To Everything There is a Season–Part 2

Has it been almost a year since I posted?  Holy Smokes!!  I found Seasons Part 2,  but if you need to get caught up a bit, here’s the link for Seasons Part 1:  http://wp.me/prf6k-eQ  Let me know if the link is messed up or I won’t know to fix it.  I promise it won’t be another year before Part 3 gets posted!  Lol!

May 20, 2011

Have you ever had a recurring dream?  It doesn’t even have to be a nightmare—just some mental illusion that visits you night after night starting and/or ending  the same way with perhaps a few details here and there added or omitted.  Has it woke you up or just caused you to question the meaning behind the embedded symbology?  I have had three recurring dreams in my life.  I remember them vividly.  The first came in my childhood.  It would haunt me each night with images of crossing a bridge in a car only to find that the bridge was out.  The car would drive off the end and begin to plummet.  I woke up shaking for nights and months on end.  I remember trying to turn my pillow over, searching for the cool side.  I would sleep on the other side of my full sized mattress.  I would even sleep at the foot of the bed figuring if I changed my position and thought of something happy, the dream would vanish for good. At the time, I knew nothing of dream analysis or what any of it meant, but I do know to this day it has changed me in a couple ways—I now carry one of those thing-a-ma-bobs in every car that would readily cut through a seatbelt while the other end applies enough pressure to the glass and allowing it to shatter should the vehicle become submerged and render the power windows useless.  The thought of not making it to the surface and ultimately drowning is a very real fear of mine.

I know now that if you dream of a bridge it usually symbolizes a solution to a problem  If it is impassable you need to choose a different path because the one you’re on isn’t giving you positive results.  So, I researched falling dreams.  They are among the most common and tend to symbolize a loss of control (there it is again—CONTROL—something I have issues with).  According to one source, if your dream resembles a fall from some dramatic place, you are “anxious about who you are , where you’re going in life, and what it all means”.  As a young girl, I could see that being a plausible explanation.  This source also goes on to state that falling into water means fearing your passions may get the best of you.  What are passions anyway—just really strong emotions, so when I looked up just water—that;s exactly what it meant, but in various forms.  To dream of a river (which is what my dream back then showed), it was a symbol of emotional communication.  And since rivers flow in one direction or another and sometimes change course—it all seemed somewhat understandable.  In a nutshell, I think I may have been increasingly anxious about crossing into puberty—growing up.  The key to the dream was that I never died.  I always woke up.  Maybe my way of telling myself that this too shall pass, that if you able to keep your wits about you—you’ll manage somehow to make it out of this.

The second recurrence was in my early 20’s when I was pregnant with my first daughter.  I dreamt each night that I was going grocery shopping with my newborn. In the dream, I would place one of those cloth protectors in the shopping cart before letting my baby sit in the front position.  Each time I unwrapped my swaddled child, I would discover I had given birth to a frog.  I would wake up horrified.  I knew then that it was just anxiety about me having a baby, a momentous change in a woman’s life and the worry about all those things mothers worry about—would I be a good mom, would I be able to take care of the child, give it everything it needed, and would I love it even if it wasn’t perfect.  Something that has been tested over and over again in the past three years.

This third dream, though, was unlike the others.  It was rich in color and details.  I could smell the blossoms in the dream!  I could feel the grass beneath my bare feet.  I could hear myself giggling and squealing with delight as well as hear the “voice” which spoke to my childhood image.  I dreamt this dream every single night for 6 months following my mastectomy.  At first, I chalked it up to coincidence.  Then, over time, I told myself that since I was falling asleep wondering if I would dream about it again, I surely had it in my subconscious, and therefore, DID dream about it again.  Each night, though, a new clue would appear in the dream (or, maybe they were always there and I was picking and choosing which detail to focus on that particular night). I spent a great deal of time researching all the elements of this dream and trying to connect the dots.

Picture this…

It’s a beautiful spring day.  There was a slight breeze even though there wasn’t a cloud in the bright blue sky.  The sun is shining bright and warm on a little girl with the face of my youth.

I have long, ash colored hair with traces of bleached white highlights framing my face left over from the very light blonde wisps of my toddler days.  It was tousled with a crown of fly-aways—the kind you get from waking up and immediately running outside to play instead of combing your hair first.

I was wearing a pale, lemon-yellow sundress.  It had a gingham checked pattern that was rouched in through the bodice.  My skin was already sunkissed a bit and a faint tan line over the shoulders could be detected if you looked hard enough.

I was running barefooted through the grass in between two endless rows of orchard trees.   If you looked up you would see the petals from the spring blossoms giving way to gravity and drifting through the air as they all began to fall.

My head was turned back over my right shoulder and I was laughing with delight.  Why was I running, though?  Was I running to something?  Away from something?  I couldn’t quite tell, but I could see that  I wasn’t scared.

Something or someone is behind me and was taunting me, “I’m gonna getcha”, it said over and over.  It was a male voice…a deep voice…not the thick Belgian brogue of my father’s dialect, but something familiar and yet foreign.  I can’t explain it.  In the dream, I’m obviously not scared of it.  I am delighted to be playing the game.  Yet, the voice never lets up.

And…that’s it.  Over and over again…night after night.  For six months.  What did it all mean?  It would take another surgery to find out…

To be continued…

May 8, 2012

Now—I need you to bear with me.  I realize it has been close to a year since I last posted. I have been under the most unbearable stress, all of which I will attempt to purge as I am emotionally ready to do so.  I am busy hunting up supportive photographs, former thoughts scribbled on notebook pages, and half finished posts that have sat in que for quite some time.  I would like to give as chronological of an account of what happened even though many might jump back and forth a bit.  My son was commenting on the fact that I hadn’t blogged in a long time.  We used to talk about where all the readers and hits to my blog would come from around the world.  We can see it in some of the monitors I have in place and we would talk about that a lot and get excited about it also.  I was explaining how I felt like I didn’t know where to start up again.  He said, “mom, you know how much I love flashbacks in movies?  Your readers will too.  Just do it.  You’ll feel better”.  So, I am taking his now 8yr old advice.  I hate setting up specific posting dates becuz if you’ve ever followed me, you’ll know something always pulls me away.  I won’t put it out to the universe, but if you want to re-follow, begin following, or make sure you don’t miss posts, be sure to sign up along the side for RSS feeds and let me know if that thing isn’t working—I have put it on there, but don’t know if it works.  There’s always Networked Blogs on here too which will come to your facebook alerts notifying you of a new post.  I have many things to tweak around here since I was last on and so check back for new videos and pics.  I am re-dedicating myself to writing again–here anyway–I never really stop.  Wish me luck and leave me some feedback!

To Everything There is a Season–PART 1

SEEING RED

Written on 5/8/11

(flashback)

Summer ’09 was the worst summer of my life—to date. The diagnosis of Ductal Carcinoma In Situ and subsequent mastectomy had left me angry at the world and seriously depressed. So much, in fact, that it was all I could do to get through my days with all the children in care and then shut the world out when the last child left each evening. I tried to make the most of moments when they would come my way, but I can say, matter-of-factly, that I was not someone you’d want to socialize with that year. Bitter resentment along with despair were the facial expressions of choice. I didn’t want to hear words of encouragement. I didn’t want to pray. I didn’t want to find the humor in things (although I tried hard to each day and it just came out biting, sarcastic, and crass sounding). I didn’t want to do anything but cry, or scream, or punch something or someone. I had to hold it all in, though. I had to maintain so I could just get through each day and holding it in just made me an even hotter mess. If you were to ask me now if I ever exhaled that summer, I would honestly tell you no.

I know NOW that was the most unhealthy way I could have lived. Hell, I knew it then, too, but chose to ignore the signs–Defeat-est mentality at its finest and those of you who know the Type A that I am probably can’t ever imagine me getting that low. But that Type A began working overtime on my self-destruction. For example,

Why should I worry about my grades anymore– is God really gonna care that I was on the President’s List or made it into the National Honor Society?

Why should I bother turning in any paperwork for any agencies I’m accountable to for my business, like they really give a damn what I’m fighting here anyway.

Why should I bother fighting for my oldest daughter, after all, so many others had given up on her.

Why should I care what I look like, I’m just gonna lose my hair anyway… I’m just gonna look ridiculous wearing makeup…I’m just gonna have to find shirts covered with such loud prints that it will distract anyone from noticing I don’t have a chest anymore…

Why should I bother with anything…I’m just gonna be 6 feet under by the end of the year.

Why should I bother with reconstruction—I’ll finally get the boob job I always wanted just to have the best looking chest standing at attention from my coffin as everyone passes it by during the visitation.

I was feeding the beast inside me by continuing such inner destructive self-talk. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t get out of the quick sand that kept pulling me back into that pit of despair. Each time a friend would throw me a lifeline, I’d only hang on half-heartedly. I was giving up–giving in. It was all too much. I didn’t know how to process all of the stimuli attacking me. It was just easier to retreat into a comfortable cocoon of anger. I was prescribed medication after medication from anti-depressants, to anti-anxiety, to sleeping pills so I could just shut off my brain at night–all of them addictive. At least I had enough sense about me to avoid filling any of those Rx’s. My doctor wasn’t happy about that. I argued that–I drive children to schools and I won’t drive under the influence of something. I won’t take something that would make me feel loopy or jittery. I won’t take something I would only later have to fight to get off of. I knew that it was up to me to pull myself out. I just didn’t have a clue how I would go about doing that.

I know there are some women that handle such extreme stress with grace. I wish I could say I was one of them. There were times—fleeting nanoseconds that would allow me the courage to hold my head up high as I walked into a room, but they vanished as quickly as they appeared. I’ll give you a glimpse back at who I was that summer. It’s written all over my face and my body language screams, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU LOOKING AT—HAVEN’T YOU EVER SEEN SOMEONE WITH ONE boob!.” Yes, for me to bring about a change…it would probably take more courage then for me to walk into a hospital and have my chest cut off–and since that had already happened, the fight was only just beginning. Not a physical one, though—a purely mental knock-down, drag out fight that Mr. Miagi wouldn’t be able to help me get out of.

As you can see, I had truly succumbed to the anger. It overrode most of my emotions. It had itself manifested into a type of cancer that was once again invading every area of my life. The problem was that I breathed life into this type and it was by far Stage 10. By summer, it had become a comfortable friend. Letting go of the anger would have been just too easy. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know if I was ever going to be ready. I held tight to it and slammed the door on anyone trying to get in including my family. There were times when I I would look out that door’s peephole to view the world that was still going on without me. That made me angrier, still!

Then there was the crippling events surrounding my oldest daughter who had gone missing. We were dealing with the loss of a child we weren’t sure was even alive or dead at this point, and I was going through the painstaking process of supplying dental records to the police in case remains were found. The stress of just the cancer would have been enough to anyone but combine it with the stress of losing a child and the infuriating lack of help I received in trying to find her along with the judgmental advice I was getting at all turns was enough to push me into a spiraling depression. “No…I’ll hold onto this anger just a while longer,” I thought.

As if things weren’t bad enough… I was told once again our family would be losing insurance. My husband’s job of 17 yrs. was coming to an explosive brink. The business was trying to function with a severely alcoholic boss. My husband was the only one keeping it afloat. The boss was his childhood and lifelong friend, best man in our wedding, and Godfather to our oldest daughter. If you have ever dealt with alcoholism, you may be able to appreciate the horrific strain it can put on relationships. So, as I dealt with my cancer, Jeff dealt with his friend/boss/job and the fact he knew he was losing all three to a self-destructive personality who had also begun an affair with my former best friend of 17 years and maid of honor in our wedding. It was all too much.

Then, the insurance—this bastard—this corporate structure we had paid money into our whole lives decides to begin cutting our benefits and raising our premiums. It began a vicious cycle where the teasing thought of a couple more months worth of benefits dangled in front of me like carrots–causing complete panic on my part–how will I get the rest of my surgeries?  How will I pay for medicine?  What if this metastasizes and I can’t pay for treatment?  What do I do?  I braced for the worst–complete denial altogether once Jeff had been fired from his job. Denial in mid-treatment. What kind of insurance company does this? Mind you, this was before Obama’s healthcare reform where pre-existing conditions would be grandfathered in (or so I thought at the time).  I realized I better get a game plan…and fast.

With all that, my mental state really started nose diving. I was becoming scatterbrained–unable to focus–very attention deficit disorder–without a doubt. The strain on our marriage, our family, our lives had become nothing short of catastrophic. No amount of counseling could help. There was no way to sort it all out. Prayers were offered up just to get drowned out by the yelling—whether my own or a chorus of frustrated cries by everyone under the same roof. I stopped writing because I could no longer process any stimuli coming in or going out.

In the midst of it all, I began having a recurring dream. It continued every night for 6 months straight. I began to realize it was a sign…and once that sign revealed itself and what it meant to my life…it was the catalyst for all things that followed…

SEASONS PART 2 will be posted on Monday morning 5/23/11. Don’t miss what the dream reveals! You can do that by subscribing to this blog through RSS feeds, the subscribe by email feature, or the Networked Blogs link in the side bar (the easiest way)!  Cya soon!

Shame on You!

I did it again. I came back to my blog, said I was ready to write again, then got yanked away. I’ve fallen into old habits of getting pulled in too many directions. Being spread too thin. Doing more for others than I do for myself. I know this and can recognize it, but always have a hard time of peeling back again to make my life simpler, my mental state saner, and my overall temperament less stressy.

I’d love to catch everyone up to speed on what’s been going on around here but right now I need to get something off my chest (no pun intended). There is a very valid reason for what has kept me away from this comfortable place of words and thoughts and inner reflection…and that reason came from a complete stranger in the form of a comment left for moderation on this blog. It took me by such surprise, and quite honestly, my initial reaction to it was a knee jerk and instant recoil from something I love to do or a place I like to frequent.

I know when you put things out into cyberspace—it’s out there—there’s a permanent record—somewhere. I know that there are some creepers that have nothing better to do then surf the web, spend hours of time looking through public content (and that’s what this is once you hit the publish button), and cutting and copying to their heart’s content. I guess I’m frustrated by the endless possibilities that await certain sick minds and even though I have used this as a source of purging and regrowth, I have done so willingly in an attempt to help someone else. In saying that, have I actually aided certain stalkers in their quest? I have spent countless hours writing and then deleting—often times by accident—and then rewriting again. The writing portion has always been the focus of content theft for me and never, in my wildest dreams, would I have ever thought that there was someone out there stealing my photos. Not just stealing them, though—actually laying claim to the individuals in the photos! I will definitely be checking into my Flickr account settings and going over the privacy settings. However, it makes me sad to possibly do this. Isn’t there a foolproof way, an absolute of sorts in the realm of the wide world web with regard to this type of theft?

As I began this blogging journey over two years ago, I found quickly that there were several key elements you should have on your blog and one of the most important I have found is the spam filter for any incoming comments. It quickly weeds out the real comments from spam based on certain code sequences that are tracked. It has moderated hundreds and hundreds of pieces of spam—I only wish I received that many real comments! Lol! Before I delete them permanently, I always peruse through them just in case something gets put into the wrong inbox. I have received the most perverse and disgusting mail through this blog and I’m sure that much of it is generated based on the tag/key words I use in many posts. Many of them are from overseas and they are the strangest things to see because they are all symbolically coded in other languages of which I have no way of translating. Through the real comments, I have made friends around the world with women that have gone through similar or are facing similar situations as to what I went through. Some stop by from other friend’s blogs, some are friends through Facebook or my other writing hotspots and as with any new comment that comes in—whether its from someone I know or don’t—It is always placed in que to be moderated. Who knows what kind of sicko or fanatic would actually pop in just long enough to whip off something nasty. So, before any of that can be read by my loyal readers, I try to spare the filth of others.

Last month, though, I received an email stating that a comment was waiting for me. I was so excited! It had been months since I had written or quite honestly paid much attention to the blog—(I’ve been too busy living :)). When I opened it up to read it, I was immediately saddened and disgusted. My fear of some sick person out there has come true. I’m not sure if this is just something I should expect, or if there’s actually something I can do, but I will post here for you the email I received and if any of you have specific advice—don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

Hi Christina,

I just wanted you to know that a man supposedly named Cliff Grant is claiming the picture of your daughter Jordan with the Harp from christmas 2009 is his daughter – I had been in contact with this person through a dating site and when my suspicions got the better of me I used tineye.com to search the picture he had given me – which is your daughter Jordan!!! You may want to put some copyright channels in place to protect your children.

Good luck with your battle!!

Regards

Melissa

Now, as far as I know, this particular person could also be spamming me with the provocation of luring me to the tineye.com website. I am always hesitant to open web sites since I have suffered the agonizing feeling of despair each time I receive a virus that completely crashes my system. So, I checked it out on the library’s computer. Lol. I know—not very nice should it contain a virus, but I figure they probably have better firewalls then I do. It seemed like a legit site. I just couldn’t do a reverse search on any pictures at the time. I’m curious if any of you have had the opportunity to use this site, if its real, and really works. My mind started racing and I had all these questions like:

Which dating site was it?

I wish I was also given more information as to whether or not this person, Cliff Grant, was reported to the key people in charge of clientele on this dating site.

I wonder what measures they have in place as consequences for misrepresenting yourself.

I wonder if that was his real name.

I wonder how many other women he’s done that to.

I wonder if he’s used more than that picture.

I wonder if he’s disgustingly photoshopped my pics.

I wonder if he’s a con artist trying to bilk unsuspecting women out of their money.

I wonder if he does this with more than just my photos.

I wonder if anyone else who writes a blog and puts personal family photos on it realizes that there are people that do this.

I wonder how I can backtrack this guy, find him and get him to stop.

I wonder if I’ll need a lawyer to discuss copyright or cease and desist orders.

All this comes on the heels of a contest I had with my daughter where we sat at the computer bored one day checking out Youtube videos, seeing how many people on FB worldwide have our same name, and googling bizarre stuff. We decided to google ourselves. Have you ever done that? Unless you have a one of a kind name, you’re bound to find something that google has found on you thanks to their search engine optimization. Out of all those names, though—how many actually apply to you? My daughter and I started laughing our heads off as we counted higher and higher—page after page—for entries dealing with me. I stopped at page 40. I’m sure there was more. As we scrolled through laughing at this or that, I stopped on one particular highlighted entry. It was an excerpt of a blog post from a couple years back titled, Race for the Cure . I clicked on the link and was horrified at what popped up onto my screen. There was my entire post on the front page of a triple X rated porn site with images flanking each side and top and bottom. WTF! Seriously, what in the hell was that about?

I know there are some freaky people out there that have strange fetishes, but what could this site possibly want with my blog post dealing with the Walk for the Cure? I then wasn’t sure I wanted to know. I tried desperately, risking virus and Trojan horses, to find a contact on the site, a name of some company or a subscription box that might have a field where I could leave a comment to TAKE THIS POST OFF THEIR SITE IMMEDIATELY!!! I found nothing. I do not know where to go or who to talk to about this and it got me so upset that I have stayed away. I’ve contemplated shutting the site down, but it has served a source of comfort and inspiration to many—including myself. This is a clear breach of copyright since I did not authorize the use of my content in this manner. I try to joke around about it, but I really don’t find it a laughing matter and if someone were to google me, I really don’t want anything I’ve worked so hard for being lumped in with something of this nature.

So, I’ve sat silent. For months. I have so much to write. I have so much to tell. I have so much I want to share with you all. I’m just stuck on this issue. Has this happened to any of you? How did you resolve it? What advice do you have for me?

I know that there are individuals that would love to use electronic content for their personal gain, individual pleasure, or twisted misrepresentation. It was a worry of mine when I first configured this blog. I researched how to protect my content and kept coming up with a simple solution which consisted mainly of a copyright badge on my page. I’ve had one in the sidebar for a couple years now and even though its there, I still wondered if it was deterring others from claiming something they found on my site as their own. I found a site once, and put a widget in the sidebar for Copyscape. It’s a site where you could enter a phrase from a post or the entire thing and it would do a search of many search engines to see if there were any hits that came up. I think it’s the same kind of tool that professors and teachers use to make sure students aren’t plagiarizing from an uncited source. I suppose I will need to be more diligent and proactive when it comes to what I’m about to publish.

I guess I am most disappointed in the moral decay of many individuals. I’ve tried to do something that has been hard for me to do, but I really force myself to do it. I tell myself that the individual posing the threat is obviously in greater need of prayer than myself. And then I say a small prayer. Many times they are sincere. Many times, truthfully, they are prayers that are…ahem…asking for karma to intervene. Thinking about this “Cliff Grant”—I’d have to say if he just absolutely felt like he needed to misrepresent himself with a fictitious daughter—at least he picked one that was talented and beautiful. In the same breath—BACK OFF, she’s mine. And to the porn site that feels the need to bait their web page under the guise of my blog post—I’m not sure I’m thrilled about this particular form of advertising, but since it’s free—hmmm—I’d like to say thanks? But yeah, NO. BACK OFF, it’s mine.

Let this serve as public notice that I am demanding you remove my content from your site. I will pursue this until it is removed and if you think I’m not a threat, you may just wanna make sure you got your big girl panties on. I have fought cancer and can tell you first hand that fighting you will be a cakewalk for me. To all those that are tempted to reprint portions—I’m an awfully cool person to deal with—all you have to do is ask, and then cite me. Let me know what you’re up to. Link to my page and I’ll link to yours. But to just take something without asking and to use it in a way that is grossly misrepresentative of yourself or my name—I’d like to say very clearly…SHAME ON YOU!

(Just prior to publishing this post I checked one last time on the WordPress support page forany information regarding help with content theft and this is what I found. I remember looking at this a couple years back, but haven’t reviewed it lately. I will go back into all my photos and start watermarking them. I will also get a free license and take into consideration many of he other points listed on the website. Even if you don’t have WordPress for you fellow bloggers out there, this is a good place to start to get information. if you are facing a similar situation)

Farewell, Chaotic Soul

As you can all see, I am overhaulin’ the site. New look, new outlook, new set up, etc. Just fresher, more appealing to my eye and hopefully yours. It’s been quite some time since I’ve written. Not that I don’t think about it at least 500 times a day. It just seemed like when I went into my blog it was full of painful reminders. Things I still haven’t been able to bring myself to post and others that still move me to heart wrenching palpitations. I tend to be an all or nothing person. I hate that. Moderation has always been something I’ve struggled with. Sigh. We all have our weak points. No one is perfect, right? So, I bit my lip, chewed my nails, and fretted–do I continue with the dark, somber, murky depths of my soul that are also depicted through the old theme of the blog (black background and swirling mists of subdued colors for a heading) or do I choose something new. Back and forth I have gone trying out and previewing new layouts all summer long. Not finding anything that fit what I was feeling. I opened up a couple other sites that are still under construction. I’m always pulled in the direction of things I HAVE to do instead of things I want to do. With the colder weather approaching, though, my own personal sense of turning into a pumpkin and wanting to hunker down for the winter are also allowing me to finally enjoy some time here and there to play on my blog, to write once again, to approach this from a new and renewed perspective.

I’m fine tuning things still–the header bar with menu pages to choose from, new pics to add to Flickr to show you the tremendous progress I’ve made–both mind and spirit, new links to peruse, and some other fun stuff along the way. As always, I have LOTS to talk about, so I hope you pop back in from time to time to check on the progress. I’m hoping to accomplish a lot of updates this weekend, but I have learned from the past that when I self-impose deadlines on myself (and they are not being required by some govt. agency, or work related affiliation), I tend not to reach my finish line. This isn’t always the case, just quite a bit. I heard from many that trying to read a white font on a black background and in a tiny letter size gave people headaches or because I tend to have lengthy posts, it was too straining on their eyes after a while and they would stop reading. I’m not usually known for brevity, so if you’re looking for short and sweet, keep looking. I love to write, and to express my thoughts. Hopefully the new color scheme will be more palatable for you. I know I like it. For the sake of rememberance, though…I thought I’d just post a pic of that header I so loved when I first started blogging. I remember when I first saw it–I fell in love with it. It appealed to me on so many levels. When I launched the blog and then went back to tweak something along the way and found out the actual name of the theme was Chaotic Soul–I was taken aback–it was the very embodiment of me during 2009.

When I look at the image now, I am reminded of a time when things seemed bleak to me. I had a girlfriend stop by the house once and comment on the image here. She said, before she even knew it was my blog, “What a pretty image. It is very reminiscent of the illusion of a breast” and then she showed me where she saw that in the lines. Like trying to make out an image in the clouds I stared and wondered too if subconsciously this was another reason I was drawn to it. Who knows. What I know now is this…That blog theme served its purpose. It was a comfortable friend to me and I took refuge in its solace. It has taken me a great deal of time to turn my head around. To feel ready to take on the world again. It started for me this year, a new journey of sorts. If you want to come along for the ride, I’ll take you through the transformation. I will also try to go back at times and pull up some of those posts that have sat in que, waiting patiently for their story to be told. I will dust them off and give birth to stories that have been stifled. Some may think, why go back. Move forward. I get that. I need to, though. To remember. To never forget. To show myself the progress in a very visual way. To possibly help someone else. To never forget. Most importantly, so that someday, my children will know the contents of their mother’s soul…

Many of you have contacted me, through facebook, twitter, or email–wondering what happened to me. How am I doing. Why have I stopped writing. When was I going to start again. I’m here to tell you I’m back. Thanks for being patient with me…:)

The Financial Fallout Begins…

Kids Korner

Wow! I am really amazed at how much time has flown by. I imposed a blogging hiatus after my last surgery. I had to…didn’t want to…just had to. Just a few days after my last surgery back in January, my winter classes started back up. Last year, I was in freak out land. I was unable to finish my classes and so I just let them go. I thought I could do it, but realized I just couldn’t. So, instead of doing the smart thing and withdrawing from all three classes last year, I withdrew from one and vowed to continue with extensions in the other two classes. It never happened. My head just got too messed up. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see straight. Being the Type A that I am–it is an all or nothing for me. That’s just the way I’m wired. And so, I did the unthinkable–I just dumped my classes…I just let them go…and I took the F’s. Me!! F’s!! Can you freakin’ believe it? I couldn’t either, yet my head wasn’t there and it was too late to withdraw at that point. Gone was my hard earned 4.0 GPA–but ya know what? I didn’t care. I just didn’t care anymore.

So, I re-enrolled in those two classes that I left at the curb. I devoted my energy to once again, pulling my GPA up and proving to myself that I wasn’t just some quitter. I know that is far from the truth. So, for 12 weeks, I worked on my classes. I found out after finishing them up a couple weeks ago that I get a second chance option. Yes, the letter grade F will still show on my transcript, but it will not be factored into my overall GPA since I passed my Children’s Lit with an almost 99% and my Child Psych with an almost 97%. I was ecstatic!! Once, they were finished, I celebrated. I had come back and accomplished what I gave up on last year. I proved to myself and to my instructors that I was ready to get back in the game. I took a couple weeks off to just play with my family and with my friends. I played hard, laughed hard, and as always worked hard. There were a million things I needed to get caught up on, but instead, I relaxed. Those things are still going to be there and I’m still going to be behind, but I vowed in this year’s New Year’s resolutions that I was going to MAKE the time to hang out with friends, and work on my chill skills. Its just more important for me now to just let things go. I can’t do it all at once. I’ll get to it when I get to it these days.

And remember those taxes I was freaking out over trying to get done…they’re still not done. I need to still get ’08 ad ’09 in. Yes, there will be penalties. Yes, there will accountant’s fees, but you know what? I just don’t care. Well, I do, but I don’t. I have been sitting in a sesspool of financial obligations. I knew last year that the true financial fallout would happen this year. It would take that long to catch up–and it has–with a vengeance. All the bills from the doctors and surgery centers and related other physicians, anesthesiologists, radiologists, oncologists, pathologists, and any other -ologist you can think of has hit my desktop. It is mountainous and I can only do what I can do which is try to continue breathing as I wade through this nightmare. To make matters worse, Jeff was wrongfully terminated from his job of 17 years and we are in legal crap up to our ears. Lawyers don’t come cheap. So, we have tapped every reserve we have and watched it run dry over the past three months. He is caught in a non-compete clause. His former employer and life-long best friend is now appealing the court’s decision to grant him unemployment after it was contested in the first place (don’t get me started with this story–whole other blog, trust me).

If that isn’t enough, the first house we ever bought and subsequently poured our hearts and lives into as we renovated it extensively all by ourselves (except for the help of just a handful of people that were good friends or family)–was sold at a sherriff’s sale. Yep. After carrying that mortgage along with our current mortgage for nearly 4 1/2 years, we went into foreclosure–well, it was my name on that house, so I’m the one that will suffer the credit effects. We just couldn’t make it anymore. Hell, in this economy, I don’t know too many that could have carried 2 mortgages and all the expenses to keep 2 houses up for that long. I know several people that have lost the homes they were living in this year. I’m counting my blessings that we still have a roof over our heads–at the moment–with Jeff out of work and me still pulling down three jobs and contemplating a 4th part-time job–I’m afraid that the straw that will break my back will be a recurrence of my cancer due to stress–again. I’m ever mindful of this. I think about it a lot. Yet our situation is out of necessity at the moment. I’m also waiting for the gavel to fall. I’m waiting to find out how much the difference is between the amount left on the mortgage to the amount the house was sold for. I’ll be responsible for the difference. Up until last year, BOTH houses were under my name and you guys thought I was just stressed about cancer or my missing daughter…sigh…

Jordan 1 1/2 yrs. & Jasmine 5 1/2 sit proudly in front of their new home.

As I walked through that house one last time, I cried. The dreams and the hopes you have as you start out your lives in your first home were coming to an end. On one hand, it was out of my hands at this point, and I was relieved. I wouldn’t have to carry that weight anymore. On the other, I was sick that it never sold. Damn housing market…took a dump the week we decided to move. It was really like my life was flashing before my eyes. I saw my children growing up there..watched out the window as my oldest daughter learned to ride a bike down the street without training wheels…flushed boogey men down the toilet so my middle daughter could sleep at night…nursed my little boy when he was born from my muted mauve bedroom…saw the daycare children growing up there…listened to the laughter ringing throughout the house..echoing in my mind…reminding me of years gone by. I’ll never forget sleeping on the floor of the living room every night for 7 months straight in a big makeshift bed that held all of us as we gutted the upstairs bedrooms and refinished the hardwood floors by hand–not with big machines, but with tiny belt sanders…I thought about the gardens that I painstakingly planted full of perrenials hunched over for hours on end with a belly out to there–pregnant and happy…working until the streetlights were the only thing that illuminated the fenceline. I remembered all the Mother’s Day Tea Parties I had thrown and the friends I had made…I remembered Jeff spending one hell of a hot summer poised on ladders as he scraped the house by hand and repainted it a beautiful grey with navy blue and white trim…I remembered the fights…the arguments with Jeff about money, childrearing, or what ultimately led to our decision to leave. I remember, vividly, my dad…poised over the pipes in both the upstairs bathroom and the kitchen as we gutted those rooms and he slaved over a hot torch without central air on 100 degree days to help us replumb this big, old four-square. I will always remember the night we were robbed–our first Christmas there–they took everything–even our winter coats out of the closet to drape around the TV’s they carted out of the house. I remember Santa bringing us Cheyenne–our first dog. If you remember from a previous post, she past away last June 17, 2009. Even more bittersweet, her pawprints were in the drywall dust from where Jeff brought her back to play as he worked on getting it ready for sale.

Santa brought us Cheyenne '97

It was the fireplace that caught my eye the first time I ever saw the house…some would have thought I was crazy…weeds waist high…paint falling off like skin on a badly sunburnt back…in sheets…but I could see the beauty. The day I walked up those rickety stairs and stood on that raw porch and peeked in the windows, I immediately envisioned the Christmas tree in the alcove near a blazing fire with my kids racing down the wide staircase to open their presents. That fireplace sold me.

Christmas '99

I knew it would be years of work, but I was up for that challenge. I lived without a kitchen in that old house for 5 years. Nothing at all inthere except the beams, exposed wiring, a broken stove with only one working burner and the stove that backfired like the muffler on an old Ford escort wagon we used to own. A laundry utitility sink that served as my sink and a utility table for my countertop. For five years, I patiently waited as my husband built my dream kitchen with oversized custom maple cabinets, custom tilework and stainless steel appliances and enbossed tin blackplash. I only got to enjoy that kitchen for a few months before we moved. Five years! I know no other woman that would have put up with that for 1 year let alone 5!! With tears streaming down my face like a leaky faucet, I came to rest on the most important place of all in that old home–my custom made growth chart. The edge of the fridge wall alcove where I measured a dozen children mine and “mine” that grew up with us in that home. I placed my hand on that wall and could actually see the smiling faces of these children…feel their excitement once more as they scooted their heels back to the wall and waited with giddy anticipation to see how much they had grown. I would miss that spot in my house the most. (see sidebar for flikr photos of growth chart)

I placed some tracing paper up along the wall and taped several sheets end to end and sat and traced out every name, every date, every growth mark. Then, I took pictures of it. Although they don’t do the spot justice or to someone viewing them, they could never know all the laughter and twinkling eyes that stood at that very spot over the years, but for me I knew it would be just a matter of time before someone would paint over that spot. The sentimental significance would not be the same for them. Jeff and I loved to find the story of that old house. We loved to talk about finding a gun in the rafters of the basement or pictures of people that had been left behind. We joked that as we tore each room out and rebuilt it, one day we would find a bag of money or gold. Perhaps we did, but not in the physical sense of it. Perhaps our gold lied in our perseverance to turn that old dump into our goldmine–a home for our family. But as I stood there, last week, May 31, 2010…I knew even Jeff had given up. It no longer belonged to us.

As I turned to look through the house one last time, I whispered an apology to my home, “I’m sorry for neglecting you. I’m sorry for ever taking you for granted.”, “I’m sorry we chose to pay for medicines and treatment for me instead of medicines and treatments for you” and then I followed with a note of thanks, “Thank you…for the memories…for keeping us warm and dry, comforted, and loved”. With that I choked back the sobs and with tears streaming, I pulled out of the drive one last time. I told myself as I drove away watching the reflection of that house fade out of sight in my rear view mirror that it was another chapter closing. It was like leaving her as I found her, weeds waist high, paint peeling once again, gardens neglected, and on the inside, traces of renter’s that had not appreciated her beauty, plaster falling from the ceiling in the master bedroom where a leak in the roof had developed, a basement that had taken on water when the pipes burst over the cold winter months, a delapidated and tired looking porch, and broken bathroom fixtures. All that work. All those years. All that money…gone…but, I was alive. I was thankful for that. That was all that mattered.

I always wanted to bring the previous owner back…a little elderly woman whose husband had passed away and whom we fondly referred to as George, the ghost (we attributed all the weird stuff we heard or saw over the years to him). I knew I would have made the woman proud. I had brought back to life the home she raised her children in. I knew the importance of preserving the story and was looking forward to the day when I could tell her ours. That never happened, but one freak day, I did meet the owner who poured the patio in back. She was up visiting from the South and wanted to see her old place. This woman was two owners back and she showed me the place her and her husband wrote their initials in the cement. That cleared up that question I had had for years. Now, whoever moves in will find our handprints cast in cement in several places around the house–the furnace pad that was poured when we took out the big octopus, the central air pad when after sweltering through 4 hot summers with no air–we finally moved into the 20th century, and in the front under the apron skirt of the house. There will be reminders of us all over the place. Since we pretty much gutted each room, Jeff was good about leaving little time capsules around the house buried within the walls. I hope someday to go back–show the new owner who the handprints belonged to. Maybe, just maybe they’ll be happy to see me too. I really hoped the next owners would love it as we had and bring her back to life once more. She had great bones. She was and always will be my first love. If I could have picked that house up and moved it to where we are now–I would have.

Saying goodbye...

I’ve been enjoying these past few months despite the emotional ups and downs. I have worked hard at my number one goal for this year which was repairing, reaffirming, and reconnecting myself with friends and family old and new. I have been working on another blog site–not ready yet, but I’ll keep you all posted as I get close to launching. I have signed up for summer classes and have started the whole freak out thing all over only this time, I am cramming 16 weeks into 8. Gulp. One is a writing course and as much as I love it, I find myself needing to break down and buy a go-anywhere internet card to keep up with my classes and still be able to take the kids to the pool on the weekends. I could write by the side of the pool. I have SO many things I am looking forward to sharing. I also have many posts that I never got around to posting and I want to just get that story out of me so I can move on. You’ll have to check dates carefully to get a perspective on the time frame and I want to thank you all for continuing to stop by from time to time, or friend me on Facebook (a place I spend more time than I care to admit late at night–but that is part of the resolution), and sending me private messages of encouragement and hope. I’m looking forward to getting back to my blog. I’ve missed it terribly. I’ve posted some new videos, am working on uploading pics, totally need to re-do my own pictures since my look has changed dramatically over the past few months, and just want to catch everyone up to speed. For quite a while, I wondered–crap, where do I begin? Here’s as good a place as any, I suppose.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner…

“You did it, writer!

Pitted against a merciless deadline and battling hordes of distractions—including the most tempting fall TV season that’s been unleashed upon novelists in decades—you kept at it.

Now you’ve arrived at a place that very few NaNoWriMo participants ever see: The winner’s circle. Overhead, the November sky is bursting with fireworks celebrating your victory, and the entire NaNoWriMo staff joins me in applauding your creative achievement.

You did something amazing this month, novelist. We couldn’t be prouder.

We wish you well on your future adventures, and hope to see you for Script Frenzy in April, and have you back again with us for NaNoWriMo next November.”

This was the message that flashed on my screen as I uploaded what I had written so far in November.

Yeah!!!!

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Happy Happy Joy Joy!!

My word count came in at 61,576! I did it! And that’s not even halfway finished! At least the start of my book has begun and it will give me something creative to work on during 2010. I’ll learn the ropes of editing and rewriting my W.I.P. (work in progress) and I’m really looking forward to that! I’m an official Nanowrimo winner! The goal was 50,000 words in 30 days and I’ve surpassed that goal–I think that calls for some Whitey’s ice cream!!!

Circle of Friendship

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In this past year, I have come to grow a new circle of friends. An international collection of women and some men that have followed my story and been an ever present support to me as I have battled with many demons. When I started this blog it was to mainly keep a few far off relatives in touch with my progress. As the weeks and months have passed, an army has marched into my life. Some of these soldiers that keep me motivated are friends from my childhood that I have reconnected with through Facebook. I’ve even been getting the hand of Twitter-something that has been driving me a little nuts all summer. Many of my new friends now mingle in with my old friends and it doesn’t matter who drops me a line, I am always happy to know that someone is thinking of me. Many of my old friends now read my new friend’s blogs as well. Technology sure has had a way of connecting everyone.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this network that has spread across the world. My hits have surpassed 10,000 –something I never expected. It’s like opening up a present every morning when I wake up. I check stats to see where hits are coming in from and I quickly check for messages. Love getting them, but don’t get as many as I would love. I check world locator and find that people in Russia, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Europe, Finland, Africa and beyond must be subscribers because of the regularity of their visits. I have also been surprised to see that my blog has been rated 4th in the top 100 blogs out there about breast cancer on Networked Blogs. That is fantastic! Now if I could just get all my readers to click follow on that widget in the sidebar–those ratings would shoot up even faster! (That’s a hint! 🙂 ) It is really the one thing that has helped me process this mind-boggling year. Learning how to build a blog, learning how to set up new accounts that support that blog such as flickr and youtube, learning how to grab code and install widgets, learning how to format posts and hyperlink are all newly learned skills that I now really enjoy playing around with. Through it all, I have maintained a clear vision of what I want to do with the blog and where I ultimately want it to go. “If you build it, they will come”, I keep reminding myself.

The way I look at it is this, I am providing my children with a glimpse into their mother’s life. Years from now, whether I live or not from this, my children will be able to understand what their mom went through. My grandchildren will know something of their grandmother. My friends will remember the fight and have a newfound appreciation. It is always humbling for me to see that as I lurk around in the middle of the night checking out other blogs that I find mine in other’s blogrolls. They may be commentators or just part of that silent army that keeps me in their prayers, but either way–to all of you, I want to thank you for your continued support. Then, there are a few that have really helped my army grow. Friends across the country and the world that have quoted something from my blog and hyperlinked your readers back to me. There are community forums that I am blessed to be a part of and in doing so, I have met even more wonderful individuals.

One such woman came into my life just recently, friended me on FB and also proceeded to quote me in a post she wrote for an online news source blog out of Seattle, WA. Her name is Carolyn Harris and she is a writer with a very interesting background. She pens a blog called Lyn’s Circle: Chronicles of a Married Feminist. I encourage you not just to check out the excerpt she wrote about me, but also to check out her bio. When I read it (and to clear up a misprint–my nickname is cj not cy but no worries here) I couldn’t help but close my eyes and imagine what RVing through New Zealand or Sailing to Cuba must be like. I have had the pleasure of chatting with her and am glad once again that in this giant world, I know that there are others that are equally impassioned about spreading the word.

At the end of her bio she states:

“Lyn invites you to join her circle of friends. She feels sometimes women get stuck in their seats because it’s easier to sit there, do nothing and stay miserable than risk a change. She wants you to reach out. Your problem is not unique. Somewhere in this circle you’ll find another woman who understands your scars. With a little help from our sisters, we can laugh a little, cry a little, and figure out what to do with the rest of our lives”.

When I read this, I thought you were talking directly to me. When you came along, I was beginning to retreat once again into a pit of despair, thanks for pulling me out. It’s a never ending struggle to get my head back in the game, just when I think I’m making progress, I have a major setback. Unless you’ve been confronted with something of such life changing magnitude–whether it’s a health related or not, whether its directly or indirectly, you can only try and imagine what another individual is going through. Reality is quite a different story and since we are all on this Earth together, it’s comforting to know that although someone may not actually KNOW what you think and feel, there are common bonds that tie us all together. The biggest of these are love, compassion, and empathy. Thanks for coming into my life, Carolyn. Your presence is appreciated.

cj

Ok, Fine, I’ll Sign Up…

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For over a month now, I have been sitting quietly back and wondering whether or not I should join in all the excitement over NaNoWriMo. It Stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a contest to see if you can commit to cranking out a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Anyone who reads my blog can verify that I am usually not at a loss for words and my posts tend to run anywhere between 2500-3500 words. So, what’s the problem, then? I have two stories that have been brewing in the back of my head for the majority of this year and I would absolutely love to jump in. However…I just don’t know if the timing is right. I’m going through with the surgeries and the fills and opening up my home each week to observation after observation so I can look back and know that my professional goals for this year were met. But, as much as I want to just write on my blog every day, the details of my life take over and if I’m lucky, I will get two minutes at a red light somewhere just to check stats. By the time the day is done, I’m exhausted.

I was unable to really get through school this year and ended up taking the whole year off so I could clear my head, not worry about those deadlines and exams. I still haven’t filed my taxes for 2008 yet and now I’m needing to get 2009 ready. I have a daughter that lives across the state at the moment and be that as it may, I am still busy with conference calls, staffing calls, writing to her, and trying to get through the horrific mess she made in her room almost a year ago. I shut the door and expected her to clean it up. But, I am hoping she will come home and I know that as fragile as she is emotionally at the moment, the last thing she needs is to feel overwhelmed in her own room. I’m trying to come up with a system that will sort of resemble how she’s been living for the past few months so she will feel at ease as she re-integrates.

I know, I know–excuses. Here I am–the biggest cheerleader to those friends of mine that are participating and have been on the NaNoWriMo bandwagon for quite some time, and yet–I’m just not one to start something if I can’t finish it. Yet–again–I didn’t finish school last winter–aaarrrggghhh–back and forth–back and forth. I drive myself completely nuts sometimes just talking myself in or out of something. So, I’ve jumped off the fence. I’m going to try. If I don’t make the goal–then I don’t make the goal–but I will have tried. It’s process over product and I have posted that on my friend, Traci’s blog, An Unencumbered Life over and over as she has struggled with some of the same issues I have. I know in any other year, I could do this with my eyes shut. Why not this year, I ask? There’s really no reason good enough for me not to just jump in and try. Whether I write a little or a lot, I am going to try. It’s not about the content or the correct grammar and such as it is about just getting your story on paper. I’m going to tell my inner editor to shut the hell up and I’m going to write. There are so many people who do this around the world and I have been really amazed at the buzz about it. I listen in on Twitter and have been reading some of the forums. I joined a region–Iowa (elsewhere) because my particular region wasn’t listed. I have Traci as a writing buddy and because I see her everyday anyway (she’s one of my daycare moms), we can commiserate together.

The website is really pretty neat and I would encourage all of you to check it out if you’ve ever had a story in you that is dying to come out. If you make your 50,000 word goal (which is really only about 1700 words or so a day–honestly–half of one of my blog posts–that’s it!) then you are considered a winner. There is a section for young writers also and I have taken the time to print out the entire high school workbook and take it over to Kinkos to be bound. I sent it to Jasmine. She has filled 5 journals so far since she has been where she’s at and the story she will tell, I’m sure will be worth the read. I have also told a young girl I used to watch and now teach piano lessons to. She loves to write. I hope she joins and becomes a writing buddy of mine too. I know there have to be many of you out there that have heard of this, have participated in the past, have won, or have just thought about it. I would love to connect with you and become a writing buddy with you. If you hunt me up on the website, my username is cjheald. Don’t look at the word count generator because so far, I’ve been trying to work out the title. I have the book cover already in mind, just have to wait for my next surgery to snap a picture of it. I tried to post a word count graph so you could all see my progress, but can’t seem to get it to work.

I have a post coming up that is mainly pictures. I have spent the past 3 weeks debating whether or not to do this. I have been editing not for my sake, really, but for the sake of my husband who is uncomfortable with me letting it all hang out–or not. I am an open book these days. If I can help one person, then I have contributed. However, I am feeling censored in some areas and am wrestling with how to continue to tell my story. I have come to realize that I have many posts that are from this year that are filled with some strong language or content. Pictures that are more suited for adults than children and so I decided to have my blog rated. It carries an R rating and is really not suitable for anyone under 17. How can I monitor this across the world–I can’t–except to exercise some caution or restraint…hhhmmm…I’ll think about it.

In case any of you were wondering–this post is approximately 1150 words. I had two additional paragraphs that were quite lengthy attached, but have put them into the next post as they were more suited there. My main concern in the next two weeks is my taxes. I will be pushing the end of November with Nanowrimo–I hope anyway and there’s quite a bit coming up on here as well. Stay tuned.

Started Tracking on 12-1-09

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