On being an invalid, but not invalid

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First off, hello from Michigan, and I’m sorry it’s been a while. It’s good to see you are all still hanging in here with me- thanks, and I appreciate it🙂

I’m never quite sure why people subscribe to this blog (I don’t mean that in a self-deprecating way; I mean that I discuss various topics and I don’t know which grabs people. Is it always the garden story, or are there other reasons? My secret hope is yes…) I hope that whatever your reason for being here, you will indulge me a chronic illness post- even after such a long  hiatus in posting. One of the things that continues to amaze me in Michigan is the contrast between my life here and my life in Seattle. Nothing inherently bad about Seattle, but there I constantly was reminded of my limitations. There were so many ways that my functioning was compromised there that I often felt… For lack of a better way of saying it, like the walking wounded. My life in Seattle got very very small.

Although it had been in Michigan that I was in a wheelchair, in Michigan that I used a walker, in Michigan that I was a frequent flier in the local ER- in Seattle I felt like an invalid. And while I was contemplating things to write for this post I realized that the word in-vuh- lidd is the same as the word in- vah-lidd. And that’s how I felt. Invalid. Invalidated. Cancelled out.

My life started to be defined more by what I couldn’t do than by what barriers I was willing to smash. I stopped leaving the house (not that I’m a very out and about person, but this was a dysfunctional kind of not going out). I stopped eating (yes, it was awesome to lose weight, until my kids cried and told me they thought I needed to be in a hospital). I stopped doing much of anything not because I was depressed, but because I felt like what I was up aginst in the big sense was just so insurmountable. I could enumerate the obstacles, but I’d rather not.

Fast forward to Michigan.

Last week we went berry picking at a u-pick orchard. I took one of my kids shooting. I can go shopping any time I want, because I know where everything is, I know how to get places, and I am comfortable and confident navigating the roads.

I still have plenty of bad days and I’m on a u-haul worth of medication. In order to do a little I rest a lot. I have a ton of doctors and I have to say no to my kids more than I am able to say yes when they ask me to do stuff.

But I’m happy here. I feel capable. I feel functional (even if that sometimes isn’t objective reality hahahahaha). I feel like I have something to contribute .

And even as an invalid, that is pricelessly validating.

 

Raw Emotions

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One of the nice things about living in Seattle was the ease of obtaining raw milk. In Michigan it is illegal to buy raw milk. People get around this by doing something called a cow share, or a herd share, by which they purchase part ownership of a cow or cows. Since it is not illegal to drink raw milk from a cow you own, you can then drink your own cow’s milk without a problem.

For people who are convinced that raw milk is a healthier alternative to pasteurized milk, this is a great way to deal with certain states’ laws that don’t allow for responsible consumer choice in this area.

I don’t want to digress too far from the topic I intended to discuss, but I will say briefly that many (if not most) of the people I’ve met who have objections to raw milk are coming from a place of ignorance (ignorance meaning they don’t know about something). There are so many misconceptions out there about safety or lack thereof, and cleanliness or lack thereof, so I would just urge you that if you find yourself having a knee-jerk reaction to something like raw milk please at least look into it. Give it a fair chance before you make a decision one way or another; the facts may surprise you. You can make a change or not, but don’t let rumors or propaganda dictate your thinking, especially on an issue that could impact the health of you or your family.

And that is actually a pretty good segue into the issue that is bothering me right now. One of my older kids made a comment recently about how they really didn’t enjoy the consistency of raw milk (It comes with the cream on top, and you shake the bottle to distribute the cream throughout the milk when you use it. Even if you take off the cream, though, it has more of a creamy texture than store-bought milk. I actually think this is way better, but I guess it’s an individual thing…). Last night I was looking into where you can get cow shares in Michigan and another of my older kids asked if we could get store-bought milk for him because he really “hates” raw milk. When the kids were younger it was pretty much I shopped, I cooked, I served, and they ate. What was in the house was in the house, and with the exception of very egregious things (super icky foods, very gross flops when I would make something new, etc.) the kids were expected to have what was in the house. Certainly in the area of health decisions, we made the decisions and the children benefited from our research.

But now the kids are bigger. And with bigger kids come bigger ideas and bigger opinions. Those opinions need to be respected and taken into consideration. It isn’t always wise or simple to just dismiss their desires or preferences “because we said so”. Yes we are the parents and we pay the bills, and sometimes that has to be enough. In some cases our rules are our rules and that is the answer. Period. But where we can be flexible we try to be flexible. And here several of our kids have told me that something I think is to their benefit is not to their taste.

So something which I feel strongly is good for them and is in their best interests to do just doesn’t light their fires. I think that raw milk is far superior. I think that raw milk gives them benefits they can’t get otherwise. I think that for various reasons a few of my kids could really really use this milk in their diets. And if they don’t enjoy it as a drink maybe they should suck it up and think of it as medicine.

But… I don’t think regular milk is dangerous. And life is full of things that are unpleasant for them already (homework, waking up before they would want to, not having all of the material possessions they want all the time…)- so do I really want to pile on one more without a super compelling reason? And do I want to be that mom who is such a downer that she doesn’t listen to her kids because her own personal crusades are more important than her children’s voices?

Believe it or not this is not such a simple question.

As parents we are often in a position where we have to be parents before we are friends. It isn’t easy to weigh up what is my own shtick and what is a legitimate use of my parental powers. You have to hold yourself to a pretty high standard of honesty to stay clear on what you are doing to validate your own agenda and what you are doing because it is genuinely for your kids- and often there is overlap, which certainly muddies the waters! In general we make tons of mistakes, and in general we can only hope that the relationship with our kids will be strong enough and trusting enough that both sides know that those mistakes are unintentional. At the end of the day, we only want the best for our kids. The only question is what that road ends up looking like.

So, will I end up buying raw milk in Michigan? If I do, will I end up offering an alternative, or will I just ask my kids to absorb this as a minor casualty of life in the Bass household? I haven’t made a final decision yet, but I am certainly leaning in one direction. If you have a similar issue you have dealt with in your own life, or in your own parenting, I wold love to hear how you dealt with it!

Fundraising For Charity?

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A short time ago there was a family who lost a child to tragic circumstances. I won’t give identifying information, since I don’t want to say anything to throw this particular family under the bus- and also because the question I have is more theoretical in nature and not specific to these people.

After their child’s death this family set up one of those popular fundraising pages, presumably to help defray costs such as loss of work for the parents, and funeral expenses. Tens of thousands of dollars poured in, as is often the case when other people feel sympathy (or empathy) and want to show support for someone in a tragic time. And then the family announced that they would be donating the money that was raised to a local charity.

That sort of threw me sideways, not only because the family had not said upfront that they were collecting for charity, but because, frankly, if I am going to support a charity I would like to choose which one. It wasn’t even like the child died of cancer (let’s say) and the family made a donation to the American Cancer Society in the child’s memory. This was a situation where I imagine the parents knew their financial situation up front (you kind of know if you can afford a funeral or not) and then chose to set up this fundraising page. Then they took the money- let’s say the child had been hit by a bus (this isn’t what happened)- and donated it to, let’s say a local art museum.

Whether art (this is not where they donated to) is great or worthwhile is immaterial. The question is, should I have a right to decide where my limited charity dollars go- or when I give money am I giving my tacit agreement that I am entrusting the person or organization to use those dollars as they see fit?

If I donate to the local Humane Society and they use my money to print fliers rather than to directly keep animals alive has my money done any less good? What if they use my donation to throw a fundraiser or to buy a new building or pay salaries? Should I expect to always have absolute control over donations, and if not at what point should my control begin and end? If I give money to a poor person and they go out to a restaurant to eat instead of paying their electric bill, have they been an irresponsible steward of my kindness, or do they have a right to manage their money however they want- just like any other adult- and once the money leaves my hand and lands in theirs it becomes their money to do with what they see fit?

I think what got me about the fundraiser case is that I felt like they got the money under false pretenses, but they never actually spelled out how the money would be spent- just said what happened to their child and people assumed they needed money for expenses related to that.

So my question is, what are your thoughts on how that played out? Does it hit you the same way it hit me, or am I way off here?

Your Care For Others Is A Measure of Your Greatness: Why I Love Ruby

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This makes a bit more sense if you are familiar with Ruby’s show (which I HIGHLY recommend- it is from a while back and is available for free from certain services)- but either way, I think Ruby is exceptional in so many ways… I could (and have!) watch/ed her over and over…

 

Book of Faces

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One of the biggest dangers I see with social media is that everyone else’s like looks better than yours. Because people put photos of the highlights of their life, it looks like everything they do is glamorous and exciting and wonderful. Although everyone knows this intellectually, it’s easy to forget that what you see online is only a selected slice of other people’s lives. But you know that in your own life there is plenty of humdrum and mundane. A typical person’s Facebook seems to read like a magazine in a doctor;s waiting room: went to lunch at a fancy restaurant, took a trip, went somewhere exotic, wore a hot bikini, hung out with beautiful friends. If I had a Facebook page, mine would look something like this:

Woke up overtired and looking haggard

Cleaned up in the kitchen and did some sweeping

Figured out what to make for dinner

Went to the grocery store/Target/misc store(s)

Came home, unpacked, maybe drove carpool, cooked, hung around, watched Netflix, went to bed, woke up, lather, rinse, repeat. I don’t think my real life would make anyone jealous, and maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe that means I should get Facebook (or whatever else people use nowadays) as a favor to other people, so folks will know that others have a life that is just as bland as theirs. That real people don’t actually pick up and go to Cancun or have random ski weekends for no reason or spend $500 on lunch. That if I eat chocolate mousse there is a special occasion involved, and I darn sure won’t be wearing a bikini when I do it.

Maybe it will help people out there feel like they don’t have to measure up to someone else’s imaginary life. For the last few days I have been trying to upload some cute cartoony pictures to go along with the blog post and it hasn’t been working. I have also been trying to figure out how to end this post. Last night I had a mini-epiphany. Maybe it was Meant To Be that the photos wouldn’t work. Maybe that was the most perfect illustration I could ever have hoped for to go along with what I wrote. Perhaps that showed my point and goes along even better with what I’m saying than any little drawings I could have found on the internet. Sometimes even a simple blog post just doesn’t work as you originally planned and even putting a few small pictures repeatedly fails.

Such is real life.

And you know what? That’s plenty good enough.

In fact, it’s really just fine.

New Underwear

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Someone close to me swears by the value of buying new underwear to make you feel like a million bucks. She is pretty convinced that the nicer your undergarments, the nicer your outlook on life will be. So from time to time she will go on a shopping binge where she will treat herself to a new set of underthings, designed to lift her spirits and make those around her appreciate her even more (although they will be none the wiser as to the reasons for her newfound happiness).

Another friend is a sock fanatic and has multiple drawers full of socks. It’s not that this person takes particular joy in actually wearing the socks, and it isn’t like they coordinate with outfits or are of a certain brand or quality. But there is something in the rush of the buying that makes him inordinately happy, so he buys with abandon and that temporarily lifts his mood.

But a conversation with one of my dearest friends a few days ago brought all of these “fixes” into perspective. This person suffers from seasonal depression. When he is sad it is more than a feeling of, “Gee maybe I should go out for ice cream and cheer up…”. it’s worse than, “Oh rats, someone took the parking spot I wanted and now I have to walk a few extra steps. I’m so bummed…”. Real depression is so pervasive and so heavy it isn’t something you can cure with a nice outfit or a decadent treat. As much as he wants to be out from under it, he is just buried by it.

It’s so tempting to look at someone in the throes of depression and offer suggestions. Have you tried exercise? Do you get enough vitamins? Maybe you should listen to some music! (Insert your perkiest voice for maximum effect!) Sleep less! Sleep more! Wear brighter colors! Get out into the nice weather!

I could go on and on but the point is the same. For those of us on the outside, it is both seductive to try to fix and too easy to oversimplify. To compare sadness to depression is to like comparing a splinter to a nail gun being shot through your face. Yes, I think true depression is that bad.

So what is there to do? For those of us who aren’t trained mental health professionals, I think the best thing to do is just to be there. Check in. Check on. Don’t leave people you care about to hang out in the breeze because you don’t know what to say or do, or because it can be too draining. Just say hello. Don’t stop showing up. Don’t smother someone, but the worst thing for a person with depression is the isolation that comes along with it. So don’t let them be alone in their misery. Have their back. Have their front. Have their side. Do what it takes to be the person who doesn’t let them down.

And remember that if depression could be fixed by a new CD you’d have a lot more music and a lot more easy solutions in the world.

I wish it was that simple.

Rooftop Garden, And An Alpaca In A Cherry Tree

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If I had to say the most common question since we moved back to Detroit, it would definitely be, “So where are you going to put the garden?”.

It’s interesting to me that people for the most part aren’t that curious about life in Seattle, or what we’ve been doing the last few years, or any other random topic. But next to, “Oh, where are you from?” (Which always makes me laugh, because my response is, “Uh I’m from here. Where are you from?” And then the person looks perplexed…), we keep getting people who assume that since the Basses are in town, trouble is sure to follow. It’s never a conversational, “Where are you putting your garden?” (Like where do you get the best sun in your new yard?) but rather a conspiratorial/mischievous, oooh let me get in on the ground floor of the next scandal…

So, just to put it out there: The garden thing has been done already🙂

We are allowed to have backyard chickens.

I want an alpaca in the worst way, but we don’t have enough land.

We planted several fruit trees in Seattle- what we hoped would be the first of many- and in what I confess are some of my very few only regrets about leaving there, had to (obviously) leave those trees behind just as they were getting nice and mature. So I would like to plant some fruit trees here, but I am still not settled enough to even begin to contemplate something like that.

There are some projects I would like to do around the house (both outside and inside), but again, my head isn’t there yet.

I will probably never be the person who settles into a quiet life of oblivion. But I just want to sort of remind everyone that when the garden thing happened I wasn’t looking for trouble, either. My family has earned some measure of peace. The question that remains to be seen is how peaceful can life with Julie Bass really ever be?

I was going to say more in the post, but instead I would like to make a comment after the Powerball lottery drawing. Something about it really touched me, and I wanted to bring it to your attention, in case you didn’t hear the same news reports as I did. This morning when I woke up they had established that winning tickets had been sold in three states (with smaller winners in others). But instead of the usual hedodism that usually follows: namely, what would you do with that kind of money? there was story after story about people cheering for the winners. People standing outside of stores where the winning tickets were sold and congratulating the store owners who had sold the tickets. People being interviewed who had nothing but good wishes for the folks who had won the lottery. Not a single person who said, “Oh if only I had won instead…”. Perhaps this will be a harbinger of things to come in 2016. Perhaps this will be the year of good news and wishing each other well. Perhaps this will be the year where we can appreciate each other’s good fortune instead of envying each other’s every asset. Maybe this is the beginning of a trend onward and upward for all of us.

I really hope so🙂

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