Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Blog challenge - smells and technology

I love to write but lately, I haven't had a ton of time. When I do, I'm often uninspired. When I am, it's usually political, and who wants to go there?

I came across a 30-day challenge I haven't seen before, and thought I'd give it a shot. Of course I found it late in the day on November 1, so I'm already behind.

The first challenge? A smell I'm grateful for today. A smell? Really? 

I'm going with the smell of the new evergreen candle I bought over the weekend. Evergreen is my favorite smell, next to lilac. I'll burn evergreen candles all year if I have the chance. The problem is the really good smelling candles are expensive, and I go through them quickly because I warm candles rather than burn (kitties and open flames don't mix well). 

I found this candle on sale at Kohl's and I had Kohl's cash - for which I'm also grateful.

The second challenge? Technology for which I am grateful. 

I'm someone who likes convenience and, in general, am happy to pay for more of it in my life. My most long-standing relationship, outside of the one with my cat, is with my phone. Aside from that, I also love my DVR, which allows me to have actual relationships with actual people, and still not miss out on my relationships with my favorite TV characters. 

Days 1 and 2 - done.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Challenge accepted

I was named in one of those challenges where I'm supposed to post photos of my boyfriend and me to celebrate being in a relationship. The challenges originally were celebrating marriage. I figured not being challenged was a perk of not being married, but I guess not. 

About a week ago, I shared a post by a blogger who said she "could not in good conscience participate in the challenge." She makes an excellent point:
The other day, a friend of mine summarized something she’d heard somewhere, and I love it. I LOVE IT SO HARD. "You know one hundred percent of your own life," she said. "But on social media, you only share the best five percent of it: your baby’s first steps, your trip to the Bahamas, your graduation day. That’s all anyone else sees. It’s fascinating to keep up with those things, for sure. But it’s also why Facebook can be so discouraging: we compare one hundred percent of our own life to THE BEST five percent of everyone else’s."
My relationship is nothing short of amazing. I have never been so happy, and I thank God every single day for bringing Kurt into my life. Every. Single. Day.

Our best is more than 5% - I'd say it's probably more like 90 - 95%. My boyfriend and I genuinely enjoy each other's company. We laugh a lot. We don't have to deal with a lot of the "stuff" other couples face. We are blessed with the freedom, time, and resources to have a lot of fun together. Those of you connected with me on Facebook already see those pictures - sporting events, museums, hikes, road-trips. I share and celebrate our adventures all the time.  
This photo celebrates what it's like to take
a selfie with a 15" height difference.

But there is a 5 - 10% that you don't see. My anxiety creeping in and making his life difficult. Deciding what to eat for dinner. Giving my cat a bath. Me getting eaten alive by mosquitoes on a hike, or icing my knee after. Folding laundry. Grocery shopping. 

I feel like if I was going to share more of our relationship, I should include those moments too. But I can't - even if I wanted to remember those times, I think we all know there's no way I'm taking a photo when I'm sweaty or without makeup.

It's silly to think those things deserve to be celebrated. Really - who wants to celebrate icing her knee? But I feel like a relationship isn't just made up of all the fun stuff. It's made up of how you handle the bad stuff, too. I'm lucky enough to have someone who will get the ice for me - and also bring me ice cream so I can rest. Now that's worth celebrating.

So my Facebook friends and family will continue to see the absolute best 90 - 95% of my relationship - and I will continue to celebrate all 100% every day.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Grateful everyday

I have written about my anxiety and depression before because I see no reason to ignore the reality. I've never really gotten too personal, though, and I only recently realized that was because I am a little ashamed. Inspired by this post I found, I've decided to change that and talk a bit about what happens. That's also a reality, and lately, it's been one that I really can't ignore.

My anxiety attacks usually last about a day, though more recently, I've had attacks that have lasted several days, and one lasted almost a week a few months ago. I will tell anyone who asks that is what's wrong with me that day - I'm having an anxiety attack. I always get the impression they think this is a work of fiction on my part, or they think it's just a case of the worries, and if I just focus elsewhere, I'll be fine. Or they tell me to calm down. Or they just don't want to hear.

When I say I'm having an anxiety attack, I don't mean that I'm just a little worried. I mean - I am worried - but by the time I've gotten to the anxiety attack, I'm well-past the point of worry.

My head hurts. Most of the time I am dizzy and feel like I may pass out at any moment. It's hard to walk, and it's hard to drive. That can make getting to work difficult, but I usually manage. Of course, it doesn't always matter, because I can't focus on anything. It's also usually hard to see.

My stomach also hurts. You've felt butterflies before, right? This is like that, except it's like the butterflies are being attacked like a swarm of wasps. I can't eat - which would be great for my jean size, but it never lasts. Anyway, not eating doesn't really help with the seeing, walking, and focus.

There's also the hot flashes. This is great. I could be standing outside in 40 degree weather with short sleeves and I'd be sweating. Very uncomfortable, and just adds to the fun.

Some people want to know why I get so worried. Not easy to explain. It's not like my problems or worries are worse than anyone else's. In fact, my life is probably easier than most. The difference is my brain and body physically respond to my worries. I can manage that (medication, vitamins, exercise, diet) but there is no escape.

So just don't worry, right? I wish it were that simple. Here's what happens:

Someone says or does something that should mean nothing. Maybe they ask a question. Or mention something might happen. It usually involves change, and with me, it almost always involves a relationship (because those are my biggest priority). It seems insignificant to the other person - and I'm the first to admit it probably is insignificant - but almost immediately, my brain starts worrying.

What does this mean? What might happen? What could this cause?

A million questions swirl in my head. Pretty soon, answers are coming at me from every direction - and every single one is negative. It's like if you were in a room listening to 100 people hurl insults in your direction. I try to replace those negative thoughts with positive, and sometimes I'm successful. But that is a lot of work, and I'm not always successful.

I have learned a lot of "coping mechanisms." They work - most of the time. Sometimes the anxiety is so overwhelming that it takes over even my best efforts and tools.

So what do I do in the meantime?

I remind myself how lucky I am. Everyday, I tell myself that it will be OK. I remind myself that my God is bigger than any of my problems. I pray. I hope. I talk to my friends. I let myself cry and then I move on because letting anxiety win is just not acceptable.

I have far too much to live for.

Friday, July 29, 2016

A few thoughts

I still don't want to share my political views. I'm scared of being yelled at, being called stupid, or having people hate me. But I have a few, slightly generic thoughts in my head - not enough to really form an actual political post, but just enough to frame out what I think might be the most important take-aways from this election season thus far.

- I understand that people don't really like Hillary, or trust her. But I'm still confused on why some refer to her as a criminal.

- I totally understand disagreeing with a party's views, and even voting for the opposing party just because... but the idea of voting for someone you admit is bad for the country doesn't make sense.

- There is very little about government that is fair or logical or reasonable. Much of it is corrupt and biased. I'm confused by the idea that voting for one guy could change hundreds of years of that history.

- If  you want to change the system, maybe not voting for a rich white dude is a good place to start.

- What exactly is the appeal of Donald Trump? People say it's because he "speaks the truth." But whose truth? He's seems like a racist, misogynistic bully to me, and while I am sure he's a very smart business man, I've seen no evidence that he knows how to work with others to get something done. I've met a lot of CEOs and presidents in my lifetime; they were all smart, determined, resilient, and used to getting their own way. None of them possessed an ounce of the diplomacy required to be the leader of the free world.

- The idea that you need to vote for Hillary if you are a feminist seems backwards to me. Feminism isn't (or at least shouldn't be) based on the idea that women should get the job. It's based on the idea that women should have the same chance as men for the same job. You can be happy that a woman finally broke through and still not feel she's the best person for the job.

- That being said... if you are a woman, and you've ever lost a new job or a promotion or a raise because you are a woman, you should be at least a tiny bit happy that another barrier is broken. It's a big deal for a woman to stand where Hillary stood the other night. Take a moment and think on that, even if you still don't like her or her politics.

- If we're friends, I will still be your friend after this election. Unless you're a racist, misogynistic bully and/or support the idea that minorities, women, or immigrants are in any way less important than white, American men.

But if that's the case, I'm not sure how we became friends in the first place - and I'm sure you won't think of it as any big loss anyway.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


I'm so tired of bad news. I'm tired of people being shot, harassed, murdered. I'm tired of terrorists and criminals, and I'm equally tired of corrupt good-guys and actual good-guys being made to look bad. I'm tired of people labeling others based on the color of their skin, the color of their uniform, who they love, where they worship, where they work, or how they vote. I'm tired of finger-pointing and name-calling.

I may not agree with your choices. I may not understand them. You may not agree with or understand mine. I still don't understand why that matters. Why do we need to agree? I'm tired of trying to figure it out.

I am 100% sure there are people out there who believe others should be killed for the color of their skin. I am 100% sure there are people out there who believe others should be punished for who they love or how they live. I am also 100% sure there are people out there who believe all police are corrupt, evil, and should be killed.

I am reasonably sure those of us who just want a safe, happy, peaceful world outnumber all of those people. (I wish I was 100% on this one, but I'm just not.) I just don't think we all agree on how to get started.

Here's a picture of my cat, being all happy and peaceful. Coincidentally, he also looks tired in this photo. I figure we need to find a way to get on the same page. Everyone likes Joe, so maybe this is a good place to start?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Start listening

When horrific, tragic events like the shooting in Orlando occur, I'm always hesitant to post, here or anywhere else. I understand why people do. Many want to express their sorrow or anger, or just their support for the affected community. Some feel the effects personally. Some want to help in any way they can, no matter how small.

The problem I have seen, and the reason I avoid posting, is the comments that follow. The bickering over gun control or religious freedom or whether or not our President is a mole (Seriously!?) or whether or not people in the LGBT community are sinners or whether or not God was at work... It goes on and on and on. The arguments feed the hate and the anger, until both have a life of their own. Instead of using the tragedy as a way to come together, we allow it to tear us apart.

People who share opinions are instantly labeled: Conservative or liberal, republican or democrat, LGBT-friendly, religious, Christian, Muslim, pro-gun, anti-gun. Labels lead to assumptions; we automatically assume that because we know a person's political affiliation or religious practice, we must also know where he stands on gun-control or LGBT rights.

Assumptions are natural, and labels are easy. I'm as guilty as anyone. I read comments and I automatically assume I know where someone stands on any issue. I have leapt to the conclusion that disagreement is personal, and means we can not be friends.

But I have learned that why a person feels the way he does is just as important as what he feels - and how he chooses to express or act upon those feelings is more important than either.

I have also learned that although people may disagree on a defined political or social issue, that very well may agree that a problem exists - and they may even be able to find common ground on a solution.

My boyfriend and I disagree on a lot of political and social issues. It would be easy for us to label each other as insensitive or foolish or unyielding or hurtful. Instead, we take the time to share and listen. We talk about the issues - not about each other. We don't point fingers - we wonder out loud about what is happening and what should happen, and then share with each other why that may or may not work for everyone.

I have learned more about compassion and love and freedom and understanding and support from this one person than I have from all of the posts and articles I've read combined. He's wise and kind - and that's coming from someone who often disagrees with his point of view. I may not agree with him, but I absolutely respect him.

If I have learned one thing from spending time with someone who disagrees with me on so much, it is this: Nothing will ever change until we are all willing to stop fighting and start listening.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fat is not the problem

Plus-size, fat, voluptuous... whatever you call us, curvy girls are getting a lot of publicity lately. From magazine covers, to articles, to a seemingly-harmless post on a friend's Facebook, everyone is talking about fat chicks. Not only the women, but what is OK - and not OK - to say about them.

I've spent a lot of time carefully curating the people with whom I surround myself (both online and in real life) so I don't see a lot of negativity (unless I go searching, and I only do that when I'm in a really good mood so I can handle what I find). What I do see (and hear) are a lot of well-intentioned comments that fall just short of their mark.

There are the obvious insults. Any time a heavy woman posts a photo of herself, the trolls come out in droves. You know, these guys who hide behind the keyboard in their parents' basement, but feel they are in a position to judge another person.

But to me, those aren't even the worst comments. Sure, being called names is hurtful - but most of us have been called names all our lives. Personally, if I hadn't learned how to handle that kind of insult, I wouldn't have survived past grade school.

It's the well-intentioned, but slightly-off-mark, comments that are tough.

Comments like, "She's fat - but she's still really pretty," or "She's so brave for wearing that (whatever item) with such confidence." Then there's my personal favorite, "That outfit is so flattering."

Obviously these all sound like compliments. They're meant in a genuine way, and people honestly mean to convey a good, positive message. They never intended to fat-shame - but do they? 

If your comment suggests that it's a surprise for a fat woman to be beautiful or confident - that's fat-shaming. If it suggests that an outfit would look good on a thin woman, but a fat woman has to settle for not looking awful - that's fat-shaming. If you feel the need to excuse or explain or defend a person's fatness, you're suggesting there's something wrong with her - and that's fat-shaming.

Use whatever fancy, pretty word you like; the truth is, I'm fat. I'm also brunette, short, 42, white, hazel-eyed, and have a medium complexion. All of those things make up how I look - and all of them could be appealing, or not, to anyone who I encounter. So why is my weight the only thing that makes me "brave?" Or makes people question my confidence? Why is it the one thing that everyone feels the need to excuse?

That's the real problem. We are all conditioned to think that "fat" is an insult, rather than just another adjective used to describe someone. We, as a culture, have come to believe that fat is some sort of obstacle that people (particularly women) have to overcome. We look at a person who is overweight and assume they are unhappy, unhealthy, and struggling - in life, in relationships, in everything.

We believe this so whole-heartedly, without even realizing it, that we actually get offended when one person calls another person fat. Someone calls me fat, my friends jump to my defense. But if that same person called me short, it would be OK. Why? 

My friends believe that "fat" is a problem, and "short" isn't. My friends believe that with just that one word, someone has labeled me as the worst thing anyone can be. That's why they feel the need to defend and excuse my "fatness" (that's auto-corrected twice now, so apparently, it's an actual word). How dare someone say such a horrible thing about their friend?

But defending and excusing and explaining only reinforces the idea that "fat" is a problem.

That's the problem. Not the word fat - but what we've all been taught, and continue to teach, is its true meaning.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Elevator buttons

I watched the movie Inception the other night. It still isn't my favorite, but since it only took me three viewings (over several years) to sort of get it, I'd probably watch it again.

At the end, my boyfriend asked, "So how many buttons are in your elevator?" I stared at him for a beat and he continued, "The buttons were regrets in life."

OK - I said I sort of got the movie.

I used to have a lot of regrets. I've regretted my contributions to my failed marriage. I've regretted dating men who ultimately hurt me (and some who just never seem to go away). I've regretted career choices, financial choices, and not sticking to a healthier lifestyle.

In the movie, the characters can use the elevator to visit moments they regret. This is presumably to try and relive, and possibly change, those moments (Though that makes little sense, because the elevator only appears in dreams. OK, it's possible I don't really understand this movie at all.)

But actually changing our regrettable moments isn't really possible, anyway - so maybe that's the point?

I came to the conclusion a few years ago that regrets were pointless. I can't go back to those moments and change anything. Honestly, if I could, I'm not even sure I would. There's no way to tell what else I would impact by making even the tiniest change. Why take that risk?

The truth is, life is nothing but a series of decisions strung together. Some good, some wonderful, and some regrettable. But even the worst choices can lead to a positive result.

Maybe I'm naive, or maybe I'm just fooling myself. But it seems to me that every choice - good or bad - is a chance to learn. What works, and what doesn't; who you are, and who you want to become. You learn what makes you happy, and where you want to be. Why would you regret all those lessons?

I have noticed that some of the worst things to happen in my life were preparing me for something so much better. At the time, of course, I couldn't know - and the pain or sadness felt like I'd made a huge mistake.

But knowing what I know now... Why would I regret anything that helped get me where I want to be?

Growing in my faith has taught me that there is a plan much larger than my own - and my regrettable moments are as much a part of that plan as everything else.

When you look at them that way, those moments aren't so bad, after all.