Monday, November 29, 2010

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better...

I have this fantastic friend, Marilyn, whom I met at a Civil War reenactment in Alabama some 8 or 9 years ago. (Holy cow! Has it really been that long?!) Marilyn spent her childhood and early adulthood in England. She has this MARVELOUS British accent that even "Southernese" can't override. Anyway, one of the reasons we connect so well is because we are both ridiculously artistic and creative. I was in school for graphic art/animation when I met her, and although she was in school for biology/science education, she always had some painting or something she was doing.

Over the course of our friendship, I've noticed that we feed off of each other's creative inspirations and have developed this sort of friendly competition to see who can be experienced and able in more mediums. It goes something like this:

Except I forgot to add "Quilting" and "Drawing" to both of our lists. And "Photography" to mine. And "Collage" to hers. But you see my point. And it's constantly changing up. Like, the reason Paper Quilling is on her list and Sewing is on mine is because we taught each other. There are things we both want to add (Glass Blowing for her and Calligraphy for me, for starters.) that we haven't been able to get around to yet. There are also the things on the list that we know how to do, we just haven't done it in a long time. (Knitting for me, Paper Quilling for her, I'm sure.)

And what's fun is that even WITHIN the skills there is that secret desire to gain an edge. Take sewing, for example: "Check out this new Civil War ball gown I made!" "Yeah? That's pretty, but look at this Regency day dress I just finished." "Oh, that is nice. But look at this Rev War pelisse I'm doing." (And so it goes, on and on and on. :D)

I love it. I wouldn't be half so talented in all of these creative and visually beautiful arts if I didn't have her right there along side me. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go find a class for basket weaving or rug braiding, before her list gets much longer than mine... ;)

How I came up with "The Modest Peacock" as my Blog title

If you've been following/reading my blog lately, you'll notice that I was finally able to move from "Jenny Ray's Blog" (BORING!) to something more attention catching. Thanks to many friends who offered suggestions for title names. We considered everything from "Poetic Ponderings" to "I lost 457 lbs in 2 weeks! Ask me how!". The first, while making nice use of alliteration, is inaccurate due to me not writing much poetry, ever. The second didn't make it because it's just a plain out lie. I would have died 4 times. It might have gotten some brief traffic to the site, though.

Finally, I thought of how a lot of my posts are about my struggle with pride- a healthy, quality-of-life-standard kind of pride in myself that is important and vital to success, versus proud to the point of being a conceited, vain and an insufferable know-it-all whose comeuppance is sure to happen at any moment and in the most painful way possible. I thought of all the metaphors associated with pride and of course one of the first images to surface was the proud peacock. I'm not going to lie; I love peacocks. I love using their feathers in all sorts of art projects and there are several shades of blue that I am convinced can't be found anywhere else in nature besides peacock plumage. But I wonder if maybe human society isn't being fair to the Pavo Cristatus by associating it with conceit and vanity. And the male peafowl is the one with the splendiferous tail. What of the female? Is she as proud and snobby as her mate? Perhaps she is not only the opposite in sex, but also character/personality trait. (Perhaps I need to get more
sleep and not eat pizza after midnight so I don't over-think these things...)
I did some research on the female peafowl. Here is a quote from a great web source: "A peahen may lay eggs only once a year, or several times a year. It has a lot to do with her stress factor. A happy peahen will lay more eggs, more often, while a stressed peahen may not lay any eggs at all, or just one or two only once.The incubation period is 28 days. She will sit on her nest constantly. Keep noise and activity to a minimum. A peahen will abandon a nest if she feels that too much commotion is going on."

I feel the same way much of the time. With all of the stress at home (issues with my mother and my husband), I often feel disconnected from my children. Of course, that's where the similarity ends!!! I would never, EVER abandon my babies for anything in the world. I just thought it was interesting that this beautiful bird requires peace and security for optimal health. So do I!

Getting back to the "modest" part- I want to be beautiful. I do. I don't have some of the self image issues that I used to. I've overcome many of those insecurities. Not all of them, but many. I don't look in the mirror in the morning and tell myself I'm fat and ugly. That's just not true. For the most part, I like how I look. The more important beauty, that which comes from within, is even more important to me. I want to have those character traits that people around me admire. Honesty, loyalty, kindness, love, compassion, wit, generosity, forbearance...
I think that the analogy of a peacock- beautiful and confident- being modest and humble is perfect imagery for my blog. It pretty much sums up how I want my life to be.

So I hope you like it. :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Why is it these things all avalanche at once?!

Why is the reality of a stable and independent life such a difficult thing to master?? Here in the last year (more accurately in the last six months), there have been a smothering number of things that make me wonder what the hell happened to make my life such a completely opposite representation of what I always wanted it to be.

After the collapse of my life as I knew it, back at the end of January of this year, I somehow managed to grope my way through the blood chilling black of disbelief and seek professional help through pastoral counseling and relational/marital/familial therapy. To say it's been a rough trip through every gut-wrenching emotion that would possibly pale in comparison to actually having my heart cut out of my chest and skewered half a dozen times while I plead for the pain and agony to end, would be... well it would be more than melodramatic and completely over the top. I'm a coward when it comes to physical pain (I scream and pitch a fit when I get a paper cut), so I probably seriously can't make that comparison. But it did (does) hurt a bloody hell of a lot! (Grouchy eyebrows emoticon face for emphasis!) ---> >:(

Yet through the pain and the inky black come points of light and comprehension. Breakthroughs, revelations, epiphanies, call them what you will. Things that seem so simple and taken for granted every day by the majority of my peers present themselves to me as hurdles to be scaled. Slowly, basic adult life concepts are beginning to come into focus. Actually sitting down and figuring out what the absolute minimum amount of pay we have to achieve in income, to be able to obtain a unit of our own living space and not live with family, for instance. Most of my friends were processing this a good decade or so ago. Not me- I was spending the weekends getting drunk with my boyfriend at Civil War reenactments and the weeks skipping my college classes when they got too boring or when the environment of the school (being where my Dad spent most of his time for several years, before he died) got to be too much for my immature little emotional self to endure.
[Just to clarify, I didn't flunk out of college. I made straight "A"s when I actually attended class. In my third year, it did become apparent that the school administration (the 4th in 3 years) had no idea who I was or who actually promised me that scholarship (that would be the president of the school in administration #1, but administration #4 seemed to have no idea who that was or how to contact him). So they told me I could pay for my last year ($25k. I didn't exactly have that floating around in the couch cushions...) or leave. So I left. But I didn't flunk out.]

A huge epiphany happened last night at around 11 p.m. I was Facebook chatting with a friend who lives in Savannah and I was telling her about how I'm getting ready for Christmas and stuff. We were talking about a mutual friend of ours, and what I would be making her. I was sending my friend links to photos of similar things like what I would be making. Then I got completely distracted and in a matter of minutes went from Christmas to crafting to ... a chandelier made out of teacups! (Here it is, if you want to see it.) This is when the epiphany hit me with the impact of a meteor burning through the atmosphere and slamming into the side of a mountain in the Rockies: I have the attention span of a GNAT! I can't freaking focus on more than anything for 30 seconds! My clothes are everywhere because as soon as I try to start putting them up, I notice that I need to make my bed, so I try to start doing that, and then I see the bedside table with the cup from yesterday still on it that needs to be taken downstairs and put in the dishwasher but on my way down I set it on the bathroom counter and leave it because I saw kids clothes that need to be put in the dirty clothes basket- why did I even GO into the bathroom on my way to the kitchen with the glass??? GOD SAVE THE QUEEN, MY ENTIRE LIFE IS LIKE THIS!!!!! :::Panic mode initiated. Seriously.:::

The rest of the epiphany came a little later, while I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Hyperbole and a Half. This girl is so hilarious! I love her writing style and it's the first stuff I've read in a long while where I find myself just laughing until my sides hurt and my family is all like "What are you laughing at?!" The author makes a lot of references to her near crippling ADHD in her posts. Coming from the generation where if it was remotely suggested that because you had a lot of energy or cut up in class, then it was automatically assumed that you had ADHD and you got put on mass doses of Ritalin, I never really stopped to consider ADHD as a legitimate, serious, or debilitating actual condition/medical issue/socially affectation/problem. In my school experience, we all knew at least a dozen kids with ADD or ADHD, and it actually became an offhanded exaggeration. If we became distracted about anything or strayed off a conversation topic onto a tangent, we'd bring ourselves back on track with "Sorry, I'm completely ADD today or something." We didn't intentionally make light of it (at least I know I didn't), we were just so used to it being so common that we were pretty desensitized. (To ANYONE reading this who does suffer from ADD and/or ADHD, I apologize for the past callousness of myself and my peers. Seriously.)

Here is my huge and possibly life altering realization: I absolutely may have moderate to severe adult ADD myself, and never understood, never been diagnosed or treated and never realized it. The more I read about Allie and her perspective of things, her experiences and her detailed descriptions of how her ADHD affects her ability to be a responsible adult, the more I find myself looking less into a computer screen and more into a mirror.
Here are a few of the posts that hit the closest to home for me. Like, VERY close.

While I was laughing uproariously at her posts, little warning bells were going off in my brain. Like "Never mind the fact that you don't have insurance- you should get to a doctor anyway and explore the fact that untreated ADD may be at the root of a ton of your social/responsibility issues!" So I did what any other person with a laptop at midnight does: I GOOGLED IT. I'm sure what I'm going to say next is no surprise:
I found a ton of information about ADD and ADHD, including THIS. I took the little 5 minute PDF questionnaire, answering as honestly as I could and the results freak me out a bit.
What's even more messed up is that I found myself thinking that all of the "yes" answers (the "you may be ADD/ADHD" boxes to the right end of the test) apply to my husband as well!
It's one thing to be coming to grips with the fact that your life up to this point has fallen short of it's intended potential due to the fact that you may ought to have been on some medication but weren't. It's quite another to be bitch-slapped in the face with the realization that your marriage is failing, your kids are increasingly emotionally removed from both of you, and you both have less than no relationship whatsoever with your mother, because you BOTH have been screwed up for a long time. How long? Wow, this sucks. No wonder our lives are so botched up. Holy crap.

We have marriage counseling on Wednesday, Jake and I. I'm going to print some stuff and we are definitely going to have to fit some of this realization into the picture and try to wrap our brains around it. Like most of our counseling sessions, it will likely be painful. And there is a projected probability of 87% that I will cry. Hard. But I still think that the fact that I am getting the help that (I am slowly discovering a bit at a time) I need, is proof positive that I'm on the right track and can at least make a conscious effort to make my life after 30 look less like a ping pong ball in a hurricane than my life before 30.
I want to write more, but it's 4:30 in the morning and the kids will be awake soon and I HAVE to get some sleep. Thanks for reading. See you again soon.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gratuitous "What I'm Thankful For" Day Before Thanksgiving Post

This post is exactly what the title says it is, but before I launch into it, I would like to clarify the motivation behind it.
What this post is not:
1) A mindless jump on the "All my friends are posting Thanksgiving related stuff" bandwagon.
2) The result of a guilt trip. From anyone. Including my friends who are posting Thanksgiving related stuff.
3) What I have channeled my procrastination into, instead of creating Ebay listings and sewing Christmas gifts like I'm supposed to be doing.
4) A feeble attempt at distracting myself from the box of dark chocolate cordial cherries sitting next to me, all but audibly pleading to be devoured in one go.

No, wait. It probably IS that last one.

Despite all of my protests above, I really DO have so very much to be Thankful (yes, with a capital T. It really is that important.) for. This list is by no means inclusive, exclusive, or even conclusive (unless it brings us all to the conclusion that I absolutely do need to keep going to therapy to control my impulses to write/babble complete nonsense from a random stream of ADD consciousness. Then I can live with it being labeled "conclusive". What was I saying? Oh, yeah...) Enjoy my list of things I am Thankful for!

  • My Savior
  • My Family (Yes, all of them.)
  • My Friends (Yes, all of them, too.)
  • Though it is constantly under fire, my freedom of worship. Some people seem to be unaware that in many countries, having/being caught with a Bible or saying the name Jesus is legally punishable by death. I'm not only allowed to worship God anywhere I want in my town, I pass more than 2 dozen churches on the way to the church of my choice! I challenge other Christians to not take that for granted the next time you are trying to get to your church on time.
  • A nice place to live. Believe me, after losing a home to foreclosure, NOT being homeless is a big deal.
  • Jobs and income to buy food and gasoline. However meager our pay, we have plenty to eat. Plenty of GOOD food to eat, too, not just Ramen noodles and rice and beans. Although there is nothing wrong with those foods either. You know what I meant.
  • My sense of humor. I absolutely DO NOT understand how people with no sense of humor and the ability to laugh things off manage to cope with all of the crap that life often throws at us. I mean it. How do they function at all??! I can at least feel like at the end of a truly awful day that at some point later I'll have an amusing tale about the situation to entertain people with. And some people even get PAID to be funny and tell other people those stories!! (Maybe I should look into that...)
  • A running vehicle. When the Honda died, we had the Villager. When the Villager died, we had (have) the Buick. While I hope and pray that the Buick does not die at least until we can get another car, even if it did, my grandmother would let us borrow her Toyota to run to the store or be taken to work, until we could get something else. I definitely do NOT take for granted having my own transportation!
  • Understanding and patient creditors. I'm not joking. Earlier this year, in our darkest hours and when all seemed lost, there were people we owed who patiently waited and kept in touch with us (without harassing us) until we could finally pay them. When we could and did pay them, they treated us politely and with respect. Our creditors definitely weren't ALL like that. But the ones who were, were absolutely amazing. I don't think that excellent customer service and good treatment will go unrewarded.
  • My computer, Internet access, and Facebook. Ok, that's three things, but they are all related and I am thankful that I am able to stay in touch with all of my friends, no matter how far away they live, or what time it is. I am a very personable person and connecting with people is extremely important to me. Which is why, if you've ever noticed, the quickest way to piss me off is to talk AT me, rather than TO me, or to act as though I don't matter as a person. Rudest. Thing. Ever! Also through the computer, I've been able to sell some of the things I no longer need, or things I have made, and that extra has helped keep us clothed and fed.
  • My sewing machine. Having a tool to create things to wear, sell and use and knowing how to use it is completely awesome!
  • The fact that I'm not yet a divorce statistic.
  • The fact that I (or my children) have not been hospitalized in the last 12 months, for any reason. I do not take this for granted. So many people get seriously injured or ill every day, and I'm thankful that it has not been us.
  • My counselor/therapist. She is worth every penny I pay her, and I would absolutely, 100% without doubt have had a serious mental/emotional breakdown by now and not been able to function had I not had her support and advice. I mean the kind of nervous breakdowns that put people in the hospital (see above) and have their children taken away from them because they are so unstable. Earlier this year I needed professional help, and sought it. I am SO unbelievably thankful for it and the stability/functionality it has encouraged.
  • My level of education, and my desire to never stop learning. I could have been bitter about the rotten deal I got 8 years ago when I wasn't able to finish college and get my bachelor's. But I chose not to be. I am thankful that my education, however far it got before I had to put it on hold, has enabled me to be an asset to my children and my community. I have edited newsletters, checked my children's homework, written letters of encouragement to friends, and earned the respect of many as a direct result of my conscious abilities in spelling, proof reading, grammar, and writing style. I am thankful that I care enough to want the things I present to other people to read, to be correct. I know the difference between (and correct use of) "your" and "you're", and also "their", "there" and "they're". I know how to correctly use a semicolon. I do not use double negatives, even though here in the south it is exceedingly common to do so in one's regular conversation. I can spell baccalaureate correctly the first time, every time. Without using the computer's spell check.
  • The ability to learn from my past mistakes and not repeat them. This applies to so much in my life, but particularly the areas of finances, family and other major life altering decisions.
There is loads more, but I think I'll stop there. At least for now. There are still some 20 hours until we're all sitting down tucking in to all the Thanksgiving Day food, food and more food, so I might write some more later. This has been a hard year, but I am Thankful for everything that I have. Compared to many, I have so much. In case I don't get a chance to write again before tomorrow night, everyone have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends! Stay well and safe and happy. Thanks for reading.

P.S. I failed at distracting myself from the cordial cherries. But I didn't eat them all in one sitting. There is still one left in the box. ;)

Sad and Unexpected News

At around 5 o'clock yesterday, as I was getting Em and myself ready to go to Grandmother Ray's house (I had a counseling session), I was told by Grandmother that our cousin Amy's husband Lincoln died suddenly in an odd accident. I'm not going to post any details here, but it's still hard to wrap my head around the fact that Lincoln is gone. So sad. Especially right here at the holidays, too. :( I really feel for Meagan, their daughter. She's in college, which is around where I was when my dad died 11 years ago. So I know how it feels. She's in for a rough ride, unfortunately. I wish there was something I could do or say to help, but... I can't.

The funeral will likely be Friday or Saturday, in which case I won't be able to go because of my work schedule. In retail, a) you simply don't call in on Black Friday and say you can't work. It isn't done. And b) if you actually do "a", don't bother coming back to that job. Ever.

We're not particularly close with that family; they all live over in Conyers on the other side of Atlanta, and we only see them once a year at the family Christmas party. But they ARE family, and it is so hard to believe that Lincoln is gone from the rest of our future family Christmas gatherings.

My prayers of love and comfort go out for Amy and Meagan.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Yes, it really has been that long.

I haven't written a blog on this thing for a year and a half! That doesn't seem possible, somehow, and yet, given everything that has happened in my life in 2010, I guess it is.

Oddly, I don't feel like doing a recap. I really don't want to rehash all of the crises that have happened this past year at all. So if you are close to me personally, and know about the crap I've been dealing with, thanks for your love and support. If not, consider yourself lucky not to have to hear all of the crap I've been dealing with, and thanks for your new and untainted love and support! :D

Seriously though, I can't wait for a new year and a (mostly) fresh start. 2011 had darn well better be worth the cost of 2010! I can't handle things to stay the way they have been. Most of my friends wonder regularly whether my sanity levels are staying in a healthy range. If things don't alter from what they have been around here, I can tell you that those levels are going to plummet from "Handles stress with calm, grace and patience" to "bring in the antipsychotic drugs and the coat that makes her hug herself!!!" very, very quickly.

There have been a few good things, don't get me wrong. I love my kids and they are perpetually amazing and wonderful and infuriating in turns, and that is what keeps my life at a normal and socially acceptable pace. My marriage has come to the precipice of ruin more than a few times, but on occasion during counseling sessions (when we're both able to make it), we make each other laugh, so I suppose that counts as a mark in the 'positive' column. We aren't divorced yet, nor are we paying out (more) money (than we make) to attorneys to become divorced. I'm sure that is an indication that the past year wasn't quite as bad as it could have been.

But here lately, I'm not content to simply be happy that things "aren't as bad as they could have been". Of course, I am overjoyed that all of my family is alive and well. No one is ill with a terminal disease. No one has been in the hospital, or severely injured physically in any way. We have jobs, meager paying as they are. Yet there is a certain basic level of living that I would like to have attained at this point in my life and I find myself more than a little pissed off that it hasn't been so.

Some may frown at my seemingly bad attitude and tell me to stop being such a spoiled child. But I believe it is this intolerance for a mediocre and unsuccessful life that spurs us on from despondence to action. Yes, this has been a hard year. But I am a strong woman. I am also smart, competent, witty, attractive and skilled at a number of creative abilities. I will see this year out with a glint of steely resolution in my eye, but I will not allow my hardened resolve to harden my heart. In a few weeks, when the last hours of December tick away, I will bid a hearty farewell to 2010 and tell it not to let the door hit it on the butt on the way out! I will spend more time with the people who make me feel like I am worth more than how clean I keep a house that isn't mine. I will spend more hours with the friends who make me laugh and whom I amuse and make laugh in return. I will see what can be done to repair and rebuild my broken marriage. I will cherish and treasure each moment I can with my babies, because they won't stay babies for long. All in all, I will have a good attitude, and I believe that better things will come.

Perhaps I'll post again soon, or hopefully, more often. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy that tryptophan induced nap on Turkey Day!