Archive | March 2010

The Gift of Being Happy

Momentum is a powerful thing.  Writing yesterday’s post was enough to get the ball rolling–I had a good cry and an even better talk with my parents.  I’m feeling much better, and, at the moment, am even probably going to go to the Easter Party.

I was thinking about the people I know who always seem to be happy, and I wonder if they realize what a blessing that is.  I’m not naive enough to think that their lives are free of pain–in fact, they seem to have gone through some of the worst trials–everything from abuse to a brain tumor, to losing everything they own, building a life again, then losing it all again and more.  And I know that their happiness isn’t a 24/7 thing–I once saw one woman I would place in this group break down into tears when talking about her first marriage–her husband had been abusive to her, and she only found the courage to leave after he started hurting her kids too.  This messed up her eldest daughter to the point where she’s in worse shape than I am, Michelle (not her real name) would get misty eyed whenever she would talk about Robin (also not her real name),  but within the hour she would be sunshine and smiles again.

As I was thinking about happiness as a blessing, I had a realization.  Happiness really is a gift of the spirit, even if it is not one specifically mentioned in scripture.

This led me to think about my situation in a new light.  Depression isn’t so much a trial I have to face, as happiness is a gift of the spirit that I wasn’t blessed with.  It may seem like the same thing, but in reality, it turns everything on its head.

I know that the only true path to happiness is though the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I taught on my mission that the plan (I kinda feel like I should have capitalized that; The Plan) our Heavenly has outlined for us is called the Plan of Happiness. I also know that if we seek after spiritual gifts, that we will receive them as the Lord sees fit.

I think it’s easier to seek to gain something, than to seek to be rid of something.  And maybe the serotonin receptors in my brain will never work correctly, and I’ll always have a hard time feeling joy that others feel in the same situations, but I have faith in the Lord that if I do what I should, and seek after the spiritual gift of happiness, that I can achieve it.

The birds are singing, the sun is shining (somewhere), it’s warmer than it’s been so far this year, so why aren’t I happy?

Even before I changed medications, it was rare for me to have more than one down day in a row.  The medication change came because I was having at least one day a week where I was uber-depressed, and my resting state wasn’t as high as I wanted it to be.

Okay, I just used a lot of my own personal code words in that paragraph, let me try that again.  Or better yet, just explain.  Down day is a day where I’m noticeably more depressed than normal.  Resting state is my normal emotional level.  When I said it wasn’t as high as I wanted it to be, it means that even with the help of the antidepressants, I was crying myself to sleep every night.  It got to the point where the side effects were no longer worth the benefits I was getting from the pills.

Up ’til now things have been good on the Lexepro.  I do still have down periods, but they usually last only a few hours.  That’s why the fact that I’ve been in a funk since Sunday afternoon has thrown me for a bit of a loop.

I guess “apathy” might be a better word than funk.  I’m just not wanting to do anything.  I’m not particularly sad, but I’m not happy, either.  I’m doing the things that normally help in these situations to no avail.  And I don’t even care enough to…care.

One of the problems might be the big family Easter party this weekend, this time with the non-communicative side of the family.  I love them, and I enjoy spending time with them–just not when they’re all together in a single house.  We need to meet at a park.  Or a campground.  Somewhere where we can all spread out and find our own little hidey-holes.

I especially hate these parties when they happen to be over conference weekend.  Family, even my immediate family, has a way of distracting from listening to the messages from the prophet and apostles.

Right now, I’m trying to figure out if I can get away with not going to the party.  If it wasn’t at my parent’s house, I wouldn’t go.

We’ll see.  If I go in the state I’m in right now, I wouldn’t be fit company.  If I don’t go, Mom might be mad to lose the extra help.  It might all depend on Institute tonight.

Lessons From the Flower Pot

Today (yesterday, I suppose, it’ll be after midnight by the time I get this post finished) was a rough day.  I can’t even really say why.  It was warm enough that I’ve still got a window open and the furnace turned off, the dogs have been behaving, and frankly, I’ve done everything right.  Today should have been a good day, it just didn’t turn out that way.

I discovered something today (er, yesterday) that should have put me over the moon.

A while back, I made the mistake of wandering through the garden section at Wal-Mart, and was dreaming over the seeds and bulbs and gardening tools.  I found some lily of the valley rhizomes; five in a pack for white, two in a pack for pink, and, despite my bad luck with growing bulbs from Wallyworld in the past, I bought some.  Pink–because I’ve never seen pink lily of the valley, and the pot that I put them in isn’t big enough for five rhizomes.

This was about the time that I sowed the clover for the first time, and I’ve been sure to keep the lilies in a place where they won’t be affected by frost.  I haven’t really thought much about them, but I have watered them when I’ve watered my clover and the blueberry bush.  Today (er, yesterday), I noticed a couple of teeny tiny sprouts pushing their way out of the dirt.  Right now, if I didn’t know they were lily of the valley, I’d just be able to identify them as a bulb plant, but not the species.  Again, I’m putting a lot of faith in myself that I’ll be able to keep these baby plants alive until adulthood, and on through next year.

I was thinking about my little patio garden, and how incongruous gardening is in this modern world.  My lilies, for example.  They’ve probably been growing since the day I planted them, but I couldn’t see it happening, so I assumed it wasn’t.

I thought about how things happen below the surface.  We live in a world of progress bars and instant gratification.  It would be nice if plants came with such things, but, unfortunately, we have to take it on faith that, for instance, the Wal-Mart plants will grow and thrive.

Because I do stuff like this I compared it to my own life.  Just because I can’t see progress in the things I have no control over, doesn’t mean that progress hasn’t been made.  Roots need to get established before a plant pokes its head out of the ground.  They need strength before they face the world of heat and cold and dog pee.

It’s hard for me to remember that life very rarely (okay, practically never) runs on the timeline that I would like.  Patience has never been one of my strong suites, and has been one of the constant lessons in my life.

Of course, I realize this analogy completely falls apart if I don’t manage to grow my lilies into adulthood…

Arachnophobes, beware.

Blame it on my father.

I recently freaked out quite a few of my Facebook friends by admitting that I find certain spiders cute–mostly jumping spiders.

I understand the aversion that most people have to spiders–they look alien, there eating habits are not to be observed by the squeamish, and, some of them bite, with painful and possibly deadly results.

Growing up in the middle of nowhere, nature was an effective classroom for Sis and me.  My dad would find spiders and snakes and lizards and show them to us, and teach us about them.  I’ve never seen Dad willingly kill a spider, he’ll catch them–bare handed, mind you, and gently take them outside.

Frankly, I’d rather have spiders in my home than insects.

Overcoming fear is always a good thing, right?  I’d suggest to any readers I might not have yet scared off to learn what the venomous spiders in your area look like, then start exploring the world of miniature.

And remember, spiders, in general, aren’t interested in attacking humans.  We are much too big to eat, so any bites or attacks come because the spider feels threatened.

Okay, the preview function has shown that I have rambled enough that any pictures now posted won’t show up when people open up “The Storyteller Chronicles”, so here are some of my favorite local spiders.

A quick thanks to Amazing Nature, Arachnids of Utah and Wild Utah Spiders for providing most of the pictures.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t find images of my two very favorite spiders, a yellow orb weaver that is not only beautiful, but weaves a beautiful web, and the cute little black and white jumping spider that I’ve only ever seen around my parent’s house.  Anyway, on to the pictures:

This picture, I think, single-handedly proves that spiders can be beautiful.  It’s a goldenrod crab spider, waiting inside a flower (Sis, that’s your cue to tell me what that flower is) for a tasty insect.

Goldenrod crab spiders are amazing, because they can change color.  Here’s the same type of spider in its yellow form:

I love how the red/orange stripe just pops on both spiders.

Okay, on to the jumpers.

Who doesn’t love these?  Besides having an adorable face, they are amazing to watch, and, if you are lucky enough, quite fun to play with.

There eyes fascinate me.  I think the eyes are what draw me to spiders.  The way they see the world is so different from the way we do–but very effectively, too.  If you’ve ever seen a jumping spider skitter and jump in reaction to stimuli from any direction, you understand what I mean.

This is another jumping spider, but the woman who took this picture didn’t know what kind.  It’s a juvenile, proving that even spiders have cute kids.  Here’s another view:

Those rust-colored markings are just gorgeous!

Orb weaver spiders are another showcase for mother nature’s beautiful colors.  This particular beauty was found in Riverton, Utah.  Orb weavers are responsible for the classic circular spiderwebs.  Next time you see one,  I suggest trying to find the architect.  Chances are, you won’t be disappointedOkay, so the cat-faced spider isn’t one that I would consider especially beautiful, but take a look at the markings on her abdomen.  There’s a smiley face!  How can you not love a creature that walks around with a smiley face?

This last one is a neoscona, a spotted orb weaver.  Look at the patterns on her back!  Carol Davis, who took this picture, thought it looked like a Persian rug.  If a four-legged creature had such markings, fashionable ladies throughout the centuries would be wearing the skin.

So have I convinced you not to run away screaming the next time you see a spider?  Or smash it, or flush it down the toilet?

Well, that’s okay too.  Just take another look, and be aware that there is beauty to be found even in the creepy-crawly things of life.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go read Charlotte’s Web again.

Confessions, and a letter from PostSecret.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I attempted to kill myself.  Honestly, that’s all I’m ever going to say about it.  I’ve only verbally told a handful of people, and it feels strange to be putting this out where the whole world can see it.  Suicide in western culture is a shameful secret, one we keep from ourselves.

Off and on, since then, I’ve purposely put myself in danger, half hoping that something would happen to me.  I once explained it to a therapist by saying “I’m not going to step in front of a bus, but I’m going to take my time getting out of the way if I see a bus coming.”

PostSecret today featured a very touching letter and response.  I would like to share with everybody.

Suicide prevention is a cause that is near and dear to my heart.  Depression is a painful disease, but it shouldn’t be a fatal one.  Frank is, of course, Frank Warren, of PostSecret.com

—–Letter—–

Dear Frank

I thought about sending a postcard but wanted to share a story without anonymity. I’m a senior at Cornell University and at your PostSecret Event here two years ago, I shared the following secret: “My main motivation for applying to the PhD program in Clinical Psychology was to honor the memory of my three cousins who took their lives by acquiring the training to help alleviate the despair of others.”

Recently I received an offer of admission to the USUHS in Bethesda, Maryland where I will be joining the Suicide Behavior and Prevention Laboratory. As soon as I received that offer, I remembered the secret I shared with the audience that night and how deeply meaningful it will be to follow through.

It makes me smile to know I’ll be moving so close to where all the secrets are sent and being only a few miles away from someone breaking down barriers in the mental health field in a way science has yet to discover.

—–Response—–

I still have good memories of the Cornell PostSecret Event in 2008. And being a basketball fan I enjoyed watching Cornell’s team go deep in the NCAAs last week. But I’ve also been distressed to see the lopsided media coverage of student basketball compared to the half dozen student suicides at Cornell this year.

According to Yahoo, 7,573 news stories were written about Cornell Basketball in the past 30 days. During that same period, only 275 stories were written about the six Cornell students who took their own lives.

Suicide is a secret that we collectively keep from ourselves. But if we can find the courage to tell the painful stories, together, we can take the actions that will bring help and hope to those of us who suffer in silence.

This year over 1,000 college students will kill themselves. March is the month with the highest rate of suicides. Here are five ways you can fight back today.

1. Support the Pick-Up-The-Phone 30-City Tour with headliner Blue October.

2. Tell your story (or your friend’s story) and learn how Active Minds can help you fight suicide at your school.

3. Join Congressman Kennedy, HopeLine founder Reese Butler, Jamie Tworkowski and myself in Washington DC, April 12th, for the 6th Annual National HopeLine Network Capital Hill Press Conference.

4. Text “Suicide” to 20222 to make a $10.00 donation to HopeLine.

5. Share this message on facebook and Twitter.

“Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t”

I KNOW that every fourth Sunday I have meetings starting at 8am at the church.  I prepared for it, I went to bed early, even though I couldn’t sleep, and Lulu kept me up even more than she usually does.  I showered chose what I was going to wear–including accessories, the night before, and set my alarm for 7am.  I woke up at 8:30.  Crap.  The last five minutes of my first meeting were really good, though.

I talked briefly with my Bishop, and he complemented me on what I had done in my capacity as the Temple Committee Co-Chair, I thanked him, then commented that I should be doing more.   He just smiled at me and said, “Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t.”  Later, he repeated that over the pulpit to the Ward, and added “and you will be happy.”

Happiness tends to be a fleeting thing for me.  For everyone I suppose.  The depression makes happiness harder to come by, and it doesn’t stay as long as it would for a normal person.  But Bishop’s comments made me think: focusing of shortcomings and failures, as well as thinking about what we can’t do is a surefire way to become depressed.

I was feeling anxious during Sacrament Meeting, and would have slipped out to go home, except I had to teach the Temple Prep class in Sunday School.  So I pulled out a piece of paper, and started making a list of the things that I can do. It included things like temple and volunteer work, helping my family, gardening in my little patio garden, and taking care of the dogs.  There wasn’t anything too big or amazing, but it was a nice little exercise.

While I was writing this, a few other things came into my head–writing, and artwork.  My writing has gotten better over the past few months–I always knew I could write, but have felt self-conscious about what I’ve put out.  This blog has helped me overcome some of those feelings, and my writing has improved for it.   My artwork–painting, drawing and photography, might not be that great, but I can do it.  And with practice, those things will get better.

I have an eye for layout and design.  I can create wonderful things that catch people’s eyes, and that they enjoy.  I can cook and bake, I can sing, just not well, I can memorize songs and scripture and poetry.  I can be happy.

Really.

Sleepover Blues

Back before Christmas, G had a sleepover at my house, so his parents could go shopping for Santa without him.  Personally, I thought we had fun–we painted my window with tempera paints, we watched movies, I tried unsuccessfully to build a tent, and Max and Lulu curled up on the bed with G when it was time to go to sleep.

Every once and a while since that time, I’ve asked G if he wanted to do another sleep over at my house.  He always says no.

When Mom was shuttling Uncle Ornery around yesterday, at one point, she dropped Ornery off in Provo, drove up to SLC, picked up G and E, then headed back down to Provo to pick up Ornery up, then went back to SLC.  She asked to borrow my crock pot to get ready for the Easter Party, and, because I knew that she was planning on heading down to Provo anyway, I gave her a key to my house and told her were to find it.

When we got back from the expo, we were talking about what G did that day, and I asked if he stopped to visit Max and Lulu.

“No,” he said.  “But I need to.”

I then asked if he wanted to do another sleepover at my house that night.  The answer was, of course, no.

The Bro-in-Law heard me ask, and he asked G if he ever wanted to do another sleepover at my house.  G looked at his dad, looked at me, then tried to nod and shake his head at the same time.  Further questioning revealed that no, he doesn’t want to have another sleepover.

“Why don’t you want to have a sleep over at Aunt Cori’s?” was the next very sensible question.

“It scary.” was the answer.

Now, here’s the thing.  G loves it when I come and visit, and he loves visiting me, and he’s always begging me to have a sleepover at his house.  My house, though, is a lot noisier than his. When we tried the sleepover, he would almost be asleep, then we’d hear a train, or a loud car, or people talking, or the neighbor’s moving furniture or something that would wake him up, and he would say “What that?”  I’d explain what it was, and he’d almost go back to sleep, only to repeat the process.  It was a pretty long night for both of us.

I told him that I understood that it was scary, sometimes, trying to go to sleep when you aren’t in your own bed, and acknowledged that my house was very noisy, and suggested that we wait until he was older to try a sleepover again.  I asked if he would be brave enough to sleep at my house when he was four.  He thought about it, then gave a definitive “yes”.

Four is going to be a big year for that kid.  Not only will he be brave enough to sleep at my house, but he’s also going to turn into a hiker, at least according to my dad.

I guess that means I have until his birthday in August to plan the most amazing sleepover ever.

Sparkles

My sister has a friend who’s into the whole new-age mystic healing stuff, and she warned Sis, upon hearing that we were going to the Gem Faire, that crystals put off energy, and it could mess with people who aren’t used being around it, so bring chocolate to stay grounded.

I have a hard time believing that, say, lapis lazuli (which is a rock, by the way, not a mineral, and therefore, not a crystal) gives off any energy except to make people say “oohh, pretty blue”–but, after leaving the Expo center, eating chocolate did make me feel better.  Of course, eating chocolate always makes me feel better.

The expo was a bit overwhelming.  There were TONS of people there, to the point that the entire parking lot was full (there was also a scrap-booking exposition, and a golf exposition) and things were pretty crowded.  It also didn’t take long for all the sparkling beads to get to be too much, so we just focused on jewelry that had already been completed, with some side adventures for valuable gemstones.  I loved all the ammonite, but that didn’t really surprise me–I’ve always had a thing for fossils, and I love the idea of fossils as jewelry.  I found a booth selling ammonite rings, and a ring made of–I don’t remember what it’s called, but people think it’s a fossil but it’s not.  It looks very ferney and delicate.  Dad, a little help here?

UPDATE:

Dad remembered the name of the formation–Dendrite, and I was able to search online for dendrite rings.  This isn’t the ring I fell in love with, obviously, the stone is different, but so is the housing, but it’s a close approximation:

The stone of the ring I fell in love with looked like an antique Japanese painting.  Very lovely, and Sis agreed that she could see me wearing it everywhere.

And back to the original post:

I wanted the not-fossil ring, but it cost $45, which I most definitely don’t have.  I did come away with a blue and orange beaded necklace, that’s long enough for a flapper.  I’ve been having fun figuring out different ways to wear it.

I also have to say, Dad, that I was reminding myself of you.  We were looking at a booth that had geodes and obsidian and stuff like that, and I saw some cross sections of stalactites.  I mentioned to Sis that the stalactites bothered me, I didn’t like the idea of cutting up a cave for cheap trinkets. (Okay, so I didn’t notice the price, they could have been very expensive trinkets.  They were pretty–they looked like the inside of a geode.  But still…)

Okay, so on to the news from yesterday.

Uncle Ornery, one of my mom’s brothers (not his real name, obviously) was scheduled to have minor surgery yesterday.  In bout of stupidity that has lasted a couple of years, he lost, among other things, his driver’s license.  So, Mom’s been acting as his personal chauffeur.  She took him to the hospital in the town 50 miles away from where she lives (35 from where he lives), dropped him off, and headed home.  Just as she got home, she got a phone call, basically Ornery saying that they weren’t going to operate, that his white-blood cell count was too high, and the doctor thought it might be leukemia,  “but I’ve got another ride home, so don’t worry about me.”  Ornery had an appointment at the Huntsman Cancer Institute today for more tests.

Long story short, it’s not leukemia, his red-cell count was too high as well.  So, they took some blood, and scheduled another appointment for two weeks.

I guess I should also mention my Grandpa in all of this.  A few years ago, Grandpa began showing all of the symptoms of leukemia, but tests revealed that he was cancer free, month after month, and year after year.  I’ve never heard a name put to what Grandpa has, but his appointments at the Huntsman Cancer Institute have gone from every two weeks to every three months. Also, grandpa’s only sister died of leukemia.  So, there is a genetic predisposition towards the disease.

I don’t really know what’s going to happen.  Because of the stupidity, Uncle Ornery lost his health insurance, his cattle (which were his main source of income) and most of his money.  He’s said that if this gets too expensive to treat, he’s just not going to do it–but he doesn’t want a handout from the government.

I’ve been avoiding the whole health care reform debate, but I think that this discovery is very timely for Uncle Ornery. If a deal to lease his water rights goes through, he’ll be given a considerable income, and now, insurers can’t turn him down for having a pre-existing condition.

Anyway, I don’t want to turn this into a big debate over health care, and even if I mentioned that particular caveat to Ornery, he’d still grumble about how democrats are ruining this country…

Of course, it’s not coincidence that I gave him the code name of Ornery…

At the very least, I should have gotten a cake.

This entry represents the 100th entry for “The Storyteller Chronicles”. *Cue the sound of noisemakers, the balloon drop, and streamer*.  Ahem, right.

Frankly, I’m a little surprised that I stuck with it this long. I guess I forgot how fun it is to write–I knew I had stories to tell, I just didn’t expect them to be my own.

I’ve had a couple of things on my mind–I got some news today about an extended family member that has to potential to be devastating–but we really won’t know anything until at LEAST tomorrow, and my mom is cautioning me to not panic (really?  Does she KNOW her family?)  I’ve wondered if I should talk about that, but I’ve decided to wait until we know more.

I’m also planning on going to the Gem Faire with Sis tomorrow. I know I don’t have any money to spend, but–pretty sparklies!  I thought about waiting to post about that, but I also realize that it has the potential to be a dud–at least as far as writing about it goes.

So, for my 100th post, I’ve decided to balance out the depressed post of this morning by talking about the ways that this blog has helped me, mostly in ways that I never expected.

I knew that blogging would help me go start writing again, and this blog has done that is spades.  My fiction is lacking, but I’m more motivated to work on it. “The Storyteller Chronicles” also helped me to remember that writing is FUN.  Yes, it’s difficult at times, but the joy that comes when I see other people enjoying something that I’ve done, a story that I had to tell, more than makes up for it.

This blog has helped me deal with my depression.  Yes, I started soon after changing anti-depressants, but I don’t think that the medication would have been as effective if I didn’t have an outlet for my feelings.  I try to minimize the uber-depressed posts, but frankly, for my sanity, I need them.

With starting a blog, I also discovered the joys of the blogroll.  This has also helped me to feel more connected–depression is by a wide margin the most prevalent mental illness, but the nature of the beast is to make the sufferer feel utterly alone in the disease.  Logically, ever since I was told about my depression as a teenager, I’ve know that there are millions, if not billions, of other people in the world dealing with the exact same issues that I am, but I still felt alone in my suffering.  This blog has helped me open up about the beast, as well as come into contact with other people also dealing with depression.  The camaraderie I have felt from people I have never met is enormous.

This blog (and Facebook) has also helped me to come out of my shell.  I’ve been communicating thoughts, ideas and opinions that I’ve had for years, but have been too shy to share.  My sister even commented recently that I got a dig on a friend’s husband, who I didn’t even know–something I would have never dreamed of doing a couple of years ago, even if I thought of the joke.

This has spilled over into real life.  I’ve become friendlier, and more outgoing.  Keeping my eye out for stuff to write about has also made me more observant as far as the people around me, I’m more likely to notice, say, a new hairstyle or new clothes on friends and acquaintances, where before I’d be so wrapped up in my misery that such things would pass me by.

I felt like my 100th post kind of snuck up on me, but having reached this milestone, I’m confident that I’ll reach 200, 500, and even more.

Thanks for sticking with me.  I feel pretty confident in saying that the best is yet to come.

I’ve been up for an hour and a half, and I can already tell that this is going to be a terrible day.

The drive home from my parent’s house yesterday was awful–emotionally I mean, traffic and weather were quite good.  But I did have to pull over at one point and just sob.

I wrote something last night, then deleted it because I knew that I was uber-depressed, and I’d feel better in the morning.  Well, I’m not feeling better.

This is definitely the worst funk I’ve been in since starting the Lexapro.  It doesn’t help to know that the cause of this particular depression is my own damn fault.

I’ve been thinking about trials, and love a lot lately.  Not so much romantic love (although, that would be nice) but the love between a parent and a child, or between God and man.  (The English language is woefully lacking words to describe these different kinds of love.)

I realized when I was in the temple the other day that everything that God does is out of love–and yes bad things happen, but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t love us.  Trials help us to grow–and become strong.  In theory, anyway.

If I could be rid of my depression, I would be, but a loving Heavenly Father knows that in learning to live with it, I will become the person that I need to be.  It’s a bit trite to repeat that everything happens for a reason, but I absolutely believe it to be true.

I’m rambling.  I should stop.

Anyway, I know things will turn out.  I know the result will be better than anything I can imagine–both in this life and in the next, but sometimes it’s hard not being able to see the end from the beginning.

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