Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Speaking of books....

Last week on one of our drives down to the clinic we stopped at some yard sales. One was an estate sale with a book room. We could fill a bag for 5.00...we spent a couple hours there and came away with 2 bags filled to the top. My girl found old antique classics, Shakespeare, lots of interesting and unique volumes of information and stories.

Today as I drove her home from the methadone clinic, she read out loud to me from one of her finds, the Kama Sutra. Those poor Indian Hindu women had to be proficient in so much to be considered as "women of society." Very interesting....in many different ways lol....but never, in my wildest imaginings could I make this stuff up! LOL

It's been a really good day today. Untraditional, odd, unexpected....but good, a day I will look back on and laugh about in my old age. I will take what I can get! 
Annette

Monday, May 16, 2016

What does your bookshelf say about you?

I get to go into a lot of people's homes and work in their own personal surroundings. It is a privilege I don't take lightly....they are allowing me, a stranger into their own private space. Usually out of necessity, not want for a new friend.

 I can tell a lot by their surroundings, but their book shelves are like a window into the inner domain of their hearts and minds, what is most important to them of all. Childrearing, gardening, mystery novels, cooking, Bibles, kids books....My newest client is no exception. 

He continues to be resistant to help, and I continue to be present with him, accepting him as he is. He wants me to leave him alone, so he barks out, "Why don't you go for a walk?" "Go find something to do!" What he really means is find something to do that does not include him. LOL 

I tour his house like its a museum and in some ways it is.....it is the remnants of his past life. A huge, robust and powerful existence it must have been. The art work that he, at one point chose, to hang on his walls is meaningful, beautiful. His dishes are made of pottery with matching pottery drinking glasses. Very unique....and that he was drawn to that rather than just some simple unbreakable bachelor-worthy Correlle ware... Says something to me. He cared about his surroundings. He hand picked beautiful things, he could afford to create a tangible quality environment for himself. His clothes are from REI, his underwear aren't just the "buy a bag" Hanes from Walmart. 

And his bookshelves.....show me his brilliant mind. A mind able to put various pieces together and create a whole. A brilliant scientific mind. I used those words with him and he blushed and turned away and said it wasn't true. I commented that if he came to my house, he would find the polar opposite of what is on his shelves. He chuckled. Progress!!! Math, physics, Freud, architecture, politics, nature, but nothing that would show an interest or a faith in something larger than himself. 

As I work with him, I see that his faith was in himself, his own abilities, in his own best thinking.....and now that has crumbled around him and he is left afraid, angry, and frantically trying to rebuild what has been lost, not knowing any other way. A couple days a week I get to go over and be a friendly face, a presence that expects nothing from him, that can step back and allow him to forge onward on his own, or be available if he "barks" for me. Lol 

What would your bookshelf tell me about you? 

If you all came to my house, I have a room filled with books. Even when we lived in our tiny little house, I had books everywhere. The dad built beautiful built in book shelves for me on each side of our wood stove. That little house....so much good living took place there. The kids were little, I homeschooled there, that wood stove was our only heat source and we were never cold in the winter. We used a swamp cooler in the summer and it kept the living room cool. We used fans in the evening...life was simple and good. That house only had a bath tub when we first moved in...I loved it all and didn't want any modernizations....no central heat and air, the bath tub was fine...but I was in the minority. Lol Soon we had a shower. 

Today we have a much larger house, and my books are all wedged in their shelves and stacked on window sills, in the room we call "the big room." I have some children's literature that I just can't part with, because someday I WILL have grand children!! Elsa Beskow was my favorite, Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Loads of recovery books, books that nurture and teach about my faith, daily readers, novels, gardening, how to roof your house and build stone walk way books, how to raise chickens, how to knit, how to parent, how to be married, books about sex, books about dyslexia, famous artists, photographic journals, books about death and dying, how to train your dog, books about essential oils, cooking, hiking, running, diet and exercise, massage...on and on and on I could go. My friends come over and love to go in there and look through everything. Lol You can look around on my book shelves and know my passions immediately. Know who I am, what makes me tick, what is important to me. 

So tell me about your book shelves. What would I find if I could come and see you in your element? Surrounded by the things you love? 

Lord, bless us all with the knowledge of you, exactly where we are at this moment. 
Annette





Thursday, May 12, 2016

Come to me, those who are weary and burdened......

Do any of you read the daily reader, "Jesus Calling?" If not, I suggest you get a copy....as a matter of fact, let's do a giveaway!! My first reader to email me with their address will receive a copy in the mail! I would love to share this with you. 

Yesterday I had a horrible day. I cried literally all day. I looked awful! LOL It was just a bad day, a sad day, and it all had to come out. 

So this morning, I sat down to have my time and I read today's reading....

"Learn to relate to others through My Love rather than yours. Your human love is ever so limited, full of flaws and manipulation. My loving Presence, which always enfolds you, is available to bless others as well as you. Instead of trying harder (the co-dependent mantra...my words) to help people through your own paltry supplies, become aware of My unlimited supply, which is accessible to you continually. Let My Love envelop your outreach to other people. 

Many of My precious children have fallen prey to burnout. A better description of their condition might be "drainout." Countless interactions with needy people have drained them, without their conscious awareness. You are among these weary ones, who are like wounded soldiers needing R & R. Take time to rest in the Love-Light of My Presence. I will gradually restore to you the energy that you have lost over the years." 

"Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and you will find rest for your souls." 
                                                             Matt. 11:28-29

To my mom readers, I know that we all are serving many others in our lives. Our families, friends, other hurting moms, if we have active addiction intertwining through our lives, that is a whole other dynamic that requires so much thought and decision making and work of the heart. Today, I am choosing to pace myself, even in my thoughts...I am choosing to focus on things that are happy and bring me peace. Today is a day of self care as I go about fulfilling my responsibilities. If you are in the position of needing a minute, give that gift to yourself. Best case scenario would be before you become a sobbing mess. Be still. 

Much love and prayers.....
Annette

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Blessings in the mix

I am sitting here and have so many little inconsequentials that I want to write about... I'm just going to make a list. I have so much I want to do today but here I sit. I need to make a list of those things too.

My brother's cremation: Anyone who has a child with long term addiction in their lives, knows the affect on your finances. I have one child in college, one getting married, and one addicted that we are paying for therapy and a daily 120 mile round trip commute to a methadone clinic. So adding in a cremation wasn't part of our financial plan, BUT I also felt that it was something I had to do for him. So I did what any red blooded American does....I put it on a credit card! What has transpired has convinced me of God being my provider....what a relief to know that there is a bigger picture than just my own best thinking and hard work.  It was confirmation that I definitely had done the right thing by giving my brother the dignity of a cremation and receiving his ashes back to my house to be scattered in a beautiful place. Some family members were unwilling to contribute, but the ones who did....oh my goodness, that meant so so much to me. A dear long time blogger friend (you know who you are Love) generously mailed me a check, an uncle mailed me a generous check, my older brother, a niece, together we are accomplishing something so beautiful, a right thing. Not because my brother "earned" this by all of his contributions to the world, but just because he was a person, broken in many ways, but he deserves to have his body disposed of in death with some sort of care and reverence. He is still a child of God and through many circumstances and many reasons he never was able to live to his potential, but that potential was there in all of its fullness at one time. I am blessed to tears when I look at how this has played out and I am so so very grateful for others in my life who were willing to join with me to do this....not just monetarily, but in spirit and acknowledging his worth as fellow human being. I feel surrounded by support and love and that I am blessed. For that I am so very grateful.

A new client: I have a new client who is an angry man. I walked in to his beautiful gigantic home and was met with an ice cold "hello," with his back to me! He wouldn't turn and look at me! I walked up and touched his back and introduced myself....."Yeah, hi,  ____ will be here in a minute. Go look around the house." I am used to working for people who are happy to see me! LOL My first reaction was "this is not going to work. I don't have the emotional resources to be disliked right now." I walked around his house wondering what I was going to do....I saw evidence of a huge vibrant life, beautiful and obviously carefully picked watercolor paintings hanging every where, cat boxes that were clean and a collection of cat food sat on the counter, an upstairs office with a gorgeous slate fireplace in front of the desk and a beautiful view of his vineyard out the wall sized windows.... Who is this person?! What kind of work does he do? He obviously has a sensitive side....those water colors show that. Anyone drawn to that sort of beauty has a heart that feels something. "God, do you have something for me to do here? If so show me what and give me the grace to do it."
Eventually his friend who hired me came and we talked and talked....I loved her! She told me his story, which I obviously can't share here, but he has been a powerful man whose many very serious health conditions stopped him in his tracks. He refuses to stop working so he sits at his computer typing away....being so angry and so frustrated. He is relegated to the main floor of his house because he can't do the stairs anymore. He doesn't want help, he wants to just do his life and be who he is used to being, god damn it! I had a renewed mission....to become his friend. To be sensitive to his desire to do as much as possible for himself. His life is dwindling and he is enraged at the process.
The wedding: I have a feeling this is going to be a case of the country mouse and the city mouse. You know who is who I am sure. LOL We have four kids and we are used to being "do it ourselves" sort of people. Do you see where this is going? I volunteered to cover the flowers and the rehearsal dinner...
I am working with my florist friend who is a flowery genius thank the Lord! This is the dad working on the wood rounds that will be the center pieces. We had to have 5 trees taken down due to the bark beetle attacking them during the drought. So we cut our own rounds and treated them with Pentracryl to avoid cracking and drying too quickly, sanding, and then a coat of clear varnish. Then once this wedding of the century is finished, I am saving them because I have a feeling Molly is going to be getting married within the next 18 months.
More than enough so I can pick and choose.
Hopefully we can create THIS!
The succulents we are propagating for the favors.
                                                                                                                                                                                                       We will make 150 of these little wooden boxes. My reclaimed wood friend is giving me the wood.
The mother of the groom dress...its too small but I loved it so I am starting my diet and my upper arm workouts tomorrow! 


 Mothers Day: I miss my mom today. Happy mothers day to all of my readers who are mommas. Some of the most courageous, loving, and faithful women I could ever hope to know. Bless each of you where ever you are at in your journey. Know most of all that you are never alone.

Much love and ongoing prayers.....
Annette





Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Every Life Matters

The disease of addiction creates a subculture of people, a group that is judged and deemed unworthy of care. We see this message in the media, in emergency rooms, in our neighborhoods, in politics, within our legal system, sometimes within our own families. No one wants "the druggies" "the losers" "the tweakers" "the junkies" around. Their words are not trusted....and sometimes rightfully so, but many many times, they believe every word they are saying at that moment. They have the best of intentions to carry out their promises of change.

I remember being at a big AA conference and a woman shared her story. She gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, who she loved with everything inside of her. She didn't know she could ever feel such love. Her heart told her that he was the best thing she had ever done. However her disease was alive and well and soon got her into some trouble. She had to serve some time in prison and her mom took care of the beautiful child for her. When she got out, the boy was 3 and she couldn't wait to get on the bus and head home to see him. She had every intention of making it home to her child....until she didn't. 

As she travelled toward that sweet little person and her family who was waiting for her to arrive, she had the idea that it had been a long time since she had been out and had any freedom to make her own choices. "Just one drink won't hurt anything. This is such a long trip." 

That one drink led to all sorts of events that I won't list here.... But she asked, "You know when I saw my son again? He was 11." She missed the majority of his childhood. This boy mattered to her, probably more than anything else in her life....but her disease was stronger, louder, than even her mother's heart could fight against. Every day she promised herself that it would be her last day drinking. That she would head home to that precious child of hers. It took her 8 years to finally make it home. 

This week I read through years of private message conversations on Facebook with my brother and the constant theme was "I'm really trying this time. I'm not giving up. This time will be it." Every time he told me that, he believed it. Until his demons began calling his name. He had every intention of building a life for himself, having a job, a family....until he got too tired of trying. 

I had a wonderful conversation with my girl today... The culmination of it was that I was able to tell her that when I see her slipping backwards, I know it's because she is being pulled, compelled....not because she doesn't care, or is just choosing today to pick up, not because she is saying, "F- them!" Not because she **doesn't want to be off of drugs.** Rather it is because she is so stuck. Addiction is not fun at this point, It is not about partying and friends. At all. It is about surviving until you can find the way and the strength to get well. It is part of the spiritual malady of addiction, the compulsion to soothe and numb herself against what gnaws at her constantly, the sheer terror at letting go and walking through the uncomfortable feelings. I could tell her today, that by the grace of God, I'm not mad anymore when I see that playing out. That I can let her go to walk out whatever she has to but that I am always open to trying again. Each day is a new start. It's never too late. 

Recently I read an article talking about how Minnesota lawmakers approved nearly $300,000 to train and equip first responders with Narcan.....but the money hasn't been spent. While young people are dying of heroin overdoses, they are withholding the money that was delegated to provide the antidote to what is a modern day plague. Why? Because these kids got themselves into this?  They "chose" to pick up? Because as their disease progresses, they behave in sometimes awful and dangerous ways and they don't deserve to be saved? Because statistically the odds of recovery are so little, so why try? Tell their mother that. Because every single substance abusing human being is someone's son or daughter who was born surrounded by hopes and dreams that have been derailed in the most unexpected of ways...sometimes just for awhile, and sadly, sometimes forever. As a society we are obligated to extend a hand and be kind to the least of those among us. To let them know that they are seen beyond their disease.

For today, by God's grace, I choose to live in compassion for those who are suffering from the chains of this malady.
Annette




Friday, April 29, 2016

Grief

The Weight of Grief
On Monday Molly and I went to the city to gather my brother's things and meet with the medical examiner. While this was not totally unexpected, the deep sadness, the feelings of guilt for not doing enough (which is my usual place I go to...I should have done more) the memories of our troubled childhood that this has triggered...has touched something so deep inside of me, at my core, and totally taken me by surprise.

When we arrived at the building that he had lived in, a fellow resident met us on the street at the locked door and asked if we were Mark's family.

 "Yes."

"Oh Mannnnn! I was in _____ House with Mark! I have a picture of us back then. I wanted to get a copy made for you, but I didn't know you would be here today!" Just the gesture, the thought, meant so much to me.

He shook our hands and showed us the picture and I took a picture of it with my phone. He went on to tell me some stories and how they were friends and he was sorry that he was gone. "I tried to watch out for him, but I couldn't be with him 24/7." I thanked him for being his friend.

I realized that Mark had a community here. This was his world.

When we went into his room... there was evidence everywhere that he WANTED to be healthy. That he was trying. Positive affirmations written out in his handwriting hung, taped with medical tape, above his bed, "10 things I like about myself" with a list of 10 things that all were true. A devotional I had sent to him sat, well-read on his coffee table. The big book of AA, Living Sober, a bible, all sat next to it.

Molly found a notebook and said, "Mom, I think you will want this."

It had his goals, lists of pros and cons for certain behaviors, rewording things from negative self-talk to positive, contracts that he and his social worker both signed, promising to not use substances, to seek help immediately if he had any ideas of harming himself. He talked about the people he connected with, who were helpful to him. There were dark thoughts too, paranoid, afraid. Which was very common for him. He spent YEARS trying. Trying to be ok, trying to not mess up, trying to not be alone, trying to find his spot.....and he finally just became too tired to keep trying.

I took all of his tools that he was implementing, his big book, his bible, his notebook, his positive affirmations, his prayers and a picture of Jesus that he had hanging on his wall and I brought them home with me.

Sadly, there was some question if we should just let him be cremated as an indigent person and be thrown into the bay with no family present.

 I couldn't do it. It felt like that was the last act of tossing him aside. Thankfully, gratefully, a couple family members were willing to pitch in to help with that expense....the rest were silent. I mentioned that its only the grace of God that it wasn't us who was as sick as he was. Bless the dad's heart.....when I told him my plan of cremating him, his response, without hesitation, was "Of course, whatever you need to do." My sweet kind generous husband, always backing me up and supporting me to do what is important to me. "We will figure it out" has become his mantra.

Our girl has brought us so in touch with our own brokenness and enabled us to embrace what makes us imperfect. My goal for so long was to be perfect. To present a picture of perfection. That has been stripped away from me. From our family... and we are better people because of it. I am thankful for the lessons we have learned and who we have become. Brokenness, messy life, imperfection, being just "good enough," doesn't scare us anymore.

I am so sad. It just has to run its course and I will come out on the other side eventually.  I am so glad I went to see where he was living and met his friends and the staff. I regret so much not making more time to have done that sooner. I spoke with my girl's therapist today. I asked him if he would see me just once so I could talk about all of this. When I told him how guilty I felt, he said, "You did the best you could for your brother and that was good enough." It was the perfect thing to say. Its exactly what I would tell someone in this position. "You did the best you could for the circumstances, and that is enough."

Today my dear friend, a momma of a little 7 year old "wild girl" thanked me for "getting" her baby. I thought of how we all need to be gotten. We all need to have that experience of being totally understood, heard, accepted and gotten. Hopefully we get to live in that place. I don't think my brother ever did and that is part of my sadness. I pray that today he is there....resting in the knowledge that he is just fine now. Perfectly loved and accepted.

Annette

Friday, April 22, 2016

My brother....





I have written about my younger brother here a few times. He was my mom's "my girl." I spent years being mad, and jealous, and telling my mom she had to stop "enabling" him, that she was only contributing to his dysfunction, that she had to let him go to figure out how to be an adult.

Then I began my own journey and I so regretted all of those words. I had been like someone who doesn't have kids, telling a new mom how to parent. I began to understand on the deepest and most painful level how difficult, and how searing that letting go could be.

My brother lived in San Francisco for many years. I have to say, if one is mentally ill, addicted, and unable to care for one's self, San Francisco is the place to be. He was well taken care of there despite his many many physical, behavioral, and mental issues. His support team liked him. Each person that I have talked to has said something to the effect of....."yeahhhh, he had his issues, but he sure was a nice guy." And every time they say that I cry.

Early Wednesday morning I got "the call." The medical examiner had found my number in his things. I was always his emergency contact after our parents died... He was gone. Had taken his own life the day before. I wasn't shocked, but I was. He had made multiple attempts through the years but then would put the brakes on. "Nahhh, not today."

I am shocked at how deeply sad I am at his passing. I have thought over the last few days so much of our childhood. Our troubled parents and their fighting and how my brother would get so nervous. His little blue eyes would twitch and blink hard, he would nervously lick his lips until they were raw, and he would bounce off the walls and spin and be hard to get to settle down. I remember when we were little and shared a room and he would have bad dreams. He would get up and run to the wall, grab a stuffed toy or his blanket and scrub the wall and you couldn't convince him that nothing was there. I remember my mom trying to get him to give up his pacifier. I remember in kindergarten him being labeled hyperactive and then put on Ritalin. If they only knew the stress we both lived with.

My mom, bless her heart never gave up on him. She would say, "He's sick." She understood on a deep intrinsic level some of the struggles he faced. She had everyone and anyone praying for him. She loved him unconditionally and eventually she learned how to do that without compromising her own well being.

My favorite story and memory of my brother is when my mom was dying. We were getting so close to the end and all of my mom's kids had contacted her and said their good-byes. All the loose ends were tied up, forgiveness granted and received, it was a beautiful peaceful time....except that my brother had gone MIA and I had no way of finding him. Finally, my mom had been laying in a coma like state for the past 10 days. No food intake, and only small drops of water from a sponge that I would swab her mouth with. The nurse asked me what I thought she was hanging on for....I told her that I couldn't find my youngest brother.

And then he called. I told him I would put him on speaker phone and hold the phone up for her to hear his voice. I asked him to tell her he was ok....whether it was true or not didn't matter at this point.  What happened next will forever be how I choose to remember him. In a bold strong voice he said, "Mom, I'm ok! I'm doing just fine! You don't have to worry about me anymore. You can go on now and be in peace. I'm alright and I love so much."

She died 6 hours later. She had waited to hear from her youngest child. Her lost sheep. She had to know that he was ok before she could let go.

Later when I called to tell him that she had gone, I said, "She waited for you. You mattered and you were the one who could set her free and you did, in the most beautiful, selfless way. You mattered!"

Rest in peace Mark. I pray that mom and Jesus were standing waiting to welcome you in, bathing you in the grace and compassion that you so desperately needed.

Mark Taber
Sept. 15. 1966 - April 19, 2016