bipolar mom shares her insights on everyday life

Posts tagged ‘family’

Tough Times

My favorite time of year is over.  Bummer. The time between Christmas and New Year’s is my smiling time. There is always something to look forward to.

It starts out on Christmas Eve. Dinner with the folks, then off to church, then back home to open presents. This year we didn’t go to church because of the snow. We stayed home and had our own service. Each person chose a Christmas song, and Tom read the Christmas story from the Bible. It was pretty neat, actually.

Then CHRISTMAS DAY! This is my favorite part of my favorite part of the season. We drove down to Marshfield, MO (which we have done as long as I can remember. Unless someone was sick) to be with my extended family on my mom’s side. We always have a great time. Lots of laughing, lots to eat, and lots of love.

The day after Christmas means lunch with several kinds of soup at my aunt’s house. Then we are off to visit Tom’s side of the family. His brother lives in Springfield, so we stopped there first and visited with them and met baby Charlie! After that, we headed to Tom’s mom’s in Joplin. As always, she fixed a delicious meal. No one makes mashed potatoes as good as she does.

The next day we head home for some rest and relaxation, since Tom almost always takes the rest of the days off until the new year.

New Year’s Eve means a wonderful party that our family is invited to hosted by our friends at church. We have a great time playing games, and of course, eating. Now that our kids are old enough, they play games with us, or go off and play other games on their own. This year the “new game” was Just Dance 2. Hilarious, and fun. Yes, of course, I played. Those young whippersnappers nearly wore me out. I may have to get that game just to get some exercise. It’s not as complicated as DDR.

New Year’s Day is a day to relax and enjoy the last day off. (At least most years. This year we got another day, but you know what I mean.) Some people make resolutions. I just start trying to do something better. I cleaned up 1/4 of the basement. That’s saying a lot. Seriously. No, really.

Now, that is all over. (sigh) Wow. I really did just sigh. The kids have the day off tomorrow, Tom is back to work, and the usual routine will start soon enough. We’ll get back to our hurried schedules, which we do because we choose to. But, for one short period of time, we got a break from that. A time where we didn’t have to keep looking at our watches (except for that New Year’s Eve countdown, of course), but just enjoyed being together.

Hannah Who?

This is what greeted me at church on Sunday!

Ms. Montana, eat your heart out!

This was after they had stood on the curb and screamed and cheered when I got out of the car.  After I’d walked about 10 steps they came running out into the parking lot and mobbed me with hugs.  In the second picture, you can see some adults that were cheering, but chose not to run into the parking lot.  And, then more kids came running after I took the pictures.  You should have seen the older adults walking into church!  They would turn around and look to see who these kids were so excited about seeing!  I think it was pretty obvious that it was the chick behind them with the red face.

Several of the kids started the MFFC (Michelle Farmer Fan Club) after I sang a solo in church years ago.  Now that I play drums, etc. they really get into it.  But, honestly, the feeling that I’ve somehow made a connection with these kids makes me feel just fabulous.

It was an amazing feeling.  God has blessed me so much.  People throw out the term “church family” a lot these days, but I will tell you the truth from my standpoint.  Coming back Sunday to all those kids, and then bunches of kids and adults inside that were so happy to see me, truly felt like coming home. 

Now, if they had just had my slippers and pipe ready for me…

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

I have nicknamed myself “Pollyanna.”  My cup is not only half-full, but I am sure that whoever drank the first half, really needed it.

Well, I’m not quite that obnoxious, but it is not for lack of trying.

I try to look at the bright side of things.  And, if all else fails, I start with this phrase, “Well, at least it isn’t…”  I used to say, “At least it isn’t cancer,” when someone would have a slight mishap, say a flat tire.  Now, I know too many people that have had or still have cancer, that I don’t use that one lightly anymore.  I do use it for times like now when I am feeling a little sorry for myself for this slow recovery.  “Buck up.  People that have cancer have a right to be bummed.  Yours is short-lived, sister.”

Over twenty years ago, I came up with a way to force people I love to not dwell on the bad part of their day.  I had a summer job at the office my dad worked in, so my dad and I would often ride to and from work together.  It was about a 30 minutes drive each way, and if you know me, that is way too long to drive in silence, so I would talk to my dad about his day. 

I noticed that he could fill all 30 minutes with all the things that went wrong that day.  Part of him was decompressing, but another part of him was reliving all the different ways his day went awry.  Having taken a full semester of Psychology 101, I knew this wasn’t healthy. 

So, I came up with a rule for the ride home.  Tell one good thing and one bad thing about your day.  I saw a complete turn around in his attitude as we drove home each day. 

I have implemented this rule in our home.  As we sit at the dinner table each night, we go around and tell “one good thing/one bad thing.”  The kids love it.  I love it.  Tom tolerates it, but he does play along.  Tom and Mark can quickly come up with their bad thing, but often take a little longer to find a good thing.  Karen is more likely to have a good thing, but no bad thing.  That is acceptable.  But, the reverse is not.  You are not allowed to have a bad thing, but no good thing.  No one’s day is that bad.  Even if it is, “I didn’t get hit by a bus on my way home from school today,” something good happened to you.  When we have guests for dinner, we ask them to participate as well.  So far no one has thrown down their napkin in disgust and walked out.

Why not try this as a conversation starter at your next family meal?  Since we implemented this early on, I am hoping that once the kids are teenagers, sharing a part of their day will just be commonplace, and we will have the opportunity to peek into their daily lives.

Teaching a Teenager New Tricks

Seriously.  I’m sure I’m not alone on this one.

My son is now 13 and an excellent student.  Normally, he does his homework without any problems or help.  Sometimes, he will ask us to check his answers, or ask for clarification of a question, normal stuff like that. 

Aside from Pre-Algebra, that is.  Math not being his strong suit, he struggles to understand the concepts, formulas, etc.  Fortunately, he has Tom and me to help him out.  I’m a freak of nature that actually loves to do Algebraic equations.  He brings his work home, and I’m all over it.  Freak.  I’m aware of it.  Let it go.  Oh, and the teaching abilities of his teacher are in question.  Mark is not alone in coming home and not having a clue what is going on.  Then, when I try to explain it to him (in the way I was taught), I get the comment I dread, “That’s not the way Mr. Educator does it.”  Even though, he doesn’t have a clue what Mr. Educator does do, it sure ain’t what I’m doing.  (And, no, his name is not “Mr. Educator.”  Duh.)  Oh, and apparently, there is a THIRD method, which is what the book teaches.  So, as I explained to Mark yesterday, “You can either do it my way or Mr. Educator’s way.  But, you don’t know how to do it Mr. Educator’s way, and he’s not here.  Your choice.”  Surprise, Surprise.  He went with my way.

But, that is not what this blog is really about.  It’s about thinking for himself.  Last night he came and asked me what Puerto Rico’s relationship is with the US.  Uh, well, you see…(Look, I know Puerto Rico is a commonwealth.  That’s it.  And, I got that from some teaching game Mark had when he was little.  I took Geography on Pass/Fail in college.  You get the drift.  Not my strong suit.)  So, I tell him so.  (Not about the college thing.  I don’t want him to know there is such a thing as Pass/Fail.  Not yet.)  I said, “Yeah, well, you know, geography and government are not my strong suit.  I really don’t know anything about it.  Sorry.”  He then sat there outside my room and just looked at me.  I said, “What are you doing?” 


“For what?” 

 “For help.” 

Now, Tom was at a meeting, and he most likely knew enough to help Mark out, but he wasn’t there.  So, I said, “Well, I told you I don’t know anything about this.  I can’t help you if I don’t know anything.” 

Still sitting there.  “Mark, what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know what to do.”

Okay.  I’m about to blow a gasket.  But, instead I turn my attention to my daughter, who has been practically ignored since she got home from school because of the Pre-Algebra help session going on in our kitchen.  He finally left.

Now, when I was in school, (geez, I sound like an old geezer.  “In my day…”) if we didn’t know something we looked it up in the encyclopedia.  (I didn’t even have a full set of encyclopedias.  I had to go to the neighbor’s house to borrow hers.  And, it was uphill.  Both ways!)  Kids have it so easy now.  They can look it up on the internet.  But, what killed me was that he didn’t even think to do that.  He was stuck after he heard the words, “I can’t help you.” 

I know I’m a near genius, and he should expect me to know all things, but once in awhile concepts slip past me, and I miss something.  Seriously, this just blew my mind.  Was I honestly supposed to say aloud “LOOK IT UP!”?  I don’t think so.  This kid is so internet-friendly, I’m surprised he bothered to even ask me. 

After I took Karen to dance, I came home and asked him if he had found the answer to the question.  He said, “Yeah.  I looked it up in the book.”  Genius.

The Little Engine that Could

“I think I can.  I think I can,” was what I was saying in my mind today as I was trying to find the Amtrak station downtown.  Then, I started saying other things that should not be printed here.  But, again, in my mind, because my children were in the car.

First of all, let me explain that our family is going on a train trip to Dallas later this week.  Everyone is very excited to visit family and friends and to take the Texas Eagle, one of Amtrak’s nicest trains.

We would be able to just go to the train station and pick up our tickets on the same day, but my husband suggested that we get them beforehand, just in case there were mistakes or something like that.  I agreed with him, and said I would go and get them.

Another point that needs to be made is that I just don’t drive downtown.  Heck, I don’t drive inside 270!  I’m a West County girl and do well to get around here.  I don’t need to go downtown except for Cardinal games and Tom is almost always going with me, so I don’t even have to drive there.  I have driven to the stadium, however.  But, I only know how to get there.  I know I’m exiting on the correct ramp when I see that guy with the weird eye selling peanuts at the corner.  Oh, and when Tom used to work for Famous Barr, I knew how to get to his building to pick him up.  (One time I dropped him off in the morning, and could NOT find my way back home.  I had no idea how to get to the highway, so I just kept driving west, hoping I’d hit something I’d recognize or a sign for the highway.  Yeah.  That didn’t happen.  I finally called Tom and asked him where I was.  Pathetic, I know.  I think I was taking Clayton in all the way.  I’m trying to block that day out.)

So, I hit Mapquest and charted out my route.  Now before any of you start rolling your eyes about Mapquest, let me just say that the address was on Market Street, so I figured Mapquest could get that right.  I put Mark in charge of reading the directions to me.  The S. Kingshighway exit was closed, but it gave us a detour via the Jefferson exit.  We handled that just fine.

Then we got on Market and the rest of it went downhill quickly.  The address was 800 Market.  We found Union Station, the shopping area, very quickly.  It was in the 1200 range, I think.  So we kept driving east.  Could NOT find 800.  Circled a couple of blocks.  Still no 800.

Finally, we were on Clark and saw an Amtrak sign with an arrow pointing straight ahead.  Yeah!  Well, that was the last sign we saw and we ended up at Union Station again.  We circled again, thinking we missed another sign.  Nope.  We finally pulled over on Market and I called Amtrak’s number.  No answer.  Nice.

We have now been in the car for over an hour and a half.  My patience is wearing thin.  I mean we are taking as thin as Kate Moss.  I said, “You know, you’d think we be close to the train tracks.”  Karen says, “I have an idea.”  At this point, I’m thinking a 10-year-old would probably have as good as or a better chance at finding this place as anyone, certainly better than me. 

So, Karen says, “Take a right as soon as you can.”  This young lady has already figured out, from her mother’s frustrations, that there are one-way streets that we can not use to go south.  I’m already impressed.  Then we turn right and pass Clark.  This is the first time we’ve been south of Clark.  We keep going.  Sure enough, there’s an Amtrak sign telling us to go straight.  Cool.  Then we cross over the train tracks and Mark notes that there is an Amtrak train sitting there.  Sweet!  Then, another sign telling us to turn right.  I want to stop the car and hug Karen so tight she bursts.  But, I resist that urge and keep driving.  We saw a stained glass looking thing crossing over the tracks.  Mark and Karen agree to keep looking at it so that we can find the station.  I explain that I have to watch for one-way streets.  They agree.  Sure enough, ANOTHER Amtrak sign telling us to turn right again!  The kids see the trains!  Another sign telling us to turn right again, and there we are.  WAHOOO! 

This station is so small.  (How small is it?)  It is so small that when you are sitting in the waiting area, your elbow is in the Ladies Room.  But, that aside, we are elated!  We entered the small building (which, by the way, has little parking because of construction), and printed our tickets and left.

I had Karen write down how to get out of there, so we could tell my dad how to actually take us there when we leave.  Turns out that if we had continued down Poplar (on the east side of Union Station) just past the parking lots, we would have seen it.  Oh well.

Then, once I got home, I decided to check what the Amtrak page had to say about the station.  Heh.  Address?  551 S. 16th Street.  No mention of Market.  Not even 800 16th Street.  Thanks a lot, Mapquest. 

So, Pollyanna is playing the glad game now.  I’m glad that Karen was the one to help us find the station.  It really boosted her confidence.  I’m glad that Mark went along because he helped me get to the right part of downtown.  And, I’m glad that it’s finally over.

Richie, Potsie, and Me

My family went to the drive-in on Friday night.  We had never been to one in Missouri before.  When we lived in New York for 4 months, we went to one twice.  The kids were only 1 and 3, so they really didn’t remember it.

Before I tell you about Friday night, I have to tell you about Wednesday night.  We tried to go to the drive-in on Wednesday night, but once we got down there, we drove by a gas station and saw police cars and police tape all around this pickup truck, the pumps and the entrance to the convenience store.  Definitely something was afoot.  But, we drove into the drive-in and NO ONE was there.  Then a woman who apparently owned the place told us that they were not going to be able to show the movies that night.  Our faces fell.  She said, “Yeah, the authorities recommended that we shut down.  There is a manhunt going on tonight.  A guy stole a car and then ran across our field here and they are looking for him.  The police think it is too dangerous for everyone to just sit in their cars here tonight.”  (Uh, Yeah!)  When she saw our faces, though, she asked if we had driven far.  When Tom told her St. Louis, she went inside the concession building and brought us out a card that got us in for free the next time we came.

So, we returned Friday night.  We drove almost an hour down to Cadet, MO to the Starlight Drive-In.  The movies that were showing were “Get Smart” and “Speed Racer” so we were all equally excited.  We settled in with our popcorn, soda, and licorice from home and got ready to watch the movie.

Then the complaints began.  “I can’t see.”  “Yeah, me either.”  “The rearview mirror is in the way.”  Finally Tom and I said that we would sit in the back of the van and the kids could sit up front.  In all honesty, once we got back there, we wanted to say, “We can’t see!  The rearview mirror is in the way!”  But, we slumped down as low as we could, put our heads together, and watched the first movie.  We did tell the kids they couldn’t move their arms or heads because if they did, we wouldn’t be able to see!

So, instead of having to call the chiropractor the next morning, Tom came up with the brilliant idea of turning the van around, swapping the seats, turning it into something only an engineer could think of.  It worked out much better.  The rain started coming down, but the rear hatch protected us.

We had a really good time.  Get Smart was excellent and very funny.  Speed Racer was, uh, hard to follow and a blur of activity.  But it was still worth hanging around for.

We got home at 2am and the kids both said they had a great time.

I was thrilled because it was my idea and it actually worked out. 

Tickets: $20 

Gas: $25

Funnel Cakes and Pretzel: $9

Drive-in Memories:  Priceless

Deep Thoughts with Kent

Yep.  Today was another session with my therapist Kent.  I had a long list of things I wanted to talk to him about.  There was a big issue that took most of our time.  (Fortunately, I saved it for last.)

I have been attending this marriage class/small group study about marriage for the past several weeks.  One of our assignments was to discover our own strengths and weaknesses and to discuss them.  Then we were to ask each other to work on one of our weaknesses (which happens to be the other’s strength).  I asked Tom to be more vocal; tell me what he’s thinking, more than just a few words when he answers questions, etc.  He asked me to be calmer when dealing with the kids and not fly off the handle.  Fair enough.

My question for Kent was “How can I get him to comment on my progress?  I feel like I am handling things with the kids better, but I am not getting that response from Tom.”  Kent then asked me why it was important to me that Tom thinks I’m doing a good job.  And I said it keeps me trying.  I said everyone likes an “atta boy!”  He nodded, but prodded deeper, until we got down to I felt as though I needed Tom’s approval to make me feel good about what I was doing.  As you can guess, this is not a good thing.

As usual, Kent made a comparison to food.  🙂  “If you make some potatoes and Tom thinks they aren’t salty enough, does that make you a bad person?”  Well, no.  But it does make me feel bad.  Again, wrong answer.  “Michelle, you are who you are.  Those potatoes are a separate entity.  They are not a part of you.”  Okay.  So?  “Now, the next time you make potatoes, you may add extra salt.  If Tom doesn’t say, ‘Hey!  These are the best potatoes I’ve ever tasted!’ does that really matter?”   Well, yeah, it does.  I always ask “Do you like this recipe?  How does that taste?” 

Kent starts to grin, realizing this is going to take awhile.

“Okay, let’s start out with the fact that MOST people take ownership of this kind of thing; MY potatoes, MY pumpkin pie.  So, when someone says, ‘That is a beautiful pie,’ that makes most people stand up straighter and all happy.  But, think about it.  They didn’t say YOU were beautiful; they said the PIE was beautiful.”  I laughed and said they might be thinking (yeah, you are UGLY, but that is one beautiful pie.)  “Exactly!” he said.  “That pie is just a separate entity and is not a part of you.  You are who you are.  You are a whole person and that pie does not complete you nor does it take away a part of you.  You don’t really need anyone to tell you that you are more than you think you are.  That would be like someone telling you ‘Hey, Michelle, you have ten fingers!  You thought you only had eight, but you have ten!’  Now that’s a completely different story.  That IS a part of you.  The pie is not.  If they say, ‘You made a terrific pie!’ is that going to give you another arm or something?”

Now, I’m finally catching on.  (Sometimes I am a little slow…)  But, I am also getting a little teary.  I’ve spent my life trying to work for approval of someone, be it my parents, friends, or husband.  I do feel like their approval is a part of me.  When I don’t have it, I feel as though there is this hole in me, that only they can fill.

Kent said, “We’ll work on this the next few times.”  Obviously, he thinks this may take some time. 

I will write more about this tomorrow since I’m just writing this from memory without even looking at my notes.  I know what you’re thinking, “How could there possibly be more?  This whole thing took me an hour and half to read!  Her session is only an hour, for cryin’ out loud!”  Yeah yeah.  Whatever.  No one is holding a gun to your head and asking you to read this…

Maybe I just need Jerry McGuire to say, “You complete me.”  Then, I’m good.

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