My Year, Up ‘Til Now

From the Daily Prompt: State of My Year

IMG_0796First off, I can’t believe 2013 is over halfway over.  I knew 2013 was going to be a good year (Lucky number 13!), and so far, it has been.  Yeah, it’s had it’s ups and downs, but for the most part, it’s been good.

This year, I had a visit from my sister in law, took a cruise to the Bahamas, went to Vegas with a friend, took a glassblowing class, made a few new friends, and my parents moved to Arizona.  I’ve been swimming and hiking.  I’ve had lazy weekends at home and super-productive-busy weekends.  I had a ton of zucchini and tomatoes from my garden, and it’s looking like I’m going to have a bumper crop of lemons come winter.

We had to put my 13 1/2  year old German Shepherd down as she was sick and couldn’t get around on her own.  She was a good friend, but I’m not too sad because I know she’ll be waiting for me at the Rainbow Bridge.

I’ve rediscovered my love of putting pictures in photo albums, so I have one more hobby.  I’ve been reunited with my beloved desk.

2013 has been really good to me so far, and I fully intend to enjoy the rest of it!

Finding the Positive

IMG_0911Finding the negative is easy.  When I come home, and the dishes are piled in the sink, I notice that right away.  But if they’re put away or in the dishwasher, my eyes will skim over it, and it won’t register, because that’s the way it’s “supposed to” be.

In the same way, it’s easy to overlook when things are going well in life, when we’re getting along with friends and relatives, because it’s easy, and that’s what we hope and expect.

Recently, a friend of mine had two of his friends die unexpectedly in one week, and it got me to thinking about gratitude, and how easy it is to take loved one for granted.

Our loved ones annoy us.  My husband is no housekeeper, but he can be sweet and funny.  I’ll bet it would be easier to find a man who’d put his dishes away than one who listens… it’s all about being grateful for what you have, and noticing the positives.  He’s not suddenly going to become super-housekeeper, but that’s okay.

On a related note, I know that most people begging for money are going to use that money to buy alcohol or drugs.  I know this because of the work I do, so I don’t usually give them money.  Maybe food, if I have it.  My husband and I were at a gas station out in the ‘burbs, and a man came to us with a story about how he was stranded and needed gas money.  I didn’t give him money, because at this point, I figure everyone is running game.  The hubby said “I would have given him a few bucks if I had it, but my wallet’s empty.”  I went on my usual rant about how he’s probably lying, and my husband shrugged and replied, “Well, I know.  But what if he isn’t?  It’s only a couple dollars.”

I don’t feel that it’s whether I do or don’t give out money that’s the problem, but my attitude is wrong.  I’m looking for the negative, and when I do that, I’m likely to find it.  It’s wrong to make assumptions about people, even if it is based on experience.  Because really, at the end of the day, what would it have hurt me to assume the man was telling the truth instead of defaulting to “he’s running game”?

It’s better to look for and expect the positive.  The negative is still going to be there, but I don’t have to give it my energy.

Being Bored

IMG_1110I often joke that it’s against my religion to be bored.  We sometimes get a bit of down time at work, and I hear people complain of being bored all the time.  I don’t understand that!  How can anyone be bored?  There’s so much to do!

I don’t mean that I’ve never been bored; I have, but for me it’s more of a mood thing than anything else.  Once in awhile I’ll feel out of sorts, and NOTHING will suit me.  As a general rule, though, I always have things to do.  In my work bag, I keep at least one book, but usually two, my personal iPad, and headphones.  I can read, write, surf the Internet, take a walk, listen to music, or have a conversation.  At home, there are more things to do than I know what do do with.

I don’t watch TV, in part because it’s not my medium of choice, but also because I’m just too busy doing other things.

How often do you get bored?

Jump The Shark

by The TV Guy

UnknownBack in the day there was a website that illuminated the exact moment in time when a TV show was on a downward trajectory. The name of the site was Jumpthe, based on the now infamous episode of the 1970’s/ 80’s iconic Tuesday night staple Happy Days.  Arthur Fonzarelli aka Fonzi had to jump a shark for some inane reason while on vacation in California. It sounds even more ridiculous saying it out loud, but that was the point, the show was never the same and soon after the show was cancelled. Now I cannot help but watch some TV and think to myself, when did this one jump the shark?

Very few shows can be timely and relevant much past year 5 of their network run. Now before you start naming all the shows that did not “jump the shark”, think of all the multitudes of shows that did. Most shows become ridiculous and stick around for no other reason than to “cash in” on what once was a good show.

So take some time and think about all the shows that were phenomenal early on and became almost painful to watch in the final seasons.

Dear, Simpson’s Producers….
Put a fork in it!!!!!

Recipe for Me

“Snips and snails and puppy dog tails… that’s what little boys are made from. Sugar and spice and everything nice… that’s what little girls are made of.”

416623_3483606007567_112988162_oThe recipe has changed somewhat since Mother Goose came up with that recipe. I’ve got just a little bit of sugar in me, but everything nice? Not so much.

If there were a recipe for me, this is probably what would be in it.
2 cups helpfulness
2 cups introversion
Mix well with
Dean Koontz books
Beatles CDs

Blend with
Lots of obscure information
Nervous know-it-all chatter

A pinch of irritation
A heaping tablespoon of sarcasm

Mix well and let sit. If you poke at it, it will probably ignore you or sigh and slam the book shut.

This idea for this post came from the Weekly Writing Challenge at The Daily Post.

10 Ways to Practice Self-Care

Hey, look!  A giraffe!  Giraffes make me happy.  :)

Hey, look! A giraffe! Giraffes make me happy. 🙂

As some of you know, my daytime alter-ego is a crisis specialist and therapist, which is a fancy way of saying I help people when they’re having a rough time.

If I had to pick one topic that comes up again and again, it’s self-care. None of us have enough time or money to do everything that we need and want to do. We’re always running from the job to soccer practice or the vet appointment or the grocery store, etc. I remember spending hours on the phone as a teen while laying on my bed, but these days, if I’m on the phone, I’m usually doing dishes or picking tomatoes at the same time.

Self-care doesn’t make it to the priority list for most of us, and I’m just as guilty of that from time to time as the rest of us.

Self-care literally means taking care of yourself. Part of it is eating nutritious food and limiting junk food to treats. It’s about drinking enough water and getting enough rest. It’s about keeping positive people in your life, and eliminating the drain of consistently negative people.

While it would be nice to take a two week vacation in the tropics and get daily massages, most of us probably can’t afford it. There are simple ways that you can take care of yourself at home, and get good results. The key is to attempt to be consistent in anything you start. If you can do it for 6 weeks, you can make the good stuff a habit as easily as the bad stuff. Pick one or two to try, and don’t try to do everything at once.

1.  Take time to come up with three positive thoughts about yourself, three positive things that happened that day, or three things you’re grateful for every day. If we put our attention on the negative, then that’s what we see. If we re-focus on the positive, then our outlook changes. Some people like putting these things on the mirror or the fridge. Some people like to journal them, and some people like to take time to call a friend and discuss their three things. You could start a Facebook game of “three positive things.” It’s all about what works for you.

2.  Take 5 minutes a day to breathe deeply. Believe it or not, it works, if you do it right. I know you think you know how to breathe, but take a look at this.

3.  Find something you like to do, and find some time to do that every week. Gardening? Reading? Listening to music in the dark? You have 15 minutes somewhere.

4.  Reward yourself with something other than food. Did something you’re proud of? Made it through the week without killing someone? Instead of grabbing the ice cream and watching reruns, buy a new nail polish color, take a look at Groupon for a cool new class on something that interests you (I found a glassblowing class not long ago that way), or just sit at Starbucks and people watch.

5.  Write an email (or letter) to an old friend. I know you liked their status on Facebook last week, but drop them a line and catch up, one on one. Ask them about what’s going on in their lives.

6.  Take a walk. Or play Wii sports. Or go out and pick tomatoes. Get up and get moving, even if just for a few minutes a day. I promise. It makes the happy chemicals in your brain come out to play.

7.  Do something creative. Draw, color, paint, write, journal, take pictures, play with Play-Doh or Sculpey. Doing creative things helps manage emotions and give you an outlet that you don’t need words for.  Plus, it’s fun.

8.  Listen to music. I know I have different soundtracks depending on what I’m doing. I like Garbage, Nirvana, or the Beatles when I’m doing housework, Enya or Mogwai when I’m writing, and I have a special playlist for when I’m feeling gloomy.

9.  Take a detour. Or wear a different color than you usually do. Or try something different for breakfast. If you’re stuck in a rut, try doing something different to shake yourself out of it.

10.  Prioritize! Not everything needs to be #1. The dust bunnies will wait until you get to them and sometimes “no” is the perfect response to a question.

What do you do to take care of yourself?

Off the Beaten Path

IMG_1322Recently, I was on my way to work and I noticed that the mountains stood clearly outlined, and white puffy clouds crowded our blue sky. Having clouds at all in Arizona is an event!  I was running early, so I decided to drive down a few roads and see if I could get a picture of that spectacular view. It took about 15 minutes and 3 roads to find an unobstructed view,but i did it.

I love detours. Not the kind that involves “Men at work” signs, but the kind that involves wondering, “what’s down that road?”

I don’t take detours often enough. Part of it is that I don’t have time, but another factor is that I don’t think about it. I get in my car and start driving, so intent on my destination that I don’t think of anything else.

I’ve been thinking about ruts lately, and how easy it is to just do the same thing over and over, mindlessly. When was the last time you took a detour?

Bullying and Me

IMG_1316So yesterday, I wrote about my issues with being a vegetarian, and I talked a little about my weight struggles. In a moment of great timing, I saw a link to Bombshells Against Bullying on Stacy Pershall’s Facebook page. If you don’t know who Stacy Pershall is, she’s a wonderful author and advocate for mental health awareness and destigmatization. Her book, Loud In The House of Myself, discusses her recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder, probably the most stigmatized mental illness in existence.

But I digress.

I was reading the Bombshells Against Bullying page, where various women talk about their experiences with being bullied, so I’d like to share mine.

My first memory of being bullied was on the school bus. I was maybe 5 or 6, and pudgy, as I said yesterday. An older boy from church started calling me “Pigface,” and the name followed me for years. I remember I had a beautiful pink winter coat that was fuzzy. I loved that coat. A girl my age started chanting at me, “Hey ho Eskimo, don’t you eat that yellow snow. I thought I saw a doggy go.” Of course then the, “Ew, you eat yellow snow?” followed.

There were more incidents throughout the years. I’ve been called, “Elephant,” “Fido,” and many other things. The ironic thing about this is that I was really beautiful, and yeah, I had a few pounds on me, but I wasn’t that overweight. These days, I’m heavier than I’ve ever been, but I’m also more comfortable with my body than before. Would I like to be thinner? HELL YES. Am I going to stress about it or make it the focus of my life? I’m going to try not to.

I think we all need to focus on how we function. When I was struggling with stomach problems, I changed my eating habits in a way that worked for me. It wouldn’t work for everyone, but it worked great for me. I felt better and it fit my lifestyle. I love to hike and walk and swim, and I’m able to do those things. If my weight gets in the way of what I enjoy, THEN it’s a problem. If my weight affects my health, THEN it’s a problem.

I have great eyes, and people always ask me if I dye my hair because it’s such a cool color. My strengths are what is important. If it’s not a strength, that doesn’t mean it’s a weakness. Unless I allow it to be.

I’m a whole person, not just the sum total of my parts, and if I want others to treat me that way, then I need to treat myself that way. I used to wear baggy clothes that weren’t flattering because “I didn’t care how I looked.” But that was just defense. By not taking care of my appearance, I was trying not to care.

Recently, I went into Lane Bryant, Torrid, and New York and Company with a friend who dresses great and bought clothing that flatters my shape and makes me feel good about myself. If I feel better about how I look, then I feel better in general. I want to be a good role model for others, and the best way I can do that is to be me.

And in case you’re wondering if the bullying ended when I was a kid, it did, more or less. People learned in high school that I was too hard to bully to be bothered with. I cried when I was 5, but by the time they called me “Fido” in high school, I just rolled my eyes and told them to try to be a little more creative. However… about 6 months ago, I was at a buffet with an “average weight” friend of mine, and she was teasing me about how being a vegetarian is weird and I need to eat some meat. “Screw your vegetables,” she said. A random woman said, “I agree. You tell her.” I laughed until the woman continued, “And all the vegetarians I know are fat anyway.”
I didn’t say anything back because I was stunned. My feelings weren’t really hurt, but I realize that part of the reason for that is that I’ve internalized “fat” as part of my identity. But the fact that a grown woman thought that was okay to say to a stranger just tells me how far we still need to go in the fight against bullying.

*After I finished writing this post, I came across another article, Eight Things I Learned from 50 Naked People.  It relates to the topic of loving yourself, no matter your shape… I highly recommend it.  My favorite quote from the article:  “Your weight is the least interesting thing about you.”  -Kate Bartolotta

Vegetarianism, Rules, and Me

IMG_1295Two years ago, I decided to do a lifestyle change. I was having a lot of problems with my stomach, and I was opposed to medication that would mask, but not fix my problem. My doctor told me to read The Spectrum, by Dean Ornish, and I learned that I have a lot of unhealthy attitudes toward food.

I’ve been overweight as long as I can remember. I have a picture of me on my 7th birthday, standing beside my slim and neat best friend. I’m pudgy and pigtailed. I knew what the word “diet” was before I knew what calories were, and I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life.
There’s probably a mix of genetic and lifestyle reasons for my weight struggles. As much as I struggled with my weight as a teenager, on a perpetual “diet,” I look back at pictures and realize I was gorgeous. As much as I’m “obese” now, I realize that how I look isn’t as bad as I sometimes think. I have good days and bad days with that.

I ate the way I was taught, and thought it was the way you were “supposed to.” I never really liked meat, not as an every day thing. But I ate it, along with my potato or rice and my vegetable, because that’s how you’re “supposed to” eat. I was so programmed, and never thought to explore different ways. I was never into fad diets, but if I worked at dieting, I was always hungry. I never “went vegetarian” because I didn’t think I could stick to it forever and ever, never eating meat again.

After I read The Spectrum, I realized the rules I thought I knew were all just BS, and they weren’t right for me. I never liked meat, but I ate it because I wasn’t “a vegetarian.”

These days, I primarily try to avoid processed foods. I eat fish once or twice a month. I’ve eaten other types of meat 3 times in the past year. Twice, I had literally two bites of something to try it. I ate a steak on my birthday. The vegetarian police didnt come to get me. I haven’t lost any weight, but my stomach problems went away, and I have more energy.

I may have to resign myself to the fact that unless I want to be hungry all the time or spend a half hour a day in the gym, I’m going to be way overweight. I have more energy than most of my average weight friends and I never stop moving. I eat healthier than anyone else I know. I’ve (mostly) stopped using weight as a yardstick of health. It’s hard sometimes. I want to have flat abs and thighs that don’t jiggle, but I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. And I’m trying to be okay with that.


“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

IMG_0744When I was a kid, I loved poetry. I read Wordsworth, Shakespeare’s sonnets, Emily Dickenson. I’m not sure when I stopped reading poetry, but I suspect that it was around the time we started analyzing it in high school.

From the perspective of adulthood, I understand why we were analyzing it. Poetry generally has complex layers of language that can be discerned on deeper analysis and exploration.

Just because I get it doesn’t mean I agree with it. To me, poetry was about emotion, and how it made me feel. Analyzing poetry felt the same way criticizing art did. It felt like the magic trick was being revealed. I know magic isn’t real, but that doesn’t mean I’m looking for the sleight of hand or the trapdoor. I want magic to be real, in the same way I want poetry and art to have that layer of magic.

As a writer, it’s important to understand how technique and language create that magic. If we’re going to write, we need to understand. Yet in my high school classes, our goal wasn’t to create anything. I still enjoy writing really bad poetry, and I don’t understand how to create anything like the magical ones I most enjoy.

I’ve started reading poetry again, partly because I think it’s important, but also because it was something I enjoyed so much, once upon a time. I had a notebook in which I faithfully transcribed some of my favorite poems, and I read them so many times that I memorized some of them.
“Ode,” by William Wordsworth was my favorite poem growing up, and I’ve included a link to it so that you can enjoy too.

Do you like poetry? What’s your favorite poem?