Mood brighteners

I have a gift of stressing myself out even on the best of days in good circumstances and this very bad habit causes more harm than good.

So, yesterday I talked to a very friendly and helpful mortgage broker through Quicken Loans/Rocket Mortgage. And by today I managed to doubt the whole idea. It’s not resolved yet… and my concerns about it are so minimal. I would instantly pay off my car and still have the house paid off in ten years or less. But the payment is $50/higher than what I am paying now (and would save me $150/month total versus what I pay now).

Realistically it would be better for me to keep saving and pay off the car with cash. I’m in casual conversation with the broker about it. If it’s already too late, so be it.

But I woke up at 6:30 am today thinking about it.

And then it was snowing. I shoveled, with teenager help, but still managed to hurt my back. But good news is— I hurt my back in the normal spot and not a different spot as has been happening at work.

I ran an errand this morning and it was messy out. The snow kept falling. I had to slide my way into the garage with an oil truck backing down the alley toward me and I thought, “maybe I should stay home.”

So I called out.

Even though it’s pajama day at work and I already had on my Cat in the Hat fuzzy pants.

But it does feel good that no one makes you feel guilty for calling out. We have to “call out” via email and it’s usually a pleasant exchange.

As soon as I did, the plow went through.

Sigh.

I ended up watching some of MTV’s Catfish while cuddling the cockatoo. I then took a brief nap.

I struggle amidst the stasis of life right now to stay connected with friends, get the adult interaction I need, somehow be Mom and keep the house clean and kids fed.

But between my change in physical fitness, my weight gain and my being unable to break this new binge eating habit, my mental health is suffering.

To combat this, I’m going to make a list of things I can do at home when I am in a weird mindset.

  1. Make a cup of coffee
  2. Pet a cat or work with one of the foster kittens
  3. Arrange outfits for upcoming days
  4. Pick up a book
  5. Witchcraft/Tarot
  6. Sketch
  7. Text a friend a compliment
  8. Play solitaire
  9. Edit my book(s)
  10. Meal plan

The highs and lows of Christmas 2020

Christmas is always hard for me. Having a second teenager, a houseful of kittens and brand new budgie chicks helps me escape a lot of the pain that surfaces during the holidays.

And no matter what I try, I can’t escape it. Instead, I work to minimize it.

And every year it gets a little easier.

It’s 9:30 pm now— I am listening to Rachmaninov on my brand new AirPods and at first I was very disappointed to discover that they didn’t have buttons.

Imagine my shock when I discovered they automatically turn on and off when I place them in my ear and take them off. And so far they don’t fall out as easily as the cheap ones do. (When I saw cheap I mean cheap— I got my previous set for $10 at Family Dollar. I had no problems with my $10 set either except I broke pieces off of them within the first couple days).

So to continue writing about my holiday backwards, teenager #1 received kitchen tools from teenager #2 and a new hand mixer from my mother-in-law. She’s baking banana bread now.

Apparently piles of cookies and fruitcake aren’t enough for her.

I’m journaling, blogging, and about to watch another episode of The Tudors. I can’t believe Vale of FURR’s Norse Pride is going home tomorrow— and I am bringing three other kittens to the adoption fair as well.

Fern-Edie is doing well in her new home. And I am starting to hyperventilate a little thinking this might be the last night my bed looks like this:

Vale and Loki

As I came up to my bedroom to start the animals’ night routine, I noticed all three budgies were out. Mama Wink showed me that all her eggs had hatched and I watched her clean shell off her newest chick. We hope to name them Yule, Winter and Christmas if they all survive. I hope they do.

Other highlights of Christmas:

  • The big Christmas mission for the teenager’s mysterious package earlier this week was… her varsity jacket!

YouTube: Teenager opens her varsity jacket

  • We listened to some non traditional Christmas carols extremely loudly in the car. Including “The Christmas Tree’s on Fire.”
  • I earned a place of honor in this year’s Christmas Grace, “Thank you, Lord, for keeping us safe from Corona, well except for Angel.” Ever burst out laughing during a prayer? Now I have.
  • I was asked to make the broccoli for Christmas dinner. My step mom doesn’t trust anyone else with the green vegetables I guess. I sautéed them golden brown in butter with sea salt, too much multicolored peppercorns (I grabbed the wrong jar— oops!) and herbs de Provence.
  • Christmas was much smaller than usual because of the pandemic, so my stepmom decided we would get fresh cut steaks from the butcher. She even ordered one for my brother’s dog. And she wanted to grill them. The temperature dropped drastically while my dad was at the grill and then all the steaks went up in flames. I learned that a good blue cheese dressing can cut the taste of charcoaled steaks.

I guess the last thing I’ll mention is that the teenager got a pet play pen which will come in handy for our work with Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. Of course, I’ve discovered it houses cats and teenagers.

Medicine in the time of Covid

I slept this morning until 8:30.

I never do that. I think the animals had started a plan as to what to do if I were dead. The three-legged cat had slowly but surely opened my bedroom door. The kittens came in and hung out in my open windows.

Last night, the teenager and I watched most of the documentary A K A Jane Roe on Hulu. The format distressed the teen as they presented Norma McCorvey’s story in her words and in the words of others (including the reverend who might be seen as her biggest adversary in the beginning)—including historical footage.

The teen found it disjointed and hard to ascertain what was “truth,” so I said with a sigh that I guess I don’t have to worry about her becoming a journalist.

We had a fantastic discussion about “when life begins,” eugenics, abortion and patriarchy and then had a little passive-aggressive disagreement about what happened to the potato chips. (Two binge eaters in the house = bad news. By the way, I’ve lost a pound. Not enough, but it’s a great start.)

This morning, the doctor’s office called me about my blood pressure check scheduled for Tuesday. They wanted to know if I still planned on coming. I said it didn’t matter to me as they had already refilled my medication.

It’s a shame my appointment isn’t today as then they might have gotten a good blood pressure reading.

And they won’t be happy about the weight I’ve gained.

So they asked me every question under the sun about my health and possibility for Covid-19 symptoms. They confirmed my medical insurance. Asked if I had a mask and if I’d be coming alone. They asked what I drive.

I am to complete my check-in online.

They will call Monday afternoon to confirm my medications.

On Tuesday when I arrive I am to call from my car. The physician’s assistant will escort me into the office when they are ready for me.

Medicine in the era of Covid-19.

TV Psychotherapy

My mind has experienced a lot of shifts recently. I have changed the way I communicate thanks to some insights of the teenager, some stress at work, and a variety of great support from friends and family.

In the midst of all this, there is the Coronavirus pandemic which allows a lot of introspection for those of us who try to be self-aware.

I’m not a big television watcher. I grew up in a rural setting in a valley by the river where we had poor television reception. We didn’t receive access to cable until I was a teenager.

When I left home, my husband and I chose not to pay for cable (and this was Netflix first started and they mailed you discs and prepaid envelopes— streaming was not a thing).

So, Hulu and Netflix on my iPad have allowed me to explore decades of pop culture. And I realize that many of these reality television programs can offer a window as to how we all face our struggles and build our relationships.

While I originally started watching Gordon Ramsay, it was because I love food and he had a reputation that I wanted to understand. I also like big, athletic guys with bad attitudes and exotic accents.

But the more I watched— whether it was Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, Hotel Hell or other Ramsay programs— I saw people of all backgrounds reaching toward goals of increased knowledge and skills, wanting a better life, and working to impress not only a mentor but a larger-than-life icon, a modern God.

And Ramsay pulls talent out of people and sees something in people. It’s amazing to watch.

Inspiring.

Shows like 90-Day Fiancé show how desperately people want to be loved and the lengths they will go to— whether in hope of love or acceptance or, again, that desire for a better life or a Green card.

Now, I’m watching Hoarders. I watched the first episode because I’ve been in a hoarded house and it is mind-blowing. I wanted to understand.

I have learned how our upbringings and traumas intersect and influence how we communicate and relate. That stuff, shopping, accumulating, giving up and other verbs… it’s a manifestation of our emotional walls. I would classify My Secret Addiction (or is it My Unusual Addiction?) in the same realm—how to cope.

And then you take a show like Transitions, where people explore their gender identity, and I suddenly see how much of a struggle they have to live as the person they really are versus the person they feel forced to be by family and society. That’s strength.

And why you really want a good outlook, and to see hope, enthusiasm and change, you watch Queer Eye.

The shifting psychology of chores

As one of the perks of the online writing community, I have had the pleasure to meet Fausta, a life coach and therapist who has a wide range of capacities and wicked sharp writing skills. She has been working on her blog, and her business, Fausta’s Place to Ponder.

People often influence and inspire each other in the most unexpected ways—often without trying—and I’ve admired and respected Fausta for a long time in just that kind of subtle way.

Like most of us, she’s a real and imperfect woman with a quiet vibrancy. She’s touched me with her honesty about life as a woman and the everyday struggles as a mother, building/continuing her career/business, dealing with her own and her family’s health and keeping her heart and emotional state strong and well.

Isn’t that what most of us are trying to do? In a recent blog post (linked below) she talks about our attitudes and how our mental framing of tasks impact how we perform them. I have continued to ponder this.

Mindful Self Compassion Can Help You Get the Dishes Done

I love routine, order and cleanliness. But with 4 cats, 4 birds, 1 teenager, a full-time job, my own physical and emotional issues and a coronavirus pandemic, I can’t always achieve/complete/do everything I want to do.

I have to employ more mindful self compassion, and with the teenager’s help I am growing in this regard. She and I have been discussing the differences in how our brains are wired. This helps me look at my setting from multiple points of view.

My goal, in what used to be Standard American Life, was to workout either at the gym or at home 3-5 times per week and never leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight.

Now, the gyms are closed. I’m eating too much fast food. And my goal is to clean the kitchen every morning— as my energy levels are higher and it reinforces the idea that every day is a clean start.

But I still need to examine my motivations. There’s a flip side to chores.

Today is Sunday. Yesterday, I got up, did a load of laundry and started the dishwasher. I cleaned all the litter boxes— no small chore with four cats, but oh so worth it.

Two kittens and 3-legged Overlord

I did some other odds and ends too but I’ll be darned if I remember them.

And then I attended a business meeting, had coffee with a neighbor, cleaned up after the birds, let the teenager give me a haircut (a rather severe one that doesn’t exactly match the crazy hair I have, but give it two weeks and it will be perfect), split a ginormous, super-sweet cinnamon bun from Cake and Corolla, enjoyed dinner from Dairy Queen, and watched Hell’s Kitchen for the rest of the day.

And I’m not beating myself up over “not doing more.”

But this morning— I got up, washed the pots and pans, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, did two loads of laundry and hung them on the line, fed the menagerie, scrubbed them kitchen counter, took out the compost, emptied the garbage, carried the garbage outside, and vacuumed and washed the kitchen floor.

All before 9:30.

And I feel good about the work I got done. Even if I am still worrying about cutting the grass, working out this week’s budget, and dealing with this week’s groceries and work stress. I dread both. I *don’t* want to do the grocery shopping and I never know what will happen at work on Monday.

So I have a delicate balancing act— what can I do to feel good about myself and my house and what can I do to not exhaust myself?

Because you see, I know I also do chores and scrub the bathtub to avoid facing my fears and emotions in the stillness.

Chores let me use the energy of my angst to achieve something positive, but in the end, that’s not always the best approach to my emotional health and physical self.

PS—

Early on in this pandemic I invested in good old fashioned cleaning products: Pine Sol, Ammonia, Fels Naptha, Borax, etc. I opened up the Pine Sol today. Just felt like my neglected floor needed something extra. I got this at the Grocery Outlet and as you can see it’s not traditional Pine Sol. It’s like super floral. “Fresh Scent” by patooty. Someone just exploded a fake floral bomb in my house.

“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.

The found t-shirt

In the fall, I bought myself a new very warm coat and cashmere lined gloves from Land’s End. I was very excited about it, and in the enthusiasm of potentially being warm this winter, the t-shirt I ordered was forgotten.

It was a simple white t-shirt, but not fitted the way I like them, so I suppose that’s how it got relegated to the back of the closet.

Today I found it.

It’s a tad wrinkled, but it’s gleaming, crisp and white. In this Coronavirus pandemic, it’s suddenly exciting to have something new in my life.

So amid the decisions of today—Can I start wash and hang it outside it is my work day too busy and my boss might get upset if I step away from my computer for ten minutes? Do I use my lunch break to take the teenager to the hardware store? Should we visit two grocery stores this weekend or is that too irresponsible?—I feel new and put together.

New white T

Health: Eating Disorder Support Group (2005)

Sometimes the stories we write as journalists don’t develop with the depth or the complexity that we would like. We face deadlines. We have limits to our sources. Sometimes, we touch on something sensitive that we don’t know exactly how to handle it. One such case I wrote involved a family living with HIV; another was this one, about a group of women who gathered as an eating disorder support group.

This story is not my best written, and I apologize for the cut on the bottom of the scan. I worked hard to provide enough of a voice that various people could connect to these women, but not enough information as to identify them. That is a challenge. Let’s face it. The world stereotypes and judges people and these women had a strength and a willingness to make a difference. They hoped, as I hoped, that their story would help any other women facing similar issues, doubts or feelings of inadequacy.

I don’t know if it helped anyone. I don’t know if it made anyone stop and think. It certainly didn’t change any societal perceptions, but I hope that maybe it touched one person who needed it.

Eating Disorder Support Group

Eating Disorder Support Group