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Wrapping Presents

I wrapped some presents this morning. It is the first Christmas focused thing I’ve done since we hauled the tree out of storage two weeks ago. I suppose I could also count some of the online shopping I’ve done as I acquired the things I knew we’d want as gifts. But ordering things off of the internet doesn’t feel Christmas-y. It just feels like life. I do it exactly the same all year long. Wrapping is different. It is outside the usual round of my tasks. It is an opportunity for me to focus on the particular gift and the particular person for the few minutes it takes to fold and tape paper around the package. I do not always accept the opportunity. Sometimes I approach wrapping with a “get it done” attitude. Yet even when I’m in a hurry, I still have to do one fold at a time, one present at a time. That fact annoys me when I’m rushed. The same fact is the source of enjoyment when I am not.

I still have some wrapping to do. Our tree is uncharacteristically bare underneath. None of us have had much brain for thinking ahead to Christmas. We’ve all been mired in the day-to-day tasks of school, concerts, shipping, homework, doctor’s appointments, and other events. It doesn’t help when events keep getting cancelled, moved, or rescheduled. School will be out on Friday. That is when my kids will suddenly feel very urgent about Christmas shopping. I find it is best if I have mine managed before their urgency hits. I think I’m mostly prepared. I was relieved to discover this, since I haven’t had much focused attention available. It is nice to know that the fragments of attention I’ve been able to give have assembled themselves into a nearly complete preparation.

I hope that in the week that I have before the holiday I am able to spend more time focused on the moments I’ve been given and less time frantically arranging to make sure all the things get done.

Boundaries and Drowning

A thing happened to my son at school. It was a small thing, but my son’s emotional reaction to it was very large. When this sort of disproportional reaction happens, I know that it usually has very little to do with the thing itself and much to do with a dozen other things which are often invisible to everyone. Even the person having the big reaction does not know what it is about. They think it is about the thing. So it was with my son. He got quite angry with me when I did not respond as if the small thing was a dire and immediate emergency. I got angry with him because I was confused why he was suddenly so angry with me, and because some of his choices about how to handle his emotional reaction were not ideal.

Boundaries are a problem when a child struggles with a mental health issue. It is morally wrong to do nothing while someone drowns. It gets more complicated when someone is drowning in water that is only waist high. Particularly if that person won’t listen to shouts of “just stand up.” So I find myself soaking wet, not wearing my swim suit because I wasn’t planning on getting into the water today, helping my son to stand up. This has happened many times. Each time I wonder if maybe my rescues are part of the problem. Maybe I should just stand on the edge and let him flail until he figures out for himself that he can just put his feet down and stand. Except, people do drown in waist high water. People drown in bathtubs. Even adult people. It happens when something interferes with rational thought. A person who is drowning is not able to be completely rational. The drowning is real even if the water is not deep. I can’t let my child drown while I watch. Yet, a person who is always rescued learns to rely on rescue. That person can get very angry with people who try to get them to manage solo.

I don’t have any good answers. I just know that today I was dragged into the pool to perform a rescue that was not entirely of my choosing. I’m tired and wrung out. Again.

Cleaning House

I knew a freeze was coming, so I rescued some of the blooming flowers from my garden.
Bowl of flowers

They looked lovely there in the bowl, so I took a picture. Then I carefully pressed the flowers in the pages of a phone book so that I’ll have dried pressed flowers to play with in January. Phone books aren’t as easy to come by as they used to be. I’ll be hanging on to this one for a while.

This is the week for me to sort through stuff and clear out the accumulated mess that occurs because of book release and shipping. Kiki and I had the first of many warehouse clean up days. I got part way caught up on laundry. I had enough energy on Saturday to assign out house chores to the kids and to expect them to actually follow through. They did. Our house is cleaner.

My physical spaces are not the only things I’m attempting to tidy. Today I acquired the doctor’s letter which will allow me to do the final rearrangement of Link’s schedule at school. I’ve refilled all the prescriptions. I’ve paid the premium on our new healthcare plan which I hope will do a better job of helping us pay for all those prescriptions. There are a dozen other organizational tasks necessary to make the next month, and next year, run smoothly.

I also attended a therapy session. This one wasn’t for one of my kids (though I had one of those today as well) it was for me. Because, frankly, the inside of my head is as much a mess as my physical spaces were. I’ve got two years worth of insufficiently processed emotional baggage that needs sorting. Also, if I’m going to advocate therapy to my friends and loved ones, then I need to be willing to go myself. So I’m going. And I’m hoping that the shiny new healthcare plan will do a better job of helping to pay for that too. I researched and tried to make an informed decision, but I half expect to get some unpleasant surprises when I actually test the new system.

For this evening I’ll look at my bowl full of flowers photo and perhaps I’ll light a candle so that I can watch the wax melt. Small beautiful things are a good addition to any day.

December Flowers

In late October I hurried to plant some flowers before the cold weather hit. I expected them to winter over and then be lovely in the spring. Instead we had a brief period of cold and then we’ve had lovely mild weather. My pansies decided it was warm enough to bloom. So I have flowers blooming in my garden in December.
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I’m certain winter weather will come and bury these plants in snow, but for today I have flowers.

Diagnostic Appointment Delayed

I made the appointment three months ago. I made it after a hard day where I realized that I needed guidance on how to help my teenage son shift into adulthood while managing his own particular mix of capabilities and disabilities. I needed a doctor to talk with him about the medicines he takes, so that my son is prepared to make rational decisions about those medicines rather than making reactionary decisions.

A month passed and things did not get easier. We ended up meeting with a general practitioner to adjust meds. I met with the school to adjust his schedule. I learned about programs that become available with a signed diagnosis letter. I was glad to be able to say “We already have an appointment scheduled.” We were struggling and muddling toward solutions, but I knew that an appointment was scheduled with a doctor I trust. I was willing to wait so I could see this particular doctor.

It was all lined up. The appointment was today. I could get the school form signed. I could get prescription refills. Howard went on the run to get the college kid from school. I arranged for my neighbor to pick up the elementary carpool. I’d cleared and defended the day. I didn’t know all the results that the appointment would bring. Maybe a new diagnosis. Maybe a process to switch medications. Maybe just affirmation that we were already doing all the things that were necessary. But at least I knew that I would no longer be waiting for an appointment. We would then be on the patient list rather than the New Patient list, which meant follow up phone calls and appointments would be handled far more expeditiously.

This morning I got a phone call. They had to reschedule. Next available appointment is January 5, twenty-five days from today. I get another month of muddling through and waiting for an appointment. I’m not mad at the doctor. He didn’t want to have stomach flu today. I’m certain he would much rather have spent his day meeting with me. Yet the cancellation of the appointment hit me hard. Today has been hard. Sometimes I don’t realize how much emotion I have riding on an event until the event is cancelled or changed.

I think this is one of the hardest aspects of mental illness. After making my way over the hurdle of admitting I needed professional help for my child, I had to wait. Then I had to talk about the appointment to school staff. Then I had to go explain to a general practitioner why I needed an interim prescription until I could see the psychiatrist. With the appointment moved, I had to have all of those conversations over again. I had to call the GP and say “Would you please write this letter that the school needs?” because my son can not afford to wait until January for the services. I had to ask the GP for a prescription extension so that we won’t run out before we have the chance to meet with the psychiatrist. Across the middle of this, our insurance will be switching over to a new plan on January 1st. This will probably be to our benefit, but it still requires me to adjust for the new company.

I have enough force of will and comprehension of what needs to be done that I can wade through all of that. I want to cry for the families who have no idea how to navigate to get mental health care and who don’t know what questions to ask at the schools to get help. It has been confusing and exhausting. Instead of exiting today with a new health partner and a new course, I am facing another month of stopgap measures. I don’t like stopgap measures.

So we do the only thing we can do, which is to keep facing each day and do the best we can. The good news is that something in the medicine switches, therapy, and schedule switches has been helping. Life is better for him now than it was two weeks ago. We’ll just keep on doing the things that seem to be working until we can have the diagnostic appointment that we need.

Post Shipping Clean Up

Let me show you my piles of boxes in the wake of the Massively Parallel shipping.
First the front office where we did the complicated shipping.
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You can see the pile where we tossed boxes because we didn’t have time to collapse them. There is also a pile of collapsed boxes as well.

Out in the warehouse we have two box piles. One between the pallets of books.
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Another where we’ve also stashed bags full of garbage. The garbage backs are mostly full of the plastic wrapping which came around all the pallets.
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We did collapse some of the boxes and made a stack. It helped that we immediately re-purposed many boxes and sent them out with the contents of large orders, like the eleven book sets.
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You can also see my stack of wooden pallets. There are at least a dozen of them.
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This is my shipping space in the front office. This is where I assembled complex orders. It looks relatively neat now. Earlier it had boxes full of sketched books sitting open all over the floor.
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Here is a before and after comparison of the stacks of slipcases. You can see that we’ve used up almost eight pallets worth of slipcases. You can also see that we have another row behind them.
Before & After

Some time next week Kiki and I will collapse all the boxes, donate the cardboard to worthy causes, haul off the garbage, figure out what to do with the pallets, and if we have any energy left, sweep.

Bits and Pieces

The vast majority of the packages are sent. I’ve got maybe fifty left. They’re all orders which contain non-book merchandise. They’re also all US. The international orders went out last week. This is the longest I’ve ever spent in heavy shipping mode. I’ve been managing packages for this book release since the week before Thanksgiving. This is my third week of shipping all the things. I’ll be very glad to be done.

Link was happy today. I’m so glad to see him happy. I hope that the combination of therapy and school schedule changes mean that things are finally better for him. I’m going to take it one day at a time.

I can feel the difference in my thyroid dosage. I’m not yet able to see it in my life. But that is the case with a subtle shift. The effect is barely noticeable at first. The cumulative effect is significant. More time is needed.

The warehouse is something of a wreck right now. It is littered with stray tape and piles of boxes that no one has taken time to collapse. My crew from today asked if we should do some clean up before we left. Unfortunately I’d run out of time. I had to take my son to his therapy appointment. This has been the case for much of this shipping. We put packages together as fast as we can until the time is gone. I’ll have a warehouse clean up day next week. That is when I’ll finally get to evaluate the state of the warehouse and figure out what to do with all the extra pallets I’ve got laying around. It is really nice that the shipping mess is over at the warehouse instead of taking up space in my house.

I bought the kids fast food for dinner tonight. We brought it home and they sat around the table teasing each other and comparing french fries. I watched them and thought about articles I’ve read that praised the value of family dinner. It was talking about home cooked meals. There was another article which cited evidence that sometimes the stress of providing home-cooked meals can negate the value of them. My fast food solution followed the spirit of both articles. It is the coming together that matters more than the origin of the food. We’re trying to eat together more. On other nights that will mean home cooked. For tonight we laughed over french fries.

Kiki comes home on Thursday and we get to have her until January. This time Howard will be the one to drive and go get her. I’m glad she’s coming home and glad I don’t have to make the drive this week.

The weather has been warm and the pansies I planted in October are still blooming. I love that I have growing flowers in December. I’ve also got two African violets in bloom. These are small happy things. Hopefully I’ll soon have time to light some candles and watch the wax drip. It may be silly, but I find it beautiful and it makes me happy.

Longing for a Pause

I want to curl up in Sunday afternoon and stay here for a while. In this space I am excused from thinking about work. More importantly I am also excused from monitoring all the schedules of everyone in the house to make sure that everything is on track. There has been a lot to track lately and some of it kept spinning further and further out of control. The book shipping and sketching careened across our holiday season at exactly the moment when emotional needs of kids demanded that we expend more energy for family time. Yet as of yesterday the sketching is done. Tomorrow the shipping will be complete. And as of last Friday we declared quits with the chemistry class that had Link so far buried under work that he would never be able to dig his way out. Instead he’ll be taking a home-study type geology class. In one weekend all the urgencies have lifted. It is a little hard for me to believe, which is why I find myself wanting to linger in Sunday afternoon. Monday will return me to all my roles of responsibility and those roles have felt heavy lately.

At church the teacher asked the class what were our favorite things about the holiday season. People listed things like music, lights, family, celebrations, etc. I knew what my answer would be, but I’m not sure my answer is readily applicable to others. What I love is the span of time which begins just before Christmas and lasts through New Years’ Day. During that time there isn’t much shipping work, the internet slows down, we don’t have to wake early for school, there is no homework to manage, and we get fewer emails. For a little more than a week there is a space that is a lot like Sunday afternoons when I’m excused from most of my regular tasks. I love the peace of that week. All the trimmings, food, and presents are part of what I love, but it is the pause I want.

I usually get a pause during Thanksgiving. This year I did not. Often life serves up a pause in October as the kids settle in to school but before school gets serious. This year there wasn’t one. I could list a lot of reasons, but the pure fact is that sometimes things pile on top of each other. Sometimes that is the only way to accomplish really important things. As hard as some of the stresses this past fall have been, I don’t wish them undone. We needed to learn the things we’ve learned. We needed to have all the appointments and meetings to figure out what was going on and what to do next. We needed the books and slipcases in time for Christmas. We needed Link’s eagle project. We needed to recognize that my thyroid dosage was low. I do hope that this next week can be the point after which things are less piled up together. That would be lovely.

For now, I’ll take my Sunday evening pause next to the Christmas tree.

Signs of Being Busy

It appears that the last time I was clear headed enough to sort through my email was before Thanksgiving. So many unanswered messages in there. I’ve been spending every waking minute either on family things or shipping work. The other day I tweeted:

I could do all the things if the things would just hold still for a while.

The shipping is stable and simple, there’s just a lot of it. It is the family stuff which is all comprised of moving targets.

The last of the international packages will go out tomorrow.

Today’s Victories

All of my kids went to school on time. Bonus points for them being happy as they departed.

3 out of 4 kids ate breakfast.

We set Howard up to continue sketching in books.

Kiki and I teamed up to send out over 100 international packages. We made them and dropped them at the post office without incident.

All of my kids stayed at school for the entire school day and I got no phone calls from schools during those hours.

Gleek sat down with me to talk about a school assignment that is causing her major stress. It was a conversation she did not want to have, yet she stayed with me and talked with me, instead of picking a fight with me and stomping off. We now have a plan.

We put up the Christmas tree and it has lights on it. Ornaments can come later.

It was a good day, but one with very little time to rest. Up next: going to bed so that tomorrow can be another good day.