Fool me once

2021 really sucked. This year was extremely rough, even moreso than 2020. I’ve never been so bogged down by depression and anxiety before. I’ve never been physically injured so badly before. I’ve never felt so profoundly burned out. The word “exhaustion” doesn’t even cut it.

I worked on myself a lot. Physically and mentally. Felt like most of the time I was struggling to break even, to keep going. To get through the day. There were definitely bright spots. Traveling, as simple as getting out of town for the weekend, either with friends or family. That’s the crux, really – the word simple. As the sequel to 2020 in a shitty franchise that goes on forever, I’ve had to focus on the simple pleasures, and honestly that’s been nice.

I really hope 2022 is better. Dear lord I need that, we all need that. I’m also hesitant to place a bet because this rollercoaster has fooled us all multiple times now. Fool me once.

In 2021 I read the second highest number of books in one year in my adult life. This year I read 25 books, three of which were Harry Potter read out loud to my kids, a few pages each night, complete with all the voices. Man, that was fun! Such a joy to read a Quidditch match as fast as I can to try and spark excitement and action. It’s amazing reading Fred and George’s lines and getting laughs. Books are the best.

This year, I made a point to choose some books with the aim to educate myself on race and the black experience.

  • White Fragility – Robin DiAngelo
  • I’m Still Here – Austin Channing Brown
  • You Are Your Best Thing – Tarana Burke and Brene Brown, editors

All were informative in their own way. You Are Your Best Thing was the most emotional, as a collection of stories and essays from black authors.

I finally finished Barack Obama’s book, which was tough to consume as bedtime reading. Perhaps I should have invested in the audiobook – his voice is quite soothing but would that have made the experience even longer?

  • A Promised Land – Barack Obama

I read a bunch of titles that were just meh for me. I wouldn’t really recommend them. I suppose I enjoyed Anxious People the most out of this bunch.

  • Anxious People – Fredrik Backman
  • Welcome to the United States of Anxiety – Jen Lancaster
  • The Sanatorium – Sarah Pearse
  • Hush – Dylan Farrow

Here are the other non-fiction titles I read this year.

  • The Power Worshippers – Katherine Stewart
  • Year of Yes – Shonda Rhimes
  • Burnout – Emily and Amelia Nagoski

Power Worshippers was about how evangelical and fundamentalist Christians are working in America (and overseas, actually) to infiltrate the public school system and get people elected to public office, among other things. I had no idea how many churches use public school buildings to save on costs, and in an attempt to recruit young members. Anyway, I saw the book on a shelf and grabbed it and it was an infuriating read. Yes was fun to read and learn more about the woman behind all those hit shows on TV like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. Burnout was a self-help book, but SUCH a good one. It speaks to women in context of the patriarchy and explains what burnout is and how to complete the stress cycle in our lives. I’m pretty sure it was written pre-Covid, but my glob, it was exactly what I needed.

This year, The Bloggess, aka Jenny Lawson had a new book come out and it did not disappoint. That woman is skillful at chronicling her experiences with mental illness in such a way that is honest, humanizing, and extremely funny. It’s beyond validating to read.

  • Broken, In The Best Possible Way – Jenny Lawson

For my Halloween book this year, I stumbled across Grady Hendrix and he is masterful. He created a slasher book that reads like a movie with exquisite dry humor woven in. I identified with the anxious, protective, badass, sarcastic leading Final Girl and wanted more.

  • The Final Girl Support Group – Grady Hendrix

I am a huge Brene Brown fan. I love her work and I love her, both as me the clinician and me the person. Her podcasts have helped me cope over the past 2 years and her new book should be required reading for being human. I’m fascinated with language and how it’s used, and how that shapes our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We need a fan club. What are her fans called? Brownies? Friends of Brene?

  • Atlas of the Heart – Brene Brown

I won’t list every single book I read this year, but these last four are my top four fiction books of the year.

4. Outlawed – Anna North

A friend recommended this one to me, and I knew enough to take her up on it. It’s an alternate history western that is after the “Great Flu” and is feminist AF. Very fun and interesting to read.

3. The Whisper Network – Chandler Baker

Recommended by the same friend, this one is Big Little Lies meets The Morning Show. It’s a group of women working in corporate America dealing with all the shit women deal with…and it’s a whodunit. It’s good, y’all.

2. The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris

This one was recommended by a different friend, one who knows my love of WWII civilian life. This is based on the true story of two people who meet and fall in love living in the Auschwitz concentration camp, if you can call that living. It is an awe-inspiring account of the horrors of war and the resilience of the human spirit. Brought me to tears.

  1. The Alice Network – Kate Quinn

By far the best book I read all year. I couldn’t put it down. This one intertwines the storylines of two different women in two different time periods – one is a spy in The Great War and one is pregnant out of wedlock in post-WWII Europe. The way the characters are written are detailed, nuanced, full of trauma. I was on the edge of my seat, and afterward I researched just how true to life the story was. Several of the spies in this book were real people. Real badass ladies.

So there you have it. 2021 was definitely the year to get lost in a good book if there ever was one. Happy New Year, all, and happy reading.

The post about the lack of posts

WordPress has informed me that today is my blogiversary. And this is no ordinary blogiversary, my dear psychos. As of today, I have been blogging, on and off, for 10 years on this platform. That’s pretty cool.

Also, I’m all too aware that at the beginning of the month, I boldly declared that I was gonna try and do NaNoWriMo in its truest sense – to write a novel in 30 days. And even though I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation, I’m writing this more as a way of processing and documenting for myself – that life is just too much right now. I can’t do it. Not in 30 days. And that’s okay.

I do have the backbone of my novel all thought out, which was very fun – surprisingly so. And even though I only posted two chapters (I’ve begun writing the third), I found myself continuing to write the novel in my head constantly throughout the day and I was thinking about my characters, their backstories, and their motivations and how that might inform how they navigate the zombie outbreak that was brewing in my head.

So. Writing a novel is still my goal. I’d love to eventually see this idea through. I’m one of those people who can’t seem to quit, even when quitting might be the better option, so this is my lesson in humility. I’m not quitting, I’m just hitting pause, for now.

Thanks to those who read the first few chapters. What did you think? What do you imagine might happen next?

Words Down

I miss blogging. I miss writing.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m gonna do a thing.

This thing may be weird. It may not work. It may come out all garbled, out of order, not make sense.

But I’m just gonna dive in and see what happens.

November is for NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month. I’ve done the blogging version before, several times, where my personal goal was simply to blog something – anything – once a day for the whole month. The original spirit, however, was to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. And like, I don’t even write fiction, really. But it’s a new challenge. That, and there was this free zoom seminar on how to do this thing and so I figure I’m an expert now.

My concerns – my inner editor is big and PMS-y. I’m gonna have to shove a huge chocolate bar in her mouth and tell her to shut up so I can write. The goal here, so I’m told, is quantity over quality. My goal is just to get words down. Words out. Words. And without much of a plan or a plot planned out, and with posting little chunks each day, there may not be much continuity from day to day and post to post. Indeed, today is the first day and all I have decided on is a name for my main character.

Anyway. The purpose of this statement is to give some context for this month’s posts, and I am going to try my best not to criticize myself right out of the gate. My goal, besides words down, is to be open and curious to the experience. I wonder what will happen to my main character? Who will she meet? What will she accomplish?

Thanks for coming with me for the ride.

The Big Reset

I haven’t posted since April, ugh. It’s been the longest break I’ve taken since I started blogging for realz in 2012.

I don’t even know what I want to say now…it’s more that I want to break the silent streak and hopefully gain some momentum from putting fingers to keys and seeing what comes out.

This summer is feeling like a great in-between time. The adults are vaccinated, but our kids are not. For me, getting vaccinated is the benchmark for feeling safe, for getting out and doing stuff.

We’ve been socializing more. It’s been weird. I’ve gone into people’s houses. What?!

Each summer here in the PNW I tend to feel a renewed urge to get out and be active, get fit. In an effort to do that, I fell off my bike and badly sprained my ankle. I think the universe is telling me to slow my roll.

As my depression lifted, and as the world opened up, my anxiety moved back in. Oh hey, look, you have some vacancies to fill. Don’t mind if I do.

I worked hard to find a therapist who 1) had openings – because therapists ARE FULL UP right now, and 2) was willing to see vaccinated folks in person. I knew I’d need the extra support for going back out into the world and processing all the shit we’d just been through. Also, I would like to go back to work at some point aaaaaand I’m gonna need to take care of myself first before I can get back into the therapy office as the shrink.

So far, this has been a summer of patience. Of healing. Of reconnecting. Of deciding on my boundaries moving forward.

This summer is the big reset.

I’m here. I made it.

It’s dark in here. And cold. I don’t like the cold but the dark is kinda nice. It wraps me up so your pity cannot see me.

I’m not sure how I got here or how long I’ve been. I have no idea how long I’ll stay or how I could leave if I wanted to.

Do I want to? I don’t even know what’s outside anymore.


I want to drive and meet people.

I don’t want to drive and meet people.

I need to pack.

I’m excited to pack?

Leave me alone so I can pack.

What do I need again?

Put things in the car. Don’t forget.

Get gas. Wait.

Run errands. Hurry.

Maybe coffee will make me feel…how I’m supposed to feel. Why, I have no clue.

Remember. Don’t forget.

People are waiting.

Pull over. It’s too much. I can’t see.

Breathe.

Driving fast. Novel sights, new smells.

Stimulation.

Breathe.

Get there.

Missed turn. Racing heart.

Drained.

Engine cuts out, so do I.

Resist the urge to run. Keep driving.

Moving fast feels like standing still.

I’m here.

Get out of the car.

I made it.


Say hello to my new Depression Translator.

Me: “Hi. Where’s the bathroom?”

DT: “Hello, friends. I am happy to be here but I’m depressed, exhausted, and fear human interaction. I’m going to go hide in the bathroom for a moment and try not to cry and/or hyperventilate. It may take me a while to calm down and warm up to this social situation. I’m sorry if I seem weird or rude. I know how this must look. I can’t seem to fix it. But I’m here. I made it.”


I feel the need to accompany content like this with disclaimers because I’m aware that I’m writing for an audience. I want to normalize depression and anxiety and I want to suck the stigma out of it. I want to normalize expressing depression and anxiety because that’s healthy. I fear judgement for writing stuff like this, but I feel compelled to do it nonetheless. Take from it what you will, and leave your advice at the door. Thanks.

Wrinkle Cream and Lounge Wear

What a year this has been. Holy freaking cow.

I like to blog and take stock of my life on my birthdays, but this year I don’t even know where to start.

I usually get a massage on my birthday, but that didn’t happen. (There is a part of me that just wants to say fuck it and go do whatever I wanna do, but the rule follower part of me won’t allow that fantasy to become a reality.) Even though holy crap I could really use one because I can literally feel the weight of junk that’s been collecting and that I’ve been dragging around with me. After said massage, I usually go and sit in a Starbucks where I drink coffee without kids and I blog and read. As I type this, I’m sitting in my car in the parking lot of a park overlooking a river. I have my Starbucks and I just inhaled a birthday donut. At least it’s quiet and there are zero kids in the vicinity.

Usually, my birthday evokes feelings around my long-ago cancer diagnosis. This year, I have some (because how can I not), but mostly I’m struck by how covid/the pandemic/quarantining has shoved my cancer history to the back burner. Comparatively, it’s made my cancer feel more like a distant memory than ever before. Not sure how I feel about that.

It’s been exactly a year since I’ve had a date night out with my husband. I haven’t seen my parents in 15 months. I haven’t seen my brother for even longer. I can’t count how many face masks I own now. It’s good to acknowledge loss and take time to grieve, and I do that from time to time, but….how do I keep doing that when the trauma isn’t over? And this is me, who’s specifically trained to help heal trauma.

I often wonder how time and perspective will shape how I feel about this experience, this season in my life. How will I remember it? What stories will I tell? How and when will this all end? How will this shape how I live the rest of my life?

I’ve realized that it doesn’t take much to make me happy. Or content, at least. In a time when I’ve been stuck at home and can’t have nice things, it’s been the little things that have gotten me through. Kickball with my kids. Watching disaster movies with my husband. Reading really good books late into the night.

At the same time, I feel like it also doesn’t take much to trigger my anxiety. I anticipate having to retrain myself what safety feels like once this is “over” and we decide we can be social again. (Notice I didn’t say “normal,” because life won’t go back to the way it was before. In many ways, we’re forever changed.) About 3 years ago I went back to therapy for severe postpartum anxiety and in many ways I feel like the progress I made then has been shredded by covid. Covid is my anxiety’s best friend. Fuck you both.

I’m getting to the point where I am craving human contact and mentally crumbling under the cumulative weight of this crisis. Two of my peers lost their fathers recently, one to covid and one not, but both can’t grieve the way they want. I still don’t know anybody personally who’s died from covid but it’s getting closer and closer to home. It’s unsettling and I don’t like it.

I’m getting so sick of my family. I love them, but we’re always together. I have no opportunity to miss them. It’s a blessing and a curse because I wouldn’t have it any other way, but sweet baby jesus I’m ready to travel and go to the movies and hug my friends and have more personal space. I have never wanted a shot in the arm so badly in my entire life. I still have hope, of course, but what I need is some relief.

I know that many can identify with me that this year of deprivation has lit a fire under my desire to get my adult life started as soon as this is over. Life is short, and I want to go back to work. I want to see the world. I want my kids to build lives of their own, apart from me. I realize this will all happen in good time, but right here, right now, we can’t do it and I’m getting tired of waiting.

This morning, instead of a massage, I bought wrinkle cream and lounge wear on the internet.

So. I’m weary, I’m anxious, I’m hopeful, and now, I’m 38.

Happy Rambling 2021

I haven’t blogged in over a month. I’ve been all over the place. I feel scattered – everywhere at once. In an effort to “get things done” I start one task and then pause that and start another until I’m simultaneously trying to do several while none of them get finished and I end up forgetting what the first task was. Indeed, I started reading an article and then decided I should blog.

I feel lost. Every day is the same, and now that we’re past Christmas and New Year’s here in Oregon, it’s all the same gray, wet shit. My therapeutic happy light used to combat SAD needs to be, like, turbo charged cuz it’s not cutting it. I often don’t know what day it is. I have a million nitty gritty things to do that are made harder by Covid restrictions and trying to not get sick. Returns to retail stores. Repairing my car’s tire (AGAIN!). Relying on whatever substitutions our grocery store pickup offers us, which is sometimes bizarre.

The political junk is unreal. I told my husband the other day that I had the vague thought about needing to finish that one book about the attempted coup because I wanted to know how it ended before I realized…oh yeah. Not a book.

And then Oregon schools are just now moving in the direction of opening up and I’m pissed. We’ve been in lockdown more or less for 10 months now, and we have several vaccines in the pipeline (if you follow Oregon news, our government is slow as fuck getting those needles into people’s arms for some reason) and the government, school boards JUST NOW are making decisions to open up. Hey, I know! We’ve waited 10 months to try and flatten the curve and that didn’t work so you know what we should do?! Open the fuck up so that we can perpetuate community spread at the height of Oregon’s case numbers and deaths after the holiday surge. High five!

Oh, and I’m doing Whole 30 again so there’s that. All this fucking rabbit food had better kick in and make me feel better because it’s a goddamn miracle I didn’t reach for the mint chocolate chip on January 6th.

One good thing to end on – I randomly decided to mention a lifelong dream of mine to the members of my moms group – that I want to learn the piano at some point. I have zero musical experience. I don’t know how to read music. Never owned an instrument. I sing a lot and was in choir once, but I learned the songs by ear. Aaaaanyway, what comes up on my Facebook feed just days after I make this comment? A local piano teacher offering zoom classes for adult beginners. THAT’S ME! There was no way I couldn’t not NOT do it. So the teacher actually helped me spend a chunk of my Christmas money to buy a used keyboard and I signed up for the class……and it starts in two days!! I’m super excited and intimidated and nervous, but hey. It’s Covid and it’s zoom so it’s convenient and I’m not doing anything better besides drooling at Amos’ abs on The Expanse (ANYONE ELSE?! Dear lord don’t get me started.)

So there you have it.

Happy rambling 2021, you guys. May you feel safe and loved and relatively sane. Ish.

Arecibo: Huge scientific loss

I’m so very sad after hearing the news about Arecibo, the largest radio telescope in the world, completely collapsing yesterday, especially since it was completely preventable.

The partner and I went to see it (meaning, we planned a trip to Puerto Rico and I insisted he drive me all the way across the island to go see an amazing scientific instrument that appeared in one of my all time favorite movies) in 2012 and now I’m even more glad and thankful we did.

I’m reblogging my little tribute to Arecibo and my (and my son’s) love of space science.

Enjoy, Earthlings.

Mischief Barely Managed

Well, I did it, folks.

30 days of blogging in the books.

I think this is the third time I’ve attempted NaBloPoMo, if memory serves, and this time definitely felt the most…fun. It was a needed distraction this time, a needed outlet. It was a positive and productive way to channel my idle time spent between schooling my kids and bingeing Netflix and sneaking Halloween candy.

The best and most surprising thing about this month- I was able to create new, original content every. single. day. In years past, I’ve resorted to reblogging old posts of mine or reblogging others’ posts or posting a single, large poop emoji, but this year somehow the words they were a-flowin’. And I’m super proud of some of the pieces I wrote to boot. This one made me giggle in particular.

Another great aspect of doing NaBloMoPo as part of the Cheer Pepper community – I met some rad new bloggers and read interesting, creative and thought-provoking content.

Thank you to Ra, who orchestrated this amazing community.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read and comment on my posts.

Thank you to my husband, who fielded my daily laments of whaaaaaat should I blog about nooooow?! and listened to my mid-writing rants and pretended to care when I read sections out loud to him when I thought I was being particularly crafty and witty.

Thanks to my IRL friends for their support and some fabulous writing ideas!

Thanks to my kids for endless inspiration and interruption.

Perhaps I’ll be back doing this next year, but stick around and read me all year long (sign up to follow my posts right here on WordPress, or check me out on Twitter or Facebook – links in the sidebar); I’m hoping the creative juices I got flowing this month won’t dry up anytime soon.

I’m gonna sign off using Brene Brown’s line because it’s awesome and because I don’t think she’ll mind:

Stay awkward, brave, and kind.


Day 30 – The Last Day

Micro Story: Completely Destroyed

My Dear Psychos, I struggled to think of something to blog about today.

I went to https://cheerpeppers.wordpress.com/ to look for prompts and I wandered into this database for photos anyone can use on their sites. The photos reminded me of little prompts I sometimes get in my feed from HitRecord. Any of you heard of it? I’m a fan of Joseph Gordon Levitt, and this is an organization where he and others make art and crowdsource for contributions. What I like about it is that it’s accessible, it’s easy, and the prompts are so simple, especially the micro ones. Meaning, he often posts an intriguing photo and then asks his followers to post a story that’s exactly 6 words to match. A 6 word story?! I can do that. Anyone can.

Therefore, I searched for a photo that inspired me and wrote my own micro story. Observe:

Photo by Morgan Sessions on Unsplash

Everything she knew was completely destroyed.

And now I task you with doing the same. Comment below with your own 6 word story for this same photo.


Day 21