What a Year! – May 2020

I was still successfully exercising regularly – maybe 5 times a week… walking, jogging, doing home workouts and taekwondo via zoom.

Our house is so pretty from the road of an evening.

We were finding a lot of comic relief and smiles-by-cuteness as Coco grew and became a mobile little kitten with a funny spiky black tail.

Able to get in and out of a box and run around a bit!

Soooo funny when he ran and raced and played with Captain.

Friends for life, I think.

Rawr!

Daniel LOVES the kitten so much, but needs constant supervision for obvious reasons.

Not that Coco has ever minded.

I don’t remember if this was a sick day or a depressed day, but a kitten sleeping on my neck… I remember that feeling nice.

At some point, the beard had to go.

And it went out with….. images that maybe I want to forget. hahaha

Our Taekwondo instructor was able to get our postponed March testing completed via zoom! That makes the three of us yellow belts. Haven’t had a testing since, but I’m getting good workouts and still have plenty to work on anyway. I wonder if we’ll ever have in person classes? Maggie and Carrie dropped out a bit after testing… zoom classes were not very successful for many of the kids.

Oh! I got high test score out of those testing!

At some point, the weather got nice enough that we all finally were able to REALLY go outside for longer. Daniel doesn’t walk yet, so going out in the wet grass is tricky. Jordan sits down everywhere, so the mud and standing water in our yard is a bit tricky too. That and PICA, but usually the PICA isn’t too bad early in the spring when he’s not bored. But the weather was warmer and we all started getting outside. Brian even wanted to grill something… we don’t own a grill… but he found enough bits of concrete to build one!

Jordan has outgrown his old wheelchair!

Outside time!

Soooooo much grass.

It works!!!

Maggie found and enjoyed SO MANY snakes this year. We gave her a 1-2 day limit each snake before they had to be released. These Rubber Boas are so calm/placid, that Maggie often wore them as bracelets for several hours while she played or did schoolwork!

I’m not sure…. maybe a magic wand pointed at me?

And I made chocolate mint lip balm!

Our plum trees…

At a local park…

In the forest behind our house.

In pandemic news, I think… this month the toilet paper was running out everywhere and hand sanitizer and maybe beans and rice. I think New York was maybe having a crush of cases?

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What a Year! – April

April was a fog of kitten-induced fatigue and worry, a bit of homeschool and the hope of the sunshine… even as we navigated the uncertainty and unspoken weight of fear that came with the arrival of the Coronavirus. At some point… maybe in April but maybe not until May – Brian and I were able to articulate how heavy the stress was that was due to the virus. We were distracted and we were busy and we’re used to being home anyway… but still it affected us. Acknowledging it gave us permission to be gentle with ourselves. Didn’t fix it, but it was something.

Coco was the last surviving kitten of an unfortunate litter at a friend’s house nearby. They bottle fed him to keep him alive for a week and then I took over. After just a few days of being awake at night and struggling with constipation and worrying about his fragile tiny self that always measured a good week or more behind other kitten’s weight at his age…. I was very grateful that kittens don’t take very long to grow up.:

In April, a tiny (premature, probably) kitten joined our family for bottle feeding!

Trying to be a big kitty and stand up.

My best snuggle buddy.

Helping the girls with school!

Sooooooo much baby napping.

Somehow, he managed to get up on TOP of the hot water bottle in a sock…. and passed out happily there.

When Coco was too big to live in his little box, we set him up in the big bathtub. Daniel was (still is) enamored with the kitten. For awhile, he wanted his forearm crutches… because then it was like he had four legs, “just like the kitten!” He’s also fond of saying, “When the kitten bigger, THEN Daniel hold it!?”

Helping me make fun things with leather.

No way he’d fit in there now!

Unusual markings! Pink and black skin (mostly black) with mostly white hair. His tail is dark!

Also this month… Maggie and Carrie did something really creative that was pretty disturbing… they made dummies and left them around the house!

I finished my first leather journal cover! I didn’t stamp it or anything and the fit was too tight… and the stitching – TOOK FOREVER. But, it looked and felt good in my hands!

Daniel’s 7th birthday!!! Happy birthday, big little man!

Daniel helping me cook.

Brian’s quarantine mustache and beard got a little out of control.

A look around the “farm:”

Fruit trees were mulched! Lost a cherry tree and two more cherry trees aren’t doing well, but the plums and apples still look good.

We still have a bunch of chickens!

Getting some early spring sunshine whenever it came and watering the vegetable starts I’d purchased.

Ta-da! Our raised garden.

🙂

Is it any wonder that we chuckle when we see Anna carrying her dog in the doggie front pack?

His favorite place.

Drawin!

A kitten clock that’s plugged in! What could be better?

Lunchtime!

Because we couldn’t get to his orthopedist, we consulted via the internet a couple times to try and make a new plan.

Telehealth appointment

Photos for his orthopedist.

More grooming at the neighbor’s house.

Blueberries look hopeful for a good year! Endless weeding going on.

And I’ll leave off my April photos with the leather coasters I was burning with a cheap woodburning tool. It seemed impossible to keep the temperature stable, but I still liked the effect of the uneven burning. (I also tried with Brian’s soldering iron, which had a slightly more predictable temperature, but wasn’t as hot/dark as the wood burner.)

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What a Year! – March

Throughout January and February and now March, our house was dealing with a rather miserable cold. Somewhere in there, I developed some intense sensory hypersensitivity that was really quite difficult for awhile. But – along with March came flowers…. and the beginning of what has now been nearly a year of my oldest daughter, Anna, filling up my hard drive with lovely photography.

Here’s some of her work from March as the spring flowers bloomed:

A little bit of sunshine was VERY welcome respite from our long, gray, wet winter and we took advantage of the day and went outside:

But then…. just a bit later – winter let us know that it had one more bit of freezing left for us.

Daniel still talks about this… he says, “In winter, when it snows, then I put on big pants and I go outside and I play in the snow!” He is optimistically hoping for a repeat this winter.

We enjoyed having the doggies indoors a lot more during the coldest weather!

I was enjoying getting to groom the neighbor’s horses pretty regularly as a form of self care – on my own and sometimes with a daughter in tow:

Every time I successfully exercised 14 times, I gave myself a few dollars to purchase anything I wanted! This time – it was crafting supplies for making homemade lotion.

I also attempted my first leather journal cover…

Meanwhile, whispers of some kind of sickness in Asia are getting louder and louder and we hear that even Italy is experiencing a large impact from this Corona, this COVID, this something virus. It begins to hit here… like the sound of little raindrops on the roof getting louder and faster. Daniel’s trip to Delaware is canceled. All school and lessons are suddenly stopped. We learn what PPE means and that our commercial channels are somehow helpless to provide medical professionals with the basics and… well, enter round one of panic buying and it is, hilariously, for toilet paper.

Was my painfully hypersensitive skin caused by the Coronavirus? I don’t know!

Taekwondo was rapid in its response… training was restarted with very little break at all… via a little program I’d never heard of before: Zoom!

Even ballet was able to continue via zoom! We hoped for a very long time that we’d still be able to have a recital at the end of the year, but that turned out to be pie in the sky. Anna looked so mature and Daniel so adorable (when he joined).

We experimented with social gatherings via zoom for the first time:

And a lot of cooped-up activities were explored:

I also went on several walks. Sometimes alone and sometimes I took a daughter with me.

Finally, we began to dream of gardens… and decided to attempt a container garden. Spoiler: It happened, it didn’t work very well, but we ate a few tomatoes!

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What a Year! – January & February

What a year!

Looking at the pictures from January…. it feels like it’s been a very long time.

Brian had set me up with a workbench and a small set of leather tools for Christmas. My first project… bracelets!

We took our half-fated big family trip to a beach rental… where Jordan and Daniel barely slept and Brian got sick and the girls still managed to have fun.

Trying to keep the water hot!

Climbing!

Chasing the seagulls

Last months of pre-teens!

Adventures

Weary at the beach

I was making packing lists for our March trip to Delaware for some serial casting for Daniel… and taking cute photos of his feet for his orthopedist.

Toesies

None of us had ever heard of Coronavirus.

February 2020 rolled in without any announcement and we enjoyed a special birthday celebration for my dad at my sister’s new home – all the kids were there!

One of my favorite family photos of all time!

Grandpa

We mostly even get along.

And more fun.

The kids had fun.

I experimented with lipstick

Jordan survived a trip away from home!

Lots of good food!

Ballet in person was still a thing! People touched each other and didn’t wipe down the ballet bars or anything! 🙂

English Country Dances were in full swing and oh, how we miss that!

We started hearing rumors about some illness in China that was causing quarantines. We didn’t think it would affect us.

A determined friend came and helped us with some yardwork… it was a treat to have him drive so far to spend the day with us!

And lastly, Brian and I were getting better at taking care of our personal health… Brian took up hiking and I began exercising frequently. Sometimes, he takes the kids along. This is up on Bells Mountain Trail.

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My Heart

I’ve been thinking a lot about self worth lately. I’ve been struggling to generalize what I happily and naturally extend to my children… to myself. It’s been hard to believe God values us while I’ve been observing the unfair suffering of my children and reading books set in WWII. I do NOT have the answers. But I need to blog… I need to talk through and think out some hope here.

Myself. Simply. Imperfect.

I’m going to focus on one little piece of the puzzle that is broken, missing, or malformed in my life. I’m not sure which.

This piece is disguised as:
Difficulty accepting compliments
Hunger for affirmation/praise
Self sacrifice to others
Difficulty recognizing personal skills
Giving but never receiving
Self-deprecation
Humility

For me, personally, it often looks like:
Working too hard
Self condemnation
Self damnation for mistakes
Expectation of rejection
Impression of being invisible

It’s the piece of me that, deep down inside, when push comes to shove, believes I am special, beautiful, valuable, important, of note, and at my core… good.

That piece… is broken.

I have done work to fix the surface. I accept compliments. I try to think and move as though I am beautiful. I look at the things I do well and allow a sort of self pride. I try to recognize and acknowledge my better character traits. I have begun putting a serious effort into taking care of myself and my own personal needs.

But… but if the compliments are genuine and about something deeply personal… an impenetrable wall flies up and I feel a slice of fear or pain.
If I have depression that day/week/month, I can only take care of myself in solidarity with things I believed before I was depressed, because it doesn’t make sense any more.

Last night, I did some qigong before bed. It tends to “flush” my depression and refresh me in general.
When I did the following qigong movement… hands to heart… I was surprised by a powerful internal grief rising up. I’ve done this movement before… with the same experience. Even just watching it, I feel an echo of the ache of yearning and loss. Please… watch for a moment or participate.

Start at 10:25

A gift? For me? For my heart? The things my heart needs most? My hands… giving gifts to my heart…
I…
it…
My whole chest clenches and feels fragmented.
Tears are hot and stinging.

Why?

Why have I trained myself to be so unkind to myself? I grew up constantly hearing people tell me not to be so hard on myself!
It alternated with instruction to better myself. My parents, whom I love and who love me, are more likely to verbalize criticism than praise.
Was this the beginning?
But, I have a husband who is more likely to praise than to be critical and I’ve been married for fifteen years in my own home.

I grew up in a church culture that celebrates the beauty of self-sacrificial love… without the balancing wisdom of self love and kindness, appropriate boundary setting, or self care.
But I’ve been a rebel and haven’t wholly swallowed church doctrine since I was in Kindergarten. Also, I have been completely outside of the church for several years now, learning to take care of myself and to see myself as God sees me.

The short, glorious life of the honeybee.
Photo: Anna

I see myself being critical of my children… demanding, correcting, judging. This is the easiest mode for me to interact in.
It doesn’t bear good fruit. Even though they need instruction, this is creating results I grieve rather than celebrate.

I see myself being loving toward my children… accepting, supporting, validating. This is hard to do.
But this is bearing the fruit relational closeness, though I don’t know if the needed guidance is getting through.

I dislike the dissonance of be hopping between the two.

The beauty of an aging poppy at dawn.
Photo: Anna

But I want to go back to the “Hands to Heart” movement.
Giving to myself.
Those things that I need most.
Kindness.
Love.
Acceptance.
Value.
Belonging.

Random strangers tell me that I am their hero, just because I’m a mother to children with special needs.
People who know me a bit tell me that I am skilled and that I do ___ really well.
People who know me intimately tell me that I am kind, generous, a good listener.

These compliments rub up against a big, raw wound that is where life and other people both close and distant have told me that I’m unwanted, unloved, unimportant, and rejected. In truth, I am socially isolated. That I have tried to develop in-real-life community, but have been largely (though not completely) unsuccessful is fuel to the fire of self damnation.

Deep down inside, I want to have confidence that when God made me… he made something good. Something that He looks at and smiles with warmth, delight, desire, and pride. To know without a doubt that I have been made for a purpose that is good. To believe without hesitation that he considers me perfect even in my very-obvious imperfections.

I see beauty here.
Photo: Anna

Does He accept me like that?
Can I accept me like that?

How do I see it here?

Fighting my demons.
Not giving up.
Believing that I am created for life, not death.
Choosing hope.
Choosing, in the absence of natural understanding, to believe that God sees me like I see my children, like I see the wildflowers, like I see other people:
Beautiful
Valuable
Exquisite
With purpose
At the core… good.

p.s. If you, like me, are struggling with mental health and emotional intelligence and self worth or depression… I was recently amazed to watch this self interview of a man and his life partner who has multiple mental health diagnoses. (SBSK is a pretty fantastic resource for getting to know people with a wide number of diagnoses and life experiences. It’s like the “Humans of New York” with a focus on people with diagnoses. In this case, he is interviewing his life partner.)
Alyssa’s 5 Mental Health Disorders (The Truth About our Love and SBSK

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