around here: early November, 2017

What’s going on around here.

NOTE: I want to apologize profusely for not responding to comments. I’m trying to get my sh*t together, and I feel very inarticulate and everything I type in response just sounds either long-winded and rambling or too brief and not thoughtful, so I’m a bit stuck. Please forgive me as I get my thoughts in order.

Internally:
I’m still out of sorts. It’s been two months since Tom’s surgery/Hurricane Irma, which seems impossibly long. I’m still in disbelief we have power- every night I go to bed and just take a minute to enjoy the comfort of it- the air conditioning, doors shut, the lights back on, clean laundry… I don’t know why a week without power felt like several months but it did. I think the stress of the storm and everything that went along with it just got folded into the stress of the diagnosis and the weeks waiting for surgery.

I guess the whole thing was traumatic- it all happened so fast- the diagnosis, and then the surgery, and then the hurricane, my huge argument with my parents, and then recovery from the hurricane. While that was all happening, we had to be in the moment, and just keep up. No time for reflection or to think about how we were feeling. But now we both feel like the wind has been thoroughly knocked out of our sails.

I think the last week or two was the first time I had to sit down and just catch my breath and digest. It’s made me very anxious- mornings are kind of the worst. After 9am I just get all fluttery and feel very unsettled. I don’t know what’s up with that, but I’m trying to get up earlier and sort of “prepare” for it so I don’t feel like the whole morning is wasted by my inability to focus on one thing because I feel like I have so many things going on. I keep trying to force myself to realize that nothing is really that important- nothing needs to be attended to right this minute, but I can’t get  myself to calm down.

I feel like maybe everything is just sort of catching up to me and it’s going to take some time to process it. I feel really exhausted all the time. Tom and I have both had weird sinus stuff since the power came back on- I think it was either from having a week of super humidity and then going back to dry, dry air conditioned air or e sinus infections from the crap that we were breathing after the storm. Neither of us want to go on antibiotics for it, especially if not 100% necessary- normally I don’t have an issue with antibiotics, but I’m still sorting out my stomach issues from the antibiotics I was on last summer  (Spina Bifida makes digestion a slow and difficult process in general, so if you add antibiotics to the mix, it becomes a tricky thing) when I had my foot surgery, and Tom was on heavy duty antibiotics before and after his surgery in September and still dealing with the effects of those, so we’re both kinda not exactly running to the doctor because we have stuffy noses.

I think the best way to describe how I feel is kind of like a giant tree that got knocked down- roots yanked from the ground- then propped back up again. I’m upright, but my roots haven’t started to grab back on to firm ground again. I feel like I could tip again at any moment. I’m not an arborist so I don’t even know if you can prop up a tree that is uprooted, but that’s just how I feel.

I’ve been busy still doing the decluttering, here and there, and dealing with day-to-day stuff. Storm recovery is going to take a long time- we’re still waiting for things like screens and supplies, the whole island is full of storm debris, tarps on room, half destroyed pool cages, etc. That’s good of a good analogy to how a lot of us feel here- still in the midst of recovery, waiting.

I’m not focused on much and I kind of feel like that’s okay- I kind of approach each day as it comes rather than have a grand plan. I usually feel like I’m wasting time if I don’t force myself to move from focused activity to focused activity (which is why I’m so bad at the idea of being “playful”, especially when it comes to art) but lately I don’t feel at all like doing that.
 


Tom:
Blood work and pathology reports from the surgery for his cancer came out good- now he just keeps returning for regular tests and watching. (I’m hesitant to expound on this too much.)

 

Grace:
Grace went back to school about 10 days after we got the power on. The schools here were closed for three weeks, and her school is making up that time in dribs and drabs through the rest of the year.

She’s been *so* busy this year- she went from the lower school to the middle school at her school and it’s like a whole different world. She joined the volleyball team, and now she’s on the soccer team. Also, she got elected Middle School Secretary for the student government and she’s also on the event planning committee. Oh, and she plays trumpet. She’s really into drawing and sketching often. She also has tons of homework. It’s a lot for a 6th grader. But she’s very happy and busy, so that’s what matters.

I’m so happy and relieved she likes her school and the other kids and faculty and staff there. I did *not* like school (especially high school) and it made life miserable, so it’s very important to me that Grace is in a place where she feels safe and encouraged and also challenged, but in the kind of way that makes her want to really invest her time and energy, because she knows she’d getting something out of it and it means something to her.

In the middle of this, she turned 12. I know I say this every year, but I really enjoy this age. I don’t think I was ever a huge baby person- when Grace started toddling around and communicating, it felt like we were connecting so much more. And every year our connection grows. I know some parents warn that you start losing closeness as your kids get into the tween-teen years, but Grace and I are closer than we have ever been. I’m fiercely proud of her and I don’t know how we managed to get so freaking lucky, having her in our lives.

As far as having a kid in their pre-teens, it’s been interesting. She kind went from being a little, sweet, outgoing girlie-girl to a quiet, funny, smart almost-teenager overnight. She started growing out her hair super long, wearing cool glasses, and sort of following her own style.

She hates the idea of gender-specific things (like for instance- when one of the little boys she knows from school wanted to be a unicorn for Halloween and his mom said no because it wan’t masculine enough- that really upset her), won’t wear dresses and skirts, but she also has a feminine thing going on with her super long hair and her affection for things with flowers on them- she wants a pair of Doc Martens that are navy blue, sprinkled with vintage flower clusters. She gave up her dresses for things like bowties and cardigans, and grew her hair way down her back in beautiful braids and twists, so she’s got an interesting mix of feminine and boyish going on, which I think is super cool. She only wears Converse sneakers (unless she’s at Volleyball or Soccer) and does not own a single dress or skirt.

She’s totally repulsed by makeup at the moment and while the idea of dating is on her radar because kids in middle school talk about it she’s also not too concerned over it. they just had their first school dance- which I am “ugh” about because while I know they are that age I think it put’s too much pressure on them to pair off. She’s very open minded when it comes to dating and who should date whom- she doesn’t automatically assume that boys should date girls and vice versa, and I love that she’s growing up in a time where things are changing- when I was her age is was all about BOYS ASK OUT GIRLS and girls tried to look nice so boys might ask them out. Now it’s “look how you want to look and hang out with who you like, no matter who they are and what they look like.”

But as much as she’s against gender-specific stuff, she still loves all things Kawaii and cute, and she spends a lot of time looking at photos of dreamy bedrooms on Pinterest. She loves Dr. Who (Tom and she just finished watching Matt Smith be the doctor and LOVED him- Grace dressed as the 11th doctor for Halloween this year.)  She’s just her own person, and I hope she can continue to embrace and enjoy the things she truly loves as she grows and peer pressure might intensify.

 

In the classroom (well, the online one…):
I completed my first “semester” of coursework at Sravasti Abbey (where I study Buddhism online) in the summer and my next round begins *today* (I’m writing this on Sunday morning, will likely edit and publish it on Monday).

I was really hoping to use the break between courses to re-read all the materials from the first course and re-watch the lectures and really get solid on the information, but that did not happen.

I’ll be honest- I’m feeling a little overwhelmed at the idea of diving into this second course because it’s a lot of intense work- reading, watching classes, lots of writing. But I also know that I really need it right now. The first course was *literally* a life-changer for me, and I learned so much. I just don’t feel like being very organized and systematic about anything besides my daily routine right now. I’m in this place where I’m feeling a little more “okay” about not having a lot of specific goals besides taking care of myself and my family and my stuff around here. Just sort being really felxible with the free time I have, not forcing myself to sit at my desk and work at something.

But I think it will be a good thing- I’m sort of spinning my wheels at the moment. I think just having the responsibility of the course will make me feel a little less aimless.

I have to spend this afternoon getting everything together, making sure I have all the required texts, getting my Moodle account set back up, and looking at the syllabus and getting started.
 

Outside my window:
Over the years I’ve always worked really hard to try and find little distinctions between the seasons here in Southwest Florida and each year it has gotten got more and more difficult since the weather is changing.  The distinctions that used to happen in late September and October are pretty much gone now- no more cooling days and open windows for these months. It breaks my heart because I LOVE fall and we used to have a little tiny autumn here, but I have to face reality- there are only two seasons here, and the only big difference between them is about 5 degrees and how likely it is a hurricane might hit. The rest is pretty much the same all year- hot, humid, and intensely bright.

I will say this- November is typically the last month of Hurricane Season, so I’m very grateful for that. There’s still some stuff going on out there (like a potential tropical storm going into the area near Iceland (!)) and spots to watch, but the risk of a major storm becomes lower the closer and closer we get to the end of the year. If that’s what “autumn” means now- less chance of storm- I will take it. Gladly.

 

In the art studio:
I’m actually art journaling again- I discovered artist Roxanne Coble’s YouTube channel in August and watching her sparked something in me about art that I hadn’t felt since I took Flora Bowley’s painting classes. So I started art journaling again, as well as painting. I’m not doing it routinely, though- some days I make art, some days I just don’t. I’m not making anything in particular, either- just whatever strikes me in the moment.

I’m trying to be really flexible now, focusing on things outside of art (like writing again) and letting myself see where the day takes me. That means some days I just don’t feel like taking out my supplies and doing art. So I don’t force it.

 

Reading…
I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s books (all four Happiness Project and related books) since the Hurricane. During Irma and the power outage, I read “Happiness Porject” and then “Happier at Home”, and then I re-read both of them. I’ve read her books a gajillion times because I love that she combines a bunch of ideas and studies and the psychology and neuroscience of happiness and well-being into a really good narrative, and so you get a BUNCH of information, tips, insight, and advice in a digestible package. And I’ve wanted to do my own Happiness Project for years, but I think something about the storm and my conversion to Buddhism (and my a-ha moments about attachment and expectation) and my desire to do a major declutter made it the exact right time to not just plan for one, or think about doing one, but actually embark on my own Happiness Project. As I work on this, I’ll post more about it.

I’m also reading a review copy of a book called “Educated” by Tara Westover. It’s a memoir about how the author grew up one of many children in an off-the-grid Survivalist Mormon family- completely uneducated, no homeschool, no nothing- and managed to get a PhD at Cambridge. Her life with her family is basically this giant succession of one abusive experience after the other by both her parents and her older brother. Literally every chapter is an example of how her parents or brother either neglected her, forced her to do dangerous things in the name of her father’s scrapyard business (no ten year old should be laying in the bottom of a bulldozer scoop to help pack down the metal scraps, and no pre-teen should be feeding giant scraps of metal in a grinding machine with no guards, especially after her brother does it and has his arm cut down to the bone), or flat out abused her by attacking her physically.  It’s shocking, and it adds to my distaste for zealotry in all its forms, but I think a book like this is important to read because it not only highlights how there are likely many, many children are out there like Tara, suffering under the guise of extreme”family values”, but it also is an example of how human beings can be resourceful and resilient, and break the cycle of abuse and ignorance.

 

Watching:
Stranger Things 2! We finally convinced Grace to give the show a try with the first episode of the first season, and she immediately got hooked. So we watched all of Season 1 (Tom and I watched it when it first came out, and watching it again was well worth the time- when you know the basic story the mysterious bits become clues to a larger whole) and now we’re in the middle of Season 2.

Next we’re thinking about re-watching Lost with Grace to see if maybe she’d enjoy that.


Hoping/looking forward to:
Feeling better and less anxious.

Hope you are doing well. <3

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