Anxiety, Attitude Adjustments, Be Happy, Coping, Happiness, Loneliness, Negativity, Social Isolation, Support, Uncategorized

Start Taking Care of YOU!

Isolation, whether physical or emotional, can be a lonely place.  Sometimes we become isolated by choice, and other times, we are forced into isolation by our circumstances. When this happens, it’s important to make some changes so we don’t lose our minds!  I have known people who have isolated themselves socially.  They have become angry, negative and suspicious of everyone and everything.  It’s incredibly unhealthy.

For the last few months, I have found myself becoming more and more isolated because of circumstances.  I think women have a tendency to do this more than men, because we take on so many roles and feel responsible for everyone’s happiness and well being.  We are care givers by nature, so we put our needs and wants after those we care about.  I don’t like being a burden, nor do I like having anyone worry about or pity me, but sometimes we need someone to take care of us, and consider our needs. Between work, studying, being sick, going to doctor appointments, having medical tests, commuting, shopping for groceries, cooking dinner, and trying to pay bills on a teacher’s salary, I will admit, I have neglected to take the time to do things I enjoy.  It’s something I’ve struggled with my entire adult life, especially after I became a mother.  Al has been able to go to New York to see his mother and family, and last weekend he was in Miami with a couple of friends while I waited out Hurricane Nate with the dog.  Just to be clear, these trips were compliments of his family and friends, so it wasn’t like we were footing the bill for it.  If we could afford it, I would be making sure to take a trip here and there too, and make sure we have time for trips together!

I’ve never been one to take a spa day….it’s not really my thing. I will get an occasional pedicure, but can’t stand manicures (it’s a creepy feeling).  I’ve also never been one who likes to just sit around doing nothing.  There is always something free to do if money is an issue.  While I’m not a fan of large crowds because of my social anxiety, I do enjoy gatherings with friends and family.  I’m not a big shopper because it stresses me out to spend money, and I can’t find a lot that I like that fits my weird little body!  I like to work out, but my physical condition has limited this recently. While I live in “paradise,” a change of scenery would be nice occasionally.  A nice day or weekend road trip would be great……who doesn’t like a little road trip, even if you have no plans…..just hop in the car and go!

There are a lot of museums and historic places in our area.  My parents instilled in me a love of learning about the past, and an appreciation for art and culture. I need to take advantage of these places.  I also enjoy just sitting at a pub drinking cold beer, eating pizza, wings, or some Gulf shrimp, and talking with friends.  I need to be doing these things more often.  Even if I am tired from my work week, I need to make sure I am doing things to get a change of scenery, and to keep from feeling isolated.  I do not want to become one of those angry, bitter, suspicious people I talked about earlier.

I need to take better care of myself, and take better care of my own needs.  Every woman does.  If you don’t have someone to do things with, then go by yourself.  You will still have a change of scenery, and you may even learn something.  Don’t wait for someone to do it with you, or to make plans for you.  Just get up and go.  Social isolation isn’t healthy, and it’s up to you to do something about it.  Don’t let it take over, making you miserable. Take care of you first!  Your loved ones will appreciate it.

“Solitude, isolation, are painful things and beyond human endurance” —Jules Verne

 

 

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Be Kind, Bleeding Kansas, Chicken Annie's, Coping, Growing up, Happiness, Home Sweet Home, Kindness, Passion for Living, Respect, Uncategorized, You can't go back again

Thankful for Small Town Roots

Last week I learned of the death of another childhood classmate from my hometown in Kansas.  It seems like there’s been so many…..I’ve actually lost count.  For a small class, it’s been a lot.  These are the people I grew up with, and even though I moved away before graduating with them, they still mean a lot to me, and we share so many of the same experiences of growing up in a small town.

There is so much anger and hatred in our world right now. and the loss of this classmate has made me yearn for a simpler time, and a time when things seemed easier.  Growing up in a small town in the Midwest had it’s pros and cons, but I hold so many wonderful memories from that time.

My hometown, at one time, truly did feel like Mayberry.  It was an historic old railroad town in Southeast Kansas, about an hour from Kansas City, and an hour from Joplin.  It was divided down the middle of town by a highway and railroad tracks….the division having racially motivated reasons dating back to the 1800’s, and the time of “Bleeding Kansas” and the John Brown raids.  It had a dark history of racism (for more on this, look up the author/poet/photographer/director Gordon Parks, and the movie “The Learning Tree”). Yet, in the 70’s, I wasn’t aware of that dark past so much.  I had both black and white friends.  They were restoring the Fort from the 1840’s, had beautiful old Victorian homes, brick streets, and a quaint downtown.  It still has one of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever seen, Gunn Park.  It had two elementary schools (one on the east side, one on the west), a junior high, which sat prominently in the middle of town, and a big old high school, which is now gone.

The town was a bit run down in some areas, had it’s nicer neighborhoods, but it was safe just about everywhere you went.  It was safe to ride our bikes, go for walks, and explore. One of my friends and I used to walk to the end of our street, which was a dead end, and we would climb down the embankment to play at the river banks while our parents were at work.  I could walk to my father’s office at the church where he was a minister, only a few blocks away.  My mother’s office was a block from his office.  I could walk downtown to the library, to stores, and to the movies.  On Saturdays, another friend and I would meet at a certain corner, and we would walk to the library, then go buy a lot of candy with our little bit of allowances we had. In the summer, I would walk or ride my bike to the swimming pool.

The people in our church were wonderful.  Because my father was the minister, we were invited to so many homes for Sunday dinner, on trips to Kansas City, or to our favorite chicken restaurant, Chicken Annie’s (Southeast Kansas is known for it’s chicken restaurants!).  My sisters and I had babysitting jobs for many families in our church.  Our doctor and dentist both went to our church.  My piano teacher was our organist. Everyone knew everyone, or had some sort of connection to them.

Going back there today is different.  My parents and almost all of their friends are now gone.  The church is closed.  It isn’t safe in a lot of areas.  The old homes are in disrepair.  The brick streets are not in great shape.  The downtown is empty and sad.  Most of the manufacturers are gone.  Walmart is the biggest store in town…….

Even though I know we can’t live in the past, and I’m glad I don’t live there today, I do miss a lot of that innocence today.  People really cared about each other.  Small towns are not for me at this point in my life, and I’m glad my parents showed me that there was a world out there through travel and books, but growing up in a small town in the 1970’s was special.  I didn’t realize then what a wonderful thing it was.  I raised my own children there too, but it was already changing, and it wasn’t the same.

Life was easier then.  Times were easier, or seemed to be.  Maybe it was just easier for parents to protect their children from the cruel world without the influences of 24 hour news and social media.  Sometimes I really miss the days when I had no worries, plenty of friends, my parents, a kinder, safer world…….  We can’t go back, and we can’t bring back those we’ve lost.  We can only be more appreciative of each other, treat each other with respect,  be kind to each other, and not take anyone or anything for granted.  Life is too short to not appreciate who and what we have in front of us.  It might not be there tomorrow.

 

Attitude Adjustments, Be Happy, Coping, Crazy Dreams, Happiness, Laughter, Making life interesting, Sleep talking, Sleep texting, Sleep walking, Uncategorized

The Manatees Drank All the Beer, and Other Sleep Walking Adventures

Living with me is a chore.  I’m not too moody….in fact, I’m pretty positive and fun-loving most of the time.  I’m not too messy (I used to be)…..except for a bit of dust and mail on my dining room table.  I’m pretty helpful if you need something.  I’m a decent cook.  I guess I should say living with me when I’m ASLEEP is the chore!

I shared a room with one of my sisters when I was little.  She and I both have struggled with sleep issues.  Crazy dreams, talking, walking……you just never know what might happen!  As I’ve gotten older, my issues seem to have escalated, especially when I’m stressed. Maybe I carry it with me more in my subconscious because during the day, I am more happy go lucky, not letting too much get to me.

My dreams are usually pretty entertaining, involving celebrities (dead and alive), traveling, old songs, and me saving the world.  Yes, I have that power…..didn’t know that about me, did you? My mother used to ask me what I ate before going to bed, thinking that caused it.  I talk about food, pets, and in the last few years, I’ve even started texting in my sleep….and it’s WEIRD stuff, such as: “If we could just plan it right, I could grow new thumbs!” “When I’m on the floor, the puppies can bring me the cheese, bracelets, and hearing aids,” and “The manatees drank all the beer.”  This is only a fraction of what I’ve done over the course of my lifetime.  I used to get embarrassed about it, but now, like other things in life I can’t control, I embrace it, and have fun with it.

The most concerning thing I do, but also entertaining at times, is sleepwalking.  That seems to be getting worse.  I don’t think I’m on any type of schedule with this, but I do relate it to stress.  Al usually stays up later than I do, and he can hear me doing what he calls, “the midnight shuffle,” coming down the hallway, shuffling my feet.  Sometimes he doesn’t hear me, and I surprise him though.  He used to get a little freaked out, but he’s used to it now, and just keeps me safe, walking me back to bed, sometimes with me talking to him.  Something I do quite often is try to go outside.  He has caught me multiple times either going out the front door or the back door.  There’s a couple of problems with this…..1) we have bears in our neighborhood, and 2) I don’t wear a whole lot when I’m asleep!  Now that would be something for the neighbors to talk about! Years ago, when I lived in Kansas, and was pretty stressed out, I actually drove the car while asleep.  The only reason I know this is because we always parked the car in the back of the house.  We lived on a busy street, and the driveway came down the alley and behind our house.  When I came downstairs in the morning, the car was parked in the front of the house, and I was the only one with a key!  I have no idea if I went anywhere, or just moved the car!  My kids started hiding the keys from me.  I have also woken up in the car a time or two, but not in the driver’s seat.  When Al has been out of town, I have gotten up and straightened up the living room, then tipped the couch over on its back (after having recently had major surgery!).  I have turned on lights and the television.  I can carry on a conversation in my sleep, and not remember anything about it the next day.

I don’t know what causes this, but it’s something I’ve always lived with…..or, maybe I should say that others have had to live with!  I don’t remember much about it!  I suppose it can be a very dangerous thing, but so far, it’s been something to laugh about, and what is life without laughter?  And if we can’t laugh at ourselves, then where is the fun?

Attitude Adjustments, Be Happy, Be Kind, Being Strong, Coping, Fear, Happiness, Invisible Illness, Just Breathe, Passion for Living, Support, Uncategorized

Coping Through Fear and Uncertainty

The last couple of months I have been dealing with an issue that I have been afraid to write about.  Actually, up until a couple of weeks ago, every time I talked about it, I would cry, but I am learning to deal with this more comfortably, or as comfortably as possible, so maybe writing about it will be therapeutic…..I have a brain tumor.  THAT is a very difficult thing to say (or write).

After a couple of years of dealing with vertigo off and on (mostly when I was tired, or the lighting was low), headaches, tinnitus, balance issues, and noticing some hearing loss last school year, I finally have answers, following some medical tests.  Our trip to Europe seemed to intensify the symptoms…..I guess from the pressure during the flight?  I tried to pass it off as fatigue or jet lag, but deep down, I knew something wasn’t right.  I felt horrible most of the time we were there.  After we got back, the symptoms didn’t go away.  On July 25th, I was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, which is a tumor on the main nerve going to my ear.  My husband was in New York visiting his family at the time of my diagnosis, so I was alone, and very afraid when I found out.  I told him over the phone……  I called my three children, and cried while I told them.  They’ve all been very sweet and understanding, very supportive, and patient with my emotions.  I emailed my four sisters, and they were very supportive. They told me not to worry because they would worry enough for me.  I texted my friends because I didn’t want to cry while telling them.  I texted my pastor.

Basically, this thing has probably been with me for awhile.  It’s not malignant, and it’s very slow growing. For now, it’s small (1.7 cm), and we are lucky to have caught it at this stage.  It’s obviously big enough to be causing some serious problems……….headaches, vertigo, balance, tinnitus, pressure, hearing loss, noise sensitivity, fatigue…….but we have chosen to watch it to see if it is still growing, and if so, at what pace.  If I were younger,  and if the location were different, the approach may be different.  Two of the main concerns are total hearing loss and facial paralysis (it pushes against the facial nerve), and of course, if it is left completely untreated, it can cause death.  It does not grow into the brain, as a malignant tumor would.  As it grows, it pushes against the brain and brain stem.

It’s a rare condition, but I actually have two friends who have had this same thing.  Their tumors were larger, and they were younger, and they each had different treatments. Each one was left with problems resulting from the surgery…..facial paralysis, total hearing loss, epilepsy…..and have a lot of the same symptoms that I have which surgery and/or radiation didn’t eliminate.  My doctors want to wait to see if it is growing before making the decision to go in after it.  If I can learn to manage the symptoms I have, and it isn’t growing, my symptoms may never get worse…..but they won’t get any better.  If I have surgery and/or radiation, there is a risk that these symptoms may get worse.

I have had to do some soul searching throughout this.  I was very depressed at first.  I have had to count my blessings though. There was so much uncertainty before the diagnosis.  Was it MS?  Parkinsons?  Cancer? No, no, and no, and now I have an answer, even if it is scary.  I’ve done a lot of research, talked to my doctor, and also consulted with my friends who have been through this. I’ve decided I have to accept what I have in front of me, make adjustments to my lifestyle, position myself in places where I can hear, try to avoid loud noises (my principal will give me a heads up before those screeching fire alarms go off during drills…..that feels like being stabbed in the ear drum with an ice pick!), get up more slowly, don’t turn too fast, take aspirin for my headaches, be careful while walking or standing, especially in low lighting (the vertigo and balance problems are extreme for me in low lighting), fall asleep with the television or fan on to drown out the tinnitus, get plenty of rest, do more yoga, avoid stress, etc. etc. etc. I definitely don’t have time for anything petty, negative, or dramatic.  I’ve never liked those situations anyway, but now I have a legitimate reason to avoid it and brush it aside!  My health depends on it.

I have decided that if I am to completely come to terms with this, I need to make peace with it.  This is the best way for me to stay positive and be able to face it….as I always do…..with humor. The tumor needed a name.  I thought about Tammy, but since that is one of my sisters, I knew it wouldn’t go over very well (she agreed)! So I have named her Tina, and damn it, Tina and I will be friends, whether she likes it or not!  My children and Al make fun of me for my hearing loss, but that’s okay.  What I think I hear is usually way more entertaining than what they’re saying!  For instance, today at work, they announced that the latchkey program would be meeting in the “portable.”  Well, I heard “toilet bowl.”  What I heard was a lot funnier!!!!

I am so thankful to my children, Lily,  Evan, and Grace, who check on me regularly (even when Evan is in the middle of the ocean on his ship in the Navy, he checks on his mama), keeping my spirits up.  I am thankful to my doctors and modern medicine! I am thankful to my wide circle of friends from California, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Alabama, Florida Europe, and South America…….it makes me emotional thinking about how much support they’ve given me! I am thankful for my sisters, who keep me laughing with their quirky emails (I’m not the only quirky one), my cousin Danny (who happened to be the first person I told because he just happened to reach out to me after I got my diagnosis).  I’m thankful for my church family who has prayed for me, and has checked on me when we have been able to get there.  I’m thankful for my friends at work who have kept my “little” secret until I have been strong enough to talk about it, and have helped me. I’m thankful for my little dog, Andy, who snuggles with me, giving me comfort and kisses! And most of all, I am thankful for my dear sweet husband, Al.  I know that he is probably more worried and scared than he lets on.  But he is so strong for me.  I’ve lost count how many times I have fallen, and he patiently helps me back up, making sure I’m okay and steady on my feet before letting me go.  Falling like a two year old is very humbling!  Through my headaches, emotions, and all of the financial strain I’ve put on us with this…..he is my ROCK. We may have found each other late in life, but I know that I couldn’t go through this without him.  I don’t have my parents anymore, but I have some very good people in my life!  I am the luckiest girl in the world…….

Life is a party……face it head on, embrace it, and enjoy every minute of it!

Be Kind, Being Strong, Coping, Fear isn't weakness, Invisible Illness, Just Breathe, Loyalty, Support, Uncategorized

It’s Okay To Be Weak

Have you ever known someone who is very good about keeping composed, and holding everything together?  Some people always seem to be the strong presence in difficult situations.  You wonder how they manage at times.  I have been this person most of my adult life.  I don’t let on that I am struggling.  I make a joke to try to lighten their mood (or mine).  When my mother died, I showed very little emotion outside of the funeral. At the time, my ex husband was living in New Mexico, and I was alone with 3 children in Kansas.  Our family dog had died the previous day, and it was also the week of Thanksgiving.  It was a really crappy week!  After the funeral, I had to be the strong one for my kids, and hold it together.  I didn’t want them to be afraid if their mama was upset.  I didn’t feel that I could let my children or my co-workers know how much I was hurting. In fact, the day after my mother died, I went to work, and only told two people what had happened!  I just didn’t want to let on to anyone that I was hurting or afraid, and I taught my class that day without ever letting on that anything was wrong.  I couldn’t fall apart.

I’ve been there to support friends, co-workers, and a few family members if they’ve needed me.  Or, I’ve been supportive of them in their goals, dreams, educations, careers, relationships, raising kids, etc……just being there……being a friend.  One thing I’m not good at though, is asking for help or support when I need it.  It’s very hard. It makes me feel selfish.  It embarrasses me.

This week, I had a moment that I’ve always considered “weak” for me.  I was in my classroom with a colleague after school, talking about school things.  The conversation turned to something personal, and I fell apart!  I burst into tears.  I sobbed.  I think my friend/colleague was surprised because she hadn’t seen me that upset before.  Everything I’ve been dealing with caught up with me, and no matter how many positive posts I put on social media to try to keep my spirits up, I just couldn’t hold it together at that moment.  I was tired.  I was hurting.  I was tired of being strong.  During the conversation, another friend came in, and they sat there with me, letting me vent and cry, while they hugged me, and told me it was okay to lean on them, and that everyone needs to feel safe enough to do that sometimes.  Things have been very hard for me lately, and I guess my emotions were like a pressure cooker.  While I have the best husband/friend in the world, I guess I needed to know that I can also lean on someone else for support sometimes.  Al is still, and always will be my ROCK.

Of course, at the end of the conversation, my friends and I hugged again, and being me, I had to make a silly joke to make everyone laugh!  One of the friends said that it never fails….Lauri will always try to cheer someone up, even through her own tears.  She said it was a “gift.”  I have never thought of it like that.  I do believe that the cure to a lot of painful situations is laughter, but I never realized that my sarcasm or self deprecating humor was a gift.  That was nice to hear.

I have learned that it’s okay to lean on others.  I will still struggle with it, because it’s just not like me to show that type of emotion very often, but I know it’s okay, and no one will think I’m weak for doing so.  I’ve also learned through this health issue who really cares about me (for those who know the specifics….for others, I am not really ready to talk about it much yet, but I will at some point). Phone calls, texts, emails, prayers, good vibes………it’s meant the world to me.  It’s been a huge struggle for me, and it’s nice to know that I don’t always have to be the strong one all the time.  I have people in my life who love me, and really do care.  They’ve shown me.

So even though sadness is a part of life, it can be a positive experience in that you learn who you can trust, and who truly cares and will be there for you. They make you realize you aren’t alone. They make it okay to not always be the strong one for everyone else’s sake.  They make it okay to be “weak” sometimes.

Be Kind, Coping, Don't Judge, Invisible Illness, Support, Uncategorized

Invisible Battles

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about….be kind!”  I’ve seen this quote many times, and can still remember the first time I saw it.  It was on another teacher’s desk.  I read it, and it stayed with me.  We all have battles that no one sees.  They may be emotional, personal, physical, or mental.

I saw a couple grumbling about a healthy looking young man parking in a handicapped parking spot, but he had the proper tag allowing him to do so.  I guess his handicap wasn’t apparent.  Maybe he was perfectly healthy, and driving his elderly grandfather’s car, but maybe he wasn’t.

Not all conditions or illnesses are apparent.  Arthritis, lupus, cancer, diabetes, tumors, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, OCD,  hard of hearing….all of these conditions may or may not be apparent, but each one impacts the person’s life each and every day, whether we see it or not.  As someone who has had some scary health problems that haven’t always been visible, I’ve been told to “Get over it,” “You’re not sick,” or my favorite….(from one of my least favorite people)…”Liven up!”  Feeling pain from arthritis in my back, knees, hands, and now my feet has been excruciating at times, and I’ve been dealing with that for most of my life. Having social anxiety is also very difficult (I think we used to just be considered “shy”), but I just have to deal with it.

It’s not for us to decide how someone deals with these conditions.  It’s important to offer support and understanding to anyone who may be struggling.  We don’t walk in their shoes, and don’t get the right to condemn or criticize them for the way they’re coping and managing, or criticize them for where they park.  Each day is different, and there are highs and lows.  I’ve known people who seem perfectly happy and healthy reveal that they suffer from clinical depression or bi-polar.  They’re just really good at concealing it in public, or are under the care of a physician who has found the right treatment for them.

Recently, I’ve been dealing with some serious physical health issues.  A year ago, I also went through something very serious.  Ten years ago, I went through some other health issues.  None of these are/were obvious by looking at me.  I’m also very good about pretending that I’m okay, and making jokes about my conditions.  But sometimes it really is scary.  Sometimes we just need understanding and not judgement.  Sometimes we need a hug.  Sometimes I just really want my mother.  I’m fortunate that I have supportive people in my life, and not ones who judge or criticize me or how I deal with pain or illness.

So if that perfectly healthy looking young man parks in a handicapped parking space, don’t judge.  He may be epileptic, or have a bad back, or maybe had recent surgery. Remember, everyone is fighting a battle that we may not see…..be kind.

Coping, Just Breathe, Uncategorized, Unexpected Life Events

The Unexpected

Unexpected occurrences can leave us feeling happy, excited, frustrated, scared, sad, mad, or maybe even lonely.  There aren’t a lot of true surprises in life anymore.  One of the real surprises in life is when you find out what gender your newborn child will be.  I never wanted to know because I wanted to be surprised.  I’m still glad I waited on that one. Things happen that we don’t expect, though.  Life doesn’t always happen the way we want or expect. That’s okay. They say it’s all about the journey, right?

The last few years, I’ve had some unexpected things happen.  I went back to teaching after a brief hiatus from the profession…..I had a really bad experience with dishonest people in a private school.  I published my first book about the crazy things my students have said and done.  I married my best friend, and found happiness I never thought was meant for me.  I’ve had one financial set back after another, which has left me afraid and questioning why greed and dishonesty seem to pay.  I’ve had a couple of serious health issues that were just the luck of the draw, and not caused by heredity or anything I did wrong. With each situation, I’ve kept focusing on the positive, trying to stay upbeat, and it isn’t always easy.  Surprises. Unexpected events.  Life.

Like I said, it’s all about the journey.  As I’m typing this, my sweet husband is on his way home from spending a few days in New York with his family.  His flight was delayed due to weather, which is causing him to miss his connecting flight, making it a long stressful day for him, not knowing what to expect, or what time he’ll get home.  It happens when you fly, but still unexpected and frustrating.

Being prepared for the unexpected is almost impossible, no matter how much we tell ourselves the opposite.  We are taught to be kind and respectful (most of us), but sometimes that isn’t enough to get along with everyone.  We are taught to be responsible with money (most of us), but things happen to put a kink in our finances, and can put us in desperate situations.  We are taught to take care of our bodies by eating right and exercising, but sometimes things happen that are out of our control.

Dealing with unexpected events can be hard, especially if you feel alone.  We can pray, sing, breathe, meditate, scream, throw things, go for a walk, work out, read, write, cry, etc. Having someone to help you through helps too….a friend or spouse to provide a hug and a shoulder to lean on….a support group….a counselor.  Whatever helps someone cope is okay, as long as it isn’t drugs or alcohol.  Don’t go down that road to cope with your struggles.  That might make things worse.  There isn’t one solution for every unexpected event for every person.  As I’ve said before, our differences make this world a beautiful place, so dealing with personal setbacks, or surprises, isn’t one size fits all.  Patience is essential in every situation.

Surprises.  Unexpected events.  The journey of life.  Hold on.  Breathe.  Be patient.