Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Heat, Humidity and All That Jazz

I am on vacation this week. I had grand plans to start ridding our lives of unneeded stuff this week. Starting in the attic and working my way down through as many rooms as possible, in the time I have, purging unwanted, useless and unnecessary items. All in preparation of our anticipated departure from the city next fall. (This may seem early to begin this process, but we have loads of stuff and it always takes Raymond awhile to get onboard. Therefore an early start is necessary for maintaining sanity and our marriage) 

The grand plan took a minor hit over the weekend when I was feeling kind of sick and managed to sleep away a major portion of Saturday into Sunday. The good news was that all that rest and vitamin c intake, seemed to do the trick, physically. But into each well laid plan must seep the continuing drama of heat, humidity and 90 degree temps! What in the name of mercy is going on? It's too hot to visit the attic, let alone work in it! 

Yesterday, I managed to get laundry done and vacuum the downstairs before the heat of the day became oppressive. Since we have AC only in our bedroom, we attempt to cool the house down the old fashioned way. During the day, we keep windows closed, as well as blinds and drapes. We have ceiling fans in the living room and the sunporch and a pedestal fan in the dining room just to keep air circulating. Late in the evening, when the temperature is supposed to begin to drop, we open windows, and turn on two window fans, one in the attic and one on the second floor. We allow these two fans to pull air through the house by having them exhaust air to the outside and thereby pull cooler air in through the open windows. In theory this works.  It has worked well in practice, too, over many hot summers. This year, not so much! I mean, by 6AM the house does feel somewhat cooler, but then the heat and humidity arrive en force and the whole cycle starts all over again! 

I do not function well in heat. Never have. But this year seems unbearable to me. I mean, if I lived in Key West, I might expect this heat & humidity on the last day of August! But I live in a supposed "temperate zone"!

So far, I've wasted four of my eleven days off. OK, maybe "wasted" is too strong a word. Lists have been made. I spent time with Vinny today and also did some photo editing. But the purging has yet to begin. Tomorrow AM is a scheduled trip to Raymond's doctor, followed by lunch with Jen, Kira & Luke and visiting with them as well. Perhaps by the end of the week more normal temperatures will reign and I will be able to begin divesting our home of some of it's extraneous stuff! 

But I can guarantee that I am not entering the attic until we have nighttime lows in the low 60s!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Where I Stand

It occurred to me this AM that not everyone who knows me knows of the life transforming event that took place several years ago.  What made me begin to ruminate on this was a casual comment by an internet friend in response to my comment that "God is good" and "Prayer is powerful".  I realized that her comment was not meant to inflame, nor to critisize, but it did cause me to discern a need to explain my faith, at least a little.

This is my story, in part.  Go back with me to springtime, 1994.

It was the Saturday before Easter and Raymond's parents and siblings, their spouses and children were gathering at his parent's home in Conneaut Lake, PA. Due to having no dogsitter available for Jake and Blue, the plan was for me to drive Raymond up and return home for a quiet weekend alone with the dogs. Raymond would get a ride home on Sunday afternoon from his brother. For loads of reasons, I was thrilled by this plan. Looking forward to quiet time and planning to attend an Easter sunrise service in the local park, I throughly enjoyed the ride home, singing along with the radio and anticipating peace and quiet.

On my way down Mairdale, a street that runs along a local park, I stopped to watch a herd of deer browsing and felt thankful to have happened upon the sight in the city! Maybe I could get used to living on the North Side. 

I spent an uneventful evening reading and playing with the dogs, who had lots of energy after being in the car for over 3 hours for the drive up to and back from the lake. I ate what I felt like eating, watched TV, and was generally thrilled with my plans for peace and quiet. 

During this period in my life, I was also searching. I 'knew' there had to be more to life than working, paying bills and living in a place I hated, even though I wasn't sure what 'it' was. Part of my search was the need for something deeper, and I thought, something spiritual. Since I was a fallen away Catholic, I thought that perhaps, attending a sunrise service, out in nature, on Easter Sunday morning might be a place to begin.  So, I went to bed, full of anticipation, setting my alarm for 5:30AM.

When I arose the next morning, I was no longer filled with anticipation. Rather, I was deep in despair, for no apparent reason.  I do not remember coming downstairs to the living room, but I do remember that I had begun to cry.  Actually, I began to sob uncontrollably. Did I feed the dogs? Did I make coffee? I do not remember. I do remember, at one point, looking at the clock and realizing I had been crying for hours!  The thought formed in my head that this was how my life would be...tears, sobbing, emotional pain that I couldn't escape from.  There seemed, in my mind, to be but one solution. I should kill myself. No drama in making the decision, it just seemed like the next logical thing. Can't stop hurting, then simply end your life. It all seemed so matter of fact.

Then, I looked down at Jake and Blue who were laying at my feet. These were dogs I loved like they were my children. They went everywhere we went.  Plus, I was their caregiver. Not that Raymond didn't love them, too. He did. But, I was home with them since leaving my job at a nursing home. Raymond loved them, but he never remembered to fill the water bowl. I was the one who fed them and made sure Jake got his thyroid meds twice daily and they both got their heartworm preventative and gave Blue her Bendryl when her allergies kicked in in late September.  Raymond would never remember everything! My dogs would suffer if I wasn't there to care for them.  

OK, the answer came to me in a flash, a micro-second! "I'll kill the dogs, too." Again, no drama. Simple, Matter-of-fact. Like it was the next logical step. 

Even as the thought occurred to me, I heard a voice say, "YOU"LL DO WHAT????!!!!!"

Those simple words were enough to snap me back to the moment and make me realize how deep into the depths of despair I had fallen. How could I even think such a thought? 

I have no memory of exactly what I did next, but in the morning, I called my PCP and made an appointment for that afternoon.

As I sat on the exam table, telling my story, sobbing, yet again, the pain of actually thinking how  close I had come to ending not just my own life, but that of innocent creatures who loved me and depended on me was overwhelming.  My doctor, a kind, gentle man looked me in the eye and said, " I want to put you on Prozac."  There must've been a look of horror on my face, because he quickly added, "Please, let's try it for a month. If it doesn't help by a month's time, we'll try something else."  My look of horror must not have been subsiding, because his next question to me was, " Would it make you feel any better if I told you I've taken it and it helped me?"

I started the medication that day.

About three weeks later, Raymond commented on how I seem to have "changed".  I remember that my reply to him was, "This must be how normal people feel all the time." He asked me what I meant by that. The only way I could explain it was by comparing then and now, before Prozac and after. Before, I felt like I was at the bottom of a well. I knew there was light somewhere in the distance above me, but it was so far away, I couldn't even really see it. And the wells sides were so slick, that I couldn't climb out. I was stuck at the bottom, unable to climb, even if I tried.  But, now, three weeks later, I was in the light! The medication had somehow managed to lift me from the depths of that slick sided well where I had periodically found myself trapped. 

In thinking about that day of dark despair, I am convinced that there really was a voice that day. I think there was a spiritual battle going on in my living room. I think the voice I heard was that of my creator.  I had become so entwined in my emotional pain that the enemy used that to his advantage. My Lord and Savior knew me so well, that he knew exactly how to shock me back to reality, simply by saying, "YOU'LL DO WHAT?????!!!!!!"

I wish I could tell you that's when I came to faith in Christ. But it wasn't. For several more years, I searched. But I know that the voice was the beginning. And I am forever grateful for a God who loves us each where we are, but, as Max Lucado says, "Loves us too much to let us stay there."

So, my dear internet friend, yes, I know that drugs are good, but believe me when I tell you, so is God! 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lists, lists and more lists

The plan is for us to leave Pittsburgh in September 2011.  Between now and then there are so many tasks that need to be accomplished, that I am in need of multiple lists. The big things that need to happen include, but are not limited to: downsizing all our possessions; digitizing all photos, music and important paperwork; re-homing our chinchilla; buying an RV and selling our house.

The downsizing has been ongoing for the better part of at least a year.  Some things that we simply cannot bear to part with, will be stored for a little while in my brother's attic.  For me, that includes many of my lighthouses and Labrador retriever items, while for Raymond, it means a bookcase made by his Dad especially for him along with some books and three orange crates full of vinyl LPs.  I think, in time, we will both be ready to leave these items behind as well, but the time is not now. One of the great things about RV living is that the motor home includes most everything you're going to need as far as furnishing, so there's no need to keep that love seat, or dining room table.   

The process of digitizing has also begun, but at a woefully slow rate. One hindrance to the process is that before scanning our pictures to the portable hard drive, we must first sort through the numerous boxes and rid ourselves of crappy, or ugly, or, as in the case of my sunsets & sunrises, multiples. Most music that we already own has been transferred to our iPods, with the exception of many of those LPs that Raymond won't part with. We have the technology available to transfer them to our hard drive, but it is an extremely time consuming process. Plus, since many of those albums are in less than perfect condition, they bring along hisses & pops that you won't get if you simply download them from iTunes.

Buying the RV has proven to be a challenging task.  We thought we knew what we wanted until we began to actively look. After many, many false starts, we think we have found the RV of our dreams, but time will tell. We hope to visit the RV show in Hershey this fall to finalize our plans.

Re-homing CC, our chinchilla, is going to be a heartrending undertaking. It requires the admission that perhaps our adoption of her was more hasty than we thought. She needs to be re-homed because she deserves a more appropriate home than we are currently providing. In addition, the motor home we will purchase simply will not have enough room to accommodate a cage of the size and weight of hers. That said, even if we weren't moving into an RV, she still deserves a more chinchilla friendly environment. 

The biggest thing on any of our lists is the selling of our house. We have lived here for over 20 years, but have never been "real" homeowners.  By that, I mean that when Raymond worked nights at UPS, he had neither the time, nor the energy to keep up with such a large house.  As for me, because I never wanted to live in this house at all, I fear I became a bit passive-aggressive where the house was concerned.  I spent too many years simply hating the house.  Then, when I was a stay at home wife, I had the delusion that watching all those home improvement shows on HGTV, PBS, et al, somehow gave me skills that I didn't really possess. And lastly, there's the bad trait that many in my family have...we never finish what we start. There. I said it. They say that admitting your failures is the first step toward recovery, right?  Anyway, the house is far less than perfect, actually far less than good. Our neighborhood is still in a downward spiral (see previous post) and I can't imagine that anyone is actively seeking to move into it. That scares me more than anything else about the whole process; who might buy our house?  I'm praying that God will send just the right person, at just the right time. 

Now that I've committed this to paper, I suppose I had better get started on those lists...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Continuing Urban Adventures

Perhaps urban living is becoming too much of an adventure. This past weekend shots were fired just outside our house.  Nobody was injured - this time!  I heard one of the responding police officers refer to it as "like the shoot out at the OK Corral".  The people involved are, by general standards, kids.  I am not certain of their ages, but it is safe to say they are under 25, and maybe a good deal under.
It is a frightening experience to hear young people arguing outside your open window and threaten one another. It becomes frightening on an entirely different level when, after the threat, you hear several gunshots in rapid succession.   

My neighbor's car was hit by one of the gunshots. Another hit the garage of the business next door to her.  This woman is a quiet neighbor with little kids who, thankfully,  were not at home when the incident took place.  If they had been, innocent children may have been wounded or killed because her kids are often playing in front of their house, or riding their bikes in the area that was the line of fire.

I am not scared; I am angry and astounded at these latest events.  When did  it become the norm for arguments to be settled  with guns?  I heard these kids outside my window yelling at one another. Much of their conversation was unintelligible to me.  But, it certainly didn't sound like the kind of fight that would lead to shots being fired. To be honest, it sounded like the kind of thing that might end up with a punch or two being thrown. The last quote I heard before the gunfire was, "Come on, _____, don't make me hurt you."  It never entered my mind that this kid planned to "hurt" the other with a gun!  That's the part that astonishes me.

The part that makes me angry is that they have guns at all!  How easy is it for a young person to get a gun?  Apparently very easy!  And how is it possible to have so little regard for life that an argument escalates to gun violence?  I am angry that people no longer feel safe to sit on their front porches. I am angry that the Mom little kids across the street will think twice before allowing her kids to play in front of their own house now.  I am angry that  this is happening and that we all feel ill equipped to deal with it, because it is so far outside of our experience.