Posted in about me

100 posts!

Yesterday was a fun little milestone day.

Yesterday was my 100th post!

Yesterday was also the end of my third month of one post per day!

It’s been fun. Occasionally stressful. But it’s good to be writing on a regular basis, even if some posts are better than others.

Here were the most popular posts from January, in case you missed them:

Suffering in silence

Answering follow-up—3 (these posts need better titles—lesson learned)

A rant on teaching

And, as a reminder, this project is still going on: Community project for 2019 Send in a little something!

Posted in about me, mental health, thoughtfulness

About your friend who’s depressed

I have, at times, been a difficult person to love.

I struggle with depression and have been suicidal a handful of times over my decades.

I’ve done that dance enough times that I know that getting enough sleep, staying connected to people, eating well, and exercising every day in a way that raises my heart rate substantially (looking at you, running and bleachers) will prevent or reverse a downward spiral.

I also know that sometimes things just hit out of nowhere, or there are enough things that hit simultaneously that without warning, I’m in the pit.

When I’m depressed, I am unpleasant and frustrating to deal with. And I know it, but I also desperately need people. But people really don’t want to be around me (and truthfully, I don’t blame them). As people disengage, I become more frantically needy. It’s a horrible cycle that I’ve experienced more times than I care to recall.

I’m on the other side of that friendship right now. A friend’s wife left him without warning and he’s devastated, to say the least. He’s also unemployed, which adds a stressful layer of financial complication. He’s definitely depressed, having trouble functioning, having trouble seeing out of the hole he’s in. It’s totally understandable.

We were texting the other night, and he said, “Don’t get frustrated with me please. I am trying. Even when it seems like I’m not.”

I told him I’m totally frustrated, but it’s not a bad thing, because I understand where he is. It’s the kind of situation where getting out of bed and taking a shower is a major accomplishment—not in a joking meme sort of way, but a serious burn on energy and focus.

I get it.

I also get that if you’ve never experienced that, you might think they’re (we’re) exaggerating or “just wanting attention” (that phrase makes my skin crawl) or wanting other people to do their work for them.

Certainly there are people who exaggerate or are lazy, but in a depression situation, that’s not what’s going on.

Your friend needs you. Even if they’re ridiculously uncomfortable to talk with. Even if their reason and rationalizations are mind-boggling to you. Talk about other stuff if you need to. Tell them explicitly that you want to help them stay connected to people, but you need to talk about lighter and/or different things.

Create boundaries and stick to them, but be loving and assume positive intent. (If you say that you need to talk about lighter things and they continue not to, remind them—explicitly, not hinting—that this is what you need to be able to talk to them right now, and if they can’t respect the boundary, then cut off the conversation. If they need to talk about their stuff, they’ll need to talk to someone else right this moment.)

Depression is insidious. Be a good friend. Take care of yourself, but be a good friend.

Posted in about me, meandering

Our first track meet

The Kid is doing track. He’s with a team that, so far, seems very invested in doing right by kids. That’s important, especially in sports.

Saturday was our first track meet.

The email they sent gave us the location, what the athletes should wear (no uniforms until later in February), that we should arrive no later than 7 (8:00 start), they don’t know how long it will go or what time events are, and some attachments, including “Track Meet Advice.”

Advice included where to sit so we could all be together, emphasis on being there early and warming up, pay attention so you don’t miss your events, bring snacks and water.

So aside from the events he was running (100m, 200m, 400m), that’s all we knew for Saturday.

I had heard from someone (I don’t remember who at this point) that the little kids’ events would be early so they could run them and go home.

Whoever told me that was so very wrong.

We arrived at 7 with a back pack full of fruit and trail mix and, as instructed, sat in the home bleachers near the finish line; there weren’t many of us and it turned out we were all newbies. We learned a bit later that the finish line was actually on the away side; we moved.

The Kid joined his team and did warm-ups. We sat in the stands and watched the sun come up. Eventually, he joined us with his bib. At 7:55, they announced that the track was closed. It was close to 8:30 before the first event began.

As a note: the announcements were (presumably) from the box on the home side. The speakers on the home side were on. The speakers on the away side were off. The announcements were all at least partially inaudible.

Before the first event started, someone sitting in front of us got a list of events in order; we grabbed a photo. There were numbers penciled in next to each. We were hoping the numbers were how many kids from our team were in those events. Turns out, those numbers were heats.

They had scheduled 206 heats.

We watched the 3000m. Twice. Then the 800m 23 times. That was the only event while we were there that people did any significant cheering for.

The Kid ran his first race, the 100m, at 11:00. We had been there a full four hours before his first race. (He went with his team to get signed in and divided into heats and all that half an hour or so before.) He finished warm-ups with his team over three hours before his first race.

To pause the sequence of events here… The 8 and under 100m dash was one of the cutest things I’ve watched in a long time. It was apparent which kids have done track before and which ones are new. Lots of mugging for the stands. The first heat of girls was lined up, and apparently they all just kind of looked at each other and took off—no gun or anything—so they herded them back to the start and did it again. Most kids stayed in their lanes most of the time…

During the 100s, we realized we weren’t going to have enough food. We didn’t pack lunch; as per the email, we packed snacks. So after his race, The Kid and The Climbing Daddy went down to the concession stand.

They had one plate of fries left (and were apparently going to the store to buy more). They had no mac and cheese left. And they had no other vegetarian options. The Climbing Daddy convinced them to sell him two plain hamburger buns. We bought a box of Girl Scout cookies from a girl roaming the stands selling.

Near noon, he was called for his second race, the 400m. At 12:25, he ran.

Nearly an hour and a half later, when they were still running 400s, we realized that it was unlikely that his last event would be called before we had to leave for a birthday party. (We RSVPed for the party prior to signing up for track, and it was for one of his best friends.) We checked with the coaches and they confirmed that no, that wasn’t going to happen any time soon and that yes, he should go and enjoy the party, and good job in your first meet.

We left at 2:00, seven hours after arriving. They were on 400m for the 13-14 age group. Two age groups to go, then the rest of the events. I’d be surprised to learn that they were done before 5:00, though I saw quite a few young ones leaving before and when we did, so I’d guess there ended up being fewer than 58 heats of the 200m.

I don’t have an issue with being at a sporting event that my kid is participating in and not seeing my kid participate the whole time. He wouldn’t be active the whole game in any team sport.

I do have issue with the expectation of sitting in bleachers for 10 hours for less than three minutes of activity.

Honestly, unless he’s running an IronMan, I don’t think there should be an expectation of spending a full day for any event.

I don’t blame the coaches, but the way this is set up is disrespectful to people’s time and attention. It’s not good for kids—the majority of people were not watching the majority of races, and aside from the 800, only really close races got any cheers.

But

On the bottom of the schedule, it told us that ribbons would be given for each event for first through sixth place.

Overall? Per age group? Per age group by gender?

(It turns out—per age group by gender.)

There were more than six heats for most age groups for the short events. So you could potentially win your race and not get a ribbon, unless there’s another rule that I don’t know (which is possible).

When we were leaving, they told us that the next meet would be shorter because some of the runners are actually field competitors and won’t be running. (There were no field events at this meet, but the next meet is “indoor events only.”)

I’m new to this, but I’m also a really big fan of efficiency. This was not efficient.

I mean, they seemed good about getting kids to the check-in tent before their events and getting them out to the starting line well before it was their turn to start. That was efficient. (Aside from difficulty hearing the announcements for who should report—the coaches helped with that.)

But the schedule of the day overall? Terrible!

Instead of, “Yeah, track meets take all day,” FIX IT!

They could run 100s on both sides of the track simultaneously. They could probably run 200s the same way.

They could make two start times: one for 10 and under, and one for 11 and older, which would make the day more streamlined for both age groups.

We are talking about setting up a pop-up tent to the side (there were over a dozen of them) and spending the day in there for future races, then moving up to the fence to watch events. Would be much more comfortable. Could bring other things to do—games, books, whatever. But then we lose the benefit of hearing the coaches call for events. But sitting in bleachers all day… I can’t even sit through an entire staff meeting. It’s not good for bodies to sit all day, whether in comfy chairs or not.

The Kid’s take: “I think it was a good track meet. I ran my best. I really like my coach, too. I did not like sitting in the stands and watching everyone else run.”

Yes, he needs to be able to sit and watch his teammates run, and cheer for them, and so on. But for the entire day? I don’t think so.

Posted in about me, differences, know better do better, mental health

Traveling through life on a different train

This is something that I’ve thought of in defensive and angry contexts but am now thinking about when I’m not triggered…

Some people who I talk to totally understand weird crazy shit in my brain. I can talk about a reaction to something that I know isn’t a rational or logical reaction, and they get it.

Some people…don’t.

It’s fine that they don’t. In fact, how unsarcastically amazing for them that they can travel through life without this thing in their brain that makes them not react in unhealthy ways.

That wasn’t one of my cards. Am hyper-aware of that. Done lots of therapy. Am relentlessly working on myself and trying to heal wounds from decades past that keep getting ripped open by assholes present.

I suspect, at this point, that this will be a lifelong process.

Part of me is envious of people who don’t have this problem.

Part of me wonders if they’re just lacking self-awareness and don’t know they have this problem. (Unlikely.)

Part of me knows that they have other problems and we just don’t happen to talk about those, or those aren’t problems I have and am therefore not hyper-sensitive about, so they don’t set off the same reactions.

Part of me is grateful for my path, because while it has been really hard much more often than I’d like, it’s made me a hell of a person now. And I know that all hell I go through now or recently or soon will only serve to make me better.

Because I’m introspective. Because I’m resilient. Because I own my shit, learn from it the best I can in the moment, and move on to the extent that my crazy brain will let me.

Which is not to say that people who have had a mentally easier life can’t or don’t have any of those qualities—anyone could have any of those qualities. And the act of living through struggles doesn’t grant you introspection or learning—we all know people who have been through hell and are bitter, nasty, judgmental people as a result.

I was recently introduced to a podcast: Armchair Expert. Dax Shepard, a person I was previously unfamiliar with, chats with a different person each week. I’ve only listened to a few episodes, but I’m enjoying it. Easy on the brain, which is what I was looking for. (Most of my podcasts induce a lot of thinking, and I wanted something…different.)

Anyway, he sat with Jay Leno on a recent episode. What was striking to me about it was how differently they’ve experienced certain similar things. Dax points it out several times—”so that’s how a mentally healthy person thinks about that” (or similar). Which is what got me to thinking about it. Even though this is supposed to be a podcast that doesn’t make me think.

Oh well.

 

Posted in about me, know better do better, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Privilege

Every now and then, something crosses my path that rattles my thinking.

These are all examples of things that I had literally never thought about until someone else shared it.

• A post on Facebook pictured a wedding shop window display with a mannequin in a wedding dress in a wheel chair. The caption included, “it’s the first time I’ve ever seen disability portrayed in a shop window.”

• An article about Marie Kondo talked about people who blow back against her in ways that are racist against her and her culture, and that those people aren’t taking her in context.

• The same article talked about how the blowback against book decluttering is classist—both owning so many books and having the space to store them.

• “It’s a privilege to learn about racism instead of experiencing it your whole life!”

• The number of people who responded negatively to the following sentiment…and how they have no idea how lucky they are never to have been on the receiving end: “As Esquire editor Dave Holmes tweeted, ‘To anyone who’s ever been any kind of other, the goofy malice in that MAGA kid’s eyes is instantly recognizable.’”

What have you run into that gave you pause and made you consider—even if only for a moment—that you’re lucky that you’ve never had to think about that before?

Posted in about me, know better do better, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Helpful critique

The other night, I had my second bouldering competition. (Read here about the first one.)

It was organized differently than the first one. As a person who appreciates both efficiency and safety, I liked how it was set up. As a person who prefers to boulder without people watching, I didn’t like it at all.

If I had gone later in the evening, there would have been more other people climbing at the same time, and I could have been blissfully ignored. But I went second, so there weren’t many of us to watch.

There also weren’t many people watching, to be truthful—less than half a dozen—but still. My preferred number is zero.

In the second area I climbed, I had to get out of an overhang. I don’t have a lot of experience doing that, so it wasn’t comfortable and I didn’t really know what I was doing, or how to better do what I was trying to do.

Onlookers cheered! Yay! But that meant onlookers looked.

Anyway.

The people watching are better climbers than I. (That’s just a statement of relative skill levels—not at all a diss to myself—and there’s no shame in it.) They could have, when I was done, given me advice on how to improve.

In that case, I would have been much more comfortable. I’m pretty good at receiving useful feedback when offered in useful ways.

On the other hand, some people don’t want to hear it. So if you’re the one with the potentially useful information, how do you decide if you should speak up or not?

Variables, I guess. At the comp, there were others climbing after me who they were watching, so there wasn’t time to chat.

I’ve talked to these people enough that I think they would know that I know that I’m not good at bouldering, which makes it more likely that I’d be open to feedback. If I was terrible at it but thought I was great, I would not likely be able to hear what they were saying.

And part of it comes down to: do you want to be helpful? If you’re not one who likes to approach people regardless, can you get over that hurdle?

“Hey, I was watching you climb, and I have some thoughts that might help. Would you like to hear them?”

Yes, please!

If you know better, help someone else to do better.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, exercise, food, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, physical health, thoughtfulness

Accountability to self

Who are you doing it for?

Are you doing it to better yourself? (In what way? Why?)

Are you just trying to impress people?

When you eat junk hiding in the bathroom, or tell your people you went to the gym when you didn’t, or pretend you ran faster than you did… why?

There are a lot of things I’d like to do every day. Even with time off, I’m not doing all (or even most) of these things every day.

So I decided to make a chart. It’s on my dresser and tracks a week at a time. About me. For me.

On it, there are all of the self-care things that I need to do every day and all of the things that in theory I would do every day but realistically don’t have time for. But I could do all of them a couple of times per week.

Exercise. Stretch. Foam roll. Meditate. Work on my book. Spend time with friends. Eat produce every color of the rainbow. Sleep. (Enough.) Put stuff on the stupid plantar wart.

This just helps me to monitor, and to keep things a little more in the forefront of my mind.

There are a lot of things on there. I decided before I made it that it’s not a daily to-do list; that would just be stressful. More of a “how am I doing this week?” list.

Things change when you monitor them, and I believe this will spur change for the better. We’ll see.

I also have sweets and caffeine on there, just to keep track of my intake of those. Many (not all) of the teas I drink in the cold mornings are caffeinated, and I don’t have much issue with that. But if I have too much or drink it too consistently, then I get a withdrawal migraine when I stop. And I don’t want to drink enough caffeine to go into withdrawal.

Sweets is just to make sure that what I think I’m doing and what I’m actually doing match, and it includes all of ’em. Even if I just take a Peppermint Patty out of the candy jar at work. (Oddly, those have been tempting. No other candy is. Though I’m typically only at that school during my fasting period nowadays anyway, so it’s irrelevant.)

Nuts and bolts for copycats: I made the list, organized it, wrote it on a sheet of white-lined paper, and put it in a picture frame. You can write on/wipe off dry erase markers on glass. It’s so much nicer looking and uses less plastic.

Posted in about me, meandering

Christmas lights, 30+ years ago

The other day, I shared on Facebook the four most popular posts from December. Two of them were about Christmas.

A friend from way back commented that I’d written a lot about Christmas but not about the lights.

The Lights.

In short (because I’m not sure that a longer piece would do it any more justice), we always had the ugliest lights in the neighborhood.

The lights are retro now—the big, colored bulbs that, back in the day, got wicked hot. I saw quite a few houses with that type of light on them this year, though I suspect they are less of a fire hazard now than they were then.

I think—and honestly, my memory is fuzzy on this at this point—that the small lights were just coming out and were popular and were much more aesthetically pleasing and much less likely to burn the house down.

But my dad wouldn’t buy new lights as long as we had lights that worked perfectly fine, so the old lights went up year after year.

(And at this point, I see the value in this, and in many ways, I do the same…though I also have the benefit of Craigslist and the Facebook Marketplace and Freecycle for things I don’t want but still work.)

If I had a photo, I’d share it, but alas, I do not.

Fortunately, we didn’t have a ton of lights, so it didn’t scream “Griswold!”

Ah, the “good old days.” Not enough money in the world to revisit them, except maybe as an observer…

Posted in about me, hope, mindset, parenting, storytelling

Finding magic through The Kid

The Kid suggested yesterday that we leave out cookies and milk for Santa.

We have always told him that Santa is a story, but he loves pretending. (This morning: “I heard Santa on the roof last night!”)

By bedtime, he had forgotten about the milk and cookies, but we left out a plate with crumbs and a glass with milk residue and a note that Santa left, complete with a hoof print from Rudolph.

He was delighted this morning.

As I’ve mentioned, Christmas has never been amazing.

Somehow, I have a kid who loves everything Christmas. He wants all the decorations, sings all the songs, loves all the stuff.

And so, our house has lights outside and lights inside. And a 4-foot tree. And a Charlie Brown tree. And a little tree in his bedroom. (The glittery wreath is at his other house…)

He wanted inflatables, but The Climbing Daddy and I agree: inflatables are No Good.

We hung stockings with little ornaments with our initials that he picked out.

And somewhere, I saw an idea to put packages in white paper and stack and decorate them to look like snowmen. And it stuck, and I had to do it.

Last night, after The Kid went to sleep in a sleeping bag on the living room floor, The Climbing Daddy and I filled stockings.

We piled white box on white box. Drew faces and buttons. Balanced hats and wrapped scarves.

Left out a plate and glass and note.

And when it was done and it was time for us to join him for sleep in the living room … I was happy.

And when he woke up (after the sun came up—hooray night owl kid!), he was excited about everything.

And I was happy.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate.

And to those who don’t, or those who wish they didn’t … there’s magic out there if you can let yourself see it, and if not … it’s almost over…

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, motivation

Sometimes, you need to go with inspiration

The Climbing Daddy suggested a few weeks ago that over winter break, maybe we should paint the living room.

I was very excited about this! As far as I’m concerned, the best reason to own instead of rent is to be able to paint real colors. Most of our house is still need-to-sell-it tan.

We were talking in the last few days, and decided instead to paint it before our Christmas Eve Eve party on Sunday.

So the plan was:

Thursday: move furniture. Tape and do other prep.

Friday: paint.

Saturday: move furniture and undo other prep.

He actually moved quite a bit of the furniture yesterday morning after I went to work before he went to work. (I got a surprise text with photo!)

I moved the rest after I got home before he did, and did inventory on what painting supplies we had.

Priorities: we went for a run before continuing the evening.

To buy the paint, we ended up at a different store so we looked through chips again and ended up with a color similar but brighter than what we had originally chosen. Happy day!

We stopped off at an Indian restaurant for dinner, thinking that eating in would only take marginally longer than ordering out, would be fresher, have less trash, etc.

We were wrong. They were very slow. But the food was really tasty. But they were very slow.

In the course of conversation yesterday, we decided to go climbing this afternoon. But that was going to take a chunk out of painting time. So since there was still time last night, I decided to do all the cutting, and then just the rolling would be left for today.

The Climbing Daddy is not a huge fan of painting and as such, doesn’t do it often (well, I don’t do it often, but often enough), so he was having trouble. I told him that I’d take care of it (since I enjoy it), and he could hang out or go to bed or work on other things. (He got some good stuff done while I painted!)

And then … after cutting, I rolled, because it was so close to done and rolling doesn’t take that long and … then it was after midnight.

Usually, blog posts get written a day or more ahead of time so I can let them sit, then revisit and edit (tomorrow and Sunday’s are already done), but this one? Not so much. I’ll let it sit an hour before I edit and share.

It’s Friday! I’m sleepy (though I woke up an hour before the alarm! There was time to write!). I’m excited (the living room is green!). It’s my last day of work for two weeks (so many grades to do today…).

Honestly … this painting story is the kind of story that I’m excited to tell but very few if any are excited to listen to, so instead, I decided to share it here <smile>

The moral of the story is—sometimes, it’s worth going with the flow and energy on a project, especially if it’s work that might not be as exciting when the scheduled time comes.

And unless the daylight shows a lot of touching up to do (artificial light is showing a few spots), this afternoon, I’ll take a nap before climbing.

Happy Friday!