Thursday, December 21, 2017

Sometimes you just gotta burn stuff

I have a pretty sweet little life, with a lot of very good in it. I've been kickboxing lately, which has helped my mood more than you can know. I have a lot of people who seem to care about me, and how lucky am I in that? I have a job I don't hate, animals seem to like me, and I laugh easily, which is a benefit in today's world.

But today's post is not about the happy. It's about letting go of the suck.
I thought I was celebrating a Yule tradition - building a fire, writing down the things that have been hurting this year, and burning them in the fire. I was wrong - that is a New Year's tradition, but I did it today, so I'm writing about it today.

When my kids were younger, in addition to our Christmas festivities, I started adding some elements of different winter celebrations into our own December. This was fun and educational - we told stories and performed small rituals and expanded our own understanding of the people around us. We played dreidel and ate doughnuts on the 8th night of Chanukah, we exchanged ornaments and told stories on Sinterklaas day, talked about Santa Lucia, told Kwanzaa stories - and we lit candles and observed the Winter Solstice, even if it was just reading a book and talking about the return of the sun. We haven't done these things in a long time, if for no other reason than the kids are older and don't care much, and I work.

The past two years have been tough, though, and I felt a need to recognize today as more than just another day. As I left my office today, I noticed how dark it felt (and bizarrely warm,) and I needed some sort of ritual to mark my intentions for the coming year. (Even as I type this, I am realizing how obvious it is that this is a New Year's ritual, but it's done. And it's fitting, sort of - the dark of the longest night cleansing us of the past year's garbage, the return of the sun marking the return of happiness and goodness. Stop nagging me, I can do it again on New Year's!)

Okay, anyway. A lot of my 2017 suck has involved the state of the union, and my worries about the future. A lot more of my 2017 suck has involved my own insecurities. Insecurity feeds my depression, and adds up to a whole lot of suck. So I wrote all the worst of it down. (I should note that my son was sitting at the table with me as I was writing, giving me notes on what I could do to change a lot of it. None of his suggestions were useful, but he was asking me if I really felt it was healthy to focus so heavily on the negative in life. I told him yes, be quiet, Mommy's thinking. He remained unconvinced. But obviously this is working, see how much better my mood is?)

I burned that shit to the ground, and as I burned the suck, I meditated on letting go of insecurity and despair and fog...and welcoming peace and good. And sending it out into the world. It's the first time in a long time I've actively cultivated a loving-kindness meditation of any sort, and it made me feel so much better.

Or maybe that's just the kickboxing.
Say hello to my little Julbocken.

Blessed Yule to you all!

Monday, November 20, 2017

The state of life as I know it.

It's been awhile, no? I looked - my last post was the beginning of April. And, sadly, those last few posts were rather ranty, whiny posts. I felt kind of bad about that, and I felt like I really didn't have much to write about, and on top of that, so many of the important, all-consuming parts of my life have been private enough that posting about them in this public forum was not really appropriate. Those things still apply, but honestly, I've missed writing here, as far as it goes. Sometimes it helps me to get my brain in order, and boy howdy do I need that.

I just used the phrase "boy howdy." I'm not sure how I feel about it, but it's bizarre.

Please don't feel like I only use you to vent. I care about your problems, too, I swear, but I need to get all of this crap out of my head and onto the page, and I feel more productive when I think someone *might read it. Some of it will be vague, as not all the stories are solely mine, but it will explain to you all why I haven't been here, and perhaps, been a little more negative than I ever have.

I started this blog originally as just a place to share bits of my life and family, mostly with family who live elsewhere, but also with anyone who cared. As my kids have gotten older, and haven't been so open to me posting pictures of them and their adventures for the world to see, I started writing about mental health, and then physical health, sometimes both, as I have struggled with both.

This year, I have been dealing with issues with all of these things, and more. In fact, 2017 is kicking my ass as much as 2016 did, and I've just about had enough, thank you. I took today off work to deal with a couple of these issues, and I am so scattered and tightly wound right now, that i just don't freaking know where to start. So I decided to sit down and write it all out, in hopes that it will clear my mind enough to get off my butt and do something.

1. My family and parenting issues.
Here is where I will be the most vague. I need to write it out, but I can't share stories that are not only mine. Know only that every member of my immediate family has struggled with some issues this year, some harder than others. My husband, my kids, my mom, my brother, my sister...and I have this desperate need to make it better for all of them, and I don't know how. And I feel so guilty about the things with my kids, and thinking maybe these things would not have happened if I had been a better mother, more disciplined, more disciplining. Maybe I was too self-involved when I was working out at boot camp and trying to be healthier, and going to book clubs, and having fun, and I missed something, or got lazy as a parent (and I do tend to be lazy as a parent, I know this). What should I have done differently? All I want is for them to be self-sufficient, happy, healthy...and I fear I failed miserably. My husband is sick, there is something wrong with him, and he's been through tests, and they can't figure out what is going on. I'm scared, and I'm hurting, and on top of that, I'm feeling guilty that I'm focusing on my own feelings.

2. My health
My boot camp closed earlier this year. I have gone out for walks occasionally, sometimes gone for a dance fitness occasional yoga class. My eating has gone to shit, and I make commitments to myself, to friends, that I will prep and eat better, and then I buy pop on my way into work, or I develop this bizarre addiction to berry flavored gummy life savers, which have probably ruined my teeth. Not that I would know, as I haven't been to the dentist, and I haven't had blood work done in months. My anxiety levels are through the roof, and I've even had panic attacks here and there. I joined Nerd Fitness a few weeks ago, and I just need to take simple steps and make changes, but I'm feeling overwhelmed, and I just want someone to follow me around and tell me what to do, so I don't have to think about it. Because focusing on it feels selfish, and sometimes, I really really don't want to. On top of it, aside from waking up at 4:30AM again, I'm not sure when I have time to do it.

3. My job
There have been 2 sets of layoffs this year, 1 just 2 weeks ago. My staff is worried, and I have little to know information about anything, so I can't tell them much. We are told to not let the mission of the organization out of our minds, keep at it, doing our jobs, keep up morale, but how do we do that when we don't know anything? On top of that, they cut our facilities budget this year, so we don't have a dedicated facilities staff in our building anymore. The building is extremely old, and the rehab was not done in a logical way, so we have constant problems. The majority of these fall on the Hope Lodge manager, but I have to stay in the loop too, so I can deal with what affects our office. Also, he is not a calm man, and he tends to vent to me. We have leaks and wiring issues, and so many problems with the HVAC system, I want to set up an office for the guys who do the repairs. ON top of this, review time is coming up, I'm having issues with another office I manage, and the managers up there keep asking me "what are you going to do about this," when I honestly don't think there is anything I can do. It's draining.

4. State of the Union
I try very hard to keep my opinion to myself (online) when it comes to politics. There is always a chance I may need to look for a job, and I know prospective employers social media stalk prospective employees. (this is a thing, people, pay attention to what you post.) But I pay attention to what's going on, and I have opinions. Our current government has no compassion, no humanity. And so many of my fellow citizens have decided that is the right idea. The state of our country is freaking me the hell out.

5. Misc.
My house is a wreck. I'm sure there are repairs that need to be done, but I don't know enough about houses to even know what those things are, unless something catastrophic actually happens. It's so messy and dirty, and I'm lucky I keep on top of the laundry and dishes. My car is leaking transmission fluid, and I do not have high hopes that this is a simple or cheap fix. I've already had to replace the radiator and shift box this year, and I hoped desperately for at least another year on it. But if the transmission needs to be replaced, I'm going to have to get another car, as this one has 208,000 miles on it, and is not worth it. And it's almost Christmas, and I'm worried about money, and everything else, and why does it all happen at once?

This past weekend, I went up to Chicago alone to see my family. Yes, I should have taken my kids so they could all see each other, but I needed to get away from everything. It was a wonderful visit. I love staying with my dad (it was for his birthday party;) I feel very peaceful and calm when I'm there. I'm a very lucky girl to have been able to escape for a couple of days, and to see so many of my wonderful siblings and their children. I'm lucky to have a family I truly enjoy being around. I'm lucky I have a warm and safe home I can allow to fall into disarray. I'm lucky I am healthy enough that I can exercise, and tonight I'm attending my first kickboxing class in almost a year. I'mexcited about that. I'm lucky I have my parents, and that they love me. I'm lucky that, even while I stress constantly about my kids, they are intelligent and decent people, and that they genuinely seem to like being around me.

I realize I am a lucky person, and that I lead a pretty charmed life. I've just been living in crisis mode for the past year, at a low level of constant anxiety, and it has drained and strained me to this point of confusion and overwhelming angst. And I need a little love.

So, I am going to push publish on this post, even if it is a bit self-pitying and bitter. I am going to change over my laundry, I am going to put some transmission fluid in my car, and drive it to the auto shop. One foot in front of the other. And if any of you decide to comment, please be kind, be compassionate, and give a little love. It will help, both of us. And I will always do the same for you.

Thursday, April 6, 2017


Yup. That's the title, because that is exactly how I feel most of the time lately.

See, I don't even care to take my own pictures.

Admittedly, this is going to be a bit of a whiny post, and I apologize for it. No I don't, because I am warning you, and you don't have to read it, but honestly, I could use the kindness of a few uplifting comments, so read it anyway, please. We're all friends here, and I will totally read if you need to get a few things off your chest. Or we'll go for coffee or something.

Anyway, yeah. I feel like I am constantly running to keep up lately, and I'm not really doing anything. My house is a mess (what else is new,) I cook maybe twice a week, don't even ask the last time I worked out, and my poor sweet bullet journal is looking so lonely and sad without its checkmarks. I can't even blame softball much as we've been rained out so much lately. I just get home and I want to sit and do nothing. Not even read - just veg, watch tv, stare at my phone. And it's a vicious cycle, right? I'm not sleeping well, so I don't work out in the morning, I eat crap all day, then stare at screens, which keeps me from sleeping well...and my moods have been low low low, and the energy I need to break the cycle is just eluding me.

The worst part of all of this? Creative thinking is too taxing. I mean, meal planning...I don't wanna! Trying to come up with food to fix is exhausting me. We're on an endless loop of fajita veggies and rice because I literally don't have the ability to come up with anything else. I don't mean new recipes - I mean, I can't remember the stuff we like to eat, and I don't have the energy to think about it.

I've read a bunch of articles lately about how "motivation" is technically a flawed term, suggesting there is an external force pushing us to do things we need to do, and that we just need to make the decision to do it. Well, here's the thing - I need an external force. Because my internal self is not doing the job.

So many goals, friends, so much to do, and nothing being achieved, because I just can't seem to get my ass off the couch.

In the meantime, this is fun.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

My Groove Thang

I am fairly open to most music - I don't tend to hate entire genres (ok, except country and Christian rock, which is really quite funny, since my first few concerts were Michael W Smith, but then I saw Violent Femmes with my cousin and my life was forever changed.) Anyway, I tend to gravitate to those bands one might call "alternative," The Pixies and Nine Inch Nails and whatnot, and do you really tend to find great new bands by listening to NPR, my usual driving soundtrack?

Hell Yes!

Tank and The Bangas is a band out of New Orleans, and they blend funk and R&B and jazz, and they make me so happy.

This is called "Quick", and it is my favorite of the songs they've done, but it's so very good. Always give me a sic bass line.

Let's now discuss Chicano Batman - this groovy alternative Los Angeles band with a political bent. How have I never heard of these guys?

Also, they will be in Louisville in July...hmm...

What are you listening to these days?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Fluffhead was a man...

My brain is twirling right now.

Starting with this morning's drive into work - I was listening to NPR, and Mitch McConnell, you know, THAT Mitch McConnell, that I have religiously attempted to vote out of office every time I've had the opportunity, but just...won't...go...responded to protesters that "winners make policy, losers go home." This made me very angry, and I wanted to yell at him, but he wasn't in my car, and I couldn't, so I just yelled at the other drivers on the road, and that just wasn't very productive. And yes, I'm obsessing, because that is the sort of thing a douchebag says. And every time I type "Mitch McConnell" into Google, the first option that comes up is "Mitch McConnell turtle", so of course I had to look, and I'm so glad I did. For many reasons, but this is one:

My company is going through some serious changes, and I don't know the future of my job. This is...stressful. Also, things are changing with my beloved boot camp. I have many things I'd like to say and vent about, but this is a rather public venue, kind of, with my thousands of readers, so I'll keep it to "Gah!"
Maybe not really that close, but it made me smile.
Finally, and this is not a bad thing, just interesting, and has me thinking...I was driving home tonight listening to a bit on Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space. She went up in 1992 on Endeavor. She was from the south side of Chicago, went to public school, and went on to become a medical doctor and an engineer. She is fascinating and brilliant, and this is a woman we should be teaching our girls about. She is totally my new hero. Also, she was on an episode of Star Trek NTG.

This is not exactly a ton, but my head is feeling fluffy and weird, and it's time for me to meditate and then sleep. I hope to feel better tomorrow. And maybe write something interesting to all of you. In the meantime, check out Dr. Jemison.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Things that make me happy

I am not someone who gets depressed during the holidays. I am not excited like I used to be - my kids are older, and don't much care anymore, I don't love the space my decorations take up, 2 months of Christmas music makes me crazy, and I can't be with my entire family at once like I used to. I associate the holidays with my paternal grandparents, who have been gone for almost 12 years, and that makes me a little sad each year. However. I love presents - giving, receiving, wrapping, that feeling when you find the perfect token. I love spending time with the family in the area. I love my quirky decorations, with a mix of homemade, kids' interests from years past (plastic ballet shoe, baseball, airplanes, Magic the Gathering), geeky pop culture (a very heavy Iron Throne ornament, a Yoda tree topper), and stuff from my childhood. I love the kindness and love I tend to feel during that time, and for the most part, it seems to come right back.

So, when I say it has been a very rough past few months, it really has little to do with the holidays. There's some stuff. That's as far as I can go, as it's not entirely my stuff. My stuff is that my reaction to other stuff is truly overemotional, and so my anxiety levels and depressive episodes have been pretty...ugly...lately. In addition to the stuff, and the stuff my brain adds to the stuff, I am trying to finish a management class at work (down to the last project, which is pretty involved,) end of year reviews to complete, general concern about kids and family, and the basic upkeep of family, house, and self to contend with, and I'm a little overwhelmed.

Earlier today, I read an article on Greatist about using a happiness planner, and it made me want to shift my negative gears and write something positive and uplifting about the things that are taking me out of my head, and making me happy, or at least calming me down a bit. Things I'd like to do a little more, things that make me put my phone down and reconnect, to myself, to my surroundings, to my people, and sometimes just to my sense of humor.

1.  Taking time to sit down and read - no phone nearby, no computer calling my name - just my book, maybe a cup of tea, and me. Lately it's taking me a long time to get through books, and I think it's just because I'm easily distracted. I don't feel like me when I'm not burying myself deep within someone else's plotline. Right now I'm reading Before The Fall on my Kindle, and listening to Hungry Heart in the car. I'm enjoying both, but I need some uninterrupted reading time, and soon.
(I finished reading Before the Fall today. Started Faithful by Alice Hoffman.)

2.  Playing games with my kids, and with my family. We play a lot of games at home. When I'm feeling anxious like this, I play a lot of Yahtzee. Funny related story - last week I was feeling particularly bad, and I asked the kids to play Yahtzee. The Boy says to his sister, "Look what you've done. You've broken Mom. She wants to play Yahtzee. She hasn't gone crazy like this since I was, like, seven." His sister replies, "uh uh, do you remember, like 2 years ago? You made her like this then." They then proceeded to argue about who makes me crazier. Newsflash, kids - you both win!
Anyway, I enjoy games, and we've been playing a lot lately. Boggle is my jam, and Uno, SkipBo, and Yahtzee are my go-tos, but I'm game (get it?) to learn anything. I hate Monopoly. Don't even get me started on Monopoly. We play a lot during holiday family get-togethers. Christmas we learned a game that involved cards with the elements of sushi.

3.  Puppies! I was lucky enough to play with 2 puppies this holiday season - my bff came up for a visit and brought her Golden puppy, who is precious, and then I stayed with one of my sisters for a night and got to snuggle with her Aussie Shepherd puppy, who is fluffy and soft, and I wanted to sneak him home in my bag, but she would have noticed, and she is smaller than me, but scrappy. I am actually allergic to dogs, but I took my meds, and kept my inhaler near at all times, and honestly, they are worth the extra phlegm.

4.  Really excellent TV. We have watched or are watching the following excellent shows:
The Man In the High Castle - alternate reality series questioning how the world would be different if the Nazis had won WWII. Really well done, and how excited was I when Stephen Root (one of my favorites) made an appearance?!
Son of Zorn - yes, I mention this often. It makes me laugh, hysterically! Mostly live action, with Zorn and his countrymen animated, it is ridiculous and bizarre, and I love it.
Designated Survivor - I think most people I know have been watching this, so I won't bother with a synopsis. Keeps me on the edge of my seat through each episode. I have to admit, though, I think it would be a fun twist if, the next time someone pisses off the President, he bares his fangs and hisses (I really have a hard time separating Kiefer Sutherland from The Lost Boys.)
The O.A. - bizarre combination of Stranger Things and, I don't know, Alias, maybe? Woman is found jumping off a bridge - turns out she went missing 7 years ago. Mystery and supernatural thriller all thrown together, with some near death experience thrown in.
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - I read these books when I was a teen, and Douglas Adams was an international treasure. This was quirky and fun, and I really enjoyed it.

There is a lot of cool stuff coming out this year, too - American Gods, Iron Fist, new Star Trek, and of course, Handmaid's Tale. Read this:

5. My people. This is a no-brainer, really, but I have a lot of people I can depend upon to listen, to make me laugh, to be there. I am truly thankful for all of you.

What so many of wish we could do during a rough day at work...