Thursday, October 1, 2015

Running (Or, I was sure I was going to die, but then I didn't)

I exercise. And to be frank, I don't generally enjoy it. I have to give myself constant pats on the back, gold stars, and dangle multiple carrots in front of my own nose in order to be motivated to do it. I don't exercise to be fit. I don't do it to be faster or stronger. I don't do it to be thinner or prettier. In all honesty, none of that was ever motivating to me. And so, this is a story of why I take exercise so seriously. 

The story is not easy to tell. Let's get raw today. Let's be very, very real. I am going to be a voice for a disease that we don't like to talk about, that makes people feel ashamed, even when they have never experienced it. It's ugly and strange and awkward and self defeating, and it needs to be talked about or it will never go away. Tonight, let me be a voice for depression. 

As a parent, a foster parent, a step parent, and a single parent, life is not always fluffy bunnies. Of course there are any number of hilarious and heartwarming things that happen, but it's not always easy. Throw on top of that being a parent who also suffers from depression, and the combination can be toxic at times. Overwhelmed, paralyzed, alone, suffering, unsure, defeated... You know the feeling, dear reader. It happens to everyone, not just the "clinically depressed". 

I have been struggling with depression for longer than I can remember. Ups and downs and downs and downs and spiralling to the bottom and getting back up... Teenage angst taken to a whole new level. Post partum depression- what a fresh hell that was. But for the last number of years, I have been mostly managing well with the help medication and counselling.

Early last summer, my doc and I thought maybe it was time to change up my medication a little. Please note- never ever attempt a medication change of any sort without the approval and support of a doctor who knows what they are doing. 

Two weeks into the change, I was feeling tired and low. I was sitting in my office, and suddenly I had this terrifyingly wonderful idea that I was going to die. I no longer wanted to be alive. I thought about it all afternoon. On my way home, I heard myself say, "This is it, you could run off the road right now, and no one would even know that it was on purpose."

I spent that drive in a literal battle for my life. And wouldn't you know it, the only thing that kept me going forward was the realization that the kids needed to be picked up and fed and put to bed. I was able to rationalize just enough through my fog of believing that there was no purpose for me on earth. I was able to imagine my daughter's fear when no one picked her up from after school care, the look on my son's face when no one came home... That night, I cried for more hours than I slept, so deep in shame and self-loathing that I didn't think I would ever be able to find my way out.

The next morning, I had run out of my "new" medication. I went to the pharmacy... and I realized what was wrong with me. The pharmacist confirmed that I needed to stop taking the new meds immediately and see my doctor. Which I did. And within two days, I felt almost 100% better. Happy ending. Whew... 

But it gets better. 

You see, I have a friend who is a fitness enthusiast and generally awesome person. She and I had been walking regularly together, and even though she tried to get me to jog a little, I insisted that I would never run anywhere. But, after this last brush with depression, I had had enough. 

I knew from "the literature" (an obscure term for stuff where people get paid lots of money to make fun experiments and then write about them) and from multiple sources that exercise was important to mental health, and that proper exercise and diet were just as beneficial, if not more so, than medication and counselling. 

I took the leap. My wonderful amazing friend fully supported my sudden change of heart, and started me off nice and slow, with a two minute walk-30 second jog interval for about half an hour. Well holy mother of peanuts, I thought I was going to die for sure. But guess what? I didn't. And that sense of accomplishment from just that one "walkie-joggie" (mostly walkie- sort of joggie) was enough to keep me going. 

Every time I exercise, I have a goal in mind- faster pace, longer distance, better endurance... It doesn't matter. And as long as I finish feeling like I've done my best, I am happy. Whenever I feel like it's not possible to do anymore, I do more. Five more seconds, just to prove to myself that it was actually possible to do more. Because as long as there is still more to do, there is a reason to keep trying.

And when I am feeling tired, unmotivated, or simply don't want to... I remember that summer afternoon and know that I will never allow myself to go back there. 

Dear depressed friends, know that even when you don't believe that you would ever be able to do it... You CAN. Every step that you take is a miracle. Take pride in each and every one, and push just that one step farther than you think you can go. I am here, and I believe in you. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Abandoned Dog with Two Broken Legs (or, What I Did On My Summer Vacation)

A lot of crazy things seem to fall into my lap. I'd go into detail but this is a more important story that I've been asked to share... And I think that it needs to be told.

This little dog is all over the news, just google him. He's been dubbed "Afro Man" (BTW, this is a terrible name. Sorry guys, but someone had to say it). But what is not well known, or has been glossed over by the media is that this dog was dumped not once, but TWICE. I know because my children and I found him the first time...

On Friday, my two youngest kids and I were driving from vacation in Invermere, B.C. to my parents' house in Calgary, Alberta. I had told my parents that we would be awhile because I intended to stop and see some sights along the way, but that we would be there by supper.

As we were talking and driving and seeing all kinds of neat stuff, I said, "And, there's a dog. On the side of the road, with casts on its front legs!" And of course, I pulled over. I was not parked in a safe place so I told the kids to wait in the car, and I went out to see this little dog. He was so happy to see me, he barked and wagged his tail, and started trying to run to me. But a dog can't run well with casts on both front legs, and he kind of hopped and flopped a few times, and landed dangerously close to the middle of the road. So I scooped him up in my arms, and was greeted with happy kisses and wiggles. I got him into my car, and my seven year old did everything she could to make him comfortable. 

We drove to the next pull out along the highway where we could safely stop, and we asked people if they were missing a dog. We left notes on a few empty cars just in case they were looking for him. We met a very sweet family that had a trailer, and gave us some meat and water for him (Scarlet if you're reading this, thank you so much!). They gave us some left over lamb. After the pooch had gobbled it all down, the seven year old decided to call him "Lamb Chop". 

We continued down the highway. The kids doted on this little pooch the entire way, and asked me every few minutes if we could keep him. I explained to them that he undoubtedly had a person somewhere who was missing him very badly.

This dog was so sweet, and so happy. He made sure to give the kids tons of kisses, and then slept for awhile in the back seat of the car. Every so often he would whimper for a few seconds, but otherwise he made almost no sound at all. 

Once we had cell service, I called the vet in Camore, Alberts. They said to bring the pooch on in so they could check for a microchip or tattoo. By the time we reached Canmore, I had had time to think and realize that I should call the vets around Radium near where I found him. My first call was successful, and the Invermere Animal Hospital said that they had out the original casts on this dog, and knew who the owner was. They put me in touch with the owner, who was indeed Nad Dar, even though he now denies it. 

Nad told me that the dog had been "stolen" out of his car at a rest stop near Radium, and that he was so happy to see his dog safe and returned to him. These were the words he spoke, but he hardly paid any attention to "his" dog, except to take him from my arms and plop him on the back seat of his truck. I did not get a good vibe... But it was his dog, and he had (supposedly) had a bad day. It wasn't my place to complain. 

On Monday evening, my brother called me to tell me that the same dog was in the news, having been dumped AGAIN, this time outside of Morley, Alberta. I immediately contacted Rocky Mountain Animal Rescue, and told them my story. I have been on the phone with them over the last two days, and have applied to adopt this little guy. He needs pins in his legs, as apparently his former owner opted out of properly caring for his broken legs. 

We want so badly for this sweetheart to be a part of our family. No animal should be treated like a broken toy and dumped and left for the coyotes and bears. My heart goes out to this pup every time I think of how happy he was to be held, how much he loved to be with people, and how badly he wanted to play with my kids. 

This little dog's vet bill will be astronomical. He will need lots of rehabilitation. Right now the Rescue is paying for his medical expenses, but even if I am able to adopt him, I would have a hard time paying the vet bills on my own.

And so, dear readers... All 20 of you... I am taking a moment from my crazy insane family life to ask for your help. I have set up a donation page, and ask you all to share the link, donate, or whatever you are able to do to help us to be able to adopt this little guy, and help the rescue to be able to pay for his vet bills... And if there is money leftover, it will go directly to the Rocky Mountain Animal Rescue to help with their other animals! Just click on the link on the right... -->

Yep, right up there! 

Me (missing a head thanks to my 7 year old photographer) with the sweet pooch in question, at the Canmore vet on Friday.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Heat wave!

Oh dear Lord, it's so hot... 

I am lying quietly in my bed with my seven year old asleep beside me because we didn't have enough fans to go around and it's much too hot to sleep without one. 

It got up to about 30 degrees here today. Inside and outside. That's hot. Super hot, with no air conditioning, no reprieve from the heat. 

You know it's hot when the eleven year old can't even work up the energy for a good meltdown. When we break out a bunch of face cloths and keep them damp to cool our skin every few minutes. When we eat only salad for supper, because there isn't a hope in hell that I'm going to turn on any sort of heating device, not even the barbecue. And tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter.

Every year I hear people (including myself) say, "It's SO HOT! But I'm not going to complain because at least it's not -30" (which I'm pretty sure it is for half of the year here). Have you noticed that this is actually a complaint in non-complaint form? Why do we say we're not going to complain when we are actually complaining because we are seriously uncomfortable despite the fact that we don't feel like we should be complaining? 

I'll tell you something else about that non-complaining complaint. When it's freezing cold, you can layer. And layer and layer and layer until you're mostly cozy. But there are only so many layers that you can take off when it's hot. And then you're still hot, and generally speaking, skin is a removable layer. 

And anyway, who made up the rule that you can only complain if it's extremely hot or cold? It's stupid. I'm not a person who loves super hot or super cold. I want it to be a nice, comfy temperature all year round. From now on, I'm going to whine just as much when it's +30 as when it's -30, and you can't stop me! So there. I hope you're happy, arbitrary stupid rule maker, whoever you are... 

The eleven year old, reading a book while soaking his feet in cold water in the tub... Yup, that's hot. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Cheeseburger Incident

I've alluded to the fact that I have more than one child who struggles with mental illness. Yup. Four of the five of us are medicated, and the one who isn't... Probably should be. 

My eleven year old son has been fighting with very high anxiety. It's not what I pictured anxiety to be. I imagined someone shaking and sweating, maybe curled up in a corner, paralyzed by fear. BUT, then I realized that anxiety can take the form of flight... Or fight. And in my son's case, it's definitely fight. Or, should I say, FIGHT!!! 

At first I thought I was doing something wrong. My kid acts like a maniac over small things, and it can make him look bratty, petty and spoilt. But the truth is that he knows that whatever he is freaking out about, he's not going to get it by throwing a fit. When all is said and done, and he's feeling calm again, he feels horrible about the things that he does and says. It frightens him, and it breaks his heart. And that is how I know that he is not just having a brat-tantrum. His stress level is constantly so high that the smallest thing can make him rage. It's not at all fun, but sometimes it can be slightly entertaining. And we almost always look back later and laugh about it.

Here's an example. 

A couple of weeks ago, I was running out the door to do Mom Stuff (groceries, soccer... Who knows). I said I was going to stop and pick up supper on the way home, and asked what he wanted. He says a burger. I ask, "any specific burger?" 

"No, just a burger Mom." 

So I finish whatever I was doing, and I stop and get burgers. I get home. I put food out. His burger has no cheese on it. 

No cheese. 

I'm pretty sure I heard accurately when he said just a burger. You read that too, right? "Just a burger." But I was supposed to KNOW that he wanted cheese on the justaburger.

My Meltdown Alert started tingling. And the frantic thoughts start. 

"Ooooooh shit ohshit ohshit ohshit. Here it comes. Where's the cheese? How was I supposed to know he wanted cheese? Why didn't I know that he wanted cheese? I should have known he wanted cheese! Is there any cheese in the house? Check the fridge- DO IT CALMLY! Don't let him see your stress or he'll lose it! No cheese. Damnit WHO ATE ALL THE CHEESE?! Is there any Cheez Whiz? Nope, I remember seeing the empty jar in a teenagers room last week... Why on earth was it in their room?? Did it ever come back upstairs? Frickin teens never clean up after themselves... No. Focus. There is stringable cheese... Maybe I could grate one up..." 

All the while, I am completely aware that even if I had found cheese, it wouldn't have been enough. 

And now it's too late anyway. The Hulk moment has started. You can feel his blood pressure rising. I'm pretty sure that he is actually turning green. He stomps off down the hall to his room and slams the door. He starts screaming about how much I don't love him, how everyone must want him to die. All over a piece of cheese. Cheese! 

This, my friends, is an anxious child. 

I'll leave out all the details of the flailing and the screaming and the pounding and throwing... No one needs to hear about that. I sit in my room across the hall and wait for a break in the storm. I go in and sit quietly on the edge of his bed and listen to him cry, lie down and cuddle him until he is no longer afraid. This is the hardest part. Here is where my heart breaks. He can tell me that he hates me all he wants, because I know it's not the truth. But when he tells me that he's scared and that he doesn't know why... And so we hide together, and I wrap him up as tightly as I can and try to shoo away demons that I can't see or feel. 

Finally it's over. When he is calm again, he feels awful as always. He apologizes and we talk about it, and then he goes to eat his burger... 

But the dog got there first. So he has cereal. 😏

(The photos and memes that I use here are pretty much all pulled from Facebook posts that strike a chord with me) 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Good morning! (Or, How I Get Out Of The House By 8:00am)

Mornings are a riot in our house. No really. Riots happen in our house. Every. Freaking. Day.

Here's an example:

6:30am- My alarm goes off. The first time. And then again ten minutes later and then five minutes after that. I finally drag my butt out of bed. This is a HUGE improvement over even a few weeks ago, when I would hit snooze up to six times. That's because I moved my alarm clock onto my dresser, which means that I actually have to get up to turn it off. I only crawl back into bed twice now before it's just not worth it anymore. 

6:45- I have a shower, and walk out of the bathroom in my towel hollering for kids to get up (they have hit snooze at least once by this point as well). Then I go start getting ready for work. 

7:00- The seven year old (aka. General Racket) gets up first, and goes into the kitchen. She pulls a box of cereal out of the cupboard, and then pulls the bag all the way out of the box. She pours cereal in her bowl. And by in her bowl, I mean EVERYWHERE. Normally, she is in a good mood in the morning, and eats her cereal while humming, kicking her feet against the island counter, and making a general racket. 

I put makeup on and do my hair, and then prod the eleven year old (aka. Sluggish And Highly Touchy) until he finally begins to writhe. Then I go back to finish getting dressed.

7:10- General Racket meets Sluggish And Highly Touchy, and the riot begins. "PUT THE BAG BACK IN THE CERAL BOX!" "QUIT MAKING THAT NOISE!" "CHEW WITH YOUR MOUTH CLOSED!" And then of course comes the "MOOOOOOOOM!!!" 

I go into the kitchen and remind everyone in a not-so-quiet way that they need to be QUIET, because the teenagers are still sleeping downstairs ( the 18 year old works at night, and the 17 year old simply doesn't need to be up quite yet).

Arguments, stomping, and constant redirection to the task at hand (finishing breakfast as quickly and as peacefully as possible) ensue for about twenty minutes.

7:30- General Racket finishes her breakfast. I tell her to go get dressed for school, to which the response is almost guaranteed to be "NO!" We actually have a "No saying no" sticker book reward system set up. More on that later. 

7:35- At this point, Sluggish And Highly Touchy has either melted down because there is no more Nutella in the house, or is slowly picking apart his food, talking at whoever will listen, and yelling at his sister for not listening or leaving a mess or not flushing the toilet, or all of the above. 

And so, I un-gently remind the boy to get busy and eat before he runs out of time, I un-gently remind the girl to stop whining and go get dressed, and I make myself breakfast while tossing stuff on the island for lunches. 

7:40- I make three neat piles of food for each child to grab and toss in their bag. Then I throw whatever is left into my lunch bag. All the while, stomping, hollering, and general mayhem continue around me. This one can't get her pajamas off, that one still hasn't finished his breakfast, and the last one never set his alarm.

I run downstairs and remind the 17 year old that he needs to get up NOW, run back up to argue with the girl that it's way too hot of a day to wear a long sleeved heavy knit sweater, remind the boy once again to finish eating or risk grounding and/ or no computer time and/ or being strung up by his toes, dispense meds, finish my own breakfast, start making coffee for the road, and tell the boy that breakfast is officially over and take his food away. 

And then all hell breaks loose. I bet you thought it already had, didn't you? 

7:50- Now it's time for everyone to get their shoes on and get out the door. At least one lunch pile is still sitting on the island waiting to be packed up. General Racket has a rats nest the size of a basketball at the back of her head, and still hasn't found socks to wear. Sluggish and Highly Touchy is melting down in his room because he's being rushed and he can't find something (seriously, it's something different every day), and 17 year old is bossing kids around as if he doesn't have his own crap to get together. My coffee is sitting in its travel mug with no sugar or cream in it yet. 

7:55- I'm looking for a brush for the girl. She is STILL wearing the damn heavy sweater, and then I discover that she HAS HER PAJAMAS ON UNDER HER CLOTHES AGAIN. 

7:56- The boy is finally calm but refusing to leave his room. Apparently he thinks that school is an option today. 

7:57- Brush General Racket's hair (if you didn't whine so much it would hurt less!).

7:59- Get socks in General Racket's feet (stop kicking and put your foot in!).

8:00- Get Sluggish and Highly Touchy motivated to go to school (if you're not out yet door in three seconds, I'm going to ground you until the end of time!).

8:01- Make sure everyone remembered to take their meds (it's not going to take itself!).

8:02- Get 17 year old into the vehicle (stop bossing and GO).

8:03- Get General Racket out the door (no you can't ride your bike!).

8:04- Get Sluggish and Highly Touchy out the door (seriously. Just get out).

8:05- Get myself out the door. 

8:05:10- Forgot my coffee. 

8:05:15- Go back in and get my coffee. 

8:05:30- Get in the car and back out of the driveway. 

8:06- The garage door won't close.

8:06:30- Run into the garage, close the door, and leave through the side. 

8:07- I don't care if anyone or anything was forgotten. We're officially done for another day. 

Whew. Now to begin preparations for the evening routine... 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Our Garage Sale

Today was garage sale/ lemonade stand day. We sat outside for six hours. 

My seven year old daughter officially made more at her lemonade stand than I did at the garage sale. I'm going to guess that it's because, 1) she's way cuter than me, and 2) she's an AMAZING salesman. Every person that pulls up in front of our house gets this super cute little girl greeting them at their car, "Welcome to our garage sale! Would you like some lemonade?" Seriously, who could say no? And most of what she's made has been in tips! (insert eye roll here) 

And then THIS happened: 

I know, it's just a naked Pandora bracelet. But it's MY Pandora bracelet! So here's the story... 

About three years ago, my best friend bought me the bracelet for my birthday with one "best friends" charm. The following Christmas, my parents bought me a cute charm for my new bracelet. But when I went to put it on, the bracelet was missing! I tore the house apart on multiple occasions, but I never found it. Fast forward to today... The seven year old is hanging out at the garage sale, and decides that she wants to "buy" one of the purses on the table with her killing from the lemonade stand. So I let her have it. She opens it up and starts checking out all the pockets, and I hear, "Look what I found!" 

I'll tell you what... Anyone could have walked into my garage sale and bought that purse, and walked out with a new bracelet (sans charms), worth much more than the $1 they had just paid for it. But instead, my brilliant, gorgeous, amazing, daughter decided that she had to have that purse! Just so that I wasn't taking the bracelet back unpaid for, I let her take the other purse that was on the table, too. She was satisfied with the trade, and we all lived happily ever after. 

Until the cheeseburger incident. 

But that's a story for another day.

Real life??

This is my Blog for us parents out there who work hard every day, who struggle with real life stuff, who aren't perfect and yet continue to strive for that perfection is not attainable in real life.

For example- my google name has been changed by my son to Zekeiscrazy- Gaming and Vlogs, in the hopes that he will eventually become one of these "famous YouTubers". I found this out when my brother called me and asked me who Zeke was. Awesome. I went to change it back to my name, just to find out that I don't have that option because it's been too soon since my last name change.  So, you can now call me Zeke. 😏

Real Life is a daily struggle, and every single one of us does the best we can to manage. So here's a shout out to all of us. 

I am a single mom who works full time. Shout out to all full time working single parents! You get Real Life in your first cup of coffee every morning (and then your second, and your third...). 

My children have all kinds of issues. Shout out to parents of children with disabilities and mental health troubles! Real Life sticks it's ugly, warty nose in your business daily but you grab that damn nose by the nostrils and put it in its place. 

I have step children. Yes, I know, I'm single... It's a long story. But a huge shout out to step parents whose step children give you yet another dose of Real Life... You have chosen to be a parent to a child who is not your own, and despite how they may react, the fact that you care about them anyway is saying a lot. 

I have foster children, think I'm nuts yet? Shout out to foster parents who go above and beyond Real Life to give kids a safe and (sort of, hopefully) healthy environment. 

My Real Life Mantra...

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

(And grant me enough coffee to wake up enough to not be late for my next meeting...)