Tuesday, December 31, 2013

As One Story Ends, Another Begins in 2014!

Here we are ladies and gents.  New Year's Eve, 2013.  For many, this is a time of reflection on the year past, while others focus on the year to come.  I prefer to do both.

Looking back on 2013 requires revisiting both the bad times and the good.  It was my first full year in San Diego.  The holiday season of 2012 came at the same time as my move to San Diego, making the start of my life here very turbulent.  To say the least, I was utterly miserable at the beginning of 2013.  I was exhausted from school, from student teaching, from hosting holiday dinners and traveling for others.  My poor health management caught up with me and I came down with a nasty bug that felt like it was the end.  I had no friends here, no job, and no motivation.  After living on my own for 18 months, I had to acclimate to sharing my living space with my husband again.  It wasn't just my way anymore.  I had to consider someone else again.  It was a rough adjustment.

Somehow though, that low point merely acted as a springboard for a phenomenal year.  My incredibly patient and loving husband did not fret when my moods were all over the place.  Never one did he falter in his support.  When I finally figured out what I thought I needed to improve the situation, he did not hesitate to help make it happen.  He was there holding my hand the whole time.

As I navigated this new territory, I found myself as a long-term substitute.  Although the experience was challenging beyond imagination, it was also extremely rewarding.  However, the job had to come to an end.  I continued to substitute with various schools and tutor on the side.  I met amazing people and fostered valuable network connections.  Yet I still felt disconnected from the life I was living.

I found myself traveling, a lot.  Traveling  is not a bad thing.  In fact, it is amazing if done for the right reasons.  My best friend helped me realize I was not helping myself though.  My travels weren't just for vacation and to visit friends.  My travels were more about me running away to more comfortable situations than trying to build my life in San Diego.  I realized if I was ever going to be happy here, I needed to dig in and make it happen.

Then came kickball.  I never thought that a schoolyard game could change my life, my outlook.  Kickball filled that vital piece I needed to grow...friendship and community.  I had a reason to leave the house.  I had people to celebrate accomplishments with.  I made some wonderful friends.  I didn't feel so alone and isolated anymore, and this gave me strength to launch into the world here.  Even when things were rough, I had people I could call on now.

Now, I have opportunities to give back to my community and charity.  My tutoring business has continued to grow and my network grows more every day.  As 2013 comes to a close, 2014 is shining bright ahead.  My chapter of emotional struggle is giving way to a chapter of motivation and determination.  This new chapter will bring many challenges as I work to start my new school, increase my fitness, and continue improving my diet and overall being.  I look forward to more opportunities to give back to my community and neighbors.  And hopefully, I look forward to welcoming a child into our home.

2013, Thank you for the lessons you taught me and the strength you built in me, but our time is now down.  2014, Bring it on!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Straight to the Point or Clarity?

As I am responding to emails, chatting with friends, and perusing through Facebook, a thought crosses my mind that *insertname* types way to much.  Just get to the point.  I don't need all the details.  Then, just a couple minutes later, I stop myself as I am typing a response to someone.  I begin to question myself: Do I type too much?  Should I be more straight to the point?  But I feel this information is important to understand what I am saying.  But what if it isn't?  What if my reader sits on the other side of this screening thinking, "Get to the point!"?

Perhaps, when we are beating around the bush, we are simply trying to buy ourselves time.  We could be buying time for any number of reasons, but either way, we are trying to put off the inevitable.  Staying in that sense of limbo, never having to learn what the response will be to your statement or question. Right now, I sit in that very spot.  I have news that I want to share, but I fear the response.  I obviously fear the response of negativity, but I also fear the positive.  If I am supported, it would be even more humiliating if this project did not go as planned, I stumbled or failed.

For better or worse, I can be extremely sensitive and take comments to heart that shouldn't matter in the scheme of things.  There are soooooooo many things that could go wrong and I have never tried something like this before.  As the people of Oz would say, this is "a horse of a different color."  Quite frankly, I am elated and absolutely terrified at the same time. It has me wanting to bolt forward with confidence and excitement, while also wanting to say "Oh, HELL no!" and running away.  Do I take the risk?  Do I share this new, little seedling with the world, or do I let it grow a bit before bringing it out into the elements?  There is no obvious answer.

So now, I have decided to have confidence in myself.  I will make this work.  If I don't have faith in myself, how can others have faith in me?  Have confidence in my product?  So now I will get to the point.

I am a teacher and a damn fine one. I have found so much joy in my work that I have decided to take this to the next level.  I am creating my own school and tutoring center.  I'm building a freakin' business y'all!!!!!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It's Christmas! Flashback Cafe Style

As I begin this post, it is 10:20 pm in California on Christmas Eve.  I am lying here in bed, looking forward to the day ahead, and I begin picturing Christmases past.  Some are just little moments in time, while other recollections are long and elaborate.  These are some of my favorites:

The first one that comes to me takes place when I was a kid. We had Oma at our house for Christmas.  We began a game of Monopoly that went on for three days!  It was cutthroat mayhem!  Adults selling privileges, children selling chores, all to pay rent or buy properties.  The first year that board games were a major part of our Christmas traditions.

The next is just a picture and a feeling.  The single image of my dad leaned over a table struggling to put together my brother's new remote control car.  It was so awesome and I was so jealous, but it made that Christmas amazing!  And dad was SO frustrated.  Hehe.

Then I remember our Christmas dinner.  Oh that heavenly seafood!  See, most people celebrate with a ham or turkey.  Our family celebrates with this wonderful concoction that I don't even have a name for.  It has crab, shrimp, lobster, and it is similar to a chowder texture.  We pour the seafood over toasted, buttered bread cups and it is a match made in heaven.  Partnered with green beans almondine and cheddar bay biscuits, the meal is perfect.

Then I would think of Oma. She's been gone 5 years now.  We still talk about her when we are playing the games.  She cheated all the time and we just loved trying to catch her at it!  She always liked to have a fire going in the fireplace and had 3 blankets on her.  We still go to ask her what she wants to drink sometimes when setting the table.

Finally, I settle on last Christmas.  D's family came to visit for Christmas and it was awesome!  We took them to see San Francisco, had Christmas at my parents, went hiking, and played a LOT of card games!  It was stressful at times, but it was so totally worth it!

I am looking forward to adding more memories this Christmas.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Spirit of the Season

We can argue from here to eternity about what holiday we are celebrating and what day it should be on, or for once, we can step back and look at the bigger picture.  To me, it does not matter if it is Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, The Solstice, Yule, or anything else.  To me, it is all in the spirit of the season.  The spirit of the season should be love, kindness, helping those in need, treating others better than you treat yourself, and simply connecting with the rest of you community.  So much of that spirit has been lost. 

But we can fix it.  A dear friend of mine made her Christmas wish tonight.  She is one of the strongest women I know.  When asked what she wanted to Christmas, she said this:

"I can always answer a cure for Cancer or more time with my beloved husband, kids, family, and friends but we all pretty know that the third time is not a charm in my case. I want presents from ALL of my Facebook Friends both near and far and it won't cost you a thing. Go out of your way to do something nice for someone, stranger even, for no financial gain. This is your challenge! It can be as easy as taking a elderly person's shopping cart back. My [XX]st Birthday is Saturday so you have until them."

I have taken on her challenge, and now I challenge anyone who reads this.  Saturday is December 28th.  Go out of your way to do something nice for someone for no financial gain.  You know the acts of kindness we are looking for. Share your experiences in the comments!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Honoring my Mind and Body

The last couple weeks, I have been trying to force my body and mind to conform to the way I want to be during the winter - the woman who is there for everyone, on top of all the "to-do's," working regularly, cooking fresh dinners, having a clean house, and still participating in all the events of the season.  Essentially, I have been pushing myself to be perfect.

This morning, I realized I have not been honoring who I am.  I am NOT perfect, and in reality, do I really want to be perfect?  I think of perfect and I see no room for fun or spontaneous actions.  I see stiff, prudish, and boring.  I don't see the crazy fun antics I like to incorporate into my life.  No, I am not perfect, but I keep punishing myself for not being perfect.  I chastise myself when I cannot fall asleep at a decent enough time to work the next morning.  I think poorly of myself when I can't bring myself to run the dozens of errands that need to be completed.  I wonder what is wrong with me when I simply don't have the energy to cook or clean house.  I mentally abuse myself with my negative self-talk.

Today, I am going to try a new approach.  I am going to practice being perfectly me.  If I do not get everything done, so be it.  As long as it isn't going to literally kill anyone and we have the necessities, it isn't the end of the world.  Lately, I have been exhausted during the day, but wide awake at night.  I will honor that by resting when I am tired, and being productive when I am awake.  Housework can be done at any time of day or night (except vacuuming when others are sleeping).  Bills, emails, warranty registrations, even grocery shopping can be done in the middle of the night.

I will honor my body cycle.  I haven't been able to wake up before 10am lately without being a zombie all day.  This means I haven't been taking any substitute jobs because I want the full day of work which starts at 7:30am.  I will change that.  Instead of trying to force myself to work "like a normal person," I will start taking half day jobs that start at 11:00/11:30am or I will take on more tutoring clients, scheduling appointments when I know I will be functional, and discontinue substituting until spring.

I will honor my mind.  If I just can't focus or concentrate, then I will give my mind the break it wants and play games, visit with friends, exercise, or cook.  When my mind is a little less turbulent, I will focus on the "serious" stuff, like studying, building my tutoring website, adoption paperwork, etc.

I have bipolar disorder.  I have anxiety.  In the winter, I can become severely depressed.  I thought I had fully accepted it a long time ago, but last week, my therapist asked a very pertinent question:  "Have you really accepted your disorder?"  Now, I am not so sure.  Yes, I admit I have it and I will always fight against the negative stigma of bipolar disorder, but I have always expected myself to "find a way" to prevent the winter depression.  I expect myself to find a way to "fix" it, like I am a toy that just needs some super glue or batteries, but I am realizing it is not that simple.  There is no cure.  There is only management of the disease.  My mind and body has needs unique to the time of year, and it is high time I give myself what I need.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Pick Me Ups!

I spent the last week super down.  Once again, I felt miserable and found it difficult to really do anything at all.  On Wednesday, I literally stayed in bed all day.  After that, I knew I had to force myself to do some stuff.  I knew that being productive would fight against my depression.  I knew just getting out of the house would help elevate my mood.  I knew contact with the outside world would feed my soul.  The rough part is when you know all that, but your body does not want to move.  Sometimes it feels like you are almost paralyzed.  Other times, it feels like you have 1,000 pounds pressing down on you.  Getting out of that state can happen dozens of ways, but once you do, you are so grateful.  

For me, it was commitments.  No matter how depressed I was, my drive to keep my commitments was stronger.  For me, it was pre-planning.  I knew that sometime around the end of November, I start to take a slide.  The amount of daylight greatly affects my moods (SAD).  Armed with this knowledge, I purposely made commitments around this time of the year that would maximize my chances of fighting off the depression.  

So Thursday, I had an appointment that I simply would not cancel.  I went to that appointment, and even though I seriously struggled through it, I left just a little less depressed.  My first step to make winter easier.  Since I was already out, I decided to run some errands because I knew the second I got home, I was not going out again.  This resulted in me being productive, which increased my mood more!  Friday, I had an appointment with my therapist, another pre-planned strategy.  I would not cancel that appointment either.  

Finally, my cake topper.  When I was given the opportunity to join a kickball charity tournament 5 weeks ago, I knew this was on my list of things to do more of and I knew I would never cancel the opportunity to give back.  That event was this weekend.  Friday, I drove to the hotel and got settled.  Then the awesomeness began.  Saturday was the tournament.  Saturday brought rain, including a few downpours and butt-puckering cold wind.  Simply put, it was miserable.  The turnout was amazing though!  Everyone brought their A game. 
That's me with the clipboard. I had on tights, two pairs of pants, three shirts, a sweatshirt, the jacket, and two pairs of socks.  I'll be damned if I am going to let the cold keep me from playing.
Rain!  Rain!  Go Away!
"The Bench"
  Then, the clouds parted.  Literally and figuratively.  The sun shined on through and we flipped!  Everyone started having a blast and there was so much laughter.  The cameras came out and all craziness broke loose!  It was just what this soul needed.  By the end of the festivities, I had risen money to give back to my community, had a blast, felt productive, loaded up on vitamin D while outside, and tied it all together with soul-renewing friends.  My weekend was complete. 

                           Chicks with Kicks!                             Suspender Hotties!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Life Isn't Always Sunshine and Rainbows

...and neither am I.  Granted, I try really hard to stay positive and keep all my social media stuff positive and upbeat.  After all, no one wants to hear bad or sad things all day every day.  Not to mention that negativity feeds on itself.  The problem is that not everyone can stay positive all the time and sometimes, trying to force it just makes the situation worse.

Today is one of those days where I just can't be positive all day.  I hurt.  Physically, my body is screaming.  This cold front is just killing my joints and I have a headache.  Emotionally, I just don't have it right now.  Every winter, I fight it with all I have.  I fight the negative thoughts, the self-deprecating, the crappy esteem, the "nobody loves me" mentality.  I fight the thoughts that say "why bother?"  It is hard because I know better.  I know that it is just the depression lying to me, and the last thing I want to do is make my friends and loved ones think they don't matter when I make comments like "nobody loves me."  I know better, but right now, my emotions don't feel it.

Sometimes you just have to feel what you feel and do your best to push through to the other side.  I can only hope that my friends and family can understand and remember that when I get angry, sad, depressed, pissy, or irritated, it really isn't me talking.  It is the depression talking.  I am fighting it with all I have, to hold it back, to lock it away, but this beast is big and breaks down my walls with ease.  But this will pass, as it always does.  Come the end of February/beginning of March, the clouds in my soul will begin to part again and my cheery smile will come more easily.  Til then, I will do the best I can, and I hope you will continue to stand by me.