My Inner Worlds
Today my mother enters a new year, and I’d like to say a new beginning. But for her that won’t happen. Mom’s diagnosis of Alzheimers was officially made over three years ago, but her mental ability declined well before the doctor’s announcement. I remember a family gathering the summer of 2013 when I knew my mother was no longer inhabiting the body of the woman standing before me. I shared a sip of my beer with her as we made small talk in the kitchen. She almost fell backward..from one sip. My mind whispered, “This isn’t Mom. This is some sweet old lady, and Mom is gone.”
I love my mom. We didn’t always agree, but I’d say a lot of parents and children experience that phenomenon. The kids in my church and neighborhood adored her. Mom nurtured those who lacked a stable home, she fed the hungry and was known for her homemade chocolate chip cookies, and she played the piano every single year in the local elementary school so kids would have a music education. Many of my teachers from second grade through senior year of high school told Mom she was amazing and how they wished more parents were as involved as she was. Each of those teachers had a Webb child in their class almost every year for six years (we have a big family).
As a gift to Mom, who can no longer remember, I would like to share the incredibly selfless things she did for me as I grew up in a home with seven children.
First of all, I was born at home and Mom almost died. She presented the scissors used to cut my umbilical cord on each of my birthdays, sometimes getting quite emotional. When she was pregnant with me, she just knew she was carrying a little Sarah and named me before she and Dad knew my gender.
When I was 15, I got sick. We didn’t go to doctors for religious reasons, and I experienced illness for a year before it became a fad in my church to see a homeopathic doctor who treated our minister’s deathly-ill little girl. Dad and Mom drove me the two hours to his mountain office and our lives changed. My treatment, besides taking mega vitamins and homeopathic remedies, included a drastic change to my eating. No sugar, no caffeine, no wheat, no dairy, with several fruits and vegetables taken off the approved dietary plan. Mom prepared special meals for me for an entire year without complaining. She already cooked and baked everything from scratch for the family, now she cooked and baked twice per meal because her Budgie was not well. (She also gave me a nickname early in my life, and it’s stuck in our family’s lingo.)
When I was 17, I got sick again. Repeat the above paragraph. When I was 19…yep, you guessed it. Sick. This time, though, the dietary changes were extreme. Fresh juice for every meal and snack for six out of seven days. My mom became a juicing machine. She scoured all the grocery stores for fruits and vegetables in a time when juicing wasn’t popular. Her budget was limited, and eating a fresh foods diet strained the family resources. I felt bad for the added expense, but somehow Mom made it all happen.
Now that I’m once again changing my eating choices due to a desire for a healthier body and for ethical considerations, I am appalled at all the work I face in making my meals. I’m having to consider what to cut out of my life so I can have time to cook, and go to yoga, and write, oh yeah…and work the day job. The love that will probably dwindle into fond memories is reading, a pastime that has served me since my awkward teen years when a story was more comfortable than socializing. Mom didn’t have the luxury of reading until most of the kids left for college. Then she became a voracious reader, keeping reams of notes on her favorite epic fantasy series because the plots and characters became too intertwined for even the author to track without an assistant. I think somewhere my dad still has those notes.
I wish I could juice Mom back to health and well-being, as she did for me years ago. Instead, I’ll keep the memories alive until I no longer can.
Happy birthday, Mom.
Eclipse week has been intense for me, thus no new work for the site. I’m writing my longest post yet and will publish it on Tuesday (Aug 29). It’s been cooking for over a month now and is in honor of a special lady who won’t be able to read or appreciate it.
Until then, enjoy a photo taken as I arrived home from work to see happy neighborhood geese enjoying the shade of our crepe myrtle.
Two weeks ago today our sweet Gypsy scared Matt and me (well, maybe just me, but Matt played along). Our pack walk around the neighborhood ended as normal in our front yard, with Gypsy walking between the two rose bushes, sniffing the scent of the bunnies who love to nibble grass in the cool shade. She leaped in the air and afterwards wouldn’t put down her hind leg. Trying to determine what’s wrong with an animal is similar to diagnosing an infant—little to no communication ability. I only knew she was hurt, but not how.
Matt held Gypsy while we looked for a splinter in her paw, and finding none, we palpated the paw to see if she reacted to a potential break. Matt’s a pretty wise man and suggested we let her rest and see how she felt later. “Mom” isn’t wise when it comes to her fur babies and knew she couldn’t rest while Gypsy hid in a corner licking her paw and looking pitiful. Matt didn’t even roll his eyes when I searched my iPhone for the nearest emergency clinic and found one not too far from my yoga studio. I took it as a sign.
Quail Corners Animal Hospital quickly answered their phone and told me to bring Gypsy right in. We didn’t have to wait to be shown into an exam room, so we had privacy for Gypsy as she fretted at being in a vet’s office. Oddly, she seemed able to use her back paw as she tried time and again to jump onto my lap while we waited. The doctor had to see the other unfortunate pets who arrived before us.
Dr. Jarchow introduced herself as a nerd—Matt and I both wear geeky t-shirts, and she recognized kindred spirits. She diagnosed a severely stubbed toe for poor Gypsy, who seemed to already be feeling better. Gypsy got an anti-inflammatory shot to help with the swelling, along with a shot of Cheez Whiz as a treat. I’m sure the “severe” in the diagnosis was for my benefit since we’d already told her Matt wanted to take the wait-and-see approach. I’d have felt bad if we’d taken Gypsy to the emergency room for a regular stubbed toe. But knowing it was severe made the difference when I shelled out $174.
While we drove home and the happy dog shed all over my car’s interior, Matt and I discussed the two other times we had used an emergency vet, the times when our dogs' lives were saved by the medical care available during non-business hours. One was for Asia, our adorable second-born who is no longer with us. We were told that Asia would have died overnight if we hadn’t taken her in for treatment of a terrible canine virus that had been going around. The second time was for baby Tia (she’s ten, but will always be our baby). Tia had bronchitis and wouldn’t have died overnight, but was in critical shape. She is the one of our three current dogs who has an enormous file at our normal vet’s office—many health issues that I don’t hesitate to take her in for.
Do I overdo it? Yes. Do I care? Not at all. These animals are my children, my friends, and my snuggle buddies. Since they can’t communicate their pain level to me, I have to make that call for them. I choose to be lenient and liberal in my interpretation of what they need. Which is also the reason I’m not allowed to feed them. Since Matt took over their portion sizes, they have all lost a lot of weight and are healthier for it. Tia’s issues and vet visits have decreased since she’s taken off the excess pounds. They still act hungry and underfed around me, but Matt’s right. I’ve hardened my heart and have stayed out of meal decisions for our dogs’ own good.
Kelley Armstrong releases Rituals tomorrow, her fifth book in the Cainsville series. I have read all four previous books multiple times, fascinated by this alternate world living side-by-side present day Chicago. Currently I’m finishing a re-read of Betrayals, the fourth book, since it will get me back into the story for maximum enjoyment of the evolving tale of Olivia Taylor-Jones. I’m not a book blogger, so you can read more about the series storyline on Kelley’s website.
I enjoy books about strong women who do actual work in a realistic world. Authors who can detail a bit of the heroine’s work day grab my attention in a way that satisfies my CPA mind while feeding the fantasy- and magic-loving parts of me. I’ve read almost all of Kelley’s many books and enjoyed each one. Some are true fantasy, some are YA, and others are set in the Canadian Yukon with no magic at all. Her writing and character development are compelling and keep me buying her latest.
If you’re looking for a good series, I recommend picking up a copy of Omens and starting your journey into Cainsville. You won’t regret it.
Seven weeks ago today I took my first Yin yoga class at Raleigh Yoga Company. Since that day I have found more range of motion, a freedom in my body, and a growing desire to take better care of my health. For the past year I’ve tried to give up alcohol. Matt and I even made it a couples thing, thinking it would strengthen our resolve. Our last effort together tanked when I told Matt I was just going to drink when I wanted, and he’s left me in the dust in his success of living an alcohol-free life. This weekend I’ve finally found that place inside that prefers to stay sober, to stay clear of the inflammation it causes in my muscles and tissues, to be free from the brain fog it gives me. When I gave up consuming refined sugar many years ago (I had to for health reasons), it took me years to find that place where I preferred to live without it in my system. It’s rare for me to cheat on that no-sugar rule, but I yo-yoed for a long time. I may have found my balance point for not wanting to stray from the no-alcohol way of life.
This is huge for me. I’m Taurean, which the astrology buffs will know translates to “likes good food and beverages in a luxurious, comfortable setting.” I already eat gluten-free and absolutely don’t cheat on that. Sugar, alcohol, and gluten products comprise most of the “fun” food in my opinion. I have to find things in life that mean more to me than food and drink, and yoga has opened a potential door for that. I’ve even had thoughts of trying vegetarianism again, but I’m not jumping into too much change at once. Sustainable steps will lead me to success in meeting my health and fitness goals over the long term.
I still have neck pain after seven weeks, but my lower back has fewer issues. My eyesight has yet to improve. My cervical spine hits a nerve that I think affects the vision in my left eye. I can wake up with blurry vision in that eye, unable to read even the largest text, but still able to see light and color. It lasts all day, sometimes up to a week. The first time it happened was scary, but I’ve gotten used to it over the past three years. My intent for Bikram yoga is to heal the spine and allow my eyesight to remain steady and clear.
Yoga works for me and my life goals. I’m so glad I finally took the plunge and started my practice. And…today for the first time I stayed in toe squat for the full two minutes without releasing the pressure on my toes. Happy dance.
The time passed where I could hide myself, yet still I hid. Others saw within what I wouldn’t—a strength, a keen edge used in kindness, a woman containing her power inside a shadow of her true self. Not for one second more. I choose to live fully and to consciously build the creative reality I have craved my entire life.
No more silence. No more shame. No more swallowing my secret.
At age 29, the year I found my talented therapist (see post here), I recalled a sliver of memory that shattered my foundation. I was sexually assaulted as a young child. My reason for going to therapy was to stop having panic attacks when I drove in the rain. After six months of building trust with my mental health partner, we dove to a deep place that stored my frantic need to control my life. I cannot express the devastation I felt as I came out of that remembered incident. I wouldn’t believe it at first, my mind telling me it happened to my sister, not to me. But the compassion and love in Jan’s eyes and voice as she coached me through that initial horror told me the truth. She knew. I think she knew all along.
Looking back over my life and my marriage up to that point, all the signs were there. Neither Matt nor I suspected my young past, but together we pieced the puzzle into place and both had to deal with an altered reality. He gave me the space I needed to heal, which took a lot of time. Actually, the healing has been ongoing because an additional layer will reveal itself, and I have to dig deeper to work through those “new” issues.
Each layer takes me further into my desire to give up the need for control that plagues me, to care for my self and for my body, to treat both well. It’s not my or my body’s fault that someone harmed the burgeoning four-year-old light that was supposed to shine in this world. I will shutter my lantern no more.
That’s what I’m grieving this summer. The loss of a childhood I never realized I missed. The loss of a potential we each are given. The loss of the choice to strengthen it or to let it dry in the streambed of my life. My flow was altered, but it wasn’t stopped. It has struggled to find the channel where it can roar with the power of not a stream, but of a churning rapid. Was my creative spirit fated to be broken so I would flounder through my years, longing to write the words I see in my head, yet too frightened of opening that portal and seeing more than I wanted to? There’s no controlling the artistic expression that feeds my heart’s longing and opens the gateway to my innermost pulse.
I guess that’s the fear I’m working through now. If I had my world shattered at age 29 by peering through the door to a healthier emotional state, how will my current life change as I open the creativity flowing through my veins? For the past three years I’ve intentionally worked on nudging myself through this chokehold. Seriously, it chokes me, a grip around my throat. Maybe that’s why I have neck pain, and maybe my spinal issues will fade as I free the voice waiting to be heard.
This blog is part of my journey to freedom. Yoga has been crucial for accessing these stale, stagnant remains of a life that no longer defines who or what I am. A secret spoken is a secret no more. It has no power left to generate the silence and aloneness with which I’ve felt I had to live.
I am rising from the ashes of an unconscious life, and I feel the power of a massive force hidden within. This picture of a planet rising from stormy cloud cover resonates.
A quarter turn, to be precise. Twenty-five years ago today Matt proposed to me on top of the Empire State Building. While we had already been planning our wedding and determining how to make things work as a married couple our senior year at college, I didn’t know he had purchased a ring before we made our trek to New York for me to meet his family. Matt had taken me ring shopping in the Diamond District of NYC earlier that day to throw me off track—he thought I suspected he was going to pop the question. I didn’t. I can’t pull off surprises, so I figure no one else has that capacity.
We got caught in a downpour that afternoon while sight-seeing and I didn't eat properly. My blood sugar crashed, making me grouchy (that's my excuse for it). If I had been Matt, I wouldn’t have wanted to be tied to someone that cranky for the rest of my life. He’s a trooper and obviously loves me. After taking me out for an ice cream drink at TGI Friday’s and seeing my mood lift, he suggested we go to the Empire State Building. It was dark. I was tired. I said no. He cajoled, and I finally caved. I’d like to think I didn’t grump about having to walk again in uncomfortable shoes, but I probably did.
We arrived at the top of the building and enjoyed the amazing view. Matt posed me on top of a short inner wall so he could memorialize the moment with his ever-present camera. I looked towards a group of Japanese tourists and when I turned back to Matt, he was down on his knees. I thought he’d dropped something, until I saw the ring box in his outstretched hand. He asked. I remained silent. After a few moments, he drew me out of my shock with, “Well? You’re worrying me.” My laughter rang through the night as I reached for the ring and said yes. As we huddled close to each other admiring how the jewelry looked on my hand, we both noticed one of the Japanese tourists taking pictures of us. Romance on top of the Empire State Building is part of the American lure.
The roll of film from that night didn’t survive the hot car during our summer trip, so I have no photos to share. But here’s something just as fun: my big hair from that time period. This picture is of Matt and me as newlyweds, enjoying Graduation Brunch before we join the world as real adults.
My hair and I love you, Matt.