The Girl Behind Fox Hollow Cottage (part three)
Oh good, you’re still here.
Writing all this has been both, more challenging than I thought.. and easier too. While the story spills out, there have been timelines it’s hard to recall exactly and I’ve struggled knowing what to include and what to exclude. I am a talker. I am insanely transparent. It’s so easy for me to start writing and just spill… everything.
There is so much that isn’t really important to the story though. It’s all important to me, it rounds things out, and hey… it’s my life, but I’m trying to “be quick about it”. I’m sorry if at part three… it doesn’t feel that way. (no really, I am!) I don’t know how I thought cramming 30+ years into a blog post was going to work? Blonde moment much?
My thought was to try to tell the story in sort of bite-sized bullet point. To stick to the topic at hand, hit the highlights and move along. As I began writing, it felt like I was talking for so very long, and I’ve tried to stop before what feels like, a next big part comes up, knowing I would have to continue until I could find another stopping point that made sense.
Now, I feel like I’ve left things out. I was talking to my mom last night. And let me tell you, as I get older, I am so thankful every single time I pick up the phone to dial my mom… and I thank God I can. I try to be aware of that and never take it for granted. I love my daddy too, but I don’t talk to him on the phone as often, I’m glad he is still kicking too though. Promise. Back to my mom… she had read part one, and she was telling me I had always been sensitive. Since I was little bitty and she felt I was absolutely just born that way. It’s in my make-up. I started telling part one of my story in grade school because I didn’t want to start, like, “in the womb”! Although I know the “worry” began much earlier. I was and still am a worry wart and a what-ifer? Which is basically anxiety in my book. Which is probably what I should have done… as my mom suggested, just written a book!
Okay. On to part three. I left off with us becoming a family of three. After my maternity leave, I returned to work at Macy’s. I was now working the Estee Lauder line, while Jimmy was going on several years working at a lumber company. We were settling into life, with a new baby, and everything was good. He was healthy, and all was well.
And then we got a phone call.
Jim had a friend he worked with at the lumber company, that had moved out of the area. He was a few hours away in a new town, working at a different lumber company, and they were looking for a dispatcher. It was an advancement. We took a trip to the new town to check it out and Jim interviewed for the position. He was offered the job and we decided to take it. Our little family was going to move. I gave my notice at Macy’s and they arranged a job transfer. I really loved the girls I worked with and had friends that it was hard to leave. They threw me one heck of a going away party!!
We did have a few concerns with leaving town. The biggest one, being Jim’s mom. She had just recently had a double hip replacement. We were also leery of leaving Austin with just anyone… we talked about it as a family, and decided the perfect solution was to bring her on the move with us! She would care for Austin while Jim and I worked.
We were on the move again. Unlike the California to Oregon move though, we had a giant moving truck! No more Beverly Hillbillying it for us. Jim, Austin and my MIL rode in the moving truck, pulling Jim’s truck, and I followed behind in my car. We had walkie-talkies to communicate with during the drive. I know. How low-tech! But we didn’t have cells then. I don’t know how we ever managed?
I can still picture us pulling up to the townhouse we rented. Jim and I had made another quick trip up to secure housing before the move. We couldn’t find a thing in the town his new company was in, so we settled on something about 20 minutes away. A new, three bedroom townhouse that was part of a duplex. It was located on a quiet street, across from a big park. We took a lot of walks exploring our new town. Austin loved to be out of the house! His stroller was our bff. We got settled in, celebrated Thanksgiving, had Austin’s first Christmas and tried to acclimate to our new surroundings.
And then we got a phone call.
Austin and I were partially packed, as we were preparing for a trip down to see my family in California, but our trip was going to have to happen sooner than we thought. My dad had suffered a massive heart attack. My mom was calling to let me know it was up to me if we wanted to come right then, or continue with our original plans in a few days. The doctors could not guarantee he would survive until I got there. There was no question in my mind. We would fly down immediately.
– Slight rewind moment. Conveniently enough, I was already off work, because I happened to be home recuperating from an emergency gall bladder surgery I’d had a 2 days earlier. Do you know if you get sick enough from that, you can have temporary vision loss? True story! And super scary. It had been coming on a long time, but was disguised as something else during a bad flair up during my pregnancy. Later, it became full blown and got really severe. I visited my doctor, who diagnosed it as indigestion. Later that evening I reached my doctor after hours, and I was literally told to take two Tylenol and call him in the morning. I was in more pain than childbirth. No exaggeration. I hung up the phone, said to myself screw this, and I drove myself to the emergency room, where the attending physician looked at me and I swear, knew immediately what it was. I love a good doctor! I was referred to see a surgeon there in the hospital the next day, who upon seeing me, admitted me to the hospital and scheduled me for surgery the following morning. Having that sucker out was such a relief. Even though while I was in the hospital, I was trying to make deals to eat really bland food forever and ever if I could just go home. I was pretty petrified to have the surgery. My anxiety went off the charts there for awhile, but Jim soothed me and got me calmed down. For anyone who has had their gall bladder removed, you know what a relief that surgery is!! Best surgery ever. Afterwards, Jim brought Austie in so I could see him. I can still picture him wheeling Austin in, in his stroller, and it being stuffed with Austin, a teddy bear and flowers. It was a sight, and I remember them making me laugh… and me begging them to stop, because it hurt my tummy so bad. It was a good hurt.
After the phone call from my mom, I stuffed a few more things in our bags, made ticket changes, and jetted off to California. All with an active baby jumping on my still (healing) tummy and the thousand things you need to travel with a baby.
It took some time for my dad to actually have his surgery because he developed pneumonia. I was not leaving until I saw him come out of the O.R. from his planned procedure. It was a waiting game. We couldn’t really get Austin in to see him, but he was the best medicine. My dad is crazy for his grandson. We resorted to picking our way through the flower beds and shrubs outside his room and letting him see Austin through the window. Aah… sunny California, I am thankful for that. Once the quadruple bypass was performed, we knew he had survived (thank God) and he was released and allowed home, I too high-tailed it home, back to Oregon.
I forgot to add earlier, that when we first moved up to Oregon from California, Jim’s dad had a heart attack as well!
Okay, getting back to our move to the new town. There were two big drawbacks to our new situation after the move. One, Jim was working a swing style shift. This was a huge stress on our marriage. It’s like living in the same house, in two different time zones. If you do this successfully, cheers to you! We had done it once before, but with the new baby, we found it extra challenging.
The second, was that I was commuting again. The nearest Macy’s was 45 minutes away. So an hour and a half of my day was gobbled up driving. On nice days, it wasn’t too bad. It was actually quite picturesque, and downright relaxing with the radio on and the sunroof open. More often that not, it had me driving home in the dark, and the route was notorious for thick, heavy fog. Some nights, I had to drive with my window down searching for the road. It took forever to get home at 10-15 mph. I just wish I could have twitched my nose like Samantha and gotten to work without driving. I also worried about something happening to Austin while I was at work. He was so little, and I felt too far away.
I wasn’t working in the cosmetics department at the new store, because there were no openings, but I was encouraged to take on Department Manager training. I had accepted before my surgery, and the emergency trip to California. They wanted me to take over the Children’s Clothing & Lingerie Departments. I know… but they were across the isle from each other so it made sense in a practical way. It was a busy, vibrant store in an urban area. Much larger than the store I had left. It had a pulse & pace I found thrilling.
Now, the highway between town, and our little outlying area was on a bad, bad stretch of road. There were accidents all the time, and fatalities, it was really bad. They tried bright paint lines, reflectors, the bumpy lines all along the side of the road. I don’t know why, but it was just not a safe stretch. We drove it as a family, and Jim drove it to & from work 5 days a week, sometimes more if there were extra shifts. He was also coming home at a dangerous time of night. We had always intended to live in town when we made the main move and we continued to look for a place in town.
We got lucky and found a nice three bedroom apartment, with a unit looking out onto the playground. We had a pool and warm Summer’s. It was a great place for us at the time. Austin learned to walk and turned one year old in that apartment. There are lots of good memories. We had a huge park at the end of the block, and a gorgeous library with a wonderful children’s section.
It’s funny… until talking to my mom last night on the phone, and going back in time, talking out some things… I had almost forgotten this.
I pretty much had a slight nervous break down around this time. I say slight because I picture a full-on nervous breakdown as something you would be committed for. I got to stay in my home. I took some kind of leave of absence from work and I think I went out on disability. I was seeing a new doctor, and I was trying medication. Maybe Paxil? Possibly Lorazepam. I can’t remember. But I was willing to try medication. I’m sure there was some normal “new mommy” tired, but there was more going on. I was in some anxious/depressive slump. I know my coping level must have been at an all time low to not be able to manage work. I made the right choice though. I could have either kept using whatever I had in me to get to work, and not had anything left for Austin, or used what I had for him, and take a leave of absence. Obviously my child came first. I’d make the same choice again, every time.
Austin was not a big napper and he stayed awake late into the night and woke up early. I can remember standing outside one night, walking back & forth in the parking lot of our unit, on a warm, balmy Summer night… waiting for Jim to pull up so I could hand him the baby. I was exhausted, it was after 11 pm… and Austie wanted to play. I never got angry with him. But I did get tired. I never felt frustrated with him either, not outwardly. No mater what was going on, I somehow, miraculously, had the utmost patience with Austin. And I am not a patient person. It was a blessing, there are no two ways about it.
A friend gave me the best advice while I was pregnant. She said, “If you ever feel like you might be loosing your patience with a crying baby, set them down, somewhere safe, like their crib, and walk away for a moment.” When I brought Austin home, once, when he was only a few weeks old he was crying inconsolably, despite being clean and fed and well, so I put him in his crib, walked into the next room, the bathroom, brushed my hair and put it in a ponytail. Before I was even done, I was already feeling sorry for him and scooped him back up to soothe him. It was maybe 2 whole minutes. I only ever had to do that one time. But I’ll never forget that advice.
Austin was a really good baby, he wasn’t fussy, he just wanted to play and be entertained. A lot. For all those hours he wasn’t sleeping. haha. Oh gosh, and on a side note. The poor bug had a terrible time with ear infections. Which hurt like hell. A normal baby cold would result in horrible ear pain for him. We did a lot of soothing, midnight driving, pediatricians office visits and meds for the ear and often double ear infections. It eventually led to having tubes in his ears, but that is another story. It all ended well though!
I can look back now and see it all piling up, and how I hit a breaking point:
- A new baby
- A big move
- Jim’s new job and a swing shift schedule
- My new job at different store (and more demands if I was a Department Manager)
- Me commuting (after what was before, a five minute drive to work)
- Another adult in the house (no mater how mostly awesome it was!)
- My surgery
- My dad’s huge surgery (and fearing his death)
- Another move (in a very short time)
Add all the other everyday pressures and complications that come with life, like guilt at being so far from my family and budget and finances. Put all that on top of me having a personality that was prone to high anxiety/depression already and it was bound to happen.
I spent my time off taking care of Austin, and trying to take care of myself. There were wild Peacocks where we lived and we went on a lot of walks too. He loved being outside, and he was tickled when we spotted the pretty birds. It was good too, because my doctor recommended exercise to release happy endorphin’s. I should have been happy as hell. We went for a lot of walks!
Sometime during all this mess, we were also hunting for a house. One to buy, not rent. We had left our two cats with a friend when we made the big move, and we desperately wanted to take them off her hands, and find our very own house. Trying to rent a place with pets is so difficult and it was a good decision. We went and picked them up, and brought them to the apartment with us (that accepted pets). Driving any distance with cats is not fun. If you’ve done it, you know. There were back where they belonged! Austin loved them too. He was toddling around walking and they were a grand amusement to him. After lots of looking, and some daydreaming about things we could far from afford, we found a place.
So we were moving, again. For the third time, in a very short time.
This time we were moving less than a minute from our apartment! Great for moving, terrible for keeping your pets from returning to the old house. Yeah… that was fun. Eventually though, my cats figured out they were actually home. The set-up was perfect. There were two rooms at the front of the house for Austin and Grandma, and a master suite at the other end for Jim & I. It had a large fenced yard, lush with grass, and a big covered porch, perfect for playing on when it was rainy outside! We were so proud to have bought it all on our own.
I had returned to work at Macy’s but I dropped out of the training program, (I’m sure they wanted me after taking a leave, insert sarcasm) and I left shortly after to take a job close to home. It was a small town, and one of the only retail options was a store called Fashion Bug. I was hired as a second assistant. After we settled in at the new house, my mother in law decided to go back to work, and we found daycare for Austin. I was juggling working full-time, getting the baby to daycare before work, taking care of the house, and the baby when I was home. I know a lot of you do this, with multiple kids. Bravo!!!!
Things were not always perfect with Jim either. There I said it. I don’t live in a fairy tale… in case you didn’t get that yet! Like most couples, we don’t always get along perfectly every single day. Thankfully, we don’t ever disagree on anything major or important. Nope, we fight over completely stupid things! Can I get a “us too”? So there was some stress there. Which is so fun. He was still working swing too.
I enjoyed working at Fashion Bug and had a great time with all the display aspects and window dressing. My favorites. We had really fun customers too, and again, a great group of girls! I experienced something there that I never had at any job before though. The store manager did not like me, and work became miserable. I’m sure I tried to leave work at work, but it tends to follow you home. And where I had always liked to go to work, I was was dreading it, and it had nothing to do with depression. I started visiting a psychologist. I think I went about 4-6 times. I think I just mostly vented about work, and whatever I was mad at Jim for at the time! hahaha. I didn’t really have any friends in our new town. I’m betting if I did, talking to one would have done the trick.
I hated to do it, but I interviewed for, and accepted another job with Liz Claiborne. When the District Manager came down for a visit and I let her know I was giving my two week notice, she was floored. I told her, guardedly and without detail, why I was leaving, just telling her there was a personality conflict. She assured me she had plans for me, offered me a promotion, a raise and convinced me to stay. The store manager was transferred to a store closer to her home (and ultimately fired and escorted off the premises of the store she took over). A new manager was hired. I was now a first assistant, right under the store manager. This was a great time at work for me. The new manager and I were like two peas in a pod. We were completely different, but we were in sync big time at work and we kicked butt together. We even walked together after work several times a week, no mater who closed (worked late). I was healthy, fit, strong and happy.
When she left to go run another store, I was promoted again and became the store manager. Being promoted to store manager came with a lot of responsibilities but it was well worth it. We worked together so well, I’d have stayed a 1st to have her not leave. Things are always changing though, and I fell into my new position. I even had a 1st assistant I adored. The whole team was super and we often had a lot of fun at work, even though we were at work. It was a happy environment.
Things were going really well. My job was great! Jim was working normal hours, during the day, and was no longer on swing shift! My mother in law was getting ready to move on and move out. We were even trying for another baby. Austin was going on three by then, and we thought the timing was perfect.
There was just one little problem.
I’m going to stop now because I’ve been writing all day. I swear I’m not being a tease… I’ve already written almost 2,000 words more than the last post. I can’t do any more today, and I can not start on the next part tonight. I’d be here until 2am.
Have patience with me, Shannon
As I said in my first post when I began talking about my story, suicide is not something I have ever considered, even when feeling my absolute worst.
If you are, have or do think about suicide, please, please, please seek help. In that one moment, you don’t want to make a choice that you can never come back from. There is hope. There is help.
You can click here to visit The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and live chat if you are in crisis.
Or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.