Saturday, June 21, 2014

Those Days

Ever have periods of time when it seems you're living entirely at the mercy of Murphy's Laws? If it can go wrong, it does. If it can break, it does... and if it can wreak havoc upon your life, it most certainly will.

That sums up most of the last month or so around here. It may sound a little defeatist but... meh... that's kind of the ruling emotion at the moment.

Even reminding myself emotions often lie doesn't help.

I have a special gift for using thoughts like that as a tool for self-flagellation... "Silly woman, letting emotions get to you! Punishment.. That's what you need." Bah.

One of the issues to rear its ugly head these last few months is, what seems to be, an all out war on my body and mind by PMDD.

Without getting into massive amounts of TMI, PMDD is to PMS what a shark is to a tuna. Not only is everything bigger and nastier, it simply lasts longer... and it really packs one hell of a bite.

I've read about menopause, the perimenopause years and what to expect... But no one mentions that PMS or PMDD symptoms can grow drastically worse in the years leading to true menopause.

In my case, this is pretty unfortunate news. My history of suicidal behavior and self injury during that particular time of month is well documented. It's what led to a diagnosis of premenstrual dysphoric disorder in '03 or so.

When the symptoms of perimenopause became consistent about 3 years ago, I dealt with it as humorously as possible. It's a normal part of life. May as well accept it and look for every possible opportunity to lighten things up.

Ah, Maxine. So many of us relate to you.

The last 3 months have brought with them a 3-4 day period each month where I'm stuck in my room or otherwise isolated and crying while trying to decide if I should have myself committed or research self-hysterectomy. Yeah, that bad.

Now take PMDD, a crazy making issue all its own, and add the physical changes that occur before menopause and suddenly my sanity is delicately balanced on something so sensitive a breath could tip things.

No, wrong analogy... It's like I've stepped on a Bouncing Betty and if I don't stand perfectly still until it's disarmed, I'll be scattered 200 feet in every direction along with any loved one unlucky enough to be close by when it goes.

On the upside, 3 months of watching and paying attention to my body more than writing or the distractions of the Internet has given me some vital information. I can now predict which days are the worst, which days to prepare for or plan to fight migraines and which days to ensure I can focus on self-care so as to minimize the control this currently has on my physical and emotional health.

Interestingly enough... the rash which sent me to the ER in the wee hours 4 weeks ago started again last night. Instead of waiting for it to spread everywhere, I attacked with mass quantities of antihistamines as soon as I recognized the signs and managed to wake up mostly hive free today.

I haven't checked the dates but either my body is overreacting to allergens at a specific time each cycle or I'm more prone to expose myself to possible allergens... I tend to think it is likely the former rather than the latter but will have to add that to the list of things to watch out for.

The net is filled with cute to biting satire about menopause... whether in cartoon, meme or essay form... it always seems to be about Menopause... well here's a reality check: MENOPAUSE ISN'T THE NIGHTMARE! It's the preceding years that kill you... or make you wish they would. Menopause means the hormonal roller coaster from hell is over. You are finally at a stage of life when you're free of the second (and worse) puberty you weren't properly warned about and can get back to living a life not controlled by a monthly cycle.

Every story I've ever heard about "The Change" refers to menopause and not PERImenopause... which is when the actual changes and occasional breaks with sanity occur.

I know I'm not alone... there is myriad evidence others have it as bad or worse than I do right now... a friend mentioned it was during this particular period of life when her mom pulled a knife on her. It's both scary and reassuring to know feeling dangerous is not an abnormal part of the package.


I'm currenly back on the upswing and hoping to make good use of the time, both around the property and the writing.

Yesterday, the kids and I cleared out the largest of the sheds making room for a car, present storage and a full quarter of the space for whatever creative or messy project I might want to do in shade and shelter.

The shed is a huge deal, if for no other reason than having an area where I could spin around with my eyes closed and not slam into something. Clutter and crowding have worn on my patience for months and it's nice to see a little more headway being made.

Usually, I'll get an area cleared only to have it fill up again before another area can be addressed. A frustrating cycle that leads to nightmares of being featured on a Hoarding intervention program.

In addition to the shed, we've made headway on the yard and garden. I'm working on custom orders before adding more items to the Etsy shop.

As much as I cried and beat myself up last week for only growing further behind in life, the evidence doesn't bear that out. We are taking care of things. It is getting better here on the land. The collective and individual dreams of our family are not out of reach and, you know... all that "I'm okay, you're okay" bullshit.

Also, bought a domain name. That Maya Angelou quote about bearing an untold story... it's here in me and in pieces and parts online and off... but it will be told.

But first, a little more decluttering of life... I don't want to have to run hide in a shed for room to breathe.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Ham Hands and Other Excuses

I've spent the better part of 30 minutes searching for an image that captures how it feels using this bluetooth keyboard. This is the best I can come up with: 

Ham hands. That's me.

That's at least part of my excuse for not writing more lately. Resistant to change is another obstacle for me. I've mostly left the family PC to the boys unless there's no other choice. I mean, Charlie bought this 7 in tablet for me so that I would be able to write anytime, anywhere. That was the whole point behind this extravegant, for us, purchase. Yet here I am, still treating it as a slightly larger tweeting and gaming device.

So, as of today I'm resolving to make this my primary writing instrument, no matter how long it takes my old ham hands to grow comfortable with it.

Really though, I feel like Hagrid with a laptop.

Excuses, excuses.

My resolution to move more has been hampered by sleep issues and the inability to wake at a decent hour to walk before the heat sets in. Or so I tell myself.

Honestly, if I wanted to take a walk, I could do so at night. To the end of my street is 1/10th mile so 5 trips to the stop sign and back is a mile... and the people on my road are all lifers who know the Feathers family so I feel safe... at least now the meth house is no longer cooking... so now its a matter of admitting laziness and taking the steps to change.

For someone who loves new experiences, it's kind of astounding how much I resist change. Usually, that's Charlie's MO... or so I tell myself.

After breaking out in hives last week, I'm wary of working on the declutter the property situation... especially that section of porch. My mold fears were confirmed when Charlie went poking around yesterday and came in hacking and wheezing.

Sure, we have the tyvek suits, gloves and masks but that's more layering than my over active hypothalamus can handle during a Carolina summer... or so I tell myself.

My tenancy toward procrastination is the stuff of  legends... or would be if I admitted to it more often. It really should be a legend. I am the Mistress of Avoidant Behavior.

As much as I need to work on it... it's kind of nice to have something with which I'm an expert... right?

Let's face it. I'm only still writing now because there's housework to be done... and my back can't take that today...

Or so I tell myself.

*Also, accidentally wrote this in the other blog, screwed up the cut and paste and am too lazy to go back and fix it... so... yeah.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What's Your Motto?

No, this is not one of the quizzes that have been around for at least the last decade... but which we still somehow take because we're bored or curiosity gets the better of us... (I hope you aren't one of these) or because you take that nonsense seriously.

Mostly, this comes from my own recent ponderings.

Back in the previous era of blogging, I would post different quotes, movie lines and bumper stickers at the bottom of entries. When I had the energy, I'd go out of my way to find things relating to the topic of the writing... By just as often, I'd stick with one thing that fit where I was in my journey. Those quotes, for the most part, have been lost to the ether.

Helen Keller has been a role model of mine since about age 7. Her words are a part of me to this day. I can't pass a quote of hers without comment of my own. She's almost a part of my own identity.

In my teens, I learned about Mother Teresa. I'd heard of her before then, growing up in the Catholic Church, but it was in my teens that I realized so much of what she said spoke directly to my deepest, hidden, vulnerable places. They still do.

This past week saw the passing of Maya Angelou, a tremendously talented, passionate woman and survivor of sexual abuse. I've read her work and admired her from a sort of casual distance over the years... But it wasn't until her passing and the resulting memorial pages everywhere that I realized some of the words I've held at my back these last 15 years or so originated with her.

The above words were a driving force in my recovery. Realizing life was about more than surviving was a powerful revelation.

A variation of these words are part of the many lessons I've tried to impart as a parent... And grandparent.

They're everywhere. Quotes from famous people, passages of scripture, jokes and still, those bumper stickers, posted in fancy fonts on pretty backgrounds on social media everywhere. There are even e-card sites turning tweets into memes using retro pictures... Just without credit to their original authors. (Pet peeve)

For most american high school and college seniors, pages of yearbooks are dedicated to highlighting individual student mottos... I didn't attend a regular highschool. If I did, I'm sure I'd have wanted "Sometimes you just have to say what the fuck" (Risky Business)... Knowing that would never be accepted, I'd have ended up going with a line from Heathers or the ironic advice of a middle school English teacher who once rolled her eyes and told me to "try not to confirm too much".

The words of others, good or bad, can have a tremendous effect on how we live our day to day lives. Too often, those words are negative. Harsh statements spoken long ago which we unconsciously parrot back to ourselves on a daily basis.

Long before entering treatment for DID, I began fighting those old messages with passages of scripture which directly contradicted each individual message. I memorized so much, I reached a point where I could quickly call to mind an argument from the bible to whatever words were swirling in my head at any given moment.

In addition to that arsenal are others... Some, quotes from historical figures and contemporary artists, others from people I know and love.

We used to have a quote of Charlie's done in calligraphy and framed. At some point, the glass in the frame was broken and later, one of the grands colored over it in blue ballpoint pen... But the words are etched in my soul both as a mission and a reminder of why Charlie remains one of my true heroes.

"Each day, we must strive to touch the lives of those around us and, in those moments, enrich the world in which we live."

Yup, he's mine. Be jealous.

More recently, Krys shared with me something Dora told her: "Mommy don't be sad that I grow up. One day Caz and me will be mommies and daddies and you will be too proud to be sad anymore.”

What a poignant and insightful encouragement, because they do grow and it's such a bittersweet joy. These words have already etched their place in my memory.

An oft quoted toddler phrase in this house is something Elena said nearly a year ago when her little kid sixth sense picked up on my stress: " Cawm down. Take a deep breff. It be okay.”

Not a week goes by without Charlie or me saying that to someone we love. It's both a humorous statement and encouragement all in one. Plus, we're just dorky enough to enjoy repeating toddler lisp.

However original we may be, most everyone has at least one phrase they can identify as a personal credo. A guide on the map of our lives...

I've long sought just the right original design for a tattoo to be a testament to The Crew. For a long time, the stages of a Monarch Butterfly's transformation from egg to flying work of art was the imagery I hoped to capture... But in the end, it was a Latin phrase with roots in Corinthians that won out. It's short, simple, something life has taught me is true, and, perhaps most importantly, something I can do myself. Money for a professional tattoo isn't even on my list of priorities in life right now.

Amor vincit omnia 

Love conquers all... Pretty much covers it all for the legacy of The Crew.

And really, when it comes down to it... The Crew and words of Maya Angelou have been at the heart of the ponderings behind this post.

While browsing Facebook memorials to the legendary writer, I came across these words:

To say I burst into tears is a bit of an understatement. It was more the breaking through of grief and regret for speaking up through writing all those years only to allow myself to be silenced before the story had been told. Sadness for all the years in between blogs. Fear that it's a story without a neatly wrapped up ending that no one really wants to hear. Finally understanding the gnawing ache that exists when I'm not telling the story through art, music or written word... And the humbling realization that if I'm doing it for recognition, traditional publication, money, ego or any reason beyond needing to do it for my own peace and wholeness, then my priorities are seriously whack.

Like my own story, still coming in fits and starts in the other blog, this post doesn't have a tidy ending... I know what I need to do but haven't quite sorted how to consistently fit it into this chaotic life...

So, let's have a discussion instead of a tidy one line closing.

What's your motto and why?


“Come to the edge, he said.
We are afraid, they said.
Come to the edge, he said.
They came to the edge,
He pushed them and they flew.
Come to the edge, Life said.
They said: We are afraid.
Come to the edge, Life said.
They came. It pushed them...
And they flew.”

Guilliame Apollinaire 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Unexpected Happy

So, after writing the previous post, I decided to wander the property. There was a pressing weight of failure as I looked around at all the cleared areas nature reclaimed in my absence. 

There was a wave of self-pity for what often seems a one step forward, two steps back life. What if all my hard work comes to naught?

Then I caught sight of one of the wild blueberry bushes I found and marked last spring... Though vines and volunteer maple trees are still fighting for space, I realized one of the bushes has grown nearly 2 feet in the last year. Not only that, but several others were heavy with ripe fruit I honestly didn't expect until next year, if ever.

This deceptively weedy area is home to numerous blueberry bushes and a
native southern magnolia I'm determined to nurture into bloom.

Easily more than the handful I was expecting this season

Plus another heavy with yet to ripen berries

As an additional bonus, the blackberry canes
I refused to mow last year are my height
and heavy laden with weeks more fruit.

Decided not to be greedy today.

So it was, in the midst of a poor me moment, a little evidence it hasn't been in vain. 

It might seem silly to be so thankful... But this is quite literally free, nutritious food. A day of effort last year made room for what will result in gallons of fruit (mostly the blackberries) I can freeze for later use in smoothies and desserts.

A little more effort in the fall and we will likely end up with a regular yearly harvest enough for jams, jellies and dried fruits to last until the next season. I almost forgot all the lunches of fresh plucked mulberries I've has this spring alone... The first year the older trees truly produced enough for more than the birds.

So, lesson learned about my tendency forward self-pity... And tonight I'll have a little celebration of said lesson. 

I'm not simply flailing with nothing worthy to show for the effort. It's an important reminder.

So, do I just eat them as dinner or really splurge by adding their juice to some chilled wine?

Decisions, decisions.

Five Year Plan

There's a joke format going around twitter about 5 year plans.

I've always been a short term planner/fly by the flaming seat of your pants type... Life always seems to fit the John Lennon line about plans so living as much in the moment as possible seems to make sense. Plus, ADD and a general inability to keep track of stuff tends to get in the way too.

But if we want to buy this land (which we've learned won't be available for sale until December) we need a plan. A real plan. Not a grand dream... But something doable. Something we can not only accomplish but which gives those from whom we hope to seek help an understanding we don't want a handout to buy the place so we can then sit on our collective asses.

On the upside, the appraisals have been done and we only need just over $60K

Current view from my rocking chair

The house is situated on the back third of the property. The area behind the shed in the picture is out of control Chinese privet, mulberry and muscadine grapes. Beyond that, between the grove of pine and maple is the marsh/sometimes pond.

Last year I had grand plans to bank the pond (preventing the wet season river in our front yard), dig it deeper, get rid of the overgrowth and cultivate the grapes and older mulberries.

We cleared it... ish and even managed a raised bed vegetable garden in a dozen of the hundreds of old tires littering the place.

But then Charlie got sick and nearly died and by the time he came home, I didn't have the will to fight the land.

I've done some research and learned a pair of goats can clear pretty much everything we need cleared, if we take the step to protect what we want to keep. Their droppings will help fertilize the land and if we build a movable enclosure, in 5 years time, we'd have everything we want cleared.

Adding more chickens and building a coop/run with handles on one side and wheels on the other would give us a rotating garden. Set the coop in the fall and by spring, 10 hens will completely clear, till, fertilize, and rid the ground of most pests. Move the coop to an adjacent location and they'll not only clear another space, I'll have a handy place to toss most garden weeds, which would supplement the chickens diet.

We have a shed once used for detailing cars where we can store pallets we'll collect over the course of the next year (and beyond). Those pallets would be used to build shelter for livestock, the chicken coop (we have wheelbarrow tires already) and movable pasture enclosures. As the goats clear land, we can choose to add landscape plants, garden features, pea gravel paths or permanent pens for a small dairy cow and an alpaca.

Aside from new nails and screws, most of the hardware such as hinges, locks, etc... is already here. Part of Daddy's collection of "stuff".

For the house, there are repairs to make and an extension we'd like to add. The extension would make use of the one garage/shed on the property with both a strong foundation and solid frame. It's a big enough area for 2 studio apartments if we wanted to do that but we need only 1 more bedroom, a handicap accessible bathroom and larger kitchen space. Extending the house to that shed would be perfect.

We'd connect using a wide hallway ramp rather than stairs and that end of the house would be Charlie and my bedroom, bath and hobby areas... Allowing us to renovate the front of the house for Dan and John, whose 5 year plan includes living at home, working, going to school and helping us get a small homestead/sustainable farm off the ground.

The front of the property has room for two small cottages or trailers which go a bit beyond the 5 year plan but would provide a place for friends or kids to visit or live as life may need. Fact is, both boys plan to stay local as they have their sights set on working for a local aerospace company. Their desire to stick close to family is both their safety net and, I'm certain, a genetic trait from generations of clan life in the Tennessee foothills.

Also, they like living where they can shoot a gun, a bow and  arrows , or "try science" without scaring the neighbors.

But back to the present plan...

Looking at the reality of things, Charlie's health isn't great but he does continue to improve. If he has a place to comfortably sit, he can do any number of things to build, repair or design whatever we may need. He can still do home maintenance... His only real limitation is electrical or magnetic fields... But, that chainmail I've been working on? THAT is a functional Faraday cage which would protect him so he can pass on his electrical and welding expertise to the guys and me.

Using scrap metal and welding to sculpt and create functional or fun art is part of my lifelong plan.

As for income, I'm presently working on the back shed to create a workspace for the items I'd like to make for sale. It's also a great space for cleaning and fixing up various vintage items littering the property and hundreds of old bottles we can sell online or at flea market.

Charlie, Dan and John are working part-time for Jesse (Becka's fiance) and their Amazon store. It's not bringing in huge amounts but it's helping and getting better with each month.

There's also the matter of scrap which can still be hauled off and sold. We have a trailer needing minor repairs. That and a hitch for the jeep are all that's needed to enable us to get the tons of scrap out of the way and add to the home reno fund.

We can already live off our present income. If we take a few steps to de-clutter and simplify, we can stretch that further. Chickens, dairy animals and gardens would, in the long run, cut back on our food bills. Learning the art of preserving fresh foods would go even further to cutting our current expenses.

An alpaca, while not a need, is an animal ideal to the area, less expensive to feed and care for than sheep, and a twice yearly shearing wouldn't cost us. Around here, the people with the skill to shear an alpaca do it for a portion of the fleece. As I don't yet have the set up to process and use alpaca fleece, the rest of it can be sold... If we buy a well-bred female, she can be bred, opening the door for a small measure of profitability rather than cost.

And that comprises most of our 5 year plan.

Some areas need greater thought and detail. I need to work to strengthen myself and restore my endurance to be a farmer... But there's little wrong with me that rehab exercises and time outside at work won't help.

It's a doable plan. It's not an unreasonable dream. It's also a plan that would give us greater self-reliance and stability for the future.

It seems like a lot yet seems like so little. But it's a plan we can break down into manageable parts... And, for me, that's a big deal and an even bigger step.

Because "Plans? We don't need no stinking plans!" isn't a realistic life motto.

P.S. If you want to help, here's the link to our Go Fund Me page.