighteen but once again we hadn’t been close. My Dad was a very important part of my life and now he was gone forever. My tears were of pain and rage that he had been taken instead of my Mom. I know. Why would I wish my Mom gone in place of my Dad? That was because I had always been closer to my Dad and my Mom had been sick all of my life. In my mind, she should have gone first, but fate had other plans.

One instance of my rage breaking free during this time was when I told my Mom how I felt. I still remember the stunned and hurt look on her face. I honestly to this day still feel no sorrow in causing it. If I really want to look deep inside my rage still burns at the loss of my Dad twenty years later. I was a thirty-two-year-old adult but at that time I felt like a small child left bereft without the most important person in my life.

After I shoved my rage back into the box so to speak, I went on with life. I left the state I was born in and traveled around a thousand miles away to a new home and job. I completely left my safe zone for the unknown. I did this without my Dad just a phone call away. It was the most scary thing I had ever done in my life. It was the right move to make though because it put distance between me and the city where every place I went reminded me of my grief. It removed me from the well-meaning people who had loved and respected my Dad, constantly stopping me to ask how I was holding up. How do you say day in and day out that you are fine when inside you feel like your life is over?


We had moved to take jobs to help out a friend. He was having trouble finding employees he could trust with some important clients and he had come to my husband and me with a request for help. It came at the right time and so we relocated a month after my Dad passed. I went from living in a small town of about twenty-two thousand people to a major city with millions of people. Talk about culture shock. The first month I was there I couldn’t drive because the expressways caused me to have panic attacks. I had never been in any place with so much traffic. I had never seen rush hour traffic. As I said it was a shock. Eventually, I braved the roads and the rest is history.

 We stayed down in Houston for six months almost to the day we left. My husband and I decided with both of our Grandmother’s in poor health that it was time to go home. It turned out to be a good decision because we lost both within a year of each other. The next phase of my life was beginning. I wish I had had some warning of how life would flip me upside down within such a short time.

It was during this time that my rage bubbled to the surface and almost cost me dearly. I was working in a sales position and anyone who has worked with the public knows that the old adage of “the customer is always right” isn’t always the case. On one particular afternoon, I had a customer arguing with me and he kept getting closer and pointing his finger in my face. The only thing protecting me was a counter between us. It was at this moment when my rage erupted and I started over the counter to attack the customer. Talk about a cold splash of water in your face. As quickly as it started it was gone when I realized what I was doing. The customer was shaken enough that he left the store without another word. It was that day I knew that I needed to do something or I would end up in jail or worse.



I made an appointment with the doctor that day and thus began my journey into the game of Russian Roulette that those of us with Mental Illness must play to find the right medicine to aid us in our everyday lives. I say it is like the game because finding the right medicines for your diagnosis is like pulling the trigger never knowing if you will survive the action. So far I have been on at least four different medications with varied strengths. I have learned to ask family members to watch me whenever a medication is changed or a different strength adjustment is made. I sometimes don’t notice a change until I have done something that wakes me up or scares me.

As with Prozac, I have taken medication that fuels my rage, while one didn’t affect me at all. It was like I wasn’t taken anything but a placebo. Which is a discussion for a different post? Doctors like to use people with mental issues as guinea pigs. You never know if what they are prescribing is the real deal or just a sugar pill in disguise. Well not until you slip into a dark depression wondering why you don’t just end all of your sufferings as well as relieving your family of the burden you feel you are to them.

I feel like it has reached the time again to have a discussion with my doctor. I voiced some concerns for my medication and how my anxiety was rearing its ugly head and she decided to double my prescription. I went to one of my specialists and they were surprised by the dosage that I am taking saying they had never seen it prescribed with that high a dosage. No surprise that I am living in an unfeeling cocoon again. I noticed something was off when it hit me that even with the feelings I felt towards my Mom I have not cried since before she died. I feel nothing. I can’t even cry during movies that always leave me a blubbering mess. It is definitely time for a medication adjustment.

The last medication adjustment before she raised my current medication was to add an anxiety pill. That didn’t go over well. It was one of those that causes the rage to explode out of me and in the process someone I love got hurt. I feel the pain so deep for causing them injury that I would love to cry about it but I can’t. Sometimes I consider just stopping all my depression and anxiety medication and see if I can live without them. I know that that will cause a new host of problems so I just keep trying to find the magic mixture that will let me live a normal life.

I know others who suffer from Depression and or other Mental illnesses deal with the same problem. If you are one who has been shaking your head yes to my rambling let me know about your battles and what you have done to conquer the old stigmas and live a normal, well normal for us, life. Leave me a comment below. As always if you are considering suicide or any form of self-harm, there are people out there willing to listen. All it takes is a phone call. (insert suicide hotline) I leave you with this final thought. Remember to love fully and laugh often, sometimes they are the best medicine.


Monday, February 11, 2019

Bringing Your Ideas To Life



I have been trying to find a subject that I wanted to write about this last week. You probably figured out by the belated post that I didn’t find one. Luckily I found a subject for this weeks post.

Today I decided to talk a bit about my process when I write my stories. If you follow any writer’s social media, they all seem to post about how they got from what is some vague idea to a completed story. I know that there are many authors who share how they proceed from point A to point Z.  I will most likely do the same. Let's begin with what else but the beginning.

I don’t know about other creative people, but my stories come to me like I am watching a movie. I just need to run the movie a few times to capture all of the action. This is what I call step one. I work to get as much of my idea down on paper or in a program on my computer such as Microsoft Word or Scrivener.  I myself prefer the pen and paper method for this early stage.

I say get it down in writing because if you are like me. You have about a thousand or more ideas on any given day and if I don’t write them down, they will get lost in the clutter of my creativity.

a open manila file folder with pages of handwritten notes.
Once I have dedicated the idea to paper, then comes step two- the thought dump. In this step, I start writing all of the things happening in the scene playing through my mind. Even the most innocuous thought gets put down because you never know when that might just turn into a key element to the story.

This is also the stage where I begin to develop my characters. I also decide what theme I want to run throughout my story. As I develop my characters, I begin to see how my theme impacts their story arc.

We have now reached the third step. This is where you find the difference between pantsers and plotters. Some writers prefer to bypass the outline phase, which is okay but for me, I prefer to have an outline. Why? You may ask. I like to have an outline to look at as I write so that I don’t go off on a tangent and lose track of the story. Yes, this happens to me. It is like dropping a pebble in the water. As I write my brain conjures up different scenarios that could happen. Since I haven’t planned for this idea usually it loses ground and the story loses its cohesion.

It is during the outline process that I enter into stage four. In stage four I begin to flesh out my rudimentary outline by going into more depth in the key scenes. I also cut away anything that I feel is just filler. During the revision phase this happens again but by doing a cut at the beginning,  I find I have a lot less to trim once I have finished writing the first draft.

I usually will do this part when I take what I have handwritten and have begun building my Scrivener file. If you don’t have Scrivener, don’t worry. I have also done this in One Note and MS Word. I just prefer using the Scrivener program.

I  do a storyboard also. What is that you ask? My storyboard is a cork board filled with index cards. On these cards is my outline broken down by chapter and scene.  This is so instead of opening my different files while writing, I can just glance up at the board in front of me. This also leaves the number of open windows to a more manageable number. This is one of my pet peeves, having window after window open. I prefer to just have my research file, dictionary, and thesaurus open while I write. Fewer distractions. Now I have finally reached the final step to writing my first draft.

I also like to create a Pinterest board for my stories. What goes into this can be many different things. It could be pictures of what my characters look like, what they might wear, where they might live, you name it and you will probably find it on my storyboards. If it isn’t in one spot, it will be on the other. I also like that I can send my readers to Pinterest to get a feel for what is going into the story creation process.

Photo of a Pinterest board devoted to new story.
This fifth step is the most important one of all. I sit down and begin writing my story, or for you, it might be a script or whatever you have spent the last few days doing the building blocks for. I figure if I don’t write the story, that means I have just spent my time on nothing. Remember just to get it written down if it turns out to be something less than you wanted, at least you have something that you have accomplished.

Every writer I know has a few stories or projects they finish, only to feel it isn’t the right time for it or they feel it isn’t good enough. You just will never know until you do the work and bring what is flashing through your brain dying to come forth into the light.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below. A great book to get you started is Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. You can find it on Amazon.com. I leave you with the hope that you live life fully and laugh often.


Monday, January 28, 2019

A Year For Beginnings



When the new year came around to say I was ready for it was an understatement. With the passing of my mother, I knew that now was the time to make some changes and start fresh. When the clock struck midnight I was thinking about what my goals should be for this year. I sat down and began the list. I wrote it in my journal so that I could flip back and check my progress. I am going to have to buckle down and get my ass in gear. 

I have indeed make a goal list for this new year. I will add smaller goals for each new quarter but these are the goals I have made for myself this year. I want to put them down here on my blog as to make myself more accountable. I can truly say this past year has found me being a huge slacker. I failed in almost every goal I made for myself. This year, my #1 goal is to accomplish my goals. I know. You will believe it when it happens. At least that is what my inner demons whisper in my ear. I just need to ignore them and succeed in my endeavors.

So without further ado here are my goals for 2019.
1. I will lose at least fifty pounds.
2. I will finish “Wild Grows The Rose”.
3. I will begin blogging weekly again.
4. I will save money to take my Mom home to Illinois.
5. I will improve my credit score.
6. I will redo the outline for Tales of The Cat’s Eye Gang to prepare for the rewrite.
7. I will update my website.
8. I will clean out and re-organize my stuff.
9. I will go through all of my mother’s possessions and disperse it to its appropriate place.
10. I will start going to church.
11. I will decide whether to fix my car or replace it.

There it is. I started number nine this past week and so far I have shredded two and a half bags of paper. This was just in the file cabinet. This week I will tackle the remaining boxes of saved paperwork, bills, and oddities that my Mom never threw out. Yes, she was a hoarder. More of clothes but she also never threw out a piece of mail. She was afraid she would throw away something important and so saved everything. When I packed her apartment up when she entered the nursing home we were in a bit of a rush so it all just got packed and stored in my brother’s garage. To say I am not looking forward to listening to my old shredder bemoan its life as it gets fed over four years worth of paperwork is putting it lightly.

I am also getting the weekly blog rolling again so I can say that I have begun to actualize this goal as well. I am going to tackle cleaning out my dresser drawers in making goal number eight. By the time I am done if I haven’t worn or used it in the past year it will be history. I will be frequently making runs to the closest Goodwill and Salvation Army.

Let me know what some of your goals for the year ahead in the comments. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to get each new post. I hope this year you love fully and laugh often.

 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Handling Loss & Moving On




Purple-red orchids

You may all be wondering where I have been. Well sit back, relax and I will tell you about the last few months of my life. Let me just say that it has been a very trying for me and as I venture forth into this new year, I am having to adjust to the absence of someone in my life and it has been an interesting transition that is still happening to me.

If you have been keeping up with my blog, you will know that in July I had to make a difficult choice. A choice that left me feeling all sorts of emotions but the main one was guilt. I had to make the decision whether to put my Mom in hospice care or not. I chose hospice because her liver disease had reached the point that she was in incredible pain and that was the only way to get the medication that would give her some relief. Once the decision was made her health began to really deteriorate. We had also made the decision to remove her from all medications that were no longer helping her. We also chose to stop her diabetic blood draws because she had always been a difficult stick, and as each new blood test came she would be fearful of the pain.

My guilt came from wondering if I had held off she might be a bit more lucid, better able to engage with the friends and family that came to visit. Once she began the pain medication, she began sleeping a lot. It also seemed to enhance her dementia because she began to have trouble recognizing all of us. Here again, my guilt was pinged because it was tearing my niece apart to see her only remaining Grandmother not be able to say “I love you” to her. It became a common thing to see my niece run out of Mom’s room with tears in her eyes as her heart broke anew with each visit.

statue of an angel resting her head on her hand.

Five days after Thanksgiving and one hour before her seventy-fifth birthday; my Mom passed away. We had been talking about how we hoped she would make it to such a milestone age but in my Mom’s true fashion she missed the mark. The nurse who called to let me know said she didn’t suffer. She just went to sleep and then she was gone. At that point,  it was still fresh and as I got dressed to go sit with her while we waited for the funeral home to arrive, I was a bit in shock but also relieved. After ten plus years of living with terminal liver disease, her pain was truly over and as bad as this sounds; I was free.

Yes, I said it and that is what I felt. A burden had been lifted from my shoulders that I hadn’t realized was so heavy until it was gone. I am no longer trapped by a promise. I can leave and not worry who is going to take care of Mom. It is a revelation. I am still figuring out just what this means for me. Do I stay here or do I start making plans to leave? I will have time to find out because I have to save money before anything can happen.

I notice subtle differences between now and when I lost my Dad. Yet the biggest one is I have yet to lose a single tear. After my Dad died, I cried all of the time. I felt abandoned and lonely. My ex-husband told me that I even cried in my sleep. I still catch myself sobbing like an overgrown baby when something happens to remind me of him. I don’t know if it is because I have known Mom was going to pass and had time to prepare or if I’m just a cold heartless bitch. I have almost broken down a few times but yet something always prevents me from my release of grief. I wonder if my sense of relief has overshadowed my grief. I just don’t know. I may never know.

I do know that life goes on and even though we miss those who have gone before, that we still have our life to live. I am learning to live again without worry for my Mom as my companion. I no longer worry about always having my phone attached to my hip just in case there is a call concerning her. As I said before this is freedom. It even scares me a little to know that my life is my own once again. I am determined to rediscover myself. I am prepared for the next chapter in my life. With each new day, I awaken ready to take on all challenges. 

I hope you keep journeying with me as I go forward and stay tuned for my next post which will let you know my goals for the coming year. Until then I hope you love fully and laugh often.

an angel with cliffs in the background.





Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Guilty Heart

A person all alone with a giant shadow standing over them.

Have you ever felt so much guilt that it feels like it will consume you? You feel like you should have made a different decision but then you would feel guilty for that choice too. That is how I have been feeling these past few months. My decision to place Mom in hospice has been weighing on me ever since I signed the papers, did I make the right decision?

They keep telling me that she is acting the way she should at this stage of her disease but I can’t get rid of this feeling of guilt over the decisions I have made to ease her pain and discomfort. I know what I am feeling is normal for the position I find myself in. The decision maker regarding my Mother’s health. I know the decision to place her in hospice was so that she could receive the pain medication that would give her some relief but I wonder if I had waited a bit longer; maybe she would have still been here with us instead of lost in the grip of the morphine.

My niece looks at me with anger and disdain. She thinks that I should visit Mom more often. She doesn’t realize that every time I walk down the hallway towards Mom’s room, that I am assaulted with all sorts of doubts and questions. A heavy sense of responsibility weighs down upon my shoulders. If I could pass this torch, I would do so gladly. If you have ever felt like I do when placed in the position of decision maker for a family member, let me know in the comments.

The definition of guilt in words.

I receive a phone call from the hospice chaplain almost weekly. He asks if I have any questions about Mom and at the end of the call, he always says he is here for not just Mom but for the whole family as well. Is it wrong to not want to hear the age-old platitudes that he probably does by rote now? I just can’t bring myself to discuss my feelings where it concerns my Mother. People usually don’t understand that when they say “we know you love her, it must be hard.” They have just brought up another thing I feel guilty about because I honestly don’t love her. I respect her as my mother but I stopped loving her long ago.

People tell me that I must love her because of everything I do for her. I do what I do out of obligation as the eldest child, not out of love. I do what I do because it was one of the last things my Dad asked of me before he died. If I do anything out of love, it is because of how much I loved my Dad.

This awakens all new questions in my mind. I sometimes think I don’t know how to love. I never was shown what true love looked like. I know my Dad loved us because he didn’t say it all the time. He preferred to show us and when he said the actual words, he truly meant them. Mom, on the other hand, said it all the time but didn’t show it much, if at all. Dad was a giver and Mom was the taker but that subject can wait for another post. This one is not about love, it is about guilt over feeling how I truly feel. Guilt over decisions I have made, and the fact that I am tired of having it eat away at me. How do I get past these feelings so that I can go on with my life without it weighing me down?

How do you live with guilt and how it affects the decisions you have made or maybe the indecisiveness that it brings? Or does that fall more under the feeling of fear?

Let me know what makes you feel guilty or how do you define love? I hope this week will let you love freely and laugh often.




Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Ties That Bind A Family.



Silhouette of a family of five.


Have you ever looked back over your life and thought of the people who have been there throughout it? The ones you could count on come rain or shine. Do you think of friends or does family come to mind first? The people who were your strongest supporters but could also be your biggest aggravation. Yes, I am talking about family. Today I want to talk about siblings, in my case that is two younger brothers. Keep reading to see if you have any similarities with your brothers and sisters.

I didn’t always have brothers. The first three and a half years I lived as an only child. There were good things about it. I got spoiled rotten by parents, grandparents, other relatives not to mention friends of my parents. There was a downside though. I was lonely. I spent most of those early days with a sitter because my Mom worked and my Dad was trying to start a business while at the same time working for others. I have more memories of the pastor’s wife at our church who was also my main sitter. I still remember clearly the last day I ever drank from a bottle. I threw it in the toilet and she closed the lid and pretended to flush it away. Yep, no more bottle for me. I was around the age of two.

She is also the person who taught me to read. Every afternoon she and I would sit down on the sofa and she would teach me to read. It kind of backfired on her though. She did this to relax me so I would take a nap. Nope, not me. I became engrossed in the stories and would not sleep until we completed the book. By the time that happened it was time for her kids to come home from school, so no nap time for me. Did I also mention that I was spoiled and pretty much got my way about most everything?

That was when my Mom decided I needed a sibling, someone to take some of the attention from me. Silly mommy, I am a Scorpio, and I would still get the attention. I also gained an adoring fan that was putty in my stubby little fingers. He arrived just a few months before I suffered my first loss. He was in his crawling phase when we went to stay at my Grandpa’s. Mom and Dad were having some problems and had separated. I remember my brother was crawling at the time because he bumped his head on the front door when he crawled straight into it. He had himself a lovely goose egg on his forehead for a bit. My Grandpa died a few weeks later.

After attending the funeral, where once again I gained everyone’s attention when I declared very loudly that the man lying in the coffin was not Grandpa. I had never seen my Grandfather clean shaved, not once in my life. I also had never seen him in a suit. To my four-year-old mind, that man could not be my Grandpa because of those reasons. A few short hours later, the car was packed up and we were headed back home to Dad. This would mark the beginning of my brother and I clinging together when our lives were being torn apart by an evil disease that had my Father in its grip. I learned to protect the two of us when schizophrenia was ruling my Dad.

A girl holding her baby brother.

A couple of years later my parents welcomed another baby boy. They may have welcomed him but neither my brother or I liked the idea one bit. I would have been fine if I had gotten the baby sister I asked for but another brother was not appreciated. My youngest brother had the distinction of being born on December 23. While my Mom waited for her ride to the hospital, me and little brother woke up and asked to open a present each from under the Christmas tree. As we went in search of the biggest presents under the tree; you know bigger is the best present. Boy have I learned that isn’t always the case. Those tiny little gift boxes sometimes hold the very best kind of present.

Anyway as my Mom sat having contractions, she asked what we wanted for Christmas since she wouldn’t be home for the holiday. I very adamantly reminded her of her promise of a baby sister; up to this point, the doctor swore she was carrying a girl. My brother didn’t say much as he played with his newest toy. So as Mom was taken to the hospital and we went to the babysitters, I was assured that in a couple of days I would have my very own live baby doll to play with. It was at this time, I learned parents do lie. On Christmas morning I got a call from my Mom telling me that I had a new baby brother. I was very nice as I told her to leave him at the hospital, he wasn’t wanted at home.

My brother showed his feelings on the subject a couple days later when as Mom was sitting in the living room holding the new baby, all the family was standing around her gazing upon the newest addition. My brother calmly walked through the group until he was standing beside my Mom before she could react, he grabbed the baby by the feet and tried to pull him off of Mom’s lap. As he was pulling, he simply stated to the crowd, “my Mommy.” Yes, my baby brother was a great addition to the family, he just wasn’t appreciated at the beginning of his life with us.

As much as I complained about having another brother, we all became a very tight-knit group. I became a protective big sister keeping all the harm away from my minions… oops, my brothers. In a couple of years, some of the worst memories in my life transpired. The fight we all faced as Dad’s schizophrenic delusions and hallucinations reached a fever point. I remember him losing the battle on occasion and it became too dangerous for the three of us to stay in the house. I was living on high alert every time Dad was off work. I never knew when I would hear my mom yell for me to take the boys to the neighbor's house. My Mom would shove us out the door and return to battling the beast that gripped my Dad so tightly.

Our lives became more normal after Dad went to spend some time in a mental hospital. While he was there, my Mom ended up in the hospital with a nervous breakdown and the three of us were sent to live in a foster home. I am sure there are still memories of that time that I still have blocked out. What is sad is every once in a while one of those hidden memories will tease just on the edges of my consciousness. Teasing me with feelings of panic and fear. Pretty sure that I want those memories never to resurface. One of my biggest fears is what the boys remember during that time. They were so much younger than me so if they do remember, the memories would be fragmented in their mind.

A big brother holding his baby brother.
Yeah, this scene never happened in our house.
Since I was the only girl and a few years older than the boys, I was usually left alone. I didn’t want to play with the “babies”, they, in my opinion, were no fun. Well except when I needed someone to blame for a misdeed, then they were my best friends. As we got older, the boys were inseparable. They did almost everything together, but they were also always fighting each other. It was weird they could be beating the crap out of each one minute and the next standing together against a schoolyard bully. Years later they said it was that they were the only person allowed to kick their ass, well and big sister. Hey, I had to assert my authority once in a while, I’m only human.

Here we are at the ages of fifty-one, forty-eight, and forty-five and we are still each other's strongest ally. We have weathered being separated, living with our own families, but we have always been there for each other. I think for most siblings just the fact that we had a shared history growing up made us close. Only someone who has lived a situation with you can truly understand your feelings about the situation. We had the same building blocks so to say.

To attest to the fact of how close we are, we all live in the same house. My youngest brother invited me to live with him and his family when I found myself homeless after being abandon by my roommate at the time. I was having health issues and my roommate moved out of our apartment leaving me with all of the bills. On my paycheck alone I couldn’t pay for the place so I had to move out. I went to stay with my mother but where she lived had strictures on how long someone could stay. My brother was getting ready to move into a bigger house and asked if I would like to move in. It was a no-brainer that I would be joining his family. A few years later he was sent to a new Army post and asked if I would like to move to Texas. I figured after almost ten years in Tacoma, I could use some drying out.

The older brother stayed in Tacoma with his wife and family. They were debating moving but couldn’t decide between Texas and Alabama. His wife decided that with or without him, she was going home to Alabama. Since the whole family was in Texas, my brother packed up what was left of his life and came down south. He was pretty much broke by the time he got here so he took up residence with the rest of us. This is how it has been all of our lives if one of us fell on hard times, the other two offered any help we could. It was ingrained in us by our Dad that we take care of each other because at the end of the day you should be able to depend on family. If one of us failed, then all of us failed because we let it happen.

My gypsy blood is begging for me to find new pastures, I hate to leave but I need to do this for my soul. I feel stagnate. My life stuck in a holding pattern. As much as I would love to move away, I can’t bring myself to move away from the family. Especially now that my Mom is fading away day by day. I know that we are going to need each other when the time comes for her to go. This is another thing about siblings when you lose someone as important as a parent, you should join together in celebration of their life.

Yes, my Mom did dress the boys alike for quite a few years.

I know I have rambled on for a bit, I just felt the need to let this out. If it makes you think about your own family and see the similarities then I am glad. If it makes you feel sad that you don’t share the same relationship with your siblings. Remember there is still time to mend your differences. You shouldn’t hold hate in your heart towards someone who has been there from the beginning. Whatever tore you apart, can be fixed if you come together and agree life is too short to hate each other. Sure siblings can push more of your buttons than anyone else simply because they have been there so long. Think about it, you can push their buttons just as well. It is a two-way street.

As I finish this post I hope you take what I have said and take a look at your shared life together. I also hope that you love fully and laugh often.