Month: July 2012

Thyroid again and a Conversation with Howard

Disrupted sleep. Easily stressed. Restless when awake. More than usual hair loss. Increased anxiety. Feeling like I’m neurotic/crazy.

It is time to get my thyroid tested.
Then it is time to talk to my doctor and see if he believes in the spontaneous healing of a thyroid gland a decade after it was damaged. I’m half convinced that the gland is still failing, it is just headed for hyperthyroid territory after dwelling in hypothyroid land for a decade. If it is, I’ll deal. We’ll treat the thing and I’ll be back on thyroid meds in higher doses. I’d just like to stabilize for more than four months in a row.

In happier thoughts, a conversation I just had with Howard:

Me: Our anniversary is on Sunday. This year you won’t be away at GenCon. That’s kind of nice.
Howard: It is. What do you want to do for it?
Me: Be married.
Howard: Again? We’ve done that for the last ninteen years.
Me: Yeah, I know. But I like it. It makes me happy.
Howard: Okay. We’ll do that.

Parenting in View of Others

Spending time with relatives is sociologically interesting. My siblings and I were all raised in the same house by the same parents, yet there are some significant differences in how we parent our own children. Some of this can be attributed to natural divergence. Because we are each different people, we experienced growing up in different ways and learned different lessons as a result. The influence of spouses is huge in determining how kids are raised. The most fascinating aspect for me is trying to figure out which differences in parenting spring from the children themselves. My children and their cousins are distinct individuals and thus have trained their parents in different ways.

I am not the only one who observes these differences in parenting method. Sometimes I feel self conscious about this when my kids are not displaying their best behavior. Gleek wields anger as a shield. Her first reaction to stress is to be angry and assertive. As a result I’ve developed a host of parenting strategies centered around preventing anticipating angry outbursts and preventing them, or for controlling them and managing them when they occur. For years I worried that I was handling this wrong, but lately Gleek has matured and is co-opting these tools as her own. She is managing herself instead of me having to do it for her. That is a huge parenting success in my book. Yet one of my relatives did not comprehend the dynamics of Gleeks anger. Her kids did not explode in that manner and in all seriousness she asked “Can’t you train that out of her?”

I’m afraid my mind jittered to a halt and I was grateful that the conversation turned elsewhere, because the question was shaped in a way that expressed a miscomprehension of what was going on with Gleek. Gleek is not an angry person by nature. She is a highly empathetic and sensitive person. Often she gets angry because she is afraid that she is a bad person and does not want anyone else to see it. Being angry hurts less than being sad. If the anger comes from insecurity, then punishing her for angry behavior will only increase the insecurity and the anger. Instead we have to let her use the tools that come naturally to her. We weather the anger while making sure that it is not expressed in ways that do harm. Then when the storm has passed I help Gleek look into her mind and heart to find the real source of the emotion. This methodology means that sometimes there are public scenes with private resolutions. It means that other people witness the hard bits without fully comprehending the extent of the follow-up. Are there better ways to parent Gleek? Maybe, but this is the best way I’ve found. We’re making it up together as we go along.

I have similar parenting loops for each of my kids, they need different things from me and I strive to give them what they need. Sometimes this means that I spend time in a public space looking like a horrible parent. I can live with that though I never enjoy it. I try to remember it when I observe the decisions of other parents. I see my siblings and the disciplines they give to their children and sometimes I think I would not use the tactic that they are using. Yet if I feel inclined to judge, I try to stop myself and remember I am not seeing the whole picture. The public part of parenting is the tip of the iceberg and there are many ways to get it right.

School is Coming

My kids schools have started sending me mail. The contents vary in detail, but the general gist is “School is coming, this is what you need to do to prepare.” I collected the letters and pinned them to my bulletin board because I wasn’t ready to think about it yet. Then I looked at my calendar and realized that August arrives half way through this week. School starts in three weeks, ready or not. So this morning I began thinking about the school year to come and talking to my kids about what we need to do in the next three weeks to transition smoothly.

Kiki is going to be a senior this year. I find it fascinating that the minute people hear this, they begin to ask all sorts of questions about career plans and then to spout advice. The only other time in my life that I’ve heard so much unsolicited life advice was when I was pregnant. The trouble is that people keep asking questions for which we do not yet have answers. This is not because we haven’t considered the issues, but because it is not yet time to have answers to those questions. I can’t tell you how we’re going to pay for college because I don’t know yet which school or what scholarships. Kiki is still considering schools and weighing options. She is still in the open possibilities stage of this process, the time of imagining her life in a hundred different ways. Yet all the questions are focused on narrowing down options and picking a path. As if picking a single path now determines her entire future. As if adults never change direction or readjust their lives.

Often I’m not actually a participant in these conversations about Kiki’s future, I just get to listen to them. Kiki does not seem to mind having them most of the time. Perhaps they are helping her see her choices. The truth is that I am not particularly stressed about college admissions for her. I know her and how competent she is. She will find a way through to good life solutions. Her solutions will be a better fit for her than any solutions that I can give her. It just falls to me to decide the quantity of financial support we can provide as she furthers her education. Those conversations and stresses will hit late winter. I’ll be stressed about it when the time is right, not now.

It is also possible that I’m in denial about how stressful this “applying for college” process will be. In which case I will snuggle my comfy denial close and keep it for awhile. My brain is already quite occupied with unpacking the school stresses that I put away last spring and now must pull out to examine. In the first few weeks of school I need to conference with Link’s teachers to make sure that his IEP reflects the diagnosis we made at the very end of last school year. We need to make sure that Link has the resources he needs so that he can take control of his life. Patch’s teacher sent a letter emphasizing the importance of multiplication tables. Those were the bane of his existence last fall and threw him into a pit of self doubt. I am hopeful that this new year will not trigger a similar emotional crisis, but I need to watch carefully. Gleek is headed into sixth grade. In Utah that is still elementary school, but the hormonal and emotional shifts which girls go through at this age can cause them to make really poor decisions. I’m not so much worried about Gleek choosing awry, but I really hope she doesn’t suffer because someone else decides to alleviate her own self doubt by being mean.

These are the thoughts that I shoved into the back of my brain last May and have not touched since. School is coming. It will bring me six hours of quiet house each week day. I’ll be able to re-separate my work time from my parenting time. That will be a blessed relief. School will also bring all of that other stuff. My fears will be appeased or shown accurate. My biggest fears revolve around the crisis that I don’t yet know the shape of, the new thing which shows up and blind sides me with its unexpectedness. Last year I didn’t know to worry about multiplication tables or a new diagnosis cycle. This year there will be something else. I can’t prepare for it because I do not know what it is. So I spend extra energy on the thing I do know. Patch will practice his multiplication tables and we’ll buy him new clothes because he shot up this summer. I’ll call Link’s teachers in advance of school starting. Gleek will go through the contents of her summer homework packet. In between all of that, I will take my kids out and do some fun things. We will try to grasp the last pieces of summer and hold them tight for as long as we can.

After the Crowd

My mother used to say that the way to handle four kids easily was to have seven kids and have three of them be somewhere else. Since she did have seven kids, I guess she knew whereof she spoke. This evening feels like that. My sister’s family has been staying with me for over a week and at times the house has felt crowded. Adding five people to a household can do that. I also carried some internal tension because I feel responsible to take care of guests. Sometimes those two things combined with fatigue in unpleasant ways. Then my other sister came to stay overnight with her four kids. There were thirty-six hours of togetherness and activities. I felt on-duty as hostess pretty much all the time even though no one else expected me to assume that role. At four my second sister and her kids left. Those of the rest of us scattered into various pursuits and quiet games. Suddenly instead of being hosts and guests, we just relaxed. I wonder if this is a stage of an extended stay. I suspect it must be. At some point all the people in the household adapt and just begin to live around each other. Whatever it is, it is lovely. I can feel myself unwinding. Strange how a house with ten people in it can feel spacious and restful.

Things Done and the Sound of Crickets

There is a chorus of crickets outside my window. I like them much better than the nest of hornets next to my front door. The crickets can stay. I’m trying to figure out how to eradicate the hornets since they’ve burrowed under the front porch in a way that I can’t spray the nest. I shall have to get creative tomorrow.

When I was not pondering hornets, I spent time cleaning my house and planning for GenCon. This first of the summer conventions hits in only three weeks. It seems like a long time, unless I need to ship merchandise inexpensively and have it arrived before the convention does. So this is my week of thinking ahead. While I have my thoughts wrapped around convention planning, I’ve also put some thought into WorldCon, which has different, but similar, requirements. I’ve got a list of people to contact and things to ship.

In many ways today was one long exercise in avoidance. The secret to getting a lot done is to have something else that I don’t want to do. I didn’t want to think about summer conventions, so I cleaned and focused on the guests in my house. But then I got tired of cleaning, so spent time contemplating hornets. Then it was time to make dinner, and in order to do that, my brain snapped into business gear and I planned all sorts of things about the upcoming summer conventions. Fortunately my sister made dinner while I was busy, so it was all good.

Now I’m sitting here in the evening with a long list of house cleaning chores, business tasks, and social plans, all of which I somehow think will fit into tomorrow. It won’t, but while I listen to the pleasant chirp of the crickets, I can imagine that it will fit. And the truth is that enough of it will fit that things will be fine. So I close my eyes and listen to the crickets.

Pulling Things Out of the Closet

Little things can make a world of difference. I have been frustrated with my closet for years. The shoes were always in a jumble at the bottom. I thought about getting a shoe rack, but if my shoes took up vertical space, they would interfere with hanging space for shirts. So I kept having to rummage in the bottom of my closet any time I wanted to wear a pair of shoes that had been out of use for awhile. It was only a little bit frustrating, but a little bit of frustration each time begins to accumulate. A couple of weeks ago I was again rummaging for shoes and I felt sad that the rummage process sometimes squashed some of my more attractive shoes. In fact I’d taken to leaving my prettiest shoes in their shoe boxes to protect them. Except that exacerbated the rummage problem. This was when the light went on in my head. I have pretty shoes. They are intended to be decorative. They can be decorative even when I am not wearing them on my feet. I bought a simple shoe rack and put it out where my pretty shoes could make my room feel nicer. It worked. Every time I walked into the room and saw my pretty shoes lined up on their rack, I had a small happiness in my day instead of a small frustration. This week I’ve been doing lots of organizing and I realized that I’ve been hiding away other pretty clothing items which could be decorating my room. I’ve now fixed this.

My scarves and shawls look lovely hanging next to the shoes. The hooks are just adhesive hooks. They don’t damage the dresser at all. Even better, it only took me fifteen minutes combined to assemble the shoe rack and put up the hooks. My work shoes and snow boots still lurk in my closet, but I don’t mind if they get jumbled around.

I also pulled out my earrings where they can be admired.

To hang my earrings, I just used hot glue to affix a fabric mesh into a picture frame. Perhaps later I’ll find a prettier frame, but this works for now.

The hooks for Howard’s hats are not quite working yet, but it still gets them out of the closet and looks better than the jumble which used to adorn the top of the dresser. This picture does not do justice to the lovely warm brown of the top hat.

Bit by bit I am making my house a place full of small beauties and happinesses rather than small frustrations.


I was fifteen years old when I jumped off a cliff. It was a camp thing and the cliff was more of a very large boulder. I think there were about twenty feet from the top to the water below. From the beach I watched others jump and it looked fun. The view from the top was a different story. Yet I knew it was likely my last summer at this particular camp. Leaping let one enter the realm of the brave. Then I could be one of those who told others what it was like. If I did not leap, I would never know. So I walked to the edge. I contemplated. I stood back and prepared myself for the run up to jumping. One had to run so that the momentum would carry you out and into the deep water. I stood there, prepared to jump, for quite a long time. Others took turns before me and I watched them run, jump, and disappear over the edge. The splash and laughter would follow in only seconds. I took several large breaths. The muscles in my legs propelled me forward and the edge of the cliff came closer at an alarming rate. In the instant that I was to plant my foot and leap, some animal instinct in the back of my brain took control of my muscles. My legs froze. I suddenly knew that jumping off a cliff was crazy and completely at odds with physical survival. The momentum carried me over, not in a triumphant leap, but in a forward plunge. I was certain I was going to die. I was too close to the rock. The water was too far. What had ever possessed me to do such a thing? I do not remember the water striking my feet, but I do remember it closing over my head and the feel of the bubbles as they skittered over my skin toward the surface. That moment lasted a long time as I went deeper into the water. Then I began to rise, my limbs moved again, striking toward the surface. I splashed back into daylight, honestly surprised to be alive and uninjured.

Today I finally recognized why I am afraid when I contemplate going on a writer’s retreat. It is that moment with one foot planted on the edge of the cliff, water below me, but knowing that all my forward momentum is going to carry me over. It is that split second in which I think “Wait. I’m not ready for this” only it is already too late for me to stop. I recognize it because I’ve experienced it many times between now and when I was fifteen. The most memorable being the moment I realized that I was pregnant with my first child. I should take comfort, I suppose, in the fact that I did survive the leap off the cliff. It was even good for me. I have a story to tell based on extremely vivid memory. The parenting thing has turned out extremely well thus far. I like my kids. This bodes well for the writing retreat. Now that I’ve identified the fear, it does seem less. But fear is not logical and instinct tells me that the action I am taking could cause me harm. That is scary, but it will not stop me from leaping. Only time will tell if this is like cliff jumping, which I’ve never done again, or like parenting, which continues to be a daily part of my life.

Guests and Organizing

My sister and her family are staying in my office, which has been transformed into a guest space. This is not preventing me from getting my work done. They’re quite understanding that sometimes I need to sit at my desk. They’re also self-employed with an internet-based business, so they understand. We all cooperate and everything gets done.

What I am not doing is puttering around and relaxing by being on the internet. I’m fine with intruding on them to work, but it feels selfish to intrude so I can read random internet things. I still do some puttering using my laptop, Calcifer, but my usual patterns are disrupted. I’m discovering that a desire to clean and organize is flowing in to fill the time vacancy. Since de-cluttering and cleaning are good things, I’m just rolling with it. By this time next week I’ll have hauled piles of things off to thrift stores and my house will feel more spacious. It’ll be a good way to enter the home stretch between now and the beginning of the school year.

Picnic and cleaning

Today began with half the neighborhood showing up in my back garden expecting breakfast. Fortunately our bishopric was handy to sling pancakes and supply paper plates. Thus we had our ward pioneer day breakfast. My sole responsibility to the event was to supply a location, which I was happy to do. It gave me impetus to complete a bunch of gardening projects which make me happier every time I step outside my back door. It is lovely out there. Of course the required moment of panic was supplied by the fact that the sprinklers ran and drenched the lawn just before the event was due to begin. However things went well anyway. I got to sit and visit with friends whom I see at church every Sunday, but somehow never get to really talk with. Picnic conversations are different than church hallway conversations. I wonder why that is.

The remainder of my day was mostly spent on house things. For some reason my brain decided that cleaning house and organizing was a necessity. I did quite a lot of that. I have even more that I still want to do. I keep finding clutter that I want to discard. A trip to the thrift store is pending. But first I must have a sabbath. I like those.


I’m experimenting with the concept of siesta. Today I needed to be up early to get some gardening work done before the day got too hot. I also tend to stay up late because the evening hours are so lovely out of doors. Rather than be chronically short on sleep, I’ve been trying to find a quiet mid-afternoon hour when I can nap. It doesn’t work every day. This afternoon it did. I lounged in my hammock swing and dozed. It almost made me long for a full hammock so that I could lay down instead of recline. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll just grab a pillow and a blanket to lay on the lawn. It is lovely in the shade of our trees.

Not everything today was nice. The internet was full of not-nice and news of tragedy. I hugged Howard tight this morning and told him he had to stay home today, which is not an entirely rational reaction to a shooting at a theater, but then rationality is hard to come by when so many emotional strands get a good hard yank. So I hugged Howard, who’d gone to a midnight showing, and then I worked in the garden all day. And I napped. Because sometimes the best thing I can do is just get on with the stuff that needs doing.