How My Family Survived the Storm of Depression

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Family is such a wondrous thing, isn’t it? We’re so interwoven with blood and memories and stories and even sometimes not with blood but with miracles or the precious gift of the resurrection of family by combining two. Our lives are swimming together in the same pool of life, sometimes in different depths and sections but in the same pool, nonetheless. So when good things happen or hard times hit, like ripples and waves in a pool, all members of the family feel the water changing.

In mine, it was like a big tropical storm hit our pool when depression reached its most severe for me a few months ago. Like such a storm, there were rains that preceded its arrival and indications of the strongest part to come, but everyone felt it differently and some never knew what hit them when the storm came. It left messes in its wake and confusion in the midst. And the clean-up process is still ongoing.

I’m blessed to say that my family has supported me beautifully in this most difficult of difficult times for me and that our community has worked to support them as well. It’s often misunderstood or perhaps even completely missed that the family of someone suffering severe depression deserves attention, too. Here’s how this storm affected my family. Here’s how people have helped. And hopefully, here, in between the lines, you will find help for your family or loved ones if a storm of this kind makes landfall at your family’s pool.

Effects on My Spouse

At the time things became clear that they were dire, my husband was faced with an ever increasing amount of worry and tasks before him. He had to research ways to help me. He had to consider financial costs of the help he wanted to get me. And, he had to consider whether or not I was at risk of taking my own life. He had to check in on me, like a lifeguard, a lot. All of this was on top of working and caring for our 5 children and household when I was unable to do so myself. These are heavy burdens to bare, some of the heaviest. But our community, friends and loved ones stepped in…a group of women that I meet with regularly brought meals to our family for two weeks straight while I was in an all-day outpatient treatment program. Our church family brought us money to help offset the cost of this program. My husband spent extra time with his disciple leader and men he trusts in order to make sure he had a place to share and get support. My mom flew in from Florida and stayed with my husband and our kids while I was in the hospital after I made an attempt to end my life. She hired a cleaning company to come in, she did laundry, she and my niece took turns picking up the kids from school so that my husband could visit me in the hospital and be free of these duties during this heart-wrenchingly difficult time.

In these ways our community lessened the blow to my husband’s whole world and lightened his load. He still had a lot of heavy weight to carry, but he had life preservers to hang on to when the waters got rough. He would also say that his faith was most definitely his life raft in all of this, and that is an unspeakable gift in itself.

Effects on My Children

Children are miraculous and resilient little creatures. Like new swimmers they find that they can do more than they thought they could when the water gets deep. We wouldn’t purposely throw a new swimmer into the deep end, but when they are forced in, most find that they can actually keep themselves afloat. That’s kind of like what happened to my kids, but like a child who doesn’t really want to be in the deep end, they showed their distaste and some even hid it.

My youngest went to be with family a state away for 2 weeks during this time. She is too little to understand what was going on at home and she is used to having mini-vacations with them. They provided her with familiarity, great bundles of love and lots of stability. She was pretty good with this transition but towards the end I am told she asked for mommy quite a bit. Our extended family provided a huge gift to us by loving on her and caring for her during this time.

My 10 year old stayed afloat by expressing irritability, some irrationality and asking lots of questions. Thank goodness his favorite person in the universe was with him (my mom) during the hardest times because she answered his questions, was patient with him and provided great distraction.

The teenagers were different. Most acted like the cool kids going off the high dive. No big deal right? But inside I know they felt unsure and scared. We were able to talk about things more as the storm passed but what they wanted and needed more than anything during the eye of that storm were honest upfront answers and to feel like everything was going to be okay. My husband and our extended family, as well as their peer groups, did this while I was unable to.

All the kids, on some level, internalized their fear and confusion. But with extra attention and TLC, reassurance that everything was going to be okay, as well as the ability to be open about it with others, they have come through the other side of the storm.

Effects on Friendships

Friends swim in our pool, too, right? Two of my closest friends in particular were dramatically impacted by this storm. They felt lots of fear and even anger. One expressed quite a bit of anger after my overdose, but we talked about it, acknowledged it, and I took ownership of the pain that it caused her.  One made lots of phone calls and felt like she needed to check on me all the time. She really wanted for me to talk about the nitty gritty of things with her and that was a little too hard for me, but those were her needs. We were able to talk about that and then support each other’s needs. Both friends were deeply impacted, no doubt about it. Honest communication with me and with my spouse throughout the storm kept them in the loop and gave them a sense of hope and optimism.

The Rainbow after the Storm Has Passed

Like so many storms, there is beauty in the renewal that comes afterward. Sometimes it takes the clean-up crew a long time to get things back in order, but often there are glimmers of beauty even in the midst or immediately after. For us, there was beauty in the way our community, family and friends surrounded us while our family was trying to stay above water. There was beauty for my family in the reassurance of my presence when I came home from the hospital. And there was so much beauty as I witnessed endless supply of concern, love and patience poured out, on and to me. While many people were sad, scared and hurt, right along with us, there was beauty in the coming together – kind of like a pool party on a perfect summer day but maybe no cocktails or music! And there is definitely beauty in the healing process, for us all.

*This post first appeared on The Home Living Wife as a guest post. I am grateful and honored for the opportunity to have my post featured on this beautiful site full of beautiful things and people. Please visit Kelsey’s blog today! You simple won’t find a more loving and sweet blog host as her.

Please: If you or someone you know is struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out to LIFELINE.

To Be Seen Again

One of the hardest things I have been dealing with these last few months is a sense of not wanting to be seen. I don’t want to be seen by the world, by the people in it, by even friends of mine and sometimes by my own family. It’s as if everyone is going to see all my pain and shame just by looking at me and even worse, they will see how much I’ve failed.

In my mind it’s like nobody has anything better to do than to look at me and judge me. Which we all know is a complete fallacy, a trick of the mind, but a really good trick because it feel so true.

The real truth is that I don’t go out in the world judging people. I’m not sizing anyone up. If I ever do it’s because of some sort of envy or admiration, which can be both good and bad. But in my heart, I don’t want to judge anyone and I believe a lot of people feel the same way. Additionally, most people are really only interested in their own stuff, their own life, their own weight gain or loss, their own hair, their own makeup, their own outfit and just so focused on themselves that they really aren’t looking at me.

On several occasions recently I’ve shared with my husband that I feel unable to do something because I just don’t want to be seen. It’s an undeniable feeling, it’s intrusive, it’s anxiety producing and just plain sad. He tries to understand. He’s good like that. But I don’t think I fully understand it. It’s part of this depression, anxiety, bipolar goop. It’s part of a shame I’ve lived with for too long. It’s actually quite self-centered. I’m truly not the center of the universe, or am I? 😉

I know a large measure of this is due to body image issues as well. Can anyone relate? I’ve gained A LOT of weight over the last year due to poor diet, inactivity due to depression and medications. For all the wrong reasons, when I am overweight I feel under-lovable. The more the weight, the less worth I have. And during this time, I need to feel loved more than ever. It’s as though if I’m not pretty on the outside, then you will know I’m not pretty on the inside, either.

Whether it be society, childhood trauma or self-sabotage, it doesn’t matter the cause because I’m stuck in the feeling of wanting to disappear, regardless. But somehow, deep inside me, I have to find the love. I have to find the love for myself, I have to find my identity in Christ and the courage to bravely face the world despite how much I feel like shrinking back inside myself or under the covers.

So, I’m working on that. I’m facing the world when I have to and sometimes when I don’t. Like when I went to the Go Blog Social conference several weeks ago, or when I went to a bible journaling meet-up this past weekend anticipating a small crowd (turns out there were only two of us there). And when I go to church on Sundays, I’m facing it. And I’m spending time in the Word again. I’m listening to worship music and spending time in devotionals and Bible study. I’m bible journaling. I’m listening to faith based audio books (never have done this before) and surrounding myself with His message. (If you are struggling with feeling beautiful and lovable I highly recommend the “You’re Beautiful” devotional that comes in the “Beautiful” devotional kit by Illustrated Faith. I’m working through this now and it’s touching me right in the most tender places of my heart.)

I’m doing these things and more (like starting to incorporate healthy eating habits into my life again). I am taking action. And I’m working to really embrace the fact that my worth is not completely tied to my appearance. I am seeking the knowledge that it can be okay for my pain to be visible and it can be okay that I am visible again. Maybe the world wants me in it? Maybe the world will be a slightly better place if I participate in it? Maybe, it will be good to be seen.

The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”.png

Confessions of a Bible Journaling Beginner

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You know I talk about messy stuff around here and let me tell you, bible journaling can get messy.

I recently (very recently) began journaling in my bible as a way to spend more time in the word and as a way to utilize my creativity to help me study, express my thoughts, feelings, emotions and prayers through art. While I went through a period of severe depression recently, I found it particularly difficult to connect with God. Once I found myself in this “recovery” phase of things (I’d like to think that’s where I’m at.) my natural instinct to draw near to him became apparent again. This was a joyful discovery for me after these past few months of feeling so far away.

But like most things that I do, it’s been a messy adventure. Both good and invigorating and, I hate to say bad, but well…just a little messy. Messy can mean a lot of things. Try to think of it, in this case, both literally and figuratively. That said, I’d like to share my confessions with you about what this beginning process has been like for me. Perhaps you can learn something from me. And maybe it will even encourage you to dive in to bible journaling yourself. You will find an amazing and rich community waiting for you on all social media outlets, but you can first look here  and follow the #biblejournaling and #biblejournalingcommunity hashtags on Instagram to find fellow journalers.  I think you will undoubtedly find that bible journaling is a beautiful (and sometimes messy) way to express your faith.

Confession No. 1

I’m kind of a scaredy cat. I am timid when it comes to writing and making art on the pages of my beautiful new journaling bible. (You can find the one I have here, if interested. I’m not getting paid to tell you about it and there are lots out there.) I totally hesitate to try new mediums and to really take over the page. I’ve discovered that I’m terrified of getting my pages wet now. This is because they wrinkle and crinkle easily (although there are methods that supposedly help with this (like using this stuff called Gesso), I have not mastered these techniques fully yet. I have ruined pages on the flip side by getting a page too wet and causing my work to run or smudge.

I did this here:

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And here:

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Confession No.2

I’ve spent way too much money on my new hobby. Like most people who get excited about new things, I wanted to try out all of the goodies and tools and well, everything. I still do, in fact. But if you can try to use some restraint it will probably serve you well! (Your bank account will definitely be happier.) It’s really hard not to indulge in all of the great products you see others using, but time and time again I hear bible journaling experts say to just start with the basics. I certainly have the basics now…and then a little more. In the hopes of helping another beginner out there I would recommend getting a journaling bible, some Sakura Pigma Micron pens, a couple regular pencils and some good colored pencils, but even Crayola Twistables work great. You can work your way up from there, perhaps a little bit more slowly than I did. I have to recommend Illustrated Faith as a great resource for bible journaling supplies, tools and treats, simply because I love them. They also have super fun ways to embellish your page (I’m waiting on the arrival of some stickers and die cuts I ordered from them now) if you aren’t that into drawing, painting or lettering pages all by yourself or if you just want to fancy things up. I’d show you my stash of stuff, but that would be embarrassing.

Confession No. 3

I’m totally insecure about my pages. This is the confession that is a little bit harder to put out there, but it’s true. I can rob myself of the joy of journaling by comparing my work or end results to others – others who have some mad art skills, training or have been doing this for a long time. None of this comparing business is good. It takes away from the whole point of why I’m doing this in the first place. I have images in my head of the greatness I could create only to fall way short of that expectation and then I feel all sulky and gloomy. That’s not what God would want for me to come away with after spending time in the word and it’s not of Him. To combat this, I intend to work diligently on spending more time in prayer and devotion and allowing my bible journaling to reflect that, not what I think the finished page should look like. There’s a real battle here, and I think other beginner bible journalers can relate to that.

Here’s wishing you a happy bible journaling adventure and don’t forget, it’s okay to get messy!

If you’re a beginner, tell me what your confessions are? If you’re not a beginner, how about sharing what obstacles, if any, you had to overcome when you got started? And if you’re not either of those, say hi anyway?

Small Victories Sunday Linkup

Feeling Heavy: That Depression Kind

I started this blog with the intention of utilizing it as a therapeutic outlet. Then I got caught up in the idea of getting a lot of followers and visits and views and I forgot to keep doing that, in a way. So today, I’m gonna write about what’s really going on with me in my head, because I need to share it, and it might as well be with you, right?

I can feel this depression thing hanging on or hanging on to me again today. But wait, I told you I had turned a corner previously…I still think I have (I haven’t had a suicidal thought in quite a while it seems), but today, I feel heavy and up and down and irritated and sad and the sad feels big. I woke up feeling positive. I did a little shopping and enjoyed that. I put together a new flower arrangement for our front door and that was fun! But slowly, as the day crept on, the heaviness grew heavier and my ability to cope with the loudness of my home and youngest child (she lives with autism and can be quite loud) lessened more and more.

In order to get through it I isolated. I went to my room and locked myself in, literally, and did some bible journaling. I find this to be a great refuge for my mind and it does my soul good. I liked my finished product even though I am noticing that I am comparing my entries more and more to others recently. (red flag) It really did turn out quite nicely. (How I wish those self-loathing thoughts would seriously and completely disappear forever!) Then I tried to be present with my husband and youngest in our living room, but I felt like I had to tune out…I focused on social media and reading blog posts of others and colored some of a drawing I recently created. I was completely isolated in my mind. I truly just couldn’t cope. I wanted to run away. I wanted to go back into my bedroom and lock the door and never come out.

Something has shifted in me recently. I had experienced a couple weeks of what I now know was hypomania and naturally my doctor adjusted my medications. I want that hypomania back. I want to feel happy or excited or something. I don’t want to feel this heavy heart that’s beating in my chest tonight. I’m scared of these feelings. I don’t want to feel them. I don’t want to go back to that dark place. Please don’t take me back there.

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I’m going to try really hard to remember that although this has been happening more frequently lately, it doesn’t mean I’m there, stuck in the darkness. I’m going to remind myself that tomorrow is a new day and help is on the way. This heaviness may lighten up. I’m going to try again. It’s Easter tomorrow and we celebrate the resurrection of our savior, perhaps tomorrow will be a resurrection for me as well.

There, I got it out. That felt good. I’m glad I wrote it down.

Where Did My Voice Go?

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I’ve been pondering the symptoms of depression today. I spent time reading some heart-achingly beautiful posts written by women battling the beast and it reminded me of a simple but huge thing that I lost during the worst of my own recent battle. In fact, I’m still fighting for it, because depression stole my voice and I’m wondering where it went.

When the depression first crept in I could feel my voice quieting. I felt a sort of kind of buzz that made it that much harder for me to hear it. I suppose it was like a heavy white noise. As the disease progressed I felt the trapping of my voice, as if my chest was covered in big heavy chains and I was unable to get enough air to clearly use it. Occasionally, I caught a breath and tried to let someone know that the air was getting thin but my voice did not have the strength to say it loud enough. No one heard me. Was it because I was too quiet or was it because my voice had already slipped away? I’ll never know.

Depression steals so many things from us, but not having a voice leaves you alone inside yourself, a scary place to be during that darkness. Losing your voice leaves you without your lifelines that you may have held on to each and every day to keep you just above water. I lost my voice. I lost my ability to communicate with God, with my husband, with my family and my friends. I lost my ability to feel heard and understood. I lost my voice and it was painful.

I wonder where it went? Was it hiding under the covers somewhere close to me when I slept and lay comatose in my bed? Maybe it was hiding under my pillow, on the cold side. Was my voice lost on that vacation I took with my husband not too long before my symptoms began to worsen? Maybe it had washed out to sea? Perhaps it flew up to catch the falling stars I witnessed while gazing at the moon from that perfect Florida beach. Where was it? Was it trapped in one of those bins we have in storage that contain the photos and memories of our children’s younger days? Perhaps it was when the leaves fell from the trees in the fall, maybe then my voice was blown away with them.

We practiced a meditation in the outpatient partial hospitalization program I participated in this past October, it was called “Leaves on a Stream“. The gist of it is: you watch your thoughts float down a stream on leaves, just acknowledging them and allowing them to float by. I don’t think I had any voice left at this point, but if I did… the remaining pieces definitely went down that stream. (Side note: I actually really liked this exercise. If you click the link above you may find it something you would like, too.)

But that stream must lead to some kind of loop because I think some of the pieces and parts of my voice are coming back. I’ve begun to blog and create art and journal. I attend therapy at least once a week, if not more. I have had moments of excitement and joy, no matter how brief, it is a relief to finally have them.

I talked my teenage daughter’s ear off on the ride home from her school today. After I realized I had been talking an awful lot, I halfheartedly apologized. I sort of chuckled and said, “Sorry, I haven’t talked much to anyone today.” And then it struck me suddenly, I hardly talk to anyone at all during the day. Some days I may not talk to a single soul (out loud – actually using my voice) until the kids or my husband arrive at home, whichever happens first. So I realize, I may not be exercising it much.

But I’m exercising it more and I’m fighting for it. Actually, it may be fighting for me. Perhaps that sneaky thing snuck itself back in to my soul and will get louder and stronger as the healing and recovery continues.

But I still wonder, where on earth was it?

 

Life Lessons: What I’ve Learned from a Broken Car Door Handle

The door handle broke on my car, on the inside…on the driver’s side. This funny little thing happened a few weeks ago and I just realized that its happening has taught me a few things – about getting out of my car without a door handle and about life.

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If you know anything about bipolar disorder or depression or anxiety then you probably already know that I’m prone to discombobulation over little things. You may also know that having to open my door from the outside while I am still inside the car causes me anxiety because, you know, people might SEE me doing this. And you may also know that this isn’t a big deal but it can be a big deal in my messy but pretty little head. And today, it struck me, I’ve gotta share this. Some seriously good reminders have come from this. So, here it goes.

  1. Stay calm. When your door handle breaks off and you’re out and about and you don’t know what to do, stay calm for Pete’s sake. Take a couple deep breaths and then laugh. When anything remotely like this happens…your kid poops in his/her diaper right before you leave the house, you brake your key off in the door, you put the milk in the pantry and forget about it…just breathe and laugh. It will make everything better, I promise, at least for a while.
  2. Be prepared. After a few days or weeks of having a broken door handle I have learned that I need to stop and think before I try and get out of car. It’s like somehow, just opening the door now takes several more steps. So I have to be prepared to roll my window down, unlock the door from the inside (because mine automatically locks), put my arm through the open window, open the door from the outside and then…I have to roll the window back up. There may or may not have been several times I have done this improperly, which then leads to bad words and some more bad words, as I curse the door, the door handle and the car in general. So when you’re faced with a situation such as this…something that makes life a bit more difficult than usual, be prepared. Think through the steps and don’t get caught off guard. Otherwise your children may hear words that you are not intending them to hear for several more years.
  3. Take it slow. Similar to the “be prepared scenario”…this situation reminds me that I must slow down before I jump right out of the car. I’m literally put back in my place as soon as I reach for the door handle…that isn’t there. So there I am, thinking through the steps, again. I have to take my time to get it all right because this method is like retraining my muscles or something, those muscles that are for car door opening. But can’t we all be rewarded by slowing things down a bit? Maybe it’s not SO bad that I have to think through this process. Maybe it’s good for my brain. Maybe, if we take our time, less things like broken car door handles will happen? Either way, we’re always hearing that we move to fast and hurry too much through life. Let’s slow down.
  4. Get over yourself. I have an intensified concern over what other people think sometimes, and by sometimes, I mean most of the time. (It’s really not pleasant.) It may be vanity or it may be social anxiety. It may be both. But I know when I roll down that window and reach my arm out, I know that I’m doing something unconventional when it comes to door opening. I mean, have you ever actually seen someone opening their car door in this fashion? I didn’t think so. Part of that may be because this rarely happens or perhaps that you just don’t notice. That last part is the important part. Nobody really notices. I can say that I have conducted some research on this…because no one has yet to stare right at me or say anything to me about it, yet. Even so…I might think that they are watching, so I look around, kind of scope out the situation. I admit, I try to avoid opening the door when anyone is nearby or looking my direction. But, why bother? What does it really mean in the scheme of things? And am I so important that complete strangers are watching me to see how I exit my vehicle? Nope. I know you can probably think of a lot of ways this applies to life. Get over yourself already. (Talking to self.)
  5. Get it done. Finally, I must say, it’s time to get the freaking door handle fixed. No need to procrastinate any longer. (Actually I have a couple of real reasons, but for the point of the post we will say they don’t exit.) Just get it done already. Stop putting off those things that you really need to take care of. Let go of the hassle of having those issues or items hanging around in your head. Clear up space in your mind and in your life by taking care of business, okay?

See, all of these great life lessons came from one broken door handle. I can hardly believe it actually, now that I’ve figured it out. Something that drives me a wee bit crazy daily has actually done me some good. (And by a wee bit, I may mean that it sometimes completely, utterly and undeniably makes me mad, as in crazy mad. Also, I don’t feel bad using the term “crazy” here because, I may actually be crazy, so it’s okay. Just this time.)

Have you ever had something like this happen that reminded you of some important life lessons? Tell me about it? I’d love to hear!

Trouble in Paradise: Vacationing with Depression and Anxiety 

 

 FYI, I’m in Florida visiting my parents along with one of my children at the time of writing this post.

 Apparently I brought some friends with me on this vacation of mine. We’ll call these friends depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. PTSD is always with me too, I guess, but it likes to lurk or hang far back so I don’t know it’s there until the most unlikely of moments and you know, all of these guys can be pretty sneaky.
I don’t expect to see them when I’m traveling or even during preparation for a trip, but they decided to show up, darn it. I’ve actually been experiencing a little bit of a vacation from these friends, so I thought. (We all have friends from whom we need a vacation, right?). They started to make themselves known the day I left for my trip. I think they were actually hiding behind the curtains the day before. Either way, it turns out they never really left.

It’s kind of a problem when you’re a grown up traveling with your ten year-old child and it takes all of your fortitude to hide the tears you want to shed because suddenly you’re gripped with fear, sadness and intense anxiety about leaving your husband and home. I mean, you don’t want to freak your kids out about flying or traveling in general, so you suck it up as long as you are able. Plus, I really don’t think my child, who has some anxiety of his own, would have benefited from that whole “mommy can’t adult today” business in this instance.

The tears fell for me after I spoke to my husband once we arrived safely in Florida, but I had to wipe those away quickly again because I didn’t want to cause my mom to feel bad. And then I thought “This is not the way you’re supposed to feel when you embark on a new adventure, especially one in Florida!”

That’s the thing about these kind of friends…they really like to ruin everything. Last night at dinner my mom told we we were going to go have dinner the next night with some friends of hers and family of ours that also live here. Instantly my eyes shot her a look of complete surprise and my heart sank. It was as if all the darkness I had been fighting fell upon me again. That fast. I was terrified and all I could think was “Please don’t make me do this!” Honestly I was a little annoyed with my mom…doesn’t she know me at all? But…it’s a lot to expect someone to understand social anxiety when they don’t have it. It’s also a lot to expect her to know the intensity with which I’m having to deal with it right now.

I spoke up. I probably could of done a better job of communicating my needs but she heard me and ended up canceling the plans. I’m relieved. I’m grateful that my mom tried to understand as best as she could. But it’s also sad that participating in normal and small gatherings is too much for me at this time.

I can feel depression lurking in the small sadness that is constant. I can feel it in my body and I feel it as a weight in my eyes, as weird as that may sound. I feel depression in a lack of enthusiasm. I don’t feel excitement. I feel kind of numb. And I know what I normally feel like when I go on vacation…it certainly isn’t numbness. This, dear ones, is not feeling like paradise, even though there are signs all around that say it is. My parents even have a mural painted on one of their walls (a big one) with beautiful images of palm trees and the declaration that it is indeed another day in paradise!

I’m trying really hard to not let these pesky “friends of mine” take the fun out of everything while I’m here. My mom and I were able to do our Bible study together last night and that was pretty cool. We also had some art time and she showed me how to do zentangle. These kinds of activities really bring a sense of peace to my soul. I’m surrounded by so much beauty and opportunities for fun. I’m doing my best to take in the little things and focus on God’s creations….from a flower, to a palm tree, to the love of my parents.

I’m determined, these guys aren’t going to ruin my vacation, but it may just not feel like paradise this time. And, I guess that is okay. It’s just the way it is right now.