I happen to live quite close to the end of the Oregon Trail.
Yes, that Oregon Trail. Covered wagons, food rations, the gold rush, and that super awesome game we all know and love that was made in the 70s, but captured our hearts in the 80s and well into the 90s.
Today, we went and visited the quite lovely and very kid-friendly museum located approximately where the wagons came to a halt and the log cabins started going up.
Part of the exhibit was about all the indigenous populations that were totally driven out of the area (either physically displaced, or by disease), and I was glad to be learning about that on Black Friday instead of participating in some mass demonstration in consumerism.
I’ve been living here in Oregon now for almost exactly 6 years, and going back and re-learning about the Oregon Trail was particularly exiting for me because all the places and landmarks at the end of the trail are places I actually know and some on which I have actually set foot!
The Dalles! I know where that is! I see it on the weather map each day on the morning news! HISTORY HAPPENED THERE.
Everything is cooler when you can put it into context.
Anyhoo, I was so jazzed by the museum that I came home and found the old game on the interwebs and played it again for old times sake. Dude, it was such a fun blast from the past! I had forgotten so many intricacies of the game, like the shitty, plunky music you hear at each landmark you reach, or that you get to raft down the Columbia River at the end!
My husband didn’t stand a chance. Sorry, love.
I encourage you all to carve out some time in your day and some room in your hearts and play this game one more time.
Today, I am reposting this older post because not enough has changed.
When I originally wrote this post, I had one baby boy. Now I have two kids in school and shit is getting real. As a mom and citizen, I am getting increasingly scared, angry, and frustrated.
Let’s place human life above politics and money, research the hell out of the American gun violence phenomenon, and then implement evidence-based practices to prevent it.
Moving forward, no politician gets my vote unless she/he has a comprehensive gun violence prevention plan.
No more excuses.
The shooting in Roseburg, OR last week motivated me to write letters to my representatives encouraging them to pass sensible gun control laws.
I’m listing the Oregon reps (and their contact info) to whom I wrote, and below that I will include the basic letter that I wrote and adapted for each representative.
It’s not okay to take my writing from this site without my permission, but today, everyone has my permission for this post. Please- take my letter and use it! Write to your representatives and adapt my letter to make it say how you feel. Make your voice be heard!
I’m sick and tired and frustrated, but I am also realistic. I know there’s a good chance that all these reps will ignore my letter. That is what it is. But at least I did something.
Seasonal Depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (appropriately SAD) is a real thing. Oregon is cold, it’s dark, and it’s freakin gray. It’s hard to get out of bed some mornings, and I often can’t get warm, even in my own house. It’s no mistake that Jo Rowling (we’re on a first name basis, people) gave the dementors, a metaphor for depression, the power to create an icy chill in their midst while sucking the soul out of their victims. When I’m cold, like that chilled-to-the-bone feeling, I’m irritable. Moody. Unable to feel contentment. I feel like crawling back into bed.
I have several tricks up my sleeve to try and keep the soul-sucking dementors at bay. I wish I had a magic wand, but I guess my Hogwarts letter got lost in the post.
Until that ruddy post owl is found, here are the things I try:
Note: This post is not a replacement for real, amazing therapy. These are simply things that work for me personally. Psychology Today is a great place to start looking for a therapist if you’re in the market, as it were.
My light therapy lamp
Last year, I finally went out and got myself a happy lamp! Getting up in the morning is hard for me, especially in the winter time when it’s pitch black outside. Somehow, that just seems wrong for a person to have to function in those conditions. I just got my lamp back out for the season, and I put it on my bathroom counter and flick it on as soon as I get out of bed. It’s on and shining into my eyes for about 10-15 minutes as I get ready in front of the mirror. It helps to perk me up in the mornings and makes me feel less dead inside. I wish I could get the effects for longer, but I have active kids who need to be places and I no longer sit in one place for very long. At this point I’ll take whatever I can get.
My slippers and hats and sweatshirts and blankets. And sometimes my cat.
Did I mention that I get cold in the winter? I’m actually always cold, but in the winter I’m knocking-on-death’s-door cold. I still can’t believe that I survived living in Boston for two years. I attempt to stay warm by wearing fuzzy slippers. I have ones with down feathers in them. And memory foam. I also have those buttery-soft slipper-socks. When I’m feeling saucy, I’ll wear slipper-socks and slippers at the same time. It’s also not unheard of for me to wear a jacket indoors, or one of my many knit hats. The couch is covered with blankets. And when I don’t hate my cat (and when she doesn’t hate me), I will allow her to sit on my lap to keep my nether regions from frosting over. When animals aren’t total assholes, they can be kind of comforting.
Those microwavable ricey/beany heat pad thingies
They are warm when I am not. The end.
Hot drinks, sometimes with sugar and caffeine
In the winter, I’ll often make hot decaf tea in the afternoons and evenings (in addition to my normal caffeinated morning beverage) to take the chill off, but also because they provide this psychological cozy boost. I enjoy feeling the warm, solid mug between my palms and breathing in the sweet, warm vapors. The Dutch call this feeling gezellig, which roughly translates to “cozy,” and I find myself often chasing it.
FIRE. (Candles and the fireplace)
First off, let me just say that Oregonians have a weird obsession with scented things and lighting shit on fire. Haven’t any of you heard of a spare the air day?! Having said that, I do enjoy the occasional scented candle or switching on our gas fireplace because Oregon creeps up on you after a while. It’s the warmth, but it’s also the psychological boost from the bright, flickering lights and the yummy, spicy, earthy, comforting scents that can fill up the house and my soul.
Music is the perfect drug; there is a piece of music to induce any mood you’re after, with little to no side effects. Spooky Halloween music, cozy Christmas music, after dinner dance party music (pants optional). Music shoos them dementors straight back to Azkaban. Also, if you don’t get these Harry Potter references, consider yourself on notice.
I tend to isolate when I’m anxious and depressed, so I schedule events on my calendar to get me out of the house and interacting with humans over the age of 5, even if it’s cold and rainy and gross and disgusting outside. We might get wet or cold or muddy or all three, but at least we have a fun time hanging out with others, and then we’ll get warm and gezellig once we’re back home again.
HUMOR!!!!!! DEAR GOD, THE HUMOR!
Humor is my EXPECTO PATRONUM!!!!!! Laughter boosts the mood and the immune system. It brings people together, and holy crap it makes me feel less alone. The best cross-section of humor and mental health I can think of can be found at The Bloggess. Jenny suffers from anxiety and depression, but she doesn’t let that get in the way of being fucking hilarious. She’s the reason I started blogging, and I love her and I met her once and she signed my DSM because that’s how deep her commitment to hilarity runs. She normalizes and humanizes mental illness, makes me feel less alone, and makes me laugh – which makes me feel better. Boom. If you’re at all interested, read her blog, check out her books – geez, I wonder if she’ll pay me for this? Shout out, Jen! Call me.
As an example to show how much Jenny Lawson just gets me, here are her calendar pages for October and November:
Ok, I’ll stop here. I hope this is helpful for some people. TELL ME – What do you do to combat the cold, dark, gray, damp winter months of torture?!
I was worried that it would feel like this, and I found myself bracing for it as our Hawaiian vacation came to an end last week.
In more ways than one (and especially in hindsight), our vacation became this paradise compared to the slog of everyday life here in Oregon.
We had been in gorgeous weather. Delicious warmth, invigorating ocean breeze, and humidity that I actually welcomed. We stepped off the plane in Portland and it was frigid and drizzly. Ugh, welcome home.
On vacation, my husband was right there with me, making decisions and plans, helping to clean up messes and deal with meltdowns. We went to bed at the same time and we got up at the same time and we had quality family time and we had fun. When we got home, we went straight into the Fall routine. By the time I got up in the morning, my husband had already left for work. I was alone to draaaaag the kids out of bed, convince my older one to get dressed, and beg them both to PLEASE EAT BREAKFAST. I was yelling and pleading before we even left the house for school. On top of it all, I was exhausted and frankly mourning the loss of summer and dreading the coming winter months.
Another piece to this is that I terminated therapy this past week. (That’s the clinical term – termination. I don’t like it; it feels extremely violent for just describing a goodbye and an end to treatment.) This was a planned termination, and it was good, albeit bittersweet. I could sense that we were at a stopping point for some time now, as I had started to come to session and just tell stories about my week. Holy cow, somehow over a year in therapy had passed and I had actually accomplished what I had set out to do. My anxiety has been reduced, not eliminated but reduced. The unexpected work became more about accepting that anxiety is normal and not to let its presence completely derail my daily life. I’m proud of the work that I did, and I am happy to have met and worked with my awesome therapist. The bitter part is twofold: now I find myself mourning the relationship and the placeholder that sessions had been for me. They were an oasis of calm in my week, and they provided a guaranteed break from my kids and partner. Second, now that therapy is done, my safety net is gone. My anxiety might (no, will) come flaring back at some point and then what am I supposed to do?! It’s scary and sad.
So. Let’s just say that coming home from a magical vacation and thrust back into a chilly reality has not been fun. I’m trying to keep perspective. I’m trying to look forward to Halloween. (Anyone have any costume ideas for a family of four?!?!)
Please send me comforting Fall vibes. Maybe I just need an effing PSL already.
There was a storm brewing; they were on borrowed time.
But they were on a mission.
The troops were already fatigued and in low spirits when they arrived on the battlefield. The General and Officer oversaw the unloading and packing of gear and made sure there were enough rations on hand, then they set off.
They trudged through muddy trenches and seemingly endless fields. The icy winds whipped around them and tugged at their uniforms. It was hard to take in the natural beauty of their surroundings from under the weight of their collective burden.
Barely halfway to the rendezvous point, two of the weakest soldiers began to break down. There were flashbacks, tears, and one even collapsed in a mud puddle of despair.
There was brief talk of deserting the fallen solider. Perhaps another unit would take her on.
Enough! barked the General. We never leave a solider behind! On my count, heave!
There was no other option- she was carried by the General herself. Later, she’d receive a bronze star for her heroism (The General, not the solider).
More began to fall, and again, they were carried. It began to feel overwhelming. They didn’t think they could go on. Some were pressing to turn back, scrap the mission.
No. We’ve come too far. We’ve sacrificed too much!
Their objective was clear – keep going.
The General ordered the Officer to break out and distribute a portion of the rations, which were to be eaten during the march. There was to be no stopping. Delaying the arrival at the rendezvous point could prove a foolish mistake.
The hard tack revived the troops. They kept marching with renewed vigor, even loud, boisterous whoops of hope and joy.
And then, through the clouds, they could see it. Their destination. A warm welcome, fresh food and water awaited them.
They had made it, and they lived to fight another day. (The return journey back to their transport would be another story, of course.)
You know how when you’re traveling with kids on a plane your only goal, besides getting to your destination, is that your kid not be the worst-behaved child on the plane?
Not the loudest? Not the most screamy?
Well, today we failed.
We tried and we failed.
We had a great vacation, and now it’s over. On one hand, I’m really happy to be home and have my own space and privacy. But on the other, all our support is gone and now we have to go back to doing everything ourselves.
Here is a post that took courage for me to write and post almost four years ago. I still think about it when going through bouts of depression from time to time.
(Please excuse the first attempt to reblog this today; my phone was not cooperating with me.)
NaBloPoMo Day 21
I wrote the following post several weeks ago, shortly after moving to the Portland area. I hesitated in posting it, mainly because of the reaction I was afraid it might get. But after reading Charlotte’s brave post on her blog Momaste about her own depression, I figured I should go ahead and post, too, regardless of what others thought.
It’s time to get up, Melissa.
You need to get up now.
Not yet. I don’t think I can.
Take off the covers, swing your legs over the side of the bed and sit up.
Now take some deep breaths. One thing at a time.
I am doing my best to listen to the voice inside my head. The good voice. That voice who can see the other side. That therapist voice who always knows that things are going to be ok, even when I seriously doubt it.
We’re going home to California for the week of Thanksgiving and I’m all excited to BE there, but I am not at all excited to GET there.
Here’s how it’s gonna play out. I pack and worry and scream to try and make everyone be on time. Then I’ll worry some more about what we forgot and being on time. Dylan will break down in the security line and go to his dark place where he goes limp on the floor. Audrey will thrash so hard in the Ergo that she’ll ram her head on my sternum and make several bruises. And that’s all before we get on the plane.
On the plane there will be more thrashing and seat kicking and trying to reach buttons and wanting to crawl down the aisle. And the kids will act up too. (See what I did there? I’ll be here all week.)
Once we touch down in the land of milk and honey, we’ll be greeted by loving, rested grandparents ready to whisk our children away for stimulating play and healthy snacks while Brian and I fall asleep pass out for 5 days. Then we’ll wake up and eat turkey and mashed potatoes and go comatose for another 3.
Too soon it will be time to get on another plane and head back to Waterworld Oregon, where hopefully our cat hasn’t resentfully pooped on our pillows and vomited in our shoes. All the dirty laundry will steep in a small, smelly mountain in the hallway where I hope it will get so rank it’ll one day grow legs and walk itself into the washing machine.
I’ve decided that I’d actually like to enjoy our trip, so I plan to re-blog some of my favorite old posts while I’m gone, especially since I have some new readers and I’d like to share some pieces of which I’m rather proud.
(Note: this post was started several long/short months ago. So when I wrote words like “recently,” they were true at the time, but now I’m just lying.)
My friend, who is a new mom, introduced me to this podcast called The Longest Shortest Time, about early parenthood. I have started listening to it at night while getting ready for bed in my bathroom and pumping boobjuice at the same time. #momboss
This podcast is extremely validating and makes me feel less alone in my isolated SAHM daily life.
I recently listened to podcast #25, which started out with several moms singing songs they had made up for their kids. The narrator (creator? producer?) framed the segment by saying that the songs we make up often reflect big themes in our parenting journey.
Now, I make up songs for my kids a lot. Like, a lot-a lot. The one we still use the most often (while cleaning up after meals) is Crotchfood. Behold:
Crotch food, crotch food, food that’s in your crotch.
Crotch food, crotch food, foooooooood…that’s in your crotch!
It’s a real crowd pleaser.
The podcast reminded me of this one tuneless ditty that I made up when my oldest, my son, was very tiny. I needed something to hold his attention during diaper changes when he’d be thrashing and I’d be weeping. I’m having trouble remembering all the verses but it went something like this:
Even when you cry
I’m gonna love you an-ny way, an-ny way, an-ny way.
Even when you poop
I’m gonna love you an-ny way, an-ny way, an-ny way.
(insert more verses as needed)
…Because I am your mom.
I was having a rough time bonding with my son and coming to terms with being a new mom, staying at home, living in Oregon, and feeling isolated and depressed. Reading these lyrics back, I realize I was reminding myself why I became a mom. I was willing myself to fall more in love with my little guy, especially when it felt the hardest. We were both struggling, but it was my job to get him (and myself) through it all…so I used the simplest, most available tool I had. Song. And it turned out to be very powerful indeed.
Lately, I’ve been trying to stop grumbling (so much) about Oregon (but THE WEATHER!) and focus on the good things. It’s come to my attention that I live here now, and my negative attitude may be getting in the way of feeling more content on a daily basis.
One of the small things I’m trying to do is appreciate my new preschool commute. My son just recently started going (and saved my sanity), and so I make the short 10 minute trip 6 times a week now. I’ve noticed that the commute is quite lovely. It’s on a back road that winds between evergreen trees and other non-evergreen trees that were bright reds, yellows, and oranges a few weeks ago. Sure, there are pot holes that emerge daily and I drive through a construction site and there’s one low-lying part that I’m terrified will end up flooding at some point during the year…but honestly, I’m trying to see these things as part of the adventure.