Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 in 12 Photos

Too many photos! How on earth can I possibly narrow it down to 12??? Yet, I'm going to try.

I've been feeling quite introspective lately. Part of that is my nature. Part of that is a little extra time since I didn't travel for Christmas. Anyway, the introspection is simply leading to the realization once again that my life is pretty amazing. Looking back on 2014's photos certainly reaffirms that.

I heard that the rule is that it's my blog and there are no particular rules. So even though you would think that 12 photos would equate to one photo for each month, that is not going to happen for me. I chose 12 photos for the year. There was no logic in these particular photos other than they were great memories of the last year.

Out cross country skiing
Two cross country skiing photos? Yes. Because I've enjoyed it a lot, and I'm just starting the new season and I'm all excited about it right now.
I love new days, and the sense of a new beginning. Just like this time of year!
From a wonderful weekend spent with blogging friends!
From the ghost town this summer. That "person" is a mannequin head, and it was a little creepy and a lot funny. 
Because I love being on the tops of peaks where you can touch the clouds (or at least it looks like you could)
Again with the new days and new beginnings.
This hike was a tough one for me for a couple of reasons, but even though it made me angry at the time, I love looking back on the photos now and knowing that I made it.
My birthday moose
From our bike tour in Germany. 

Sunset in the Midwest at Thanksgiving.

Christmas squirrel

Linking up with Dwija and Co.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hurrah for Christmas, the Best Day of the Year!

Quick, name that quote!

Anyway, I admit that this Christmas has been quite good, even though I have had my definite Eeyore moments.  Perhaps not the best thing ever, but quite nice nonetheless.  Most of the time I have had peace about the whole not going to go see my family. Honestly, that did seem to work out for the best. It has been really nice to have several days that have not involved crazy rushing around. I admit that I was a little scared going into it. When you're single, the holidays can be isolating. Everyone is so busy that the normal activities are curtailed, both group and evening activities, as well as even stuff that people are doing online. There is a lot less interesting stuff on ye olde internet right now!  I certainly applaud that, because focus should be on family and other things. However, since I didn't get to see my family and there are no in laws or children, it was quiet around here, and quiet can be dangerous, especially during the holidays.

Thankfully, it was nice, in this case. I'm a little done with it now, and actually kind of looking forward to Monday, but it was nice. Christmas Eve I made myself a nice dinner and watched our traditional family Christmas movie. It was odd not having someone to punch or poke during the familiar lines, but it was still nice. One of my sisters was home alone nursing a nasty virus, so we texted a lot; she was watching the movie also.  Then I went to Christmas Mass at night (because it was NOT Midnight Mass). It was a great Mass, but I had to stand in the narthex since incense and I are no longer on speaking terms. I still like the idea of incense and I wish it all the best, but I want nothing to do with it. Asthma and incense are no good together. I admit that I chose the later Mass, even though it was way past my bedtime, partly because I wanted to avoid all the kids at the Christmas Eve Mass. Not because they're noisy and whatnot, but because they're awesome, and I knew I was on thin ice with the emotions as it was. There were some kids, but the one little guy crawling and learning to walk with help in the back just made me smile.

Christmas day was awesome. Beautiful, beautiful day in the mountains, great cross country skiing, hanging out with friends, and we made a Christmas dinner in the crock pot that was waiting for us when we got in from the trails. So fun.

Friday I had to deal with my heat going out. There was some slight panic when I couldn't get ahold of my landlords so they could tell me who they normally call and so they could authorize the work. However, in the end, I called a friend who is part owner of a plumbing and heating company was willing to figure out the payment later so that I could not freeze. He sent his partner over, and I've been so much more appreciative of my heat all weekend!  The payment ended up not being a problem and I've gotten it all straightened out with my landlords, so we're good.  Had I been traveling, I may have been coming home to frozen pipes instead of small and easy furnace repair!

Other than that, I have been lazy. I've been reading books, watching series of shows and writing blog posts (obviously). I am really enjoying celebrating the first few days of Christmas.  It's funny how by now the rest of the world has moved on, and it's almost like we really get to start celebrating now that most of the world is discarding the trees that have been up since November.  I love that Christmas is a season and not just a day! One day is not enough after all that preparation.

How was your Christmas? Did you avoid some of the crazy illnesses going around? Can you believe it's almost 2015?

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Incarnation

"The body, and it alone, and only the body is capable of making visible what is invisible, the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial, and thus to be a sign of it." ~ John Paul II

These words are on my mind this Christmas season. In the Incarnation, Christ made visible the invisible God. Suddenly we can see and touch Him. Well, I suppose we can't in 2014 (other than in the Eucharist), but Mary and Joseph could. The shepherds and the kings could. The disciples and the crowds could. They could see Him and cry out to Him and reach for His robe. They could scourge Him and beat Him and nail Him to a cross.

Sometimes I think that Christmas is lost on me a bit. The story is so familiar that I almost can't hear it. What I mean is, the familiar words often fail to pique the thought or attention that they so richly deserve. This Christmas, I have been trying to spend a little time thinking about "Emmanuel", or "God is with us".  This is part of what I think of, that His being present in the world allowed for this interaction with people every day during His life.

I've also been thinking a lot about the body, and how it makes visible what is invisible in every person. As a physical therapist, I notice a lot about the way that people move. I find it fascinating the way emotions play out in physiological responses in the body. Likewise, physical pains and pressures often lead to anxiety and depression. Someone standing up straight tends to have more confidence. Do they have confidence because they stand straight, or do they stand straight because they have confidence? Who knows, but I think that we can actually help improve confidence by trying to stand straighter. Or improve a bad mood by smiling. And so forth.

Christ became flesh, and dwelt among us.

He didn't come in the flesh to save our souls from the shackles of our flesh, but to redeem us, all of us, including our bodies.  It's just an interesting thing to think about. There are so many things that make more sense to me if I think about the person in terms of the body and soul being parts of a whole, or even almost not separate entities. If you think that way, then you clearly cannot love your neighbor and not do anything about it if they are cold and hungry. Because what is happening to them on a physical level matters.

I don't know, my brain is going in a lot of directions on this. But what I'm getting this Christmas is that God is with us, in the flesh. Such an old message, but it is striking me in some new ways. Maybe if I can make more sense of it, I will be able to share more later.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Shortest Day of the Year!

Y'all, I am so excited by the fact that it's the shortest day of the year.  I am celebrating hard. Okay, I'm sitting on my couch and watching a movie, but that's pretty awesome. I have that great feeling of being tired from a lot of activity in the last couple of weeks, and that makes it very exciting to be sitting here. I know that there are not a lot of people still reading blogs with Christmas this close, and I get that. This would definitely be a post to skip if you're busy, as it is merely lazy day ramblings.

I am watching "The Dark Knight". I like the occasional super hero movie, but this is maybe a little darker than my taste. That's okay though, I'm not watching it for me. I'm watching this because my brother wanted me to see it. I think movies are his love language, and I'm good with that. It's kind of interesting to watch some stuff that is outside my normal taste. The thing that's extra awesome about my brother, though, is that the movies that he chose are not just action movies that would be appealing to him (though he's a teenage male, so of course that's part of it) but he chose them because he thinks that they have things to think about and discuss. One of the shows that he actually really wanted me to watch was "The Truman Show". Just saying, it's not only about things blowing up.

Anyway, I've seen "The Truman Show" before, but I have never seen "The Dark Knight" or "Gran Torino". I'm watching them today on my lazy, short Sunday before I (hopefully) go see him and the rest of the family later this week.

Changing the subject, I have a quick and possibly silly prayer request if you have a minute in the midst of the holidays. The stomach bug just hit my parents' house. There are 5 of them there right now, so they could easily still be spreading this bug by Christmas. Y'all, I hate the idea that I'm enough of a germophobe that I would even consider staying home from Christmas because of a little bug, but there it is. Between my issues with low blood sugar, and issues with foods I can eat being so limited anyway, as well as the fact that I live alone, so there's no one to check on things if I do hit the floor, I'm just REALLY not excited about a possible stomach bug. I can't even imagine right now trying to figure out what I could eat as I tried to recover from such a thing. I would not even consider staying home for a cold, but the stomach bug?  One of my other sisters more or less rolls her eyes at my concerns and says, "It's just a way to build up your immune system." Yeah. Except that I swear this particular sister is sick at least 3x more often than I am, so I'm not sure I want to follow her advice on this subject.

Clearly, my main prayer would be that my sister feels better and that no one else gets sick so I can go home for the holidays! But also for wisdom to make the right decision. Whether that is to stay here or to go home and risk it, even if there are others that get sick. I know, it's such a little thing, and I am such a big baby, but that is my concern right now.

Friday, December 19, 2014

7 Quick Takes

1) I'm tired, and I should go to bed, but I'm so excited for this weekend that I don't want to yet. I'm excited because I enjoyed watching Elf tonight and I even joined the Twitter party. I have an account that's basically dormant, but it was fun to break it out for that. My living room was even clean, which made the whole thing that much more enjoyable, along with the Christmas lights on the tree.

2) I'm also excited because I finally made it to confession yesterday, and I got an awesome priest. Here I thought I was excited that my living room was clean, but maybe the whole thing is really more about my soul being clean! Anyway, I now feel ready for Christmas, which is funny because I am so not ready for Christmas.

3) I get to go skiing tomorrow! Cross country, and I can't wait to get out. I have been trying to hit 15 hours of activity this week, and I'm at 12 now. Three hours in the sun on skis? Sounds perfect! Getting my last few hours of the week is not my concern. Getting out and having fun with friends on skis is exactly my cup of tea.

4) Mmm, a cup of tea. I should definitely break out the teapot tomorrow!

5) I'm also extremely excited for Sunday. Guess what holiday it is?? Well, it's not really a holiday, but it is the shortest day of the year. I'm so excited. I have big plans to celebrate by hibernating and eating pumpkin pie. Really that particular "celebration" has a lot more to do with ~15 hours of working out in one week and at least 14 hours the week before (too much fun to do with hiking and snowshoeing). I've earned an epic rest day, and when better to do it than when it's dark out anyway. The other reason this is all so exciting is that it will start getting lighter again. So happy!

6) Let's talk about this pumpkin pie, shall we? Because I'm very excited for the pumpkin pie, and I'm going to try it with egg nog instead of milk.  Well, really egg nog substitute instead of milk substitute (the life of an allergic asthmatic), but hopefully it will be as good in reality as it is in my head!

7) I guess this is "7 things I'm excited about tonight". I will say that I was not excited about my workout this morning. I think I've gotten enough hours that I'm just not that excited to be in the gym for the extra time. But there's still more that I'm excited about, like Christmas, seeing my family, hopefully doing a photo finding expedition in my hometown, learning more about postural correction (I'm a geek and proud of it), reviewing TOB, and going to bed. In just minutes now. Sorry, I know this is a very random post. This is me, being tired, randomly typing stuff, whether it makes sense or not. Have a wonderful weekend and head over to Kelly's for more QT's!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bringing in the Light

Note: let me state again that depression is NOT something that you can simply choose to ignore, fight, walk away from, change your mind about, etc. In the darkest times that I was depressed, it was hard enough just dealing with day to day challenges. I doubt I would have had enough reserves left to try to do something else, and I may have been even more depressed by my helplessness to do so. In other words, please don't tell your depressed friends to just try XY and Z to feel better! If you're depressed or think you might be depressed, please think about talking to a professional to get the help you need.

The last post was a little harder to write than what I expected. For the most part in the last couple of years, I would say that I am affected by certain tendencies toward depression, and there have been moods and situations that have led to me feeling somewhat depressed (though except a couple of very brief moments, not the full-on, weight, darkness and disconnection of a true depression), but I wouldn't say that I've been depressed. I am so thankful to say that I have not felt that feeling of being worthless or fatally flawed in years. Yet, there is still that slight echo there, and it's a little difficult to purposely expose a perceived flaw like that. (Depression is not really a flaw any more than any other illness, but as I said, the echoes remain.) It's also hard to figure out how to describe something so ephemeral yet that has such weight, something that has a lot of commonalities for a lot of people, but is still very different in each individual's experience.

This post is different. I'm excited to write this post. I have had some amazing experiences directly related to dealing with some of these tendencies and moods, and I can't wait to share them with you. These are some of the things that help me out at times like the holidays where I'm feeling a little extra kicked around, or with the way this year has gone, dealing with some of the not so great things that life throws your way sometimes.

One of my favorite things that happened this year started a couple of months before my birthday. I don't remember what triggered it, but suddenly I was feeling that gut wrenching feeling that you get when you realize that you're staring down another birthday and there is absolutely no change in the circumstances that you don't like, in my case singleness and childlessness. It hurt. There was a time in my life where I would have either wrapped myself up in the bitterness ("This sucks! Why me?", etc) or I would have tried to talk myself out of the sadness ("There are so many people in life that are so much worse off; suck it up!")

This year, I started by accepting it. Family is a beautiful thing, and it's legitimate to hurt if you don't have one. I accepted that it hurt, that it was okay to hurt about something like that, and that my birthday might not be all unicorns and rainbows because those emotions tend to crop up where they will. Then, by the grace of God, another thought occurred to me. I can't change my singleness; I can't change whatever feelings I may feel on that day, but what can I do? As I've said before, I often define what I can't do so that I can accept it and let it go, and then try to figure out what I can do. In this case, I decided that I couldn't fill the gaps in my life, but I could celebrate what was in my life. In what I really think was a nudging of the Holy Spirit, I decided that I wanted to do that in a tangible way, and what is in my life is a lot of awesome people. So I ordered some cards and started writing to people about what they meant to me. I'm telling you, 2 cards in, and I was not feeling depressed at all. It was a project that lasted a while (I was very hit or miss about working on it), but I managed to get most of them out and on their way by my birthday; many people received them on my birthday. Here's why I think that it was a Holy Spirit thing: I could not believe the responses that I got. Everyone appreciated it, of course, but I got A LOT of responses from people who seemed to need to hear those words at that time at least as much as I needed to say them. It was such a sweet, sweet thing to see how God could bring such a great thing out of a moment of depression. (I wish I could have gotten cards to those of you reading, too! Thanks for being a part of my life!)

During the holidays, I've already told you about some of it. I am very blessed to have a little O.D.D. (oppositional defiant disorder). Let me tell you, it's a good thing if you also tend towards depression. As some of the holidays have started their thing, I have been recognizing the depression starting to whisper its lies. Like the time my house was a mess (okay, it often is). Normally I don't care because I was doing something fun, so it's worth it, or I do care and I want to fix it. But this time, I didn't care because I heard that voice, "What does it matter, anyway?"  As soon as I recognized that dark voice, I was all, "Oh, hell, no!" And I cleaned the house.  Guess what? It did matter. When things were less messy, I felt less overwhelmed and less of that ennui.

Same thing with the Christmas tree, as I've already said. It was rough putting up, but I have so been enjoying it every evening, partly because you can't help but love the sparkles and lights and partly because I get a great feeling of accomplishment from conquering it.

Feeling depressed also makes me want to isolate myself. I want to hide in my house and nurse my and keep them from infecting the rest of the world. At least, that's what that lying shadow of depression would have me believe. My ODD reaction to the lie was that I was going to talk about it. So I wrote a blog post, and your compassionate responses soothed the wounds immediately; so glad I didn't just let them fester! Not only that, but I purposely chose to get in touch with certain people that I knew would understand, and that had been there. A couple of times it happened that they had been struggling as well, and the conversation helped us both.

There are those times that things are just out of your control. Sometimes, you just have to get through it, but sometimes it's interesting the way God can use someone in a small way that they probably had no idea meant so much. An example is that one of the things that I use to help with depression is working out. Endorphins help a lot. Last week when I got hit by a cold, I couldn't go work out, and I panicked a little, because I knew I was in a vulnerable spot. I didn't want to skip one of the things that can make such a big difference for me. What happened that morning is that I woke up early to get ready and realized right away that I couldn't work out. My first thought was that I needed to stay home, my second thought was that I needed to text a couple of people that I work out with so they wouldn't worry, but that I would wait until a little more reasonable hour of the morning. My third thought was to go ahead a throw a small fit (which I did) because I had been struggling anyway and now I couldn't even work out, so I was frustrated and a little panicked. After my fit, I fell back to sleep and didn't text my friends as early as I should have. I woke up when my phone went off with a text, "Where are you? We're concerned!!" Just like that, my depression lifted. Because someone told me that I was missed, and that I mattered, without having any idea how much I needed to hear it. So I told her I was sorry I didn't text sooner (kind of a lie, because the way it happened meant a lot to me; though I am sorry that she was worried) and thanked God that He could take care of it without me having to do anything but fall asleep.

Whether you've ever had actual depression or whether you've simply been saddened by situations and circumstances, etc, what are some of the things that you do address the emotions?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

On Having Depression

Okay, this is a sensitive topic for a lot of people. I wish I could give you more professional background and understanding, but I don't have that. I can only give you my own personal experience. One thing about my experience with it is that even though I was (likely) moderately depressed for about 5 years, I was in denial about it and never sought professional help. Therefore, I have never been officially diagnosed with depression.  I knew that I was feeling depressed due to the situations in my life (especially being single, and being alone when all my friends were getting married and having babies), but I thought it was situational depression. I didn't figure that professional help or medication would do anything for that, unless they could make my singleness stop! It's been a couple of years since I was truly depressed, but it's probably only in the last six months that I've gained enough perspective to state the obvious to myself: Situational depression does not last 5 years. I had depression.

I do not know if getting help would have made it so that I had less time being depressed, but I do know that it would have helped me understand a lot better what was going on and helped me have a lot better perspective sooner. I also think that it would have helped to keep the symptoms a lot more manageable. Anyway, like most of my posts, this is not some well researched thing, just me talking a little bit about my experience in hopes that it might help someone in the midst of depression know that they're not alone, or someone that has never been depressed might gain a little insight about what depressed people in their lives might be feeling. I also really liked this article. I can't speak to all of them, but I can tell you that the ones that applied to me were pretty dead on in the descriptions of it.

To me, depression is like living in the shadow. Your entire perspective is affected by it and enveloped in it. There is almost a tangible weight to it.  So maybe it's like living in a shadow that happens to have increased gravitational pull? However it feels to each individual person, it seems that there is often almost a presence to it. The only thing is, while it colors every single thing about your life, you don't always realize that it's doing it.  Sure I knew that some of the feelings of sadness and listlessness were due to depression, but I had no idea the way that it was lying to me and shading all of my experiences.

Depression is a big, fat liar. The number one lie that it has told to me and to at least a couple of other people that I've talked to, is that "You're worthless; you don't matter; you have a fundamental flaw". For me, that must be why I was still single. For one of my friends, that must be why her family and exes treated her the way they did. For others, that must be why they can't have a child, keep a job, etc. For some, it's why they still can't "pull it together" despite their life looking perfect on the outside. Depression tells us that it's us. And by the way, you are the only person that feels like that, because everyone else actually does have it together.

I felt isolated because clearly everyone else had a place in life, and I did not. I felt isolated because so much hurt. It was emotional pain that was triggered easily, and was crushing in its intensity, but it even led to a physical ache sometimes. Surely I was the only one that ever felt that way because everyone else was in a better situation. But then I isolated myself further. Sometimes I wouldn't want to reach out to other people to do things, because if they said no, it felt like a rejection of me (and why wouldn't they reject me? After all, who would want anything to do with me). Or being with people was difficult because I either had to put on the happy mask (the one where you feel like a freak because you don't know if your smile looks right because you are not feeling it at all) or because I was a misfit. Plus, certain types of social activities were almost a guarantee to trigger something.

Did I mention that it also lies about the fact that life is hopeless? It is, because in the day to day, there is no getting rid of this crazy pain. It is there every single day with every single thing that you do. There is no escaping it. And how can it ever get better? Because if there's something fundamentally wrong with me, then that lasts as long as I'm here.

Depression is a crazy ride, and you are along for the ride. You can't reason the feelings away. There can be all kinds of emotional swings. You can be semi fine one day, and in the depths of despair the next. Sometimes it's one second to the next. In the years that I dealt with this, I had times where it was hard to move through the day, and other times where it was something that I carried with me, but didn't notice it quite as much. I had times where things hurt really bad, and times that things were completely numb.

Anyway, if I could talk to myself then, or to someone going through depression now, what I would say is: You are not alone.

Actually, I was going to continue beyond that, but really, that's about what I would say. When I felt like I was drowning in plain sight and no one was reacting, I just needed to know that I wasn't alone. If someone had told me that I mattered, I may have intellectually agreed with them, but what I really would have felt is that they were so good that they even cared about the worthless people.  However, by making sure that I knew I wasn't alone, that's what showed me that I mattered. Someone could have told me that it wouldn't be like this forever, but that's not something I could know or believe at that time.

And, thank God, I never was alone. I sometimes felt like I was alone, but I always knew the reality was that I had friends and family that I knew I could call at any time. I always had friends that I knew I could tell them about all of the ugly feelings and they wouldn't judge me or drop me as a friend.  I also knew enough people that were willing enough to share their own pain that I knew I wasn't the only one going through it. I really think those are the things that helped keep me going.

I do not regret the things that I learned from going through depression. I do not regret the ways that it has changed me. The only thing that I would change is that I think it would have helped a lot to get help whether talk therapy or medication or both. I certainly don't ever want to go back there, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but good can come even from that.

For the most part, in the last couple of years, I have not been depressed. I have been sad at times, and angry and all of the other emotions that can be associated with depression, but they are normal and natural mood swings. I've had depressed moods at different times, but they've only lasted days or a couple of weeks at the most. Feeling the difference between those moods and how I felt before is part of the reason I finally acknowledged that I had been depressed.

Depression is something that is caused by biological factors. It is a chemical imbalance, but there are a lot of things that contribute to that. Situations definitely do, grief and trauma, and many other things. I wonder about inflammation contributing. When you are depressed, there is no way to reason your way out of it. There are things to help mitigate it, and ways to help manage in the midst of it, but it will only let go when it's good and ready to. I plan to do one more post on things that I've found that have helped me manage in the midst of depression, and things that help me now when I find those tendencies creeping up on me.

Friday, December 5, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday

Joining the Quick Takers today.

1) Thank you to all of you that stick with me when my posts are not so bright or so cheery like this last week. I'm doing much better now, and it's in no small part due to the way that you all touch my life, as well as wonderful people that I am blessed to know here. I am going to do at least one or two more posts on depression, but it should be more of an informative thing than me crying into my tinsel. I'm actually kind of excited to do it, because I have been reminded so strongly that it is such a big issue for so many people, and it really does rear its ugly head a lot this time of year.

2) Okay, I had a request for a photo of my tree, so here it is:

Please excuse the tacky cord that's just hanging out there. Also, I
had nothing to do with the choosing of the window treatments.
It may not be much, but it is mine and it is definitely making me happy to have it tonight. :)

3) I'm writing this Thursday night as I wait for the cooking fairies to come make me a meal. I would sort of like to eat, but I'm not at all interested in cooking. I'm not sure how I will eventually get food into my mouth, because this sort of seems like an impasse.

4) Apparently I managed to pick up some sort of bug for the holidays. As bugs go, this is far from the worst one. My throat is sore, but it's already seeming to pass into the itchy stage, so I'm going to assume that means it's getting better. I have worked on taking it easy and drinking lots of water the last couple of days. I have too many plans for the weekend to be fighting some bug!  However, I'm going to have to get off the couch soon. I realized at the point that I was watching a video of a baby rhino playing with a goat, that I've reached a new level and I have to return to real life! (Baby rhinos hopping around are pretty cute though. You can go here if you want to give up 2 minutes of your life that you can never get back.)

5) With that in mind, I'm really hoping to go back to spin class tomorrow. I'll try to take it easy (ha!), but I'm ready for some movement and it's interesting how much I miss that interaction with those people that are there. Love them!  Still, I'll wait to see how I feel in the morning. Bugs are annoying, but they go away so much faster if you give your body what it needs rather than rushing things.

6) For Thanksgiving, I participated in an informal challenge to do 15 hours of activity the week of Thanksgiving. I did it, and it wasn't easy, but neither was it all that difficult. It did involve me on a bike down gravel roads, getting chased by dogs and stared at by cows and making bulls nervous. But I got 'er done, and it was fun.


Midwest sunset

Head over to KELLY's for more Quick Takes!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Taken Out by the Christmas Tree (Again)

One of the things about the holidays that gets me every single year is putting up the Christmas tree. I remember as a kid going to my parents closet in about August and standing there because that's where the Christmas decorations were, and I couldn't wait for Christmas. I couldn't wait for the magic of the greens and reds and tinsel. Sometimes I could faintly smell the cinnamon potpourri.  We did the whole Thanksgiving thing of watching the Macy's parade, eating the big meal, and then sometime that weekend putting up the decorations. I loved the excitement of getting out all of the stuff and putting it in its special place for the season.  I also remember thinking how odd it was that I had vivid memories of putting up the decorations, but no specific memories of taking them down.

Anyway, it was one of those magical things about holidays and traditions that make childhood what it is, and as I got older, I couldn't wait to recreate that for my kids. Only, it's still just me. Every time I put up the tree, I die a little bit. It's just me by myself collecting the boxes from their respective places, and there's no one to help decide how to do the lights on the tree this year. My dad always used to get so frustrated with the lights, so as soon as we were old enough, we took over that task. My siblings and I would decide about blinking or not blinking, etc. We would get frustrated with the tangles of lights or the ones that you check and they work perfectly, but then you put them on the tree they don't work right. Putting the lights on the tree by myself is the worst of all of it. Each year, it's a fight to put up the tree. I don't do a ton of decorating, but I at least have my tree and a couple of other things.  The question becomes, why do it? If I'm constantly fighting that feeling of "what's the point?", then why subject myself to it?

Well, I'll tell you. It's because I still matter. Even if I can't be creating Christmas magic for a family, that doesn't mean that I'm not still worth the hassle of a tree just for myself. It's because even though putting up the tree hurts, having it up makes me happy.  It's because I refuse to let depression and my circumstances take away one more little thing for me.  It's because when the evenings are cold and dark, the lights of the tree in the evening are warm and inviting.

So, yeah, it was extra difficult this year with extra stuff going on outside of just dealing with decorations and such this year. Yes, my post the other day was in the midst of putting up the tree. However, it's up now, and I just have a few little touches to finish up the rest of my decorating. The smell of cinnamon (still my favorite at Christmas) is starting to permeate the house. It wasn't easy, but it is worth it to me.  I'm not saying that everyone that's going through a hard time should force themselves to put up decorations. It's different for each person.

Taken out by the Christmas tree again this year. However, it's really no match for the people in my life (like you!) that I can tell about it, and you get it and you care. And now that it's up, it's a good thing.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Stepping Cautiously into the Holidays

I feel like I'm walking in where things are a bit dark and shadowy, and I have stubbed my toe pretty hard here before, so I'm taking very slow and very careful steps.  However, it's really not dark, and I'm not worried about my toes. It's the holidays.

Y'all, I would SO like to end this dearth of blogging with some bright cheery posts sparkle like the rest of the season, but maybe later if we're lucky.  So far there have been no huge bombs, but all the constant little things are wearing away at me right now. Not to mention that work has been slow, so it makes me feel useless. Then I come home, and there's not much going on there. I think fb and I may have to take a break, or I may have to severely restrict who I'm following. The whole cute kids doing holiday traditions is kicking my butt as well. It's not just work or the holidays, either. The allergies and this year with some losses has been kind of difficult. I can't tell if I'm trying to fight off depression, or if I'm inviting it in for a snuggle.

I do know that I'm tired tonight and that is helping nothing. I also know that I don't want to go to bed dwelling on that, so even though I'm a few days late, how about a few things I'm thankful for?

I'm thankful for a blogging community that listens and cares.

I'm thankful for prayer buddies, knowing that someone is praying for me, and being able to try to offer some of this up for someone else.

I'm thankful for friends that look out for me and drag me to things that I don't always want to go to, because they want me there even if I'm a little difficult sometimes about going. They don't know why I'm so easily overwhelmed or don't want to go, but it always makes me feel better when I do go, and I'm glad they go through a little extra work sometimes to get me there.

I'm thankful that the holidays are, and that they do help us to think of others, and to celebrate with loved ones.

I'm thankful for health and the ability to do the activities I do.

Also very thankful for endorphins!

I'm thankful for a profession that I love.

I'm going to bed now, but hopefully I'll have more to say this month, and I certainly hope that most of it will be about something besides the same old stuff all the time!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Odds and Ends, Including Prayer Buddies!

Okay, I was going to talk about some other stuff, too, but let's go straight for Prayer Buddies, because it's BACK! I'm so excited, you guys! I have missed doing this and I am very thankful that Donna has taken it on. Go here if you would like to join in. I have to say that I really enjoy being able to have a focus like someone to pray for during the Advent season. It is not easy, but it is beautiful to get a chance to possibly "meet" a new blogger or to get to pray very specifically for someone that you have gotten to know along the way. It is a very special thing to be able to walk with people in a special way like this, and to be a part of their journey in whatever is going on in their lives. And it is open to anyone that's interested, not just bloggers.

Beyond that, what else?

Well, on a bit of a downer side to things. Yesterday, my neck and back started to tighten up like crazy and I wasn't sure why. I personally think that it was a combination of things, but I really do wonder if part of it was the deluge of Christmas decorations and music. Not that I don't love Christmas, but the holidays for the last 8-10 years have been such a mix of joy and pain that it does make me a little tense. I will say that this fall has been a little lonelier for me than some for a variety of reasons, and thinking about how craptastic the holiday season can be at times... Let's just say fear and tension have begun to creep in a bit.

On the upside, I was able to get a massage appointment on short notice for tomorrow, so that should help things out a lot. It's a new massage therapist, and I'm picky, so we'll see how it goes, but at least I should be able to move again. I'm excited about the possibility of finding a new therapist outside of where I work. Our massage therapists are out of this world amazing, but it can be a little hard to get in as an employee, and plus I love the idea of not going in to my place of work on my day off. Yes, I'll pay a little more without my employee discount, but I don't really care right now.

Oh my goodness! I had the BEST workout today! I'm sorry that I bore you all the time with talking about things like spin class, but it really was amazing. We did a really tough workout, and on the last drill, I couldn't push my cardio system like I wanted to because my legs were DONE. It is so miserable to work that hard, and so awesome to focus and work as hard as you can and leave it all in the gym. Yes! Plus, I love the endorphins.

Okay, I need to run. Have a wonderful day and seriously think about joining up with Prayer Buddies. It's amazing!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Little Happies

Before I jump in, let me tell you about my day. Because I want to, so there.  My first patient is listening to what I say and she gets it and she's getting better. My second patient told me that I need to cut back on the garlic, because I smell like garlic. Which in some ways I appreciate, but all my leftovers have garlic in them and now I'm really self conscious and I can't get away from consuming it right away! (It also makes me laugh. Whatever!) My third patient doesn't seem to get any of my explanations no matter how I try to phrase it and we're getting nowhere. Plus, it's CD 1 and all the fun that goes along with that.

Then I had my first acupuncture visit. It was interesting.  There was a lot of stuff that she was catching, sometimes before I said it. That always gives some credence to what someone was saying. She thinks I have a "leaky gut". Ya think? No shock there! She also thinks that I may be a little vitamin D deficient and low on electrolytes. I hadn't really thought about it, but given what I know about me, it makes a lot of sense. One that she said that surprised me was that she thinks that I may be a little insulin resistant. Now that one did surprise me. The symptoms that she mentioned are symptoms that I have, and I wouldn't have been shocked on my diet and activity levels a few years ago, but now it's a little more surprising.

I admit, I'm stressing a little, because it's kind of expensive and work is slow right now, which is also stressing me out. Then, when I get like that, I get all depressed that I'm still single and there's no one else to help take the pressure off.  Certainly, this has not been an all bad day, but I think that some Little Happies might help smooth out the rough spots a bit.

1) One thing that I'm happy about is that even though it's expensive, I have the test kit for food sensitivity. I've been thinking that that would be a really good thing. It's already ridiculous the number of things that I have to cut out and it seems like there are things that are still bothering me (like eggs) and I don't want to avoid things that I could be eating and eat things that are making it worse. Let's just figure it out!

2) Okay, this was interesting. Since I'm in my mid thirties and single, the acupuncturist brought up the fact that you could freeze your eggs so that if you met someone when you were 40 you could still have kids if you want. (It seems that they work a lot with fertility, but obviously in conjunction with ART, which is weird to me because how UN-holistic can you get? It may eventually be a deal breaker for whether I continue there or with someone else, but for now we'll see how it goes.) Anyway, the happy part of all of that is that 1) I don't have to spend any time at all twisting my brain around that and whether I should do such a thing. Being Catholic, that is a no. 2) I was REALLY happy that it didn't even really bother me. Not the implication that I may not have kids if I didn't take extraordinary measures, not the reminder that I am getting older without kids. I just had peace that it is what it is. I'll meet someone or I won't. I'll have kids or I won't. It did not bother me that this decision was out of my hands, because as much as I would love kids, I love that this is about loving children more than I love myself and more than my own desires for kids. Plus, doing something like that is grasping hard for control, and it's only an illusion. It guarantees nothing.

Obviously, I still don't love the single thing and it's actually been kind of painful off and on in the last month, but there is peace, too, and that makes me happy.

3) On to other things, I had a nice hike Saturday, and it felt good to be out.

4) I had a group video chat with my entire family yesterday, and that was fun. We talked for 2 hours, and then my parents and my brother hung up. My sisters and I didn't plan it, but we didn't hang up and ended up talking for another 3 hours. I know! Absolutely ridiculous! But it was fun, and while we can't get everyone on the same time frame every weekend, I'm sure we'll try for it again sometime.

5) There was snow in the air today! I loved it! I'm actually ready for some colder temperatures and I'm actually a little sad it's supposed to warm up later this week. However, I'll enjoy the cold for tonight!

Head over to Stephanie's for more Little Happies!

Friday, October 31, 2014

It's a 7 Quick Takes Kind of Friday!

1) It's been a month, so it must be about the right time for Quick Takes, eh? I have a few minutes while I'm waiting for my afternoon snack, so I will write a blog post. (I'm roasting mushrooms and zucchini; I'm really looking forward to it, and excited about it, but it also smells like crescent rolls. You know, the kind in a can? The kind that's all kinds of not Whole30 approved? Yeah, I don't know why that's what it smells like, but it does, and now I want some.)

2) Speaking of the Whole30, it's going fairly well. (I admit to some cheating; I'm not eating foods that are off the plan, but I am eating some of them prepared in ways that are not approved.) I'm getting plenty of fats and proteins, and I have to say, I am really enjoying the food that I'm eating. It's kind of similar to how I was trying to eat anyway, but I just don't have the leeway for those fun treats, and there is no "I'm too tired" or "I don't feel like planning a meal/getting groceries/chopping food/cooking food". You have to do it, so you do. Let's clarify. It's not that I have this wonderful amazing willpower, because I don't. But I can breathe and the foods that I am eating are not making my mouth itch. Therefore, I'm very motivated.

3) Obviously, if you take on anything this drastic, there are a lot of people who think you are all kinds of crazy. One of my friends was very definite in her statement that "no diet can completely take care of allergies".  True. I don't expect a miracle cure, but I am very excited to have a little better management and control of them. What to know what else? She had some different allergy problems, so she went to the dr. and got several different medications. Her symptoms are improving but not gone, and the last time I saw her, she felt drugged and gross. My symptoms are improving but not gone, and I feel awesome!

Seriously, though, the diet changes are very drastic, and I can see why a lot of people don't want to mess with it. I do have plenty of side effects to deal with... Like all the time lost to chopping vegetables! It's not for everyone, but I prefer to deal with the inconvenience rather than feel like crap. I also feel like I am working on healing some underlying problems that I have, rather than just fighting these current symptoms.

4) I'm not being terribly scientific this week, but I have also been trying some essential oils. I have been using some that are for seasonal allergies and some that are for breathing. Because I started them around the same time as the eating, it's a little hard to tell whether it's the seasonal allergy one helping, or the diet. The breathing one is awesome. I only use it when I feel that slight tightness with breathing, and it works well and it works fast. I haven't tried it in place of my inhaler, but I love it for when my symptoms are there but not bad enough to make me want the inhaler.

5) Finally, I made a discovery this week. This has been coming on for a while. In noticing how people move and what some of our restrictions with movement are, I've been thinking about how bad chairs are for us in a lot of ways. Anyway, I haven't done a ton about it in my own life, but I read an article this weekend that fanned the flames, and now I've been finding myself sitting on the floor a lot. I have a cushion (I have hardwood floors; it's the only way!) and it's interesting. I can only do it for so long right now. There has to be good posture or it's going to cause more harm than good, and after a period of time, I can't use good posture, so I'll get up and move around, or sit in a regular chair.  I am SO much more aware of how bad my posture is in the chair, though!  I have been feeling like my low back muscles have been doing their job a lot better, and I even tested a movement pattern that I have a hard time with due to poor back stability, and it is better.  Also, I got a massage today and the massage therapist even noticed less tightness in my back.

I know! I'm crazy restrictive about my diet, I'm using essential oils, and now I'm eschewing chairs! What's next?!!*

6) Enough of my newfound insanity. (Though feel free to remind me of any of your own "craziness" so I don't have to feel alone here!) I wanted to remind you to sign up for the calendar giveaway here if you're going to. I'm going to end it Monday and pick the winner. Also, I don't know if I'll get to posting much of a Europe trip recap here. I have it in another place for those of you that are interested in photos of Europe, just email me for the link (it's got my name attached for my family and stuff, so I won't just post it here).

7) I have very few photos from the last month or so, but here's one at least.

Have a wonderful weekend and head over to Jen's for more (sane) Quick Takes!

*Actually, probably some sort of vinegar cleaning solution to replace my Cl.orox wipes. I know, they're bad and I shouldn't have waited this long, but DANG, they're convenient!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Dragged onto the Bandwagon

The Whole30 bandwagon, that is. If you're not aware of the Whole30 thing, congrats! Enjoy the awesome shelter of that rock you're under. If you are sick to death of the Whole30 thing, good news! By the time some fad has made it around to me, it's on it's way out. In my case, I've been seeing bits and pieces of this phenomenon around, and what I saw seemed like a pretty good idea. Eating fresh vegetables, good meat, some fruit and nuts, etc. Basically only really nutrient dense real food and nothing else. I didn't personally feel a great need to try it, because that's already sort of how I eat and my weight is not an issue for me right now, so I was happy to simply cheer others on.

Now here I am, on something like Day 4, and yesterday I was yelling at vegetables. So, yeah. I think it's going well.

(Seriously! What is with vegetables?! Whatever, they're good for you, blah, blah, blah, but they are a LOT of work to prepare, they're work to eat and they take up a LOT of space in your stomach and barely give you any calories for all that work! Y'all, I am hungry, and I don't have time to fool around with all of this nonsense, especially when I'm trying to take in enough calories to maintain my weight.* PLUS, there is the bloating associated with that much vegetable consumption. Worse yet, they kept landing on the floor as I was trying to dice- hence, the yelling. Grr!)

Ahem. Anyway, how did I get here to this place of craziness? That's a very good question, and I don't really remember exactly where I was on this a week or two ago. I only know what's happened in the last week to push me off the fence and into the middle of this with minimal preparation. I don't know if I'm really doing the Whole30, we might have to call it the Whole30ish. Lemme 'splain (for those of you that are still reading; if you're bored already, feel free to click away!)

Okay, I was thinking about it anyway. I have been noticing that my sugar and grain intake has been higher than what I like for it to be and than what is optimal for me with the inflammation and stuff. When I saw a friend mention on fb how much better she felt after doing the Whole30 (a friend who eats better than I do!), I thought that maybe I should give it a try. I decided to go ahead and buy the book, and then try to get in 30 days before Thanksgiving, but I was going to read, then buy groceries, then start.

Instead, I went for a hike and something in the air set off my allergies, and I fought asthma all weekend. (My biggest allergy symptom is that my asthma gets worse.) And all day Monday. Any little thing kept setting it off. This perfume or cologne, that 10 minute walk, ONE measly serving of Greek yogurt. My workouts were crap. By Tuesday, my immune system was in fits and suddenly ALL foods were making my mouth itch. No. Freaking. Way. I have to eat, and food is a big staple in my diet! I can deal with my asthma/allergy twins most of the time, but they can't just keep changing the rules on me and getting more sensitive to absolutely everything!

Enter the Whole30 (and some essential oils, and staying inside, and making an appointment with an acupuncturist). Now, I am definitely doing Whole30ish, because there are a couple of things that are different for me right now. One of the things that the founders are big on is don't step on the scale. They want you to be more aware of how you feel when eating better (even though for the first few days, that means feeling like crap). Weighing yourself makes it about the numbers. I still weigh myself consistently. I actually lost a little weight this week (actually a lot; 4# in 4 days; this is not a good thing, not when it's because you can't eat/aren't sure what to eat), and I really want to maintain where I was. I think it's good to have a little reserve, and knowing what my body composition is, I don't really want to lose weight. Anyway, my point is that as I figure out how to get enough fats, etc., I want to know my weight so that I can maintain it. I would also like to make sure that I don't go the other way and gain weight. So, yes, I will be weighing myself.

One of the other things is that I have made myself smoothies and will continue to do that as needed. I always have them with other food, because I don't want that sugar** hit all by itself, but the argument against them is that drinking your calories means that you are going to get more calories than your brain is aware of. To which I say, "Good! I have 4 pounds to gain."*(Again.) Other than that, I am trying to follow it pretty closely. Definitely don't want to be eating anything off the list.

I had a really low energy day Friday and then off and on Saturday. Also, some of the crabbiness and crampiness yesterday. It's frustrating to still feel hungry while your stomach feels too full of vegetables to eat. However, I did a little workout at the gym today and I felt awesome, no inhaler needed. I could smell several different perfumes and colognes today and none of them triggered the asthma. Whether that's the food or the essential oil, or what I don't know. What I do know is that I am loving all this oxygen! Also, since I'm already used to eating fairly healthy, I am LOVING some of the foods that I'm eating. They may be a pain in the butt to prepare, but they sure taste amazing.

Okay, I've gone on about all of this long enough. Anyone else either tried this or do you want to try it? What are your thoughts? I can tell you that it's enough work and the first few days are uncomfortable enough that if I wasn't so partial to breathing and eating, I may not have made it this far.

*Yes, I know I just made you hate me. I'm sorry, but that just happens to be where I am and what I need right now.
**Only the natural sugar from the fruit, of course.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hey! How About We Do a Calendar Giveaway?

Okay, I am working on a calendar for 2015. I actually a little early this year, crazy!  I have a lot to do today, so that's why I'm doing this now. I am fan-stinking-tastic at the procrastination game. Anyway, I do like to give away one calendar each year, and I'm really excited because I get to order from the place I really like this year, because last year's calendars were a bit of a disappointment to me.

I'm still making a few adjustments, but I have to warn you that if you've had a calendar from me before, there may be a repeat photo or two. I really have too many photos to do that, but I have a couple of favorites and I wanted to include them in this year's calendar because I am giving it to a few people that haven't gotten a calendar from me before. Also, I usually like to use pictures that I have taken in each of the months (so a July shot taken the previous July), but I have several European pictures in there, despite the fact that they should only be in September if I was going to be true to my normal self-imposed rules.

I feel that a small sampling is in order (but things are subject to change!)


Let's keep it simple. If you want a calendar, leave a comment. There are no rules really, except the rule that I can arbitrarily change the rules if a situation demands it. You will have at least a week to enter, but after that, whenever I get around to it, I will pick a random number or draw a name out of a hat or whatever. If you win and I don't have a way to get in touch with you, I'll move on to the next person. You can email me at catholic mutt(at)gmail(dot)com if you don't want to leave that info in the comment or if your email isn't linked to your profile.

Monday, October 6, 2014


It was a beautiful Sunday in October, NOT in May. I didn't know I had any cause for concern. So I go to Mass and what do I find? The diocese is celebrating a year on marriage and the family, and you may have heard that the bishops have a synod going on. A whole Mass about marriage and the family, and my tamer thoughts included, "Oh, hell."

Sad, isn't it? And this is coming from me feeling in general like I'm in a good place in life! I think maybe I'll move out of the diocese for a year. And find a particular church where they don't really think about or mention current events like synods on families. Too much, you think? If you have any other- less drastic- ideas about how to avoid having almost as much fun as Mother's Day on multiple occasions throughout the year, to be staged without warning, please let me know!

Don't get me wrong, marriage and family is of the utmost importance. I'm all for anything that we can do to uplift and strengthen that. But. It sucks to go to church and have it highlighted and magnified that you are alone in that pew, and that you are forgotten. If not forgotten, no one knows quite what to do with you. There is no meaningful place for talking about singleness, but if you're really, really lucky, someone will remember to tack on something about "singles" or "other callings/situations" at the very end. Not enough to actually be included in the real conversation, but I guess better than being forgotten completely. I think we got left out completely at this Mass, but I'm not really sure. I was kind of a mess by somewhere in the middle of the homily. Good times and great sneak attacks.

However, while I needed a moment to vent, I'm not writing this post to get stuck in the "woe is me" place. I still go there sometimes, but I try not to spend very long there anymore. While I was there, I got to thinking. There are SO many people that are going to feel left out and isolated in their pain when the subject of marriage and family is brought up. We all have an idea of what family is and should mean, but most of us have some sort of wounds or pain surrounding what actually is in our lives. Parents that never loved the way a parent should, children who have turned away from their parents, marriages that are not perfect, losses of parents/children, struggles with infertility and subfertility, having many children and finding yourself feeling alone and overwhelmed, divorces, struggles with homosexuality, children born out of wedlock, histories in so many ways do not match up to ideals, such as past partners, history of abortion, and so forth, feeling alone in the midst of a crowd of family, trying to do everything right only to still not have all of it work out the way that it should. What else, guys? What are some of the other things that belong on this list, that are leaving people in the pews feeling left out of the conversation because they don't fit the perfect mold? There are so many wounds surrounding the family, and if we don't make it less invisible, we can't start to address it.

In my opinion, as great as it is to have discussions and synods and focus on catechesis, it gets us nowhere if we don't figure out how to BE family to each other. As long as someone is sitting in the pew feeling invisible and isolated in the midst of their struggle, we aren't going to get anywhere. We all long for family in our lives. For that support, for knowing that we are not alone, and for knowing that we matter in someone's lives. We can't make every family an ideal situation. We can't make a support group for each individual category of suffering. But we can offer support to each individual in our life that is suffering. It really doesn't have to be much; having someone say, "I see you. You matter. I care" is often worth so much more than anyone could imagine.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Undisguised Blessings

Back in the Spring, and specifically in late May and early June, I was kind of tired. I was tired of everyone getting hard news and dealing with the grind. I was ready for the heavens to open and grace to rain down. Not merely the grace to deal with the tough stuff, but answered prayers. Most specifically, I prayed that there would be a whole rash of baby announcements from friends struggling with IF.

What do you know?

I am so excited for all of the people who have been sharing their amazing news lately. People who were not expecting it at all, whether this particular cycle or in general. Or the ones that have had some hope, and have seen that hope fulfilled. I absolutely love it. I wish there were some way to have a big party so we could have all kinds of celebration in person!  Thank you all so much for sharing your joy, and I am praying for you and your little ones!

But, my prayers are not done.  Prayers of thanksgiving, absolutely. Also, God and I have been having a little chat and I have been reminding Him, that, no, it's not  enough yet. My heart is bursting for joy for those of you sharing your amazing news (and with joy that there are so many announcements!), but it is also breaking for those of you that are still dealing with the weariness and ups and downs of NOT having anything to announce, of dealing with treatments or letting go of treatments, the process and questions and paperwork and expense of adoption. All of it.  I am praying for you, too. That in this moment, you will be able to get through the pain and weariness of your own situation, the exhaustion of being happy for others' announcements while your heart is in pieces. The paradox of the joy and the pain is a hard place to be. I also wish I could be in person with you tonight. Just to sit and be if you want, give you a hug, whatever you need right now.

I feel like Lot, asking God for something, and when He says, "Okay", I'm all, "Sweet! Now how about some more?" Good thing He loves me and knows that I'm not done asking yet. Or ever. Not as long as there are those that need it.

Little Happies

I'm still a little (to a lot) off kilter from traveling, but things are starting to get back to a semblance of normal. It's Monday, so I'm pretty sure that will help kick my butt back into gear. And I think that I should join in Little Happies to start off the week right.

1) Due to the fact that I have evaluated any new patients in the last couple of weeks, my schedule is light this week. I hope it doesn't last long, because I don't make money when I'm not seeing people, but I am planning to take full advantage of having a little extra time this week. For one, I'm hoping to get to daily Mass a little more this week.

2) I'm really excited that neither the bank account nor the scale took as bad of a hit as I thought they might. Numerous cheers for camping and hiking!

3) My friend in Europe and I have a new goal: to go biking in the Alps. This is ridiculous. I have only, EVER biked in the flatlands. Sure, there are hills, but that is a whole different thing than biking in the mountains. Biking up steep grades for miles? Having to actually have decent control of the bike? Seriously, I haven't been outside on a bike much in the last 10-15 years. I corner like Great Uncle Bob in his boat of a Cadillac turning into the local coffee shop. I do not belong on a bike in the Alps, but it's not going to stop me from trying. We're going to give ourselves 2 years to prepare, and I'm already loving the idea of such a specific challenge to work towards! It made me push even harder in my spin class this morning.

4) Okay, I don't know what else to add right now, so let's go with some European pictures that make me happy, okay? (Btw, if you are on the Book of Faces with me, or follow my photo blog, these may be some repeats. Too bad!)

Yep, castles are ALWAYS a happy!

Yep, the Austrian Alps also make me happy.

Liechtenstein. It's really fun to be able to say that I've been to Liechtenstein, even if we just drove through.

There were a lot of cows in the Alps. Some were really cute. Not this one, but I still like the photo.
Head over to Stephanie's for more and to link up your own moments of happiness from the last week.

Friday, September 26, 2014

7 Quick Takes

1) Wow! I think it's been since June since I participated in Quick Takes! How does that happen? Anyway, it is happening this week. I'm getting a nice early start. Early, in that it is Thursday morning that I write this and it is very early on Thursday morning, because I might be a little jet lagged and my body might be a little confused as to what time it actually is right now.

2) Those of you that know me on fb already know, but I've been hanging out with friends in Europe the last couple of weeks, which is why there has been no action here on the blog. I did get online when I had a chance, but I have a defense for that. See, had I been looking at other peoples' posts while they were on a vacation like that, I would be all kinds of judgmental and think, "they should just put the phone down and enjoy BEING on vacation; post when you get home." There is truth to that, but it was 2 weeks in close quarters with 3 other people; of the 4 of us, 3 had certain introverted qualities. It was great, but when we would have wifi at the end of a busy, packed day, it was an outlet and some downtime sort of away from everyone, even when we were stuck in the same room.

3) I have one appointment today and one major task. The task is laundry... When you run out of clean clothes, it's time to go home. My sincerest apologies to anyone who had to sit too close to us on the plane yesterday! The appointment is a massage. Thanks to my body thinking that it is almost 2:00 in the afternoon instead of 6 am, I already have the laundry well on its way to being done, I am completely unpacked, and now I'm doing this. I am really going to work on not napping today so I can start to get things back on track. I guess I'll just have to go for a hike somewhere with all my extra time, and maybe read some blogs. I may also get to start writing on some blog post ideas that I have right now. Sounds like the perfect day to me!

4) I was a crazy person right before I left on this trip. I kept running last minute errands, and I was going nuts trying to cook some of the food that I had on hand so that I could freeze it rather than throw it out. I wasn't sure I was going to make it, but it is SO worth it on this end. I have a relatively clean house to come home to, I have food that I can just heat up today and I don't have to cook anything or run straight out for groceries right this second. I actually feel like I should be able to be relaxed and ready for work tomorrow! What an awesome way to finish off vacation!

5) Well, it's time. I have to buy a bike. Part of the trip was biking along the Rhein River in Germany and I had so much fun! Granted, that's flat and it isn't flat here, but I really am ready to do some biking out here. I can't wait, but I'm going to have to save some money first, especially after the trip. Definitely by next season, there will need to be a bike in my life.

6) Okay, a little scattered, but we can blame the jet lag ALL day today. Probably tomorrow, too, though we'll see if that's actually true or just a good excuse. Y'all, I am determined to read as many posts as I can, though I may not comment quite as much as usual. I have important tasks in mind for today.

7) Clearly, there should be a photo here. I have no idea which one to add, though!  Let's see....

Well, I still have a whole lot of picture sorting to do, but I do have a misty castle along the Rhein with some vineyards. Is that good enough? (I sure hope so!)

Have a wonderful weekend and head over to Jen's for more Quick Takes!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Where Light Meets the Darkness

This summer has been a lot going on, and a lot to process. I suppose that's part of why there are fewer posts on here than normal. I know that there have been a lot more people that are much more closely affected by all of the tragedies going on around me; my heart hurts for them more than me in many ways. I think in a lot of ways, that has been the hardest part of the summer. So many people hurting so deeply, and not much that I can do for them. Then there's the reminder that there are no guarantees in life. That's kind of a scary prospect, and I admit that I've had some increased anxiety at times over the summer because of it. I'm working on letting go again, but there you have it.

Here's the thing that is amazing to me, though. Any time that I have been struggling with anything, there tend to be amazing graces in the midst of it. This summer is no different. Friends that are there and willing to step in with prayers, reminders that no matter what, even in death, there is grace. On this end, death and separation is awful and wrong. It wasn't supposed to be this way. But because of the cross, it is also a sign of hope for us, and a reminder that things will be better and it will not always be like this.

I guess what I'm saying is, in the midst of the storms and darkness, the light of grace is there as well. And where the light meets the darkness, there is a promise of hope, healing, and wholeness.

The promise where darkness and light collide.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What's Up?

Hey! I miss y'all! I guess I've just been processing this summer over here, and haven't really figured out what to write or how to write or if to write. Anyway.

First things first, thank you all so much for your prayers for my aunt and our family. I've been so distant from it all and hating that distance, but there have been some real moments of grace in the midst of it all. My aunt died on the 23rd of August, and her funeral was this last weekend. I hate that I didn't get a chance to get back to see her, or for the funeral, because I didn't get to see her one last time and I didn't get to say goodbye. However, in the midst of all of it, there have been some incredible graces as well, and I attribute that to you and all who were praying. Death is awful and wrong, but it is not the end.

Labor Day weekend was a much needed break from work and everything else. Got to go on a beautiful hike with friends on Saturday, relax on Sunday, and then just an awesome unplanned day on Monday. The plan was to meet a friend for a local event in the early morning, and then come back to my house and be all kinds of productive. Instead, we ended up at the gym for a short time to look at her form on the bike since she'd been having pain with riding. Then we decided to go for a short hike. Then we decided to sit by the creek and enjoy the day and chatted for a while. Then we decided to go to lunch. While we were there, we got a text from some friends about climbing later in the afternoon, so we did a little shopping and then on to climb. My to do list is too long, but I regret nothing. It was absolutely wonderful to spend time with friends and let the day unfold as it wanted without paying attention to the clock. I got just enough done on the to do list (I got up a couple hours early) that I could truly enjoy it.

Okay, that's about all I have right now. I know this is a short post and not really put together, but I just wanted to check in. What's up with you all? I've been reading blogs for the most part, and mostly commenting, but still feel free to fill me in on how things are going for you!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Special Birthday

If you have a moment, would you say a prayer for my sweet aunt today? It's her birthday today and last Friday she was told that she likely only has a few days to live. I am praying that she and her daughters will find peace and joy in the midst of the pain. That they will be reminded that this world is not our home, that this is not the end. I know those reminders don't take the pain away, but hope in the middle of it all makes a big difference. I am hoping that my aunt will have a good day today and that she and her daughters will be able to have some good visits that will leave her daughters with some good memories in the days to come.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Little Happies ~15~

It's Monday, so the real question is, what are we happy about this week?

1) I am so, so happy that Sundays exist. I have been pushing it maybe a little too hard the last couple of weeks with physical activity and fewer rest days than I normally have. There's just been too much fun stuff going on and I don't want to say no! Anyway, I was extra tired on my hike on Saturday, which meant that I was more than ready for a day on Sunday to sit around and hold the couch down. And do things like write this post. I promise, even though there's stuff I want to do every day this week in terms of physical activity, I'll take at least one more rest day! Not that you need that promise, but my Achilles says, "Back it off a touch, or else!"

2) I'm trying to figure out if my math is wrong, but on my hike yesterday, I was actually pretty fast, despite feeling "off".  It felt so slow, but the math says I was hiking at a rate of 1.8 mph. Now, in walking down the street, that's pretty slow, but for hiking up a mountain, it's not too shabby!

3) Fudge pie. Have I used this one before? I feel like I have, but it's so good, it can be used again. (Kind of like bacon; free pass to be used in LH's every time if need be.) I froze some the last time I made it, so today I was able to warm slices in the oven and then put vanilla ice cream on it. Yes, slices. Dessert after lunch, and dinner. And maybe a snack as well.

4) Thunderstorms. Not crazy ones that are going to take you out with flash floods or lightning, but the kind that come rumbling through all afternoon, giving you some nice rain fall to listen to as you nap.

5) TV on DVD. Just saying.

6) Wild ripe raspberries!

7) How can it be Little Happies without some mountain joy?

I've been to this lake before, and I'm sure I'll go again.
Head over to Stephanie's to check out more Little Happies!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How Edel 14 Surprised Me

Update: For those of you unfamiliar with the Edel Gathering, it was a get together as a break for mothers. It's not meant to be a women's conference and I think it is filling a great niche that needs to be met. I'm not trying to say that it should be anything other than what it is, but I am saying that I'm glad that there may be a start of a discussion of how we can all be a greater community and support to each other, even when our paths in life are not quite the same.

I didn't go (obviously). I think it's a wonderful thing and a wonderful idea, but it's not for me. From the very beginning, it was meant to be this place where mothers can go and get support from each other and laugh and enjoy themselves with a brief respite from the cares of child raising. Let me say it again. I think this is a good thing, a necessary thing, a beautiful thing. But it is yet another place where I am left behind.

I am blessed to have many Catholic friends, and when I am in a circle of friends, I don't notice too much of a problem. We share each others lives, whatever that looks like for us at the time. Still, there are those moments. Like the one time where the conversation turned to how to get poop stains out of onesies. I got nothing, y'all. In those moments, it's so hard to be there. It's even worse when you're with friends, but also there's acquaintances and people meeting for the first time. Now the talk REALLY turns to those bonding experiences like pregnancy, birthing, breastfeeding, sleep training, discipline and whatnot. That's where it gets really hard. How can I get to know people when the "getting to know you" gig is all about stuff that I don't know? And the stuff that I do know is not something that moms of young children have any time to concern themselves with. This isn't anyone's fault, this is just the dynamic that happens.

When I first heard about the Edel conference, I just laughed a little to myself (maybe a little darkly, but at least it was a laugh). A whole weekend of those types of interactions, talks about being Catholic moms, and conversations revolving around Catholic mom stuff? No, thank you. It's a good thing I'm not really invited! All too often when I do read some of the bloggers that were going there, I have little to nothing to even say to topics they are posting about, even if I enjoyed reading about it or it made me think.  For a while, I couldn't even read Catholic mom blogs. It just hurt too much. In the last few years, I have started to read several, many of whom did go to Edel. I now really enjoy reading these blogs and the latest escapades various children. I love that they have made me appreciate in a new way how much of a struggle it really is to be wife and mother, even though it is also beautiful. I wish I could find a better way to interact, but I'm not going to lie, it's hard to find a way to connect, and I mostly continue as a reader and (mostly) lurker. And even though I think the idea of Edel is great, I admit that I was also a little sad, because here's this other great way for all these bloggers to connect and because I'm not a mother, I'm left even more to the outside that I already am.

Once Edel happened, I knew there would be a slew of blog posts about it, and I figured I could just skip those. But then I saw this one, and I thought, "Holy sh- moly! Someone actually saw it? Wow!" Then Cari followed it up with this article, and another blogger talked about it briefly here.

Here's the thing. All of the lovely women who (thank God!) do not have to be aware of what it is to be single or in/subfertile sitting in a pew week after week and going home to a too quiet house are not ignoring those of us who do know all too much about it. It's just that even though we all want more community and to be there for each other in all aspects of life, to learn from each other and help each other, even if we don't fully understand what the other is going through, we just don't always know how. As I watch this conversation begin, it seems like a fantastic place to start.

Can I also just throw a HUGE shout out to those of you that read here frequently as the mothers of several to many children and have been a big support to me in my struggles.  As well as to those of you who are also in that either single or sub/infertile life that are such a huge support and let me know that you get it and that I'm not as badly insane as I feel some days. ;) Also, to those of you who were struggling with this and went to Edel anyway. That is not an easy thing to do (as I said, I couldn't even consider it), and I admire your courage and willingness to open yourself up to that pain... Leading to the fact that there is this conversation.