Life writing

And We’re Back!

A couple of weeks ago, my laptop decided it was time to go to the IT department in the sky. The fans had stopped functioning, and it damaged the hard drive, wireless card, and probably some other hardware as well. Sadly, thanks to inflation, we’ve been having trouble making ends meet, so a new computer was out of the question.

Fortunately, I have awesome friends. I set up a GoFundMe with a modest goal, and my friends were able to help me meet it. I then used the funds to purchase a refurbished Dell Precision from eBay. I went with a refurbished computer because I could get a business-class laptop that was restored to its full potential for a little more than what I would pay for a decent-quality Chromebook.

My previous computer was a Lenovo Legion that I named David Haller after the son of Professor Xavier. As soon as I booted up this computer and discovered how wonderfully it runs, I was inspired to name it Endeavour after the first shuttle that restarted NASA’s space missions after the Challenger disaster. I chose not to name it Endeavor for the top hero from My Hero Academia, as I’m trying to avoid running hot on this computer, and only Dabi runs hotter than Endeavor.

Anyway, now that I’ve thoroughly nerded up this entry, I’m back to work on my book. My website’s copy of WordPress also saved the draft of the blog I was working on when my previous computer died, so I’ll be finishing that up for next week’s blog.

Life Lore writing

Recovery and Discovery

My faithful readers (all five or so of you), I’m sorry I haven’t updated lately. It took me a long time to recover from being sick, and I’ve been up to my hipwaders in research.

And by golly, I’ve learned a lot.

Thanks to the amazing St. Louis County Library’s generous resources that I can access from home with my library account, I’ve been able to uncover a lot about my maternal grandmother’s past. Given that I can’t drive and don’t feel comfortable taking my daughter on a walk all the way to the nearest library due to my very limited eyesight, it’s been a huge help.

In addition to doing research and recovering from a bad illness, I’ve been seeking out funding to help me be able to help support my family and fund trips to the places where my grandmother used to live and work so that I get an even better feel for what her life was life through her eyes. So far, I haven’t found much for individual authors, but I haven’t given up yet.

Lore writing

A Dig In The Past

As many of my readers know, I’m working on a piece of historical fiction based on the life of my maternal grandmother. What started out as a simple plan to solve a few family mysteries on my mother’s side of the family turned into a full-blown project.

My grandmother, Cora, was someone I didn’t really like. The more I learned about what she put my mom and her siblings through, the more I disliked her. I loved her, because she was family, but I disliked her because of the choices she made. The only thing I really liked about her were the animals she took in to save from harm. I also liked reading the trashy magazines she picked up at the grocery store. She thought the Moon landing was faked, and she was greatly offended if someone even joked that professional wrestling was scripted.

Grandma Cora lied a lot, too. She was forever making up stuff about her heritage, Mom’s biological father, and her own life. I took a DNA test years ago to try and figure out how much of my alleged heritage was real, and how much was pure crap.

Genetically, my heritage proved Grandma Cora was making stuff up, but it also revealed some unexpected ancestry. It also put me in touch with my mother’s one and only biological sister, who was given up for a closed adoption about a year before my own mother was born. That made it worth the sadness at learning that Grandma Cora was making stuff up.

After a woman named Destiny contacted me to try and find out how we were related, I started doing a deep dive to piece together what I could about my family, especially because it looked like Destiny was a relative through my mother’s family.

What I found didn’t make me like Grandma Cora more than I had previously, but it gave me a greater understanding of why she made up so many things.

The truth of her life was a hell of a lot stranger and sadder than fiction.

She was orphaned when she was three years old. Her father died a few months after an industrial accident, right before her third birthday, and her mother died a few months later of cancer. Her siblings were placed with her father’s much older sister and her husband, and her aunt seemed to have an irrational hatred of her.

That hatred drove her to leave their farm at age 14 to live and work in Mexico Missouri. She was 19 when she had her first child, and custody of that baby was ripped from her by the court on the grounds that she, as a single working woman, was an unfit mother, and given to her married cousin. She had another child at 20 and gave her up for adoption. When she had my mother at age 21, she chose to keep her, come hell or high water. For reasons unknown to even my mother, she named my mother after the cousin who got custody of her son.

It wasn’t too long after my mother was born that my grandmother met and married her first husband, a mechanic. Their first child together died when the doctor delivering the child crushed her skull with the forceps. Their second child was delivered with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck and had cerebral palsy as a result. My grandmother suffered at least two miscarriages before she had her two youngest children. Just before her youngest child was born, the cousin who got custody of her oldest son died in a car accident while driving home from work late at night.

My grandmother’s marriage was not a happy or peaceful one. She made some choices that traumatized all of her children. I still don’t understand why, but I’m trying to. I loathe her so much for what she allowed to be done to my mother as a child. I’m a mother myself, and I love my husband with all of my heart. If he did even half of what was done to my mother to one of my children, he would be GONE. The part of me that fiercely protects my children cannot comprehend WHY she would put anything above the well-being of a child she chose to keep.

Anyway, I doubt anyone was too sad when her first husband died at age 45 of a heart attack after suffering a coronary the previous year. Grandma Cora got married to husband number two a little over three weeks after her first husband died. He was a decent enough guy. My mother ended up marrying his brother 2 years later, and they were married for 20 years.

As for my grandma, she stayed married to her second husband, my future uncle, until she died at age 66 of a heart attack.

Anyway, there’s a lot there. The more I dig, the more I learn, and the more I learn, the more I understand. I probably won’t ever like her for the choices she made, but at least I’ll have a greater understanding of why she made them.


Whoops, Sidelined Again

I’m still having trouble getting back on a regular schedule because right after I got over my ear infection, a troublesome tooth became abscessed. So, back onto the antibiotics I went, and I seem to have developed a bit of a reaction to penicillin…which sucks, because I have a lot of a reaction to sulfa drugs.

And now I have to figure out how to fit a dental visit into our household schedule. I just had a visit with my new gynecologist between the ear infection and the abscessed tooth, so I’ve had to schedule a mammogram on top of everything else. The kind gyne helped me with my underlying trauma regarding hospitals and clinics, so I’m starting to work on getting back to stuff that will help me with my alphabet soup of health issues.

Meanwhile, my toddler can read a surprising number of words, but she’s still working on listening to her body and pausing her fun to go potty. She’s bright and active, but she can’t attend preschool until she masters the potty. She’s doing well at home, but I want her to be able to socialize with children her own age…which is the one thing I can’t give her at home right now.

One day at a time. She’ll get there when she gets there…and so will I.


New Year, Interrupted

I had every intention of starting the new year off right by making regular weekly blog posts, starting with one to celebrate the new year and the best gift I’ve received in a long time (and no, it wasn’t physical).

Unfortunately, life got in the way, and I got stricken with a very unpleasant virus that left me downing dayquil like a hydro homie downs water just to be able to barely take care of my home and family.

And if that wasn’t enough, while my body was fighting that virus with everything I had, a bacterial infection settled in my sinuses and ears. I ended up forcing myself to go to an urgent care even though I was exhausted after my left eardrum ruptured.

I completed a course of antibiotics (and the fun that goes along with taking them), but I’m still exhausted. At least I can hear with my right ear now. My left ear is still healing, and anyone who tries to talk to me on my left side is out of luck, because I definitely won’t hear them.

Anyway, I intend to get back on track with both my blog and my current manuscript. Truth may be stranger than fiction, but I’m pretty sure I uncovered some really uncomfortable truth in my search to flesh out the fiction.

Reflection writing

Reflections Upon a Gift of 42 Years

I turned 43 last week, so today’s blog is devoted to reflecting on 42.

According to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, 42 is the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything. It is The Answer. Nobody bothered to ask Deep Thought what The Answer was supposed to mean. It’s left to the reader to laugh at the absurdity, assign a personal meaning to The Answer, or something in between.

While I never assigned a personal meaning to The Answer in the series when I initially read it, I did hope that I would have things figured out by the time I turned 42.

Do I have things figured out?

No, not entirely.

I have, however, learned a lot this past year.

  1. I have lived my life by the seat of my pants. I went through elementary school, middle school, and high school with the plan in mind that I would go to college, get married, have kids, and live happily ever after. After I did everything but the successfully have children and live happily ever after, things went wrong.

    I ended up married too young to someone who was even more young and unready than I was, experienced miscarriage, and went into freefall after things fell apart. The only constant in my life was my job, and even that didn’t last. I ended up on a train to Chicago to meet my oldest daughter’s father and experience life in the suburb of a very huge city.
  2. I discovered that I was living my life in survivor mode after a guy I followed on Twitter offered me the opportunity to beta test an online academy he was building to help people duplicate the success he had. He’s eccentric, and I respect him for being able to go from being a homeless veteran to being the wealthy owner of several businesses.

    The first week was super-hard, but it helped me realize that I was trapped in the scarcity thinking that had allowed me and my oldest child to survive by luck alone until I met and married my second husband. I was still reacting instead of being proactive, and I was completely unaware that I was doing that.

    I’m in therapy, so I may have eventually realized my flawed thinking in session with my therapist, but the opportunity, being in the right place at the right time to be a part of this, it helped me realize this sooner and start taking steps to change my thinking and my life.
  3. I’ve discovered the previously unknown stories of some members of my family. I developed an interest in researching my family story after a cousin I hadn’t previously known contacted me on 23andMe, and I started digging so I could find out how we were related so we could build our respective family trees correctly.

    Learning about the horrors and hardships my relatives endured made it easier to understand why they made the choices they made, and I was able to forgive them. I am not excusing the choices they made, because quite a few of those choices were terrible, but I can understand why they made them.

    I was even able to cry on behalf of my maternal grandmother, who is probably one of the people I’ve hated the most in my life. She died in 1999, but I still have to live with the impact of the choices she made in my relationships with my mother and her siblings. Her cruelty, lies, and neglect were instrumental in making my mother and her siblings the people they are.

    And like a rock thrown in a still lake, the ripples of what was done to my mother and her siblings affected me and my siblings and our children.
  4. Other than our family’s current income and my own health issues, I really love the life I have. I’m legally blind, in constant pain, and am constantly exhausted, and I love being the person who makes the food we eat, takes care of the children, and keeps the house running. My love of writing and making art doesn’t have a set schedule, so I can do it when I’m not busy with my children or household duties. I have great friends who want me to succeed at whatever makes me happy.

In discovering these things about myself, I have made a lot of progress. I have also started seeing new opportunities presented to me, and I am using those opportunities to help me meet my goals for myself and the goals I share with my husband and/or my children.

Additionally, I have set a goal to update this blog once a week. Once I have been able to do that for a while, I may choose to update it more often. In the meantime, I am also working on the manuscript for a piece of historical fiction based loosely on the short life of a relative. It may never be published, but I think it’s key to helping me heal and provide closure to a lot of things I’ve discovered. I love finding information, and I hope to give people a greater understanding of what life was like for a woman born into poverty in the first half of the twentieth century.


Give Me a Break (No, not like that!)

I lost the central vision in my right eye nearly three years ago. The vision in my left eye has never been great, so I’m legally blind. Other than constant typos and having a hard time reading anything that doesn’t have a zoom or text-to-voice option (which is just as well, because I have yet to encounter one that isn’t awful, grating, and annoying), I’ve adapted reasonably well to having limited eyesight and no depth perception. (Unfortunately, my brain still scrambles voices, so my auditory processing hasn’t improved as a result of my loss of vision.)

My lack of depth perception led to a truly awful accident. I was putting a bag of cat food on top of the refrigerator to keep my orange goofball of a cat from eating it (because if it’s anywhere he can reach it, he will tear into it and eat until he makes himself sick). Unfortunately, I had the brilliant idea to keep the fire extinguisher on top of the refrigerator, too, so that it was close to the stove but not within reach of curious toddlers. Thanks to my lack of depth perception, I couldn’t tell that it was too close to the edge of the refrigerator, and the cat food bag nudged it off. I did my best to get my huge feet out of the way of the falling fire extinguisher, but I didn’t quite make it, and the second toe of my left foot fully felt the impact.

TW: Description of a couple of foot injuries and medical procedures follows. If that sort of thing makes you squeamish, best to stop reading now.

I don’t know what it is about my feet that makes them so sensitive. I can take injuries pretty much anywhere else in my body with no problems (and yes, that includes being in labor with my children), but any sort of foot injury hurts more than any of them. I cried a bit when I was in labor before the epidurals kicked in, but when they inserted the needle to give me anesthetic to sew up my foot after it got cut open by a piece of glass in the yard, I involuntarily screamed. The noises I made are best described as “horse being eaten alive.”

So, yeah. The little kitchen fire extinguisher somehow managed to break the second toe on my left foot, and it hurts even more than it did when I broke my arm when I was 11 years old. I’ve had to alternate ibuprofen and naproxen to keep the pain under control.

The worst part isn’t the break itself, though. Apparently, some fractures get these things called “fracture blisters.” From what I can gather, they’re supposed to help cushion the bone as it heals. I can get behind that. What bothers me is that it does this by pushing serous fluid between the epidermis and the dermis. The pain and pressure from the blisters actually hurts worse than the fracture itself.

Feet have a lot of nerves, which probably explains why I hate having anything on them so much. I’d rather run the risk of cuts and breaks than wear shoes. I can tolerate them for a certain amount of time, but I have to take them off afterward to allow my feet freedom from irritants. (And yes, I avoid public transportation because I know people get upset if one removes one’s shoes in public for any reason, even if your feet are telling you that the rest of your body is suffocating.)

It’s been a week now, and my foot and toe are healing as well as can be expected. The pain makes it hard to exercise, but I work around it as I can. I also rest as I can, which is difficult with a toddler, especially now that she’s having a sleep regression. I’ll do my best though, as always.


The Bittersweet Diaries

Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I got inspired to take what I learned while trying to find how a cousin and I were related to tell a story. As the world seems to be inching closer to yet another world war, I saw what my children were thinking and feeling and what my neighbors were doing in their day-to-day lives. We are all doing our best to survive, just as they did before the other world wars.

My maternal grandmother, Cora, was three years old when she was orphaned. Her father died after a fall at the brick factory where he was working, and her mother died of cancer a few months later. She and her siblings ended up being taken in by their aunt and her husband. She was six years old when the war started in Europe, and she was eight when the United States joined the war.

Unfortunately, I can’t ask her about her life during that turbulent time, because she died in 1999. She was only 66. She had led a very hard life and had made both good and bad choices throughout her life, as one does.

The truth of it is, I hated her. I was sad because my mother was sad, but my mother had not kept secrets about what had been done to her and her half-siblings as she grew up. When I became a mother myself, I hated Grandma Cora even more for the choices she had made.

It was only when I began trying to figure out how I was related to my cousin Destinie that I began to really piece together the tragedy that was Cora’s life. She was born into poverty and spent her entire life trying to survive as best she could. According to my mother, Cora’s aunt treated her and her children like they were demon spawn, so I can only imagine how cruel her life with that woman must have been. I figure that Rose only took her and her siblings in out of a sense of duty to her dead brother rather any sense of love or compassion for the orphaned children.

Her husband John was different, though. According to my mother, John was a kind person who enjoyed spending time with Cora and my mom and her younger half-siblings. She also told me that Cora spent a lot of time with John, even dressing like a boy and using the nickname that John had given her, Toby. That’s probably how she got her own mechanical knowhow, and it may have been what drew her to her first husband, a mechanic named John. (That John was not a good man, but that’s a another story for another time.)

As I learned more about Grandma Cora, I began to hate her less, until I didn’t hate her at all. I still hated the bad choices she had made, choices that had hurt her children and herself, but I understood why she made those choices. She was born into poverty, orphaned as a toddler, and basically stuck in survival mode her entire life.

So, her life inspired a story. There isn’t a lot about people growing up in poverty in rural northeastern Missouri in the 20th century (or in any century, for that matter), but my research and my knowledge of the choices Cora made as she grew up and became a mother and a grandmother have inspired me to write a fictional account using elements of her own life and her own choices.

Will it be complete by the end of November? Nope. Will it ever be published? Maybe. We’ll see what kind of story emerges from my mind and if it’s worth sharing with the world. The voices of the poor have been unheard for a very long time, but that’s starting to change as access to communication media continues to grow. Stories are starting to be told, and voices are starting to be heard. It is my hope that we can all build a better, more compassionate world from the telling of the stories of those the world once chose to ignore.

We are here.

We have always been here.


Between the Shadow and the Soul

“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.” ~ Carl Jung

My husband Michael is part of Mankind Project. It’s a movement that is working to help men fully embrace themselves and feel comfortable expressing themselves honestly and fully as the people they are. They are combatting the toxicity that has created a society where men are only considered manly if they express themselves with only a handful of the emotions all humans possess. Since I’m not a man, I can only bear witness to what comes of the Mankind Project within my husband and his friends, and what I have seen is a lot of positive changes and growth for both of us.

Michael is a therapist, and while he cannot and will not act as my therapist, there are things that manage to osmose through the professional life/private life barrier. Some of those things are from his education, and some of them are from seminars and what he has learned from the Mankind Project. Michael has created a safe space where I can express my emotions and separate my feelings from my thoughts. I didn’t even differentiate between thoughts and feelings until we had one of our many long talks. Sometimes those talks started as arguments that evolved into us sharing our truths and expressing our true thoughts and feelings. Our relationship keeps getting better and stronger as we become more mentally healthy.

One of the things I have resisted very hard is the idea of the “shadow self.” I’ve denied its existence and tried to justify everything I’ve ever said or done in a way that allowed me to maintain the illusion that there is no darkness within me.

But there is darkness.

Oh, yes, there is darkness.

Michael has shared with me the saying “That which you resist persists.” I take it to mean that the more I deny the existence of my shadow self, the greater the risk of the things I want to keep hidden breaking out. I must accept everything about myself in order to be the person I want to me.

Will I be sharing the details of my shadow work?

No, I will not. The journey of acknowledging and accepting the shadow self is very intimate and personal. My journey is not like anyone else’s, and my work is not like anyone else’s, so sharing the details of that work won’t be useful or helpful to anyone else. However, I may have future blog posts that are inspired by what I discover and the work that I do.

That being said, it’s time to get back to work.


Weighing Heavily On My Mind…and My Body

TW: In this post, I talk about body image, mental health, and some bullying. If I missed anything that could be a trigger, please let me know. Thanks!


The last time I was a “healthy” weight for my height was nearly forty years ago. I was a normal four-year-old child, running, playing, eating, sleeping, learning, doing all of the normal stuff kids do.

Then something really awful happened. I won’t go into the salient details (if you’re a close friend, you know, and if you’re not, you don’t need to know), but after it happened, I started gaining weight. My family also experienced food insecurity, and I developed an eating disorder. Even though I did my best to avoid eating too much, I was encouraged to clean my plate and not waste food. I was also scared that there might not be food later, so I often ate as much as I could. Eventually, I was eating without being aware of how much I had eaten until the food was gone. I couldn’t even remember eating it. I was also very active, though, so I figured the fat would go away as I got older and matured into my adult body.

Unfortunately, kids can be pretty cruel. I wasn’t diagnosed with autism until I was 32 years old, so all through public school, I was the weird fat kid who got picked on a lot. I had my small tribe of fellow weirdos, but we weren’t always in class or lunch periods together, so by the time I was in high school, I ended up bringing my lunch and eating it in the bathroom while crying because no one wanted me to sit with them, or they would come by the table where I was sitting and take the extra chairs so they could sit with their friends.

A girl in my grade who was also in the youth group at the church I attended called me “puta” all the time. When she got caught, she claimed she was saying “punta,” and nothing was ever done about it.

But I digress.

By my senior year, I had my eating fairly well under control, and I was in the best shape of my life, even though I was still considered overweight based on my weight and height. It didn’t take into account how much weight I could lift with my legs or how fast I could run at that time when my breasts were strapped down and couldn’t bounce out of my bra.

Still fat.

Still scarred.

My biggest refuge in high school was acting. I could escape myself. Even though I hated it at the time, I was always cast as the villain. I wish I had appreciated it at the time, because the villains have the most fun. But I knew I was cast as the villain because I was larger than most girls and had a deeper voice.

It was also when guys first started telling me that I looked like a man in drag. I didn’t look right. My shoulders were too broad, my walk was wrong, and I couldn’t do makeup or walk in high heels right. Even when I was close to a healthy weight, I was covered in scars in had weight in the wrong places.

Anyway, I wanted to major in theater in college. I was originally going to go to Hannibal-LaGrange College (now University), which was where my dad got his degree. He was the first person in our entire family to earn a bachelor’s degree. I went to meet the theater professor, and though she told my mother I had talent as an actor, I was too fat to perform on her stage. She told me I would need to lose 30 pounds before school started to even be a member of the chorus, much less a lead.

I ended up following a guy I was crushing on to Central Methodist College (now University) instead. I also started out in theater there, but the theater professor creeped me out so badly that I ended up switching majors. Unfortunately, I also let the guys at the school bully me out of using the weight room (I loved lifting back then) and the exercise facilities in general, and I was too shy and lacking in confidence to ask anyone to work out with me, so I ended up giving it up.

I was the first woman in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree, and I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life at that time (292 pounds). I was also engaged to my first husband and at loose ends with my life. I ended up working in a hospital for a little over four years, got divorced, had a really traumatic late miscarriage, lost about 40 pounds, left my job, and moved to Chicago when I fell in love with a guy who lived there.

I had my oldest child in Chicago and lost 30 more pounds during my pregnancy, leaving the hospital weighing 220 pounds. I went back to work the day I was discharged from the hospital. I also started having back pain. They tried to give me an epidural twice when I was giving birth to my Cherry Blossom (not her real name), and both times failed, so they had to give me general anesthesia when they had to do an emergency c-section to save her.

In spite of working two jobs and taking care of my baby, I regained the weight that I had lost and then some. I had postpartum depression and was binge-eating without realizing it. I remember I once made a dozen cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing and ate almost the entire pan without realizing it. I was horrified.

I eventually left CB’s dad and moved back to Missouri. I went through a number of relationships, and we moved quite a bit. I got back down to around 230 pounds and walked quite a bit while CB was in preschool. I also got professionally diagnosed with autism, which was a relief, because it explained so much about who I was and why I was the way I was.

After leaving another bad relationship, I ended up in St. Louis with my daughter. I rented a room from my mother and her fourth husband, and I helped out around the house when I wasn’t caring for Samantha. I still did a lot of walking, and I stayed around 250 pounds.

Eventually, I met my second husband, and we got married. I was about 270 pounds at the time. My husband made it abundantly clear to anyone who dared to say anything about my weight or my looks that he loved me as I am, and he had zero tolerance for any cruelty directed at me. I was able to finally get a full-time job and get back into college to start earning a second degree while my husband earned his Master’s degree.

Then I started getting sick. I was taking my birth control pills religiously, so I thought for sure I couldn’t be pregnant. In spite of adding Tae Kwon Do to my busy schedule, I continued to gain weight and ended up 310 pounds. Eventually, I went to the doctor and found out what was wrong.

I was pregnant again. In spite of taking my birth control pills at the same time every day for years, I was pregnant.

And after the ultrasound, I found out that I was VERY pregnant. I had just earned my camouflage belt in Tae Kwon Do before I found out I was pregnant, and I was not allowed to continue once the pregnancy was confirmed. I still felt like a fierce warrior for getting so far, though.

I also ended up having to leave college because they weren’t able to accommodate my needs as an autistic person. I probably could have continued fighting it, but I was still working full-time, and I decided it wasn’t worth it to fight.

A month after finding out that I was pregnant, our house burned down due to a bad electrical job at the junction where the main electrical line entered the house, taking just about everything we owned and our three beloved cats. All of my artwork, manuscripts, books, and irreplaceable items were gone. All of the things we had been given for the baby were gone. Our home was gone.

Fortunately, our community stepped up, and our Tae Kwon Do family stepped up, and they helped us get into a new rental home and helped us get furniture for the home and clothing and shoes for all of us. The Red Cross gave us a bit of money for food and clothes. AAA was the absolute best, though. We had renter’s insurance through them (and still do), and they helped us get into a hotel and then an extended-stay hotel while we were looking for a new home.

We had just moved into our new rental home when my OB/GYN got concerned about my blood pressure and wanted me to be induced to try and prevent me from developing eclampsia. I was given two trials of pitocin before my water finally broke. They wanted to give me a third trial of pitocin, but it had been 12 hours since my water broke, so I insisted on a c-section. The epidural was successful, but they were really rough with me during the c-section because my baby had migrated to the top of my uterus in the previous 12 hours (she had been sitting head-down on my cervix when I was admitted), so they had to pretty much dig her out.

Eventually, they delivered my Sunflower (also not her real name). She only had a 1 on the APGAR and had to be resuscitated. She was not breathing. Her next APGARs were 3 and 5, and her cries were strong. They let her stay with me instead of putting her in the NICU, and they checked her blood sugar before I fed her every time I tried to feed her. I was 280 pounds when I was discharged, and I was in the hospital for a week while they tried to get my pain and blood pressure under control. Sunflower stayed with me the entire week, except for a few times when I requested respite care.

Sunflower had trouble latching, so I started pumping breast milk for her. Fortunately, someone had donated a gently-used hospital-grade breast pump, and it worked beautifully.

Unfortunately, Sunflower had bad GERD, so she regurgitated a lot of what she ate. I don’t really have any memory of her first year because I was constantly feeding her, cleaning her up, changing my clothes, pumping breast milk, and doing my best to take care of everyone’s needs. I was hooked up to a wound vac and ended up losing my job because I wasn’t covered by FMLA and couldn’t return to work as quickly as they wanted me to.

Fortunately, Michael was able to get a job where he could also fulfill his internship and provisioning needs, so we were able to make ends meet.

Unfortunately, I developed post-partum depression and had to get connected with community mental health to get back on a good emotional track. I was put on a waiting list for a therapist, but I got to meet with my caseworker regularly.

Additionally, I ended up losing my eyesight in my right eye a week after I turned 40. The eyesight in my left eye was already weak, so I ended up being deemed legally blind. Unfortunately, when I went for SSDI, they decided I didn’t have enough work credits to qualify, and when I applied for SSI, they decided my husband made too much money.

And then COVID happened, and the parks were closed, and I didn’t feel safe walking around, both because of COVID and because of people who felt the need to yell at me for being out walking with my children, even though we were all wearing masks.

And my pain got worse. I always had chronic pain from an alphabet soup of abdominal issues, but it got worse. I was scared to go to the doctor, both because of the trauma around SF’s birth and my own knowledge of how unkind medical personnel can be behind closed doors, especially towards people on Medicaid (our state expanded the financial limits, so we qualified for it again, thank goodness). I made the mistake of weighing myself on a scale.

I was 380 pounds.

I ate less, I drank more water, I ran after my kids as much as my pain would allow, but I didn’t get any smaller. I felt angry because my husband could eat whatever he wanted to whenever he wanted to and didn’t gain weight, but I stayed the same.

We ended up getting cable bundled with our internet at a reduced price than what we pay now. I discovered My 600-lb Life, and I felt sad. More than ever, I’m beginning to understand that for some people, especially those of us with chronic pain, it’s easy to gain weight whatever we do. Losing the weight without medical intervention is really, really difficult, especially as one gets older. There is no magic pill or adorable space alien who can make the fat walk away.

My weight is related to both trauma and chronic pain. I still exercise as I can. I’ve upped my water intake. I will be seeing a doctor as soon as possible to be examined and see what options I have to manage my pain and safely lose my excess weight.

I want to be healthy and strong.

I don’t want to be like this anymore. It’s not fun, and it’s not comfortable. I feel shame when I’m where anyone other than family can see me. My husband still loves me just as I am and doesn’t disparage my weight or my scars. He sees me doing my best each day, and so do my kids.

And at the end of the day, that’s all we can do.