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Grief Redux

Grief is a tricky thing, isn’t it? You think you’re making progress, and really, you probably are, and then something comes along and takes you by surprise and kicks you in the gut. And when that happens, it can feel as hard and as fresh as when the grief was new.

I lost my dad a little over five years ago. No. No more euphemisms. I didn’t lose him. My dad died in April of 2012. I’ve been able to say that, in my head and out loud, for quite a while now, without needing to cry or feeling the sharp twinge in my heart. I felt like that was progress. Still do, actually. It took a long time to move past the vague euphemisms, and when I did, it often made me tear up just to say it.

So, yeah. I’ve been making progress, doing well. I’m happy. My life is full and rich, with as many up as downs. I still think of my dad every day but not with the sharp pain, more like a faint ache that I know will always be there. Some days it’s stronger than others, but it’s not crippling. It’s just…a brief sadness.

I’ve recently gotten back to my pen hobby. For years, I’ve collected pens. At first it was any fun pen, but it’s gotten more refined, and now I think it’s fair to say I’m a pen snob. I love beautiful, high-quality pens. I love gorgeous fountain pens. And when I was cleaning out my collection, culling some I no longer wanted, I started poking through all the pen boxes I’ve got, and I found the box for my MontBlanc. Inside, I found a letter from my dad, from when he gave me the pen for Christmas one year. It was a company gift and he’d used it for years, until passing it on to me.

That letter ripped off the scab a bit, and it hurts. I miss my dad. He was a wonderful man, a kind and gentle person who gave everything to make his family happy.  There’s so much I wish I could share with him now. And I can’t, and that sucks so much. I’d gotten to a point where I didn’t remember how much it sucked, and being reminded is…not fun.

But I’m grateful to have the letter, which I’ve tucked back inside the box to discover again in a few years. And until then, I’ll write with his pen and remind myself how lucky I was to have him as long as I did.

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The Joys of a Fixer Upper

Summer in Missouri often means thunderstorms. Spring brings tornadoes; summer brings thunder and lightning, hail and strong winds. You put those against a giant old tree, and sometimes the thunderstorm wins. We had just turned off our lights at 9:30 pm Thursday evening (we’re getting old, we get tired early) and were listening to the wind beat hail against our windows when suddenly we heard a crack and a loud bang. We jumped out of bed and were heading downstairs when we realized the power was out. Thanks to the flashlight on the phone, we could make out a large limb laying across our back yard, and while we couldn’t really see the power lines, obviously the tree had pulled them down. We called the power company and they came out within an hour or so. It was hot and stuffy inside, and too quiet at first, since we sleep with a ceiling fan and white noise. Then as the guys started working, it was too loud. It was a long, mostly sleepless night for me. I was up around 5:30, going out to investigate. This is what I saw:

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Yikes, right? It had pulled down the lines, which in turn pulled down at least one pole, so they had to replace the pole, plus chop away some of the branches to free the lines. At least four of our neighbors were out of power too. I could shower, but not blow-dry or straighten my hair. I could eat cereal, but not make tea. It was an interesting morning. The dogs were quite delighted with their new stick, though.

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So, yeah. That’s fun. Even now, it still surprises me a little when I look out and see it out there. It’s just so … incongruent. We’ve contacted someone to haul away the broken limbs and are going to get an arborist out to see if we can save the tree. It really is a magnificent tree, and I’d hate to lose it. Plus, well, that would be damn expensive and I’d rather avoid it if possible.

Really, this house is doing its best to bring me down. Before this tree incident, we had a smaller tree lose some limbs, we’ve had raccoons in the attic, we’ve had birds and/or squirrels in the soffits, and we found out the addition in the back of the house needs significant work, like possibly even demo and rebuild. I am discouraged. I love the potential this house has; I think it has gorgeous bones. I love its history. Here’s a photo we just got of our house in 1925, when it was a mere five years old.

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How wonderful it would be if we could restore it to its former glory! But there’s just so much. The back of the house needs renovating, the floors ALL need repair/refinishing, the windows need work, the exterior badly needs to be painted, the porch and stairs need to be fixed/replaced. The landscaping needs to be redone. The upstairs bathroom needs to be gutted and redone. And those are just the big jobs; there are tons of little ones that add up and overwhelm me if I think about them. Lately I’ve just been seeing this house as a money pit and wondering how long I can put up with it.

I’ve been told not to worry, told that if I’m overwhelmed, it’s because my depression has crept back into my brain and I just need to deal with that. (Which I am. Better living through drugs. They’re helping quite a bit.) But I disagree. Yes, I have recognized that my anxiety has been stronger/quicker lately, and I’m trying different ways to manage it. And I know the depression/anxiety don’t help me deal with the worries. But the truth is that I would worry nonetheless. I am a worrier. Always have been, always will be. Is it really that unusual, to be overwhelmed by a large number of big/expensive list of projects?

I do agree that being overwhelmed can make one stagnant. It’s hard to tackle that list if you don’t know where to start. So we’ve picked a starting point: the front stairs. They’re cracked, sagging, and peeling, and we see them every day when we come home. Plus they’re not totally stable. We just need to find a good contractor and get a bid, and hope that we have enough money to pay for it once we pay for this darn fallen tree thing. And maybe once we fix one thing, it will motivate us to keep going, and we’ll just slowly go one job at a time. Bird by bird, right? And someday maybe we’ll get the house close to as beautiful as it used to be.

Sorry, this post was a bit more of a downer than I set out to write. I’ll finish with something happier: new socks! Apparently I can make two socks per week, so I have one easy one for travel knitting, and one more complicated one for home.

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This is the easy one, just finished this morning. Pattern is Vanilla Latte Socks, yarn is Plymouth Yarns Stiletto. I love the little metallic glint!

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I really love this one! Pattern is Sylphrena Socks, yarn is Done Roving Yarns Frolicking Feet, which is so squishy and marvelous. I’ll definitely take better photos once I get the second sock done.

And speaking of second socks, I have two to make! I better get to casting on!

Life After Depression

Four years. Is that a long time? Or not? My instinct is to say it’s not. As I approach my 40th birthday, four years is a blip. But today, Facebook reminded me that it was four years ago that my life changed completely, and it feels like eons ago.

Four years ago last month, my dad died. Yep, it was hard. It pushed me into a dark place, a place I was on the verge of anyway. Suddenly I was no longer emotionally able to maintain my current life; I realized I wanted more. More than working 50 hours a week as a retail store manager. More than saying goodbye to my kids one morning and not seeing them again until the next night. More than asking my MIL to take care of my kids and take them to activities and pick them up when I couldn’t. More than seeing my mom twice a year when one of us could visit the other.

Thankfully, I’m married to the best man in the world. He agreed we could scale back the budget to allow me to quit my job and stay home with the kids while I figured out my next step. I didn’t know what it would be; I still don’t know if I’m “there” yet or what. But wow, what a difference those four years made in my life.

I see my kids every morning and I greet them when they get home from school. I’m able to drive my daughter to flute lesson and band camp and auditions and study sessions and all these other things that would have been impossible before. I’m able to get a few minutes of conversation with my almost-teenage son before he disappears into his room to play video games. We eat dinner together as a family every single night. Instead of a pet-free house, we have two dogs who bring me great comfort and joy.

And during the day, I create. In those four years, I finished and revised a book. A whole book, that I’m now sending to agents in hopes of getting it published. I’ve proofread books for clients, several books, and I love that process. I learned to crochet, and then knit, and I sell my little beauties to people who love them. Through the yarn, I’ve found a wonderful friendship with my Knitting SIL. Through this blog, I’ve found a wonderful community of writers and knitters and all-around fabulous people. As one of my readers commented, I have a very rich, creative life, and somedays I’m overwhelmed with how lucky I am.

Now I can’t imagine being where I was four years ago. Remembering the job itself makes me cringe. I do miss the people, my lovely Creeker family, but thankfully I still have many of them in my life.

I still miss my dad. Of COURSE I do. I desperately wish he were still here. But this seems to be the way it goes: you have to go through something terrible to get that push to do what you’re really meant to do. Life is short and all that jazz. I can tell you the words, but until something makes it true for you, it won’t work the same. At least that’s my theory. Losing my dad set in motion a chain of events, including getting my mom and siblings in the same town for the first time in decades, and having them all around me has been one of the best blessings ever. It brought us together; it helped me get through the hard times.

I’m happy now. My life is peaceful and joyful and colorful. Those four years were rough and bumpy and jagged and sharp, and now I feel like I’ve reached a smooth part, where the lows aren’t so low and I can get past them more quickly. Thank goodness for my husband, my kids, my mom and siblings, my puppies, the friends who were truly there for me when I was struggling. Thank goodness for kind, gentle doctors. Thank goodness for antidepressants and thyroid meds and melatonin. After three years of taking them, I’m almost completely off the happy pills and doing well, but I know they’re there if I ever need them again.

I am one of the lucky ones. I know many people, too many good people, who have struggled, will continue to struggle, with depression forever. So many times, depression is ongoing and constant, not the (relatively) short experience I had. So many times, the meds don’t work, or you can’t afford the meds, or you’re ashamed to ask for the meds. So many times, you don’t take the time to see a therapist because you think you can do it alone.

But sometimes you can’t, and THAT’S OKAY. Trying meds, even lots of different meds, is OKAY. Seeing a therapist is OKAY, probably one of the best things I did, and I highly recommend it to everyone, not just people suffering from depression. Don’t just say you’re “fine” if you’re not. Find one person you trust, and tell the truth. Let them help you.

Here’s what I’ve learned over four years:

  • Smoking DOES cause cancer, and cancer CAN kill you, and it SUCKS for everyone involved.
  • There can be beauty and great meaning in death.
  • Time does help heal. Wounds don’t go away, but you can find joy again.
  • A family of four can live on one salary. It’s hard sometimes, and I worry about money a lot, but this is still the best choice for me, for us.
  • Most people are truly kind.
  • It’s worth it to keep fighting. Life may be short, but it’s beautiful. Find the beauty.

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I Can’t Adult Today

May, you’re killing me already. My brain feels so full. I feel like I’m trying to do 50 million things every day and forgetting 49 million of them. Sometimes people think that because I don’t have an official job, I’m a “lady of leisure”, and while it’s true that I do get great downtime some days, I definitely make up for it on others. My schedule is flexible, but that doesn’t mean my days are empty. I’m lucky, so lucky, to be able to be a mom full-time, but it can still be hard and crazy. And when it’s being a mom to a super-active teenager who doesn’t drive yet, managing and supporting her schedule feels like a job by itself sometimes. It’s one I like, one I chose, and remembering that does help.

I just feel scattered right now, unfocused. I’m trying to get the yarn orders done, I just started a proofreading project, and I’m trying to coordinate all the spring/end of school year stuff that needs to happen. There are birthday presents to buy and forms to fill out and concerts to attend (on a school night, natch, and some of them I want to bring my mom to, which adds another layer of planning) and Mother’s Day is coming up and some days I just want to abdicate my role as social coordinator. Really, that’s all I want for Mother’s Day: someone else to prep the house for company, someone else to buy the food and cook the food and do the dishes without me having to nag. Isn’t that funny, the best gift for Mother’s Day is a day off from being the mom?

Deep breath. I’m on week three of some big changes, and it’s possible they’re affecting me too. I’m halfway through my weaning period for my antidepressant, and I really think it’s going fine. I mean, yeah, I’m stressed out today, but I get stressed out every May when this craziness hits. But I’m not sluggish, overly cranky, weepy, or sleeping poorly, and all of those things are my problem signs.

I think it helps that I’ve committed to becoming healthier, and part of that is regular exercise. I’ve known all along that exercise helps; it’s just been a matter of motivation. Well, I’m tired of being the weight that I am, of feeling the way I have, so yeah, I’m exercising. And even though I admit I feel better when I do it, I still don’t like it. I’m never going to be an exercise junkie, or someone who preaches the joys of exercise. I do it because it’s better for my body and my mind. So, whatever. The stationary bike has become my friend, and I turn up the music and zone out on games on my phone. It works. And I’m making better choices in what I eat, cutting calories, but I’m not calling it a diet. It’s just making healthier choices, and that’s something I need to commit to for the rest of my life.

Ugh. It sucks getting older. Yeah, it beats the alternative, but I do miss the days of not having to worry about calories or exercise or being in charge of multiple people.

But it’s fine. We’re fine. Right? Right. I was going to take today as a rest day, but I think I need the head-clearing action of a little workout, and then I’ll tackle my to-do list, and maybe I’ll feel better when the list is a bit shorter.

Here’s hoping your head space is clearer than mine today!

Boring Knitting

Well, obviously I didn’t write yesterday. I didn’t have a whole lot to say because I was just trucking along on my WIPs. I will show you the last set of blue fingerless gloves because I’m a bit pleased with myself. IMG_5831I made them a bit shorter in the cuff, but I also modified the thumb. Rather than putting the thumb stitches on waste yarn and knitting a taller thumb, I just bound off when I had the right number so I’ve got kind of a half-thumb, which is what I prefer anyway. I like to keep my hands warm while still having full movement of the digits. With the blue sets done, I made a pair with dark purple and black as a gift for my best author client. She’s had me proofread three of her books with the promise of more, and I really enjoy working with her. So even though it might be too warm for them right now, these will be on the way to her very soon. IMG_5841

With those done, I went back to my Citron shawl. It’s progressing nicely, though not growing as much as I expected. I’ve got plenty of yarn so I’ll probably do another section or two. IMG_5840And that’s really all. I kind of want to start a new project but nothing’s calling my name yet so I’m waiting.

The only other news of note is that I have started tapering off my happy pills, based on a schedule I worked out with my doctor. We all agree that I seem to be in a relatively stable place right now. Based on my history, my bout with depression seems to have been more of an isolated, situational incident caused by a lot of stressors hitting me in a short timespan, rather than a long history of repeated occurrences. I’m a little nervous, since the last thing I want to do is go back to how I felt before, but I think it’s the right time. I feel good now, calm and peaceful, and I’m really trying to get back to eating healthier and exercising regularly. Plus spring and summer are good seasons for me (probably all the sunshine). So I really think it’ll be okay. The best part is that my doctor is awesome and made sure I knew we could tinker with the schedule at any point based on how I feel. I just have to be aware of it and force myself to speak up if something goes awry.

And on that note, I’m going to sit outside and knit and soak up some of that wonderful, healing sunshine!

Depression Remission?

I had a conversation with a friend recently where I mentioned that I’m supposed to go off my antidepressants this spring. Her reaction? “Oh, that’s good!” And that’s a pretty normal reaction; I’ve the same reaction in the same situation. Why? Why is that good? Because it’s supposed to indicate that I’m “all better now”? Because I’m supposed to be able to handle my emotions on my own? And maybe that is/should be the goal of happy meds: help you get over the hump of depression, when they can, so you can get back to living a happy life without them. I suppose it’s no different than blood pressure meds, or meds for diabetes. If you can get your body to a point where it’s healthy enough without them, it’s a good thing to be able to stop taking them. I’m just sensitive to the subject of meds for mental health, and when the reaction to going off them is “Good!”, then I start thinking, “Wait, does that mean it’s bad that I was on them?” And the answer to that is always NO, it’s not bad. If you struggle with depression and can’t manage it on your own, and your doctor has prescribed them, and you take them properly, and they HELP? That’s not bad, that’s great.

Am I all better now? Who knows, right? I believe my depression was caused (for lack of a better word) by a lot of stressful, crappy things going on in my life at the same time, and my mind/body sort of collapsed. So now that I’m past the worst of the stress/grief/pain/anger, I am in a much better place emotionally. I feel happy these days. I worried about my broken foot bringing me down again, and it did, but I didn’t realize how much until it was healed. It’s like you don’t know how much something hurts until it stops, right? I’m back to my calm, peaceful, content place again. THAT’S what’s good, whether it’s with meds or without. And I *think* I’ll be fine to stop the meds, I really do. But it’s still scary. I don’t want to go back to where I was before I started taking them. And if I do, I’ll have no reservations about going back on them.

So it’s not “good” that I’m going off my meds; it’s “I’m glad you’re doing well!” Just like it’s not “bad” if someone starts taking meds; it’s “I’m sorry you’re struggling.”

I know what my friend meant; that part is fine. But it just got me thinking, and I want to be aware of the effects of my words. Maybe I’m overthinking this, maybe I’m too sensitive. The most important thing when dealing with depression is finding something that works for YOU, be it exercise, diet, therapy, meds, or any combination of things. For me, it’s been my meds, and my knitting. (I’m going to start exercising soon. I think. I mean, I am. Sighhhh.) The meds may go away, but the knitting will be here forever. IMG_5007