Birthday Dress

Bargain Birthday Dress!

It has been a while since I did a fashion post.  This bargain buy was a treat after a very long work week.  I found it in Nordstrom’s Rack for $17.  It is a Maggy London dress so they normally retail at around $120.  I have paired them with my favorite BOC lime flower sandals and the foxes’ mermaid.  We have a video of the puppies carrying the mermaid in their mouths.

I wore it for a pre-birthday dinner with Teddy and my friend.  On my actual birthday it was over 100 degrees so it was too hot to wear it.  Teddy and I also celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary, the day before my birthday.  We didn’t know each other very well when we married in haste, so I thought if we married the day before my birthday he would never forget my birthday.  Teddy never forgets anything but Bunny does…

Our 36th wedding anniversary

We spent our anniversary in a historic little town just north of us.  Teddy loves antiquing so I just follow him around…he also loves ballet.  Who knew?  As far as I know, he is out of the closet.

Birthday girl at Lake Conroe

On my birthday we tried a new restaurant on Lake Conroe.  There is a real haze in the air from Saharan dust which some weird weather has brought to Texas.  We managed to stay outside despite the blistering heat.  Then we went home to collapse in the air conditioning!.

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Suicide is painless…

…or is it?  The recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have shocked the world.  How could people with so much money, privilege and opportunities hang themselves?  That method of suicide is very hard for those who loved them to cope with.  Most of you know that I have a chronic mental illness but I have a particularly intimate knowledge of suicide.  Two of my cousins killed themselves, one by gun and the other with medication.  I lived in a village that suffered a contagion of suicide during a ‘dustbowl’ depression.  In the UK I managed a nonprofit project for people dealing with the effects of severe mental illness.  Somehow the last telephone call on Friday night always seemed desperate and you wondered if the person would survive.  Finally, I have thought so often about suicide or nihilism myself that I hope I have talked myself out of it.

The last thing that anyone needs is castigation or judgment for feeling so desperate that you no longer wish to live.  I had my first bout of depression at age 7 and then a more serious illness when I was 20.  I was young and convinced that my living conditions (with a mentally ill mother) were the only contributing factor.  In a future life, I would get a job that didn’t stress me and marry a man who would look after me.  Never did find the former but I did marry my husband who loved me so much that divorce was never an option in his eyes.  Over the years, we both learned that I had a life-long illness that I had unfortunately inherited (why not money, for goodness sake?).

I can’t claim to know Kate or Anthony but from all reports, they were kind, loving, quirky, charismatic humans who had inner, mostly hidden, pain.  I hesitate to use the word demons because it is so generic and unfair.  When I was working in the field of mental health I would give talks to student nurses and social workers with one of my volunteers who had schizophrenia.  Despite all of them nursing or caring for people with severe mental illnesses, they struggled to empathize.  You truly do need to walk a mile in a person’s shoes to know their angst.  What surprised the students the most is that we were articulate, funny, knowledgeable and well-educated.  They rarely had an opportunity to see the hospitalized person after they had recovered from that breakdown so this was an eye-opening opportunity.  We don’t usually recover from a chronic diagnosis – we just manage our illness to the best of our ability.

So let’s talk about suicide.  One of my clients had a very severe mental illness, most likely one of the bipolar illnesses.  Every time he had a psychotic break, delusional and manic, he recovered in hospital but a little part of him died inside.  To make it worse, he didn’t react well to the medication.  Every day he would see a relative, walking the main street, who also had the inherited illness but had retreated into homelessness.  It was as if he were looking in miserable mirror.  He talked to us so many times about his sense of hopelessness.  There were other clients who could bounce back much better.  It was as though our Fairy Godmother gifted us with self-deprecating humor, a sprinkling of fairy dust and charm to balance what ‘Malificent’ gave us.  One day he called the office, having escaped from a locked psychiatric unit, and said goodbye to me.  I knew immediately what was going to happen and called the authorities.  In the weeks following I comforted his family and friends but they found his body in a wooded glade, having taken his life.  Normally, I would feel just deep sadness and regret.  In his case I understood his pain and the relief he sought.

CNN had an expert talking about a contagion of suicide which is an excellent way to reference this.  Was Anthony inspired by Kate or was it just some awful coincidence?  I mentioned living in a village with this contagion earlier.  It was a farming community and the crops had failed for the third year in a row, leaving many of the farmers with huge debts.  It had a knock on effect for other workers such as painters, electricians and plumbers whose invoices were ignored.  One farmer, who I knew, shot himself.  The plumber hanged himself in the garage a few days before Christmas and it continued.  I completely understood – these people had lived in this area for generations.  What would they do if they had to leave their farms and businesses?  For some of them it was unthinkable to live in a nearby town in rented housing when they had always lived on the land of their forefathers, in gentle silence.  Our community was grief stricken and all of us took some blame.  Did we not say hello one day or be over critical about some work?  One wife could not forgive her husband for the manner of his death.  All I could hear was “How could they do that to their family”, “Selfishness”, “Other people manage without money”.  No one kills themselves without feeling such anguish that life no longer seems feasible.  The very nature of mental illness is that it makes you selfish and sometimes narcissistic but that is a symptom not a personality defect.  Not everyone who takes their own life is mentally ill but surely in that moment it’s moot.

So, why do we think about suicide?  I can only talk about my own experience and it doesn’t really make any sense.  Having volunteered all my adult life, I know all too well about the resilience of the human spirit.  People can lose everything, be imprisoned in a concentration camp or tortured and still live a long, happy life.  Last week I had three long days of work and an event.  I managed the work and enjoyed it but I had to leave the event with an anxiety attack.  I stayed in bed for four days with my mood going up and down.  Thoughts of hopelessness and failure were flitting through my head just as quickly as writing a story about fairies.  People with psychoses sometimes hear voices that can be disturbing.  Their illness makes them unable to perceive that these are just delusional thoughts created by the psychosis.  I know what my thoughts are but can’t control them.  On the outside, I just look haunted but with so much psychotherapy, I can switch up my mood in a second so that I can manage an interaction.

Getting older, in my case, is making my illness more difficult to manage.  I suspect the natural drop in estrogen is contributing.  With the help of my doctor, I have been changing drugs, combinations and strength.  Right now it is difficult for me to do the other things that help such as eating well, no alcohol and exercise.  Here is an example of one of my thoughts. “Whales are being found with lots of plastic in their stomachs” “Perhaps if I cooked from scratch I could avert this” “That’s not possible but perhaps I could just eat bananas and avocadoes?” “Life isn’t worth living anymore; do I have enough air miles to go to Switzerland for assisted suicide” “What about Teddy and Toffee – I can’t leave them”.  At the end of these thoughts, which go on for hours, I am utterly exhausted.

Two days ago I felt exactly like that but today I went out to lunch with my friend and we had a genuinely lovely time.  I have gone for a walk, cleaned the house and have been asked to do a really fun job next week.  The job will exhaust me but the accomplishment will help my mood.  Now I can anticipate a good weekend, living for the moment.  There is not much likelihood of a cure or completely successful treatment for me.  When I think objectively, I realize that life is full of beautiful moments and I try my best to avoid stressing myself.  During all of this, I feel so sorry for those people who do take their own lives but pity whatever drove them to it.  I hope that this post might help someone who is considering suicide or those who have lost someone.

If you feel desperate please share your feelings with someone you trust or reach out to –

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

“We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.”

1-800-273-8255

What is this?

A mystery…

Those strange markings in a circular pattern; flying saucers or just saucers?  Did a small alien land in my garden?  No…just a very fussy feral kitty called Katniss who decided that she doesn’t like gourmet chicken with tomatoes.  I fed her first and then went in to tend to Toffee who was wailing because Katniss was fed first.  I glanced out afterwards to check on Katniss and she was standing staring at me through the window.  Her dish was missing too, so I went out to see what had happened.

She stared at me with her little round green eyes and I started laughing when I saw that she had covered (the very expensive) food with stones and dirt.  “Would you prefer something else, Princess?” “Yes, please, strange human mummy”  She deigned to eat the crunch but was silently condemning me for my poor grocery shopping.

I suppose she looks rather well fed and spoiled for a feral.  She has a strange psychic ability over me and I can sense she has arrived in the garden waiting for food, even when I can’t see her.  My car noise is immediately identifiable and that often brings her running.  Toffee often knows when her Dad is turning into the street before he arrives at the house.  Animals have amazing sixth senses.

I caught a cold this week, just a regular snuffly nose one, but it turned my brain to jelly.  During a phone call I could not remember my home telephone number which I have had for 14 years.  My recent travel photos are waiting for me to turn into a Postcard from Kerry but they will have to wait until my brain recovers.

My heart goes out to our neighbors at Santa Fe, Texas with another school shooting by a disturbed young man whose father’s guns were available.  They should be locked in a gun case.

My heart glows to see Prince Harry marry a biracial American.  As Teddy knows, all the smart guys marry one of those…❤

I am sleeping with a senior citizen…

Celebrating Teddy’s 60th birthday at a rooftop hotel in Mobile, Alabama

…and he snores too. Teddy and I rarely travel together because of our elderly cat but made a special effort to go to a new place for his 60th birthday.  When we married he was 24 years old and I can’t figure out how all this time has passed.  Teddy went ahead of me and I arrived at Mobile Regional Airport on his birthday.  He picked me up in a rental car and we went straight across the fabulous Mobile Bay causeway .  Sometimes water that close to a roadway scares me but this was just sublime.  We started looking for brown historical sites signs and starting learning the fascinating history of Mobile.

View from the original settlement of Blakely near Mobile. The city of Mobile is in the far distance.

This whole city, named Blakely, was abandoned after an epidemic of yellow fever in the 1800s and everyone moved to the new settlement of Mobile on the other side of the vast bay.  Five rivers create a delta into the bay.  From our busy metropolis, this was absolute bliss – very few people and polite drivers.  We went to lunch at an Oyster place with a great view across the delta.  After two glasses of wine I decided ‘we’ would drive to just over the border of Alabama into Florida.  It was wonderful.  Teddy and Bunny decided that there was no reason to change the habits of a lifetime and had a spat about which direction we should be going in…  There was no cell phone service deep in the country and the GPS stopped working.  By the time we had dinner in the rooftop restaurant of our hotel, all was bliss in Teddy and Bunny land. 🐻 🐰

Many more posts of a place less traveled and some funny stories.

Rose Gold

Rose gold hair

A miracle happened!  I colored my hair a new shade of rose gold and it turned out the same as the picture on the box.  Then I went to my hairdresser who cut it rather sharply with a cute little quiff.  It is my husband’s 60th birthday next weekend so I wanted to have a nice haircut to celebrate with him.  I am still in shock that I will be married to a 60 year old man – whaaaaaatt!!!!

He still looks cute though…

My two beautiful girls

TOFFEE

This is the inside Princesa – Toffee.  It is hard to get a good shot of her because she is a darkly colored Tabby (mixed with Egyptian Mau).  In reality, her markings and fur are exquisite.  She has the typical saggy beige fluffy tummy of a Mau and little fluffy Hobbit feet to protect her from the desert heat.  We rescued her as a kitten in Cairo but at age 15, I still can’t pick her up.  For years she hardly spoke but since the other two Egyptian cats died she has not shut up…  She talks about everything with precise vocalizations.  “Thank you” for lunch sounds very different from “Clean up my poo stat!”  Although she and Katniss have never met face to face, Toffee chats to her through the open window.  In some Disney world they would be sleeping together but they are both little ferals, happy in their own worlds.  She hunts sunbeams around the house even though I keep the temperature at 76 degrees or above.  I move Nana’s orange and brown rug about so that her old bones are comfortable in the sunbeam.

KATNISS

This is the outside Princesa – Katniss.  I rudely call her Fatniss because she is a voracious but slow eater.  She is probably about 3 or 4, maybe neutered by the local cat people and I think she belongs to me now?  At the moment I was writing this, I ‘knew’ that she was outside, so I interrupted this post to feed her with newly clean dishes.  The raccoons have been playing with the dishes again and I had to hunt for them around the garden.  From time to time, Katniss rolls in the garden and I get to see her lovely white tummy with a black belt (in Karate?)  She has a lovely mixture of black and pink toes, usually immaculate despite living outside.  She also talks – do they get it from me??  Katniss has a tiny little voice and chats while I feed her.  Sometimes the tone is terse when it is cold or wet.  She also hisses when she is happy – I think she is just trying all her vocalizations.

They make me happy. ❤

The Bed

Her bed was an object of degradation. It reeked of alcohol and sweat. Too drunk to make it the bathroom, the bed was stained with urine. Sometimes it smelled of sex and the repugnant odor of her boyfriend. He hated my looks of disgust and barbed comments. It was all too easy for him to look past the sad eyes of a 15 year old girl whose life was falling apart. Mental illness and self-medication had turned her home into a hovel. There was no safe haven.

She had transmogrified from a caring, beautiful, working single mother into a burden for the only person she always loved – me. We went from fairy stories about my missing Prince of a father – handsome but troubled – to the drunken ravings of a mad woman. What made it worse is the ravings were true. My father had asked her to abort the unwanted fetus, me, and if she hadn’t had me her life may have been so much better.

My heart broke into crystalline pieces like a shattered fairy castle. The truth was there and I just chose not to see it. Perhaps I never needed to know all the intimate details of how my father betrayed us. One revelation was that an American relative wanted to adopt me but my mother refused to consider such a possibility. I longed for Aunt Jackie to rescue me but by this stage we were no longer in contact.

Sometimes I reacted with kindness to my mother’s sad life but mostly I became remote with sarcastic comments. After a neighbor asked me to take her home, she was drunk and incapable of walking the few hundred yards, I shoved her into the wall of the house in frustration. She just sobbed and asked me to forgive her. I could not.

In anger I looked at the bed and tore the filthy bedding from it. I recoiled when I realized that it was soaked in urine. Lifting up the mattress to see if it was as bad on the other side, I saw that she had torn open the lining of the bottom divan and it was filled with dozens of mostly empty bottles of whisky. My temper flared and I started pouring the remaining whisky down the bathroom sink to the sound of her plaintive sobbing. She knew that I had been checking to see how many bottles she was drinking. At her worst it was a bottle of whisky a day.