Backyard Feeder

Backyard Feeder
photo taken through porch screen

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Just When You Think You've Got It All Figured Out..

It's been a rough couple of weeks. We can't make the car payment and I'm seriously considering going back to having a day job to make ends meet. But I'm not sure I can get away for any sort of regular job. I guess here is where I'll figure it out...or not.

A week ago Thursday, my husband, Troy called his father to wish him a happy birthday and learned that his father's cancer is back with a vengeance and the doctors don't expect him to live more than a couple months. They have a complicated relationship and have just recently started talking and now this. I'm sure it's worse for his father than it is for Troy, but....Friday he called from work and said that he was feeling depressed and thinking about suicide. No real plans, just thinking about not wanting to be alive. I'm not supposed to tell anyone or do anything, but here I am, wondering how serious it really is, wondering if a plan was coming.

When they originally talked, his father didn't feel like having visitors and said not to come. On Tuesday, he called and had changed his mind. We didn't have time to find a dog sitter, so I just stayed home holding down the fort. It was a nine hour trip each way so Troy left in the evening to be there by morning. He was hoping for a nice quiet visit at the house and a chance to relax before the trip home. Not so much. When he got into town he called and learned that the pain had been too much last night and his father was in the Emergency Room waiting to learn if he was being released or admitted. The man was in so much pain that he couldn't stand to be touched in any way. Troy said that he looked a lot like his father (Troy's grandfather) looked when he was near death.  It was very hard to see his own father in that condition. When I mentioned that we'd had a storm, he used that as an excuse not to spend the night but to come home that evening. I was relieved when he arrived home safe, but he was noticeably shaken.

We hoped that Troy would get in a day of work before we traveled to visit our sons, their significant others, and two of our grandchildren across the state. His dispatcher didn't have anything for him, so we knew it would be a bad week financially--one day of work just covers his health benefits.

One of our sons had come for a visit a few weeks earlier and had left some things that he wanted us to bring to him. I assumed that wouldn't be a problem, but Troy had decided that we needed to take the motorcycle and there wasn't enough storage on the bike for everything. He had gone out and arranged to buy a trailer, so we thought we had it figured out. On Friday as we were getting ready, we discovered that at highway speeds the trailer swung wildly behind the motorcycle. This wasn't going to work.

With his absolute determination not to take the car meeting with the absolute fact that we couldn't take everything we wanted any other way, we hit an impasse. I have no idea why it was such a big deal, and just kept suggesting we take the car. That just made him angry. Angry with me for even suggesting such a thing. Angry with our son for not taking everything he brought home with him the first time, Angry with himself for not being able to make the trailer work. Manic anger is anger like no other. Imagine a full grown man throwing a temper tantrum like a toddler and you start to get a picture. But of course it's much worse than that....

When we finally got going, in the Prius, he was still ranting and raving. Fortunately he started winding down before we arrived and was able to hand off the stuff to our son without making a huge deal of it.Oh, he mentioned his frustration at not being able to ride the motorcycle, but at least it was civil. That son's wife chose not to join us for a cookout at the other son's home because she wasn't sure how calm it would be.

We got to spend time with three of our four sons and their families as well as Troy's mother and it was about as calm as a day with family and a bipolar husband gets. We even stayed for brunch the next day and  had a good visit with all of them together.

On the way home, Troy started complaining that the car seat was uncomfortable and that it was bothering his back. As a truck-driver he was used to driving less than ideal vehicles for long trips, but he gave in and allowed me to drive most of the way home. He was still complaining when he went to work on Monday. By the time he got home we had decided to visit the walk-in clinic.

Shots, pills, a note from the doctor for two days off work and we were home together for his recovery. He went back to work on Thursday and was in so much pain that he couldn't concentrate and had to come home around noon. Not wanting to have to find someone else on short notice for Friday, the dispatcher didn't have work and told Troy to recover and be ready to work over the week-end or Monday. He didn't get a call for Saturday or Sunday and is sure he's going to be fired, so I ask him to call and find out about Monday. He's told to call in Monday morning and the dispatcher should have something for him. It's not uncommon, but he's nervous and we really need this paycheck.

So here I am, wondering what I could possibly do to earn enough to keep us afloat while he figures out what's going on. I'm praying that God will work this out for us--we've seen a lot of that in the past and have no reason to doubt things will work out again. I'm never sure what my responsibility is in all this. I know that my availability at home is vital to have my husband working--he still has to call me several times a day to talk and if I'm working outside the house that can't happen and he'll end up quitting his job for one reason or another. Of course, he may lose his job anyway. God help me.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

My Calling

I feel like it's time that I come out of hiding and admit that I am following a calling, and while I only rarely make any real money at this job, it is incredibly important to me and I can't just walk away. I have tried--oh, yes, I have tried. Like Jonah escaping his call to Nineveh, I've tried. And I've spent a bit of "time-out" in the belly of some pretty scary whales. Yes, whales. I don't give up easily and I've had to be corralled more than once.

I've been called to teach unconditional love to the masses. Not just to Christians, but to everybody that I can. God says that what the world needs now is love, and he's not talking about romance or words or manipulation. So here I am, trying to write and speak and teach--mostly one-on-one or in groups where I am just a member, not a leader or designated speaker--ordinary people how to love in extraordinary ways.

Monday, May 06, 2013

A Year of Freedom, A Year of Confusion

It's been a little over a year since I quit the day job to be a full-time writer and self-publisher. I really didn't know what that meant at the time and I'm still not entirely sure. I've come a long way, though I still feel like I'm traveling mostly in circles. Ditching the day job has not been what I had expected.
For one thing, I had originally planned to have all of the bills paid by my husband's job. Even knowing that it might be too much to expect, I certainly didn't guess that he'd decide to leave his job for self-employment. For another, I expected to get a lot more work done with the hours of free time I imagined. Who knew that he could get a lease on a truck and lose money consistently for four months? That it would take another three months to find another paying job? Who knew that I'd have to spend everything I made and half of my retirement fund just to keep the bills paid?  Sadly, I didn't know. I would never have guessed. How could I be so blind?

Now that things are back to "normal" and I can afford to be home writing again, I feel guilty for not earning enough. I feel guilty for staying home on days when I might be able to get a teaching assignment and miserable on days when I teach all day and don't have any energy left to write. I am back doing the two job lifestyle that had me so burned out before. I don't feel like I'm accomplishing anything anywhere.

Even on days when I don't teach, I have trouble getting much writing done. I sit by the phone in case my husband needs to talk--so I end up listening to stories about bad drivers and tourist traps that are part of his life, but not mine. And I feel guilty if I'm not paying attention and I feel guilty about not writing and  I feel guilty all the time.

OK, step one: I need to make a plan to do some writing on a scheduled basis and to let everyone know that during certain hours, I am available for emergency only.
Step two: I need to find ways to get the word out about my books to get more cash coming in to my account.
Step three: I need to separate out the money from books and keep that for my personal expenses so I don't feel guilty about spending money that isn't my own.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


If I take nothing more away from the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop that I attended last week it is that I am a writer, a real writer, because I write. This is both thrilling and terrifying since it implies a level of responsibility for what I write. And yet, I write.

I quit my day job on March 16, 2012 and on March 17,2012 I became a professional writer--which really means that I am working without a net. Yikes. I am trusting my bipolar husband who has been working as a truck driver since September to provide for our family enough to pay the bills until I start making money on my writing.

Oh, I'm already making money on my writing. It just isn't enough money to pay even one of our bills. But I went to a real writers' workshop and had real writers tell me that I am a writer and I'm praying that, like the Velveteen Rabbit, it will somehow miraculously be true. It took me most of the next week to get back to reality and I am finally getting back to being able to work on my stuff and now I feel even more like a fraud.

Who am I trying to kid? I'm not a real writer. I'm a housewife who went through some interesting experiences and wrote down what I learned from them. A writer goes out and finds stuff to write about, right? Having an interesting life with lots of drama doesn't make you a writer. But maybe writing stuff that people actually want to read about it does. Maybe?

Sometimes I worry that bipolar is contagious. I seem to have higher highs and lower lows in fast succession these days. Maybe it's just the stress of suddenly being in a position where I don't have a regular paycheck and where I am fully responsible for everything. The writing life is a bit bipolar, unless you're JK Rowling or Stephen King and I'm sure it was the same when they were starting out.

So here I am, watching for the checks to roll in. Hoping that I'll get this all figured out before we starve to death or I give up and get a real job. I am a writer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Road to Happily Ever After?

If anyone thinks that this is going to be a story where the bipolar becomes just another pill to take and life will be normal, you're missing the point. This isn't about that kind of happily ever after,. This is about the struggle to live happily in spite of the obstacles by working together and making the best of things.

It's been three weeks since I quit my day job to write and I'm still working out the kinks. I know that this is stressful for Troy but I still believe that quitting the job was the right thing for me and for us and that I will be able to thrive whether my income increases or I learn to live on less.

Troy finally got in to the doctor about his heartburn and is going to be checked for ulcers next week. Getting in to see a doctor isn't hard, but the test he needs could not be scheduled immediately. Waiting isn't easy when you aren't feeling well.

Troy decided he'd like to train in someone new. Usually the company uses drivers who have been with the company for at least a year, but Troy is a quick learner and since he'd shown an interest he was assigned a trainee during the time he is waiting to take this test. I'm not sure that was a good idea, since the experience he had with this trainee was enough to cause ulcers.

He was assigned an older man who had some experience with other trucking companies, but who was having trouble keeping on schedule and using the equipment the company provides: a text tranceiver for communicating with dispatch, the forms used for keeping records, and the truck itself--which is a little different from what he'd driven in the past. Since the man came with the attitude that he knew what he was doing and wasn't going to learn anything from this young guy with less experience than he had--and since Troy is mostly stable, but not really capable of dealing with what he perceived as disrespect, things got interesting.

I got regular phone calls as Troy worked to keep himself calm and knew that he could count on me to help talk him down. I got a play-by-play of every behavior that seemed inappropriate--this man was nearly 20 years older than Troy, from New Jersey, and black. Troy is from German ancestry, grew up in Wisconsin and has lived in the midwest all his life. I try to explain that some of it might just be cultural differences and reminded him that this is a temporary situation.

Troy finally blew up, told the guy that he had been assigned to train him and that if he wanted to work with the company he'd have to pay attention and learn the ways this company works and that he could screw up as much as he wanted when he gets his own truck, but he's going to do things right during this training session or he'd just report to human resources that he wasn't co-operating. Funny how a guy doesn't just quit on the spot when you're out in the middle of nowhere with no way home but the one truck. When the air cleared the trainee had decided to play along--good choice.

Troy goes in for his medical testing next week Monday and is already looking into getting a new trainee. The man in charge of assigning trainers agrees that this was not an easy situation and that the next trainee should be more open to instruction, so Troy is looking forward to an easier situation.
I am happy to see that he is dealing with his own issues and finding ways to make things work. I am glad the company can see that he knows what he is doing and trusts him to train others. It makes me a little less nervous about his ability to keep this job.

This past week Troy was given a stop inside a cave. These are huge caves, but for someone with claustrophobia the fact that you are driving under tons of mountain can be more than a little difficult. The loading docks were built when smaller trucks were running and between the tight space and the claustrophobia, Troy had a hard time getting his truck exactly where it needed to be. I'm sure he was stressed out, but he managed to get the trailer lined up in the loading dock and get in and out of there.
That was Thursday.

He got home Friday evening and slept all day Saturday. I was a bit nervous that he might be sinking into depression, but he got up Saturday evening with a list of things he wanted to accomplish before leaving Sunday night. We managed to get everyone to church--it was Easter Sunday so our son came from across town--and we did a bit of shopping before our family dinner. We didn't get everything done that he had hoped, but we did get the stuff we'll need to do things and I can do some of it myself.

Sometimes I wonder why we set ourselves up for so much stress when we know what it does to us, but I think we need to stretch a little just to feel alive. So far he has pushed through every obstacle. I know that no matter what happens, we can survive and we will get through it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Launching my business

My husband overspent on what he got me for Christmas and I’m totally excited. It’s a workshop. My husband asked if it was alright to spend the $375 to sign me up for the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, and while we agree that it is a lot of money for someone planning to quit their day job, it could also be invaluable for someone launching a writing career.  I’m going to Ohio in April! Alone! To meet with other writers and the people who work with writers! It’s an opportunity I hadn’t really dared to dream of!

We have just learned that Social Security Disability has a “back-to-work” plan that includes 9 months of checks after a job has started. We notified them when Troy started truck driving and we were worried because we were getting checks, so he called the number for “back-to-work” information and learned that it was not a mistake and we will not be paying any of that money back, so we are using it to help launch my business. We used one check for the workshop and we will pay for a room reservation with the next month’s check. We do have to bring in the check stubs for these nine months as soon as they are over to verify everything, but with full-disclosure, we shouldn’t have any problems.

I’m a little nervous about this workshop. I’ve never been to any sort of writers’ workshop and I don’t even know what to wear, much less what to say or do. I’m pretty sure there will be other mere mortals at this event and there’s time enough that I can do some research before I get there.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Is it really ever right for a religious person to divorce?

Question: I am struggling with the possibility of divorcing my husband. He has been violent during his recent episodes and I currently have an order of protection keeping him away from me. I still love him and we don't believe in divorce. I know God doesn't want us to live like this, but what can I do?

My response: Maybe I’m the one who’s supposed to chime in with the Biblical references to support you in protecting yourself. As was already mentioned, your father God would never wish abuse on any of his children and would want and expect you to protect your child as well as yourself. You can’t help your husband unless you are safe and sound.

People who are in the throes of a bipolar episode, whether it’s manic, depressive or mixed, are capable of doing serious physical and mental harm to the people who are trying to help them. When lifeguards are trained, they are taught to use special tools and techniques because a person who is drowning tends to thrash about and can easily pull their rescuer down with them if that rescuer is not fully prepared and trained. People with mental illness often behave in a similar way and may do damage that they don’t intend in an attempt to keep their own heads above water. The order for protection is one tool that you can use to keep from getting pulled under. Don’t throw it away until he has made some serious steps toward wellness.

An appointment with a psychiatrist should be mandatory before you cancel the order. It would be great if he could start on medication before you start to drop your guard. You aren’t refusing to help, you are refusing to be pulled under with him.

Now to the religious stuff. In the Bible it says that “God hates divorce” which seems pretty straight-forward, but the meaning of those words has changed over time and in different cultures. What God hates is the breakdown of the loving relationship which pulls marriages apart. Divorce is not a legal term here, it is talking about the human relationship.

Sometimes it is necessary to put a little space in a relationship when someone is unstable to avoid allowing that person to do irreparable damage. If you drop the order and allow things to return to “normal” your husband may feel that he can go back to the way things were, go to one therapy session, put off seeing a psychiatrist indefinitely, and eventually lash out at you in episode because he hasn’t done anything to manage the illness. THAT COULD FORCE AN END TO THE MARRIAGE. You could be physically harmed. Your child could be physically and emotionally damaged. Occasionally someone is actually killed in a psychotic episode.

Your best chance at saving your relationship, something that God and the Church value greatly, may be by making sure that he is serious about getting help for himself before you let him off the hook. If it gets to the point of actually filing for a divorce, that isn't the worst thing that could happen. You can always get back together and even remarry if he gets stable enough to be a partner again. That gets harder if you allow him to do too much damage before you take a stand.

Maybe you are confident that he will follow through. You know him better than we do. But we have seen these patterns before and people do get hurt.

God loves you and so do I. I don’t want to hear that you have been harmed. I never left my husband against all sorts of advice, so I can’t really fault you if you drop the order and work things out on your own. That’s what I did and I’m here to tell of it, but please be careful. No one will fault you if you protect yourself and your child. Not even God.