Be Back Soon…

Cortez Reunion

Cortez Reunion

 

I am still in recovery from my family reunion weekend.  We ended up with 252 family members in attendance.  I have no clue how many were unable to attend and what our total could have been.  It would definitely have been over 300!

It was a wonderful weekend of fun and family.  I learned a little more about my Grandma Cruz…she was a lady with a lead foot and learned to speak English by selling Avon.

Great times!  I’ll be back on Tuesday!

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National Moment of Remembrance

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#EB2417-001 / gettyimages.com

 

At 3 pm local time, please pause for a moment of silence and remember those who have died while in service to America.


The National Moment of Remembrance Act

In December 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance Act was passed by the US Congress.  This established the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance.  This was to ensure that America’s fallen heroes’ sacrifices are never forgotten.   As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

From the website of the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs:

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May.

 

 

Family…That’s What It’s All About

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Just a few of the family members gathered for July 4, 2012, including the neighbor’s dog!

I have a large family reunion this weekend in New Mexico. This one will include the families of my dad’s siblings and first cousins on his mother’s side. Or, to put it another way…the families of my paternal aunts and uncles as well as the families of my dad’s maternal 1st cousins. Did I lose you? That’s okay b/c I’m lost as well! Let’s just say there will be a lot of cousins getting together this weekend! I am making safety pins with rings to designate what generation we are each from and so far I have made 200. Did I mention this is just from ONE side of my dad’s family?!

I come from a very large extended family of origin. That doesn’t have any automatic meanings except that there are a lot of us. Families are a very interesting thing when you think about it. Some are large while others are small. Some are very close-knit while others hardly keep in contact. Even in the close-knit families, there are some family members that are almost strangers within their own family.

Growing up I had the picture perfect image of my dad’s family. Anytime there was a family gathering, ALL of his siblings were in attendance. I never witnessed any ugly arguments or nasty talking behind someone’s back about another sibling. They were a parent’s dream of close siblings…or so I thought.

It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I finally learned that they were not the Cleaver family after all. They did actually have disagreements amongst themselves. But, out of respect for their parents, those were pushed aside for a few days at a time so we could all be together and enjoy family time.

Michael J. Fox once said, “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” What he did not specify is what ‘family’ means. There are a number of definitions in the dictionary, but I think the one that best describes family is this: a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation.

While I do have a large family of origin as I’ve described, they are by no means my only family. Nor does it mean that they are the ones who have always given me the most of what I needed. I’ve been fortunate to be part of several different families so far in my life.

Remember the quote about friends, “We have three types of friends in life: Friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime?” I believe the same is true for the various families we become a part of throughout our life.

Family for a lifetime:

Most people are fortunate to have a family of origin for many years. For some, though, that is not the case. There are children that are orphaned at an early age while others are kicked out of their family of origin for one reason or another. But, by and large, we will have some original family for a lifetime. Hopefully, we are able to value and foster these relationships so that they are nurturing for us.

Family for a season:

The best example of families for a season would probably be our work families. The ideal work environment would be one where you feel you are part of a family. Not all bosses allow for that, but the better ones do. I was privileged to be part of a great work family for a while when I first worked at Purdue University. We truly looked out for each other. When someone was out with surgery or to have a baby, we would have a sign up to take dinner a few times a week. Periodically we would close the office a little early and go out for dinner. We really valued this time out of the office to get to know each other even better.

That season came to an end for reasons beyond our control. As a matter of fact, I recall stating that it felt like our parents had gotten a divorce and we were being made to pick sides. It was not a good feeling.   Ultimately, I was very glad to leave what became a dysfunctional family when I got the chance. I’ve not kept in close contact with most members of that family, but I do keep up with almost all of them on Facebook. Some I had to drop like a hot potato for my own health.

Family for a reason:

The quote related to friends is expanded a bit and says, “When someone is in your life for a reason, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly. S/he has come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually.”

I’m sure you can think of many different situations where you have developed a family out of a need. Support groups are a great example of this.

The interesting fact about friendships and families that begin as a reason, is that they have the ability to move into seasons and lifetimes.

When I first went to First Baptist, it was for a reason. I needed guidance and support. I needed help emotionally and spiritually. Everyone quickly became my family by giving me all of the above. They became my family for a season. And while I still have my family of origin that will be my family for a lifetime; I do pray that they will be my family for what’s left of our lives together.

This year and in years to come, make a point to spend time with ALL of your families because family IS everything!

2001…Looking for a New Beginning: Part 1

 May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout the month I will share my own experience with depression. This is the continuation of the journey which would eventually lead me to qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits because of my depression.


The trip from Texas was a bit of a stressful one. That winter there was a huge ice storm across Arkansas and snow in the Midwest. I was forced to drive across Louisiana in order to avoid Arkansas. Then when I got to a hotel for the night, I managed to lock the keys in the U-Haul…with Comet! I was so relieved to finally arrive at my sister’s home on January 1, 2001.

I took it kind of easy through January. As February came I tried to get more serious about a job search. I had already completed my paperwork to substitute teach, but I had yet to call and say I was available. I had been able to quit picking on my face in October because I knew I had a couple of months before I had to even think about work. Now, I had begun picking again because I knew I needed to get serious about work. The effects of the stress were beginning to show even more as I developed a case of shingles.

Money worries are the biggest stressor for me that can quickly send me over the edge. This was especially true as March approached and I was getting further behind on car payments. Feeling proactive, I phoned the lender to inform them payment would be on the way as soon as I received my tax refund. This was a HUGE mistake! They informed me that it didn’t matter because they were already looking for my car!

Fight or flight? My only option, as I saw it, was flight. I hung up the phone, grabbed a few things along with my car keys and headed out the door. I didn’t have a plan and I only told my sister I was leaving…not where I was going. I just knew I had to get lost. I filled the car with gas and started driving.

My mind was racing with all kinds of possibilities on where to go…or what to do. One second I was thinking of driving to New Mexico and my favorite spot there; the next I was thinking about killing myself. Back and forth my mind went as I found myself driving south. Next thing I knew I was 90 miles south in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

Before I could really figure out even a plan for the next few hours, I began a letter to the therapist I had just left behind in Texas.

March 1, 2001

Dear Joan,

If you are actually reading this, I apologize. That means that I have done something that is irreversible.

I know that you have always told me that I am strong and that suicide is taking the easy way out. I also remember the impact my ex-teacher had when she committed suicide.

Right now, I am just tired. It seems like the harder I try the more I fall. I feel like such a dunce and idiot right now.

I’ve been in Indiana for 2 months and have only applied for 4 places… When I would seriously consider doing something about working, I couldn’t sleep at night and I even developed shingles. I can’t live like that. I could never afford to live on my own if I went on disability. Besides that, I would have to get Medicaid and I don’t want to be a burden to society.

I see no other way right now.

After writing the letter I spent time walking around Wal-Mart. At one point, I was comparing the amount of sleep aid in the various pain relievers. I had decided pills and alcohol were my way out. For some reason, though, as I wandered around the store, the idea of filing bankruptcy entered my mind. This, of all things, is what kept me from attempting to kill myself.

The next day, after some much needed sleep, I was able to think a little more clearly. I began that journal entry by stating, “Well, here I am again. I have reacted stupidly again.” Besides making plans to learn more about bankruptcy, I also was able to see disability as a viable option. It was no longer something to be ashamed of, but an actual solution to help me. As I saw it, “I had to do something. Whenever I am pressured about my responsibility, I flip out.”

Again, the words from my journal express what I was feeling best:

March 2, 2001

At some point, I decided I couldn’t go back. I was/am tired of being behind on payments. I’m tired of dreading having to go to work. I’m tired of the overall “sad” feeling.

It is more than just thinking I don’t want to live anymore. I was making the actual plans. The only thing I had to live for was my new unborn niece/nephew; but even that wasn’t enough in that moment.

Each time I have thought of suicide, I have gotten more and more detailed. I just know it is going to happen one day. I just don’t see a way around it. It is only a matter of time.

After 10 pm

What the hell am I doing? Nobody knows where I am.

The thought of going on disability really sucks. I just imagine what relatives will say that don’t fully understand depression.

That’s another reason I think about killing myself…it is so hard to find people who really understand depression and what it can do to a person. I understand that part of it is just my thoughts, but I just really do not feel “right.” “Normal” things stress me out.

I went on to share some observations about being ‘homeless’ for a couple of days. I questioned whether I would be able to handle it if I really were homeless (perhaps my subconscious knew something about the future that it kept to itself).

In the end, I would return to my sister and brother-in-law’s home the next day. I know that we talked, but the only part I really remember is how much I had upset my sister in her late stage of pregnancy. Either I didn’t bring up applying for disability, or the idea was dismissed because nothing more was said about it at the time.

A couple of weeks after returning to West Lafayette, I was hired on at Office Max part-time. This brought some much needed confidence as I felt I was worthy simply because someone hired me despite having taken some months off from work.

At the end of March, my niece, Sara, was born. Her arrival also brought some much needed purpose to my life and work. I had to stay alive so I could work more so I could afford to spoil her!

While I still struggled to get the depression under control…without medication…things did begin to improve. Since I was only working part-time and only had limited responsibilities, I was not as stressed as I had been at the community college. The simple fact that there was improvement without medications or therapy (no insurance, so no money for either) was an indication to me that maybe I would not be able to work a full-time professional job again. This saddened me, but I was also able to see that it might benefit me mentally in the long run.

That is why, when I was contacted in May to apply for an academic advisor position at Purdue University, I held no expectations at all. Join me next time for 2001…Looking for a New Beginning: Part 2.

patient and tough

 

2000…the Never-Ending Year

 May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout the month I will share my own experience with depression. This is the continuation of the journey which would eventually lead me to qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits because of my depression.


I returned to work after a month off in early December 1999. I felt a sense of optimism that life was beginning to move forward after a temporary standstill. That feeling was short lived once the stress of work returned. On the last day of the year I wrote:

I hope and pray that I can get some added “get up and go” in 2000. I have great ideas and intentions. I just don’t follow through.

As I continued to process the experiences of the year as we often do on New Year’s Eve, a strong feeling of anger began creeping in on me.

Outside, I feel “calm” so to speak. Inside, however, I look at myself and it scares me. I see myself with so much pent up anger/energy that I just want to tear everything up in the house.

I see myself just knocking tables over, pushing things off the entertainment center. I would put my hand or foot through the fireplace glass. I would pull everything out of the cabinets in the kitchen. I would knock the bookshelves over and tear up some books. I would rip clothes. I would tear apart plants.

How do I get rid of all these feelings?

As late January rolled around, work stress began taking its toll. In a reaction to poor communication between my supervisor and me, I stormed out of his office and slammed his door. I honestly thought I might lose my job that day. My inability to control myself was very troubling to me.

I feel like no matter how much work I do on my issues; I will still have days like last week. It is part of me. How do I deal with that? If there needs to be accommodations, what would they be? Is that right, or do I just have to “deal with it” and take my chances? How can I keep going on like this?

I believe I was beginning to recognize the depression as being a disability, but did not really know exactly what that entailed. Was it valid to call it a disability that required accommodations? I had already received an accommodation for it by being assigned to the current position; but would I need, or did I even deserve, other accommodations to make work less stressful? In the end, I wouldn’t think about it as a disability again for about a year.

Despite this, the depression and the symptoms I was experiencing did not let up.

Late February: I am really drained tonight. It’s not that I worked hard (I hardly worked) it’s just that I didn’t have much energy to begin with. Being depressed just drains you sometimes.

March 17: Two more days off and then it is back to work. I have had a good Spring Break, fairly productive. At least until today. I have just felt different today from the rest of the week. I have ended this day ‘blah’ and with a heavy heart.

March 21: Well, I missed the last two days of work.

This pattern of calling off from work immediately after a holiday would become a regular pattern for me down the road. I wish I could say that it was because I wanted another day or two to play; but it was far from that. Those extra days away from work were spent in bed trying to gather the energy needed to return to work. There was subconscious anxiety about having to face the work-related stress.

April remained a stressful month and I had A LOT of contact with my therapist to get through it. I was facing the possibility of having my paycheck docked because I was using all of my sick and vacation leave by calling off or taking time for therapy appointments. My therapy sessions were very focused on how to deal with the disagreements as professionally as possible.

This allowed me to go into May feeling a bit more balanced and really ready to make improvements in work areas.

May 10: It is a really sad thought when people start commenting about how happy you look and you know they are saying that because they haven’t seen you laugh and smile more than once a week or so in a long time. One friend mentioned that she could see in my eyes that I am doing so much better.

Previously, my therapist had introduced me to The Healing Runes by Ralph H. Blume. The book comes with a bag of stones with different symbols on them. You focus on what is heavy on your mind and draw a rune. The book then has an ‘interpretation’ of the symbol. I like to describe the Healing Runes as a way to help you place focus when you might be feeling overwhelmed. More often than not, the interpretation will have deep meaning. On the same day as above, I drew the rune of Courage.

The Rune of Courage announces that the cycle of sorrow and pain has finally come to an end. Be at peace with your healing. You have walked the path of Courage; now it is time to go out in the world and live the life you were born to live.

Damn, if the joke wasn’t on me again! It wasn’t that I felt the pain and depression had left, I just felt a little more optimism once again; and drawing the Rune of Courage had been my proof.

June 26 – Well, it has been quite a while since I have written. Maybe it is because I am scared to face the truth.

Last month, I was notified that they were not going to renew my contract after August.

Just when I thought life was getting on track a bit, it slapped me in the face and I never saw it coming. I had been so consumed by the depression I wasn’t able to put the clues together.

In mid-July, the Information Technology guys would come to my office to back up my computer. No reason was given, but I’m guessing they thought I was going to destroy work product that would be needed once I was gone. (That was kind of accurate, but not on a large scale.) I had a stack of my own personal disks where I was saving samples of my work that I wanted to carry out of the office with me. They saw this and immediately demanded that I leave them.

Once again, I had an irrational reaction and became physically defensive. I do not recall the specific details other than the fact that I knew in my head that I would not be walking back into that office during regular business hours again. The next day I was notified that I was placed on administration leave with pay for the duration of my contract.

The next month was a bit of a blur as you might expect. I vaguely recall thinking about a job search, but feeling so hopeless that I did nothing. It was at that point that my sister that lived in Indiana invited me for a visit and suggested I consider moving north.

I mentioned previously that my self-harm method was picking on my face. This is a picture of me from my visit to Indiana in September. I am smiling, but I am anything but fully happy given what I had done to my face.

2000

September 2000

As if I didn’t have enough on my plate with being unemployed and majorly depressed, I had a gall bladder attack while in Indiana. I returned to Texas immediately hoping to have surgery as soon as possible. It would take nearly two months before I could schedule the surgery due to issues with my COBRA insurance.

Once I recovered physically, I was able to begin the moving process…with some trepidation of course.

Late-December: I am making progress, but I also feel as though I am just standing still when it comes to my overall future.

On December 21, 2000, my Chihuahua Comet and I drove the U-Haul out of Midland, Texas and began our 1440 mile trip to Indiana hoping to make a fresh start and create happier memories in the new year.

Me and Comet

Me and Comet

Me and Savannah, my dog I had to leave with my parents in TX

Me and Savannah, my dog I had to leave with my parents in TX