Dig Even Deeper

On Monday night, a severe windstorm ripped through Oregon and caused the already-burning wildfires to explode westward and threaten many communities. My area is still technically on alert, just in case we may need to evacuate, although it seems that the threat of fire has diminished. What we’re left with is putrid smelling smoke that has settled into our valley and is seeping into homes. I’ve heard that the hotels in my town are full of evacuees from neighboring rural communities. Besides getting groceries, the mail, and gas for the car, my family hasn’t left the house in 4 days.

My outdoor yoga class was canceled. Meditation class was canceled. Farmer’s market was canceled. The library closed. School was canceled. My husband’s workplace closed for the remainder of the week. The only good part- apparently Oregonians will only pump their own gas during a pandemic firestorm. Mmm, the smell of sweet, sweet anarchy.

This suuuuuucks. Just when I didn’t think that things could get much worse, holy crapnuggets they did. Now I find myself just wishing, bargaining (with whom, I have no idea) that things would go back to how they were last week, when we had pandemic with sun and blue skies. Either that, or for the rain to come early. Imagine that, me wishing for rain.

If nothing else, all this shit just forces me…us…to dig even deeper into ourselves to cope. In whatever way we can. For me, often times it’s shutting out the world. Often it’s getting creative in how we entertain the kids.

I find that I’m giving myself more and more permission to do what feels good. Staying up late. Sleeping in. Eating sugar. Having more caffeine. Numbing out with really craptastic TV. I’m trying to choose coping skills that aren’t completely unhealthy. Finding a balance looks quite different when you’re standing on a sinking ship, with one end submerged in water and the other bobbing up in the air.

My world keeps shrinking, and with that comes a narrowed, more focused view of what’s important. I got an email about my son’s boyscout pack yesterday and IT WAS FULL OF EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!! This year is gonna be so great you guys!! My eyes glazed over and I sent it flying into a folder where I wouldn’t have to look at it. Not important right now.

So. This brings me to the mental list of things that I find myself newly thankful for.

I am thankful that our power didn’t go out.

I am thankful that the outside temperature has dropped, so we can shut off our AC and still be comfortable indoors.

I am thankful that we got outside and enjoyed the sunshine and fresh air when it was here. Boy do we miss it now.

I am thankful that we own a beautiful home with plenty of space for my family.

I am thankful that we had N95s, a respirator, and air filters before all the smoke hit.

I am thankful for firefighters who are putting their lives on the line to save human lives, animal lives, wildlife, and property.

I am thankful that we haven’t had to evacuate. We’ve been able to hunker down in the comfort of our own home.

I am thankful.

We left the world behind

This week, my family and I went camping it was exactly what we all needed.

My anxiety had been climbing the week before and it was getting to the point where I was having trouble managing it. The day before we left I developed a massive migraine that left me with this weird, horrible acid reflux and nausea combo of a hangover. I was barely able to finish packing and dragged myself into the car for the two hour ride.

Over the course of that first day, my symptoms faded away, my spirits perked up, and as soon as toes hit the sand on the beach I felt my anxiety start melting away.

There’s just something about the beach that is so therapeutic, so soothing. And that’s despite the fact that I hate wind and sand (or at least I hate that sand gets everywhere).

We were able to book a campsite at a boyscout camp and it was perfect. The actual boyscout camps had been canceled, and so the organization opened up the campgrounds to individual families. We were given a campsite that had 13 huts on it – enough to sleep 26 people – on about half an acre and we had it all to ourselves. Private bathrooms, private showers. We were often the only four people on the entire beach just a three minute walk away. We could see the ocean from our site and we went to sleep listening to the roar of the waves. Aaahhh.

Also, my phone didn’t have service at the campsite, which forced me to put it down. It was the first time I had really put my phone down for any extended period of time in about a year. It was long overdue and very needed.

The kids were able to explore and wander and play and we didn’t have to worry. We took our time and we got dirty and we ran and screamed and played.

We left the world behind for three days and I’m very thankful.

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We haven’t been living the same since.

This past two weeks has been nuts and I kinda want to document it more for my own mental recollection, but y’all can read it too if you’d like.

Mostly, I am amazed at how quickly things progressed. I remember watching the special features on the Titanic DVD, and James Cameron gave the extras a number on his panic scale as a way of letting them know how freaked out they should be acting. You know, 1-10, where 1 is totally chill and 10 is THIS SHIT IS SINKING WHERE IS THAT FLOATING DOOR?! My point is that I feel like I went from 1 to 10 in the span of about…5 or 6 days. Well, that’s not true. I suppose I was at a 2 for a while, but honestly I expected Covid-19 to be more how I remember SARS or Swine Flu – I remember seeing it on the news, and I was concerned, but it never affected me and I was never all that scared. We made jokes, and it passed. But this – I suppose I went from that 2 to about…a 9 in those few days. And then each day that passes I think that I can’t possibly get more paranoid but oh yes, Melissa’s nervous system, I sure as hell can. Especially when I intellectually know that this shit is going to get way worse before it gets better.

To back up, on Monday, March 9 I was having a meeting with the board members of my MOMS Club. We met in a happily crowded cafe, and we went over our agenda and planned out activities for the spring. I remember assuming that we would actually attend and enjoy all of these activities. An Easter egg hunt, a moms night out, an end of the year picnic. And then the week continued on and things in Washington state started ramping up a bit, Seattle had been shut down, their schools were starting to close, and there were rumblings that ours would soon close. Perhaps after our spring break, which was to start effectively on the 19th. Had there been deaths in Oregon yet? I can’t remember.

And then, that Thursday the 12th, a neighboring school district suddenly decided to close starting the next day. I say “suddenly” because it felt sudden to me. I’m pretty sure they were the first school district in the state to close, which was surprising considering there were more cases in other districts. At any rate, we knew ours wasn’t far behind. Turns out ours was only hours behind! Our school district decided to close starting the following Monday (the 16th). I remember this starting a second wave of local food/toilet paper shortages. There was one (just one? more?) even before all the school closure junk started. At this point I had resisted any panic buying, mainly because 1) we already had much of what we needed and 2) there wasn’t any availability of stuff that I was actually interested in buying, like all the cleaning supplies.

A side note: after all this, I find out that my husband, who does all the grocery lists and meal planning, had been stocking up on certain things for weeks. I’m the one who does the grocery shopping and putting stuff away, and so my misguided assumption when he bought more coffee when we had just bought some, and an additional box of wet cat food even though we had plenty, was that he was just forgetful. Nope. He was being awesome instead. PLUS, on a whim in early March I had just bought more toilet paper than I usually did. Why? I supposed only because I didn’t want to have to worry about remembering more too soon. I don’t know. I like these weird coincidences; we’re also not a family who tends to buy “too much” or in bulk or to store and/or hoard. We only buy what we know we’ll use in a reasonable amount of time. It’s how we stay frugal and make sure we’re not wasting stuff. But I digress.

Once we got notice that schools were actually closing, shit got real, at least for me. I started to internally panic…which quickly led to external panic. I announced to my husband that I was going to go to Target. I’d been seeing empty shelves for a few weeks now at the grocery store and I especially wanted to get some extra cold meds because we were (and still are) super sick with a nasty cold bug. I was terrified that we’d be stuck at home with sick kids and wouldn’t have Tylenol.

I got to Target and got what I could, which was a few paper towels and some Tylenol meant for infants (my youngest is 3) because it was ALL THAT WAS LEFT. When I got to the cold meds aisle, I almost burst into tears. My worry was starting to consume me, and the only silver lining was that everyone in the store was being super, duper nice. We were all fucking scared.

The next morning, Friday the 13th (woo), my husband told me as I got up that my oldest had pink eye. FUUUUUUUCK. There went his last day of school. I seriously started whining that all I wanted to do was GET TO MY PILATES CLASS BECAUSE I KNOW ITS THE LAST ONE AND THE WORLD IS ENDING and so my husband graciously stayed home from work for a few hours so I could 1) run to Walgreens because a friend had told me that had cold meds AND THEY DID! Thank god because we’re about to break into the meds I ended up buying that day, and 2) work my ass off so hard in Pilates like my life depended on it.

I got home, and another friend texted me. I don’t want to freak you out, she began, but there’s a run on the store and the food is going fast if you want to get down here.

I can’t! I texted back, panicked yet again. I fucking still had to pick up my youngest from preschool (which turned out to be her last day, because endoftheworld).

That friend was amazing and picked up some stuff for me, that totally got us through the following week (Thankyouthankyou) because we had to wait longer than we’d planned for our normal grocery pickup slot. It also allowed me to continue doing Whole30 because GODDAMN IT I AM FINISHING THIS THING BEFORE THE WORLD FINISHES BEING A CUNT. (too much? I’m stressed.)

And after I got my girl home, that’s when everything changed and we haven’t been living the same since.

Challenge Accepted, MFers

2020 is my year, bitches.

I’ve taken my extra time away from babies and I’ve surprisingly spent a good chunk of it exercising and shit. I know, I’ve surprised even myself. This morning, I was running around the house in my sports bra, getting the kids ready for school, and my husband first asked this weird half-naked lady with purple hair if she’d seen his wife, and then, upon remembering how hot I am, asked me if I knew where the gun show was. (spoiler alert, I do.)

That’s right. We know how to keep that spark alive.

Ever since my daughter was done breastfeeding and my body became my very own again, I’ve been working to really, truly take care of myself. I’ve had mental health stuff come up. I’ve had a bunch of seemingly random health stuff come up, too. Skin issues, GI issues, chronic acid reflux issues, my ongoing headaches and migraines. I’ve had a few tests done for the GI stuff and the short version is that they can’t find anything physically wrong with me. That leaves me with…my diet. The food-like things I put into my body.

About a year ago I cut out some dairy, but not all. I feel like that has helped some. Not all. I’ve also cut out or reduced a few things that trigger my reflux. So that helps. But not all the way.

Sooooooooo, my dear psychos, I’m taking the plunge. Starting tomorrow, I’m doing Whole 30. Wholey crap. For those of you unfamiliar, Whole 30 is an elimination diet to see how certain food groups affect your body – you eat whole foods for 30 days and then slowly add stuff back in to see what happens. It’s a good way to see if you have any allergies or aversions and junk. Basically, I can have meat, fish, eggs, fruits, veggies, nuts. Nothing else. No added sugar, no soy, no dairy, no legumes, no grains, no alcohol.

This is a big deal for me. I’ve always eaten everything. I don’t have any obvious allergies and I’m generally not a picky eater. I’ve also never been on a special diet before, ever. Unless you count my surgery prep and the stuff I couldn’t eat during pregnancies, I’ve never really restricted myself. And guys, my parents are from the midwest. Dairy is, like, THE most important food group. It’s like how Bubba is with shrimp: there are so many ways you can have cheese. There’s sliced cheese, grated cheese, powdered cheese, melted cheese, blocks of cheese, wheels of cheese. There’s cheese curds and cheesecake. Don’t forget cheesewhiz. I grew up having cows milk with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ice cream almost every night. Dear lord, my body is a temple and it’s never not been worshipped with dairy.

This is going to be interesting, y’all.

Luckily, I have a friend, whom I’ll call M, and she’s done this before and she offered to do it with me now and to be my emotional support animal. Honestly, I don’t think she’s aware of what she signed up for, because when I get hangry, all bets are off. I’ll be texting her in the middle of the night needing a peptalk so I don’t inhale my kids’ Valentines candy in my walk-in closet.

It goes without saying that I plan to blog about this experience as much as I need to and probably more than you all would like. Food is such an emotional thing. We have living, breathing relationships with it because it’s rooted in culture and family and it’s woven into every. single. social. gathering.

I’m treating this like one big experiment, and it’s my goal to remain determined and curious. Although I’m a rule follower to the core, M (dude, when I call you M, it reminds me of that kickass lady from the Bond movies played by Dame Judy Dench. You’re welcome.) kinda gave me permission to bend some small rules so I don’t go absolutely crazy. Like, I may still cook with real butter (I’m just kidding! I don’t cook, my husband does. A word on that later). And I’ll probably have some store-bought mayo (another midwestern food group – you can’t make a salad without it!), but I’m very interested to see how I feel without all that sugar and dairy and grain in my system. I’m looking forward to the poops! Oh, the BMs! I’ve heard the legends and I want to know what secrets lie within…and without.

Advanced thanks to M and to my husband, who has been amazingly supportive so far. He does all the cooking in the house, and he’s been planning meals for me and I know he’s gonna be there to cheer me on this whole way, even when I’ll be tackling him to the ground trying to eat the pasta hanging out of his mouth.

It all starts tomorrow, folks. What’s hilarious is that my mom friends are going out after we walk/jog/run tomorrow morning for coffee and donuts. FUCKING DONUTS ALREADY?!

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

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 Last Day

You guys, this is the last day.

I did it!

I’m actually genuinely super impressed with myself, because almost every single day this month I was able to generate original content, and some of it was actually kind maybe good-ish.

And, the fact that I was actually able to write about my daily life without too much trouble, means – wait for it – that I actually have a life! Actually!

Before, when I had tiny babies and was largely housebound and unable to string words together to make coherent thoughts, let alone get pants on my ass, I didn’t feel like I had much to say. It was the same shit, different day. Literally. At least now, my kids are growing and changing rapidly and I’m running to catch up and I have some time to myself to collect my thoughts. We’re also able to go to better and more interesting places, have more lively conversations.

In short, life is getting more interesting. And I’m thankful.

I hope, for those of you who stopped to read this thing, that you enjoyed it. I hope it was amusing at the very least, and at the most I hope it made you laugh, made you think, and made you get to know me better and want to be my very best friend. I like warm hugs.

Also, THANK YOU. If I didn’t care about anyone reading my stuff, I’d write in a private diary. So thanks for stopping by; I really appreciate it.

Now I am off to decorate my house for Christmas and then redo everything my kids try to decorate. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season. Stay warm. Stay sassy.

Stay psycho.

 


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Gratitude Pie

Happy Thanksgiving!

I baked this and will consume it shortly.

Here is my top ten list of things for which I am thankful:

  1. My family: my husband, and all he does to support me without question. The kids, and how freaking adorable and amazing they are. I’m very lucky.
  2. Health. Mine and my family’s.
  3. That we have everything we need. Food, clothes, shelter, clean water.
  4. My friends. They support me emotionally, they don’t judge me, and they make me laugh.
  5. My extended family. I know I am loved, and for that I am grateful.
  6. I have freedom and choice and privilege. I try not to take these for granted.
  7. Creative outlets, like writing and painting and singing. They make me feel alive.
  8. Entertainment (books, TV, movies) that awakens me emotionally and spiritually, and those that release stress by making me laugh.
  9. Opportunities where I can be alone. I like to recharge and explore my relationship with myself.
  10. Yoga. It is my happy place; it is my place of worship, where my body is the temple and I get to say thank you for taking me through this life.

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The One With All The Thanksgivings

This is the first year that my husband and I are hosting Thanksgiving.

I mean, there was one year where we had it just the two of us, in Boston, after we had just moved in together for the first time. That was…way back in 2006. It was kinda cute, because we didn’t have a dining table of any kind, so we ate sitting on the floor on opposite sides of our Ikea coffee table.

I don’t entirely remember what we did for all the food…we only cooked a portion of turkey, not a whole bird. I do remember feeling a little sad that we weren’t with our families, but also cozy, quiet, and comfortable being with my most loved one. No drama. No fuss. Just us.

Fast forward to now, when I was the one who decided to host and invite family over, and I am also the one who doesn’t cook. Ha! Hilarity will ensue! Let’s get a reality TV show camera crew in here.

My husband is a good cook, but I am a better planner. And I’m told that cooking for Thanksgiving, in the crazy all-out way that Americans choose to celebrate a holiday supposed to be centered around gratitude, is largely about planning. I’m optimistic that our dynamic Thanksgiving duo will be able to put on a fairly chill, simple-but-yummy holiday meal.

We’ll cut corners where we want. Like, we’ll cook some turkey parts again and forgo a whole bird. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I’m gonna bake the pie cuz I likes to bake. My mom is gonna make her famous potato casserole. Yum!

Our Thanksgiving will also have to include some kid-friendly backups, like turkey-shaped pb&js or something, because the last time I checked, my kids only eat the rolls anyway. Kids are so weird. STUFFING IS AMAZING, YOU GUYS! FOR THE LOVE, JUST TRY IT!

A side note about Thanksgiving, which I alluded to above. Only Americans could take a holiday supposed to be about appreciating things you have and surviving the winter by creating excess, by exercising gluttony. I picture the fat disgusting dudes from The Oatmeal cartoons saying something like, “Shit, James! We didn’t starve or die from the measles this winter! I’m so happy to be alive! Let’s celebrate the way our forefathers would want us to – by eating everything in sight and bringing on early onset diabetes. ‘Merica.” And then they high-five each other.

It just makes more sense to me that, in order to truly know and show gratitude for something, you’d need to know what it’s like to be without it. Maybe one of these days I’ll put my money where my mouth is and actually fast for Thanksgiving evening. Perhaps having control over the meal this year – and simplifying it – is one baby step closer to that goal.

And, having said that, perhaps my kids have the right idea by just eating the rolls.


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Blog On.

At the risk of annoying y’all, I’m posting twice today.

That’s right – TWICE.

WordPress just informed me that it is my blogiversary! Eight years ago today I began an adventure into writing for an audience. It’s been fun and challenging and a learning experience that I plan to continue in some form for years to come.

To all those who actually read this thing- thank you. To those who comment- THANK YOU!

Blog on, my friends.

Blog on.

Proverbial Sanity

I remember when federal holidays were super fun. Do you remember, dear Psychos?

I would get off of school or work and get to sleep in, and oh the bank is closed, so I can’t do that errand, might as well stay home in my pjs and drink tequila milkshakes. And then maybe, if I feel like putting on pants later, I’ll go out for a late lunchy dinner. Linner, if you will.

Remember that?! I don’t, mainly because of those damn milkshakes, but you get the idea.

Before the invasion of my sweet, beautiful children, holidays were fun. Relaxing. Looked forward to. But not anymore.

Now, it’s kinda the complete opposite. Now that I’ve gotten used to having my 5 year old in school 5 days a week, and my 2 year old in school 2 days a week (Ha! I didn’t notice how the numbers matched up like that until now. I think that means that because I’m 36, I should get that many paid vacation days per quarter.), having them both home on the same day is kinda painful. The cherry on top is that my go-to backup place to bring my kids in this small-town-with-nothing-to-do is the library, and on days like today, that’s also closed. It’s the proverbial final nail in the proverbial coffin of my proverbial sanity.

Sensing that the storm was coming, I called in reinforcements (aka MOMS Club) and set up an outdoor playdate for the kids. I’m suuuuper thankful that the weather more than cooperated (it was sunny and downright warm for this time of year!) and also suuuper thankful that moms and kids showed up, not only to entertain my kids, but also to say words to my face and allow me to say words back. A conversation! How delightful.

Now we’re well into the afternoon, and there’s been a minimal amount of yelling on my end. We might just get through the day without any major incidents, folks.

Now if only the small child would just stop kicking and fussing around in her crib and freaking nap already…


Check out the fun, y’all:   https://cheerpeppers.wordpress.com/

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