Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Simply from Scratch by Alicia Bessette - Book Review

Simply from Scratch  by Alicia Bessette
Dutton 2010

Format? Hardback

Source? picked up on a sale table somewhere some time ago...from my TBR shelves as I was cleaning out.

Why?  I was looking for something light...but not too light.  Something about someone (female protagonists are best for me it seems) who is damaged but is strong enough to muddle through somehow.  

Title? literal and figurative meaning.
Cover?  I'm a cover freak.  The cover of Simply from Scratch almost made me put it in the library box.  The cover makes you think the book will be about a young mother baking in the kitchen with her pink pinstripe apron and Uggish looking boots on.  Thankfully the little excerpt at the bottom indicates the book is about grief and friendship...and of course the inside cover blurb confirms that.
I don't recall a single thing about Uggs in this a matter of fact, I wouldn't think Uggs would be suitable for the snowy weather in Massachusetts.
Zell never wears a pink apron either...she actually wears Nick's camouflage one.

What Now?
I looked to see if Alicia Bessette has written anything else, but all I could find was a reprint of what seemed like the same story as Simply from Scratch...but renamed A Pinch of Love? Or the other way around?

Goodreads suggested Starting from Scratch by Susan Gilbert-Collins so I've added it to my Wishlist :)

Golden Lines

"Aye," I say in Captain Ahab Voice - that of a sloshed but kindly pirate. "Let it burn.  Yer a saucy wench, Rose-Ellen." (2)

For a couple of years now, my heart does this weird thing, at weird times.  Like now: four in the morning.  The weird heart thing is sort of like being a widow - familiar by now, and yet completely foreign. (13)

Nick was one of those guys who always knew he'd get married, buy a house, and get a dog.  He accomplished all three tasks in exactly that order. (51)

Ye Olde Home Ec Witch pinches Ingrid's cheek.  "How did you get here, Pumpkin Pie?" (79)

I'm crying as hard as I did when I found out Nick was gone.  I have no idea what prompts the sobs.  They just come.  And whoever says it takes one year to recover from the death of a spouse is crazier than I am.  Balls. (95)

Nick turned and locked his grey eyes on E.J. (152)

I'm five feet from Ahab.  Four feet.  I hear his teeth chatter.  I see muscles quiver under his fur as snowflakes land there. 
Three feet.  I reach out my arm.  "Cookie time, Cappy," I whisper.  My fingers are one foot from his rump. "Please." (187)

As I get up to leave, she throws both arms around me, rests her chin on my head, and steers me to the door. "Well, Zell, there's only one thing I know that's harder than death," she says.  She helps me into my coat.  "And it seems to me like you're doing a pretty decent job at it."
"What's that?" I say, yanking on my mittens.
"Life." (223)

Red hat against blue, blue sky. 
I know where she is. (250)

"I've got to start from scratch now," says Zell, her voice quiet and steady.  "Every day.  Every minute, it seems." (291)

We are all connected. (298)


Rose Ellen Carmichael Roy (Zell) lost her husband Nick in a freak accident in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  Their lives had been mapped out perfectly, high school sweethearts married, promising artistic careers started, and greyhound dog rescued...until The Trip. 
It's been a year, but Zell's life has not progressed much since the day she found out Nick was gone. 
She's pretty much going through the motions and still numb when she meets her 9 year old neighbor, Ingrid, whose mother left shortly after she was born.
 Ingrid is quite precocious and is enamored with TV personality Polly Pinch.  Ingrid convinces Zell to enter a Polly Pinch baking contest with her, and they begin spending a lot of time together.  
Zell begins to breath again, albeit slowly, and some days are one step forward and two steps back.
But she is breathing.
Life is by no means easy for Zell, Ingrid, or any of the other characters in this snowy but warm little Massachusetts community, but they do the best they can to bring closure to the tragedy that took Nick's life and pull together as they always have in the past.

What I Liked

Zell - Rose Ellen Carmichael Roy

Loved that Zell and Nick were high school sweethearts in a small town and they are still adult friends with their high school friends...such history with one another.  

Ingrid - "I love ya and I like ya" of my favorite sayings from a character ever :) 

Ingrid's dad- Garret Knox - a good guy...pretty trusting at first to leave his kid with a neighbor he hasn't even met, but after that, a really nice guy.

Ingrid's allergy to peanuts - this was an obvious foreshadowing for a major event...but I still enjoyed it.

Captain Ahab - dog - I'm a dog lover!  And I love it so much when an author integrates breed details into a story - Ahab is a greyhound...a rescued one at that.  They can only let him off leash in enclosed areas due to his prior training of chasing the rabbit.  All he knows is to run.  

Zell's job - draws medical illustrations for a living - so very unique!

Hank the skeleton - loved this detail :) 

Memory Smacks - Zell the widow...her personality, her daily routine, her loneliness, her pain.  Bessette really go this part right...I could feel Zell's pain in my own chest on many occasions.  

Ye Olde Home Ec Witch - Mrs. Chaffin - Trudy - I'd like to be Trudy cares at all about what anyone thinks or thought of chainsaw in hand doing what I do best...and proud of it.

Massachusetts - snow - Bessette described these portions well too...I could feel the cold, see the snow (what little experience I have with it), not just its beauty but the possibility of serious danger as well.

Nick's emails - a way to get to know Nick...I did feel as I read Nick's emails that the Nick in the emails didn't really match Zell's memories of Nick...of course Nick was growing as a person on The Trip, and maybe that's why?

What I Didn't Like

Ingrid's mom - who leaves her child?  I realize there are reasons sometimes...but Ingrid's mom doesn't have one that in my mind makes any sense.  

Celebrity Chef Polly Pinch - Meals in a Cinch - Polly Pinch was a little over the top for me...way too sweet and way too silly, not to mention her unforgivable secret.

All the pirate talk was a little overdone I thought, but then I remembered that I talk like my dog all the time. Oy.

The Trip - the accident was

Nick and Zell's friend E.J. thinks he should have died instead of Nick.  Many of their friends were on The Trip as well, so I was never sure why Bessette decided to give E.J.  alternating sections in each chapter.  I thought about it on my review while writing this post and still couldn't figure out what I was missing.  :(  

Zell's heart "condition" and the lead up to a very flat ending seemed out of place to me.  Her palpitations sounded like panic to me...and it would have made total sense for it to end out that way...

The present in the way in the world I could have not opened it.

Mr. Bedard's cat :( 

Overall Recommendation

This book was my first read that caught my attention after my reading funk.  I'm drawn right now to books about women who crawl their way back from trauma of some kind.  Zell is a survivor.  One day at a time with the help of her friends.

The Author

Alicia Bessette


Monday, August 14, 2017

Book Review - Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
HarperCollins 2016
Format? Hardback
Source? from the Library

Why?  I'm a sucker for cultural analysis and memoirs...and studied working class literacy in grad school.

Title? Being from the deep South, Mississippi, I'm very well acquainted with the "hillbilly elegy" as it home state follows me everywhere.  I was also aware of the Appalachian Hill people's struggles and the opioid epidemic that threatens not just their livelihoods but their lives...and is beginning to threaten the lives of many across the U.S.  Hillbillies were lured in and are being snuffed out...are snuffing themselves out...they are dying...and there's no way out for many.
Cover?  Not really anything special...I didn't see the American flag until I looked back at the cover to type up my reflections here...but maybe that's exactly the point.

What Now? Return the book to the library, pay my rather large overdue fine, and then buy the dang book like I should have in the first place.

Golden Lines

"The people of Breathitt hated certain things, and they didn't need the law to snuff them out." (16)

Mamaw never spent a day in high school.  She'd given birth to and buried a child before she could legally drive a car. (35)

Even in death, Papaw had one foot in Ohio and another in the holler (105)

To my grandparents, the goal was to get out of Kentucky and give their kids a head start.  The kids, in turn, were expected to do something with that head start.  It didn't quite work out that way. (36)

Seeing people insult, scream, and sometimes physically fight was just a part of our life.  After a while, you didn't even notice it. (73)

Mom would officially retain custody, but from that day forward I lived in her house only when I chose to - and Mamaw told me that if Mom had a problem with the arrangement, she could talk to the barrel of Mamaw's gun.  This was hillbilly justice, and it didn't fail me. (78)

The people who ran the courthouse were different from us.  The people subjected to it were not. (79)

One of the questions I loathed, and that adults always asked, was whether I had any brothers or sisters.  When you're a kid, you can't wave your hand, say, "It's complicated," and move on. (81)

The fallen world described by the Christian religion matched the world I saw around me: one where a happy car ride could quickly turn to misery, one where individual misconduct rippled across a family's and a community's life.  When I asked Mamaw if God loved us, I asked her to reassure me that this religion of ours could still make sense of the world we lived in.  I needed reassurance of some deeper justice, some cadence or rhythm that lurked beneath the heartache and chaos. (87)

Mom flailing and screaming in the street was the culmination of things I hadn't seen.  She'd begun taking prescription narcotics not long after we moved to Preble County. I believe the problem started with a legitimate prescription, but soon enough, Mom was stealing from her patients and getting so high that turning an emergency room into a skating rink seemed like a good idea (113) 

Mamaw could spew venom like a Marine Corps drill instructor, but what she saw in our community didn't just piss her off.  It broke her heart. Behind the drugs, and the fighting matches, and the financial struggles, these were people with serious problems, and they were hurting. (142)

Depending on her mood, Mamaw was a radical conservative or a European-style social Democrat...I quickly realized that in Mamaw's contradictions lay great wisdom. (142)

It would be years before I learned that no single book, or expert, or field could fully explain the problems of hillbillies in modern America.  Our elegy is a sociological one, yes, but it is also about psychology and community and culture and faith (145)

Though we sing the praises of social mobility, it has its downsides.  The term necessarily implies a sort of movement - to a theoretically better life, yes, but also away from something.  And you can't always control the parts of your old life from which you drift. (206)

But there is enormous value in what economists call social capital.  It's a professor's term, but the concept is pretty simple: The networks of people and institutions around us have real economic value.  They connect us to the right people, ensure we have opportunities, and impart valuable information.  Without them, we're going it alone. (214)

Whether I made it (the cut for membership in the Yale Law School Journal) or not isn't the point.  What mattered was that, with a professor's help, I had closed the information gap.  It was like I learned to see. (217)

Nothing compares to the fear that you're becoming the monster in your closet. (224)


J.D. Vance should have ended up like all the others who grew up around him in poverty, with drug addictions, and jobless.  He should have been "stuck"; however, with the fierceness of the people around him, he was able to move out and up.  His story should end with graduating from Yale Law School, and he should be considered a successful story of pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps.  The problem with that stereotype is that it doesn't take into consideration the consequences growing up within a failing culture that is America's white working class.  The idea of "just getting out" isn't as simple as many want it to be.  The crisis that Vance describes in Appalachia isn't one that can be shaken off and forgotten.  Vance does an incredible job of showing that to readers.  Upward mobility isn't just a social climb that can be affected by geography.  There are much deeper issues within which to delve if we are to address the crisis of working class whites, including psychological, cultural, social, medical, and educational issues to name only a few.  Yes, J.D. Vance is a success.  Yes, he made it out.  But, his story and many others like it were far from over as they crossed state lines.     
What I Liked

The historical details - Appalachian Regional Commission/ Lyndon Johnson
Jackson, KY to Ohio via Route 23
the migratory flow between Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan
growing up in the "holler" catching "minners" and "crawdads"
Kentucky coal country
Hatfields and McCoys in Appalachia compared to The Sopranos

Ron Selby, the Advanced Math teacher - "I had that kid in class; he's not smart enough to make a functioning bomb."

Mamaw - As harsh as Mamaw Blanton's language (conversation with J.D. about why he was not gay made me laugh out loud, snort and spit my coffee fashion ;) ) and life could be, she loved her grandchildren...and had a truly soft heart for anyone in need.  She definitely lived the "take care of everybody" lifestyle and loved to "spend time with those babies."
Mamaw made sure J.D. had anything he needed, any time, any place.  
What an unconditional love this woman had for her grandson.

Papaw - Despite his "bullshits" and his grouchiness, he never met a hug or kiss that he didn't welcome. (108)
Papaw also loved J.D.  In fact, he was J.D.'s father since his own biological father nor any of his mother's potential candidates could or would step up.  Papaw taught J.D. how to shoot so well that in the Marine Corp, J.D.  qualified with an M16 rifle as an expert.  He also played math games with J.D. after a young J.D. came home one day worried about his lack of math skills.  
When Papaw died, J.D. spoke at his funeral:
I stood up in that funeral home resolved to tell everyone just how important he was.  "I never had a dad," I explained.  "But Papaw was always there for me, and he taught me the things that men needed to know." 

Discussion of Religion - Organized religion was not something J.D.'s family nor many of the other families he knew spent much time on.  This fact calls into question yet another stereotype about working class southern "conservatives."  Despite the stereotype, J.D.'s biological father and his new family were the only real religious families that J.D. ever knew. 
Mamaw reassured J.D. that God never leaves your side.  She believed that without a doubt, but she also believed that God helps the man who helps himself.   
Mamaw believed it was fine to pray to God for help with your problems, but you best be ready to do the work on your part as well.

Psychological focus - Once J.D. became successful and "escaped" the trap, he had to deal with the conundrum of still seeing in himself some of the very behaviors he had worked so hard to get away from.  Especially where relationships were concerned, J.D. had to re-learn much of what had been unconsciously taught to him during his childhood.  
In Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. presents rich research and sources to explain this phenomenon:
"Significant stress in early childhood results in hyperresponsive or chronically activated physiologic stress response, along with increased potential for fear and anxiety.
the part of the brain that deals with stress and conflict is always activated...the switch flipped indefinitely." (228)

Educational focus - Even though J.D. received access to higher education via his service in the military, he needed more...and that doesn't mean just money.  What so many see as common knowledge parts of the educational system are huge stumbling blocks to students who come in from the outside.  The Ivory Tower isn't famous for welcoming outsiders and is well-known to throw gatekeeping devices in students' way.  J.D. wasn't asking for special favors either.  He honestly didn't realize what he even needed to ask for help with.  Academics wasn't the problem.  The largest roadblock was the system itself - institutional, political, and social...and much of it unconscious or accidental...the roadblocks of privilege.

J.D. Vance's book made me pull back out some of my old textbooks on working class literacy...I haven't done that since I finished my last degree because I was exhausted with academia.  
For the first time in many years, my research brain is piqued, and I'm ready to re-visit some of those theories.

What I Didn't Like

There really wasn't anything about Vance's memoir that I didn't like as far as the book itself...there were more than a few things that made me very sad that I had to think about, analyze, and really process before writing my review.  But, again, I think that's Vance's point.

I wasn't crazy about J.D.'s mama...I don't "fault" her really, but I don't "forgive" her either.  
He was just a child, and he needed his mama.  But, she wasn't there.  She had a lot of extenuating circumstances, but that doesn't change the fact that she wasn't there.
I was and am beyond glad that J.D. had other people around him to take care of him.  
J.D.'s mom did have a library card and made sure he had access to books.  She herself became a nurse and cared deeply about "enterprises of the mind"...she was one of those moms who got carried away "revamping" a science fair project. 
Her own lack of education about how a man should treat a woman was unfortunately handed down to her own children tenfold and exacerbated by her quest to find a suitable father for J.D. and Lindsay..."adventures" which pulled them further and further away from being able to live within a stable family environment.
And, then, there were the drugs.  Drugs for which she was probably given a prescription but very quickly lost control of.
Addiction is a huge issue...a crisis of epidemic proportions.

Overall Recommendation
Americans tend to have pretty egocentric views about the world and even within our own borders.  Vance's book Hillbilly Elegy reminded me a lot of Jeannette Walls The Glass Castle, two books I think everybody needs to experience.  

The Author

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dryland by Nancy Stearns Bercaw - TLC Book Review

Dryland: One Woman's Swim to Sobriety by Nancy Stearns Bercaw
• Paperback: 256 pages
• Publisher: Grand Harbor Press (April 18, 2017)

Format? oversized paperback
Source? the publisher via TLC Book Tours

FTC  Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Dryland from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a review; however, the comments and opinions in this review are my own.

Why?  the subject matter.  Addiction is an epidemic.  If we are ever going to help people, we have, above all I think, to get rid of the stigma associated with alcoholism.  We can do that if people tell their stories honestly as Nancy has done.

Title? Dryland - a culture that doesn't celebrate alcohol, a desert, fits.
Cover?  A woman in a swimsuit making sand angels...she doesn't fit in her environment...she's a fish out of water...mindlessly moving her arms and legs...

What Now?  I have several more memoirs on my TBR shelf about other women who've managed to wade through the alcohol in their lives and come out victorious on the other side.  I'll definitely get into them now. 

Golden Lines

I have one pill left - a single twenty-milligram dose of my antidepressant.  Unless I find a way to get a refill tomorrow, I'm in trouble. (1)

I preferred silence when it came to my relationship with alcohol. (4)

With ninety dollars in my pocket, a black string bikini, and a fifth of Johnnie Walker Red in my backpack, I boarded the plane. (53)

I hated my drinking upset him, but I despised his judgement even more.  I wasn't a drunk, for God's sake.  Beer was my reward for enduring this post in the middle of East Africa. I'd earned every drop. (85)

The government puts an exorbitant tax on alcohol to discourage its use.  Singapore wants citizens to be productive members of society, not addicts. (142)

The beauty of the Seychelles is hallucinogenic for someone like me, coming from the desert and being newly sober.  Color is exploding in every direction.  Green palm trees.  Red hibiscus flowers.  Powder-blue sky.  Sparkling-white sand. The sea is the craziest translucent blue-green color that I have ever seen. (186)

I could almost here my dad chiming in with "Go, gal, go." (218)


Nancy is an alcoholic expat, living in Abu Dhabi with her husband Allan who works for a film company.  
Nancy, a competitive swimmer in her younger days has also been a heavy drinker since 9th grade.  But, hey...she gets up every morning, gets her son David to school, and holds down a full time job.  What's the problem?
Alcohol gives her courage and keeps her fears at bay.  Fear of the past, present, and future.
Sitting in a pharmacy one day after a long night of drinking, Nancy thinks about her life up to this point.  Where she's been, how she got there, lessons she's learned, people she's met, people she has lost, and cultures she's experienced in every way imaginable.  
Could there be another way to live this life?  Could she stop fighting the "war of her own making"? 

What I Liked

Nancy's bravery and adventures as a young woman.  My mind was blown by the countries she'd visited and lived in by the time she was an expat living in Abu Dhabi.  The expat lifestyle has always been interesting, exciting, and scary all at the same time to me.  Nancy's life experiences in different countries, navigating the languages, cultures, climates, laws, etc. did not disappoint.

Literary references - Guy de Maupassant, Bob Dylan, West with the Night by Beryl Markham, A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Hans Christian Andersen

The mostly equal attention and detail that Bercaw gives to life in recovery as she did to her growing alcoholism.  This is the part I think is missing for a lot of people who need to hear these stories.  Recovery is possible.  It's not easy, and it's a lifelong process, but it's worth it.  

What I Didn't Like

For someone who drank most every day of her life over many many years, making the decision to stop drinking without medical assistance was very dangerous.   It happens, yes.  But, Nancy was lucky.  I was even more surprised that she was so concerned about withdrawal symptoms from a 20 mg. anti-depressant than she was (or seemed to be) about withdrawal from alcohol.  She does mention that alcohol withdrawal usually includes "tranquilizing medication and medical support," but then she chooses to go her own route.
I'm not trying to lessen what Nancy did.  I'm really not.  But, people die from alcohol withdrawal.  I wish that she would have at least mentioned how dangerous her choice was.

Overall Recommendation

Nancy's story is an important one, not just for other alcoholics and recovering alcoholics, but the rest of the world too.  As a recovering alcoholic myself, I firmly believe there are many more women like Nancy and myself who have a problem with alcohol and either are ashamed or afraid of admitting it. It's also difficult to decide whether or not one truly has a problem with alcohol living in a society soaked with it.  And even if someone does decide he/she has a problem, what happens next.  The stigma has to end, and authors like Nancy who are brave enough to share their stories will keep that hope alive.

The Author

Nancy Stearns Bercaw

Website, Twitter, Facebook

Other Stops on the Tour

Wednesday, August 9th: Stranded in Chaos
Thursday, August 10th: Peppermint PhD
Friday, August 11th: Tina Says…
Monday, August 14th: Sara the Introvert
Wednesday, August 16th: Openly Bookish
Monday, August 21st: Kimberly Fisher on Instagram
Wednesday, August 23rd: Mama Reads Hazel Sleeps
Thursday, August 31st: Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, September 6th: Books and Bindings
Thursday, September 7th: Sarah Reads Too Much
Tuesday, September 12th: Wining Wife
Wednesday, September 13th: Stacy’s Books
Thursday, September 14th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Monday, September 18th: Bookish Realm Reviews
Monday, September 18th: Everyone Needs Therapy
Thursday, September 21st: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Monday, September 25th: Breezes at Dawn
Friday, September 29th: Suko’s Notebook

Friday, July 28, 2017

Day 427 - Thankful Thursday...which is really Friday - The Grateful Alcoholic and Anger

As a part of active recovery, a gratitude list is paramount for me.
What I want to do here weekly is not just be thankful for the easy stuff (although that does have a place)...but I want to take the negative and spin it positive.

So, no negatives here.  
Only positive.

1. AA - Always my number 1.  
This past week has been a hard one.  
I've been numb some (but not by alcohol).  
Active recovery means that even though you are no longer drinking, you still have to deal with STUFF.
Dealing with stuff may honestly be more difficult than not drinking.

I've binge watched some Netflix and gone to bed too night I saw the sun rise :(  
I cancelled my therapy appt. because I just didn't want to talk about the things she makes me talk about.  
Self-Esteem.  Who gives a crap?  
(I realize this isn't very positive so far, but hang in there with me).
I've been quick to anger around everyone in my work, at home, etc.  
I've hidden more than I've shown my face.  
I've napped.

The only thing I looked forward to this week was my Sobriety Sisters meeting Wednesday night. 

When the group leader started discussing our theme for the night and talking about being a grateful alcoholic, I began to wonder how the hell I would ever become a "grateful alcoholic." 

I also immediately started thinking that I wasn't going to have anything to share that night.
So much for the meeting I was looking forward to.

Grateful alcoholic is not a phrase that could describe me this past week.
And may never be a phrase that describes me...although I still have hopes.

And then the discussion leader started talking about anger.
She regained my attention at that point.

As she continued to talk, I realized that I was, indeed, angry.

I don't get angry because everybody at the table has a drink but me.
I don't want a drink.
I sit at the table angry because I don't have a choice.
I want to choose not to have a drink.
Which in some way I do.
But, there is no other good option for me.
So I'm not sure that counts as a choice.

I couldn't have a drink if I wanted one.
And that pisses me off.

I'm broken in a way.
And I don't like it.

I don't want to be weak.
I don't want to need to go to meetings.
I don't want to need medication.
I don't want to.
I am not grateful that I am an alcoholic.
And, when it was time to share, I shared.

As I shared, I realized just how angry I really still was.
Heads around me nodded in agreement...they understood.
They too are still angry.
Not angry and in danger of losing their sobriety but just angry.
You may have to be an alcoholic to understand this part.

Even those in the room who are in long term recovery at this point still agreed that anger was a part of who they are sometimes.
Because of this disease.
Angry but Accepting at the same time.

One of the younger, more recently (one month) sober members of the group came up to me after the meeting and hugged me. 
She's angry too.
And right now she can't see past the anger at all.
She still wants a drink and still is searching for some explanation besides being an addict.
She knows in her heart that there is no other explanation.  She just doesn't want to know it.

Our discussion leader mentioned working the steps everyday...even in long term recovery, she includes the steps into various parts of her day.
I'm 15 months sober.
I haven't actively worked the steps yet.
I may just now be beginning to understand what that really means.

I don't think I'm a grateful alcoholic.
I think I'm an alcoholic who is grateful.

All of this negative rambling comes to this positivity:

1.  I'm thankful for AA.
2.  I'm thankful for my Sobriety Sisters.
3.  I'm thankful for those who have more recovery under their belt than I do.
4.  I'm thankful for those who have less recovery under their belt than I do.
5.  I'm thankful for discussions that help me realize what's truly going on in my head.
6.  I'm thankful for Wednesday nights.
7.  I'm thankful for Netflix.
8.  I'm thankful for my therapist even though I still don't want to talk about self-esteem.
9.  I'm thankful for naps.
10.  I'm grateful for anger that demands my attention.
11.  I'm grateful that I truly don't want a drink even when I'm the only person around the table who isn't drinking.
12.  I'm thankful for brokenness.  How else is light supposed to get in?
13.  I'm thankful for weakness.  Without weakness, I would't be able to ask for and receive help.
14.  I'm grateful that medication exists.  How the heck did women in the past deal with all this crap???
15.  I'm thankful to have a room full of women each Wednesday night who truly understand.
16.  I'm thankful for the steps.
17.  I'm thankful for the Aha moments.
18.  I'm thankful for the past 15 months.
19.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to be a person someone younger looks up to.
20.  Maybe I am a grateful alcoholic after all?

21.  On an unrelated note: I'm also grateful that summer school is almost over and I will be reading books again instead of student written research papers!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Day 420 - Thankful Thursday - Overcoming Fear

As a part of active recovery, a gratitude list is paramount for me.
What I want to do here weekly is not just be thankful for the easy stuff (although that does have a place)...but I want to take the negative and spin it positive.

So, no negatives here.  
Only positive.

1.  AA - we talked about fear last night.  The fears we all discussed were illogical fears...fears that have no substance...the what ifs...the fears our brains use to scramble us up.  I have lots of these and am working hard in therapy to deal with them.  I just assumed once more that I was the only one who had these kinds of fears, and my fears are just another way I'm "messed up."

Once again, I was wrong y'all.  
One by one, the women around the table talked about fear.  Many of our fears were the same.  Some of the fears were new fears, and some were from the past.  
Some of the women feeling the fears were new to sobriety, and some were more settled and comfortable with their sobriety...but they still felt the fears.
One of the younger members who was just returning from a night in jail after receiving her first DUI said what she feared most was that somehow she would be unable to "get it"...a night out with a plan of "just a drink or two" ended up in jail.
There is no "just a drink or two" for an alcoholic.
It just is what it is.
It's not fair.
It's not easy.
It just is.
A more season woman in the group told her that even with 7 years of sobriety, she remembers vividly the rawness of new sobriety...the ups and downs, the getting to know yourself all over again...because all you know is yourself drinking.

Fear of the past.
Fear of loved ones leaving.
Fear of relapse.

We vowed to stick together as we battle these illogical fears.
Step 1 is to admit that we are powerless.
It's really just that simple.
I am thankful for AA.

2.  Friends - A friend of a friend saw me leaving an AA meeting.
She asked me, "What are you doing??"
I answered, matter of factly, "Attending the ladies' AA meeting."
After she sputtered for a minute, she finally very quickly told me about a family member of hers who needed to go to AA.  I don't know if there really is a family member or if she was just trying to find something/anything to say after my blunt admission that I was attending an AA meeting.
The friend of a friend called the friend and asked what was going on with me.
My husband said, "So much for 'anonymous'.
I said I wasn't sure why she needed to ask our shared friend since she had asked me and I had told her up front.

**At this point, you're wondering how in the heck I'm going to find a positive in this story**

Our shared friend called me a few days ago...a couple of weeks after I "had been seen leaving the AA meeting."
She called me to share that she too has a  problem.
She is getting help.
She wanted me to know that she knows right where I am and supports me.
She wanted me to know that she loves me.

The husband of the friend who reported my AA attendance stuck his head in the meeting room last night.
I can think of no other reason for him to do this except to see if I was there.
I raised my hand tall, smiled a toothy smile, waved, and called him by name.

The stigma ends with me.
I'm thankful for friends and even friends of friends and their husbands.

3.  Summer school - summer school classes are small.  It is within these small classes that I actually get to know my students, I know their names, I very quickly get to know their strengths and weaknesses, and I get to know how much they need and/or want to be pushed or not pushed.  I also have time for revision essays.
I teach composition.
I believe very strongly that we learn to become more strategic readers and writers by reading and writing.
My job is to facilitate learning for my help them build that bridge between what they already know and what they need to know.
In summer school classes, the students who work quickly and don't need me as much can be on their merry way as quickly as they please while the others stay behind and get the help they need.
Isn't that what learning and teaching are all about?
Summer school reminds me of why I wanted to be a teacher in the first place.
I'm thankful to be a teacher teaching summer school.

4.  Air conditioning and my electric bill.  I live in Mississippi.
Mississippians melt in July and August.
4 showers a day are normal.
If you live in MS, air conditioning should be free.
My church has an account with money just to help the elderly and disabled in our community pay their electric bills in the summer.  The heat and humidity are that serious.
I am neither elderly nor disabled...but I am a 48 yr old woman.
Hot flashes are real.
AC is a necessity if I am not to burst into flames from time to time.
I am thankful for air conditioning :)

5.  The Southern Black Racer that lives in my backyard.
Not only am I thankful for her, but I am also thankful that she stays pretty curled up and hidden in the railroad ties that surround our pool.
I'm thankful that she eats rats and any other rodents and insects that might be piddling about in my yard.
I am thankful that she has not tried to swim in our pool.
I am thankful that she is outside and I am inside.
I am thankful for you, Mrs. Snake.  You stay out of my way, and I will gladly stay out of yours. ;)

No, this is NOT the snake in my backyard.  When I said I am thankful that she is outside and I am inside, I meant it.

What can you find today to be thankful for?