Tag Archives: Lovely Wife

Good-Bye 2011

2011 is almost over, so time for me to assess the good and the bad of the year.

Bad:

1: continued depression

2: back and hernia surgery

3: worrying about things that I cannot control

Good:

1: surgeries have and mental treatment have helped my well being

2: Growth of my family relationships: working through “for worse” and “in sickness” with my wife; watching my children grow; new honesty and openness with my parents and sister; meeting my brother and continued growth and reconnection with my biological family

3: blogging as a tool to help organize my thoughts and feelings.

Thank you all for reading and commenting.  Tomorrow: looking forward to 2012

 

 

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Filed under adoption, blogging, depression, family, life, personal, siblings, surgery, writing

Confessions of a Book Lover, Part 2

Cover of "Blockade Billy"

Cover of Blockade Billy

This year for my birthday, I received two books: Liberty by Garrison Keillor and Blockade Billy by Stephen King.  They were both enjoyable reads that I read that same weekend.  I decided that I would make a goal for my self.   I was going to read 100 books for my 35th year.  That lasted about 2 minutes when I realized that 2 books a week might be a little bit (OK, quite a bit) too much to handle.  I decided that I would revise that goal to 50.  At a month to go before the half way point, I am actually doing pretty well–the count stands at 19.

But as I was looking at the list, I decided that it was time to refocus and recalibrate.  I love reading, but the reason that I set a specific goal is that I aspire to be a writer.  Almost every writer who talks about the craft has at least one piece of advice if you want to be a writer yourself: read.  I realized that I was picking up something that I had around the house, or an interesting looking book at the dollar store, or some pretty short books.  Now, I can’t say any of the books that I have read so far have been bad.  Quite the contrary.  But quite a few have been easy, leisurely reads.  For example: Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom.  Now, if you have read this book, you know that it is a heartfelt tribute to a beloved mentor.  It is full of wit and wisdom.  Truthfully a very good book.  But I finished it in one sitting.  While it had life lessons, it didn’t evoke feelings about myself, or make me question how I felt about certain things.

I decided that I was going to read 10 “classic” works.  Looking at my list, I had three that could easily fall into that category: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  Seven more to go.  I could do this.

mark twain Category:Mark Twain images

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Over Christmas, good luck smiled upon me.  On Lovely Wife’s side of the family, the adults draw names for gifts.  From my brother-in-law, I received a $25 dollar gift card to Barnes and Noble.  What a perfect gift.  Yesterday I made my mini-pilgrimage and picked up four books.  One relatively short: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger;  Two “regular” sized: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson; and one long one: The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.  So that makes seven.  Somewhere in the next seven months I also plan to read an epic novel.  Yup, that one.  War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  If that was accomplished, that would leave two more to go.  In case of a time crunch, I already have a plan: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  If I finish and have plenty of time to spare, I can revert back to my original goal.

Perhaps it is interesting to note that while you may not have been able to tell me who wrote Liberty or Blockade Billy, I’d be willing to wager that you didn’t need me to tell you who wrote most if not all of my classic selections.  Hmmm.

Anyway, wish me luck.  I’ll keep you posted.

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Faith and Prayer: Part 4

St. Joseph Cathedral, Sioux Falls
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After I had completely finished with school, I moved back to my hometown and got my career underway.  Soon afterward, I got a letter from my high school choir director, who was also the choir director at the local Cathedral.  The Bishop was commissioning a new all-male choir, and the members would be assembled by invitation.  I was proud that apparently my skills were enough to warrant my consideration.  unfortunately, I was working a God-awful 1pm to 10pm shift, and would never be able to make it to practice on time.  So the charter members of the Sioux Falls St. Joseph Cathedral Schola did not include me.

It was shortly after this time that I would meet the woman who would eventually become my Lovely Wife.  I guess we’ll call here Lovely Girlfriend for now.  Much to the consternation of my mother, Lovely Girlfriend was not Catholic, but rather Lutheran.  As we dated we both attended each other’s services at one time or another.  We dated for a while until she broke up with me.  I was a little confused, but I think it had a little to do with my living arrangements (yes, I had moved back in with my parents for awhile).  In the mean time, I met and began hanging out with another girl, who in our household is now sometimes facetiously referred to as She Who Shall Not Be Named (Lovely Wife doesn’t like to think about this time period).  SWSNBN was also very straight forward about her faith, which we openly discussed.  I also attended church services with her on occasion, at the Reformed Church of America in her home town.  One night, SWSNBN had agreed to meet with her ex for dinner one night.  Feeling that I didn’t really have a say in this (as we weren’t officially “dating”), I didn’t ask her not to go, but inside I was stressing out considerably.  So confused, that night I threw out the rote prayers of my Catholic background and pleaded with God to let me know what I was supposed to be doing here.  When Jesus met the blind man on the road to Emmaus, and asked “What do you want me to do?” the answer was “Lord, that I may have my sight.”  While he was looking for a return of his physical sight, I just wanted some insight on my future.  Did it involve Lovely Girlfriend?  SWSNBN?  Someone else?  I loved them both, but as it looked, to me it seemed that I would end up with neither.  Lord, that I may have my sight.

As it turns out, I did get back together with Lovely Girlfriend, who would become Lovely Fiance and eventually Lovely Wife.  I don’t forget the lesson that is often put “Let go and let God,” but there are still sometimes that I think over and over Lord, that I may have my sight.

Lovely Wife would go through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) classes to become Catholic, with me as her sponsor.  Although the question wasn’t completely settled, we thought it was best to at least start out on the same page.  In the meantime, I attended Bible studies with her, at first with a group from her Lutheran church, and later with a group from her best friend’s Methodist church.  I learned a great deal about my faith from attending these Bible studies and RCIA classes.

It was also around this time that I ran into my choir director, who assured me that “The invitation is still open,” for me to join the group.  Having a more amenable work schedule at this time, I excitedly accepted the invitation.  The music that we sang was incredible.  It was a mix of contemporary hymns, classical pieces (some of my favorites being 16th century polyphony) but perhaps most distinguishable, the Schola specialized in plainchant from the Pius X hymnal.  The music moved me, and gave me the feeling that I was ministering to others in my own way.

Coming in Part 5: Pain, questioning, and another reveal.

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So Little Guy needed some new shoes

Like any three-year old, Little Guy seems to either outgrow or wear out shoes within a matter of weeks.  It’s getting to Christmastime, one of those times where the kids get a little spiffier, so he needed some “dress” shoes.  When we were at the mall shopping, we stopped at that essential store for parents with toddlers: Payless.  Lovely Wife was looking around and pulled down a pair of shiny black cowboy boots.  “What about these,” she asked, “they would work, wouldn’t they?”  I got a big grin on my face and nodded my affirmation.  She had Little Guy try them on, and of course he fell in love.  They were right up there with his sneakers that have Spiderman on them and light up.  It was here that I informed Lovely Wife that cowboy boots were one of the coolest things for a little boy to own.

I think she already knew this however, because there was already a little boy in the house who owned a pair of cowboy boots.  One that is 35 years old.

tiag1

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But it’s not just the boots.  Somewhere deep inside of me, I yearn to be a cowboy.  I know, it sounds silly, but hear me out.

Apparently this has been going on for a while.  I was at my mom and dad’s house a while back, and mom had packed up a box of stuff from when I was a tot.  Curious, I flipped open the flaps of the cardboard box, and there was a pair of shiny black cowboy boots.  I didn’t remember those, but I did remember the ones that I owned when I was about 7 or 8.  Gray at the feet with black shafts.  Man, did I love those boots.  I would put them on, along with my jeans and a flannel shirt and my black felt hat that had been misshapen and recreased about a thousand times.  I didn’t have a horse (real or otherwise) but I didn’t need one.  I remember owning two cap guns.  One looked like a typical clip style that you might use if you were a G-man on the trail of John Dillinger.  The other looked like a Colt Peacemaker.  You can guess which one got more use from me.  Back in the days of the early 80s, it looked real, too.  It wasn’t cast in crazy colored plastic.  It was metal.  It did have a plastic grip, but it was meant to look like ivory.  It certainly didn’t have a bright red tip at the end.

Wild Bill Hickok

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Maybe it was in my blood (pretty sure now that’s not the case).  Maybe it’s because I grew up in South Dakota.  After all, at one time or another Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and the James brothers all passed through our great state.  Whatever it was, I wanted to be out there.

Of course as an adult reality has sunk in.   Not just the fact that the days of the Wild West were long over even before I was born.  As far as I can remember I’ve only fired two real guns in my life: my father-in-law’s shotgun (at some clay pigeons–which I was pretty good at hitting) and my brother-in-law’s brother’s AR-15 (which I shot several times at an empty bottle of Crown Royal without a successful hit.)  I have a Mustang, but she has wheels rather than hooves.  I couldn’t even be a modern-day cowboy.  Although I have ridden a horse before, just the thought of being in the saddle all day makes my ass sore.  The closest I have gotten to the cowboy experience is repeated watchings of my favorite movie: Tombstone.

Lovely Wife has helped me indulge my little fantasy since we’ve been married, though.  A few years ago for my birthday she bought me a baseball cap embroidered with “National Day of the American Cowboy July 26, 2008”.  Of course July 26 happens to be my birthday.  The real gift was still to come–later that week she escorted me to RCC Western Store where I got to pick out my own adult sized cowboy boots.  I have several belt buckles.  Never mind that some of them have things like the Batman logo on them.  This summer I purchased a cowboy hat from Cabelas.  A real fur felt job.  I’ll never be a cowboy, but I can put these items on, and strum my guitar while I sing Country music tunes.

I am sure not everyone understands.  Toby Keith does, at least according to his song.  I think Little Guy does too.

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Filed under Christmas, cowboy boots, cowboys, guitar, music, personal

I may have over-promised

I have learned that a crucial element of my depression is my energy level.  The less energy that I have, the more down I get and the more anxiety that I have.  Sometimes I try to combat this with coffee or SodaStream Energy, but ingesting large amounts of caffeine is not so good with somebody with high blood pressure.

Which brought me to Sunday night.  With two little ones and Christmas coming up, our house looks like it has been hit with several tornadoes.  Having a lot of energy, but wanting to just have fun on the weekend, I told Lovely Wife that I would clean the entire house in the next few days.  My exact words, in fact, were “If I’m not done by Wednesday night, you can literally flog me with a wooden spoon.”  She seemed pretty accepting and excited about this.  Whether that was due to a clean house or the anticipation of a flogging, I do not know.

Unfortunately, Sunday night into Monday morning I just could not get to sleep.  It was like my body was playing a cruel trick on me.   I told Lovely Wife as much yesterday morning.  She didn’t seem all that concerned, as I still had two days to make good on my pledge.  I laid low yesterday, my mood wasn’t too shabby.  I went to bed early.

Then I woke up today.  Let me just say that housework is high on my list of Things I Do Not Like To Do.  I honestly don’t mind the cleaning part.  I can spray, scrub, vacuum, whatever.  Even toilets.  But clutter just turns my anxiety knob to 11.  I hate picking things up, because I don’t know what to do with them!  If I didn’t have this problem, there wouldn’t be toys and clothes and papers and all manner of other things strewn about.  And dishes!  Argh!  When I said that I don’t mind cleaning things, I meant I don’t mind cleaning things other than dishes! And this is even despite the fact we have a dishwasher!  ARGH!

Mello, mellow, mellow.

Wooden Spoon 1909, University of Cambridge

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Even with an early bed time last night, I woke up this morning with not a lot of energy.  Mood: down.  Anxiety: up.  So here I am on the Tuesday downhill, and I am still just looking at things and fretting.  I was hoping that blogging my conundrum would help me get motivated.

Please pray for my posterior.  It may have an appointment with a wooden spoon tomorrow.

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Filed under anxiety, blogging, coffee, depression

Little Guy’s Greatest Hits.

English: Uploaded from : http://upload.wikimed...

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OK, this one just happened today, but it is too good not to share.  We were getting ready to go to our daycare Christmas party.  Little Guy (now 3) and I were in the car waiting for Baby Girl and Lovely Wife.  Little Guy piped up with a question: “Daddy, what do you want for Christmas?”

I thought for a bit.  “Um, Peace on Earth.”

He pondered this for a while before replying, “Oh.  How ’bout a juice box?”

For all of those celebrating the season, I wish you a Merry Christmas.  For all others I truly do wish for Peace on Earth.  Juice boxes for everyone wouldn’t be so bad either.

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A Slight Diversion.

I had to share this quick thought.  Tonight before the kiddos went to bed, we all laid on our bed: Lovely Wife, Baby Girl, Little Guy, and me all cuddled up together, with Wonder Pup at our feet, reading stories.  Have you ever had one of those moments that you wish would never end?  Those few minutes were the happiest I have been in quite awhile.  I now have a new “Happy Place” when I am stressing.  What is your extra-special-go-to moment?

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Where I have been.

Yesterday I alluded to the fact that my quest for mental health is looking up, just as my quest for getting a great photograph has.  It hasn’t been easy.

Over the past two years I have been battling some health issues along with my depression.  This all came to a head over the summer.  Out of disability time at work and out of room for appeals, I was let go.  Luckily my wife has a good job and good insurance, because in June my back, which I had problems with on and off for years, threw an all out hissy fit.  I couldn’t stand, sit, or lie down without pain.  When I saw the doctor and had an MRI done, it turns out that I had a ruptured disc.  It was so bad, in fact, that he didn’t even give me a choice.  Surgery was necessary, and as soon as possible.  Afterwards, he told me that the rupture was so big (about the size of a thumb) that they named it.

Recovering from two surgeries in six months (I had two hernias fixed in December) and depression really took its toll on me.  I was lethargic, irritable, but most of all apathetic.  I just didn’t want to do much of anything.  I would drop the kids off at daycare (I was in no shape to care for them on my own), come home, and go back to sleep.  It was a pretty miserable existence.  On top of everything, I was only hurting my relationship with my wife, and possibly my kids, but I didn’t feel that I had any power to change.

Life didn’t follow my lead, but instead continued to change with me along for the ride.  Not all changes were bad.  I told my parents and my sister about my contact with my birth mother and my siblings.  It was a huge burden off of my back, and I think generally well received.  However now I think they are having a little trouble working through their feelings about it.  At least now I am in a place where I am more comfortable to talk about it and work through their fears.

Life wasn’t completely bleak either.  I attended my brother Adam’s wedding and had a great time.  Watching my kids growing and learning made me feel good.  Most of all, knowing that my wife was sticking by me in the most difficult part of our marriage got me through a lot of bad feelings.

Although I hadn’t hit rock bottom, I could see it from where I was standing.  My wife and I went to see my counselor.  He could tell that my mood had gone completely off the rails.  Rather than trying to work through it himself at that time, he referred me to the local behavioral health hospital.

My wife and I went there immediately.  I did a short assessment.  Rather than admitting me as an inpatient (I was neither suicidal nor homicidal) I was admitted to the “partial hospital program”–in effect I would be considered an inpatient, attending group sessions most of the day, but I was able to go home and spend the evenings with my family.  Since that time I have transitioned to the intensive outpatient program.  Basically the same, but I am limited to a certain number of hours per week that I am able to attend.

Perhaps one of the most valuable things that I got right away the first week of treatment was a diagnosis: Major Depressive Disorder.  Although it sounds worse than just “depression”, it has actually helped me.  It is not part of me anymore than a bad back was.  It is just an obstacle that I have to overcome.  Giving it a name rather than a nebulous concept gave me something to combat.

It’s a work in progress, but it is already bearing fruit.  I feel better.  My wife is happier.  I am happier.  There will be bumps in the road.  I know that I will be able to overcome them.

Next time–medications and stigmas.

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The Tragedy and Comedy of Spring

A couple of weeks ago our robin chicks hatched.  I was so excited.  Even though they were not very cute (actually they looked like miniature dragons), it was fun to watch their mama and pops feed them. 

I was also pleasantly surprised that Mama Robin didn’t give me to much grief when I would come outside.  That was until late last week.  Maybe I should have seen it as an omen, but when I came out that morning she was flying around furiously and pooping everywhere.  When I got home that evening I didn’t see any activity, and I got a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I parked the car in the garage and came back outside to investigate.  One of the adults (which I assume was the mom) was lying eviscerated on the driveway, no doubt falling prey to a wandering cat or dog.  As perhaps a tragically poetic symbol, I could clearly make out her heart lying outside of her body, whole but detached.  For my little friends, my heart was broken.  The other adult was nowhere to be seen, and still is AWOL. 

Still, I had hope.  If a dog can nurse rejected liger cubs, perhaps I would be able to take care of these babies.  Afterall, I did see two humans and a dog out of infancy.  I walked up to the nest and waved my hand over it.  The normal response to this would have been the chicks popping their heads up and opening their beaks as widely as possible.  Nothing.  I was too crestfallen to get the ladder out to make the final confirmation. 

Since that time there has been no activity, and I still haven’t looked.  I don’t know if they have been snatched or remain in the nest.  Soon enough I will take the nest down.  I’m not looking forward to it.

This put me in a foul (no pun intended, of course) mood for a few days.  The circumstances seemed so unfair for these fragile creatures.  Then one morning Lovely Wife, who gets up before I do, summoned me out of bed to share with me the excitement of some other visitors that we had in our yard:

Now, it is not uncommon to see deer in our town, as a river pretty much circles the city and most of the banks and surrounding areas have been reserved for park land.  But considering that we are a couple of miles from the nearest point of the river and completely out of the valley, it certainly came as a surprise.  In addition, they were pretty small and our back yard is surrounded by at least six feet of fencing or dense bushes on all sides.  But, they obviously jumped over to give us our first deer sighting on our property in the five years that we have lived here. 

Lovely wife said that one quickly jumped back over, while the other seemed to struggle.  She opened the gate and tried to chase it out (a little scary if you ask me–even for small guys I am sure these were very powerful animals) before it made the leap over as well.  All in all, I wish I could have seen it.  Somehow, I can’t shake the feeling that these two beautiful whitetails found their way into our yard to lift my spirits.

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Ch-ch-ch-changes

An interesting phenomena has come over me in the week since I have decided that I would devote more time to writing–suddenly I have nothing to say.  No blog posts, no journaling, no progress on the novel that I started, no tweeting even.  It is an odd feeling for someone who can easily punch out 500 words before my brain can even catch up.  Right now it seems I have to strain to even eke out more than a couple of sentences.

I think that perhaps it our nature as humans to resist change.  I remember the first time that I consciously remember what seemed to me to be a major life change.  The school that I first attended was a small parochial elementary school that was run by the Episcopal Church.  Originally it had been a boarding school for the daughters of Episcopal missionaries, and had opened in Dakota Territory a few years before statehood was granted to North Dakota and South Dakota.  Therefore, it was steeped in tradition.  I remember lining up to go to chapel every morning before classes started for the day.  We learned French starting in Kindergarten.  Class sizes were so small, that it was possible for students to move up or down a class for individual subjects to fit their educational needs.  There was an annual May Day celebration.  At the end of the year, the flag that flew near the school was presented to a graduating sixth grader. 

Beyond all those traditions, the actual buildings were beautiful.  They were built from pink quartzite blocks taken from local quarries.  The classrooms had hardwood floors.  The playground area was huge, and unlike most elementary schools, was covered in grass rather than asphalt.  The chapel had Tiffany stained glass windows, given as a gift to the bishop that had established the school.  Carved entryways and railings abounded.

The small class sizes that had been such an asset would turn out to be the undoing of the school.  Faced with declining enrollment and a lack of funds, the church made the decision to shutter the school.  My parents enrolled my sister and I to a well established Catholic School a year before the school that holds such a fond place in my memory closed for good.  The new school was of course a fine school in its own right.  Having a much larger enrollment coupled with a much larger Catholic presence in our community, there were more resources and opportunities at our disposal.  But somehow, the cinder block walls and vinyl floor tiling just seemed to make the place seem dystopian compared to what I had left behind.

The closed school remained empty for several years.  It wasn’t torn down, however, as the “Main Building” was on the National Historic Sites register.  Eventually additional buildings were erected and the campus was turned into a retirement community.  I visited the Main Building recently, and it is still so beautiful that it puts an ache in my heart,even though the change that took place was ultimately a good one.

When I think of the years that it took for the school to be repurposed, perhaps a week to take a break and access my transition from business man to writer doesn’t seem that out of line.  I realized today that not only had I not been writing, but my creative endeavours in the visual arts had come to a stand still as well.  No painting, no photography, no ideas, really.  So today I started to re-engage that creativity, as I think that creative energy flows into my writing.  My fascination with clocks, along with my appreciation for music led to this:

I know, Neil Diamond doesn’t sound like my normal fare.  A guilty pleasure.  In addition I got some modeling clay.  Lovely Wife can vouch for me being a champion Play-Doh sculptor, so I thought I would try my hand at something a little more permanent. 

Of course, anxiety plays a part in my hesitant transformation.  However, I think that the more that I am able to write and create, the more anxiety will dissipate. 

WEDNESDAY FUN: Our New Tenants

Photo credits on this one go to Lovely Wife:

Mama Robin set up shop next to an outdoor lighting fixture.  I can’t wait until her babies are born and hopefully get a good photo.

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