Wellness Wednesday – Reasons

Two weeks ago, my sister and brother-in-law traveled to the Rocky Mountains for a socially-isolated vacation. They stayed in a cabin and did a lot of hiking in their week away. While they were there, an old friend of mine from high school also traveled up to the Rockies to meet a friend for a week of intense hiking. And while he was there, an old memory from the cruise Jason and I took in 2018 popped up on my Facebook timeline, with pictures from the day we walked nine miles and roughly 65 flights of stairs (in hills) around San Francisco.

The Facebook reminder was a stark one for me. I loved that day in San Francisco, but by 2pm that afternoon, I was exhausted, my feet were killing me, and my hips began to act up and twinge with pain. We went back to the ship to rest, with the plan to go back out the next day to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately, I was so sore and exhausted the next day that I didn’t even leave the ship. For someone as large as I am, I’m in pretty good shape, and I didn’t have a problem walking those nine miles or hiking up all those insane hills. But I’m also carrying around a good 75 lbs of extra weight, and that puts a lot of strain on my body. Especially on my feet and joints.

Which meant that the excitement and longing I felt on seeing my sister’s and friend’s photos from the Rockies suddenly fell flat. If I went out to Colorado right now (pretending the pandemic didn’t exist and I felt safe, of course), at least half of whatever time I had would be spent recovering, rather than being able to hike daily. I don’t even know if I’d be able to complete some of those larger hikes. And that’s disheartening.

There have been a lot of disheartening moments lately. The thing is, I love and respect my body, and I’m proud of the things it can do – but realistically, there are some things that are just more difficult in a larger body. When I went on my first weight loss journey in 2011-2012 (ish), my focus was solely on getting to a size where I felt that I looked like myself again, and where others would treat me with respect. Nowadays, I don’t feel the same about my body, and my personal respect for it helps strangers to treat me with dignity. Imagine that! Still, I want to lose weight – I just have different reasons now.

I want to lose weight in order to hike longer without tiring. I want to be able to run faster and longer, and for my running shoes to last for more miles than they currently do. I want to travel without worrying about airplane seats, weight limits on excursions, exhaustion, or injury. I miss decent bras and a wider variety of clothes to shop for (at decent prices, too!). I’m sick and tired of listening to doctors tell me that I need to lose weight despite my good health. I get frustrated with the lack of options in sporting goods, like hydration vests or running shorts, for larger women. One day I’d like to be able to buy fun and silly things like Seahawks gear from the NFL shop, or qualify for breast reduction surgery with insurance coverage, or lift my own body into a pull-up again.

My body can do so many things, but in some ways it’s also holding me back. Which really means that I’m holding myself back, because I know now what I need to do. I know, but I haven’t done it yet, because frankly, a weight loss journey is long and hard and exhausting, and I’ve spent many disheartening years trying and failing to make progress. Not to mention life is hard enough right now without extra burdens. But if I want to get to all those things I listed in the last paragraph, I have to commit and work harder. Maybe the written reminder of the things I want for my body will help me to do so.

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Adventures of an Escape Artist

Atticus. Oh Atticus. You absolute brat-cat.

Let me briefly recap the history of our little BrAtticus. Back at Easter in 2018, on my grandmother’s ranch outside of Quihi, TX, this tiny little cinnamon roll cat ran up to us, chased by dogs, scraggly and starving. He looked to be maybe six months old and was obviously living rough. We gave him some stew meat, and he cuddled constantly, as if he were very used to humans. He had no fear of us at all. But it was clear that if he had a family, he’d been lost for some time. We couldn’t just leave him alone in the scrub-wilderness. He wouldn’t have made it.

So, of course, we took him home. He was so good in the car, and let us hold him in the service station halfway home while they fixed our punctured tire, never trying to escape and purring the whole time. We got him home, gave him two flea baths –> and scheduled him for the vet. After vet visits and blood work, we found out that 1) he had no chip so no owners to contact, 2) he didn’t have any diseases he could spread to our cats, 3) he needed treatment for tapeworms (hence his starving state!), and 4) despite being under 6 lbs, he was likely fully grown around 1-2 years old. We took him in, where he instantly and miraculously bonded with the five-month-old problem cat (Jojo) who had been facing a return to the shelter to find a different family until this unexpected bonding. Thus, we became a five-cat household.

Despite our initial assessment, Atticus was likely never an indoor cat, and we have no idea how often he came across humans before us. Instead, it turned out that he was just a bit dumb, and because he was small, he responded to potential predators with purring, licking submission. He later grew into a 7-to-8-lb cat, and while he’ll never be as large as some of our others, he looks normal-sized. (We guess now that he was about nine months old and stunted from starvation when we found him.) Though he’s lived with us for 2.5 years now, he’s still bewildered all the time by his situation, as if the world of the indoors is just beyond comprehension. And he desperately wants to be outside again.

This has gotten worse lately. Back in July, when Jason was fixing the water heater while the rest of us were in Wisconsin, Atticus escaped into the front yard. Within five minutes, he had killed a bird and trotted up to the house with it in his mouth, happily purring through his offering. He was NOT happy when Jason took it away from him, and hissed as he was brought back inside. Since then, he’s escaped quite a number of times, and each time hisses and scratches when brought back in. If anyone leaves the house, he sits in front of the door and cries to be let out, which he never did until his bird-hunting escape.

Over the weekend, a cold front came through, and we opened the windows overnight. Now, we’ve had problems with cat-escapes before, so we take precautions and only open the windows about six inches. But we should have known better. When I got up to make coffee early on Sunday morning, I found the kitchen window’s screen pushed out, leaving a perfect escape route for a bratty, cinnamon-roll kitty.

The good news: none of our other cats bothered to follow Atticus outside. We don’t know how long the window had been breached, but because of something I heard on first waking, I don’t think it had been long. So we avoided a multi-disaster. But Atticus was gone. We searched the back and front yards, walked up and down the street, and called out for him, rattling treats. He’s a master at getting his collar off, too, which didn’t bode well. I had signed up to host a hike that morning and had to go, but told Jason to let me know if Atticus turned up.

Hours passed. We put a can of food out on the back porch to lure him. At one point during my hike, Jason heard a cat fight a few doors down, but it was too early to go knocking on doors and he could get no visual. Not long after I got home, Laurence spotted Atticus approaching the food on our back porch – so at least we knew he could find home easily – but when he tried to go catch him, Atticus took off running and escaped again. The next time we caught sight of him was 1:30 that afternoon, when he began to walk through our back gate into the yard. Ambrose tried to approach him that time, but again, Atticus ran.

There’s a green space behind our house. It’s technically commercial space that belongs to the electrical union, but it’s just trees out there right now. Jason grabbed the cat treats and went out into that area to hunt for our missing cat, because by this point we knew he had to be hungry. He found Atticus curled into some tree roots several houses down, and spent some time coaxing him with his voice to allow Jason to approach with treats. Eventually, Jason managed to snatch him and restrain him to his chest and bring him inside.

Atticus was terrified. I don’t know what sorts of things he encountered or how badly he may have been hurt in that cat fight. What I do know is that he was scared to come home, because he knew he’d done something he wasn’t supposed to do. He was also very hungry, and so dove into the pile of treats and can of food we gave him as we looked him over for any potential injuries. (He appeared to be fine except for some scraggly fur and swollen eyes that looked like a bit of an allergic reaction to something.) It didn’t take long for him to get back to normal, and by the next morning, he was curled up with Jojo again like they’ve been doing since they first bonded in 2018.

Of course, this means we can’t really chance opening our windows at all anymore, sigh. But also hopefully it also means that Atticus has had his fill of the outdoors and will stop screaming at us and trying to escape constantly. We’ll see. Like I said, he’s a bit on the dumb side as cats go, and he may be up for another adventure in the near future…

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Sunday Coffee – Weighed Down

I’ll be honest here. I’m not sure I can be entirely coherent as I write this. The burdens of the last who-knows-how-many years in this country continue to weigh more and more heavily all the time. I see all these posts about how, if you don’t speak up, if you stay quiet, this just means you’re privileged to stay out of the fight, but it’s not always like that. Sometimes, if you keep silent, it’s because the fight has squashed you down so badly that you have no energy to speak.

Learning on Friday evening that Ruth Bader Ginsberg had died was the latest blow. I remember back to the 2016 election, and how the culmination of all the anger and hatred and racism/sexism/all the other -isms had worn people down for a year. That year, I refused to watch a single debate, because I refused to give the Prumpster even one minute of attention. If I happened to watch the news and the man came on, I muted the TV. I have never, in the four years since, watched or listened to one minute of the man speaking. My own silent protest and refusal to increase his “ratings,” I suppose. And I remember, on watching the election numbers roll in, the devastation and hopelessness that stole into me and took my voice.

I went to bed before it was all over, and I cried myself asleep, because I knew this was no longer a “democrat vs republican” issue, but one of far greater consequence. We’ve witnessed floodgates of nastiness and backlash over the last four years. That’s not to say they weren’t there before, because they were, and they’d been building for ages as our country – GASP! – elected a Black president, and later – SHOCK! – allowed gay people to – SHUDDER! – get married. *insert headache-inducing eye roll here* But Prump gave a nod to all those prejudices and said that it was not only okay to embrace them and speak them, but that it was RIGHT to align our country to those values. And oh, we have been drowning.

To tell the truth, I have no hope for the upcoming election. I don’t think approval ratings or polls matter in the least. If the 2016 election was so gerrymandered that Clinton could win by 2.5 million votes and STILL lose the election, what’s to say that it won’t be the same this year? Biden is an uninspiring opposition, and a distasteful choice (though yes, about 1,000,000x better than the current situation), and will put up little fight against the groupies currently making the most noise. I anticipate more protest votes and a lack of turnout this year, and while Biden still may win on the popular vote side of things, I don’t think it will be as large of a margin as Clinton, and I don’t think it’ll make even the slightest difference in the electorates. Prump very well may be the first “president” to lose two elections while continuing to hold office.

Last week, I heard that one of Prump’s considerations as next up for the Supreme Court is Ted Cruz. And this also brought me back to the 2016 election, when the last two candidates with any backing behind them were Prump and Cruz. I voted in the republican primary that year, with the hope of outing the two of them from Texas’ points. On Facebook, I wrote that of the two of them, I would be more scared if Cruz won the nomination, because he seemed both smarter and more dangerous. In retrospect, I’m not sure if that’s true, but I do know that Cruz still scares the living daylights out of me, and I absolutely do not want him to end up on the Supreme Court with an appointment for life. Which may happen very, very soon.

Because we all know that the trick the republicans pulled in President Obama’s last year, refusing for an entire year to confirm his Supreme Court appointment, will not be repeated this time. There are something like six weeks left until the election, and they’re going to try to speed their way into getting someone (Cruz or other) in their before that time. Again, I don’t honestly think it’ll matter if they go speedy, because I think we have another four years of this deterioration of our country to go. I don’t believe Biden will win, not in the way that it matters. But it stirs up crushing anger and defeat and depression to watch these hypocrites embrace their gleeful triumph the very same night that RBG passed away.

“I don’t care if it’s right or wrong, as long as I get what I want.” This seems to be the motto of the current administration. The ends justify the means. And it’s crushing the life out of so many of us. It’s polarizing people, a little more all the time. I remember the kinds of debates and unhappiness involved in elections twenty years ago where one or the other party won, and it was not like this. Not at all.

I’m sorry I haven’t spoken up more. It’s not that I don’t care, or that this doesn’t affect me personally. It’s that with a foot to my neck, holding me down, I’ve spent the last four years focused on surviving, with no strength left to fight back.

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The Haunting of Ashburn House, by Darcy Coates

When Adrienne inherits Ashburn house, it feels like a godsend. She’s homeless, with almost no income, and without any family to turn to. The dilapidated condition of the house gives her pause, but at least it’s a roof, right? Unfortunately, Ashburn house is filled with uneasiness – from scratched messages in all the rooms to legends of madness and ghosts. And something is causing mayhem, whether an intruder intent on scaring Adrienne, or tricks of her imagination, or…something else.

I needed something light and fast-paced after the darkness of Mexican Gothic. I heard about this book in passing and immediately ordered it from the library. It was exactly what I needed right now, and the perfect creepy RIP book! Hauntings, ghosts, dark magic, madness, legends, murder, and possession…this book had it all. Not in a disjointed, overstuffed kind of way. It was atmospheric, well-plotted, and fun to read.

The only major drawback for me was right about the 2/3rds mark, when the reader first catches sight of the villain/culprit. You know how in horror movies, it’s creepier before you actually see the monster? Putting a face on something often dials down the scare-factor, and it was the same in this book. While the last third of the book was compelling, it wasn’t nearly as chilling. I don’t know that there was any real solution to that issue, because the revelation was quite important. But I missed the creep-factor of the unknown.

Still, I hear that Coates has quite a few creepy novels out – more awesomeness to explore and freak myself out with late at night this fall!

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Wellness Wednesday – Out of the Nightmares

It has certainly been easier to breathe over the last week. Helps me to know for certain that I made the right choice (withdrawing from school) last Wednesday. And contrary to the last few weeks of doom and gloom, things are looking up here.

First, the late August/early September PTSD quagmire has ended. For the last week, any stress I’ve had comes from current issues rather than six-years-old retained trauma memory. Better yet: during the several weeks of PTSD triggers this time, I did a better job of coping than I have in the past. I can definitely say for sure now that I’ve transferred my self-medicating coping mechanism from wine to iced coffee. Yay! This gives me hope that I can transfer it to an even safer substance in the future. I also didn’t have any major breakdowns involving the old trauma. It certainly influenced my vulnerable, easy-to-tears state of mind, but I never ended up wracked with fear, sobbing, or anger over Old Things. Running, behavioral therapy, new associations, and general rebuilding-my-life is REALLY helping. I hope that within a year or two, my two major trigger periods (May/early June, and this Aug/Sept one) will go back to being normal!

Second, the carpet. Oh, the carpet. Construction always sucks, especially when you have to do a big portion of it yourself. I don’t deal with chaos very well. It’s my kryptonite. I become paralyzed when too much is going on, especially if there’s no order to it. And, true to the stereotype about marriages, my husband is a pure chaos kind of person. This is in many ways a good thing – I can deal with all the stuff that needs order and rigidity, he can deal with the chaos that makes me curl into a whimpering ball in my room. Which includes ripping out half the carpets in the house, pulling off baseboards, leveling and sanding floors, and installing new floors while waiting for the carpet professionals to come rip out the rest of the carpets and install new stuff. The house was a wreck. Furniture moved from one room to another. Stuff in boxes, as if we were moving again. Construction dust everywhere. No way to even reach the oven or stove or microwave.

But Jason got the hardwood floors down early last week. (We were supposed to get cheap laminate, but there were a few boxes of hardwood that had been on the shelf for eight months, and were thus being sold for less than laminate – lucky us!) He got the baseboards up, the cat-scratch-wall reassembled (it looks different now, with new pieces!), and the furniture back where it belonged by mid week. He and I both got all the loose stuff put away in the two rooms where the professionals would work, and then they came in on Thursday and got all their work done in a few hours. This led to quite a few wonderful things:

  1. Even though our old carpets were old and disgusting, there was no water damage on them, which we’d worried about, and the subfloor was in near-perfect condition, whew!
  2. We got to rearrange both our living room and my bedroom because the furniture had to be moved anyway, and both rooms are far superior now to the way they’ve been the previous nine months!
  3. The new carpet is beautiful, far more beautiful than we expected (especially since our first choice of color turned out to be unavailable re: covid delays in manufacturing), and soooooo nice to walk on! It’s higher-grade carpet with a 30-year warranty, and the extra money we put into upgrading from “builder’s grade” was 10000% worth it.

I took a run on the new carpet on Monday. My room has been rearranged to have a wide U-shaped path that allows for longer no-turns distance and wider turns at the end of each U. This allows me to mimic an outdoor pace a lot more closely, without worrying about tight turns on my ankles/knees/hips. Indeed, I ran two miles in about 33 mins – the same pace I would do on an easy run outdoors. And my feet felt like I was running on air the whole time. It was amazing. I’ve never actually had brand-new carpet in a house before, so this has been a novel and awesome experience!

In addition to the new carpets, our a/c system got completely replaced over the last two days (indoor and outdoor units both). As anyone who lives in the south can testify – summer heat is excruciating and never-ending for about half the year, and a good a/c system is priceless. Our former unit was about 25 years old and didn’t work well, so the house was always mildly hot and our electricity bill was through the roof. Already we’ve noticed a major difference in how well the house cools! (Pic: Surprise gift from Jason after the construction was finished!)

Then, there are my career goals. Of course, I don’t have a 100% great idea of where I plan to go next in my life, but since switching away from the university path, I’ve been drawn toward digging back into my first love: writing. I haven’t done any major writing since the spring of 2016, and I’d all but given up on the idea. However, I’ve realized that these intervening years have helped me to see writing and publishing in an entirely different light, and helped me to break some mental barriers that I’ve had my whole life. I’m not going to say too much about this right now because it’s still early days, but I’m excited to potentially begin with some new projects soon!

So yes, it really feels like things are looking up despite the stressors that have been around for the last month. I can see cooler temps in the extended forecast, I have several group hikes scheduled, and I see hope ahead of me again.

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Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexico, 1950s. Noemí travels out to check up on her newly-married cousin after some strange letters arrived from her at home. She’s “welcomed” into a decrepit old house by a family who believes they are superior to the “local” population because they’re white, European, and old money (despite the money being long gone). Soon, Noemí realizes it’s not just the family her cousin has married into that is wrong. Nightmares, hallucinations, sexual violence, alchemy, curses, and secrets blossom as Noemí is slowly consumed by the house.

This is not your traditional haunted house story. It reads more like a fairy tale than a novel, complete with a narrator who is more archetype than individual, major thematic elements (mushrooms, bees, gold, silver), and a blurring of reality and dreamscape. The book is not like anything I’ve ever read, and I mostly enjoyed it.

There were a few things that I struggled with. First, the early parts of the novel are very heavy-handed. Lots of talk about eugenics, gender roles, etc that feel overly stressed. However, those elements end up taking on different roles as the book went on, so by the end, they felt less like heavy-handed modern-day issues, and more like setup for the story. The first half was also a bit slow, and it took quite awhile until the story really got started. For a long time, it was unclear which direction it would go. Lastly, there are some elements (like the wrist-burns) that never really got addressed, so it just felt like “weird stuff that happened to happen” instead of deliberate.

On the positive side, the fairy tale atmosphere was really well-done. It’s hard to write a novel with a narrator who is archetypical in today’s environment, but Moreno-Garcia pulled it off well. Some of the elements in the book were particularly horrific (like the woman who opens her mouth despite having no mouth), and the horror bits were very unique (never been afraid of a mushroom before…). The blurred line between hallucination, dream, and reality gets so confusing at one point that you keep waiting for Noemí to wake up, and when she doesn’t, it’s so creepy and disturbing and unsettling – it’s perfect as a way to immerse the reader into this nightmare. Lastly, while the solutions and many of the twists were visible from early on, as part of the thematic elements, it never felt as if knowing the twists was a bad thing. You might know what was coming, but not how, and so you ride with the characters step by step as they figure things out.

All in all, for a book that is WAY out of my comfort zone and unlike anything I’ve ever read, I really appreciated it. It may not be my favorite book of all time, but I applaud the author for her work, and definitely want to explore more by her.

PS – That cover is AMAZING.

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Sunday Coffee – Nightmares

What a week! I already spoke about some of the stuff happening this week (construction, etc), but MAN it ended up being a Week on top of that.

First, let me say that I am NOT cut out for school. A year ago, I decided on a new career path (now that my kids were almost off on their own), and thought that having an end-goal would make school feel meaningful again, instead of pointless. That didn’t turn out to be the case. The decades of nightmares and the screaming in my head should have been a clue. I tried to override that and just deal with it – after all, the classes were incredibly easy and it would only be 18 months before I could graduate and move on to the next thing – but each day got worse. I already discussed the lethargy, depression, and severe downswing in my mental health. On top of that, I began to have a new kind of nightmare every night. Nightmares like watching one of my kids go through a trial for a brutal crime, and realizing that though I couldn’t imagine him doing it, he actually had. Nightmares like being married to a drug dealer who was extremely physically abusive, with no escape, trying each day to simultaneously be perfect, anticipate/defuse his moods, and not look afraid when I spoke to him. Every night was a new nightmare-scape to navigate and survive.

By mid-week, I was in a place where even thinking about school had me in tears. This is not normal depression for me – I tend to go numb rather than weepy – and I knew I had to do something. I spent the week talking with various people about the situation, and at lunch on Wednesday, Jason and I talked things through for like the seventh time. The thing is, yeah I decided to work toward being a librarian last year, but I only chose the career because it was one that felt good rather than like a noose being put around my neck. I’ve never in my life had any idea what I wanted to do as a career, other than dream of being a published author, and wanting to raise a family. That last part has a long history steeped in PTSD, but setting that aside, it boils down to this: I don’t want a career that’s going to define me as a person – I’ve already done that! I want the next phase of my life to be something I enjoy, and on my own terms.

So I’ve let go of the librarian dream.* This is not a path I can walk, not with my nightmares and waking inner voice screaming at me to abandon ship. I put in withdrawal papers. This is the fourth time I’ve tried to go back to school since my kids were born, and the fourth time that I’ve withdrawn. (Not to mention the dozen other times I considered and put off applying.) Unless something really major changes, I plan for it to be the last. School and I were not meant to walk together. And it’s time for me to come up with a new, non-school-based career plan.

A lot of the week was thus filled with school-angst, paperwork, nightmares, depression, and of course construction (carpets on Thursday, scheduling the a/c work, another kitchen cabinet drawer-face falling off, more back and forth with the person working on our deck supports delayed due to rain). But there was another surprise.

Laurence’s wisdom teeth began to erupt without pain back when we traveled to WI at the end of June. But it’s been six weeks since then, and this week he started to get major pain and gum blisters. We took him in to the dentist on Wednesday, and all four of his wisdom teeth are impacted. Sigh. So Laurence needs oral surgery, same as Morrigan did last summer. The problem? Apparently when our employer changed our dental insurance this year, the new insurance doesn’t cover** wisdom teeth removal – even if the teeth are causing problems. We literally had to pay $3200 for the surgery in advance to get the surgery scheduled. Really, WTF is up with dental insurance that doesn’t cover necessary oral surgery?? Health coverage in the US is so f***ed up!

However. Out of the nightmares, good things can emerge, right? They say that children go through periods of nightmares right before they make developmental leaps. While that only applies to literal nightmares, it makes an apt metaphor – eventually the nightmares end, and something new can emerge. This is where I’m ending the week, with (hopefully) good things to come.

*****
*I will be a library volunteer instead, and continue to haunt my local library, my second home, for all the years to come!

**This information came out to us mid-week, but we did some research of our own, and it turned out that the dentist was lying to us!! This kind of surgery IS covered. It’s still going to be expensive, but not nearly to the tune of $3200. We’ve been unable to get ahold of the dentist’s office since making this discovery since they’re only open a few days per week, but we will most definitely be getting a refund!!

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Death Notice, by Todd Ritter

The small town of Perry Hollow has never seen a murder before, and its first murder is anything but typical. The body is left on the side of the road in a coffin, semi-embalmed, with pennies on the eyes and stitches closing the mouth. It has the hallmarks of someone practiced, and indeed, the state police come in to help with the investigation due to potential connections to a known serial killer. But there’s another unique aspect to this crime: a death notice faxed to the town paper’s obituary writer, declaring the death before it actually occurs.

For those not in the know, Todd Ritter is the real name of author Riley Sager, and this series, the Kat Campbell series, was published under his real name in the early 2010s. The series – or at least this book – is a combo mystery and crime procedural, and I quite liked it. It has some hallmarks of being an early published novel, but actually not too many, and it reads not dissimilar to Sager’s books if you’ve read them. Perhaps a bit more genre, a bit more formulaic, but not in a bad way. I enjoyed (most) of the characters, thought Ritter brought up many interesting aspects of human nature outside of the mystery, and I never managed to guess the killer correctly. Beyond one character’s bizarre behavior that didn’t seem all that realistic (Deana), and a tiny bit too much gore for my liking, I really enjoyed the read. Not sure if it’s a book that’ll stick with me forever or anything, but I’ll read the rest of the series, and I’m happy that this was the first book I finished for RIP!

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Wellness Wednesday – Avalanche

The last few weeks have been difficult. I’m struggling.

1: PTSD. In late August and early September 2014, I went through some of the worst moments of my life. I’ve worked very hard to work through the trauma of those moments, but trauma is persistent, and while I’m much improved over where I was a few years ago, I still struggle. The last few weeks have felt like I’m walking around disconnected from my body (dissociation), unable to process things as if my brain has turned into sludge. I’m having nightmares, insomnia, headaches, disordered eating, and depression so bad that it’s difficult to do basic things like shower. I’m turning down social meetups that I would normally love, and I barely leave my bedroom. Sometimes I CAN’T leave my bedroom. I know this will ease up in a week or so, but in the meantime, I’m really struggling. At least I haven’t binged or self-medicated with anything other than iced coffee…

Note: This morning I woke up NOT feeling like a zombie for the first time in about three weeks. Hopefully this means this part of my current stress is about to ease up!

2: School. Did I mention just how much I hate school? So yeah, I dropped that one class, and the only class I’m in right now is freshman comp. It’s a class I shouldn’t need to take. My biggest struggle is to simplify my thoughts, writing, and analysis down to the level it’s supposed to be for the assignments. Last Thursday, on a day when I’d been up since 4:52am, I spent most of the day crying and agonizing over whether or not to quit. I know this is something I need to do. I know it’s important. But I hate it. HATE. I’m not using the word lightly. I hate everything about university learning. I’m told grad school is better. Maybe that’s true. In the meantime, I have to force myself somehow to get through the rest of these 17 undergrad classes. Or decide on a different path for the next phase of my life. In any case, despite only having one class – and a blow-off one at that, or maybe because of just how blow-off it is – my stress levels on a daily basis are already twice my normal baseline. There’s a constant refrain in the back of my head yelling, “I don’t want to do this!” It’s making every other decision, from what to eat to whether or not I go to sleep on time, feel pointless.

(Have I mentioned that I’ve spent the last 20 years with recurring nightmares about returning to school? They involve signing up for school, getting into classes, despairing over how much I don’t want to take the classes, and then just not going for the rest of the semester, and quitting again like I did the first time. Very few people understand this. All they see is a person who never struggled with school, who got good grades and never had to study, who had no nervousness about taking tests or writing papers, who excelled in all those things, and who loves learning. It makes no sense that I despise school as much as I do. If I could work with a professor one on one in a self-directed learning plan, I’d be the happiest girl in the world. But even the first time I did the whole college thing, I got so tired of taking high school level classes all over again, until I eventually just stopped going to classes whenever attendance wasn’t required. I felt no heartbreak at all when I had to leave to take care of my oldest son.)

3: House. It’s probably not the best time to have the house in complete chaos, not with everything else going on. But chaos it is! On the 28th, the toilet in the master bathroom began to leak sewer gas late in the evening. For the 28th and 29th, we had the bathroom torn apart. It was just one of many things that were needed. To be honest, we got tired of fixing emergencies, and decided to take out a loan to fix all the things that were either about to become emergencies, or that were potentially causing house hazards.

  • Our dishwasher, which had never worked well, stopped cleaning altogether in late August. We ordered a new one, picked it up on the 3rd, and installed on the 3rd/4th.
  • The person who has serviced our a/c faithfully for the last year came out to give us a quote on replacing the entire external and internal a/c units. Both originally came with the house in ’97, and both – especially the outside unit – are on their last legs. The outside unit shudders every time it turns on and off, and it’s leaking water where it didn’t used to. On the bright side, I was expecting our estimate to be around $12k, but our guy says $4500. Work hasn’t begun yet – we want to finish the current work-in-progress – but will start soon.
  • Our house is fully carpeted except bathrooms, kitchen, and dining room. I’m one of the last people alive who actually prefers carpet to hard floors. However, the carpet in this house is AWFUL. Previous occupant was as smoker (enough said), and the cats have been getting sick constantly since we moved in. So over the long weekend, we ripped out the carpets in the hallway and the bedrooms (except mine), and put new flooring down. Tomorrow, new carpet will be put into the master bedroom and living room (assuming it arrives on time, which is now in question re: covid delays). In the meantime, there have been mazes of furniture in rooms where they don’t belong, and concrete subfloors to walk on, construction dust everywhere, and now a garage filled to the brim with old carpet and carpet pad. I’ve also had to pack up every loose item in my room and the living room so that the carpet peeps can do their work.
  • Notably, our deck area is also under construction, though since this is outside, it hasn’t really affected our household much. At some point, it’ll involve us building the new deck (after the company we hired finishes building the posts and supports), and replacing pieces of the wall around the back door (which have been missing/patched since January).

So yeah. Construction chaos on top of financial strain on top of school angst on top of deep-seated PTSD triggers. It is not fun times.

Posted in Wellness | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

First Week of School, and a Note on Perspective

Warning: Long.

Today, I begin the second week of this eight-week term at SNHU. I have no plans to do a weekly roundup or anything like that, but since this is my first week at school since leaving UH back in April 2001, I thought it would be a good idea to jot down my thoughts. They basically boil down to:

Why yes, I do still hate academia.

Sigh.

I started with two classes (full time) during this term. One was a blow-off class, English Comp I. I tried to get out of this as I’ve taken so many literature and writing and analysis courses already, but UH made us take this special class that mixed Eng Comp I with a humanities course, and thus it isn’t transferable as anything other than a humanities elective. Yay! In any case, it won’t be difficult, and it’s a good way to ease back into school while becoming familiar with SNHU’s online system.

The second course was Sociology of Social Problems – a sophomore level class that I needed for upper level sociology courses. I was actually interested in this course…until I met the professor. Brief description: elderly ex-military man who spends a lot of time talking about all the cool things he does like fly into hurricanes and motorcycle across the country, who drops random “lol”s into the syllabus, and who copy/pastes his replies to student introductions and project proposals on the discussion boards. This alone made me cringe, but then there came the actual project proposal.

Here’s the thing. I love learning. Like, I would read the sociology textbook for this class for fun. I’d happily read the book, listen to lectures, participate in discussions, do research, write papers, and take tests. But the project for this class is “creative.” We have to pretend that we’ve been given an assignment by government officials that will then justify all the research, writing, and analysis, and then we have to submit a proposal for the fake government official to prove we’ve learned stuff. Oh. God. No. I detest these kinds of assignments. Please just let me learn and prove I’ve learned??

Still, that’s the big project, so I picked out a subject to work with. It needed to be a social problem that could be examined on a local, national, and global level. At least I had the choice of what to study, right? I chose urban food deserts and their effect on health and class. This is a major, current, ongoing, worldwide social problem that many sociologists and epidemiologists are trying to address. It’s something of strong interest to me. I don’t want to write a fake proposal to a fake person, but I’m happy to write about this subject at least. It was something. Until the arrogant prick-fessor responded.

He told me that my topic was too broad and too local (wait, what??), and that I would be unable to study it on a national or global level. Dudes. The man – the SOCIOLOGY PROFESSOR – doesn’t know what a food desert is. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised because he literally has NO background in the social sciences, so he’s completely unqualified to teach this class. The guy then told me to choose from a specific list of topics, rather than getting to choose my own. (Notably, he did this for a lot of the female students, while letting male students choose topics NOT from the list, like “victim mentality.”)

I. Am. Done. 

Two days into school, and I want to quit. I’m raging in every bone, snarling at the inadequacy of this professor and the class, and absolutely NOT going to sit through this guy’s “teaching.” I’m f***ing 41 years old, and if I have to go back to college to prove that I already have that base level of education, I’m going to do it on my own terms. I didn’t even bother to respond to that guy. Instead, I wrote to my advisor to drop the class and go part-time for the term. I also told her that when I take this particular course next term, I want a different prof, and as a precaution, that I would like all female profs unless that’s not available. I know there are great male profs out there – Hi, Adam! – but there are too many that fall into that arrogant, self-important, condescending category that I had the misfortune of getting this term. It’ll be easier to avoid the possibility this way.

So now I’m just in one course, one that I could do in my sleep, sure, but at least I won’t spend the next eight weeks seething as I deal with the man my friend Nat termed a “cheese-d*ck.” I remember being a late teen newly in college, and the way I just bowed to whatever I happened to get, never sticking up for myself, never changing schedules or teachers because I didn’t want to be a bother. I remember that girl going on to have a job under a man who made comments like “no offense, but it gets nasty out there” (about my mostly-female region) and “sorry, Amanda, you were off doing that baby thing” (about why I wasn’t invited to the team outing). I remember a girl that didn’t believe in feminism, didn’t think it was necessary or relevant, didn’t think she’d soaked up any of the cultural limitations shoved down women’s throats since infancy.

So much has changed in the 15 years since I became a stay at home mom, and I won’t go back to that timidity or acquiescence. It’s one thing to be civil and get along with folks who are different from you. It’s another thing entirely to sit quietly and just take it when you have complete control over a situation (like when you take a class, and with what professor). Maybe it’s getting older and having no more f**ks to give. Maybe it’s living in a hostile country for the last 15+ years. Maybe it’s standing up against fat-phobia, anti-LGBTQ+ folks, anti-women, and other backwards-thinking movements. Either way, I’ve learned that I have choices, and acquired the ability to use my voice to make them. If the late-in-life college experience has taught me nothing else, at least I know this about myself, right?

PS – Why god why do I need to use MLA or APA style guidelines on one-page baby english comp papers? If it were a social science research paper? Sure. But mini-essays that want 2-3 sentences per prompt?? When the hell else in my life will I ever be required to use MLA style guides? It’s college for college’s sake. Just another reason I despise academia. Can I just quit and go get a crap-paying job and never bother to finish the degree I don’t want anyway? I can’t be a librarian that way, but every day, I get closer to making this decision…

Posted in Personal | Tagged | 3 Comments