Everything Else

Thankful for the little things

There is so much going on in the world, and in my little corner of it, that I wanted to take some time to reflect on the all little things I’m thankful for every day. These are the little patches of happiness that bring me unmitigated joy, the seemingly unimportant pieces of my life that put a smile on my face and help me look forward to a morning of errand running, a quiet evening at home, or even a day at work. Before I list the things, though, I want to say thank you for YOU, for reading this, for following along, for commenting when you feel led to. I appreciate your thoughts, your words, and your support through this journey. I am grateful for all of it, truly.

My thankful list:

1. Red cups at Starbucks

2. Feet under the Christmas treefeet

3. Love between brothers

4. A caring touch from my husband

5. A compelling audiobook on my commute to work

6. A surprise package from a good friend

7. Finishing ALL my Christmas shopping early this year

8. The extra quilt on our bed

9. New recipes that turn out right the first time

10. Holiday traditions that our whole family looks forward to

When I notice these things, I pause and take them in. I try to enjoy the moment, to embellish it into my brain, so I can come back to it again and again. There are days when I worry too much about our budget and paying back my school loans and I think to myself, “We have so little.” But the reality is, we have so much.

Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you.

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Everything Else

My mini makeover

Well, I got my hair cut. I scheduled the cut in July, eight weeks from my previous one, but my stylist was on vacation so it ended up being nine. After week five I was desperate for a cut. My thick hair was frizzing daily in the summer humidity, to the point where the five minutes between drying it and walking out the door was the only time my hair looked good the entire day.

Which is fine, really. I don’t need to impress anyone. I have one of those husbands that likes to tell me he loves me no matter what. I work in a basement with people who have become my friends and who accept me for who I am, frizz and all. I might meet someone important during a grocery trip to Wal-Mart but do I really care what that gorgeous girl from nursing school thinks about how I look today? No. No, I don’t.

But with my 10% weight loss, the hair appointment I knew I had coming up, and the breaking of my three-year-old glasses, I thought it would be fun to do a little mini-makeover. New hair, new glasses, maybe an eyebrow wax. Something to keep me motivated as we begin the journey into winter, which historically is my worst season for overeating (although, isn’t it everyone’s?). I began to think about short hair, pinning styles on Pinterest and quizzing my girlfriends who have pixie cuts about maintenance, products, and styling.

I never thought I could pull off a short style because I have a pretty weak chin, and have always used my hair as a sort of curtain, both to cover it up and to create shadows where none exist naturally. But losing almost 20 pounds meant some of the weight came off my face, and all of a sudden, I felt like maybe I didn’t need that curtain to hide behind anymore.

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I do feel like I need to start wearing makeup again, because now my face is front and center, people. And maybe earrings too. But I’m OK with that. As a grownup, I probably should never have stopped wearing makeup anyway, right?

The first day, buoyed by the excitement of the girls at the salon, I loved the cut. The second day, after sleeping on it, I wasn’t sure. I would catch glances of myself in the mirror and wonder what the hell I did to my beautiful hair. The third day, more glances, more self-doubt. The fourth day, today, I finally washed it and tried to dry and style it myself. And while I couldn’t get that one piece in the front to cascade effortlessly down my forehead like my stylist could, I’ll work on it. I do like it. And I’m so glad I did it.

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Eating

Weight loss: Where I’m at today

I’m never sure how much to share about Weight Watchers. It seems like people are in two camps: interested to hear about it since they’re also interested in weight loss, or annoyed to hear about it because they’re perfectly happy with their diet and lifestyle and don’t need anyone telling them how and what to change, thankyouverymuch. I used to be in the second camp. I was when I was younger; I would actually pride myself on how much I could eat while still maintaining my size 6 figure. Then I was again last year. I’d given up on dieting and decided I just wanted to be happy. And food makes me happy. So I ate what I wanted. And instead of being happier, I was sad. I was moody all the time, I was embarrassed to try on clothes, and my depression became worse. I’m not saying that your mental outlook is completely tied to food, but I want to confirm what I’m sure you’ve already heard your doctor tell you: diet and exercise WORK. They do. Those MDs know what they’re talking about. Listen to them. I wish I had.

I’m about four months into my current Weight Watchers journey and I’ve lost almost 20 pounds. I’ve lost 10% of my body weight, which according to a non-official website, means my risk for heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other terrifying illnesses is significantly lower. It also means that 10% of my former self is gone. GONE! I love thinking about it like that. May she never come back.

I was working out regularly, but then things got in the way, and now my exercise is walking everyday. I do make an effort on this—it’s not just to and from the car when I’m out running errands. And I hope to get back to the gym some day soon. I discovered, though, that what motivates me is seeing the number on the scale go down, not the number of steps I’m getting on my Jawbone go up. So I stopped wearing the Jawbone. And I stopped the intense exercise. I think my weight goes down more slowly when I’m working out hard. For now, when I’m trying to lose, walking is enough.

I still have another 15 pounds to go before I hit my goal and see what it’s like to weigh what I weighed before I had kids. But my outlook has already improved. I feel better, both physically and mentally. Shirts I wore last year are too big. I need new jeans for fall because my old ones don’t fit. My bones are poking out of my skin; I’m becoming more angular than round. And I love it. I can’t wait to see what this next season of weight loss brings.

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Thanks for following along with me. If you have any questions about Weight Watchers, please feel free to leave them in the comments. I would love to encourage you on your journey!

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Everything Else

Craving familiarity

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With fall just around the corner, and the kids going back to school this week, and me going back to school next week, and all the changes that this new season brings, I’m finding myself more and more wanting to do things that are familiar to me. I’m rereading Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series instead of starting something new. I’m rewatching Gilmore Girls from the beginning instead of finding a fresh series on Netflix. I’m reverting back to old patterns, because so much of what I’m experiencing now, and what I will experience this semester, is new.

I have one more year left of grad school, this year actually, and if all goes well I will graduate in May. Between now and then, I have to do 150 hours of clinical time, complete a research project, and write my thesis. And after that, there is the Great Unknown. Will I be able to find a job in my field? Will I like teaching as much as I think I will? Will I be happy after I turn my life around yet again?

Then there’s CJ. His classroom assignments went out last week and he’s not in class with any of his close friends. That is, any of the friends whose moms I’ve gotten to know. I was in shock when I first looked at his list—how could they do this to him? He’s such a good kid, he listens and he follows the rules (most of the time), and it feels like because of that he’s just getting thrown in anywhere. But then I showed the list to CJ, and he’s excited about it. There’s a girl in his class he’s asked to have a play date with, and he’ll get to see her every day. He’s happy about his teacher, who’s new to his school, because he thinks she’ll be glad to be there and in turn make his day-to-day a fun experience. If only I could see things through his eyes.

Sam is your typical four-year-old, he doesn’t want to go back to school but once he’s there, I know he’ll love it. He’s already talking about seeing his friends and having them over to our house. He’ll be going to preschool five days a week, partially to accommodate my work/clinical schedule and partially to get him ready for kindergarten, which will be full-day next year. He’s ready for this change, definitely more than I am.

It’s raining today, as it is on all of my quiet, thoughtful days, and I think I’ll take the gloomy weather as a sign to embrace the familiar. I can do all these new things, all these hard things, if I have a backbone of comfort to rely on. For me, for this season, that means familiar stories, well-worn routines, and pumpkin spice everything. I’m looking forward to this season, with all of its changes, along with everything else that will stay blissfully, thankfully, the same.

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Parenting

We got a dog!

So the other day, this happened:

collin

Last Thursday the kids and I drove about an hour to a nearby shelter and brought home this adorable ball of fur. We’ve changed his name from Collin to Biscuit (group decision—when did my family become a democracy, by the way?), given him a bath, attempted to get him groomed (he wasn’t having it AT ALL), and gone on more walks as a family than we have in a long time. Biscuit likes to fetch squishy balls outside in our overgrown lawn, snuggle with us on the couch, and is itching to sleep with us in our bed, but we haven’t gone there…yet. He’s so soft and cute and cuddly it’s hard to deny him anything. We’ll see if (when?) I give in.

Biscuit is a rescue; they think a Bichon Friese mixed with poodle. We were told he’s 5, but don’t have an exact birthdate (the kids are desperate to find out so we can throw him a proper party). Biscuit has kind of thrown a curveball into our predictable family routine, but it’s one we expected and one we were more than ready for. Chris and I joked early on in our relationship that we like to do something every four years: we got married and then four years later had CJ, then four years after that had Sam. Sam turns 4 next week, so it felt like we were ready for something new. Plus, CJ has been begging for a dog for months and I’ve been longing for something tiny and cuddly to snuggle with and talk baby talk to. With Biscuit, we got everything we wanted and more.

biscuit

He sleeps in our room at night and I worry over him. He makes these noises, snuffles and snores, and I have yet to identify what they all mean. When CJ was hungry, he woke up full-on crying. Sam sniffled and grunted like a warthog looking for grub. He never cried for food. Other things, yes, food, never. Biscuit will go from the quietest sleep ever (the kind where you peek on them to make sure they’re still breathing) to a loud, high pitched bark whenever he hears something unusual. The other day I was trying to take a nap and the kids were in their rooms for quiet time. Every time one of them would open their door he would run out to the hall and bark them back into their rooms. He is already so loyal (mostly to me, but still).

I realize dogs are a lot of responsibility, and we did not enter into this lightly. Getting a dog is something we’ve been thinking about for a very long time. I didn’t tell a whole lot of people we were considering it, mostly because I didn’t want to be persuaded or dissuaded based on someone else’s experience. I get so caught up in what other people think sometimes that I let outside opinions sway me more than I should. This was a decision I knew I had to make completely on my own. If it was right in my heart, I knew it would be right, period. And it so, so is.

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Parenting

I still have days

I was able to share about my recent depression roller coaster ride because I had gained some perspective. Three weeks into it—a month—I would have told you how awful I was feeling. How hard the whole thing was. How much effort it took for me to not only go to the umpteen appointments I suddenly needed, but just to schedule them. Blocking off previously free time to go to the doctor to get better? The whole process was daunting.

I talked before about how much easier it is to stay in bed, alone, and have a lovely pity party for yourself. You don’t have to go anywhere, do anything, talk to anyone. You can eat whatever you want, maybe watch TV. But recovery. Recovery is a completely different animal. Recovery takes effort, it takes motivation—for me, it took the fear of what would happen if I didn’t get help.

But through all of this, I want to reassure you that I am not 100% better. My depression is not cured, and it may never be cured. Recently my doctor sat me down and gently explained that my brain doesn’t make the same chemicals that everyone else’s does, and therefore I would need to be on medication for the rest of my life. THE REST OF MY LIFE. In other words, I will never be normal. I try not to think about it too much. I try to live in the present, to appreciate the fact that I’m not breaking dishes in anger or hiding in bed every time something doesn’t go my way. That I can hang out with the kids with patience and grace and sometimes even create scenarios in which all of us have a really great time. The main reason I wanted to do all this was for my family. I know they need me, and I know they love me, and me getting better is for all of us.

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All that aside, I still have bad days. I still feel sad. I still get easily overwhelmed. I still wonder if the person who chose not to stop at the stop sign and instead decided to try to run me over hates me, and if so, why? I still spend way too much time in my head, and I still have days, although rare, when I think everyone would be better off without me. I still have days that are hard, days I don’t want to shower or workout or make dinner or see anyone. I still have days that need to be quiet and low-key, days I need to give myself and my brain a rest. I still have days when I’m too quick with my temper, yelling when I should be consoling, angry when I should be understanding. I still have days I make mistakes. I still have days I wish I was more, better, different.

But then I have good days. Days I wake up rested and happy. Days I feel proud of what I accomplished. Days full of sunshine and laughter and splashing at the pool. Days that are so good they make those bad days seem like mere shadows in my mind. Those are the days I keep close to my heart.

Image credit: simplereminders.com.

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