Ice Ice Baby

We had an ice storm yesterday. It started in the middle of the night before, and was full-on by 7am. Schools and businesses were closed. I’d have stayed in my pajamas except that I had an important FaceTime appointment with my niece.

I chatted with my best friend, did the dishes, cleaned the washing machine, wrote a blog post. All day, sitting at the kitchen counter, I could hear the sleet hitting the side of the house. It was gray and rainy and 31 degrees.

In mid-afternoon, I was working on materials for my Fresh Hope group when the power began to flicker. The microwave oven clock kept beeping on and off.

The weather must have abated a little, because the cardinals braved the cold to come to the bird feeder. Icicles dripped off all the edges, but they didn’t seem deterred. The mourning doves came and marched around the crusty snow under the feeder.

Finally, at 5pm, the power went off for good. I walked around and shut all the blinds to keep the heat in. I put on socks inside my slippers. I lit all the candles throughout the house. Of course, because we just went through Daylight Savings Time, it was pitch black outside by 5:15pm!

I thought about reading my Kindle, but found myself staring into the flame of the candle and letting my mind wander. I texted my husband to warn him about the garage door not opening automatically, and asked him to pick up a bottle of wine on his way home. “Be safe!” I cautioned. I prayed for the power company employees, working out in the horrible weather, doing their best to restore power to 10,000 customers!

I unlocked the garage door, and when my husband got home, we cooked dinner on our gas stove. He lit the gas fireplace with a lighter. We drank the wine and watched the flames, then went to bed a little early.

The rain stopped in the middle of the night. The thermostat read 57 degrees in the house, so we added the comforter to the bed. When my husband’s alarm went off at 6am, he discovered that the plant and office were without power, so we went back to sleep for awhile.

We got up this morning to a cold house, but beautiful ice-encapsulated trees and bushes. After boiling some water for oatmeal, we decided to venture out for coffee (and to charge up our phones). We saw lots of trees and limbs down – some power lines, too.

The mountains in the distance glisten. The ice is beautiful in the sunshine.

Like glass and diamonds on the branches.

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Passion

I’ve been thinking about passion lately. Not the kind I have for my husband, though thinking of that is goodūüėČ. No, I mean the kind of passion that motivates me, sparks me, keeps me awake at night in anticipation and planning.

I recently realized that there’s a big difference between liking my job and being passionate about it.

I had a job that I was passionate about for many years: my job at the Children’s Museum of La Crosse. I admit, though, after 11+ years, I was ready for the change that inevitably came because of our move from the state. I was ready to not be working. As much as I enjoyed the kids and field trips and exhibits, and I loved my co-workers, I was ready for a break. I could tell, towards the end of my tenure there, that my enthusiasm had waned a little. I suppose that’s normal.

I worked as a receptionist/administrative assistant for a year and a half, and I really enjoyed that job. It was rewarding to be the first face/voice for folks contacting the church, and typing out the prayers for the bulletin greatly enriched my life personally. There, too, I loved the people I worked with.

I like the job I have now, particularly lately, as I have some administrative responsibilities. I like working with my student and family, and subbing with other students keeps it fresh and new. And I like my coworkers, here, too. I like the job, but it’s not my passion.

For a while, I felt like I could only stay in the job if I was passionate about it. But I’m realizing that it’s enough to like it, to be good at it, to enjoy the encounters as they occur. And it’s okay that I find my passion other than in my work.

My passion – the spark in my life – is this peer-led support group for folks with mental illness, and their loved ones. Our Fresh Hope group starts in January, and we’re in the final phase of preparing for our first meeting. It’s exciting! For me, it feels like a burden that God has placed on my heart is finally taking flight. Like the dream He gave me is coming true. And while I feel inadequate for the job, I realize that I will be totally dependent on God’s power for any good thing that will result. Therefore, I’m expecting great things!

I have other passions. My kids, of course, and everything about them and their lives. Having deep friendships – that’s a passion, though a bit elusive still. I’m passionate about Jesus, and the way He’s worked in my life to enable me to share those lessons with others.

I’m not passionate about activities – not about exercising or reading or cooking or even knitting or blogging, though I enjoy those last two. My passion is about people, relationships, and connections.

When I think about the things that truly make me happy, they’re all about being with people. People I love. People I care about. People I’ve walked through life with. The people I work with at my job and where I volunteer, the folks who will come to the Fresh Hope group, the Fresh Hope Facilitator team, my family – these are my passions.

Jobs are good. Passions are life-giving. I’m fortunate to have both!

When I grow up

Is anybody else struggling with who they wanna be when they grow up?

My kids are adults now. They live independently. Successfully. Without me. Which is as it’s supposed to be. If I did my job right, and I think I did, they are well equipped to live as responsible decent human beings. I continue to pray that they love God and follow Him as they did in their youth.

But I’m left with wondering what I should do next. Now that I’ve raised my kids, it’s time to find what’s on the agenda for me.

Most women my age – early in empty nesting – have gone back to work. Some have gone back to school. Many, including myself, are volunteering.

I’m excited about a new ministry that I am starting – a chapter of Fresh Hope at our church, which is a peer-led support group for folks who struggle with mental illness, and their loved ones. This is a ministry that I’m really excited about, and have dreamed of for years. It’s finally happening! Our training as facilitators is almost complete, and we’ll start meeting as a group at the beginning of January.

I’m quitting my job – again – right before Christmas – and will dedicate myself to this new ministry. But I wonder what I’ll do with my extra time, and am looking into becoming a peer support specialist. The training I’ve found doesn’t quite fit into my otherwise-free schedule, so I’ll explore continuing education as an option.

I’m also thinking about writing a book, which is something I think many bloggers consider. But I have a friend who has recommended a program that helped him publish his book, so it’s worth more review.

I considered all of these concerns in a previous blog post, so I’m not surprised that they are still issues I’m resolving. I probably need to discuss all of this with my therapist, since it seems to be a recurring theme!

But I think I’ve made her mad, or at least, I’ve introduced conflict into our relationship. That’s not a bad thing – just an issue to be addressed. I need to be honest with her as I consider my life and depression and all that it entails. She pointed out at our last appointment that I’m going to have my depression “in my face” if I write a book about it. That, along with the mental health support group, puts my depression front and center, and she cautioned me about balancing that with health so as not to be waylaid by it. Good point.

But I need some help navigating my next steps. I need clarification. I need her to say back to me what I’m saying, since I can’t seem to hear myself. What is it I want to do? What steps do I take to make “it” happen? What other commitments can I make that are healthy and feed my long-term goals? I need her to help me figure this out.

And if you have any insights, I’m listening! Please include your thoughts in the comments below!

The trouble with medicine…

Ugh!

It’s almost 3am, and I’m sipping Sleepy Time tea and writing this blog. Because I’m wide awake! I’ve freaked myself out, and need to calm down before the Sandman might¬†dare to reappear.

When I woke up this morning – I mean yesterday morning – I felt a little off. A little funny in my skin, but I didn’t really know how to describe it. But by bedtime, it was a raging all-over-body itch. Like I’d just rolled in long grass and my skin was tingly-itchy, even inside my mouth. No visible rash, but definitely needing a scratch. As we were going to bed, my husband said, “Maybe it’s a withdrawal symptom.”¬† And I’ve been freaking out ever since.

Last week, I discovered that I had missed the “expiration date” on one of my medication refills, but figured it wouldn’t matter, since I was seeing the doctor on Friday, and I would tell him then. I mentioned during the appointment that I was going to run out, but neither he nor I grasped the potential significance of that statement. As I knew he would, he wrote me a new prescription, then gave it to one of his staff to send in – I get my meds by mail. That was Friday.

I got a notice today – Thursday – almost a full week later – that the prescription-filling company has received the doctor’s order and they are processing it to be filled and sent on its way.

In the meantime – two or three nights ago – I ran out of those pills.

No biggie, they’re on their way. But wait, I’m heading out of town on Saturday for a week, so they’ll arrive while I’m gone. Again, probably no biggie – it’s just a med I take to help me sleep.

I’ve been on a very low dose of this med for 10 years.¬† Tonight I learn that it’s a benzodiazepine – a central nervous system depressant. (Shame on me for not exploring this sooner.) My original psych doc first prescribed it when I was struggling with the anxiety portion of my depression, and I was having trouble getting to and staying asleep. He assured me that there was no problem taking the med at such a low dose. And I needed the sleep in order for my brain to heal from the depression and serotonin toxicity.

That was 10 years ago. Two psych docs since, and I’m still on this med. No one ever mentioned any concerns with it. Over time, I’ve considered coming off of it, but why? It works so well, I’m sleepy within 20 minutes of taking it, and I rarely struggle with insomnia; I can usually get back to sleep pretty easily if I wake in the middle of the night. I have no ill effects in the morning – I can get up just fine without any residual tiredness. On a couple of occasions, I looked into the process of coming off the med – just reading “how to” on the web – and saw several stories of horrific troubles with reducing the dose. But I figured my dosage was so low, when it was time, it would be no problem.

But here I am. Itchy all over. Woke up after an hour’s snooze and can’t fall back to sleep. So I googled this medicine and withdrawal symptoms. And there are all those scary stories again. Itchy body is very mild, when you consider hallucinations, loss of appetite, return of depressive thoughts, panic attacks, insomnia, muscle tightness, headaches, seizures – I think pretty much everything that could happen, could happen! And the process for weaning off – with a doctor’s supervision – is very slow – like 6-12 months to get off 1 mg. And I’ve accidentally gone cold turkey!

I’m honestly not sure what to do, besides call my psych doc first thing in the morning. I’m not sure what he can do for me, as I already have a prescription in process. Will I be allowed to have a few pills to tide me over? Will he help me get off this horrible drug, weaning me off properly?

Will I sleep at all tonight? Can I pray and breathe my way through my increasing anxiety as I consider the potentials while I’m out of town next week, without this med?¬† The “what-ifs?” are so scary at night, anyway. And they just got more terrifying as I read all about this med on the web.

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear (or something like that)!

I’ve been watching lots of “how to” videos on applying make up. How to cover up dark circles. Which moisturizer is best for mature skin. The best eye cream. What’s with the creepiness? Do I use my finger or a beauty blender? Which brushes do I really need? How much is that foundation?!

I’ve purchased some recommended products, without breaking the bank. I tend to Google “best drugstore product for…”. I’m not spending a fortune – no way. So which products are worth a slight investment?

I’ve tried some of the techniques I’ve learned on YouTube. I’m using a color corrector now. I have a different night-time moisturizer. I’ve invested in “shape tape.”

And I’ve learned a couple of tricks that work for me, like applying my mascara before I do my under eye concealer, just in case I blink when putting it on! That way, I avoid having to do my under eye area twice. I also invested in an inexpensive eyelash comb, which helps me get rid of mascara clumps. I still haven’t mastered eye liner, and I rarely wear eye shadow. Mascara is enough of a task!

I have a magnifying mirror – it’s a regular mirror on one side and I think it’s 10x magnification when I flip it over. All I can say is “Yikes!” No one should look at their eye bags that closely – I look ancient! With wrinkles and crinkles and shadows. You’d think that none of these new techniques are working, to see my face so close!

Today, I looked in the magnification mirror and could only see the wrinkles and dark circles. But when I looked in the regular mirror, my make up looked pretty natural.

I guess I should use “up close” with caution.