Lost and Gained

Before I was about 20 I never exercised on purpose. Ever.  I eventually realized working up a sweat wasn’t the worst thing and in fact, the post workout feeling was actually pretty nice.  By the time I was 25 I became a regular exerciser.  I am not fast, but I enjoy running. I like having to focus so closely on my own body movements and breathing that I can’t worry about any of the endless things that my brain is normally focused on.  As I have aged, I still enjoy running, but my body works harder, my hips, back, feet and ankles protest if I do it too often, and frankly, the extra weight I am carrying just makes the whole experience a lot of effort to work up to.

Walk2

Walking is boring.  When faced with a workout, I would always pick running over walking, but when I started working at IDT I made a friend who liked to walk.  Granted, her idea of walking was not that far off from my running, so maybe it was kind of a compromise, but many spring/summer/fall days we would take off from the office to walk.  Some days we would change into workout clothes, go for a long walk, come back to a quick shower and get back to work.  Other days we would drop everything when one of us had a particularly frustrating meeting or needed to rehash last nights activities and just hit the trail behind the office for a quick lap and a mind clearing conversation.

I am the kind of person that is pretty uncomfortable.  Yep, end of sentence. I am awkward and also very intuitive, so not only am I anxious, I notice that you notice and when that makes you uncomfortable I get more uncomfortable. I don’t have many friends, but the friendships that I do have are deep.  And when they end, it hurts.

Last summer was hard. We lost a family member that meant the world to all of us. I was reminded that no one is invincible and then I was reminded again when another close family member was diagnosed with an incurable, life altering disease. I was dealt another disappointment in my professional life that caused me to question relationships that I had misinterpreted, the hurt was deep. The deepest cut was that I lost my walking partner. I wasn’t my best self and I let my own feelings get in the way of those of my friend. I can’t even really explain what happened, because I honestly don’t know but as hard as it is for me to let go of those that I am close to some people are quick to cut ties when they are let down.

Walk5

In August we decided to bring home Penny and now I have a new walking partner.  She will run with me too, and I think she is improving my times by giving me an extra pull when she really wants to go.  It’s kind of funny to watch us I am sure, me running along like I am about to die while Penny prances ahead of me like she’s on a Sunday stroll.  But more than the improved running times I am appreciating her company on long walks.  I have discovered lots of trails that I never really appreciated.  The conversation isn’t the same, and I am still sad over the loss of my friendship, but now I have a new partner and we are discovering how many beautiful places to go there are right in our own town.

Walk4

Without my own breath control to keep me distracted or a friend to converse with, I am learning to appreciate the quiet and trying to take some time to enjoy my surroundings.  Appreciate what is here in front of me, because it won’t last and it won’t always be my choice.

Pennyhot

Plus.  A tired pup is a snuggly, well behaved pup.

MePenny

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Yesterday was Mother’s day.  I am one of those very lucky women who has only had positive mother figures in my life.  From my own mother, to my grandmothers, mother in law and aunts. I still had one of those days. I didn’t even call my mom, and I felt like garbage about it.  I had a few text messages from friends, didn’t respond. Nothing.  I can’t tell you why I feel this cloud that has made me a selfish slug, but here I am. I read many accounts on Facebook from friends and family of how they were either so happy with their wonderful mother’s day gifts/activities/memories or they were so sad for their lost mothers, lost children, lost opportunity.

I often wish that it was as easy for me to bask in other people’s job as is for me to jump into their sorrow.

Mother’s Day weekend is also the time when the photo memories from the Market to Market Relay appear.  When I ran that relay race in 2013 I was not yet pregnant and still at one of my healthiest weight and activity levels of my life. I felt fat and uncomfortable in a group of gorgeous fast women, but I was there.  What I wouldn’t give to be no where I was then in my mind and body. I obviously wouldn’t give up sugar, beer or sitting on my ass.

I think about my behavior, and how some days I do only what I need to do to be employed so I can come home and crawl into my bed. Sometimes I yell. A lot.  Sometimes I ignore everyone and play on my phone, or shut myself in my room and watch Netflix.  Sometimes I cry for no reason, or shut out my friends and family.  I wonder about my kids now, and what they think of everything they see from me.  I hope that when my kids are grown, they won’t spend mother’s day thinking about how dysfunctional their mother was.

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April 26th

Today was one of my favorite days of the year.  I know it wasn’t April 25th – when the weather is not too hot, not too cold (:) Miss Congeniality reference) but it was pretty special.  Every year I trudge through winter dreaming of the warm sunshine.  Strangely enough, this winter wasn’t all that bad, as far as winters go.  Not only was it not that terribly cold and snowy, but I had a March beach vacation to look forward to.  I should have known that the combo was too good to be true and there was a global pandemic on the rise.  But alas, even in a year of mild weather and early season vacations I appreciated so much one of the first weekend days of the year when I could wear shorts and a tank top outside, get some exercise, complete some yard work projects and sit in the sun with a book, all in the same 24 hour time period.  When things are weird, like they are these days, grasp on to the best parts.  Today was one of the best parts.

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Before

Cory and I have been lucky to have friends that have known us as long as we have been us, and are still some of our closest friends.  We had been talking to Matt and Cindy about going to Jamaica for about 15 years, and after Cory and i had our whirlwind trip in 2018, we decided to make it happen in 2020.  We looked forward to the trip for a year, and as the date of our departure came closer and closer it seemed like vacation time would never arrive.  When the Corona virus started it’s path of destruction, I worried about how it would effect our ability take the trip, but we watched the case counts and decided to hit the road.  On 3/14 we drove to Chicago, and on 3/15 took off for Jamaica from OHare airport.  Like I mentioned in my last post, when something like this creeps in, it can be really hard to decide when it is time to act.  I think that a lot of people would probably judge our decision to go, but it wasn’t until about 3/16 or 3/17 – when we were in Jamaica that everything started closing down back home.  We felt very safe where we were, and we had a great time, but we all recognized that if we had been booked to leave even one day later – we very easily may have made a different choice.  As we traveled, we were particularly careful in airports.  As much as we didn’t want to get sick or carry it home to our families, we were at least equally as worried about bringing a virus to a developing country.  We love Jamaica. It is my favorite place in this world that isn’t home, and I love Jamaicans.  Thankfully, we did not get sick, and the case numbers in Jamaica, though they have been slowly growing, are not in the resort areas as of yet, so we know our friends who work at the resort are all ok, though worried about taking care of their families now that all resorts are closed.  We will definitely have to plan another trip to help stimulate the economy on that beautiful island.

Now that I have rationalized being one of those “Spring breakers”…we had a wonderful time.  The first time we went to Jamaica we were on our honeymoon and had no real responsibilities at home.  It was great, but we didn’t appreciate the trip the same way that we do these days.  In 2018 Cory and I decided to make a trip – only our second time leaving our kids for more than one night, but we made it a short one for both financial and responsibility reasons.  We stayed at Couple’s Tower Isle in Ocho Rios and the resort was beautiful, the food amazing and the staff outstanding.  Since we had such a small amount of time  there we didn’t get the full experience, but we knew we wanted to come back.

We convinced Matt and Cindy that this was the place to go, and so the four of us booked 6 nights.  We had 5 full days of sunshine.  It was too windy to do any of the water sports or boat rides which was disappointing, but we had warm sun and it was just what I needed. Vacationing with friends was a lot of fun.  Cory and I were a little bit nervous, but Matt and Cindy introduced us to some activities that we probably wouldn’t have ever done on our own – Pickle-ball!  and sharing drinks, dinners and pool time with friends was great.  We were able to play cards – an activity that we used to do all the time before we had kids to keep us busy when we got together, and I got some much needed time to just talk and be with my best friend.

I would be lying if I didn’t mention that I was spent the first couple hours about every day in a state of extreme anxiety.  I had a really hard time getting grounded and enjoying the right now, because I was worried about the uncertainty brought on by Covid-19.

Now I am set on another trip, though the next one will likely be 4-5 years out (We need to do some family vacations before Leila leaves for college!). As fun as it was, it would have been even better without a global pandemic cramping my style.

Hammock

This poor man.  Even when he takes me on vacation to one of the most relaxing places on the planet, he has to talk me through my anxiety.  At least we had a hammock.

bluehole2The Blue Hole.  Such an amazing place.  Since it hasn’t been open to tourist for too long, it still has more beautiful nature than tourist traps.

beachbackBeach time with my best friend of 20 years. Priceless.

allfourWonderful friends for life.  Cindy is just as gorgeous on the inside too.

TCIslandLove him forever. I am the luckiest.

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Normal

Normal is an interesting concept.  For most families like mine, normal is setting an alarm so that one by one we can all get up and get ready to rush out the door for school and work.  We rush through our day from one meeting or class to another and at the end of the day we file back into our house, hungry and tired.  “What’s for dinner?” and “What do we have to do today?” are the two most popular questions.  Cory and I live out of our outlook calendars so we have likely already discussed over text during breaks in our work day who is going to take who where this evening, and what we will be buying or warming up for dinner. By 8:00 we are getting Eliot to bed and spending what energy we may have left to pick up from the day and get ready for the next round. Normal is comfortable if not chaotic.

The last month has not been normal.  It’s strange how when a crisis is approaching, it is first seems like a nebulous thing that we may not need to even think about.  We all have our own threshold for disruption.  Some people are quick to jump out of routine and follow the directions of authority.  Others will stand on the front porch watching the tornado until it rips the neighbor’s roof off or ignore the rising flood water until they are floating in it. We are finding out that a lot of our leaders in the US are ignore-rs and deniers.  But now as we sit with the neighbor’s roof on our lawn, things in the US are far from normal.

As with every instance of uncertainty and adversity, there are many lessons to be learned.  On a world level – that we are all connected.  On a national level – that food service, grocery staff, and healthcare workers are essential and that without healthcare for everyone, we all stand the chance of suffering. On a local level – our teachers have a difficult job, one that we can’t do in addition to our other full time job.  In my home – that forced togetherness can result in some beautiful side effects.  Our puppy gets to spend every day snuggling with the people that love her.  Cory and I working from home, though frustrating when we each have responsibilities to our employers and 3 kids and a dog also wanting our time, has allowed us to wake up more leisurely since no one has to get office ready and drive to work. Our evenings are all free, aside from the occasional zoom call. There is no rushing.

I am curious about what normal will look like whenever the threat of this virus subsides. Will we all go back to the same rat race?  Probably.  I am trying to soak in the good parts of this forced reprieve from normal while doing what I can to support those that are hurting, both in their health and their financial well being. I am grateful that so far, my family is healthy and our jobs are secure.  This is likely a point in history that will be forever remembered and as much as I tell my kids to pay attention, some day your grandkids are going to ask you about the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, they brush me off and watch their Tik Tok feed. Perspective isn’t often something that we have when the world is happening.  I am trying my best to not overlook anything.  I am telling myself I am going to leave quarantine with a healthier body and attitude, but I am also baking cookies on the regular, so….

 

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2020

I am not so much into resolutions, as I am self reflection, and the beginning of  a new year is a great opportunity to reflect on where I am, where I want to be and how the last year has gone.  2019 was another tough year professionally, but with some definite wins and challenges that have kept me moving forward.  After 2018 I was set on making 2019 about finding myself outside of my job and role in my family and accepting myself.  Accepting myself is a constant challenge, and one that I will work on for the rest of my life I am afraid.  in 2019 I started my role as a volunteer and board member with the North Liberty food pantry and began working with the team on the grant writing committee.  I had a couple of pretty time intensive grants that I wrote that didn’t develop into funds, but I have been learning a lot and really enjoying service to my community.  Not to mention, my kids have been great volunteers themselves!  Thea and Leila hosted a lemonade stand and then Thea did a neighborhood food drive for the pantry – netting a couple hundred pounds of food and 100 dollars!  All three kids like to come with me for stocking at the pantry and they help to look for old bread to throw out and to fill the shelves for the patrons.  It is such a nice environment there and the good it does for the city/county is amazing. I am continuing to work with this organization, and looking into other ways I can lead and serve in my community.

In 2019 I started using Goodreads to track my reading over the year and I set a goal to read 15 books over the course of the year.  I ended the year with 16 (not counting the Beverly Cleary books that Eliot and I read together! :)) and 100 pages left to go in Michelle Obama’s Becoming.  I have more to say about that book, and about some of the other books that really stuck with me this year, another time!

For 2020 my goal is 20 books – and yesterday after finishing Mrs. Obama’s masterpiece, I picked up Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers. With only a couple of days left before I head back to work, I am also going to dedicate myself to more writing in 2020.  I loved this place for a long time, and I lost it in the shuffle.  I don’t have cute baby stories to share, but I am still here, and I think there is more for me to put out there.  If I want to be a real writer someday, I need to practice the craft, even if it is just me going on about my dog or the latest book I read.  I think 15 blog posts for 2020 is a very reachable goal, that won’t leave me writing for the sake of writing, but will force me to put my thoughts together and share something worth sharing every now and then.

Here is to no resolutions, but reflections and adjustments, pointing our feet toward progress in every way.

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Dog Days

Back during May – May 1st actually, our old lady dog Zoey passed away.  Zoey was part of our family, but she wasn’t exactly a loving pet.  When a storm would roll through, she would curl up by my feet, but that was the closest thing to snuggling we got from her.  If you happened to stop by her, she might have let you give her some pets or scratches, but on her terms, and as long as she was interested.  She was an easy pet and a mostly good girl, but she wasn’t consistent with my experience of dogs.  I grew up with lab-ish mutts of all varieties.  First on the farm in Tabor where at the peak we had 3 dogs roaming our yard, but none in the house.  When we were down to only one dog and Goldie was aging, she finally found her way into our house and became the first indoor dog of my childhood when I was probably between 10-12 years old.

Since I have moved out of my parents home they are on their second black lab.  Before Molly and now Lola I wasn’t really used to the extremely high energy dogs that they are.  Outdoor dogs on a farm may be high energy, but they also have lots of opportunity to expend it. Still, my idea of a good pet was based on these experiences.

When Zoey passed, I was ready to hang up the pet owner label.  It was nice to be able to leave the doors open anywhere in the house without having to worry about what would be ruined or dragged out of the trashcan.  I really enjoyed being able to leave home and not have to worry about what time we would get back to take care of the dog.

The last summer of daycare came and went and we were sitting on the cusp of no more daycare, no more commute for me to have to drive Eliot 10 minutes out of my way before heading back the same direction as home to get to work. The girls are self sufficient (mostly!) with Leila walking to school and back without requiring intervention from Cory and I, and Thea and Eliot now at the same school just steps from our front door.

And then…

Little Penny

I couldn’t help myself.

And Now…

bigpenny.jpgThis 60 lb and still growing bull is ruling the Coobs house.  She is a pain in the butt, but she happily wags her tail to greet me, which is what I always wanted from a dog. Most of us are enamored with Penny, especially when she is wore out.

 

TPennylpenny.jpgepenny.jpg

mompenny.jpg

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Time is motionless, people pass through it

Very often I find myself lost in thought and I start to compose a post for Jumping Daisy, all wonderfully insightful and relate-able  I’m sure, but then my mind darts in a different direction and the moment passes.

Some things have changed since I was a regular blogger.  I have fallen into the trap of an iPhone addiction.  When I have downtime, I am no longer writing – I am playing a mindless game or scrolling through Facebook or Twitter.  I would like to think I am still a thinker, a feeler and an observer, but things definitely seem dimmer in here.

I am not sure where I am going with this.  That’s the dimness setting in.  I hope I find myself back here again.  It’s funny, but I really enjoy reading my old posts.  Sometimes I think I am a decent writer, and I wonder where it came from but I don’t hesitate to pat myself on the back when I am able to read my own work and feel something of a memory for that place and time.

When I think about this place and time I think about the struggles of reasoning with a teenager who doesn’t seem to understand that right now counts, and the road to the van down by the river is a much more sure bet than the path to success and happiness. (As if I know what true success and happiness look like.)  Or the struggles of getting 10 and 5 year old children to appreciate the need for regular bathing.  Don’t get me started on screen time. It’s amazing that a thing that wasn’t really a thing at all when my first child was born, is now such a thing that it is a constant struggle and a source of both frustration and of an ample supply of currency when it comes to controlling behavior.

In 5 years, I will have a child in college.  5 years ago, I had an infant. This life moves faster than you can possibly realize until the moment that seemed would never come is over and gone.

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Authenticity

2019 is the year that I start reading regularly, for my self – I am not counting Green Eggs and Ham here! I set a goal to read a book a month and so far I have read seven books, so I am feeling pretty confident about meeting that goal. Good writers are good readers.  I want to be a good writer.

I try to mix up my reading.  I have as many as three books going at once – one purely for entertainment, one to make me smarter and one to make me healthier in mind and/or body.

I am finding that my three categories have a lot of overlap.  It probably says something about my taste in books and what I need in my life right now.

One of my biggest struggles has always been balancing who I am with who I want people to think that I am. It’s an exhausting struggle.  I can’t even determine if I am anxious and depressed because of this struggle, or if being so conflicted  about appearances is what makes me anxious and sad.

I weigh myself down with the pressure for all that I represent.  My husband.  My children.  My parents. My extended family. My Church. My gender. My size. My race. My country.  I feel so much shame and so much insecurity.  I have a remarkable memory for all of the ways that I have failed and fallen short of the standard that lives in my mind like an unreachable mirage.

From the latest book on my bookshelf – Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown, “Do not think you can be brave with your life and your work and never disappoint anyone. It doesn’t work that way.”

I am not brave.

 

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Data Driven Depression

Last week when my Psychiatrist asked me if I was feeling better about reducing a commitment from life I answered her honestly.  Yes, of course it feels nice to have less of a weight on my shoulders, but there is always something new to feel guilty about, that is just how I am.

So I guess I walked directly into a classic psychotherapist playbook.  Dr. M quickly pulled out her laptop and sent me a link to the first google hit for Cognitive Distortions.  I read the link, didn’t think it really made a lot of sense to me, but when Cory pointed out that it was the first hit he received when he looked up what are Cognitive Distortions, I decided to dig a little deeper to see if maybe Google didn’t have the utmost authority on the topic at the top of its list.  I came across a Ted Talk by David Burns.  Dr. Burns is one of the fathers of the Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which I had never really heard of before this week.

 

I realized a couple of things while listening to this talk.  1. Every self help book that I have read over the years is trying to get me to the same conclusion that this guy has.  2. I should just go to the source and read HIS self help book.

I about a quarter of the way through the book, and I have to say that I love both the accessible yet academic nature of the book itself, and I also really love the idea of using Data to understand, evaluate and maybe even cure depression.

I started my data collection nearly immediately.  I carry a small notebook with me, and every time I have a thought for a situational reaction that feeds my negative feelings, I write it down.  It’s been a day and a half and I feel like I already better understand the root of my problem.

This is my blog, so I intend to continue to share my experience, though the thoughts I have written in my little notebook will never see the light of digital glow.  I am very ashamed of my miserable, jealous and pathetic thoughts.  Progress comes slowly, and I am committed to it.

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