We’ve Moved to the Sunny Side!

Dear Present and Future Subscribers,

We’ve moved to a new blog called “Sunny with a Chance of Armageddon”.

Click to go to Lulu’s new website!

Join me at the new site!

Pendulum will remain open for reference on Sunny.  However, some posts will be password protected, since I am going completely public very soon with my personal identity.  If you are interested in having the password, feel free to email me at:  lulu.em.stark@gmail.com

I want to thank everyone for their loyalty, support, and following over the past year.  It is just time for me to move on in a different direction, and I think Sunny can help me do that.  I do hope that you will come and follow over at Sunny for more stories, narratives, blog projects, and information.  It’s been a pleasure to write for you in the past year.  And I appreciate all of you.  Thank you again.

Remember, it’s http://sunnywithachanceofarmageddon.wordpress.com !

 

A Blog-o-versary!

I am in serious shock. Aside from my personal journal, I have never kept a project going for more than a year.

Truthfully, I can’t take all of the credit. If Pendulum didn’t have an audience, I would have been discouraged enough to abandon the blog. If I didn’t have such wonderful friends here, I might not be inclined, or even inspired to write. Thank everyone for their eyes, ears, fingers, minds, and hearts.

Now, for this blog-o-versary behind-the-scenes edition of Pendulum.

Little known fact #1:
Pendulum was not the first blog I created on WordPress. Some people know about the other one, but I’m not really supposed to directly give the secret away.

No, the inspiration for a blog actually came out of a kind of spite thing. An old, friend-turned-rival had a personal blog she used to keep updated with friends. It contained some cute antecdotes about her life and some concert and album reviews, nothing incredibly revealing. While I had no inclination to start a very personal blog, I did want to have a humor blog with some antecdotes about my own life.

By the time June rolled around, I was in a very isolated place with my life affected by disorder. I felt like I was hiding behind some alter-ego (when am I not? Let’s be honest!), and I was suffering in silence. I always had been.

After a forum and a friend, Pendulum was born.

Little known fact #2:
Pendulum started with a self-injury post, To See if I Still Feel (a Nine Inch Nails lyric). But, what is lesser known is that it was accompanied by a half-hearted suicide attempt.  It’s coded throughout the post, but I never really came out and said it.

Pendulum literally saved my life that day.  That was the day that I really realized that there are other people out there who are like me, who have been what I have been through, and get it.  That’s always been the problem in my life.  There are few people who get it, and those that do only seem to want to have a pity-party competition.

It wasn’t followed up by comments right away.  But, it was a start.

Little known fact #3:
“As the Pendulum Swings” was not the original choice for a blog title.  However, the blog title that I wanted was already in use by my other account.  At that point, I was very much in hiding about bipolar disorder, so I had to sever from it.  I literally sat at my computer for a half an hour, staring at this blinking, expectant cursor.

It is not named after the Linkin Park song, “In the End“, though many times I use the full name of this blog, it does go through my mind.  All I could think about was my time ticking away, pendulum swinging back and forth, dragging my emotions with it, with all of the futility and loneliness of my existence.  And that’s how it came to me.  My life is like a pendulum.  With an upswing, there will be a downswing, and so on, and so forth.  There is no end until the clock runs out.  And then, you’re dead.  And no one knows when that’s going to be.  Today, tomorrow?  Old, young?  By my own hand, or by a stupid accident?

So, this blog was named to detail the swinging pendulum of my life, and go with the ups and downs.

Little known fact #4:
Tallulah grew out of several different names throughout this last year.  Those that have been with the blog prior to February will remember the screen name of LunaSunshine.  LunaSunshine was named for the tattoo on my back of a moon and sun, my own visual representation of the duality of my nature and the stark contrast of parts of my life.  I knew Luna was “Moon”.  I just couldn’t do any better for the “Sunshine” part.

Now, even lesser known fact.  At a job I worked over a year before this blog, I earned the nickname of Sunny, just because of my demeanor.  Believe me, it was really difficult some days.  Sunny was something that stuck with me, because no one had ever referenced me in such a manner before.  I didn’t know I could even be perceived in that context.

And during an episode, just before my son’s second birthday, I dyed my hair bleach blonde, a color I hadn’t worn since it was my natural color as a child.  I guess it marked some kind of stability for me, because I’ve managed to keep the same color for almost two years now.  Before that, it was bouncing between brown and red, based on the episode I was in at the time of the purchase of the hair color.

Now, back to the evolution of the name.  Another blogger started to refer to me as “Lulu”, and somehow, it fit.  It just stuck.  No real rhyme or reason in a real life context.  And maybe that was why.  A clean break, you know?

How did it evolve into Tallulah?  Actually, there is a post entitled, “A Proper Name” that gives explanation to that.  Tallulah has always been a name I wanted to name a daughter, if I ever had one.  I realize that’s not an option.  Tori Amos wrote a song called, “Talula”, which carried a special meaning for me.  To me, it spoke of the projection of the ideal woman, whether it was mine to begin with or not, and holding it as a standard, where if I don’t embody it, then I will be abandoned by the ones I love.  It’s kind of like “behave, or we’ll stop loving you”.

It fit with “Lulu” already, so that was that.  Stark was just something that paired well with it.  It was not intentional, as it just popped into my head, and it has nothing to do with Iron Man.  In fact, I have never seen the movie.  But, I will make a kind of weird admission that Robert Downey Jr. looks kind of hot in a GQ sort of way in the commercials.

Lesser known fact #5:
This is my first mental health blog, but not my first blog about my personal life.  In my younger years, I had been inclined to share things via short lived blogs on Livejournal, Darkjournal, Blogspot, Myspace, etc.  In fact, I have had flame wars with my husband via blog sites, obviously much prior to our relationship and subsequent marriage.  I found hard evidence that my ex had been cheating on me, via blog sites.  My husband found out he had a stalker (same woman as the one my ex cheated on me with).  And I’ve even had to end several friendships over flame wars on blogs.

The very last time I had a falling out on a blog site was when I was finished with blogging entirely.  I didn’t appreciate how a friend dragged an incident where she was completely in the wrong into a public light.  Then, she went as far as to try to spin it, and take the focus off facts and onto slanderous statements.  I quit after that.  We closed down all blogs, old email accounts, and most social networking sites.

And finally. . .

Lesser known fact #5:
My husband is well aware that I keep this blog.  He knows it has a public address.  He can access any and all of it’s content at any time.  We share passwords, and there aren’t supposed to be any secrets. Totally accessible. And he hasn’t read a word.

I’m amazed at the lack of curiosity. I don’t blame him though.

Happy blog-o-versary!

The Mapril Curse

For years, the end of March and the beginning of April have always been rather catastrophic times for me.  Since before I can really remember, this has been a terrible time of year.  As I grew older, I started to notice certain patterns.

Some of the worst things that happened in my life have always happened during this time of year.

As a child, I recall my father was often hospitalized at this time. For a long time, I didn’t understand what my father was so sick with that he’d be gone in the hospital for weeks at a time. It scared me. I was scared he’d never come back. That he would die there.

Our worst fights happened at this time. It didn’t help that my final progress report for the year would come in.

Standardized tests always rattled my nerves. I knew that these tests didn’t affect my grades. It was just implied that these tests prove how smart a person was. I knew a bad score would label me an idiot. The only thing I had going for me, intelligence, would be wiped off the slate. I’d be nothing, and regarded as more of a child than I was already treated.

Then there was Easter break. For me, there was always something disturbing and disappointing about Easter. First, Easter is not exactly a pleasant holiday in the Christian religion. Yeah, I know, it is about celebrating the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

But, before that was good Friday. The day that Jesus died on the cross, after a gruesome and vividly detailed crucifixion. I don’t even know how the church justifies recounting this horrific story to children.

I know this one thing. Because of an exercise we did in Sunday School, peppermints are now revolting. I will spare you.

The closest friend I’ve ever had betrayed me in late March. She told my parents about a shoplifting incident that happened in January, complete with a fine that I was trying to pay off. She sabotaged my friendships with everyone else. As if it wasn’t bad enough that she had made it a very public falling out. She humiliated me.

And my father went off the deep end. No door on my room. Indefinitely grounded. No phone. No computer. No pager. No one in. And for a week, there was no school, and limited freedom within the house.

My ex Beck used my trip to Florida as time to gather support from our friends to backstab me, and destroy life as I knew it. April 1st, he dumped me. April 2nd, he moved his new girlfriend in.

April 8th, my ex Avi and I started dating. The following year, April 1st, we took what was a regrettable step into a year long lease together. A contract that legally obligated is to live together, in a small one bedroom apartment, in the worst of conflicts.

A year after that? We lost the apartment. We went flat broke and had to move into my house, which was then a complete shit shack. We ran a power cord over and lived in one room. Electricity in one room, and still living out of boxes and bags.

In late March, almost a year later, he made the admission that he cheated on me a year and a half ago. It consumed me so much that I was a woman possessed. It was all I could think about. I poured over the details. The emotion of anger, betrayal, guilt, and resentment was so much that it felt like it bled from every pore.

And on April 9th, three years after that first date, I decided that I wanted out. But, I was trapped.

Late March, before my wedding, I was tormented by my family. “You gained 5lbs!”

“Of course. I’m pregnant, right?”

“We can’t afford more alterations and it’s too late! We spent so much money on this, and you have to go and get knocked up! How irresponsible can you possibly be?”

After I had my son, this is the point in time where I started to show aggression and become violent. I was scared of myself. It was at this point that I knew I needed mental help.

A year after that, I started to have significant problems at my job. Even the thought of going there was agonizing.

Last year? The stress of putting together a children’s musical sent me flying into the ER with severe migraines. After that, I had a serious hypomanic episode. The first serious one I can remember.

And this year? Depression. Serious depression and self-harm. Marital issues. A lawsuit. A whole mishmash of events and looming threats that heap into a twitching shadow of depression and dreadful anxiety.

I have been reading references to research that has linked the turn of the season with mental health issues. March has the highest admissions into hospitals for those with mental illness. Different researchers have drawn different conclusions.

Today, I cracked it.

Today was my Pappap’s birthday when he was among the living. If he were with us today, we’d be celebrating his 96th birthday.

He has long since passed, almost 16 years ago. I was still young. He had been fighting a losing battle against prostate cancer for ten years. I was lucky to have had him in my life at all. When he was diagnosed, they only gave him a year.

My father was in and out of the VA hospital a lot when I was a child. My Pappap really stood up to be my father figure. And was he!

He was an amazing man. As a strapping young man, he and his brothers helped my church dig out their undercroft, by hand. It was the 40’s and wartime. Many men were called out to duty. My Pappap couldn’t go, on account of his severe hearing loss. It was mostly a result of working on the railroad. So, he, and other remaining parishioners took their shovels, and created a place where they could meet after mass.

He was always a man you could ask for help. He’d deny no one. And he was a jack of all trades. Plumbing, heating, electrical, building, anything. And if he didn’t know how to do it, he’d figure it out.

He had so many friends. Everyone who had ever spent any time with him was deeply touched by him. He treated everyone like family, and he treated his family like gold.

In times of need, he had offered everything he could to his extended family. Various family members had lived with him throughout his life. He was a faithful and dedicated man. My grandmother was his wife for fifty years before his passing.

He visited my mother every morning at 10AM for coffee after his morning walk. He knew that she needed him most. She was mostly alone with a severely autistic son and a deeply troubled husband, scarred by the war.

He came to every one of my school functions. I remember riding in the back of his station wagon. The only thing that ever made him angry were bad drivers. He always gave me $2 bills for my good report cards, and bragged to everyone about how smart and beautiful his granddaughter was.

I remember the first time I got a card from him with a $2 bill in it. He liked to tease people, so I thought it was fake. I got really mad at him. And he showed me his whole collection of $2 bills. And then he joked that I was a “brat kid” for disbelieving him.

I’d go to church every week, just to see him. He was an usher, and took collection. My Pappap was a devout Episcopalian, and so was I. He threw me a party when I reached my First Holy Communion.

We were very poor growing up. He often volunteered at charity events. The church had a flea market, and I fell in love with this little purple bunny. I was four, and the bunny warmed my heart. She made me happy and safe. He bought it for me, even after my mother lambasted me for begging for the bunny, as if I was trying to embarrass her in front of the other parishioners.

I named her Furry. Some kids had imaginary friends. I had her. She was imaginary in some ways. We talked. She always made me feel better. We shared a bed, and talked late into the night. I was less scared of life with her.

She still exists, and lives on shelf in my bedroom. She has been well loved, with patches of fur missing, dingy ears, paint chipped eyes, and a few obvious seams where she was sewn. Most of the time, I forget she’s there. She’s a relic, the only thing that survived my childhood. But, sometimes, I know she’s watching over me.

I remember the year that followed my Pappap’s death. We celebrated my uncle’s birthday, but it was somber. They shared a party every year. And he wasn’t there anymore.

Really, nothing was the same. Christmas. My birthday. Anytime I got a report card. My mother had removed the dining room table entirely. That’s the same dining room table in my house now. The same one I sit with during meals with my family. The very same that my friends gather around.

And, I never made the connection. I have only started considering a connection between a childhood amnesia and his passing. I never realized that it could have such a profound subconscious affect on my life as an adult.

I miss him. And most of all, I believe I mourn the time we missed most. I mourn the loss of the role in my life he could have taken.

When I joined the showband, I knew he’d be thrilled. His own granddaughter, so talented in music that she would be invited to travel the country each year to compete. I knew he’d be even more proud when I joined choir. All of those years watching me sing in church paid off in solos and special choir assignments.

When I graduated high school, I wondered if he’d be proud of me. I graduated with honors. The choir needed me and a friend so badly at graduation that we actually had to run back and forth from the stage to the other stage!

What would he think of my husband? I know he’d adore my son. My son loves cars and trains, just like him. They’d play with his model train sets all day.

If I ever do have a daughter, she’d be the light of his life. He cherished his girls most of all. He had always told me that girls were God’s gift to the world, and children were life’s best blessing.

He’d just be tickled about my job. He always believed in public service, and thought the people who did it were saints in disguise as ordinary people. Yes, he was a little bigoted, so he might have made a remark or two about it being in a city neighborhood. But, anyone in need – it didn’t matter who they were. He always believed that people were people. No less, no more.

He’d make a joke about me getting a report card. And I’d tell him that I do, every year in May. And he’d probably still slip me a card with some odd currency in there. A JFK silver half dollar. Oh god, a couple of Saqaguia’s! How he would have been so tickled by that!

He played piano. My parents both sing. I know where the talent came from.

Would he have said anything about the bipolar disorder? Maybe one thing. “You were always sensitive and moody. It’s a sign that you’re human.” That would have been that. I am who I am, and that’s more than special to him.

If he were alive, I’d join him and my mother for coffee in the morning, even if I don’t drink coffee. I know he’d pick up my prescriptions if I asked. He might poke fun and call them “crazy meds”. Just for a giggle.

He was the light in my chaotic childhood. He was the rock in my life. He was the father my dad could not be at the time. I was lucky to have my Pappap at all.

I do hope he rests peacefully and happily. And I hope he knows, that even after all of these years, and although I was young, I still remember him and everything he was to me.

I Ain’t Afraid of No SOPA

Emblazoned on the frontpage of Wikipedia:

Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge

It didn’t take a lot of imagination yesterday. When you went to Google, there is a giant black censor block. I logged onto WordPress, and found myself staring at a page filled with censored blogs, where there should have been featured blogs. Upon clicking, this headline sits before me:

You may not be aware of the pending legislation called SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act).  It sounds good in theory.  I would know, because Representative Tim Murphy from Pennsylvania got to me first.  He declared it to be in our best interest to stop cyber terrorism.  This legislation is heralded as the great protector of our sensitive information in banks, hospitals, etc.  After I had several fraudulent charges on my joint bank account within two days of each other, two sliced and diced debit cards and no way for easy access to my money, I considered this a great thing!

Until yesterday, January 18th, 2012.  Until I was forced to open my eyes and do my civic duty by actually reading what these bills are all about.  (Thank you, President Obama for the Freedom of Information Act).

As usual, we’ve been duped.  Essentially, these bills equate to the US Patriot Act, in a manner of speaking.  The US Patriot Act is there to deny civil liberties guaranteed by our Amendments, if they suspect you as a terrorist.  They’ve set it up so that if you speak out, it can be very easy for you to disappear.

This is another step toward totalitarianism.  SOPA and PIPA seek to criminalize our freedom for information.  By doing that, they also grossly violate our First Amendment rights to write, create, and pass on information as we wish.  It grants permission to Internet Service Providers to block any information they wish.

Doesn’t this seem suspicious that these were pushed on the dawn of the Occupy Movement?  The Occupy Movement consists of local grassroots organizations that rely on the internet to make international connections between them.  What happens to all of the grassroots organizations, such as Occupy and Blog for Mental Health 2012, when our voice is stifled?

And that’s what Pendulum would look like if certain politicians had their way.  It is bad enough that many of the mental health bloggers feel the societal pressure to take refuge behind glowing monitors and clever pseudonyms.  Now, our medium and content are being threatened.  Extreme discrimination could take place.  If one party, just one, find our content to be vile, disturbing, irresponsible, or amoral, then we are likely to get shut down.

I won’t stand for that.  Personally, I want to stop this thing dead in it’s tracks.  This is my own forum to discuss mental health.  In the days of old, families would lock up their “insane” in basements, cellars, and attics.  What we would experience would be the modern equivalent.  I was tired of hiding and being disguised.  That’s why, exactly seven months ago today, I came here to be on display for all of the world to see.

It saved my life.  And, I wouldn’t know what to do without it.

If you feel that your civil liberties to talk about your mental health and special concerns are in danger of being violated, take a stand.  Do it now before it’s too late.

Google wants you to take action.

Even certain parties in the White House want you to take action.

Around the world, in the UK, individuals are taking action.

And millions of others all want you to take action against SOPA and PIPA.

Every signature on every petition counts.  Shout it out, loud and clear!

SOPA WON’T SILENCE ME!

Admissions of a Birthday Girl

Tomorrow marks another year closer to three decades of my existence on Planet Earth. Admittedly, there is, and always has been a strong contradiction between the number of birthdays I’ve celebrated, the age of my face, and the age of my soul. If everyone in the world forgot the year I was born, I would be very confused about my age.

A few months ago, I gazed in the mirror one day to see my first noticeable signs of aging. Before that, I had a face as smooth and white as a baby’s bottom. A baby face, that took at least five to ten years off of my chronological age. When I was pregnant, people gazed at me in shock and horror, as if I were a teen mother. I went to complete paperwork at the bank for my name change, and the teller was taken aback. “I swear, I wouldn’t have thought you were old enough to get married.” I got that, a lot.

Tick - tock.

Quite the oddity, I was actually excited to see the fine lines across my scarred forehead and around my mouth. I may be the only woman on the planet that was excited to see my face start to catch up with my chronological age! I despised my youthful appearance. I have never felt as if my chronological age fit, nor did I take it as a compliment when someone thought I was a teenager.

I will make an admission; I am one of those people that typically loathes their own birthday.  Yes, I find it absolutely pretentious.  Except, I do not detest my birthday for the same reasons that everyone else does.  As previously stated, I like the aging process.  I have always been excited about gaining more numbers.  My birthday just falls in a bad time of the year.

Growing up, I secretly envied peers that had birthdays during warmer months.  Pennsylvania has reasonable temperatures between March and November.  My friends would have all kinds of fun parties, because they weren’t all trapped in the house, buried in four feet of snow, and huddled around the heater in subzero temperatures.  Camping parties, pool parties, outdoor parties, indoor parties where we could run around the yard, parties in the park, and every other conceivable party I couldn’t have.

As an adult, the problem grew worse.  In the last ten years, I have had two nice days on my birthday.  My 22nd and my 24th.  Neither of those birthdays had anything planned.  I can’t plan a party.  Every year I have tried, I was doomed for especially bad weather.  My 23rd had to be moved to the weekend of Superbowl Sunday, when the Steelers were playing.  Living in Pittsburgh, the Steelers in the Superbowl is more important than anything.  When they win the Superbowl, the city gets shut down for two days, because everyone is too busy celebrating to go to work.  If they’re not going to work, they sure as hell aren’t going to my birthday party.

People don’t want to come out in January if they don’t have to.  I have been cursed with ice storms, heavy snow, and subzero temperatures.  So, I stopped planning parties.  I stopped planning anything, actually.  Because each year, I have been brutally disappointed.  Those disappointments mounted into resentment for that day.

Not this year!  I don’t especially care what the weather is like.  It does not matter if my friends or family notice the date on the calendar or not.  I like my birthday.  I am celebrating me, and everything my life has amounted to.  I am happy with myself, and all that I’ve created and become.  There is no need for anyone to justify my thoughts or emotions about me.

I love that it’s on a Saturday, because there are no expectations.  I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do.  And, I have all of the time in the day to do anything I do want to do.  I will go out and have a lovely dinner on the house.  (I already have the voucher).  Then, I will buy myself the things that I actually want for my birthday.  No expectations, no disappointments.

This past year has been one of the harder ones, but not the hardest.  I have made so much progress in all aspects of my life.  I am managing my physical and mental health well.  My marriage is solid.  My career is taking root.  And my son is growing.  My family is happy and healthy.  I am happy and healthy.  Those are all of the things I’ve ever wanted. This birthday, I have them all.

The best birthday present ever is the pride that I have in myself.  I have walked through fire to get to this point.  I may not have done it all gracefully.  But, I made it out stronger, wiser, and better for it all.

Thnks Fr Th Crcs

I have a lot of things to be thankful for. Best of all, my family. Especially after this Thanksgiving.

I had originally forgotten that our presence was required for Thanksgiving dinner at the in-laws. I was reminded the moment I awoke. Ugh. There goes my plan to visit with my family and enjoy the rest of the day in a turkey coma.

I don’t loathe my in-laws. In fact, I love my MIL and FIL. However, to be frank, with the exception of my MIL, they are my step-in-laws. That includes all of the extended family, Nana, and Aunt N. Those two are some characters. But, in Italian families, everyone is kin no matter how they came about being so.

You know Lulu. Everything happens with a certain twist.

Family gatherings are awkward without MIL. She’s the link that solidifies me as part of the family. I’m not used to Italian families, honestly. They’re very affectionate, even physically so. Scottish families are not. We wave at each other from across a great expanse and smile.

We went to my family’s dinner, which is extremely relaxed and informal. To my parents, Thanksgiving is not really a celebratory holiday for them. It’s a ritualistic yearly event encouraging gluttony. In prior years, it was actually closer to Festivus.

Immediately following that dinner, we packed up the family and headed to the in-laws. Two Thanksgiving dinners was going to be a challenge. It was like (wo)man vs. food. And I’m in no shape for a challenge like that!

There are thirteen miles between our home and my in-laws. On the way there, C.S. talked to MIL. Apparently, FIL was at Market District to buy one of those hideously expensive, pre-cooked dinners! I was in shock! What an absolute waste of money! And next, how could they possibly afford to drop over $100 on something that could be prepared for half of that when they are so hard-up?

We arrived at Nana’s and called FIL to meet us up there. He told us that he’d have dinner in the oven and it would be ready in two hours. Two hours! Unfreakin’ believable. Over $100 on a meal you actually had to cook anyway?!

And what to do in that two hours? The house is not child-proof by any means. There is no cable and no toys for T.D. I could only imagine the disaster awaiting us.

So, we waited in the car, in 40 degree weather with the heater off. T.D. was peacefully slumbering with his parka on, in the car seat. C.S. tells me that he’s going to take more pictures of Sebastian (the totalled car) from the interior for to document the damages in the lawsuit.

Forty minutes elapsed. I was absolutely freezing my everything off, tingling from the cold. My husband called FIL back. “Ohhhh,” he slurred, “I was playing with the dogs. I’ll be up in a second.” FIL time runs on quite a different clock. Ten minutes later, he pulled into the driveway.

He stumbled out of the car with armloads of packaged, partially cooked food. I tended to T.D. I met my FIL in the kitchen and he gave me a wobbly hug. He quietly admitted to me, “I don’t know what happened. I was sitting there and I just fell asleep.”

C.S. stayed in the kitchen to help. FIL stood there, silent with his head hanging. It became clear that he had fallen asleep standing up! C.S. woke him and he said, “I took some pain pills earlier. I’m going to wake up with a cigarette in the smoking room.” He was never to be scene again.

I noted Nana was nowhere to be seen as well. Apparently, she had taken another of her infamous falls and went back to bed for the day. It was T.D. and I surfing the four channels available to find something, anything, for entertainment. It came down to Maury or Judge Judy.

Once everything was in the oven, we took T.D. outside to run around the vast property. It wasn’t without shenanigans. There had to be some entertainment to make the trip remotely worthwhile.

And it will stay like this until Christmas!

After, we joined FIL in the smoking room. T.D. found his favorite shows and sat in FIL’s lap for over an hour. And eventually, FIL passed back out, his head hanging backward with his mouth completely open. It was a sight to behold. I wanted to take a photo, but I figured as hilarious as it would be, it would likely be insulting.

When T.D. got up from FIL’s lap, FIL’s jeans were soaked with urine. It turned out that my son’s diaper leaked. And yet, FIL was absolutely oblivious. It actually looked as if FIL soiled himself! He groggily asked, “What happened here?, completely unphased.

C.S. and I joked about the absolute ridiculousness of the situation. Why the hell were here? What is the whole point of having to cook our own dinner? Who exactly are we supposed to be visiting here? Everyone here is unconscious but us!

We went back up to finish dinner. C.S. asked me for assistance in the kitchen, leaving T.D. in the living room entirely unsupervised. You know, I’ve been to every major holiday at my in-laws house for the last five years, and I still don’t know where the light switch is in the bathroom. How would I know where anything is in the kitchen! Everything was in bags, tucked away in drawers!

That is when I started to notice the address labels. There was one on the refrigerator and another on the cabinet. I looked some more and found more on the stove and the cabinet above it. They were littered throughout the kitchen! I began to play Where’s Waldo!

I returned to the living room to find absolute chaos. Life alert was activated. The phone was off the hook, beeping. Cabinets hung open with their contents strewn about the floor. And T.D. stood there repeatedly pressing the button the answering machine. I couldn’t help but laugh. What destruction! I was almost proud.

I rejoined my husband in the kitchen to ready the table. I said, “I found eight, beat that!” He laughed and asked, “Did you see the one on the toilet?!”I burst into hysterical laughter and exclaimed, “No!” He smiled devilishly and said, “I took pictures!”

Property of Nana, who is afraid you're going to jack her toilet.

I looked and burst into the hardest laugh I had experienced. My legs turned to rubber and I fell to the floor. My stomach and sides ached, while I laughed so hard, I made no noise. I curled up and just shook like a Tickle Me Elmo.

Dinner was served. Nana came out of her bedroom wearing only her nightgown. Now, had I know this was casual dress, I would have stayed in my pajamas too! FIL came from downstairs and we all assembled at the tabled. Their family is extremely Catholic, so FIL mumbled through grace.

Nana doesn’t hear very well, so our conversations are very limited. This is despite the fact that I am a 5’1″ powerhouse of sound. I’ve been teased my entire life for having a loud voice. When I did solos, I did not need a microphone, even from a large auditorium. And yet, Nana cannot hear me. I looked over and FIL was practically asleep in his plate. C.S. and I exchanged hilarious glances across the table.

WTF?!?!

This why they call it a “Family Circus”..

This exercise was pointless. With one exception.

Napa Valley: 1985 - Aged 26 Years

A Happy Thanksgiving indeed!

Eleven, Eleven, Eleven

I am completely luck impaired. If I had luck as a stat like in role-playing games, it was be a -3. I swear.

But today, on the luckiest day of this millennium, I thought that I would acknowledge all of the luckiest things that have ever happened to me.

  • From what I understand, some people search their whole lives for that one special person. I met him in my teens. I became romantically involved with him, and nine months later we were married.
  • I am blessed with a wonderful son. Many women have fertility issues. Even if this surgery results in infertility, I still have T.D.
  • I was lucky enough to have a mostly uncomplicated pregnancy with T.D. and a complication free labor. He was born healthy and beautiful.
  • Through pure chance, I fell into the job of my dreams. This was the spark that started my passion for education and love of children. Some people search forever for the job they love, and I received mine by chance.
  • I am naturally gifted in many areas. I was afforded so many different chances to hone my abilities.
  • I am lucky enough to have a permanent home.
  • By chance, I have found a mental health community. Here, I find warmth, comfort, guidance, and camaraderie.
  • C.S. was lucky enough to walk away from a potentially fatal accident. I am lucky to have him alive.
  • Through absolutely random chance, I met a stranger on the bus who helped me save the big spring musical. It saved my job, gave me work over the summer, and promoted me to Music Director.
  • Once, I found $123 on a sidewalk with no one in sight.
  • And best of all, I am the luckiest gal on the planet to be surrounded with people who love me for who I am. This one goes out to you.
  • Maybe I’m not so unlucky after all. Happy 11/11/11!

Ooops, Mistaken Mistake!

Dear Diary,

Today, I got dressed to go to work on Halloween. I didn’t think of a costume until I was standing in front of my dresser.

I pulled on my knit kitty hat, buttoned up a white dress shirt, and even tied a blue and grey men’s tie for the first time. I put some raccoon-like makeup around my eyes and red gloss on my lips. For a final touch, I wore some old leather bracelets with studs and stars on them.

I didn’t know who I was.

Until I was already at work and seated at a table. A student asked me who I was for Halloween and I shrugged. My mind wandered off of it’s leash for awhile while fluorescent light poured down. And then, I knew.

I accidentally went as Ke$ha for Halloween. Except, I have a better voice and she has a better ass.

Oops.

The End.

PS: Happy Halloween!

Radio Silence Breaks

It’s been five days since my last post.  I realized the huge gap in posting and attempted to write something on the bus on the way to work quickly.  That ended in my phone crashing the app and me seething over lost work.  So, here’s an update on the RL that’s been eating my Lulu life.

Saturday, October 15, 2011
That was the day we held T.D.’s third birthday party.  The morning started out with a breakfast buffet at Eat N Park.  T.D. is an incredible eater.  What made the buffet worth it was the fact that I knew he would eat an adult portion, though C.S. and I may not have.

C.S. and I put T.D. down for a nap when we came home.  Then, we feverishly cleaned the house before our guests arrived.  It’s not as if we keep a dirty home.  In the past week, I’ve been sick, so the domestics got a little behind.  Really, we could have gotten it done in about an hour, but we opted for the deep clean.  I won’t bore you with the details.

T.D. had a lovely party.  His Grammy (my MIL), Poppop (my Dad), and his Grandma (my mother who he actually calls “Gram”), all stopped by to open presents and have birthday cake.  The rest of our guests weren’t able to come until later due to other obligations.  But that was fine.  T.D. considers our friends to be his friends, too.  He has his favorites, and they all managed to make it.  He really loved it.  And I’m so happy that he had such a wonderful party.

Saturday, October 16, 2011
This is my little dedication to the birth of T.D..

We all must have partied a little hardy and woke up later than usual.  We were sitting at the breakfast table when I noticed the time.  I said, “At this time, exactly three years ago, Mommy was hooked up to all over her IV’s.”

I had an induction with T.D. at 38 weeks.  My pregnancy was riddled with problems.  Most of them were normal pregnancy symptoms – acid reflux to the point of vomiting, migraines, etc.  When the doctor asked that Monday morning if I was ready to have the baby on Thursday, I was overjoyed!  There’s nothing I wanted more than to not be pregnant anymore.  My stomach was so big that I couldn’t even lean forward anymore, much less bend down.

I also had more threatening pregnancy problems.  I had placental problems and cervical dysplasia at the time.  Additionally, I’m a small woman.  There was an issue with narrow hips, and the question as to whether I was going to be able to deliver naturally.  On his last ultrasound, T.D. was about 6 and a half pounds and his lungs were fully developed.  It looked like we were ready to go!

A little later in the early afternoon, while relaxing with some television, I noted the time again.  I said, “At this time, Mommy got her epidural that didn’t turn out so well.”

The doctors and nurses urged me to schedule my epidural ahead of time so that I wouldn’t miss my window of opportunity.  Personally, I didn’t want to get it until it was absolutely necessary.  However, since I had to schedule, I had little choice.

They cleared everyone out of the room, and I panicked.  I begged for my husband to be allowed to stay, but it was hospital policy that no one remain.  Apparently, some had fainted at one look at the needle.  I was scared.  I tried to remember what other women had told me; “By the time I got the epidural, I was in so much pain I didn’t even feel the needle!”  But I felt it.  I screamed when that needle was shoved into my spine.  The nurse and doctor were jerks about it.  “It couldn’t have hurt that bad.”

We hung around in a silent room for awhile.  Finally, I asked, “Why are we waiting around?”  It was hospital policy that the doctor and the nurse administering the epidural wait for fifteen minutes in case something happened.  Nothing did happen, and everyone was allowed to come back in.

It wasn’t even ten minutes before something did go wrong.  I kept telling C.S. that I felt like I was going to vomit.  I was spinning and everything blurred.  A hazy black formed around the edges of my vision and enclosed in while voices seemed to drift away.  In my mind, I thought, “This is what dying feels like.”  I was brought back to with a shot of adrenaline.  The epidural caused my blood pressure to tank out and I lost consciousness for just a moment.

Later on, more toward the evening, I noticed the time again.  I mentioned, “This was the time that Mommy’s epidural wore off.”

My doctor and nurse expected me to have delivered around dinner time, and we had gone past that now.  I was in absolute screaming agony and begged that my nurse get someone to give me more medicine.  She told me to wait.  Wait?!  Wait for what?!  Finally, my screams attracted enough attention to get a boost of epidural.  It was a relief, but not enough to bring the pain down to a manageable level.

And this is where my memory gets a little fuzzy.

There was a clock across the room and a TV underneath of it.  I was keeping time based on both the TV programming and the clock.  I could have sworn that the doctor came in and told me around 10 that we were going to do some practice pushes.  I know that’s the time that they cut me off from the epidural.  But C.S. seems to think differently.  To say the least, T.D. was born into this world after between 45 minutes and an hour and a half of pushing labor.  They told me, “He’s out!  He’s out!”

“I know.”

They rushed T.D. off to the little cart. I didn’t hear him crying at first. I asked, “Is he OK?” They assured me he was fine. But, I didn’t hear him. It was the longest minute of my life, but I finally heard his voice.

Today, T.D. is alive and well. And my hips remained two inches wider.

Reminiscence of Nine Eleven

Ok, I have been dreading this and avoiding it all week.

I don’t buy into hype.  So, in late August, it dawned on me that the 10th anniversary of 9-11 was coming soon. I knew that all of America would soon be sucked into the media frenzy that always happens when someone drops those two words : Nine Eleven. Ugh.

It is not as if I was not profoundly affected by the experience. It is the day that changed America. I was moved by all of the people who, instead of fleeing from the scene, ran into the crumbling infernos. My heart aches for the families who suffered incredible losses. And I am infuriated at the injustice of it all.

Too many people have used the deeply impacting experience of 9-11 for the wrong reasons. Many have used it for personal gain. Other political leaders have used it as a scare tactic. It has totally bastardized the true nature behind this. 9-11 was the profound tragedy that woke America from it’s safe slumber.

Most of us who are blogging here today are old enough to remember the disturbing event in great detail. We have all heard the heart-breaking stories that followed. But, no one ever asked the rest of us. How did we see it? How did we feel? And on the tenth anniversary, how do we remember it?

I’ll tell my story.

I was in high school at the time. My high school had many wings. I spent my entire morning in the music wing, which was attached to the middle school. We were very isolated from the rest of the school.

I had remembered that I had forgotten to take my handful of pills that morning when I started to suffer from shortness of breath. I had terrible asthma and allergies at the time. So, I went to the nurse’s office to have her call home for them.

My mother was there in 20 minutes. She looked very upset as she walked into the office. I asked her if everything was alright. There was a brief flash where the nurse caught my mother’s eye. She simply replied, “I’m OK. I just saw something bad on the news.”

I dismissed it. Every day, she’d spout on and on about news stories that featured girls getting killed, kidnapped, and / or raped. I figured it was something like that.

In retrospect, I recall the halls being abnormally quiet. It was quite a hike from the nurse’s office in the main building to the music wing. There were usually a couple far away voices in the girls’ bathroom or a low rumble of a class in progress. Everything was just murmurs and whispers.

But, it was business as usual in my chorus class. I took my rightful place as section leader of the altos, and was lost in the music. Next period, it was more of the same. I had select chorus in the same classroom, with some of the same students. Even the ones who came from the main building had nothing unusual to report.

It wasn’t until 11:15AM, over 2 and a half hours after the first tower was hit, before I knew. I returned to the main building to have lunch. It was the heart of period break and my peers were running and screaming through the halls. We’re all going to die! They’ll kill us all! I tried to stop someone to ask, but it was complete havoc. Teachers came out into the halls, ordering us to move along.

I sat down in a booth in the lunchroom with my friends. Some sat solemnly staring at the table. Others were shaking in a frenzy. “What the hell is going on?”, I demanded.
They gave me the abbreviated version. Terrorists hijacked four planes. One hit one of the twin towers, another hit the other. One plane hit the Pentagon and one went down in Somerset County, about 93 miles southwest of our high school. It was alarmingly close, and everything was on lockdown. No one knew if there were any other planes were out there. And no one knew what the targets were.

Was Pittsburgh a target? Sure, it’s not a large city. However, we have the best hospitals and research facilities in the world here. We couldn’t know if we were safe.

It was the first time in my entire life that I felt like I could be in mortal danger far beyond my control.

Suddenly, I didn’t feel like eating.

Next period, I had Geometry. But there was no math. It was the first time I had

An unimginable choice

any imagery of what happened. CNN was on every television in every classroom. I didn’t even really hear what the reporter was saying. I watched the north tower smoldering with plumes of smoke bellowing into the air above New York City. You could hardly see the people leaping from the windows, plunging to their death.

Then, they showed the footage of the second plane smashing into the south tower as people let out blood-curdling screams in the background. I watched in horror it as if it were happening in real time. I realized the towers could fall to either side and create a domino effect. I worried that it would.

They skipped to the blazing inferno that was now a hole in the Pentagon. Then, the blazing hole in the earth too close to home in Somerset County. Again, back to the towers. With what looked to be another explosion, the north tower crumbled onto itself, floor by floor. Dust and debris covered the crash site. I thought of all of the people who lost their lives attempting to rescue others. So many brave men and women gave themselves in the line of duty now perished under the rubble.

It was like something out of a movie.

The horror wouldn’t end. For the next two and a half hours, I watched the footage repeatedly. The only reprieve was class changes. CNN announced the declaration of A State of Emergency. Another announcement stated that all air traffic would be completely halted until further notice.

The ride home from school was sullen. The roads were practically deserted and it looked like a ghost town. Pittsburgh was still on lockdown, with the exception of necessary traffic.

It didn’t end when I returned home either. My family was glued to the television, watching CNN in awestruck terror. I finally cried as I watched the people leap to their deaths. I listened intently to people’s final words to their loved ones. There was so much pain and fear. I heard the brave story of the passengers of Flight 93. And I mourned their lives when they still perished after fighting so hard to live.

It was then that it became real to me.

That’s why it was a grizzly sight when Building 7 went down later in the evening. Although the World Trade Center had long been evacuated of civilians, many rescue workers and civilian volunteers remained. How many more people have to die? There was so much uncertainty. Is this the end? Or is there more to come?

The days following were a blur of fear, sadness, and more CNN coverage than I had seen in my entire life. It was a whirlwind of press conferences with various politicians and interviews with witnesses. I don’t remember most of it, to be honest.

I do recall this moment very clearly.

Nika, my next door neighbor, and I laid in our connected yard the next day and stared at the sky. There was nowhere else to go to escape the news coverage. The sky was blue, and the air was warm and eerily silent. Our street was a main street, and yet, it was less than a rumble. We lived close enough to Pittsburgh International Airport that you could hear the air traffic overhead. It was rare that you could look upward and not see a plane. But the sky was completely empty.

“It’s too quiet.”

We heard it first before we saw it. It was definitely a plane engine. And still, in my entire life, it has been one of the most terrifying sounds in my entire life. I ran to get my dad. He came out and squinted at the sky. He said, “It’s a military plane. Probably headed to the air force base.” The long sigh that escaped me was not enough to relieve the fear. It took a long time to relieve that fear.

It’s ten years later. Here in Pittsburgh, the PAT busses have been running a 9-11-01, NEVER FORGET message for a week. But no one here is really thinking about 9-11. The Steelers played today at 1PM. Business as usual.

I’m thinking about it, though.