The 2020 Roller Coaster

 Some days, I feel bleak. I feel hopeless, and oh so tired. 

Seriously, my friends & I have agreed that sleep is a massive issue. We are all either not sleeping, not getting deep sleep, or sleeping a ton and still not feeling rested. And actually, a lot of us are bouncing between all of these things. 

And other days...I have this weird energy. This knowledge that I am living through a memorial time in history, and one day I will look back on this with a rueful laugh. And that implies a base internal hope that I will live, and society continues on.

Sometimes I feel like I am on a roller coaster and need to hang on for dear life.

Sometimes I feel like I'm on a boat in slightly rocky waters, and there's nothing to do but drink and grin and ride the waves. 

It's almost enjoyable.

And then I feel cripplingly guilt because I am feeling all this, and I am 100% in the minority of people who are experiencing much more drastic effects to their finances and health and social circles.

Shouldn't I be more respectful of what they are going through, and feel terrible? But also...I can't stand the thought of co-opting the grief of others just for the hell of it. 

Weirdly, talking to my co-workers (on the one day a week that I see them) and hearing all of them have the same feelings...it makes me feel better.

I am human. I feel all the things. 

I don't know what life is going to look like in the next six months, or a year, or ten years. 

I believe in the overall survival of humanity.

It doesn't make the suffering of individuals less important, but it helps me to release personal responsibility for everything. It gives me enough space to recover, breathe, and find little pockets of joy and hope and endurance to push myself forward and to assist my community.

It's the best I can do right now, and today I'm okay with that.

Six Months of Unprecidented Times

 Six months ago, I barely knew what COVID 19 was. I didn't own a face masks, much less a dozen of them. Neither did my kid. 

I had never teleworked. 

I hadn't spent months at home with my kid since my maternity leave.

I'd never heard of "social distancing."

I'd never heard of anti-racism. 

I had more faith in police.

My belief in the good of humanity was pretty consistent.

And that's just the cultural change.

When it comes to personal changes...

I didn't have a grandparent with a feeding tube. 

I didn't have a grandparent with diagnosed dementia. 

My husband had never had an argument with my dad. 

My MIL had never had health issues. 

We were a two dog family. 

We owned different vehicles. 

We had the original deck for our home. 

I wasn't on anxiety medication.

 We didn't know that there was a small line of mold growing under our house, causing a weak spot in our flooring. 

I felt passionately connected to my church. 

2020 has been a bitch. In so many ways. 

We are surviving. We have had moments of happiness. 

I have learned to love my family, I have learned to take sanctuary in my home. 

I have felt conviction of choice.

I've baked more than ever, with various levels of success.

I've spent more time outside than I have ever before.

I've been hopeful for humanity, and disappointed by it.

I've felt moved to action.

I've felt small.

I've drank much more than usual.  

I've went even further inward, because everything outside is simply too much.

I've wondered if this is self-care, or cowardice.

I am surviving. 

How will I look back on this year? In frustration? In resentment? Resigned? Angry? Grateful to be out of it? As a tipping point toward progress for our nation?

How will history judge us? 

Since March, I've been asking myself that. It's just too big. This year is too big to see clearly...as much as we try to pretend to do just that. But it's a tapestry. A tapestry whose first threads were chosen long ago, who have been weaved in and out in various designs yet finally met and became tangled together. Will we be able to untangle them? Will we create a new pattern? 

What do we owe each other? What do we owe ourselves?

Why did Daenerys  have to go full Targaryen?

These are questions I will be asking myself for a long time.

An Ode to Johnny: The Best of Dogs and the Best of Friends

Johnny Walker

Our gentle giant.


A big, bumbling, happy-go-lucky Golden Retriever who has been with our family for just over 11 years. He first joined us as a puppy (but still large) dog in Colorado. We had our Belgian Malinois and wanted him to have a friend. Belgians are about 50-60 lbs with mild shedding. We were supposed to get a "friend" for him that was smaller and shed less.


We came home with Johnny, who grew to be 100 lbs and shed like hell.


 My husband saw that beautiful golden face on the shelter website, and we immediately headed over there. After a meet and greet that included our Belgian, we adopted Johnny that day. As we were leaving, at least three other families came up to us and expressed regret- they had come specifically to see him. 

 


 He was actually marked as a high-risk dog, which we came to realize was complete and utter nonsense. His first family reported that they were turning him in for chewing and destruction. He was a 10 month old Golden Retriever, that they kept locked in a bathroom most of the day. Throughout his decade+ time with us, the only thing he damaged were a few socks the first three months and any food that was left within his reach with our backs turned. Fair play for a dog, in my opinion.


He also snapped at one of the humane society techs when they tried to see if he was neutered. Which again, I think is fair play; abandoned by your neglectful family to strangers, and then someone starts grabbing your junk? I'd likely have snapped too.


 Truly, I cannot recall him every showing any signs of aggression with our family. He was a big dog that thought he could fit in your lap. He would sit on our feet and lean on us because he just loved his people. 


My husband and I quickly realized that if we could give every world leader a dog like Johnny, there would be world peace within a month. It's impossible to say mad when he comes over and looks at you with those gorgeous brown eyes full of innocent, pure goodness. Those eyes make you want to be a good human and not yell at other humans or cause sadness. 


Johnny was stoic. When he got hot spots, the vet had to shave him because of the infection. He stated that some dogs have to be sedated due to the pain...Johnny sat there calmly and didn't resist a thing. Our Belgian squeals if you look at him wrong- Johnny just endures.

When going through pictures of him, I had so many that were of him and Babycakes. The first month he stayed in our room, unsure about the tiny & loud human that had come in to the house. He eventually accepted her and would lay beside her, or under her high chair (ever hopeful for fallen scraps).  


 Actually, the first independent decision I ever saw her make involved Johnny. For the first few months babies are mostly reactionary- they are hungry, they are wet, they are tired, something is loud, we hand them a specific toy, etc. But one day I was holding her on my lap and she purposefully reached out to pet him. It felt so momentous.  


The average lifespan of a Golden Retriever is 10-12 years. While we don't know his exact birth date, we think it was sometime in the fall. The first day of fall was yesterday, and he should be 12 years old now.

We have known, realistically, that he was nearing the end of his life for a while, simply due to age. Because he never complains, we wondered how we would know when it was time.


A week or two ago, he started sleeping in Babycake's room. She doesn't like to be alone, and he's so calm that I figured it would be a good idea. Hubs groaned, already worried that Johnny was on borrowed time. Again, we've been living with the knowledge that he is an older dog and the end just couldn't be that far away. On Monday when we went to wake her up, we noticed blood on his pillow. She mentioned he had been coughing through the night.


 After some research...there was simply no good answer. No answer that wouldn't come with expenses, and complications, and buy a small amount of time that likely wouldn't improve his quality of life. 


As Hubs said, we don't want to consider putting him down just to avoid spending money. But what we keep coming back to is his age, and the knowledge that if it's this bad he has probably been in pain for a while and just not expressing it. The word I keep coming back to is stoic. He would have endured...anything, probably. But what is fair to ask of him? 

 

 

So we made some calls to the vet to discuss, and talked it over, and thought a lot...and made the decision to have him put to sleep.

It was a difficult one. Neither of us have had to make this choice for our own pet before, as adults.
It's a hard call to make. 


His cough has gotten more frequent- it's hard to go see him and spend time with him, actually, because it seems to make the coughing worse (thinking he gets excited & can't handle it). He coughed up more blood. He has stopped eating. It truly feels like he went far downhill in 24 hours.
Part of me wonders if there were signs before this, and we stupidly missed them...and part of me feels like this is a sign that we are making the right decision. 


 

We told Babycakes on Tuesday night, so she could have time to grieve and accept it while he was here. It was hard, as to be expected. Being me, of course I went to the library and picked out some books to hopefully help. Hubs read her the book when she got home from daycare, to ease into the conversation. She cried. We cried. We ended up in our bedroom, where Johnny had taken to laying in his last days on his pillow. We gave him love, and it felt terrible to sit there knowing what we had chosen for him. It was also terrible to see his tail wag with love for us, and then inevitably cough and gag a few minutes later as the excitement was too much for him. On Wednesday morning he could barely walk the length off the house, and didn't want to drink (although he enjoyed some final snacks of cheese and peanut butter). 


We had some guys come check an HVAC issue we had been having, and he didn't move from his bed.

We chose to have the vet come to the house, and it was absolutely the right decision for us.
Although oddly, he seemed more sprite and capable when they arrived then he had all day. It was disconcerting; Hubs has chosen to believe that he knew they were here to help him. I like that thought.

We sat in the grass with him and petted him and cried silent tears as he was put to rest. He is buried in our yard, and we are now a one dog family.

 

To Johnny.



September 2020 Check-In

 We have been in our house for about 7 years now, and some things are starting to need maintenance. It's frustrating that everything seems to happen at once, but also, it's life. My husband is currently working on our sliding glass door because it's been getting progressively harder to open over the past few months- like, I went to a friends house over the weekend and probably almost broke hers because I used way too much force on hers...it moved so easy. Anyway, it's been about 45 minutes and I honestly can't tell how it's going. Hubs gets very dryly sarcastic when he's working on things, and it could be going fantastic or terrible. There is truly no difference in tone and I can't tell anything from the other room.

Babycakes is reaching an actual independent stage. Not just wanting to be independent, but actually being capable. She's starting to bathe alone (although we have to work on washing her hair correctly)...she doesn't want me around in the morning when she gets dressed...oh, and guess who taught her how to brush her own hair properly? CINDERELLA. Not the parents who have been doing it for years, but an imaginary character. I'm salty. 

I feel very behind with podcasts and I don't know that I'll ever catch up. Or how much I should try to.

Also I'm not reading a lot lately...have tons of library books and it's just not happening.

I've been growing out my hair for like two years, because I like the idea of being able to braid it. But, I was at the point where it takes 45+ minutes to dry that shit, and I was DONE. Got it cut to roughly my collar bone (maybe 4 inches shorter?) which I call "short," but apparently "short" to other people = pixie cut so my mom & husband always freak out. Either way, I feel like both a literal and physical weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

Speaking of hair stuff, I was going to try the Curly Girl Method while in quarantine, but...that's a fucking process y'all. And it requires so much work and product, which is like...the opposite of what I really want. And it's such a guessing game, because "all hair is different." Also you are supposed to avoid heat, but I can't stand having wet hair (esp when it was long). But, I am trying to convert to CGM approved products (essentially no sulfates or silicones) because I do feel like my hair is much softer and healthier since I switched to CGM approved shampoo & conditioner. Also kind of giving up the idea that I don't have to spend time/energy/product on my hair...but as long as it's short, I can style within 15 minutes so that's acceptable.

I was supposed to start going into the office roughly 50% of the week...but then I got another sinus cold. And I am really fuzzy about the rules, but I felt like until I stopped having congestion I shouldn't go in and freak people out. Think one of my co-workers got annoyed...but she was out of the office/fully teleworking for essentially two months. And it was because her mom was sick/passed away, so I completely get it...but don't get snappy with me after I'm doing my job AND half of your job even after you are "back." I don't know when she's working/in the office/etc. and she seems to be annoyed when I ask or bring my supervisor in, but I'm not okay being dragged for things I NEVER KNEW I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE DOING. Our positions work in tandem, but that doesn't mean I know 100% of your responsibilities, much less how to carry them out...not to mention, which ones you feel like doing and which ones you expect me to pick up. 

The NC Govenor recently passed a new order saying that all 5YOs in preschool have to wear a mask. Technically, Babycakes is in "pre-k" at the daycare she has been attending for several years. So...it's a daycare, but essentially they go until they start school with the last year at the daycare counting as "pre-k." Babycakes is only 4, but because she is in a class with some 5YOs/kids who will turn 5 soon...so everyone has to wear a masks. Look, do I like it? No. Is it frustrating that only like 25% of the kids at this center have to wear them? Yes. But...I AM SO GLAD I TALKED TO MY KID ABOUT MASKS 4 MONTHS AGO! She isn't scared of them, she understands (better than some adults, apparently) what germs are and how they move between people, and she is completely comfortable. It's not new, it's not scary, it's just...something we have to do until we learn how to treat this virus. And parents are complaining that it's too long to wear a mask ALL day...meanwhile, my kid is putting hers on before we even leave the house in the morning. I'm not saying I'm the perfect mom...but I am saying, pretty damn proud of myself and my kid. COVID sucks, but we are getting through it. 

Waited a few days to post this and now confirmation has been received that they don't have to wear masks, after I bought a ton and put her name on them in fabric paint. Told Babycakes and she just sighed and went "Back and forth, back and forth...every day they change the rules." #2020mood

 

 

 What's up with you?



Currently...

 

Reading

The Arc of a Scythe series by Neal Shusterman

 

Listening 

to T. Swift when I'm chill and Lizzo when I need to hype up

 

Watching

Twins the New Trend on YouTube, which is the most awesome channel by two guys in their early 20s who listen to all kinds of music for the first time and post their reactions. So far I've watched them hear Jolene by Dolly Parton, Crazy by Gnarls Barkley, Hey Ya by Outkast, and they lost their minds over Fallin' by Alicia Keys. It makes me feel old AF. Do yourself a favor and watch.

 

Eating

CLIF Bar Peanut Butter Banana with Dark Chocolate Energy Bars. When my life feels...unsettled, I don't like to eat. Either due to time or just...nothing sounds good. So protein bars are where it's at lately. Not for every meal, but if I am running late or needing a little something, it's better than just not eating.

 

 Drinking

Margaritas, because...margaritas. And 2020.

 

Buying 

A garage shelving unit. Because we are those adults now. Also, found a free fridge on the side of the road for our "drinks" fridge, so we're also those people. But hey, it works and our garage is officially middle-class and suburban now.

Wanting

A date night with Hubs. That feels like the one thing I can't really adjust too...we have done lunch dates and to-go dates, but a truly free night out with just each other to focus on seems so far away, in both directions. 

 

Needing

 To get my sleep schedule under eff'ing control.

 

Thinking

About the paper bunting I can't wait to hang up in my other office, where I'll be spending one day a week, because it's currently all white like a 20 year old's first apartment and makes me feel like I should be in a straight jacket.  

 

Late to the party on

Hamilton. Finally watched it with Hubs yesterday, and it is exactly as spectacular as everyone said. Deserves all the hype for all time.

 

Grateful for

Girls nights with friends. 

 

Proud of myself for

Taking the steps to feel better and persevere and the hard work of self-care...not just bubble baths, but actually changing my behavior and thought patterns so I can thrive.

Up on the Healthy Mental Health Mountain



2020 has been a hard year.

That seems like an understatement. And maybe there are some people who are handling it fairly well.


But I'm not, and a lot of people I know aren't.


I am...having trouble. Stuff is just extra hard. And yes, because of additional personal drama along with 2020ness, but life didn't stop because of COVID. It definitely hasn't stopped because of systemic racism and the surge of civil rights fight that's going on right now.

I started 2020 by weaning off my anxiety medicine...bahahaha. Sometime in July I went back on it, because I was literally just sitting in my house crying. I was in a bad place, and I decided to grab a lifeline. But I also decided to look into therapy. I have been a big proponent for therapy, and encouraged it in others.

I didn't grow up with the idea that therapy was good. There is this little internalized idea, even with all the knowledge I have as a liberal millennial,  that therapy is for people with real problems. Like, schizophrenia or something. I know that is bullshit, complete and total bullshit. But again, I have always had issues knowing if my anxiety was "bad enough" to...ya know, actually matter or deserve attention.

Anyway, I started therapy because...everyone in my life has their own problems. I don't mean this dismissively, but I noticed a huge tendency in myself and others to relate things back to themselves. And I don't want that. I want someone to focus solely on me, but without guilt or the weight of how it will affect them. And that's hard with family or friends, because our instinct is to compare or fix.

So selfishly, I don't want to care about how the person listening feels. Because I want to fix me.

But not selfishly, I don't want to add more to the people listening.

Because everyone has their own shit, and heaping my shit on their shit makes their burden heavier.

When I initially had my "I can't take this anymore, I am suffering from anxiety" moment a few years ago, what I heard from everyone was "Yeah I had no idea, you seemed fine." High-functioning anxiety isn't a specific diagnoses, but it seems the most applicable to what I experience.

All that to say, my specific anxiety journey has been largely self-managed up until now. It's been a mishmash of things I remember from school, things I've heard others say, podcasts from professionals, Pinterest...and most of them have helped to some degree. In fact, that is one thing my therapist has said- I'm already doing a lot of the work.

The other night, I couldn't sleep. I didn't feel particularly anxious, that I could identify. I was just...not sleepy. This has been a habit for me the past few weeks- I'm miserably sleepy during the day, but then at night I have trouble sleeping.

Rather than toss and turn and feel guilty about waking up Hubby, I went out to the living room. And I did something that I've heard recommended for people dealing with a lot of emotions.

I wrote a letter, to someone who has (probably unfairly) become a fixture for all my anxiety.

It was about a topic they mentioned, in a semi-big deal way recently...but also something I have been waiting for years. I have a personal guilt about it, even though I can rationalize it. There is a specific decision in my life that I have always known would have repercussions, and I've just been waiting on them.

And the thing is, when it finally came up...I was distraught. But I never wavered.

I never wished I had made a different decision. I was completely willing to live with the consequences, even if it was this worst case scenerio.

Now, let me say...without getting into the details, it's not like I murdered anyone (or broke any laws). I just made a decision that could hurt someone's feelings. But I had a lot of reasons to do it (and continue doing it), and it is well known that it's a good decision. Sometimes, even the "right thing to do" is still hard thing to do. And because people I love have to deal with the repercussions, it hurts. It hurts to know that someone you love hurts, and it hurts to know you are the reason why.

So I had all these feelings, some justified and some not, and I decided to write them in the form of a letter.

When I was doing it, I asked myself if I would ever actually print or handwrite the letter and give it to the person I had addressed it to. But after a few weeks, I know that I wrote it for me. Because writing it out, saying what I wish I could say to this person...it gave me a peace about my choice that I have never felt.

I have always known why I made my choices. I've had it vindicated by way more people than it's ever been questioned. I've seen it vindicated by the people most negatively affected by it. I have just still held on to guilt about it, because I thought...guilt was a sign of love. I thought if I felt enough guilt, it would somehow make it okay that I hurt someone, or I could use it as a shield "Oh, this decision is hard for me too, I'm doing it just because it's easy to be hateful to you!" Which...guilt is possibly the most pointless emotion ever (other than jealousy).

But something I've learned, and this is such an "Oh I'm getting older" thing, is what I said at the beginning of this- so many people have their own shit. And "mental health" is not a thing that you opt in or out of...it's something we all need to work on.


People may claim to not "suffer from mental health," but in reality they just have their own way of coping. Sometimes they are healthy, sometimes they are healthy for a little while.

Either way, I can't manage it. I'm literally dragging myself through my own journey.

And my concern has been for so long that if I don't try to manage people or "meet them where they are" then I'm heartless or uncaring. So in this letter, I just said that.

I admitted my worst fears. And I told this person, in my letter that they would never see, why I made my choice. Why my life was the way it was. And I told them...it wasn't changing any time soon. In my head, and on my computer screen, I said that the damage was done. We could move forward, or not. They could accept it, or not. They could realize that no one gets through life without being hurt.

And over the course of time, I realized that also means...none of us get through life without hurting someone.

The frustrating part is that, when this issue did come up, I was compared to someone. And logically and psychologically, I completely understand why this was the person chosen. It makes sense, from a certain perspective.

It's also completely unfair and ridiculous from another perspective. Because while this person didn't make the decision I made, they have made some others that seem pretty damn questionable in their own right.

And you know what? Their questionable actions had consequences. And then, eventually, they were forgiven, or everyone just moved on. I remember their imperfect phase, but I'm basically the only one who remembers anything (a great memory is not helpful re: anxiety).

I have a long standing idea that I am never just...good enough. And in this letter, I asked why good enough wasn't...good enough. And I admitted that I wasn't perfect, and that if this was my big imperfection...then it was just going to have to be my big fucking imperfection. And who cares? Because people are not perfect, and if this was my fuck-up, then I shoulder that and refused to apologize anymore.

For the first time I became okay with my own imperfections.


If I'm crying over it at midnight by myself and still feeling like I would go to battle for it, as broken and brittle as I was in that moment, then it was the right thing for me.

I've had to accept hard things. I've felt repercussions by the decisions of others. And they defend them, because they had their reasons. If someone chooses not to respect my reasons...that's on them.

I made my decision. They can respect it, or not.

I can only meet someone halfway if they are also willing to meet me halfway.

And if they don't, then they are responsible for the further damage. I own up to my part- but I will no longer take on the repercussions to how someone chooses to respond to me.

It's hard to grow up. It's hard to deal with pain, and hurt, and frustration. It's hard to see people act differently than you would.

But by God, they are going to. Because people are just not the same. And that's beautiful when we can respect it.

It's fucking terrifying and painful we refuse to acknowledge it.

I can only choose which side I am on.

And for the first time, maybe ever, I am fully okay with that. It's painful, but it's a pain I know I can endure.

Weirdly, this hypothetical move to tell this person- Accept me, or not- made me realize I also have a choice. I have to accept them too. I don't like the way they do things, but I acknowledge their hurt and their issues and their reasons (even if they don't do the work to realize it themselves). I love them as much as I possibly can. And if that isn't enough...then yes, it is terribly sad and painful. But it's also the best I can do, and I won't feel bad about that anymore. And if they think it's not enough...then they aren't loving me the way I want and need either. And that will just be a sad fact I have to live with.

I'm from North Carolina. We are, yet again, looking at another hurricane that is potentially passing our way. And we will prepare, and hunker down, and deal with the aftermath when it comes.

I could move somewhere that doesn't deal with this as often.

But, I'd have to learn how to deal with snow and ice, or hurricanes, or forest fires, or earthquakes.

There is no easy life. There is no avoiding the pain.

There is only choosing what you can live with.

Right now, I can honestly say I am at peace with my choices. And that feels surprisingly healthy and nice.

I realize this might seem random and convoluted.

But basically, I am doing some work on myself...and it's working.

I feel good. I felt really bad, and now I feel good.


I'll probably feel really bad again sometime. But I will also feel really good again sometime.

And the good is totally worth the bad.

There Are No Good or Simple Answers in 2020

I wanted to write about COVID, because I haven't in a while. I haven't written anything in a while, actually. No here, not in my bullet journal- which for months was basically just a regular Dear Diary journal, because I had shit to keep up with.

But it's been over 4 months...a quarter of a year...and it's still a thing.

Personally, I am...okay. I am afloat, and okay. Not great, not as terrible as I was two weeks or a month ago. Maybe better than I will be in another two weeks or a month.

I am trying to take the long view, which I had a feeling would be needed in March and still is and will continue to be...for COVID and for systemic racism and for sexism and for all the ways things are shit, because it is better than it's been and every mile gets you there in a marathon, even if some are shamefully slow. I'm hopeful and cautious...tired and sometimes crying. Also going through the list of things that get me out of a funk, making myself take steps because even if it feels like treading water, that keeps me from drowning.

Like a shit ton of other people, I'm blaring Folklore by T. Swift. Used to think she was overrated, and now I'm pretty much committed to buying anything she puts out.

Side note- also checking out

Watching Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, because Emmanuel Ocho is facilitating some amazing conversations. Subsequently realizing that literally every argument about the Black Lives Matter social justice issue has already been answered by Black people, and white people are just too damn stuck in their bubble to bother listening (including myself for the majority of my life).

I think what is so ridiculously fucking frustrating about 2020 is that...there are no good or simple answers.

And some people just refuse to face that truth.

There's no clear answers to COVID- yes, the news changes every day because we don't know shit about this virus.

That means there's no clear answers to how to interact with each other- nicer to stay in contact and refuse to let something invisible divide us? Or nicer to play it as safe as possible and not risk the health of those you love? Who gets to decide what amount of risk is acceptable...the sick grandparents or the healthy young adult who will survive physically, but know they potentially played Russian Roulette with a loved one...which is the most cruel, or the most loving? There is no good answer.

Of course kids should be in school, we have a system for a reason. But a wrench was thrown in the system, and it's not a simple as just pulling it out. Do we pivot, or do we bulldoze? Both come with consequences...there is no good answer.

Of course our country was built on racism...no one can deny that. How the hell you untangle those cords? Buy from black business owners (how do I find a "welcome garden flag" from a "black owned business" because Google has been confused...and how long do I have to try before I'm not racist for giving up and going to Amazon, even though yeah Bezos has too much money and by all accounts is a D-bag?)...read books by Black authors (every other book? How guilty should I feel reading a white author? Follow Black bookstagramers- what if they only post pics of books?!)...I deactivated my Facebook- am I socially required to join again so I can post about systematic racism and reach people I purposefully don't have on Insta? Or is it pointless because the only people bothering to watch those videos anyway are doing it due to confirmation bias and everyone else is just going to ignore in-person conversations because they assume I'm a left-wing liberal SJW idiot? Vote, even if we only get to do that a few times a year and the whole system is corrupt? All of the above, but also be sure to not burnout and be even less helpful to BIPOC? And yes this is some white fragility shit, but also...some people (white & Black) say there are steps and this is my step one.There are no...well, I don't want to say there are no good answers here, because some are obviously better than others even though none are perfect. There are no simple answers.

Essentially, I am Chidi all 2020.

Mostly, this one.

via GIPHY

But also this one.

via GIPHY


There are no good simple answers.

So let's do the best we can. Let's survive.

Let's work our lists, and take steps forward...or tread water...or run a marathon towards the few fundamental truths. Let's do one and then the other and mix up the order.

There are no good answers.

When I was dealing with some family drama recently, my husband said literally the only thing that could have made any sense. He said, "Do what you can live with."

Take in a all the information, but don't get overloaded with it. Make the best decision based on the information you have at any given moment.

That's what I'm trying to do, anyway.

There are no simple answers.

That means we are going to make some bad decisions, or at the very least...make some decisions that have bad consequences (again, one thing COVID has clearly demonstrated- no man is an island).

I know, that's part of the human condition. But I grew up with the idea that there is always a very clear right and wrong, and everyone who didn't clearly see it was a piece of shit.

That's wrong. It's taken me over thirty years to know that intellectually...and I still haven't internalized it fully.

But if there is anything 2020 has taught me, it's that I just gotta get on board with the idea that I'm going to fuck up. Probably a lot.

Doing nothing pisses people off. Doing the wrong thing pisses people off.

There are no good or simple answers.

Do what you can live with.

July 2020 Check-In

Hello again, world. My blogging is super inconsistent right now, and it just is what it is.

I'm doing okay. My family drama is still going on, but it's slowed down slightly. Of course, when it comes to health problems for the elderly...that can change at any moment. Do I feel like the rug is thisclose to being pulled out from under me at all times? Yes. Has it been still long enough that I'm almost lulled into a sense of security? Yes. It's a weird way to live life.

NC is still in Phase 2 re: COVID. This was originally projected for maybe the 3rd week in June, and will now extend until August. I'm not mad, I'm resigned. TBH, the worst part of this is me trying to figure out how in the world the holidays will work in the middle of a pandemic. Because I'm not counting on change until we get a vaccine, and even then...probably another two months. If it's easily available and affordable...which I'm not sure it will be in the US. That being said, I'm grateful for NC's mandatory mask order. I've been mostly doing it anyway, but this is getting some attention and I'm grateful. I hope that everyone worried about the economy realizes that this is the easiest and best way to get back out there. Did I order at pack of Old Navy masks specifically to get one in my school colors so I could color coordinate when I finally get the directive to go back to work? Damn straight I did. Mask fashion is totally a thing now, and I'm down.

Re: systematic racism...I'm trying to educate myself. I've made it a priority to read books by Black authors, and have been on a reading streak TBH. Making it a priority again. Following more Black people who are willing to educate and share resources via Instagram, and I'm so thankful for them. TBH, that's about it right now because I'm still semi-quarantining. Have had a few conversations with family members, small potatoes though. Call your local politicians and let them know this shit has gone on for two long. Listen to those who are experiencing it. Find a long-term way to be an ally. Or at least...that's what I'm doing. Hope it amounts to something.

Oh, and I'm following via Insta because I deactivated Facebook. Semi miss it for the local COVID updates from my governor, and my workout group. But, overall, it was the right decision. It's easier to love people when I don't have to see everything they see and agree without actually thinking about it. Fully believe there is a reason God didn't make us able to read each other's minds.

My aunt offered us a desk and bed for Babycakes from my cousin, who is getting an upgrade now that she's out of high school. Said yes before I realized the problems getting it to our house from my parent's house, three hours away...since we don't own a truck. Hubs said I should have turned it down, but I didn't even consider the issues until it was already moved. FML.

Speaking of vehicles- apparently we may have to shop for a new one about a year earlier than we hoped. My hubs thought his breaks were off, but it turned out to be something else...and they've stopped making the parts for his vehicle. The mechanic is literally trying to call salvage shops for a part. Apparently most people don't keep cars for 10-15 years...but we do. We had plans to be debt free within 1-1.5 years, and that will be pushed off if we have to purchase a new vehicle. It's completely doable, just not preferable.

I may have had a margarita for lunch. I don't binge by any means, but sometimes a good stiff drink really does help. I have few vices in this world, mkay?

Show Us Your Books Link-Up: July 2020




Hello! How is everyone? Personally...I'm still riding the 2020 roller coaster. It's a mess. I have hope it is a rough season that will end, and the good times will come again...but definitely a roller coaster right now. 

Possibly to deal with that, I'm getting back in a reading groove. At one point my Goodreads yearly challenge was showing a deficit of 6 books, now it's down to 2. Which is definitely manageable. 

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

This book...I love it. The Mothers is one of my all time favorite books, and I was almost scared to read this one because sometimes a sophmore attempt just doesn't quite spark as much as a debut. But this was amazing. It discusses confusing and difficult topics, but in such a beautiful and relatable way...it goes down smooth. Reading it was like eating cheesecake- slow and smooth and delicious. 
★★★★★

A Wedding Thing (The One #3) by Shea Serrano, Larami Serrano

Full disclosure- I got this confused with another book (The Wedding Date). I figured out pretty quickly that it was a different story altogether, and enjoyed it...and then it was over! I didn't realize that it was part of a series, The One. But I'm definitely going to finish, because I enjoyed this so much and really love the idea of small, true love stories. 
★★★★

The Upside of Falling Down by Rebekah Crane 

I feel like I remember seeing this a lot a while back...it's fairly popular on Kindle Unlimited. Either way, it was a cute enough little love story. I wouldn't say it's a must read at all, but (to quote Steph) it passed the time just fine. 
★★★


The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

This was one of the 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards- History & Biography. It was...good. The writing wasn't exactly the most engaging, and it could have been shorter IMO. That being said, I enjoyed the reality of looking deeper into the lives of people who were, essentially, written off as "one thing" in the media (in this case, prostitutes). Hearing of the riots and sensationalist news and poverty and health issues...it made me both incredibly tired and also somewhat hopeful. As I said in a previous post: Disease- protests- poverty- family drama- looting...it is both hopeful and depressing to realize all these years later, for all our progress, we still have the same issues. To different degrees, and in different places, but humanity struggles on. The absurdity of the human condition.
★★★




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

Things That Are Helping

Hello, world. 

It's been a rough few months, we all know that. Literally everyone I know is struggling. Anxiety, depression, general blah-ness...we're all under a bit of a cloud. And fucking rightly so- I don't say this as a diss on anyone. 

I've heard it said and it's worth repeating- we are living history. 2020 is literally going to be one for the fucking history books, and that takes a toll on people.

I recently read The Five, which TBH wasn't my favorite book but I can't stop thinking about it so it was a very timely read. It talked about the different victims of Jack the Ripper, but what really struck out to me was the culture of the time. There was a lot of discussion about class and poverty and alcoholism and morality policing...basically, it was just a big reminder that humanity always has struggles and frustrations and suffering is a part of the human experience. That doesn't make me feel better in myself, but just looking at all the shit humans as a whole have endured makes me feel like...there is hope. Even when I don't feel it, even when it feels like the shittiest Groundhog Day ever...humanity survives. We survive more shit than feels possible. 

Anyway. This is sounding more negative that I really meant to get. Weirdly, that last paragraph inspires me.

The human spirit is indomitable. And that pushes me to go through the motions. 

My husband has been on a...weight loss journey, I guess, is probably the most well-known term. But that doesn't really feel like it describes it. Life-change would be better, but ugh- doesn't that sound pretensious AF? Anyway. He's lost like 50 lbs in the past year. And his mantra has been "Discipline over motivation." Because he realized early on that while he had days that he was feeling good and really inspired, there were also days when he didn't want to put in the work. And it has been work. But, a year later, he's blown past his original goals and inspired lots of people. Not because he's been constantly motivated, but because he's consistently put in the work. 

The last few months have been a roller coaster, and my carefully balanced routine was pulled out from me. I've floundered a little and my mental health has suffered. 

Something I heard Dax Shepherd say a long time ago on his podcast, and something that I have seen in practice both in my lives and the lives around me, is the idea of a list of things to keep oneself on the right track. For Dax, it's in terms of addiction- he's been open about his participation in AA and sobriety, and he says when he is having a tough time or not feeling right that he has a list of actions he checks. Has he worked out, called a friend, etc. in the last X days. 

I haven't been working my list. 

But I'm coming back.

Things I'm doing that are helping:

Made myself a morning routine list. It's been real tough to adjust to working at home- first with Babycakes, now with her at back to daycare, then a co-worker had a family emergency so I took over some of her responsibilities...it's been a roller coaster. And more days than I care to admit, I've been in my PJs at noon and never "got around" to brushing my teeth until after lunch. I KNOW- it's gross. But the past two days I made myself a list, with time-blocks, and it's helped me feel somewhat more like a normal person. 

Reaching out to friends. I don't love doing this, it's hard over the phone, but again- everyone is struggling right now. Miscarriages, deaths in the family, general parenting woes...a lot of life is on pause, but a lot of shit keeps on coming. It hurts to see people hurt, but it also breaks down some walls of "I'm fine." Be real with your people. Whoever they are, family or friends or whoever. And be sure you are giving them space to be real with you.

Deactivated Facebook. I'm not going to say nothing good comes from social media- it does. But the bad was overwhelming the good for me. I personally find it easier to love people when I don't have access to every thought that enters into their head. Especially because you can "share" something with literally not even 2 seconds worth of thought. I don't think Facebook profiles always represent a whole, thoughtful picture of a person...but I also don't think they encourage thoughts. It's complicated, and it wasn't helping me.

Acknowledging what I can control and what I can't. This is hard...I have control issues, and guilt issues, and together those make it hard to chill the fuck out. We joke that my husband is the all-or-nothing personality, but lately I haven't been good at respecting "good enough." There is a huge social justice push right now to stop complicit silence, and demand...what feels like perfection. I get that. It's fair. But I've internalized it to a place that is not useful. I can't be 100% of everything all the time. So I'm working on realistically working on what I can do. There is a parable (story) in the Bible where Jesus talks about a farmer sowing seeds. Some seed never takes root; some takes root and grows but is choked up by weeds; some grows and is able to be harvested. All I can do is live by my morals and stick to my convictions. I cannot hand plant every single seed of everything in the garden of every person. And what I do probably won't be enough in some people's eyes, and it will be too much in other's. 

Be realistic about what I put myself through. After a lot of emotional turmoil, I recently went back on my anxiety medication. I had weaned off earlier this year and had not planned on returning so quickly. However...2020. It's been a motherfuck. And I was crying and talking to Hubs about how I wasn't sure if I should take it or not...and he made some great points, and said a lot of things I have said to him in the past. When I acknowledged through my tears that he was right- and he definitely was being fair and supportive and logical in a way that I couldn't be- he asked if it was frustrating for me to hear. He said when he was in his dark times, it was frustrating to hear me be logical. I wasn't frustrated. I was sad. I was sad that I had to be told what I already knew, sad that I was putting myself and my family through this...just sad because life is fucking sad. And right now, my life is hard and people I love are hurting and...life is sad. I've also made my first ever appointment for therapy. I've been considering it for a while because...while the medication has been an amazing thing that I'm so grateful for, I also want to do the mental work. I think realizing our mental patterns and coming up with defenses against those are very worthwhile and beneficial goals. 

Watching Say I Do. I used to cry all the time when I was younger. Around my mid-20s, I stopped. And I truly believe that somehow that repression is tied to my anxiety- because even while my husband in Iraq, in a literal war zone- I did not feel like I have felt during my anxiety periods. I think part of it deals with giving myself permission and time to feel my feelings. So, I watch cheesy shows to help me cry it out. Also, I fucking love seeing all these men being loving and respectful and in awe of their female partners (so far, it's been all straight couples). It's literally an anecdote to all the negativity currently abounding in the world. 


What has been getting you through lately?

Thoughts

Man, 2020 is not letting the eff up huh?

COVID is still there, but sometimes feels like it isn't. I've been pretty strict about wearing my mask, but completely forgot a few times. Finally had some time just me & Hubs, and truthfully those have been so rare since COVID that my mind backtracked a few months. Strolled right into those stores without a though. Have mixed feelings about this. Happy that things are getting back to normal...but then I come into a very empty office and talk to my boss about how we may not be back to fully normal operations until January- and realistically, depending on what happens during the colder months, maybe not even then. So it still feels...very surreal in so many ways.

And of course...what we are seeing everywhere...the aftermath of the George Floyd murder. Because it was murder. It was wrong.

It was also the tip of the iceberg. My city had a protests and additionally some property damage from those who decided to use the protests as a cover for destruction. We had threats to municipal buildings and officials. These have affected my family personally. It's also caused a lot of personal reflections.

I grew up with and maintained for far too long the idea that if I was just nice to people, that was all that could or should be asked of me. I ignored little racist comments and believed manipulated statistics. I have not been an ally to people of color, is what I'm saying. I wouldn't have called myself a racist (but surprisingly few people do)...but no one could have called me an anti-racist. Didn't even really know this term existed or what it meant until a week or so ago.

I'd like to become one. I'm not sure when I will be able to truly claim it. But I can claim- I am going to be a white ally. Being me, I'm working on specific and detailed goals that I can put into action to help ensure this actually happens. It's nothing drastic, and it's baby steps that I'm taking at the age of thirty. I can't change my complacency in the past; I'm working to not fall into it in the future.

On top of the general 2020 fuckery, family issues have popped up.

My grandparents have been in great shape for a long time, until they weren't. My grandma's memory has been going and is officially on a rapid decline. No specific diagnoses, but anyone who has experienced it knows what I mean. My grandpa had a stroke maybe 6 months ago and is not recovering. I can't even say not recovering well- it's been a near constant decline. I told my mom (not for the first time) to let me know what I can do. She told me to come spend more time with them...so I've gotta figure out how to do that. I am not sure exactly what I will be doing other than...being there. Which is probably going to be a little weird. I'd like to go on specific weekends so I can take Babycakes, because honestly kids are a great focus in these situations and she can get in as much time with them as possible. But...I also don't want to just take up my parent's house and time. Specifically my mom, who works in retail and can't always adjust her schedule and I don't want to cause more stress. Also slightly worried about my dad because I am pretty sure I heard him saying in the background that I should have already been making this a priority. I love my dad very much, but he sees the world one way and everyone who doesn't meet those expectations is wrong. He would never describe himself that way, I'm sure, but it's definitely how it feels to me...and honestly, it's part of what keeps me away. Again- I like complacency and I will often do nothing if the option of doing something is the least bit controversial...aka the opposite of my dad, who can best be described as brash. Each have their place, but rarely together. I have literally one goal- that is to help my mom, and do whatever causes her the least amount of stress during this time. We shall see what turns out to be.

Hubs has already said to do whatever I need, we'll make it happen. And I actually saw my boss for the first time in a long time yesterday, in person, and gave her a heads up that I may need to do some adjusting for a while. I'm already on a telework agreement due to COVID, and going into the office only 1 day a week, so it shouldn't be as a big of a deal as it would have pre-COVID. But she completely understood. I have said it before and I'm sure I will say it again- I LOVE my supervisors. The head of my department has made it very clear that family is a priority and always respects a need. Not saying she is a pushover- hardly. But she is a woman with a family, she respects hard work and juggling and knows it when she sees it. Also...she is dealing with some similar issues within her own family so she knows personally the exact toll and needs required.

In Stay Sexy and Don't Get Murdered, Kilgariff talks about her mother having Alzheimer's as being in the movie Jaws. You know the shark is coming for you, everyone on the beach is running away and no help is coming, you are flailing around and so tired..and the shark is still miles away. But it's coming, and you just keep flailing, and it's taking forever but never happening but you know it's coming for you. This feels accurate to my life right now. I told my boss this during our conversation, and she thought for a minute and then laughed. "That's so good. That is such a good way to put it!" Then we told each other "It just sucks and I'm sorry." Because, it does and we are. There's no escaping it. The Jaws music is slowly getting louder, in my ears and brain every second now, and who knows how long it will be playing.

Not to mention- do we wear masks? Are we going to make them sicker if we go? How do we make that decision?! And I don't know if Hubs is even "allowed" to leave the county, technically, due to his job as an essential worker...

The absurdity of the human condition. I started reading The Five and it sets up by describing the poverty and living conditions in London in the late 1800s. Disease- protests- poverty- family drama- looting...it is both hopeful and depressing to realize all these years later, for all our progress, we still have the same issues. To different degrees, and in different places, but humanity struggles on.

The absurdity of the human condition.

Show Us Your Books Link-Up: June 2020




Hello, everyone. Hope you are doing okay...there's so much right now. It's overwhelming, and I hope you are all okay...or at least, feel like you will be soon.

There's really nothing to say that hasn't already been said. So, onto the books.

Glad I started with the anniversary author's note, or I would have been so confused. TBH, these books are kind of crazy. They are just so long! And it feels like each one could have been at least two books...but the series is like 7-8 books long! I am scared to even think of how it goes from here, haha. But it was an enjoyable read. Side note- the television adaptation is one of the better book-to-visual media ones I've seen. Not saying it's perfect or exact but it's very good.


Another honesty moment? I rarely like books about readers or book lovers! I know, I know, insanity. But so often they feel a little cheesy to me. And this one was maybe cheesy in some bits, but I loved it. Really. I appreciated how they took a love of books and reading and applied it to real world situations- education, diversity, social inequality...it was great. I liked that Amy failed to include a diverse rang of stories, and once that was pointed out she fully acknowledged it and was open to ways to do that. That part felt extra timely.

Part of my reading goals for the year was to read the 2019 Goodreads Choice winners. The Nonfiction winner was Rachel Hollis with Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals. I read Girl Wash Your Face and just couldn't stomach the idea of reading another Hollis book*, so I went with the runner up. Did not know going in that this was by the people who hosted the podcast My Favorite Murder, which I have heard of but never listened to (went through a huge true crime phase in high school but it passed). This was still an interesting and very fast read, a nice "break" from all the current heavy (which is saying something about 2020, given that it's by people who refer to gruesome murders a lot).
*short review of my opinion- some parts were great, some were super repetitive and some were super full of white privilege which...I get, because I have it, but also...acknowledge that sometimes it's not realistic for everyone..


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

Time Management

I suuuuuuck at time management.

That is one of the lessons COVID 19 is teaching me. If you have been around for a while, you have heard me lament about my struggles with control and anxiety. To me, they are one and the same.

I have worked very hard to structure my life in a way that works for me. I have routines and I have coping mechanisms and I have to place things on a calendar and to-do lists because otherwise I will just feel like they are having over my head.

This time away from my office has been so difficult. A friend said that she feels like she should have more time than ever, but she can't figure out what to do with it. I'm the same. Somehow I have no clue how to do the things I need to do. In theory I am working the same 8 hours, and Babycakes is back in daycare...but I can't figure out how to use my time. I start working earlier, but somehow have no lunch break to run errands or enjoy a sliver of quiet time to myself.

In all fairness...nothing has been "normal" yet really. I've had two different doctor appointments, so that's two days thrown off. They were originally scheduled on the same day so I would only have to miss one day of work, but that was months ago, pre-COVID. Also, our city- like many others- has been busy with both peaceful protests sparked by the death of George Floyd and also with agitators who use these protests as an excuse to commit unlawful violence and damage. Since Hubs works within the law enforcement/criminal justice field, this has meant some extra time away from home...and not always planned. This has been a disruption for me both practically and emotionally. Not to mention that Babycakes started swimming lessons this week. So...yeah, it's been a juggling act.

To a point, I know that's life. I know that's especially mom life. 2020 is taking everyone on a roller coaster.

I'm hanging on, but I can't exactly say that I'm enjoying it at the moment. Feeling a bit weary and just...unsettled.

This too shall pass...eventually.