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The Journey of an Writer and a Novel – The e-book Release of Death in Disguise

 

 

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Death in Disguise by D.Hill The New Release of My First Novel Now on Kindle Books and Soon Amazon.

“You cheating son of a bitch! Muriel screamed at him. .. This is the first line of my novel Death in Disguise…. It took me ten years to get that on paper to my satisfaction. Why? Not because I had writer’s block, no I actually wrote the first rough draft in several months – ten years ago. It was because no matter how many times I changed scenes, sentences, fleshed out characters, I was AFRAID it was not good enough. So it sat on a shelf.

Everyone talks about writer’s block, but not many talk about writer’s fear. Perhaps one is a sub-category of the other. It was fear of rejection that kept my story on the shelf. Not fear that some publishing house would reject me. That is part of the process and I didn’t mind that. It was fear of… this is my first attempt out the door and if it is not a proper representation of what I think I can produce, what I want to produce, I’m screwed.

Over the past ten years I’ve written profusely and have a lovely array of binders containing double spaced, red inked, drafts of novels no one has ever seen. There was a problem with this, envy. I was, still am, envious of musicians who perform, artists whose work hangs somewhere, anywhere. Basically, anyone who creates and the public, even just their friends and family, gets the opportunity to share their creations. A writer does not have such availability unless they are read somewhere. Usually, that means by being published.

Yes, there are probably thousands of people who write and have no desire to have anyone’s eyes see their final product. That’s great, but that’s not me. It took taking a series of classes called, Writing from the Heart, a class designed to decrease if not eliminate fears holding writers back, to propel me through a quagmire of my design. What was it that bound me? Perfection.

I was a performer growing up and if you have ever been a performer or athlete you know the importance of doing better than your best to stay alive. Somewhere along the line, doing better than my best became doing it perfectly. Either no one ever told me perfection was not possible or I did not listen. I believed that perfection was obtainable if I applied myself accordingly.

When I performed, if I didn’t win top award or get audience response like I thought I should, I could review what went wrong, rehearse and practice more, harder until I got the results I wanted. In writing this is not so easy. In the first couple (hundred) drafts, I was the only eyes looking at the work. There was no coach telling me the weak points, the boring points. Sure, I could have hired an editor, but I didn’t have the money. Not having extra money, in my mind, meant it better be the best it can be before a professional editor saw it.

I thought, I could get family and friends to read and just tell me what they think. Give me constructive criticism. Some said they would, but never did. Others went as far as to take a copy or download the file, but forgot they had it. It was devastating and I took it personally. Thoughts like: is that all I mean to them, they really must think I write horrible, they don’t support my passion, they don’t care. The depression that followed was sometimes unbearable. The depression was caused by ME!

It took me years to relax and say, so what. The people not wanting to read or saying they would and choosing to not read, that is something with them, not me. Most of the time I doubt there was anything malicious to their behavior. I made it malicious and I allowed it to affect my relationships and thoughts. There are many reasons a loved one or friend would choose not to be involved or read something a writer has written and I had to learn to respect that and not see it as rejection.

I got lucky when my parents asked to read one of my drafts and …. loved it. I think to their surprise. I gave them another one. By the end of the year they had read all the drafts on my shelf. I eagerly listened to their critiques and chose the stories they enjoyed the most. One of my daughters came forward and agreed to do some edits. She read the story and said, “Mom, I couldn’t put this down.”

I guess it is along the lines of what Jesus said. Something about a person needing to leave their home in order to be recognized and listened to. I’ve heard this in various ways, not just writing. Nurses telling me their families don’t listen to them because, they know them, grew up with them. How can you possibly know as much as this stranger who has the same or less experience. I digress.

What this has taught me is another lesson about myself and my desires with my writing. It was not enough for me to have others read my work. I wanted people in my intimate circle to be a part of the experience. If you don’t write you may not understand this, but writing is such a passion, such a part of the soul of the writer. Writing is like screaming in the forest at night and hoping someone hears you. “Listen to me! I want to share this with you!”

Once again, I had to reassess this. Family and friends can be supportive without reading. I came to realize they do this all the time. I could relax again and move on. I decided to publish the Indie route. Not because I didn’t think I was good enough for a large publishing house, but I wanted to have complete control over the process. It was a steep learning curve and I wanted to know it all.

I created this baby, why not be there to design the nursery and do the actual delivery? I guess by nature I am a DIY (Do it yourself) person. Expand the brain cells and learn new skills. Challenge myself and face making possible mistakes. This was a big jump from harboring in my room afraid of not being perfect.

I can still hear a certain writing mentor in my life’s journey poo pooing an x-student when their first novel was published. There was a scrunching of the nose, a wave of the hand and the comment, “Well, she could have done better.”  Each step of my journey I heard those words. Ah yes, wanting to impress the mentor, the coach. Make them proud! Bull shit!

Those words spoke volumes about that mentor’s frame of mind. It was not about celebrating another writer’s victory over fear and pushing his/her self to release their creation to the world. Once I realized I didn’t have to impress anyone, I could release those words and be free to create and share.

That is where I am now. My E-book Death in Disguise by D.Hill just came out on Kindle and will be out on Amazon in paperback in 90 days. It’s a murder mystery that takes place in the 1950’s.  I’m ecstatic! I think. Now I face a whole new set of demons I place in my own head. Is there ever an end? Sure, If I make it so.

If you write or want to write, my advise to you is evaluate the thoughts you tell yourself about you, your writing and your expectations about people in relation to your writing life. Then write! Just do it! Remember, there is no such thing as perfection.

Here is the back cover synopsis of Death in Disguise:

Kelly Anders is a beautiful woman with a secret that kills. When she disappears from the scene of a 1955 brutal murder everyone is stunned. Especially her boyfriend, Al Brodrick.  Her disappearance spawns a gruesome spree of sexual assaults and mutilations leaving the small police force of Highgate Falls baffled and town’s people terrified. Accusations fly as Highgate Falls realizes things are not always what they seem.  Al Brodrick joins forces with retired FBi agent, Ira Jonesson, and the local police to stop the predator from killing again and to find Kelly Anders – if she is alive.

 

 

Toddlers Found Amid Bloodbath – When Children Experience Trauma

ImageThe headline read: Toddlers found Amid Bloodbath. Four-year-old Amy and two-year-old Abbey (not their real names), had witnessed the murder/suicide of their parents.  The girls were rescued a day later playing around their dead parents. The police were able to place the children with extended family thought they could cope. They were wrong.

Amy, once toilet-trained, started soiled her pants on a regular basis. Abbey started sucking her thumb and refused to leave her sister’s side. For reasons no one could understand, the two would suddenly become enraged and on one occasion Amy lunged at her uncle (the current guardian) with a kitchen knife lacerating his leg. Both girls asked frequently, when their parents were coming back. Amy on occasion, would become nauseated and vomit when she would walk in and see her aunt preparing raw meat for dinner.  Neither girl slept well and night terrors accompanied with screams that woke the entire house occurred weekly. When they played, the themes were often violent with toys being destroyed and their behaviors escalating into physical fights between them. Abbey refused to be held, would cry a lot and bite herself.  Amy refused to play with other children and her daycare provider said she sometimes resembled a trapped animal that lashed out when you tried to come near her.  

Their home placement quickly became jeopardized as the already distraught family was not prepared for, nor did they understand, what was occurring. The result, the children ended up in foster care, with a family that had wonderful intentions but was not properly trained on what to expect from traumatized children, how to help them and how to cope.

From the family’s perspective the children should have been relieved and happy to be in a loving, caring environment. They became very confused and angered with the girl’s behavior did not match what they expected. They returned the children to the county for another placement. This happened several times before the girls ended up with a specialized foster care family who already had four special needs children.

The girls were seen by multiple counselors/therapists and doctors. Many of which did not have specialized training in helping children who have been traumatized.  By the time the girls were ready to go to middle school, they were separated, living in different homes (the fifth for Amy and the eighth for Abbey), were promiscuous, hard to handle, occasionally heavily drugged by well-meaning doctors and their school performance was very poor with frequent suspensions. 

This is a horrendous story. It is horrendous because the children experienced such a horror. Worse because no one knew information to help understand the natural reactions the children were having as a result of the events they experienced.  By the time I got the case, years of compounded stress and trauma had to be unraveled.

There is an old myth that children are very resilient that they bounce back from adversity better than adults. Notice I said myth. Children are just as traumatized and reactive as adults to traumatic events. Children, however, often present different then their adult counterparts.

To the unaware adult, the child is acting out, being obstinate, not reacting to the events. The child typically is not able to sit down and tell you or debrief the events the way an adult can.  Depending on their age, children are not able to verbally process the events and their meaning due to limited cognitive development. For example, children do not have a concrete understanding of death as being final until around age ten.

The case with Amy and Abbey is extreme; however, traumas do occur frequently to children. Divorce, child and domestic abuse, school bullying, parents who are involved in severe drug and alcohol abuse, deaths or serious illness in the family, loss of income of a parent, moving to a new school and home. All these and many more are examples of events that are very stressful and at times traumatic enough to cause severe reactions in a child.

It is important to anyone with a child who has or is currently stressful and/or traumatic or who work with children to understand the nature of trauma on a child to learn ways children express and process these events.

The brain acts like a movie camera during a traumatic event. It will record the images, sounds, smells and touch feelings associated with it. This occurs so the brain can figure out how to react for protection. Integrate this into the person to make sense of the event.  How to self protect if it happens again or try to prevent it from happening again.  The behaviors you see in a child are the outward manifestations of these attempts.

Here are some of the behaviors you may find in children coping with extreme stress and or trauma in their life.

  1. Children will typically digress in their developmental levels (forget learned behaviors like toilet training, talk babyish, need stuffed animals to sleep, night lights, want more cuddle time, forget how to do skills learned in school)
  2. Nightmares, night terrors, sleep walking, sleep talking, refusing to go to bed or sleep.
  3. Refusing to eat, over eating, nauseated at certain foods, craving certain foods such as feel good foods, wanting a pacifier or bottle fed.
  4. Refusing to go to the bathroom, soiling their clothing, smearing feces, obsessive masturbating.
  5. Aggressive or violent behaviors, crying spells and tantrums.
  6. A drop in school performance, decrease in grades, acting out in school, not wanting to go to school.
  7. Moodiness, bursts of anger, crying spells, moppyness, laughing inappropriately, pulling out hair, twirling hair, pulling out eye lashes or eye brows, hurting themselves on purpose, clumsiness or accident prone.
  8. Flashbacks (experiencing the trauma event as if it is currently happening), responding to things that remind them of events (the blood of raw meat for someone who witnessed a bloody event).
  9. Promiscuousness, early involvement with smoking, drugs and alcohol, deviant behaviors, abuse of others, abuse of self, disrespect for adults or specific adults.

If extreme stresses or a traumatic event happens to your family, your child or a child in your care, note these reactions. Do not assume the child will manage without help. It is better to act as if need is eminent then to ignore the potential as behaviors of a child’s distress may not show up right away. It may take days or weeks to show. There are times where the child appears to do well and after they reach a more developed cognitive ability (the older they get) their mind will once again address what they experience and this is when you may see behaviors develop. The sooner the child is able to get help, the better things will be for them.

Use the services of school counselors, professional counselors/therapists (make sure they are trained in childhood trauma if trauma is the issue), a doctor’s care maybe necessary as well. Learn all you can about how severe stress and trauma affects children and incorporate this for the children in your care.  If you are also a part of the extreme stress or trauma, remember that you are also struggling on various levels. Take care of yourself.

Extreme stress and trauma can occur in anyone’s life. Be prepared if you have or work with children. Know the signs and how to get help. The emotional health and well being of a child may depend on it. 

Post Funeral, Where Do We Go From Here?

ImageIt’s Friday morning, exactly one week from my uncle’s funeral. Family is headed back to Florida and for the first time since the death, the house is quiet and the stillness overpowering.

It’s a surreal morning. I had set the alarm on my cell phone for a seven o’clock wake up but forgot to turn up the volume.  I hear pounding on the door and shoot out of bed confused.

“We need to leave in ten minutes!” My daughter yells through the door.  This morning is the first in a series of physical therapy appointments she has, post-back surgery. “We can stop at Dunkin’ Donuts on the way. They have great breakfasts and awesome coffee.” This is a dig against her brother, my son who lives and breathes Starbucks.

I brush my teeth; throw on some clothes and stumble, still half-asleep into the hallway. She is standing by the front door with my purse in one hand and my keys in the other. I find my shoes and struggle to get them on my feet. She ushers me out the door.

We get into my mini-van and I’m seated in the driver’s seat. A revelation hits me, I’m awake and going somewhere. I slap my face a time of two and turn up the radio. Something has to wake me up. I’m driving for goodness sake!

“Dunkin’ Donuts is right around the corner. You can get a large coffee,” daughter tells me.

Before her surgery, my daughter was a three times a week Dunkin’ Donuts regular. We enter the coffee shop. She waves at the staff and rattles off what she calls her regular order. The counter person puts this into the register and looks at me.

I don’t have a clue what I want.  Daughter and counter person spit out several adjectives describing food and beverage choices; eggs with bacon and toast, no toast, no egg, cheese, no cheese, bagels, coffee, iced, hot, latte, espresso, creamer, no creamer, mocha, mint, raspberry.

“Well?” Daughter asks.

I think I heard one of them say coffee, hot.  I remember, the other day after daughter’s post neurology appointment we stopped at Sheetz, a regional gas, restaurant, and convenience store for coffee.  That coffee, ordered for me by daughter, I really liked.  “What was that?” I ask her.

“Iced, white-chocolate, raspberry with soy creamer,” daughter replies but for some reason I can’t wrap my head around all the words.

“Raspberry, chocolate,” I say. Miraculously, a breakfast and hot drink are handed to me and we head back to the car. I drop daughter at physical therapy and head back home.

Walking in the front door, I smell something dead and rotting. I check for the dog and cat. They are both accounted for and alive. Down on my hands and knees, I sniff the carpet, the couches and the afghans. Everything smells like it is supposed to. I’m stumped and tell myself I’ll deal with it later.

It’s been two weeks since I opened my mail or answered my business phone. Life literally has been at a stand-still. I leave the smell of the living room and head upstairs to my office.  It’s a business disaster. Piles of paper and files have shifted around so many times in making room for extra, visiting family that I no longer know where anything is located.

I fire up the computer and find over three-hundred e-mails needing my attention. My office phone is blinking, ten missed messages.  I’m so overwhelmed and exhausted I don’t know where to start or how to prioritize. This is grief and stress, I tell myself.

I sit in my office chair, close my eyes and do some deep breathing. I tell myself an altered mantra I learned at an acupressure seminar months ago.  I have all the energy I need. My body is taking in the energy around me, re-filling where I am depleted. I refuse to let things or people take away my power or energy.

I open my eyes and see five minutes have gone by. That’s okay; I feel refreshed and know what direction to take with the clutter. The dog and cat get into a spit and I need to intervene. I can feel my energy draining and have to fall onto my office couch before I collapse. So much for the mantra working, I tell myself and cry.

Cried out, I lay there watching spider-webbing cracks in the ceiling paint. The house is so quiet. I didn’t realize how much the family being all-together helped keep each of us afloat through the past two weeks. I push myself to go back downstairs; I’ll deal with the office chaos later. I quickly move past the smell of death in the living room and back to the bedroom.

There are several beds we’d assembled for extended family. I decide there’s no time like the present to strip the sheets and start reversing the process I started two weeks ago.  The beds come apart fairly easily and I’ve stowed them, for now, in the dining room next to the left-over paper plates, cups, napkins and plastic ware from the post-funeral get-together. I can’t deal with the things in this room right now. I’ll get to it later.

I have enough time to shower before returning to pick up my daughter. I grab some clothes from the laundry basket in the living room still waiting to be put away.  What the hell is causing that smell?

I shower, pick up my daughter and head home. “There’s a smell,” I tell her. “When I open the front door, find it.”

We open the door and the smell is obnoxious. Again, I get on my hands and knees and feel more like a police dog looking for illegal contraband.

“This would be a good time for a picture,” daughter says. “Did you smell the fireplace? The other day we heard birds in there.”

Birds: Our chimney does not have an enclosed top. Every year starlings nest on top of our flue. When the eggs hatch, we have our own bird sanctuary. We can hear the parents fluttering up and down the chimney, baby birds chirping, singing and screeching. We can tell when a parent bird is bringing food back to the nest by the excitement coming from the behind the bricks. Eventually, the babies learn to fly and everything goes quiet until next spring. I don’t know why there would be a dead bird in our chimney in July.

I lean in the direction of the fireplace and don’t have to go any further. Sh-t, it is a dead bird in the fireplace above the flue. I open and close the flue several times hoping the bird body will fall and I can dispose it. Nothing happens.

A crazy thought, maybe I can smoke or incinerate the body with a fire. Okay, I know its July, but it is cool enough outside that I can turn off the air conditioner. I open the flue, turn off the air and toss a Duraflame log in the fireplace and set it ablaze.

My daughter and I sit on couches watching the dancing flames and my son comes in to join us.

“Reminds me of camping,” he says.

“Reminds me of my step-mom raising and killing her own chickens for food,” daughter replies.

“They’re making a new product called Soylent,” my son says. “It has all the nutrition anyone needs. Soon we won’t have to worry about food.”

Conversation lulls with the flames and both kids leave the room to live their lives. I’m alone with the cat nestled up beside me. The Duraflame log is half its original size but continues to deliver a calliope of blue, green, yellow and orange flames. The house is so quiet.

I realize what I’m really doing is cremating the bird and flash back two weeks ago. Corner’s reports, probable causes of death, cremation and internment paperwork, planning a get-together for everyone post funeral, setting up beds, buying and making food for everyone, military send-off with Taps and a tri-folded flag while we stare at Uncle’s portrait and the urn containing his ashes. It was almost one-hundred degrees that day and with high humidity. Everyone was drenched in a mixture of sweat and tears.

The fire is nearly out now. I don’t smell death anymore but it’s all around me. Every room in my house has at least a small remnant of the past two weeks. I can walk here or there and hear snippets of conversations between family members. I can smell the scent of various shampoos and soaps everyone used. My brother left some cigarette butts behind on the front porch. My mom left her ice pack in the freezer. Aunt Mary left her socks and my dad forgot his belated father’s day card. My uncle’s picture is on the mantel of my fireplace. He is smiling.

Maybe, death is not all around me but snippets of life. Sure, my alarm didn’t wake me up but I got up. I got to see my daughter blossom, knowing she is finally getting well enough to join society. Her car which has been dead since surgery, is going to be fixed free of charge. The smell in the chimney is gone and the method I used got two of my kids together for a nice conversation. I have remnants of the past two weeks all over my house but I got two weeks with people I love more than anything. We had a death to attend to, but in his passing, I reconnected with very close cousins I lost touch with over the years.  We laughed, smiled, sang, told jokes and reminisced about my uncle and our entire family. I had expected people to stay maybe two hours at the get-together. Most stayed at least five.

My house is very quiet and I’m crying. But I realize, this is not the ending.  This is just the beginning of a new chapter for all of us. I should- will embrace finding the how and where we go from here.

Death and Needing to Hear from the Neither World: Grief, Insanity is Thy Name

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When we have loved greatly, we will never walk alone.

My uncle is terminally ill in a Florida hospital with a do not resuscitate order. He is a father figure to me so this is very important. I live 900 miles from Florida’s sunny gulf coast. This plays horribly with my mind.

9:00 am: I get the phone call telling me to expect the inevitable at anytime. Notify the rest of the family on Facebook, keep my phone charged and with me, Mom says.

I’m sitting with my daughter, who is in her second week recovery from spine surgery. We are home, finishing breakfast and morning showers when the call comes in. Immediately, I realize the problematic nature of the timing of everything. I feel I need and want to be in Florida. My daughter needs me home. She can’t do this on her own. Not yet.

Fourteen years ago, my parents, brother and several aunts and uncles heard the calling of the snow bird at the retirement capital of the country – Ocala, Florida. They sold their homes, packed their things, bought RVs and waved goodbye.  Ending what was a very close knit extended family system with all the trimmings. This left me with my own little family.

It’s been difficult to maintain close relationships across the miles. Responsibilities, expenses and health have all played havoc. But we have succeeded with only moderate feelings of loss on my part, especially during the holidays. This is not a holiday, but like a holiday, I feel the pangs of not being in the same location as the rest of the family and it’s taking its toll.

I’ve spent most of my day trying to figure a way to juggle taking care of my daughter and her cats and still fly to Florida. I realize I not only want to be near family, I need to be there for me to nurture them and for them to nurture me. I want another chance to say goodbye to a man who will always be my other father.

It’s 5:00 pm and my phone rings. It’s my mother. I ask her if my dad can pick me up at the airport if I figure out the logistical nightmare.

She hems and haws and says, “Let us go to the hospital and see what’s what. Then we’ll have a talk and call you back between 10:00 and 10:30 tonight.”

Not a problem, I have class in an hour and I still have not figured things out, so this gives me more time.  I take care of dinner for my family, take the dog out another time, another glass of ice water and an ice pack for my daughter and leave for class with my assignment left behind on the table. I have my fully charged cell phone in my hand in case the call telling me it’s over happens.

Class ends and I get back in plenty of time for the mom’s call.  The phone does not ring and this is where insanity set in and never looked back.

By 11:00 I’m concerned. My daughter asks if there is any news – no. 11:30, I get this odd feeling of relief.

Enter crazy thought #1. He’s passed away, no longer suffering and this is the relief I feel.

I tell all this to daughter who says, “Why do you think they didn’t call? Why don’t we call down there to see what’s going on?”

Enter crazy thought #2. They are so busy with Uncle’s death; there is no time to call, too distraught to call.  Who the hell am I to call them during this horrible, intensively challenging time?  I’m not a part of the family anymore anyway. I live 900 miles away! They had a family portrait taken several months ago, of all of them – without me. I’m really abandoned and on my own.

Enter crazy thought #3. I flash back to my sister’s death when I was seven. I didn’t get to say goodbye then either.  She died; they whisked me off to Grandmas while things settled. When I returned, all my sister’s things and pictures were gone. We weren’t to talk about her, it was too painful.  As an adult, I get this. As a child, I did not. Sitting in my room alone waiting for a call that was not coming, perhaps the adult is not too far removed from the child.

Enter crazy thought #4. They are doing this again. Arranging everything with me out of the picture because they don’t think I can handle it.  Just like, I couldn’t handle my sister’s death back in 1968. I was seven years old then! I tell my daughter all this.

She wobbles over, gingerly sits down on the side of my bed and puts her arm around me. Our roles have reversed. She tells me things I would have told her in a reverse situation. The leaves don’t fall far from the tree.

12:00 midnight. Enter crazy thought #5. I tell my daughter, “Well, if I can’t be there to say goodbye, I’ll be expecting a visit from his spirit. At this point, he can probably get to me easier then I can get to him.”

She looks at me to verify I’m serious. I am.  I’ve heard of many people having death-bed visits from loved ones.  Family finding out someone died before the police or hospital called to tell them. Why not have my uncle come to me to say goodbye?

1:00 am. My daughter is back in her room leaving me and my over active imagination to run amok.  I’m writing the next chapter of a manuscript while sitting on my bed.  Behind me is a double window that overlooks a second story balcony. There I have a rocking chair where I drink my early morning coffee. The windows are open.  I have my I-pod on a speaker stand set to shuffle. The music is anything from tribal to Bach, Incubus to Frank Sinatra.

The writing is going well until I hear a noise. I shyly look up from the computer screen half expecting to see the materializing form of my uncle. I see nothing out of the ordinary.  I continue writing, fighting back sorrow. I can’t believe this is finally the end.

The I-pod stops playing and I stop typing, startled by the sudden silence. A sign, I wonder. Cautiously, I turn to see what song is listed on the screen. Was it Edelweiss, the song we danced to at my wedding? No, it says D00045.

That is the code for a series of voice recordings I’ve made. One of which is a lengthy conversation with my uncle where he tells me about his childhood.   I rummage through my computer to find the original clip convinced it is that recording (I-pod will not play it). It’s not.  It’s notes about muses in the Peach Orchard in the Gettysburg battlefield.  Not my uncle.

I laugh at myself and turn off the I-pod. The room grows still with the exception of the tip tapping of my fingers on the laptop keyboard. Behind me, I hear the sound of my rocking chair on the balcony moving. Is it the breeze? I don’t feel a breeze on my skin.

I want to turn and look but find myself griped in fear. What will my uncle look like? What if it’s not what I expect? I get up the courage to look but it’s too dark to make out the chair. Stealthily, I move closer to the screen, cupping my hands around my eyes to block out the ambient light.

Before my grandmother died, we got possession of her rocking chair and my father placed it in our clubbed-in basement. After she died, that chair rocked on his own for several minutes on many evenings. We always said it was grandma. Many a night, I would hear the creaking of the chair and sneak downstairs to watch it slowly move back and forth for just a few moments and then come to a stop.

The rocker on my back porch was empty. A swift breeze pushed back my hair and I sighed. It was the wind after all.

I return to my laptop. My nerves frayed and my mind on red-alert. The auto fan in the far window clicks on and the anxiety makes my skin feel it’s being peeled off my muscles. I push off the laptop, bound out bed and slam shut the windows, locking them and pulling the blinds shut.

If my uncle is going to visit, it’s not going to be through the window or in the rocker! He can visit but only on my terms. Whatever those are?

I go out to the bathroom in the hallway and return to my room, shutting the door behind me. I pick up the laptop and return to chapter three. Something outside my door bangs once, then twice. Everything goes silent except my heart.

I slid out of bed and mosey up to the door. I outstretch my hand to the glass door knob debating if I really want to see what is going on. I think, why in the hell would my uncle try to scare me like this? Followed quickly with the thought, maybe, he doesn’t have many options.

I’m the one that wanted to say goodbye and here I am cowering behind a door. I open it to find the empty hallway which does nothing to calm my nerves. Across the hall is my office.

I listen and notice the outside street sounds are louder than normal. I walk over and find the window open and several paperback books scattered on the floor. Lightning flashes and I assume the wind has knocked the books off an end table. I shut the window and return to my room thinking I’ve read too many Stephen King books and seen too many episodes of paranormal television programming.

3:30 a.m. and my stomach is growling. I need something to eat.

To get to my kitchen I have to go down the stairs and through the living room and dining room. The staircase is completely enclosed with a heavy wooden door at the bottom. I don’t like the staircase at night. In fact, I try to avoid it.

Tonight, my stomach says we’re moving forward through the darkness and down the stairs (there is no light on the stairs). I tell myself my apprehension is ridiculous. I reach the glass door knob and stop. On the other side of the door will be my living room partially lite by the porch light coming through the front windows.

In my living room is my late sister’s Chatty Cathy doll. It is my most prized possession. This doll is also a very special memento for my uncle and ties all of us together. I tell myself (enter another crazy thought) if he has any ability to communicate with me, it will be with this doll. Now I’m afraid to go into the living room for fear I will find the doll moved or moving, maybe talking. It is Chatty Cathy for goodness sake.

I chide myself again for thinking such crazy thoughts and bust through the door. Keeping my eyes firmly on my feet, I quickly work my way through the living room, dining room, slam on the kitchen light and sigh in relief.  Everything is normal. Everything is going to be fine. Uncle is not going to pay me a middle of the night goodbye call. Mom and dad will call later when they are able. I’ll figure what to do at that time.

I pull out a plastic bowl, the box of Lucky Charms cereal and some milk. I wonder what the family is doing now. Are they still up like me? Are they making arrangements for Uncle’s cremation in the morning? Why haven’t they called me? Don’t they know I’m worried sick?

A dark shadow whips by my feet and returns prowling towards me. I scream, dropping the milk, tipping over the cereal filled bowl, spewing Lucky Charms all over the counter, down the cupboard and onto the floor.

I clench my heart in absolute terror, convinced the world is coming to an end when the dark, shadowed creature speaks to me – Meow.

My uncle’s spirit, if it could, did not visit me because he was still alive. My parents didn’t call because they thought it was too late. Never thinking I’d be up all night in grief then terror because someone I thought had died, hadn’t and was coming to visit me but wasn’t.

“Why didn’t you call?” They asked me. A good question and I don’t have an answer. I need to figure that one out.

If this isn’t an example of the power of our thoughts and what happens when we let them run amok, I don’t know what is. I need to ask myself some serious questions about my mental behaviors. I can throw in, yes, I was tired, I have PTSD, and I’m grief stricken and feel helpless. I think while all those things are factors, they don’t negate the fact; I let the whole thing run crazy. I didn’t reality check. I didn’t use the resources at hand to help myself.

It’s 11:30 pm and I’m sitting here on my bed typing this blog. My window is open and there is a slight breeze from the balcony brushing through the rocking chair slats.  I wonder if my uncle will make it through another night. If he doesn’t, I wonder if he’ll come visit.  Perhaps, I’ll sleep with the light on.

Uncle died at 1:30 a.m. My daughter and I were in my office reminiscing through old photos of us with Uncle when it happened. The call from my parents came in directly after that. While there was no ghostly apparition, I still got to say my goodbyes in a much healthier way. Through all the fabulous years of memories that will last not only myself but my children as well. Thanks Uncle Joe, I’m missing you already.

Boston Terror: We the Viewers – Coping

ImageBy now I think all of us know of the horrors that happened at the Boston Marathon on Monday. I’m currently in Florida and luckily (that I am aware) don’t know anyone who ran or attended the event.  My son, who used to live in the area of the attack, had the job of contacting friends to make sure everyone was accounted for. They were all fine.

I know there is a possibility that someone reading this does not have favorable news. To you, I send my deepest hope for healing and strength of perseverance.

The rest of us have the job of learning just how much television to watch on the topic. Dissecting factual information from fiction and how we can help.  None of which is easy.

The 24 hour news coverage concept I’m sure must have seemed like a good idea. My personal opinion is that it has done little to alleviate stress and much to exacerbate fear, anxiety and anger. News is no longer news but opinions, assumptions and exaggerations with some actual facts thrown in. As a relative of mine said, “Well, they have to fill air time with something.”

The Boston coverage has been on almost every station for the past couple days. Some reporters are more careful about keeping fluid in reporting facts. While others even when the two reporters standing are right next to each other at the scene report conflicting information as verifiable fact. Eventually the chaos of the devastating event works its way into our living rooms and lives. We react.

After 911, I was involved in post-trauma counseling and realized many people do not have the knowledge needed to screen themselves from becoming secondary victims. Nor did they realize the impact knowing, with or without watching coverage can have on their own lives. So, I came up with a couple guidelines I could hand out. I thought this would be an appropriate opportunity to re-look at this.

What you need to know: 1. Are me and my family safe? 2. Is there a specific plan of action I need to do to remain safe? 3. If I know or think I know someone involved, how do I find out? 4. Who can I contact to see how and where I can lend my services to help?

After you know the answer to these questions, the remainder of what you see on news reports is secondary. There is nothing wrong with secondary reasons but there is a time when you have to walk away from media reports to maintain your mental health.

When should you walk away from watching news reports: 1. You place your life on hold, afraid if you leave the report, you might miss a piece of important information. 2. You feel drawn or compelled to watch repetitive and more detailed footage of the event despite having seen it before. 3. You start arguing with family or friends over details as they are told in reports. 4. You have trouble eating, sleeping, thinking or are OVERLY upset or angered because of the images and statements.

There is something in the human condition that causes us to be drawn to explore disaster involving human beings. These are what I referred to as secondary reasoning.

So, possible secondary reasons you are watching the continuous reports…

  1. Need for survival: If I study this enough I’ll know what to do if it happens to me.
  2. Shock: I can’t believe this is happening. We watch over and over until it hits us, this is real.
  3. Desire for a reason why the event occurred: Part of survival thinking. I heard a lot of this thinking post-Katrina. New Orleans got hit because of…. (fill in ridiculous reason here). I don’t do that, so I am safe.
  4. Empathy and reactions from helplessness: Having faces to traumatic events connects us with our own fragility and humanity. Feeling helpless to change the unfolding events often causes both a passive and reactive reaction.  Passive: I’m not there but if I pray hard, think hard, watch enough, somehow those people will know that I know and I care.  I can’t do a damn thing to help. But I’m doing what I can.  Active: I’m donating money, going to the scene to wrap bandages, cleaning up debris, helping people find loved ones, making coffee for first responders.
  5. Sense of community: Human beings need each other. Media is a way to bring us to locations and a larger community then our normal existence. In life-threatening situations, this intensifies. Average citizens on the spot become heroic helpers. We want to think we would be heroic helpers too.
  6. Justice /Revenge or both: We want the world to make sense. If we decide (see #2) that the people in trouble did not deserve what happened – someone has to be held accountable. We watch to make sure that happens.

As we gain more details and faces concerning the Boston Marathon tragedy keep yourself in check. If you start having symptoms listed above or others such as crying spells, anger outbursts, panic, nightmares or feel like it is happening to you, pull back. If you can’t or your symptoms worsen, it would be good to talk or journal about what you are feeling –  and turn off the television! At least for large blocks of time.

Monument Rocks, Kansas: Molly and Bobo Take a Vacation

Kansas is the flattest place I have ever seen. Pancake flat. I-70 is one long stretch of flat, mile after mile of farmland speckled with occasional bouts of religious billboards. If you want to find your fate in the afterlife based on a billboard, I-70 in Kansas is the place to be.

It was just me and hubby. The kids and grand-kids weren’t going so we brought the next best thing, a stuffed family. In the video you will see part of the zoo-crew (as hubby calls them). The monkey is BoBo and the pig is Molly be Golly. You might be surprised how many grandparent type couples we saw with stuffed kids or perhaps grand-kids along on their trip. So, I didn’t feel too awkward dragging stuffed animals around to have their pictures taken.  Back to talking about Kansas.

Nestled deep in all this flatitute is a natural site that took my breath away. I called it the Monument Valley of the Mid-west. They call it Monument Rocks and Castle Rocks. We found it only because of a small sign on the side of the road and a reference in the Welcome to Kansas booklet.

It is located down a very long, meandering, dirt road through private ranches. There are no fences and cattle do have the right-of-way.  The monoliths are considered a National Monument by the Department of the Interior and one of Kansas’ wonders.

I was positive, despite the sign saying public monument; we were going to get shot for driving across someone’s ranch. There was no hiding. There were no trees or buildings for most of the twenty-some miles of dirt road to the monuments.

They seemed to erupt out of the flatland before our eyes.  Buttresses of chilling, lonely, death-white stone at least two stories high. We slowed the van down to a crawl and said nothing. There were no words to describe the awe in this eighty-million-year-old byproduct of the Niobrara Sea that once traversed from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada though this site.

I got out of the van and just stood. The only sound I heard was wind singing around and through the stone arches. The milky buttresses hungrily sucked in the rays of the bright sun leaving nothing behind. They were not quartz as I expected, but made of white chalk with streaks of grey lines.

I walked around the monoliths and arches trying to wrap my brain around my feelings. It was more than mere awe. It was spiritual. I was walking in the footsteps of countless others before me and walking over countless fossils of marine animals long ago extinct. I pulled out my camera, a video recorder and a digital voice recorder. I walked around for about an hour taking over a hundred pictures, a video, and recorded my thoughts and the environment.  I left knowing I had not succeeded in capturing the experience. Some places refuse to be captured.

As we pulled away, I felt remorse and watched the site disappear in the dusty trail of our van’s wheels. I often tease that I am a restless wanderer but in this place, I felt grounded. If you get a chance, go see it. I understand the land where it sits was sold late last year but I am under the impression, visitors are still welcomed. ** Beware of rattle snakes!  There are no bathroom facilities! *****

Directions: (derived from Kathy Weiser’s site, Legends of America)

Monument Rocks is located about 28 miles southeast of Oakley Kansas. Take U.S. 83 south, then 4 miles east on Jayhawk Road, 3 miles south, and 1 mile east (dry weather road only). From Scott City, travel 18 miles north on U.S. 83, east 2 miles on Dakota Road, 1 mile north, 3½ miles east, and 2½ miles north.

Castle Rock can be reached by taking the Quinter Exit #107 off I-70, traveling 15 miles south on Castle Rock Road to the intersection of GO-80 and GO-K, then 4 miles east to Castle Rock sign, and north across a cattle guard (dry weather road only).

Homemade Liver Sausage (An American Family Moment)

 

ImageSuzie Worley hated liver. That included liver sausage.  She was standing in the back room of her grandparents’ one-hundred and thirty-year-old meat market. It was now her market, handed down through the generations.

Almost daily she thought about closing the doors and selling the antiquated market despite continued faithful patronage. She had hoped Karly, her eighteen-year-old daughter, would become her apprentice and then take over the business when Suzie was no longer able to physically manage.  Her daughter showed no interest in the family business and refused to help in the shop.

Times have changed, Suzie thought. She always knew she would fall in line with the family business.  Suzie, like her own mother, understood the importance of family pride, responsibilities and tradition. That was why weekly, despite hating liver sausage, Suzie found herself in the back of the meat market pumping out and stuffing fifty-two pounds of liver sausage.  

“Eat your liver sausage,” Suzie remembered her mother mumbling through lips that didn’t move. Her mother didn’t like liver sausage either. They were seated around the silver and red Formica kitchen table for another day of liver sausage and eggs over-easy with toast just shy of black, along with her father and maternal grandmother. It was 1965.

“Just place it in the center of your tongue,” her mother continued, “and you’ll hardly taste it.” Her mother’s eyes widened and darted from Suzie to her grandmother. It was face language for, your grandmother is watching; eat your sausage.

Her grandmother wasn’t looking. She never was. She was too busy nodding her head in approval while slurping liver sausage juice back into her toothless mouth.worley 2

“Oh dear, Oh dear, I’ve ruined another lovely blouse,” Her grandmother commented after dribbles landed on the cleavage area of her blouse. She grabbed her napkin and failed in her attempt to remedy the situation. All Suzie’s grandmother’s blouses where stained in liver sausage dribbles.

“My mother had the same problem when she ate liver sausage.”  Her grandmother chuckled.  “Well, it was worth it.  Jesus himself couldn’t have…” Suzie mouthed the remainder of the sentence as her grandmother spoke. “… made liver sausage this good even if he used a miracle.”

No one had the heart to tell her grandmother that the pork in liver sausage is an abomination to God based on the Jewish tradition. Her beloved Jesus was a Jew and would be appalled if Mary and Martha served him liver sausage.

“Smother it in the fried onions and ketchup,” her father mumbled. Suzie estimated her father ate enough fried onions and ketchup to keep migrant, onion pickers and the Heinz ketchup company going single handedly.

She didn’t bother. It wouldn’t help. Once again Suzie slid the sausage under the table to her basset hound, Speedy. He liked liver sausage and ate a lot of it. This probably had more do to with his early death from heart failure than anything else, Suzie always thought.

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1973 was the year Suzie graduated from Kemper Senior High School.  She was going to drive her father’s old, mint-green, ’62 Dodge Dart with the big steering wheel and very un-cool side fins, to California. Since his stroke, it collected dust in the garage.

For months she secretly sent resumes to cruise ships berthed on the west coast for waitress positions. She was going to get as far away from the meat market as she could. She hated liver sausage and the family business. There was no way she was staying to rot and die like her grandparents and now parents. There was a world to see and it didn’t include liver sausage.

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“California!” Suzie’s mother yelled. “When were you going to tell me this grand plan of yours?”

Suzie pulled her headband further back on her head so her elbow-length, brown hair stayed behind her ears. It was a nervous habit. They were standing next to the old extruder, caked in oil and cooked pate remnants. A sausage casing hung from the nozzle.

“I can’t stay here, Mom!” She pleaded, crossed her arms over her chest and flopped down on a worn, wooden bench against the wall. She hoped her mother would understand.

Her mother hated liver sausage and the meat shop too. Suzie was well aware of this. Thanks to her grandmother. Grandma had no difficulty reminding Suzie’s mother in front of Suzie about the squabbles they had over family business vs running away to nursing school.  The family business had won.

In Suzie’s eyes, the store had been her grandparent’s and no one alive wanted it. No one dead cared.  Suzie could feel the tears welling in her eyes. She couldn’t believe her mother wasn’t getting it.

“Your grandparents saved their money to come to this country and buy this shop,” her mother said with a catch in her throat. “Hell, that liver sausage recipe goes back generations before them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they got it from Jesus!”

Image“Mom, Jesus is a Jew!”  Suzie sprang to her feet, twisting her ankle in her hot pink, high healed clogs.

“Don’t you think I know that?” Her mother turned away and wrung her hands on an apron she was wearing. It was floral with ruffles at the shoulders and once belonged to Suzie’s grandmother.

“I need you here,” said her mother. There was a moment of silence between them. “We need to get five pounds of chicken and beef livers, two pounds pork hearts and some pork belly trimmings from the refrigerator.”

Suzie felt her world come to an end.  She thought, why did I bother to go to school, play the clarinet or get good grades? If my whole life is going to be this stupid meat shop, there is no sense in living anymore.

She had watched her grandparents slave over the machines, pumping out liver sausages. Watched her parents, who hated liver sausage, do the very same thing. It wasn’t a business. To her, it was a curse.

Karly, Suzie’s daughter, bust into the back of the meat market letting the door slam closed behind her. Suzie was startled from her reminiscing.

“I hate this crap, Mom!” Karly declared. She flopped herself down, arms crossed, onto a worn, wooden bench against the wall. Just like Suzie had done so many years ago.

Suzie realized she had become her mother, a thought that nearly paralyzed her. Maybe, times had not changed so much after all. “Then why are you here?” She asked her daughter. She opened up the refrigerator to pull out five pounds of chicken and beef livers, two pounds pork hearts and some pork belly trimmings.

“If I didn’t come help you, I’d feel guilty as hell. That’s why. I hate when you put me on a guilt trip.” She fidgeted causing the wooden bench to wobble.  “Why are you here, Mom? You hate this stuff and this market too.”

ImageSuzie paused inside the refrigerator door. The smell of raw meat once again caused queasiness. Her mother and grandmother were long dead. She remembered her own thoughts when having this conversation with her mother. No one alive wants it. No one dead cares. She shut the refrigerator door.

She wondered how many Worley women needed to devote their lives to ideas and traditions because the generation before had done so. Maybe, it wasn’t about tradition, pride or responsibility. Perhaps it was time to allow independent thinking in the family.

Suzie took off her apron and quietly hung it on the rusted nail that had held it for many decades. She ripped off a piece of cardboard from an empty, pickle jar box.  “Do you have a marker?”

Karly looked at Suzie confused. She shrugged her shoulders, grabbed her back-pack set at her feet and pulled out a black marker. She stood and gave it to Suzie.

Suzie wrote on the cardboard in big, bold letters, CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.   She pulled some meat-packing tape and walked out into the market front with Karley at her side. She tapped the sign to the front door and turned to her daughter.

“I think we’re over due for a meeting of the minds over coffee. What do you think?”

The Healthy Relationship: Part 3, What Are Your Needs?

ImageBuilding on Parts 1 and 2 of Healthier Relationships …

  1. ALL BEHAVIOR (Everything you think, feel and do) IS PURPOSEFUL AND PARTIALLY BASED ON YOUR NEEDS
  2. THE ONLY PERSON YOU CAN CHANGE IS YOU
  3. WE ALL HAVE THE SAME NEEDS IN DIFFERENT DEGREES

 This being the case, if we want to improve the quality of our lives we need to start by asking ourselves about our own needs.

 NEEDS: Everyone has the same needs, only in different degrees.

 Universal needs can be lumped in the following categories:

Love and belonging

Power

Freedom

Fun

Survival

Purpose in life (spiritual)

 Below are examples of behaviors you might see in someone with a high degree in a need area.  (These are just examples and not meant to be a scientific endeavor) See if you can find yourself. Beside each behavior place a number based on if it fits you. At the end of each section, count up the points and see in what order your universal needs stack up.  (These are ONLY SOME examples of typical behaviors)

 You might want to get other people who have a close relationship with you to do the same quiz and compare the results. It may help explain why you gravitated toward them or why there are conflicts between the two of you. This is also an excellent exercise in looking at children (parent to observe these behaviors in their child and not have the child take the quiz). It is much easier to parent a child if you understand what needs the child’s behavior is trying to meet.

 Scoring:

1 = Not me at all

2 = Maybe relates to me but very rarely

3 = Relates to me but only under certain circumstances

4 = I do this more often than not

5 = This is me, no question

 

LOVE AND BELONGING

 

Enjoys social activities

 

Cooperative with others

 

Likes to belong to clubs, groups, community events

 

Seeks out friendships

 

Family is very important

 

Craves intimacy

 

Self esteem derived from what others think of them

 

Feel lonely and/or depressed if not involved in a greater cause or group

 

Strives to please others

 

Puts others needs before their own

 

Has many friends

 

Teacher’s/boss’s pet

 

Tends to be affectionate

 

More likely to be a follower then leader

 

Strives to find others needs and to fill them

 

High need to be liked by others

 

Hard time saying NO

 

Purpose in life is in ability to help others

 

 

POWER

 

High achiever

 

Competitive

 

Desires recognition for achievements/ skills

 

Strong will for self-worth

 

Needs to win at games

 

Needs to feel correct

 

Pride in completing challenging goals

 

Enjoys being highly skilled

 

Need to dominate situations/and or people

 

Over achiever

 

Involvement in political/social activist activities

 

Aggression

 

Involvement in behaviors that make the person feel stronger/invincible (excessive drinking, fighting, risk taking behaviors)

 

 

 

Wants to be influential

 

Need to be affiliated with other people at the top of their game

 

Desires to gain higher education to feel better about self

 

Sexually aggressive

 

Gives up family/friends to climb their career ladder

 

Has a hard time being told they are wrong

 

Prefers independent sports as opposed to team sports

 

 

FREEDOM

 

Desire to make their own choices

 

Does not want responsibilities  to tie them down

 

Does not like to listen to people in authority

 

Strives to be their true selves regardless of consequence

 

Does not want to make commitments

 

Does not give in to peer pressure

 

Independent

 

Likes to choose their own path

 

Likes to be seen as outside the box

 

Likes to keep their opinions open and not make decisions

 

Craves spontaneity

 

Enjoy independent thinking and creativity

 

Not satisfied with other’s answers, needs to find things out on their own

 

Restrictions make them restless

 

Likes to be self-sufficient

 

Bores easy with daily routines

 

Relates to other’s needs for freedom

 

Creative expressionism

 

Does not do well maintaining or seeing need for planning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FUN

 

Likes to throw parties

 

Craves the energy of new/adventurous things

 

Likes to be around other people with common interests

 

Can be indiscriminate

 

 

Pleasure centered

 

Easily bored with daily routines

 

Does not take self/life too seriously

 

Enjoys playing but does not need to be competitive

 

Humorous

 

Willing to break tradition for fun, excitement, joy

 

 

Searches for humorous things/people/events

 

Can bore easily in long term relationships

 

Likes to travel to learn and experience new things

 

Creative for pleasure and not for completion of a project

 

Craves originality

 

Does not like confrontation

 

Enjoys learning in nontraditional ways

 

Can be seen as always on the go

 

Enjoyment of life is seen as most important

 

 

 

SURVIVAL

 

Fears for the future

 

Stores or hordes food/water/survival tools

 

Low trust of others/government

 

Fears losing their freedoms

 

Needs to feel prepared for anything

 

Typically very tense

 

Fears the unknown

 

Very observant

 

Instinctive

 

Self efficient

 

Can become impulsive, aggressive is threat of survival is challenged

 

Can be considered primitive in thinking/living (so busy concern about surviving all else is put to the side)

 

Strong ego, pits self against others

 

Can be seen as greedy

 

Needs things to be predictable to feel safe

 

Sees threats where others do not

 

Often intolerant of differences in other people or ways of living

 

Can have conspiracy based thinking

 

Feels insecure/anxious inside

 

 

PURPOSE DRIVEN (SPIRITUALITY)

 

Desires to be closer in relationship with higher being/power/element

 

Explores self/meaning of life

 

Needs purpose in life to feel whole

 

Can become judgmental and self-righteous

 

Can be religious/external doctrine focused

 

Can fears doing the wrong thing or for the wrong reason

 

Can  be existential and altruistic

 

May break from tradition to explore other cultural spiritual practices

 

Maybe willing to give up much to gain spiritual wisdom

 

May have complex rituals of behavior to feel closer to a higher power or their true being

 

 

May seek out paranormal experiences or classify experiences as miracles, demonic or other worldly

 

May refuse to conform to society norm of religious or doctrine related thoughts, dictates

 

Can be more tolerant of differences in people and cultures then average person

 

May have experienced one or more profound mystical, paranormal or other worldly event

 

May seek out others who share similar experiences or views of life and/or  a higher power

 

May seek and find spiritual values/meaning in life based on nature/science

 

May engage in experimental/chemical/risk taking behaviors to find a feelings of nirvana or out of body experience  

 

Attempts to fill voids in life/past through higher thoughts/learning/spiritual education/practice

 

May extend need for meaning of  one’s life to reason and causation for universe and life in general

 

 Total scores:

 Love and Belonging: _________

 Power: _________

 Freedom: __________

 Fun: ___________

 Survival: ____________

 Purpose of Life (Spirituality): __________

 ** Information based on the work of Dr. William Glasser

THIS IS AN EMERGENCY CODE BACON ALERT!

ImageWhat is it about bacon that drives normal people batty? T-bone steaks, chocolate cake, homemade ice cream – none of it has the same effect on people as bacon.

My entire family could be home (all seven of us) doing whatever, where ever in the house. I’ll yell or group text, “Dinner is ready!” or in this case “Breakfast is ready!” Maybe, slowly, people will emerge. Unless, whatever I’ve made contains bacon. 

The minute I put a piece of bacon on the griddle, the entire clan including the dog are ready and waiting. Because of this, I’ve decided I’m going to keep bacon in the freezer, off limits for consumption, So, in case of national emergency where I need to gather the troops, instead of turning on our very loud alarm system, yelling or texting, “We’re all going to die unless you run like hell!” I’m going to put that reserved piece of bacon on the griddle. It’s a guarantee  my entire family will head the call. 

Bacon, it’s not just for breakfast.

Life’s Little Instruction Manual Part 2 of THE HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP

ImageToday, I continue with the topic of keeping and maintaining a healthy relationship with others and yourself.  Yesterday, I briefly explored the concept of: People can only act and react (thinking, feeling, and doing) based on what they know.

The next important piece of information is this:

 2. Every action/reaction a person has (thoughts, feelings, actions and physiology) is based on what they believe is in their best interest at the time of the event provoking the action/reaction.   

 This is a slightly more complicated concept to digest for some situations. Especially if the actions/reactions you see in yourself or someone else SEEM to be directly opposite of what is in their best interest. Some serious situations that come to mind are people living in abusive situations, joining gangs, engaging in risky behaviors, getting involved in drugs and alcohol.  Other, perhaps less serious behaviors might be procrastination, letting strong emotions like anger interfere with life, not caring for one’s health and well being.

 We ALL do, think, and feel things that are not in our best interest from time to time. There is no way to avoid this unless you are omnipotent. If you think you are omnipotent then you need the services of your local mental health provider. 

 So, go ahead and ask me, Debbie, why in the world would we continue to do behaviors (thoughts, feelings, actions and physiology) that end up not being in our best interest? Aren’t we trying to do what IS in our best interest?  Good questions, glad you asked me.

 Our brains are amazing machines. But like computers, they can only function as well as the information contained within them. And like the computer, someone has to enter the information into the brain to make it work. 

Who is the computer programmer of your brain?

  To start, you were born with reflexes and certain pieces of information to help you act and search out what you need to survive. Then your parents, home life, community, school, friends, lovers, and anything and anyone you have encountered in your life added to that programming.

 The younger you are when you get information the more it was incorporated into the hard drive of your brain. As you aged, you developed your own screens or filters to decide what information in the world is more important than other ones.  These filters were developed based on your personality and the information you gained when you were little. So, if as a little one you did not have affectionate parents, your filters would reflect this.

 Let’s say Joe’s personality is one of a sensitive, affectionate person raised in the above household. His filter would search out people and situations where he could get these needs met outside the family. Depending on how high his need for affection, he could end doing some very risky behaviors to get his need for affection met.

 Now, let say Joe is in middle school and he meets a person who engages in behaviors he normally would get involved with. However, this person does things that Joe’s brain tells him, this is a way to get my needs met. It’s not the best situation, but somehow it will work out.  Maybe, this person of Joe’s interest is a much older student or a teacher with very poor boundaries.  Joe gets involved with this person because he thinks it is in his best interest at the time.   This is a very simplified example.

 Our filters are like little radars always searching and assessing the environment to get our needs met.  Searching sale papers and clipping coupons for the best sale on ground beef, the outfit that will get us a job, the right words to get someone to do what we want, choosing to eat a Big Mac instead of broccoli, rehearsing or practicing to all hours of the night.  All these are examples of behaviors we do based on our needs and the information we have screened through our filters.  Got it?

 Today, take a moment and ask yourself, why you choose to do or not do something.  For example:

 Open the door for someone else?

Yell at your spouse?

Eat a bowl of ice cream instead of a nutritious breakfast?

Read this blog?

Choose to leave for work the time you did?

Stay late at work?

Have a headache?

Became exhausted?

Engage in any sexual behavior?

Watch a particular TV show?

Drink five cups of coffee and an energy drink?

Take a shower?

 Some of these sound trivial, but they are not. They are all examples of behaviors we choose based on what we feel is in our best interest at the time. 

 Challenge Question!

  Did you give reasons like, I just wanted to, so and so did such and such and that is what I did this, they deserved it, I have to?

 None of these are the real reasons you did any of those behaviors. Look again. Keep looking till you get to the real reason you acted, thought, felt what you did. If for some reason you are not able to get to a deeper reason, don’t panic. This is happening either because your programming has not learned how to get this information or it is being blocked. Either way, it is your programming telling you this is in your best interest right now.