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.

2020: There will be multiple abs

Happy New Year, y’alls!

I felt the urge to mark this milestone, the passage of time by writing. An attempt to reflect a little more deliberately.

It’s the end of another year, and I felt like this year was on the upswing, which is saying a lot. I’ve had a very tumultuous several years lately. My daughter just turned frickin THREE, started preschool, and folks, we’re finally out of the tiny human slash baby phase, and oh man, it feels so good. We’re getting rid of diapers and some strollers and the high chair and baby toys…and making room for Frozen dolls, Legos, big feelings, and books.

Speaking of books, my oldest turned FIVE and he’s starting to effing r-e-a-d. The other day, I spelled s-n-a-c-k-s to my husband in front of the kids and my son PUT THE LETTERS TOGETHER AND SAID THE WORD. I’ve never been so simultaneously proud and horrified. I’m now going to have to learn French (or work on my Dutch, ja?) because my kids already know too much sign language and Spanish (seriously). Also, my son’s entry into kindergarten sparked this huge turnaround in terms of his behavior and maturity level. Finally, he’s not melting down during every little transition. And finally, he’s decided to EAT FOOD TO LIVE (not every day, but it’s progress!)

Because both my kids are in school now, this fall I got 6 glorious hours a week to myself. I joined a gym, and you guys, I am the proud owner of an ab. It’s real and it’s spectacular.

It’s been a big year and we’ve all gotten some breathing room; it’s been a life-saver. Right now I’m in the middle of winter break where both kids are home with me full time again and I seriously can’t remember how or why I got through having them in my hair and watching me poop and screaming in the house every. single. frickin. day.

I can feel the days, weeks, months getting more crammed and hectic as the kids get older and more active. As I continue to try and keep a lid on that, I’ve been enjoying having more intelligent interactions with them and watching them turn into little humans. Dare I say it, parenting has gotten easier, for the moment. I plan to enjoy it as much as I can, for as long as I can.

As for me, well…eventually the plan is to go back to work, hopefully part time. I’m dying to do therapy again. But, as soon as I start thinking about all the logistics, I feel incredibly overwhelmed. First, I have to reinstate my license which means spending lots of time and money getting my continuing education credits. That also means finding and paying for childcare while I do that. Then comes the job search, cover letters, interviews (all of which I loathe with the fire of a thousand suns). Any job would have to feel worth it (a privilege I recognize that I have). It’d have to pay enough and be close enough to home. It would either have to be super flexible OR I’d have to magically find childcare to pick up my kids and then there’s early release days and teacher work days and breaks and holy crap. Without family here, or a professional network, all this put together sounds like Mount Everest.

I know, I know, one step at a time. And I’ll do that. At some point.

As for now, I’m enjoying the small bits of time I’ve gotten to do what makes me happy. In the past year, I took two painting classes! And one was a bucket lister because I got to work with oils for the first time – LOVED it. I Marie Kondoed my entire house this year, more or less. It’s a work in progress, as I love to shop for just the right storage containers. We took our first major family road trip! I completed NaBloPoMo for the second time ever. I became secretary on the board of my local MOMS Club chapter. I was able to volunteer in both my kids’ classes. I made it to my first Women’s March (hopefully there won’t be a need for too many more of those). I saw NKOTB, and, more importantly, THE BACKSTREET BOYS! Dear lord that was fun! I ran my second 5k ever, through downtown Portland where we got to stop for donuts and beer mid-run. It was all about moderation, my friends. We went tent camping and went to an airshow, both of which were much better experiences (read: no kid breakdowns) than the first time we attempted them. I’ve also read 21 and a half books this year, whereas in previous recent years, I’ve only gotten to read about one a month.

Also this year, I am happy to report that anxiety was way down, and I got considerably more sleep and exercise. I can’t emphasize enough how amazing this part has felt.

WHAT A GREAT YEAR!

I’m so glad I took the time to actually list all that, because that does feel like a full life, doesn’t it? I’m grateful.

I’m confident that 2020 will be even better.

There will be multiple abs, just you wait and see.

 

The 2018 Annual Attitude of Gratitude: Bloggers Flood The Internet With Happiness & Positivity!

I am doing my friend Dawn’s New Years gratitude exercise this year! Please do it with me! Go check out her blog post explaining how it’s done.

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Basically, I set a timer for 15 minutes and wrote down everything I could think of that made me happy and/or that I am grateful for. I like the list I came up with! Enjoy.

  1. My husband
  2. my children
  3. their silliness and laughter
  4. a warm bed
  5. my health
  6. anti-anxiety medication
  7. my naturopath
  8. therapy
  9. warm, sunny weather
  10. the ability to travel
  11. coffee
  12. my mom’s homemade fudge
  13. a full night’s sleep
  14. captivating, original movies
  15. books that inspire me
  16. michelle obama
  17. ellen degeneres
  18. making plants grow
  19. music that makes me want to sing and dance
  20. snow
  21. my son going to preschool
  22. babysitters
  23. grandparents
  24. my MOMS Club friends!
  25. my home
  26. a satisfying home-cooked meal
  27. feeling safe, secure, supported
  28. having events on the calendar to look forward to
  29. baking for my kids
  30. receiving artwork from my kids
  31. hearing my kids spontaneously say “I love you”
  32. seeing my kids play together
  33. knowing that my husband has my back, no matter what
  34. a well organized playroom, kitchen, closet…..okay household
  35. breakfast food
  36. being in nature
  37. writing blog posts
  38. being able to talk to friends who are far away like no time has passed
  39. social media…for mini-breaks during the day and a way to feel connected to others
  40. my new harry potter slippers
  41. my new hot/cold neck wrap
  42. the absence of migraines
  43. high-quality hand cream
  44. this chapstick that tastes and smells like vanilla
  45. fun earrings!
  46. any day I have the time and energy to do my hair/makeup/jewelry
  47. finding myself after slowly emerging from the baby stage of parenting
  48. watching my kids grow and change
  49. the time and space to exercise my creativity and be in flow
  50. looking forward to my youngest entering preschool when I’ll gain more crucial time to myself
  51. aaaaaand my 15 minutes is up!

 

I was thinking the other day, and I want to say that 2018 is the first year that’s felt better for me than the previous year since…2012. Seriously, I’ve had a very tumultuous life the last 6 years. A whole lot of excitement, change, stress, challenges, anxiety…sleep deprivation. I’m tired, but I’m hopeful. I hope 2019 is even better. If I have anything to say about it, it will be.

Happy New Year, everyone! I’m thankful for everyone who reads this.

Cheers!

Melissa

 

Baby, all I want for Christmas is you

Hey, guys.

I don’t mean to brag (yes I do), but I got the best Christmas present this year:

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Her name is Audrey and she’s perfect.

I’m so lucky and grateful and full of hope and excitement…and I’m also a completely sleep deprived hot mess.  Wee!

Happy New Year, everyone!

 

I’m bringing joy to the picnic

I get the symbolism, the tradition of making new years resolutions, but what I don’t get is why people keep making them since they don’t work.

I’ve observed that the nature of the most common new years resolutions is often to do something that we “should” be doing already anyway: lose weight, stop smoking, exercise more, eat better.  The “should” is in quotes because my immediate response to “shoulds” and “have tos” is “who says?!”  The “should” is a value statement that came from somewhere- friends, family, the media, society, etc. -and a person has to believe in a “should” in order for it to have any meaning.  Very arbitrary indeed.

My assumption is that people who make new years resolutions must be resolving to do something that they don’t want to do…otherwise, wouldn’t they have just done it already?  If quitting smoking was something that you really, truly wanted to do, then why would you wait to begin doing it until the first of the year?

I am rejecting this guilt-based form of resolutions!  I support joy-based resolutions!  I am resolving to do things that I like to do, things that bring me JOY!  One thing I started doing already (because why wait?!) and that is to blog.  Check.  The other is to take my picture everyday for at least the year of 2012.  So far so good.  Another is to continue to read. 

In my attempt to pass on the joy I experienced through reading this year, below is my year in book reviews for 2011.  They are listed in the order I read them, and an asterisk (*) means I had read the book before.  Enjoy!


1. *Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut

I had read this in high school and remembered liking it.  I think I am a Bokononist at heart. I just love the close-to-home absurdity of it all! 

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
3. The Girl who Played with Fire – Stieg Larsson
4. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Stieg Larsson

I just tore through these books, and I think they really highlight the year for me, especially since I followed these with the three Swedish and first American movie versions.

5. Enlightened Sexism – Susan Douglas

Awesome non-fiction about how sexism as backlash is more covert in the media now more than ever.  I like books that teach me how to be a more critical consumer of media.

6. Gone – Michael Grant

The Michael Grant Gone series (more below) are young adult books, and even though they start to go a crazy, far-out TV show Lost route, they are still fun, easy, and imaginative reads.  I look forward to the few more in the series he has yet to write.  Basic premise is that in one moment everyone in this town over the age of 15 just disappears…

7. Bossypants – Tina Fey

Tina, I love you, I love you, I love you!  This autobiographical hilarity she calls a book is well worth it.

8. *A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle

I read this one as a child and reading it again made me feel like I was 10 again.  Love the power of books.

9. Hunger – Michael Grant
10. Lies – Michael Grant
11. Plague – Michael Grant

These titles really indicate how the plot thickens…

12. *Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – JK Rowling

I think this was at least my third read.  I had to read it before the last movie came out so that I could properly tear the movie apart for inconsistencies.  The end of all things Harry Potter was and still is traumatic for me…

13. *Tales of Beedle the Bard – JK Rowling

To ease the pain of the Harry saga coming to an end, I read this for the second time.  For this reading, I actually read one story out loud each night to the boyman before we went to sleep.  He hadn’t heard them before, and there was something magical about sharing the stories out loud to someone else.

14. The Golden Compass – Philip Pullman

So this book seemed right up my alley.  I was still mourning the loss of Harry, and I figured this whimsical fantasy with a female protagonist would help ease the pain…but it was soooo slow and parts were boring and I struggled to get through it.  I struggled so badly that I gave up hope trying to finish the series.  Maybe someday I’ll try it again.  And maybe I learned the hard way that nothing can ever take the Harry Potter PTSD away.

15. Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer

This non-fiction first account of a disastrous trip to the top of Everest was the most captivating and anxiety-provoking book of the year for me.  I could not put this down, and I even had dreams about being in mortal peril in the freezing snow and not having enough oxygen.  I recommend this adventure of a book!

16. Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen

I remember that at this point in the year, I said that I would choose media devoid of abuse and trauma, so I chose what I thought was a charming, old-timey circus fling.  Sigh.  I still enjoyed it, even though there was some domestic violence and animal abuse thrown in there. 

17. A Stolen Life – Jaycee Dugard

At this point I think my curiosity got the better of me and I threw out my rule about choosing books free of abuse.  This book gets me enraged and hopeful at the same time.  Enraged that someone could do horrible things to someone else for SO LONG before getting caught, and hopeful because Jaycee and her girls are so resilient and kind and determined and not broken in any way.

18. The Help – Kathryn Stockett

Phenomenal book, beautifully written.  This book makes me want to visit the south.

19. The Whistleblower – Kathryn Bolkovac and Cari Lynn

Here is another example where I couldn’t help myself.  This is a true story where Kathryn, a cop, was hired to help prevent and police sex trafficking in Bosnia, only her superiors were sabotaging her work and were consumers of the sex trade themselves.  I love a story where women kick ass and not only take names, but take them to court!

20. Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim – David Sedaris

I had heard good things about Sedaris, and so I borrowed this book from a friend.  Full of autobiographical stories of David’s family and life growing up.  He has this dry humor I find amusing, although I expected the stories to be more laugh out loud funny.

21. Holidays on Ice – David Sedaris

More stories, less autobiographical.  I found that these stories were either hit or miss for me.  One was absolutely hilarious, and the other was so over the top that it missed its mark.

~Here’s to many more happy, fun, exciting reads for 2012!~