Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tales of the Sale and Other Adventures

Let me start by stating that I believe in both Fate and Free Will.  I do not think they are mutually exclusive.  Fate places opportunities, challenges, and situations in your path, but you have the Free Will to determine what to do with them.  That said, there is a young woman and her daughter who were instrumental in helping with the garage sale whom I believe I was clearly fated to meet and maybe vice-versa, because under even slightly different circumstances, we never would have known one another.  We don't live close enough to where we would bump into one another at the grocery store and strike up a conversation (like I did recently with a couple from Altoona who watch Steeler games at the same place I sometimes do), we don't generally do the same activities that would have propelled us together.  Our age groups would not have drawn us in.  Our life experiences are very different.  Yet, clearly, it seems, we were meant to cross paths.  I am glad we did, because this garage sale would have been a larger challenge than it already was without her, that's for absolute certain.  Now I have a new friend in Texas on the near eve of my leaving it.  Ironic.  There's that word again.

First thing to know about the organization I serve, AFED, is that it is populated with all volunteers.  It's not like the Red Cross or even NEDA where there is a core group of paid staffers who, while maybe selfless and committed are nonetheless paid to devote their time and attention to the cause.  Every single one of our small group has a busy life outside of the organization.  One thing all the members have in common is that they are driven.  Take my friend Jenn B who came to it from outside the ED community.  She works full time, is a mother of a pre-schooler, blogs ambitiously, volunteers her time to our group and is literally moving from a suburban neighborhood near mine to a small little country town two days after the garage sale.  While not adding in the moving dynamic, every single member of AFED is similarly time challenged.  The individuals who are in the group who are in recovery share those traits but add to it the constant struggle to stay healthy and on task.  Since I've become involved, a number of young people have flowed through the organization, not able to continue or commit because The Beast - or their version of it - catches them back in its evil paws.  That makes our work important, but frustrating frankly because it's hard to delegate and get things going.  I am sure there are neophyte non-profits all over the country experiencing the same issue.  It's just going to take a little dogged determination to keep it going.  Add to that the fact that a garage sale is not the sexiest of fund raisers.  Art auctions have a better cache.  But, the former is cheaper to pull off than the latter, and both Jenn and I had inventory to feed it, so there you have it.

Let me just say, once again, I have awesome friends.  A young friend from work donated a lot of great items to add to my crap.  Her things were so cute, almost everything actually sold.  She probably single-handedly comprised 50% of our sales.  I am so touched by her generosity.  And a mother of a woman in recovery who has been a steadfast member of the organization donated items, as well as driving up to my far north location from her far south home both Friday night and Saturday morning.  Our attorney, who turns out has a bone infection in her jaw and is on major pain killers, can't eat solid food and looked as though she literally was about to topple over several times brought ice and water to sell, and sat there with us without complaint until, her color a little ashen, she simply could not take the pain anymore.  Jenn spent way more time than she should have given her schedule and the situation on her plate.  Originally planning on helping set up the night before only so she could deal with her own moving issues, she came pre-dawn on Saturday and stayed several hours getting us ready to roll.  But, the award for Getting It Done hands down goes to my new friend and her 8-year old daughter who come from completely outside the ED community.  She gathered donations from other mothers, she brought me two tables to use, she came to set up, she worked the entire sale, put up the directional signs that pulled in the traffic, helped us tear it down and loaded her car with donations, including a group of clothes she'll try and get some additional money for at a resale shop.  She's got a box for the Humane Society.  She worked the crowd, along with her outgoing daughter, was consistently cheerful and energetic where the rest of us were too tired to stand up straight.  We could not, in short, have done this without her.

So, why did she throw all that energy and time into a cause that is not her own?  We talked a little about that.  She has her reasons.  Yet, it still was an amazing thing and I, for one, am extremely grateful.  And I was left to ponder how odd it was that we even met.

Ironically (there it is again!), the stage became set for us to meet the night of the art auction.  And caused some tension between Greg and his brother actually.  Greg's brother first spent time with her that night and declined to come to the auction as a result.  Knowing her now, I think she would have enjoyed at least stopping by, but whatever.  The point is, she came to us through my brother-in-law.  I first met her when she came over during the group birthday celebration in June.  When she got on Facebook to send me a thank you for that day, she noticed that we have a mutual friend, and we became FB buddies by and by.  When she saw the post for the garage sale, she jumped right in with both feet.  (This, my friends, is a story of the power of Facebook.  Other stories have emerged at the same time to illustrate its Dark Side, but that's for another day...)  So, post-garage sale, I'm left to ponder a) what we would have done without her and b) what the larger meaning of our meeting means because I'm sure there was a larger purpose than raising a few hundred bucks for my little group.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Adventures in Packing Part One: Gathering for a Garage Sale

This will be the first in what I anticipate will be a long series regarding the process of shutting down a house one has lived in almost 14 years.  When we moved in here I was in my mid-thirties, still firmly rooted in the "gathering" phase of my life.  And I gathered with aplomb.  I recently found some photos of the house we took shortly after we moved in to send to Mother.  As I looked at them, I glanced over at the same location in the house and was shocked!  My shelves look so crowded!  When did that happen?  It snuck it's way in over the years, little by little, piece by piece.  Now I have a 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath house with double car garage stuffed with stuff.  So, the first order of business is to determine what I absolutely cannot live without and peel off what I have no desire to haul across the country, all with the realization that most of it will fall somewhere in between.

In the meantime, it is time to begin planning the follow-up fund raising art auction for AFED.  The initial silent auction, planned in Kelsey's memory, was a great success and constitutes the single largest source of our tiny little organization's financial assets.  But, that was in large part due to the private contributions several of us made toward it.  The event has a significant overhead to do it right, even with donations of products and services.  So, I had the bright idea that I could kill two birds with one stone by holding a charity garage sale.  A fund raiser to help fund the fund raiser, if you will.  We'd make some money for the organization, and I would cull out some of the unnecessary junk I've accumulated over the years or the few things left over from Mother's household that I could not or did not want to absorb into my own.   Great idea, right?

Well, there's a reason I have only ever had two garage sales in my life.  First of all, I may not share DNA with my mother, but her tendency to gather seems inherent in both me and Marissa.  I am not a candidate for that hoarding show, not yet anyway, but I do like my things.  And, more dangerously, I get sentimental about them.  I'll keep a skirt from high school that my mom made for me as a surprise, or a book a friend sent me, even though I've read it and probably will not read it again.  And of course there are the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings toys and collectibles.  Finally, but by far not the least, are all my Steeler related things.   How in the world could I ever part with any of those things, particularly since I had spent so long collecting them?  Cleaning out goes against my grain.  I'll do it, but on a far more modest level than most people who organize garage sales.

Then there's the fact that it's simply hard work!  First you have to root through all your stuff, pull it out, organize it, label it, haul it out and display in your yard/driveway, barter with people, then box the leftovers all up again to save for the next time or to discard.  Hours and hours worth of hard work for a modest return and the psychological hit of watching things that once meant a lot to you being casually picked up, examined and rejected by strangers.  Yet, at the same time, any money made at all for AFED would be profit, so the group agreed to it, and I set to work trying to decide what I didn't want any longer.  I tried to be brutal and really sacrifice for the cause.

I began with my jewelry.  I have a thing for jewelry.  I have a lot of it.  A whole lot.  My original goal was to reduce the inventory by half, which still would mean that I would have too much.  Among the collection were remaining pieces from the 80's when my philosophy was, quite simply, bigger is better.  If it was big, gaudy and had animal themes, I loved it.  Why I still have a lot of it is a little puzzling, even to me.  I know some of it has to do with what I think of when I look at a particular piece; such as when I wore that wooden African animal necklace to the Tears for Fears concert.  Sometimes it's more about how amusing it is to look at some of the pieces I had and think that I ever went out in public wearing them.  Worse still, I thought I looked awesome wearing it.  I ponder the possibility that they could still provide service as Halloween costumes.  Occasionally I delude myself into thinking some long ago favorite pieces will come back into style at some point.  Sometimes they actually even do.  I pulled together a fairly aggressive group, trying hard to stick to my agenda.  But, I knew pretty much out of the gate, I wasn't going to get anywhere close to my goal.  I agreed to part with maybe 10% of the total hoard, and I've since added a couple of new pieces back in.  It's not a good situation.

Books:  much the same.  Star Wars and Lord of the Rings toys - not much gone.  Steeler paraphernalia - you can pretty much forget about it.  I did let a hat I happened to have two of go, and I let loose of one of my Five-Time Super Bowl Champ shirts, given that we now have six.  I did better with other categories and as this week approached, the garage was filling up even before donations came in.  But, as I sit here tonight, tired and sore, there is still a whole heck of a lot of stuff in this house.

I guess I have to look at is a beginning.  As life goes on without two of the exact same ball cap, and I don't miss the cat necklace and matching earrings, maybe it will give me the courage to part with more and more.  I have to keep the ultimate goal in mind:  getting from here to Pittsburgh.

Next up:  how garage sales go better with a little help from your friends...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Follow Up

My grand plans to spend my Saturday getting ready for next week's AFED Charity Garage Sale went totally awry, resulting in me composing this on my new MacBook and wondering how in the world I'm going to recover financially from that (how can something so small be so expensive) and the brake job I got done in the morning, so I need to make up for lost time today, and I've promised to meet a friend to watch the Steelers battle the Titans (I so want to make a Clash of Titans joke here, but can't really think of one), so I will keep this short.  But, I have to say that I got a pretty strong reaction from many of my friends regarding my last post.  I wrote it in the heat of the moment, the situation having unfolded earlier that day at work.  A couple of days had to pass before I could step back enough to see the other side, and there is one. I am generally a little better at picking up on people's motivations for their behavior, even if I totally disagree with it.  Rarely am I so blind as I was initially in this case.  In fairness, I get what prompted the individual's outburst.

I should have realized earlier what was building and maybe been more sensitive to it and prevented it.  Here's the thing:  the week before last was hard on our little department.  Our boss worked diligently from home every day, but there was an increased pressure for each of us to step up our game a bit because she wasn't right there for immediate issues.  I won't delve into the structure there and how it centers the ability to handle certain things on one individual alone.  If, as my boss and I are both fond of saying, she gets hit by a bus, we're completely screwed.  There are things only she can and knows how to do.  That, particularly for me, is stressful.  I cannot stand being outside my element.  If anyone ever said I was a quick learner, then that would be why.  It's not my brain power, it's my stubborn inability to not understand what I am doing.  I completely did not understand what I was doing that week, having to dip into things I had no clue about.  The same was true for all of us.  Add that to the fact that the co-worker in question knew the man who passed away (they went to the same church for one thing), so she was grieving herself.  And, she was doing the flowers for a wedding and that funeral in addition to her full-time job.  She had her own pressures to handle.  Not only did I not recognize that, others failed to as well.  Another woman we work with, who is close to all of us, understood how hard the situation was for me and acknowledged that in front of my co-worker.  I think back on all of that week and understand she must have felt in the shadows - particularly my shadow - for days on end.  That's not a place she's comfortable being.  I should have seen it coming at the very least.  I did not.  I was completely blindsided, having been so wrapped up in my own reaction to the events that were unfolding, so my reaction was a strong one.  I don't think, a mother herself, she really wanted to belittle my experience, she just wanted to get some acknowledgment for her own grief and sacrifice.  I doubt she understood it quite on that level, she just felt resentment building and building until any little spark would cause it to explode.  The other thing I am generally better at recognizing about my fellow human beings is that when they lash out blindly like that, they are not really in touch with what is truly the matter.  I've done that; so, dear reader, most likely have you.  Emotions are funny things, they propel us.  Sometimes in wondrous directions, sometimes into brick walls.

I will go that far, but don't misunderstand how I still feel.  She is not the type who will apologize, she rarely believes she is wrong on such matters.  I highly doubt I would accept it if she did.  Therefore, I am even more motivated to get the hell out of here.  I want to surround myself with people who just accept me for who I am at the moment, instead of what I once was.   I want to be with total strangers who don't know the first thing about us and don't feel the need to walk on eggshells until they finally are so sick of it they resent us for it.  I want a life back.  This is just a holding pattern.

I guess more than any of that, I want to wake up and have the knowledge that this whole past 15 months was nothing more than a really long bad dream.  I have met some incredible people in the wake of all of this, and I still hope to turn our tragedy around to do something positive for the ED community, but, and I think they would understand me saying this, I would trade all of that away to have another chance to save Kelsey.  Since that can't happen, however, and I know it, the best I can do is to try and save the rest of my family, including myself.  That does not, I increasingly realize, involve working any longer than necessary with the individual in question.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Living in the Alternate Universe *explicit*

A couple of things have happened to us individually lately that made me realize that people we've known for a while have lost patience with us.  I get it.  I really do.  We're not who we were.  What that means is the relationship some of you have had with us has changed as well.  Maybe it's altered a little, maybe it's changed altogether, but it's different.  How different depends on a number of factors that varies depending upon which of us you know and what your relationship with us was before June 20, 2009.  About the only thing I can say for sure is that if you're hanging around waiting for things to return to "normal" it never will.  You have to decide how you deal with that.  And if that means you need to walk away, that's okay, just speaking for myself.  Friendship, I am aware, is a two-way street.  If you're not getting what you need from it, then, by all means, go find what you need.  If I irritate you, and my vaguely volatile mood swings keep you on guard, tell me that.  I'll probably remind you that I was always pretty annoying frankly, but I appreciate the feedback.  If I continue to irritate you to the point where you just can't stand it anymore, I will accept you need to sever the relationship.  Just please do it a little more quietly and less hurtfully than what happened to me today, but, by all means, do what you have to do for your own sake.  But, if you're trying to hang in there, just pondering why, after more than a year, we're not "over it", then let me try and explain.  You can decide what to do with that information.

For those of you looking in from the outside, our loss seems like a long time ago.  A lot has happened in the intervening months: the BP oil disaster, the debate over health care, the deepening of the recession that many are calling a depression, an increasing schism between progressives and social conservatives, people wanting to burn books, the Saints winning their first Super Bowl, certain jerks assaulting drunk college co-eds in bathrooms and getting their dumb butts suspended for four games.  Our small family drama seems like it happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  But, for our little family, the reverse is true.  All these overwhelming world events seem like so much chatter over the ever present roar of the fact that we lost a critical member of our family.  I once described the feeling to my grief counselor as though I were a character in a science fiction movie I had seen when I was a girl.  In the movie, an astronaut had traveled to the other side of the sun and found himself in an alternate world.  Things looked mostly the same, but there were subtle differences.  A more timely and easily recognizable reference is the current show Fringe.  Think about the two Walters or the two Olivias.  It's a bit like that.  I awoke one day and found myself in a world that seems much the same, but isn't quite right.  My world experience is now different and therefore I am too.  I react to things just a bit differently.  If you look at me, you see the same person you saw before, maybe older looking, but recognizable.  I still love the Steelers.  I still love Rush.  I still have a cougar crush on David Cook.  But, everything I do now is cast in a vaguely different light.  Much the same is true for Marissa I think.  Maybe more so for Greg.  Marissa and I soldier on somehow.  She shows up for class and gets good grades, I go to work everyday and pay our bills.  Marissa worries over the grandparents of her boyfriend as their health declines rapidly, we travel and seek out new experiences, and we think about our future.  But there's never a moment that what is missing right now is off our minds.  Everything we do is colored in the hue of loss.  For us, it hasn't been that long.  Not at all.

I remember a woman who lived in the building where I worked as the assistant manager in my early 20's.  My boss cautioned me to be careful around her because she had lost her daughter to toxic shock syndrome and was a bit sensitive.  I had occasion to be in her apartment one day and saw a picture of the daughter.  It was in black and white, clearly at least 20 years old by the flipped hair and mock turtle neck sweater and pearls the young woman in the slightly faded picture was wearing.  I was, as I had been cautioned, always patient with the woman, who could be highly irritating, but I wondered what the fuss was about, frankly, as she clearly had sufficient time to recover from even such a heavy loss.  Now, if I could meet my younger self, I'd have to slap me for my callousness.  But, I need to also remember what my own experiences were at the time.  How could I possibly understand?  I couldn't.

The work we have to do, or anyone who has suffered a traumatic loss must do, is to make peace with our new world and how we now fit into it.  How long that will take is going to depend a lot on us as individuals.  To a certain extent, it will depend on our support system.  But, what we have to realize is that our friends and co-workers cannot know the hurt we feel, and I, for one, hope they never have occasion to know.  In the meantime, they suffer their own stresses and worries and need support that they once got from us.  Life didn't stop for others because we had this horrible thing happen to us.  We need to understand that.  But, what I would plead in return is just because you once could say or do something to me and garner a specific reaction doesn't mean you will get the same thing from me now.  I am trying to figure this new me out.   I don't even know her yet.  Please accept that even if you don't understand it.

I don't mean to be overly maudlin, but this is what I wrestle with in trying to put all of this in perspective:  I carried a child inside me for nine months and all that entailed, went through labor for nine intense hours, I nursed my baby, rocked her to U2 and the Moody Blues to ease her colic, I took her to the doctor for her shots, I comforted her when she cried, I read to her, I convinced her there really was a Santa Claus and it was okay to believe in him when the Baptist neighbor two doors down told her she was going to hell because she did.  I fought The Beast for nine long years to try and save her and give her a chance at a life.  Then I placed what was left her of her on a shelf in an urn no bigger than a gallon of milk.  I will not ever be who I was in the wake of that.  Neither will Marissa.  Neither will Greg.  And you want me to get over it?  Fuck you.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

This Awful Week

Wow, what a week this has been.  And to have it end up on the 9th anniversary of 9/11.  I wonder if somehow it's karmic - but then, again, maybe it was just a crappy week that happened to coincide with the most horrific event most Americans have witnessed.  Sitting here safely and securely on my back porch while friends and families of over 3,000 people commemorate the day they lost them suddenly and violently, and while people who live not a mile from me pick through the ruins of their flooded homes, I know I have nothing to complain about.  Not in relation to this particular week, that is.  Whoever or whatever it is that looks after me actually did a great job of it this week because the world certainly  tossed some challenges their way.

In light of the particular anniversary that it is, I might generally save this whiny, woes-is-me post for another time or suck it up and get past it, but I've pondered what this week was and my reaction to it and realized it's part of the large grieving process that I'm going through.  If I really think someone in my position will someday read this and try and find a moral to their own story, then I guess I need to lay all the stages out there for examination.  As I have often said, everyone's journey through loss is a different one, but there are some similar road markers along the way.

So, as condensed as I can make it:  on Monday, while I entertained my Mother-in-law, trying to dance around the fact that I have a garage full of moving boxes since my husband is too timid to break the moving news to her, the brother of my friend passed away.  You may remember that I mentioned him a few weeks ago when he was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  The disease did its work on him in a horribly efficient manner.  The shock to that family, still reeling from just learning their brother, husband, father had a terminal illness to dealing with his loss was palatable.  And hard to watch from afar - for me anyway.  I have this odd detachment lately that allows me to get up in the morning and carry on, laughing even at someone's ribald joke at work or to talk sports on the eve of the NFL returning (thank God!), but to not really feel anything too deeply.  Unfortunately, when that facade cracks, it's generally not to allow joy in, it's because something has made me so mad the anger pokes through or so sad the sorrow cloaks itself around me like a heavy blanket.  This was like that.  I feel so badly for the family, yet I also feel as though my feet are encased in concrete.  I am so weighed down by how it returned me to my own state of sorrow, I have not been able to reach out appropriately to people I've know for a decade and a half.  I did attend the funeral mass yesterday, a little shocked to see the staff of the same funeral home that handled Kelsey and Mother's affairs there.  I saw the funeral home listed in the obituary, but somehow it didn't hit me until I saw the sweet young woman who walked me through the final arrangements to send Mother back east standing there talking to my friend.  I maybe can't even tell you why, but that was not good for me, but I think I did okay after blinking a few times to shrug off the weird sense of shock, I told her, "We've got to stop meeting like this."

Of course, with my boss at home trying to both work remotely, but make arrangements, grieve, etc., it was important I suck it up and be at work.  Mother Nature had other plans.  I was a single dog mom this week, having kissed Greg goodbye early Tuesday morning as heavy rains began to envelope the area.  He was on his way to Pittsburgh, a list of ten houses packed away, tasked with picking one out of that ten, which had been culled down from over 500 that I'd been sent to view over the last couple of months.  I felt that vague sense of worry that I always do when someone I love leaves, intensified by the pre-dawn rain.  Little did I know that he was driving out of it and would be fine, I was being left alone here to deal with Tropical Storm Hermine.  I am not sure I've ever really understood what a flash flood truly is until this week.  The wall of water that crested the banks of Brushy Creek that fronts my subdivision and slammed its way down the little rural road that follows it was both awe-inspiring and frightening.  I told my cousin who checked in on me, seeing the news about the flood, that my neighbor's chain link fence looks as though a giant stepped on it, a forceful wall of water cresting the banks of the creek normally 20' from his house with such force it just buckled.  Places in the road appeared as though we had been hit by an earth quake, the road literally buckling up.  It was worse just north of us as the San Gabriel river did its best to wash away an entire community of mobile homes.  I have, in three decades here, never witnessed anything like this. For me personally, I have a few relatively minor post-flood issues.  The biggest worry is that the remnants of Mother's furniture that Greg had plopped in a back carport were soaked in the torrential rain - I couldn't keep them dry if I'd even tried, so I didn't try - now I'm scared to go back there and see what they're like.  If they're ruined, I'll have to deal with somehow getting rid of them as opposed to selling them at a fund raiser garage sale in a couple of weeks.  But, compared to people in my own community having lost everything, six muddy dogs and some ruined furniture that I didn't want anyway is nothing short of awesome.  Flanked on the rear of my property by a small creek and the front of the neighborhood by a large creek that flooded with such force it was knocking people's fences over, I think I'm golden.  However, I was also barricaded in on Wednesday morning.  Both creeks having flooded the only two ways in and out of my neighborhood.  So, on the one week when I really needed to be working long and hard, I was delayed and then spent the day worrying, as the rain continued, if I'd be able to get back to the dogs in the evening.  But I did.  And a shout out to whatever road and bridge crew who have been working so diligently to clean up the incredible wall of debris I saw when I finally broke out of here on Wednesday.

No, the floods were a minor annoyance.  What toppled me over was when Greg called me from Pittsburgh Thursday evening, having spent the day with our Realtor there touring the ten houses that made the short list and said the damning words, "I haven't found our house yet."  He rejected each and every one for various reasons.  Some highly legitimate, some a bit nit-picky, in my opinion.  A woman I worked with the next day exclaimed, "He doesn't want to move!"  She verbalized what I have to confess I had already thought.  I wondered if he looked at the homes with such jaundiced eyes because he passively doesn't really want to do this.  But, maybe it's just because he's looking at it from the standpoint that this is our last move, it needs to be the right house, and I'm just looking at it from the standpoint of, "Get me there, and I'll deal with everything else later!" Whatever the case may be, for the first time in a difficult week, tears slipped out.  I was so upset, I forgot that my starting wide receiver on my fantasy football team is Sidney Rice, who is injured, and I didn't trade him out before the game kicked off.  So, to pour salt in my wounds, I lost those fantasy points.  All I really know for sure is that I have never felt so far away from my goal since we began, and never have I felt so trapped here.  Greg did what a wall of water couldn't.  He damn well better be traveling with a Sidney Crosby jersey in tow for me to make up for it.

Anyway, the hunt begins anew.  My Realtor was patient and sweet, assuring me the right house is out there.  I remind myself there was not a specific time frame on the move anyway.  The clouds have rolled away so no satellite disruption on the eve of my needing it for football.  I won't be in Pittsburgh for the season opener, but I'll see it like I have always seen them.  I am still a legitimate member of the Steeler Nation, just one living in a foreign land.  I tell myself all these things and remind myself of all the real pain and suffering that surrounds me on this somber anniversary.  But my pity party continues nonetheless.  This was just an awful week.

Friday, September 10, 2010

My Friend's Guest Blog

This week, my friend and fellow Board member, Jenn B Says, takes a turn as a guest blogger on the Body Blogger Calendar.  Jenn is actually the woman who brought me to the project.  As a matter of fact, she was the driving force behind the art auction that brought us both to the Austin Foundation for Eating Disorders.  What it says about her is that she has a huge, generous heart.  But why she chose to channel some of her boundless energy to this cause is intriguing.  She is not from the "community" directly.  She has not been personally effected by the disease, her daughter is still very young and will hopefully never know the struggle.  Yet, she is a driving force behind much of what we do as a fledgling organization.  This will be, I believe, her tale of why she chooses to join the fight with us.  I know it will be well worth the read.

I have never told the story of how I met her and how she came to work for our company and therefore was introduced to Kelsey and the disease, but I should tell it.  Or rather, we should both tell it from our separate point of views, that would likely be a lot of fun.  But, it's been a long, hard week, and the Saints-Vikings game is in the 4th quarter with only five points separating the teams, so I will leave the tale for another time and set this to post in the morning.  In the meantime, Geaux Saints.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Little Birdie Told Me So

At long last, I am sitting down to cover my experience with Twitter.  Shouldn't take long.  I don't really get it at all.  There it is in a nutshell.  Wow, how many characters was that?  Maybe I'm catching on after all!

To be perfectly honest, I created my account during the health care debate because a couple of my like-minded friends told me the White House had a Twitter account, so I signed up to follow them.  However, I stay because of David Cook - again, just to be honest.  He's a consistent Tweeter (Twitterer?), and he's simply adorable (just keeping it honest remember).  Maybe because he writes lyrics for a living, he can say clever things in 140 characters or less.  Little snippets about a dog grabbing his food off a table, or life on the road, or his favorite TV shows for example.  Just makes me want to hug him!  (Oh yeah, I sort of wanted to do that already.)

Me?  I can barely say Good Morning to people in 140 characters.  Concise and to-the-point are not what spring to mind to my inner circle when describing me.  Nonetheless, since I have this thing called a Twitter account, I feel obligated to occasionally say things on it.  I find it easier to make flippant, casual comments about football and hockey, so that's mostly what I Tweet about.  During the off seasons, I don't comment as often.  How do I cover the other topics in my life:  grief, loss, worry, ill-advised moves across country in two little lines?  Obviously I have no real idea, so I blog instead.

The People I Follow on Twitter:

In addition to the lovable Mr. Cook, I follow a group of left leaning politicians, including President Obama, Steeler-related personnel including some players, Coach Tomlin and some general fans/bloggers, some hockey fans, a handful of Rush fans and several of my friends.  For the most part, the Tweets I read on a daily basis make me smile or grant me some snippet of information.  For example, I learned the release date for the two Rush singles from a man who blogs about the band.  I actually get a lot of good information from him.  But, the flip side is a blogger about the Steelers who sent me into a near panic a week or so back when he posted (Tweeted, whatever) that Rashard Mendenhall had broken his arm.  I couldn't collaborate what he had written, but I wasn't sure it wasn't true either, so I spent an anxious couple of days until I saw Rashard start in the next pre-season game.  Seemingly, truth and accuracy are optional when limited to 140 characters.

The People Who Follow Me on Twitter:

For the most part, the people who follow me are the same kind of people I follow.  What happened, however, when I wrote the guest blog last week is that several new individuals began to follow me.  I found that mildly intimidating.  As I explained to my husband, now I feel like I should be saying something profound when, I say to him as I air text, all I can think to say is, "I hope the Steelers start Charlie Batch."  And, true to my own fears about myself, that's pretty much what my last couple of Tweets have been about.  So sue me, I'm upset about this whole quarterback situation!

What do people use Twitter for?  
Seriously, someone tell me.  The people I follow on Twitter who also blog seem to have learned how to link to their blogs, so it's a neat little announcement tool.  Problem for me is:  how do they do that exactly?  The links don't look the same as just a regular link - they're like, well, tiny.  If I could figure that out, it would be cool for me too, but I've got a total audience of less than 50, so it's not like I would move heaven and earth that way.  I didn't know anything about "Retweeting" for a long time, but once I got it, I confess it's also a nifty way to propel a message to a large audience.  So, I guess I do get it a bit.  What I worry over is that it's a great way for an ego maniac to be more egocentric than he or she might have been otherwise, because, for the most part, it seems to be all about what you're doing and thinking at the moment.  To prove my theory, I peeked in on one of the most egotistical characters I know of to see what he was Tweeting.  I give you Chad Ochocinco, "Why am i training to slow music? Could this be the reason im so smooth while playing any sport? Unbelievably coordinated in all i do hmmmm"  Groan.

In brief, this is a phenomena I'm standing just outside of looking in.  And, I think to myself as I try and sort it all out and learn to use it as the tool I imagine it was supposed to be, "Man, I'm getting old.  I can't keep up with all this stuff anymore."  But, at least I'm making an honest effort.  Where I really feel left behind is when my younger friends start rattling off stuff I've never even heard of, like Tumbler.  What in the world is that?!  It's times like that when I realize the world we live in now is so massively connected and moving so quickly, it's harder not to be left behind on the Information Superhighway than it is to stay in the race. And, man, I think I need to stop for gas!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Beauty and The Beast

I know, I know - I'm supposed to be writing about Twitter.  But, I thought I should probably suspend the conclusion of my tour around the Wonderful World of Social Media and My Oh-So-Limited Understanding of It one more time to add a little to the topic that brought me to the guest blog so many of you read and commented on.

Thank you, by the way, your comments were lovely and mean a lot to me.  I won't lie:  the experience was a little like opening up the wound and rubbing an entire container of salt in there, but I have no regrets if I can reach the ultimate goal, which is to help even one person.  Therefore, in the case that one person was drawn to this site because of the post I did for Body Blogger Calendar, it seems wrong to leave the topic immediately.  However, I think you may be disappointed in how very little I actually know about the disease that took my daughter.  I mean, really know it at its core.  If I had understood it better maybe I could have battled it better.  But, I'm not really sure I ever had more than a cursory understanding of what makes it tick like a time bomb inside so many lovely people.

I have blogged about the complexity of this before.  How intrusive and utter encompassing it is, for everyone in the household, not just the individual suffering directly with the disease.  The Beast, as you know we called it, permeated every inch of our lives.  Yet I really never completely understood how it took up permanent residence there.  I mean, I'm a reasonably intelligent individual and know what the common literature about eating disorders say.  The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website approximates 10 million women and a million men suffer from anorexia or bulimia.  I think most of us who are at least passingly familiar with the disease know that number is low, because for every individual actively in treatment and therefore encompassed in those statistics, there are probably multiple individuals who struggle to some degree with disordered eating, binge eating, compulsive exercising, poor body image, etc.   I know some.  I bet you do too.  Some of them manage to go about life in a reasonably functional way.  Kind of how we probably all know functional alcoholics.  That doesn't mean they're not affected by behaviors that have somewhere along the line slid into the realm of unhealthy.  So I see the mass literature, have read it and have seen examples of it with my own eyes.  That's not really the problem.

Additionally, I can pinpoint "triggers" in our lives when my daughters were young that led to this particular disorder being what Kelsey reached for to try and take some control over her life.  I've written about some of that over the past year, but a very quick, not all-encompassing run down is:  disordered eating patterns in our home because I worked all the dang time, my general absence when my daughters needed me the most, both girls participating in sports that focused a lot of attention on body image, how long should I go on?  Kelsey was a figure skater.  I loved the sport, I still do, but I'm not ignorant to the danger of trying to stay small and slim like the top skaters.  Yet, she was naturally drawn to it because of me I think.  I was so proud when she wanted to skate.  What I wasn't happy about was her cheerleading aspirations.  That too is very image conscious of course.  Because I was so opposed to it, it became her early form of rebellion and an dangerous one.  Trying to keep up with girls who had been trained in classes and camps since they were little was, I knew, impossible.  And girls that age can be so cruel to one another.  For us, it began with that, but it was likely to have happened for all the other reasons I listed.  I can look back and see all of these things and label them for what they were, but still I don't really know what the disease is.

I remain involved in the eating disorder community as a board member of Austin Foundation for Eating Disorders.  I would, if asked, speak about our experiences as a family.  At this point, I think I could get through a discourse about life with The Beast, although I'm not sure I'm ready to get pushy about getting out there with the tale.  Maybe someday.  Yet, I can never offer myself up as an expert, I don't think.  Because I just don't get it.

I will always have these images of Kelsey, even in the rage of a heated argument with me, turning to look at herself in the mirror in the cabinet that held the Damn Bells, rubbing her stomach, which was concaved half the time, appraising herself even as she screamed about some thing or other.  I'll remember her, barely strong enough to get up the stairs, her body literally beginning to grow a fine layer of fur know as lanugo, turning to me and asking, "Do I look like I've gained weight?" in this horrified tone, clearly afraid I might say yes.  I don't understand what it was that she saw when she looked at herself.  I don't understand how, after all those years of treatment and therapy, she couldn't wrestle The Beast down to the ground.  I don't really get the love-hate relationship with it.  I have suffered a great loss at its altar, but yet, I will always somehow be an outsider to what makes it tick.  And that, I think, is my greatest failure.  Who was it who originally coined the phrase, "Know Thine Enemy"?  They were wise, whoever they were.

If I were to impart anything to parents struggling to help their daughters and sons, it would be that one thing above all others:  know what it is you are dealing with.  You'll never get it completely, you can't unless you've been there yourself, but never stop trying.  Definitely know this:  there can be no casual soldiers in this war.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Guest Blog

Thanks to my friend and fellow AFED Board member, Jenn B Says, today I'm actually a featured writer on another site.  Everyone check me out on Blogger Body Calendar.  Most of you who are here already know this story.  Some may not.  Some people who don't know us at all will now see it and have access to a hard, personal part of our lives.  There's something a little scary about that.  Is this exploitation of my lost child?  Or is this a vain attempt at redemption?  Or, is this a chance to save someone else from going down a long, dark road?  Maybe all of the above.  What it is undeniably is our true story, so follow the link and read my story and then stay around to read some of the others who have blogged there.  I'm not really in their same league, I don't think.  I'll fill you in on how we came to be there later on.