Asleep at the Wheel

No, this won’t be a post about the band. Sorry to mislead you. But I do feel like I have been asleep at the wheel these past few weeks. Lately I have been battling sleep issues and faith issues. Last night I finally went to sleep around 11pm. That sounds normal right? Well, consider I had been up for 32 hours. Not so normal anymore, huh? I go through these cycles where I am on a “normal” sleep routine for a few weeks and then out of nowhere I am caught up in the world of insomnia and it takes me up to a week to get back on track. The flip side of this is that there are days when I am so tired I don’t get out of bed until late in the afternoon. I have no explanation for any of this other than the fact that I am Bipolar and with that I experience many side effects from the pills they have me on. Anyway, this happens far too often for my comfort and it interferes with everything. It’s hard to make appointments because I never know if I am going to be in a cycle or not. I have canceled many appointments due to this problem.

My faith issues are a direct result of me not being a regular church-goer. I don’t have the money that it would take to pay for the gas to get me to church every Sunday. So, I try and do my own Bible Study online and it has been difficult. It is not easy to do this as a one-man-show. I need people to bounce ideas off of. I need other folks’ input. The big question at present concerns my salvation and my standing with God. I am certain that I have committed the “unpardonable sin”: blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. You see, I have anger problems (bipolar, hello) and when I have an episode I could care less who I am talking to and who the audience is – I will yell and scream and cuss and say all sorts of things. And, I think on one occasion I cussed out the Holy Ghost. And if Matthew 12:31 is accurate (Jesus speaking) then I am in pretty hot water.

“Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. “

So, reading this and not having the knowledge that, say, a pastor has, I am worried that my episode will be held against me and that I am going to hell. Simple as that.

It would be a shame if God is so anal that He does not take into consideration a person’s mental health when He judges a person’s faithfulness but the Bible is not clear on this. Jesus says that particular sin will not be forgiven, but does that carry over into my salvation? I mean, if – and it’s a big if – I were to be saved, would He look at me differently in heaven? Will I be sent to the back of the bus, pushed out of His immediate presence? Will this affect my opportunity to store up treasures in heaven?

What are your thoughts?

Enchiladas and Homemade Sauce

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We got this recipe from 12tomatoes.com. It is a very good recipe and so easy to make. We love the fact that we can make the sauce ahead of time (in large quantities) and let the flavors marry overnight (or longer). We also love the fact that a little food goes a long way. We can feed the three of us for just a few dollars this way and we are all full. AND, homemade is always better than store-bought.

 

Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
1 large, white onion
1 green bell pepper
10- 12 flour tortillas
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
3 cups Mexican blend cheese
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
fresh cilantro

For the Sauce:

2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350º F and lightly grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.

2. Begin the sauce by heating oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and whisking in the flour. Stirring so it doesn’t burn, cook for 1 minute.

3. Add in the chili powder, garlic powder, salt, oregano, cumin and pepper, and stir it all  together.

4. Gradually pour in the chicken stock and continue whisking to get rid of lumps.

5.  Lower the heat and let the mixture simmer until thick. (about 12-15 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.

6. In a large pan or skillet, brown the beef on all sides over medium-high heat. Drain and discard the fat, then season with salt and pepper and set aside.

7. In the same pan, saute the onions and bell peppers for 5-7 minutes, or until softened.

8. Create an assembly line at your workstation by lining up tortillas, sauce, beans, beef and veggies, and cheese.

9.  On a flat surface, lay out a tortilla and spread a medium amount of red sauce over the whole thing. Place beans in a line down the center of the tortilla, then top with beef, vegetables and cheese.

10. Roll up the tortilla (don’t worry about folding in the sides) and transfer it to baking dish.

11. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Once finished, cover enchiladas with remaining red sauce and cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and enchilada is warmed through.

12. Remove from the oven, garnish with cilantro and enjoy!

My Freedom

I will not enter your game

For I won’t accept your rules

I refuse to remain

Within the company of fools

I live within my mind

A world unto it’s own

Beyond the realms of time

A universe unknown

My soul adrift a-sea

To feel and co-exist

With boundless energy

A freedom man has missed

Captured to this day

Within this raging gulf

Were not but for to stay

Would leave at once my self

Unite the world in peace?

By man cannot be done

But the spirit through love and peace

Is shared with all by one

Why must life, itself, be measured?

Can we give to it time and place?

My life within is treasured

Through all with whom is grace

No, I shall not but yet remain

Without your bordered land

For with me there is no game

Only life

A love so grande

October 19, 1992

The Bipolar Brain on Pills

brain2It’s quite the challenge to stay busy – busy enough to not have to think. I don’t like to think. It reminds me of how miserable my life is now. I am not able to work in this condition, with these challenges. But it would be nice to have some sort of routine that I can settle in to. Something that I can build from. You can’t think outside the box if the box doesn’t exist. And my box disintegrated over a decade ago.

I listen to music. And try to write. And do research. But I am bored. It is driving me crazy. I posted a few weeks ago about this very thing: not having a hobby – or – something to pursue. A couple of you helped out with suggestions and ideas and I thank you. But I am still here with the same dilemma. If I don’t stay busy, I’ll contemplate the future I have to look forward to. And, it is a dreary future. One of some suffering. But there is no getting around it. I have to live with this mental illness for the rest of my life. Unless, some genius comes up with a cure, which is highly unlikely being that we haven’t even got a handle on how the brain talks to itself and creates thought, and memories, and dreams.

The future does look grim. These pills that I have to take to stay sane make me feel like an idiot. I can’t make sentences like I used to. That part of the brain has been altered, whether by the illness or by the pills or both together. And it is only going to get worse. They tell me it will be like having a frontal lobotomy. I haven’t looked up what exactly that entails and I am not sure I want to know but what I have heard said is that the frontal lobe, well, let me just share with you what I found on google….

“The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that controls

important cognitive skills in humans, such as emotional

expression, problem solving, memory, language, judgment,

and sexual behavior. It is, in essence, the “control panel”

of our personality and our ability to communicate.”

So my future looks pretty bleak. All of those elements on the “control panel” are deteriorating and will continue to do so as long as I take these pills. These pills are meant to suppress the emotional apsect but they bleed over to affect all other aspects of the frontal lobe as well.

No one has said how long it will take for the degradation to be devastating but it is understood that the change will be significant. In the ten years that I’ve been on these meds I have noticed a bothersome decline in my language skills, my memory (particularly the short-term memory), my problem-solving skills and my sense of judgement about certain things that have, or could have, far-reaching consequences. It’s all deteriorating and I can’t tell anymore how much it is changing. I’m not that sensitive to the details. But I sure do know when something has triggered my emotions (anger).

The good news is that I am not in jail. My anger issues have been quelled, for the most part, and I haven’t gone off on anyone in a bad way since I started taking the meds. So that is good news.

I have to try and remind my self of this success when I am at my worst or when the anger bug bites me. I have to remember that life is a gift. Even in this condition, I am blessed.

Chicken and Dumplings

There’s nothing like a little comfort food to warm you up on a cold afternoon. This recipe takes advantage of store bought prepackaged items that helps save time without losing out on flavor.

I like my homemade drop-dumplings but my loved ones prefer the Bisquick version, so Bisquick it is. The canned soup is flavorful and adds a nice creamy texture to the soup and that’s why we like it. I hope you like it too.

Ingredients list:

2 pounds chicken breast – fresh or frozen

1 large carrot

1 medium onion

3 ribs celery

1/2 bag frozen peas

3 (10 -1/2 ounce) cans of cream of chicken soup

1 teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon rosemary

3 bay leaves

dash of salt

dash of black pepper

2 1/4 cups Original Bisquick® mix

2/3 cup milk

Directions:

1. Dice the carrots, onion and celery.
2. Empty soup cans into a 6 quart pot and add water to about 3 inches from the top of pot. Turn stove on to medium-high. Stir until the soup base is liquified.
3. Cut up the chicken and add to water.
4. Add diced veggies, frozen peas and stir.
5. Add herbs and stir. Lower the temp to warm.
6.Cook 2 hours stirring occasionally. Now bring soup to boil.
7. Make dumplings as per the Bisquick box and add to soup. Boil for a few minutes then reduce heat to medium. Cook for ten minutes.
Serve

 

 

 

The Greyhound At Monterey

The Greyhound At Monterey”

I know not from where you come

I ask not where you go

I only wish that someday

You return to us once more

Please take with you our heart

Breathe our very soul

Our laughter and our tears

Be with you as you go

America the beautiful

America the free

To share with you, our Friend

So others too may see

The earth is one – united

Land and sea and air

A spirit undivided

For love lives everywhere

April 29 1993

Greyhound

Monterey to Santa Cruz

Passing Through

Passing Through

My dad went into the hospital. He had had two heart attacks in one day. They put him in ICU (Intensive Care Unit). I was three thousand miles away in Seattle, Washington. My sister called to tell me the news. It didn’t look good.

I had no money, so if I were to make there to Tampa to see him I would have to hitch-hike cross-country. I had done it many time before so it wasn’t that big a deal. But I was older now. The roads were far more dangerous. The world had changed.

Somebody convinced my mom that it would be a good idea to buy me a plane ticket so I could get there sooner. Just in case time was cut short. She was reluctant, but bought me a ticket.

When I got there a host of other family members were already there, weeping in their misery. Dad was loved by everyone. He was a true hero. Not some media darling or commercialized here, but a true hero. A man you could count on if ever there was a need. A man who came to the rescue many times when family issues arose. A man who lit up a room like a sun lights up the sky.

Everyone knew something I didn’t. But I found out sooner than later. Dad wasn’t given much hope to survive. He was on life support machines with all manner of hoses going into his body and tons of wires coming out all over. He couldn’t talk – obviously. And he couldn’t eat. They fed him intravenously. The poor guy was on his death bed.

For two weeks I stayed by his side, icing him down, reading his notes and talking to him. I didn’t want to believe what was so obvious to everyone else. He was only 54 for damn’s sake! I was 28 and I was not ready to see my daddy off. But I could not stop what was already fore ordained. His kidneys were failing, his stats were not optimistic. He was dying right before my eyes.

In those two weeks there was no sign of him getting any better. There was no hope for his going home to tough it out again like he had done so many other times. This time it got the best of him.

I had moved away just six months prior. I had lived with him for ten years and watched him deteriorate over that time. When I got out of the Coast Guard, they had given him five years to live. And so together we battled through the diabetes and the heart attacks. We lived as full of lives as we could. We moved from California to Florida to be closer to my sister and my mom.

They had divorced when I was three. I was never told why. It was none of my business. I suspect it had something to do with my father being a flirt and my mother being a stone. They were about a incompatible as any couple could be. But they were both great people. They just couldn’t make it work.

Dad was in the military. His dad was in the military. His two brothers were both in the military. It provided a good life for them…..if you can handle the strict discipline and orderly lifestyle.

He could. He excelled in that environment. He was a lifer. Before they forced him into retirement, Dad made it to E-9; Chief Master Sergeant. The highest enlisted grade in the Air Force. He had served through Korea and Viet Nam. He saw action in both theaters. He was a munitions man – bombs and things. It was a good life. But as I said, they forced him out. Medical reasons. Diabetes.

This was before medicine got a handle on how to treat diabetes. This was when complications from diabetes included loss of sight, blood sugar episodes and heart attacks.

Dad was on 9 different medications. He took nitro-glycerin for his heart, he gave himself two shots every day of insulin (from pigs, beef and humans) and he took a host of other pills to manage his other diabetic issues. I watched him for ten years.

When I got out of the Coast Guard we planned the move to Florida. All was going well until we got to Texas. His foot had got a blister weeks before and it just wasn’t healing. We stopped in Waco, Texas to see our relatives, his brother Emil and all my cousins. It was there that dad decided to go to the VA hospital and have his foot checked out.

The doctors immediately admitted him and proceeded to experiment with his foot. A training crew had been brought in from DC or somewhere and without so much as a thank you, they cut off his toe. BUT, they did not take care of the wound. Within two days of him “coming home” to the apartment that I got, his toe exhibited signs of gangrene. We had to go back to the VA and have them fix it. But they again experimented and only cut out a canal and left some dead tissue to test out different medications to see if they would kill the infection.

It didn’t. They continued toying with it and now his foot had a huge crater in it with the edges being infected. Before long they had to chop off his leg at the knee. And that is how my dad lived for ten years. With a prosthetic because those doctors toyed with his foot instead of fixing it right to begin with. So I had real issues with him being in the VA hospital in Tampa. I had a hard time believing that he had no hope of coming home. I secretly wished I could just whisk him away to some “competent” facility where they would work miracles and my dad wouldn’t die.

But, that was not to be. He was dying and there was nothing anybody could do about it. Somehow word got to me that it was time to make a decision. And, that I would be the one to make it. This was not what I had hoped for nor expected when I got on that plane and flew to Tampa. I didn’t want to make the decision. Heck, I was the youngest of the bunch there. Why couldn’t my aunt or uncle or mother or someone else take the responsibility?

After they chopped off his leg, we stayed in Waco for two years and then moved back to California. Our trip to Florida just had to wait.

I don’t remember much about the in-between years in California, but I do remember we moved back to Campbell. A tiny enclave in the heart of San Jose. Campbell was where I went to high school before I joined the service. Dad had agreed to let me live with him after mom kicked me out of the house. I was fifteen.

She had been dating a guy that she met at work and brought him home one day and said, “I’m getting married!” To which I replied “Over my dead body!” She and I could not resolve our differences and so she kicked me out.

Dad was a bachelor. He hadn’t had many companions after he and mom divorced. So having a kid move in with him was a challenge. I was unfazed. I was happy to live with my dad. For all my life I had looked up to him even though I only got to see him on a few occasions. We got along famously. Especially when I showed an interest in the military.

At school, I joined the ROTC and learned all about the military, its customs, expectations and all that sort of stuff. And I enjoyed it. Playing soldier was exciting. By my second year I was named leader of the class. I was on cloud nine.

It was short-lived. I had been cutting art class and got caught by the dean of boys. He asked me where I was supposed to be and I smarted off and told him “I dunno. Where do you think I should be?” And from there it quickly dissipated. The whole thing. My dad was called and I was expelled from school. They wanted to make an example out of me. And then my dad asked me where I wanted to go? The Army. Navy. Marines. Air Force. Or, Coast Guard. I was not in my right mind as this happened so fast and so I decided on the Coast Guard because I liked water. What a stupid move. But then, any move at that time was wrong. I should have asked for some time to think it over. Anyway, within weeks I was in the Coast Guard marching and drilling and barking out “yes, sirs” and “no, sirs”.

During this time Dad was slowly getting worse. While I was in Alaska he had a blood sugar attack and drove himself from Lake Tahoe all the way to Reno, where the closest VA hospital was. His blood sugar was in the 400 range and the doctors told him that they knew of no way he could be driving because with that b.s. level he should be dead.

He also had a heart attack in this time. As I recall, it was his first one.

So the decision was left to me to make. The doctor said I had two choices: I could either take him off of life support now and let him pass quietly or I could keep him on the machines, but, this second option would give us extra time for a price – he would be in great pain as his kidneys died first. So there really was no choice at all. I would have to tell them to pull the plug.

I didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye FOREVER to my father. It wasn’t fair. My dad was loved by everyone and he loved everybody too. He wasn’t a criminal. A jerk. A boozer. He wasn’t anything like that. He was a decent, loving man who only wanted the best for people and they loved him for it. But, I went home that night and cried myself to sleep.

The next day I went up to that room and talked to my dad. It would be the last time we would be alone – together. Later, all the family would gather in the room to send him off. And I would have to tell the doctor to take dad off of life support.

The hour came when it was to be done. I had already talked to dad about it and he was ready. I don’t know how anyone could be ready to die, but he was fully aware of what was to happen and he was okay with it.

My heart sunk. Okay, let’s do this. The nurses came in and did all the dirty work: they pulled all the electrodes, yanked out the tubes and then left the room for the rest of us to deal with. My uncle couldn’t handle it, it was too devastating for him, so he left and took my dad’s sister with him. Poor Louise, she didn’t even get to say goodbye to her brother. Dad’s other sister was there, my Aunt Gertie. She was somber, like everyone else in the room. We looked at dad and I could tell, we were all wondering how much time we had left with him.

He couldn’t speak. His throat was left raw by that darned tube they had down his throat. Dad did manage to get out a few words – “chocolate shake”. I was ready to go get him a shake at the 7-eleven just a couple minutes walk from the hospital but everybody freaked out and made me stay in the room. They were worried that dad would die before I got back, so, dad suffered and thirsted because everybody was so scared of him dying “suddenly”.

Well “suddenly” never came. What did come was some damned smelly hospital food. For some reason the VA thought dad would “enjoy” a last meal. But it stunk so bad, dad almost threw up as did I.

We stood there, lost in our embarrassment for what seemed like eight hours. Plenty of time to have gone to the store to get dad a chocolate shake. That bothered me. But who could have predicted how long he would live?

As the time wore on, his vitals started dropping. He was starting to breathe shallower and shallower. And as the hours passed his attention span dwindled as well. He was slowly succumbing to the inevitable.

There wasn’t much talking going on that day. Sure, there were the expected “I love you’s” and such but we really didn’t connect with him. It was sad to watch and be a part of.

When he finally “gave up the ghost” it was a shocker. It was not at all like what they show in the movies or on tv. He passed quietly and peacefully, but, his body lunged out for one last breath and that was freaky. And then, when I least expected it, his spirit passed through my abdomen and then went away. It was the coolest thing. My thoughts on death were pretty tame before, just assembled the beliefs that Hollywood offered. But to be there and go through it, and, to have his spirit pass through my body – that was special. No words can tell how that moment has impacted my life. I question everybody’s take on it now: the Christians and other religious folk; the doctors and their click; the Hollywood moguls and the way they depict life and death. I question it all. Reality is far more sophisticated than what I was taught.

In all my years I never would have guessed that my dad would die at 54. Nor did I expect to be the one to kill him, to cut off his life. It’s a damnable thing: this existence. It’s been 27 years and it still hurts.

Not Again – Please

Had another blowout yesterday. It happened at the grocery store. I was quite wroth and I cussed and yelled in front of everybody, even children. And I didn’t care. Said so. I was really, really mad. In those moments I could care less if Jesus, himself, was standing next to me. Later I came to my senses and am saddened by my behavior but that does me no good when I am “in the moment.” It’s not like I can turn it off and on  like a faucet. Something triggers my anger and there’s no turning it off. Except time. It took me over an hour and a half to come out of it. A complete change of scenery helped. Maybe if I can remember to leave where I am and go somewhere unrelated and somewhere neutral. Maybe that can help. I will have to try and remember that for next time.

 

Well, I’ve been making progress on my short story. Did a lot of research over the last couple of days. Now I can dive in and revamp the story and revamp the outline to guide me through the scenes. This new program, Scrivener, is really just so cool. Back in the old days I would have papers strewn about the living room with notes and research and bits of the story and I’d have to scramble to  find the right paper for what I needed at the time. Now, I have it all digitized and organized and within one mouse click away and it is split-screen too so I can keep on my page without losing my place and, still go find the research papers and all of that. This is just so cool.

 

Still waiting for the weather to warm up so I can go walking. I am on blood thinners and that makes me get cold faster and stay cold longer. So in order for me to go out I have to break out the wool socks (two pair), the thermals, the sweatshirts, etc. I end up putting on three layers of clothes just so I don’t have to freeze – in 40 degree weather. Honestly, you’d think I was bracing for freezing temps. And then it just isn’t fun anymore. So I stay cooped up inside all winter and gain weight. LOL. In truth, I eat less in the winter. Last night I had a sandwich for dinner. The night before I had HALF a sandwich for dinner. Just enough to take my pills. I am tired of food. Well, almost all food. I really like fruit. Give me a bushel of berries and I’m a happy camper. I can eat fruit all day long. But veggies and meat I am tired of.

 

So, yeah, that blowout. I hate being this way. Can you imagine how bad it could have been if I were not on my pills? Scary thought – I’ve seen what it’s like without my pills. And the police are just a phone call away. That’s what keeps me taking my pills. It gets ugly. I’m just a first class jerk/monster/ahole. Makes me glad I live in this day and age where there are technologies that can help people like me live a semi-normal life. Back in the wild west I’d have been shot by the sheriff of Anytown, U.S.A. and that would be the end of it. Think about it, there are tens of thousands of people walking around with mental health issues that, if we were back in the 1800s, we would have been locked up and placed in some hospital to wither away.  Even earlier in history and we would have been placed in dungeons and never heard from again. I’m counting my blessings.

A little bit of “Today”

Hi there. This past week has been rather uneventful. No manic episodes. Only a little bit of depression, not like earlier this month. On the positive side there are the home movies that I am editing and the book that I am working on. With the home movies I am taking old VHS tapes and digitzing them and then breaking them up into pieces so I can put the puzzle back in order – we have some tapes that were taped over and now things are out of sequence. So….nothing like watching 6 hours of vhs to find those dead spots and those out of sequence parts. But hey, I am thankful that I now have a program that I can do all the processing with. Cyberlink PowerDirector 14. I bought it through an online store for a pretty good savings compared to the latest versions. I feel like I’ve said this before. Weird.

So, my book…..I am putting together a book of short stories. I recently learned of a program for writers – Scrivener. It is an awesome little program. It basically helps you organize all of the elements of writing. I’m doing the trail right now and expect to purchase the full version next month. Anyway, this writing is difficult. What with my memory loss and cognitive degradation. I am moving forward though. Toughing it out in hopes that something will click one day and I’ll be back to my old self. Big dreams.

 

I am sitting here waiting for the weather to warm up so I can go outside again. I’ve been cooped up in this room too long – months. It’s driving me to questoin my sanity.

 

Well, that is about all for today. Good news is good news. And I like not being on a downer. Though I must say, I do enjoy those manic episodes: so much energy.

Here’s a little something to hopefully brighten your day:

What a thrill — I’m standing still and soaring high

—— YOUR KISS

German Potato Salad

This recipe comes to us from my mother. Although, she didn’t create it. We’ve had this recipe in our house for decades and it never fails to please. It is great warm or cold and it goes well with brats or any kinds of sausage, obviously.

Ingredients:

10 medium potatoes

1 cup chopped onions

1/2 pound bacon, diced

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup sour cream

chopped parsely

 

Directions:

Cook potatoes, covered, in salted boiling water to cover, about 35 minutes or until tender. Peel warm potatoes, slice: add onion, in large skillet, fry bacon, removed from heat. Lift bacon out with slotted spoon. Pour off fat; return 3 tablespoons to skillet. Mix the flour into fat; add sugar, butter, salt, pepper, vinegar and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, stirring. Remove from heat and add sour cream. Add potatoes, onions, half the bacon; toss gently. Sprinkle with rest of bacon and the parsley. Serve warm or cold.