“Keep Going” Amulet

This is Me

First of all, let me put out there that I am not as confident as I appear in that photo. I’m almost 45. I have stretch marks, muffin top and I’ve never been stick thin (well, except for that summer I lost 30 pounds) but I’ve always tried to be healthy and strong.

I’ve had a baby. I’ve broken bones. I’ve struggled with anemia, cerebral palsy and on occasion anxiety. I’ve had great jobs I didn’t want to leave (ever) and bad jobs that I didn’t want to go to.

But like many of you, I keep going. I have shiny happy days, sleepy days, down days, days I just don’t want to end and days when I cry myself to sleep.

Today I chose this outfit as my warrior’s attire. I got the shirt and the necklace from The Attic in Bethlehem and let me tell you— I never would have bought this shirt if not for the state lockdown/pandemic.

I would have said, ‘hell, no, that’s way too skimpy.’

And left that shirt on the rack. But it looked so damn cute on the mannequin— which I think that mannequin has bigger boobs that me. No, wait. That shirt clearly looks tiny on the mannequin and my boobs are bigger.

Who wore it best?

But I decided to wear that shirt and I consider it a pledge of confidence to myself. NOTHING will intimidate me today. NO ONE will change how I feel about myself.

And I am adorable.

And to make it even more powerful, I wore my circle necklace also from The Attic. I have christened it my “keep going” amulet, because circles are round. They roll. They keep going. And this one is glittery and clear. Clear quartz is the stone used to purify things and recharge them.

Although it’s not quartz, it has a shine like quartz so I will use this necklace to remind me to keep going and keep my thoughts free of negative vibes.

New beginnings

Now bare with me for one more topic, I’m a little superstitious and as you can see I’m almost done with my journal. New chapters always begin at the end of my journal.

I’ve been working with Aspire for Autonomy for work, and I’ve been striking up some personal conversation with Darnell about helping with his organization. I’m impressed with his energy and hope to learn more about their goals.

State of the Neighborhood Address

The neighborhood has been quiet today, it’s rainy and dark. I live in half a double and I haven’t heard a peep out of the other side of my house.

It’s too wet to walk dogs. The guy who randomly rides up and down the street on a lawnmower is no where to be found.

Everyone’s cars are here, but everyone’s house is dark.

One house up the street has removed a tree that I remember them planting 10 years ago.

And the neighbor flipping our deceased octogenarian’s house has removed her metal louvered screen door and painted the main door white when it was always brown.

I was bitterly disappointed when CVS never texted that my prescription was ready. I called them to see if I could order it and the automated system told me no. I don’t need it yet, was just looking forward to the outing.

So, the teenager got out a Nicholas Cage movie— last week she got out Gone in 60 Seconds because I love cars. I love cars. Today she picked The Family Man because she didn’t remember it and I love chick flick comedy.

Quarantine good times

And we ate blueberry bagels with nut butter and banana (mine was almond butter, hers was extra crunchy peanut butter) and when she popped her bagel out of the toaster muttering “oo ee, that’s hot!” we spontaneously burst into a few rounds of The Witch Doctor.

Here’s a ShaNaNa skit: Sha Na Na ~ The Witch Doctor

Then CVS texted that my prescription was ready after all! So the teenager and I grabbed my 25% off coupon and headed to the pharmacy for a nice afternoon walk.

The prescription was $4, and the plumber was ahead of us in line. We made our way to the front of the store, and I told my blind friend Nan that I would look for hand soap in case she needed it. And since I had that coupon I wanted to get sleep aid, for those occasionally bouts of insomnia. So I “treated” myself to the 500 count bottle.

Got Nan’s soap. And was amazed at the aisles and aisles of Easter Candy still remaining— and they had only reduced it to 50% off. The Dollar Store had 75% off.

But we got cheap jelly beans and the teenager asked for “Robin’s Eggs” malt balls. And a gallon of Arizona iced tea. And I picked out bottled Starbucks drinks. And asked her to grab a bag of chips.

That’s what this blurry picture is—most of our “haul.”

When did these outings become so exciting? When did I start thinking strategically about every aisle and item and outing?

Interesting times, indeed.

We have a jumper! (This post jumps around)

I’ve been allowing myself to sleep in a bit and these days I’m waking up between 6:15 and 6:30. I lay in bed sometimes until almost 7, but I’m always dressed, with pants and everything, and at my desk with a hot cup of coffee by 8:30.

I’ve enjoyed sharing an office with my birds— three budgies and a Goffin’s cockatoo—all of whom must be enjoying the electronic swing I listen to at my desk and the bird playground I have assembled for them.

Yes, that’s the teenager’s kitten who refused to get out of the cockatoo’s cage.

Now, when Nala the cockatoo destroys toys I save the salvageable pieces and put them in these spare dishes and she plays with them and throws them at the cats.

I think I have some new toys coming for the parakeets, and I also need to order them more ladders and perches because they have suddenly destroyed everything in their cage.

Work passed easily, I feel like I was quite organized and productive. And I’m off tomorrow. I took an unplanned paid time off to take care of some health issues. So it will be part trip to the pharmacy, part virtual doctor visit and part mental health day.

There’s a contact we have at work at a local company that is the point person for a rather large food drive that benefits our agency. Because of the state lockdown, they can’t host this food drive so the employees contributed cash instead, but she didn’t want to mail it and our offices are closed.

So the teenager and I took a road trip. It’s strange when a 25-mile round trip to the next town and back feels like a major outing. I donned my mask, put on my gloves and we exchanged an envelope of cash in the parking lot.

That might be the closest I will ever come to feeling like a drug dealer. Nope, scratch that. I’ve driven around with a trunk full of Girl Scout cookies.

My teenager and I have the best conversations while in the car. We talked a lot about financial responsibility and budgeting and how important it will be for her to determine her own style of fiscal management. She admires my discipline, chicanery and creativity with making my money work for me.

I taught her about different ways to trick yourself into putting money into savings. The first of course is to set up automatic transfers. Another is to have a portion of your paycheck direct deposited into savings.

The easiest is to always, as soon as you take a new job, decide on a number of how much goes into retirement if your job offers a retirement plan. That way before you even see how much your take home pay is, the money goes into your future.

And if your job doesn’t have retirement options, go to your bank and contribute to an IRA. Every year. Because money saved when you are young goes far.

That motivated me to go ahead and take the plunge and use that last $1,000 of my stimulus check that I had put into savings and use it to prepay for 400 gallons of fuel oil for next winter’s heat at $2.199.

That was painful. But at least it’s over. Next I need to contact the dentist about the $859 bill they sent me for my crown. My insurance company didn’t cover anything but $17. I’m annoyed because the dentist thought they’d pay 50%, the tooth still isn’t right AND the bill they sent didn’t include the credit for the $394 I already paid.

But paying for the fuel oil was enough adulting for today.

The teenager made an amazing steak dinner.

And Nala loves onion rings.

The teenager discovered, because I sent her an Instagram post, that The Attic thrift store has an online sale and bid on a red dress. That she won.

I love the ingenuity our local small businesses are showing. I hope it continues after the lockdown ends.

Go follow AtticClothes

Last but certainly not least, I tried this Cascara tea which is supposedly full of antioxidants and it tasted really good.

My daughter wants her adenoids back

My daughter rarely gets sick. Every illness she’s ever had pretty much manifests as an ear infection. Or two ear infections.

This started when she was two — and only stopped during the couple years after she had ear tubes in first grade.

The poor child inherited my seasonal allergies and her father’s bad sinuses.

Her head is constantly full of fluid and her ears are always clogged.

And for about the last five years she has gotten ear infections twice a year, every time summer switches to fall and every time winter melts into spring.

So I took her back to the ENT practice that put in her last set of ear tubes. The doctor didn’t want to put them in because at her age, and with only two ear infections a year, she wasn’t a candidate.

I mentioned the fluid in her head.

We scheduled the surgery for Nov. 8.

The doctor also advised removing her adenoids.

The surgery was a success and my kid was hysterical when she came out of anesthesia.

But an unexpected thing happened.

She experienced a thing called a runny nose. In the past, the congestion was in her head and wouldn’t come out her nose.

She’s struggled with learning the appropriate technique for blowing her nose. And she literally asked me how to do it. That’s not something I ever had to explain.

But then she told me the funniest thing— air was rushing up her nose and down her throat. That going outside in the cold winter air sent that frigid air in her nose and down her throat. And she didn’t like it.

She said she wanted the surgery reversed. She wondered if she could get adenoids reconstruction surgery because she doesn’t like having a nose that works.

The Uplifting Side of Pandemic Days

There is just something about life in these pandemic times that I find uplifting.

Maybe the sense of nowhere to go or a certain carefreeness that reminds me of being on summer vacation as a teen.

Our grocery trips focus on the present more than ever. I normally only grocery shop once every two weeks but find that now I’m going once a week, buying less and rotating stores.

Today I went to a local small independent grocer, Park Avenue Market, where they are known for their amazing sandwiches and in store meats.

I treated the teenager to her first taste of olive loaf from the deli, slab bacon and their own feta spinach sausage patties. I also bought some stew beef and a small steak.

I discovered, in the middle of the store, with my order and my blind friend’s order, that I did not have my wallet. I found myself staring straight at a local cop and wondering where my wallet at fallen out of the back pocket of my jeans.

I told the teen to keep shopping and went home to look for it— it had fallen out of my pocket when I used the toilet before beginning our journey.

After the market, I took Nan her items and took the teen home before heading to Weis. There I got bananas, muffins, some discounted chicken and frozen vegetables. Half off fresh bakery products that weren’t so fresh any more. Milk, eggs, half and half and two six packs— one of Yuengling and one of a raspberry ale with a name I don’t recall.

We got some other items between the two trips: broccoli and cheese whipped into something akin to mashed potatoes, bread, mini shoo fly pies, A-Treat soda and lord knows what else.

Because suddenly life is shorter and the carbohydrates and sweets provide a taste of celebration.

I ate a vat of spaghetti squash when I arrived home and helped my daughter design a marching band show for her music assignment. Her dream has long been to play Cake’s Short Skirt Long Jacket in band. So she was ecstatic when the web sure her teacher posted had the music.

It was hard to unify songs since we didn’t have enough Cake songs to do a Cake theme. She found a lot of Green Day and thought maybe she should do all Green Day. But I couldn’t let her dream die.

She found the theme from Die Another Day— which I believe is Madonna performing in the James Bond film. I didn’t think mixing a movie theme and alternative would work. And her band director has done a Bond show.

Finally I researched early 2000s alternative rock in a Google search and we decided on Nickelback. Green Day’s Basket Case for the Opener, followed by the Cake song, closed by some Nickelback song that I’ve forgotten already.

So the theme would be alternative rock from the era in which these musicians were born.

And here’s Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo, rocking out to Green Day.

Nala rocking to Green Day

Lessons from the Coronavirus Pandemic: Controlling who gets in

I finally was able to put into words today what I’ve been thinking since the shutdown started.

There has been a lot of discussion among friends, family and electronic connections about the introverted and extroverted responses to social isolation.

The introverts love it.

The extroverts might need strait jackets soon.

Compared to the teenager’s father—with whom I lived with for 20 years and neither one of us has filed for divorce yet despite living apart for the last nine months—I am not an introvert, but I do have empathic qualities so I need to be careful how I spend my time.

I wonder if my anxieties in life come from the energy I absorb from the world and people around me, and if that is why I spend time in balanced chunks of “alone in my room” vs. “with family and friends” vs. “with the outside world at large.”

I know that’s why I struggled with my job in retail.

But today, when walking with a neighbor after a day that challenged me, I realized why this pandemic has preserved my sanity.

I suddenly have control over who I let into my space. Complete control. Sure, work meetings over the phone can still be stressful but there is a physical distance that makes me feel safe.

I can’t go out arbitrarily. Or I shouldn’t. I have to plan my outings and chose where and when I go.

I control who I reach out to and who I let into my life. I certainly control who comes into my home.

Maybe I should practice some of these techniques after Covid-19 passes and protect my emotional space.

Goals—and how the impulsive selection of a desktop picture breeds hope

My last day in the office was March 17. We were practicing social distancing— not allowed to pass each other in the hall, speaking from inside our offices, wiping down doorknobs and the copy machine.

It was George’s mother’s birthday and he couldn’t go see her in the nursing home. That made him sad.

Tomorrow will be my 13th day of working from home. The fourth day of my second year with the agency. My first full day working on my new laptop. I had to reset windows and I managed to send myself this old picture from my phone for my desktop photo:

Traveling

I took it on the road between Djibouti City and Lac Abbé four years ago. Other than my daughter, I’ve shown one person this photo and they didn’t even ask what it was.

“Some random African photo,” he said when I asked if he noticed it, “I know your fascination with Africa.”

So I explained. “Ah,” he said, “that makes sense.”

This is the original photo that I took in January 2016.

On the Road

There is beauty in that photo, and oppressive dry heat, and the implication of hardship. Where are they going? Is it far? Yet, such color and contrast. Simplicity.

The man in the front is wearing a traditional man’s skirt. They say it helps you stay cool in the heat. The women have such light but colorful layers, lovely hijab blowing in what appears to be a slight breeze.

This photo takes me away when I look at it, and for me, it offers perspective and optimism.

I do have a critical theorist’s fascination with Africa, but my passion is actually post-colonial Francophone Africa and how their colonial experience and subsequent (ahem) immigration issues and Muslim relations provide lessons for American imperialism in a post-9/11 world.

Though recent political upheaval in South Africa may provide an interesting cross-examination of the British colonial experience… and what that means for the next generation of African citizens across the continent.

But I digress… not uncommon.

I have some goals I want to set this week.

  • Have several meals with my daughter at our patio cafe.
  • Take 3 walks.
  • Do 5 push ups tomorrow, 10 on Tuesday, and as many as I can each day as long as it is at least the same as the day before.
  • Care for my nails.
  • Take a bath.
  • Cut the grass.
  • Do a blog series on Tarot cards
Happy Sunday

Self-pledges

My day started with stripping the bed, finding my body in pain, starting a load of wash, unclogging the bathroom sink drain (gross but oddly satisfying) and feeding the cats.

Nala refuses to step up today, but I offered her her token sip of coffee anyway.

I took my allergy medicine— good thing as I could barely swallow.

I contemplated what will happen if we run out of toilet paper. I thought of the rural African way, a bucket of clean water and a crudely fashioned recycled water bottle ladle.

I make myself self-care pledges and find myself updating them regularly. I still struggle to stay on top of household chores while working full-time in a stressful job but I am confident the right routine will come.

I have succeeded with:

  • Eating plenty of vegetables
  • Prioritizing sleep and finding routines to fight stress-related sleep distuptions
  • Taking my vitamins

Now to focus on:

  • Eating more fruit
  • Working out
  • Personal Development Projects

Are you making yourself a priority? How so?

Walk on the Stirner Arts Trail

My friend Gayle invited the teenager and I to go for an appropriately socially distanced walk on Easton’s Karl Stirner Arts Trail.

The Arts Trail has added a new nature trail, some new art, a Qi Gong station, a labyrinth and a chime installation. So that was really fun.

I walked more today than I did in the last two days combined. Maybe three.

The teen

We also saw at least seven breeds of dogs so that was a delight. Frolicking puppies of every type.

But it was the best feeling when my daughter and I came upon the labyrinth and I explained the spiritual value of a labyrinth (and it turns out I managed to summarize exactly what the signs said).

It was like I got a redo on the vernal equinox.

So I brought into the labyrinth my recent stress and doubt, asking the universe to guide me.

My gift

And I repeated my mantra to the center of the labyrinth— and walked out my hands open to the receiving position ready to get answers. Or guidance.

At the altar

I feel refreshed.

For Gayle’s take on the adventure:

Fat Girl Walking on the KSAT

Sweet sleep

It’s 6:25 a.m. and I just poured a mug of my favorite coffee—Archer Farms Cafe Mosaica from Target. I haven’t made any in days. As part of my quest to lower my stress, fix my blood pressure and start sleeping better.

Before recent stress and life changes, I knew the routines of my body. I need at least eight hours sleep. As I get closer to my menstrual cycle, I may need more. It is typical for me to get so tired I sleep ten hours without moving in my bed. Usually only one day a month. But that hasn’t happened in a while.

For counterpoint, I usually have three days around the middle of my cycle where I’m high energy and extraordinarily confident. That hasn’t happened for a while either.

Both can probably be attributed to stress and hormone changes now that I am in my mid-forties.

There was a period for a year or so when I had insomnia once a month.

But now most of my issue is life. I think that’s how you know you’re getting older. More things disturb your sleep,

The garbage man arrives at 5:15. The cat has a hairball. The kittens decide to ricochet off my bedroom door. My personal favorite this week— the cockatoo has nightmares and calls out gently in her sleep.

So my typical sleep pattern is to collapse in bed between 9 and 10:30 pm, sleep like the dead for about 90 minutes, take about twenty minutes to fall back to sleep, get several hours good sleep before waking up briefly in the wee hours, drifting off again, and waking up when something else happens or one minute before the alarm.

(My superpower is innate time sense so I don’t often need my alarm.)

Thanks to the cockatoo’s rough night coupled with a 5:15 am visit front the garbage man, I got about six hours interrupted sleep Wednesday night. So yesterday—a long work day on top of it—I reneged on my caffeine abstention especially when I discovered my blood pressure had jumped to 153/98.

I had two cups at the office and a diet soda with dinner (that I used to wash down half a pizza) and I slept 7.5 hours last night and, according to the scale, lost a pound.

So today I am enjoying my favorite coffee and back to aiming for moderation.