The Day Jim Cantore Came To Town

jimcantore_001

I have been an avid Weather Channel watcher for decades. The storms and catastrophes that Mother Nature can produce have me in awe. I am amazed at the destruction that can be caused and, unfortunately, the many lives that are lost.

When I was in college, I had to reapply to the architecture program after 3 semesters. It was required of all of us undergrads at the time and just because you were in the program didn’t mean you were guaranteed a spot to continue after the review. I feared that review. My drawings skills were average with many others who were way better and my design concepts weren’t highly imaginative. So I sat there, in the midst of waiting for my results thinking about what major I would transfer to if I had failed to receive acceptance. Meteorology was my number one choice. Although I did wind up continuing in the architecture program, in some ways I wish I didn’t.

Weather has been an interest of mine since I was young, the desire not as strong as architecture for me. I slept through Hurricane Gloria in 1985. I was a young kid who took a nap. When I woke up and saw the chaos outside my window, I was in wonderment. A force of nature could do this?! My little 5-year-old brain couldn’t comprehend this. Once we got cable several years later, I would sit and watch the weather channel instead of cartoons after school. Hurricane after hurricane… I watched wide-eyed, mouth gaping.

This continued through college. Every morning I would turn on the Weather Channel and wait for the Local on the 8s to appear so I could see what the weather was like for that day. That is when I started to learn the names of the anchors. That is when I became aware of Jim Cantore. He and Stephanie Abrams would start off my morning. After graduation, when out on my own in the real world, shows started to pop up on the Weather Channel with Jim Cantore hosting. My fave was ‘It Could Happen Tomorrow‘.

As the years passed, it became apparent that when there was a massive hurricane or snowstorm hitting, the Weather Channel always sent Jim Cantore to what they deemed would be the worst hit area.

jimcantore_002

Forget Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, now it is Where in the World is Jim Cantore!

And then the day came, the day all of us dread, the day Jim Cantore came to town!

jimcantore_003

In March of 2018, Jim Cantore came to my town. Winter Storm Quinn was approaching and predicted to drop feet of snow. There were many areas where he could of been sent, but instead he was sent to my little town. I sat at my TV watching, debating back and forth whether I should go to where he was and get a selfie with him. In some ways I idolized him. He was what I would have liked to have been had I gone into meteorology.

This storm was so unique, according to Jim, because of the thundersnow. Basically, instead of thunder during a rainstorm, there is thunder during a snowstorm. Aside from the 12+ inches of snow and the thunder, we had blizzard conditions due to the strong winds. A perfect set up for Jim Cantore. And here he was, frankly, scaring the shit out of us residents.

Through the decades, I never actually thought I would be living in an area where Jim would show up. There usually isn’t any weather that would warrant a visit from him. Sure we get snow, but we are used to it in the northeast, even a storm expected to produce more than a foot.

I decided that I should stop fan-girling him and did not go down to meet him. I had until noon that day since the snow really hadn’t started until then. With flakes falling, the wind howling and the growling thunder, I stayed in the comforts of my home watching him on the TV. The warmth of the pellet stove was more comforting then the mess going on outside.

And then it was over. And like with any other winter storm in the northeast, we cleaned up in less than a day. Jim Cantore left for his next adventure in weather. Turns out, he should have gone one town over. We only received about 18″ of snow while the next town received over 26″. All in all, it was both scary and amazing to see the legend of Jim Cantore in our town… a town that would never have been known to most had it not been for him.

 

 

The Sun Will Shine… Poetry

wp-1473180999894.jpg

The Sun Will Shine

Rocking chair moves, dark room,
Blank stare, melancholy doom,
Holding babe, lanky arms,
Tear falling, first do no harm,
Rock forth, rock back,
Losing grip, feeling slack,
Beautiful girl, pudgy cheeks,
Trying to hold close, feeling so weak,
Told you’ll be okay, trying to believe,
Closing your eyes, just feeling grief,
Slipping fingers, baby girl falling,
Quickly catching her, still bawling,
Fixated spot, empty wall,
A big void, emotional overhaul,
Losing the battle, giving up,
Hating the child, yet still in love,
Months gone, still feel alone,
Trying to fane happiness, trying to feel whole,
Body raped, pill after pill,
Combinations played, climbing that hill,
Happy eyes stare, filled of ocean blue,
Trying to love, holding and hugging you,
Dormant smiles, buried deep,
Hiding my pain, inside I weep,
Hour glass runs out, flipped once again,
Feeling less zombie, gaining control of my head,
Hearing you laugh, seeing you crawl,
Suddenly amazed, Inhaling it all,
The sun is shining,” I say holding you,
Let’s go out and observe,” just us two,
We both stare in awe, you at the sky,
Me taking deep breaths, pushing your first year to the side,
The rocking chair still sits, alone and bare,
Room still darkens, my mind is not there,
Now cradling you, swaying side to side,
I’ll never leave you, my baby girl, my pride.
– Stephanie Paige, 2016
This poem was originally published on PostpartumProgress.com as a guest post. It can be found here: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/sun-will-shine-poem-postpartum-depression
I have to say, I love to write poetry and have since I was a preteen, my daughter’s age. The odd thing about this poem is it rhymes.  I usually never rhyme in my poetry.  I also have to admit, that my best poetry occurs when I am struggling with depression. Since I am on that roller coaster ride once again, I have been writing a lot of poetry lately and expect to share more in upcoming posts.

Losing Your Identity: Postpartum

I have always been a strong and independent person. I am a real go-getter, sometimes an overachiever, always pushing my limits. I am an alpha personality that likes to be in control and has a hard time handling abrupt changes in my day-to-day schedule. I can be rather stubborn (ask my parents or my husband) and sometimes emotional (okay, very emotional). I knew who I was and who I wanted to be when I became a mother. I didn’t think I would change.

When I gave birth to my daughter, I had grandeur plans of being able to maintain a household, care for this boob-sucking, dependent 7lbs being, and of course, be able to work & keep up a social life. Boy, was I wrong. I didn’t realize how much a newborn changes you. I didn’t realize how invisible you become.

The second Sophia was born (4:46am on 10/16), I was no longer me. I was Sophia’s mother, her primary caregiver. My husband would be helping but since I had planned on breastfeeding, her care mainly fell to me. My world revolved only around her. I fed her, changed her majority of the time, and woke up in the wee hours of the morning with her since my husband went to work while I was off on maternity leave. I became a slave to her cries. And it hurt.

People came to visit and although they would kindly ask, “How are you?”, they really were only interested in the Sophia. Everyone wants to see cute babies, no one wants to see their disheveled mother. No one noticed what was happening to me. Even my husband doesn’t remember and he was living in the house with me. I was falling apart. Every bit of energy I had I used on my daughter. My schedule depended on her schedule. I was depleted and left with nothing. Eventually, I had nothing left to give.

After a few weeks, maybe 3 weeks postpartum, my mother became concerned. She began to see what was happening to me. Someone was finally recognizing me. I succumbed to postpartum anxiety first and rapidly fell victim to postpartum depression. After many psychiatrist and therapist appointments, the inpatient psych ward became my home for 12 days.

But it didn’t end there. What I did learn within the walls of the psych ward is that I was no longer myself. I could not do it all! I was not Wonder Woman or those super moms on TV. I didn’t know who I was anymore with exception to being Sophia’s mom.

I lost myself. I lost my identity.

Although highly medicated and still in therapy, I was miserable. Photos of the first 11 months show me with crooked half smiles, trying to be happy, trying to enjoy this new life I had. I loved my daughter deeply, but could not stand everything she meant. She was the reason I lost my sense of self.

I had to know who I was, who this person who stared back at me in the mirror was. I couldn’t recognize her anymore. Every morning there were tears shed when I looked at my reflection. How would I fix this?

I continued to do the things I had to do… mother my child, go to work, cook dinner occasionally. I carried on robotically for several months trying to get a glimmer of something that gave me a sign as to who the new me was. My husband carried on being his same quiet, geeky self. There were never any changes for him. Why was it only me, the mom, who had to change? Why was my identity lost but not his?

Years would pass before I became ‘whole’ again. I dabbled with possible career changes. I hung out with different groups of friends. I tried multiple forms of exercise. All this to see who I really was, to learn what my personality had become.

It took my daughter’s birth and my loss of self to realize I loved to be outside. I found a rebirth when hiking or snowshoeing. I became aware of life around me. Reading and writing were reintroduced into my life and then my love for true crime blossomed. I forced myself to take ‘me’ time because I was important. I was a human. I was not created in a chop shop from discarded mechanical parts. I was Stephanie.

I am a mother to one child, but experienced this again a few years ago. When we were fostering to adopt our former foster son, this loss of identity took over. I couldn’t stop the fact that I was being pulled in so many directions and because of it, I, once again, became a robot. My body was no longer connected to my brain. My brain only functioned to send signals to move my body parts but my sense of self was gone. And like my postpartum, it took years to get it back.

So, who is to blame for mothers losing their identity? Do we blame society? Husbands? Other mothers? Random people on the street? Maybe it is the media for portraying moms to be perfect, a Stepford Wife. Should we turn the blame inward to ourselves for letting it happen? Should we blame doctors for not caring enough to check in on mothers?

And, most importantly, how do we make it stop?

I admit, things have changed over the years since I gave birth to Sophia. Twelve years has made somewhat of a difference on this topic. We have peer led support groups for new mothers. We have organizations pushing for more screening in both the antenatal and perinatal periods. There are people speaking up. Women are beginning to declare that yes, motherhood does suck sometimes and you shouldn’t feel ashamed by admitting that. We can talk with other mothers and realize we are not alone. We all lose our identity to some extent and I think by identifying this, it is the first step to finding out who we are now.

 

When You Dream About Tornadoes…

tnd18
The F3 tornado that hit the University of Maryland College Park Campus, September 2001.

I have lived through 1 tornado in my life and frankly, it was 1 too many. It was senior year of college, September 2001, and I was sitting in class during Architectural Studio, when all I heard was continuous thunder. The booming never stopped. Crack, boom, rumble. Then the papers started flying off the walls. We couldn’t see a thing due to the room only having these slit windows in alcoves, but we were aware of how dark it got outside. Eventually, a professor ran into our room and said we couldn’t go anywhere, there was a tornado. We all just stared at her in shock.

A tornado hitting Maryland?! Kind of bizarre. You would think Kansas or another of the plains states, but Maryland?! This University of Maryland tornado (story here) registered as an F3, with winds as high as 206mph, and killed 2 sisters traveling home. It flipped their car over one of the high-rise dorm buildings. One sister was set to graduate in January, the other was a sophomore. While I, fortunately, was unscathed, many others weren’t. My husband (fiancee at the time) was displaced from his apartment and had to live in a hotel for awhile. Many were injured. Buildings were destroyed and the landscape unrecognizable.

img09
The aftermath. I lived in that high-rise dorm in the back for my first 2 years at college.

But we persevered.

Now, it was no tornado like that in the Wizard of Oz. It didn’t lift up the building and drop us in a fantasy world filled with flying monkeys, witches, and little people. But, it did scare us all. Not long after…

… the dreams started.

When they first began, they were terrifying. Similar to the double cyclone scene in the 1996 movie Twister starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton. They occurred a couple times a week. I was always caught in them, trying to hold on for dear life. Some of the dreams had up to 6 tornadoes spinning in my vision at one time. I screamed, I cried. It was horrible.

After a few years, they diminished in occurrence. The dreams became a bi-yearly event and then one day they were gone. Afterall, the Maryland tornado happened over 17 years ago. I thought I was free of them, that my PTSD-inducing dreams were gone.

Sadly, I was wrong.

A few weeks ago, I had a dream. My husband, daughter and I were on vacation in North Carolina. We were staying at a hotel. We checked in, received our room keys and ventured to our room. I should have known something was amiss when upon entering our room there was no ceiling over the beds, just open sky. It was actually beautiful in the beginning, laying in the beds at night and staring up at the stars. One day it changed though. Thunderstorms began to roll in. Oddly enough, there was no rain, but hey, it is a dream. I suddenly recognized that never ending roar.

I panicked and ran to the front desk and cried that there was a tornado coming. The people behind the desk laughed, “Silly woman, it’s just one of our typical North Carolina storms.” I sprinted back to our room and eyed 2 funnel clouds in the distance… typical storm my ass, I thought. We were totally fucked. As I entered our room I could see the clouds swirling overhead because remember, there was no ceiling. I couldn’t breathe. My heart was palpitating. This was it, this was how my triangle family was going to die. I could see the headlines now:

“Vacationing Family Gets Swept Up by Mammoth Cyclone and Perishes”

What were we going to do?! I wasn’t ready to die and definitely not by a tornado! In the distance I could hear my daughter crying and rightly catastrophizing the situation. My husband was pulling her into the bathroom. He then grabbed my arm and…

My alarm clock went off.

Shit, another terrifying tornado dream.

Of course since I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, I began to get a bit anxious about what this all meant. Was this foreshadowing another tornado in my life? Was it a metaphor for something else? Googling the word ‘tornado’ within the dream realm, I found out the following:

  • Tornadoes: symbolize a destructive situation in your life. It could be loss of control over your life or your behavior becoming destructive. In addition, tornadoes mean that you may feel overwhelmed and disappointed. (Dreamingandsleeping.com)
  • Multiple Tornadoes: Indicates a strong change in life. (Dreamatico.com)
  • Surviving a Tornado: You’re going to have an advancement in your life. (Dreamatico.com)
  • Chasing a Tornado: someone in your life is displaying power over you. (Dreamatico.com)
  • Being Caught in a Tornado: someone is controlling you and you’re letting that happen. (Dreamatico.com)

This latest dream had me seeing multiple tornadoes and being caught in them. I wasn’t exactly swirling within them but I was stuck with no where to go. I have no idea if I survived because I woke up. If I analyze it then there is something or someone affecting my life in a bad way and I am letting it happen. Hmmm… can’t really think of anything or anyone that falls into that category. Oh, and I am overwhelmed (uh, duh!).

Dreams are bizarre though. There are those reoccurring ones, such as the dream about missing a college class all year and freaking out when you realize it is time for the final. There are random ones that you can distinctly know the meaning of because it related to something you did the day before. Then there are the instinctive ones that let us know what may happen in the future.  What these tornado ones mean for me, who knows!

What do you dream about?

Can I Call Myself An Author?

I have always dreamt of being a published Author.  Writing has always been a huge part of who I am.  I remember writing imagination filled stories since elementary school.  In junior high, I expanded to poetry, the easiest form of writing to express myself.  I was even in the Creative Writing talent as my school was for the ‘Gifted & Talented’.  In college, I took a poetry class and threw in some laughter on a poem about bowling that symbolized sex (might post that one day).  I’ve been published in school anthologies with both stories and poetry.

But, can I label myself an author if I haven’t actually published a book of my own?

Dictionary.com defines “Author” as:

  1. a person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc.; the composer of a literary work, as distinguished from a compiler, translator, editor, or copyist.
  2. the literary production or productions of a writer:
    to find a passage in an author.
  3. the maker of anything; creator; originator:
    the author of a new tax plan.
  4. Computers. the writer of a software program, especially a hypertext or multimedia application.

I definitely fit the mold of #1, yet calling myself “Author” doesn’t feel right.  I guess it stems from learning all those years ago, that to be a real Author, you had to be published.  Published.  What constitutes ‘being published’?  As stated before, I was ‘published’ in anthologies put out by the Creative Writing talent at my junior high.  I was ‘published’ in an anthology in high school.  Do these count?  Only a marginal amount of people will ever read them.  And while I still possess all of these works, I highly doubt they exist beyond my possession anymore.

I write this blog.  Starting in 2015, I created my blog, Rising From The Ashes, and still keep it active (although switching platforms from Blogger to WordPress).  I bought my own website to make it official.  I try to publish a post at least once a week.  I have contributed to other blogs, sharing my work several times with The Mighty, Stigma Fighters & Postpartum Progress.

I have been published as a Contributing Author (note my use of the word Contributing as I was one of many) in Stigma Fighters Anthology II and A Dark Secret… both books helping to tear down the stigma associated with Mental Illness and Maternal Mental Illness.

But I haven’t published a book of my own yet and now I am questioning if I want to anymore.

I want to share my life with the world to help others like me.  I want men, women, and teens to know they are not alone in there Mental Health struggles. I want to give them a voice. And while I have started my memoir, my book, to do this, I’m beginning to wonder if I have to complete it because…

Am I not doing this already?  Advocating for those who feel they need to remain silent.  Have I not been sharing my story piece by piece through this blog, on The Mighty and on Stigma Fighters? Was it not published in 2 compilations of stigma breaking books?

It comes down to time.  I just don’t have the time to finish this book right now or in the near future.  I don’t have time to actively contribute to The Mighty and Stigma Fighters if I even attempt to finish my book.  Time is something I cannot buy extra of.  Working full time, being active on my daughter’s school’s PTO, advocating.  Nightly, I am left deciding if I have time to breathe or read my book for 20 minutes (the book usually wins out).

If I do not finish my book, am I still an Author?

Have I still made a longtime dream of mine come true?

I think the answer may lie in the grin on my face below.

I am Stephanie Paige, Author & Advocate.