Saturday, January 09, 2010

Homesick-or "Ode to California"

Well its been almost two years since we moved to Vermont and I'm still homesick for California.

I don't know what it is, maybe the cold, maybe the different culture, maybe the fact that when we moved here my oldest son decided to move in with his dad. I don't know. What I do know is that no matter how poor the air quality, crime, gangs, etc, it was my home. And I miss it. I grew up in Oklahoma and that will always be where my roots are. But I don't know know or when but CA worked its way into my heart (and my friends there) and it will not leave.

This is a conundrum...what a word right? Not one that I usually use. But I'm feeling especially melancholy tonight. Maybe it's the weather, maybe not.

But I want to go "home". And home for me is southern California. And it always will be. The children we raised there feel the same way. My oldest son thinks about it all the time, my middle son talks to me about it as does my youngest, my daughter, we try not to talk about it around "Dad", this is where he grew up. This is where he thinks we belong, and he's a good man and we want to make him happy.

I know this blog will make some people angry. I'm sorry if it does, but this is something I have to get out.

These cold New England winter's. The different culture, even the food. It's not "right", not for me. I told my husband I'd give it a year, we're going on two and my heart still hurts. Hurts for my friends that made me laugh until I pee'd my pants, my friends that "got" my humor, hurt for the fact that I didn't even own a pair of open toe shoes (until I came here), and wore mostly skirts and sandals year round (not even a possibility here) - where it takes 30 minutes to bundle up myself and the kids for our 5 minute drive to school and work.

I hurt for the memory of locking up the elementary school I worked at in a migrant community (I miss my job there too) on a Friday night with the sound of Mexican music playing as families gathered in their neighborhood to start off the weekend, the smell of homemade tamales, the sounds of laughter, the cries of "bye maestra! have a nice weekend mija!

I miss the sunshine, beach sand, drinking wine on Zuma beach, then sledding in the Tehachapi Mountains a couple of weeks later, 4 wheeling in the desert with my Xterra (that was destroyed by a Moose shortly after moving here), the next weekend finding hidden oasis's, strolling down Hollywood Blvd or going to the flea market on Melrose on Sunday's. Watching the tourists gape at Ventura, Malibu, Hollywood Blvd...trying not to look like tourists and failing.

I miss the people, the crazy/wonderful people - the laid back culture. Everything. When we first moved here the busdriver who picked up our children said she knew we were from California because we were so friendly and always smiling. But life is hard here - and we don't do that as much anymore. I know why.

It is work to live here, to live here in the winter-5 miles from the Canadian Border where the wind from the North Pole blows down an arctic chill from October until late May.

All of it. When we moved to California, my oldest was 6 and my middle son 2. My daughter was born there, one of the few actual California residents actually born there-when she lived there that is.

We made our home there for almost 10 years, raised our children there. Loved, lived, laughed, cried, grieved, sweated, worked, and went on with our lives for almost 10 years. I never thought I would leave.

I feel like a piece of myself is still back there-waiting for the rest of me to catch up, to come home, to come to my senses and go back to where I belong. I cry sometimes with happiness at the memories, sometimes with sadness at the memories, but always with longing.

That horrible longing that actually hurts inside of my chest; like an emptiness waiting to be filled. And there is nothing here for me in beautiful Vermont that will fill it. The people here are great, the area is beautiful. My job is okay. But my soul is not at home here. As cliche as it may sound, it just isn't. And I know with a sense like knowing your own children- thoughts that I will always feel this way-no matter what transpires in the future.

So what will I do? This is where my husband (and my best friend for the past 14 years) wants to make our home, to finish raising our children, there are choices to be made.

There are always choices. Sometimes I think that maybe I should have made a different one when the talk started about leaving our home and moving here. Other times I am glad I made the choice I did. It is still free will. The question is, what will I do about it.

Probably stay here, hold my memories close, try to hold my long distant friends closer and go on.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I am not a disease

All - Many of you know that for about the past 5-6 years I have increasingly become more tired, "foggy", and my body has increasingly caused me pain. In late September to early October after being tested for Lupus and many other auto-immunie diseases I was finally diangosed with Fybromalgia.

This was a relief (to finally) know, and at the same time even more depressing because I thought I would have to try to manage this chronic pain, depression, and increasing brain fog (at times so bad I can barely string together a sentence) for the rest of my life.

Then there came a time about 3 weeks ago when I decided that I did not want to go on living in chronic pain. Also, many people do not understand about Fybromalgia or (FM) and I was tired of people being scornful when I was REALLY IN PAIN, FATIGUED, AND CONFUSED. Yes, I was definitely feeling sorry for myself and in a very bad place. It started with feeling like I didn't want to wake up. I started just praying that I would not wake up. Then after I had stayed in bed for 4 days after a really bad "episode" I started making plans. Even now its hard for me to say it. But I work with people in crisis and I knew that if my mind was "making plans for my demise" that I was in trouble.

I called a friend from work and she got me help, fast. I was admitted into the hospital under a suicide watch, I was given medicine, rest, food, and water and for the first time in a long time I got a good nights sleep.

The next day I couldn't believe what I had been thinking about doing the day before, but this just goes to show you that the lack of sleep, combined with chronic pain and fatigue (along with feeling like you've lost 50 IQ points) can put you over the edge. That's when I decided that I was going to do everything I could possibly do to research and fight this disease.

I have been to the pain clinic at Dartmouth and have established some pain management. I still deal with fatigue and brain fog but I have also found a group on facebook that is helping me (there is a link above). I figured that there are support groups for many diseases and problems so there must be one for FM. There is and I've joined it. I don't want to be a victim and I don't want to sit around feeling sorry for myself. I want to fight this auto-immune disease that has tried to take over my body and mind and I want to advocate for myself and others who have the disease.

I'm not going to give up without a fight. I have 4 beautiful children, a husband who loves me, a good career, and friends that love me too. I have also found Maja (a FM advocate in Sweden) and even one of the parents of one of my students who suffers from this disease.

For many years I wondered what was wrong with me. I wondered if I was going crazy. When the pain and fatigue became unbearable I DID think I was crazy. But I'm not, and if you're reading this and have suffered from the same symptoms your not either. Don't let the doctors just tell you that you are just depressed. Yes, you may be depressed but a lot of it is probably because you are suffering from a disease that causes almost constant chronic pain, fatigue, and confusion and you may feel like its not worth going on. But it IS!

Do not give up hope. Periodically I will be posting here about FM and things that have helped me. In the meantime go to the website listed above and also set up an account on Facebook and search for "Maja" or "Fybro". There ARE other people out here that are suffering. People all over the world. Let's get the word out and let's find ways to help each other. Remember...Pain is Universal....So is HOPE!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Grand Old Lady

I'm sitting on the wrap around porch of a "grand old lady". At least-that's what I call it. It's a house, but not just a house. This house has sat on this hill for at least 100 years (from what I could gather from my research). It overlooks Lake Memphremagog, and downtown Newport.

From where I am sitting on the porch I can see the south bay of Memphremagog through the fall leaves. It looks like something you would find on a postcard. Almost too beautiful to be real. The leaves are umber, orange, pink, green, gold, every hue you can think of. Intermixed within these are the evergreens. Through the tree's that are rapidly losing their leaves I can see the spires of downtown Newport. I can also see the beautiful "castle" church as my daughter calls it. It is actually called St. Mary's Star of the Sea and it is the only such church to be so far inland. It is beautiful.

From one of my daughter's window's on the second floor of this house you can see the church. I am sitting here on this porch that is bigger than some houses I have lived in, for probably one of the last times. We moved in here in August. It is a giant old house, and I believe there are spirits here. But that's for another blog. This one is dedicated to the house. The house sitting on the hill surrounded by hardwoods and softwoods, blackberry bushes (that we picked and ate all through August) and made our own jam and ice-cream topping from.

In a spirit of hope I planted bulbs for next spring, seeds for old fashioned flowers that I hoped would bloom around this beautiful Victorian home when the leaves are green again. My husband and children uncovered stone steps leading down to a flat place in our yard, there - they built a fire pit and we sat around the bonfire this summer while we roasted marshmallow's, told stories, laughed, and my husband taught the kids how to make "dough boy's" (biscuits molded around a thick stick roasted over the fire then filled with jelly).

I always wanted to live in a house like this. A giant house to me compared to what I have lived in with hardwood floors older than my grandfather, a beautiful banister, stairs, and elaborate spindle posts. A landing at the top of the stairs. There are 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, old light fixtures (some nautical porch lights with anchors that are like nothing I've ever seen) and sinks that can only be found in antique store's now. You can lose people in this house as I have found while I walked upstairs/downstairs and all around the porch and basement yelling the names of my husband, children, and dog.

The basement is huge and creepy (as you would expect~and it just wouldn't be the same if it wasn't as far as I'm concerned) there is an old root cellar that I assume was used to "put up" the summer's harvest as my grandmother did when I was a girl. It is built out of old lumber timber and I wonder if the timber came from when Newport was a bustling train stop. This house has character, beautiful large window's filled with light, and spirit to spare.

Unfortunately, it also has lead paint, a heating bill that probably wouldn't allow us to buy groceries in the winter in the current economic climate, and more renovation needed than we could ever financially afford. We leased it with the dream of someday buying it. Even though we knew the landlord's wife wanted to make it her retirement home. Now my husband (and I) although I loathe to admit it have found a more "sensible" home, and with the help of family hopefully we will be able to purchase it someday. We will be moving within a few weeks-back to suburbia to a house made in the late 80's, with a dishwasher and baseboard heat (our daughter has asthma and this old furnace with its many ducts of -who-knows-what-stuffed into the pipes is not good for her breathing (what did kids do back before nebulizers, asthma inhaler's?)...I wonder.

The neighborhood we are moving to is only about a mile away, but it may as well be a galaxy away from this hill, where other "grand old ladies" (as I love to call them sit). These huge houses that have been witness to generations of families, births, deaths, family stories played out among the years...silently watching from their places on the hill as the culture changed, the people changed, the town changed. In my research I noted that this house had once been in one family for 3 generations. To me this inspires the imagination. Three generations of the same family - living their lives out in the same home, this beautiful home where the paint is flaking (lead paint at that-probably falling on my head with the autumn leaves as I type-;), but the solid columns and beams supporting the porch that could house an entire living room set are still standing solid, though their paint may be flaking off, the porch boards may be rotting, and the wiring may need to be re-done. This house is still standing after over 100 years and that is more than can be said for newer structures built after this one.

I complained when I first moved in. I could smell mold, paint was flaking off everywhere, how could we afford to heat it? No dishwasher!? My husband laughed and said it had an "antique" dishwasher...I actually believed him.

But now...after 3 months~I have come to love this home, and much to my husbands chagrin, the kids and I are loathe to leave it. I wash dishes and I have watched the seasons change from the window from where I wash and dry. My grandmother always loved to watch out of the window while she washed and dried dishes, and only now, that I am older, more introspective-more patient-do I understand. I have watched my children play, my husband mow the yard, the leaves and bushes slowly change, the birds nest and fly, and our cat sleeping on a tree branch. You would never expect all of this drama to unfold in a backyard~and I never would have taken the time to watch~ had I not had to hand wash the dishes.

I guess there is something to be said for slowing down.

I have moved now, the the other side of the porch. The side that faces Mt. Vernon street. - and another beautiful old home that I believe may be older than this one. And it has been vacant since we moved here. A beautiful home -the bank owns it now. My children are playing in its yard, I don't think the bank nor the home will mind. In fact it probably enjoys children playing in it, the sounds of laughter long gone from its halls. Can you tell I'm a nostalgic? :)

After we have moved I will miss this house-although as my husband said when I can be safely heated in the harsh winter here - 5 miles from the Canadian border and our daughter is breathing better, and I am able to back my truck out of a garage with a garage door opener~these are things I will probably appreciate.

Next Spring when our children are able to ride their bikes and play basketball and find other neighborhood children to play with it will seem worth it. I know he is right, but a part of me will always miss this house. When I pass it on my way to work I will feel a tug at my heart. I hope whomever lives here next, or owns it will love it as much as I do. I just hope they will have the resources to restore her to her former glory without violating her past. I also hope they appreciate the flower's I planted for them and tend to them, as I did the ferns, perennials, and raspberry bushes that were left here for our enjoyment.

Peace for now.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

ITS a MysTerY

Hi everyone-sorry its been so long since I posted and I swear to the gods of jelly (grape jelly) that I will throw up some more pics and stories-soon...speaking of throwing up. This is what I have been doing most of the day. If you live in or around the Derby/Newport VT area, I'm PRETTY sure I may have had some bad soup at the China Moon (the hot and sour soup tasted kinda funny) and since I ate it I have been pretty sick...may want to lay off the soups there for a few days.

Anyway, quick update on Vermont:

cool people (some)

cold weather (most of the time)

miss my friends and family in California and Oklahoma (all the time)

Have a new truck (actually a 96 tahoe) now because my 05 Nissan Xterra was totalled in a battle with Bullwinkle the 800lb moose. The moose lost, but so did my truck I guess. At least we walked away. So I'm grateful for that.

trying to adjust...all of the time.

I know I've only been here since August but what a culture shock. Is it because I haven't moved anywhere in 10 years? Before that I was used to moving every 3 years to a different part of the country. I guess after living in southern California for 10 years, then coming here...well...its different. I will be putting up some posts soon. I think I've collected more stories here in the short time I've been here than anywhere I've ever been in my life...which I guess DOES say Something about the place.

P.S. I started canning...I know - can you believe it? Me? the ANTI-BECKY-HOMECKY-CANNING? trust me, I'm still in shock. And I actually enjoy it. Next stop...knitting....guess i'm getting old.crap.
oh well
hope all is well with everyone.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Just an Update

Hey everyone,
We arrived in Vermont. It rains a lot, but its beautiful - lot's of green, I guess (hence all of the rain) but lot's of mold too and will be lot's of SNOW this winter - ugh. Everyone who knows me also knows I really don't like snow. I was stationed in Washington state for 3 years, then South Dakota for 4 years. I can do without snow and the hard winter's.

Other than that-miss California, my job, my friends, and my life. BUT - I'm trying to remain positive, I'll be posting some pictures soon and a post about my adventure getting stuck in the mud IN MY 4 WHEEL DRIVE (OF COURSE WITH CALIFORNIA PLATES) ON THE WAY TO BURLINGTON. This was quite an experience. Yeah.

More later....

Monday, March 17, 2008

More Pics

Just some more pics from our goodbye bbq w/our best friends in Cali...we'll miss much...

Goodbye Mi Amiga

Today I said one of my hardest goodbye’s. Ver...I think you know your my soul sister. I lived in Tehachapi for 5 years before you moved in next door. You saved my life, more than once. As I get older I realize how precious and few and far between TRUE friends are. Your at the top of my list Ver...the sister I never had. When I found out we were moving I put off calling you for 2 weeks. Every time I tried I started to cry. I will miss you. I will miss our talks and how we understand each other. I will miss your kids. I already do. I hope you know...your my compadre, forever and always. At 2AM on Christmas Day or anytime at all, if you need me, show up on my doorstep. You will always be welcome. I am so thankful for that day when you came into my life, and to day when we said goodbye it was probably the hardest goodbye I will make in California...that’s why I put it off. I know we promised to stay in touch, but we both we get fragile that thread is. Kids, husbands, jobs, LIFE...gets in the way....but don’t forget me. You will always be in my heart. And I will always make a place for you in my life or time if you need it. Your the sista I never had. I’ll miss you in the moment, stay true to yourself and keep it real. Goodbye mi Amiga...take care of yourself.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Year After

It's been over a year now since Grandma died and almost a year since my birth-mother died. I don't know what to tell people when they ask me about grief. I'm not going to lie and say it gets "better" or "easier" or whatever...because that's bullshit...and what does it really mean? You never stop missing the person you love, you miss them every day and some days you miss them every hour. I'm not going to lie about that. But you do go on with your life. Its amazing how life goes on, how the world moves on. Your children keep growing, you keep doing your chores, paying your bills, going to work...but sometimes, something so simple will set you back. The other night in one of my classes we were discussing genetics and eye color. We were supposed to "map" our genetic history of "eye color" from both sides of our parents. I could not remember what color my mother's eyes were. I could not remember the color. These were the first eyes I ever looked at when I was an infant. Hers was the first voice I heard when I was in her womb. How many times had I looked into her eyes. How many times had we laughed and cried together. Why couldn't I remember?

When you have these "setbacks" they are harsh. A lot of things come flooding back ~ some people say that we only remember the good about the dead loved ones we've lost. That's not true for me. I remember the good, the bad, and the regrets. The regrets are the hardest. This is the only chance we get with the people we love. Trust me on this one. Anyway, I called my Dad and he told me. Green. Just like mine. In fact he says I look a lot like her in a lot of ways. I know this because sometimes when I look in the mirror I am taken aback. I see my Mother. I wonder if she can see me. If she knows my feelings or thoughts. I guess somewhere in the back of my mind I knew her eye color. Why I couldn't bring the information out, well ~ I don't know. Its another mystery of grief. I've come to think of grief as something we eventually learn to live with. It becomes a part of us. A part of who we are. I can finally talk about my grandmother and mother without crying now (most of the time). I have enjoyed simple pleasures again. I have laughed with my children, my friends. I have enjoyed watching a sunrise, weeding my flower garden, and going on night time jogs with my dog Abby. I know that I cannot live in my grief. But it lives inside of me. I read a book recently where a character mentioned...."that is what life is about...sometimes...missing the dead". And I had to put the book down because it was a revelation. Its true. But I don't think we realize this until we lose someone we really love and go through the trauma, then finally the acceptance. Like the old saying goes...I may accept it, but I don't have to like it.

Someone who had lost someone close to them asked me the other day how I had gotten through it. I didn't know what to say at first, so I didn't say anything. I know I didn't want to hear empty platitudes when I was grieving. But I did think about it. During the past year, I have done ALOT of thinking...and here's the god's honest truth. Here's a list...a "top 16" if you will of what has helped me to go on and not lose it completely:

1)My husband and children.
2)My family that is still here on this earth.
3)The good memories...and yes, even the bad.
4)good books
5)good food
6)good wine
7)I discovered "mojito's" and i like those too:)
8)I've learned to let A LOT of things is too short for the just is
9)learning to laugh at myself ~ and laughing with my friends.
10)giving myself "permission" to grieve in the way I NEEDED and not listening to what other people TOLD me I should be doing.
11)Jogging at night or in the early morning with my dog Abby
12)My work, and my friends and students at work, who make me laugh every day I'm there and make me thankful for so much.
13)Dane Cook's comedy
15)journaling - and i've had some really crazy journals....but that's okay
16)the ocean

That's it, and there's not an "order"...on any given day one may be better for me than the other. But I've definitely learned to live more in the moment, and do the things that I've been wanting to do instead of listening to other people so much or caring about what other people think. I am who I am....and if they can't take a joke...fuk em :).....I can almost hear my mom laughing and my grandma laughing and saying....."Brandie Lea"......"I swear" that Oklahoma twang.

I still haven't forgotten their voices, their faces (except for the brief relapse with the eye color thing) and they will always be a part of me. Their lives...and now their deaths. I do try to live my life in a way that would honor them, and I hope I am. But I'm also my own person. And that's okay. Yes, its a cliche, but life does go on. I guess its how we go on about it that shapes us. I'll be 35 in November. I know my life is probably half over. But I'm going to enjoy it while I'm here, and I hope everyone else does too - no matter what tragedies they face. Live your life like there's no tomorrow is also another cliche...but its true.
That's all for now everyone.
Take care of each other.
"the mom next door"

Anyway, I added the pic of Kat and Amy playing on the beach this past summer because it means a lot to me. It represents a lot. They are just beginning their lives, sitting in the ocean foam on a summer day. I hope they remember those days, those moments. Its what life is all about.