Memories of Mom – Chicken Soup Days

Most people remember my mother as a sometimes intimidating corporate director figure who was also generous to a fault. She worked many years to get to that point though and she showered her family with lavish Christmas and birthday gifts. But before she ‘made it’ in the corporate world, back in 1983-1984, she was a struggling single mom working long, long hours to try to support two kids without any child support from my deadbeat alcoholic father. I loved my dad, but that is how things were and how he was.

Circa 1980 or 81 before the split

1980? Before we moved to Ohio.  My mom, her mom, my sister and I before the split.

My middle school years were punctuated with memories of cold dark holidays and barely getting by. My mom kicked my dad out of the house when I was 13. She came home from a business trip to find my dad passed out at the kitchen table of our small rental house in a pile of beer cans and a rifle pointed at me and my sister. That was it for her. Done, fini, terminado.. whatever. Eventually my dad retreated back to his home state of Missouri and my mom was left with one less ‘kid’ to take care of but also one income. Though if my memory serves me correctly my dad had by then quit or gotten fired from his job as an alcoholic (I know ironic right?) counselor from the County Health Department.

I remember the first Thanksgiving after my father parted, my mom couldn’t afford to take us up to Youngstown to spend the holidays with her parents and siblings so we stayed at the dark, depressing rental house but she had found enough money to buy an off brand turkey and the fixings. She was humming as she fixed up the turkey and slid it into the oven announcing that we would soon be eating our fill of delicious turkey. We started waiting for the roasted aroma to waft to our anxious noses but we never smelled anything. She went into the kitchen and opened the oven door.

“Oh No!” She exclaimed. “The oven isn’t heating right.” Not knowing what else to do, she literally cooked the turkey for hours at the lukewarm temp since a call to the landlord who briskly told her it wouldn’t be until tomorrow before he could fix the oven. Basically we pretended the half raw turkey was great only eating the most cooked parts while praying we didn’t get sick. I think it was one of the saddest holidays I’d had other than the ones after her death.

At this time, designer labels were all the rage and I had none really. I got made fun of at school for having ‘bobo’ or non-designer label clothes. We simply couldn’t afford them. My grandparents had tried to help out but there was no way my penny-pinching grandmother thought it was worth the money to have a pony on my jeans’ pocket. These jeans at Kmart are just as nice. I just smiled and agreed because otherwise, I would have no new school clothes at all. My grandparents sent me home from summer break with some new clothes and a pair of Nike’s with a baby blue swoosh. I was so proud of those tennis shoes that I probably used several bottles of white shoe polish trying to keep them looking almost new. I only had 3-4 pairs of jeans to my name so on Wednesdays, I had to wash a load of dark clothes so I had enough clean clothes to make it through the week. The re-wearing of the same jeans in one week also brought down the fashion police on me and I was tormented over that as well but again, I couldn’t help it.

My grandparents also sent home several cases of Campbells Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup cans. I often wondered why they didn’t send us home with different kinds but it seemed like we were living on this soup that one year. My grandmother wanted to make sure her grandchildren didn’t starve to death and I guess as long as we had soup, we would live. We were old enough to use a can opener, add a can of water, stir and heat. There were also a lot of TV dinners as well. Though I still love TV dinners once in awhile though their appeal isn’t as great as when you’re 13 and you’re digging into half-cooked chocolate cake ensconced in its own square of your disposable tray.

Once my parents’ divorce was finalized in early 1984, when I was 14, (stop counting to see how old I am- stop it!) the darkness started to lift from our lives. My mom traded in her 1979 Ford Pinto on a brand new Ford Fairmont which we thought was just the shit. Though it was rear wheel drive and mom had a hell of a time getting to work and back in the winter. I think about her on those cold freezing winter mornings and evenings because she would work incredibly long hours, driving alone praying she stayed on the road and the car made it in the frigid temperatures. We had no family close. But we did have some friends through her workplace, now my workplace as well, and some of those friends still work with me. So we were blessed to have a support system.

The Ford Fairmont Circa 1988

The red Ford Fairmont circa Christmas 1988 at my Grandparents (in middle)

My mom was incredibly brave when I think about it. She just did it, she had no choice. But once the weather started to get nicer and she got her financial feet under her, we moved to a townhouse in the next town which was much bigger than our current one. My sister had to switch elementary schools but I don’t think she minded. I missed having a yard but not the landlord beating on the door scaring the crap out of us. I remember weekend day, my mom kept the curtains drawn and told us to keep quiet. A car pulled into our driveway and she told us to hide in our tiny bedroom closet. We could hear the landlord out there bellowing “ANITA! I NEED THAT RENT MONEY! I KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE!”. Finally he left after what felt like an eternity. We slipped out of the closet and I will never forget the sight of my mom climbing out of her blanket chest in her bedroom. That stuck with me until this day and I still have that same chest.

She had to not pay the rent I think to be able to move us to a less expensive but nicer townhouse in what is essentially now my daughters’ and I’m hometown. However positive the move was, there were some casualties that absolutely broke my heart. She had to give away our Shih Tsu mix dog I had for years, Boomer, because the townhouse had a no pets policy. Then she had to sell her Baldwin spinet piano. I just remember crying myself bleary eyed when each one left. Before Boomer left, I think she took him to the humane shelter, I took a small Avon box that had housed a ring I loved and lost while still living in Missouri, and I cut a lock of his dark grey hair to put in that box. After we moved, when I missed my doggie, I’d pull that out and touch the fur. And cry. But never in front of my mom, I knew she had no choice. Now I have a Baldwin piano and a shih tsu mix dog… I guess you can say I came full circle when I was able to afford to do so.

My last birthday in that rental house, my mom couldn’t afford much. I would have been turning 14 and I was a huge fan of Garfield. She found these plastic drinking cups with the cartoon cat on them. I still have one of them tucked away in my keepsake boxes. She did her best with what she had. To this day, I still appreciate all she did for us.

While my youth wasn’t ideal, I learned how to fend for myself, I started to teach myself to cook after we moved into the townhouse. I would pull down my mother’s Better Homes & Gardens cookbook and just follow a recipe. Sometimes she would help me on things I couldn’t understand or didn’t get from reading a recipe. Before we moved, I had started learning how to fix my own bike with tools my dad left behind. I could tear a ten-speed apart and put it back together and adjust the shifting until it was smooth as butter. I also learned how to fix some minor electrical issues, how the breaker box worked, how to do some oddball plumbing fixes because my mom was afraid of the landlord and didn’t want him in the house. That house eventually fell in on itself, the roof collapsing and now it’s simply an empty lot. It’s better as an empty lot.

Every time I see Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, I think of those dark days. I think about how much my life has changed in all those years. I am grateful that we made it, for the help we had along the way, for my mom’s tough spirit that kept going no matter what. I am grateful I didn’t grow up to be a helpless girl, that I wasn’t afraid to fix it myself or dive in when I needed to. Now I’m spoiled because my husband does a lot of this stuff and is better at it than me, but I don’t walk around afraid that if down the road, if I were to be on my own for whatever reason, I’m not helpless.

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My mom Christmas time 1987 – Our last in a rental – the townhouse

I have my mom’s fiery, determined spirit.

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Depression & Nature’s Cure

Depression affects millions of us every day at different levels. Some people are able to function but at a dulled existence. Other people end up bed ridden, unable to function while some even feel that ending their lives are the only way to ease their pain. If you ever feel like part of this last sentence, please, please, please seek help. There is nothing wrong with getting help because it’s not all in your head, you’re not weak or stupid. Trust me.

My own lifelong fight with depression is not a secret and I’ve mentioned in several of my blog posts. And others in my family suffer from it too which lends me to believe it’s somewhat genetic. Though with millions of us suffering, maybe a lot is environmental. We’ve gone from being outdoors, to spending most of our time inside for work and after work. With so many ways to be in front of a screen, we’ve become more of an inside society. Me included. I’d much rather lounge on the couch binge-watching Netflix than go outside especially when the weather isn’t perfect. But therein I believe lies my issue. Too much inside.

I really hate the anti-depressants and I only have utilized them when in a severe depression. My goal is to find ways to keep from going ‘there’ where I’m so dark and despondent that I feel like I don’t want to live. Find my preventative medicine so to speak. I read most articles I see on depression and have read many books on it as well. I’m not a doctor or a psychologist but I think they are just crap-shooting what’s really going on with our brain. There are many studies out there and the one thing I think I have noticed in common is ‘nature’ as far as people feeling better.

They were pushing vigorous exercise as an alternative to anti-depressants. After my mom died in 2014, I rode my bike a lot. After about 20 minutes of riding after literally forcing myself into the gear and out the door, I’d feel like someone flipped the happy switch. I thought maybe it’s a runner’s high type of thing. So I went on the theory that vigorous exercise was the antidote. Late fall I joined the Y so I could continue the vigorous exercise, except it didn’t work. Didn’t matter how long or hard I rode the spin bike, the happy switch never flipped. I tried the treadmill, elliptical and rower going as long as an hour until I was completely drenched in sweat and nothing. Which of course just added to my depression because then I believed well maybe I have to do my vigorous activity outdoors and I just hate riding in the winter and cold.

But the thing I think was missing in this study was where the subjects did their exercise, indoors or out in nature? Japan has practiced ‘forest-bathing’ for years and done studies on spending time out in the woods to combat stress and depression. Other countries and academic institutions have also studied nature’s affects on our mood and depression. I could link up a bunch of studies but feel free to research yourself.

In late 2015, we moved into the country. I started walking the dog up and down the country roads where its more fields and woods than people. When I lived in town, I also walked the dog except it’s not really nature. A lot of concrete, homes, people and while there is grass and trees, I never felt much difference in my mood walking even five miles around town. However, I started to notice after walking the dog about twenty minutes, I’d feel the switch just a little less prominent which lends me to believe that vigorous exercise forces you to breathe in more air which might be why when I was riding, I felt the ‘switch’ stronger than when I’m walking. Maybe there is some microbe or something biological in the air when you’re in nature or the woods that your body needs and a lack of it, throws your brain chemistry off.

I believe exercise helps, exercise is super important no matter what. If you don’t keep moving, you die which is why Medicare and such are pushing seniors to work out and exercise. My theory, which I will test over this next winter, is that the antidote to my depression is nature, being outside at least twenty minutes most days and coupling it with exercise is a double whammy. Which means, I am going to have up my outdoor gear so I can do this on the most frigid Ohio -20 windchill days. I’m fortunate because I live on 1.5 acres surrounded by prairie and woods. I have a pine grove in the back corner of my lot where I can go stand or sit or walk circles around. I love the smell of the pines. Essentially, even if I can’t fathom walking the icy roads, I can walk around my yard to get my nature pill. Vitamin N.

This truly sounds a bit crazy but google it, you will find studies where they have looked at city dwellers and found the ones who live near more green spaces have less depression. Case in point, I haven’t been feeling the best so I hadn’t been outside much. To add to it, they spread turkey shit across the street after they harvested the soybeans. You literally can’t breathe that stuff just smells of death. Coupled with rain, I hadn’t been outside for several days and when I was at work, I noticed I was feeling depressed. So when I got home, I bundled up, grabbed doggo and headed out to walk for 35 minutes.

I left my headphones at home and focused on the surroundings. I walked west from my house pretty quickly as the frigid air was blowing against me but within a quarter of a mile, I can turn south and down into a more protected road. There is more woods on this road as well and the traffic is a bit lighter. The only aggravation on this route is the people on the corner let their two Rottweilers run free and they always come running out to us. They are mostly friendly but my dog goes batshit excited about ripping my arm off. I wish they would put them on a containment system because I’m afraid they will get hit.

Within 20 minutes of my walk, I felt my mood lift. Again, it’s not as dramatic as when I cycle but it does happen nonetheless. Once I got back to the house, I let the dog inside and walked the perimeter of my back yard. The sky was cloudy but the hue of the sunset was cast in the sky as a grayish pink. I stood behind my shop, underneath the pines and listened to the wind rushing through their branches. I felt all the anxiety just flow out of me and go with the wind. I know that sounds hokey but that’s really what it felt like.

After my walk, I picked up some dinner and watched some Netflix. I’m really into Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown where he travels to places like Libya. My sense of darkness, depression were alleviated for the most part and I enjoyed relaxing the rest of the night. I even slept well. Maybe I’m crazy but I’m going to try adding Vitamin N or nature to my regimen this winter, well, all year round, to see if it does indeed keep me from going into a deeper depression. I don’t figure outside of a chance for frostbite and getting hit, it can’t really hurt me to walk or hike this winter. Even maybe just wander around my own back yard on the days I can’t walk on the road or get to a park.

I am going to keep a notebook to jot notes in every day to help me study what helps and what doesn’t. And this spring I will revisit my notes and blog my results. Of course, I must add the disclaimer that just because this might work for me, it may not be for everyone struggling with depression. The best thing to do is to see a trusted doctor and also get therapy especially if you’re not quite sure depression is what is going on with you. Rule out medical conditions because you don’t want to guess you have something when it could be something serious medically. Therapy is also a great tool especially if you have things in your past that may still bother you, even subconsciously. Every now and then I go get a check up as I call it. But try getting out in nature as well. It doesn’t cost much and see how you feel after 20-30 minutes.

Remember, depression affections millions of us, you don’t have to have anything bad going on in your life to be depressed, it can be biological. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s no different than having something like hypothyroidism or another illness. We understand so little about the brain right now. Go with your gut and if your depression gets severe, get help.

I’ll be reporting back later with my results. So give it a try, the nature antidote. Get outside!

The Problem with Relationships (or My 2 Cents)

First off, I am NOT a relationship expert and I’m only writing from my past experiences of relationships in general. Mostly I am going to refer to romantic relationships regardless of sexual preference – straight or gay or whatever as this isn’t a consideration. This is somewhat my shit list regarding the romanticism of love and society ideals and even religious expectations. Things I wish I knew way back when, even before I was old enough to date because most of this can apply somewhat to friendships or familial relationships as well.

1. Don’t believe the fairy tales – relationships are hard, they are work and they aren’t perfect. This whole idea that there is only ONE person out there for you is complete and utter bullshit. And here’s the other caveat of that ideal – the whole premise that you have to be in a relationship to be worthy and whole. Here’s a tip – before you delve into the world of seriously dating – make sure you’ve got your own shit together. Be able to support yourself and don’t be out there looking for your sugar daddy or sugar mama. Don’t base your worth or happiness on another person. Get counseling or therapy for past issues. Sure a great relationship can add to your happiness but it should not be the key to your happiness. Don’t lay that on another person. Just don’t. Get your education or training, get a job, move out on your own for awhile. Get a strong sense of yourself, don’t be afraid to go to a restaurant or a movie alone. You’re not a loser, you’re a strong, independent person if you can enjoy just hanging out with yourself once in awhile. The flip side to this is that you offer another person a good, stable foundation for a relationship since you aren’t hanging on them for your every need and happiness, and that’s a relief to them as well.

Marriage or long-term partnerships will have their ups and downs. There will be days you want to walk out and never come back. You will find that the initial frenzy of feeling in love will fade and be replaced by something more steady (read boring) as biology does her job. People expect that your relationships should be how it is in the beginning all the time but we are wired to have that first flush of love to bring you together and make the connection and then eventually, most likely within a year or less, that fades away to something more common but if you put the work in, stronger and more significant love. True love. Real love. Love you can build a lifetime on as partners, friends and lovers. People will jump from relationship to relationship mistaking this lack of lusty heart-throbbing flush of feelings (or desire) for a relationship failure. It isn’t. It’s just how relationships work. You could be dumping a very good partner for the next attraction only to find they weren’t a better person for you, just new and different.

2. Don’t be an enabler – Don’t rescue, try to fix or help someone do things they can damned well do themselves. I’m raising my hand for this one because prior to my current marriage (been married 3 times), I was the enabler. Not just in my romantic relationships but ALL my relationships. If you have grown up in an abusive or dysfunctional situation or even have heavy religious training, it’s easy to fall into this over-helping way of thinking. For me, I just always wanted to keep the peace and not rock the boat. Then due to the abuse, I subconsciously felt I didn’t deserve what others did and I kept myself in the victim role until I was 38… Yes, almost 40 before I figured this out. Here is the golden rule of not enabling – If a person can and should do it themselves, then don’t do it for them. I’m not talking if your friend is sick and she needs help with her kids, I’m talking the person who is perpetually relying on others to do things for her she should do herself or himself.

My first husband used me as a vehicle to reach his goals, all while cheating on me the entire relationship. Here’s the kicker – he pushed really hard to get married and my instincts were screaming Oh My God NOOOOOO. I was an idiot and listened to him not me. My second husband was a lazy MF’r and when I finally kicked him out, I was relieved. He would sit and guzzle Pepsi and watch tv nonstop while barely working a minimum wage job while whining all the time he was overworked. WTF right? We get caught up in this in families as well. Even our friendships. That friend who everything is always about her. She barely calls you, you’re always the one to call. Ever relationship has times where it leans one way or the other but when you find it’s consistently not in your favor, it may be time to just quietly stop carrying the load. Or you can confront the but chances are they are a narcissist and they will only argue with you anyway.

3. You can choose who you spend the minutes of your precious life with – So much obligation out there right? We do all this stuff in the name of family, love, romance and friendships. We feel we HAVE to like this person or deal with this person or spend time with them. This happens mostly with family. Oh go see your mean, hateful Grandma Edith who insults you and makes you feel awful. Why? I see these memes about it’s sad when people don’t spend time with their family. My first thought is why is it sad? Maybe their family is a miserable bunch of abusive assholes. Why subject yourself to that kind of hell? Granted when you’re a kid, you’re kind of stuck going to relatives homes and so on but once you’re an adult, you get to make these decisions for yourself. I don’t think people distance themselves from certain family members just to be mean, there is most likely a reason for the distance. Maybe it is to protect their sanity and well-being.

The saying ‘blood is thicker than water’ is kind of obtuse in a way. I have blood relatives that wouldn’t walk across the street to help me because there is nothing in it for them. However, I have close friends who wouldn’t hesitate to help me. Your ‘family” should include the people who have your best interests at heart and vice versa. Family is not always blood. And frankly, you can distance yourself from the people who have screwed you over time and again without a big confrontation. Send them a Christmas card if you want, but frankly who cares? Don’t waste you life trying to make other people happy, living up to expectations that are not your own and wasting your time with people who only care about themselves. Surround yourself with love and positivity. With people who cheer you on and not try to tear you down. Remember none of these relationships are going to be perfect because we are human so look at the relationship as a whole, not just one event where she forgot to call you back, how dare she!

4. Choose wisely – Sit down and make a list of what you really want in a romantic relationship. If your goal is to find a guy as hot as Channing Tatum, well good luck with that or in other words – be realistic. Physical attraction is important but if you aren’t movie star perfect, don’t expect to net someone on that same level. I find that having similar ideals and morals and goals in life really helps a lot. You won’t agree on everything but if you want to live in the city and they hate cities, you need to ask yourselves is there a compromise you will both be happy with? People think love is the only thing you need but having similar outlooks on life, helps enormously. Especially about big issues like money, where to live, and children (if you both want them).

If it is very important to you that your partner or spouse share the same faith, then you need to find someone who meets that criteria. No, it’s not romantic but in the grand scheme of things, it will save you heartache down the line when you become resentful and angry at this person who told you they didn’t want to go to church, ever, and you overlooked that important need for yourself. Don’t get so rushed that you feel you have to take the first person that’s really interested in you or succumb to society or family pressure about time. Divorce sucks, breakups suck. There is no way to guarantee that a relationship will be forever but if you can agree on the major points then it’s a lot easier than fighting about them.

5. All relationships require compromise – If you want your way all the time and never want to compromise then don’t get into a relationship. Even the best relationships are going to require compromise, almost every day. And patience. Relationships require tons of patience. It’s a dance of give and take. It’s like ordering a pizza and you get what you want on your half and order what they like on their half. That’s what a relationship is like most of the time. You’re not the same person so you have differing wants, needs and desires. Sometimes the pendulum swings more their way, sometimes in your favor and sometimes it is balanced in the middle.

Pick your battles, make sure whatever it is you are fighting for is really worth it or are you just being a controlling ass. My husband doesn’t like the feeling of not being in control when in the car so mostly I let him drive. My driving scares the shit out of him and it’s just easier to sit in the passenger seat than argue about it. Another example is that I work 32-26 hours a week and he works over 40 with a longer commute. So I pick up more household chores and duties to make up for me working less. Every couple has to find what works for them. But don’t expect it to be all your way. You’re going to have issues if you want to go at a relationship wanting to control every aspect.

6. If you are miserable and unhappy consistently, it may be time to leave – If you are in any kind of abusive relationship, leave now. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200, make a plan and get out. If it’s life-threatening, go today, right this minute. Your life is not worth this person. I don’t care what your vows said, what religion you are, no one should stay in these situations. There are people who can help. Message me and I will find you help, just don’t stay.

That aside, if you find yourself years unhappy and you’ve tried and tried with no change, then you are going to have to step back and take a very honest, brutal inventory of why you are still there. Many people are afraid of being alone and will suffer miserable relationships just so they don’t have to face this fear. There may be financial limitations. Rejection from your family, your church, your friends. Your entire world will be turned upside down and it’s tough, really really tough to walk away from a long term marriage or relationship especially if you have children. So many people stay together for the kids. I can’t really say much here. If it’s not an abusive situation, then I really don’t know. I can see both side of the argument here. Keeping a stable home to raise the kids seems more important than your own happiness sometimes. This is a personal decision and not one I can make any suggestion on. It was hard for me to leave my first marriage but I couldn’t keep dealing with his infidelity and other issues. I would have eventually committed suicide or murdered him. It was time to go.

The truth is that plotting up is brutal and hard many times (and in the case of my second marriage it was easy, a relief) but if you can’t find a way to happiness in this relationship, most times the difficulty you will face at first will be hugely overshadowed with the joy of the new life you create. This doesn’t even mean you find someone else. You could be perfectly happy without a serious relationship. People do it all the time. It is scary to go it alone, you have to make your finances stretch further or in the case of my second marriage, I actually was in better shape. Many times when you can’t find a way to fix a relationships, you are better off without that person in your life. Or maybe you’d make better friends.

7. Avoid narcissists at all costs – Narcissistic people think only of themselves and they use manipulation tactics to control you and get what they want. Doesn’t matter ow smart you are, they seem to prey on people with big, generous hearts. These people rarely change and being in a relationship with them is like running into a wall over and over. You get nowhere. There is plenty of information on the interwebs and in books on how to figure out if someone is a narcissist and so on. I married two of these and it’s miserable. Completely and utterly miserable.

8. Trust your instincts/ trust yourself – This is one of the most important lessons in life I’ve learned not only in relationships but in everything. Trust your instincts, trust yourself. Even if it’s just a faint niggling at your psyche, pull it up and really look at what is bothering you. It’s easy to get swept into popular opinion or whatever, but you are the best compass of what is right for your life. Even if you end up going against the main stream.

The Quiet Foe

When I decided to ditch any of my metric collecting apps and electronics in the name of living a freer, more spontaneous life, I didn’t realize that these items were motivators that kept away the quiet foe I have fought for most of my life. Without goals like riding 50 miles a week (or near that), walking several miles a week, tracking my food intake, I slipped under the murky waters that I fight every day of my life.

Thanks to my genetics, my traumatic past and who knows what else, this quiet foe is simply chronic depression but it has a way of sneaking up on me. While at first, I felt freer and happier not tracking my steps, miles and calories, I didn’t know that these were indeed motivators that kept depression at bay. Left to my own devices, as depression started winning again without me noticing, I stopped riding my bike as much, stopped walking and hiking, stopped paying attention to what I’m eating. At first I thought that oh, it’s just peri-menopause so I rested more. I was taking care of myself, listening to my body. Except I didn’t realize I was slipping under again. Depression feels so normal to me, it’s so hard for me to detect until I’m almost drowning.

So, I can’t just be what I consider normal. I can’t trust my body or mind to tell me what I really need because without consistent exercise or eating healthy, I get swept back under the current of apathy, disinterest, fatigue and agitation from sleeping less than my usual nights. I can’t trust my body to tell me what I should eat because the depression has me seeking sugar as if it is my only life force. Without healthy food, I further compound my issues especially lack of energy. Without my weekly fitness goals, I lack energy and motivation to get outside, to ride, to hike and do yoga which counteracts my depression. My body just slips deeper into a ‘lazy’ pattern as I lose interest in things I enjoy. I just stop caring about doing these things.

Without forcing myself out to ride, walk, hike and so on, I just will not exercise. Or I make a half-hearted attempt at whatever I chose to do. It’s the curse of the depression. Once I have the goal set in my head and I’ve started into my first minutes of the activity, I find myself enjoying it but sometimes the hardest thing is just putting on my shoes or riding gear or driving to where I am going to perform the activity. Just starting can seem so overwhelming, I end up on the couch or lying in bed reading. Which if I do this often enough, it becomes the norm which lets my quiet foe sneak up on me and drag me down under the surface again.

It isn’t an easy thing to accept, that I can’t just trust my body or my mind to tell me the best things for me because it is so easy for me to slip into behaviors that make my depression worse because it is tiring always having to force yourself out to exercise. The benefit of this though is, the more I do it, the harder I work out, the easier it becomes to get myself started. The less depression has a hold on me. The happier I am. I wish I could just trust my inner judgment but the truth is, depression has skewed my perceptions of what is ‘good’ for me. Lying around all the time is not good for me. Lying around reading after I rode 20 miles isn’t the same. I’ve worked out, I’ve been outside, I’ve taken the sword and struck at the depression monster again pushing him back into his dark cave. The cave that he insists on dragging me back into with him. When I become complacent, he gains ground and when I fight (keep on the fitness, eating well path), I gain ground. The tug of war is so slight, so quiet that it happens without me knowing.

So bottom line, I have reinstalled my apps, I will clip my cyclocomputer back on my bike, I will reset my goals and keep fighting the good fight. This is what I need to do to live well and live happy. Maybe it’s a bit of a burden, maybe it ties me to my electronics and apps a bit, but the tradeoff is greater. The tradeoff is feeling alive, feeling happier and more alert. Goals aren’t a bad thing. Trying to go through day-to-day without any motivation, anything specific to work toward is like walking around blind at times. This has been an interesting manifestation of my theory of taking care of myself meant unburdening my life of everything that motivated me. As it backfired. Big time.

Taking care of myself means having these fitness goals to keep me moving. Otherwise, the quiet foe wins.

New Blog Series – Memories of Mom – Introduction

I've been tooling around the idea of capturing memories of my mother who passed away in 3/2014 in a blog series, mostly to capture them for later use and I've found as I get older, I tend to forget more and more details. I had considered just putting them down into a Word document journal fashion but this way I can share these memories (good and bad) with other people who loved my mom, like my daughters, other family and close friends. The posts won't be in any chronological order and I will probably be guessing at the general date of occurrence and honestly, our memories aren't the most reliable so it may not be exactly accurate but simply the way I remember things occurring.

My mom's name was Anita Marie and she was born on Christmas Day 1941. After 8 years of bravely fighting cancer, she went to Jesus as they say, at age 72 just shortly after my daughters, husband and I's birthdays in February 2014. In 1970 she gave birth to me, the fabulous oldest child and in 1972, to my sister who ruined my only child gig (just kidding). My parents were married in Washington DC, the city in which they met, on February 18, 1966, and they split up in early 1983 following years of abuse due to my father's raging alcoholism and what I believe was mental illness stemming into paranoia schizophrenia later in his life. My father passed away in 2002. The divorce was final in 1984 and my mother never received any child support from Dad. So she ended up working long, long hours to barely support us.

Her parents helped us out from time to time financially and such, but only when my mother was desperate because she hated asking them for help. I'm sure knowing my grandmother, it was held over her for marrying such a worthless piece of trash (my grandmother's words) not realizing my mother had been more than punished for her choice. My mom wouldn't have had any idea my dad would end up being an alcoholic when they got married. He was handsome and very charming. The thing was, when the pressure of life came down on him, he couldn't cope and turned to alcohol. Maybe this was part of his growing mental illness.

Back in the 1970's, you didn't get a divorce, it was shameful and against her faith. Though had she divorced him early on when the drinking and abuse started, I think maybe she wouldn't have killed herself working so hard and maybe met another man who treated her better. By the time she got away from him, she was done with marriage and close romantic relationships. If she dated, she kept it quiet for the most part. She was just too afraid that she'd make a wrong choice and someone else would make her life a living hell. She never deserved what my father did to her regardless of the reason.

I get some religions' idea of the sanctity of marriage and you should stay married since this was done in the eyes of God, but I don't get why it would be upheld in the face of physical, mental, verbal and emotional abuse. Why weren't these men (and women in some cases) held accountable for their actions instead of excused back then? I have a hard time believing God would condone that kind of treatment of anyone and I'd think he'd given my mom a pass. As I think back, people excused my father's alcoholism, trying to hide it because it was embarrassing as if they didn't call attention to it, then it would go away but it only got worse. Using religion to trap women into horrific marriages was criminal.

Oh, poor, Larry, he struggles so much. Oh bullshit, he should have been held accountable for his actions. I loved my dad but I think he should have been in jail for the physical violence and domestic abuse to my mom and also to my sister and I on a smaller level. Unfortunately, this all happened before the domestic violence laws were established. Even today, it happens all the time. Don't stay, get the hell out and get safe. This person may love you and you love them but you don't deserve that kind of terror, pain and abuse. It is their responsibility for getting well and if they refuse to do it, then you don't have to stay with them and be a victim. Stop this shit! And honestly, some people just can't get well or we don't have the ability yet to treat whatever is going on with them which I believe many times stems from mental illness that has just now started to come into the light.

Anyway, my mom's life wasn't always easy and she spent 29 years working herself into the grave essentially with all the stress and long hours. The problem with the way she coped with the stress, was by smoking and drinking too much (until she quit smoking in 2000), and her health took a serious hit. People wonder why I don't want to rush into a high pressure job because I could easily be good at more than what I do for a living, this is why. Life is too damned short and I don't want to make it shorter if I can help it. I still may get hit by a bus crossing the street, but I just saw how unhappy my mom was in the midst of all that stress and I just could never bring myself to go there. I think my husband would be happier if I made more money and worked some high-powered job but I wouldn't be happy at all. I'd rather do with less than kill myself the way my mom did.

On a happier note, my mom was resilient and she found joy in many things especially her three granddaughters. Though I regretted my first marriage and having kids so young, it worked out the best because they had more time with their grandmother. My mom was always a survivor, a fighter and she always wanted to see you do your best and get what made you happy. She spoiled the girls, with the kind of Christmases she couldn't give my sister and I when we were younger. She had a strict work ethic and liked to do things by the book so her job in quality assurance kept with her personality. She loved Tennessee and while she only lived in Knoxville for a few years before my dad's alcoholism forced us to move to Missouri near his parents in the late 1970's, we returned most years starting in 1997 for spring break vacations which gave us many happy memories.

Mom and Corrinne on 1997 Tennessee Trip

My mom lived modestly even though she could afford a more lavish life because she was terrified of being poor again. She sunk back literally almost a million dollars in 30 years in investments which would have been more if not for that market downturn. I've always regretted she didn't spend more of her money on herself but she did what she wanted to do, which was pass on a safety net to my sister, my daughters and I. She didn't want us to ever have to live off of cases of Campbell's chicken noodle soup my grandparents brought to help us get through the leanest times right after her divorce.

Though growing up in the 1980's where designer jeans and such were the metric in which your worth was determined in school (and I fell way short because I didn't have most of these things), I never felt poor. We had enough to eat, we had the three of us (my mom, my sister and I) and we were making it day by day. Actually it was a source of pride for me. I was 13 when my parents split up and I had long been taking care of myself admist the chaos of dysfunction but once my dad left, it quieted down considerably and I stepped up to do what I could to help my mom. When we had plumbing issues in our rental house and the landlord couldn't get to it right away, I found my dad's toolbox and fixed it myself.

I took over being the 'housewife' because my mom had to work such long hours to support us. A lot of times I did the cooking and cleaning, making sure we were all fed. This gave me a sense of accomplishment that I never resented. No I didn't have much of a childhood and was bitter and angry about it for many years until I realized it helped make me who I am today. There isn't much I can't do or learn to do. I can take care of myself and I've passed this down to my daughters who are also very independent. My mom and I became this team, even working together for about 13 years until she retired. I also looked after her during her cancer (along with my daughters and husband) fights. I was there beside her when she passed, holding her hand. My mom was not only my parent, but my best friend. And when she got more sick, the tables turned and I took on the role almost of parent to her, though god knows, she fought me on damned near everything until the last few weeks.

Losing her was the most devastating thing in my life so far. She was so influential (good and bad) in my life. I walk around some days still, pretty lost, wishing I could call her or go over to her house, to sit on the couch and eat some dinner she put together. Though I hate shopping, I'd give anything to have her drag me around the mall and Kohls for long hours again thinking how bad my feet hurt. Or when I went to her house when she was still working in that jungle of her gardens, to have her walk me around her yard to show me what she weeded or what flowers were blooming. I notice when I visit my oldest daughter's house, we do this as well. Walk around to see what she's planted or is blooming and vice versa when she visits me. But this seems to be a family tradition, because all the women on my mom's side of the family garden and we all walk around the beds admiring their handiwork.

My mom was tough but she loved even tougher. She was always in my corner even though I made two poor marriage choices and divorces. She looked out for my girls, being more a parent to them than a grandparent. They spent their school years walking to Grandma's house after school because her house was closer to the different school buildings especially once my oldest daughter was of age to watch them and we no longer needed a sitter. She'd buy snacks to keep in the house for them as they huddled up at her house doing homework, playing video games and watching tv, until we came home from work together. Sometimes we would stay and eat dinner together at her house. I'm grateful my girls have so many wonderful memories and had so much time with their grandmother. She helped shape them into the amazing women they are today.

So in closing, I look forward to bringing different memories of my mom to my blog. My mom was so influential and so much a part of our lives, that this is a way for me to feel closer to her. It's always a good way to get these memories down before I forget them. I can't think of the times I wished when my family had told me stories, I had jotted them down because you do forget. Not all of the stories will be positive, but life isn't all good. Though I think I will dwell more on the positive than negative. I prefer to keep the happy memories close and let the painful ones drift into oblivion of the forgotten. Though the good times wouldn't have been so important without the bad times. C'est la vie.

Ohio the Beautiful

People love to knock my home state of Ohio. I'm not sure why it gets such a bad rap when it comes to people in other states but Ohio is pretty darn cool. After a 2500 mile road trip to Maine and back, I'm even more convinced of this descriptor. Sure, I saw some beautiful places especially Acadia National Park in Maine but it also solidified even more the love of my state. I'll tell you why.

I wasn't born in Ohio, but just outside our nation's capitol so I am a transplant but this is the state I have resided the longest so hence I consider it my home state. Well, because my home is here. I lived on the east side of the state in the early 1970's near Youngstown where my immediate maternal family hails from. After moving to Tennessee and then Missouri (where my paternal family is from), my parents returned to settle NW Ohio in 1981 when my father took a job here. When I got older I lived in Indiana for a bit until my first marriage broke up. Since 1998, almost 20 years, I've resided here settled between Dayton and Lima, Ohio.

When I mention to someone who doesn't live in our great state that I live in Ohio, their face might crunch up in concentration before they blurt out, "Oh, Ohio has a lot of corn doesn't it"? I'm not sure how we got this reputation, but okay, yeah we have a lot of corn. Actually, I live in the country and I can look out my windows right this second and see corn fields. You know what? Corn fields and other crop fields can be really pretty. So there, doubters. I don't mind living out among the crop fields, it's better than crammed up against people you don't get along with. I'm happy as a calm out here in bumfuk Egypt as my dad used to call it.

But while I live in what most outsiders believes our state consists of, I can in 1-3 hours drive to multiple cities. In an hour I can easily be in Columbus, Dayton and Toledo. If I want to drive less than 4 hours, I can add in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Ft. Wayne (IN), Indianapolis (do I need to put the state?), Detroit (MI), Lexington (KY), Youngstown, and Louisville (KY). When we plan a vacation where we need to fly, we have quite a few cities to check fares. Within a few hours, I can drive to another country, entering Canada through Detroit. All these cities offer their own unique experience so there is always a million things we can plan for a night away or even a day trip.

And sports? Are you kidding? Ohio is chock full of college and pro sports. We have two NFL and MLB teams. Sometimes it can divide families but hey it's all in fun. Not to mention to all the college sports (Hello – THE Ohio State Buckeyes) so you always have something follow or go spectate throwing in hockey and soccer as well. I'm not a huge sports person but you get the idea. We are even very grudgingly so, somewhat tolerant of Michigan fans. The rivalry of just OSU and Michigan could warrant it's own blog post. There are plenty of minor leagues and local sports to keep you engulfed in sportsdom. Even if you aren't a fan of a Ohio NFL team (I'm a Redskins fan – no comments ha), chances are you can see your team in our state some years as they may play the Browns or Bengals.

While our cities are great, our small towns are pretty awesome too. My town has been working over the years to spruce up the downtown and bring in new businesses. My daughters graduated from the same school system as I did which wasn't in my life plan as I wanted to get the hell out of dodge the moment I graduated, but I am grateful they had the same great education I did. They have all moved on to be successful, self-sufficient adults. They also all 3 attended OSU at least part of their college career (I had to throw that in lol).

I have to brag about our hometown a bit though. Our town not only supports sports like most school systems, but they are very active in all the activities such as music, academics and so on. My oldest daughter was in Quiz Bowl for 4 years and our school always had the most parents and family supporting their team. When our high school football team went to the playoffs with a big Dayton school at a bigger stadium between the two schools, our side was chocked full of people while the Dayton school side was pretty sparse. We also have a heart, people from our side went to the other team's side and sat and cheered both teams on.

Side note – Parental involvement is so important. When my oldest was in an honors psychology class at OSU, I went in to help out with a project for the class. The instructor told me he does the same project with the non-honors class as well but the parental support is much less. He contributes the kids being in the honors class to having strong parental involvement much of the time, not always, but over his years of teaching, this seems to be a consistent pattern. Okay off my soapbox and back to my subject.

Ohio has an incredibly diverse and rich parks system from local to state to national parks. Our terrain just isn't miles and miles of crops, we have shoreline along a massive Great Lake (Erie) and to the south we run into the rolling hills of Appalachia and everything in between. Okay, no desert but there are so many opportunities to be outside. Boating, hiking, cycling (road and mountain), kayaking/ canoeing, backpacking, hunting, and much more. Ohio also pays attention to providing handicap accessible options to get everyone outside. I can attest to the hundreds and hundreds of miles of bike paths/rail trails traversing through our state. I have ridden much of it at one point or the other. I love bike paths because you aren't dealing with cars so much and it's a bit safer though you still have to be careful of people. We have backpacking loops in our state. More hiking trails from short jaunts to the Buckeye Trail which circles our entire state.

Musically, you have local opportunities and then also considering all our cities, if your favorite band is touring there is a good chance you can catch them in Ohio or the state next door. We are also in a days drive of 50% of our country. Great location I think. One day I can be hiking in Hocking Hills and the next day lying on a sandy beach on Lake Erie. There is all sorts of culture from local theatre to attending Broadway productions in our larger cities that may be touring. We even have ski resorts, one just a half an hour from me. There are opportunities for many ethnic experiences as people from all over the world have settled in our midst, especially in our cities. The Arts are very alive and well with numerous large art museums and so on.

Ohio's other resource is it's people. It is rare that I run into anyone really unpleasant in our state. In general, people are really nice. The more rural you travel, the more this seems to stand out. If I'm out walking the dog on our country road and it starts raining, I'll have 3-4 people stop and ask me if I need a ride. That is the one thing I hear when I travel, besides the cornfield comment, is that our people are kind and friendly for the most part. No we aren't all backwards hillbillies.

Education in Ohio is abundant with great school systems throughout the state (some better than others of course) and colleges galore. Of course everyone knows of Ohio State but there are so many others like University of Cincinnati, Toledo, etc. Many private colleges as well such as Ohio University and smaller ones most people have never heard of. There is little you have to travel out of this state to pursue education wise at least on the undergrad level.

Our medical facilities in the state are also very progressive with places like the Cleveland Clinic and the Ohio State set of hospitals like the James Cancer institute which amazingly extended my mom's life to the fullest with her three boughts of cancer. Research is being done all the time to find new treatments and hopefully a cure in the near future. I pray for a cure.

I could continue to go on about the many historical sites and rich history, the restaurants, and many festivals that dot the state all summer long but I will stop here. I"ve got the day off and I'm going to go enjoy some of the great offerings of our great state. Don't knock Ohio, you doubters, come visit us. Ohio has a lot to offer!

Till next time.

Flying Blind – Update – Creatures of Habit

Just a quick follow-up to my previous post in which I proclaimed "A Year of Me" and that I was going to stop measuring everything in my life that isn't necessary to see if I enjoy my life more.

Habits, they are as hard to break as it is to form them at times. I've spent the rest of the week getting out of the compulsion to pick up my phone and enter data into the apps I was using. Or make sure I had my phone on me every time I moved around to count steps since the Fit Bit didn't work for me at all. Essentially I was grading myself in many aspects of my life rather than living it. I didn't realize how much I was doing this until I had to force myself to stop. Leaving my phone sitting rather than dragging it everywhere with me is freeing. You don't realize it but you can become a slave to that thing. You think you are doing something good for yourself but in a way you're creating a little prison all its own for you to stay within those four walls.

I still take my phone when I ride, but only to listen to my music, have a map handy if I would happen to wander out of my usual cycling area and of course to call in case of an emergency. Taking the cyclocomputer off my handlebars has helped me focus on the ride and the beauty I'm passing around me plus I also pay more attention to how my body is performing. Just feeling the muscles working in unison can be an amazing thing when you think about it. I am almost 50 and everything is still working fine, even better than I was in my 20's because I am much more active now.

Recently I read an article by Mark Manson who wrote The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck entitled What's the Point of Self-Improvement Anyway? I wouldn't call myself a self-improvement junkie as he defined in the article but more the self-improvement 'tourist' who delves into this arena when something isn't working in their life or something bad happens, though I may edge on the junkie part because I feel like I always need to be working on myself, getting better. Maybe it is in my German genes or just growing up in a family that was always pushing you to do better, do more. Either way, it doesn't matter because the only thing that matters is how I live today.

Manson points out that all this self-improvement is self-defeating. I don't agree 100% with all Manson spouts but he is pretty close on most of his points. He at least got me thinking in a different way and reconsidering how I look at life. His point is that if we are alway pursing improvement, is you are trying to reach a goal where you don't have to think about increasing productivity, or pursuing happiness until you not longer have to think about being happy, etc.

He goes on to say the only way to achieve one's potential is to become fully fulfilled or "self-actualize" – essentially stop trying to be all of those things. Essentially, I feel it is not be able to enjoy where you are today. That continuing to trying to self-improve actually creates unhappiness because you never reach that point of contentment with yourself. You don't step back and look at yourself and think, hey I'm really in a good place in my life because we always feel we need to fix or change something about yourself. See how that works? You work really hard to get to point X and instead of feeling happy about your achievement, you set a goal of getting to point Y because then things really will be better. We don't stop spinning in the self-improvement circles long enough to see what we have achieved or just maybe, we are amazing and awesome just the way we are.

That's a hard concept for me to wrap my mind around. What if I stop trying to diet and lose weight? Would the world end? What if I put that scale and measuring tape up and just enjoy what I eat? What if I just say fuck it and if I get bigger just buy a different size or if I get smaller, then again just buy a different size? Not that I don't want to be healthy, I do. But the thing is, I am. Other than a genetic thyroid problem, my blood work and everything except my weight is considered healthy. There are people out there that are at their "healthy" weight but they can't walk 5 miles with a pack or ride 40 miles in the heat. I can. I'm strong, I can work outside like a farm hand in my yard and I don't seem to slow down much as I age. Sure, my body needs a little more time to recover but much of this stuff, I couldn't do in my 20's.

This is one of my biggest self-improvement hang-ups as it is a lot of women. Our size. It's like a prison. Trying to live up to some expectation of thinness or perfection. So what if I actually get down to that size 12? Would my life be perfect? Um, no. I'd still make mistakes, fall down and so on. That's just part of life. Why do we have such a hard time accepting ourselves? Yeah it could be the 10000000000 ads pointed at making us 'better' via weight loss, clothes, makeup, etc. What if we just focused on what made us feel good and made us happy?

Like, I eat a big salad with avocados, grilled chipotle chicken and hard-boiled eggs because I just love those foods. Or wear that new eye sparkly eye shadow because it's so pretty? Or no make up at all if that's how i feel that day. The world won't end if we walk out without no makeup. It's a vehicle to make us feel especially pretty as well if we use it for that reason. For us. My youngest makes makeup into a a creative art. And other days she doesn't wear any at all. It makes her feel good. That's the reason to use it. Not OMG, what will people think if I go out without my 'face'? Be authentic, don't hide behind it. Fuck those people, you won't care about them when you're dead.

What's wrong with my body right now? Nothing. Yeah I'm carrying around some extra but I'm also hypo-thyroid and going into menopause. My body is just doing its own thing. Why ride my bike just to exercise and burn calories? I should ride it because I love the freedom of riding, the feeling of power it gives me to be able to move from point A to point B by my own physical power. I hike because I love to be in nature and the woods. It is an avenue to add adventure into my life. I do yoga because it keeps me from getting too stiff, it counteracts my days of sitting at a desk, its spiritual/meditative and it also helps my body move better. At this age, it's critical to keep moving. Moving keeps me feeling amazing and younger than my 47 years. Google Ernestine Shepherd and see that aging doesn't have to be a walker and rocking chair.

After several days giving up all my metrics I use to judge myself, I feel better. Happier. I find myself noticing the world around me so much more when I'm not shackled to my electronics. I think giving up self-improvement and measuring anything is going to be something I'm going to have really work on, but I have this suspicion that it will be so worth it. Letting go of this, will be like dropping the shackles of unhappiness and walking away from them.

Thanks for all the comments about my posts. I love you guys!  You're awesome and amazing just as you are today.  Till next time.