Sunday, September 23, 2012

Gone With the Wind

Well, he may love the recliner and hanging inside the house on cool nights, but he refuses to do two things:  he won't use the litter box, and he won't wear a collar.  You are looking at the face of a very sweet kitty who has now worn and torn off six, count 'em, SIX collars.

Apparently, his opinion of collars  is the same as Hubby's thoughts on socks.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Say Hello to my Little Friend

The other day I drove to a particular wooded area to try to catch a picture of some cranes that I'd seen landing in that area when I had driven by a couple of times.  As I rounded the corner, a blur crossed my path, creating this noisy crashing sound, and I braked the car to a quick stop.  I realized it was a deer.  A young deer.  He stopped a few yards from me and stared at me, probably wondering what on earth I was doing in his neck of the woods.  I'm not sure who was surprised more, him or me.  My camera happened to be in an open case in the seat behind me, and I slowly reached around and grabbed it.  I managed one quick shot before he dashed off into the bushes.  He was beautiful, and in the 3.5 seconds I had my eyes locked on him, I felt like I was staring into the face of God.  What a lovely creature. 

I missed the cranes.  They weren't there.  But I got something better.  I love it when things happen that way.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hanging on!

Even though the really hot days of summer are over, and the weather can be a tad cool for swimming, we decided to have one last blast to wrap up the pool season.  We have to put the cover on it soon, but we wanted one last hurrah before we start accepting the reality called autumn.  Pffft.  Autumn.  Her skies may be lovely and her foliage may be stunning, but my heart belongs to summer.  And we will miss those warm days splashing around with family and friends.  I think we had three weekends out of the entire season when we didn't have company.   We literally spent just about every weekend, whooping it up with friends.  We will miss it, so with the prospect of seven months of cool weather ahead, we wanted to go out with a bang.  And bang we did. 

It was 78 degrees Saturday, but we cranked up the heater on the pool and forged ahead.  All of our little friends paddled and played, while their mamas and daddies swam, visited, ate and played cornhole.  For six and a half hours.  Yep, six and a half hours.  And about that fifth hour when one little friend told me it was "the best party EVER", I said, "Self, life is good."  It really was the best party EVER. 

There were spills.

And chills.

Back flips.
Water gun fights.

Dunking and tossing.

And even a few wedgies.

Oh, and dancing.  Don't forget the dancing.

I looked up at one point to see a new kid in the pool and had to ask where he came from.  When everyone finally went home, there were more crumbs on the Man Cave floor than a mouse could eat all winter, the beverages were pretty depleted, and most all of the food was gone.  We're still finding random pool toys in the yard, which makes us laugh to no end.  Hubby mopped the Man Cave floor three times, and we washed two heaping loads of beach towels.  And we didn't mind one bit.  It was a great time, yes indeed.  A wonderful time.  Life is good.  Really good. 
And now to dig out some socks.  Pfffft. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hula-gen Family Fun Fact #93

Hula's love of hats started before she could even walk.  And apparantly, before she even owned a legitimate hat.

Friday, September 14, 2012

If Only Troubles Melted Like Lemon Drops

Monday marked Suicide Prevention Day.  I thought about writing about Sissy then, but I just didn't feel prepared to put into words what I was feeling that day.  We passed the three year anniversary of Sissy's suicide in April, and I had the same issue then.  I didn't really know what to write.  And I have found that if I don't know what to say, it's best to just sit back and say nothing until I'm ready.  When I'm ready, the words will come.

I really can't believe it's been three years.  Time flies so fast now, that it really only seems like a year or so since she took her own life.  A lot has happened in that time period, but the memories of the night of her death are still very fresh.  While I'm a little more numb to them now than I was even a year ago, they are very vivid.  Even when I'm old, I don't think I'll ever forget that knock on the door in the wee hours of the morning.  Those moments stick with you.  They slip back into the recesses of your mind and your heart, but they bubble back up when you hear about or witness someone else deal with a tragedy.  I sometimes think the final stage of grief is being able to keeping that boiling pot of feelings at a simmer 95% of the time instead of the full rolling churn it can often be if we let it consume us.  And that churn is really what brought Sissy down.  That, and the fact that she relied on dangerous vices to navigate her melancholy days.

Sissy's depression started in earnest with the death of her son.  The day he died is the day she stopped living.  She fought it for a little while but lost the urge pretty quickly.  About a month after her son died, her husband underwent a kidney/pancreas transplant.  She spent long hours at the hospital dealing with her husband's fight for life, and in an effort to cope, she started drinking regularly to block out the nightmares of her son's drowning and her husband's condition so she could sleep.  And once she started drinking, she never stopped.  Through her husband's recuperation, their eventual divorce, his death and those early years after my nephew's death, she grew to rely on alcohol and eventually her prescription medication to get through the days.  She lived several hours away from us , and when we visited her, she kept herself together to the point that it took us a long time to realize she had an issue with alcohol.  We truly didn't realize how severe it had become until she moved to Florida following the suicide of a close friend of hers.  In Florida, she tried to take her own life. 

She called us that afternoon, and as I talked to her, she sounded distant.  When I tried to call her back later, I got no answer.  And even though she hadn't given us any indication that anything was wrong, I just had this horrible feeling in my gut that something was wrong.  I felt this panicky, sick feeling that wouldn't go away, and I called some friends of hers who lived in that same city, and I insisted that they check on her.  They had seen her only hours before, said she was fine and were skeptical of my concern.  I had to beg them to go, and they finally did.  When they arrived, they found her half dead in the garage in a running car.  It was the first of what would be many times she tried to kill herself.

We moved her home to Kentucky and for the next three years, spent just about every hour of every day trying to keep her alive.   It didn't work, and the morning the deputy knocked on our door, we knew the news before he spoke a word.  By that point, we had made many trips to the hospital with her, following ambulances, standing in ER rooms and riding the rolling coaster of her attempts to end her pain.  We had done everything we could.  And it didn't work.

It took six days to find her body and pull it from the river into which she had jumped.  For her last suicide attempt she had chosen a bridge.  She wanted it to work that time.  She just didn't want to fight her demons anymore.  And while we were profoundly sad, I was glad she was at peace finally.  So many times she had told me through tears that she just wanted to be at peace.

I think about her often.  When we drive over that bridge, I can't help but imagine what it was like for her that night.  I can't imagine the courage it took to climb onto the side and take that fateful step.  I wonder a lot of things about that jump, but I can't think about it for very long or I start to crack open the lid on a box that I don't want to crawl back into.  Because we live in her house now, I sometimes think about her when I'm lying in bed, in the same part of the bedroom where she slept.  I lay in the dark, imagining what it was like when she lacked the strength to get out of bed, when she felt lonely and when she was thinking of death.  I wonder how that felt, how she got to the point where life hurt so bad she just wanted it to stop.  And I can't imagine that feeling.  I just can't.  I've always loved life too much.  And I've always had hope.  I don't know what it's like to be without hope.  Thank God, I don't know what that's like.

I think about her when I hear her favorite song.  Just yesterday, Somewhere Over the Rainbow shuffled through my iPod.  We played that song at her funeral.   The version on my iPod is from Eric Clapton, and it reminds me of the time she and I saw him in concert together.  It was the last great time we had together, and that song makes me smile and cry at the same time. 

Back in April, I was running at lunch on the anniversary of her death, when I passed a beautiful bloom that had fallen from a magnolia tree.  I had to smile at the obvious metaphor.  Sissy was like that bloom.  Beautiful but knocked off its foundation and doomed to an early death by a strong wind she just couldn't withstand.  Lovely on the outside but likely to crumble at any time. 

Throughout our struggles with Sissy in those last few years of her life, I chose not to write about a lot of what we endured.  Partially, for the privacy of the family, but also because it just hurt too much.   Living closely with and caring for someone who is crippled by depression and substance abuse is overwhelming.  It consumes you.  And that's why I'm writing about it now.  Not because I have any great words of wisdom or solutions.  Hardly.  There are things I'd do differently if I were doing it all over again, but I know we did our best, and that's all anyone can do.  I'm writing because I have learned in the past three years that there are many people dealing with the same situation.  Because Sissy chose to die in a very public way, the whole community came to know about our situation.  Since then, several people have told me privately that they have a loved one who is an alcoholic or is suicidal.  Out of embarrassment or shame, they deal with it quietly.  And they hurt. 

If you are in that position, you are not alone.  There are people and organizations that can help.  Do not be afraid to seek them out.  I found Al-Anon to be a great help for me.  And more than once, I looked up at a meeting to see someone I knew (I live in a relatively small town) wandering in out of desperation and frustration over a loved one's addictive behavior.  They were surprised to see a familiar face but glad to have someone they could share their pain with. 

You have to find ways to take care of yourself or else your loved one's issues will consume you, too.  For three years, we went to bed every night wondering if we would find Sissy dead in the morning.  We started each day wondering if she would make it through the day.  We were afraid to go to sleep, so we stayed exhausted and sick.  I couldn't keep weight on my body.  I got down to 113 lbs, which was way too low.  No matter how hard I tried to keep food in my system, it either came back up or roared through my intestines.  You have to stop focusing 100% of your energy on the afflicted and take care of yourself.  It's okay to step away when you need to in order to keep yourself healthy.     

Know that you cannot control someone's behavior.  You can help them.  You can even save them if they want to be saved.  But you cannot force someone to want to live.  That's a very hard concept to accept.  The head knows it, but the heart doesn't understand.  Do all you can, but know that if your loved one dies at his own hands, it's not your fault.  You are not to blame.  You are NOT to blame.

I've always thought suicide was a selfish act.  And I still do, but I'm more forgiving of it now.  I know Sissy didn't want to hurt us when she chose to die.  She just wanted her pain to end, and she couldn't see past that.  I'm not as angry at her as I used to be.  I'm still angry at her psychiatrist, whom I feel fueled her addictions with a blind eye and a heavy prescription pad, but that's an entirely different post.  In the end, the blame for her death lies mostly with her.  If she had not chosen to live in the bottle after my nephew's death, she might still be with us.  Maybe not.  I will never know the answer to that question.  I will never know what triggered her jump on that particular night in April of 2009.  I stopped looking for answers many months ago because that's living in the past.  Living in the past and not the future led Sissy down a path I don't want to take. 

Her death hurt then, and it hurts today, but not as much as it did three years ago.  It gets better as time goes by.  I am a changed person because of that experience.  I hold my loved ones close, often too close, especially Teen Angel.  I live with a dread of loss.  I am wary of the willingness of doctors to dole out prescription drugs at ease.  And while I enjoy an adult beverage now and then, I'm leery of its power.  But I live passionately.  I don't just dream, I work to make my dreams come true and I try to find joy in every day.  I live somewhere over the rainbow, if you will.  I think Sissy would want it that way.    

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I Just Can't Keep From Singing

Ya'll, I love a good bracelet.  I rarely go anywhere without wearing one, or two..or three.  I'm especially fond of a good cuff, and when I found this Tuesday over at Rustic Cuff, I felt like I'd just hit the jackpot.  Trust me when I tell you that no one deserves this bracelet more than me.

"Yes, I know I can't sing.  Yes I'm going to keep singing anyway."

And oddly enough, my family agrees.  I keep telling my husband to quit leaving the TV on those music infomercials unless he wants me to sing every song from the Sound of the 70's.  And 60's....and 80's.  Heck, I can even do the country ones.  Not in key, mind you. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Catching Up

I've neglected my poor little blog lately.  Partly because I've been busy with other things.  And also, I just didn't have the motivation to string together some kind of cohesive post.  My blogging mojo could use a little boost.  I'm not sure what to do about that, so I've been sitting back hoping something would magically inspire me to write some creative witty ditties that would fill these pages, but alas, the writing fairy has screwed me over again.  She must be hanging out with that ornery laundry fairy who bales on me quite frequently, too.  Oh, well.  Some days you're Cinderella.  Some days you're the mouse with a too small shirt and a shrill voice.

The past few days have been filled with a lot of work, some good times with family and lots and lots of picture taking.  I've been working overtime some, and fortunately, I love my job, so I don't mind.  Besides, it's a blessing to be employed during this stinky economy, so I wouldn't dare complain about working.  I like having groceries and being able to keep my lights on.  And sister mercy, it takes a wad of cash to keep the lights on these days.  The extreme heat sent our electric bill soaring this summer.  It hurts so much I'm almost wishing fall would arrive.  Almost.  But not quite.

We had a big get together with my brothers and cousins on mama's side on Labor Day.  That was lots of fun, and a great excuse to splash around in the pool.  Sadly, we will be closing the pool soon, so we plan to have one last big bash this weekend before we have to put the cover on it.  It will also be a good way to empty the man cave fridge of all those odd condiments, sauces and adult beverages that have accumulated in there during the various parties we've had this summer.  Last time I looked we had six kinds of beer, five odd bottles of wine and four kinds of soda out there.  Oh, and Hubby just added a kegerator to the man cave.  It's apparently an item coveted by many men because every time I mention it in the company of men they get this excited look on their faces and want to know more AND the UPS man almost wet his pants with excitement when he delivered it.  We don't even know the UPS man.  The weather looks to be a wee bit cloudy and cool this weekend, possibly even a little wet, but I've decided to damn the torpedoes and push straight ahead with the festivities.  I may be sitting under an umbrella on the deck in a downpour, but I will NOT let the weather ruin my last chance at celebrating summer.  Is there some kind of voo doo spell I can put on the skies?

The past few weeks have been filled with picture taking.  Babies, babies, babies and brides and grooms to be.  I've been stuffing my little travel envelope with money and keeping my fingers crossed that it will grow enough for me to be eating cannoli in Venice in May.  We'll see.  At the very least, it's been keeping me busy.  I'm finally caught up until I have to shoot a wedding in a week and a half.  I'll have a chance to shoot some stuff just for fun in the next week while the weather's not so gosh forsaken hot.  Look out, flowers and bugs!

I hope all is going well with you.  I'll be catching up on your blogs in the next few days, too.  That means checking out your art, hearing about your new home purchase, looking at your pictures and generally catching up on all those things that my blogging friends do.  It will be a refreshing change from all of the crazy political posts on FaceBook these days.  Frankly, the election can't get here soon enough.  Oy vey.      

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Maybe They're With all the Socks That are Missing From our Washing Machine

This guy?  The one with the beautiful blue collar that we've taken into our humble family. 

The one who wandered in the wilderness for a couple of years, killing his own food and searching for shelter in the winter walking uphill barefoot both ways, before he finally came across our doorstep.  The one who begs for attention and has claimed the ottoman in the family room as his own perch?  The little stinker has now torn off five, count 'em FIVE, collars.  He will not keep one on.  I think it's his way of saying, "I love you, but you're not the boss of me."  Just like a cat.