I'm the wife of one husband and the mother of two boys. I am also a child of God, a mental struggle wrapped in an amiable personality, a volunteer, a teacher, a singer, and a writer (of sorts). A God-blessed mess! ;)
I’ve intended to purge my cluttery, junky household for like a decade. I don’t have little babies around anymore, so I don’t really have an excuse for not doing it — well, maybe I do, if I can claim ADHD, OCD, and Executive Function Disorder, but I would really love to be able to rise above that…
Anyway, I recently purged a bunch of expired medicines and junk from the bathroom, out of a couple of drawers that haven’t been touched in, well, a decade (since we moved in). That was a week ago. The bathroom is still half-done. 😅
But, for the first time, I have a plan for a major purge of the kitchen, too. The bathroom and kitchen are both areas where I always feel the need to be overprepared: I need a tool for all occasions. Well, most occasions. I’m still somewhat practical. 😉
I had resisted replacing our “new” blender, which had been used daily (sometimes twice daily) since I bought it a few years ago, even after I almost blended a spoon (it fell in while I wasn’t looking and I didn’t know to check for it, because I don’t know why — but it was a big mess, and kinda banged up the blades a bit). But when I found a new Ninja Foodi that had few attachments, but also could double as a food processor — and was discounted to under $100 — I had to jump on it. I am now able to get rid of my old big Ninja and small Ninja, as well as my big food processor (which I rarely use) and small food processor (which I use even less). The hand blender recently died, so I already got rid of that.
The big challenge is loading all the donatables into the van, then stuffing a crap-ton of cardboard in after it, so I can hit both the recycling transfer station and thrift stores in the same day (in that order). Our recycling has just been reduced from every other week to every four weeks, due to driver shortages, and it’s now the rainy season, so I can’t just leave extra out to be picked up (at no cost, which is nice of them). No, I’m going to have to rid my garage of the accumulation of cardboard on my own time.
I don’t see myself getting my cleaning plans completed by Christmas, which would be the ideal, but I’m SO ready to purge this place! If I can get enough purgeables into one location, I can have another College Hunks Hauling Junk truck come out and take it away. But, for now, I can do donation and recycling runs.
Co-op is done for the holidays, which frees my brain for a minute (but only a minute, because I need to finish planning for next semester). My husband will have some leave when he gets home, so he can help with some projects and heavy lifting. But most of this mess is mine — and I need to be responsible and get rid of it. We probably have a few years left in this house, so I also need to do the one thing everyone wishes they’d done when they get their house ready to sell: purge, paint, and decorate for the ideal living space.
It’s still hella overwhelming, but I’ve seen people do it, and I know I can do it, too, if I just stick with it. I just need to not burn out, I guess. 🙂 My family deserves a better living space than I’ve given them.
We’re approaching the middle of month eight of a nine-month deployment. Everything is still crazy here in the US. My husband isn’t happy in his job. I frequently struggle with major impostor syndrome while teaching kids at our homeschool co-op, but am also 100% confident about my editing skills, as if that’s the ONE thing about me that’s not crazy. At the same time, I frequently wonder if I’m the one who’s crazy, and my gut intuition is entirely wrong — but I can’t let go of it.
I wish I could post more often; I wish I could write anything more often. But I’m in survival mode right now. I already need another seaside vacation, staring at the water — alone — while my brain takes a break from being an adult.
Sometimes it feels like I’m wading through some kind of absurdist reality, and the things I’m feeling will change by the next day, like I’ve managed to ground them just by sleeping. But I keep waking up in the same place.
I want to trust my brain; trust my training in research, logic, and making conclusions. But I’ve never fully trusted myself — except where editing is concerned — but also never been able to shake my inner convictions.
My life is incredibly full, but also incredibly boring. 😅
Wanna know what I did today? I vacuumed out all the vents and replaced the air filter (took my tallest step-stool and a hanger with a metal hook, because I couldn’t reach the top latch, and didn’t want to haul up the dang ladder from the garage). Then we drove forty miles (round-trip) to pick up a book, because I’d said I was going to pick up the book today, and the appointment that was also supposed to take place in the same town was cancelled. But it was a nice day, and we missed traffic, so it wasn’t bad!
See, extremely exciting. 😆
Oh, I DID go to Starbucks for the first time in ages, and I’m SO happy they have oat milk now! I can get mochas again!! I’ve not been great about avoiding dairy (American cheese is my last holdout, as well as the occasional pizza or Mexican food). So I got a pumpkin-spice mocha today. Yes, mocha. The milk-to-coffee ratio is too high in lattes, and mochas are my jam. Or were my jam, because I had to give them up because the milk was too much. I tried hemp milk other places, but it’s too sweet and also hurts my stomach a bit (but makes an amazing extra-spicy chai, oh my word – like drinking a spiced oatmeal cookie).
Um. Yeah. I guess my little cleaning jag was the first one I’ve had in a while. I vacuumed our rooms, too, which is not something that gets done often. It’s like spring cleaning in reverse. I need to attack the cobwebs and the ceiling fan next, and continue the household purge.
I’ve never wanted to be a minimalist more, but I’m not sure if it’s in my nature. 😆 Or maybe it’s just that I need to give it a chance, which I never have. I love clothes, office supplies, movies, books, and being prepared for everything – and I’m a terrible housekeeper. Not the greatest mix ever. 😉
I don’t know what else to write, so I might as well wrap this up before it becomes another draft sitting in the queue, because I don’t get rid of those, either. 😅
I wish it were easier these days to put words down on paper — or on a screen, as it happens. Even with the speed and ease of typing, it’s hard to get the words from head to hands. They either crowd all over themselves in a rush to get out, such that I can’t make heads or tails of any single thought — or they scatter to the four winds, and even though I had plenty of ideas to write about just before opening the laptop, I suddenly have nothing.
This is a draft that was only a title when I opened it — a head without a body. I don’t even remember when I started it, then left it, forgotten, in the drafts folder. But it pretty much embodies the way I feel about any progress I try to make in anything I do these days. I do accomplish things, but even the simplest tasks seem to take great effort to see through to the end. So you can imagine how the more complicated ones are doing . . .
I’ve been slowly backing out of everything I used to be involved with in the Before Times (that is not a paying job or a benefit my kids, to be clear). I’ve already posted about quitting the two choirs I was in. The next thing I’m giving up is most of the committee involvement I’ve gotten myself into. I will still be a secretary on the Symphony Board, but after this current project ends, I will not be filling any leadership positions or taking point on any committee projects — or even embroiling myself in any great needs that come up while we transition back and forth from virtual to live to hybrid. At least, not for the next year.
My husband’s deployment is looming, and I’ll have another nine or ten months of single parenthood, wherein we figure out how to take school more seriously, create routines that don’t stress us out entirely, and focus on the boys’ therapy and medical needs, which are growing more intense. My youngest and I cross swords constantly when he doesn’t want to do something, and my oldest and I tend to flounder in ADHD confusion more often than we’re intentional about things. We make a great team. 😅 Therapy is about to take an even more complicated turn, but I can’t quite talk about that yet, because it’s already kind of overwhelming and I still sort of need to process it.
I have two weeks to help wrap up this online auction and gala we’re doing for the Symphony (wanna check it out? CLICK HERE), and while it’s been a great experience in people management, leadership, event coordination, and a whole new world of stress and crazy, I’ve felt like I was in over my head for months. How on earth did I find myself in charge of it?? Because I helped last year? How do I not get in charge of it again?? 😆
It might not have been quite as stressful if it hadn’t come on the heels of spending all summer and winter helping to create and manage a whole new virtual membership model and an advertising/sponsorship system, while butting heads with those who don’t quite understand the virtual world (to put it nicely), who have strong opinions and impractical ideas, because they’ve neither had the experience with virtual communities and their dynamics, nor ever really known how to reach out to anyone younger than my generation. We’ve had Zoom meetings almost every Thursday night for months, sometimes two meetings back-to-back or an extra on a different day of the week, which wouldn’t be quite as difficult if I also hadn’t started teaching co-op on Thursday mornings (one volunteer thing I continue to plan to do, because the boys benefit from it, too). Some people can do Zoom meetings all day, every day, but I cannot. I like the occasional Zoom gathering with friends or family, but full meetings get exhausting.
In the meantime, I can barely keep up with the boys’ needs, or even my own. I can’t even plan meals. I really suck at being a homemaker. 😆 But I need to step those things up to fulfill therapy goals and create a healthier environment for everyone in the house. This is not a small goal or an easy accomplishment. It’s going to take months, even years.
I do remind myself from time to time that there are things I’m good at: editing, being diplomatic, sticking to commitments, trying to be organized, mostly getting things done by deadlines (this took years of training, and I still do suck at it sometimes), not starving all the living things in my house (despite my lack of planning), managing our money, teaching, and making checklists. There are some other things, probably, but those are things I can usually sort of do with some measure of consistency and be successful at.
But, often, my inner adult is falling forward on her face and laying there . . . done with everything. And it’s not that I’m constantly busy all the time — I goof off way more than I should. It’s just that there is so much in my head and outside of it demanding my mental energy that there’s almost nothing left for other people, and that is not a good problem to have as a wife, mother, teacher, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, neighbor, etc.
Add to this Covid-lockdown fatigue and stress, lack of exercise or daylight, and seriously flagging creativity, and it’s no wonder that all I want to do is spend a week alone at the ocean, staring out a window and drinking coffee. . . . *dreaming* *sigh* (NOTE: I have rented a beach house for the weekend after my birthday, and will be spending three nights there, doing exactly what I stated above. In silence. I might do other things, too, but I greatly look forward to silence and no commitments. I’ll write about it later.)
I’m grateful I have the resources to take time out sometimes, but guilt will always play a role, no matter how much I “deserve” or need the break. I think more people can relate to that than they admit. 😉 But since I can’t just up and quit, I have to take these breaks and keep “failing forward to success” (a phrase I learned while selling Mary Kay, which has never quite sat well with me, but pretty much defines my life. I just wish I could see more success, for as many failures as I feel I’ve accomplished . . . 😝).
All right, I’m risking continued rambling and too long a post, so I’d better end this. I still have family to pay attention to and a lot of video and sound editing, as well as scripts to write and other little tasks to keep up on while I still have the time. I also need to drink my coffee, because even though it’s 10:30am, I’m still groggy and don’t want to be awake.
Welp, it’s time for the annual “Oh hey it’s January!” blog post, which makes up probably three quarters of this blog since I started it. 🙄
It’s been trendy since January 2nd of 2020 to bemoan what a horrible year it is / going to be / has been. In many ways, it has been a stinker of a year, full of all sorts of mayhem and dumbassery, perhaps more than most years. But . . . This year has actually yielded some major blessings that I would not have taken advantage of, grabbed onto, or even noticed for what they were if everything hadn’t been thrown completely off-kilter.
I do feel like I’ve gone through at least ten different personality changes over the course of the last ten months. It’s been a weird mental journey, and I’m still not exactly sure where it’s going to end [Narrator: “Little did she know, it would NEVER END.”], but where I am is certainly different than where I was earlier this year.
Like, seriously, I can’t really figure out where my brain was two posts ago. I was feeling incredibly vulnerable, but also too outspoken (even though I didn’t say anything). “Now” Me doesn’t really recognize “Turn Off Comments” Me. I do recognize that I went through some kind of state of wanting to talk into a vacuum or scream into a void — while never being able to materialize any words on what I was thinking, and also being afraid of releasing anything that did materialize into the ether where it could be . . . what, criticized? Noticed? Read? What the heck do I have a blog for, again?
(FOR THE RECORD, I kind of want to go back and shake that version of me and explain that it was stupid. But I wouldn’t have been able to see that back then, because I hadn’t yet made the transition into this mindset I’m in now. All versions of me are very good at making things awkward, but Fragile Me has gone through some toughening up since August. The moth has emerged from the cocoon. Well, mostly. Anyway, ignore that dumb post where I was out of my mind. Comments are staying on.)
This year has presented some great challenges; things I didn’t really want to have to deal with, but did because I had no choice. Some of them were choices I could have put off, but my life has improved since making the choice to not put them off. Some choices were scary as all hell . . . but I am so glad I made them that I can barely contain my gratitude for what I now consider were blessings that had to be revealed at the Right Time.
That was convoluted. Let me be more specific . . .
We’re saving money on gas and bridge tolls. This extra money allowed us to give more charitably, but also afford groceries for two adults being home all the time, when up until February it had been mostly me at home, and not always that often. It also helped us pay off debt accrued in October 2019, when we had a bunch of expenses and the fear that we wouldn’t have a paycheck if they messed up my husband’s orders again.
We sold an old, less-functional car and bought a far more practical vehicle for our family. Yes, more debt, but absolutely worth it. And now we are in a financial place where we can afford it.
KITTENS! (Duh 😆) The fact that we’re home far more often now makes it possible to care for pets, and they have done wonders for my mental health. Also challenged it, because one of them developed pneumonia a few weeks after we adopted them, and has only JUST been given a clean bill of health — and, once again, we were fortunate to be able to afford the vet bills. We couldn’t have last year.
We took the time to have a large chunk of garage storage hauled away. It’s only a fraction of what we need to get rid of, but it was going to be very hard to do it all by ourselves (mostly baby and little-kid stuff, as well as old, sentimental junk that I couldn’t just take to the dump). Paying someone else to do something with it was absolutely worth every penny — and I’m going to do it again.
We replaced our water heater. It has been ailing for at least two years, but we just didn’t have time (or money) to deal with it. It was stupidly expensive (financial challenge), but now I can take hot baths again, which is a decent replacement for not being able to go to the sauna at the YMCA (we canceled our membership — more money in our pocket, I suppose, even if it means we’re back on our own for exercise motivation). This also works wonders for my mental health, and sore muscles. I’m loving it! Glad we didn’t put it off further! (Side note: This house was built in at least 2009. When the water heater guys came to install the new one, they told us our old water heater had been built in 1992 (!!!). I was 31 when the house was built, and 14 when the water heater was built. It was probably what my husband called “new old stock”, but WOW. I feel much better knowing that both the water heater and expansion tank have been replaced sooner rather than later.)
Because so many people were staying at home and cancelling their medical appointments (and, sadly, probably losing their medical insurance; or, less sadly, moving out of this crazy state), two slots opened up this Fall with the speech therapist I wanted at the clinic where the boys had occupational and physical therapy. It does mean I’m driving 40-something miles round-trip twice a week to take them to their appointments, but it also means they are actually improving with the help of the right therapy, and we have a great advocate for the boys’ medical issues, if we have to see other specialists (N just had an endoscopy done — upper GI — and bloodwork, and will have an allergy test done later this month, because we think he may be very allergic to nuts). I didn’t have that before, and was afraid to pursue testing for either of the boys, because doctors don’t exactly know what Pediatric Feeding Disorder is, much less how to treat it.
I deleted my NaNoWriMo account in October, and will only be participating in the future on a personal level, with close friends. I wasn’t thrilled with the confusing updates to their website, which shaved off several years of my participation history, anyway — among other issues I was having. I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I don’t really need that community, because I’ve got one of my own. It was actually kind of a quick decision, once I decided to do it, and I haven’t been unhappy with my choice at all.
While I’m still heavily involved with the local symphony association, I quit the chorale (choir 1) in early September. I already had too many Zoom meetings for the symphony, and the “rehearsals” I was attending for a community choral ensemble (choir 2, same director) were just about all the virtual “rehearsing” I could stomach for the week. It wasn’t fun and it wasn’t helpful or edifying. I also didn’t want to subject myself to having to sit through the dominant conversations during the “social” time, which was not only not social, but a major waste of my own time, and also caused nothing but stress and frustration. I’ll go into that in a little bit.
In mid-November, after 10 years of participation, I quit the ladies choral ensemble (choir 2). This is a big one — a major blessing in disguise that I would never have recognized for what it was without being forced to take a break. I’ll also go into that shortly.
A little inner voice I’m prone to ignore had been nagging me for some time for a break, or a rearranging of priorities. I really needed to stop being so busy with my activities and focus on the boys more. That seems obvious, but when things are moving at a constant pace, it’s hard to find the point where you can break away from them — especially if you’re committed, and it’s the thing you get to do away from home that is kind of adventurous and challenging, and even athletic.
I was extremely resentful of these lockdowns for putting the brakes on everything. I wanted a break, but I wanted to make the choice — I didn’t want to be forced into it. However, if I’d been honest with myself, I would have been able to recognize that nothing short of forcing me to take a break was going to make me take a break. I’m still resentful of the lockdowns, but no longer for that reason. 🙂 I am still upset that, despite the extra time with my family, I can’t make my normal escapes, because everything is stupid right now. This is another reason I’m glad we replaced the water heater. Drinking tea or wine while soaking in a hot bath behind a closed door makes me far less hateful of everything if it’s too cold and dark outside to sit in my hammock in the sun.
ANYway . . . In the before-times, as much as I loved singing and being a part of a team and blending my voice with others and performing — and all the things that came along with being a part of two choirs with very different repertoire — I was beginning to chafe. I won’t go into much detail on exactly why, but suffice it to say that I was definitely needing a change. I would have disavowed this on the basis that I was just tired and had a bad attitude sometimes, and eventually I would get over myself and be a better team-player — but that wasn’t the true problem.
After the lockdowns, when I learned that the chorale would still be “rehearsing” over Zoom, I stressed a little before notifying my director that I would no longer be attending. I was 99% convinced she would understand, knowing that I had a lot on my plate with the changes the Symphony was trying to make to the subscription model in order to keep the doors open while live performing arts were essentially being crushed to dust (she was in the same meetings I was), and that I was still choosing to stay in her smaller ensemble, despite the challenge of “rehearsing” over Zoom. What I didn’t tell her was that I loathed the idea of being forced to socialize with those who would dominate all conversation (read: listen to people talk about politics while I’m attempting to maintain a neutral expression), and not ever be able to talk about what I wanted to talk about, because my beliefs are not exactly tolerated by the status quo. There were only a handful of people I socialized with at rehearsal, anyway, and none of them were outspoken in the virtual format, either. Not to mention, when I rehearse with a choir, I rehearse with a group. Rehearsing by myself over Zoom (because you can’t sing as a group over Zoom) is neither something I want nor something I need — and especially something I should not be forced to do. I have means of learning music that does not require trying to hear the accompanist through my computer speakers while singing by myself. It had been frustrating enough sitting in the rehearsal hall late on a Tuesday night (or several nights the week before a concert), twiddling my thumbs while the director spent 45 minutes helping the men learn their parts, when they really should have picked up that information in sectionals. I could not subject myself to that over Zoom.
As time marched on, however, it became very clear to me that I just could no longer participate in any virtual “rehearsal” — pretending that we were still a choir, being reminded every week how “dangerous” it is to do anything outside our own houses (I’m sorry if you also subscribe to that narrative — I will not be responding to or even approving comments telling me why I’m wrong), and trying to learn songs in the most tedious way possible. It was frustrating, soul-sucking, not at all self-improving or group-edifying. Not to mention, we were trying to break into the “virtual choir” video world, and, honestly, we were rushing it. Few of the members (in either choir, actually) are either capable of that kind of solo work, or even technologically equipped. On top of that, I resented being forced to languish through a “rehearsal” that wasn’t helping me learn anything just so I could participate in stressful, rushed video performances that just weren’t in our bailiwick. But it was being made mandatory that we attend all the virtual “rehearsals” in order to participate in the videos.
No. I had to draw the line. If I wanted to do solo work, I would do it independently. If I want to be in a choir, I want to rehearse as a choir. There are some members who do benefit from that kind of rehearsal, but I’m not one of them. Unfortunately, even after voicing these concerns — and not being the only one who held them — participation in “rehearsals” was still going to be mandatory, even if the director did back down from further video production goals.
Additionally, I was looking at a very stressful few months, outside of choir participation, and the thought of scrambling to get home after church in order to spend two hours in an activity I was growing to hate was NOT how I wanted to spend my Sundays. But it’s hard to say “this is demoralizing and I hate it” to a group you do love, and into whom you’ve poured a lot of time and effort over the course of a decade.
I had heart palpitations for days before and after. I almost went to the ER, because I was afraid the stress was doing damage, and I was going to have freed myself from it just to go die of apoplexy.
But then I didn’t die. And, to be 100% honest, I’m intensely grateful to have finally given up my choir commitments. I get my Sundays back! No more taking the boys to my parents and picking them up late on Tuesday nights while my husband is gone! No more driving back and forth in the dark and rain to spend maybe 30 minutes of 2 hours actually rehearsing! I can get sick during concert season and it won’t matter! No dragging my sick butt to rehearsals, either (not that that will happen anymore, I bet), to sit in the back and not miss any important notes, or dragging my poor kids to rehearsals when I can get babysitters (especially when we’re all sick)! No more busy summers full of rehearsals and concerts leading up to a weekend retreat that takes place less than a month before the next season begins, because we couldn’t do it early enough to get two months off! No more— Um, I need to stop, or I’m going to get into the more personal reasons for leaving, and those don’t need to be publicly aired. Not right now, anyway.
Will I miss it? Sure! But not as much as I’m going to enjoy not having to do all that AND homeschool my kids, pay closer attention to their therapy, teach a homeschool co-op class, get my house under control, take care of two cats, and be mom and dad while my husband travels. Since we have so much newfound time at home, I can build up my editing business if I want to, and even start writing again. I sculpt clay now, and I want to improve my sewing skills. I also want to host a podcast, do radio plays with the boys, and maybe create my own music recordings. It’s time for a change, and it appears this is the time the change will happen.
I’ve never chosen a word for the year, though I know several who have (or several homeschool parents who choose a word for their homeschool year). I’m not that fancy. I usually go with the traditional half-assed resolutions that I give up on halfway through January. But, this year, a word got stuck in my brain, and it’s practically surrounded by flashing lights and filled with glitter, and pretty much impossible to ignore — so I guess I do have a word for the year: CREATE.
I can create new crafts, new words and stories, new ideas; I can create space in my house by decluttering; I can create ways of helping the boys learn, and make time for school, fun, and adventure; and I can create a better routine that will bring us closer to God and each other. No sweat, right? 😉
In March of 2019, our old, evil cat, Ember (my Kittyface McGrouchypants), finally passed on after a fairly quick decline. We had a feeling the writing was on the wall when she started having trouble jumping up even half a foot to get on the bed or use the litterbox properly (she did try, at least), but she finally reached a point where she couldn’t lie down without help, could barely get up without help, eventually had to be confined to a bathroom with her litterbox, and was just so old and miserable that we couldn’t let her continue like that. So we took her to the vet for her last appointment, and she was off to reign Kitty Hell for all eternity as their new queen… (We joke, but she was my cuddly cat for 18 and a half years, and I did kind of miss her. Kind of. She made our lives somewhat hellish in the end, but nevertheless interesting. She’d always hated the kids, and really anything else that wasn’t me or string cheese. We probably weren’t as sad as we would have been if she’d died more tragically or younger.)
In August of 2019, we put down our 12(ish) year old Golden Retriever, because the writing was on the wall for her, as well, and we could not put her through the next few months of prolonged pain and suffering in order to just keep her alive out of obligation and guilt. She was beginning to have trouble going up and down the stairs; struggled to get up after laying down for hours, waiting for us to get home, on a hard floor because she was incontinent and we couldn’t keep her anywhere else in the house but barricaded near the door downstairs; had constant UTIs and ear infections, despite all the antibiotics (and mitigating tactics to keep down yeast overgrowth); and, finally, a panel of scans and bloodwork came back looking dire (and needing more expensive scans to diagnose what looked very much like something fatal, before even more expensive therapeutics to slow down what was going to kill her eventually, anyway). We were about to hit a point in my husband’s career that might have made it difficult to pay for vet bills, and we were going to be gone from the house for long periods of time in the following months. If she lost the use of her legs, I wasn’t going to be able to get her in and out of the house while my husband was gone, and she was going to spend more and more time alone on a hard floor, because we couldn’t trust her on carpet. Besides that, if she stopped being able to go up and down stairs, she’d have to live downstairs, away from everyone, and that was just not the quality of life we wanted for her. We just had to make a decision that is hard to make for a pet, but in the end is the best decision for them.
The next few months were the first time my husband and I had been pet-free since early marriage (we’d only been married four months when we got Ember). It was…liberating, to say the least. We didn’t think we wanted pets for awhile, especially since we didn’t know what the future held for us, job- or location-wise, and if my husband was frequently TDY for work or school and the kids and I had a lot to do outside the house, it just made sense to not get more animals that needed time and attention we might not be able to give them.
Then the lockdowns hit, and we were ALL home, ALL the time. My husband was suddenly working from home. Everything we were supposed to do outside the house was cancelled. Anxiety grew, Suddenly, I started craving animals — walking in areas of my rural “neighborhood” (outside my housing mnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[
(No no! Too early! I’m not ready to introduce you yet! GET AWAY FROM MY COFFEE!!)
Ahem, AS I WAS SAYING…
Anxiety grew, emotional flooding became more frequent, and if I managed to get outside for a walk (the only form of exercise I had access to or space for at the time), I would hope that by visiting other housing developments in my area, maybe there would be some dogs that would come out and say hi and let me pet them, or walkers who didn’t mind me petting their furry companions (of the four-legged variety — lord knows there are a lot of shaggy, unshaven humans out right now, too). My kids and husband might have been getting pretty fuzzy, with no opportunities for haircuts, but they didn’t exactly purr when I tried to hug them (especially my youngest, who makes dodging affection a competitive sport).
So we started talking about getting a dog, and maybe a cat. Or a cat, and maybe a dog. Or a couple of cats, and eventually a dog. Cats would be simpler, we figured, because trying to get our yard laid out with a fence and landscaping was something that was going to take more time, and we wanted something sooner than that. So we looked through the adoption websites, waffled a bit, then finally made the decision to actively look for a pair of cats to adopt.
I’d found a couple on one site that were from a local Humane Society (nearer our hometown than the town we live in now, maybe 30 minutes away), but that particular Humane Society branch had the WORST Covid-avoidance schedule, to the point where we could be waiting months to meet any cats at all, and by that time, there wouldn’t be any left that we’d looked at online, let alone any kittens. They want you to check their appointment calendar (could differ, depending on the kind of animal you wanted to see — so you couldn’t even make an appointment to see all the animals) right after midnight on the day that is two days from the day you’d like to make an appointment, to see if any slots had opened. If the month was full, you would have to do this every day to get anything that month, because otherwise the calendar looked completely full. This was an unsustainable search for me, so I abandoned it, especially after the one cat I really wanted to meet was marked as adopted before I could even check the scheduler after midnight that day. They have a ton of cats for adoption listed on Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet, but I had to scroll past them all while searching, because I couldn’t put myself through that kind of Sisyphean torture every day.
My husband had been TDY to teach a class for two five-day sessions, but had agreed before he left that we could look into any cats I thought were interesting or worth meeting while he was gone. After that Humane Society cat hadn’t worked out, I decided to wait till he was done with that TDY, so we could all visit any potentials together. The Saturday morning after he got back from the final session, I called a local PetSmart to see if they had any animals we could view that day or that weekend (because not a single one of these stores post their policies for meeting any adoptable animals, and each store is different 🙄). They listed four cats, two of which were a pair of bonded female kittens — exactly what we were looking for. I tried to make an appointment to see the kittens, but apparently there was an adoption pending for them. They said they could put us on a waitlist, though, and call us if the adoption fell through. I said okay, expecting that those weren’t an option anymore. So I looked up another PetSmart that had a different viewing policy, about 20 minutes and a toll bridge away, and we all took a field trip to go see those kittens.
We didn’t get to that other PetSmart soon enough — all the kittens they had there were going to be adopted by the time we got to them, since we were about fourth in line and there were maybe two left that weren’t already pending. So we abandoned that idea and went back home. I was surprised by how sad I was for the rest of the day, even while I was kind of relieved — because were we really ready for kittens? Or cats? Or pets of any kind?
The next day, I had a total brain fritz. I mistakenly thought that, if the first PetSmart I’d tried to make an appointment with hadn’t called me by the time slot they gave me, we could still arrive for the appointment and view the other cats — maybe…if they were still there. I’d managed to locate the other cats they’d listed (young adults, maybe three years old), which were sheltered with a different local Humane Society, in a different county but actually closer than the one our hometown (maybe 10 minutes and a toll bridge away). Their appointment policies were far less stringent and unrealistic, so I thought that at least maybe we could get some information about them — either from PetSmart or any representatives they had there — in order to try out that shelter next (they didn’t describe their cats at all, other than age and how long they’d been at the shelter, so it was difficult to see whether the cats we were looking from there might get along with other cats, people, dogs, etc).
So we showed up at PetSmart at 1pm Sunday afternoon. They were short-staffed — as everyone is right now — and were kind of unsettled that we’d shown up when we didn’t actually have an appointment, after all, because we were on the waitlist. OOPS. My bad!
BUT! They did let us see the kittens, anyway, mainly because the adoption pending for them had been pending for some time, and we’d shown up just after things had calmed enough that their adoption-room person was free to help us out. I was totally thrilled — even if we didn’t get to adopt those kittens, getting to hold them for a bit would fill my cup for a little while. We were even allowed to fill out an application for them, in case the other adoption didn’t go through, and the gal said the owner of the shelter (a kitten rescue in yet a different county, kinda nearby) would call us if our application was accepted.
That night, the shelter owner did in fact call me, SO glad we went in that day to see the kittens — because she was literally about to go pick them up and take them back to the shelter, since they’d been at PetSmart for nine days already (I guess there was some time in there when they had to keep the kittens out of the normal adoption area, because one of them sneezed, and they needed to be kept under observation for a little while — or so I understand it). The shelter owner then asked the important screening questions they have for adopters: do you plan to keep them indoors, and are you okay with having two litterboxes in your house for the next 15-20 years (because they will be indoors)? Of course my answer was a resounding YES, because I do not want an indoor/outdoor cat and all the fun that comes along with that (worse than having two litterboxes in my house, honestly). Then she said that her liaison at PetSmart (she referenced him as a male, but we didn’t speak with any male employees, overt or otherwise, so we must have been surreptitiously observed by him somehow) had called her earlier that day, while she was on her way back from the eastern side of the state, to tell her we were the perfect couple for the kittens, with perfect kids — like, he was totally impressed with our children, especially. This, of course, warms my mother-heart, because we really did luck out in the kid department, even with all the food issues. 🙂
What a happy accident! We weren’t supposed to go in that day, but because of my mistake, they found the right applicants!
Anyway, we were advised to call PetSmart for the earliest possible time to do the rest of the paperwork, pay the adoption fees, and pick up the babies. I did that as soon as I hung up with her, and we made an appointment to pick them up the following day — Monday, at 5:30pm. That gave me time to find some supplies and clear out some space for the old, wire dog crate that we would keep them in at first and at night, until they got used to the house and we got used to them getting used to the house (the baby gate in front of the stairs lasted all of two days, before they were jumping it and escaping to the uncharted jungle that is our downstairs).
And now we have two of the most adorable, sweetest, relatively mellow kitty sisters, who don’t hate children and are just the best emotional therapy ever! This is good, as the days I can spend out in the sunshine are numbered, and the daylight hours are getting shorter every week. This winter could be rough if we’re still dealing with lockdowns and face-shaming, but I suppose it will be less hectic, since almost everything we used to be involved with is either postponed or cancelled. More time to spend with purry furballs, I guess!
As you could see earlier, they are very curious about the computer, and like to walk on the keys and drink my coffee if I leave my desk. But they are super snuggly and purry and funny, and the best decision we’ve made this year. 🙂
Meet Nelly and Nova! (Those are the names they had at the shelter, and we liked them so we didn’t bother to change them.)
(Comments open on this post, because, well, KITTENS.)
For those of my friends who follow me, forgive me for turning off the comments. I’ve been fighting myself about updating, and I think this might be a solution to my trepidation. I promise it’s nothing anyone has said or done, or those who I know who read this blog. It is nothing against you — it is my own scaredy-cat attitude right now. Let me ‘splain.
Despite gaining greater confidence in some areas of my life, my emotional fortitude online has been lacking. I rarely post on Facebook anymore, and while I feel slightly less encumbered posting on Twitter, I’m not as nervous about screaming into the void there. Blogging, though… I want to feel, for the moment, like I’m kind of talking into the mirror. I’ll have an audience I can see (sorta), but won’t be worrying about pleasing my readers for replies, or angsting over comments on potentially sensitive or controversial topics — at least until I can rebuild the comfort in saying what I want to say when I want to say it. Again — the only thing personal about this choice is that I’m completely skittish about online interaction right now, and fighting with my own self-doubt.
As much as I used to love the idea of being read publicly, and the honest repartee with friends or strangers over my bloggy blather, much has changed since I first started blogging. I have far greater emotional investment in the world now, and in life, probably because I have kids to raise and protect (and I’ve kind of grown out of much of my past idealistic naivete). But the very business of blogging has changed a ton, as well, and the stakes are much higher now — not to mention I just don’t have as much time (or mental capacity) to spend on it as I used to.
I started blogging in 2001, after I graduated college. I’d been married for almost a year, my husband finally had a steady job, we’d moved into a better place, had some screamin’ dial-up internet that I had access to all day — and, for the first time in ages, I had no pressing schedule to adhere to. I also didn’t have a job, let alone career ambition — and I wasn’t expected to. I just had an apartment, a cat, and a husband to take care of. That was my job. I was a fantastic homemaker back then. I had a youthful, child-free brain and loads of time during the day.
But I was also kinda bored. I’d just finished up seventeen years of constant schooling. My brain needed something to do while I transitioned out of academia. When a friend of my husband’s started up a blog server, I was all over that, sometimes posting several times a day. It was online storytelling, and it was fun and kept my mind occupied.
I’ve had about four or five different blogs since then, but I was a much more honest writer when I first started, because that was pretty much it for social media. Well, that and message boards. I spent a lot of time on those, too. I was much less self-aware, however, and certainly less humble… Or maybe just more comfortable expressing myself back then. I hold my cards much closer to my chest these days, am far more cynical and skeptical, and less trusting of the intarwebs at large. And so scattered. Mom-brain is for real. So is ADHD. “Focus” is hard-won most days…
Whatever it is that I’m fighting against now, I feel like I’m trying to force myself to swim again after a near-drowning experience. Not that posting online has been that dramatic, but the mental block is there. I’m dipping my toes back into the deep end and feeling trepidation.
Or maybe it’s more like swimming in a lake versus swimming in an indoor pool. I can see my feet in the pool; I’m safe in the pool. I know the strokes, I can stay afloat, and even when I flail with anxiety in the middle of it, I can still dog-paddle to the edge and get out until I catch my breath. I’m competent enough (and somewhat insulated). It helps cool me off, at the very least. That’s how I feel in short-form posting, in relatively anonymous social media sites like Twitter — it’s safe and who cares if I’m dog-paddling? I’m not competing in the Olympics, or anything.
But lakes full of darkness, fish, weeds, and jagged or biting things scare the crap out of me. I’m a fairly competent swimmer, but I just won’t go swimming in a lake, creek, river, etc. Ocean, maybe, but rarely more than waist-deep. I need to see my feet. I need to see and prepare for threats. Little, nonthreatening things look huge or can be blown out of proportion (in my mind or others’), and I can’t justify the risk — despite being a grownup who should be able to handle it. The truth is, I know many, many people who feel very strongly about some things I am opposed to or disagree with, and my emotional capability for online debate (which is truly a joke right now, anyway) is 100% nil, not to mention I don’t want to strain those relationships just because I think I might be right about something or want them to see it my way. I will post in my safe groups on Facebook and link to pictures from my Instagram, and that’s about it. (I actually had to make Instagram private recently, due to an onslaught of weird strangers and creepy private messages, and I wasn’t even posting very often there.)
I’m a chicken, I guess, and not a duck. 😆 I’ll stick to my familiar roost on solid ground, thankyouverymuch.
(This analogy is breaking down, but maybe it makes sense? Do I care? Jury’s out.)
Suffice it to say I’m drowning in self-doubt, and I just need to pretend I’m in an empty room for awhile, until blogging feels comfortable again. I could give up blogging and journal privately, instead, but I do enjoy telling stories in a format where I can’t be interrupted. I do like to entertain, and maybe what I have to say could be interesting, eye-opening, relatable, or have some other effect on a reader. Aside from that, I want to train myself to be satisfied with what I’ve written for public consumption simply because I wanted to write it — not because of the response I want to receive.
And it’s not at all that I’ve been receiving uncomfortable attention, either, or had a bad comment experience — nothing like that. This is probably the hardest thing to explain, and I’m not even really sure I can. For a not-really-all-that-shy kind of person in real life (just introversion with à la carte social anxiety), I’ve been afraid of opening up online, and even afraid of friendly commenting. Trust me, I recognize how silly that sounds. I wish I could understand the anxiety.
But I also feel like I’m losing my mind, not being able to express myself in a long-form medium like I used to — telling funny stories, venting, saying stupidly random things… I wonder if part of the reason I stopped was to protect the future of my children and husband. So much of my life revolves around these other people (and blogging is so widespread and far-reaching now), that telling personal stories, even funny ones, online can backfire in catastrophic ways, and I want to protect my family from that. But there’s also a lot of deep, personal stuff I’d like to work through, that others might be able to relate to (like dealing with ADHD and my kids’ eating disorders), that I want to make people aware of, but carry a great deal of emotional vulnerability.
Another reason I want to turn off comments while I figure out what to write about, or open up about things I might not have before, is that I completely want to eliminate the feeling of doing it for attention. The Like button is what it is here, so it stays — but my readers are, for the time being, completely off the hook for expressing sympathy, advice, or anything like that. Not that I would need that in the first place (unless asking for it specifically, like I’ve done a couple times), but for now it’s an ego-balancing thing that I need to do to mitigate the part of my brain that wants to please people or seek attention from others. Like I said: I want to train myself to be satisfied with what I wrote. I want to have some fun with it, too, but not worry about feeling silly or that I’m performing for likes. I’m doing it because I want to.
Anyway, it’s a small thing I can control right now, in a time when I feel quite a bit out of control. I am grateful for the patience and consideration of those who read this. I really would like to make this a more social thing in the future, but until then I’m happy talking to myself in an empty room. 😉
Anyway, I hope 2020 is short on deaths, but long on growth. If I make any resolutions, I might post them. One of them is to blog more in 2020. But I think I’ve been recycling that one for years. Oh well! Maybe this is the year I actually achieve it?
Here’s another one!
It’s amazing what one can adapt to, given the need. I might not like the need, but I have no power over it, so I must accept it and adapt. And keep a sense of humor — if I don’t laugh, I cry. And I hate crying.
I’ve had to do a lot of personal journaling this year, because it’s just not safe to post opinions right now — and I’m so emotionally drained that even thinking about inviting debate by posting my own opinions is exhausting. This lockdown (aka “quarantine”) has been a big challenge, and I’m just not going to get into the particular reasons why here.
What I am going to talk about are the effects of this challenge. How all those behavioral (and physical) achievements I managed to just barely unlock last year are all but gone now. I have no regular exercise outlet anymore, nothing resembling a routine, and I haven’t been singing. I’ve actually felt a bit like I’m circling a drain — and I’m not even someone who’s economic livelihood has been affected, like so many who’ve been forced to close for months.
But, hey, my husband is home 24-7 now and has a steady job, and while I am grateful for more time with him (and more time for him to spend with the boys) and financial security, it was a big adjustment all at once. I’m somewhat grateful for the forced rest now that everything is cancelled, but it was not a choice I got to make by myself, and it only increased the anxiety and depression I’d managed to keep at bay. I had to fight resentment that I was suddenly less free to go do things sans children almost as soon as my husband got home, due to the statewide lockdown, because I’d been looking forward to going out with friends, hanging out alone in a coffee shop to write without guilt that the boys are at a babysitter or their grandparents’ AGAIN so I can get some alone time, and not spending so much extra time and mental energy being “on” all the time. It is sort of nice that I can more easily leave the boys home and go to the store for as long as I need to, but that small freedom has been stripped of its joy and doubled in anxiety, due to the thick layers of fear and judgment the public now bear toward each other.
On top of all that, my first year teaching choir didn’t get a final performance, and I will never get to have that same group of kids together to sing the songs they wanted to, or show off the work they’d put in. Granted, I will get most of them back next year — and more! I have twelve kids signed up so far — but I’ve decided on a different approach, especially since my oldest kids are 12 and my youngest is 7 (probably 8 in the Fall). It won’t be singing gorgeous harmonies and complex rhythms, but it will be fun. I want kids to fall in love with choral music.
But choirs are suddenly being viewed as vectors for disease, which, while true (and has always been true), feels slanderous and is exceptionally depressing. And our Symphony organization — just barely recovering from a major financial crisis a year ago — is now back on the brink, with very little revenue coming in until at least 2021 that is not donated or loaned.
On a happy note, this has forced us to become extremely creative in how we try to present music, but the virtual model will exclude a large number of those who are just not technically inclined, who have now all but lost their creative and/or social outlet. I am generally technically inclined, and will be able to produce virtual concert material — but it will never be the same as learning together and performing en masse, and that hurts a little.
I’ve been going through phases of feeling relatively normal again, but it doesn’t take a lot to start spiraling. I guess I used to bleed off a lot of excess emotional energy in exercise, social activity, and singing, and haven’t been able to do that, so I’ve been having gigantic mood swings with nowhere for those big feelings to go. And I realized today, while learning a virtual-choir song for the first time in months — I’ve barely sung anything for months — the lyrics of which are meant to bring comfort for singers and listeners, it will be a challenge to not get emotional while recording it. It embodies all the reasons choirs exist in the first place.
Anyway, I am currently struggling against my lack of motivation to try to channel any skills I have toward more personal goals: More writing and getting back in touch with my writing buddies, warming my voice back up again and braving my own individual musical pursuits (alone and in collaboration with my husband’s current music endeavors and those of my brilliant BFF, as well as virtual choral opportunities), purging my house of the metric crap-ton of clutter in every corner, and picking up some potentially lucrative new hobbies that my family can participate in, as well.
But I need to train my brain and body to welcome these changes as good, exciting new adventures, even when I’m mourning the loss of my former activities. Not that all are lost, but it’s going to be a very different rest of this year, especially since society lives in such divisive fear right now.
Anyway, I felt moved to write about it, and found the last post’s final paragraph a little ironic. So here we are.
In other news, I’ve been cooking a lot, we’ve saved tons of money in gasoline and bridge tolls alone (just as we’re making more money with Husband’s promotion), I’ve been growing plants inside, and I have a hammock I can retreat to in the backyard when it’s warm and sunny. In fact, I think I might head out there now… Bye.
I wish I could say that I got a lot accomplished, but I honestly feel like I’ve been dodging meteors for months. Maybe a few got me. I’m not sure. I should check for missing parts.
It hasn’t been a bad year, mind, just one of adjustment. Either I’ve been more aware of my ADD issues, or they’ve just become more prominent. Depression and anxiety have remained about the same, but my determination to power on through them (when I can, anyway) has strengthened a bit. It’s gotten busier, but maybe it’s not so much busy as the activities are just spread out more?
I’ve been parenting by myself for the majority of this year, I think, and 2020 will be no different. Well, maybe it will be different but I’m not going to expect it to be. The first half will definitely be mostly me. This is also not a bad thing, per se, just an extra level of busy to integrate into daily life. The boys are getting old enough that I can leave them home alone for an hour or so while I go to the store, but anything else requires a 20-minute (or so) drive to either a sitter or my parents’ house, as well as a pickup time that is 20 minutes PLUS however long it takes to get out the door. Also not a bad thing, but exhausting when it’s a week of late nights. And I miss my husband while he’s gone. It’s probably not entirely a good thing that I’m kind of used to him being away, but it’s not like I can really do anything about it. Our marriage is strong and it’s not really putting a strain on our relationship. There is an adjustment period when he comes home, but we get through it.
It’s amazing what one can adapt to, given the need. I might not like the need, but I have no power over it, so I must accept it and adapt. And keep a sense of humor — if I don’t laugh, I cry. And I hate crying.
Speaking of crying, I’ve discovered that my grieving process is…not normal. I shed a few tears, and then I’m done. But inside, I’m working to make sense of the death. If it’s a death that makes sense (old age, long-term illness, explainable medical condition), I can accept it. I will still miss the person and feel sadness, but I don’t shed tears anymore. This year’s deaths:
My cat, (put down) in March: old age, loss of function
My dog, (put down) in August: old age, potential cancer
My next-door neighbor (the one we called “Grammy”), in October: very sudden brain aneurysm — this one is still painful
A guy I’ve known online for almost two decades, with whom I’ve played Words With Friends for the past few years, in November: long fight with ALS
A woman who worked at a church and watch all the kids while moms attended a Bible study, December: long fight with breast cancer
My mom’s cousin, who sent us old family pictures and silly emails, December: old age, natural causes
This list doesn’t include a couple suicides I heard about from previous acquaintances. Neither does it take into account the anniversaries of friends we lost last year. In this regard, it’s been tough.
But good things have happened, too: I’ve lost some weight and inches for the first time in ages, and been going to a Pilates class semi-regularly (when the boys have PE at the Y); I’ve learned how to edit video while being a part of a YouTube writing group; I have a bow, arrows, and a target and can start practicing in my backyard now (left-handed, even! I’m a better shot with a left-handed riser); I started teaching choir for a homeschool co-op; I had two solos in our Symphony Christmas concert (I’m not happy with them, but everyone else seemed to think they were great so I’ll take their word for it 😉 ); I’ve helped develop a logo and tagline for our Symphony, as well as started writing press releases and proofing marketing materials; and I’ve been editing for actual money, which is just about as close to a dream job as I’ve ever gotten.
Conversely, my house hasn’t gotten any cleaner (except for a drastic reduction in pet hair); my kids still have too much video-game time and not enough school (but they’re still whip-smart, amazing little men); we’re really bad at therapy homework (but the boys do, at least, like their therapists); and I suck at wrangling and being super-proactive about insurance issues (not that I can really have much impact when the errors lie in a realm even the representatives can’t access — though I could have started the alternate-insurance process much sooner and made more progress before the holidays… It’s such a long story); I’m tired all the time, and have had trouble getting up before 7:30 or 8am, which sets me waaay back (I’ve just ordered a sunrise alarm clock and a therapy light to help combat this); and sometimes I feel terrified of being put in charge of anything (even my own children), for fear I’m going to screw it all up and disappoint everyone around me.
So, as you can see, this year has been something else. I’ve grown, I think, amidst the chaos. But now my brain is finally shutting off. I really should go to sleep now, so I can get up earlier than 7am. I guess I ought to set an alarm, too…
Anyway, I hope 2020 is short on deaths, but long on growth. If I make any resolutions, I might post them. One of them is to blog more in 2020. But I think I’ve been recycling that one for years. Oh well! Maybe this is the year I actually achieve it? 😉
I’m never sure when it’s going to strike: that niggling doubt that turns into a stomach ache or stabbing pain in my right side; the sense of dread that tightens my lungs and chest so that it’s hard to breathe; the tension that accumulates in my shoulders, neck, jaw, and temples; heart palpitations; reflux . . . The list goes on.
Never good, never fun. But I know I still have to follow through with commitments I’ve made, so it’s not like I can go hide from the world when it hits (well, not always; there are some things I can beg out of, but those things are few and far between). I have to suck it up and do life, regardless of how I feel.
It makes following through on commitments harder, especially when I can’t ignore it. But I still have to acknowledge what I’m feeling — name it and own it. Then I have to work on containing or defeating it. It doesn’t get to run my life, so I have to find a way to overcome. Easier said than done, right?
Some of my strategies include:
praying for calmness, insight, wisdom, forgiveness, or whatever fits the situation that’s making me anxious;
telling myself that what I’m feeling is not reality, it’s my mind blowing things out of proportion;
telling myself to breathe, and focusing my breathing on expanding my belly and chest, where the tension lies;
using essential oils with calming or pain relieving properties (yes, I’m one of those oily people, but I find they do work for me especially for headaches);
doing whatever it is I’m anxious about, no matter how lousy I’m feeling (this one is the hardest, especially when the anxiety becomes paralyzing);
exercise, or some form of physical activity that loosens up the ball my body wants to become;
listening to music that fits the mood I either need or want to be in. Sometimes I need quiet music that sparks my imagination and let’s my mind wander away from whatever’s weighing on my mind, but sometimes I need angsty, heavy, or loud, to help purge the lousy thoughts and get something done (usually the dishes).
Those are my coping skills used most often. If you’re reading this and have problems with anxiety, depression, or other mental states that you have to fight to defeat, what are your coping mechanisms?
I’ll probably write more about this later, but I have to go be a responsible adult and get some things done so we’re not late this morning (something else I’ve had to create coping mechanisms for, because time doesn’t work in my head like it’s supposed to).