Friday, December 16, 2016

Retirement Interrupted

The possibility of raising a grandchild never occurred to me.  At one point in time, 2 of our three adult kids move back in with us, temporarily (not at the same time). It was a little inconvenient at times, and the stay was longer than anticipated occasionally, but we still could do things we wanted to do.

One of our kids is a single parent and was struggling with their own issues. We tried to help in conventional ways, but it was becoming clear that it wasn’t working, and the help they wanted wasn’t something we were willing to do. When they lost their place to live, we convinced them to let our grandchild live with us until they got back on their feet.

We have had our grandson living with us for 7 months now. We enrolled him in school near us and now I make his lunches, help with homework, and wait for the bus every day with the other moms! (Interesting note: the moms are young enough that I could be their mother! Ha!) He has his own room, and my husband and I are his “parents”.  He really is a great kid, very sweet, does well in school, is making friends, and loves to help around the house.  I feel like I am my grandson’s mom, and I have to remind myself that I am not. My husband still gets to be grandpa, and once in a while I feel bad that I don’t get to be grandma anymore. I have to be the person who guides and directs him, make sure everything gets done, make sure he’s eating well, take care of him when he’s sick, monitor school and homework, and discipline issues are usually my responsibility. The additional twist is we have to deal with the parents, and they don’t like each other, so it can be difficult. So far, we have managed well with only a couple of parental meltdowns.

We had to go through parenting classes at one point when this was starting to become an issue, and I heard a lot of statistics about grandparents raising their grandchildren and why.

·         7.8 million children live in households headed by grandparents or other relatives. These households include those both those where the children's parents may or may not be present.

·         2.7 million children (4%) of all U.S. children are being raised in grandfamilies or kinship care situations.

·         Children placed with relatives make up over a quarter (26%) of all children in the foster care system.

·         For every child being raised in the foster care system, nearly 25 are being raised by grandparents or other relatives outside the system.

·         Of the 65 million grandparents in the United States in 2012, 7 million, or 10 percent, lived with at least one grandchild, according to Coresident Grandparents and Their Grandchildren: 2012, a new report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

·         Two percent of grandparents who lived with a grandchild were age 30 to 39, while the highest percentage was for those age 50 to 59 (34 percent). Those age 80 and over made up only 4 percent.

U.S. Census Bureau. “Households and Families 2010: U.S. (April 2012)."

Gregory C. Smith, a Kent State University researcher reported that the need for grandparents to step in is frequently the result of the grandchild's parents' substance abuse, death, mental illness, child neglect, or military deployment
Our time now is not our own as we have him to consider. I have to find babysitters, I don’t go on my husband’s business trips anymore, and I don’t go on hikes as much as I used to.  But, when I look at our grandson, I am certain we are doing the right thing. He deserves a stable and happy life where he can just be a kid and not deal with too many adult issues.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Grieving a Beloved Pet

Why does it hurt so much to lose a pet? It really does! It's happened to me twice, and I am still amazed by the bond with our pets! 
When Rick and I first got married, he and my son Corey got a dog. He was a 4 year old chocolate lab named Molson, and of course, I was the one who had to take care of him. I always said that having Molson was like having a teenager who wouldn’t listen to me! He ran off all the time, and he thought everything was a “keep away” game!  When you called him, he would look at you with his ears perked up, and wait for you to try to come get him!  He loved the water, as most labs do, but he would jump in and swim to wherever someone was playing AND he would not come back until he wanted to!  If you didn't pay enough attention to him, he would start barking until you did! It was exasperating!

After we had him for about 6 years, he got cancer. We removed tumors hoping for the best, but they kept returning, so, we had to put him down.  The day we took him to the clinic, he seemed so happy! He was licking our faces with his tail wagging when we were hugging him and saying goodbye. I asked if I could be with him during the injection but that vet said he didn’t think it was a good idea. I didn’t question it, I assumed he knew best.

It came as a complete surprise to me how sad I was to lose Molson. He was so aggravating sometimes, but also he was such a sweet dog who just wanted to play! I think it was the image of him with his tail wagging, and licking our faces before we put him down that made it hard.

It took about 4 years before I got another dog. She was a 7 year old female shepherd lab mix who I named Abbey (after Abbey Road by the Beatles, of course). She was so great with our new little grandsons, never nipping or barking at them. She let them crawl all over her until she got tired of it and then she just got up and walked away! Too my amazement, she didn’t like to run, so we started hiking together. 
When she was 10 years or so, she started showing signs of arthritis and soon she couldn’t jump into the back of my car, or negotiate a lot of climbing on our hikes. Then, about 6 months ago, she would simply collapse on a walk. I took her to see the vet, and he thought it was a low blood sugar issue. We changed her diet, but it would still happen occasionally. 
In June, she started having seizures. We found her outside lying on the driveway one morning after we had let her out to go to the bathroom. She didn’t seem aware. The next day, I came home to find her laying in her own poop and vomit. She was breathing, and her eyes were open, but she didn’t move. I was home alone, so I called my dad to come help me get her to the vet, and when he got there to help me she had another big seizure. We got her in my car, and I took her to the animal hospital. She started moaning really loud in the car and continued at the hospital. They gave her something to calm her, and told me all the tests she would need to figure out what was wrong, and that still it may be so advanced, it wouldn’t help her anyway. So, I said no, I wouldn’t put her through that. I decided to put her down.
The vet asked if I wanted to be there during the procedure, and I said yes. They brought her in, she was calm with her eyes closed but breathing short fast breaths. I whispered in her ear that I loved her and would miss her, and she moaned a little bit like she heard me. The vet said once she gave the injection it would happen fast, so let her know when I was ready. After a few minutes, I thought I was ok and while the vet administered the euthanasia I was talking to her and petting her until she stopped breathing.

Note: I had to take a 2 hour break after writing that last paragraph, which is the point of this post, why does the death of a beloved pet affect us so profoundly?

I think it affected me so much is because she was with me all day.  I had her at home with me, she was my shadow! I took her with me everywhere, or if I couldn’t, never left her for more than 5 hours. I talked to her all day, I lay on the floor with her often, took her on walks or hikes, we were always together. After she was gone, every time I looked in the corner where she used to lay, I was sad. I still won’t give her things away.

When one of our family or friends pass away, of course it affects us, even more than our pets as it should be, but I think because others come in to comfort and grieve with us, it helps. When you lose a pet there are some, usually those who have lost a pet, who express sympathy, and that does help, but it's a different kind of support than you get with the loss of family. After Abbey died, I spent the day in bed crying. It took me a week to want to do anything, and here 6 months later, I cry like a baby just remembering her last moments.

One difference that is unique to our pets is we usually have to decide to end their lives. That is tough. We wonder if it’s the right thing. Even when we know it’s the right thing, it still is a decision we have to make but we don’t want to.

I am definitely a “dog person”, so I love the temperament of dogs. All they want to do is be with you, love you, have you love them. They give their love completely and wholeheartedly! It feels like they are the truest friend you have ever had, and that they understand you and will love you forever!

I miss Abbey every day. I may get another dog someday, but not right now. In the meantime, I will just love on everyone else’s dogs!!
Sept 2003 to June 2016
In my heart always.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

No Contact

What does it mean to go “no contact” with someone? I had never heard of it before, and when I did hear about it, I didn’t know how you could do it, especially with someone who you can’t actually get away from. But this year, I implemented this into my life, and it has saved me.

There are very toxic and abusive people in life, maybe you’ve met them, or worked with them. When they are outside of your inner circle of people, you can ignore or avoid them.  But, when they are IN your inner circle, and you can’t avoid them, then life gets very stressful.  You try to deal with them, you avoid confrontation with them, and you even decide to forgive and try to repair your relationship with them, only to have it blow up in your face at the next crisis.

I’ve been doing all of that for 4 years or more.  There was no way to have a normal, or at least a cordial relationship with this person. When things went bad, there were all kinds of accusations,  lots of horrible name calling, and I would start to doubt that I was even a good person, that maybe I WAS this terrible person who was ruining their life.  My stomach hurt all the time and I felt shaky and angry! I wanted to argue and defend myself, but it never helped, it only made it worse. I was being bullied and my character was being assassinated! I felt attacked, constantly!  I tried all kinds of ways to cope, but then, it went too far.  A line was crossed when they started trashing me to my own sister on social media. When she tried to defend me, they threatened her.  I was so angry and upset, I finally had enough! I felt it to my very core that it was time to protect myself by going “no contact” with this person. I wasn’t sure how it would work or if anyone would support me, but it has actually saved me!

What “no contact” means to me is having specific personal boundaries that you do not waver on.  If you waver, then the boundaries are gone. I felt extremely helpless and out of control because I never knew what storm was coming, or when. And then when it did come, it was mean and relentless, and totally unwarranted. So I don't have control of how this person acts, and I don't control if others choose to have a relationship with them, but I do have control of ME!  I have the right to create boundaries to protect my wellbeing. I have the right to not be around someone who is abusive, or to have to pretend to have a normal relationship with this person when we do not. I have the right to choose who I allow to be in my home, and who I allow around my loved ones.

The boundaries I have set for myself are that I will not communicate with them in any way. Not by phone, text, email, social media, and definitely not face to face. I won’t be in their presence, so they’re not allowed to come to my home, they are not allowed to be around my parents or my sister and her family.  If other’s in my family want to see this person, they can, just not around me.

My husband has been extremely supportive of my decision, and has only asked about the firmness of my boundaries a couple of times, and now he realizes what I mean and why.

It has been nearly 6 months since I went “no contact” and I have felt better and more in control of my life. I am less angry, less emotional and because of that I am more objective about the situation, and I am sure that this is right for me.

It’s amazing to me of how much power we give to others, especially bullies. They only hold that power over us because we give it to them. I took my power back, and I don’t care what they say or do anymore. They are free to be as hateful as they want, just not around me!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Waiting Till You’re Good Enough

I started oil painting with my dad maybe 20 years ago, it was a fun activity to do together, and he was my instructor, teaching me about oil painting, mixing color, composition, brush strokes, etc. You think I’d be really good by now, but because for the first 18 years I only painted a few times a month at best, and once every 6 months at worst, I wasn’t really improving.

A few years ago, we did a plein air painting event in Cle Elum, in fact we did it for 3 years in a row.  I actually entered a few paintings in their show at the end.  It was scary, because I didn’t think I was very good, at least not good enough to enter a painting. But, my dad convinced me to enter them, and one year one of my paintings got an award. It gave me a little more confidence.

Then, we attended two of the Plein Air Magazine Conventions where you had the opportunity to watch amazing established artists paint and teach how they approach painting in the studio and plein air. I loved to watch them, just like I loved watching my dad. I started noticing that they all had different approaches, but still had beautiful results. At the first convention, I mostly watched other’s paint. At the 2nd convention, I went out to paint, but got so overwhelmed. So, I packed up my paints and walked around watching other artists. When I got to Thomas Jefferson Kitts, he asked if I was having fun, I said that actually I was overwhelmed and didn’t feel like I was good enough to paint here!  He told me not to look at it that way, just look at it as FUN! If it’s not fun, why do it? I liked that, and I continue to hear him say that in my head, even now.

I decided to take some classes from art instructors. I took 2 from an artist close to me, Michele Usibelli. I love her style, and the color she put in her paintings. I was so insecure, and I was sure I was way out of my league taking classes from her. But, she was so encouraging, and generous with her knowledge, I felt more at ease, and I learned a lot from her.

After that, I decided to paint regularly, at least 4 times a week. I did that for a while, practicing what I learned. I painted with dad off and on too. But, life got in the way, and I slacked off, and my improvement stalled.

I learned from Michele and others that you have to paint at least 500 paintings before you start getting really good. So, at the beginning of this year I made two decisions, I would paint at least 5 days a week, and I would start sharing my paintings online.  The sharing part was hard, but because I did, I actually sold 2 of them!

I was listening to someone who said that art is NOT our baby! As artists, we love to create, so the process of conceiving an idea, composing the painting, and the actual painting of the piece is what we are here for. After the painting is done, we should let it go and move on to the next creation. Think of it like sky diving, you don’t do it because of the landing! You do it because you love the anticipation and the actual action of skydiving! (No, I don’t skydive, and never will!)

They also said you don’t need to wait until you think you’re good enough, because you never will. You create, that’s your job, and you let other’s decide whether they like it or don’t, that’s their job.

Whether someone likes it or not is NOT why you do it, you do it because you are an artist, and you need to create! That IS the reason! So, create, enjoy, have fun, put it out there, and let it go. Then do it all over again!
By the way, you can see my art progress on my Juliart FB page 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Why I Hike Alone

I have lived in Washington State for almost all of my life, and as a kid I may have hiked a handful of times, but I never thought about it as something to really get into, ever!

Then I read Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. She hiked the Pacific Crest Trail alone, and it helped her find herself after some really bad times in her life.  I loved that idea. I decided I wanted to try hiking for exercise and for my inner self. I took my dog, Abbey, and my first hike was Snow Lake at Snoqualmie Pass on September 4th, 2012. I hiked with my 4 year old grandson several times that fall, because I was babysitting him a lot.  But after that fall, I hiked alone.

So, why do I like hiking alone? There are several reasons

1.       I can go where I want- I can do a hard hike or an easy hike depending on my needs that day. I can do a trail with a waterfall, or a view, or a lake, or just a trail through the quiet forest. I don’t have to okay it with other people, I can change my mind at the last minute, and it’s simple and spontaneous. Occasionally, I hike with my dad, and usually I tell him the day before where I want to go, and he can say yes or no. He always says yes though! I use the Washington Trails Association website and phone app to help me choose hikes, it’s the best!

2.       I can go when I want- I am retired, so my time is my own (at least until recently!), and with the Google weather on my phone, I can look at the weather for the week and pick a nice day and just go!

3.       I can go at my own pace- I don’t have to wait for anyone, or keep up with anyone; I can go as slow or fast as I feel like.

4.       I don’t have to visit with anyone- That is the reason why I can do so much thinking; I don’t have to be social. (I am naturally introverted anyway!)

5.       My mood improves- I believe it’s just like a runner’s high, the endorphins kick in, and I am happy! And what is so much better than running, there is always a payoff at the end of the hike, a view, a beautiful alpine lake, a powerful waterfall, something that catches your breath and you have to sit down and take it all in!

6.       I do a lot of problem solving- It is amazing how clearly I think when I am walking, even just around where I live. Maybe it’s the improved circulation to the brain, the oxygen in the lungs, and the endorphins making me smarter (?), but I actually come up with solutions to problems, or I come to a conclusion or decide on one of my life’s truths.  Hiking is therapy to me. I feel it in my brain and my heart when I don’t get to do it!

A lot of people ask me if I am scared, worried about attacks from people or animals, of hurting myself, or getting lost. No, I’m not, because I am extremely careful and I have my strict safety rules.

1.       I only day hike, so I make sure that I am done before dusk.

2.       Someone always knows exactly where I am and how long it should take.

3.       I hike well-travelled trails.

4.       I read WTA’s trip reports and if there are bear or cougar sightings, I pass.

5.       I have actually gotten hurt before, I sprained my ankle on the Annette Lake trail.  But, I still managed to get home before anyone worried about me. I limped down using a walking stick for support and if I couldn’t have done that, there were people on the trail who would have helped me.
      In my mind, the benefits completely outweigh the risks, so I plan to continue.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

I Don't Want to be Perfect, I Want to be Free!

I started this blog in 2009, but I stopped posting because there were people who didn’t like what I wrote. I was asked to take down all the “offending” posts, which I did. I still wrote, but then I would put it away or delete it. It just didn’t feel the same, as though telling the blogosphere connected me in some way.
Today, I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, and she was interviewing a writer who said she did it not because she had a need to be agreed with or liked, but because she just needed to be known! Maybe that’s me too, I want to talk about what I think about, what I go through, why I do things, and put it out there as a place to be completely honest. 
So, today I decided that I will start posting on my blog again! My posts will be about things I do like hiking, oil painting, maybe about daily life things. They will be about my relationships, aging, my revelations, my inspirations, my memories and even my frustrations and regrets.
 But, I am doing it for me!  I don’t care if anyone ever reads it, I don’t care if someone uses what I write against me, I don’t care if people don’t like it, but I DO care about putting it out there, because there is some accountability in that, and there is some freedom in that! 
I don’t want to be perfect, I want to be free.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Depending on Your Forgiveness

I spent 7 years in a relationship with someone who I now identify as a Narcissist.  It followed a definite pattern of ups and downs.  When there were problems, they were BAD.  But, when it was good, it was exciting, fun and seemed to be “just what I needed”.  It ended when it was brought to my attention that he was dangerous, to me and to my son.  It took me a year to get out safely.  There was another year of torment from him until finally he gave up and in the 20 years since, he has disappeared off the face of the earth, as far as I am concerned.

That’s why when I had another encounter with someone who I now identify as a Narcissist, I recognized it.  Unfortunately, it is not someone I can get away from, at least not right now.  He knows that I understand who he really is.  He attacked me (in his favorite way, by texting) for a few years, until finally; I will have nothing to do with him.  Because I won’t respond, has no use for me, and is now attacking the rest of his family.  So, I still have to deal with his abuse, but it’s moved on from me to his own family members now. 

Even though he is absolutely horrible to his family, he still turns on the charm, and tries to be the person they want him to be when he needs something.  If you say no, then look out!  You will be destroyed!  After years of this, his family is finally seeing that and they don’t help him financially anymore, but all of this continues because they still keep trying to help him.  They don’t recognize that they need to cut him off from all “narcissistic supply” and don’t respond to his bad behavior.  I hear comments like, “I know there is a good kid in there” and “He just needs therapy” and “I am afraid he will do something to hurt himself”.  That is frustrating to me, but it is evidently not my business. The complicating factor is there is a young child involved, and he is the only reason I care at all.

I don’t know how long I will have to endure this, but I imagine just until the child is of age, and can’t be used to control us.

What I wish would happen is that his family would sit down with him, talk to him about what they won’t accept from him anymore, tell him what help they are willing to give if he will agree to it, and then be done with him.  They block his texts and emails, (his favorite modes of attack) and only accept phone calls where it has to do with the child.  They are afraid we won’t see the child, but I don’t think that is the case, he still wants us to watch the child when he needs us to.  I understand the fear, but I think it is really wrong for him to use the child to control us, and we are letting it happen.

Anyway, I see no end for at least 8 more years.