Busy Weekend!

We had a super busy weekend, and I'm still feeling kind of tired.

But it's a good kind of tired. A happy, my life is so full kind of tired.

Friday was a local festival. I got off work a little early to rush and pick up some last minute things for Babycake's birthday, and Hubs grabbed a pizza on the way home. We ate super fast, a friend stopped by to drop off something...we chatted on the porch for a bitand eyed the weather to decide how long we had until the rain came. After she left, we decided to chance it and rushed over.

Unfortunately, Babycakes was not really big/interested enough for the rides and such...and the one thing she did want, had an empty ticket booth.

We pacified ourselves with ice cream and people watching, then hurried home before the storm hit.

Saturday morning, we did our workout switch. This is where Hubby works out with F3 for an hour, then I work out with FiA for the next hour...switching off care of Babycakes in between. I hadn't planned on going since Babycake's birthday party was that afternoon...but a friend tried to publicly shame me on Facebook, who has been avoiding our invites to work out for months...so I was feeling real petty.

I hopped my happy little ass out of bed and made sure to be there on time...and once she showed up, late, I flat-out told her I was not interested in any of these "My husband is working, I gotta make dinner, etc" day-to-day BS excuses that she gives me.

Which she agreed too...and then later told me why she can't come for a month.

The rest of that morning was basically getting stuff for the party and posting in the Facebook event to just wear bathing suits and rain boots if the rain didn't stop. We had already booked the park and told Babycakes and I did not want to change plans. I was almost ready for a Mud Party but it stopped.

This was probably the first of her parties where I legit loved it. Last year was at our house so I was super paranoid about getting everything cleaned, Hubs was on a new crazy schedule because he had just switched jobs, and we invited way too many people. 

I liked the park so much better, so much easier, and totally worth the rental fee. All the kids played- although my girl wanted her CAKE immediately. Seriously, she thought "birthday=cake."

Overall it was a great day, but we had to hit the bed quick because we had a busy day Sunday too. We went to church, then rushed home to get Babycakes a mini-nap before heading to a friends house early in the afternoon. We helped with a community egg hunt sponsored by our church. It was super fun, and lots of people showed up. Then, we had a smaller egg hunt just for our kids, who did not attend the big one. As most of them were toddlers, it would have been difficult to keep up with them plus actually run the big hunt. They were so excited...but hot damn, little kids can't see brightly colored eggs for crap, haha! We ended up hanging out for a long while, letting the kids run crazy while the adults played Song Pop Party.

We hit the bed EXHAUSTED Sunday night, but it was worth it. The weekend was filled with friends and fun, although my pettiness and snarkiness apparently got a little much in Hub's opinion. I can't tell if it's good or bad that I'm feeling fiesty enough to put my opinion out there...I don't want to be rude, but I'm also glad I'm not internalizing EVERYTHING still.

Loving Lately: April 2019

I really miss the Add It To My List link-up, but it seems to be dead. So, I'm going to just share stuff on my own. If anyone is interested on making this a link-up, let me know. Or if you know of a similar link-up that posts on Tuesdays or Thursdays.

Stress Should Not Be Our Accepted Resting State by Stephanie

 Made these recipes in the past month and they were all SO yummy!

  • Salmon & Rainbow Veggies 
    • This was my first time cooking asparagus, and I'm not great with fish or Asian food. But even though I was cautious, this was so good. I also had never used raw ginger before and was worried it would be too much, but it totally worked. Served over some buttered white rice (next time I will try to plan ahead & have brown).
  • Greek Chicken Sheet Pan
    • This is definitely a new house favorite. So good. I added grape tomatoes and chickpeas and feta, which really take it from good to amazing...but it definitely was amazing. Served with pita bread and tzatziki because...tzatziki is always a good idea.
  • Salsa Fresca Chicken
    • This was super yummy, but next time I will make my own pico de gallo because what we bought from the store was slightly spicy somehow...too much onion and something else? Served with some store mix cilantro & lime rice...I really need to learn how to make this myself.

    Queer Eye
    OMG this show is so dang on sweet! It's so lovely and kind and gives me hope in a very hard world.
    Doctor Who Series 3
    TBH, I really didn't like Martha when I first watched Dr. Who. I hated that she pined after Ten, I hated that he didn't see it (until it was too late)...but I've grown to love her. I've grown to appreciate that she gave herself the opportunity to do something amazing and push her and learn even though it hurt her to be around him. Now that I know her trajectory, I can see bits of her personal strength that I missed the first few rounds. Very glad I re-watched.

Show Us Your Books Link-Up: April 2019

It's book day! Woo hoo! Three books doesn't feel like a lot, but there is one that I haven't finished yet even though I should have (Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women by Sarah Bessey)...and one reread because apparently my brain is tired and wanted some comfort (The Reef by Nora Roberts).

Anyway, on to the new & completed reads for the month.

The Women's War by Jenna Glass
TBH, I really liked this book...and then I read the reviews and felt kind of bad about it! Lots of people didn't like it, or think it was inclusive enough to truly be labeled feminist. And that may be fair...I don't always read critically, sometimes I like to just turn my brain off from it's over-analytical tendencies and enjoy a made-up story. I did like the ways that people were shown from many different sides and things weren't always what they seemed. I didn't always agree with them, but I enjoyed the overall story and world. 

Everyone has loved this book...and I did not. If you are a person who cares a lot about plot and tying up all the little loose ends...this is probably for you. But I am a person who always falls for character, and I couldn't ever really care about these people. It was tiring to match up everything and keep up with it...and it just wasn't for me. A good theory, but there were too many twists and additional weird rules and blah. It was just not for me.
(but really like a 2.5...I should have just DNF'd).

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I read this immediately after  7 1/2 Deaths, and it was a freakin' breath of fresh air. It's told basically all in interview format. There is very little description of setting or appearance...it's all about the characters and that is 100% what I'm here for. Loved it. Also loved that it managed to be just as compelling as The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, also by TJR, while being a totally different format. Behind the times, but I'm so getting on the TJR train. 

What have you been reading this month? 
Link-up & let us know!
Life According to Steph

Current Thoughts

We subscribed to a local CSA- Community Support Agriculture- and I am SO PUMPED. Basically, it's a subscription box from a local farm. Each week we get a box of fresh produce and fruit. We had to pay upfront, which is a little intimidating, but it works out to about 25$ a week for several months. We've considered this for a few years and finally pulled the plug. Because I also always consider growing a garden...and then don't. Oh well. This is step one, okay people? I was also worried about pickup due to our wonky schedule (shift work kind of suuuuucks, FYI) but it has several pickups around town and one is literally right beside my work so YEAH BABY. Going for it in 2019!

My coffee might be kicking in.

I've been working out consistently for about a year and half. I don't go super hard, y'all. But I usually go 1-2 a week, sometimes 3 times if all the planets align just right and the angels sing a heavenly chorus. Hubby has said repeatedly that he can tell, specifically that my thighs were much more toned. Well, in the last month...and there is no other way to say this...my ass and thighs have exploded. Like, I cannot fit in any of my pants. I thought I was going crazy but Hubs confirmed that there has been a big change in the last few weeks. It's all nice and toned, but it's getting real thick. I was considering going to dresses just so I am not constantly having to buy new pants, but now I gotta deal with chub rub and I feel a little weird about constantly rubbing coconut oil on my thighs at my desk. End up desperate buying some jeggings at Walmart that are surprisingly comfy...but we'll see how long they last.

I made these No Bake Energy Bites the other night with Babycakes, and they are so good! I added about 1/4 of melted coconut oil and some cinnamon, which took them from decent to freakin' amazing. But I need to make them into smaller balls, because Babycakes pops the whole thing in her mouth. So does Hubs, but he's not a toddler so it's less concerning. I might also try making them into bars, because Babycakes is obsessed with Nutra Grain Bars so maybe we could do this instead. We'll see how much energy they actually give me, but either way they're delicious. I originally found them while looking for an easy dessert to make for a friend who recently had a baby, and figured she could definitely use some energy with a newborn!

Someone on FB posted about the lack of produce if the Mexican border closes...and someone else commented that it would be good for produce growers in FL and CA and we could import from other countries like Chile & Israel...cool, cool. Because I'm sure farmers will magically get more land and crops and workers and time and energy as soon as the border closes. And it makes total sense to depend on OTHER brown people from countries that are farther away...as long as it's not Mexico, right?!  Are we learning nothing from the mess that is the Brexit exit? Sorry, dumb question, of course we aren't.

Spring is officially here. There are "pollen ponds" everywhere and I am currently dealing with an increasingly intense sinus headache.


What's up with you lately?

Prompted: Is Minimalism Something for You?

I don't practice true minimalism, or maybe extreme minimalism. I don't have a capsule wardrobe or anything like that.

But I am getting much better at letting things go.

Part of this is just practice. Hubby and I moved five times in a six year period. We ended up with a rule that if we had not opened a box since the last move, it automatically got tossed. Trash or donate, either way, we got rid of it. The only exceptions were thing we glanced at and went "OH I'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR THAT!"

So, that helped.

Plus we inherited some things and it really made us think...what is it that Babycakes would relaly care about later? You can't really know, and there are some things that our family members have saved for us that, um, we just aren't crazy about. So I don't to just hang on to stuff for years just in case.

Sometimes, this has bitten me in the butt. There are some things that we couldn't use at the time so I tossed. Now, I wish I had those things. But when I sit back and really think of it, I still agree that it was better to let it go instead of dragging it around- both physically and mentally.

For the most part, things can be replaced. What matters is the story. And if you toss something you love, or your family member loved? Replace it, and add to that story. "My grandma had one of these platters, it was yellow instead of blue. But I loved making cookies with her and putting them on here to sit out." That's still your story.

Plus, when I simplify what I have in my life, I can actually use those things. I recently reorganized my kitchen and spare/junk closet. Last year for Babycake's birthday, I was so frazzled. And part of that was because I couldn't find items that I thought I had- stuff like party platters or punch bowls. I only use these things 1-2 times a year but I don't want to have to buy new ones each year. Once I cleared out some stuff, there was actually room to put all the party stuff together and I could see and access everything*.

So I'm not a complete minimalist. I hold on to entirely too many gift bags and tissue paper. But...I'm making strides in really being thoughtful about what I have in my home and life. And it's definitely beneficial. Again, it's ridiculous how putting forth so little effort has made such a giant effect on my mental health. Part of it is just practicality, and some of it is this weird since of pride that I got over my intimidation and just did it.

*a big part of Marie Kondo's philosophy involves being able to see what you have, and it's been super helpful for me personally.

How My Anxiety Presented

Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

There are times when I wonder how in the world I lasted two years with postpartum anxiety and depression. If I am being fair to myself, I can think of several reasons...but it always feels weird.

  However, the thing I come back to again and again is the idea that my feelings did not line up with what I thought anxiety was. 

I knew I didn't feel good, but I didn't know if a) it was bad enough to say "I need help," and b) what it was.

 I thought anxiety was out of control thoughts about bad things happening. I thought anxiety was not being able to breath. I thought anxiety was not wanting to do things or be around people.

But I never really had panic attacks. I had periods where my heart raced...but not to the point where I couldn't breath. Not to the point where I actually had to stop what I was doing...it was just noticeable. I could always breath.

It was more that I felt...weary. My life was just too much.

And I was so upset with myself because it was a life I wanted. 

Also, because it happened after I had a baby...I had a really difficult time knowing what was fair to feel after this momentous life change and where the line into "seriously ill" was.

Baby blues is phrase we hear, and postpartum depression. But the first is usually seen as just sad, and what I heard over and over is that it was sadness over not being pregnant and therefore more separation between the mother and new baby. I never felt this...I was so happy to have my body back (-ish...as pregnancy makes fundamental changes that do not go away). While I was pregnant, it was simply a part of the process...I wanted the baby, to see her independent self and get to know her.

On the other hand, postpartum depression is usually talked about only in terms of wanting to hurt yourself or your baby. And again, I didn't have this.

I just had crippling self-doubt.

I thought I wasn't a good mom. I thought no one believed I was a good mom, even though I was trying so hard. I thought my baby didn't like me. I was trying to hard to put on the happy mom face but it felt fake, and that felt like shit because what kind of mom isn't immediately bonded with her child?!?! (hint- the kind with postpartum anxiety and/or depression!)

Everything felt so damn hard, and I was just waiting for something terrible to happen. 

I didn't know what it was, but it just felt like I was waiting for everyone to realize how bad I was at everything.

According to my husband, none of this showed. At least not in a way he recognized either. I wish I had seen this picture before I let things go so far, because it hits all of my personal anxiety cues.

See, because I felt so insecure and worthless and my anxiety was largely based on my believed personal faults, I was killing myself to overcome those.

Because day-to-day life had become so exhausting, I tried to shape it into something halfway manageable by sheer force of will and desperation.

I became hyper focused on making sure everything went exactly like it should all the time. Helpful hint- this is pretty freakin' dumb when you have a baby. I worried about the worse possible outcomes of every situation. I over-planned everything. I became disappointed in myself if my child cried or if I snapped at her or if I got a low A on my test.

These were all aspect of my personality that existed before I gave birth*.

But they became unhealthy.

Instead of just having high expectations for myself, I expected perfection.

Instead of being prepared, I became obsessed with identifying all potential outcomes and obtaining all required tools for survival (and yes, it felt like survival).

Instead of being organized, I became dependent on control.

Instead of having moments of insecurity, recognizing it, and making peace with myself...I listened to that little voice that pointed out every flaw and internalized it as truth.

And those were hard distinctions to make at the time. 

I didn't know how far was too far, how bad was too bad, and how to identify all these things.

So...I guess my point of writing this is to say, not everything presents the same way. Just because you know or have heard about some mental health issues does not mean you know it all...and you definitely can't always be trusted to figure it out in yourself.

 None of us can. It's hard to see the ivory tower when you're inside it...and it's hard to realize you're in the dungeon when your eyes have started to adjust to the darkness.

I have a freakin' degree in Psychology, y'all. I am a military spouse. I have very close family members who suffer with this stuff. But they suffer in their own way, for their own reasons. What was a balm for one person was a trigger for me, and vice versa.

I wish we talked about it more. I wish we talked about it before it became unmanageable, because maybe then we would spot it in the early stages. I wish we were honest about the many different ways we are all suffering.

Because no, I didn't loose my life. I didn't become addicted to harmful substances.

But I did suffer. And I did cause emotional harm, however unintentionally. And I do wonder if I will ever trust certain people fully because of the tricks my own mind played on me that I haven't completely recovered from.

After medication, honesty with my loved ones, and an ongoing mental renovation I feel much better than I did six months ago.

It's much more stable with less dramatic swings now. Things don't feel as heavy...and if they do, I have moments of pride for lifting them up and throwing them out of the way rather than feeling like it was luck I survived.

But it took failing at foster care to make me realize exactly how tenuous a grasp on my sanity I had...and that's something I can't completely come to peace with.  Our foster boys didn't deserve that, and neither did Hubs or Babycakes. I let pride and anxiety and confusion drag a lot of innocent people onto an emotional roller coaster. And I'm not mad at myself for it...but it will never be a good thing. It will never be something I can be proud of. It will always be a practice in forgiveness and faith and thoughtfulness to think of that time in my life.

Don't wait that long. Educate yourself. Check in with your loved ones. Look past the surface. Know all the signs, for yourself and others. And please...talk about it. Let's be honest and real and slow to judge.

*I specify this because I think it was this life change plus the hormonal changes that really caused my anxiety to become unhealthy...not my child. It's a weird distinction but very important one.

Currently Consuming

Currently, I am...

listening to:
26 Cents by The Wilkinsons 
(from my I Love Tomatoes playlist which all country female artists)

Eclipse gum 
(well, chewing, but you get the picture)


A lot of black

Restless due to sunshine- after nearly a month of clouds, I want to be outside in the sunshine & not at my desk!

to move

to keep this energy till Babycakes goes to bed so I can use it to tidy the house

that sometimes it's nice to not overthink things

the fact that I may actually be learning to pause...and even be okay with it

Trouble Writing about the Good

Am I the only one who finds it harder to write when I'm happy?

It's always been like this. As a kid, I couldn't keep a diary because I only wanted to write when I was really sad or angry. So going back and looking at diaries would give the impression that I was the most miserable child on the planet, and who wants that version of themselves out there?

And it's not that I only had bad times. It's that I only want to write during bad times. During good times, I like to coast. I like to just sit back and enjoy it and not draw too much attention to it.

I had a great weekend this weekend, and a few good weeks since that day of random depression a few weeks ago. But when deciding what to write, the topic that most grabbed my attention was to go more in-depth about how my anxiety presents itself and why it took me so long to figure out what it actually was.

Or to rant about how Walmart has sent me the wrong size bed for Babycakes TWICE and the ensuing frustration that I'm trying to just let go of because really, what's the point? Getting my blood pressure up won't make the right size magically appear.
Or I did think about writing a post with random advice or insights regarding parenting, but I don't know how well that connects with everyone and if the maybe 3 people who actually read my blog consistently want to read about parenting crap.

I don't know if it's my personal bubble of the world or the state of American culture in general but snarkiness and cynicism and weariness seem to be the accepted forms of communication.

I'm not there, and I'm trying really hard not to be, actually.

On that flip side of anxiety, I sort of wanted to write a post about how despite my postpartum issues I have totally become the happy-lovey-I-will-stab-your-fucking-eyes-out-if-you-look-at-her-wrong-protective mama bear. But again...people don't always like that much cheese, and it's so much harder to clearly and appealingly share a pure and good feeling than a purely ragey one (for me).

Am I the only one?

Show Us Your Books Link-Up: March 2019

Ugh, how is it March already? January was the longest month eveeeeeeeer and now it's already March. Maybe I'm extra confused because after about a month of rain and cold, it suddenly became sunny and over 70 degrees.

This was a great month for books in the sense that I finally got two of the books I'd been waiting on for literal months!

This book is not a surprise to anyone. Sometimes I read a well-loved book and think it's overrated...but I actually really loved this one. It reminded me a bit of To Kill a Mockingbird, just with the sense of race and outsider-ness. Maybe also Bitterroot Landing, in the abandoned-abused-but somehow hopeful way. And afterward there were things that made me go "Hmmm maybe this could have been done better, or now that I think about it I'm not sure about this." But I don't care. It was a great read and story and pulled me in.

I read this in bits and pieces. Partly due to time, and partially due to heavy feelings. I loved reading the first part of the book. Obama is an incredible woman and her story felt very forthright and genuine. Hearing the stories from inside the White House was when it got really difficult. Because...I felt genuine care for the country and respect for the diversity of America and humanity in general that I cannot fathom ever coming from a member of the current First Family. So I would get super inspired and proud and then remember what came after the Obamas and get super bummed out again. And then read more and get inspired by her and then come back down. It's a great book, I'm so glad I read it, but it was more emotional than I expected.

This was a good read. Multiple perspectives and interwoven relationships are currently my thing. This follows a group of women from college to slightly further in life. Some things seem super dramatic, but I appreciate the conversation. It got kind of crappy reads on Goodreads that made me wonder if something was wrong with me that I liked it so much, haha. But I did. Not because I liked all the characters, just because...it kept my interest and I could see good and bad about all the situations.

This is being presented as a duology that's more of a companion to the His Fair Assassin trilogy than a follow-up...and I don't know why. It shares a main character with the trilogy, plus many side characters. It begins almost immediately after HFA ends. READ HIS FAIR ASSASSIN TRILOGY FIRST. That small issue aside, I loved it (because I loved HFA). I'm ready to gobble up the next book (the second in this "duology") already. And my complaint is only because HFA freakin' RULES and this attitude of "Oh it's not a big deal" is silly. Read it all!
Okay now when I go to Goodreads to link to the HFA series, it lists Courting Darkness as Book #4 but also as a separate series. I can't keep up...but read them all. 

What have you been reading? 
Link-up & let us know!
Life According to Steph

Feeling Depressed

I think I'm depressed today.

Or something. I don't know. I feel...off. Not just blah, but truly unwell. It feels like it hit kind of sudden, but thinking of it maybe it's been a slow build that just finally hit today when I realized I feel like bursting into tears at my desk for no discernible reason.

 It's to the point where I am thinking of going home early so I can hide in my bed for an hour or two. Maybe stop by for a pint of ice cream on the way too.

This is the first time in a few months I've felt this bad.

And no clue what sparked it. I'm not physically sick. The weather has been crap lately- cold and/or raining for weeks. I can't even count the memes about NC rain. Hank from Vlogbrothers was visiting his parents who live in NC and ended up talking about how wet it is. Babycakes yelled "It's not dark anymore" the one morning last week that we saw the sun rise, since every other day the clouds had obscured it.

Babycakes is with her grandparents, so Hubs and I had a wonderfully lazy weekend (he's been sick so we took it super easy).

I have an IUD so I rarely get periods, but I thought maybe I was having PMS symptoms...but this is further down than that.

I missed one day of taking my anti-anxiety meds over the weekend...so maybe this is a delayed crash? Although it feels drastic for that (and also, if that's it, then stopping them cold-turkey must truly be a fucking awful thing to do).

I've actually worked out more this week than normal, so my social and physical needs should be in a good place.

I'm at work. I'm being productive. I ate a decent amount for lunch, although smaller than normal. I'm drinking my water. I'm not a harm to myself or others.

There's no reason, I guess, is my point. There are possible triggers, but I'm not sure if they are actual triggers or if they feel like triggers because I'm already feeling down and therefore magnifying them (such as- discussing whether or not to have another kid some day, feeling like I want to potentially get a new job because I don't know that I have growth potential at my current one, reading Michelle Obama's book and feeling sad because of the differences in 44 & 45). All of these things have good sides, but they have bad, and I am not sure if those things are creating my mood or just existing along side it. Or maybe both.

The overall point is that I'm not feeling good, or even okay. I'm feeling shitty, guys.

And...I guess I'm writing about it because I don't really know what else to do. And I want to remember this in case it happens.

Becomes sometimes...it happens. For no discernable reason. And I'm sure a good day will happen again, and I won't know exactly why that occurs either. Such is the human brain, and heart, and spirit.

Current Thoughts: February 2019

 I mentioned that I ended up signing up for a class this semester, even though I hadn't planned on it. There was one driving factor to this- a supervisor position became open in my department. I literally love my supervisor, she is sooooo amazing both personally and professionally. My salary isn't the greatest, but part of the reason I hardly ever really consider looking for a higher-paying position is because the atmosphere of my job is amazing. So I'm completely heartbroken that she is leaving. But...I would ultimately like to (following her trajectory) eventually work up to higher levels in this department precisely because it's so wonderful. Unfortunately...I think her job requires an MBA, which I don't have. But I signed up for a class this semester and applied anyway. There are all these articles on the internet about how you should apply if you meet 60% of the requirements...which I do. I've done a lot of the things she has...but on a much smaller scale. Anyway. I am hoping that having a degree in progress may get my foot in the door. Not really counting on it, but took a shot. Plus, it was a reminder to just get this degree over with so I can take advantage of further opportunities when they do come up in the future. I'm not super hopeful, but I am happy to have gotten a kick in the butt. Also, updating my resume was surprisingly confidence boosting. Highly recommend.

As mentioned in my February Self-Care post, I've been doing a lot of stuff around the house. Hubby has jumped on board, because apparently I'm just a runaway train and he has approved of 95% of the changes. So one weekend we cleaned out the garage. I won't say that it happened with no arguing, but it happened with minimal arguing. It took less time than I thought (only about 3 hours) and we got rid of/organized way more than I expected. We ended up with one load for the trash dump and one load for a local goodwill organization. While I would never have done this of my own, it is surprisingly nice to walk into a more organized the garage. And Hubs is happier. Additionally I've also organized Babycake's closet & our "junk" closet. I actually didn't get rid of things during those, I just actually took the time to organize it all in a way that it fits and I can reach often-used items without creating an avalanche.

Hubs & I used the bulk of our tax return to pay down our debt consolidation, and as a result we should completely pay off our debt consolidation loan within the next 4 months. Our initial loan agreement was to pay off by five years...and will have done it in about 2.5 years! Apparently a lot of financial managers don't approve of debt consolidation loans, but it's probably the best financial decision we have ever made as a couple. By putting it all in one place it's been so much easier to track and pay off large chunks at a time (like, tax time or holiday bonuses). That's not all of our debt, but it is the largest chunk of it by far so it's really exciting.

I really appreciated this article, Former NFL Star Martellus Bennett Publishes Book that Encourages Black Boys to Dream Beyond the Stereotypes, because it hits on some things I've been thinking about lately. I don't know how to say this other than to say it- I'm fucking tired of reading books about slavery and segregation. Not because I want to ignore or dismiss that part of history, at all. But I want more stories from Black authors about life today. When I look at some of my favorite books over the past few years, the list includes The Mothers-Bad Feminist-Children of Blood and Bone-Pride. These books were amazing, wonderful, moving stories of people that were obviously Black and outside of that that/place. I don't ever want to ignore the immense ramifications that slavery and segregation have had on America/in the world in general. But I do want growth, and I think focusing on books that step outside of the small box for people of color are an important step in that.

Anyone have podcast recommendations? I need some new ones. 

What's up with you lately?

How My Day is Going...

Started out this morning with Hubs getting up early to go work out and waking me up. While I'm glad he is going to work out...he has asked me repeatedly to make sure I close the bathroom door when I get up early so the light doesn't wake him up...but he left it WIDE OPEN. So, I was annoyed.

And then when I asked him about this, he of course brought up how I do this all the time even though I really thought I was getting better...and then he got huffy when I was annoyed (he did apologize, but my feelings do not change in an instant just because of an apology). So then we were arguing and my day was super crappy.

Then I got to work and noticed that I left my office keys at home. And then, while I was freaking out about that, I locked my car keys in my car.

Of course, I had to call Hubs and ask him to wake up Babycakes (because he was keeping her home ttoday so she was still sleeping) and bring me my keys. This is unpleasant enough, but especially when you're in a tiff.

And, because NC weather is bouncing up and down like a yo-yo, my feet started to freeze because I had sandals on. This would have been fine if I hadn't had to wait almost 30 minutes outside, but since I did, I was cold (it's like 30 degrees warmer by 5 pm than 8 am).

Anyway, he brought it to me...and we snipped at each other some more, but then made up.

And Babycakes was super happy because he let her wear her robe in the car (she loves her robe). But then she cried when I went into my office because I guess she didn't understand that I wasn't going back home with them.

And then I spilled all the contents of my purse onto the floor in my office.

Then I bought myself a big cup of coffee and a cheese Danish.

Things got slightly better after that...but I am ready for tonight so I can go to sleep and get a do-over tomorrow.

How's your day?

Some Odd Benefits & Ways to Let Go

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

If you've been reading my blog for the past 6 months or so, you know that I've been working through some anxiety & depression issues.

One of my problems is that I feel like I have to be in charge of all the things. I am the Life Manager of Life. Everything is my responsibility, all the time.

There are a lot of reasons I can come up for regarding why I am this way, but for now, just know that I am that way.

So one of the things I am working on is letting go

Letting go of actual responsibilities, of preconceptions, of negative behaviors towards myself, just letting go.

And it has had surprising results. 

Maybe it makes sense to other people, but it's truly kind of shocked me.

For instance, we cleaned out our garage. And subsequently we had a large pile of stuff to donate to a local charity/Goodwill-type shop in town. As we were packing the car, Hubs said "Oh and don't forget to get the statement so we can submit it for our taxes next year."

This is something that feels like it got shoved on my plate at some point during our marriage without me realizing it. I did actually succeed in submitting these things one year...out of nearly a dozen. But it's not something I ever really cared about or wanted to be responsible for, and part of me resented the (seemingly) flippant way this was assumed to be my responsibility.*

Immediately I felt...anxious? annoyed? worried? Idk, something that didn't feel good.

I didn't want that responsibility and I didn't trust myself to rise to that responsibility.

So I took a deep breath, and said "Babe, can this be something that you take control over? Since you mentioned it, I assume it matters to you, and I haven't done a good job over the past few years with this. I think with the new tax laws itemizing isn't as important anyway, but regardless if you want this can you be in charge of keeping up with it?"

And he said "Um okay, sure." 

And then about two minutes later he said "You know, it's probably fine. It wouldn't make that big of a difference...I won't worry about it."

Which is exactly the decision I had come to, but I don't think it would have been as casual as if I tried to explain that myself versus just handing it off to him and him needing to weigh the responsibility versus the reward.

And this is a really small thing, a throw away conversation in the day-to-day habit of marriage.

But it felt big. 

That's part of anxiety and depression, for me- things get distorted. The weight and responsibility feel magnified, and I'm not good at prioritizing them logically.

I'm also not good at...separating things asked of me from my personal worth.

Not sure if that makes sense, but it's the best I can come up with. I wanted to say yes, because I wanted to help my husband. I wanted to be responsible.

But I knew...I have failed at this multiple times in the past. And to be honest, I don't want to expand energy in that direction. Inside myself, I just don't care about this thing.

So when he asked/reminded me about the statement, I thought through all of that in about 30 seconds. 

Literally as soon as he asked I had the thoughts of a) wanting to help Hubs and respect what he cares about, b) wanting to be responsible, then the reality of c) I failed at this so many times, I'm crap and will just fail again, which lead to d) Hubs is just going to be mad when I fail and I am signing up for a fight at this very moment, and also in there was e) fuuuuuck I do not care about this why should I have to care about this?!? 

I guarantee you that not all of these thoughts are logical or fair. And even if they are somewhat valid, probably not to the extreme that I felt at the time.

So there is a little insight into the way my anxiety works.

But really, the main point here is that I overcame that. And it was simple.

I never, ever, ever imagined it could be that simple.

And yes, part of me was annoyed at both my husband and myself that he dismissed something I had been feeling guilty and stressed about for years in the span of 2 minutes.

But again...I'm letting it go.

Because instead of holding on to a petty "Well that's not fair" attitude, I now get to feel a) validation that I was right to begin with and it wasn't worth spending energy on, and most importantly b) self-pride that I passed on responsibility instead of tasking myself with something that would cause me a lot of personal anxiety (logical or not, it's a fact). 

*annoying reminder because I do have guilt issues and the Internet is bad at looking at the big picture: I love my husband and he loves me and we have a great relationship. I use examples with him because he's the person I'm closest too and therefore naturally he's around while I work through my issues. It's not his fault if he does not know or understand my mental state all the time- that's one of the many things I'm working on, explaining instead of expecting people to understand my thought processes and feelings (since literally no one in my life had any idea about my actual thoughts and what anxiety/depression was telling me). 

Asheville, NC: An Anniversary Trip

Way back in the fall Hubs & I went to Asheville, NC. It's a favorite destination of ours, as it's where we went on our baby-moon too.

Only problem? It's always raining when we go! We just have the worst luck. However, there's still lots of fun stuff to do. Mainly...eat and drink. And hike. At least, that's what we did.

We rolled in around lunch time, and dropped our bags off at our AirBnb. Then we hit one of the places that was on every must-visit list in Asheville- the White Duck Taco Shop. We visited the R.A.D. location.

We got the salsa sampler/trio- all of them were good, but I have no idea what they were called. Would recommend, though. For tacos, Hubs got the Jerk chicken and Korean bbq with kimchi; I had the Bangkok shrimp taco, and a Cajun shrimp and grits taco. I saw one review/complaint that these aren't "authentic Mexican tacos." Um, no. And that's okay IMO, because they weren't advertised as such. The Cajun was by far our favorite, and then I'd probably say the Jerk chicken. The kimchi wasn't really our jam, but some salsa from the sampler made it fine. I'd definitely go back and try more. 

We ended up downtown and visited the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar. This place seemed like my dream...but it didn't quite live up to my expectation. It was a bit overcrowded, which isn't the fault of the management or set up, but I felt rushed. It wasn't really possible to just browse the books, and also there wasn't a super apparent order of the books. Plus it was mostly used books that were going for 20+$. Sorry guys, I'm not a collector. I'm still in the bargain hunting stage. Just a little crowded and pretentious...but GORGEOUS. 

And it's basically illegal to go to Asheville without visiting some breweries, so we started fairly soon. Our first stop was Green Man Brewery. Unfortunately, I cannot remember what we got. I got some kind of cider, because truth be told...I'm not a huge beer fan. So I tend to stick with choices like ciders, ginger beers, or sours. Believe they had tours but we just didn't time it quite right, or decided to enjoy our drinks instead. We sat on the outside area upstairs, and thankfully they had good heaters so it was enjoyable even with the cool, almost-raining weather. 

Next we visited the Wicked Weed Funkatorium. This is Wicked Weed's location dedicated to sour and funky beers. Guys, it was LOVE FOR A BREWERY! Soooo good. Apparently they also have a menu but I was so hungry that I just grabbed our waitress and said "Hey can we get those chips that everyone else has? Oh they come with crab dip? Great!" And it was as delicious as the beer. So 100% would totally go back, I could spend all day there. 

Next we visited Bahrimi Brewing Company. It was probably my least favorite, but it really wasn't bad. Just crowded and weird seating arrangements. Also they didn't have their own cider so the only option was the one I had already had at Green Man's. I opted for a Jack & Coke instead but after drinking beer all day it was way too strong for my empty stomach (guys we walked a lot and the chips and crab dip from the Funkatorium wore off quickly, OK?). The food was really good- like several places in Asheville, their menu changes to use local ingredients depending on what is available in season so I can't remember exactly what we got, but I remember both of us being happy with it. 

For breakfast the next morning we hit up another place that was on all the must-see lists, the Biscuit Head. It has a jelly bar, guys. I got the Cajun Benedict. TBH...it wasn't as amazing as I wanted. But, it was good and it lasted me over a 8 mile hike so no complaints. And if I was trying to save my biscuit to taste all the different jellies, it probably would have been better. My coffee was also lackluster, I think it was the Carmoolita maybe? Just not as Carmel-y as I expected. But hubs got the Maple Bacon Latte and it was so damn good. The jelly bar was also amazing and I should have just ordered a few extra biscuits to really take advantage of it- and let me tell you, those biscuits are HUGE. We started out with bananas foster, sour cherry, and sweet potato chai jellies. But we went back for more and I can't remember- but one was something like peach and thyme? Something with an herb in that that I never expected but was so refreshing. I would go there every weekend- although we did have a 30-45 minute wait so be prepared. But totally worth it. Some things were out of this world and others were fine, but nothing was bad. 

Fully fuled up from our big breakfast, we headed to Pisgah National Forest. We decided to hike the Looking Glass Falls loop because it had a waterfall. However...we started on the opposite side and Hubs had no faith in me at all and really thought we were going the wrong way for like 3 hours. It was finally sunny and we got quite warm. Even though the leaves had already fallen off the trees, it was beautiful and we had a great hike. We even saved a family who got lost- towards the end of the hike a blonde girl, maybe early 20s, literally popped out of the woods asking if we knew how to get to the parking lot. Her group had apparently gotten lost and she sat on the ground crying for 20 minutes, because it was getting close to sunset and she thought she was going to be stuck there all night. Her dad did not seem as concerned- but the fact that a group with 2 ex-Marines ended up following a former soldier out of the woods Hubs chuckle. Ah, sibling rivalry. Overall it was a great hike, and we did eventually find the waterfall...although it was anti-climatic. We hit up two others on the way out though, that were much closer to the paths and absolutely breathtaking.

After this we went back to our AirBnb to shower before dinner. Can we take a moment and gush about AirBnb? This is our second time using it in the Asheville area and I love it. Our place was super cute, a little basement area, and had everything we could need. It was minutes from downtown and the Blue Ridge Parkway, so perfectly situated. Best part? For 2 nights we paid around 175$...hotels in the area can cost 200-200$ a NIGHT. Swoon.

We then went to the Bavarian Restaurant & Biergarten because my hubby loves German food. TBH...I do not. Just not my preferred cuisine. We were wary because some reviews mentioned that they ran out of food and sometimes the wait was long. Both of which turned out to be true, even though it's a little hole-in-the-wall. They were out of schnitzels by the time we arrived. So we both got bratwurst. The German potato salad wasn't the best I ever had, but Hubs liked it. He actually loved everything, for me it was "meh." But again...to be expected with me & German food. And the pattern continued for dessert. Sadly, my black forest sundae was lackluster- which was a disappointment because Black Forest anything is basically my favorite on earth. However, Hub's apple strudel was friggin' delicious. Plus the beer was great. Hubs walked out looking like the happiest man on earth, so ya know. It was worth it. 

I am hoping to go back this summer and take Babycakes. I have great memories of the Blue Ridge Mountain area in general from childhood; I would go on vacation there every year with my maternal grandparents, and have paternal family members up there also. Can't wait to build memories with my little one there too!

Prompt: Good Habit to Develop

(prompt found on Debbie in Shape via Pinterest)

A good habit that I am trying to get into...there are actually several!

But one of them is to put my clothes up sooner. I am pretty good about keeping clothes washed and dried, but then they sit around in baskets forever. There are two negative effects of this.

1) My clothes end up super wrinkled. TBH, I already end up covered with dog hair from my two monstrous, shed-y dogs. I don't need to be messy on top of that and look 100% bedraggled!

2) I end up rushing around in the mornings and starting my day off negatively because I don't have what I need to get dressed for the day.

We've come to realize in our house that my husband's thing is dishes. He doesn't care about literally anything else, as long as that is done.

Mine is laundry. It drives me freakin' crazy when there are no clothes, or dirty clothes are laying around on the floor/in front of the washer because the baskets are full of clean clothes that just haven't been folded or put up.

So, I'm making it a point to have all of my clothes put up. The other night I stayed up until 10:30 doing this, which is late for me! I made Babycake help me put up her clothes, and then after she went to bed I finished folding mine & Hubby's clothes. Then I put all of mine up.

And the next night I was in bed by 8:30...because all the chores were done and I was tired and I could.

Show Us Your Books: February 2019

Is it just me or is January seriously the LONGEST month of the year?! It must be, because I read way more than normal, so let's talk BOOKS!

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
I actually wrote a legit review on Goodreads, because my feelings were too much for this review. Basically, I understand the mixed reviews on this book. Some parts made me stand up and cheer and scream "YES!" And some parts made me go "Hmmm...making it sound a little easier than it actually was for me."  Definitely depends on your personality and place in life on how amazing this book is. Also, I am SO OVER the super long sub-title/whatever the crap it's called.

                                  Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry
This was a completely random grab that caught my attention while I was looking for another book on on the library shelves. It was an interesting puzzle, some parts of which I didn't figure out until way later than I probably should have. It was fun read but also super sad and touching in some parts...recommend for the right person. If you like multiple perspectives and how they tie together, along with the lives of outcasts, go for it. There are some dark and very sad, physical parts so please be ready.

Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw
This was the second in a cute but creepy series about a human who is a doctor to all types of beings/monsters from horror stories. I hadn't heard of all of these creatures, but they were described well and I liked the story overall. I like that Greta is a very capable protagonist, but not necessary a perfect one who does it all herself. A lot of her personality is based around the way she treats those around her, whether sentient beings or not, and I like that trait being so central and positively viewed. It's kind of like cozy Halloween-ish type reading that's hard to explain but a fun and unique read.

This is the story of the daughter of a serial killer, who eventually becomes a suspect in a murder trial herself. I really enjoyed this and kind of quickly gobbled it down. Afterwards I noticed some slight things that others might have issues with, like (highlight) too many red herrings and some random facts there's no way I think we could have gleamed from the overall story. However, I'd totally read more about these characters because they were all kind of ridiculous. I didn't see the end, maybe I should've but didn't...it wasn't unbelievable but it wasn't my first guess. Honestly there was so much going on that I kind of wish I could have gotten more backstory on all of them.

Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan
Pretty sure someone on the link-up shared this, and thank you. It's super moving and I teared up a bunch of times and read it in just over 24 hours. The subtitle is "the 12 hardest things I'm learning to say," so each chapter is a different hard thing. Like, Tell Me More-No-Yes-I was Wrong-etc. The author was raw and honest and selfish and supportive and loving and I felt it.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. It was actually kind of reminiscent of As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, because it went from various points of view and some I really liked and others I kind of hated. It was hard to keep up with everyone, because the book also jumped in time as well as from person to person. We meet one sister as a twelve year old and then later meet her sister as a forty-year-old, and I just wish the chapter titles had included dates (and possibly times) along with the names. That alone probably would have bumped it up to four stars for me. But again, parts of it were super intriguing and it's great to have more Native voices writing, The idea of writing specifically about modern/urban Natives specifically makes a lot of sense in today's world and could fight against stereotypes, so that's really appealing. For these reasons I'd read him again because he clearly has an interesting story and the ability to write in a way that is enjoyable and education for me. That style just didn't make up the entire book, but the variety is impressive in it's own right.

Honorable kinda-DNF: 

I also randomly saw this on the bookshelf, and grabbed it since I love the Wizard of Oz! But...and I sound so old, it was so long and dense and the print was so small that I had to stop. I'd definitely consider going back to it when I am a) not in class, and b) not struggling through a ridiculous sinus cold that makes me need large print.

What have you been reading lately? 
Link-up & let us know!
Life According to Steph

Passion is Overrated (Does this Mean I'm Old?)

 Photo by Jose Aragones on Unsplash

I can't get on Pinterest or Facebook lately without some supposedly inspiring graphic quote about passion and fulfillment.

And quite frankly, I'm calling bullshit. 

I'm all for some passion in life. Really, I am.

But being passionate about everything all the time is just chasing burnout.

Be passionate about...what you are actually passionate about. Is it books? Is it movies? Is it your job? Is it your lover? Is it your family? Is it your faith?

If so, great. But it does not have to be all those things. 

Passion does not have to be in all parts of your life, all the time. 

I'm gonna use myself as an example, because this is my blog and I'm the one talking.

I like doing crafty things. I really do. But I have friends who are literal craft masters. Like, they do Pinterest worthy parties for their kids. And that's great for them. They have fun and enjoy it- and, they are stay-at-home-moms. They've built lives that allow them time to fulfill that passion. And sometimes it kind of makes me sad because I don't do nearly as much crafting as I used to.

However, I have a job that allows me to take mile-long walks at lunch or do homework or read. I've already decided what really matters to me, and made those things happen. Why do I make myself feel bad for not having other passions that match people around me?

So I'm going to go against the grain with my unsolicited advice.

Good enough is good enough

Stop chasing passion. 

If it's there, it's there.

Wait a minute. Pause. Look at your life.

 What parts don't make you nervous and stressed? What part leaves you feeling refreshed? It's probably not even the part that you are encouraging...but it likely should be.

Follow your passion, but don't waste your life chasing passion in general.

Self-Care: February 2019 - Home

 Photo by Nathan Fertig on Unsplash

I posted a few weeks ago that I wouldn't be doing any goals or resolutions for the new year. If 2019 was going to be about anything for me, it would be about restoration.

One reason I was nervous about this is because I am a person who likes to do things. I'm usually doing 2-3 things at a time. As I write this, I'm also working and watching a Netflix show. For years, I've hand goals and objectives that I felt like I must accomplish. It was always one thing after the other, with not long in between.

So I was nervous about not having a plan, because...what would I do? 

Apparently, right now I am getting my house settled.

So far this year, I've probably already organized more than I did all of last year.

I was constantly being driven crazy by the shoes piling up by the door. Both because they look messy, and because they were hard to vacuum around...a big problem since we have two shed-monsters. We have a coat closet right by the door, and I managed to do a little bit with that by hanging a shoe organizer on the back. But that only works for my smaller shoes, not my boots or my hubby's ginormous shoes (seriously guys, he literally has bigger feet than anyone we know). So I finally broke down and bought a shoe rack, which fits into the closet. TBH I wish I spent a little bit more and got a sturdier one because I did not take into account the weight of hubby's giant hobbit shoes, but it's still a massive improvement. My entryway is much neater and I am more likely to vacuum because I'm not fighting around shoes, and we aren't digging through a pile of shoes at the bottom of the closet anymore.

I also re-arranged my bedroom a bit. I switched the dresser from our guest room/office into our room- it's white and our furniture is cherry, so that's a bit weird...but it is more functional because the one I was trying to use is older and starting to break down. It just makes more sense for the newer one to be used most frequently, since no one is using the other one at the moment.

When we first moved in to the house, around 5 years ago, we set up one of those "command centers" you used to see all over Pinterest. It's actually really helpful, but- Hubby & I each have a little pocket folder that often overflows with paperwork. It's supposed to be where we put mail for each other, like if I check the mail I can throw my stuff away and put his in there for him to go over later. This does not happen. It's kind of become a catch-all place for any paper that we might want to keep. But we don't clean it out so it looks ridiculously messy- but I cleaned mine out! It looks so neat and only things I will need to access in the next 1-3 months are there (now just have to encourage Hubby to go through his...).

Next I cleaned off our kitchen counter. We have this little area that ended up with several little jars holding random bits of...stuff. In theory it was supposed to hold pens & scissors, because for some reason I need those things a lot and that is a central area in our sort of open spaced home that makes sense. But lots of other things built up there...so I threw half of it away, put half of the remaining things where they actually belong, and ended up with one jar left- with only pens and scissors. Clutter free for the WIN!

And perhaps the most important...I bought a centerpiece!! For some reason, this just screams "actual planned, peaceful adult home" to me. Our kitchen table is another place that has a tendency to get junky fast. It's a fairly long rectangle, and we only use one end of it. So the other end gets filled with...junk mail, baby wipes and toys...literally anything we lay down when we first come out of the house. I bought a runner years ago, but it was a pain to clean around and moved too much...I never gave up on the dream, though, haha! I had wanted a centerpiece box for a while but never got around to it. I went to Marshall's and found several trays and succulents. Actually went back and forth to Michael's also, which was within walking distance, like a crazy person. After about an 40 minutes of trying to put something cute together with individual pieces and stay under budget, I reminded myself to keep it simple. I purchased a tray and some pre-styled greenery. Not super unique, but looks great anyway. And it keeps the runner from sliding around. I'm hoping that we've matured a bit and the fact that there is something on our table will make us stop piling crap there.

The kitchen chairs also finally got those little pads on the bottom so a) Babycakes can push her chair out easier and get down herself, and b) they don't make a noise and scratch up our floor. I'm a little worried these will collect hair more (again, shed-monsters) but...I need to vacuum more anyway so I'm working on that.

Oh, and I cleaned off the counter in the main bathroom/Babycake's bathroom. Thankfully, she is doing awesome with potty training so some things can are slowly going away- baby wipes, small training potty, etc. It's nice to have some room back. 

I managed to get hubby to watch Marie Kondo on Netflix and he is willing to at least give it a try in the garage- for some reason this is the area he always worries about. So that will be happening soon.

Other areas I might try to touch up soon include- bathroom closets (still have Babycake's baby bath/etc that she hasn't used in ages), Tupperware and junk closet. These are all things that really won't take long but will make a huge difference.

I'm not putting deadlines or anything on these, but this is where my mind and body are going without encouragement so I'm just running with what feels right for the moment. I could probably analyze it and make some grand conclusion about symbolism, but action is feeling better than thought at the moment...so I'm going to just congratulate myself and enjoy the peace these changes are giving me.