Posted in Anxiety and Depression, Life, Pets

Pandemic Pets

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 s[]tarted 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.)

Nelly wants the camera
Nova’s widdle cheetah face and tiny paw.
Nova steps on Nelly’s face — “Get out of my close-up, sis!”
Nelly sleeping like a jungle cat
Purring in stereo earlier this morning, while I gave up any hope of doing anything two-handed for the next half-hour. Nova is behind me and I’m holding Nelly. This is bliss.

(Comments open on this post, because, well, KITTENS.)

Posted in ADD, ADHD, and EFD, Anxiety and Depression, Blogging, Life, Writing

The Things I Can Control

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. 😉

Thank you! ❤

Posted in Anxiety and Depression, Blogging, Life

Hindsight Has Been, and Always Shall Be, 2020

Here’s a quote from my last post:

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.

🌞

Posted in ADD, ADHD, and EFD, Anxiety and Depression, Life, Organization, Pets

This Has Been a Wild Year

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? 😉

Happy New Year, everyone!

Posted in Anxiety and Depression, Life

How Do You Handle Anxiety?

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).

Have a lovely Thursday!

Posted in ADD, ADHD, and EFD, Anxiety and Depression, Life, Organization, sleep, Sluggish Cognitive Tempo

I Am NOT a Morning Person

I have tried. Then I tried harder, and tried again. But very, very little can get me motivated to be up and terribly active before 7:00am.

If I’m anxious about something, or nervous, about to embark on an adventure, or I have a commitment, I can manage to drag myself out of bed earlier. Those things are not daily occurrences, however, and I have a tendency to avoid commitments that would make them so — especially since I often have evening commitments that might keep me up late.

No, I am a night owl through and through. It’s difficult for me to be fully wound down and willing to go to sleep before 11pm, even on days I’ve been up since oh-dark-thirty and am completely wrung out. And now that my kids (who are homeschooled but still get up between 6:30 and 7:30) can entertain themselves for a little while in the mornings, it’s not imperative that I get up with them anymore. My early-morning motivation has dwindled mightily since my kids grew out of toddlerhood.

Don’t get me wrong, though — I’d love to be able to convince myself that being up before them and ready to attack the day is something I need to be doing every morning. If I could only force myself out of bed by 6am, or even 5:30, I’d be that much closer to getting a jump on things. I would have extra time to do just about anything: write, clean, read my Bible, do laundry, think . . .

I’ve managed to do that about two days in a row before it catches up with me and I can barely function, even at 7am. Doing any of those early-morning pursuits results in me falling asleep over them, or not fully comprehending them, or falling into a state of hyperfocus that I sustain until it’s too late and now I’m struggling to change gears to get anything else done.

So maybe I’ll remain a night person, and figure out how to work my habits and routines around being up later and getting up later. Sleep is still important to me and my mental health, so I can’t actively abuse my circadian rhythm anymore, like I did when I was a young college student or later when I had babies up all hours of the night. My husband and kids can be the early birds (until the kids are teenagers and their sleep rhythms change), and I’ll enjoy the quiet dark of the night after they’ve all gone to sleep and my brain is still active. There is nothing wrong with this.

That’s really all I had to say. I embrace my alternative lifestyle, because I have the luxury to do so right now. I’m also researching “sluggish cognitive tempo” and how it relates to ADD, because it actually applies to my historical and current symptoms in ways traditional ADHD doesn’t. I really ought to get diagnosed, or at least evaluated. I know I fight with my lack of executive function and various other atypical neural behaviors, but fatigue and brain fog often figure into that fight more than hyperactivity (mental or otherwise).

Anyway, speaking of executive function, I need to get moving now because I have less than an hour till an appointment, and need to start getting ready. I have more on my mental discoveries to talk about (and that of my kids’), but that will have to wait!

Now is time for more coffee . . . 😉

Posted in ADD, ADHD, and EFD, Anxiety and Depression, Blogging, Children, Identity, Life, Organization, Writing

Ch-ch-ch-ch-CHANGES

The following is a draft from August 2015. I might not have posted it because it was the one I’d taken so long working on, that had reverted to an old version of the draft after I’d tried to post it. It’s complete, and has relevant information about my journey from then to now, so I think I’ll post it today. 🙂

—————BEGIN POST FROM AUGUST 2015—————

I remember updating my blog every day. I would have to resist updating a few times of day, because I had nothing else to do. Those were the early days of marriage, after I’d graduated college, and could clean my apartment in an hour. (This year marks fifteen (15) years of marriage for me and my Sweetie. Where has the time gone??) But now? It will take days to do the amount of cleaning I need to do in this house, and my rugrats keep my mind running in circles all day, even if I don’t accomplish a darn thing.

But those aren’t the changes I’m referring to!

Since posting about adult ADD, I’ve sought professional help, and it’s been lovely! I haven’t received medication, because I wasn’t seeking anything more than cognitive (“talk”) therapy, and while I still struggle with anxiety and depression, I have a better roadmap for dealing with it. I have also managed to pinpoint the less-obvious triggers and make some rather monumental (a.k.a. “hard”) decisions regarding my life that have made a big difference in how I treat myself.

The first big, hard decision was owning up to the fact that I’m a lousy Mary Kay consultant, and, well, maybe I should admit that it’s not a career I should be pursuing. I already knew that, and wanted desperately to improve, but I was not making the improvements. It was driving me CRAZY that I could not even make myself do what I kept planning to do, or what it would take to make me successful at this career. How hard could it be? People from all walks of life could make it in Mary Kay (or direct sales in general).

But I am not a direct seller. Approaching strangers (or even friends) to sell them stuff is just not in my programming, and trying to program myself to be able to do that was blue-screening my motivation to do anything. It took years to come to this conclusion, because I believed that telling myself I was not meant to do direct sales was “stinking thinking”. You don’t tell yourself you’re not good at something! You tell yourself you’re excellent at it! And you will BECOME EXCELLENT.

Dear readers, I’m going to tell you right now that there are wonderful things I’ve learned from Mary Kay that I will always be thankful for, but IT IS OKAY to say that I AM NOT A DIRECT SELLER. Forcing yourself to do something you do not enjoy in order to fit a niche you believe you should be in works only for certain personalities — but not for mine. Mary Kay is a wonderful company, with a great product. The troubles I had with my own business are completely separate from the business at large. I’ve just finally come to realize that direct selling is not something I enjoy or want to do with the rest of my life.

See, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve been writing stories since I could form sentences. The first time I “quit” Mary Kay was to become a writer, but I didn’t have the discipline for anything nor did I have the support structure I have now. I used writing as an excuse, rather than a true chosen career path, because even then I didn’t believe that it was something I could realistically pursue in my life. It wasn’t a “real job”. No, I wanted my “real job” to be motherhood — so when my husband came home from Afghanistan and we started our family, that’s all I had in mind.

Of course, then I signed back up with Mary Kay, days before giving birth to our first child. Again, for some, this is fine. For me, it was a spontaneous choice perhaps fueled by hormones and the fact that my husband was not thrilled with his job. Don’t sign up for life choices when you’re eight months pregnant, ‘kay? Wait awhile to see what you’re up for. Ian was a difficult baby, and my life and demeanor was just not geared toward making money off strangers buying stuff from me, or for being organized in any way, shape, or form. Home businesses require organization, and that is another weak point with me.

I was loyal to my team and to my director, whom I love dearly. But I can count on one hand the number of skin care classes/parties I held in my entire two attempts (about nine or ten years, total) at being a consultant. I was not a productive member. I was spending more than I was making, and I was constantly guilting myself over my inability to just DO IT. Was I scared, or was I just lazy? Why did I constantly feel this insane mental block when it came to picking up the phone, or trying to work out the logistics of a single party a week? Why did I never say a word to people in the store, even when it was obvious they were looking for skin care or makeup, and I could totally help them? Was I just that unskilled? Did I just need to get over myself?

But, then, I feel such great satisfaction in being in my house, creating worlds and characters and fashioning stories out of thin air, participating in NaNoWriMo (and winning!), and telling everyone about THAT? When it comes to writing, I can’t shut up! When it comes to singing, and telling people about Symphony and Lyrica concerts, I can’t shut up!

What I finally figured out (but probably knew for a long time) was that, perhaps, I needed to honor the fact that I have an artistic personality that needs to pursue artistic goals — and I needed to leave the business to the business people.

I’ve purged much of my old Mary Kay stuff that’s been sitting around, staring at me and waiting for me to sell it/use it/give it away, and am building up my artistic self. I have a great writing group, which is more like a support group than just a group I write with. I actually believe, now, that I really can publish a book, or use my word skills to make money if I wanted to. I’m jumping with joy that I will be joining the Bremerton Symphony Chorale for the 2015/2016 season (at least), which I couldn’t do in the past because it rehearsed on MK meeting nights. I’m trying to put together my crafting nook, so I can spend more time knitting and sewing, things that bring me great joy and sense of accomplishment.

I didn’t want to “quit” Mary Kay, because I felt committed to my director and my sister consultants, and it felt like if I quit, I was “not being true to my potential” and just “being a quitter”. I was avoiding the things that brought me joy, even through hard work, for something I thought would eventually bring me joy through the hard work I would have to force myself to do for years. It did scratch an itch for teaching and leading — which I enjoy very much — but not as much as running workshops for my writing group.

So you see where I’m going with this. It was scary to admit this to my husband, who never thought direct selling was for me (but greatly supports my pursuit of a writing career), but whom I wanted to convince I could cut it, and even scarier to admit it to my director, to whom I was deeply loyal and did not want to disappoint. Once I finally did these things, though, and gave myself the permission to dress the way I wanted to, and wear little or no makeup out in public, and spend my time not focused on my family or house in creative pursuits, my outlook on life began to improve considerably! I’m happier, my husband is happier, and my friends, whom I just don’t call often on a normal basis, are happier that I’m not only calling them to hit them up for sales.

My house is still a mess and I have a LOT of work to do in various other areas of my life, but freeing up that anvil over my head has lightened the burden immensely. And now I’m making actual progress on my novel(s), with a mind to publish them, and I’m ridiculously happy with my decision to follow that path.

Posted in ADD, ADHD, and EFD, Anxiety and Depression, Blogging, Children, Life, Organization, Pediatric Feeding Disorder, Vision and Glasses, Writing

Rumination

A lot has changed here at WordPress since I started blogging here. Even since my last post! And it’s high time I started using it again.

I used to blog all the time — nearly every day — but that was before kids, and kind of before blogs became a professional industry. After that, I was conflicted: Do I join the industry, and try to make a blog that had the potential to be monetized? Write high-quality posts about relevant topics, or try to make my boring life funny and interesting? (Truth be told, the latter was already my favorite reason for blogging, but suddenly there was the pressure to produce, and I had far less time — and brain power — to spend doing that.) Or do I continue to just write whatever I want, in any format I want, and not bother competing with the professionals?

Obviously, the latter choice is the better one, for someone busy and not planning to make money at the task, but . . . writing is one of my joys, perhaps even strengths, and professional blogging looked like fun! On the other hand, with little kids running about and all the distractions that life brings, a single, well-crafted blog post took me hours — hours I didn’t have time for. And being as disorganized as I am, I couldn’t prioritize blogging like I used to, and couldn’t focus on it once distracted from it. And then I couldn’t decide whether to draft the whole post in the web editor or in a word processor, because I once had lost hours of work after proofing in the web editor (the old one) and losing it to a site glitch. It was an enormous setback, especially after I’d sacrificed so much time I should have been spending with my family to try to write something that wasn’t going to have any purpose. I put aside blogging for awhile, because the tedium of going from word processor to web form was taking even more time. I’m a ridiculous, nearly-OCD perfectionist, and I wanted to make sure EVERYTHING MATCHED. The things must match, or they would haunt me.

I have issues. 😆

There are a lot of things I want to talk about, besides my stupid eyes (I really can’t believe I spent so much time posting about that; I’m feeling a little self-conscious about it now — though I did recently, FINALLY, get new glasses that work just right, but there’s more to say about it than just searching for glasses). My kids have eating disorders and we’ve finally gotten therapy for them; I’ve passed on to them Joint Hypermobility Syndrome, which I’ve just learned is a thing, and explains SO MUCH that was not previously explainable, including visual weirdness; I’ve been learning more about ADHD, ADD, “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”, and executive function difficulties; depression and anxiety are very real, potent manipulators of my productivity (or lack thereof); military life, even as good as we have it, brings a measure of experience and “fun”; and I need more writing motivation. Among many other things.

There are more reasons for blogging than not blogging, and I need to work on getting over my issues so I can get back into it. That may still take some time, but maybe I’ll have something here for my imaginary friends sooner rather than later. 🙂

Thanks for your patience with me!

Posted in ADD, ADHD, and EFD, Anxiety and Depression, Life, Organization

Hijacked by Stress

We’re taking a short break from my prissy eyes. They will come up in this post, but Take 4, Part 4 is being delayed by life right now. Not that you even expected it this soon, of course — all two of you (and that’s probably being generous) who’ve stuck around to see if I ever post again. 😉

I can already feel the tsunami of overwhelm taking over my mind as I struggle to think of how to even begin, and am forcing myself to push on through this tedious sentence to make myself commit to this post. I’m also listening to the Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony, and it’s nearly the thing that overflows the bottle I’ve been shoving all my feelings into this week so I can get stuff done. (Not that I’m getting a lot done; just the bare minimum to get by. Depression is a hell of a thing.) I love this music so much I can barely handle it.

In addition to my stupid eyes being stupid, and an inability to buy glasses without having to send them back multiple times (and allergies making my eyes feel raw and tired all day long), I also have some mild family drama that I tend to forget about until it crops up at random times and becomes emotionally conflicting; a good friend I’ve only had for a year has moved away (though I am very happy for her; she really needed the change); there has been a lot of drama with the Symphony I’m heavily involved with, and we’re scrambling to finish up the 75th season with a bang so there’s also a lot of planning and activity to keep track of; I still have a ridiculously messy house and no productive routines to speak of; I’ve barely written anything but the last blog post in months; and, on top of it all, we found out recently that one of our old friends has basically committed a long, slow suicide by alcohol, and lied his ass off for years about it and a whole bunch of other things that make us question everything we thought we knew about him forever. It’s extremely emotionally draining, and there are so many feels to feel that I can barely process them. They come in waves, when I least expect them, and the residual fatigue from all of it is kicking my butt.

My heart hurts right now. It’s heavy in my chest, and tight. And it’s not just emotional pain, it’s also the overwhelming nature of all the emotions put together. If my mind drifts over to a thought about needing to clean off a section of my table — or even just fill in the calendar for this new month and put it on the fridge — I feel this surge of sadness that kind of sticks in my throat and behind my nose. It’s as visceral as it is psychological — but it’s not enough to make me shed actual tears. I’m not much of a crier, honestly, and haven’t been since adolescence. It takes a lot to get me worked up enough, or it takes a very particular trigger (and there are very few of those). I can feel like I’m going to cry all day, but I probably won’t actually shed tears. If I do shed tears, they might not even leave my eyes. If they do, there aren’t many. I just have to blow my nose a lot. But it’s the same kind of rush and ache from head to gut that steals your breath and makes you want to go curl up under a blanket for a few hours. Not fun, and not easily ignored.

Since I’ve been researching ADHD and Executive Function Disorder (EFD), I’ve learned a lot about the signs and symptoms of each, and I know that at least with ADHD, it’s much easier to be overwhelmed with or by strong emotions (link is a slide show, but it’s not annoying like the click-bait ones), and have your actual brainpower hijacked by said strong emotions. I’m usually pretty good at regulating, but when I am bombarded by stress from several angles at once, the regulation goes a bit haywire, and — to use a Star Trek reference — I have to make the decision whether to take power from the engines (barely running on impulse control) to run the shields, or drop some defenses and less-important functions in order to keep the engines running and maintain life support.

For example, in the struggle to try to stay positive and on task — or even start a task — I feel like I’ve lost the ability to speak in a coherent manner, or I’ve lost whatever tenuous control I had over my ability to concentrate long enough to remember what it is I’m doing and why I’m doing it. If I do manage verbal coherency, I feel tension in my chest, and laughing — even genuine laughter; I don’t usually fake it — feels painful. The loss of concentration is like staring at a shelf in the grocery store (something I did today) and knowing there is something there you need to find, but the memory of it keeps sliding out of your head as you become overstimulated by all the labels and things around you. You can even stare at your list and hope you can concentrate long enough to find one of the things on it that should be in front of you, and suddenly all your energy is directed at this one thing, and you walk out of the grocery store utterly exhausted after having only bought maybe ten things…

I get angry, too, but lately I feel like sadness has kind of overwhelmed the anger, especially when it comes to our friend dying in the hospital. I want to be sad, but I’m also kind of angry with him. But I can’t stay angry, or even grieve for him right now. I’m just…depressed. Depressed with a side of tension. I think I’m sad for my husband, too, who was closer to our friend than I was, and has been spending the most time with him and his family. I have no problem with being emotionally supportive, but I hadn’t realized how much of it I’ve been taking on, myself, until this weekend.

I have things I have to do this week: commitments to fulfill, kids and pets to take care of, cleaning and shopping to do, a big Symphony gala to make it through next Saturday. I’m not so depressed that I’m completely nonfunctional, but there are other daily things I’m letting slip by, because managing to do the caretaking and socializing that needs to be done takes all the brainpower I have. I feel like I’m moving through molasses — like there is not enough caffeine in this world to wake me up all day. Crazy weather changes and allergies are not helping with that, either. Ugh.

But this, too, shall pass. Times of refreshing will come. And I have The Legend of Zelda, Breath of the Wild to help me escape once in awhile. I’m trying to use it as a reward for getting important things done this week, and I have sort of managed to keep from letting it be too much of a draw on days I have a lot to accomplish and no time to play.

Anyway, that’s what’s up with me right now. I have more developments in the saga of my stupid eyes that I need to finish documenting for your entertainment. Even if it’s tedious and annoying, it’s more fun than this.

Posted in ADD, ADHD, and EFD, Anxiety and Depression, Blogging, Children, Life, Mommyhood, Organization, Pediatric Feeding Disorder

January 2017

Oh, look, it’s January! Time to make resolutions I probably won’t keep! Time to renew my commitment to a mental facility to do more writing, especially in my long-neglected blog!

This time, I have incentivized myself. I’ve purchased the domain “coffeeandlollipops.blog” AND made calling cards with that info, and the forwarding email “deltasierra47@coffeeandlollipops.blog”. (It’s clunky, but it’ll serve for now. Especially since I’ve already printed cards. But if you want to contact me, use that address!)

This is in anticipation of launching a big plan to, among other things, document my struggles, failures, and successes in helping my kids learn to eat. I’ve mentioned before that they have feeding issues, but it’s kind of long past “issues” now into “disorders”. As in, I feel safe diagnosing them both as having “SED” (Severe Eating Disorder), without the need of a medical professional to do it for me. Granted, SED is an umbrella term, but one that is becoming more widely known and accepted, as “SPD” (Sensory Processing Disorder) and “Autism Spectrum” have been.

Before anyone worries that I’m one of those WebMD parents who thinks they know better than doctors, I want to remind or inform you that my kids are not toddlers or speshul sneauxflaykes. They’re eight- and six-year-old boys who have been eating five foods or less since introducing solid foods, have been to a few years of OT and feeding therapy (with small progress), and who would rather starve themselves past the point of feeling hunger rather than try to learn to chew anything, including treats like Jell-O, ice-cream, or cookies.

If that doesn’t convince someone of the severity of this situation, nothing will.

They do love lollipops, though. I daresay it’s the only solid food my six-year-old eats. So there’s hope!

In addition to blogging here, I hope to start vlogging, as well, and might set up a separate blog the boys can contribute to in the far future, which will feature their own videos. I bought them an inexpensive action-camera set-up for Christmas so we can create cooking videos. I homeschool them, and realized that cooking classes would be a great way to learn all kinds of concepts, and my eight-year-old mentioned that it would be fun to put some of our cooking exploits up on a YouTube channel. (He’s been angling for a YouTube channel for months; this is one way I can cave to his request while also making it educational and limited in scope. If it were up to him, he would post videos of himself rambling on about everything and nothing, pacing back and forth in our cluttered living room, and I just can’t let him do that. I’m a mean mom for promoting meaningful web content. 😉 ) So watch this space for kitchen antics!

Before that can happen, though, I have to address another extremely severe issue in our house: Ridiculous Overabundance of Clutter (and dog hair). It has gotten so out of hand, I could ALMOST make it on the TLC “Hoarders” program. Yes, really. I am not exaggerating.

I’ve always been a messy person. I know now that it can likely be attributed to a level of ADD (and OCD, but not the clean kind) I’ve always had, but got out of hand after I had kids and lost my ability to keep up with it. Now, I fight fatigue and motivation every day, and can just manage to stay on top of most of my outside commitments, making the kids’ food (for home and travel), doing the dishes, and emptying the trash. This is compounded by the fact that my husband is on a nine-month deployment (Army, someplace that rhymes with “Little Beast”), and it’s winter, so depression and anxiety are at their highest, too. I admit I haven’t really done much school with the boys this year, even though it’s the first year I’ve had to declare to the school district that the eight-year-old is homeschooled.

I’m a hot mess, y’all.

Which is why I need to blog — or, rather, “document” — my journey back up the downward spiral I’ve been on for awhile. In about a week I’ll be leaving for the Feeding Matters Pediatric Feeding Conference, which I managed to talk myself into going to this year. I’m really looking forward to it, not only because it’s in Phoenix, AZ, in the middle of January. 😉 I’m hoping I’ll be able to network as well as learn some new things and gain more advocacy for our situation. I wasn’t happy with what I’ve had available to us in the past, but I’ll address that in a later post. For now, I need to go make lunch.

Here’s to a successful 2017! 🙂 Feel free to post your own resolutions, struggles, recommitments, etc., in the comments. Please refrain from advice at this point, however, though well-wishing is welcome. Soon I’m going to write a more comprehensive post about feeding disorders and the issues we’ve had to deal with, and why conventional advice for “picky” children just cannot work for us.

Thank you! See you again SOON!