Saturday, August 2, 2014

Going Back

It's been 2yrs and 9mos since I moved from San Diego back to Utah. I was raised in Utah but at 17 I moved to San Diego to go to design school and ended up staying for 11yrs. Up until I made the move back to Utah, all my adult years had been spent in my new California home which has led me to tell people many times that Utah is where I was raised but San Diego is where I grew up.

San Diego was mine. The life I had there, I built. I chose which grocery store I liked rather than just going where my mom had always shopped. I found the parks that spoke to me and discovered great places to eat. As time passed I found I had history all over the city. Driving down Rosecrans with a friend I could say, "This was where a drunk driver hit me and totaled my car while I was kind of living out of it when I was in college and between apartments." Or, "That's the apartment I lived in with the pot smoking roommate." And "Last time I was here I was pregnant with my son." I began to feel a sense of ownership for the city and in many ways I became someone new because of it's influence. I learned to be comfortable around a huge variety of people, I became sensitive to the subtle change in the air when summer turned to fall, I became a master of the freeways and didn't fear traveling on new streets to new places and I gained a new family in a much more intimate church setting than I had previously experienced. I felt unique in my surroundings and yet felt like I belonged. If I can get those two feelings somewhere then I'm hooked. San Diego had become my home. Then... the economy crashed.

I could write a whole post about all that happened next but the punch line is we had to leave and my heart was truly broken. When we arrived in Utah with our whole lives packed in a truck we were greeted by my dad. I fell into his arms sobbing. I was a child in mourning. I knew we had made the right choice but that knowledge did not ease the pain of leaving the life I had built and all the people and places I loved so dearly. I cried regularly for the next six months. I wanted to go back so badly but I knew that visiting, even if we could have afforded it, would sting painfully. I would have to leave all over again and it would be like tearing off a fresh scab.

Time went by. My life was a lot of hard work but many good memories were made. I began collecting a new history in my childhood home. I got a job and had new experiences and built a new life. I gradually felt good and found that I no longer said to my husband in bed at night, "I just want to go home." And though I finally felt good about my new life I was still afraid to go back, to visit what had been so important to me. What if it didn't feel like home anymore? What if it still did? What if people weren't as excited to see me as I hoped? (I'm an over thinker.) But this summer I decided it was time. So after 2yrs and 9mos I packed up my kids, our boogie boards and a suitcase full of swimsuits and off we went.

And here we are. We've been here for 4 days now and I've learned some things. We're staying with a friend in the apartment building we used to live in so one thing I learned is that my internal compass still wants to take me to my old door when I'm holding bags of groceries. If you've spent any time in San Diego you know there are a lot of planes taking off and landing pretty much constantly. I learned that I still don't notice them and thank goodness because only tourists take notice of the planes! I've forgotten the order of the freeway exits and connections. I've grown accustomed to bigger parking spaces. I learned my spanish will come back a little when I hear it a lot and I can still boogie board. But what I really learned is that I have a new home and I will be happy to go back to it when its time to go. Sure, I will miss living 2 miles from the ocean but I've gained a back yard. I will always miss the National City swap meet and the piles and piles of fabric there for only $1.00/yd but I no longer live on a street with two strip clubs a bar and a "massage" parlor. And I still miss walking the boardwalk at night but I certainly don't miss walking all the way across the parking lot with my arms full of groceries and through a locked outer door to get them to my front door. I've learned that I've become accustomed to a new way of life. I've moved on and thats okay.

San Diego, you are like my first love. When we parted I felt like my life had ended but now that time has passed and we've had some distance I can see that it was for the best... But lets make sure we still have a little fling now and then. ;)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Taking My Family Off Sugar.

I am a sugarholic, or was, I hope. The last month I was pregnant with my son I single handedly ate a batch of cupcakes every week! I have to have something sweet after every meal and I have no problem eating two cupcakes and a bowl of ice cream each night before bed.  My family is no different. My husband once ate an entire tub of Redvines in a single sitting because I was out of town and he was lonely. And my children, I guess like most children, consider Fruit Loops to be a well balanced breakfast. A typical day for them was frequently, sugar cereal for breakfast, a peanut butter (the regular kind with sugar) sandwich for lunch, Pizza or something akin to it for dinner and maybe some apple slices or baby carrots if I was lucky, then cinnamon sugar toast before bed. This diet so heavy on carbs and sugar and so light on nutrients and protein was very bothersome to me but with the care of my kids in the hands of relatives for most of each day there wasn't a whole lot to be done. But then, I quit my job...

I've always felt instinctively that sugar is bad for me but it just tastes SO good! Society, however, for my whole life has been freaking out about fat which I've honestly never been afraid of. But lately sugar is getting its day under the hot lamp in the interrogation room and its looking pretty guilty. I won't go into reasons, studies or science here because thats what Google is for but what I started hearing and reading was a lot more in line with how I've always felt, natural fats not as bad as we thought and processed foods especially high in sugar WAY worse than we thought. I got motivated.

In the months leading up to my last day of work I made plans in my head. My family was going to go off sugar. I informed them of the impending change and insisted on full cooperation. The children were offered rewards as incentive to do so and the husband was bombarded with logical arguments, science, and reasoning/ arguing skills to rival any high paid attorney. Ultimately I pulled the age card. (He is seven years older than me.) "Babe, you've got seven years on me and you're male. I don't want to lose you. (His dad had heart attacks pretty
young) Please be healthy...for me?" Enter the sweet pouty face that is his cryptonite. All were on board, maybe not enthusiastically but I had them committed.

Now heres the biggest thing I learned. If you want to get your family on a healthier diet, whatever it may be, here's the key: The Fast! You empty your house of ALL unacceptable foods to the extreme and you go on a week long, in our case sugar, fast. I got rid of almost all sugar for the first four days, I'm talking no fruit, no carrots, no corn, no cereal. I did have to keep a little bread in the form of, tortillas (limited) and rice, or my children would have starved. My children's food world was shut down and since they are pretty picky they got bored and hungry fast. After four days I brought in plain Cheerios and whole wheat bread, neither of which they would eat before, but now... you would have thought it was birthday cake and ice-cream. They were begging me for plain Cheerios and toast minus the cinnamon sugar! The wheat bread and plain Cheerios are a miracle in and of themselves but next I brought back fruit, but not the fruits they usually eat. We had a try new foods evening where my son learned he likes peaches and lunch meat (sugar and nitrate free) and my daughter learned she also likes peaches and cucumber.  Miracles I tell you! MIRACLES!

I know that had I just said, "We're not eating cereal with sugar any more." I would have had a revolt and all I would have heard about is how disgusting plain Cheerios and Wheat Chex are. Or had I said, "Vanilla yogurt is now replacing ice-cream in this family." There would have been tears. But by taking away pretty much everything, they were very excited to eat what I was willing to give back. I'm baking a lot now so that my family can still enjoy treats and after eating no sugar for awhile my cookies with almond meal, whole wheat flour and way less sugar taste great to us. I also make popsicles from plain yogurt and fruit and little baked "doughnuts" full of apple and spinach. I'm even baking my own crackers. There is just so much added sugar in everything out there! But by feeding my family this way, I know exactly what they are getting.

I gave my kids a rule of thumb that we want our foods that have sugar to have more fiber than sugar and now my son (age 10) reads boxes at the grocery store and if I'm honest I have to tell you that he gets pretty frustrated because very few processed foods fit this criteria. But my daughter (almost 5) says that she wants to eat this way forever and that she thinks the whole world should eat this way. I, of course, tend to agree. All in all my kids are happy, I feel GREAT, health wise and as a mom and my junk food cravings are virtually gone. I'm no longer a slave to Oreos and my unreasonable need to eat them an entire row at a time. This accomplishment alone makes me feel powerful. Home with my kids, eating healthy foods and enjoying summer, I couldn't be happier!

I told you if you actually want science to hit up Google but I do recommend a video called, Sugar: The Bitter Truth. Its a lecture by an endocrinologist and child obesity specialist.

A special thanks to my wonderful husband who accepted his wife's sudden and extreme lifestyle change. He's a keeper!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Dear Body...

My body is great, and amazing, and I really should stop hounding it so much. If my body can DO everything I want it to do then it should get to look how it wants to look. After all, when it comes to doing all the things a body does, it knows way more than me. I wouldn't have a clue how to keep my heart beating if that were left up to me as a consciousness to handle. And make a whole new person? I don't think so! How many cells need to divide each day? What week do I tell the fingernails to start forming? And thats not to say anything of figuring out how to get it out on my own! Yup, my body is smarter than me when it comes to itself so why do I keep trying to tell it how to look?

If my arms can curl 30lbs, (which they can't quite yet, I'm up to 20 with 30 being my goal) and I still have waggling underarms, then I think its my arms' prerogative. Those arms manage groceries, carry an almost five year old, work a garden, build forts and lift arbitrary amounts of weight for no real practical purpose other than I tell them to. "Now arms, please do all this AND look skinny while doing it, if you don't mind." I'm like that husband who comes home to a clean house, happy children and dinner on the table but can only see that his wife's hair isn't done!... Dear arms, I'm sorry. You are lovely and you are doing a great job!

And while I'm at it, I need to give my legs the same apology. Legs, you work very hard. You carry me wherever I want to go, you even jog sometimes even though we both hate it. I've sent you rappelling  over a cliff barefoot into icy water, hiking through miles of sand, there was a time when I made you dance 4-8 hours a day and I continue to stretch you into positions I'm sure you must find unreasonable. All this and we haven't even mentioned hair removal! If you need a little fat to keep you going then who am I to tell you otherwise? If you break out into little red bumps sometimes when I shave you, then I should cut you some slack. I mean, how much hair removal can two legs really take? And the fact that you bruise easily and are never without some sort of purple contusion, well, I'm sure thats not your fault and I know it doesn't help that I keep frequenting climbing gyms, canyons, workout equipment and sometimes just flat out walk you into things! Legs, you do everything I ask of you and the fact that you might not get a gig in a Nair commercial should have no bearing on our relationship.

Dear Body,
If you can just keep on doing what you do, you know, like breathing and carrying around my sometimes undeserving spirit, I promise to be nicer to you. Please know that I appreciate you even when I don't show it because without you I'd be... well, dead, or a disembodied spirit, or maybe a cryogenically frozen brain, all of which are unappealing options. So thank you, I'm sorry and I promise to do better.

Love, Me

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Work Of Fiction

This is a short story I wrote. It's based on my own experiences at the lowest point in my life but is, as a whole, a work of fiction. I felt it fitting to post here.

In my Darkness

I found myself walking on the beach one night. It was so late it was early as my feet sank into the now cold sand. I passed the transients camped along the wall separating the sand from the boardwalk as I reached the rock jetty and turned toward the water. I began picking my way across the rocks under a moonless sky, fully aware that I was putting myself into a corner-- my only company that night being of a not so trustworthy sort. Should someone rise from their sleeping bag and follow me out onto the jetty with the intent to do me harm I had no recourse there, only ocean waves and sharp rocks. But I was not naive. I was ambivalent.
These were my thoughts as I moved methodically out to the end of the rocks where the waves splashed, and breathed as they were sucked back into the abyss. But these thoughts didn’t scare me because I had gone numb. My soul had, not died--it was fried. It was still alive in an emotional skin so charred that consciousness was painful. And there was no event to look to, no particular fire that blazed one day melting and scarring my soul into an aching, gasping, useless life, inside a perfect physical shell. There was no reason. I guess maybe it was a slow sort of burn.
Months ago I found myself tired--tired all the time and then sad. I didn’t know why, I just was. “You seem depressed,” my friends would say. “I have nothing to be depressed about,” I would reply. But I knew that I was. Then the ugly thoughts, cravings for pain, a strange notion that watching myself bleed would make me feel better. The terror that would follow these thoughts when I found myself walking around the house clutching the blade end of a knife while my son napped. Crying spells where I couldn’t breath, feeling as if I were being attacked from the inside out.
With each of these events a piece of my goodness died, a piece of my beauty withered, bits of my soul fell away charred and crumbling and I bled inside. The pain became unbearable and like someone in a horrific accident passing out, I shut down. I let my soul sleep and my body just went on.
This was how I found myself on the beach at 2:00 in the morning, stepping from rock to rock, slipping, nearly falling into the swirling water, regaining my balance, continuing on. There was no reason. I was just there. At some point I would reach the last rock but my thoughts didn’t go that far. Maybe I would turn around and walk back, maybe I would jump in and let the sensation of freezing water give me something to feel, or maybe I would just sit and wait the four hours till the sky began to lighten.
The wind was gentle, chilly but soft, and the waves were loud but not constant. Between their crashing it was quiet. That was when I heard it-- rock hitting rock, a sound from behind. I turned and saw the dark figure of a man approaching me, carefully working his way across the slippery black rocks. This was it. Something was about to happen to bring my physical world in line with my emotional world. Rape, robbery, in a moment I would know and all I could think was, ‘how fitting.’ I already felt as if I had lived through such horror, so I stood, and I waited. My heart began to beat a little faster but I found the fear comforting, a sign of life. And desire for self preservation began to rise in me,  but I knew I had nowhere to go. So I reached into my pocket and wrapped my fingers around my keys, their points protruding from my knuckles. He was only a few feet away now, and then, nearly at arms length the man stopped and then spoke. His voice was deep and worn.
“This is no place for a young lady at this hour.”  He yelled to be heard over the waves
Then he stepped to the next rock and reached out his hand. I could see his face now, a grey beard and soft eyes, a cap on his head. His rough hand remained outstretched toward me. My heart quieted. The grip on my keys loosened. A large wave crashed and water splashed my feet. I stepped toward him onto the next rock in a dazed sort of way and gave the man my hand. He steadied me as I stepped and when I reached him he released my hand and took my elbow like a young person would for a weakening elder or like a Victorian gentleman would for a lady crossing a muddy street. In this way we stepped together from rock to rock. When we reached the sand he released my arm.
“Now thats better,” he said brightly.
“Thank you,” I replied but more out of politeness than sincerity.
“Go home sweetheart.” His voice had a fatherly tone, directing and pleading at the same time. I nodded.
“Okay.” I heard the word slip from my lips and the man smiled. I turned and began to walk back through the cold sand toward the wall and the boardwalk, toward the parking lot and my car, toward home. Then he called after me, his voice carrying on the salty air.
“The morning will come soon.” I didn’t turn around but the words repeated in my mind. “The morning will come soon.”

Monday, April 8, 2013

Imaginary Sand

One day a week I have no babysitter and have to take my daughter to work with me. The last couple of times I haven't been able to get much done, so this week I came up with a plan. I went to the dollar store and spent twenty bucks on cheap toys, so that instead of bringing toys from home she will have special toys that she only gets to play with once a week, and this is where our story begins.

Lately she has been pretending to pick flowers and berries so one of the things I bought her was a plastic sand pail and shovel so she could "gather berries" and "plant a garden." I also got her some mermaid dolls and sea animal puzzles and thus a beach was born in our alteration shop--a beach which apparently had very stubborn sand.

As I sat working Little Miss cries out in frustration, (I have to insert here, in her defense, that she did not sleep well the night before and was TIRED) "Oh! I can't get this bucket full!"
"What are you trying to fill your bucket with?" I asked.
"Sand!" she declared in exasperation as she held up the shovel.
"Well, keep digging then," I said.
"But I can't get it full!" (Now in tears.)
It was at this point that I tried to reason with her, but what do you say to someone who is dealing with imaginary sand and just can't get as much of it as they think they should have?

Well, as a mom I told her that if the bucket was going to upset her I would have to take it away. I then offered to put a movie on for her so that I just might be able to finish bringing in the heavily beaded wedding dress I had, at that moment, turned completely inside-out. But this got me thinking as I recapped it to my dad later that day, and we had a good laugh, "Do we do this? Do I do this?"

I think that as a whole we are a discontented people. We don't have enough, can't do enough, aren't enough, and why is that? Is someone standing over us telling us what we have to do, be, and have? Sometimes. But even then those people aren't holding guns to our heads. Most of us put the pressure on ourselves and ALL of us get to decide if our buckets are full or empty.

I've got this idea of who I think I should be--a list of talents I want, a vision of how I should look, ideas of how each day should go--and when I fall short I get frustrated. "This damn bucket just won't get full!" And I realized today that I am just like my daughter and her imaginary sand. I'm the one who made up all this stuff. It's my imagination that created the image in my head of what a full bucket looks like and for some reason my imagination is telling me that my bucket is far from full.

I think of how I tried to tell my daughter, "You are the one pretending. It's your bucket. It's your sand. Just decide you have enough and it will all be better." But she is three and was exhausted so of course this sound reasoning was returned with a blank look. I, however, am not three, and though I am tired, I can bow to reason. I can decide that my bucket IS full. I am enough. I am good enough. I do my best almost all the time and I AM ENOUGH, right now, I just decided. My bucket is full. It's my bucket and my sand and so I say that my bucket is full of sand!

Now, is this to say that we should all just settle? Of course not. But there is a difference between setting goals and striving while being happy with yourself in the now--a full and happy bucket with its eye out for some bonus sea shells, so to speak--and beating yourself down, making comparisons, digging and digging and wondering why your bucket is never full. Strive, grow and improve, but don't be brought down by imaginary sand. We can all decide today, "I am enough, and my bucket is full."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Best Intentions, Then...DEPRESSION

I had big plans today. Go to work early, be super productive and make a lot of money. (I get paid by the project not by the hour.) Then I was going to come home in time to beat my son home from school which I do three days a week now in an effort to be a better mom. Listen to his oh so important eight year old stories and help him with homework while simultaneously entertaining and validating my three year old. Clean the house, finish laundry and plan dinner. Go to the gym and workout like a total bad-ass and then stop by my mom's dance class to learn choreography so I can be an extra body in their summer recital. That was my plan. Those were my intentions then...DEPRESSION. Bum bum bum.

Work did not go smoothly. I had to deal with a difficult bride and tell her that what she wanted just wasn't possible. (One of my very favorite things to do. NOT.) My anxiety level began to rise. She was apparently devastated because I then got a phone call from the dress shop where she bought her dress, wanting to know why we couldn't do the alterations because she had called them sobbing and wanting to exchange. Blah blah blah. Long phone cenversation. Stress level higher. Etc. Etc. My day was not productive. And I did not make money but I did leave work feeling drained and uptight.

With my plans derailed and me not in a great state to carry on with the next phase of my great day, being an awesome mom, my son comes home with a note from his teacher saying he had behavioral problems. Uggh! Anxiety rising. Coping ability falling...

I get online to try and decompress. My daughter keeps bringing me "tea" insisting we "clink" glasses. I half heartedly comply...about ten times, then I can't take it anymore. I want to snap but I keep it together. "No more tea," I say. Re-enter my son, "Mom, you have to pick me up from school tomorrow at 1:30." (He normally walks home.) "What!?" He hands me a paper. They are doing an emergency evacuation drill. Awesome! I would love to drive all the way home in the middle of the day with no notice, fight the traffic of hundreds of parents and pick up my kid early so that the school can play pretend! Coping ability officially gone. Me officially overwhelmed and from there I rapidly sink into a paralyzing depression. I could see it coming a mile away but with my day and my body against me, there doesn't seem to be anything I can do.

So this is where I start to beat myself up. These are all every day, normal things that I should be able to deal with. Right? I sit and feel angry that I'm not getting anything done. "So get up and go fold the damn laundry then!" But I can't. It's almost impossible to explain to someone who has never felt it but it's like I've been tied up from the inside out. And if I just force myself to fight it and get my butt in gear I'm afraid I will explode. The tears will start and a full on hyperventilating anxiety attack will be the finale to me day. So feeling like a pathetic waste I crawl into bed and hope that a nap will help, which it sometimes does. If I can sleep long enough it's like my body will reboot. Today, however, no dice.

So here I sit surrounded by laundry, wearing my gym clothes but cuddled under the blankets on my bed. There is no dinner cooking and my daughter is in a different part of the house being loved and attended to by my sister. I think of times in the past when my depression and anxiety has ruined a great day, like a high school dance with my boyfriend and dates with my husband. I want to cry but I can't. I feel like a failure and I tell myself, "You are sick. You have an illness that you manage. It's like a diabetic having a spike or drop in blood sugar that puts them out of commission for a time." I try to believe myself but...

I would normally end a post like this with an uplifting and encouraging bit about how I cope, how I overcome and how it is all okay. But I don't have one today. I'm just sharing so if anyone reads this who experiences the same things, they can know they are not alone. To them I say, "Give yourself a break. Depression obliterating your plans is part of your life. It sucks and it's a challenge, but it's okay. Another day soon you will be super mom, super woman even, and those days out number the bad so let it go." Thats what I would say. Now if only I can listen.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sometimes You Just Need To Check Out

When I am depressed or feeling particularly anxious I am not pleasant to be around. And I don't just mean that I'm no fun or that I'm a total party-pooper, which I am, but I mean that things can get ugly and quick. If I'm having anxiety my patience is zero. I am almost guaranteed to over react, yell, punish unreasonably or even start a fight. I know this about myself. I've been living it for years. I can't say, however, that I have really recognized the reality of this or its destructiveness till relatively recently.

In the past my husband was just insensitive, my children disobedient and my life unreasonably hard. I knew that I felt like crap but if all this stuff would stop bugging me I would be fine! I felt horrible and so would go through my day being horrible and then feeling even more horrible, an ugly cycle with destruction in its wake. Eventually after snapping at my son all day, silently cursing the general public and then yelling at my son for a minor infraction my husband would finally come home and I would dump my shitty day on him and lock myself in my room because I just couldn't "take this day anymore!"

I would usually calm down and realize I had been a horrible mom and come out at bed time, repentant and loving. But with the underlying problem still blazing, a struggle at bed time would immediately send me right back into head biting off mode (backfire.)

Anxiety is an ugly bitch. I strive daily to control her and after years of practice I can say I have gotten better but the struggle goes on. So until that magical day when I am freed of my disorder in its entirety this is what I've come up with to combat the miserable scary wife/mommy monster I can sometimes be. I lock her up before she can even show her face!

This is what I've been trying:

When I know I'm having a bad day which happens occasionally for no reason and usually happens for a few days before my "days of womanly misery," I make it known calmly to my husband as a warning, and to enlist his help. See, just being depressed or anxious isn't what sets me off. Its having to deal with things when I'm in that state. I just can't, and the tension builds inside of me making everything ten times worse. But I've found that if I can avoid stress, keep to myself and try to do things that I enjoy or are mindless, then I stay calm and just quietly feel crumby while everyone else gets to be happy and the house stays a peaceful place. After the pre-monster warning my husband will run interference with the kids, take care of dinner and let me lock myself in my room. When my son asks for a bedtime story I calmly and sweetly tell him, "not tonight," because I know that when I feel like that, sitting in his bed reading something silly for the umpteenth time will send my anxiety level through the roof, so that when he asks for a second story or a third kiss I will inevitably, at the very least, respond curtly and with annoyance. Saying no used to make me feel guilty but what is worse, being told you have to get what you want another day or getting a shallow, frustrating version of what you asked for?

I could seem like a bad mom to some, hiding from my children, letting my husband make dinner while I do online crosswords, but I've learned from sad experience that sometimes I just need to check out. If I don't have the capacity at times to give goodness to the ones I love then I don't want to give them anything. Better to have a break than to break something, especially a heart. And after an evening of coping alone, with no added stress, I feel ok and I can go kiss my kids goodnight with a smile and hope for a better day tomorrow.