Thursday, October 20, 2016

Conquering the Battle Within

From my earliest moments, I can remember not wanting people to notice me. I was never comfortable having to interact with people. Immediate family was OK, but other relatives or “company” made me want to hide in my room. Social situations were torture.

As the years went by, it got worse. I had very few close friends at school and a terror of being called on in class. When I started junior high, none of my friends were in any of my classes. I did make a few new friends, but not many. High school was the worst. By then, I just wanted to fade into the walls. Again, I had a couple of friends I felt somewhat close to, but they weren’t in any of my classes. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye. Social situations were unbearable.

About the only place I felt secure was church, but even then it was extremely difficult to interact with anyone. I participated as little as possible in Sunday School. The church service was OK because I didn’t have to do anything except sit there.

In my senior year of high school I saw an off-campus counselor, who I became comfortable with and enjoyed my sessions with her, but it didn’t do a thing for my phobia with people. I don’t think anyone realized just how debilitating it was becoming. By the time I graduated I could barely talk to my own family.

I dropped out of Chico State and then Butte College because I just could not stand the thought of being in a class of total strangers. At that point, my parents knew something was wrong and sent me to a psychiatrist. They assumed he would be able to straighten me out and I would be a good girl and go back to school. Those first sessions with him were absolutely soul-numbing. My mind was in a howling darkness. I don’t remember what medication I was put on, but after several months I was able to talk to the doctor with a bit more ease. I still couldn’t function well in social situations. Even coffee hour at church was difficult.

After 2 years of medication and seeing the shrink I was minimally better so that when I met Marv I didn’t try to hide under a table. I still couldn’t talk much, but could answer questions. Marv was very patient and gentle.

Even after I got married and had kids I found initiating conversations very difficult to do. We made good friends at the church here and that helped. I also started forcing myself to interact in small ways. At the bank, I would force myself to say something to the teller, like what a nice day it was or that I really liked the blouse/tie that she/he was wearing. Little things like that. And it was definitely something I had to force myself to do.

I was almost in my 40s before I considered myself to be what others would call ‘normal’ in being able to function socially. And that was AFTER getting professional help. I consider the first 20 years of my life as a prison, the second 20 as a struggle, and the third 20 as freedom.

First and foremost, the credit goes to God. He saw me through the truly dark times. Dr. Popp and Dr. Raitt continued the journey. And for the last 40+ years Marv has been my lodestar. He’s kept me on course.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Snippets of Childhood

My grandparents had a grocery store with Grandpa’s butcher shop in the back. Miller’s Market. Kansas City, KS. At some point my parents and I moved in with them and lived in the apartment over the store. I think it was after my mom had a miscarriage. I remember one Christmas getting roller skates, and my mom pushing me up and down the wooden-floor aisles of the store after hours. I can still hear the sound of those wheels on the wood.
I also discovered something really cool. For some reason I was in tears and sitting in the front room with the Christmas tree. I noticed that my teary eyes made the lights on the tree look awesome! I kept trying to nurse those tears for a while so I could make the lights twinkle more.

For kindergarten and half of 1st grade, I went to Bethlehem Lutheran in So Cal. It was a great financial sacrifice for my parents, and I wish I could’ve told them how much it meant to me in later years to have had that sound Christian base. Miss Robin was my K teacher. We had cubbies for our naptime blankets and milk and crackers for snack. One day I was playing with some kind of block toy and something didn’t go right with it and I said “Darn it!” Miss Robin gasped and said “Who said that??” I raised my hand, said “I did,” and was going back to the blocks when Miss Robin read me the riot act about NOT saying that word. I had no idea why that was such a bad word. I heard it at home all the time. I realized you had to be very careful in what you said in a church school.
Every week we would have some kind of chapel time in the church proper. After we got back to the class room, the best behaved child got his/her name on the blackboard. It was a high honor. One time I was wedged between Miss Robin and another child and fell asleep. When we got back to the class room I was STUNNED when Miss Robin wrote MY NAME on the board! I felt very guilty because I wasn’t well-behaved…I was ASLEEP! But I kept my mouth shut and accepted the honor…

In first grade, Miss Vanders was my teacher. We would start the day with the pledge, a hymn and then recite our Bible verse assignment from the previous day. One by one, we would go up to the teacher’s desk, recite our verse(s) and then she would mark in our prayer book the next day’s assignment.
One of the most vivid memories I have is singing the hymn, To Thy Temple I Repair. This was learned by rote, not reading, and all I knew about the word ‘repair’ was that it meant fixing something that was broken. I knew ‘temple’ was another word for a church. So I had a very clear mental picture of us kids walking into church, each of us carrying a large hammer so we could repair it.
As in Kindergarten, we had chapel each week. One time I was sitting and happened to be chewing gum. I don’t know if one of the kids alerted Miss Vanders, but she turned in her seat to face me and said “Do you have gum?” but she said it so fast that I misunderstood her. I thought she asked if I was dumb! Of course I’m not! I said “NO.” She then asked what I had in my mouth. I took the gum out and said “Gum.” Had NO IDEA this was a no-no. And of course, since I had said ‘no’ the first time and then brazenly showed it to her, she took that as impudence. When we got back to class after chapel, she had me up to the front, drew a small dot on the blackboard and had me stand there with my nose to the dot for a period of time. What a fall from the grace of Kindergarten!!! Once again, I get notice on the blackboard, but for the heinous crime of GUM!
The last day of school before Christmas vacation we all had our little manger we had made out of paper with a tiny rubber Baby Jesus to put in it. I was sitting at my desk with my little manger and looking around the room with all the Christian Christmas decorations and thinking how much I loved it all. When we did our recitations that morning as usual, I went up for mine, and Miss Vanders marked my next one, but laughed a little while doing so and said “I don’t know why I’m doing this. You won’t be here.” I didn’t quite grasp that this was going to be the last time I would be at this school. We moved up to Chico during Christmas vacation, and that was the end of parochial school for me. There was no Lutheran school in Chico.
After vacation, I went to Parkview School in Chico. We did the pledge, we sang God Bless America, but there was no hymn and no Bible recitations. I missed that.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

October 2016 Book Report

Agree to Disagree (2015) by Emily Thomas

Blue Hills Library series. There are plans for a big-box store to locate in Blue Hill. The town quickly becomes divided between the ones wanting the store, and the ones who are dead-set against it. Feelings run very high and relationships suffer. The pastor even feels compelled to speak about this division and how the people need to find common ground again. At the end of the book, the store chooses another city for their location and the people of Blue Hill have to start forgiving each other.
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Tea Rose (2016) by Erin Keeley Marshall

Tearoom Mysteries. Elaine and Jan’s helper, Rose, discovers her own death certificate when going through her mother’s papers after her mother dies. She also discovers that her mother was not her birth mother. This book had a lot of history pertaining to the Berlin Wall and some of the things that went on in that time. Very interesting story, and marvelous history lesson as well.
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P. Moran, Operative (1947) by Percival Wilde

This was a real corker. Pete Moran is the world’s worst detective, but things always seem to go right in the end and he gets the credit. You get a real flavor of the times along with the slang. And nobody dies!!
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A Case for Mr. Crook (1952) by Anthony Gilbert

Awesome book! Funny as all get-out. The author was actually a woman (Lucy Beatrice Malleson) who wrote under several different names. She wrote many books about the lawyer/detective Arthur G. Crook and they are real gems. In this one, the despicable Violet is killed, Miss Pinnegar is kidnapped and Mr. Crook solves it all in his unique way.
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Hungry Hill (1943) By Daphne du Maurier

Boy, was this book a downer!! Ms. du Maurier was a great writer, and this was no exception, but wow! NO ONE WAS HAPPY. The book takes place in Ireland 1820 to 1920 and is mainly about the feud between the wealthy Brodrick family and the vengeful Donovan family. Great turmoil, heartbreak, what-have-you. Then the book ends. Period.