bully

Bullies!

Bullies, we all dislike bullies, right? When we think of bullies we think of schoolyards and children who are being teased or pushed around.

But what about adult bullies, how do we deal with them? There are many types of bullying. There are the ‘manipulators’ . . . you know, the ones who smile in your face and pry for info and then use anything you might tell them to discredit you with others. We often encounter this type of bully in the workplace . . . usually this is someone who is jealous of you that wants to discredit you to bosses or co-workers.

But sometimes, we find this type of bully in a mentally / emotionally abusive marriage. The abuser or bully discredits friends and family of the abused spouse, they make up stories and slights in an attempt to alienate their spouse, to convince them that they are the only one that love them, cares for them and is there for them.
They display jealousy and set boundaries, treating their spouse like a child. They belittle them and if the spouse complains they tell them they are too sensitive, that it was a joke and if provoked they may resort to calling their spouse names and giving them put downs. They remind them that they’re smarter, stronger, better.

The abused spouse often misses the abuse at first, thinking they’ve instead found someone who supports them, understands them and is truly there for them. It’s slow, insidious and the true bully generally isn’t revealed until they think they have full control of their partner.

Friends and family see it happening, they know how the bully feels about them, the slights and slings and arrows, and it takes a lot to stand up against a bully like this. How do you support someone you care about when you are constant being maligned and put down? When your visits and your calls, your gestures of goodwill are all twisted to appear otherwise?

To stop bullying we would have to stop gossiping and that’s like trying to stop the wind. But we can all learn to stand strong against it by being truthful, by giving family members and co-workers credit when it’s deserved, by defending others when they are wrongfully criticized and accused. We can continue to be there for friends and family members that we see caught in a situation like this. We might not be able to release them from the abuse, but we can pray for them, we can love them even if the abuser lies about our intent.

It’s hard to do ‘the right thing’ . . . to not fall into the anger and hurt that is sent our way. It’s difficult to not want to sink to their level, to sling the arrows right back. But today someone said to me, “What would your mom want you to do?”

Those words made me stop and think. Mom, well she had an incredible Irish temper and a quick sense of inferiority. So she would be quickly angered, probably yell and pace and vent. But what would she want me to do?

Well, she would expect more of me. She would expect me to be the bigger person; she would expect me to love in spite of the injustice. She was proud of my peace making skills, proud of how seldom I yelled or made a scene . . . so now I just have to dig deep to find that person, the caring person she always believed in.

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Crayons

I feel like writing tonight, like I should be writing . . . but no topic seems to bring enough thoughts to wend a tale . . . it’s like all of my crayons are broken.

There seem to be so many writers in the world today with so much to say . . . so many news stations and so much information; it makes me wonder if anyone is listening . . . if there’s anyone who cares.

Our world is so full of gotta ‘do-s’ so choosing what we do with our free moments matters and with instant information and constant stimulation, I wonder if anyone actually take time to really read words anymore?

Magazine stories have shrunk and are filled instead with advertisements. The Kardashians and football players get more print than stories on the economy . . . we pay entertainers far more than any other occupation. We follow them like royalty. More people know the names of movie stars children – like Apple and Willow – than who John Steinbeck or Edgar Allen Poe are.

Writing used to be filled with prose, with grand phrases and metaphors . . . now we all seem to want to say, ‘just get to the point’. Just give me the ending without all of the grandiose adjectives and flowery explanations.

Have we all grown wiser, or has constant stimulation made us all impatient?

With long commutes and two income families, we do all have fewer free hours in our days, or perhaps we just have too many distractions.

So what happens when the words stop? What happens if we stop reading them, and stop writing them? What if we stop describing the beauty in the world around us in great detail? What if we cease to explain love in brilliant terms?

Will that mean we are growing as a species?

Is our world expanding?

Or are we in fact shrinking?

Perhaps the constant influx of words, ideas, images makes us immune to true sensitization. The more crime we see on TV, the less it seems to impact us. The more love is turned to only lust, the more desensitized we become.

Words should make us more, they should make us expand and think, and they should conjure emotions for if we are human our spirits should grow along with our intelligence . . . perhaps the more our world has grown, the more we have shrunk.

Where once we colored with a box of 64 crayons, now we have only 16 . . . where once our rainbows were brilliant hues, now they are only shadows . . . there are no azure blues or blazing reds, no emerald greens or sunshine yellows . . . our crayons are broken and we seem to have forgotten how to color outside the lines.

millennials

The Twisted Game Of Dating As A Millennial

Why it’s so shocking when you meet someone who doesn’t play mind games
Brianna Costache

I recently started talking to someone who completely changed my perspective on dating and how my generation has royally screwed it up. The fairytale dreams of courting, wooing, and being openly head over heels for each other have been lost on us. Instead, the majority of us have this complicated and very strategic formula that will result in a relationship, if that.

Most people my age, usually at college, start with “talking” which means texting as more than just friends, then if that’s going well and both parties are interested they start hooking up, which can become a regular thing. If this goes on long enough, then they become exclusive and eventually are “together.” No one likes to share their feelings, because they think that if they move forward too fast, then the other person might reject them. No one wants to put themselves out there and be the one that loses in the end. In a world consisting of instant gratification, the fear of rejection is terrifying and most of us don’t know how to deal with it, so we just do our best to avoid it. Why have we become so guarded this young?

I myself have fallen into that trap in spite of myself. Sometimes you can’t even help it, because it is such an ingrained part of our generation’s social script. Feelings have become something to be frowned upon; when in fact they are totally normal and should be a good thing. When I met this boy who was totally open about the way he felt about me, I was completely taken aback at first. Who actually says they like you anymore? At first it weirded me out and I wasn’t very responsive. But then I took a step back and asked myself why I was encouraging the stupid and pointless tradition of my generation that never seems to result in an easy and positive outcome?

Instead of following that messy path, I got to know this person and discovered that I liked him too. And I told him that. Much to my surprise, it was awesome. We were aware of our feelings and shared them with each other, leaving out the doubt, the guessing, or the complicated mind games. This is what it’s supposed to be like, not having to be so overly self-conscious of how you actually feel, but to instead embrace and celebrate the attraction and romantic feelings two people feel towards each other.

This refreshing change of pace makes me sad, though, because I realize how our generation misses out on honest feelings and the opportunity to share and bond. We are compromising our own happiness in favor of a trend that shouldn’t have become implanted into society in the first place. Why we ever gave up on the good old days of real dating and relationships is beyond me, but I wish we could get them back because that’s the real way this should work, not just casually talking for an extended period of time, but actually trying to win the other person over.

Coming across someone who is openly and unabashedly expressive in their interest shouldn’t be a rarity or evoke the automatic response to push them away. Instead it should come as a natural step in pursuing a romantic relationship. We need to learn as a generation to not guard our feelings so much, and to actually enjoy the process of falling in love, because we’re young and carefree with so much, why not our feelings? There is nothing more beautiful then falling in love; that’s what makes you feel alive and makes your whole world sparkle with happiness. I don’t know how my love story will play out, but I don’t intend to let the games of our generation interfere.

foodie

Why I’ll Never be a Foodie (Living with GP)

Living with Gastroparesis (GP)

I suffered my first debilitating bout of GP when I was 18. It started in mid-June, shortly after we had moved to our second home. A duplex with a yard. My daughter was one, a busy active one. It started with diarrhea. I had a tummy ache for days and every bite I ate seemed to trigger it. Then came the nausea and vomiting. Extreme nausea that made me dizzy and afraid to drive. I threw up night and day, even the smell of food made me ill. Weight started to come off of me like water.

It got so bad I went to the ER, not once, or twice but three times. Each time it was the same diagnosis, gastroenteritis – stay on clear liquids for a day or two, take Kaopectate, rest and I’d be fine. Only I wasn’t fine. I drank so much Kaopectate my daughter started calling it mommie’s o-pec-ate and would beg for a taste. She thought it looked yummy. Just the smell made me gag.

By early August I’d lost over 20 pounds, my daughter, taking advantage of my frequent weakness and bathroom visits, had painted the dog green, pulled a huge stack of unwashed dishes off the table, breaking most of my plates and dug a hole in the backyard with the help of our neighbors two year old son. I’d been called lazy by my family and my neighbors, and our friends were disgusted that I couldn’t seem to get it together. I hadn’t attended one cookout or visit to the lake all summer.

Then, gradually, it started to subside. By Labor Day I could eat, mostly soft foods, in small amounts. It was strange, I tried to talk to those around me about it, but 18 year olds weren’t supposed to have anything serious wrong with them. I was lazy, a hypochondriac, no one took me seriously. And life moved on.

We moved to Virginia two years later and along the way, I learned to live with the frequent nausea that came and went. I seldom mentioned it, I didn’t want to be labeled, it was just me, I seemed to always be a little nauseated, a little tired. The summer after my daughter’s kindergarten year I started having stomach and chest pains and one day while shopping with a friend I suffered extreme dizziness and nearly passed out. I had developed a cough that wouldn’t go away. When I finally saw a doctor I was told I had asthma . . . and gallstones. I didn’t know at the time that asthma can be triggered by reflux.

A few years later, after starting a full time job I started to suffer from more extreme nausea and I began losing weight again. I didn’t have the diarrhea this time, but daily I suffered from nausea and my stomach would feel like it rolled and burned until I would eat something dry, like bread or crackers. However, most of the time I had no desire to eat. I lived on peanut butter crackers and plain cake donuts. After only a few bites I would feel full. The weight came off quickly again, not as fast as before but over a 6 month period I dropped nearly 25 pounds without trying.

My older sister lived nearby and she insisted I see a doctor. After a complete physical I was told I seemed perfectly healthy. No explanation for the weight loss. Then I started waking up with projectile vomiting. I would wake from sound sleep with vomit spewing from my mouth as I bolted upright in my bed. The doctor that had diagnosed the gallstones sent me to a GI specialist at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond. The doctors there told me I had Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease – GERD. More serious than simple heartburn, with GERD your body actually produces too much stomach acid, it builds up and finally moves up into the esophagus. I started meds and felt like I finally had a diagnosis, a reason for the years of extreme swings in my appetite and my crazy weight fluctuations.

I started seeing a GI doc closer to home, who agreed that my gallstones didn’t have to come out until I was ready (I knew they were developing laparoscopic surgery for gallbladder removal at that time and I wanted to wait for it). He started me on a couple of different meds and I seemed to do well, able to eat pretty much what I wanted for awhile. But the pain got so bad with the gallstones, I finally had my gallbladder removed.

I expected a big improvement, but it didn’t come. In fact, after a short amount of time of eating freely and gaining some weight, the pain started again. It couldn’t be gallstones any more, I no longer had a gallbladder. After a battery of tests it was decided maybe I had a small hernia. The doctor tried a new med, and it was wonderful. Propulsid. I could eat, my bathroom habits were regular, no bloating. I loved it. But then it was pulled off the market by the FDA.

Coping as best I could on GERD meds, life moved on. Then one January when I went for my regular annual visit I told the doctor that I still suffered a lot and mentioned off hand that the best GERD medication I had ever taken was Propulsid. Without explaining why, he sent me for a gastric emptying test. And finally after 20+ years since that first horrible summer I had a diagnosis. I had idiopathic gastroparesis, frequently those with diabetes or auto immune disorders develop it, but mine, being idiopathic, means cause unknown. I have learned since though that in most cases it begins with a long period of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, just like mine did.

The only GP med on the market has side effects if you take it too long, including tardive dyskinesia – uncontrollable muscle movements. So I took it for awhile, but for the past 6 years I’ve tried not to. I live with daily nausea and the list of foods I shouldn’t eat seems much longer than the list of what I can. I feel hunger but often can’t eat or fear the consequences if I do eat. Or I am ravenous from days of little appetite and overeat.

I constantly look like I’m about 6 months pregnant, bloated and uncomfortable. Thin and small boned everywhere else, it makes me feel deformed. I know I am blessed, many who have this disease suffer so much worse, but for someone who’s active and loves ‘good foods’ – like salad and raw apples & blueberries – all things I shouldn’t eat – it is still a tough sentencing. No one understands the bloating, and I hate it. My slacks can fit fine in the morning, only to be impossible to button by afternoon. I can literally bloat up and change sizes in one day! I use ginger and papaya for the nausea, I use molasses to regulate me, and I take my reflux meds, I try to control my sinus’ and thus control my asthma, and life is good.

Except I know I’ll never be a foodie.

I’ll never be able to eat peppers and onions and sauces and buttery things, I can’t really enjoy steaks or ribs or even lasagna without paying the price.

So if you meet me and wonder why I almost seem like a food snob, why my plate has only small amounts of some foods, or if I seem to be almost inhaling a boat load of carbs, well you’ll be seeing what my GP diet looks like (when I can eat). High carb, soft, easily digestible foods. Because believe it or not, food typically passes from our stomachs in 30 – 45 minutes but can take 1 – 2 days for it to pass from mine.

Yeah, I’ll never be a foodie, but it’s okay, the world needs non-foodies like me too. Just to balance things out.

car w bow 2

What It’s Like Growing Up Middle-Class In An Over-Privileged Area

Not everyone has black cards and Beemers.

Brianna Costache

Growing up I had to move around a lot with my family for various reasons, like my mom going to graduate school or getting offered a job with the government in Washington DC. We finally settled in northern Virginia, specifically North Arlington. Of course I was sad to move again, as all children become attached to their environments and can’t conceptualize the idea of making new friends, but since then, I’ve called Arlington my hometown and I’m completely in love with it.

However, North Arlington is an extremely affluent area, due to its proximity to DC, so most of its residents are well-off business owners, CEO’s, politicians, contractors, and federal employees. My mom’s position elevated us to a different way of living than we experienced back in Pennsylvania and upstate New York. Even though, when you go to school with the offspring of major political and government figures, you start to notice, especially as a teenager, the economic disparity.

My school was one of the best in the area; I’ll always think it’s the best. It provided me with a great education and helped get me into a wonderful college. My peers all went off to attend really great schools themselves. We were all lucky enough to be placed in an environment that really catered to making our future the best it could be, however many didn’t have to work for it at all, depending on who their parents were. Being well-off in Arlington means something completely different compared to the rest of the nation. The majority of my peers got their college completely paid for out of pocket. While I can’t complain because my mother paid for half my college, I am still among the minority that took out student loans.

By comparison, I knew several people who had two houses just in Arlington alone, and almost everyone’s family had at least one piece of property as a vacation home or condo at the shore. The student lot was filled with luxury cars, and one of my best friends got to drive hers out of the dealership for her sixteenth birthday. Two of my friends had their own credit cards in high school that were paid for by their parents, so money was never really an issue for them. This might seem excessive, and it is, but when you’re so close to the nation’s capital and are surrounded by powerful adults all the time, it becomes the norm.

Growing up around this affluence made me feel slightly excluded from my friends. I have worked since I was fifteen, and I wasn’t given a brand new car, and I pay for my own credit card. I try to be as fiscally responsible as I can, but living in this environment at times makes it hard to distinguish between the necessary and the extravagant. As a teenager I became a little materialistic and self-absorbed with stuff.

Although we lived in a very nice condo less than two miles from Georgetown and had a view of the National Cathedral, I still felt like we were lacking compared to others. And in some ways we were, if compared to the affluence we were surrounded by. We didn’t have a house with white columns like my friends did, and my mother was not the CEO of her own company. As she liked to regularly remind me when I lost myself in the world that wasn’t mine, “We are good, we are beyond good. Be grateful for what you have and look at how far we’ve come. You have everything you need.”

Going to college and seeing how the real world works, I have noticed that I am definitely not in the minority. I also realize that in my own way, I am actually very privileged. Looking back, I’m glad that I wasn’t part of the elite, because I learned how to work hard, forge my own path, and succeed on merit.

daddy issues

Not Having A Dad Does Not Equal Daddy Issues

Many people assume that if a girl grows up without her biological father as a key part of her life, then she must clearly have daddy issues. That assumption is completely wrong. My parents got divorced when I was five years old, and I haven’t actually seen or spoken to my biological father since I was nine. At this point, he is a complete stranger to me, and I have no desire to form any kind of relationship with him. According to society’s standards, due to him not being in my life, I should have extreme daddy issues that negatively affect all of my relationships. Thankfully, I am a smart young woman and believe in myself enough that I’m not going to let someone’s absence dictate how I live my life. The fact that he isn’t around is totally fine with me, because I wouldn’t want to have to force myself to associate with someone who I don’t like as a person. He’s made some pretty bad choices in his life and that is his prerogative, but I choose to not be involved with it.

My mom raised me, and she more than made up for his absence as a parent. By taking on the huge responsibility of being a single parent, she showed me that you can be strong enough to not have to solely rely on someone else. I learned to have extreme confidence in myself and the strength I have within me is because I saw her modeling it throughout my life. She didn’t want the effects of a bad marriage to negatively affect my development and growth, so she showed me by example that women can stand on their own. She always made a point to distinguish that not all men are alike, and to not judge all by the actions of one person. Because of this, my sense of girl power and self-confidence are two of my most well-developed qualities.

I completely understand that different circumstances in life can take their toll on your psyche. However, in my case I made the decision not to give this person whom I haven’t seen in twelve years any means of control or power over my life. He simply doesn’t deserve it, and I plan to grow into the best me I can. I know that this isn’t the case in some broken households and there are scars left behind, but I was lucky enough to have a mother who worked so hard to be both parents and to always ensure that I was in a stable environment growing up. I never grew up with doubts about how loved I was, because I was showered with love throughout my life and always put first.

My attitude towards this subject did take time to reach, but eventually I just came to the conclusion that wasting energy and emotion on someone so removed from my life was completely unnecessary and a waste. To me, he is a stranger. Going forward, I choose to make the most of what I was given, and I wouldn’t change what I have for anything.

Brianna Costache

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You be you and I’ll be me!

How many love the poetry in song lyrics? I can say: me, me! I love it.

I love the rhythm and rhyme, the power of the words just as much as I love the music.

So don’t get too caught up in the ‘tune’ . . . or you’ll totally miss the beauty of the words.

I was just thinking of James Bay and the Lyrics in “Let it Go.”

How many love affairs start just this same way?

From walking home and talking loads
To seeing shows in evening clothes with you
From nervous touch and getting drunk
To staying up and waking up with you

But after too many fights and disappointments, it comes to this:

But now we’re sleeping at the edge
Holding something we don’t need
All this delusion in our heads
Is gonna bring us to our knees

Too often we meet someone and we’re crazy about them . . . and then we try to change them.

We want them to not smoke, or swear, or curse. Or we try to impose ‘our way’ of doing things on them – you know, no dishes in the sink after dinner; make the bed as soon as we get up – or we don’t like their family or their friends for whatever reason, so we refuse to see them.

These things seem small, I mean hey, if they love you they can support your wishes, right? Oh but be careful . . . these tiny, small insidious things create hurt where no hurt is needed.

Remember, if we truly love someone, it means loving them for who they are, we have to LET THEM BE WHO THEY ARE.

We have to say:

So come on let it go
Just let it be
Why don’t you be you
And I’ll be me

But not in a breaking up, walking away, kind of way, but in an I accept you – just as you are kind of way.

shenandoah

In My Life . . .

I spent the early years of my life on a small farm. I can still remember the smells, the sounds, the feel of my home and my yard, of my world there.The clucking of the chickens and the grunting of the pigs. The jingle of our old mules harness and the sound of grain filling a bucket.

In spring I couldn’t wait to go barefooted. To feel the warm earth under my soles, to be able to run in and out of the house freely without stopping to find my shoes.

But then, when I was still a child, we left all that behind and moved away from our farm. It was like losing a limb from our bodies and my siblings and I watched the familiar white house fade from sight as we drove away. All we were was on that farm. We’d grown up there surrounded by relatives and lifelong friends. Even the beloved farm animals we were leaving behind were like family. We’d grown up with a connection to the land, to the sights and smells of that farm. It had been the one constant steady thing in our lives. It fed us and its changes through the season was tangible proof that God still reigned in his kingdom.

For the next several years there were many changes for me. My closest sibling in age, who’d always been my compass on how to handle the turmoil the adults in our lives seemed to create got married and moved out on his own. My father passed away and my mother and I moved many times, our world seeming to grow smaller with each move until it was just the two of us. I changed schools many times. Found and lost friends, discovered strengths, met bullies, and met kind strangers too. But my life was constant change.

So it’s little wonder I grew up change resistant. I learned all too well that while change may bring new challenges, new friends, even a better future, it also means you leave something behind. With change there is always, always a loss as well. You have to weather that loss in order to grow in the new and each loss seems to take a little bit out of you before the new finds a way to put a little something back.

You leave behind friends. That new best friend you shared so many secrets with will slip away from you, no matter how much you try. It’s just reality. Best friends are for sharing our lives with and when our lives change and move on, we can no longer share those little triumphs and injustices as you once did. Oh, I struggled to hang on, to always keep them in my life. But slowly, almost without realizing it . . . you let go.

I suppose the Beatles said it better than I ever could:

There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living

In my life, I’ve loved them all