Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Finally Some FUN!

Now that I have my plan and the kids all know about it, I have to stick with it. Otherwise I'm a big meanie that can't be trusted. In spite of a case of the sleepies and the rain making me ache, I have managed to get the kids out of the house and to the library. We would have been out of the house sooner, but every time I tried to get ready to go, I got a phone call, or a mess needed to be cleaned up, or LH attempted to burn her hand off with boiling water at lunch (she's fine, only 1st deg burns thanks to our intensive First Aid Training at home.)

On the drive out, I took the opportunity to talk to all three girls about Independence Day and ask them what they already knew. They couldn't tell me what country we wanted independence from, who the ruler of that country was, what year it happened, who was in charge of declaring it, or much of anything else. My first assignment then, would be to have them research the answers to those questions. My second assignment was to express to them the massive amount of sacrifice that was given by the men (and women) who founded our country. Ever since those days, our country has fought in wars to ensure our independence and I wanted my girls to connect all of this together.

Right next to the city's Central Library, there is a Memorial park dedicated to the veterans of our city. There are sections dedicated to each of the wars from World War I through Vietnam. I let them walk through and read the dedications etched in black marble. My girls were especially impressed with the life sized bronze statues depicting members from the different branches of the military both male and female. I really enjoyed showing them this. It is very a peaceful and beautiful place with a winding path and a small waterfall. Definitely some great photo ops.

Right now I  am sitting in the library (I love the free Wi-Fi!) and the girls are all curled up in separate spots with their own books. TD and LH have found graphic novels based on their favorite video games. EG has taken the research assignment seriously and is taking notes from a few different books. Apparently she wants to write a report and send it to her teacher from last year. You know, I'm okay with that.

Just sitting here in the quiet, surrounded by shelves upon shelves of books brings me back to my own childhood summers spent just this way. The local library was a long walk or a short bus ride away from the house and we often spent entire days there, from the time it opened until they closed in the evening. For us, it was a chance to stay cool (since we only had a few window units to cool our entire house) and a chance to do something we loved to do that we weren't able to do at home. I don't want to give the impression that we weren't allowed to read at home - just the opposite, in fact. It's just that keeping up with the voracious reading appetites of five children was not only difficult, it was impractical.

We had a small collection of baby books and young childrens' books, but those only kept any of us interested for so long. When you have already learned to read at the age of 3 1/2, the books aimed toward 6 year olds are just not stimulating to you when you are 6. By the time I started school I had read and re-read every Little Golden Book we had until the pages fell out. So did my brother and sisters. We all wanted new and interesting things.

My father was a fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy and there were collections from several different authors around the house. One of the first chapter books any of us had access to was one of the Xanth novels by Peirs Anthony. While these are humorous and a fairly easy read for most adults, they aren't always the most appropriate for young children. Not only that, but I found I wasn't as interested in that genre as my parents were.

The library, for me, was a way to discover new and different types of books. Romance, mystery, history, historical fiction, humor, How-To, I think I read a little of everything until I found what I liked. I loved being able to browse the racks until a title or a cover jumped out at me. Even though I had my own library card, I didn't check many books out. First, I was afraid that I would lose them and then have to pay for them and then I might not be able to come back any more! Second, I was afraid that one of my younger siblings would get a hold of them and destroy them, and I would end up in the same boat. Instead, I would find a book I liked, and sit there at one of the tables and read until the librarian would come and let us know that it was almost closing time.

Something about sitting IN the library, where all the books are, makes it just easier to read. It is supposed to be quiet (it isn't all the time) but that isn't what makes reading at the library more special. For me, it is the fact that it is always clean and crisp and open. There is (almost) always a comfortable place to sit and you can spread out of you need to. You also have the time to read leisurely and choose when to pick it up and put it down. By definition (for me) going to the library is a multi-hour endeavor. If you don't have at least two hours to spend there, why go?

Now, I am finding that I am inspired to write here, too. My girls are each safe and happy nearby involved in what they are reading, so I am free from most of the worries I normally have. I have power and internet for my laptop, and I am not under any real time constraint. I don't feel the desire to scan the shelves anymore. I want to spend my time here creating something. Getting my thoughts out and organized feels just as satisfying as finishing a good book used to. I can write without guilt. The dishes aren't calling my name and the laundry doesn't sneak in and bug me. What's more, I can feel good that my kids are doing something that I can agree with.

I am just thankful that all three of them are happy sitting and reading. I remember that it used to be stressful to bring the girls to the library when they were smaller. I wasn't able to look after the youngest, help the middle one read, and the oldest find a new book all at the same time. I certainly wasn't able to find anything new to read for myself. Now that they are all old enough to appreciate the library and its opportunities, I am increasingly thankful that God blessed me with the little angels he did.

Debbie "Reading Rainbow" Lollar

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summer plans

So, as I promised, here is the tentative schedule I created for the summer. As of yet, I don't have many pictures of our activities, but I will be toting the camera along and posting snapshots of our activities as we go.

I created a calendar in an Excel spreadsheet (because that's just the sort of geek I am) and it worked pretty well for me. I was able to list events and make notes on locations and estimated costs. Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to copy and paste it legibly here (because that's not the sort of geek I am.) I'm sure someone out there has a better way of doing it that is prettier, so feel free to steal it if you want to and make it yours. If you live in the area and want more information about the locations I have listed, I will do my best to include links so you can research on your own.

When creating this schedule, my first goal was to keep my girls busy but still allow them downtime each day. My second goal (since I am jobless) was to keep the cost of things as low as possible. The budget for each of the weeks is around $50 for everything we have planned. This took a LOT of research and even more imagination, but I am pretty proud of what I was able to create as far as plans go. Most of the destinations are free and the rest are discounted or inexpensive. If I need to cancel something for the sake of cash on hand, it won't make a huge impact on the entire summer. We will pack lunches where ever we go to eliminate the need to spend money eating out. (My cooler is going to get a workout!) My girls will be given their own small allowance to spend on souvenirs if they wish, but I have a feeling they will want to save it up for the weekly trip to the mall.

The themes I chose are as much a matter of what I know my girls will enjoy as what I would like them to learn. Since my girls are all complete nerds, they actually enjoy spending time at the library and museums so I scheduled plenty of both.  Even though it is summer, I can't pass up the opportunity to let them learn about new things. They are usually good sports about my giving them "assignments"  so I will give them something to focus on when they are in the library and that will hopefully give them something more to think about when we are out seeing things. They also love the water so I gave them a day each week to go to the pool. Each Friday I have planned a different shopping location so we can window shop, but also get some energy out where it is cool.
I tried to keep the need for grand preparation to a minimum. I can keep the items for swimming (sunblock, flip flops, sunglasses, etc.) in one bag so all I need to do is grab fresh towels and go. The library trips will be scheduled around the same time in the afternoon so the girls will know what to expect and when to have their library books ready to go. Other than packing a lunch for a longer day trip, I can pretty much jump and go to any of these places whenever it is most convenient for that day. I never know what my energy or pain level will be from one day to the next. The way I have things planned, they should be just as much fun whether I am able to run and jump or just crawl along. Each of the outings are within 45 minutes of home or less to keep the journey from being more tiring than the destination. Also, about half of the museums are located in Fair Park and there are trains that run into the area very regularly. That will give me the option of riding or driving. 

In any case, here is a rough idea of what I have going on:

Wk1: Prep for the Lollar Summer Party - This was last week. Mostly, it was housework with a trip to an animal shelter to donate our newspapers. Saturday was totally awesome and if you didn't make it to the party, you sure wish you had because it rocked.

Wk2: Our Country - This week, in preparation for 4th of July, I wanted to give the girls a chance to learn about our country and how our freedom has been earned. We had to cancel the swimming on Tuesday because of the rain, but we will have plenty more chances to go later.
Wednesday we will go to the local Veterans Memorial park and then we will spend some time at the Central Library. The girls will have the task of researching facts about our Independence Day. What is the significance of July 4th? What year did it happen? Why did we want our independence? Who did we want independence from?
Thursday I am planning on taking them to DFW to welcome in the troops coming home from overseas. If you live in the Dallas area and have never done this, make some time to go. It is an amazing experience and something that will make you feel good all the way down to your toes.
Friday is our shopping day so we will go to one of the many local Farmers Markets and maybe get some indoor exercise at a nearby mall.
Saturday there are all sorts of activities planned in our city so we will be very busy! 9:00 will be the parade in downtown, 6:30 will be sprinkler time on the town square, and there will be concert and coordinated fireworks display starting at 8:30.
Sunday is always a free day for us. I like to keep the schedule clear so that I have at least one full day to rest up and the kids have a day to unwind.

Wk3: Exploring Art - All of my girls are artists in different ways so I wanted to give them a chance to just have fun and see interesting things.
Monday we will go back to the library to find information about visual and performing art.
Tuesday (I am really excited about this) we will go to the Dallas Museum of Art.  It is free on the first Tuesday of each month. My girls have already been once, but they enjoyed it a lot and they are really excited to go back. My hope is that we can see some of the artwork that we learned about the day before.
Wednesday will be swimming day every week (if the weather cooperates.) This can easily take up the whole day, so I don't want to schedule anything else. The city sells swimming passes at pro-rated costs. After June1 they sell a family pass for $25 that is good at most of the pools until they close in September.
Thursday is slotted for the local art gallery so that the girls can see artwork from current artists that are from  our area. The gallery is free (yay!) and there is a beautiful arboretum there as well to wander through. I am going to turn the cameras over to the girls and see what they can do!
Friday I will take them to our local art store, Googly Eyes, and give them each a budget to purchase some art supplies.
Saturday DH has been invited to Baylor to participate in a boyscout pow wow so we will all be going with him. My girls will never pass up the chance to dress up and dance around the drum.

Wk4: Our World - I want to turn the focus from local to international.
Monday we will visit the Asian Art museum (free again!)
Tuesday will be another trip to the library. I will ask each of them to look for books on a specific artist from another country.
Wednesday will be swimming.
Thursday I would like to visit the African American museum (FREE is my favorite word.)
Friday I have set aside the whole day to walk through IKEA. Yes, that might be a stretch as an educational trip, but it IS a Scandinavian company. Besides, nothing says "Fun!" like Friday shopping trips.

Wk 5: Look Up - I am going to let them research things in the air and things that fly.
Monday I have scheduled a trip to the Cavanaugh Flight Museum. There are all sorts of cool old planes to see.
Tuesday I will set them loose in the library looking for information on birds, clouds, and weather.
Wednesday will be swimming again, but because EG's birthday is this week I want to go to one of the Aquatic centers in town. They are like little water parks, but the whole pool is wading depth (except for the lap pool area) and it only costs a few dollars to get in.
Thursday EG has asked to go to the Planetarium. After that we will probably have dinner out (EG's choice) and then meet family back at the house  for cake. (We like to keep birthdays low key.)
Friday I will take the girls to one of the other local malls to run off some energy (and maybe spend some birthday money.
Saturday is DH's and my 11th Anniversary. I don't quite know what we have planned, but I am hoping whatever it is will be quiet and maybe even romantic.

Wk 6: Animals -  There are a ton of things to do around that let us look at and play with animals.
Monday we will go to the petting zoo  that is open in a park in town during the summer months. Plus it's free (are you seeing a pattern here?)
Tuesday I want to see what they can find in the library about their favorite animals. Then we are going to visit an animal shelter to donate more newspaper and some of our old baby blankets and towels.
Wednesday will not be swimming this week. There are two zoo's in our area and one of them is half price on Wednesdays so I will take advantage of that.
Thursday will be our swim day this week.
Friday I have chosen to go to one of the malls that has a lot of animal stores in it.

Wk7: Camping out - who doesn't love camping out in the summertime? (okay,  really don't but my kids do, so I will let them have the fun for now.)
Monday we can visit the Boyscout of America National museum for free. (Scouts are all about camping, right?)
Tuesday I want to go to the larger Arboretum downtown and then go to the library to look for books about the plants they just saw. (I am hoping for some photo ops as well.)
Wednesday - back to the pool to cool off.
Thursday we will take a hike through the woods. The larger park on the south side of town has some really natural trails that run for a few miles (if we want to go that far!)
Friday will be spent camping out in the back yard. We have a nice tent and an area set aside for a camp fire so we can cook out, have s'mores and pretend we are in the middle of the woods. If they make it outside all night I will be shocked.

Wk8: Girl Power - I wanted to give my girls the chance to learn about powerful women in history and help them appreciate that they are women in a country where they have the freedom to be whatever they want.
Monday we get to go to the Women's Museum downtown .
Tuesday I will let them wander through the library to find out about strong and smart women and their accomplishments.
Wednesday will be swimming again.
Thursday I have planned to take them through the Mary Kay museum.  The company headquarters is close by and there is a museum dedicated to Mary Kay Ash and the cosmetics company she founded. (If you don't know anything about Mary Kay herself, I highly recommend reading her autobiography. It is inspirational and touching.)
Friday I will take the girls to one of the malls in town that is as fancy and girly as you can get.

Wk9: Summer Olympics - As we reach the end of the summer, I want to just have fun and play!
Monday I will ask them to look for books at the library about American Summer Olympians and the sports that they are known for.
Tuesday I want to take them Ice skating. (I know it is a Winter Olympic sport, but it will at least be cool inside!)
Wednesday we will go to one of the Aquatic Centers again. This is LH's birthday so I want to let them all have fun. Maybe they will all be able to show off their swimming skills in the lap pool. Who knows?
Thursday I want to plan a mini-Olympics for them at a local park. Maybe I'll invite some of their friends over to play with us. If things don't go as planned, I might have them prepare one indoors for each other.
Friday I will take them to the most fun mall in the whole area. It is an outdoor mall so there will be lots of walking, but there is also a fountain area made just to play in. We are going to bring the swim suits and let them cool down after shopping.

That will bring us to the last week of summer so we will spend it getting school things ready, getting back on a regular sleep and wake schedule, and generally reminiscing over all the cool things we got to do.

If (by some amazing stroke of luck) I get a job that requires me to work full time during the week, I have back up plans to let them still do some things during the week and then I can use the weekend to take them to different locations to get them out of the house.
Either way, I hope that I can give them a summer worth remembering.

Debbie "The Planner" Lollar

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summertime ... and the livin' is easy....

I love that song. Every time a new artist uses a clip of it, I always think of the way I heard that lullaby first -  the slow, jazzy, smooth sound of Billy Holiday. She can make a shopping list sound deep and soulful. It reminds me of summers when I was young, having nothing to do, feeling warm, and listening to the birds go crazy outside the windows. Even though I was too young to know exactly what difficulties I would face when I got older, I instinctively knew that those moments were something to cherish. The longs days and sparkling nights without anything specific to do were a recharge for my little soul.

I feel so blessed to have the summer with my kids. I am trying to allow my girls the ability to find that peace, but balance it with the kinds of activities that I enjoyed as well. Libraries, museums, even just playing at the park are all things that I have planned and are usually free. Just by letting them get out of the house for an hour or so a day, they are all much better behaved than I ever expected them to be. When we are at hom, they are willing to do chores - cheerfully even - and they are willing to keep themselves occupied without too much arguing.

Of course, sisters still bicker and every child whines sometimes. I have said before that there are only three reasons kids get grouchy - tired, hungry, or bored. FlyLady has added an additional few steps in there and has created a tool that we have been using for a few years now. I started using it with my oldest and found that it even worked well when my youngest was a toddler. She calls it HALTT and it is an acronym for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Thirsty, and Tired. When things get out of hand or they just start whining we ask them if they need a HALTT. We go over the list together (with the condition that they are calm first) and we set out to fix whatever things THEY tell me are wrong. It is amazing to see how well this works. My girls are able to accurately tell me their issues, and I am able to help them figure it out. It saves so many, "WHAT do you WANT?!?!" conversations.

I have also said before that preparation is the key to success. So, I try an make sure that the areas of HALTT are all addressed . I have snacks that I can always say "yes" to and are easily accessible to the kids, like carrot sticks or peanut butter cracker packs as well as lemonade or apple juice. I also do my best keep them on a semi-regular schedule so they get enough sleep at night and they get rest time during the day. That takes care of Hungry, Thirsty, and Tired. The Angry and Lonely parts are a little more difficult to tackle, but is always the challenge for any child during the summer. This is where the scheduled trips and activities come into play. If they are busy, they are less likely to fight, and if they are out and about, they are less likely to be lonely.

In my quest to create a summer filled with happy memories (instead of boredom and bickering) I have gone so far as to make a detailed schedule for the rest of the summer. Depending on what is already scheduled for that week, I have created themes for each week and have found free or cheap activities to do. For instance, next week ends with July 4th, so I have planned a trip to a local memorial park and an early morning visit to The USO at DFW to help greet the troops coming home from overseas. I hope to go swimming once a week (which should be free except for the one time purchase of a family Summer pass from in city) and to the library on another day each week (hopefully, to find books related to our theme.)

We will still have most of the days to ourselves at home. I believe that kids should have an opportunity everyday to explore their own minds and find something to occupy themselves. Besides, I still have my own energy limits to consider. My girls are all very good at understanding when I need to stop or rest. They have so much compassion, it chokes me up sometimes. They also have lots more energy than I do, so having them do extra chores around the house is just smart.

The only glitch to this whole idea is if I get a job. I may or may not start work before the end if the summer, and if I do, I will have to shuffle a lot of things. The idea of the schedule is a really good one though, so I think, if it comes down to it, I will move as many activities as I can to the weekend and pray they don't kill each other during the week while I am working,


Saturday, June 19, 2010

15 years and counting

There is a semi-official 15 year High School Reunion tonight. After much deliberation. I decided to go. I have a sitter, DH has cleared his schedule to go with me, so now I am committed. I guess that sounds like I don't really WANT to go, doesn't it? I do want to go but, I am extremely nervous.

Someone mentioned that reunions are just to show of how good looking and well off you are after all these years. I am neither, so maybe the reunion doesn't apply to me? I have a hard time feeling confident enough to go to the grocery store right now, let alone a pub/bar filled with people who remember me as much tinier than I am today. I feel so shallow that this weight affects me so much. After all, I wouldn't dream of unfriendly to someone else because they weigh more than the doctor's ideal numbers. I shouldn't beat myself up over all of this, either. I wish it was just that easy.

Being on social networking sites has totally changed the dynamics of these get-togethers. First, it is much easier to plan them, so they seem to happen more often than they would have otherwise. Second, it is a easier (and more acceptable) to throw a wide net of invitations, with the understanding that most will not be able to attend. That always leaves me wondering, was I supposed to respond? Am I one of the ones on the list that gets invited, but everyone hopes they really won't show up? Am I making the (incorrect) assumption that anyone actually cares one way or the other? Third, since you have actually been in contact with many of these people, you feel at once more inclined to go and less interested in going. It's great to have an excuse to go and be a grown-up, but since we are able to give daily updates on life, will there be anything to talk about? There were more than 700 in my graduating class. Almost 100 have responded saying they will go, and almost that many said they might go. That is a lot of people. Thinking about being in a crowd that big is beginning to give me cold-sweats.

I remember High School as this vast sea of faces I hardly knew. Classes were filled with people I knew by face or name and had exchanged a few words with, but never really spent time away from school with. I'm sure it was similar for a lot of people but I believe I felt especially isolated, especially at the beginning. I moved to "C Town" right before my freshman year started. I didn't grow up there or even visit there. Most of the people in my class had known each other from Jr high, or even Elementary school. Some started in the same pre-school together! I felt like the outsider of an inside joke.

I did have friends, in fact there were many who I would say affected my life greatly. I also had friends from my old hometown and while it was a comfort at the time, I think it might have prevented me from truly integrating with my new peers. The culture shock of moving from inner city to the suburbs was more than I expected it would be. Where I came from, many of the boys from my kindergarten ended up in gangs, jail, or dead before they got into high school. Also, I was a minority as a white girl and that made me extremely untrusting of anyone else at all. I can only imagine what everyone else thought of me!

As I said before, I did have friends in my high school. There were a few in my neighborhood that I hung out with frequently. Many of the people I became friendliest with that first year were from the choir. I became a member of the church youth group for awhile and I made some friends, there too. But I felt as if something was preventing me from truly becoming close to people. There were a lot of circumstances that I don't feel as if I had control over that seemed to drive a wedge between myself and everyone else.

First, I started out in the beginning level choir with some really wonderful and incredibly talented girls. They were promoted the next year to the advanced choir, but I wasn't. That hurt my pride quite a bit, but it also meant that I felt left behind and on the "outside" once again. I continued to be placed in the beginning choir, year after year, so they stayed in a different class, and while I knew them, I wasn't able to share the same experiences with them. In my mind, warped by a depressed self esteem, I was sure that I saw pity in their eyes, instead of friendship after that first year.Who really wants to hang around people that constantly remind you, by there mere presence, that they are better than you at something you really thought you were good at?

As I mentioned, I had some guy friends (M1 and M2) from my neighborhood and I was closer to them than anyone else at the time. I figured as long as I had my little group, I was ok. And really, I was, until the summer after my sophomore year. M1 was killed in a car accident while taking a different friend to visit family in OKC. I was completely devastated and I couldn't even stand to hang out with M2 anymore. It hurt too much to be reminded of the third part of our trio that would never be there again. M1 was an only child and hadn't been at school for almost a year before that (he was dealing with his own issues and was in and out of rehab for a lot of the time) so there weren't a lot of people who knew about what happened or who might understand. When I started back to school the next year, I felt broken and even lonelier than before.

I know that part of it was my fault. I was not a very nice person or a good friend to have at the time. Because of where and how I grew up, I had no clue how to act in a large group or how to be friends with "normal" people. I never considered my self even close to normal. (Now, I understand that "Normal" is nothing more than a setting on the dryer. Back then, though, it seemed a fitting descriptor for everyone else, but me.)

I also know a large part of my lack of popularity was my undying devotion to my boyfriend at the time. Clinging to a relationship from "before" helped me connect my new life with my old. It wasn't a very healthy relationship for me, though, and I'm sure many of the people around just didn't have the patience to put up with me. He refused to socialize with my friends and he also took up every single weekend since we didn't have the chance to see each other during the week. I was with him for three and a half years - until after my Junior year - so I didn't socialize or date very much. Even after that, I had a really hard time trying to make new friends. I'm pretty sure by then people thought of me as a flake already, anyway.

I'm not saying high school was terrible for me. I have found lots of pictures of me smiling, and there were other people in those photos with me, so I have to believe that other people were friendly with me. I know one of the reasons I don't remember much is due to the illnesses I have been dealing with over the last few years. Deep emotional trauma, such as the death of a close friend or the breakup of your parents, can leave hole in your memory. I do remember many wonderful people, and I am looking forward to seeing them tonight. There were quite a few that were willing to extend the arm of friendship in spite of my weirdness. I hope they will forgive my lack of clarity over the past and that the few memories I have will suffice.

My life since high school has been such an incredible whirlwind. The things I felt back then that would shake my world are nothing more than slight nuisance to me. The amazing experiences and relationships that have been created with my family tend to crowd out the details of things that happened before them. For instance, I remember being at a birthday party for Nickle, but I don't remember what year. We went to the roller rink and had a sleepover afterward. I fell asleep first and they put mustard on my face, but then they wiped it off so that it wouldn't stain the pillow case. I can't remember anyone else who was at that party other than Nickle and myself.

I remember the choir camp at SFA where I shared a room with Dav and we stayed up later than we should have "girl talking" but don't remember what we talked about (although it might have been about the red-headed Tenor.) I have a faint memory of walking across campus after dinner and hearing a girl (probably from another school) play guitar and sing to a group of other girls. I also remember getting goosebumps from listening to Mozart's Requiem. It is still one of my favorite pieces of music ever.

I think my favorite/most embarrassing memory was from Nat's Birthday party.  I was actually single at the time and I was trying desperately to figure out how to be cool in public. There were wine coolers, but I only had one. (If I really wanted to drink, I felt could do so anytime I wanted at home, but I really had no desire, so one light drink was enough for me.) Maybe it was the wine cooler, or maybe my psycho was showing, but for some reason I was suddenly and uncontrollably paranoid and freaked out. Then it just went away and I know everyone thought I was being a freak. (No one asked me to leave, though, so I guess it wasn't THAT bad.) Then later I was playing Truth or Dare and I was dared to kiss Sha. (How could a gay guy kiss so much better than any straight guy I knew!?!?)  And then, completely separate of the game, I was dared to kiss Kel to play a joke on someone else. THAT was a real eye opener too, let me tell you. (Thanks to you, Kel, I spent the next three years kissing girls.)

I remember the 4th of July parties several years in a row at Kel's. One where I was single, but completely heartbroken over BB, and he was there with his girlfriend, and I walked in on them making out. The next year when I was pregnant with LH. I had just come back from a trip to Europe and I was starting to have pre-term labor, but I still hung out all night and watched movies (and was admitted to the hospital the next day and spent the six weeks after that on complete bed rest.)

I did have one very close friend during high school. She was so wonderful from the very beginning and put up with so much crap from me and she still stuck around. I loved her then with all my heart, and I still miss her quite a bit. It is my fault we don't speak anymore. I did some terrible things and I lied to her. I paid the price for my betrayal and dishonesty in more ways than she will ever know. She left and won't speak to me and refuses to even let me mention our past friendship in public. I don't blame her. I don't know if she will be there tonight, but if she is I have no idea what or if I will say anything. I'm sure she still hates me so I guess it is better if I just let her be.

I guess none of this is any more bizarre than anyone else. Okay, maybe it is a little weirder than the "normal" people would experience, but as I said Normal doesn't really apply. I may have grown and changed a lot from High School days, but when I think about it there were more pleasant experiences than I had originally thought. Besides, I think the point of a reunion is more to get in touch with old friends so that you can connect in new ways. If everyone was exactly the same as they were 15 years ago, I don't think it would be much fun. I have a feeling that we have all changed a little, at least in the last five years so, maybe I can put my self consciousness aside for awhile and talk to the people in front of me instead of to the memories from 15 years ago.

"Little" Debbie

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Not quite so bad

After further clarification, yes I am still jobless, but it probably wasn't entirely my fault. My agency IS going to try and place me somewhere else ASAP. The apparent lack of communication was die to technical difficulties on the agencies part, not intentional avoidance of me by my agent (as I had feared.)

This makes me feel so much better, and I think I will be able to confidently pursue another temporary position somewhere else. In the mean time, I have to try and juggle a schedule at may or may not change at any minute. Short term assignments may happen at any time so I have to be ready. I also want to make sure I am taking full advantage of the time at home while I have it. I have three girls home for the summer so there is more than enough to keep me busy.

Today, I did take the girls out of the house for a bit before the temperature hit triple digits. Leaving the house with the "little darlings" in tow is always a tricky proposition. It is so much easier than it used to be, though. Summertime means sandals, and than means no frustrating search for socks AND shoes that match the outfit as well as the occasion. No, all we really have to do is throw on some shorts and a t-shirt (or play dress) and strap on the sandals and go. I let the girls all get shorter summer haircuts so a quick brush is all that is needed. The three-ring-circus that I can usually expect is reduced to little more than a dog and pony show.

I have to be careful when we are out though. Running errands can get expensive. Especially in the summer when everyone needs to stay hydrated. If we forget to grab water bottles (or they drink it all before the errands are done) I can rely on them all asking to stop somewhere to get something to drink. I can't blame them, either. I can get pretty grouchy when I don't have something to sip on all the time. Preparation is the key though - bring the needed supplies or spend the cash to get them. I like to keep a few coins around to cover these "thirst emergencies." Did you know that you can get canned sodas from vending machines at most grocery stores for 35 cents? Some drive through places have drinks for only a dollar and other convenience stores have specials for 32 oz drinks for less than a dollar.

Sure, I feel a little guilty because I'm giving them liquid junk food. But, I'm drinking it too, though, and they will at least run it off before the day is done. Just today I let them play at one of the local parks for a few minutes between shoe shopping and the grocery store. Right now they are gving my car a much-needed washing. It's a win-win situation. I get a clean(ish) car for free, and they have an excuse to put on the swim suits and play in the water. After the car wash we all get to move and groove for a once over on the house. Vacuuming and tidying up is always to good to get your heart pumping and maybe even break a sweat.

I'm still not happy about not being at a job right now, but I am trying to make the most of it. I am trying to view all of this as a gift of time to spend with my girls before the next roller coaster of working sets in.

Debbie "The Mom" Lollar

Monday, June 14, 2010

Did it again.

I get to make one of those "I'm really embarrassed to write about this, but I will anyway." posts.

Somehow, I managed to lose my job again. On TD's birthday, no less. I haven't told the kids and Thank God they don't read my blog (mostly because I agreed to not give them their Surfing License until they are 13.) I managed to get fired from the Awesome Assignment because I was late this morning. I felt yucky and I was moving slow and the next the I knew I was getting a call from my agency telling me that if I wanted my job I better call my boss and beg for  it. So I did, and my boss told me, No, you really are fired. Then I tried to call the agency back, and what do you know? My agent won't call me back either. This sucks worse than being told to my face that I am a lousy worker. I was told that "My Girls" have to be at work at a certain time. First, I am not one of "Her Girls"! Second, no time frame was ever discussed. I don't know if she thought I would be in at 7:00am (in which case she has been severely disappointed for the last three weeks) or if 9:00am was acceptable (in which case I have been early every day accept once.)

So, I am angry because I feel that my new boss was a teensy bit uncooperative, but mostly I am angry at myself. I know better and I have been fired for this in the past.  I certainly don't expect sympathy or pity from anyone. I screwed up - again - and I know it. . I don't know if this agency will continue to assign me positions or not. Sometimes the agents will be a bit forgiving and may send you out other places if they feel you are a good worker and the position was just not a good fit. Other agents cut ties as soon as they even think a worker will give them a bad name and that is that. Truly, I don't know if I have a second chance with these people or not (since they won't talk to me or answer my e-mails.)

I guess what they will do isn't the issue. The real question I need to focus on is what will I do now? I wasn't looking for a job when I found this one. It was accidental, almost, and felt like the answer to a prayer that fell out of the sky. Now, for three and a half months, I have squandered the extra income and taken advantage of the graces of my bosses. I kind of got used to working, though, and I really liked my job, as well as my paycheck. Should I look for more work? Am I able to fulfill the duties of any job at all? Can I manage to find a job that will actually hire me after my less than stellar work history? There are too many people competing for far too few jobs right now. What part of my brain is not registering that I can't keep squandering away the chances I get? Will I manage to avoid the deep depression that almost always comes with the large, public rejection of getting fired? I am not even sure I can muster the courage to dress up and interview for another position. I can barely fit into the clothes I have now and it will only take a pound or two more before I am beyond even my largest size clothing. I can not afford to buy more clothes for work, especially since I am not currently earning anything.

Because I am so crappy with money I should have money in the bank right now, but I don't. I have bills to pay and no job. I can't keep a job, but I can find all sorts of ways to spend what little extra money I do have. I haven't figured out how I will pay for the car I have only had three months, without a substantial paycheck. On top of that, my FIL got a pay cut by almost 50% and my MIL just got laid off. They are carrying the note for our other car and they won't be able to do that anymore. Also, our Annual Summer Party is scheduled for two weeks from now and there will be a LOT of people here. The girls are counting on me to put on a really good show. I have two car payments (where I wasn't paying either before) and a really big party in two weeks and I don't know how I will come up with the money for either.  So, basically, I am in a big ol' heap of trouble.

I really don't know which feels worse, the prospect of staying home and being broke, or letting down DH. He just has this horrible resigned look on his face, as if this was nothing more than he expected. He refused to  feel happy or excited about things when I was working. He just kept saying, "For now." He knew I wouldn't succeed. Now I have proven him right. Is it worse to go out and keep on failing, or just accept that I can't succeed and stop embarrassing myself and letting everyone down?

I hate hearing the tension in his voice. He is snappy with the kids and irritated about everything. What used to be mild "realism" has become painful cynicism. Every comment or observation is negative or is followed up by something negative. The bitterness is terrible. This isn't the man I want to listen to every day of my life. My inevitable failures push him to depression and cause the worst of his personality to rise to the top and be amplified. I don't blame him for it, but I certainly don't like it. The negative moods make him just as lethargic an unwilling to act as anyone else. He is only human and can only take so much before snapping.

I just wish we could talk about it more. He is so disapproving of everything that he simply refuses to acknowledge anything but the worst outcome. Every negative aspect is doubled and tripled in his mind. A $120 bill becomes $200 that we owe and can't possibly pay (in spite of my being able to prove otherwise.) A noise in the engine is most certainly a repair that will cost more than the can is worth (even though an oil change will fix it.) He stays up late playing video games that allow him to destroy things(I don't blame him. I would like to blow something up right now, myself.) and won't come to bed until long after I am asleep (that part does bug the hell out of me, even if I am too asleep to know either way.)

I can't negotiate with this. I feel like I am I beating against a brick wall. I can't expect him to be positive all the time (that's my job) but can I expect him to look at things objectively? No, probably not. Who knows? His version of realism might sound a whole lot like my version of cynicism. Who could say if I am ignoring the worst of things or if he is ignoring the smallest portions of the good? I don't know if my guilt puts up this wall that grows between us or if his disappointment causes distance. In either case, it isn't good and I don't like it.

Keeping the house clean and being a "good" housewife don't make him happy. They merely seem to keep him from getting more upset. I'm not very consistent about cleaning and getting motivated to do it is just plain difficult. I try to do the best I can and he normally doesn't seem to really mind one way or the other (for which I am extremely grateful), but I'm not very good at it and that is all there is to it. Normally he overlooks it all but when things are already stressful, if the kids have made too big a mess all hell can break loose when he comes through the door at night. I can cook, and I do it pretty well (if I do say so, myself) but when he gets in these dark moods, he often decides that he isn't hungry and doesn't eat with us. I can't deny that it hurts my feelings quite a bit. I don't know how to fix this mood other than by getting a job and keeping it. That is the one thing I can't seem to do. Actually that doesn't seem to improve his mood all that much because I can't keep money in the bank and keep the bills paid no matter how much we make.

I don't want to paint him as a big, mean, monster terrorizing the household in the evenings. Everyone is entitled to their emotions.  He certainly isn't cruel or abusive. He is a very patient and loving man and we are never intentionally hurtful to each other. We rarely argue and certainly don't fight or raise our voices in anger at each other. Mostly, I hurt for him because he is so worried about everything that causes him to be like this. If we could just talk about it or make plans together, I think I would feel better. We don't talk about it, though. We promised each other a long time ago that we would never fight about money, so if there is a chance that one of us is going to get upset we just stop talking. While that doesn't really solve any of the problems, it does have the benefit of not piling arguing on to the list of everything else that is going wring right now.

I shouldn't be resentful. He is an amazing man and an incredibly good father. It doesn't change the fact that I wish we could just snuggle and be in good moods together, but we can't because I screwed up, and overslept, and got fired. Again.

Deb "Jobless" Lollar

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lots of things on the mind

So, I have a feeling this is going to be disjointed and rambling, but that's just how I roll today.

First, I took a sick day yesterday and I feel like a big, silly, doodie head for doing it. I went to the dr even, and she told me I look better than I have in a long time. I am just suffering from allergies, apparently. So, I go to the doctor when I am feeling better than I have in months (if not years) but it wasn't as good as the day before?!?! Yep, I'm a total goof.

The thing is, I have been feeling really, really, good. I'm almost afraid. It isn't like manic-y or frantic. Just.... well, normal. I wake up on time and go to work. When I get home from work, I don't crash and go right to bed. I even get housework done without being so exhausted I can't move. Yes, I still have my limits. If I push to hard, my body tells me. I can just do so much more than I used to and I feel so much better about it! It simply amazes me. We are eating home cooked meals most nights and (thanks to DH) almost every piece of laundry in the house is clean. The winter clothes are in the process of being packed away. I have fresh, clean sheets on my bed. Even the girls have their rooms cleaned!  These are the ways I have learned to gauge my health and well being.  When I am sick, my home looks like hell and everyone in it acts like it! When I am healthy, my family is taken care of and everyone of us shows it.

What is going on around here?

I hate to blame the meds, but in this case, I have to. I can not say I have been able to do any of this without the maintenance med from the neurologist. Also, I am able to control the break-through pain and that is, I think, the biggest benefit. Once the doctor gave me the one thing that actually helps and told me it was ok to take it when I need it, my whole life seemed to run smoother. I have tried to function and push through the pain and I am just not able. Over-the-counter medications work sometimes, but not always and not completely. I am actually extremely allergic to certain pain meds, and others cause as much discomfort as they take away. So, I asked my newest doctor for a prescription for hydrocodone and she was willing to give me a supply until we can find a real diagnosis and eliminate the pain instead of just dull it for awhile.

There is an amazing sort of relief and freedom when I don't worry that I am going to hurt and not be able to stop it. I didn't realize that I was being held captive by the pain. I didn't want to go anywhere or do anything, even if I felt ok because I MIGHT start feeling worse. Skipping events and staying home was preferable to attending them and ruining it for everyone else by feeling grouchy or even making them leave early. I have missed PTA meetings and parties and lots of day-to-day life.

Taking pain meds can be dangerous. They are, without a doubt, addictive - both mentally and physically. Every time I turn around I hear about someone else dealing with the dependency of prescription pain killers - the same ones I take. People have died from this. How many celebrities have we read in the paper about fatally mixing pain killers, anti-depressants, and alcohol? (RIP Heath Ledger.) It happens to real people, too. The brother of a dear friend has resorted to buying Lortab off the street and snorting it for a better high. The husband of the woman I work right next to died just over a  year ago from a combination of Vicodin and Methadone - both of which were prescribed to him (though not in the doses that that he took them in.) Alcohol had something to do with it then, too, but that only serves as an additional warning of something else to avoid. It is scary because I wonder how many of those people started out like me - dealing with daily pain and just needing relief to live a normal life.

Is this a warning to not take them or just a warning to be very, very careful? I feel it is a personal decision. For those who are already dealing with addiction, it might be wise to find an alternative. Only you can determine if the risks are worth the relief. For others, like myself, the horror stories serve as a strong enough warning to never let things go further than they need to.  I do have a prescription, and I do take some nearly every day. I know that my body might become used to it and when I no longer need the pain relief my body will be so used to the chemical that I will feel sick without it. I also know that the normal dose might start to be less effective, and I might need a higher dose to achieve the same pain relief as a smaller dose used to give me. These are all physical consequences. The emotional side effects are much harder to pinpoint until they are nearly out of hand but those are the ones I watch for every day - taking it when I don't need it, taking more than I need, using it for other reasons besides pain relief, becoming grouchy and anxious without it. Some of those can be attributed just to being in pain, so it can be hard to separate the desire for relief from the desire for the actual medication.

I take less than half the daily dose I am allowed. I do not take any when I am not in pain. I always take the smallest dose needed and if I can take something else instead, I do. I don't like the feelings that come with a being stoned and I don't want to learn how to function that way. I will admit that feeling numb can be a welcome reprieve from the stress of the day. I have to concsiously decide to ignore the desire to use the meds as a way to unwind instead of just relieve pain. I can't deny that the thought is there, I just choose not to go down that path.

I know it is not that easy for some. Just a little bit now can lead to a lot more later and when the fix is gone, you are left looking for anything to fill the gap. "Borrowing" one from a friend, is illegal but is forgivable in some situations. Unfortunately, that can lead to borrowing without asking, sneaking a pill from a friend's medicine cabinet or purse, stealing a gulp or two of the cough syrup from a co-worker's desk after hours. It doesn't seem that bad at the time, but it is a symptom of a much bigger problem. This action is usually different from what would be expected, but the same medication that can give such a welcome relief form pain can also twist your mind in sad and desperate way without your even realizing it.

Over the last several years I have taken prescription pain pills quite frequently. I remember the panic of realizing that I was almost out and that it had only been a week since I filled the prescription. Would the pharmacy fill it again? Would the doctor and insurance company approve a refill so soon? What did it mean that I had already gone through so many? Was I addicted? The thought of continuing for the next week, or even month, without anything to ease the daily, constant pain was terrifying at times. I believe that it was the fear of being in pain, not the fear of being without the medication that caused the anxiety but I still worried if my mind was twisted with addiction and I was making believable excuses for my desires.

During the last visit to my doctor, I came to yet, another realization. I had been more worried about taking the meds and becoming addicted than I was about trying to get back my life and become a human again. Did that mean I was addicted to the meds? I don't think so. I am pretty sure that most of my apprehension came from the way my last doctor treated me when she prescribed this medication for me. "I will give this to you, but DON'T become addicted. Do you hear me?"

She would give me a script for 15 or 20 pills at a time, but the dosage read "1-2 every 6-8 hours as needed." Well, I needed it every 6-8 hours for sure! Do the math - 15-20 pills will only last 3-4 days at the highest dosage. Even at the lowest dosage it wouldn't last much longer than a week. I felt like a junkie going back to the pharmacy so often to get refills. I would try not to take any because I felt as if I should be able to deal with the pain better on my own.  I wouldn't take any meds unless the pain was so strong that I needed the higher dose and then I would add feelings of guilt and inadequacy to to already strong pain and depression. If I took the meds when I was not in extreme pain, I beat myself up mentally for wasting them when I might need them again, soon. No wonder I wanted to crawl into a hole and stay there.

First I had to forgive myself for needing help and for needing to take the meds. I came to understand that many of the medical personnel I interacted with simply underestimated the amount of pain I was in on a daily basis. I don't blame them for assuming something other than the truth. When you examine me, physically there is no damage to measure, no proof that I am in pain at all. It wasn't until I stopped hating myself for hurting that I was able to ask for the help I needed. Now, amazingly, I don't need quite so much help as I used to. As I said before, the comfort of knowing I have the relief when I need it has gone further to help me than the pain meds ever did. Today I only took one half-dose of the meds. Tomorrow I might not need any. But then again, I might, and if I need them I am going to take them and I will not feel bad about it. Why should I only live half my life because I am limited by pain and fear?

Maybe I AM addicted. Perhaps I am addicted to feeling human and being strong and confident. If I have to take meds and use them as "training wheels" until I am capable of doing it on my own, I will take that risk - especially if it means I can be a woman, and a wife, and a mother again.

Deb "Not the junkie" Lollar