Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mom's earliest memories 1941-1946

Lately I've been hanging out at my parents' house every Sunday afternoon. I hang around to offer help to my mom with anything she might be needing; I know she's often exhausted taking care of my father with his Parkinson's. But most of the time we just end up talking.

This last Sunday I was able to help her get her computer backed up and while I was working on the computer she straightened up her desk and then came across a piece of paper that had a list of "Triggers for childhood memories" - she can't remember why she wrote this list. I asked her to read the list to me, and then (a little surreptitiously) I started typing up the memories that these "triggers" helped her come up with. She said many of these childhood memories were certainly thing that  affected her life later on.

In her words:

I’m so thankful for my mother and father taking us on vacations, usually every September. The first one I remember was a trip to Wisconsin when I was 5 years old (maybe) in 1941. I bounced up and down and couldn’t sit still, I was sitting on a suitcase or box and Mother had put a pillow or bedding on top of it and Bev was underneath (where my feet would have gone) sitting sideways because every inch of space was used, we had packed for a week or more.

We were going west instead of east; usually we went east to Pennsylvania so it was very exciting heading in a different direction. Visited Portage, Wisconsin where Uncle Clarence lived, he had an ice cream shop. Daddy decided we should have our first train trip from Portage to the Wisconsin Dells, an old Indian encampment area. We saw all the teepees and women doing beadwork. My parents bought me a little Indian squaw doll and David got a little birchbark canoe.

1942? – Aunt Nellie and Uncle Chris had seasons tickets to the Louisville symphony. I was no more than six years old, and wanted to go with Mother and Nellie, even though they warned me I would have to sit by myself as they would have to buy a separate ticket. I was in a row behind them and never took my eyes off them the whole concert!

Hiking into the dark woods all by myself, from the sunshine into the darkness (1943-44) – I had so many fairytales in my mind that this was a strong memory for me. Especially venturing off by myself at such a young age and having the courage to go into the dark.

Riding Bill down the hill in front of the house and experiencing my first canter, a thrilling memory.

Sliding down the golf course hill in Dave’s skiis and getting the first rush of skiing. After the war; probably around 10 years old. 1946/47.  I had to stuff his boots full of socks to get them to fit. (My mother skied up until she was 74 years old! – she’s now almost 76 and just mentioned she’d like to take my 11 year old skiing).

The first time I saw the ocean, Tom and Dave and I, summer when I was 9 or 10, my sister Connie was a toddler. Nellie’s husband Kenneth showed us how to body surf the waves in. I’m sure that’s the start of my love of the ocean.

1946 – sitting in the audience as the University Choral Group performed the Messiah (my older sisters Bev and Margie were performing).

During the Depression years into War years: helping Mother bake bread and apple dumplings. Mother didn’t love to cook but she loved to bake. I got my love of cooking from Daddy. I liked having a little sister but I never had the interest in mothering or other domestic pursuits (though I always had to help with cooking and cleaning) except for these memories of baking and the house smelling so good.

Going to the children’s section of the Kent Public library and the nice lady there let us have as many books as we wanted. The bookmobile would stop at the top of the driveway and pick up me and David and Tom and take us to the crossroads in Brimfield (where the park was and pump and outhouses – we weren’t allowed to cross the street or go to Luddick’s store (little country grocery store where we kept a tab). We could get an ice cream there for a nickel but we had to ask for permission. We had too many books to carry to walk home so someone must have picked us up. The bookmobile was the size of a small schoolbus.

The Luddicks were our very best friends (I remember Helen Luddick) – Helen did a needlework of two women having tea for Grandma.

The Pufferbelly restaurant replaced the train station in Kent (pufferbelly was a name for an old-fashioned train). The passenger train ran until the late 1950’s. I took the train to New York City and David taking the train from that station to Annapolis (1957).

I wrote a letter in 7th or 8th grade to the Kent Courier Tribune why Truman should not have fired Douglas MacArthur. He was a kid’s hero: the war was our whole world as kids.

I don’t have a specific memory of the Pearl Harbor being bombed but I did notice that everything changed. Little boys and even girls would be dressed in childrens’ version of their father’s uniforms and sailor tops for the girls."

Mother subscribed to two weeklies, Colliers and the Saturday Evening Post. The minute Colliers came in the mail we would open it up to the back page, divided into two parts, the part across the top was a color caricature of a real enemy (Hitler and Hirohito etc) – very ugly. We cut them out and collected them like baseball cards. It was important to know who are enemies were. We didn’t collect any of the heros though.

When you went into school you brought 10 cents in whenever you could so that after the Pledge we would buy a victory stamp and put them in our stamp books. As soon as you collected $18.75  in your book then you could get a $25 war bond. Sometimes warbonds were given as gifts and that was big deal.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Remembering to check in

Last August I started going to Overeaters Anonymous (OA) meetings. Every diet I've ever tried has quickly failed me, but this isn't a diet, and it is really working for me. I have now lost 12 pounds.  The weight loss has been very slow (3 pounds a month) but my life style has completely changed - I just realized that are dozens of other things that I'm "losing" besides weight. 

I'm losing the temptation to stop by the vending machine after work. I'm losing the desire to snack in between meals; instead I can say, "I can eat again in a couple hours. It's okay, I'm not really hungry right now and I can wait." I'm much more consistent about exercising and look forward to my walks, even on cold snowy days. A couple times now when I've  eaten too much at lunch, and I'm tempted to "blow it" for the rest of the day, I have been able to STOP the binge and wait to eat until I'm really hungry again. I've never been able to do that before! 

I've been thinking about what has enabled me to make these changes. It's God. That's the amazing simple answer. As I've posted before, this program is all about admitting weakness, admitting we don't have the will power to resist, and then turning to God for His strength since we've learned we don't have it on our own. This means checking in with Him a lot. 

You know how diabetics need to take insulin or make careful diet choices everyday to control their disease? I have a diabetic friend who was in denial for many years, until her health became critical, and then she got serious about "checking in" several times a day: checking her blood sugar and adjusting her diet accordingly.

I have a disease called compulsive overeating, and to keep it from ruining my life, like a diabetic I need to "check in" several times a day. I don't have to check my blood sugar, but I do have to check other things - am I eating because I'm hungry? Or because I'm bored, anxious, distracted, putting off doing something else, stressed, etc.   OA has a list of "tools" you can use in the battle against compulsive eating, such as making a plan for eating each day and checking in with my higher power (in my case, the God of the Bible). It also means remembering to do one or more of these things: reading OA material (or the Bible or a devotional), or calling another OA member, writing in a journal, or going to an OA meeting. 

OA meetings are a problem because we don't have any in my town. I have to drive 50 minutes to Cheyenne to get to a meeting, which is only Thursday nights. I was faithful about taking the time to do this for the first three months, but lately I haven't been going as frequently because either the weather is bad for driving, or as the case yesterday, I felt I was in pretty good shape (binge free for 9 days) and didn't want to take the time, and since I've been in OA five months now I have learned a LOT and am not necessarily learning anything new now at the meetings. 

But then another OA member called and asked if I was coming to the meeting last night. I told her I didn't think so, I was doing pretty good this week, and it's a big time commitment - basically uses up all my evening with the driving there and then driving back. 

She said, have you heard the two reasons for when you know you need to go to a meeting?

The first reason is when you are struggling and you know you need a meeting. Then obviously you need to go. 

The second reason is when you aren't struggling and you don't think you need to go to a meeting. Then you need to go. 

That made me laugh, but it's true. We still need to go even when we aren't struggling. Because it's just as much preventative as it is curing. I have a disease that will never cure itself or go away; it will always require daily attention, and it frequently requires getting together with others to brainstorm and encourage and enlighten - and even if I'm doing okay I can't discount the fact that my presence at a meeting could be a huge encouragement and help to another struggling person, especially in our situation here in Wyoming, where there are so few people, and sometimes we have 5 people at a meeting, sometimes only two. It would be awful if one person showed up to a meeting and no else did. After all the 12th step involves serving others as part of our recovery. 

So I went to that meeting last night and it was one of the best meetings I've ever been to. There were only two of us so we had lots of time to talk personally and discuss the different issues she's facing and I'm facing (I'm still struggling when one of my binge foods appears in a situation I hadn't planned for). 

We read a recovery story from the AA Big Book that I could so identify with, because really there isn't much difference between compulsive overeaters and alcoholics; they are both addictions with the same root causes. This recovering alcoholic ran into a situation he hadn't planned for - when he headed home for the day, his neighbors were having a party. Having that party so close, so accessible, was torture to him. He tried calling his sponsor, but couldn't reach him.  So far he hadn't been willing to believe in a higher power, but that night, with no other options, he looked up and said: "okay, buddy, it's just you and me." And immediately his desire to go to the party and drink lessened. He realized God really was there and was listening and waiting for him to ask for help. He was able to stay home, all alone, and resist that party next door. That is so amazing, for an addict, to overcome such an intense level of temptation! 

When unexpected and intense temptations hit me, I am still so far away from remembering to call someone or text someone or reach out to God with the surety that he can overcome the temptation. I usually just give in. The success I've had so far has come from planning and praying ahead of time, identifying times that will be extra hard (e.g. pizza night or after church) and preparing for them, but I haven't yet reached the point where I can pray through an unplanned situation. 

This gave me hope that someday I will have success even in those situations. 
And it taught me never to take meetings lightly, they are part of the "check ins" I need to do to keep fighting this disease. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

My theme for the new year

In 2012  my theme for the year was Seeking God.  I have always failed miserably with resolutions, so I thought I would try this idea of choosing just one thing as my theme for the year. I wanted my first priority to be seeking God (Matthew 6:33, Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness), trusting that making Him my first priority, everything else would follow.

It certainly wasn't a perfect year, but it was a wonderful year. Sarah Young's "Jesus Calling" devotional reminded me continually of my theme, and seeking God helped me address several big problems in my life.

1) Depression: I had a depression-free year! (after three years in a row of seasonal depression, each year progressively worse).  I don't feel this was due to anything I did - I think it was a gift from God. More of the story here.

2) Control. In 2012 I learned how freeing it is to not try to control people - namely my husband and teen stepdaughter, even a few situations with my younger daughters. I learned how to take my expectations and concerns to God in prayer, and wait and see how He would resolve the situation, instead of trying to confront and resolve the situation myself. The way God would immediately work things out was mind-blowing. I am full of awe of how God will work when we purposefully step aside to let him work!

3) Overeating and binging. I lost 10 pounds in 2012 instead of gaining weight! But even more important, I am finally learning to turn to God instead of food when I'm stressed or emotional. For me it's all about admitting my weakness, and relying on God to bring me through the temptations instead of trying to do it by my own will power. My full story here.

4) Insecurity with friends and at work. This is a big issue, maybe I'll blog about what God has been teaching me with this one.

5) Getting distracted at work by the internet. Another big issue - still struggling with this one. Surprised by how long I was in denial about this.

Now I am considering what word to choose for this year. As I've been mulling over this,  the word "Prayer" keeps coming to mind. Prayer makes sense because it is a more specific means of Seeking God, and one that has always been my weakness (It's easier for me to seek Him in His Word and via devotionals such as "Jesus Calling").

God definitely confirmed this yesterday - yes, prayer is what He wants me to seek this year. I am not a morning person and I usually stay in bed as late as I can get way with. But yesterday morning I woke up early, and I felt a strong prompting to get up and pray. Then last evening something happened that I realized was part of a spiritual battle - later my husband described it as a Satanic attack. It was related to one of the things I'd prayed about earlier in the day - it was as if Satan was furious I'd prayed about that and decided to lash out at us. At first I reacted just the way Satan wanted me to - in anger and accusation - and then I realized what was happening and I got down on my knees to pray again. A bad situation eventually worked out in a peaceful resolution - and my husband and I both learned an important lesson.

So "Prayer" is my theme word this year. Honestly, it scares me. I'm not consistent at praying and then when I do pray I'm immediately caught in a spiritual battle?? But then again it's not scary when I remember that God is sovereign and in control, and He works out all things for good according to His purpose.