Christmas time is here!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

So Thomas finished decorating the tree last night. We were afraid to do it any sooner, because the thought of cleaning up broken ornaments from wild dogs crashing into the tree did not sound appealing. Alllllllll of the presents are wrapped. The table is covered in a green table cloth and fancy looking red-striped candles in our mod candelabra. Our small collection of cards has been hung. Lights are outside. There are a few things I'm finishing up today, and then we're done. We don't have a mantel or lots of spare space, so many of the cute decorations I've seen will be used in a few years, in another house.

I just wanted to say Merry Christmas to all of you. I hope you have a wonderful holiday (and even if you don't celebrate it, hopefully you get the day off)! Spend a little time thinking about all of the incredible things you are thankful for. Your significant other, your kids, pets, if you're lucky to have a job, or if you're able to afford school. I'm always impressed by the resilient spirit of humanity, and glad that there are so many stories of it around Christmas. Be thankful for your abundant blessings, and do whatever you can to not compare them to the blessings of others. I pray that you are all safe and happy this holiday season.

Isaiah 62:6-12
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Upon your walls, O Jerusalem,
    I have posted sentinels;
all day and all night
    they shall never be silent.
You who remind the Lord,
    take no rest,
and give him no rest
    until he establishes Jerusalem
    and makes it renowned throughout the earth.
The Lord has sworn by his right hand
    and by his mighty arm:
I will not again give your grain
    to be food for your enemies,
and foreigners shall not drink the wine
    for which you have labored;
but those who garner it shall eat it
    and praise the Lord,
and those who gather it shall drink it
    in my holy courts.
10 Go through, go through the gates,
    prepare the way for the people;
build up, build up the highway,
    clear it of stones,
    lift up an ensign over the peoples.
11 The Lord has proclaimed
    to the end of the earth:
Say to daughter Zion,
    “See, your salvation comes;
his reward is with him,
    and his recompense before him.”
12 They shall be called, “The Holy People,
    The Redeemed of the Lord”;
and you shall be called, “Sought Out,
    A City Not Forsaken.”

Merry Christmas everyone. And YAY Jesus!

I'll see you again around the new year.

The right to lead a full life.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

For the past few days I haven't known what to say. It's kind of worked out, because I also haven't wanted to talk about it. You don't really want to think about kindergarteners getting shot, but that seems to be on my mind every night before bed. As tends to be the pattern with horrible things, there has been a lot of jumping to conclusions. There are three things people are talking about most: 1. The kids who were shot; 2. Gun control; and 3. Mental illness, particularly autism.

The sadness for the adults and children who were shot just cause my heart to ache. All the time. It's not right, it's not fair, it's not good. Nothing that I will say will do anyone any good. Because when you have lost someone that you love, when their body isn't there to draw you pictures or give you advice or give you a hug or smile- it sucks. And it sucks for a really long time. So I'm not going to pretend that I have answers. I just know that I'm praying for the families.

Gun control. Statistics show that people don't change their opinions (not drastically) after a mass shooting. Here's what I think- If you are anti-gun, you have a long fight ahead of you. The right to arms is in the Constitution. As the U.S. Constitution is the law that all other laws are upheld by, even this high school government class-educated woman can let you know that would be a mighty hard battle- to take on all the guns in the country. Perhaps you should look at this. Or this. I'm just throwing some information out there. It's up to you to draw your own conclusions. As for me? Personally, I think it wise that I learn to shoot one day. I also really never want to own a gun.

But I don't have kids. I don't have a gun. What I do have is a mental illness. When people go around, making blind accusations about people with a mental illness, I do get a little hot under the collar. Do you realize that if you (or someone you heard) are making sweeping accusations about mental illness, you are talking about me? When I hear "lock up the crazies," it means that someone thinks that I don't have rights as a human. Like I don't deserve to give my best effort at making a life of my own. There's something [stupid] going around Facebook that has a part that says "You ppl need to stop doing drugs while pregnant and having sick babies that grow up killing innocent people." While the killing innocent people part doesn't apply to me, I can safely guarantee that my mom did not do drugs while I was incubating in her belly. It's called genetics and situational factors. Generalizations make me feel like sh!#. Sorry for the cursing allusion, but hearing that honestly makes me want to curl up in a ball on my bed and give my best efforts at melting into the floor. Which, incidentally, is what I do when I'm sad or angry. I don't go out and kill people. For more on the Facebook post and the thoughts of an autistic mother (*correction because that didn't sound right when I just re-read it- mother of an autistic child), visit this post at Yeah. Good Times. It is well worth the read.

Ironically enough, "lock[ing] up the crazies" is what we are doing. I know, many people are like, whatevs man, healthcare shmelthcare! Funding is getting cut everywhere. The brilliant essay, "I am Adam Lanza's Mother," has this quote: "...in fact, the rate of inmate mental illness is five times greater (56%) than the non-incarcerated population." These people aren't getting help. Would you want jail to be your healthcare option? I don't. I doubt it is very good for the penal system either. When I was looking for options when I was first diagnosed, it was made very clear to me that unless I was suicidal or homicidal, my Bipolar disorder was not severe enough to be treated at immediate facilities. Because having a meltdown at 3 am, screaming into the night, isn't severe at all. I found (from calling many many many doctors) that the average length of time to get in to see a psychiatrist for a first visit is 6 weeks. 6 weeks to see a private doctor (with good insurance). That's an awfully long time to wait when you feel like you can't live with your illness. The system is flawed.

Until America realizes that mental illness is huge, and important at all levels, the lack of treatment will be sustained and people will keep making ignorant assumptions. While there are people who are unstable and violent, there are plenty of us who are keeping to ourselves and trying to live a life that works for us. But everyone with a mental disorder deserves help. Not just mindless medication, but legitimate help- medication if needed, the right kind of therapy, a place to go if the outside world isn't the best environment (not for all, but for some). Every human has the right to lead a full life. Isn't it time we made that happen? Wouldn't that lead to the best situation for everyone?

Thanks for letting me get on my soap box for a while.

-L

A guy's Advent Calendar (or stocking stuffers!)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Planning on posting this a while back... and then life happened! Oh well, though it's a bit late to try this for your guy this year, these are good stocking stuffer ideas, or a 12 days of Christmas. Thomas has been enjoying this for the last two weeks, and I thought it'd be a nice thing to share.


I loved the idea of adding scripture with my gifts to remember "the reason for the season" (as the saying goes), and having a little meditation/devotion each morning. But all of the pins that had this idea and links to the scripture verses included the Book of Mormon (and no offense, Mormon peeps) but we're not Mormon. So taking their swell idea, I went to elca.org, hunted down the lectionary (our set readings for church each year) and took all the Advent-time readings. Bam! Done! I got some of the sticky flags and marked them in Thomas's bible to make it super quick to find when he's prepping for the day.

24 Days of Scripture
Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37
Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
2 Peter 3:8-15
Mark 1:1-8
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
Luke 1:46b-55
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28
2 Samuel 7:1-11,16
Luke 1:26-38
Malachi 3:1-4
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:1-10
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36
Luke 1:68-79
Philippians 1:3-11
Luke 3:1-6
Isaiah 12:2-6

I had some shipping tags lying around and I wrote the number of the day on the front and the bible verse of the day on the back.


What are they hanging on? you ask. Well, that's a funny story. After contemplating a very cute "tree" with envelopes making the tree shape on the wall (which would have involved me going to the store to buy stuff and time and effort and stuff I don't have or want to use), I thought that was too much. So I went to the woodish patch behind the house and brought what is probably a 8 foot long branch (it had already fallen from a tree) back into the house. I was dressed up for some reason and so I lugged this thing back into the house in heels. Nice. Classy. There were thoughts of hanging it, but you know, sometimes you see something on Pinterest and sheer lack of willpower turns your laziness into something totally unique. An Advent treecalendarfirehazard.

But what to gift? 24 days is kind of a lot, so how do I not end up spending more on the calendar than I will on his Christmas presents? (Not that my super awesome husband doesn't deserve it, but for riz kids, we all have enough expenses.) Answer: being totally super creative. I'm soooo good at that. So now, I will put this in this blog post and you can do it and everyone (everyone being your husband and anyone he tells about his Advent treecalendarfirehazard.


No money spent (immediately) free stuff (can be written on pretty paper and put in an envelope):
1."Elf," "Home Alone" or any other movie for a movie night. If you already own this, wrap it and you also have a date night that night!
2. Winter hike (or walk around your neighborhood).
3. Baking cookies! Gingerbread men are great, especially if you can find the premade gingerbread dough in your grocery store. But I did list this as free because you can easily make some "Christmas" cookies with stuff you already have.
4. Dinner date coupon- for eating in or going out.
5. Doing a Christmas craft- paper snowflakes for the window or an easy construction paper chain.
6. Driving to look at Christmas lights in your town.
7. A good, sappy, he'll-keep-it-in-his-sock-drawer-forever love letter. They can't be beat.
8. Hot chocolate and star-gazing.
9. Movie night- his choice. You have to promise you won't veto.
10. The classic coupon book.
11. Decorate the tree!
12. Making a Christmas trail mix or cookies for his work, so all the other guys (or coworkers) love him.
 

Cheap-ish presents:
1. Picking out a Christmas tree (great for December 1).
2. Jalapeno stuffed olives.
3. Hot sauce (great in little mini bottles)- you can find them almost everywhere. World Market has very cute things and is a great place for stocking stuffers.
4. Giant book of MadLibs.
5. Chopsticks. World Market again!
6. New underwear. It may not be fun, but always practical.
7. Candy is always easy and fun.
8. New Christmas pajamas.
9. Going ornament shopping for your tree.
10. Bag of coffee and some syrup for fun.
11. Nerf gun and Nerf gun WAR!
12. Small gift cards for coffee or the fast food you try not to encourage.



Maybe one day I will be a cool blogger and figure out how to create a mood board, but for now, cell phone pictures (sorry about that!) and Blogger. Good luck!

Why my brain is different than yours, and why that's okay

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Of the many emotions I have since I am bipolar, this is the resounding one: confusion. I have no idea why you process information the way you do and you have no idea why I process things the way I do. I can't understand drawing conclusions in another way. Because the way I do things is often different, it can lead to tension. So I'm going to try and explain how my brain is a little weird.

There are lots of theories as to causes of bipolar disorder and our mood swings. The brain is a funky thing. Scientists aren't completely sure how all of a healthy brain works, and when you move into mental disorders, it gets strange. Neurotransmitters (control moods and emotions) also have a lot to do with our thoughts and actions, though it isn't exactly understood what it is in particular that changes things so much. Some ideas are that Bipolar people have too many or too little neurotransmitters, leading us to be overstimulated or underwhelmed with emotion. Some say that these are too sensitive, and we receive emotions more intensely.

That's a lot of "it might be"s, especially for people who don't live with Bipolar Disorder (I've gotten used to the what-ifs and the maybes). So what really happens to your brain? What most now agree on is that bipolar disorder has physiological roots. If you look at MRI scans of a bipolar person's brain versus a healthy brain, colors, size and shapes come out differently. This article from PsychCentral helps with the specifics. "Compared with controls, patients with Bipolar Disorder had decreased activity and/or reduction in gray matter volume in the right inferior frontal gyrus, the right superior frontal gyrus, the anterior singulate, and the precuneus. These areas are a cortical-cognitive brain network associated with the regulation of emotions, the researchers noted," (Pedersen). So, certain parts of our brain are shrinking and we have decreased activity in areas that usually regulate emotions.

It's weird to think about your shrinking brain at 24.

So with my shrunk-up brain, why am I thinking about all of this? Why care? Because, whatever the neurotransmitters are doing or the serotonin levels are, they factor in to how I live on a daily basis. Most of the time you'd meet me and never know that I have this whole different side of my life. But I live with this every day. I think about it, sometimes for a while, sometimes just in passing, probably 20 times daily. It's a huge part of me.

I really never thought that I'd find anything good about this. When I was diagnosed (4 years ago, almost to the day), I was sure it was one of the worst things ever. But, as much of a pain as it can be, I have learned to accept it. I've even learned that it makes me unique. (In a good way, not just a crazy way.)

I'm not sure how my brain works most of the time. I just know the effects. One of those effects is my commitment to understanding. I've become more patient with people who have extraordinary mental health issues. From autism to anxiety, I've become passionately curious about why people react differently to things, but mostly how they do. Autism, Aspergers, and the Autism Spectrum have been coming into public light more and more. When I stumbled upon this article about autism and selective eating, somehow, all of the gears starting clicking in my head. This is partially because this woman is a great writer, but also, my Bipolar brain has somehow enabled me to think outside of the box- to understand how other people have brains that work differently.

I was recently talking with someone else who also has BPD. It was so easy to focus on how we are different from other people, and how hard that is for us. I certainly don't mean to diminish that struggle- and it is a hard battle- but we also receive amazing gifts from it. I don't know if I would have kept up my writing if I didn't have it; probably not in this way. We have to work harder for understanding and a sense of normalcy- but that makes it so much sweeter.

Accepting differences, whether it be of religion, illness, or appearances, is rarely easy. It's even harder when the differences happen to you, later in life! But in reflecting upon those differences, we learn that differences don't mean weaknesses. We learn that "abnormalities" aren't truly that abnormal. We learn that perhaps there might be a bit of happy perfection in an imperfection.

And most of all:
Our humanity is more important than whatever names we give our differences.


Check out...
-WebMD
-www.bipolar-lives.com
-psychcentral.com

**The Obvious Stuff**
This is not a medical journal. I am just a person who has Bipolar Disorder who is trying to make sense of it all. Do not take any of this as gospel truth. Always consult your doctor before making any radical adjustments to your lifestyle. Get the facts.

Catching up for December

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

After getting back into the blog and having such a productive November, I feel remiss that it is December 5 and I haven't written anything. So here's a catch up... a list, of some things.

1. We have our {crooked} Christmas tree! It is a magnificent 9 foot-tall Leland Cypress and it's fluffy and I am in love with it. Sometimes I hug it and smell it. Currently it is dog-proofed: there are no ornaments, just ribbon and lights. I kind of like the super simple nature. There was a great phaff with the three (3!!) trunks and it not fitting into the tree stand. But Thomas's engineering and a borrow of one of Dad's power tools, and our magnificent tree stands, if leaning slightly. It also needs a tree skirt- but I'm afraid of sewing in circles. But I have to make myself finish our stockings this week... so a tree skirt (perhaps a square?) is in order as well.

2. Otto really loves eating the... leaves? fernish looking bristles? Whatever. Otto eats the tree. And drinks the tree sap water. It is very perplexing as to why he needs to do this, and another reason I need to make a tree skirt ASAP. Also just caught Moby chewing on one of the branches. Seriously, pups?

3. Please follow me! If you scroll down to the end of the content on the right side bar, you will see that there is a small band of followers (thanks guys!). Please add your name to their ranks! Also consider subscribing by email (also in the right sidebar).

4. What are y'all asking for for Christmas? I can't ever seem to think of anything between my birthday in November and December. Then the other 10 months of the year, I am filled with ideas for things I can't live without. Big or small, what are you wishing for?

I hope your December is going splendidly!
 
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