Backyard Feeder

Backyard Feeder
photo taken through porch screen

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.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Life on the Home Front

This is the second day that my husband is at his orientation for his new job as a truck driver. I'm pretty proud and happy that he is doing this, not least because it takes some of the stress of supporting the family off my shoulders. He calls each evening and we talk about our day. He's doing fine. I'm NOT doing drugs...though sometimes it sounds tempting.

Being home alone sounds wonderful. Until I realize that I'm not alone. I'm with a roommate/friend who might also have a mental disorder. She is a bit paranoid--hey, maybe they are out to get her, what do I know? And she thinks that she has the only valid point of view. I can live with that because I'm used to irrational thought and being able to not take it personally or seriously. Unfortunately...

I also live with my son and his fiancee. I love this girl, but she takes everything personally and tries to argue with insanity. YOU CAN'T WIN! Yes, I yell it in hopes that she'll actually hear me and let it sink in. Nope. Two mildly irrational women arguing about nothing until everybody's mad and...get's all MY fault. I even get a call from my son (he's at work) telling me that I need to apologize because I made his fiancee cry and she called him to tell him. WHAT THE....

I'm on vacation from my day job, so I guess I've become the de facto referee. Thanks, but I don't want that job. I want to retire and be a professional writer and publisher and spend my spare time marketing the books that I've written. I don't want to spend forever in the middle of crazy. I've been there and I didn't like it and MY crazy got himself help and takes pills to ward off crazy so I can live in peace. I think dropping lithium in the water supply to this house might be beneficial.

I read something today about addictions and abuses of prescription drugs and I heard about someone, husband of a friend, who can't get in to see a psychiatrist without a therapist's referal because they are afraid patients are just trying to get drugs. Huh? There's a black market for lithium? They hand out Ritalin like candy and lock up the mood stabilizers and wonder why the world's gone mad? Start handing out mood stabilizers like candy and keep your amphetamines under lock and key and see what happens. It would have to improve things.

So, my bipolar husband is stable, working, and living a normal healthy life while I am still home living with crazy. Sometimes I think it's not him, but me with the problem. Any other crazy magnets out there?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Stone Soup--or how to eat better with less

I'm not really ready to tackle this topic yet, but it came up in a conversation that it is too expensive and too much work to eat healthy. I just don't buy into that way of thinking. Yes, there is a lot of cheap and easy junk food out there, but there is also a lot of cheap and easy healthy food. How hard is it to bite into an apple? ...drop a chicken in the crock pot?...toss together a salad? ...make a sandwich from leftover sliced meat?

OK, I admit I'm a gadget girl--I actually HAVE a crock pot and a bread maker and a pasta machine and a twisty cutter and... so maybe those things are a little easier for me, but come on, there's so much more to food than Big Macs.

And while it is cheaper to eat nothing but Ramen Noodles or generic macaroni and cheese, unless you are a college student you're not going to convince me that you are doing that on a regular basis. Most of us aren't just buying cheap food, we are also buying overpriced and overprocessed foods as well because we think that they provide a convenience. Maybe they do, but at what cost?

One thing people seem to miss is that you don't have to put a lot of time and effort into cooking vegetables. Most of them can be eaten raw if you rinse them thoroughly and cut them into bite sized pieces. Use them to make a salad or serve them as finger food. Buy whatever is in season and cheap in your area and incorporate that into your diet. If you can't use it all, learn ways to preserve it--canning is work, but freezing can be as simple as putting it in an airtight bag. Some vegetables do better when partially boiled before freezing, but that's usually worth the trouble.

Another thing that seems to be common knowldge but we ignore it is that we really don't need as much meat. Did you know the most expensive part of your food budget could be cut in half just by eating half as much? The average fast food meal provides meat for three days, lots of white bread and starch and almost nothing else. Fill up on fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains. Sure those cost money but compared to the meat you are replacing they are an excellent value.

One of the books that I have in very rough draft form is a description of how we did, and how you can, create simple and healthy meals that satisfy your family, your budget and your schedule. Watch for Stone Soup to be released around Christmas 2011 as an eBook and later in paperback. The book makes this all much more concrete with meal plans and recipes that make food pyramid cooking simple.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Non-Fiction Writing

I have published LIFE HAS ITS UPS AND DOWNS as an eBook on and am working on doing the marketing for that and starting the editing of my new book

The second book is tentatively called “STONE SOUP” and is about feeding and providing for a family when you have very little money. It is another situation with which I am personally familiar and which I have managed to work through for myself.

I feel that the second book is relevant because many families that deal with a bipolar adult, do have financial issues, either because that person isn’t able to maintain employment or because of manic spending sprees. While neither is universal with bipolar, both are common enough.

It seems that I am become a non-fiction author and publisher, something I can’t seem to find a lot of information about, online or at the library. Since I really need to get this figured out efficiently and since I have a habit of sharing the information when I do get things figured out, I have decided to start a Yahoo! email discussion group and a Facebook group to connect with other non-fiction writers to pool whatever information we have.

If you are a writer of self-help or other non-fiction books or articles, consider yourself invited to join us on Facebook at:

or on Yahoo Groups at:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fear of Flying

I guess I should be calling this fear of trucking, but that doesn’t have such a nice ring to it. My husband is all signed up for truck driver training. He is going to get some training, get a license, and get a good job so that I can quit my day job and work on writing.

To those who believe that being self-centered is part of the bipolar disorder, take note—it may be part of some episodes, but it is not a constant for people with bipolar. If your partner is always selfish, it’s not the disorder, you’ve hooked up with a jerk.

Ok, so the thing is that he has passed the DOT physical for the license and got the doctor to sign off that his bipolar will not affect his ability to drive safely, but I am worried that potential employers will see that he has been on disability for mental illness for the last several years and decide that they don’t want to hire someone with a serious mental illness on his record.

Of course he doesn’t want to believe that it will be a problem. Neither do I, but I know that stigma and prejudice are out there and with so many people looking for work, employers may find reasons to hire people who are physically and mentally healthy over someone who has been hospitalized within the past year for mental illness. He might not be able to get health insurance through an employer because of his history.

Because between my paycheck and his disability we are earning too much money, he doesn’t qualify for financial aid, so we will be taking out a loan for the full amount of his tuition, fees, books, etc. which means that instead of getting ahead and being able to quit my job, we may be in debt and I may have to continue to work even after I’d be able to retire in order to make up enough money to pay the debt off.

Maybe the books will do well enough that I will be able to use that money to pay the student loans. Maybe I’m crazy to be worried and he will find a job when he finishes his class and he will be able to pay the bills and the student loan and allow me to quit my day job.

Whatever happens, we are trusting God and I’m not going to panic. In case I forget and panic, please remind me.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Symptooms The Book Never Told You About

As a member of support groups, I have come to realize that there are some symptoms of bipolar that aren't listed in the DSM but that are so common to people with bipolar as examples of some vague symptoms that are commonly listed that I think they should be listed. I don't write for the DSM people, but I write this BLOG.

These are the symptoms the doctor forgot to warn you about:

The book might mention hypersexuality, but what they don't tell you is that a person with bipolar may not be interested in sex for months, even years at a time when in depression or on certain medications, but will want to do "it" several times a day in every position in every location, sometimes with every person or all alone or with pictures or video or prostitutes name it.

The book might say something about impulsive behavior, but it won't tell you that a person with bipolar can take a perfectly adequate paycheck and buy a gallon of milk, forget to pay the bills, and not have a dime left. The fact that there may also be absolutely nothing at all to show for it is a bonus. Or perhaps there are many things to show for it--and the fact that you have the trappings of a hoarder delivered from ebay on one otherwise beautiful afternoon is one surprise that none of the books will prepare you for. The doctor would never tell you.

The book might tell you that depression involves some slowing of functioning--it doesn't tell you that your depressed loved one might slow to the point of stopping--I worry that my husband is gathering dust when he gets stuck in his chair for days on end and I'm sure the cobwebs coming out of his ear are not MY imagination. I know he is miserable, but if I don't laugh I'm inclined to cry along with him and we might never drag ourselves out from under it.

What the book won't tell you is that depression doesn't necessarily involve sadness. Sometimes it's anger or irritability or stomach aches or head aches or just falling asleep and waking up several weeks later, ala Rip Van Winkle.

And the happy maniac of the book is a rarity, with mania more likely to occur as anger, irritability (see any patterns here), racing thoughts, forced speech,little need for sleep and a sort of feeling like you are wound too tight and if you don't keep running fast enough the spring is going to sproing.(I knew there was a good reason for that fast track.)

Alas, the symptoms in the book, the symptoms that the doctor diagnoses by, are dull, dry, stereotypical and clinical while the truth of the matter is much more interesting and lively and human and scary and real.

Up and Running

My schedule for the bipolar spouse project has everything up and running by now, but the only thing really running is me and I seem to be running in circles. This is a lot more time consuming than I remember. Of course last time around I started with a captive audience at Prodigy and I didn't have Facebook and Twitter and Blogspot to worry about. I just had a simple website with maybe a couple dozen articles, the class, the discussion list and the newsletter.

The good news--or the bad news, depending on how it turns out--is that I am seriously looking for ways to quit my day job. In the past this wouldn't have helped much because I have a husband home on disability who wants my attention every two minutes when I'm at home. But if he's not home to distract me I can actually get some work done.

My husband is getting manic about truck driving again, something he did for a couple years about 15 years ago, and if he can actually get his act together and do it we will have a reliable income that is sufficient to support us, and I will have whole weeks of uninterrupted time.

Not sure I can handle that--been known to sit at the keyboard and work on a book project for days on end when not interrupted by something--but if I set a schedule for myself if just might work.

Thanks to a "social networking for authors" class by Kai Wilson, I will probably have a whole "to-do" list and a marketing plan to work with. I'm not sure I can keep up with the class right now, but I'm doing the assignments on my days off and taking notes. I will probably be tweeting about my blog posts before she's done with me and I don't even know what that means now.

I'm not sure how I feel about the truck driving thing. It is probably a good fit for my husband because he enjoys almost everything about it. He has a good driving record. He is stable on his medication and stir crazy at home. He needs a job where he is pretty much on his own because he doesn't get along well with most people if they spend a lot of time together. That's his big issue with the bipolar disorder--he doesn't play well with others and he's prone to telling the boss exactly what he thinks, which isn't usually complimentary. Not a lot of jobs out there where you don't have to deal with people on a daily basis. He's not prone to road rage--thank goodness, he can tolerate "stupid people" (his term) in other vehicles. He just can't stand to share a room with someone who isn't aware of his opinions.

Still, will he drop out before he he finishes the training? Will he finish the training and be unemployable because of his illness? Will he be employable, but uninsurable because of his illness? Will he quit or get fired a couple months in?

Life is full of risks. This one could pay off big or put us into debt for a long long time. Gotta love that manic energy. We're swinging for the bleachers here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Being a writer is easy, being an author, not so much.

I joined another authors' group today. If I spent as much time and energy being an author as I do talking about being an author... But I'm an advanced beginner and I have to learn somewhere. I joined a social networking class. Maybe it will help me to make better use of my space here.
I'm having some trouble now, wondering where I might be and what I'd be doing if my husband's bipolar disorder hadn't taken over our lives and forced me into full time employment outside my home. I had a good start at one time and might have made something of it, but life got in the way.
But of course that's just a sorry excuse for my own laziness. I could have kept a better hand in all along. I could have continued to build my online presence instead of letting everything fall. I could have; I should have; but I didn't. So here I am without a clue how to use all the pretty toys that are scattered around me.
I have this blog and I have a twitter account with several followers. I have a personal facebook account and can easily make a page for my publishing company, for my epubbed book, for my bipolar spouse project--but I don't even know where to start or how. My website is designed and I just need to fill in the articles and get the forums set up to my liking. Why is something that I could have done in my sleep a few years ago so difficult for me now? Am I really getting that old?
Tonight I need to sleep. Tomorrow I start fresh. Maybe I can make a plan to quit my day job if I can prove to myself that I can work independently. One baby step at a time.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Last year I almost lost my home when my husband went through a manic episode and mortgage payments disappeared into nowhere. This year my husband is only mildly manic and I'm liking this a lot more. The mortgage is paid to date and he set up my pond for Mother's Day.

That sounds so simple, but setting up the pond is a labor-intensive project. The "pond" is a black molded plastic preformed pond that our oldest son bought me for Mother's Day when we lived in another house. We brought it with us when we moved and it's been about 8 years. The area where we wanted to install it is in a small grove (my oasis) of trees, but digging through the roots makes installing there difficult.

I came home from work the Friday before Mother's Day and found that he had dug the hole, installed the pond, set up a pump to the waterfall, turned up the soil around the pond and filled with topsoil, filled the pond with gravel and water, set up lights around the area and bought wildflower seed. A bench that we had bought for the purpose was set up facing the pond. It was beautiful.

We added a string of can patio lights overhead, put out hummingbird feeders and planted some pond plants in the water. While cleaning up around the area, Troy (my husband) discovered that there is a sort of stone/concrete area that probably went all the way around the trees at one time. He cleared it off and it is a nice solid base for the bench.

If anyone is still wondering why I didn't cut and run when there was violence early in the marriage or when bipolar disorder was diagnosed, I think you're missing the point. Yes, I have a lot of stress in my life and I really need this quiet oasis in the yard, but I do have a husband who, even with his limitations, really loves me and will do anything in his power to make my life a little better.

Spring mania is a scary thing and watching all of this construction can feel a bit tense, but sometimes that pent up energy can be released in ways that make the world, at least my part of the world, a whole lot nicer to live in.

If you visit me you will see my sanctuary and you may even get "buzzed" by a hummingbird or two. That's peace.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Creativity and Spontaneous Fun

I'm trying to do some self-help creativity therapy because I am launching the getolife Bipolar Spouse Project this summer and I need to be at my best. This post will probably be in the "history" because I intend to keep this blog and link it to the website. Anyway, I'm trying to get all of the best ideas out and get to my most creative self. I'm doing what I always do--reading about it.

Two of the books that I am reading (both primarily entrepreneurial business books) suggest that I need to do something fun and spontaneous. Hey, I work ten hour shifts and have NO money to spend which eliminates most of the written suggestions. I can think of some "spontaneous" ideas, but by the time I have time off work to actually DO any of them I will have them so perfectly planned in my head that they will be anything but spontaneous.

I mention the problem to my husband and he has an idea--the same idea he gets like a million times a day. Very spontaneous. Maybe if I ever had the chance to think of it.

Actually my husband is good at spontaneity. He heard about pelicans on the Mississippi and while we were out making the car payment, he suggested taking a side trip to see them. The pelicans were near Quinsippi Island across from the park. A big white flock. We also saw some ducks--ducking. and lots of seagulls. We even saw a few loose cranes and a couple geese. Pelicans fly close to the water, dipping and gliding. Neat.

So what can I do to be spontaneous? I guess planning something defeats the purpose, huh? I'll write about it after I do something.

I'm also doing The Artist's Way. I'm reading the book and writing pages and trying to plan artist's dates--I even have trouble with planned fun. What's so hard about fun? If I figure that out I'll probably have this whole creativity thing figured out too.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My sons are OK

This past weekend I took a trip from Quincy, Illinois to Green Bay, Wisconsin. My mother in law was hosting a baby shower for our son, his wife and the baby boy (Ayden Michael) who is expected to make his debut in February. Our three oldest sons were together and it was a wonderful time.

My husband almost forgot his meds—that would have been a mistake, but the son that lives near us and drove up separately but at the same time reminded him when he called about meeting for breakfast before the trip. We ended up not forgetting anything important and it was a great trip.

Our youngest son appears to be in episode or under the influence of his, also mentally ill, girlfriend and since he is on probation, he was not included. I have been stressed about his behavior—he seems to have no conscience at all. He stole and pawned his father’s tools while he was living with us and lied until his father found the tools at a pawnshop and threatened to involve police. When we were getting ready to leave, we couldn’t locate our GPS unit and Troy (my bp dh) learned that someone had attempted to pawn one similar to it that day—so police are involved and our son and his girlfriend are suspects. I keep thinking—What did I do wrong to have a son that does this? How did I fail to parent him properly? Being the all-powerful mom, I automatically assume that it’s all my fault and that if I had just…but I don’t know what I should just have done… that everything would be normal.

Anyhow, spending time with my older sons, the sons that saw more of the craziness and less of the disability money, the sons that should probably hate their father and me for staying with him, those older sons seem to have turned out pretty good. They love their father and one another. They were all full of concern that this baby will have everything that they can find for it—picking up any missing things after the baby shower.

The three of them have partners who get along and care about other people. I truly love the girls my boys have brought into this family. There are plans being made for a christening that involve my oldest asking one brother to be the godfather of his son and the other to play guitar and sing at the event. Both are thrilled to travel (it’s a 8-9 hour trip for both of them) for this exciting event.

Knowing that the sons who have the most reason to be damaged are doing fine. It finally is starting to sink in that it’s not poor parenting or even growing up with a bipolar father that is to blame for the craziness in our youngest son. It is probably at least partially genetic—I’m more sure than ever that he has inherited the “crazy gene” from his father but we have no control over that so it’s not our fault. He has also made bad decisions while in episodes and while stable that have set him up for some difficulties. Again, we can counsel him to make good choices and to do the next right thing, but what he does is his responsibility. I guess what I’m saying is that in spite of the fact that my son may be growing into a sociopath, aside from making sure that I’m not enabling his behavior, it really isn’t my fault or responsibility. And at 18 he is still young enough that if he can be persuaded to get help, he can still be turned around. But I can’t be responsible for things I can’t control and my prodigal son is something I can’t control—much as I’d like to.

The moral of this story, for anyone still reading, is that even in a totally chaotic home, with the right mixture of love and one stable parent, it is possible to raise children into healthy, happy, responsible adults. But there are NO guarantees. Who’d believe it?

Bonnie Rice
Author of Love Has Its Ups and Downs
Wife to Troy, BP1
Mother to Michael, Christopher, TJ and Joshua

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year

My resolution for this year is to write something every day. I would like to write something for my blog every day, but I will probably do more writing in my notebook on days that I have to work. A more realistic goal for the blog is that I will write something at least once a week--on a day when I'm not working.

I'm not sure what I think about New Year's Resolutions. I know that many people make promises to themselves and few people actually follow through. I don't want to start the new year with a lot of big plans and ideas and not get beyond the planning phase. I do think that a new year is a nice starting point for a project--it is easy to remember the date you started and you don't have to think about how many weeks or months you've spent working on it. It makes the math easier.

How do you keep your resolutions? Do you follow through? Do you skip the whole process? Do you start strong and slow down? I really hate to start this and post this on my blog and then not follow through.

I guess posting here is going to be a part of my motivation. I can't very well post that I'll be writing at least once a week and then not post something new every week. Accountability, whether it is to a close friend or the reading public, is one way to stay motivated.

Simply writing the plan for myself makes it more likely that I will follow through because I have to do more than just let the thought cross my mind to write the plan. I have to think exactly what I want to do--write something that isn't email or a forum post. I have to decide how much I want to do--about a half hour per day, more if I have the time and inclination. I have to decide how much of what I am writing will be for myself and how much will be "published"--most of the writing will be private, but at least one piece a week will be something that I am willing to share online. That's not just a formless idea, that's a plan.

I almost hate to do this because this isn't a polished piece, but I think that it is important that I post this to start my 2011 writing plan. Wish me luck. I'm going to need it. I'm basically lazy.