Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Yes, another bag

I have a friend whom I’ve “known” for nearly a decade—we’ve never met face to face but we have known and gamed with each other for a long time. Even after I stopped playing WoW, we stayed in contact through Facebook and the occasional email.

Turned out she was also playing Rift, the game we play now, so we hooked up in game and have a grand time of it. She had also made some things for us as housewarming gifts when we moved to our current home (you can read about it here).

So I’d been wanting to make her something. I think of my friend in these colors; she’s very upbeat and looks for the positive in everything. What’s more positive than the bright yellow I lined the bag with? But that might be a bit much for the outside, so I used a lovely pink tweed that has some yellow in it.

While I was still working on the bag, she had lost her dear old cat. She wasn't sure how quickly she would find another cat but as it turned out, she ended up finding a rescue kitty pretty quickly. You might remember that another friend had made us amazing catnip mice for our kitties so I asked that friend if she’d whip up a few mice I could include in with the bag for my friend and her new cat.

And the package arrived today! My friend likes her bag, the new kitty likes the mice and I’m a happy camper.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

So I did this instead

In the EAP session last week, the counselor assigned me two tasks—one to be completed in the first week and the second one to be completed starting today. Then next week we’ll talk about the assignments (he gave two assignments since I’m going two weeks between sessions).

Only—and I don’t know how to say this without sounding a little snotty—the assignment misses the mark for me. Not the idea of it but what he gave me to use. Let me explain.

He’s using cognitive therapy techniques, which is actually fine by me. These techniques have good supporting research that indicate they’re generally successful. I’m supposed to pick from a list of 16 styles of distorted thinking from a hand out he gave me, and track how often I think that way. Everyone has distorted thinking from time to time, and I am no exception. Only the hand out uses such polarizing language that I find myself—well offended isn’t the right word but it’s close enough. You can read the list here (this isn’t from the place I’m going, but it’s word for word what’s on the assignment).

Just over halfway down the page, you'll see one about "should." I have a lot of shoulds in my world. I definitely think I should be doing this or that pretty often. But I think it about me, not about you. So the rest of the statement (people who break the rules anger you and you feel guilty if you violate the rules) isn’t quite right. Yes, I do feel bad or guilty if I can’t do whatever it is I think I should be able to do, guilt might even be the right word. But if you don’t do it? Well I might get annoyed, sure, or maybe go do whatever it is I thought you were going to do myself. But anger is something I don’t indulge in all that often. And to say “anger you” puts me in the passive role. No thanks!

Last week as I was mulling this over, I realized that tapes (which I wrote about here) are nothing more than distorted thinking. And I realized that really the point of this exercise is more about continuing to identify my tapes and replace them with something that’s more effective.

I have two competing tapes that tend to run, often at the same time. Which is kind of crazy because they definitely compete with each other and remind me of the Queen in Alice in Wonderland where she says she's believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast:

  1. I’ve created this mess/bad situation—at my most irrational, I will take responsibility for things clearly outside my control (oh no it’s raining, my fault!—I exaggerate but you get the idea). This isn’t the same thing as having power, though. It’s all about feeling bad, like I’ve failed.
  2. Everything is just fine. This tape served me well in some pretty bad times but it wasn’t accurate then and it’s not always accurate now. I can’t find a solution if I’m not able to admit that something is wrong. 

So that’s what I’m doing. I’ve picked both of those tapes as things to track and yes, it can be a little surprising to realize how many times they run through my head, especially when it’s at the same time. This week I’m moving on to part two, which is using rational comebacks for those tapes.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


When I’m alone in my car, I always listen to music. I have an MP3 player with a bunch of playlists and I go back and forth between them depending on my mood and on the length of the time in the car. When Kent and I moved back from Boston to KC, I built a really long playlist based on NPR’s suggestions for good workout music. I’m pretty sure that’s how I got a Jamiroquai song in there. I always thought he was singing “candy in my heels” but about a year ago, I realized that wasn’t right. He was actually singing “canned heat in my heels.” I was bummed, to be honest. I liked my version better.

I don’t usually miss on lyrics like that. But there have been a few times where I’ve just whiffed on the words. In the same playlist, I have a Goldfrapp song I like—I thought she was singing “I’m in love with a strip machine” which was . . . odd. I finally got curious and looked up the lyrics. No, she’s in love with a strict machine. Which still kind of odd though.

Usually I’m really good on lyrics. There’s a remix version of I’m a Disco Dancer and close to 2/3 of the way through the song, you’ll hear “I wanna check your microphone.” It’s through some sort of distorter but that one I nailed right away (Kent couldn’t figure it out).

Then I’ll find a song I really like, I’ll go check out the video and oof. Just no. I love the words in The Middle by Jimmy Eat World but the video is a big fat miss.

Finally, remember Manfred Mann?? And his hit Blinded By The Light? The second line of the chorus has always eluded me so just for this blog post, I looked it up. Turns out he’s singing:
Blinded by the light
Revved up like a deuce
Another runner in the night
Blinded by the light
So there you go. The missing lyrics to a song I never much cared for anyway!

Monday, March 21, 2016

How do you handle stress?

Without going into details (even though not a lot of people read this, it’s a public blog and I do consider that when posting), I’m under a lot of stress at work. It’s bad/intense enough that I made the difficult decision to use the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in hopes that I can learn some good stress coping skills.

I know how I handle stress. I lose my appetite and I sleep very poorly. I get pretty quiet and can appear disengaged although I’m not. I’m just quiet. What’s difficult for those who love me is that my not eating can look as though I’m having a recurrence of my eating disorder because the end result is the same: I lose weight visibly.

But the inability to eat isn’t the same thing. With the eating disorder, it’s a choice I make, almost a game I play: I can weigh less, I will be smaller, how little can I eat and “get away” with it or fly under the radar so no one notices. With the stress-induced non-eating, it’s like having a low grade stomach virus all the time and food becomes impossible.

I am eating, by the way. I eat a minimum of two meals a day, although they aren’t huge. I’m not playing the game, the dragon isn’t out of her cage. And I’m open and honest with Kent about this.

On the positive side, I work out both as a way to reduce stress and of course as a means to continued good health. I’d hoped it would help with the poor sleep, but so far that’s not the case.

I’ve also cut way back on alcohol. I made that choice a few months ago before I realized just how bad the stress is at work—I realized that I felt yucky the next day even with just two glasses of wine so now I have one glass on Friday when Kent and I have our date night.

But I’m always looking for better ways to manage stress. Yes, ideally the stress itself would be eliminated but barring that what suggestions do you have? What works for you?

Friday, March 18, 2016

Unexpected side effects

It’s been three months now side I had sinus surgery. You might recall that my ENT drilled out bone from my nasal passages to help open things up and cut down the number of sinus infections I’d been having. That’s all been good but I’ve had some side effects I didn’t anticipate:

  • My voice sounds different. It sounds different in my head and a couple of people have commented on their own that I sound different.
  • My mouth tastes different to me. I don’t know how else to say that except we all have a normal taste in our mouths and now mine is different.
  • My sweet tooth is about dead. That one is a shocker because I’ve always loved sugar and sweet things. I have usually kept a bag of the Dove miniature dark chocolates on hand and had one (or two or three!) after dinner. We just finished a bag last night which had been open since December, and Kent ate them too.

Isn’t that just the oddest?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

In transition

The houses in my neighborhood were built in the late 1950s and early 1960s. You see a lot of ranch homes here, with a few split levels or two story homes. We live very near a large Catholic church with a school that goes from pre-school to 8th grade, I think.

The other morning, I was getting my first cup of coffee and glanced out the kitchen window. I could see the lights on in a home behind us—a co-worker, who is also a neighbor, had told me that the husband in that home had died about six months ago, and that the wife could no longer care for the home as she’s now in her 80s. We’d seen some people from a lawn service blowing out leaves last week, and as I saw into the house that morning, it was clear more renovation work was going on.

So our neighborhood is changing. In some cases, these are the original owners of the homes who are dying or moving into assisted living. Some of the houses are being bought by developers, who tear down perfectly good homes and build big custom made houses. To be honest, those big houses look kind of silly since the lots here aren't so large.

In our own house (which we affectionately have named Little Yellow House), the previous owner inherited the house from her parents and they had been just the second owners. Next door, there’s a family with elementary-school aged kids. Across the street, the family’s children are even younger. Next to them, there’s a couple that moved in, then got married and I think the baby I’ve been seeing recently is theirs.

I think the average age still skews toward middle age but that’s changing. I see more kids on bikes when I drive home, or out on scooters or on walks with their parents. It’s good to see, even if it makes driving on my street more of a challenge—by design, our neighborhood has no sidewalks. Apparently it’s supposed to make everything look more like country roads.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Being able to say thank you

There've been some people in my life who've had a profound positive impact on me. I'm talking about non-family members, so not people who have any kind of obligation or generally acknowledged role that requires acting as a mentor or otherwise supporting or encouraging someone.

In one case, I wasn't able to say thank you before the person died, and that's bothered me ever since. Bill was a great guy, he was my ex husband's uncle and was incredibly kind to me. I will always regret that I didn't have a chance to tell him that after Rick and I got divorced.

In the same way, my 6th grade teacher had a tremendously positive impact on my life. I saw him once after that year but due to family circumstances, hadn't seen or really heard of him again. My sister Cindy and I have reminisced about how great he was (she had him a few years before I did).

Well last night, he joined Facebook because one of Cindy's kids had mentioned something to a mutual friend of theirs about this teacher. Long story not so long, he and I reconnected and I send him an email today letting him know how much he'd helped an awkward 12 year old during a pretty difficult time in her life. I'd posted on his FB page that he'd been a life saver to me then and he was curious what I meant. So this is what I wrote:

Dear Mr. F,
Isn’t it funny, you will always be Mr. F to me, even now when I’m a middle aged mother of two and grandmother of three!
Anyway, yes, I do mean that you were life saving to me way back then. Let me explain.
Coopertown was the fifth elementary school I attended. That year in Bryn Mawr, as you might have realized, our home life (mine and Cindy’s) was tumultuous. About halfway through the year, my father had abandoned the family and moved to New Jersey, and my stepmother (Cindy’s mother) was left alone with all of us. We had seven kids all stuffed in there, and things were pretty tense.
You gave me hope that I was a worthwhile person, that I had potential and could do things. All those after school conversations, the talks about books, life, theater, well those were my life lines. Looking back as an adult, I’m just amazed at how patient and kind you were day after day with a needy 12-year-old who didn’t have a good home life or a positive adult around. Plus you ignited my love of all literature, and let me know that no book was off limits, that I had not only the ability to read them but the permission.
When I look back over my childhood, there are three people who stand out as being positive, encouraging role models to me. You are at the top of the list, and I’m glad to have a chance to tell you. 
It's been an emotional day for me, to be honest. Thinking back on 6th grade means thinking back to some tough times. But I'm so glad I was able to tell Mr. F how much I appreciated him.

This photo is from the play we did that year with him. He had us go through the original play (The Tempest) and a very stripped down version to create our own middle of the road script. I was Miranda.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Hi Mom! (March)

Here's the March photo (with bonus Eddie photo bombing). OK he's not really photo bombing, he's sleeping.