Blahg Humbug!


December 4th:


Okay, the Christmas season has officially started!

Guess you think I'm a little late...Santa arrived at the end of the Thanksgiving Day parades (except at Wal-Mart, where he arrived in August if I remember right!) Black Friday has come and gone, as well as the Monday after (whatever the big "online shopping day" is called.) 'Bout time, Ron!

No, I'm referring to (one of) my personal affliction...SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Once, again, it's Rachel's fault.

I read Rachel's blog this morning and she slapped me in the face with "I learned about them when I’m facing the most painful, emotionally empty Christmas holiday season of my entire life, a time when the whole concept of giving means nothing to me, because nobody can give me back my beloved sister Julie."

As if I really needed to be reminded!

Went back to bed - yeah, read it in the wee hours as usual - but couldn't sleep...thinking about an approaching Christmas which will be minus my own personal Santa. Talk about "Bah, Humbug!"

Tried to console myself with the thought of Christmas music...the ONLY part of the Christmas trappings that I actually like. Hell, I sometimes catch myself whistling Jingle Bells in July.

Guess which one of all the possible cheery tunes pops into my mind...Elvis Presley..."Blue Christmas"!

Well...gotta close. Now that I'm sinking into the depths, I look at the clock and see that it's time to get ready for school. But...I'm "thankful" right? I've got school to "distract me" from all my cares and woes.

Let me put THAT advice to a final rest...the "Ron, you need to keep working" advice. I hope I drown in the shower!

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way...


Postscript: I plan on using this page as MY "blog" as I venture through the "Happy Holidays".


December 5th:


Why SAD?

Googled it to check the latest info...which hasn't changed.

Advice to SAD people: DO go near the light!

One Web site opines:

Pass the Prozac!

I'll buy the above...the explanation, NOT the Prozac.

But, I was SAD long before I moved to the "new" high school...

Still remember the first time the "powers that were" pushed door decorations for the Christmas season. Each homeroom was responsible for decorating. Well, there were two factors mitigating against a successful endeavor in Room 106...MY room. One was a homeroom of apathetic students who just did not care to be bothered. The second was a homeroom teacher who was NOT inclined to fake the festivities on their behalf.

I watched during the week as various teachers took it upon themselves to force the holiday spirit upon their charges...doing ALL of the decorating themselves, with a couple of exceptions where a student or two did help. Each day, I would suffer the comments and/or questions of fellow faculty members...as to when MY decorations would go up.

Finally the big day arrived...the door-decorating contest judging, conducted by District and community volunteers.

Not wanting to be left out or over-looked, I got busy. As the judges were rumored to be on the 2nd floor and soon to be heading down to the "basement", I calmly walked over to my blackboard (and, YES, they were actually black back then), picked up a trusty piece of chalk, walked over to my door, and scrawled "Bah Humbug" at the top.

We didn't win...and I got a few ugly looks from some of the judges...BUT, hey, I was just representin' for my homies!

Why did I mention the "new" high school? For reasons obvious to all those who enter those environs...NO WINDOWS!

Go back and read the descriptor above...the lack of light causes depression! Can I get a "Well, duh!" in honor of the architects?!

Take a "seasonal" disorder associated with the lack of light and extend it to the WHOLE DAMN YEAR! Spring and summer light find no purchase in Cairo Junior/Senior High School...we "be" in the dark all year long, in more ways than one!

I figure when the state or whoever makes their move to reorganize, restructure, or close the high school, we'll just get our lawyer to file suit on behalf of the faculty, staff, and students. How do you expect us to learn or to function while working in a seasonally dysfunctional building???

I figure that we can find a long line of physicians, psychologists, and psychiatrists to testify that we were a SAD sorry lot - hmmmmm, most of our former BOE members and superintendents would agree with THAT assessment - and that our failing test scores are the result of our DISABILITY!!! Hey, federal and state law provides protection for those of us who suffer from disabilities. They cannot fire us and, in fact, I see a major WORKERS COMP claim on the horizon!

In the meantime, I'm going to take another shower...a longer shower...and plug up the drain this time...


December 6th:


Okay, yesterday I gave you the "medical explanation" of why I'm sad...HAVE SAD!

Now, I'll give you the REAL reason...

Actually, we could label it "medical" also...in the psychological realm. Guess it boils down to a "which came first, the chicken or the egg" argument. Did SAD cause my depression, or did depression cause my SAD?

Well, the eminent psychologist...Dr. Ronald E. Newell - a.k.a. Ronnie Gene - has the definitive answer.

It was the chicken!

Do you really believe that on the Sixth Day, God spent His time creating eggs and then sat back on Sunday to see what hatched? Gimme a break! He went for the finished product...I mean He is God!!!

Now that I've answered that age-old question, let's return to a discussion of SAD...

I know that my SAD is NOT the "lack of light" strain, because I did not "develop" SAD until I met Julie Jones!

"In the beginning...", I was a carefree lad, marching through the seasons without the slightest shift in mood. Oh, I had already gone through my "angelic Catholic altar boy stage", falling from grace when I "rebelled" at shaking hands, hugging, and listening to rock music at the English-version masses. (Actually, my first seeds of doubt had been planted when I observed the hypocrisy of the church-attenders who professed love of their fellow man, but would vacate their pews if a "colored person" took up residence nearby. Hmmm...maybe Julie WAS casting some influence over me before I met her! Probably, those electrical charges of hers...)

Then, Julie and I met...and fell in love. And, as they say, that's when our heartache began!

I've indicated before that Julie's family had some reservations about her dating a white boy in the racially charged climate of Cairo in the early 1970s...reservations that they quickly discarded. The same could be said about my family...IF you are prone to understatement! Hell, they would have probably preferred that I had dated a white boy!

And...the "reservations" were NOT quickly discarded!

Being the "perfect person", I was determined to solve the unsolvable...I would find a way to make EVERYBODY happy! I mean, I HAD committed to Julie and THAT was NOT going to change. (I think I proved that over the years; gotta give myself my props!) But, SURELY there was a way to balance love of parents with love of spouse, even if one was oil and one was water.

To make a long and painful story short...if there is a way, I never found it!

I would abandon Julie on major holidays to spend time with my parents, rationalizing to myself that since I would always return that I was showing Julie my undying commitment to her...AND...I was spending MOST of the day...and all of the surrounding days...with her, so...

Yeah, well...stupid is as stupid does.

This went on for probably 15 years...long enough to do irreparable damage to my psyche and cause repeated emotional pain to Julie. (I've mentioned Julie's "inferiority complex". So, make her sit at home...alone...on the most important days of the year. Makes you feel really warm and fuzzy about yourself, doesn't it?)

Okay...I begin to feel that I've poured enough salt into this wound for today!

By now, you clearly understand why for the past 37 years, the holidays have NOT been my favorite time of the year. I begin dreading them early and am thankful when they are done...trying to cope with the lingering feelings of guilt.


And, a footnote...

It didn't help a damn bit in later years...when I did spend the major holidays WITH Julie...completely. The damage had been done...

Julie would buy presents for my mother...and encourage me to deliver them...ON the holiday. Out of some sense of...hell, it didn't make ANY sense! I would "decline"...would take them on some other day...like THAT was making up for the past.

And, no, I won't be spending this Christmas day with my mother. Just can't bring myself to do it...


December 8th - Morning:


DAMN, DAMN, DAMN, DAMN, DAMN...

The lack of light...and the addition of rain sure DOES add to the atmosphere!

And it's supposed to rain until freaking Wednesday...

Guess I could double my pleasure and go shopping!


December 8th - Afternoon:


Julie knows best...


Hey!

Rachel reached out and touched somebody today...ME.

Since Rachel prompted my latest round of holiday blues, I guess she figured she needed to bring some cheer into my life. So, when I answered the telephone this afternoon, it was Rachel from deepest, darkest Africa - a.k.a. Gulu, Uganda. Rachel apparently wanted to lift my spirits...take my mind off of my day-in, day-out sulking...to give me reason to be thankful for my lot in life.

If YOU need cheering up, have no fear, Rachel's willing to share. In fact, you can read her news on Rachel's blog for today.


Let me offer the following comment on Julie's behalf, since Julie is not able to say it to Rachel personally...YET...

"I told you so!"


December 16th:


Haven't posted any new entries on this page since the 8th because there has been nothing to report except "Same old, same old." It's still raining and I'm still SAD.

My only "cheery news" of the week is that our headstone arrived at Bell Monument on Tuesday. Of course, they probably won't be able to put it in place until after the Spring floods...

So...figured that I'd follow the old advice that "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."


Did climb out of bed last night to read Rachel's blog...

If you have been following her latest exploits, you know that she was ordered to vacate Gulu, Uganda because of a reported ebola outbreak. Seems that government officials have now decided that reports coming out of Gulu were exagerated...so Rachel is going back into the "hot zone". Kinda lifts your Christmas spirits doesn't it?

And, after reading her blog, I don't know whether "contagion" will catch up to Rachel, but it's clear that her case of SAD meets or exceeds mine.

Woe is us...


December 18th:


When I woke up this morning, in the wee hours as usual, did not feel well at all. Was having chest pains, indigestion, nausea, and dia…well, hell, “the runs”. Wondered if I were having a heart attack, had contracted food poisoning, some bug, whatever. Figured it couldn’t be ebola…unless it can be transmitted by e-mail. (Do I need to start wearing surgical gloves when I reach out and touch Rachel?)

After spending a couple of very uncomfortable hours, went back to bed and curled up in my fetal position…because my stomach hurt! Must have finally dosed off…because I awakened at 5:30 a.m., not feeling great…but somewhat better. Better enough, at least, to go to school. Again…just my luck…woe is me.

In retrospect, I’ve decided that my discomfort is probably just a physical manifestation of my SAD. It kicked my butt pretty hard this past weekend and so I know the pressure is building. And, as of midnight, it is now officially Christmas Eve!

A word of explanation…

Normally, the Newell house – especially the living room – is a disaster area right now, or should we say it resembles Santa’s workshop. You can barely see the Christmas tree, as there are presents, gift bags, tissue and wrapping paper everywhere. Julie is in her final day of getting ready for “School Christmas”…the day we get out…this year it's December 19th! This process has been going on for over a week and it’s now “crunch time”.

I stay out of Julie’s way, knowing my place. Occasionally, I may wrap a few presents, but normally “my job” is to sort by buildings when she gets done, note any “missing persons” (folks who probably should have gotten a present, but I didn’t find one), and to bag the presents for delivery on “School Christmas Day”. Ho, ho, ho!

As I walk through the living room this morning, what do I see? Why a VERY tidy living room. No Christmas tree…threw the fake tree and the ornaments away weeks ago in a fit of impending SAD. Two presents FROM early Santas and no presents TO anyone.

Oh, I had good intentions. Planned on venturing out this past weekend…used the threat of bad weather as an excuse not to. Slept a lot, ate and drank too much. Watched the sorry Rams lose to the Packers. I didn’t even do “my” Christmas cards…another of Julie’s jobs! Probably would have done them – at least reciprocated the ones that I have already received – except that two of those are addressed to “Ron and Julie Newell”. So, I have the task of informing folks who haven’t heard “the news” as yet.

Yeah…a major pity party took place at the “Newell House” this weekend and promises to continue unabated.

Of course, tomorrow is another day…and it will be worse.

In fact, tomorrow will probably be a whole lot worse than the real Christmas Day. I have given a LOT of thought to calling in sick, but decided that a truly SAD person should wallow in the festivities. So, barring another physical attack of whatever it was, I’ll be at school tomorrow with bells on! (No…no actual bells, unless the BOE “bells the CAT” by then! (Did they try to poison me at the District luncheon yesterday???)

Tomorrow morning (hell, right now), I will have a guilt trip…several of them!

It will start off when I don’t have to bag up the presents and deliver them, something I always growled about…to Julie’s (rightful) dismay. Julie did all the buying and all the wrapping. All I had to do was deliver them, but my “put upon” persona always managed to manifest itself. (Office personnel can attest to the fallout of that persona, as they were called upon during the past few years to pick up “Julie’s cooking treats”, as she sought alternate avenues to deliver the food so as NOT to bother me. God bless her and forgive her for telling little white lies to protect my “perfect husband” reputation!)

Next guilt trip will be when I get to school sans presents and begin to receive presents…

Folks, I’m sorry…don’t mean to go on and on like this. It’s just that I don’t have Julie to talk to anymore and I’ve taken to baring my soul to work through this.

I am fully aware that I am NOT the only person to lose a loved one. A friend of mine told me over the weekend that he had lost his wife in a traffic accident years ago in December – three days before Christmas – so I know it can be worse. I think back to this past summer, when our former P.E. teacher lost BOTH his wife and son within a 24-hour period. I think of my two “Steves”, one lost to a tornado and one to cancer. I think of Priscilla W., Carole C., Karen A., Larry M., and Linda M. – active teachers who passed away leaving behind their loved ones…who grieved no less than I. Most of you reading this post have probably suffered similar losses.

No, unfortunately, I am not unique. But, all the same…I hurt. It’s my hurt and I will deal with it. And, I am blessed to have my very own personal angel who is helping me through this period…sending butterflies, birds, and various other signs.

But, if you want the final punch line, tomorrow is the 19th. It’s been two months…


December 23th:


A friend e-mailed me yesterday...checking on my status...noting that there had been no updates on "Blahg Humbug" since the 18th.

She inquired as to whether that was a good sign...or whether I was just "too humbuggy to write?"

Let me respond to that!

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...


December 26th:


Well, this is the day when my SAD would normally start to dissipate. Oh, there would be no instant joy, but it seemed that the negative pressure would start to fade. So, unless there is some dramatic development, I'd say this will be the last entry in Blahg Humbug.

As a line out of a Bon Jovi song put it...

"Hey, Man, I'm alive, takin' each day and night at a time, feeling like a Monday, but someday I'll be Saturday Night."

Ain't bought into that last phrase...but I am hangin' in!

2008's gotta be better...tell me that's true!!!

I'll chance that it is and wish for one and all a healthy and happy new year!


December 31st:


3 p.m.


Got a telephone call from deepest, darkest Africa at around noon. Rachel was already two glasses of wine (and thinking champagne) ahead of me!

Woe was me...I was in Paducah, doing exciting stuff! Bought two new tires for my "war wagon". When I went to the cemetery yesterday, Julie pointed out that the steel belts were breaking through the rubber on the front tires...tires I had intended to have rotated last week, last month, last year, but opted out. (Okay, Julie didn't say or do anything, but that's when I happened to notice it.)

By the way, the Archangel Julie (as Rachel calls her) DID save my ass this morning on the way to Paducah. Almost wiped out on the Kentucky bridge. On the downside of the bridge I braked in anticipation of the curve at the end...and started sliding on the ice that I had not noticed...right toward an 18-wheeler that was taking part of my side as they usually do. Fortunately, the worn out tires caught some traction to allow me to avoid both the semi and the side of the bridge when I started sliding away from the semi. Then the actual curve appeared and I slithered some more, again avoiding another semi and the bridge. Don't tell me my guardian angel wasn't present and active! (As well as she should be, since she sent me on this mission in the first place by pointing out the balding tires!)

So, let the drinking begin!

Actually, THAT is NOT a high priority. Think I mentioned earlier that despite my anticipation of drowning my sorrows over the holidays and the help of several friends who kindly gave me the means as Christmas presents, I haven't been imbibing much. Leave it to me to have a form of depression that inhibits the desire to drink!

By the way, I did "Christmas Dinner" with my mother this past Saturday. Felt better afterwards...either from the visit, or from the pressure of the visit being behind me. (Okay, trying to be positive...it was clearly the latter!)


Ya know what's on my mind tonight...as 2007 ticks off its last hours?

I've been telling folks, including Rachel, that 2008 has to be better than 2007.

I wonder...

On January 1, 2007, I had Julie by my side...to talk to, to laugh with, to love. On January 1, 2008...

Yes, Julie had a VERY bad 2007...lots of sickness, lots of discomfort from chemo treatments, lots of pain...but didn't she always?! However, Julie continued to live, laugh, and love! Julie was still happy...and so was I!

2008?

I won't spend one day with Julie. How can that be better?

As the days march on, I will try to console myself that Julie IS in a better place. I know that is true. But, the selfish part of me is hard pressed not to wish her back...


Rachel...I intend to catch up with you tonight!!!


December 31st:


11:59:59 p.m.


Happy New Year, Julie! I love you!! I miss you!!!


January 1, 2008:


Enough, already!

Sometimes the words flow...sometimes they don't. Today, it's the latter. I started writing this entry this morning at approximately 9 o'clock...it's now 4:15 in the afternoon! (Actually, when I finished the post, I looked at the clock and it was exactly 4:44 p.m. I mention that simply as another anecdote. Julie had developed a "thing" about time during the past couple of years. Don't know why...she just did. Julie would frequently comment that she seemed to always look up at the clock when it hit repeating digits...like 4:44, 5:55, and the like.)

No...haven't been sitting here all that time...not even most of the time. Just left it...couldn't "end it". Sometimes, after I "sleep on it", I become inspired with (what I humbly believe to be) words of profound wisdom, a pleasing turn of a phrase, or a subtle, witty observation. (Hell, I literally slept on it for a couple of hours, taking my first catnap of the new year...to no avail!)

So, as I state somewhere below...it is what it is!

I sincerely want to wish each and every one of you a healthy and happy 2008. To borrow an old phrase...since I am having such trouble with originality today...if you have your health, you have everything! Julie and I came to appreciate that more than most folks over the years...


*************************


A final thought as the holiday season draws to a close and we ring in a new year...

A friend e-mailed me last week, having earlier tippy-toed around the wishing you a "merry" Christmas tradition...saying something like "I know you probably can't have merry thoughts right now, but know that we are all thinking of you." (Had a lot of cards and e-mails like that...they were on target and appreciated.)

But, the friend went on...wondering if I was "justifiably bitter" with all the people who WERE making merry and WERE being happy at this time of year?

And I quickly and truthfully responded...NOT AT ALL!

I don't begrudge folks their positive feelings about the holidays...never have, and NOT going to start now! Hey, I was married to a "the glass is overflowing" person for almost 34 years. Do you think I was bitter with Julie because she was happy, or trying hard to be happy even when the world was pulling her down? (That's one of those rhetorical questions!)

Rachel wrote in her blog today that she had chosen her motto for the new year..."I Embrace My Fate in 2008" (and gives anecdotes describing her luck with previous choices.)

That's where Rachel and I differ.

As Rachel brutally reminded me a couple of weeks ago, we share deep feelings of depression...dating back YEARS!

Rachel valiantly confronts her demons, trying to overcome them with positive thoughts...and New Year's resolutions. And Julie was always there to provide encouragement. From the sound of Rachel's blog, it looks like she has tempered her resolutions this year...tempered as in steel. And, of course, Rachel credits the Archangel Julie for giving her that strength...for being there...“Like Always. Like Never Before.”

Me, on the other hand, accept that the demons will always be there. (I always joked with Julie that I kept thinking of starting a chapter of the "Optimist Club" in Cairo, but I just didn't think it would work.) My approach to the demons is simply to acknowledge their presence, keep a wary eye on them, and live life as best I can. Not very uplifting, in fact, downright depressing...but it is what it is.

Julie? She recognized years ago that I was a "hard case"..."Stubborn as a Newell" is how she termed it. Julie gave me my space...did NOT try to force me to be something I wasn't. Oh, it bothered her, but she would just try to lead by example...hoping that some of her positive energy would wear off on me. And, to her credit, it often did.

So, as I enter a new year, I offer no motto...it's just not me. But, I do NOT despair. I have a plan...a simple plan...to keep leading the life that Julie and I led together. Figure that I can't go wrong there! And, although Julie will not be physically at my side in 2008, I know that she still has my back...

“Like Always. Like Never Before.”