Thursday, August 27, 2015

Erin's and Mira's Visit

I've been sitting on these photos for a few weeks, editing only a few at a time and (except for photographing the birth of a baby: eeeeee!!!) using my camera hardly at all, since.

Erin and Mira came to visit. It had been almost two years since we'd seen them. I've blogged about Erin many times before, but she was my roommate at Maryville College (freshman and senior years). We graduated in '96, and of the past nineteen years, we've spent only a year or so living in the same state; yet, honestly, she's my most "everyday" friend. She's one of less than a handful of people to whom I talk on the phone (How did I turn into my dad the phone hater?), and when we get together, we're already caught up.

I tried to be faithful with my camera while Erin and Mira were here, but believe it or not, there are whole adventures missing (most notably our day at Holliday Lake with friends, the morning the kids spent splashing in water at Red Lane Baptist, and our afternoon in downtown Ellicott City).

The day the kids and I picked Erin and Mira up from the airport, we decided to spend some time in Richmond before coming back to the house. We ate at Bottoms Up Pizza and hit the Canal Walk from there. I've spent less time in Richmond, these past fourteen years, than one might guess and had Browns Island and Belle Isle mixed up in my head; thus, we didn't make it to the latter, but the walk was (mostly) great. Lots to see.

I loved that Cade was with us. He's growing up, can stay home alone (obviously), and has his own ideas about what he does and doesn't want to do. Sometimes, when he turns down my adventures, I feel like he's taken a pin to my bubble, like the air's seeping out, a bit.



We spent another day in Richmond while Erin and Mira were here, too, but I didn't take many photos because, well...four very small children in very fancy museums. The photos I did take are mostly terrible because, again...four very small children in very fancy museums. What in the h-e-double matchsticks were we thinking (haha)?!?! I did get this photo of Cade in front of an Art Door. The story behind these doors is pretty cool.


Chiles Peach Orchard and the culminating pie. A friend from grad school (Where are you, Sarah? I miss you!) gave me the crust recipe a million years ago, and while the crust isn't as sweet as I prefer, it really is "no fail."

Breton Pie Crust

Mix 1/2 c. boiling water and 1 c. Crisco til creamy mess. Add 1 egg, 1.5 Tbsp. vinegar, 2 Tbsp. to 1/4 c. sugar, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. baking powder. Whisk together and add 3 c. flour. Mix to form a ball. Refrigerate for an hour. Makes 4 crusts.



Downtown Charlottesville.






Glen Echo Park in Maryland: such a beautiful place and worthy of more exploration in the future, for sure. Its Dentzel Carousel was installed in 1921.



Clemyjontri Park in McLean, Virginia. The carousel isn't at all comparable to the one at Glen Echo, but the playground is two acres of fun. The sun was directly overhead while we were there, and there's very little shade; we didn't linger on the playground long. The girls talked us into walking this poot of a trail before we left, though, and I'm so glad; some of my very favorite photos came from then/there.






The National Harbor. So swanky (everything=totally overpriced). Beautiful, though.




Clark's Eliok Farm (Enchanted Forest). This is one of my favorite places on earth. Poor Erin Quigley (my other college roommate...sophomore and junior years): this was her third year to accompany us, and at this point, she's onto me. She knows it's more about me than the kids. But Mira needed to experience it! And Chip really connected what he saw to the stories, this time!








Coming soon!

Downtown Annapolis.




In and around Erin Quigley's Neighborhood. This first photo is so precious to me. I wish I were in it. This was the first time both Erins and I had been together since I was pregnant with Cade. He's 15.5. I'd seen each of them many times (and they'd seen one another, once, without me), but we hadn't, the three of us, been together for 15.5 years. It was so good.





If you put women and girls together (same house, same vehicle) 24/7 for days (and especially for better than a week), those women and girls are going to start getting on one another's nerves. That's just the way things are. Erin and Mira were definitely ready to fly home to Florida by the time I drove them to BWI, and Erin Quigley was almost certainly ready for peace and quiet in her house in Annapolis. I was ready to go home and veg on my couch for a minute.

And yet.

At the moment of goodbye, I bawled like a baby. I've cried every time I've tried to talk about it, since, too. Who knows when we'll be together again?

But maybe if we lived near one another, we wouldn't value it the way we do. Maybe we would take it for granted. Maybe we wouldn't try so hard to make every moment count. So I'm thankful for it, just the way it is.



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Belated 8th Anniversary Post

Dear Jim,

Sometimes I like to pretend I made perfect sense before I married you (in all your complications, depth, and passion) and before we brought, in less than four years, three babies into the world.

I am (we are) in a pressure cooker to be sure, but I think it's important that I try to remember who and how I was (really was) before you...and between you and you. I am thinking back to our weekend in South Boston. It had been thirteen years since we'd touched and eleven since we'd looked upon one another's faces.

It's been more than eight years, now, since South Boston: long enough that the brightness and sharpness of those few days are gone. But when I try, really try, to remember the truth about them, I remember first and foremost how much I cried.

I remember how, without my asking, you said everything I wanted you to say. I remember how I couldn't handle it: how I left early, telling you I needed time to process it. I remember how I couldn't, didn't believe it.

But it was all true; wasn't it. I am not asking. You are still here.

For eight years, you have lived out what you said in South Boston; still, I do not always believe you love me. This is rarely your fault. We are so far in; still, I am terrified. Terror does not always look like one might expect. This is not a cheap, horror movie. This is our home, and these are our lives and the lives of our babies.

Somewhere in the middle of a bed in the middle of a log cabin in the middle of the woods, there is a woman crying. She is pinned against her sleeping husband by one of his Paul-Bunyan forearms, but it is not what (it is rarely what) one might think. He scratched her back with his chin before he fell asleep, and before that, they talked in the dark as though it were 1994. Or 2007.

I am that woman. Mostly, I am thinking I want to die your wife.

Brandee

Sunday, August 9, 2015

4 Ways I Manage My Emotional Pain

"We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are." -Ana├»s Nin


For a long time, now, I've struggled in blogging for the simple fact that I've felt comfortable neither writing about certain things nor writing around them. Let's just say there's an elephant or two in the room, and--having always been a wide-open sort--I've been at a bit of a loss. For the record, I don't think this is a bad thing, necessarily; in fact, one thing I've learned about myself is that I've failed most all my life in establishing appropriate boundaries with others. I've been entirely too willing to share my innermost thoughts and the intimate details of my life.

Some truths should be guarded...at least until the day a person feels (s)he can express them properly...and deal with any and all consequences of her sharing. I feel sure that someday I will tell my story, but now isn't the time, and here isn't the place.

In the meantime, though, I want to share that 1) I'm very focused, these days, on managing my emotional pain, and 2) I'm experiencing some success. It's a little humbling to admit that, at forty-one, I'm just starting to understand and control some of what ails, but at the same time, I know I've been blessed to spend time with a counselor and in research. Period. (Even if I am in the hot center of my life.)

If you or someone you know is struggling emotionally, please receive the following as what it is: my sharing some of what is working for me in hopes that my hurt won't be wasted.

  • I started taking krill oil. I've never taken prescription medication to help with my emotional pain, so I can't really speak to its effectiveness. I read awhile back, though, that there are studies indicating that fish oil can be as effective for mood stabilization as lithium. Someone close to me advised my buying krill oil over fish oil since krill oil tends to be easier on the digestive system. I talked to a pharmacist about all of it before buying krill oil over the counter. Since I've been taking it, I feel much less weepy and yell-y. At this point, I have my daughters on chewable cod liver oil, too, with the support of our physician assistant. We still have drama, but I'd say it's been cut in half. At least.
  • I started practicing distress tolerance (especially self-soothing) as necessary. When I get really emotionally disregulated (i.e., when I'm having what you might call a panic attack), I don't feel as though I have any control over my emotions. I feel swept away by them. It's as though I'm in over my head and drowning in the middle of the ocean. I've learned, though, that I can ground myself to a certain extent by concentrating on touch. I got through a reading at my grandma's funeral by holding a pressed penny and rubbing my thumb against it. Somehow, rubbing the penny helped ground me in the moment. I am not being swept away. I am standing here on my own two feet.
  • I started reciting Psalm 23 in my mind as necessary. When I'm really out of whack, I don't feel like I can pray any sort of coherent prayer...not that God requires coherency, of course, and I've certainly prayed my share of: "Help." But I've memorized Psalm 23 to the point that I can recite it easily until I've calmed down and can more easily pray.
  • I started having conversations with myself. When I'm in the middle of a full-blown panic attack, these are very limited, but there was a time when I didn't think they were possible at all. I'm learning to ask myself one question, which is: When do you remember feeling this way, before? That question helps more than any other because I can't as easily identify the reason for current emotions as I can identify the reason for past emotions (having had time to process through the past). So, for example, whenever Jim calls "time-out" and I experience panic, I think back to a time from my childhood when I felt the same way and tell myself: That was then, and this is now. They were not Jim. 

    I was feeling really angry the other day (needy, desperate, restless, unsatisfied, angsty, hopeless), but when I tried to explain how I felt to Jim, the best I could come up with was lonely. "If you're lonely," he said, "I don't understand why you're watching tv upstairs by yourself." I didn't know how to respond; I mean, he was right! But when I asked myself, later: When do you remember feeling this way, before?, I zeroed in on the experience of rushing to my aunt's house during lunch break in anticipation of a letter that hadn't arrived. I was nineteen, but the feeling was the same and tied (as much of my emotional disregulation is) to abandonment. Okay, I said to myself, why are you feeling abandoned? And duh: my best friend had flown home a few days before, and I hadn't seen Cade, who was on vacation with his dad, for about eight days. As soon as I understood why I'd been feeling how I'd been feeling, I felt better and (Bonus!) knew the answer to Jim's question: I'd been watching tv in an effort to lose myself in a story other than my own.
This is just scratching the surface of the mirror through which I see and understand myself. I hope, by sharing a little bit of my journey, I'm able to help someone else. It's so frustrating to find oneself in a place of emotional pain without understanding its source, knowing what to do about it, or having the words to describe it. If you're in this place, please feel free to e-mail me (normalgirl@hotmail.com) any time. Know I'm praying for you. And if you're the praying sort, please pray for me, too.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

5 Reasons to Love Roanoke

I think I can safely say that I've driven past Roanoke for more than half my life: all the years I traveled from East Tennessee up to Pennsylvania/Maryland to visit family, all the years I've traveled from Virginia down to Tennessee to visit family. I guess I tend to be in a hurry to get to my people, though, because I'd never explored Roanoke until this summer.

A few weeks ago, at the end of Boone Week, we had to meet my parents in Christiansburg (very near Roanoke), and I talked Jim into a hotel room; the Science Museum of Western Virginia in Roanoke is on our ASTC Passport list, and we'd never been. Then I did my thing and researched the area to figure out what other things we should see while in the area.

Dude. I fell in love with Roanoke so hard that I'm still kind of grieving that I'd never spent time there, before.

Reasons I've found (so far) to love Roanoke:

1) The Roanoke Star (or Mill Mountain Star). According to its sign, it's the world's largest, man-made star at a height of 88.5 feet and weight of 10,000 lbs. And I'm not a landscape photographer by any means, but the overlook is gorgeous.



2) Black Dog Salvage. Jim had watched the tv show; I hadn't. This place is amazing: just so much of...everything. What do you need? A door, a sink, a sign, a knob? A mannequin? A chair to suspend from the ceiling? (I've always wanted one of those, actually.) Check out Black Dog Salvage. Everything's for sale, they say, except the dog.




3) Texas Tavern. Because I'm not gonna lie: I love a cheap hotdog. Especially in an 85-year-old restaurant that's open around the clock and seats only ten people at a time. The man who served us interacted beautifully with the kids--reminded me of Boone's Papaw Rob, actually--and won my heart right way. Having studied up on Texas Tavern's lingo ahead of time, I ordered my hotdog "with." It was outstanding. Jim ordered a burger and was clearly jealous of my hotdog. After eight years of wishing he'd ordered what I ordered, you'd think he'd get a clue. But, no. Bless his heart. Love him so much.




4) Random Kitsch and Tack.



Miniature Graceland. It's seen better days but has an interesting story.

5) The Science Museum of Western Virginia. There's so much to see and do there! The traveling exhibit while we were there was on dinosaurs and fossils. My photos from the Healthy Bodies Gallery aren't so cute, but I was particularly fascinated by the real, human organs on display.







The museum is located in Market Square, which is a building in the center of the most happening part of town. I loved Roanoke; can you tell? We'll be back!