Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Low Profiles and I-95

I'm still avoiding my local Starbucks like the old man buffet of STDs it now represents in my mind. Now my afternoon de-stress involves my French press, freshly ground coffee beans and our newly installed gazebo cover over the deck. It's cheaper, I don't have to worry that I might gasp or chortle over whatever reading material is in my hand and it is blissfully silent and devoid of others, insects or cheesy hipster jazz music.

But I am struggling to start the paperwork for my disability claim and to do the vocal exercises I'm being taught in physical therapy for my vocal cords and breathing. The therapist is trying to get me to talk in a higher toned softer voice. It's a struggle as I keep wanting to go back to my throaty alto rasp, my blues singing voice. Speaking like that feels like I am trying to channel Michelle Duggar. Every single time that ladylike soft girly voice comes out of my unrouged lips I hear 'cult lady voice', Stepford Wives and Mrs. Duggar.

What's wrong with sounding like you're living on whiskey and Marlboros? But they swear getting my voice under control will help with the asthma and vocal cord movement. I have my doubts.

Plus some of the exercises seem really silly. There's one where I have to say a bunch of "M" words, first in a chanting monotone, then exaggeratedly and finally in that higher soft toned voice they want me to start always speaking in. I have a sheet of "M" word phrases I'm supposed to use, such as things like "Myra mails monkeys mocha" but I got bored and started making up my own "Mike milks moobs monthly on the moon" or "Mitchell masturbates moistly and modestly". How this is going to help me breath better?

One thing I'm not struggling with, that drive on the Beltway and I-95 to Baltimore. It's 3 hours of riding along at 35 to 40 mph stop and go traffic and brake riding. Nothing at all like the time I was headed to Balto years ago and had a truck driver pull up next to my car waving a dildo and waggling his tongue at me. I wish something that would make me laugh as hard as that did would happen during the drive.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Unwanted Attentions & Attitudes

I have to admit that yesterday started off on a very nasty note for me after I viewed a newspaper article about a financial settlement in the case of Pat Cook being murdered by a local police officer. As the story points out, the killer, Daniel Harmon-Wright, has never said he sorry for gunning down this tiny, non-threatening, middle-aged, Sunday School teacher. He has not admitted any wrong doing, still claiming he was in a life threatening situation, which anyone that ever knew Pat knows could never happen.

For many years Pat served at CUMC along with myself and many others. I knew her all too well and have written about what happened to her once Harmon-Wright demanded to see her drivers license. Harmon-Wright only got three years for gunning down a citizen and then lying about it to the State Police during their investigation.

The sick, sad, scary thing I keep bumping up against in the local citizenry is that no one seems to remember or care that there was a living, breathing human that is no longer here due to the wrong actions of another person. Pat's presence is missed by many.

So when I received that first nagging/scolding email from my husband I responded in a very hostile tone and it escalated from there. But it is good, we both did the airing of the grievances and have learned something new about each other, and discussed making big changes we both need. I think that is healthy. But I really shouldn't have taken my agitation over Pat out on him.

When Jim came home I told him about El Creepo Senior Citizen trying to look down my blouse, toying with my necklace and hitting on me, followed by coming home and finding a pile of messages from guys I don't know hitting on me via Facebook messaging. I don't get it, I don't flirt, I'm not skinny, I'm no great beauty and I'm old.

According to a Dating site the necklace thing is acceptable - "Touch a necklace she’s wearing while brushing your fingers on her neck." Let me tell you it is most definitely on the 'Do not do unless you are already emotionally intimate' list. Random guys, do NOT do this to someone you barely know! You might get slapped for your boundary crossing. You doing this without permission of the lady is the first of many steps of violating sexual consent plus it is just creepy as hell.

Which led right to a discussion of Jim saying he knew this guy or that guy had a crush on me and that he would sometimes run into one of my crushees that would ask if we were still married. I had to point out I'd seen some of the ladies from his high school class that still had crushes on him from high school make it obvious they were crushing hard on him at high school reunions. I guess people develop random crushes sometimes and carry them secretly a long time.

I have to say I didn't see much of this in the old world of the Evangelical church. It is very taboo there.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Starbucks Weirdness

Why do male - female relationships have to be so fraught with drama or missed signals?

Today my husband Jim and I have been having a battle via email. Apparently it is the new modern way to fight? I've recently stood up to him and told him to stop nagging me or else. He's upset with me because of my ongoing medical condition and the fact that I don't do the things he wants me to do in a more timely fashion. After a day of increasingly hostile emails flying back and forth I think it's settling down.

I need to start doing things the first couple of times he indicates he's bugged by it. He needs to be more considerate and realize I'm moving at my own pace. We'll be able to work it out I think but it's just no fun when this crap is going on.

So I cruise on down to my local Starbucks for my afternoon coffee and reading party only to run into the elderly gentleman I talked to the day before. We started talking again, which isn't good because I can feel I have strained the vocal cords. And then it gets weird, way weird.

I get up to leave and he stands, picking up the large mother of pearl pendant hanging off my freshwater pearl necklace, toying with it and (I think) looking down my cleavage. Then he says "How would you like to be an old man's darling?"

Out of the blue!?!

I swear I haven't been flirting with this guy, just talking about different things. Between the emails I've been exchanging with my husband and this unexpected come on I burst into tears and ran out of there.

Throughout my entire marriage on the days when Jim and I disagree it seems to bring out the creeps and "I have always loved you." from male friends/coworkers or some very unwanted advances. It always creates tension and ruins what up til that point had been a good friend relationship. The only good I can see of it happening today is that at least it occurred two short days into talking with this guy. Now I'm going to have to avoid the local Starbucks. There go my afternoon relaxation periods...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Madison County Stories, Forgiveness & Encouragement

Today at my Starbucks afternoon jaunt I started talking with one of the regulars, an older man, and we discovered we knew many of the same people from a dark rural corner of Madison County, Virginia. We drank coffee, hooted and hollered out many stories about that part of our world. We were laughing so hard we were both literally crying.

Told him about the time the moonshiner's alcoholic adult son named Leroy rode his bicycle down to our country store wearing a shiny silvery new plastic cowboy hat. I asked Leroy about the hat and he told me how he'd found an old plastic dishpan up in the woods, held it over a fire till it was soft enough to mold and then he spray painted it silver with a leftover can of paint he got at the dump. I still laugh thinking about how proud Leroy was of his new cowboy hat.

My new friend told me about the time this mountain woman who's family I know had a baby. She wasn't married and had hid the pregnancy. By the time her momma and daddy had worked out she was pregnant and in labor she locked herself into her bedroom and crawled under the bed. They called the sheriff's dept and the closest thing they had in town at that time to a doctor was the vet. The deputies pried open the bedroom window, pushed the vet in and he delivered the baby up under the bed. But not before he'd had everyone park their trucks facing the bedroom with their brights on so he could have some light coming on into the room to see to deliver the baby by. This was many years ago when not everyone had electricity up in the hollow.

We guffawed over the man that has what looks like crude art in his yard, a old timey top wringer washer with a Christmas tree mounted on it and upside down Care Bears hung in the tree. Plus a teepee with graffiti on it and an old wheelchair inside. How the artiste will come out of the house with his shotgun if you slow down to look at his handiwork.

Or the mountain family that was upset at their youngest member who was in prison. They weren't upset he'd driven the family truck through the wall of a rich weekenders house and stolen a pricey antique store to sell to a shop up in New England. They weren't upset he went to jail. What they were upset about was that he 'Wasn't taking it like a man'. They seriously felt like it was a slur on their family honor that he was whining and crying about being in jail to anyone who would listen.

Tales of moonshiners and hillbillies, boats and illegal fishing,  spotlighting and avoiding the Game Warden.

and a thousand more stories.. one day I'm going to write them all down. It would make a funny novel indeed.

My BFF told me on Easter that the B.Z. Body family had left Rabid River church (used to be Possum Creek Church before they renamed it), the church we all used to go to where Mrs. B. Z. Body was the gossiping secretary that drove the split between the two factions, the ones that wanted it like it had always been and those that were going off towards Toronto Revival land. B. Z. had been one of the main instigators in the split and I have studiously avoided her. Last week I was bitching about her takeover of Starbucks for her homeschooling organization use.

I saw Big Fred Body, B. Z.'s husband sitting at a nearby table looking down and out. I decided that if they'd been driven from Rabid River like I'd heard, then chances are they were experiencing the same horrible spiritual abuse I had gone through and so had my friend Joanie. Time to let bygones by bygones and make sure they knew that they weren't alone and it would get better. I'm glad I did.

Big Fred told me that those people that had turned on my friend had turned on B.Z. and the kids. Yet again, no one said a thing to the husband, just took out their nasties on the wife and kids. B. Z. experienced the exact same type of abuse both Joanie and I had been put thru. They've found a new church home, a decent place to heal and were trying to make that transition when everyone you think is a friend turns on you and proceeds to tell you how horrible you are, how you were never a True Christian, how you were going straight to H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks, etc. The Body family is suffering.

A familiar pain, brothers and sisters in Christ turning on you suddenly. I hope I helped ease that just a smidgen this afternoon as I talked to Big Fred. I tried to pour on the love of Christ on him and sharing just a bit of my own journey, encouraging him to keep walking forward and ignoring the hateful horde. Haters gonna hate. Plus some advice on how to handle them. The thing that has worked wonders for me when coming across the haters is that when they approach hurling some zinger about hearing something about you going to the dark side you only reply with questions. You give them no real information but you make them think about where they're getting they information and how it's really just idle gossip.


Nosy Lady From Old Church: "Someone told me you were an apostate now! How could you walk away from Christ like that! Don't you know you're going to hell?" 

Me: "Who told you that?"

NLfOC: "Well, Darleen, Lurleen, the Preachers wife, just EVERYBODY!"

Me: "Why are you so concerned that you couldn't call me but you could talk to everyone else about me?"

NLfOC: "I didn't know how you'd react now that you're an apostate. But you must turn back to the Lord now!"

Me: "So you haven't consulted me but you've decided I'm backslidden? How did you determine that? Did Jesus put you in charge of that? Do you have a secret decoder ring?"

NLfOC: "Everyone says you are."

Me: "How does everyone know that? What hard evidence do you have?"

NLfOC: "Everyone...err.... says"

Silence.... is oh so very golden.... it's usually at this point that the accuser runs away, sometimes crying big old Jesus tears because you've confronted them wanting to know how they know their gossip is true. They can't back up anything they've said with real proof so they run.

There's a time and a place to run  your mouth. Talking about supposedly fallen brothers and sisters isn't it. It's ironic that the very thing B. Z. did to others turned out to be her undoing. But I don't want to see anyone else suffering from spiritual abuse like I did. It's so wrong, wrong enough for me to forgive, forget and try to go out of my way to help others, even others that have wronged me, get past it.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Game of Thrones

Today being Easter we ended up going to a service for a emerging mega church near where our kids live. Jim and I went with our best friends from our old church. They attend this mega church about once a month and attend the splinter church that formed after old church split. They took over a small Free Methodist church and haven't felt totally satisfied.

This mega church decided to hold a huge service in the concert hall of the same university Laura and Andy attend/attended. Huge place that reminds me of the old traditional opera houses with a center sloping general admission pit and balconies laid out like the old boxes in the opera houses. A modern take on the old.

Today was a first for me. Once we left our old church I pretty much stopped attending conferences at mega churches at all. I can't explain it in words, it was just as if a season had ended and I knew that was done for me. But when I committed to going to this church's Easter service I didn't realize it was a huge outreach/conference-like sort of thing. I thought we would be attending one of their regular services. What we got instead was this......

Yes, yes, yes and yes to all of those things pictured above. I was very turned off by the spectacle of it all, but then again, it might have to do with the fact that as soon as it all started up and the fog machine started up it was spewing some sort of strong saccharine sweet unnatural scent that caused my bronchial tubes and vocal cords to react. I spent what time I was there while the fog machine was on sitting in the lobby doing my breathing exercises I'm being taught at Hopkins.

There were blinding lasers and lights, music played by the former worship leader of Hillsong United with the volume turned to eleven, followed by a short sermon and a lonnnngggg salvation call. I couldn't enjoy any of it, some was triggering and the rest I couldn't partake in because of my asthma. This is one of the few worship sets I've been in where I didn't praise God or anything. I was so busy concentrating on my breathing, making the breath ratio of 1 second inhales to 3 second exhales that I could spare no brain cells or oxygen on anything else.

Jim became concerned as I slipped away during the worship because even he could smell the heavy chemical air freshener scent wafting out of the fog machine and knew exactly why I'd disappeared. I waited till the meds kicked in with him sitting beside me before we went back in. 

This mega church has a huge number of young people, twenty-somethings, that are excited about their faith and that's all good. But... for me it was more triggering than anything else. Perhaps their regular services are alright but today was all super over the top acting.

Yeah, I know I'm judging if they're really believers but.... I've seen cults of personality before and performance Christianity so many times now that I can no longer go to a mega church or huge conference without getting the vibes that this is performance-oriented instead of personal relationship.

Me? My faith has turned me inward. I feel no urge to attend charismatic churches any longer. I just want to be alone with the divine, not in corporate worship with fog machines and crowds. I like to do soaking prayer at home or slip down where no one can see me behind the organ at my church to commune or to worship at church off to the side. I'm not performing, I don't need anyone's approval.

So I think this is a one off for me. I'm not feeling inclined to repeat it at all and not just because I react horribly to chemicals that are common. I seek Him alone. He still sits on the throne and I don't need 'rah-rah Jesus' to remind me of it.

One of the few exceptions to my no conferences/mega church experiences is when Jason Upton comes to a nearby church. Whenever I attend certain churches it reminds me of Jason's lyrics to his song "Freedom"

Happy Easter folks!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Starbucks, Spiritual Abuse and Miss Scarlett

My old pastor nicknamed me 'Miss Scarlett' some years back because our church used to have a huge outreach in the oldest part of our town and we ladies would dress in Civil War costumes. With my dark hair and velvet outfit I apparently reminded him of Vivien Leigh. Oh I wish I was that pretty!

But a couple of days ago I felt like I might have needed smelling salts and a Victorian fainting couch like the ladies of the Civil War south when I had yet another encounter with the most hateful gossipy old peahen from my old church.

I like Starbucks, but I might just have to start taking my business elsewhere, like the downtown hipster coffee shop if I keep on encountering a lady I mentally call Ms. B. Z. Body.

B.Z. has taken over Starbucks. She's there every single day her twenty four year old home schooled specially sheltered daughter works. Heaven forfend that poor little Mini B.Z. have some sort of unpleasant encounter with an atheist or something! I feel positively faintified at the idea!

So what did B.Z. do to earn my distaste. Simple. She was the secretary of my old church and her office was gossip central. She is the one that created the nasty church split, harassed my best friend away from the church, 'borrowed' thousands from another friend and never paid a dime, spread the rumors that I had denied Christ and rejected Christianity and those are just a few of her highlights. She is ground zero for the years of harassment I endured from my former brothers and sisters in Christ for daring to leave my old church.

Since I've been mostly home without working the last month or so I've developed the shameful habit of spending a relaxing hour or so every weekday afternoon in the warm pleather embrace in the sunny big window of my local Starbucks with coffee and my Kindle. I look forward to it, a mental vacation, time out from life.

So I knew B.Z.lurked there at times to watch over Mini B.Z. but.... I had no idea that it was B.Z.'s new office either. B.Z. is head of the local homeschooling organization and now she conducts all her meetings and crap at Starbucks, hogging the biggest table for her and her homeschooling momma pals. They sit there and discuss the official group business without buying a thing for hours upon hours. And yeah, there's a large amount of Evangelical gossiping going around that table too.

Part of me wants to dob them in to Starbucks corporate but the other part doesn't want to get Mini BZ in trouble. That poor kid has told me many times when her mother wasn't breathing down her neck how badly she wants to get away from mom and dad. I believe her considering they monitor everything she does except for her college classes. I'm not about to make waves for Mini BZs job.

But neither am I going to allow B.Z. herself to abuse me again. The times she has tried to talk to me in Starbucks I just look down my nose at her, don't reply and go back to whatever magical land I'm reading about in my Kindle. People who've abused you don't deserve any consideration from you at all.

Monday, April 14, 2014

DC Beltway Bingo

The last few weeks have been mostly mundane, which is why there's been no updates. Plus I've been thinking about a few changes/upgrades that need to happen for NLQ. One is putting up a recovery section, with articles on everything from explanations of different traumas and triggers, to helpful suggestions, to stories of how our readers healed from spiritual abuse. I started that one last week.

Today was the first of the new round of testing and vocal cord therapy at Johns Hopkins clinics in Baltimore. I finally do have a diagnosis on the vocal cords. Yes, I have Vocal Cord Movement Syndrome, which I'll be referring to as VCMS from now on. I'm working with a vocal coach to learn different breathing techniques to keep my cords open when an allergen triggers them shut and makes my asthma attack much worse.

The therapy went well. I learned a great deal and have a plan. I have to give notice to the clinic because the tests they ran for allergens a few months ago shows I react badly to molds. The facility is lousy with mold and different new things I'm allergic too, like horses, goats and the good Lord only knows what. Tomorrow I quit.

I cannot go back to working for the floral sales company even as they told me I could come back any time because I'm not supposed to talk that much because of the strain on the vocal cords and the havoc it plays with my oxygen levels and breathing.

Work options are so limited I think I might apply for disability. Basically what I've been told I can safely do for my asthma and VCMS as work is work online from home without constantly using the telephone. I've had a few contacts with content provision firms, home contractor firms for coding, link-checking, and various other things and I might do one of those. In the meantime I will be continuing on with NLQ.

Only really horrible part of the day this time is the drive. Johns Hopkins is a 2 hour and 15 minute drive in no traffic, but.... if there's traffic it's going to take at least a good 3 hours. Part of which is on the Washington DC outer Beltway and on I-95 up into Baltimore. ALL of those things on my Beltway Bingo picture I saw at least once, usually multiple times before I got home again. You must be ultra alert to all the snafus on the drive.

Compounding this is my spring/summer frustration driving in the Greater DC area, families coming to visit DC pulling travel trailers behind their cars. Okay, so I know they bring valuable tourist dollars into the area but they cause a giant nightmare on the commuting roads and there's virtually no place to park those behemoths in the Capital. The out of staters also don't realize that if they don't go at least 60 mph on the commuter roads they'll either get run over or be the target of many anger honks. People drive like idiots on the highways, interstates and beltways here.

Since the cherry trees are in full bloom and the festival is taking place it meant that traffic on the beltway was a zoo. But it wasn't any better when I got to near where I was going. I was sitting on the off-ramp in Baltimore, waiting to get on Eastern Ave. to go to the Bayview Campus of Johns Hopkins, sitting about three cars back from the light. There's this homeless veteran that hangs out and asks for money there and I usually give him a few bucks. Today I was too far back, but I noticed the guy in a white truck at the light handed him some cash and talked with the veteran a bit. The light turned green and the guy in the white truck was caught unawares, I nearly honked, had my hand on the steering wheel to honk because he was so slow, but he did finally mosey into the intersection a good 30 seconds after the light turned green.... and WHAMMO.... got t-boned by a lady in a sedan. Almost took out the homeless veteran.

Strangest case of karma I've seen considering the man in the truck who was hit had just given the homeless vet money. Anti-karma?

Lady has clearly run a red light, not a yellow, not even close to a yellow, gets out of her car and starts screeching at the guy who's truck she just ripped up badly. The rest of us behind him go around the wreck and park on the shoulder to wait for the cops. It was a cluster you-know-what and we all stayed to give statements to police to dispute what she was trying to say happened.

More excitement than I wanted today.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Sunburns and Turd Polishing

Nope, no whining. I'm much better now. On Thursday after another doctors visit I grabbed the nasty bull by the slimy horns and wrestled it away by spending the afternoon doing something that always puts my emotions right, working in the garden. Plus the new meds for the allergies and asthma are helping a little bit. Being able to breath is awesome!

I went to the nursery to get flowering plants to replace everything that died during this severe winter that usually comes back. The winter was brutal that it even killed the ivy I had planted in the large round planters that flank the front door. I got things in every color imaginable.

The last four days I worked at planting those pretty flowering things and more spring vegetables. I've started digging out the grass to put in the base of a fire pit in the backyard and yesterday afternoon I perused organic seed catalogs, making plans to order seeds for Dragons Egg Cucumber and Amaranth seeds, in the sweet sweet sunshine.

Four days in the blessed sunshine and fresh air. But towards sundown last night I noticed I'd started to turn a cherry blossom pink, me that is Cajun, dark and never burns. Apparently one of my new meds causes sun sensitivity so I'm experiencing like the 4th sunburn I've had in my lifetime. You poor pale skinned folks!

Yesterday at church I asked a pal that works the same place I do what was happening up on the hill the facility sits upon. I haven't worked for nearly two weeks. His answer made me laugh, he said, "They're all busy polishing the turd."

The founders will be there tomorrow and apparently everyone there is engaged in trying to make it look like the place is good and functional instead of what it actually is, a giant turd. I know I'll not get called in this week with the founders and others from the west coast office being onsite. Shrugs, I have more gardening to do anyway, I guess I'll have to wear a hat, long sleeves and pants to do it now.

Friday, April 04, 2014

A Few More Puzzle Pieces

This week I've been trekking back and forth to the doctors offices. First at Johns Hopkins and later here locally. It's been a huge triggering kind of a week but I feel like I did at least gain a few more pieces of knowledge about my ongoing asthma and allergies. I just wish the process was less triggering and much easier.

Ironically I've been offered a position at a physicians office. Not sure I'm going to take it, but pretty sure I'm not going back to my old job either. I don't need that constant drama and the lies of the management people.

One of the big things I've realized is that I'm not emotionally healthy because I've never dealt with the sexual abuse I suffered in my childhood. I've been in and out of therapy in the past but I think I'm going to have to go back in. My aunt, also molested as a child, has been telling me for years that I'm emotionally ill because of what happened and could not even realize how sick I actually was. After working around kids from abusive situations and reading many of the therapy books at work plus my reactions to triggers I have to say she's right. So today I'm rescheduling with my old encouraging therapist.

I'm not depressed, I'm just not right in the head.

Johns Hopkins - I had a visit with a vocal cord doctor, an expert and had tests run. After having natural childbirth and a fingernail cut off without anesthesia I can honestly say that the tests they did were the most painful I've experienced, even as I've had similar testing in the past and it wasn't nearly that bad. I've been developing a whopper sinus infection for weeks now and that impacted the testing. There was lots of gagging (nearly puked on the doc three different times), weird test instructions like yelling out counting and a deep lake of tears they tapped.

The tests? Inconclusive. I have to repeat them all in three months. They could not determine either way about my vocal cords or provoke them to shut. I have to bring in a few more triggering things, like cigarette butts, cleaning supplies and other things I react to they did not have available.

The thing that made all of this so flipping emotionally triggering is that a herd of residents and interns interviewed me again and again, right down to asking me if I'd been sexually abused as a child. The young asian doctor was really invading my personal space, making me very uncomfortable, asking that questions and I broke in tears and could not stop for two days. See what I mean about needing to deal with this? It has only been in the past ten years that I could admit to myself or anyone else what happened. Jim learned of it ten years ago. My mother still doesn't know.

The good? Meds switcheroo and additions, including an experimental new leukotrine inhibitor, back to some of the mast cell inhibitors that helped in the past and a proton pump inhibitor. Also I was told by the respiratory therapist that I'd likely developed breathing patterns during that trauma that are making all of this much worse. She taught me a few ways to deal with the breathing and I'm to start going to Hopkins twice a month for breathing therapy. It can't hurt.

Looks like singing has saved my life on many occasions. Just having a strong and trained diaphragm has allowed me to keep powering through some of my asthma attacks. 

Between all of that I started bleeding in my sinuses and windpipe from the tests so it was back to the doctor for treatment. I have thin blood and bleed/bruise easily and treatment for the suddenly much worse sinus infection.

Yesterday and today are all about resting till the meds kick in and the sinus infection is better. I am wiped right now.