How I’m (Trying to) Survive Self Isolation (for now)

I’m going to jump right into this. You know what’s going on. And it sucks. Big time. Our family decided to start self isolating nine days ago now, on the night of Friday the 13th when they first announced school closures. We’ve had extremely limited contact with anyone since then. Greg took two very fast trips to the grocery store with a wipe in his hand for everything he touched. We’ve been to the dog park twice without touching any surfaces. We picked up school supplies on Tuesday in a drive thru. Shepard had very brief contact with some neighbor kids earlier in the week. And that’s it. It’s just us, at home, like so much of the world right now.

Also like much of the world, I feel like I’ve been on a ridiculous emotional rollercoaster this past week. The first few days were REALLY HARD. I was already really struggling after months of at least one extra family member being home for most of the week, week after week, because of random illnesses or bad weather. My routine hasn’t been “normal” since November. And my mental health has not been good. I’ve been working with a therapist to come up with ways to take care of myself and most of those solutions entailed leaving the house by myself. And then…this happened. I was not mentally healthy enough yet to deal with everyone home all the time with no place to go. I’m not handling it every well. But I’m trying.

After two weekends with a week in between, I think I’ve come up with a pretty good plan to survive this. To be totally honest, MY life hasn’t really changed that much since I work at home anyway. My social life was pretty limited to 1-2 gatherings a month, so it sucks not to have that anymore, but it’s also not a huge change. I just can’t ESCAPE. I can’t go shopping. I can’t go out to eat. I can’t go on two (probably three, maybe four) trips I had planned in the next few months. I realize that so many other people have had to cancel and postpone much more monumental events. I’m not trying to compete with that. It sucks for EVERYONE. But considering this isolation period will probably last weeks – most likely months – I need to have a concrete list of ways I can fight back to find the good in all of this. So here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

Follow a Schedule

My kids think this is the worst thing in the entire world. But after the first few days of working out the kinks last week, it made all of our lives SO much better. We all do better with knowing expectations, having boundaries, and following the same routine day in and day out. My initial schedule was a bit too rigid, but we reworked some of the time blocks so the boys have about an equal amount each day of screen time, “learning” time, free outdoor play time, family walk time, and quiet reading and art time. I’m sure no one will be surprised to hear that learning time has been the most difficult. They will have real school lessons starting up in a week, so I’m sure we’ll need to adjust things again depending on how many hours their teachers expect them to be present. But I think this is the best way for all of us to survive. I can really vouch for that after having a “normal” weekend of basically unlimited screen time and me feeling totally overwhelmed and sad and trapped again. I didn’t feel quite so helpless when we were following the schedule during the week.

Walking as Much as Possible

We have two daily walks on our schedule every day. And for the most part we’ve followed those, though we did have a lot of both rain and snow this past week. Greg and I have also gone on occasional walks alone when one of us needs to get out of here. Annie is getting a lot of exercise! Everyone always says that exercise is the best way to reduce stress and I’ve never craved that outlet as much as I have this past week. Today we even changed things up by hiking around a (deserted) county park. The boys were NOT happy with it (less screen time), but it made me feel a lot better to do something a bit more rigorous and in a new setting.

Writing A LOT

Though I’ve been very quiet on the blog, I have been writing a lot in other places. Mostly I’ve been keeping up an ongoing daily log of the changes that are happening in the world and how our family is dealing with it all. Just a private space that only I’ll ever see where I can vent out everything in my head. I’ve also been writing in an actual journal every morning and adding a list of ten things I’m thankful for, trying to get in the right headspace for the day. And most nights I write some sort of public instagram post about how that particular day has gone, which helps me feel like I’m being heard and connects me to other people with my honesty.

Quiet Time

During my normal life, during the school year, I take a nap almost every afternoon. I always feel like I need to justify that fact with a reminder that I get up at 4AM EVERY DAY. And this past week? I’ve barely been sleeping at all. I’m allowed to take a nap! I know for an absolute fact that I will not survive this isolation period if I can’t also isolate MYSELF for a chunk of time every day. I’m also trying to enforce individual quiet times for the boys too, even though they keep wanting to sneak into each other rooms. They fight nonstop, but also can’t seem to stay away from each other. The boys have a 1.5 hour time block in their rooms for reading and art followed by 1.5 hours of screen time. So that gives me THREE hours to myself every afternoon. It will be my lifesaver.

Make Big Meals

This is maybe the most stressful part for me. The expectation of needing to feed four people three meals a day, while also monitoring all their snacks, for an indefinite amount of time in the future. Also – THE DISHES for all those meals. It’s so much mental gymnastics trying to figure out how to use up the most perishable food first at every meal so we’re not wasting anything and prolonging trips to the store for as long as possible. My only real solution to this is that whenever I do make a new meal, make it as large as possible so it’ll last at least two or three more meals in leftovers. I was very overwhelmed by this last weekend, but it’s becoming more of an enjoyable puzzle each day, getting creative with the food we have on hand. Though I do really miss running to the stores for random ingredients for special recipes. My plan right now is simple and big.

Sprinkle in Some Take Out

I wasn’t sure how I felt about this at the start, but I’ve done some more research on how unlikely it is to catch coronavirus from having a no contact delivery food experience. It feels like a safe option. It’s also a huge morale booster. And it helps support our local small town restaurants for as long as they’re open. So far we’ve gotten a pizza and Mexican food. As long as they’re open we’ll probably continue to order about twice a week.

Being Creative

Lucky for me, being creative is my job. At first I considered closing my etsy shop all together for the time being because I was worried it would be too much added pressure. Now I’m realizing it might be the absolute best option for keeping myself sane. I’m mostly just sewing during the boys’ learning time, so we’re all doing something productive at the same time. But I’ve spent a few nights doing it as well. I’m not putting any pressure on myself to produce a certain number of dolls a week or anything, I’m just using the creativity to keep me happy. I’m also looking forward to trying some other craft projects I always put on the back burner and maybe even picking up one of the many coloring books I have, but never actually use.

Talking to a Therapist

I really picked a good year to start up online therapy! Yikes. I mentioned this a few posts ago, how I signed up for therapy through the company BetterHelp. I connected really well with the therapist they assigned me and it’s been such a positive experience so far. It’s so nice knowing I have that impartial person to talk through all of this with. She’s helping me problem solve a lot of the issues that have popped up. And she’s really helping me deal with how much anger I’ve had at certain people for not taking everything seriously. I know it probably feels like a frivolous expense in such uncertain times. But if you’re really having a hard time, I think it’s worth it, even if you only sign up for a few weeks or a month. With daily conversations it could really do a world of good to change your perspective.

Meditation

To be honest, I’m not so great at this. But I’m also on day 47 of a meditation streak using the Calm app, so I’m not giving it up. I still have a very hard time concentrating, but I’m committed to the effort. I like this app in particular because there’s a new 10ish minute meditation every single day, so I never have to think about what I want to do, I just sit down and do it.

Drink Tea

I am trying to train my brain to see tea as an ultimate form of comfort and self care. It’s fast and easy to make, it’s cheap, it forces you to slow down for a few minutes, and once you find a few kinds you like, it’s really quite delicious (and calorie free!). I try to drink at least four cups a day and it’s my go to every time I need a little warmth and comfort.

Reading

This one is NOT going so well. It’s been so hard to concentrate. But I’ll never give up on reading! It’s been more frustrating that I don’t seem to be connecting with most of the books I pick up. I’m dnf-ing quite a few. But then a book comes along that I like and it’s a great distraction. I’m hoping as we all settle into this new normal reading will once again become the great joy it’s always been to me. In the meantime, I might just keep rereading all of my favorites because they’re a surefire way to bring me hapiness.

Connect with Other People

I’m going back and forth on social media lately. On one hand, it seems like so many more people are connecting on deeper levels since this all began. Everyone has more time to read and write more honest posts and support for each other has been a lot more prevalent. But I’ve also had days this week where it felt like other people’s comments were being directed at me which I took very personally and kind of lost it. I don’t handle my feelings being invalidated very well. Even if it wasn’t intended to poke at me, I certainly felt like it was. I’ve also been getting incredibly angry at people who are continuing to live their lives the way they always have and taking unnecessary risks. But for the most part it’s been a positive space lately. I’m also trying to stay in contact with my friends. And of course family.

Celebrate the Things You’d Normally Celebrate (and maybe a little more)

St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays, but it really got lost in the midst of all the chaos this year. Fortunately I had already picked up my box of Lucky Charms, so the leprechauns were able to make their annual trek to leave it out for breakfast. And I made an effort to make a festive dinner that night. Tomorrow is Annie’s 5th birthday and Caden’s 11.5 birthday (we’re big on half birthdays around here). I’m making chicken tacos at Caden’s request and will come up with some sort of dessert for him. I’ll probably try to find some kind of dog treat cake to make Annie as well and we’re planning a trip to the dog park to celebrate. I’ve been buying things online so I’m fully prepared for all our normal Easter festivities, minus the time with extra family. And I’ve been trying to put together a nice selection of gifts to send my sister-in-law whose bridal shower is (I assume) definitely not going to be happening in a few weeks as planned. Even though life is totally crazy right now, I’m trying to remember to celebrate all the things I’d normally celebrate while also making an effort to help other people celebrate as well. We could all use a little more cheer to get through these hard times.

Lower all Expectations

I hope it’s obvious from my list that while I’m trying to find many ways to bring joy and normalcy to our life right now, my expectations are still quite low. Caden is really struggling with the indefiniteness of everything being so uprooted in his life. Shepard, as the most social of us (by far!), is really struggling with not seeing his friends, especially all of those that are running around right outside our windows. Greg is probably struggling working in such a distracting environment and not being able to leave the house for a job he enjoys. I’m struggling with the constant noise, constant arguing, constant need to prepare, make, and clean up after meals. The messes that are never full cleaned up, the enormous piles of laundry waiting to be folded, the inability to do any of the things I really love doing that nurture my soul, and the disappointment of so many trips being cancelled. But I’m also enjoying how much longer and freeing my days feel, without any real plans or restrictions. I find myself actually WANTING to exercise and really enjoying every chance I get to walk around outside. I hope that if I continue to focus on the things I CAN control, I won’t be so overwhelmed by all the things I can’t. And that somehow, we will all come out of this devastating pandemic for the better.

March 2020 Goals

Well, I took two months off from monthly and weekly goals as an experiment and I think it’s time to get back to them. I’m undecided if it was a good thing or not. I like having intentions in the back of my mind as I go about my days because it helps me to make better choices. But if the goals feel too overwhelming, then I feel, well, overwhelmed. But even without goals, I’ve really been flailing these last two months. So if I’m going to be overwhelmed either way, I might as well have those grounding intentions to get me back on track.

I think the key to setting goals for myself is to limit it to only a few, choose things that I definitely feel like I can achieve, and pick things that will genuinely give me a better life. I’m taking a break this year from trying to be “successful.” Even productive, if I’m honest. I want to be HAPPY. I want to be healthy. I want to feel full of joy and warmth, not on the brink of tears and desperate to escape my life. So I thought hard about what I want my March to look like and only wrote out goals that will help me achieve that happier life.

1. Go through my social media accounts and unfollow anything that brings me down. In turn, seek out accounts that will genuinely inspire me and help me on my journey.

I’ve realized recently how happy I am when I see a pretty and concise instagram post that promotes body positivity or taking care of yourself mentally. I’ve also noticed in the last year how some “inspirational” accounts only make me feel like a failure. I need to find and follow only the ones that help ME. I want to clean up the messages that flow into me every time I’m scrolling through my phone and save a collection of quotes and images that will inspire me on the hard days.

2. Go out on (at least) two days with Greg. Out of the house.

Between bad weather, so many illnesses, and Shepard having basketball two nights a week, we have not been having very regular date nights lately. And when we do have them, we stay home for logical reasons like the fridge is overflowing with leftovers and we need to eat them. There’s nothing wrong with at home date nights, but Greg and I seem to connect so much better when we’re outside of our regular environment. I want to make it a bigger priority.

3. Plan and carry out (at least) one special day over spring break to do something fun with the boys.

We have a full week of spring break this year, which is pretty rare for Columbus (especially since we ALSO have an Easter break, which is usually our “spring break.”) I know my kids and I know they’re really just going to want to stay home and play games all week. And sometimes I’m okay with that because it means I can still carry on with sewing and reading and everything else I need to take care of. But I hate to see an entire week go by with nothing to show for me. I want to make GOOD MEMORIES. So we need to think of something. I asked them today what they would want to do and they couldn’t say play games. They both answered “buy games.” Sigh. It’ll be a challenge, but we’ll come up with something.

4. Also plan and carry out one special day during spring break FOR ME.

The one thing I have been most desperately craving the last few months is time to myself. Ideally, time to myself at home, but it’s hard to kick three people out of the house when they have no desire to ever go anywhere or do anything. So I’ll think of something I can do for myself out of the house. For a whole day. I’d love to do a whole day AND night, but that might be pushing it. I do have a one night getaway to Milwaukee planned in April, but it’d be so nice to have something sooner to look forward to. It’d help me get through these hard days that seem to never end.

5. Do one nice thing for myself every day.

This is one of my therapy goals. Because even though I’d love to keep relying on escape to ignore my problems, that’s not a realistic option most of the time. So I’m supposed to be finding things every single day to treat myself well, to nurture myself, to nourish my body or soul. I have a specific notebook I just cracked open to record what I pick each day so I can report back at the end of the month. The tricky thing about this goal is that it needs to be something that genuinely feels like a treat that specific day. Like, reading for example – I do it every day and I will never go a day without it. It’s an essential part of who I am. But will you find me reading at 10am on a weekday? Very unlikely. But if we have another string of days with kids home sick and I feel like I’m going to absolutely lose my mind? Reading at 10am and ditching whatever productive activity I had planned would be a treat. Same with exercise. I’m trying to do it every day no matter what. But today, when it finally warmed up, I took Annie for an extra long walk down one of my favorite streets that I very rarely actually walk down. It doesn’t need be elaborate, it just needs to feel like something special I’m giving myself. And the real key – paying attention to my choices so I’m more aware of how much better it makes me feel.

I’m not writing it out as specific goals, but in the last few weeks I’ve really been focusing on a list of things that I want to do every single day, no matter what, because I know they’ll help me. Reading worthwhile nonfiction in the mornings, journaling, exercising, making wholesome meals, taking a nap if I didn’t get enough sleep the night before (who does?!), and meditating in the afternoons before everyone else gets home from school and work. Just doing those activities every day has been keeping me pretty busy. I’m not getting a whole lot of work done. But in this season, I just have to believe it’s the right thing for me to focus on. I’m tired of battling this cloud of depression and losing. It’s time to fight back and this is what’s going to help me.

Friday Favorites #9: Valentine’s Edition

Happy Friday and Happy Valentine’s Day!

I love to live my life by the seasons in as many ways as possible. And whereas February is technically supposed to be the month of love, I always find myself really focusing on self love and care at this time of the year. This year, like most, I’m trying to get over the dreary gloom of January while also trying to remember spring is probably still three months away, so I need to start looking inward and finding ways to love myself to make the days a little brighter. So most of the items on my favorites list this week are featuring the ways I’ve found to love or treat myself right now.

True Self Care

  • Two weeks ago I signed up for online therapy services through BetterHelp. (I believe this is an affiliate link for one week of free therapy if you’re interested in testing it out.) It’s not something I plan on talking much about, but it’s also not something I want to keep a secret, so now you know! I’ve felt many, many times in the last year or so that I wish I had a counselor or somebody to talk to, but because we’ve had such rotten luck with finding a good fit for Caden over the years I didn’t have much hope of finding someone I could trust and like, while also being conveniently located (very hard in a small town!) for myself. But these last three months have been particularly hard and I knew I needed to do something to help myself. Lo and behold, ONLINE THERAPY. I didn’t even know this existed until recently. And honestly, it’s so perfect for me. I write so much more openly than I speak. I’m a thousand times more comfortable talking about hard things through a screen than face to face. The best part, for me, about BetterHelp specifically is that I can write to my therapist as often as I want and she responds every single day. I can also schedule actual sessions via chat, phone, or video once a week – if I want. I’ve had two live chat sessions so far, on top of the daily correspondence, and it really is an extra bonus. Anyway, it does feel expensive – $65 a week. But I think it’s completely worth it if you communicate the ways that I do. You couldn’t have daily in office therapy sessions for $65/week! Or even once a week! Plus I’ve finally come to the conclusion that nourishing my mental health is a worthwhile expense no matter what. I’m sure everyone’s experience with BetterHelp is mostly dependant on still actually having a good fit with their paired therapist, but I really like who they assigned me (you can change if you don’t like who you got) and it’s going well.
  • In addition to therapy, I’ve also started using the Calm app to meditate and start to teach myself mindfulness. Meditation doesn’t come easy to me, but I’ve been hearing so much about mindfulness all over the place lately that I really want to learn how to use it to help in all areas of my life. The app itself seems pretty amazing. You do have to pay for it, but I think if you’re serious about meditation it is worth the price. (I probably shouldn’t say this, but I didn’t go through with the purchase the first time I opened the app and they soon sent me a 40% off email code. I also have five 30 day free guest passes if anyone is interested in trying it. They also offer a 7 day free trial.) For the last week I’ve been doing a seven day series on mindfulness for anxiety, but I’m really excited to try out some of the many other features.
  • I go back and forth on how I feel about essential oils, but at the moment I’m back on the train, guys. I just found out about a brand called Saje Natural Wellness. I’ve been most interested in their oil blend roll-ons and recently ordered a couple to try out (if you buy 3 they’ll let you pick out a soft sided carrying case!). The whole point of essential oils is breathing them in and letting the oils soak into your skin/blood/brain is how they can treat a variety of symptoms or help you feel a certain way. But one of the main things I don’t like about essential oils is that none of them smell all that great to me and I don’t want other people to find me offensive. But I guess the good news is that I rarely have to interact with other people, so it doesn’t matter all that much (lol)! But of the two I’ve used so far (Peppermint Halo and Stress Release), I really have liked the scents. I truly believe that they do help – especially oils meant for easing colds and sleeping better. So I’m excited to start building these oils into my daily self care routine again.

Save Money

  • Have you guys heard of Honey? I’m not sure how I ever learned about it in the first place, but it’s just a browser extension that will search through the internet and find coupon codes for any shopping site you’re on. It also can tell you the stats on when the best time to buy things on amazon might be. It’s really pretty awesome. It’s free, so you might as well get it! It’s saved me tons of money (I do a lot of online shopping lol) through discount codes that I never had to do a thing to find. I love it. Shepard noticed I was using it last night and he knew exactly what it was. Apparently they talk about it in his favorite youtube videos…

Eat

  • For some reason Walmart is the store that always carries the new and unique flavors of candy bars. And I very rarely shop at Walmart. But the last time I was there I grabbed one of these Mint Kit Kat Bars and I fell in love. Kit Kat Bars are my favorite candy bar and I also love mint, so they’re a perfect combination. I may have bought myself a 24 pack on amazon to have in case of chocolate emergencies, even though I’m really not supposed to be eating candy.

Listen

  • Speaking of chocolate, I recently checked out the podcast Inside Trader Joe’s because someone on facebook mentioned loving their chocolate episode. And this is such a fun podcast! I’ve listened to the three most recent episodes on chocolate, cheese, and holiday foods. I’m obsessed with Trader Joe’s, maybe because I get there so rarely. But grocery shopping is like my favorite thing to do, so I go at least once every season to check out the new items. The podcast itself is informative, light, funny, and so very interesting.

Treat Yourself

  • If you DO go to Trader Joe’s, buy yourselves some flowers. Seriously. They’re crazy cheap and so beautiful.

Jewelry

  • This Kendra Scott Jack Bright Mix bracelet was my Valentine gift from Greg. Technically, I bought it for myself. But technically, he really wanted to get it for me for Christmas, but it was sold out for months, and he told me if it ever came back in stock he still wanted me to have it. So, I checked every single day when I woke up and finally it was there, so to my cart it went! I love it. ūüôā And actually, at this exact moment, it is once again available online. I had this bracelet on the Rainbow Christmas gift guide I did way back in November and was kicking myself for not just buying it because I wanted it so badly. I’m glad I was able to snag one before they’re gone for good.
  • In terms of bracelets in general, though, Kendra Scott has some really great ones. They’re such good quality too. I’m not as impressed by the necklaces – mostly because they’re super short and look stupid on me. But I love the bracelets. My favorite style is the Elaina. I have it in a couple of different colors and they’re so understated but beautiful. My favorite is a Kyocera opal that matches everything.

Read

  • The Hating Game by Sally Thorne is one of my all time favorite romantic comedies of a book. It’s just so FUN. I’ve been dying to reread it, but I’ve been saving it up for today – a special Valentine’s Day treat to myself. You should read it too if you haven’t. Such a great read.

Write

  • I have a slight addiction to personalized journals from Minted.com. It’s possible I’ve written about these before, but I’m too lazy to go back and look. I love a good notebook, though, and Minted seems to always be adding new styles. This is what I did for teacher Valentine gifts this year. And Shepard was so fascinated by them that I let him pick out and customize two last night as a birthday present for himself. He’s super excited about them. I of course also added on another rainbow notebook for myself since I was already placing an order!

I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day! Even if you don’t have a significant other (or if yours is sick and totally out of it like mine), do something to make the day a little more special for yourself. You deserve it.

General Reflections on the Last Few Weeks

Life has been really hard lately. I keep alternating between feeling desperate for more time to myself and extremely lonely. I have this constant emotional war going on in my mind that I don’t think anybody understands, myself included. But I’m pretty sure it keeps circling back to one or the other as the base problem.

In a normal school year, I should have four, sometimes five, days a week to myself. A solid seven hour chunk every day to work, run errands, prep food, read, rest, and recharge so I’m ready to emotionally deal with the rest of the night. This last month? Between school holidays, sick kids, and bad weather, I’ve had zero or one day, every single week. And it’s killing me. It’s felt like those three months of summer where every single day whittles me down to the point I’m honestly not even sure I’m going to survive to the end. Except in summer everyone has the option to play outside, go on walks, see friends, go to the pool, find ways to occupy themselves in locations other than the walls of this house. And I’m not REALLY placing the blame for my emotional distress on my family members, not really. But I can’t explain how I’m feeling without immediately offending them. And without thinking there is surely something wrong with me because MOST PEOPLE do not have four days a week to be alone! I always fall into the trap of belief that my issues are not valid because I’m coming from a place of privilege to begin with. I don’t feel like I’m allowed to have these feelings, which makes the problem that much more intense and that much more hopeless.

I think what bothers me so much about having people around ALL THE TIME is that there are so many expectations on me, with none of the connection. I need to make food for everyone alllllllllll the time. Preparing and cleaning up after those meals takes huge chunks of time as well. I will be the first to admit that I do very little of the major house cleaning in this family, but I AM responsible for all the daily upkeep, which is that much more stressful when four people are contributing to the messes all day long. It leaves me with very little time or energy left to do the other things I need, or especially want, to do.

I’ve thought many times over the years that video games have basically been the worst thing to ever happen to us. But how could we deny them to our kids when it’s something Greg has always loved so much? I wish we could go back and do things a little differently because it’s nearly impossible to change their expectations and demands at this point in time. What annoys me so much isn’t even the games, but the stupid youtube videos. When my kids are home, that’s basically all I ever hear. They do have pretty strict screen time rules during the week, but Caden’s gotten around them by going on the treadmill for three hours every night (NOT an exaggeration) so he can keep watching his videos while he walks. What used to be a safe haven – my beautiful living room – is now filled with that awful obnoxious noise all the time. It makes me feel trapped and overwhelmed, especially because of how much my kids like to bully me into more screen time until I finally give in – or they just start watching anyway because I don’t know how to stop them. Ever since Christmas break when Caden was fully determined to destroy every single day before we even left the house, I’ve had very little fight left in me. The behavior challenges we’ve had with him his whole life only seem to be getting worse. And the more I feel like a failure as a parent, the less I want to try to be a better one. I resent how he makes me feel, I resent how many things he’s ruined, and that resentment has seeped into how I feel about everyone else. I’m sick of trying and I just want to be alone.

That’s probably a little more honesty than I should share. I try not to talk too in depth about our parenting problems these days because he’s very aware of this blog and could access it if he wanted to. But…that’s my truth right now, so I’m keeping it in.

All that aside, I’m also feeling very lonely. When life feels so hard, I’m like most people and would rather hide away than find positive ways to deal with it. I was determined to get past the overwhelming sadness Christmas break brought and immediately planned a coffee morning with my friends at the start of the month. But only one person showed – and I’m certainly not mad at the people who couldn’t come, they had valid reasons! But it also made me feel like maybe I don’t want to keep trying to organize things. It frustrates me so much that the only way I ever see anybody is if I organize it. Is it because everyone else is just too busy? Is it because they’re really not that interested in hanging out with ME? I somehow keep expecting friendship to get easier and it only gets a million times harder. Where are the people who long for deeper connection? Where are the people who will immediately say yes to something without making me feel like I’ve only made their lives harder? Where are the people I can count on to show up and actually care about me and respect my feelings? Where are the people who want to just do life together and not reinforce the idea that I AM a bad mom or person because of the way things are going right now? I’m honestly ready to put some sort of personal ad out online because SURELY those people must exist. They exist in my facebook groups! They exist online. But in real life? Why can’t I find them?

Anyway. That’s basically how my January has gone. I’ve been keeping my mouth shut, my head down, working a lot, reading a lot, cooking a lot. Trying to make sense of what’s going on in my heart and my brain. Hiding.

Greg and I did get away for a night in Milwaukee to celebrate our 20th anniversary of being together. It was kind of a stressful situation because Shepard had some type of influenza that entire week and we weren’t sure if we should leave him and we weren’t sure if we’d catch it and that would ruin the trip anyway. So we compromised and cut our two nights into one – also because we were expecting a huge snowfall the second night and didn’t want to drive home in that mess.

The trip itself was really nice. We had lunch at a really cool taco place and then went to the Milwaukee Art Museum to see the photography exhibit that was featuring a photo of my grandpa in his barber shop. Then we relaxed at the hotel for a few hours before heading out to a cool restaurant across the street. We ended the night rushing through the super cold streets of Milwaukee to see a Doughboys Podcast Live. It’s Greg’s favorite podcast and I usually only listen when we’re in the car alone together (rare!), but I really enjoyed the show. It was so funny! We finished the trip walking around Milwaukee Public Market and having a huge brunch at the cutest European cafe. The whole trip was a great reminder that we can still laugh and have fun together. But it also ended with a reminder that kids are always on the back of our minds, as we struggled with whether or not we should come home even earlier in order to meet Caden after school and let him stay with us (while a fevered Shepard was still with Grandma). Nobody was even supposed to know we were coming home early to avoid that ever present sense of parental duty, but there were some communication mix ups that really ended the trip on a sour note.

The boys had off of school on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It was the first day Shepard was finally feeling better (though he doesn’t look it!), so I was determined to make the most of it and take them out for lunch and Starbucks. But if we were already going to be in Sun Prairie it made sense to me to also get some groceries, which is NEVER a good idea with kids in tow. At least MY kids. Or…KID. They weren’t being naughty, exactly, just…made the whole trip very stressful. And not at all fun because all they wanted was to rush through the food and go back home to their games. Just like every time I try and do something special to connect with them, it falls flat. I was also supposed to take Caden out for a lunch yesterday, but he is a master of self sabotage, so that fell through too.

I’ve still been cooking, a lot. Using my air fryer every day! I’m trying to keep reminding myself that eating good food is part of nourishing myself and should be my number one priority. But I’m really losing steam. Mainly because I’m not losing any weight. I lost 10 pounds right away last fall when I started making changes, and then absolutely nothing in the last two months. It’s really frustrating. I’m not trying to FOCUS on the weight loss, but it also seems like with how many beloved foods I gave up, I should really be having some accompanying loss!! As you can see from this photo I’m not exactly eating salads every day (lol), but I’m still almost entirely gluten free, no processed snack foods, no desserts unless they’re also gluten free/low sugar, a lot more fruits and vegetables than I used to eat. I’m not trying crazy hard to eat perfectly, just avoiding the things that will most harm my liver. So I guess it’s to be expected that the weight isn’t falling off. But I’m still discouraged!

In happier news, I finally reopened my shop the other day after a six or seven week break! I had 20 new dolls and sold 12 of them so far. I’d like to really keep the momentum going with a couple new batches listed a week, but this week when I’ve been so obsessed with work again has really reminded me how much falls to the wayside when I prioritize that. And I’m not sure I’m in a great place at the moment to just work all the time again. I need better balance. So…we’ll see what happens. At any rate, it’s nice to be making some money again! And just creating in general. I love it.

So that’s what’s been going on with me lately. I’ve been tempted to just stop writing until I get my stuff figured out, but writing is what helps me, even if nobody is interested in reading this depressing update on my life! I’m trying to figure it out.

Word of the Year: NOURISH

There is so much pressure at this time of the year to set intentions and make big goals. And normally, I’m all about that! I set goals for myself every single month because I find that thinking about them in such short chunks really helps me make better choices in my daily life, and reflecting on them at the end of the month helps me learn how to do better the next month. It’s been a good system for me. At least, it’s felt like a good system, until the end of the year when I was mulling over 2019 and realized I spent almost every single day feeling stressed out and unworthy of rest, unworthy of joy, unworthy of peace because I was never DOING ENOUGH. Even though DOING was all I lived for. It’s a hard way to exist, never ever feeling like you’re enough. And honestly, I’m tired of it. I want this year to be different.

I’ve also come to the conclusion in this past year that I am only being negatively influenced by all the motivational messages on social media. Every time someone tries to “encourage” me to be better, it feels like another slap in the face, telling me I’m not enough. There’s such an intense pressure out there in the entrepreneurial world telling you that you always need to be growing, you always need to be doing something to be better, you can never just sit still and enjoy the life you’ve already made. For me personally, this trap really hit home a few years ago when the boys both started school full time and I felt this incessant need to prove myself and my worth, constantly searching for more accomplishments I could show off to defend why I’m still a “stay at home mom” with no kids in the house during the day – something that is definitely no longer the norm. And despite my best efforts, despite a business I did create from scratch and run successfully, I think I’m always going to struggle with people thinking less of me. I’ve been an overachiever my entire life, and it’s really dang hard to stop letting my accomplishments define who I am. But I want to make that shift this year. I want TO focus on WHO I AM, rather than what I can do.

I’ll tell you a little bit more about it tomorrow in my Favorite Things post, but I’ve been working through a goal tracking planner this past week and it’s really helped me to focus on what I want to do differently this year to enjoy my life and be a happier person. Ironically, it made me realize that I don’t really want to live by the goals of accomplishments anymore. I DID make goals, but they all center more around ways of living versus actual things I aim to accomplish, so I’ve decided not to share them publicly this year. Sharing means I’ll have to eventually own up to achieving or not, and I don’t need that pending sense of failure on my mind. I might go back to making some lighter monthly goals in February, because it IS fun to make doable and enjoyable goals that will pull me out of the drudgery. But for January, I’m taking a step back from all the doing to focus more on just being.

I’ve never picked a word of the year before. I’ve loved the idea, but there are just so many great words out there to live by, how do you narrow it down? Well, for me, it was really obvious what I needed this year. To focus on my health and wellbeing. And “health” is not an actionable or very exciting word, so I went with NOURISH. It fully encompasses everything I want and need to focus on right now. I want to nourish my body with healthy and wholesome foods. I want to nourish my physical strength through movement and exercise. I want to nourish my brain through life-giving books and meditation. I want to nourish my relationships with the people in my life I never want to lose. I want to nourish my heart with joyful activities. I want every decision I make to be filtered through the lens of nourishment. If it’s not good for me, it’s a no. If it will feed any part of who I am with a positive outcome, I’m going to say yes. I’m hoping that there really won’t be a lot of gray areas. I know what’s good for me, and I have permission to take those things I need. It’s a good word and I’m really happy with it.

I’m really excited about the year ahead. I want to be happy again. I want to be whole. And I want to be a lot healthier, in every sense of the word. And unlike every year before this, I feel ready to actually do the work to become the person I want to be.

Happy new year!

A Brief Look at 2019

When I reflect on this past year, a whole lot of negative emotions flood my mind. This was a hard year. I spent so much of it feeling behind, overwhelmed, stressed out, resentful, misunderstood, ignored, confused, and helpless. I think I’ve been having a bit of an identity crisis about what I’m “supposed to be doing” with my life and it’s taken up so much of my mental energy, leaving me with very little left for everybody and everything else. I’m also still in constant pain from my ankle and on again off again plantar fasciitis, perpetually leaving me with such a desire to change my life while being so frustrated with my physical limitations. I feel like a failure as a parent every single time one of my kids has a meltdown or is disrespectful (so, basically every day), and I’ve been pulling back and hiding, rather than finding successful ways to deal with our problems. I have been driven by my own personal agenda and to do lists above all else at almost every moment of every day, never prioritizing the people around me, and almost never having any FUN. Most of 2019’s negativity stems from my own internal struggles, and honestly – I don’t really want to think about it anymore. I want to move on. 2020 is going to be better, I am going to change, and I’m going to put this year behind me.

The best part of 2019 is that I managed to do a lot of travel! Which, to be honest, is also the reason I always felt so behind – because taking four to five weeks away from a business you run on your own really does put you behind. There’s no way around it. But after not being able to do much at all in 2018 thanks to my ankle, it was fun to make up for it this year. In February we took a drive to Omaha to visit my brother and family, which was really fun – except for the WORST DRIVE OF ALL TIME coming home in a major snowstorm on unplowed icy roads. Later in February we went to Florida with Greg’s parents for Universal Studios and Harry Potter World over Shepard’s 8th birthday. In May, Greg and I went to Colorado to celebrate our 13th anniversary. It was more beautiful than I could have imagined, and I really enjoyed seeing a part of the country that was new to both of us. In July I took the boys on a mini vacation to a hotel a few hours north, just the three of us. It’s always an interesting and more bonding dynamic when Greg isn’t with us and our kids actually transfer some of their interest to me. We had a good time. In August I went to Texas for the first time, spending half my days at a resort for Book Bonanza and half the time wandering around Dallas in extreme heat. I loved Book Bonanza, I thought the Dallas Farmers Market was the best I’ve ever been to, but I could definitely do without ever seeing Texas in August again. And in November I took another solo trip to North Carolina, spending half the time at my first Hope Writers conference and half the time driving across the state to stay at a relaxing beachside hotel. It was quite the fortunate year, taking FOUR huge vacations, requiring flights across the country and seeing a lot of new places. I cherish the years like this, when we have the opportunity and freedom to choose the trips we want to take, without a lot of limiting factors.

It’s taken me a long time to work through my bitterness and hurt, but I’ve come to the realization this year that I don’t need to let people have the power to hurt me anymore. There are a handful of people in my life – friends, not family – that I’ve given way too much power to and I’m taking it back. I’m distancing myself from the people that flat out ignore the ways I’ve tried to connect with them, the ones that cancel all the plans we make – or just plain don’t show when they promised they would. It’s not worth it. I have other friends who DO show up, who DO care about me, who DON’T diminish the value of female friendship. I’ve learned – and will continue to work on – stepping back from the harmful relationships and focusing on the ones that only bring joy and connection to my life. I think one of the greatest things I’ve done this year is having the occasional coffee morning at my house. It’s something easy that people can do to come together and connect. It’s even spurred some of them on to start issuing their own invites. This group of friends, we used to do so much together when our kids were toddlers and preschoolers. Then life got crazy and we lost our way. And now we’re getting it back. We’re all giving each other what we can in the ways that work out best in this season of life.

This past year has also been a health related rollercoaster. In October 2018 I was diagnosed with fatty liver and told I needed to lose weight. So that’s what I focused on and it sucked. I felt deprived and hungry all the time, but I DID lose some weight. But then in January my uncle died. And helping to clean out his apartment and seeing the physical evidence of what it looks like to die alone with mental illness was honestly really, really traumatic. And I’m not blaming my weight gained back on that, but it was a catalyst for going back to my well known lifestyle of emotional eating. I stopped caring. I REALLY stopped caring during the summer when every day felt like just another battle and I was living in survival mode. And then in September when I got my freedom back and could go to ANY RESTAURANTS AT ANY TIME and totally went overboard. Which resulted in my next annual visit in October weighing more than ever, a referral to a different doctor, the scare of having an incurable autoimmune hepatitis diagnosis, a liver biopsy to confirm it’s – so far – only fatty liver, which all led to the conclusion that I NEED TO CHANGE MY LIFE. Yes, losing weight would really help. But I’m not focusing on that because that’s an end goal. That’s a conclusion that I would maybe eventually reach and then decide I didn’t need to make those choices anymore. So it’s been a huge learning curve with a ton of overactive emotions, but I AM changing. I’m doing the work to be a different person in how I eat, how I cook, how I shop, and how I deal with all my mental stuff in a healthier way than eating chips and chocolate. It’s only the beginning, and this past week around the holidays has been a bit murky. But I honestly and truly feel great about making these changes. Not deprived. Not hangry. Not depressed. But good. Hopeful. I’m nourishing myself and learning how to better nourish my family so they don’t end up on the same path as me. All that sucky stuff was exactly what I needed to change my lifestyle.

The biggest issue that plagued me this year was where to devote the bulk of my daytime hours and what career direction was right for me. I thought I could make it work being both a doll maker and working toward being a paid writer. I assume most writers don’t have the luxury of devoting all their time to writing at the beginning – they still need to get paid. But I’d guess that a lot of new writers are not also trying to run a totally different creative business completely on their own. The lack of boundaries in my life and constant pull between one or the other, never feeling like I could give enough to either (or ANYTHING in my life) – it was too much. I was briefly wooed by the writing life at my Hope Writers conference. I definitely do not regret going, but I’ve also come to realize in the two months since that I don’t think that particular community is for me. At least not now. I’ve also had a bit of an epiphany in the last couple of days as I continue to mull this all over. I don’t actually want to be a working writer. I mean, yeah, writing a book and having that sense of accomplishment would be AMAZING. But the minute I started focusing my blog posts and instagram posts for “my reader” I became paralyzed with anxiety. I don’t WANT to focus all of my posts toward other people. I don’t want to schedule my social media updates. I don’t want to network with other people. I don’t want to devote time every day just trying to build my platform. I don’t want to constantly be hunting down ways to bring in money for my words, always wondering if what I have to say is worth anything. I just want TO WRITE. For ME. I love to write, I’ve always loved to write, and I believe I always will. But my biggest purpose in writing is simply to figure out my own thoughts. It’s my therapy, my cathartic release, the only way I can move past most of the things that happen to me. I do like writing a lot of those feelings in this public space in the hopes that I will make connections with a handful of people and maybe someone will read about my messy life and know that they’re not alone in theirs. But this doesn’t need to be my career path. It can just be something I really like to do.

It feels like a huge relief to come to that conclusion at the end of this confusing and stressful year. I am a doll maker. I’m a pretty good one too. It’s a weird career, and one that most people don’t understand or think is just some cute little hobby to keep a homemaker busy. Sometimes it’s easy for my own thoughts to lean in that direction as well because I don’t get a lot of validation for my work in the real world. But I’m proud of what I’ve built and I’m excited to continue it with a stronger sense of direction and purpose in the coming year. I’ll still write. I’ll still read. I’ll still cook. I’ll still be a wife and a mom and a friend. I can be it all without needing to profit from it. My profit will come in the form of a connected, well balanced, creative, and joy filled life.

And that’s all I have to say about 2019! I’ll be back soon with my READING reflections on the year, something I’m much more excited to share!

Weekend Reflections and Intentions (x 2) 12.01.2019

I have two weeks of recaps to run through today! I’ll try to stick with the highlights. Like this bread (lol). My neighbor gave me the recipe of this gluten free bread she loves to make – as well as a couple of slices. It was really delicious! I never would have guessed it was gluten free. So I bought the supplies and made my own loaf. It turned out perfectly! Unfortunately, the second day, after eating a few pieces for breakfast, I did NOT feel well. I was having pretty intense stomach pains and the only thing I could think of was that it was the bread. So I waited two full days until I felt fully better and then ate it again – a glutton for punishment. But I didn’t have the same symptoms, so it’s a mystery. I’m a bit hesitant to make it again, but I’m sure I will! Though I’m also trying to put my focus more on actual whole grain breads, since those are what’s best for my liver. I’m still not very clear on if gluten free flours are actually whole grains, or just NOT gluten. And gluten’s not my issue, the WHITE refined flour is.

One of my only real work related accomplishments this month was curating six beautiful themed “gift baskets.” I had SO much fun doing it. Plus it justified all my many TJMaxx random purchases! I sold four of them right away, but the other two are still currently available! ūüôā If I had all the time and space and the right customer base who was ready to spend tons of money on such things, I’d make gift collections like this for a living. SO much fun.

I had a sign painting party! I was really excited about hosting it, but then was a bit overwhelmed that I had to keep nagging people and practically begging for more participants. I don’t like feeling like I’m forcing people to do something! But we met the required 9 sign ups (plus one extra at the last minute!) – whew! And it was such a great evening!! I prepped a big cheese tray and flourless chocolate cake and then we all gathered for painting and conversation. I’m not sure I’d ever want to host again, but I’m still addicted to the creating part!

This is the sign I did. I painted it exactly like the example because I loved the color combination so much.

I was feeling a bit blue by this long and melancholy month that really felt nothing like FALL, so I decided to go ahead and swap out my Christmas mugs a few weeks early. They bring me so much joy!

My food adventures continued with a loaf of grainy bread and my favorite granola recipe. The bread was just okay. The flax seed made it taste very…healthy. It wasn’t awful, but I don’t think I’d make it again when I can buy a loaf of pretty healthy whole grain bread at the store that tastes a whole lot better. The granola recipe is delicious, but also not the healthiest. But I swapped the original pecans for red walnuts, which are supposedly the healthiest of walnuts and best nuts for people with liver disease.

Last Saturday was Caden’s Lego League competition. It started at 7:30 in the morning and went until after 5 at night. Greg and Caden were there from the start and Shepard and I went with the grandparents a few hours later. It was a really long and emotionally draining day for him. But I’m proud of him for sticking with it, despite how frustrating it sometimes was. He was going through a lot of mixed emotions throughout the day because he didn’t want to do well enough that they moved on to sectionals – he wanted to be DONE. But he also really, really, really hates not being great and getting recognition for things, so he was upset at the same time that they weren’t doing amazing or won any awards. But overall, they got in about the top 40% of the 38 teams there, which is pretty great considering they only had three members, they were all fifth graders (it went up to eighth grade), and it was their first year competing.

On Sunday, I had SO many things to catch up on. I was really feeling the impending deadline of BLACK FRIDAY and desperately needing a larger inventory so I could have a sale. I barely sewed at all this month between my vacation and liver biopsy related stuff and hosting and attending various get togethers. I had a pretty good plan for the day, but also made the suggestion that maybe we could bring the tree upstairs and get a start on it since Thanksgiving was so late this year. Greg proceeded to bring up every single Christmas decoration we had, giving me no choice but to ditch my agenda and spend the entire day swapping out decorations and setting up trees. Once it was done, I was thankful to have done it and to have done it early (it certainly made this past weekend so much more relaxing!). But at the time, I was basically on the brink of hysteria. I don’t like my agendas being messed with. I couldn’t have done anything I had planned anyway because every surface was covered in Christmas stuff! Anyway, for the record, I am thankful Greg made us power through and was quite helpful with the setup – not to mention carrying all those boxes and trees up and down our precarious basement steps so many times. But it was a stressful day.

By the end of the night I had the living room completely done. Greg set up the family room tree on his own, though I guess I haven’t taken a photo of that one yet. But we got enough done that all the boxes could go back down and I could sigh in relief!

On Monday I had a ton of errands to run. I knew I was going to be out the entire day, so I made a plan to go to this new restaurant Ancho and Agave that opened last month. It’s in Middleton, so I’m not there very often and didn’t know when I’d next have a chance. Anyway, the restaurant was really cute and the food was delicious! I loved all of it except the pork taco, which was cold by the time I ate it and kind of fatty. But I was so full by that point it didn’t really matter. I’d definitely go back. I like that I made myself go to a really tasty sit down restaurant rather than just grabbing something fast and terrible for me, the way that I used to do on long shopping days.

On Tuesday I set up my treat box for the delivery drivers! I’m so glad I saw this idea online a few years ago because I always feel guilty for how many packages I get. At least I can feel a little better by giving them treats the last five or six weeks of the year! Though I think it’s kind of funny that I decided to put pretzels and popcorn in the box to start, thinking maybe the delivery drivers would like slightly healthier options than chips. Nope! The only things taken all week were the Little Debbies and Oreos. I’ll pick out some different things when I get to Costco this week. (For the record, right after I wrote this paragraph a FedEx driver dropped off a package. Earlier today a USPS woman brought a pile of packages. So apparently it no longer matters that it’s Sunday, they’re still out working.)

On Tuesday I finished up a couple more Christmas dolls and then made a squash curry soup for our at home date night. I got the inspiration from Antoni on an episode of Queer¬†Eye, but didn’t follow any specific recipe. I just roasted butternut squash, onions, and garlic with curry seasoning, salt, and cumin in the oven for awhile, then mixed it in the blender with chicken bone broth, put it back on the stove to simmer with a little bit of heavy cream, and then topped it with a teeny swirl of sour cream and cilantro. Anyway, Greg and I are not typical squash eaters, but we both loved the soup. I’m actually just really not a soup eater, but it’s kind of blowing my mind how easy and healthy it is to whip up something from scratch without a recipe, so it’s turning into a weekly occurrence.

Wednesday was more of a kitchen FAIL day. My only assignments for Thanksgiving dinner were to make rolls and one dessert. My favorite part of Thanksgiving meals are just eating little turkey sandwiches dipped in gravy – I’m not such a fan of all the traditional sides. So I wanted to make something I could eat without feeling guilty and chose a honey wheat recipe that looked fool proof. I also made some honey butter rolled Parker house buns, but it only made 12 and we were going to have 10 people there and I assumed most of them would want the white option. So then I decided to make a cranberry walnut loaf of bread with an 18 hour rise time – but with wheat flour instead. I finally moved on to the pecan pie cheesecake, only to forget to add the heavy cream at the end – which I had poured into the measuring cup, but for some reason didn’t add to the cheesecake! I think it turned out fine without it, but of course I didn’t know that until the next night when we ate it! Meanwhile, Greg came home and asked if he could have a wheat bun. He took a bite and said “Is this from a bad batch?” And then I burst into tears and immediately started hunting down other recipes. I proceeded to spend the entire night making pretzel buns – very untraditional, but also the only rolls I never mess up – and a new beer cheese roll recipe. And of course during all this I was also trying each roll, even though I shouldn’t be eating three of them, but I needed to make sure they were servable. What sounded like a pretty easy baking assignment this year turned into twelve solid hours in the kitchen with the only thing that seemed to really work being pretzel buns, and I was kind of a wreck by the end of it. I baked the cranberry walnut bread in the morning, but decided not to bring it with me. (This is my all time favorite kind of bread and changing it to wheat was a sad disappointment. I’ve still been eating a slice for breakfast every day, but it’s definitely not the same!) In the end, I realized that everyone else really just wants to eat the sides and after sitting on the counter untouched for the last few days, I dumped them all last night. What a waste of my emotional energy! Remind me next year to just make pretzel buns and be done with it. ūüėõ Or just BUY SOME. Caden and I are very similar in this regard (and a lot of things) – I want to be really great at everything I do, and I am not great at roll making. I should stick with desserts because I’m actually good at that.

Thanksgiving Day was really nice! I took Annie to the dog park in the morning – our tradition. Then we took our Christmas card photos by the tree. The boys would only cooperate for two rounds of 10 shot photos, but we actually got a really nice one right away. I was able to order cards for super cheap on Friday.

We spent the rest of the day at the in-law’s, just relaxing and eating! I was mostly reading because my brain couldn’t handle playing board games like everyone else. The food was delicious, as always! I tried my mom’s sweet potato casserole for the first time this year and am mad at how many years I was missing out on something so delicious! The cheesecake also tasted great, though as usual I seemed to be the only one actually interested in dessert because I don’t go crazy overboard during the meal. Overall, it was a really nice day together with family.

Earlier in the week I had a great idea to solve my lack of new inventory Black Friday problem. PRE-ORDERS. Every year I get so many people asking me for ornament sized dolls and every year people are disappointed if they didn’t get one. So I had the grand idea to offer pre-orders this year, rather than a discount. And I think it worked out perfectly! I ended up with 18 doll orders. Enough to feel very successful, but not so many that I’m crazy overwhelmed by it. And it hopefully made everyone happy! On Saturday I offered a 20% off sale that was supposed to end at midnight, but is still running today, apparently. Oh well. There might be one last slightly better deal tomorrow for Cyber Monday. My hope is that I’ll make enough sales this weekend that the pressure will be off to produce a ton more new dolls in December.

On Friday afternoon I met my in-laws at the theater and we saw A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It was a really great movie!

On Friday night we went to Columbus’ Christmas parade, like we always do. It seemed slightly bigger this year! The weather wasn’t too bad and it was a fun time. Our neighbor friends came with us.

Yesterday was a fairly relaxed day. I have a zillion different things I should be doing, but I’m trying to force myself to let it go and just do what I want to do on weekends. I recently finished reading a book about managing and reversing liver disease and one of the biggest factors in diseases starting up or not getting better is actually just plain stress. And I’m stressed ALL. THE. TIME. And most of that stress is self-inflicted. I HAVE CONTROL. The problem is that I’m very controlling of myself and my time and I think it’s maybe destroying me. I need to let loose more often. Or…just do nothing.

I did participate in the local wine/soda walk yesterday with my friend Laura. It was so much fun! We were mostly interested in just checking out the fun little gift shops around town and spending a few hours hanging out. I purchased a few little items at every store, making me feel like a great Small Business Saturday shopper! ūüôā It was a really enjoyable event.

And now it’s December! Twinkle the Elf made a re-appearance. All week long the boys have been talking about how they can’t wait for him to come and bring donuts. With all these new healthy mindset thoughts CONSTANTLY on my brain, I had a tough time buying these donuts for them. But it’s apparently one of their all time favorite traditions, so it needed to happen. We also got to open day one on our five advent calenders! Greg surprised me with a hot sauce advent! Jack was very jealous of Annie’s calendar, so we had to bring over a bag of cat treats so he can get something every day too.

Shepard and I set up my last little rainbow Christmas tree this morning, so now we’re officially decorated. The rest of the day has just been very chill! I wrapped up orders, made a pizza, and took my first nap in ages. I’d like to get a jump on my pre-order dolls tonight, but we’ll see how I’m feeling. I need to meal plan too.

Sunday Intentions

I think it’ll be a pretty low key week! Annie has a grooming appointment tomorrow, so I’m hoping to really devote the whole day to sewing. Tuesday will be errands. Wednesday more sewing. Thursday sewing and cleaning. And Friday prepping for my Favorite Things Party that night! Friday’s also St. Nick’s Day. It should actually be a pretty great week.

My biggest goal for the week is to get to Friday and feel prepared. I still have no clue what St. Nick might be bringing everyone this year. I also need to gather and wrap my favorite things for the party. I don’t want to spend Friday feeling like a crazy person trying to get everything cleaned and set up last minute, the way that I did before my sign painting party. If I can stay on track all week doing little things here and there, it should all go smoothly without too much stress.

My other goal this week is to go through a stack of cookbooks I bought about a month ago and haven’t even opened yet. I want some serious inspiration AND A PLAN for cooking whole and delicious foods this month. I want to be prepared so we’re not resorting to frozen meals. They’re fine every once in awhile, but I want to really focus on feeding myself and my family nourishing food at home to counteract all the other things we’ll be eating when we’re out of the house around Christmas. Balance!

Anyway, no meal plan yet since I’m hoping to go through a cookbook yet tonight. But first – treadmill time!

Have a good week and happy December!

A Solo Trip to North Carolina

Late last night I arrived back home after six wonderful days in North Carolina. I was apprehensive about this trip from the beginning – was it too self indulgent to go on a second major solo vacation this year, after my trip to Book Bonanza in Dallas in August, plus also having already been on two major family/couple vacations earlier in the year to Florida and Colorado? Was it selfish to insist on doing another thing that only benefited me and made life a lot trickier for everyone else in my family? And in the most recent months, was it worth risking my wavering mental health to go to a conference that could very well just end up making me feel worse about myself by not spending more time on this thing I supposedly love so much? Between just LIFE stuff, being so behind on Heartstring Annie, and now all the uncertainty with my liver and needing to completely upheave my entire lifestyle…the CONFERENCE aspect of this trip felt overwhelming. But I couldn’t exactly back out of it at that point, so I decided to trust that I made the right decision way back last spring when I told Greg that I needed to make this investment in myself. And honestly? I think this might have been one of the best things I have ever done for myself and I don’t regret a minute of it.

I’d like to write more about what I learned at the conference after I’ve had a few more days to collect my thoughts and process all of the encouragement and new ideas I was given. Tonight I’ll just tell you a little bit about the trip itself!

I had a pretty early flight on Thursday morning – but out of Madison! I never fly out of Madison! So the boys slept over at Grandma’s and Greg dropped me off at the airport bright and early. Well, technically it was still dark, so not bright. And the roads to Madison were sheer ice after yet another snowstorm the day before. WHY is it snowing so much and already so cold in early November?! Anyway, I made my way to Charlotte without any issues until I picked my rental “car” that was supposed to be in the same class/size as the cars I own and am used to driving. I was instead given a Jeep Compass. Which I guess compared to other vehicles, is really not THAT big. But it was a whole lot bigger than what I’m used to driving. Plus, MY car is 17 years old. I am so not used to driving newer vehicles with all their bells and whistles. It was a pretty stressful start, especially because I could not for the life of me figure out how to connect the GPS from my phone to the vehicle, or find any kind of navigation system on the vehicle alone. Trying to drive a huge vehicle in heavy traffic while also holding my oversized phone in one hand in a city I’ve never been to before – it was rough. My phone wasn’t even verbally giving me any of the directions and at one point when getting on a highway it fell under the seat! Fun times, you guys.

Alas, I made it to my first destination! Superica – the restaurant owned by the author of Tex Mex, my all time favorite cookbook that came out earlier this year. I realized after eating there that I should have asked how they pronounce the name of the place. All this time I’ve been calling it in my head “super-ICA,” and realized later it’s probably supposed to be more like “soup-erica”, like “America.” It just seems like I should maybe know how to properly pronounce the name of the restaurant I was most excited about eating at! Anyway, the place was huge and really fun! They gave me a ton of chips with two salsas – the smoky verde was delicious. (I believe the recipe is in the cookbook!) I ordered a combo from the lunch menu of chicken tortilla soup and chicken suiza enchilada. Oh, and the seasonal aqua fresca – pineapple/banana/mango/ginger. It was a ton of food! But very delicious.

I had a long list of unique shops and areas that I wanted to hit up on the trip. But after the stress of just getting from the airport to the first restaurant, I knew very quickly I didn’t want to put that kind of pressure on myself. So I looked up the one place that sounded most intriguing – a gift store called Paper Skyscraper – and realized it was only a few blocks away, so I put more money in the meter and booked it over there. The store was so amazing! One of the best gift shops I’ve ever been to. I purchased a rainbow heart mug (based off of a graffiti mural of the same thing that I didn’t find out about until days later and was SO ANNOYED to learn was actually just on the other side of the block from Superica!), a really cute Christmas mug, and a Christmas in Carolina candle. All of which were added to the very large box of things I bought on the trip and shipped back home to myself and will hopefully arrive in one piece!! I probably could have stayed for hours in that store, but I didn’t give myself a ton of time (ran out of change! forgot how slow I walk!) and needed to get back.

My next stop was my hotel where I was thankfully able to check in an hour early and take a short nap. I had planned on getting a quick dinner or coffee before the conference started at six, but chose the extra time to rest instead. Then I headed out to register and find my seat at the conference! The whole thing took place at a large church and there were 450 attendees, though it honestly didn’t feel like that many. We jumped right in with a short performance by Arielle Estoria and then our first session on the six writing stages Hope*Writers has come up with. It was a great start to my learning!

Afterward I was pretty keyed up – and hungry – so I found a Cava. I love Cava so much. I get it every time I go to DC. I wish they’d come to the midwest! I just get a pita with harissa, chicken, diced cucumber, and lemon dill tahini, but it’s just so dang good. I haven’t been able to replicate it at home with the same quality. It was a great treat after the long day. I also stopped at a grocery store before driving back to the hotel in the pitch black pouring rain (that was fun). I LOVE hitting up grocery stores when I visit new areas of the country. Normally I’m on the lookout for unique flavors of chips and cool snacks, though now I’m mostly interested in local products and coffee.

Friday was a full conference day. It was a bit overwhelming, but so awesome.

At the lunch break I went to a place called Emmet’s Social Table, one of the founder’s favorite restaurants. It was cute, but I was hit with my new constant predicament of what can I eat? All this liver stuff I have going on right now is very confusing. I have a general idea of what I should be avoiding, but I’m not so clear on what exact substitutions I should be making. Normally eating out is my favorite part of every vacation, but was really just a huge source of stress this time around. My meals were sporadic and not the most enjoyable. I figured at this lunch I could have a “splurge meal” and immediately regretted the decision. It was my first time (okay, so I did have a pita the night before) in weeks eating white bread and potatoes and fried items. It was all good, but also just made me feel like crap. And made me really, really wish I liked salads. I was trying to make BETTER choices at every place I went, but choosing the BEST options was never really on the table for me (yet). It’s too depressing.

The afternoon portion of the conference was really great as well, but I was so tired and just overloaded with information by the end. There was an optional/encouraged night out at The Nester’s barn with food trucks and a bonfire and fellowship with other hope writers. But it was also a 45 minute drive each way, in the country, in the dark. I wasn’t comfortable yet with my Jeep, was not super interested in having more awkward conversations with strangers no matter how nice they might be, and just needed to rest my brain for a bit. So I didn’t go to that part and really don’t have any regrets. Before going back to the hotel, though, I stopped at a place called Viva Chicken and had a Peruvian Tacu Bowl. The photo is before I loaded it up with an amazing spicy sauce. It was very tasty. (But I shouldn’t have been eating the rice.)

Three food photos in a row! That’s really all I took pictures of on the trip… Saturday morning I was back at the conference for the final day. I went to a place called Sabor Latin Street Grill for lunch and had two chicken authentic tacos with chips and a bunch of salsas from their salsa bar. It was my cheapest and simplest meal, but it was really delicious.

I forgot to mention that on Friday night I made the leap and JOINED Hope*Writers. The conference was open to anyone, but the majority of attendees were actually already hope writers. I am proud to say I am now one too! I’ll have opportunities to learn every week with fresh teachings, plus access to all the archives. I can also connect in smaller hope circles with other members to spur each other on and achieve our goals together. I haven’t had a chance to do much besides just sign up yet, but it’s one of my top priorities in the next few weeks. Another investment in myself that I hope will also be the right decision.

The conference ended around three and then I booked it out of there because I had to get to my next hotel in Wrightsville Beach, almost four hours away. I was really hoping to get there by sunset – just to drive in the light and also see the beach before it got dark. Unfortunately, the sun sets really early! I didn’t make it. And then I was very confused by my hotel and couldn’t figure out how to get to the beach. And I was irritated by all the bored valet drivers that kept watching me whenever I went in and out of the building. The parking lot was also quite confusing and I didn’t want to leave again worried I wouldn’t have a spot when I got back, even though I also really wanted some dinner after only having that one meal the entire day. (Breakfasts – too much work!) I spent a ridiculously long amount of time trying to figure out how and where I could order food, but nothing was really sounding good. Well, real problem – everything was loaded with carbs and/or fried. So I decided to just go out and walk, despite how dark and terrifying it was, until I finally came across a tiny ice cream shop and decided to just have a chocolate peanut butter malt for dinner and call it a day. I was kind of a wreck by that point. Despite being on this trip by myself and technically having a lot of time in the evenings, I only got about five hours of sleep each night I was there, no naps other than the first day, and so much stressful time driving. Plus the mental exertion of learning so many new things! I was just at my breaking point by Saturday night.

Sunday was my one totally free and open day. I took my time getting ready in the morning and then finally found the beach! I got my workout in, squatting in the sand for an hour picking up the prettiest shell fragments. It was really fun! The weather was about as perfect as it could be too. Fallish temperatures (45-65) and lots of sunlight. All the natives kept apologizing for the cold weather when they found out I wasn’t from around there. I just laughed every time.

I wanted to spend my day finding cool shopping areas – it felt more feasible than in the busier Charlotte areas. I ended up parking in Wilmington and walking all around the downtown area. There were a couple of buildings that had multiple shops inside of them, which was fun. I finally found my first local coffee shop – after four days! I didn’t really like it, but felt obligated to drink it. I believe the only thing I bought in that area of town was another North Carolina scented candle. I smelled every single one of the shop’s about one hundred scents and liked the very last one the most. Again – hope it gets back to me in one piece tomorrow!

My boring lunch at Front Street Grill before rushing back to my car right when my time ran out. I mostly just ate the chicken salad plain and the bowl of fruit. That was a depressing meal when the rest of the menu items that I would have picked out at any other occasion before my liver stuff came up, sounded SO much more delicious.

I spent the next portion of my day hitting up my favorites – TJMaxx, Marshall’s, and HomeGoods. You better believe I find those branches of stores in every single city I visit on every vacation I ever take! You never know what you’re going to find! It’s such a treasure hunt! I don’t even feel dumb about it (I did last year in Minnesota when I probably visited at least 20 versions of the same store because literally every single city has all three of the branches). They’re my favorite place to dig around and I’m not going to apologize for it anymore. I also went to a bookstore and another grocery store. I finished my night having dinner at a place called Flamin’ Amy’s Burritos. It was a rush menu decision at the counter so I picked a Jerk Chicken burrito and didn’t take a picture because how boring is a picture of a burrito? I don’t even like burritos. I don’t like flour tortillas. So it was another disappointment. I just ate the filling with some chips. I was pretty fed up with eating in general at this point. I did have some snacks with me, but no matter how good those snacks seem when packing for a trip, they fall VERY flat when it’s the only thing you’re filling yourself up with.

I stayed up really late back at the hotel on Sunday night. I shouldn’t have, but I was still having a hard time shutting my brain down and needed to force myself to just chill out. I also set my alarm so I wouldn’t miss the sunrise on the beach – since I had missed both sunsets. I actually got to the beach about an hour before it officially rose and took about a million photos, but cell phones just don’t really do it justice. I was the only one on the entire span of beach that I could see, and it was a really beneficial time for me. I wish I had an outdoor space like that around home where I could watch a sunrise or sunset. I’m generally not a beach person because I hate being hot and in the sun. But at this time of year, it was incredible.

After making one more stop at Marshall’s and a local fresh/healthy foods only grocery store, I began my long trip back to Charlotte. I wasn’t in the mood to keep hunting around for new things to do, so I chose a large antique mall near the airport and spent about two hours just wandering around. During that time I was getting texts about every five minutes saying my flight was delayed another half hour. My flight was already later than I would have liked, so this wasn’t helping! By the time I left the antique mall, however, it was suddenly back on time! I didn’t know airlines could go back and forth like that. But it was a relief!

I wanted to get some food before I got to the airport – it was already 3:30 at that point and I hadn’t eaten at all. So I picked something close by – a Caribbean restaurant with a ton of great google reviews. I ordered the jerk chicken. Let me just ask – does that look like chicken to you?? The third piece in the background was definitely a leg. But the two pieces in front? The shape of them – those were bones. What kind of CHICKEN has bones like that?! There was also a goat curry on the menu, and I think they maybe gave me that. Which kind of makes me want to cry. Sorry, I do NOT want to eat a sweet cute goat. There was hardly any meat on any of the pieces – it was just skin and bones. The SAUCE was delicious. But it was a pretty disappointing meal.

The rest of my night was very uneventful! I got to the airport about four hours before my flight because I was so tired and needed to just be done. I spent most of that time walking around every terminal because I was so tired and didn’t know how else to stay awake. I got a Starbucks coffee and it gave me a stomachache. I read a whole (short) book. And then we finally took off, flew across country with no issues, and landed to fresh snow and ice and 7 degree temperatures. Oh, Wisconsin.

And that was my trip! I feel like I should go back and re-title this post to “All the food I couldn’t eat in North Carolina.” Sorry about that. I know nobody likes to hear about food restrictions and limitations. It’s just so high on my mind right now, with my liver biopsy happening TOMORROW. For that reason alone, it was not a good time to go on a trip. But I’m so glad I went and I really had the most fantastic time. I will write more about the depth of things I learned (and not just what I ate and where I shopped!) at another time!

November 2019 Goals

I was struggling to come up with a list of goals again this month because October was such an epic disaster. I’m still just in survival mode right now and can’t handle adding anything extra on top of the things I’m doing just to get through my days. So – I’ll stick with those! I think November is going to fly by so quickly. I’m going on a five day trip, which will immediately launch me to the middle of the month, even though the month just started. Then I’m hosting a big sign painting party which feels like it’ll basically consume a whole week of my time to prepare for. And then it’s pretty much Thanksgiving, which also means it’s basically Christmas! I am not AT ALL prepared for Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday sales and have no clue how I’m going to get even close to making enough dolls to feel worth it. But….I don’t want to lose my mind to stress and being overwhelmed this month. I just want to focus on those couple of things that matter above all else and the rest will hopefully just fall into place. Or be good enough. And I’ll have to be okay with it.

1. Focus on health above all else.

THIS is what’s important right now. While my official diagnosis is up in the air and who knows if I’ll even figure it out this month, I NEED to start taking the steps to be a healthier person. Not a diet to lose weight (though hopefully that’ll be an outcome), but realistic lifestyle changes that I can manage for the rest of my life. I have three main things I want to focus on this month to kick things off.

  • Use¬†the¬†treadmill¬†every¬†day¬†until¬†it¬†becomes¬†a¬†habit. No goals for specific times or distances yet, I just want to GET ON IT every single day. Well, every day except the five days I’m out of town this month. I started a notebook to log all of my walks, so hopefully I’ll feel a nice sense of accomplishment every time I add another one to the list. Caden also started a log so he can see how much he beats me every time…
  • Cut out almost all white flour and processed foods. I don’t want to be insane about this, or be super annoying to people who have to eat with me in the coming months. But I do want to make a conscious effort to avoid them as much as possible. Especially when I’m home alone and most prone to mindless snacking. But I don’t plan on being super strict with myself when I’m on vacation, or a date night, or like Thanksgiving day. But MOST of the time, I am going to learn how to just say no and find a better option. I’ve been working on this for two weeks now and it’s gotten easier, for the most part. I did have noodles at HuHot last week and pizza at my brother’s birthday party last night. I did try the lemon cake I made my friends on Friday. But I’ve been doing pretty good at all the times in between. As long as I have other options available, it’s going okay.
  • Avoid fast and fried foods. I think some of my biggest food related downfalls are when I’m running a lot of errands and extremely hungry and tempted by all the surrounding restaurants and just desperate to get something delicious and fast in my stomach. I actually don’t eat that much fried food to begin with, but fast food chains are definitely an evil temptation on my busy days. I’m nervous about feeding myself three meals a day for five days a week when I go on my trip later this week. I know it’s going to be challenging not to overindulge. But if I stick with the plan to avoid fast food and fried food, it’s a good starting point for picking healthier – and probably much tastier! – options.

2. Go to my Hope*Writers conference with an open heart and mind.

When I bought my ticket to this conference last spring I was SO excited about it. It felt like the best possible investment I could make in myself and the future I’d truly like to have as A WRITER. And then life, like always, got in the way. I still struggle a lot with what I’m really meant to be doing with my time and my life. I love doll making, I do, but it’s not essential to my happiness the way it was a few years ago. It’s definitely more a job now, and one that I’ve really been slacking on. In theory, I would love to be a writer, but I have some serious self doubt and just aren’t sure I could, or would even want to, make a full time career out of it. But I still want TO WRITE, whether it’s only on this blog or even just journal entries that nobody will read except myself. The majority of my writing comes out in emails to a friend – the truest story of my life for the last fifteen or so years. I would really like to direct that writing desire to other things and I’m hoping this conference will help give me hope again. Pour some optimism into my heart that I’ve lost along the way. I’m definitely nervous about the entire thing, but I know it’ll be good for me. I leave super early Thursday morning, have a few hours to explore Charlotte, and the conference begins that night and goes through late Saturday afternoon. Then I’m heading three hours east to the coast for two nights in a waterfront hotel just for the fun of it. For the last few weeks it’s felt like this conference couldn’t come at a worse time. But now – I’m ready for it. I’m excited for a break from my everyday life and maybe a chance to get some perspective on everything. I’m going to trust that no matter what, I am meant to be at that conference at this time in my life.

3. Buy/Craft/Plan at least 1/2 of all Christmas presents!

I really, really love gift giving. But I also get super swept up in the excitement of it all and go way overboard every year with impulse purchases that feel too good to pass up. This year I need A PLAN. A focused direction for every gift I give, trying to cut back on spending, be more creative (if I have time!!), and just generally be a whole lot more organized. I’m also trying to work up a treat plan – something to gift neighbors and friends that is maybe something different than cookies and candies. Baking was one of my first loves and continuing to bake without being able to freely eat the fruits of my labor…I think it’s going to be too hard. And I know so many other people are always trying to eat healthier too. Something I never have been that great about respecting. But now I get it and I want to only gift things that will truly be appreciated and used. It’s a lot to think about! But I’m hoping if I spend more time in November working on gifts, I can spend more time in December actually sewing for my customers. Most years I take the bulk of December off because I can’t handle everything happening at once. This year I’d like to be more accomodating. But only if I’m prepared with all the other gift stuff ahead of time!

October 2019 Reflections, a Little Early

October has shaped up to be one of the busiest and hardest months I’ve ever had. It’s been filled with a lot of great pockets of time connecting with friends and family. But it’s been alternated with so much stress and anxiety and emotional overwhelm. I don’t think I’ve ever let go of so many things go at once that are important to me in order to just survive my day to day life. I stopped filling out my bullet journal and organizing my tasks and giving myself a solid plan of what to work on every day. I stopped writing even the weekly blog posts that tend to ground and guide my weeks, and haven’t even considered writing anything beyond the occasional journal entry. I stopped listening to most podcasts in favor of soaking up the very rare silence or just listening to music instead. I slowed down so much on doll making, going up to a week at a time without even picking it up. And I’ve stopped reading. Not entirely. But this has been the slowest book month I’ve ever had. Lack of actual time is a big reason why, but I’ve definitely picked mindless phone scrolling over reading way too often.

There have been plenty of good things that have been filling my time that I definitely don’t regret. A group of my friends threw me a little birthday lunch, which was really awesome. It meant a lot to me that they cared about celebrating with me in the midst of their own crazy busy lives. I’ve also had two morning coffees at my house this month – with another one happening on Friday. I had a lunch date with another friend. And I have a lunch date with a friend this week as well. It’s been great reconnecting with everyone after what felt like an incredibly long dry spell. Female friendships are so important and we should all fight to keep them alive and thriving.

I’ve been dipping into some Cricut projects – really the main reason I wasn’t sewing for awhile there. These are the first three projects I did, using free files I found online. I was most impressed with how the mug turned out and might just focus on making more of those for gifts on upcoming holidays. I designed one myself to make for my friend Julie’s birthday and it turned out really nice. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed using my graphic design skills. But it also feels like starting completely from scratch – forget all those college classes and degree from a million years ago! So it’s very time consuming, requires a ton of research and searching for free things to work with before I can entirely design my own, and – I’m not that great at some of it. The main reason I wanted a Cricut was to make stencils and wooden signs. I’ve done a couple of stencils on canvas so far and they haven’t turned out at all. I’m hoping it’s just because of the canvas. I bought some wooden planks a few weeks ago to start practicing for real, but we haven’t found a time yet for Greg to help me use the rotary saw. That thing scares me.

Last weekend we got to spend a lot of time with Hudson, Timmy, and Brittany. The boys and I joined my mom in babysitting him on Saturday night and on Sunday we celebrated Brittany’s birthday. He was so much fun to hang out with! He’s talking so much and giggling and laughing about everything. His favorite thing was wrestling with the boys. He liked joining in on all their random snacking too.

It’s hard to go so many months in between seeing him, but it’s fun to see how much he’s changed in those time periods. He’s such a little cutie.

This last Thursday night we finally had some free time, so we carved pumpkins. Except that I was SO tired – it’s been a pretty sucky week, but more on that in a minute. Shepard had just cut his thumb playing gaga ball and didn’t want to get it full of pumpkin juice. And Caden was just not wanting to participate because he never wants to participate in ANYTHING. So Greg did all the scooping, we drew the faces, he did the carving. And he did it all in record time!

I worked on cleaning and making our pumpkin seeds. We always do one batch of salt, one dill and salt, and one chex mix flavors.

On Friday night we walked to the annual town bonfire. I always think it’s just a really nice memorable thing to participate in each year. It wasn’t quite as fun as last year because there was no DJ and Caden had zero interest in playing with his friends. I don’t know what’s been going on with him lately, but he’s having a rough time. Or he’s making choices that are making him feel like he’s having a rough time because he refuses to even try to be friendly with people anymore. But Shepard had a blast.

In a single day I actually made six little boy dolls from start to finish. It’s the first time I’ve made boys in almost two years. It’s the first time I’ve made dolls this small in probably at least six months. Dresses and long hair are what take the longest, so boys are very speedy! They all sold instantly. I started a second batch right away. I’ve needed a break from fall and Halloween dolls. Seasonal dolls kind of drag me down. It’s hard to feel super inspired when I feel like I have to make them. I don’t like being told what to do! So it was fun to throw in something different.

Last night we had our annual Halloween party with the grandparents and the city trick or treating. I wasn’t feeling super inspired this year, so I just made my annual pizza snake and a few snack mixes. Cindy brought caramel, apples, veggies and dip and sparking caramel apple cider. My mom brought a ham and cheese mummy and two desserts. It was a nice evening! Caden was being especially moody, but he perked up a bit as we were trick or treating. He was dressed as a dabbing taco. Shepard was his favorite youtuber, Unspeakable. Only one person recognized him and most people probably wondered why he wasn’t wearing a costume.

Annie was a rainbow and received A LOT of attention. The boys lasted longer than years past, but Shepard was still antsy to get back home and help hand out with Greg. Caden went back out for a few more houses.

Later in the evening there was a flashlight pumpkin hunt set up for older kids. I had signed Caden up thinking it would be something really fun to do, and extra special since only he was old enough. But he DID NOT want to go. But we were already planning to take Willow with us and I was sure he’d cheer up once he got there, so we went. It ended up being inside because it was raining by then, but we had to stand around for 40 minutes waiting for it to begin and he was moping and scowling and begging me to go home the entire time. Once the whistle blew he seemed to kind of enjoy himself, but it definitely wasn’t the fun memory I was expecting to make.

I just don’t know what to do with that kid. He’s always been like this – never wanting to do anything outside of the house. But it seems to be getting even worse. It’s infuriating trying to find this balance of encouraging things that might surprise him, while also realizing he is VERY much like me emotionally and not wanting to push him into more than he can handle. It’s hard to make him do things when I’m also in this season of life where new things are being thrown at me and added to the calendar every single day and I feel like I’m absolutely drowning, no matter how much fun those events might be. Despite the fact that he was super excited about the idea months ago, we didn’t force him into joining basketball this winter – a 3-4 night weekly commitment that he was flat out refusing to do. The deadline was this week and I just let it slide, even though Greg wanted to make him do it. I felt like that was just going to guarantee three months of all of us being miserable. I DID, however, make him sign up for chess club again. He loved it in spring, but wanted nothing to do with it this fall. They included a few younger grades this year, so Shepard actually joined too, which is probably the only reason he was convinced to go (he wasn’t “missing out” on game time if Shepard was with him at school). I’m trying so hard to help him with a balance, but he doesn’t make it easy. Ever.

So I had my annual doctor’s exam a few weeks ago. Which is more intensive than it used to be since I started having blood pressure and liver problems last year. All my female parts are in good working order and my blood pressure is under control with my meds. But my liver – it’s not good. I had to go back a second time since I hadn’t fasted the first time to get my labs done. I got the results the next day and my cholesterol is high and my liver values have doubled since February. NOT good. I won’t try to interpret the numbers on my own just yet, but I’ve been referred to a GI doctor and will see her this Wednesday. I obviously don’t know what she’ll say and what next steps might be, but this was the wake up call I guess I really needed to start genuinely changing my life around. And I’ve been going through all the shame and depression and mourning that comes with a self-induced disease that I have to somehow buck up and change entirely on my own if I want to stay alive. It sucks.

Changing my diet is basically the hardest thing in the entire world I can imagine doing. Last year when I had an ultrasound and was diagnosed with mild fatty liver, I was upset, but also motivated to start losing weight. I joined Noom, I started tracking food, and then I did really well for about four months when life took over and I gave up. This year, I don’t want to focus on losing weight. Because that feels temporary. Something to strive for, achieve, and then fall back into old habits. This time around, I NEED to change. I need to change basically everything. And I’m so, so overwhelmed by it. And honestly….just really sad. Refined carbs are the biggest contributor to fatty liver. And…I live on refined carbs. Hence my self induced disease and dealing with the shame that this is all my fault. I did this to myself. And I’m maybe doing it to my kids by allowing them to eat the same way I’ve eaten my whole life. So now not only do I have the pressure of changing my own diet, I’m also responsible for the three other people in my family and trying to change their diets too – which is SURELY going to be met with so many riots and anger and additional stress. I really don’t know if I can handle it.

I’m still waiting to see what the GI doctor specifically tells me I need to do, but I’ve started this week by eliminating almost all my usual carbs, trying out some keto recipes, adding green tea to my day, finding ways to add bone broth to many meals, and avoiding as many bad fats and sugar as possible. I’ve found some good ideas and worked on looking for substitutions to my favorite things to try and not make it feel like I’m suddenly doomed to a life of deprivation. But I’m also really struggling with how I’m going to live with this long term. I don’t like soup, unless it’s loaded with cheese and chips or crackers. I don’t like salad unless it’s covered in ranch and croutons. I have no idea what to eat for breakfast that will fill me up and not have carbs in it. I’ve been having yogurt with granola and bananas every day this week and while it is filling, it’s not really what I crave. It’s too sweet, mainly – I never like to eat sweet things in the morning because I get headaches from it. I honestly think I’d be okay giving up most desserts and sugary things, but I don’t know how to give up the salty things I basically live for. English muffins, chips, sandwiches, peanut butter toast, tacos, rice bowls. This whole week I’ve been cycling through feeling hopeful about some new ideas and absolute depression at how many things I have to let go of forever. I can’t encourage bad behavior by thinking I can eat most things in moderation. I know I can’t. I have to say give them up or this is never going to work.

Anyway, this whole process is just beginning and it’s been hard. But I honestly can already tell the difference in how I feel. Yesterday I was going up and down stairs over and over again and realized hey – my legs don’t hurt as much as they usually do. I’ve had some extra energy and have been taking Annie on two walks every day. And I haven’t given carbs up completely – I did still have grilled cheese and some amazing tomato soup twice this week, and I had a few small pieces of the pizza snake last night. But just not having anything refined for breakfast or lunch is already starting to help. And I want to hold on to those positive changes I can already see after such a short period of time and start craving more of that instead of only thinking about how much I’m losing. I have a long road ahead of me.

Well, usually when I write these monthly recap posts, I just address how I’ve come along on my goals for the month. And I’ll just sum it up quickly by saying I’ve been an utter failure this month! I couldn’t handle it. I did read SOME of my seasonal book stack. I have been taking a lot of walks, but haven’t done any yoga videos or enforced the idea of doing it first thing in the morning because so many mornings have held appointments or important errands. My daily writing practice has only come in the occasional early morning journal entry. And I did go to the theater – Greg and I saw Downton¬†Abbey for my birthday date. I was still hoping to go on my own at some point, but there hasn’t been anything worth seeing.

I think that’s it! I’m finishing October off with a Culver’s fundraiser with Shepard tomorrow night, lunch with my friend Laura on Tuesday, the doctor on Wednesday, and a coffee morning on Friday. My trip to North Carolina is in just a week and a half, so I’m also trying to prepare for that. There’s been a whole lot of anxiety and doubt about that trip as well. It’s hard to feel excited about a writing conference when I haven’t been making writing a priority in a long time. But I have to trust that how I felt when I signed up was true and this WILL be a good thing. But now I also have the added stress of trying to find restaurant options ahead of time that will support these new dietary needs without getting there and having a ton of anxiety every time I need to eat. There’s just so much going on. And it’s not slowing down anytime soon. Maybe in January??