Archive for the ‘obsessive compulsive disorder’ Category

Another Year, Another Memory

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(cartoon reprinted from Readers Digest. Two angels are standing on Cloud 8 with the caption “Well yes, I’m happy. But I could be happier…) Don’t let this be you!

A new year has begun! Whoopee! I am so excited to see what great things the new year brings! I only have two annual New Year’s resolutions:
Resolution #1: I think back on last year, and am grateful for all of the wonderful little things that worked out well.

*Found out about Orange Leaf yogurt place where I could get healthy sugar free, non fat yogurt with my choice of toppings, m&ms, hot fudge (yum!), gummy bears, snickers and all the whipped cream I can fit!

*My daughter, Marie, has finally found a counselor trained in trauma and abuse who is fluent in American Sign Language. After all these years! FINALLY she is able to make some progress in this area. As her mom, I have been the only one she has confided in, and it will be nice to share that weight with a professional.

*I loved watching The Good Wife! And Storage Wars! And Survivor!

*I lost a pound and a half. Not quite my goal of 30 pounds, but at least it is in the right direction!

*I have two new grandchildren on the way with a whole lifetime to enjoy them. (Long live nana!)

*Another year accident free…where’s my check from Allstate?

*Another year major illness free! (The hubby had a bout with colon cancer a few years ago, but has been fine ever since surgery because it was caught early.)

*My daughter, Dinora, has a great new job, a fiance, and a cute little house.

*My son, Steven, (who has autism and ADHD,) has a wonderful new fiancee whose OCD keeps things structured and in place for him, stabilizing his disability. (There IS someone for everyone!)

*During several great movies, (The Butler, Gravity, and all of the Pixar films,) I ate plenty of buttered popcorn and jelly bellies. (Ahhhhh! May be the reason I didn’t loose more weight.)

*My son, Angel, who has Dissociative Identity Disorder, has miraculously made it through high school without seriously harming anyone. (Except for the refrigerator he overturned on a teacher…which turned out to be the teacher’s “fault”. In Angel’s IEP was the stipulation that he cannot be yelled at lest the “angry part”, over which he has no control or memory, comes out to protect him, a reflex reaction.) Life with Angel is quite interesting…

*Our cars, both over 8 years old and with more than 150,000 miles each, are still running and getting us places.

*My son, Francis, who, despite his blindness, is still making boatloads of money in the Silicon Valley computer industry. (On less child I have to support.)

*All in all, another successful year with more ups than downs.

Resolution #2: I look forward to the coming year with optimism and enjoyment. Hopefully it will be another successful year with more ups and downs, and I will make memories to put on my list for #1 next year!

Hopefully, your life will also have joy, happiness, love, and some interesting foods to eat!

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To read more about our life as a family, please read my book. Here is a link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

There’s Just Something About Fishing…

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Marie has always loved to fish, and would spend hours at home fishing in the pond in the backyard.  While at residential school, she has not had this opportunity. So, after last week’s fishing mis-adventure, Marie and I went today to a nice, official “fishing spot”, (not the water reservoir.)  It was a beautiful 80 degree day as we found the perfect spot in the shade alongside a small, tranquil lake.  Despite being near a city, the lake was apparently house-less and had the appearance of being way out in the country.  The fish were apparently starving because as soon as Marie dropped the worm in the water, the bobber would go under and she would be reeling in a fish…a SMALL fish, but a fish none-the-less.  She would expertly take the hook out of its mouth, and throw it back in to be caught again…again…again, and yet again…

Sitting on the grass, looking up at the azure blue sky, with clouds so white and puffy they looked like you could pluck them out of the sky and eat them like cotton candy, I watched Marie in her excitement as she caught the fish.  It was silent except for the sound of birds chirping…many DIFFERENT types of bird noises so that the first time in my life I was aware that they actually made distinct sounds and they did not all sound alike.   And the breeze ever so slightly rustled the leaves. Lazing in this wonderfully peaceful terrain, I let all of my worries and thoughts just drift away until I filled with the joy of nature and this amazing love I have for this daughter who has had such a difficult early life, but who seemed to be so relaxed and carefree while she was fishing. The feeling was not unlike the feeling one gets when meditating, but it was so much more!  Not only was I relaxed and worry free, but I was also filled with such an innermost love that I felt my heart would burst if I broke the reverie. It wasn’t only a love for Marie, but a love for everything in my life.  A warm, gushing, face turning red, eyes tearing up, love.  And my thoughts turned to my dad…

For those who have not read my book, you may not know that I had a very unconventional childhood, roaming the country with my parents and brother.  My father was…odd…uncommunicative…obsessed…paranoid…”crazy”…   My mom simply explained that he had returned from World War II “shell shocked”, but his love for her had never changed.  Satisfied that that love was enough, my mom married him, and the two of them had a long and happy marriage.  She understood him, where I, as a child, did not.  I did, however, grow accustomed to his strange ways.  He never demonstrated any affection towards me or my brother, and never said he loved us.  “That’s just your father,” my mom would explain, and I would accept it.  He would not attend any childhood award ceremonies, or graduation, or baptism of my children.  “That’s just your father,” my mom would explain, and I would accept it.  He would get upset if we spent too much money on toilet paper, or bread, or hot water.  “That’s just your father,” my mom would explain.  And I DID understand.  And I DID think that, deep down, he loved me, he just never said it.

But, until this day fishing with Marie, I had completely forgotten the times he and I had gone fishing, the one activity we did together.  He liked to fish, and I rarely had anything better to do, so I would join him.  Almost silently, he showed me how to bait a hook and how to take the fish off the hook.  We would sit for hours on a lake with his small aluminum boat with the small, electric trolling motor.  Anywhere we were in the country, he could find a lake.  We would sit and enjoy this pastime, quietly, peacefully, and productively catching fish after fish after fish, all which were gently and carefully returned to the water, unharmed, and bellies a little fuller with a worm.  I learned about the habitat of a large variety of fish; catfish, eels, pickerel, sunfish, pike, trout, bass and perch, (which we both agreed was our least favorite to catch because they were so EASY!) I could see now where this activity would quiet his bad memories, enabling him to relax and find a little piece in this crazy world.  To sit quietly on a calm lake, looking up at the azure blue sky, with clouds so white and puffy they looked like you could pluck them out of the sky and eat them like cotton candy.  The boat rocking every so slightly and little waves splashing against the aluminum making a tinkling sound. I realize that maybe  he felt the same way I did today while fishing with Marie, and it was a comforting thought to think that I shared such a peaceful time with him.

And I could feel now that he loved me…

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To read about my early childhood adventures, here is a link to my book:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother

I led a very untraditional lifestyle when I was growing up.  My father, whom I later realized was schizophrenic, had the wanderlust to travel, which our family did for about 6 months of the year. He would remove me out of school and we would take off for various areas of the country, living in our Volkswagen van. ( Although I am sure that today’s public education system would not allow it, somehow I think my father would have taken me out anyway.)

It was quite an adventure for a child like me.  I have a vivid memory of cracking eggs in a big, black, iron frying pan over a campfire in the Badlands in South Dakota.  The rocks the pan was on were not sturdy, and the pan fell sideways with the eggs slowly leaking out onto the pine needles on the ground.  (Clumsy then…still clumsy.) I remember traveling in southern Georgia, driving for miles watching red clay cover everything…the houses, the cars, and even the clothes hanging on the lines.  It was at the beginning of the civil rights movement, and I was uneducated in this area, (probably because I didn’t go to school!) The whole concept of a bathroom for “whites only” was a shock to me.  Did that mean that only people wearing white clothes could use it?  (I’m picturing nurses, dentists, pharmacists…)  I couldn’t use it because I had on my only pair of pants, jeans, and a multi-colored t-shirt. But I had to go to the bathroom baaaaad, where would I go?  Behind the bushes? How degrading!  My misunderstanding of this concept is now a slight reminder of what it felt like be African American in the 60’s. I also have the memory of  a bear at Yellowstone Park coming onto our campsite to eat our dinner as we all huddled in the car. My brother, Curtis, was upset because he had left a package of Cracker Jacks on the picnic table.  We had to restrain him from leaping out of the car to get it.  Afterwards, I was not so keen to sit by the campfire…

But most of all, I remember my constant companion; Curtis.  He was four years younger than I was, and he had been born with Rubella Syndrome; developmentally delayed, cleft palate, legally blind, and severely hearing impaired.  He was my buddy.  Because my dad was extremely frugal, (ie obsessive compulsive disorder frugal,) I did not have many toys to play with.  So, in addition to reading a lot, I played in our surroundings with my brother.  I have a memory of  sitting by a stream, sun shining down on the water through the leaves on the trees. Curtis was happily splashing about in the shallow water.  I was looking for rocks that somewhat resembled people.  (They were no Barbie dolls, but some kind of looked like Alfred Hitchcock and Potato Head.) All of a sudden I heard a whoooooosh!  Curtis had ventured too far into the water and the current started to carry him downstream!  Fortunately, I had long, slim legs (in those days,) and with a few strides, I picked him up by the back of his pants. He was laughing heartily.  To him it was a real adventure.  Like the poor person’s substitute for a ride at Disneyland!

We actually had a lovely childhood together. I had to carry him everywhere because he could not walk sturdily.  Carrying him was just a natural way of life for me.  I don’t know why, but I never thought to be embarrassed by him, (although his screeching and attempt at speech WAS pretty scary).  I never ever thought of him as a burden.  He was just my buddy, Curtis.

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My parents rarely took pictures.  (The money thing again…) But I do remember ONE picture.  It was a picture of me and Curtis, standing in front of Mount Rushmore.  I was characteristically giving him a piggy back ride.  The photo shows Curtis, looking over my shoulder, eyes squinted shut by the glare of the sun.  I was wearing a stupid, treasured, red velvet derby hat, (you know, like jockeys wear.) As the dead presidents loomed behind us, I gave my characteristically stupid, toothy grin, (like all children do when their parents ask them to smile.) And on that day, I first heard the song from Neil Diamond which fit my sentiments exactly: “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”.  It was a powerful moment to think that someone had put into words what my life was like.

I was so very lucky to have been raised the way I was because it formed my personality, my temperament, and my compassion for others. I personally cannot take credit for the way I live now, fostering and adopting children. I am not selfless, nor amazing, nor wonderful, nor any of the other adjectives readers have used to describe me. I am simply living my life the way I was raised and it is a wonderful life!

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Link to my book  The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

 

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother Lyrics

The road is long

With many a winding turn

That leads us to who knows where

Who knows where

But I’m strong

Strong enough to carry him

He ain’t heavy,he’s my brother

So on we go

His welfare is of my concern

No burden is he to bear

We’ll get there

For I know

He would not encumber me

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

If I’m laden at all

I’m laden with sadness

That everyone’s heart

Isn’t filled with the gladness

Of love for one another

It’s a long, long road

From which there is no return

While we’re on the way to there

Why not share

And the load

Doesn’t weigh me down at all

He ain’t heavy he’s my brother

He’s my brother

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell

performed by Neil Diamond in 1970

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Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

Darn it! He’s a Teenager Now!

I have been remiss in my writings, basically because I have been involved in the day to day activities of raising three teenagers with serious disabilities.  For some reason, these disabilities were not serious before.  I could find humor and joy in every day facets of our lives. Now that they are teenagers, humor sometimes escapes me, replaced by more serious concerns such as driving, (yes, every parent’s nightmare has come to me,)  and drugs.  Well, “only” a little marijuana, used by my nineteen year old son with ADHD, Asperger’s and OCD who has refused to take his more traditional drugs.  He says that pot helps control his symptoms better, and although I was mortified, by all standards except the legal one, pot is the lesser of the evils of the strong psych meds he was on.  The meds he insisted made him feel “out of it” and nauseous all day.  The ones that either plagued him with nightmares and kept him up all night, or made him so tired he could not function well.  Steven has tried a boatload of drugs, none of which controlled his symptoms as well as pot.  This is a very difficult concept for a sweet little old mother like me to understand.  I still tell him NO NO NO NO and I kick him out of the house every time he comes home smelling like…well, YOU know…   But I have to admit that his mellow mood also mellows me out, erasing the fear I always had that he would have a violent tantrum at any time, punching a hole in the wall, or throwing the newspapers so they scatter around the living room.   Please don’t send the police to my door, my precious door that does not have a mark on it because Steven no longer kicks it.

Steven has reached “adulthood” in the legal sense, (although he will never be an adult in my eyes.) He can refuse to take his medication and I can’t make him.  Not that it helped all that much anyway.

His life is in flux.  His disability prevents him from doing a regular job because focusing is still an issue for him.  The only thing he had been interested in were reptiles, alligators, snakes, turtles. (OCD makes strange obsessions.)  He had volunteered at a local facility for such creatures, and loved it, but the facility closed down.  Now he struggles daily to find something to do.

I recently visited a friend who lives near the Everglades in Florida.  She lamented the ever present alligators, and their risk to her little pups, Scottish Terriers.  She told me how the alligators show up in the man made lakes in mobile home parks, and on the banks of the rivers nearby.  How Steven would LOVE to live in such a place, I thought.  He would make a wonderful critter catcher in that area!  It crossed my mind to purchase a small house in Florida, use it as a vacation home, and bring Steven down to live there.  He would be in his glory working in a company that catches nuisance alligators.  Or he could use his experience as the alligator wrestler he was for the previous reptile facility that had closed.  I wonder how many employees fill out an application at the alligator tourist spots having already had such experience as an “alligator wrangler”.  I became excited at the idea that the perfect job DOES exist for him, except it is in Florida, 2000 miles away.  Maybe, if I am ever able to save any money, I can follow through on that vacation home dream and find a place for Steven where he can live happily.  And maybe then he won’t need the marijuana…

Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane BlogMy name is Lindsey Petersen and I am the proud mother of five wonderful, very interesting children. Four also happen to have disabilities, but these have not been overwhelming obstacles.My oldest son, Francis, is legally blind. In this blog  I recount several humorous stories of his upbringing, including his fear of skunks. (He was petrified he would step on a skunk he didn’t see and it would spray him! He HATED tomatoes and the thought of having to take a bath in tomato juice was horrifying to him!) He managed to graduate college and obtained a full scholarship to Cambridge University in England to obtain his Ph.D. He has since become Dr. Scooter, (his nickname from college, named after Scooter from the Muppet Babies). He has obtained his dream job at an unbelievable salary!My 25- year-old daughter, adopted from Guatemala, came to us profoundly deaf, but was “healed.” (Read all about it in my blog!) She obtained her college degree in International Business and also has a job in her field.  She lives nearby with her boyfriend, her 2 year old son, and her percolating baby to be born in July.My 18-year-old son has a long history of autism, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and a severe sensory integration disorder. It really doesn’t matter what his disability is diagnosed as, I only know he was born cocaine and heroin addicted to an alcoholic mother, and his nervous system is wired haphazardly! He has managed to utilize his obsessions with reptiles into a volunteer position at a reptile educational facility. He is the one standing in the doorway at the entrance to the facility holding the 6-foot long boa constrictor, or the alligator, or the large lizard. He is not good with people, but great with reptiles! He has also recently become trained as an “alligator wrangler” for their alligator shows. (Really!)My 15-year-old son was severely abused prior to coming to live with us at the age of four. He developed dissociative identity disorder, (multiple personality disorder.) Life with this disorder is every day life for him. He and his “peeps”, (his name for his personalities,) live an interesting, eventful and sometimes very frustrating life, (like when one studies for the social studies test and another one takes it and flunks!)My 13-year-old daughter who is profoundly deaf came to live with us at the age of seven when the police found her wandering the streets carrying her infant brother looking for food. She was supposed to be a short-term placement placed with us because I know sign language. (I’m sure many foster parents have heard this spiel about a short-term placement.) Six years later she is still with us, adopted at the age of ten. Her deafness is not a disability, but her post-traumatic stress from early abuse and her attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have caused serious problems for her.

I am also the loving sister to a brother who is severely developmentally delayed, legally blind and deaf due to rubella syndrome. He also unfortunately developed schizophrenia when he was eighteen years old.

While my children’s lives may not normally be considered amusing situations, I try to look at them in an upbeat, positive, and sometimes humorous manner. I am a happy and optimistic person by nature, and to dwell on their problems would make me sad, a feeling not in my repertoire.

I began writing this blog in August because I was looking for a stress reliever. It is amazing how cathartic it is to vent one’s frustrations in writing! Also, I have had so many unique experiences and adventures that many acquaintances have suggested I write a book. I started writing the blog not so much with the thought of writing a book, but with the thought of putting down these events for posterity, so to speak, and to share my experiences with others. In the process, I’ve reduced my stress level and I have been encouraged by the more 20,000 people who have read the blog. I am sure our adventures and misadventures will continue. (My daughter who is deaf and has sensory issues and cannot stand tags in her clothes has entered junior high school, how is she going to be able to wearing a bra? My son with autism has started to notice girls. Unfortunately for him, girls are usually not very approachable when one is carrying a large snake! My son who has dissociative identity disorder, with the assistance of a specialized psychologist, is searching into the deep recesses of his mind to discover the abuse, which led to his disability.)

Thanks for joining me.  It’s nice to know someone “out there” is listening!

The Baptism from HELL

I don’t mean to be blasphemes, but I am sure that all you parents out there with “difficult” children can understand what kind of hell we live with from time to time.  Most of the time raising children is heavenly, or at least like purgatory. However,sometimes there are those moments when it is just plain hell!

Our son, Steven, was adopted at the age of 3 after living with us since birth.  He was born addicted to heroin and cocaine, to a mom who was an alcoholic and, (GASP) cigarette smoker.  Although we loved his cute little face very much, the rest of him left much to be desired.  He was hypersensitive to sound, touch, smell, noise and any little thing that altered the peace in his little world.  Even as a 6 month old he would bang his head on the highchair if he was “stressed”.  He needed a strictly consistent schedule with no tags in his shirts and no loud noise from the tv.  We altered our life to fit his needs and things were fine, for the most part.

Then came his Baptism day.  First off, it was a change in his schedule, something his 3 year old body did NOT appreciate.  THEN, he had to get dressed up.  I remember thinking he’d never wear a suit and tie, or even a tie for that matter, so I managed to buy a nice pants/sweater outfit.  Unaccustomed to wearing sweaters, his body squirmed in this outfit.  Our church had arranged for a private ceremony, understanding Steven would not be able to be baptized during a regular church service.  We used the little chapel so as to cut down on the anxiety he would feel in the huge church.  His dad carried him to the altar with Steven’s head buried in his chest.  My husband, myself, our older son Francis and daughter Dinora stood by with Pastor Lorraine to begin the baptism.  Steven looked up and saw the baptismal water.  “OOOOOOOH NO!!!!!!”  he screeched.  “You’re not going to put that water on ME!!!!!!”  (He also had a fear of water I’d forgotten to mention…)  He jumped down from my husband’s arms, crawled on the ground, and crawled into the first dark, quiet place he could find…under Pastor Lorraine’s vestments!  There he was, under her vestments which were over her dress…I was MORTIFIED, (thus the “HELL” part!)  She, however, as the parent of three rambunctious kids, thought it was funny.  (God bless her!!)  She felt down for where his head was and she calmly proceeded with the baptism.  (Fortunately, you could see his head clearly outlined in her vestments.)  She did the whole ceremony with him completely covered.  I had a camera to document this momentous occasion, but was at loss of what to take a picture of!  When is it over, his dad gently dragged him out and home we went.  For any other child, a celebration would have been in order, but for Steven, it was home to his usual routine.  Same day as any other day.

PS.  I obviously didn’t learn from this experience as we attempted first communion for him.  At the age of 12, he met with our pastor for one-on-one communion classes as he was unable to participate in the standard classes.   He was then to join the other children on “First Communion Day”.  When the pastor called out his name, he promptly crawled underneath the pew, and curled into a tight little ball, where he stayed for the rest of the service…

The Turtle was TTTTTHHHHHHIIIIIIISSSSSSS Big! (Another Fish Story)

My son, Steven, has autism, later diagnosed as Asperger’s syndrome.  He has always had accompanying obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and sensory integration deficit.  Our house is on a little lake, and one of Steven’s quirks is that he will not touch the water.  This is very ironic because his Asperger’s obsession is with reptiles, turtles and fish.  He often spends the entire day in our backyard catching fish and turtles.  Often, he takes the canoe out and paddle around, trolling for fish as he goes. He will never step in the water, though.

Our family has many get-togethers in our backyard.  With a paddleboat, canoe, kayak, rowboat, sailboat and raft, there is always plenty for the children to do.  While Steven likes to play on the raft with his friends, he always paddles out there in the kayak, again never putting a toe in the water.  He would often scare his friends, siblings and cousins with tales of HUGE turtles which lurk under the surface.

One afternoon a few years ago, while I was taking a nap, (one of my favorite activities,) I heard Steven screaming at the top of his lungs.  I’d never heard him scream like that before.  (I’d only heard tantrum screaming, nothing like this blood curdling sound.)  I leapt up out of bed and ran outside to see what I assumed would be a tragedy awaiting me.  There was Steven, in the canoe, holding his very large fish net which he often used to catch fish.  In the bottom of the canoe were 2 of the largest turtles I have ever seen anywhere!!!  They were more than 2 1/2 feet across!  He was standing on the seat screaming and I started screaming also.  I learned that he had caught them in his net while they were “stuck together” (ie mating.)  I’m looking at these 2 huge snapping turtles thinking there is no way they belong in our little lake…they should be in a zoo somewhere!  While I am thinking, one of the turtles casually climbs over the side of the canoe and falls back into the water!  After much wariness, but a sense of what would be the right thing to do, I suggest Steven flip the other one back into the water with the oar.  As he tries to do so, the turtle snaps at the oar breaking it, but not before gaining enough momentum to slip over the side of the canoe into the water.  Steven looked at me and said “I  TOLD you there were big turtles in the lake!”  This sighting definitely put a crimp on swimming for the rest of the summer…

As a follow up to this story, last summer one of the huge turtles was found dead on our beach.  Its legs and head were bloated and it looked awful.  I called the city’s animal rescue league and asked them to come get the dead turtle.  The woman who answered the phone obviously thought I was demented.  “Just THROW it back into the LAKE, ” she said several times.  I told her several times it was too BIG to just throw back into the lake, and she reluctantly agreed to send “someone” out to take a look.   The gentleman came in a city pick=up truck.  He ambled out of the truck in our front yard, put on gloves, and swaggered into our backyard, anxious to see this “huge turtle.”  As he got closer, he let out a loud “HOLY SH*T!”  Then he called for back-up. It took 2 men to carry this thing and plop it in the back of the pick-up truck!

Ever since first finding the turtles, for some odd reason, the children are not so anxious to go swimming…

I Smell a Skunk

When Francis was three years old, his teacher in pre-school told the story about how her dog had been sprayed by a skunk and they had to give it a bath in tomato juice.  Francis thought this was the worst thing ever because he HATED tomato juice.

With both a severe vision impairment (legally blind) and obsessive compulsive disorder, Francis began to worry about getting sprayed by a skunk.  Obviously, taking a bath in tomato juice would be the most horrible thing ever.  He refused to go outside to play in our backyard because he was so afraid he would step on a skunk which he couldn’t see. We put up a chicken wire fence to keep the skunks out.  (Up until this point, we had never seen a skunk in our yard, but Francis was sure there was a skunk out there just waiting to rush up to him to spray him!)  He was still leery about going out and had a few more questions.

“What happens if the skunk jumps over the fence?” he asked, and we reassured him that skunks don’t jump that high.  (I don’t know if this is a fact, but it served the purpose of reassuring him a skunk would jump.)

“What happens if a skunk digs under the fence” he asked, and again we reassured him that skunks don’t dig under fences. (?)  It would have to be one motivated skunk to go through all of that work just to spray Francis!

His next question sealed his fate.  “What happens if the skunk sprays me THROUGH THE HOLES IN THE FENCE?”  I had no answer except to say that that was absurd, which would not do anything to allay his fears!  I gave up.  He didn’t go outside to play for the rest of the summer!

Stay Away from Me With That Umbrella

It happened again this morning.  It was pouring rain out.  I have to walk about 4 blocks from the parking garage to where I work.  It had been raining a LOT lately.  I had on boots and my jacket with a hood pulled over my hair to keep it from getting wet.  Several people walking near me kindly offered to share their umbrellas with me.  I politely declined.  You see, I have a real phobia about umbrellas.  Not much in this world scares me, (I have 5 kids after all.)  I was not afraid of sharks after seeing Jaws.  I was not afraid of snakes after seeing Anaconda and Snakes on a Plane. But put an umbrella near me and my knees begin to shake and I go pale. (I hate the video of Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain!)

This fear dates back to my childhood.  I don’t know how or why, but I got the fear that I was going to be poked in the eye with one of those little knobby things on the spokes at the end of the umbrella.  Getting wet in the harshest downpour could not compare to the fear of getting poked in the eye, so I would never use an umbrella.  Of course, as I grew, I have realized that this fear is slightly irrational.

When my son, Francis, was going to Cambridge University in England, he took my mother and me on a guided tour of London.  Being London, it was raining of course.  Francis and my mom had umbrellas, I chose to get wet.  No big deal.  What’s a little water?  Anyway, we were in front of Buckingham Palace and Francis wanted to get a picture of my mom and me.  She and I put our arms around each other and smiled for the picture.  He took the picture JUST as SHE POKED ME IN THE EYE with her UMBRELLA!  It is incredible to have my worst fear captured in a picture.  The good news is, my eye stayed intact in my eye socket and didn’t really get poked out. The bad news is, I still have my fear of umbrellas….

Who Cares What I Look Like…I Saved Money…

Okay, I am officially “crazy”.  I know that is not a politically correct term, but yesterday I did something so obsessive that I realized for the first time in my life that something is seriously wrong with me…I bought make-up that did not match my skin color BECAUSE IT WAS ON SALE!!!!!!

I have always been a “frugal” person, coming from a long line of “frugal” relatives.  (Alright, actually only one, my dad, but he goes way back to my childhood so it is considered a long line to me.) My father was so “frugal” that is retrospect I realize he obviously had obsessive compulsive disorder.  Although we were a middle class family, we NEVER went out to eat.  (Well, there was that ONE TIME we did go out to an ice cream restaurant on their 25th anniversary, but other than that we did not eat at restaurants.)  He did not want to spend money on heat, so we used a wood stove. (We live in NEW ENGLANG!)  He did allow us to have electric blankets, but we could only turn it on to warm the bed, shutting it off when we went to bed.  So, I’d fall asleep all warm and cozy with happy dreams and wake up in the middle of the night dreaming of Antarctica. He also did not want to spend money on hot water, so he devised a type of solar hot water heater by threading water pipes on the roof and then into an unplugged water heater.  If it was a very sunny day, we could have a warm bath at night, but only once a week because he didn’t want to waste water.  We were fortunately to live on a lake so I did a lot of swimming to get clean.

We ate only what was inexpensive and on sale:  lots of rice, pasta, mashed potatoes and canned vegetables.  Not so much fresh vegetables, fruit or meat.  My father was not a vegetarian because of moral concerns, but because of the cost of meat.

For the beginning of school in September, I would be able to choose 2 outfits at the nearest discount store.  I would wear them alternate days during the week…all year! If I happened to grow during the year, (as of course often happened,) they would get a little tight.  Fortunately, my mother planned for this by buying them extra big at the beginning of the school year! She loved buying her and my father’s clothes and shoes at the Salvation Army.  In fact, everyone got a good laugh at my wedding when my mom came up and knelt down for communion and there was $1.99 written in black marker on the bottom of her shoe.  (You’ve GOT to laugh at stuff like that…)

My mother would cut my hair, usually crooked. When I became a teenager,  I tried to let it grown. I put it up in a “bun” like Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, but it was so thin and uncontrollable that I usually ended up looking like Pebbles from the Flintstones!

We did go to the drive-in every Friday, and I was allowed the 25 cents to get popcorn, which was a huge treat for me.  During those days, you had to pay per person for the drive-in.  My father had me scrunch down low in the back seat so they would think I was under 12.  One day, when I was about 15, the person in the admission booth questioned my father about my age.  Because he would never LIE, he told them I was 15 but that he would not pay for me, and what difference did it make if he paid for 2 or 3 because they would still get some money.  The man in the admission booth dug in his heels…and so did my father.  To my huge embarrassment, my father made the long line of cars behind him waiting to pay BACK UP so that he could leave.  That was the last time we went to the drive-in.

Of all of the effects of economic frugality, the biggest one was that I never got a real Barbie doll.  I yearned for a Barbie doll!  I asked for one for birthdays and Christmas, but I always got the cheap plastic imitation Barbie dolls.  When I went to play with friends, they would take pity on me and let me play with their Midge doll, (Barbie’s “friend”,) but it was never the same as playing with my own real live Barbie. I think it is ironic that this is the one memory that has caused permanent harm to my psyche!

In retrospect, except for the doll, I did not know anything different.  I did not feel cheated or poor or economically deprived.  I learned to live with what I had and be happy. From an early age, probably because I had a brother who was severely disabled, I was empathetic with people with disabilities.  Although I did not see many children with physical disabilities in those days, there were many developmentally delayed students in the schools.  I would go out of my way to be friendly and helpful.  I had little tolerance for ignorant people who would fun of these valuable human beings, and I was known for my protective nature. I was fortunate to have had many friends in school.  They were not necessarily the most popular or the most fashionably dressed friends, but they were down to earth, friendly, and they appreciated their friendship with me. I was confident with myself, and I thought nothing of going up to a bully and telling them to stop picking on someone. Just like that, I’d have a new friend!  Sometimes I’d even make friends with the bully! I had a great time in school! My values were vastly different than other teenagers. This difference actually led into what I think is my best quality, the unwavering caring and acceptance of others.  Without this trait, I would not have become a social worker, and I certainly would not have adopted 4 children with disabilities!

Although one would expect I would rebel in the other direction, the one thing that could not help but rub off on me is frugality.  I started working at the age of 14 and paid 1/2 of my pay to my parents as room and board, (of COURSE.)  I finally had some disposable income and you would have thought I would spend it on clothes, haircuts and such.  NO.  I was a compulsive saver.  I saved to buy my own car at the age of 16 and I saved enough to pay for college at the age of 18. I am definitely not as frugal as my father, (who, by the way, died and left my mother with several hundred thousand dollars with which she happily used for the next ten years to travel to exotic locales.)  I do, however, get a big thrill buying things on sale with deep discounts!  I’m the type who would go to JC Penny’s or Macy’s and buy the seasonal items on sale at 80% off with an additional 20% off coupon.  Who can resist shirts for $3 or pants for $5?  I clothe my 5 children in this manner, always buying the year before for clothes they would need the next year.  Once, when a local department store went out of business, they were selling children’s clothing for 50 cents each. Who could turn THAT down?????  I bought 4 RACKS of clothing!  Fortunately, I was in the process of adopting our daughter from Guatemala, so my mother and I stuffed all of the clothing in 8 large suitcases which we took with us to Guatemala.  We each put our own clothes into backpacks which we carried.  The orphanage which had so tenderly cared for my daughter was thrilled to get such an assortment of new clothes.  The director actually cried because she said all they ever got were dirty and ripped hand me downs.

I no longer do the grocery shopping in my house because, like my father, I would only by items which were deeply on sale.  My husband is not a canned vegetable kind of guy.  In fact, I was lucky enough to marry a cook, so he does all of his own shopping, regularly visiting the local farm for fresh produce or the local meat market for fresh meat or fish.  My cupboards and refrigerator are always full of great food and I never have to worry about how much it cost!

Which brings me back to my drugstore sojourn yesterday when, browsing the aisles, I noticed that some of the make-up items were 75% off.  (PLUS I had a $5 off coupon for the store!  What could be better?)  I picked out the marked-down items and proudly brought them to the register.  I was happy!  I was frugal!  I was an idiot!  When I got the items home and tried to use them, I was horrified to learn I had bought powdered make-up such an ugly color that when I put it on I looked like I had pancake make-up on my face. (I’m not talking about pancake make-up they were in the movies, I’m talking about make-up that actually looked like I was wearing pancake flour on my face!)  I tried the blush and it was so red that my cheeks looked like a clown.  The lipstick was brown.  (UGH!)  The mascara was not waterproof, (something I HATE because by night time I being to look like a raccoon.)  And WHY hadn’t I noticed that the nail polish was green???  For the first time in my life I looked at my white powdered, red cheeked, brown lipped self in the mirror and I thought “I am officially crazy!”  Oh, well, its a good thing that I think I am pretty on the INSIDE!

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