Good Surprises, Bad Surprises (I prefer good ones.)


Happy Friday Everyone!

I’m glad it’s here because Spring Break begins for my kids.  I’ll enjoy a respite from the frantic morning rush, as well as a breather from the passive-aggressive minivan brigade en route to school.

Today I was interviewed by a psychologist-in-training.  She’s interviewing mothers with bipolar disorder for her dissertation, and she made quite a trek to reach these Deliverance-esque mountains.  We spent an intense ninety minutes while I answered her questions. I was thankful she was very compassionate, because I discussed the toughest, most disturbing years of my life.  I was drained afterwards, but I’m glad that I did it because I know her research will help other clinicians understand moms with bipolar a little better.

Meanwhile it has been a weird week.  Well, it’s always weird around here, but it was a touch weirder than usual.  

Bad surprise #1 happened Wednesday morning.  I woke up around 4:30 a.m. as nature called.  I needed to answer her fast or regress to six-years-old and wet the bed.  On my way back to bed, I paused in the doorway and spotted a puddle on the floor – ooops, Lucy had an accident. It happens once in a while, and it was actually a blessing in disguise. When I crouched down to clean it up, I saw movement to my left.  I gasped inwardly, as I didn’t want to wake everyone up, especially Lucy, who was out of sight on the other side of the bed.

It was Zoe, Rilla’s Syrian hamster.  Somehow Zoe had escaped from her cage and she was having a splendid time exploring the house. Miraculously Lucy missed her spree.  I hadn’t handled the little creature much up to that point, but I immediately scooped her up before Lucy awoke.  I thought she’d wriggle out of my hands, but she was calm.


I thanked God over and over that I was the first one to find Zoe; if Lucy had seen her, Zoe would’ve become a Scooby snack and Rilla and Avonlea would have been devastated.  (It turned out that there was a faulty part of her cage.  She leapt five feet down from its perch without hurting herself, another small miracle.) While I categorized this as a bad surprise, it did have a happy ending. Hurrah!


Good surprise #1 was “Hector and the Search for Happiness”. This was a wonderful film!  I watched it on my portable DVD player with headphones while the kids were glued to the insipid Nick Jr.’s “Austin and Ally”, a show that makes me want to scream.

“Hector and the Search for Happiness” is about Hector, of course. He’s a burned-out psychiatrist (what a surprise, eh?) who goes on a pilgrimage to research how to help his patients (and himself) be happy.  I don’t want to give away spoilers, but it was unique as well as a great reminder about what creates true happiness.  Some of my favorite actors are in it (Toni Colette, Stellan Skarsgard, Jean Reno and Christopher Plummer, still going strong in his 80’s!) and actors who I was unfamiliar with, namely the outstanding lead Simon Pegg.  I definitely give it a “thumbs up”.  

On to bad surprise #2.  Some of you know I work out almost daily on my beloved Nordic Track Elliptical. Yesterday as soon as I hopped on it, the flywheel made a ghastly screeching sound.  I had to stop, which sucked as I really needed an endorphin boost.  Craig came downstairs to see what caused a noise that could wake the dead. He took the elliptical apart to discover a huge amount of fluffy pink insulation material stuffed inside the flywheel that wasn’t supposed to be there – surprise! It was jumbled up with scraps of paper. You can guess where this is going, right?

My workout machine had become a haven to RATS!!!


Oh. My. God.

Grooooooososssssss!  At least there was no rat poo in it as far as I could tell, and there were no rats or parts of rats in the elliptical.  That was a major plus, yes indeed.  Our home is rat-free; we had sent our rats to the afterlife long ago.  But this was definitely a bad surprise, and there’s no way I can put a good spin on it!

I certainly can’t end on that note.  Good surprise #2 came from my seven-year-old last night.  Rilla and I were talking about odds and ends. She said, “I look up to you, Mommy and I want to be a writer too.  I want to be like you!” 

I was so moved by what Rilla said, because I haven’t exactly been Mother of the Year since her birth in 2007;  the year I was diagnosed with postpartum bipolar less than two months after she was born.  To hear that she wanted to be like me (she knows I have bipolar, and yet she didn’t let that get in the way of anything) was beyond awesome.  I was also surprised that my writing has made a positive impression upon her.  

After all the crap I’ve put this child through as a result of my mental illness, I harbor residual guilt.  I worry about the trauma my girls have suffered from bipolar-related events. So you can imagine how cool it was for me to hear her words, to feel her soft arms wrap themselves around me in a hug, and to hold her small hands with their tiny, scraggly fingernails….the hands of a budding writer.

Until next Friday, I send you my love, and some good surprises that will make you smile.






23 thoughts on “Good Surprises, Bad Surprises (I prefer good ones.)

  1. I am amazed and extremely grateful that my daughter is inspired by me,and my story, including all of it’s ugly parts. Isn’t it great that our kids love us for who we are, not who they may have wanted us to be?
    They are blessed miracles. ❤
    Have a beautiful weekend my friend! 🙂

    • Thanks so much for reading, my sweet Marie! You have a FUN weekend – I want to read all about it soon! Treat yourself like the Beautiful Area Lady that you are! And be sure to take some pictures and I looove the photos you share with us!

  2. LOVE this comment. You totally get it. I wish you could have seen the expression on my face when she said it. I had to force myself to be silent and not ruin the moment with “Oh nooooooooo, you don’t want to be like me – I’m sooooooo fucked up!” (Not that I’d ever say that to her, but those are the kinds of demons that scamper through my brain.)

    These children are total miracles – yes, you’re absolutely right. I’m so happy to hear that your daughter appreciates all of you, and that she’s inspired by you & your story.

    Thanks for making my day with your lovely perspective & experience.

  3. Just read your Blog! Keep an eye on your hamsters. When yours escaped they loved to chew on telephone wires and TV cables!!!

    Sent from my iPhone


    • I remember Snowball; she loved to walk on my Pepto Bismol pink bean bag.
      Then she escaped. She was away for a very a long time (i.e. several weeks) and we thought she was gone forever.

      Then she miraculously returned, but she was obviously sick and the poor thing died an ugly death. :((((((

      R.I.P. Snowball!

      And yes, we will keep a close eye on Zoe and Snowflake, the Robo Dwarf


  4. Oh, to be a rodent in the Harwood household. Fit as a fiddle (or at least resting well in pink insulation), going on late night adventures, miraculously avoiding the detection of a fluffy beast with powerful jaws, rescued by a quick-thinking mom in the middle of the night, and well loved by a bevy of girls. I know that two girls do not quite make a bevy, but I like the word.

    Completed my phone interview with Ms. G. for her study this afternoon. Enjoyed it.

    • I loved this comment, Kitt – it made me laugh! (The rodent part, not the interview part!) I like the word “bevy” too and we can just change its definition to suit our needs! I’m glad you enjoyed your interview with Ms. G. – she’s awesome. I plan on keeping touch with her as she’s going to help me down the line with the “Birth of a New Brain” book. 🙂

      Hope your NAMI class today goes well and that you’re feeling so much better that you don’t have to wear a mask! 😉

      • Had a great time at class. Got to eat three meals that I did not prepare. Yay! Love eating food someone else prepared for me. Chicken Caesar salad for lunch. Bacon cheeseburger for dinner. Yum! Great folk. Interesting, and of course, difficult personal and family stories shared. Very loving bunch of folk. Our tribe.

  5. Great post.

    The fact that your are a loving parent, try your best and when you fail – pick yourself back up. That is a ‘Mommy of the Year’ candidate in my book!

    • Thanks for reading, Vic – I’m so happy you enjoyed this post. It’s nice to be considered a candidate for “Mommy of the Year” – I’ll go with that.

      By the way, check out Kitt’s funny comment below – I think you’ll get a kick out of it! She sure has a way with words, especially when it comes to rodents…

  6. Love this post. The rat gave me a giggle (we are having some rat issues too at our place!!)! And I think you are a wonderful mother, you care about your children, you constantly work on yourself, and after everything you have been through you are here! Have a wonderful weekend (hopefully with no bad surprises)

    • Thank you, thank you! The sight of that bubble gum pink fluff was pretty hilarious.
      I’ve been on that machine almost every day for months now. For me to be totally clueless about something freaky that was literally right beneath my butt has been downright bizarre, but funny!

      YOU are an incredible mom! I read your latest post last night on my Kindle (I still plan to return to comment – lazy me, I hate using the Kindle to write!) and I couldn’t believe all that you’ve been through over the past year. You’re truly amazing as a person, let alone mom, and you inspire me to no end.

      Thanks for baring it all in that post (not with photos LOL!) but you know what I mean! Sending you hugs and hopes for some MUCH-deserved smooth sailing!!!

    • Thank you so much, SuperMommy, for your comment.

      Yes, I’m truly lucky my girl sees me without the “blinding bipolar stigma glasses” (love that!), I know it!!! :))) I hope that as she gets older her glasses will remain clear. I will pray for a miracle that our society dramatically reduces, or even stops with all this horrible bipolar-bashing and that people will view bp for the brain disease that it is!

  7. That’s so cool to hear your daughters words of admiration! I’m glad that she sees you for you. I think that’s what we all really want.

    • Thanks so much, Adina! I’d rather have her see me for *only* my good qualities, ha ha ha, no really, I’m lucky she takes it all in stride. I am deeply thankful. Hope you’re doing well, beautiful, and keeping up those workouts….. 😉 XO

    • I’m very happy that your kids don’t expect you to walk on water, Lisa! 😉
      Seriously, that’s truly wonderful your kids have realistic expectations & I know they love you to the moon and back. You’re a fantastic and loving mother.

      I’ll check out your new blog post today – I just got the notification last night.
      Thanks so much for your encouragement and reading/commenting – it means a lot to me!! XOXO Dy

  8. I’ve learned through my experience that the kids don’t expect perfection out of me. They want my best and they want to know that mental illness or not I’ll be there for them. How nice for you that Rilla told you that. ❤

    • I didn’t see this comment until months later – I’m so sorry! Thanks, ljcriswell, for what you wrote. Hope this finds you well and I hope you have a good holiday! 💕

  9. Oy, what a smorgasbord of life here! But I love that moment with you and Rilla. So often I’ve been saying “not now, I’m working. I’m working. I’m working.” I still think about those times when Blondie was small and not in school, wondering why i couldn’t play with her when the boys napped. Damn, I’m going to cry again…
    Nope, not, because Blondie’s still okay, and I’m learning how to balance. Yeah, I still get stressed, and I sleep less, but I am making myself make sure I get time with each kid somehow. Maybe it’s just a few minutes that day, maybe a few hours another day, but I NEED to do that. And you must be doing something right, too, for Rilla. 🙂 We just have to keep hoping we’re doing what’s good and right for the family, and never, ever, give up. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    • I can’t tell you enough how cool I find it that you’re reading the older posts.
      When I re-visit an old post, it helps me remember where I’ve been and how far (or not) I’ve come, LOL! 😛
      Rilla and I have been navigating some very rocky terrain since this post was written, and while she makes it clear she loves me (and she hasn’t retracted her sweet statement about wanting to be like me!) I worry she might change her mind soon. My patience level sucks, and I absolutely hate how I’m facing the challenge of her irrational tantrums. I’ve become a grumpy witch when her mood goes south.

      These tantrums occur on a near-daily basis first thing in the morning and they are beyond the beyond.
      On schooldays I have to rush the girls to get the older one to school on time (she starts 1/2 an hour earlier than Rilla due to the dumb middle school schedule!) And these tantrums are draining me. She’s seeing a child’s therapist who she really likes. So far no diagnosis has been suggested, but the tantrums continue. I can only continue to love her and have faith they will improve. We’re shifting her bedtime so she gets more sleep and will take a look at improving her diet, reducing the sugar. (gasp!) I know there are other things we can do and I need to research it, but I’m procrastinating. Not good, I know. 😂 Matters could be MUCH worse, but it’s still very tough.

      • Mmm, yes, I know what you mean. the boys lately have been sapping my patience a lot faster than normal, especially with the potty training. I thought for sure we were making progress, at least with Biff, but suddenly they’re fighting even harder with me, as well as with each other. I’ve thought about working with their diet, too, but the foods they’re willing to eat are SO limited that I thin if we cut the sugar, they’d cut eating altogether. UGH. But we’ll get through this, you and I. We’ll pull our hair and cover our ears, but we’ll get through this!

Comments are closed.