And, just like that, I’m 54!

This past Wednesday was my birthday. It feels so wonderful to say that I’m actually looking forward to this year! I can’t wait to see what it will bring. These last few weeks have been busy (for me), yet exhilarating. I’ve done more in the first 2 months of 2020 than I did in the 3 or so years before that combined. Does that mean I no longer struggle with physical pain, depression or anxiety? Ha! I wish. But, it does mean that I’m finally figuring out a way to coexist with them.

I have learned that if I don’t participate in life, well the world isn’t going to stop for me. I’ve learned that I can acknowledge and accept my pain and deal with it in a way that I’m not stuck in bed taking meds left and right. I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I thought. I’ve learned that I’ve missed hearing my own laughter. So, I finally got up, put my big girl panties on and stepped back into my life. If it gets to be too much or too painful, I can rest for awhile. But, I’ll never give up again.

We’ve had a birthday dinner for Johnnie. I made a money cake for him. But, in typical Susie fashion, I didn’t follow the directions correctly and it didn’t turn out as I’d hoped. But, was it fun? Hell yes. And, because it didn’t turn out quite right, we all had a good belly laugh. We made a great memory. And Johnnie still got the money. After that was Jacob’s (my grandson) 12th birthday. Instead of one big gift, we decided on 3 days of birthdays for the grands. The first day is a yummy treat, the second day is clothing and the third (the actual birthday) is the main gift. Jacob wanted money. Boring. So, I rolled up a bunch of dollar bills in cling wrap. Took him awhile to get all the money out. Another memory made.

I’ve had several days that I spent with my momma and several with mom and DeeDee, my sister. We’ve gone to the grandkids basketball games, band concerts and plays. We’ve gone shopping and out to lunch. And, of course, there was the day that mom and I made the costume for Chloe. All of the above came with so much laughter. I’m so very thankful that I have laughter in my life again. I had let the pain from the last few years fester inside of me and it made me bitter. I lost my laughter. I became much too critical of everything. I’m still working on that, but I feel like I’m getting there.

Adrian and I went to Grapevine to see a bluegrass gospel band with DeeDee and Bob last Friday night. We had a great dinner first and then went to the concert. My heart was so full. This past Tuesday was the day before my birthday. We met Mom, DeeDee, Johnnie and Family at Spring Creek BBQ for dinner. More laughter. They spoiled me rotten. Johnnie, Courtney and the kiddos gave me an amazing metal cow on a tricycle that holds a huge fern. She goes so well with the other metal animals on my porch. DeeDee and Mom went all out. They brought balloons, a cake and a pair of Birkenstock sandals. I’m just so grateful that I can spend time with my family and enjoy it. I don’t think I’ll ever take it for granted again. Jen, Tony and the kids couldn’t come on Tuesday because Jennie has been sick. But, we’re going to have a dinner together when she’s feeling better.

Adrian had dental surgery on the day of my birthday. He did amazingly well. I drove him home after the surgery. That makes 4 times in the last couple of weeks that I’ve driven!! Huge step for me. I still can’t sit for long, but I’m no longer hiding in bed. I’m LIVING. Thank you Lord! And thank you Momma. And DeeDee. And always Adrian. I don’t know that I deserve someone as patient and kind as he is, but I’m thankful for him. Even when I was at my worst, (and I’m ashamed to say that I was for quite a long time), they never gave up on me. They just kept loving me (I wasn’t always very lovable). Encouraging me. the biggest thing? They were there. They never gave up. And because of them, I didn’t either. It’s hard to write this because I can’t see through my tears. Because of these 3 people, as well as the rest of my family, I found my way back. It’s so good to be here.

DeeDee and I goofing off. Picture taken by Mom
DeeDee and Mom. My mom is amazing. She’s 75 and started volunteering with Wheels on Meals. These 2 make me want to be better and do better.
Bob, DeeDee, me and Adrian. What a wonderful night this was.
Hello 54. I’m so excited to see you. My smile is finally real again.

I miss him.

This past Friday was 2 years since my Daddy died. 2 years without seeing him. Without hearing his voice. Without feeling his hug. I realize that death is a part of life and that I’m very blessed to have been so close to him. Yet, I can’t shake the fact that I feel guilty. Why? Hell, I don’t know. For everything. For nothing. My brain won’t shut up. My heart won’t stop crying. I feel like my mind is fixing to explode into a million pieces and each one will be a sliver of a thought that is so loud that it seems to be screaming in my head. I can’t sleep. When I do, the sound of silence feels like it’s suffocating me in my sleep.

Daddy died February 7, 2018. I was pretty much housebound and miserable all of 2017. I had emergency spine surgery in a December of that year and I was finally able to do more. But, for quite awhile, I couldn’t walk without a walker or wheelchair. Couldn’t stand up straight. Couldn’t drive and couldn’t stand to ride in a car either. My mental health was terrible. My dad’s health was deteriorating in 2017 too. He was in and out of hospitals. He fell a lot. I felt terrible that I wasn’t more of a help to my mom. My youngest brother and my sister were truly amazing. As were my niece and nephew. My son, his wife and my daughter and her husband made sure to be there too. But I wasn’t. Oh, I tried to visit him in the hospital whenever he went. I’ve always talked to my mom on a regular basis, and I talked to dad on the phone quite a bit when I called for mom. I got angry with myself for not being able to help and I’m embarrassed to say that I sometimes took that anger out on the people that I love.

My poor mom was trying to take care of her husband and deal with her youngest daughter not only being in terrible pain, but being a needy brat. I wanted my mom because I didn’t feel good. I wanted to be there for my dad, but since I couldn’t, I just pouted and retreated farther into my own head. I very seldom left the house at all. When I did, I had such anxiety that I truly felt as if I were Alice and I’d fallen in the rabbit hole. It was a terrible cycle that I couldn’t seem to break. I’ll skip a lot of details and just say that December 26, 2017 was a huge turning point. I had emergency spinal decompression surgery. It was so wonderful to be able to walk! I have quite a bit of nerve damage, but, I can walk. My mind was still all messed up with depression and anxiety. I was riddled with fear. And guilt. My mom came to the hospital the morning of my surgery. While we were in pre-op, she got a call that Daddy had to be taken to the hospital. I’ll never forget seeing her cry as she tried to decide where she needed to be. With my dad, of course. I had Adrian with me and I would be ok. I was so worried about my dad. And my mom. The surgeon said that when I woke up in recovery, I started crying and asking if my dad was alive. I don’t remember that.

I was home recovering. My mom and dad came to see me a couple of times, but it was very apparent that Daddy was getting worse. My sister came to see my parents (she still lived in Florida then). She went with mom to all of Daddy’s appointments. I was so grateful to her. But, inside my head, I was jealous too. I had always been the one that was here for them. I lived close and I considered myself their “caretaker”. I’m not proud of my feelings, believe me. I look back now and I’m so in awe of both my sister and my mom. They were amazing. And, they treated me way better than I think I deserved. Anyway, it was decided that the best thing would be for Daddy to enter Hospice. They chose a home Hospice that was phenomenal.

My dates are kind of iffy here, as this time was a blur, but my mom’s sister, my Aunt Sheila, and my cousin Caitlyn decided to drive down from Indiana to surprise my mom. They were a Godsend and I’m so thankful that they were here. Anyway, I think they had only been here for a day or two when my brother called me and said that the hospice nurse said that we needed to prepare. I needed to be there, so Johnnie came over, picked me up and drove me to my parents house. I remember that my brother Eric and his gf were there. So were my mom, my aunt, my cousin and Johnnie. Daddy was in the bedroom. He wasn’t talking and he didn’t seem very comfortable. But, it was obvious that he was aware, because he always turned towards my mom’s voice. I laid in the bed with him. My niece and her husband came over that night. So did Jennie. She drove in from Glen Rose once she heard he wasn’t doing well. Anyway, that evening was surreal. It was great to see my aunt and cousin. It was especially wonderful to see my mom smiling and laughing with them.

After awhile, everyone left. It was just Mom, Aunt Sheila, Caitlyn, Daddy and me. Mom had plans to drive Caitlyn to the airport in the morning. She needed to get back to work. Aunt Sheila was going to stay longer. Aunt Sheila slept in the guest room. Caitlyn slept on a recliner in the living room. Mom told me to take her bed (she had a twin in their room and a Daddy had a hospital bed) since she had to leave early and I wasn’t able to sit up. I could only stand or lay flat. Daddy was on hourly medication, so I volunteered to do that so mom could rest. I had a little log book that the nurse set up and just set my phone alarm for every hour.

Sometime before midnight, a Daddy’s breathing changed. It was a horrific loud rattle. I tried to moisten his mouth with a swab, but nothing stopped that rattle. I was laying next to him in his room thinking that I’d hear that rattle forever. And then I didn’t. No rattle. No cough. Nothing. It was the loudest nothing that I’ve ever heard in my life. I pulled the sheet over my head and tried to pretend this wasn’t happening. I pinched my legs so hard that made them bleed. The silence was deafening. I thinking I cowed under the blankets for a full 5 minutes before I finally got up. I went to my dad. He was gone.

I’ll continue this later. But, I need to say this. It took months for me to quit hearing that rattle when I layed down. But worse than the rattle? The silence. It was terrifying. That silence still wakes me up sometimes. I said I felt guilty earlier. Why? Because sometimes I can go a whole day and not think of my Daddy. How selfish is that? I feel guilty because I was such an entitled brat with my mom and my sister. I AM SO THANKFUL FOR THEM. I’m so grateful that they didn’t give up on me. They always seem to take care of things when I’m hiding. In my house. In my head. Just hiding from the world. I’m trying so hard to quit hiding. But, I’ve sucked at it this past week. And, I miss my Dad.

The top picture is me with my dad. The bottom picture is my sister with my mom and dad.

Sewing Machines and Swear Words

This past Thursday, Adrian dropped me off at my mom’s house on his way to work. I was going over there to spend the day with her and my sister. We were going to just hang out, but we also were making a magic carpet costume for Chloe, my granddaughter. Her elementary school is performing Aladdin and she is Carpet. I volunteered to make it because her mom has five kids, a dog and a full time job outside of the home. My son had to go out of town for his job, so Courtney was rather busy.

I love going to my Mom’s house. It’s that comforting feeling that you get from being in a place that just says HOME in your heart. Don’t get me wrong; I love my house and am perfectly happy here. But, going to the house of your parents, well it’s like chicken soup for the soul. You know; warm, comforting, cozy and safe. Like a bug hug.

Anyway, I got there early Thursday morning. A little groggy because I have to take allergy meds due to her cat. No matter what, when I first get there, I go to the kitchen to see what snacks there are. Moms always have the best snacks. I notice (and love!) that my kids and grands do the same thing at my house. As I’m looking through her fridge, (aha! Her amazing homemade ham salad, SCORE!), we’re discussing how we think we should make the carpet costume. Mind you, we’re still optimistic at that point. My sister was planning on getting there about 10:00 and she’s going to be our mannequin. But, unfortunately, she was postponed due to some issues with her house. (She and Bob just moved into a new condo). I’m still so excited to say they live in Texas now!

So, it was just mom and I. And the sewing machine. Cue the music from Jaws. Imagine it playing as we go to set it out. Dramatic? Maybe. But, you must understand. WE CANNOT SEW. What we can do, however, is improvise. And laugh. We cut it out. We pinned it. Sewed up the sides. There was swearing involved. Not Marine Corps level yet, maybe more carpentry level. Then we got to the bottom of it. We were pretty proud of ourselves. Dumbasses. We shouldn’t have been so proud. All we needed to do was to sew the fringe to the front of the bottom. So that it would look, you know, carpety, when she was onstage and dancing. The fringe would be swinging around her legs.

Time was running out for us to finish. We had haircuts scheduled and were meeting my sister to go to a junior high basketball game. That last piece of sewing mocked us. The machine kept bogging down (user error?) and the swearing intensified. So did the laughing. And snorting. We were at auto mechanic level of potty mouth. And, maybe we were almost laughing until tears ran down our legs. It was soooo close to being finished. And then we noticed something strange. We looked. We cussed (USMC level), we snorted. We fell over laughing. Why? Well, it turns out that WE SEWED THE DAMN BOTTOM TOGETHER. So, it was more like a sack than a dress. 😳🙄😤🥵😡🤬

After wiping our tears away (from laughter or anguish….. maybe both?), we said screw it and just cut along the hem at the back. It worked. Does it look professional? Nope. Will it work? You bet your butt it will. We decided that if anyone looked close enough to complain, well, we’d just punch them.

We loaded up the costume, made it to our hair appointments and met my sister at my house. We all went to the basketball game, cheered on Chandler and had a great time. It was one of the best days I’ve ever had. Ignore the allergies, sore back and poorly sewn costume. What I will always remember about that Thursday is the laughter, the howling funniness of discovering how bad we suck at sewing and the joy of spending the day with my mom. The happiness in my heart of being at my grandson’s game surrounded by people I love so much that I can feel it in my teeth. The thankfulness that I feel now that my sister lives close.

This week my mom, sister and I have plans to go to the stock show. I can’t wait. I guarantee there will be more laughter. And my heart will get a little more full.

Oh! Here is a picture of sweet Chloe wearing the magic carpet costume. She is decorating it this weekend. I’ll take a picture of the finished costume, but here it is when she first saw what we had made. She never noticed the crookedness or poor quality of sewing. She LOVED it. Yep, we made that magic carpet.

I wish my mind would just shut up

Have you ever noticed that everything seems worse at night? Louder. More severe. Amplified. Whatever you want to call it, it’s severe. I don’t tend to sleep at night. I’ve had sleeping problems as long as I can remember. I joke that I’m half vampire. But, at 53, it’s not funny anymore. I want to sleep all night. If I do fall asleep when it’s dark, it won’t be until about 6 in the morning. Then I sleep hard. So hard that, when I do wake up, I’m incredibly foggy and discombobulated . I would love to know what it feels like to wake up rested after a good night’s sleep. My mom can fall asleep within 3 minutes of laying down, no matter where she is. That makes me green with envy and pisses me off at the same time.

I’ve often wondered, is my insomnia caused by my anxiety or is my anxiety caused by my insomnia? All I know is that I get nervous every night because I know that I’m not going to sleep. And, if I do fall asleep, I usually always have night terrors and startle my poor husband awake by screaming. It’s terrifying on my end too. It’s been worse since my spinal decompression surgery in December 2017. I’ve wondered if anesthesia could do that. Or, maybe a combination of medication. I take 6 blood pills per day of blood pressure medicine. Maybe it’s that. I don’t know. I just know that it freaks me out and poor Adrian usually sits up and spews a few words that could rival what my Marine father probably said as a drill instructor at boot camp. Adrian isn’t mad at me when he does this, I’ve just shocked him out of a good sleep.

I have read that a steady routine is the key to sleeping. I call bullshit. I’ve done just about everything I’ve read, watched or have been told to try. Hot baths an hour before bed. Lavender Epsom salts in the bath. Meditation. Deep breathing. Linen sprays to promote sleep. Warm milk. Chamomile tea. Reading, classical music on my iPod. Prescription sleep medication. That didn’t make me sleep more, but I did eat an entire box of fudge bars in one night. I have a weighted blanket, a silk eye mask, body pillow, oil diffuser and white noise machine. So, I’m at least more comfortable while I’m not sleeping.

Adrian says at this point, I need to stop fighting it. I no longer work outside of the house, so he thinks I should just listen to my body and sleep when it wants to. I don’t feel like that’s the answer because then I’m in bed too long. I don’t get up at night because we have 5 dogs and if I’m up, they want to be up too and they’ll wake A up. So, I usually just read at night. Plus, if I stay in bed while he’s at work during the day, I just feel weird when I get up. I do seem to get the most done between about 3:00pm and midnight. My body loves those hours. Do you think we have set “body clocks “? Are there truly night owls and early birds? I could honestly not care if I don’t see the sun rise. I loathe mornings. Can a night person change into a morning person? And if so, how do you get your body to change too?

Routines for anxiety

I’ve been dealing with anxiety for quite a few years now. Depression too, but not as bad as the anxiety. It gets really bad when I know I have to leave the house. For a couple of years, I only left the house for doctor appointments or something really, really important. I am better about it now. I TRY my hardest to get out at least once a week. I don’t manage it every week, but I don’t beat myself up about it anymore. Instead, I have found a few things that seem to calm me. I’m also incredibly fortunate, in that, I have very supportive family and friends. They love me and understand that I’m truly trying. I did lose one close friend, but that’s another story.

I’ve been writing my whole life. Poetry, to do lists, planners, journals, etc. Putting pen to paper is just so cathartic to me. I quit writing when my anxiety was at its worst. Now I’ve learned that writing is essential to my mental health. So are other, seemingly trivial, activities.

The first thing I do when I get up is make my bed. I never used to do that. My thinking was, why bother? I’m just going to mess it up again. But, for some reason, I started making my bed in 2018. I discovered it was oddly satisfying. So it quickly became a habit. To the point that, if I don’t make it, it’s become indicative of a bad day for me. It’s like a thermometer of my mental, as well as physical pain, levels.

Keeping a daily to do list is also an anxiety fighting activity for me. I sit at my vanity after getting dressed for the day. I put my face lotions on and then make my list of things that I want to get done every day. Making the bed is at the top of the list. It feels good to cross that off immediately.

Walking is next. I try to walk 2-3 miles per day, every day. This helps with my chronic pain from spinal stenosis and L5S1 nerve damage. I watch YouTube videos while I walk on my treadmill. It calms my mind and gets me sweating. Plus, it’s another check off of my to do list.

Crafting is another relaxing thing for me. I try to make something at least 3 times a week. This blog is a big part one for me. I’m trying really hard to be more consistent with it. Makeup is a biggie too. I love playing with it and I tend to feel better when I think I look my best. Is that vain? Maybe, but it works.

Cooking is another big one. Chopping, dicing, mixing, etc. really helps me get out of my own mind. Plus, I swear it helps because I control sodium levels, fat and sugar content as well as no preservatives. Not only is it good for me, but it’s yummy. My husband eats leftovers for lunch, so we save money on fast food or restaurants. It’s a win/win situation.

Those are just a few of the things that I try to do regularly to help my anxiety and depression. They also work great for pain redirection. I can tell a big difference when I do these every day. Please note, these are the THINGS that I do, not the people who I also rely on for calming me. I’ll tell you about them later.

Grands on a Sunday

Today is MLK Day, so the grandkids are out of school. I had 5 (out of 11!) stay all night with us last night. We had Kaydence (15), Chandler (12), Jacob (11), Kallie (10) and Chloe(10). It was so much fun. But, I must say that I had 5 kids here all night, yet no one to play with.😂🤣😂.

When they were tiny, I got to hold them and cuddle. Then they got a little older and we added lots of laughter to those snuggles. Time marched on and we got hugs, laughter and lots of love. We still get many hugs and lots of love. Lots of laughter too. But, as they’ve gotten older, they’ve also gotten busy. School, sports, church activities, etc. So, we don’t have as many sleepovers as we used to. Haven’t had all 11 (ages 2 to 20) here in what seems like forever. As a matter of fact, this is the first sleepover in months that I have these kids together. The oldest from two sets of families. They adore their cousins. It’s a great treat for them to have a “cousin sleepover”. I love, love, love that they get to make these memories here. Cousins are very, very special. Family, playmates and, most importantly, friends.

So, why didn’t I have anyone to play with? Well, as they’ve grown, they’ve kind of split into groups. Chandler and Jacob love to spend time together. They were the only boys here last night. Playing cards, playing video games, playing ball, eating and giggling. Lots of giggling. (Yes, boys giggle as much, if not more, than girls). Kallie and Chloe love each other just as much. They had a fashion show, made up a dance, played with American Girl dolls and, they too, giggled most of the night. Kaydence, the sole teenager here last night, colored in my adult coloring books and was watching YouTube. So, I, Grammy, spent the evening handing out dinner, passing out snacks, keeping dogs out of the way and listening to all the giggles. And I loved it. My heart is content.

I may not hold them or rock them. They pair off with their cousins when they’re here. But, that’s ok. They’re excited to be here. Making memories at Grammy and Papa’s. We still got hugs. Conversation at the dinner table warms my heart. The spills aren’t as frequent as they used to be, no booster seats are needed, but talking with these kids is just amazing. Looking around the table, thinking of how they’ve grown, is both sad and heartwarming. I’m so proud of all of them. I am grateful. I am blessed. I am Grammy, the title that warms my heart the most.

Memories….or, rather, lack thereof

A couple of things happened today that have left me wondering. The first was a gift card to our favorite restaurant. Our daughter and son in law gave said gift card to Adrian and I for Christmas. We had planned on going into town today to return some shoes and we wanted to have a late lunch at Red Lobster. “Cool”, I thought, “we can use that gift card.”. Then, my next thought, “where in the hell did I put that gift card?” I looked everywhere. Then, I blamed Adrian. “I told you to put it in your wallet. Is it there?” Then he started looking. By then, we decided we really didn’t want to go into town today anyway. And we never did find that damn gift card. I’m sure that I put it up somewhere safe. Somewhere where I wouldn’t lose it. If history repeats itself, I’ll find it in a few months. Or years. And when I do, I’ll remember putting it wherever I find it. Yes, I do this a lot.

The second event has me wondering if I should ask my doctor about memory loss. I was messaging with a friend that I worked with back in the early nineties. We were talking about the time that we went to the mall together on our lunch hour. When we were walking back to her car, this thug drove by and grabbed her purse. She had an arm brace on and the purse got stuck on it. She was being dragged by the car as I was holding onto her and screaming. Now, I definitely remember this awful event. But, that’s it. She was talking about how they found the guy by using her pager. And she tells me that it was MY IDEA to do this. I have no memory of that. She thinks I might have even helped identify him at the police station. Once again, I have no memory of this. She asked me if I remembered why we went to the mall. I’m clueless. She said it was because I found little girl Doc Marten boots that had flowers on them for sale at Dillard’s. She said our daughters wanted them. Nope. No memory of this.

When I was young, I remember my mom and her friends joking about having CRS. It stood for Can’t Remember Sh*t. I thought then that my memory was great, so I would never have to worry about that. I remember addresses and phone numbers. I’m the one who texts my family to remind them that someone is having a birthday. So, why can’t I remember events? And, sometimes when I’m talking to my mom, I’ll be telling her something that happened in my past. She’ll say, “Susie, that wasn’t you.” Or, “Susie, you weren’t there”. So, not only does my memory suck, but apparently I appropriate other people’s memories.🤦‍♀️

Do I need to worry? Have you ever forgot something that seems much too big to forget? Do you put things in a safe place and promptly forget where you put them? Have you ever remembered something and then found out that YOU WEREN’T THERE?? Should I ask my doctor about it? Am I weird? I asked Adrian that last question and he just laughed. Rude.

New Year, Same Me

Hello 2020. I’m happy to see you. 2019 was pretty good to me. But, I’m really looking forward to 2020. Why? Because I’m finally LIVING again. I’ve been working on both my physical and my mental health. I’m laughing again. I’ve missed ME. There is so much to tell you. I’m not one to make resolutions….scratch that…. I’m not one to KEEP resolutions. But I have not only made a resolution, I actually plan on keeping it. What is it? One word. More.

I want to be more aware. I want to be more mindful. I want to smile more. To move more. Laugh more. Play more. Write more. Love more. Be more.

How do I plan to do all of that? Beats the hell out of me. But I do. And I will. So, hello 2020. Nice to meet you. Can’t wait to see what you have in store for me. Bring it on. I’m ready.