Cheers, 2014

I wrote a post about the year, but I couldn't bring myself to leave it up. I want to start the new year on a positive note and while lots of good things happened during 2014, so did a lot of bad things. So, I took it down. It's hanging out in my draft box, where it belongs. I wrote about my year's ups at Thanksgiving. Not a whole lot has changed since then. So, in terms of how this year was, you can read my Thankful post. On last year's downs, I'm choosing not to dwell.

Instead, I'm going to make a plan for the new year that will very likely be disrupted by real life happening. That won't deter me, I'm going to do it anyway. Ready?

Finish Love's Daughter (Book 1), start Love's Daughter (Book 2), and finish my NaNo novel Going Home.

That's it. That's my whole plan for the new year. That's as far as I've gotten because, well, I have no idea what this year will bring. None, zero, zip. A lot of things could happen, but I don't know when or if they will. Planning for maybes is painfully anxiety inducing for me. Since I already worry obsessively about those things I can't control, I'm choosing not to plan for things that haven't happened.

I'm also not making any resolutions that will set me up for imminent failure in 2015. No weight loss goals, not going to promise myself a gym membership, none of that. I need 2015 to be awesome and, sadly, the statistics on new years resolutions are pretty abysmal. Setting myself up to fail seems like a pretty crappy way to get a new year off to a good start.

Besides, last year's resolution is still relevant. I think I did a pretty good job making it work for me in the past year, even when it took me well outside of my comfort zone. Here's last year's resolution:

Take chances when they present themselves, even when I'm afraid, to try to dwell less on things that I cannot control, and to accept the possibility that when things don't work out it could be a blessing in disguise.
I listened to my own advice. I took chances, didn't take others, and made choices that were best for me even when I was afraid. The only part of that resolution I failed at this year was to dwell less. I'm working on that with my therapist, so I suppose that at least I'm trying. So, this year I'm keeping to that resolution. It seems like it could be particularly relevant with all the things we have coming up. Lots of things I can't control to worry over.

But my priorities in the coming year will be to write more and get these books finished. It's cheating a little bit, since I've already written almost 60,000 words on one of those projects, but I figure finishing that should be a good way to motivate myself to finish the others. For better or worse, whether they turn out awesome or not, I'm going to get them done and put them out there into the world in 2015.

So, cheers to you, 2014. You were one hell of a ride.


Christmas Lights: Granbury Historic Town Square

Matt and I lived in Stephenville for ten and a half years now. Sadly, it's only just now, when we're on the verge of moving away, that I've discovered that I'm absolutely in love with a neighboring town, Granbury. One of the oldest historic towns in Central Texas, they have an adorable town square. It's also filled with Bed & Breakfasts, old churches, historic hotels, an old opera house that's still in commission.

Earlier this year, I went with my friend Robin to the Harvest Moon Festival in Granbury. Tonight, Matt and I, along with some of his friends from work, went to see the Living Christmas Cards. A huge display of Christmas card-like backdrops, each card has actors who play out the card's scene/theme. While what we saw of them was neat, I was really most impressed with the decorated town square. Unlike Stephenville, Granbury does their town square up with tons of lights. It's absolutely beautiful.

We had dinner in a little chicken place (Babe's) off the square, then went to see the cards. I have a really hard time with crowds, so I couldn't stand long in the crush of people around each card without my anxiety going berserk. Since it was almost impossible to see them from the back when you're 5'5", I spent more time looking at the square than at the cards.


The lights strung to the top of the court house come from each of the four corners of the square and there's a huge star on top of the clock tower, though it's impossible to see that from this angle. The lights can be seen from miles away, all over town. So pretty, I had a hard time really finding a good angle, but I love how it looks through the tree branches.


Each of the four corners in the square has a huge christmas tree. Each of them have a different color theme. While I didn't get a picture of all of them, I thought this one was really pretty. Here in town, our tree is tiny and far less lit by comparison--if you want to see it, I shared a picture on my Instagram

All the buildings in Granbury's town square, or most of them anyway, have christmas lights and all of the street lights are hung with pretty wreaths. Many of the windows have pretty displays with Christmas trees and lights, and snowy scenes. It really is a sight to see.


On the way back to the car, down a cute little street where the old buildings have wrought iron stairwells to the second floor on the outside, we came upon this little boutique all lit up for the holiday. I just love how it looks! And, in case you're wondering, it's just as cute on the inside. 

I'm happy that I got to see Granbury's town square all lit up for Christmas, even if it's for the first and last time. I'm particularly grateful because my darling husband, who went out of his way to take me there, is sick. He also had to work tonight--he's in the middle of 12 shifts in a row. So, he gave up what little time he had to rest--and recoup--so that I could see the Christmas lights and cards. He's an amazing man. I'm so thankful for him and all he does for me.

Next year, I hope we're somewhere just as lovely. While I look forward to the challenges that moving brings, I'm sad that I've only just begun to discover what my own back yard has to offer. Between now and then, I'm going to work to enjoy it as much as possible!

Merry Christmas!!

O Christmas Tree...

I have a confession to make... my Christmas tree has been up since Halloween.

Like, I literally took it out of the box and put it up on Halloween. It came in August, and with Matt encouraging me to put it up in the middle of October, I only waited as long as I did because I was self-conscious about having a Christmas tree in my living room before the beginning of November. When Halloween got here, I figured it was close enough.

I let Matt pick the theme this year because for the past two years he's been gracious about our tree being decked out in pink and teal. He never complained about having a pink themed tree, he just smiled and told me it was pretty. This year, he wanted something different which meant going on a hunt for new ornaments. A bigger problem than it sounds since he wanted the theme to be clear, white, and silver. You can't just buy a big ol' tube of white and silver ornaments. You have to buy them individually or in smaller (more expensive) boxes.

I tried to get him allow me to add green ornaments, or some small red accents, but he refused. He wanted what he wanted, so I made it happen. It didn't come out too bad, if I do say so myself...


Terrible iPhonography and mess aside, the tree is really pretty (and not nearly as yellowish as these pics look--thanks terrible lighting!). Matt says it's the prettiest tree we've ever had which I take as a compliment because, well, I shopped for the tree (it's an unlit Treetopia No. 2 Pencil Tree), ornaments, and embellishments. I put it all together. I'm happy with it.


Now Christmas just needs to get here. I'm dying to open those presents. I've been staring at the tree for a month and a half now, it's time for Christmas to get here already.

In the mean time, I've been watching a lot of corny Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel and Lifetime. They're all adorable, if clearly low budget. Well worth a watch if you like fun holiday romance--I try to avoid the sad ones, I can't deal with sad.

So what about you? Is your Christmas tree up? Do you have a theme? The tree at home (at my folks house, is ecclectic which I love but don't have enough ornaments collected to pull that off myself). Whatever the case may be, I hope your Christmas season has been nice so far!



***

PS. We've discussed it next year, and if Peyton Manning doesn't retire this year, we're going to do a blue and orange Broncos tree. This girl loves the Mann!!

Thankful

I've never been one to spend a whole lot of time counting my blessings. It's so much simpler to complain about hardships than to stop and remember that there are good things happening in my life, too. Maybe it's because when you (when I) acknowledge all of those things that're good in my life, it becomes harder to see or complain about the bad or hard things.
But, I'm thankful for Thanksgiving (let's not talk about its origins, okay, that bums me out) because it gives me the perfect excuse to talk about those things I don't usually see, or believe, or acknowledge as blessings.

So this year, I'm thankful that...
My mom is cancer free: This has to be the thing I'm most thankful for this year. My mom was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma early this summer and, thank the Lord, they caught it early enough that it was small. She had surgery, had radiation, and is now cancer free! I love you, mom.

I've finally grown brave enough to seek therapy: After years of doubt and worry, I finally started getting therapy in May. It's helped me so much, I'm only sorry I didn't do it sooner. My therapist is a wonderful lady, who I like, and who challenges me to see myself as I really am.

I'm married to the most amazing, inspiring, accepting man: I love you, Matt. Thank you for all you do for me and for us. I cannot imagine my life without you in it. You truly are my hero.

That amazing man got a great promotion this year:Yes! He was promoted to leadership at the company where he works. This is big, and it's meant he's busier, but he loves it so much it's hard not to be happy even when he's working long hours.

I got into a Ph.D Program this year: I was accepted into TWU's Ph.D program for Rhetoric. A great honor not everyone gets and I was hugely honored to be among those granted acceptance.

I was brave enough to know it was right for me to go back to school: This was a pretty big deal. I thought it was the right decision, but after they accepted me I realized I couldn't go. First, I don't have enough financial aid left to finish it. But really, the biggest reason was that I wasn't doing it for the right reasons. So, I made the difficult decision to sit it out. I'm so thankful that I did, and for the support of everyone around me.

I'm warm, safe, and comfortable when so many people in the world aren't: I have a roof over my head and food in my belly. I'm in a good place with my marriage, I've graduated with my MA, my life is really good. I don't have a job outside the house, but otherwise, I'm in a good place.

I'm able to work full-time doing the thing I love most, writing: Hopefully, something will come of it. I've been working away over here, with several projects more than half done. Let's hope for a published book in 2015!

When I look at everything and I realize how lucky I am, it really hits me that all of the problems I have (none of which are coming to me right now, after all that thankfulness) are seriously first world problems. I'm healthy (even though I'm overweight), I have a strong marriage, my dogs are healthy and happy, I managed to make it to 36 without incident. I'm in a good place, I have much to be thankful for. I hope you do too.

So tomorrow for Thanksgiving, Matt and I are staying home and sharing the day together. My family is 1,500 miles away and Matt had to work a lot this week so we're not going to see his family or our friends in Waco. Instead, we'll have a nice meal at home together. But just because it's just us doesn't mean I don't go all out. I'm making a ham, green bean casserole, hash-brown casserole (per request), stuffing, cranberry sauce, rolls, and pie. We'll have a lot of left overs, as always, but that'll feed us for days afterward! Thankfully, I won't have to do much cooking this weekend.

Wherever you are, what ever you're doing this year, I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving holiday. Please take a moment to think of those less fortunate and to count your blessings, whatever they may be.  Happy Thanksgiving!

image via: Lil' Luna

Busy November: NaNoWriMo, Warlords of Draenor, et al.

Well, hell. So, November has been our busiest of the year, I think. So much is going on, not the least of which is that Blizzard decided to crash NaNoWriMo with the release of the Warlords of Draenor expac. Why they had to do this, I have no idea. October 13th or December 13th and it would have been fine, but they picked November 13th! So, I'm now trying to figure out how I'm going to work and play Warlords, and be productive, and right now it's not looking pretty.

Will I keep doing it? Yup. I am finishing NaNoWriMo this year if it kills me--especially since I'm so happy with the project I'm working on right now. Since Warlords is so laggy right now, being productive may be just as easily said as done. I'm currently waiting for my server to come back up and have a 20 minute wait. There are 1,200 people ahead of me in the queue. It's easy to see how I could be using this time to do something productive.

Instead, I'm using it for blogging. Which is, if I'm being honest, procrastination. I enjoy it, but I could be writing. Could being the operative word, right there.

But NaNoWriMo and Warlords of Draenor aren't the only things going on this month. Matt broke his foot, so there were doctor appoints. There's therapy. Matt is going to a scotch tasting/class thing in Fort Worth tomorrow night and I'm going to tag along, maybe get some Christmas shopping in while he enjoys his scotch. Next week, we're going to Dallas House of Blues for a Suicide Girls burlesque show--I got Matt tickets as part of his birthday present last month. Thanksgiving is coming up.

On top of all of that, Matt has worked 18 or the last 19 days. Oh, and did I mention he's averaging 10 hours a day? Yeah, he's busy and thank God that he loves his job, because it would be a lot if he hated it. We're blessed in that, at least.

So, like everyone else, we're super busy right now. I'm still writing, I'm sitting at a little over 21,000 words toward my 50,000 word goal. That means, sadly, that I'm actually behind. I think, though, that I can catch up. I'm looking forward to finding out. For now, though, I'm going to go see where I am in the queue and try to get back onto Warlords. It's release day, so I'm thinking if they fixed some of the bugs I may just play today and get some writing done... erm, later. Yeah, later. ;)

Election Day... Please Vote!!

Today in midterm election day in the US. If you're registered (and I hope everyone over the age of 18 is registered) please exercise your constitutional right and vote. Even if you live somewhere that's been heavily redistricted, even if you feel like your vote doesn't really matter because you're the minority party in your state. Vote anyway.

Here in Texas we've recently become subject to some pretty ugly, discriminatory voter ID laws. It's a system I don't agree with, for many reasons, but mostly because it discourages and/or prevents minority voters from casting their ballots.

So please, if you're able and willing, go and cast your ballot if you can. Many people died, including many women not that long ago, so we could do just that. It only takes about 20 minutes (at least that's what it took here this morning). You do have a say in who controls your government, all you have to do is choose to exercise your right to do so.

This soapbox has been brought to you by the letters V, O, T, & E! ;)

Writing & NaNoWriMo

So, I haven't been talking much about it and there's not a word count meter anywhere--because, you know, self-sabotage--but I've been writing regularly for the first time in... well, probably ever. At least since I finished my masters thesis. I'm actually working, at least part time, writing. Which is a dream come true, really, but can also be pretty daunting and exhausting.

I mean, anyone who writes knows one of the first obstacle is always self-doubt, at least it is for me. I worry that my ideas suck, that my plots are transparent, my characters stiff or flat, my writing stilted. I'm my own worst critic. So, trying to do this with regularity is an exercise in getting out of my own way.

But you know what? I am doing it. I'm letting myself write. I'm managing to tell myself to shut the hell up when I have doubts and just write. And it feels so amazing.

It also feels very much like I'm being stung by 1000 bees in the place where my anxiety lives. Maybe that doesn't make sense, but that's the best I can do. Writing regularly is making me feel pretty anxious that, maybe, I'm doing something stupid and wasting time. That I should be working for someone else during those hours when I'm writing.

But, I'm not going to give in to that little voice trying to tell me I suck. I'm not going to let my anxiety consume me on this one thing. It can have everything else, this is mine.

So, since I have been writing regularly, I decided that this year I'm also going to do NaNoWriMo again. And, I'm going to win it. Which I say all the time, but this year stand a reasonable chance to succeed at because writing is starting to become a habit. It's starting to be what I do.

I started something new, as is the tradition for NaNoWriMo--and because what I've been working on feels a bit like bashing my head against a brick wall--and so far it's going well. Today is day three, I didn't work at all on day one, and I'm still at about 7,250 words. That's pretty damn good for three days work.

And best of all, I'm pretty proud of what I'm working on. Which, I'm not going to be able to tell you about. I told Matt (quite against my better judgment) and he launched into a very long explanation about how I could change this, change that, make this and that better. He almost derailed me with his "ideas." Some of which, I might take, others not so much.

Now, I just have to keep on keeping on. Keep on staying out of my way. But, I'm doing it so far. I'm working at a steady pace on a good project. I'm energized and feel like I'm finally in the right place at the right time. Thank the Lord for a supportive man who believes in me more than I believe in myself... even when he does try to derail me with his ideas.

I'm finally doing the one thing I've always wanted to do but didn't have the time, drive, or courage to keep up with. I'm writing!

Irrational & Improbable

I have always been a little bit prone to fits of... let's call it imagination. In addition to having the same dream since I was five years old (so, let's see, 31 years now), I tend to worry overmuch about things that're either completely irrational or which I cannot possibly begin to control. Rather than those things being small or tangential they tend to be pretty serious.

Sometime during my teen years, I began to worry over and fear axe murderers. More than that, I was completely consumed with a fascination about them, even though I could freely acknowledge that I was horribly afraid I'd be axe murdered--and, frankly, still am. Though it makes no sense, I'm captivated with stories about such people as Lizzie Borden or situations as the Villisca Axe Murderers. While most people are afraid to drown or be burned to death, my greatest fear about dying unnaturally revolves around being chopped up with a hatchet.

For a while, the fear was so extreme that I couldn't even watch movies where this sort of scenario plays out. Matt once tricked me into watching a cheesy Sylvester Stallone action flick, Cobra, about a cop surviving and tracking down an axe murdering cult. For days, I was plagued with dreams about being hacked up while I was still alive.

Even now, at night, when I'm laying in my bed alone listening to the house settle I worry about this completely improbable scenario. While I should be worrying about being robbed, raped, or shot to death, I'm worrying that someone with an axe might break in and chop me up. There's just something so visceral about the idea of being hacked at, over and over, with a sharp (or not so sharp) tool that makes my skin crawl. A scenario my somewhat vivid imagination plays through with or without my consent.

It's ridiculous, and fascinating, and my friends sometimes take the opportunity to poke fun at this particularly foolish quirk. Even Matt finds humor in it, though he understands how serious a problem this really is for me. Perhaps making light of it will make it better, but it doesn't seem to work. Not really. And the truth is that even I can find humor in the absurdity of the idea. That doesn't make it less a fear. Still, everyone agrees that the probability of me, or anyone else, being axe killed in the USA in the 21st century is slim.

So this morning, while browsing my Facebook feed, I was particularly horrified to learn that some nut job a man attacked several cops in Queens with a hatchet. Every single fear I have about being axe murdered came screaming back into my conscious mind. The attacked cops were both hurt, the one struck in the head still in critical condition, and the hatchet wielding attacker is dead. While this man could hardly be considered an axe murderer, the act of attacking someone with an axe is nonetheless too terrible.

It's always this way with my fears and anxieties. When I begin to believe these scenarios are improbable and, therefore, so too are others of my anxieties when something happens to prove my irrational fears rational. Every single time this happens all of my fears are renewed. Everything comes back and are not only renewed but fortified. I'm starting to understand, and perhaps accept, that these sorts of anxieties will always be a part of my life. They're not actually going anywhere, even as I try to master them.

At this point, I just hope self-fulfilling prophesy isn't a real thing--or at least doesn't act on these sorts of improbabilities. Otherwise, I'm in some pretty serious trouble.

A Pain in the Foot is a Pain in the Ass*

So, Matt managed to do something to hurt his foot. We're not sure what, yet, but after a week of walking on it, he decided he should go to the doctor. The thing is, our doctor is both out of town and quite difficult to get in to see. So, I made him an appointment with a local doctor (same medical group--Cross Timbers Health Clinic) and then changed his primary care doctor so that he could be seen. Since he's not completely fond of his previous doctor, he was fine with the change, especially so since he seems to like his new doctor.

They saw him a week ago today, he had an X-ray (We had to do out of town for that, too) last Friday, and we still haven't heard about what's wrong with his foot. They think he might have a stress fracture, so the fact that they haven't gotten back to us yet is pretty annoying. He works on his feet and can't take time off, so he's been wrapping it with ace bandage and self-adhesive wrap (which seems to be helping some).

But the fact that we still haven't heard anything isn't the worst part. Not by far, actually, because the experience we had with their office staff was absolutely the worst customer experience I've ever had. The girls who work the front desk in that office are rude to the point of being abusive. While the doctor was awesome and so were all the nurses, the office ladies made the experience atrocious.

When we arrived (15 minutes before appointment time, at 2:15) they were immediately rude to my husband. She abruptly demanded his insurance information, which is okay except that our cards have the wrong primary listed for Matt because I had just changed it. Then she shoved a clipboard at him so he could fill out the very long sign-in sheet (SOP for this clinic) and told him she was going to have to call to confirm his primary doctor because we were negligent in bringing her a confirmation number proving we had changed it.

When I assured her we had changed it, she said, "We'll see," and then told me she would confirm it. Okay, I'm sure people have lied about it before, that's fine. So we sit and wait while he appointment time comes and goes. The girl is on the phone with BCBS the whole time, but she's yelling at them telling them she's been on the phone with them for 45 minutes. This is a lie, we had only been there 30 minutes at this point. We hadn't even been out of the house for 45 minutes. 

Another ten minutes passes before she slams the window open and demands (loudly) that I give her my information because I'm the insurance holder and he's technically my dependent. I give her my birthdate and then wait at the window while she yells at some more people at BCBS. In the mean time, while we were waiting, I had called BCBS myself to confirm that his PCP had been changed. I got on and off the phone with them in less than 10 minutes, yet this girl had been on the phone with them for what she claimed, by this point, had been an hour (while we had only been there 45 minutes). 

While she's talking to BCBS the other desk girl turns to me and tells me Matt'll just have to reschedule because it's been 15 minutes past our appointment time. Okay, remember we had arrived 15 minutes early. Also, it had actually been 30 minutes past his appointment time. I told them it wasn't happening, that it was their fault it had taken so long, not ours. Which is true, they were the ones being so rude to BCBS that they couldn't get anywhere.

After another five minutes the first girl gets her confirmation number, slams the phone down, and says "NOW it's changed." I informed her again that I had changed it the day before. She flat out calls me a liar, then tells me if I was telling the truth I should have come with a confirmation number (how was I supposed to know that?!), and then she literally slams the window in my face WHILE I'M TALKING to her.

Aside from the fact that I'm pretty sure some office girl can't actually change our PCP without our authorization, BCBS had confirmed to me that it had previously been changed. All of this over a damn confirmation number. Now I'm not sure what I should do about it. It's been eating at me for a week, I feel like I should say something, because we're not the only people she was abusive with. I just don't know who to talk to, especially since the office manager there in that office was sitting around giggling with these girls when we were leaving. Clearly, complaining to her about it isn't going to do any damn good.

I've considered writing to the board of directors at that clinic group, the head of which is my primary doctor, but I don't know how far that's going to get either. I feel like complaining would be pointless. So this girl just gets away with treating patients, who're often there because they're not feeling well already, like total shit. 

Thankfully, we've gotten Matt's new insurance cards (BCBS sent us FOUR of them, for whatever reason) so this shouldn't be a problem again. Finger's crossed. The one thing I know for sure is that when open enrollment comes I'm changing our insurance plan so I can go back to my old doctor, whom I absolutely love. But now Matt's saying that he wants to find a plan that both his new doctor and my old doctor take. Which, honestly, I find pretty annoying considering the treatment we've gotten from these people. 

I mean, aside from the fact that they're nasty rude, we still haven't heard anything about his foot. Thankfully, they gave us a referral to an orthopedist, which he'll see tomorrow. Hopefully they'll get something done and be nice about it!

* Matt's been making this joke for a week, so he'd be amused I used it as a title.

Harvest Moon Festival

I've been pretty cooped up lately, but this last Saturday I had the opportunity to go to Granbury's Harvest Moon Festival with my new gal pal Robin. Before she told me, I didn't even know Granbury did this, though they have been for decades. So we headed out there around mid-day (it's about a half an hour drive) and spent the whole day.

The weather was gorgeous mid-80s, so it was warm but not hot. The town square in Granbury is adorable, lots of little boutiques and shops. I expected parking to be difficult, but we found a space easily. It was a really lovely day, the best I've had in a long time, in fact.


We hit the town square boutiques first thing. Some of them are adorable and affordable, others are pretty expensive--VERY pretty expensive. I browsed around and came away with only two things the whole day. A pair of earrings, and this cute little bell skeleton that I got at the shop in a historic B&B on the square...


The variety of things available was massive, everything between trinkets and jewelry, to clothing and expensive handbags, to paintings and artwork.

After that, we hit the festival and browsed around the booths. Lots of artists and local artisans. Food, woodcraft, photographers and painters, a street musician playing flutes, that sort of thing. Once we'd done that, we had lunch at Babe's Chicken Dinner House. A really neat restaurant where you pick the meat and they bring you all the sides of the day (mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, green beans, and biscuits were what they were serving that afternoon). The food was awesome, the atmosphere was awesome...


Lunch was so good that I plan to take Matt there soon (as soon as I can convince him to make the short drive). After that, completely stuffed, we went over to the small theater on the square that does live music shows, Granbury Live. Our luck, they were having a show and the groups that had booked the seats had two no-shows. So for $25 each, we saw a live classic country show. Well worth the money for two hours of entertainment and especially good after having eaten so much.

When the show was over, we hit the booths again. Had some terrible $5 per cup lemonade and got some homemade fudge for Matt--he loves it. Then headed out to see Lake Granbury's beach--the water is 18 feet low, so the pier out there is hovering well above the ground. The lake was gorgeous, though, even low.


We had plans to go to the balloon festival, we even went out to the Granbury airport, but when we got there it was really windy and the balloons weren't even out yet. So, rather than waiting, we headed home. It was getting late anyway and I don't see well in the dark.

On Sunday, I felt like I'd walked miles, and maybe I did. I also felt pretty happy for the first time in a while. I really needed it, especially after the week I had prior. They're doing a walk around the square for Halloween (though we'll skip that since Matt hurt his foot, a story for another time). They also do a Christmas festival in December, which I'm hoping to get to. I only wish I'd learned about these events years ago!

On Pick-Up Trucks & Personal Growth

I was on my way to get my haircut today, sitting beside a duly pick-up truck and behind another at a red light. They were so loud, one taking up his share of both lanes, that I could hear them inside the car with the radio on and windows up. My usual angry ire at the irresponsibility of people who drive trucks crept up, my inner dialogue grumbling about the environment and how these people think the road belongs solely to them.

This isn't a new problem, mind you. I have a serious problem with people who buy large pick-up trucks when they don't need them. Meaning, they're not using them as farm vehicles, not towing anything, clearly not a work truck. People who buy the biggest most irresponsible vehicles they can afford--or in the case of this tiny college town, their daddy's can afford--to inflate their egos. They make me mad.

I care about the environment, but more than that I care about the use of resources. These monsters use more resources than do small trucks, crossovers, SUVs, and coupes. But, honestly, my biggest problem comes down to courtesy. If your vehicle is so big you don't fit on the road or in parking spaces, that doesn't give you the right to take up more than your share of public space. But, the people who drive these vehicles (at least here in Texas) do. Driving a larger vehicle doesn't give you the right to bully you way into the other lane, or cut people off, or pull out into traffic where you don't belong or shouldn't be.

I have a big ol' problem with trucks. So much so that I feel like people who want one should have to show need (yes, I'm aware that will never ever happen).

Then something struck me and I literally laughed out loud like a maniac--thank God I was alone. The guy in the pickup beside me grinned at me and winked (he actually winked at me like a creeper) and I was dragged back to a time when I was less socially and environmentally conscious, when I was much more selfish. I actually used to find men who drove these irresponsible monsters attractive. As a matter of fact, I was more likely to find a man attractive if he drove a pick-up.

At 18, when I was young and lacked any reasonable common sense, I worked with a man who drove a big blue Chevy pick-up. One of the things I found attractive about him was that he drove this blue truck and that he was so protective of it--in the several years we were acquainted, he actually let me drive it once. It was absolutely absurd and when I think back now I laugh, but not because it's funny. Because I feel like I was as much a jerk about these stupid trucks as the guys around town who take up two spaces at Wal-Mart and ding your car doors with theirs because they're careless.

It's pretty amazing how these sorts of things can creep up on you. How one little thing--a sight, a scent--can drag you back (sometimes mentally kicking and screaming). It's also pretty humbling when it happens, at least to me, to see how far I've come since then. In this case it's the idea that I've grown, or at least changed, as a person. In the 18 years since I met the guy with the blue Chevy, I've become less insensitive, less selfish, and more aware of those who are. Change happens so gradually that sometimes it takes something silly like this to make you see it.

Does that mean I don't like all people who drive trucks? Not necessarily--I know plenty of people who drive pick-ups, but most of them need them for work or towing. I'd say, instead, that I'm less inclined to be friendly with people who're careless enough to need one of these ego-inflating, resource-guzzling hunks of glass and steel. At least I know now why I feel the way I do--the environment, resources, noise, and a lack of regard for publicly shared spaces. Years ago, when I was attracted to these things, there was no quantifiable reason. If nothing else, that's growth.

Something... Maybe?

Pardon the long pause and the somewhat strange reappearance. I thought I'd share something I found on my computer tonight. A start I made a long time ago. This is all there is of it--although there is another, different-ish sort of piece of this story still floating around somewhere, I think. I'm currently trying to decide if I should pursue this for NaNoWriMo this year. I have another idea, but I'm somewhat surprised to find I like this scrap of prose as much as I do. It's rough, no editing.

Here it is, before I change my mind...

The bells tolled.  A cycle had passed.  The inhabitants of Middle Sunroen, Mainland, slid the caramel glass markers down their wooden frames.  Three more cycles would bring the light--seven cycles of bright daylight and then there would be darkness again.  The darkness would bring sixty cycles of night filled with pitch, hungry shadows. 

The bell tower, it's length towering up into the starless black eternity above, rose at intervals with oil lanterns that did nothing to penetrate the darkness. Every house stood aglow from within. Total darkness was heresy.  The church had decreed that to invite darkness was to consort with the spirits of the nether--blasphemy punishable by death. No other punishment was sufficient. It was heresy not to fear what you couldn't see. In Middle Sunroen, it was prudent to fear those things.  The rule of law, the church's rule, was absolute.

Sephoranie slid her fingers under the glass window's frame and pushed up. Shadows spilled inside, palpable, an unliving soup of sickening darkness. The small girl shivered, pulled her heavy woolen wrap around her shaking shoulders, and lowered herself out the window onto the moist street.  The candles on the wooden bedside-table did nothing to light the alleyway where the scuffling of tiny feet pierced the ever-night. Davyn would be waiting, to leave him alone in the night because she was afraid to venture out was nothing short of cowardice. They took an immeasurable risk in defying the precepts.

The window slid back into place with an audible click and she turned to move away down the alley way toward the street. It had only been just two years since she had turned eighteen, just legally old enough to go out alone. Still, her mother would not allow it. There had never been a reason beyond caution. What her mother didn't know wouldn't hurt her. Time was running out.

Ugh...

Well, what a crap month (or two). I mean, really crap. So, so crap. It feels like so many things went wrong, like I quit so many things I've started. And this post might be vague in places, because some of them I just don't want to talk about. Ironic, considering a blog is a place to, um, talk about things. But, some things I just... can't.

So early in July, my mom was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. Breast cancer. To say I was scared, or that I cried and worried, would be understatements. I was more scared than I had ever been about anything. Her doctors said it was small, so she had a lumpectomy on July 23rd (my birthday). They took the tumor and several lymph nodes. Thankfully, the labs came back clean. It hadn't spread to her lymph nodes. No more cancer. But, she has to have radiation five days a week for four weeks, starting in September.

Then, last week, my dad's brother, Rick, died. He was only 66... five years older than my dad. He had been having chest pains, but the urgent care said it was just his COPD and sent him home. He died of a massive heart attack the next day. There won't be a funeral, he didn't want one. His wife is absolutely devastated, as is his daughter who he only just met a few years ago. My mom says she's going to make my dad have a physical.

So yeah, like I said, crap month. For me personally, it's been a month for false starts and endings... lots of endings. I quit pretty much everything I've started in the last few years, with the exception of writing and blogging. I would elaborate, but I just can't right now. I'm feeling pretty emotional. Thank the good lord I have therapy on Friday. I need it this week.

On (Not) Pursuing a Ph.D...

I have some news to share that I've been meaning to write about for a while. I wanted to wait until things were settled and they just about are now. You know how I said, in February, that was going to attend TWU? Well, I've decided that I'm not going to pursue my Ph.D after all. There're a lot of reasons, which I intend to share, but mostly it comes down to my comfort level with the idea and, moreso, with the idea becoming a reality.

So, after being accepted and feeling that initial rush of excitement, my emotions were all over the place. I couldn't think about it without feeling like I was drowning. Mostly, I chalked it up to being overwhelmed with the idea of pursuing a terminal degree and all that came with it. Oral comps? Written? A doctoral dissertation? A mountain of classwork? It all seemed like a lot... too much, in fact. But, I did the master's degree and everyone had said the doctorate is much the same process with the volume turned up. I could deal with that, even enjoy it.

Then Matt got a promotion. Let me say, right now, before this goes any further that I am so proud of him. Proud doesn't even seem like the right word. I'm ecstatic! He deserves this, he's earned it, and it's what I want for him. But, it came with a little caveat. We have to move, at some point, to another state. Since the Ph.D program I was accepted to isn't an online program that was going to be a problem. I tried not to think too much about it and when that failed I worried myself sick, but couldn't come to any solution.

Also, I don't have enough financial aid to finish it. I went to undergrad for so long, and went to graduate school, and I owe a lot of loan money. The government will only give you a certain amount before it stops forking over loans for education. I could go two semesters, maybe three, before I was going to have to figure out how to pay for it. The thing is, I don't want to take any more loans. I don't want to run deeper in debt to financial aid. Part of my trepidation about going seemed to be that I was about to go deeper in debt to pay for it.

And, however ridiculous this is, I realized I was only doing it to satisfy the sense of intense competition that has managed to grow between a friend and me over the last few years. It's unhealthy and I want it to stop, but I felt like if my friends were going, and I didn't, then I wouldn't matter anymore. That they would be better than me. That's what I told myself, somewhere in my subconscious, and no matter how hard my conscious mind tried to deny it, it never could. I knew it was happening, I just couldn't see how to stop it.

So, I talked to a friend about it, I talk about it with my mom, with Matt, and then finally with my therapist (as I was just beginning therapy). It wasn't until I mentioned it to my therapist, putting it all out there about my anxiety and the fact that we were going to have to move, that I realized the solution was so simple. I realized that, with all things being what they are, trying to go for a semester or two until we have to pack up and move was a waste of time, nerves, and financial aid money that I really don't have to spend. It was also my chance to break this cycle of competition that always has a way of making me feel less than. A cycle that always ends up making me feel like I didn't matter anyway.

This is when I decided I couldn't do it. That I wouldn't do it. However embarrassing it might be to tell people that I've changed my mind, that I was doing it for the wrong reasons, it would spare my sanity to finally do the thing I needed to do. I can't pursue a Ph.D to satisfy others, that makes no sense. So, now I'm trying not to worry that I'm letting anyone down. I'm trying not to worry that my professors who wrote me letters of recommendation won't be disappointed--or upset that they've wasted their time with me. I'm trying not to be concerned about how my FIL will react when he hears, because I have a feeling he's going to be unhappy.

But here's the thing. The state of academia is pretty terrible, too. I was going to pursue the Ph.D to increase my opportunities to teach, but that's foolish. A huge majority of adjuncts, which is what I am right now, have Ph.Ds. Maybe they make more money than me, but not much more. And, however much I enjoy it, I don't know that I want to get an education that will seal me up in academia--I don't think I want to teach forever.

What do you do with a Ph.D in Rhetoric other than to teach? Nothing I can think of and the idea that I was about to be even more over-educated contributed to the factors making me feel sick. It was part of that feeling of suffocation I had every time I thought about it. I don't want to be an adjunct forever, it's a thankless job where I don't know, from semester to semester, how many classes I'll have... or if I'll have any at all. It pays in pennies and the perception of fulfillment, neither of which will make my car payment... but that's really a very long discussion for another time. One I could say a lot about, but probably shouldn't right now.

The point is, there're too many factors playing against me here. So, I'm not going to go and, despite the idea that I should be feeling disappointed or disillusioned, all I can manage to feel is relieved. As my friends prepare to attend in August, and prepare to work out there teaching as part of an assistantship, I'm doing something else with myself and feeling pretty good about my ability to stop the cycle of competition and do something for myself. Even if, in this case, doing something actually means not doing it.

Check Out My Birthday Present...

It's been a pretty tough couple of few weeks. But, I wanted to share with you one of our ups, amid the downs. On Saturday July 5th, before heading home from Waco (where we had spent the 4th of July with Amanda and Karen) we went to look at cars. We've been needing another car for a long time, but haven't really gotten around to getting one for a lot of reasons. Now that I have to be at work at Tarleton at 8am and Matt doesn't get off before that, it became imperative.

While Matt really wanted a Jeep Wrangler, we went to Waco Hyundai where we test drove a Veloster. I have absolutely been in love with this car since seeing one in the Starbucks drive-thru last year. Every other car on my list went out the window. This was the car I had to have. Nothing else would work. There was no more question.

Then we test drove and that was it. We signed on the dotted line...


It's a hatchback 2014 Hyundai Veloster Re:Flex edition. And it is MINE!! The color is called "Ice Pearl" and is trim specific to the Re:Flex editions. Re:Flex is the trim style and just means that all of the embellishments are chrome, including the chrome alloy wheels--the hood embellishments, locks and handles, chrome plate on the front grill, and such. You should have seen the salesman Oz's face when I called them hubcaps. He looked appalled, gaped at me for a minute, and said, "They're alloy wheels... not hubcaps!" I was pretty amused.

Here's the front/side...

The car is pretty sleek. It's a 3-door "sports coupe." Two doors on the passenger side, one on the drive side. And trust me when I say that pictures just do not do this color justice. As a matter of fact, when I saw the pictures online I pretty much dismissed it out of hand. In person, I fell in love with the color! It gets really good gas mileage, too. Right now, withe "Eco" turned on, I'm getting about 31 MPG in the city.

But what's really awesome are all the little features. It came standard with Bluetooth (which was ridiculously easy to set up), Bluelink which is like Onstar and allows me to lock and unlock the doors from an app on my phone, and a back-up camera. The BlueLink app also allows me to honk the horn, flash the lights, and see what my car is at all times.

This little feature is particularly neat at night...


There really isn't a standard dome light, but when you open the doors the word Veloster lights up blue. I wish I had a picture but my phone takes crap pictures at night. It's really vibrant and lights up the doorways. It also looks awesome!!

The seats are leather...


And the front seats say Veloster. They have adjustable head rests and so do the back seats. The only thing I'd say is that leg room in the back might be a problem for tall adults. Fortunately, since we have no rug-rats, no one rides back there so it's not a big deal.

The console looks really sleek, too, and the dashboard is textured...


The little screen says "Veloster" in blue when the car is turned on. It came with six months of XM radio. The steering wheel is leather wrapped and has controls for the radio, Bluetooth for my phone, voice commands that control my phone and the radio, and cruise control. It also has paddle shifters and sports mode, both of which I'm not sure what to do with so I'm leaving it alone for the time being. Seems like that stuff might mess up my awesome gas mileage anyway. Oh, and one of my favorite favorite things, the console has a feature on the tripometer called "Range" that tells us how many more miles we can drive before we need gas. Right now I can go 415 miles on one tank of gas.

I'd have to say that next to getting Ani for my birthday in 2005, this is the most amazing birthday present Matt has ever gotten me. He's an amazing man, I'm very lucky to have him, and there are moments I think I don't deserve him. He even let me get a zombie hello kitty vinyl decal for the back--which isn't on just yet but will be very soon. He's awesome!

I've absolutely been dying to share, but wanted to wait for the final okay from Capital One on our financing. Keeping this in hasn't been easy (as evidenced by the picture I shared on Instagram). The car drives like a dream. I still can't believe he did this for me--I've never had a new car before this. This Friday (ironically, July 18th, ugh!!) we're having an early birthday dinner and going to the drive-in in Forth Worth. It's going to be so much fun!

I plan to talk about our experience with the dealer, because they were amazing, but this is getting long. So, I'll save that for next time. For now, I'm off to bed to dream about the Ice Pearl machine parked in my driveway. Good night.

Transparency in Therapy?!

I started going to therapy a few months ago, so my interest was piqued when I ran across an article about therapy patients being able to see their therapist's notes. My thought process went a little something like this:
Huh, that's interesting. But no!!!
I cannot express to you how much of a bad idea I think this is. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't have an education in psychology or anything even remotely related to psychology. I don't have any sort of professional ideas about why this is a bad plan. I just feel, to my core, that it's not a good idea. It's an instinctual idea that knowing what a therapist really thinks of me would make me feel worse about myself than I already do, which is counterproductive. For me, at least.

There are 700 patients at a medical group in Boston that're trying it out as a part of an experiment. Some psychologists there consider themselves medical trailblazers for making this sort of transparency a reality. They think it will foster an environment of trust between patients and doctors. That it will lessen patient anxiety about therapy and help them to understand their progress.

I get all that and think that would all be awesome, if I really thought it would work like that. It's my pretty heavy doubt that it would actually work that way that fuels my skepticism. This isn't the eye doctor, psychiatry can really harm a person if it's not done well. For me, it would cause more anxiety, not less. With all my worries and anxiety, it has never occurred to me to worry about what she's writing while I'm talking. That's not to say that others with anxiety might not, but I never have. Until now, and even now that it's occurred to me, I'm still not worried about it--which is a feat for me, because I worry about absolutely every. single. thing.

But more than that, these doctors should feel free to make notes without worrying about how their words/thoughts might be interpreted by sensitive patients (and every mental health patient is a little bit sensitive, right?). They should be free to write "What a colossal nutbag!!" if that's how they feel and it helps them do their job well. But with the knowledge that what they're writing will be visible to patients, they can't do that. It's not even a conscious thing, subconsciously they'll change or adjust their method to make it more digestible/desirable to patients. It will happen.

It's similar to what happens when I grade student papers. Maybe I want to stamp some of them with a big ol' "WTF," but do I do it? Of course not. It's not fair to my students, even when it's honest. Instead, I work my analysis in such a way that they will be constructively criticized while being simultaneously encouraged. I tailor my notes, carefully, so that my students won't feel put down. If I could keep their papers to myself, and write whatever I wanted, it might be different. Therapists will do the same knowing that patients will see their notes... even when they don't mean to.

When I mentioned this whole thing to my therapist, she didn't seem too keen on the idea either. As we discussed it, she said she would prefer I didn't see our session notes because she thought it would do more damage than good with my anxiety issues. I agree with her 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000%. Way, way more damage than good. And, so far, I think therapy is helping me quite a lot. I just hope this thing doesn't become a thing, that it remains an experiment and then things go back to a sane place where therapists remember that they're dealing with people who're mentally and/or emotionally compromised. I mean, really, who wants to know exactly what their therapist thinks of them? No, thank you!

Thoughts & Prayers...

Friends,

I don't usually do this, but I feel like I need to ask. If you pray, please keep my mother in your prayers. If you don't, please keep her in your thoughts. She got some very difficult news yesterday, but we're hopeful that everything will work out okay with surgery and treatment.

May heartfelt thanks. I truly appreciate your thoughts and prayers.

July 4th in Waco

Beware, I'm about to ramble on and on about the fourth. Proceed at your own risk (of boredom)...

Matt and I had an absolutely awesome time in Waco over the weekend of the fourth! We hadn't seen Amanda and Karen since April 2013 when we went to Waco for Matt's GRE, so a visit was long, long overdue. It has also been years since we've seen the fireworks over the Brazos in Waco and I really wanted to do that this year, so off we went. It's only about 90 miles, so not a bad drive at all.

I spent Thursday night, after therapy and shopping, making food to take with us. I made my first ever potato salad and two batches of Oreo truffles--I made a batch of chocolate and a batch of lemon. On Friday morning I got up early and made a pasta salad and my mom's "cowboy beans" recipe. So, lots of food and it all came out so good. Even I was impressed with my potato salad, especially since it was my first and since I've not always been fond of potato salad.

On Friday afternoon we headed out for Waco. The drive is short and since Matt was tired for having just worked 11 days in a row, I did the driving. I love the drive across there, although at night during the summer it's kind of terrifying because of all the nocturnal animals that live in the pastures along that road (Highway 6 is not exactly a major highway). But, it wasn't a problem since it was the middle of the day and only really stupid dear run out in the road in the middle of the day (still happens... a lot).

Though Amanda was supposed to have to work until 5:30 (she does customer service for Amazon) she took part of the afternoon off to spend with us. So, we had a nice while to visit with her and Karen before their friend and her crew showed up. Every time I see them, no matter how long it's been, its like we just saw one another yesterday. We pick up where we left off, like we see one another every day, which is a rare kind of friendship. And every time I see them I'm reminded how much I miss not seeing them more. Though I see them not nearly often enough, I'm really going to miss them when we move.

At about nine o'clock, Matt and I headed out toward the suspension bridge. Though it isn't that far, the traffic and finding a spot mean even one hour was cutting it close. This is something I don't so much miss about spending the fourth in Waco. The traffic and crowds are unbelievable and it's gotten worse over the years. When Matt and I were first together, the crowds were pretty thick but the atmosphere was something like a really big family picnic. There were families everywhere, everyone seemed to be spreading out on the banks of the Brazos. Everyone respected one another. It was really nice.

This year, it wasn't really like that. This year, for the first time ever, I felt really unsafe. Which, if I'm being honest, sort of pisses me off. I've never, ever felt unsafe in Waco. But, there were teens everywhere, shouting and hollering, setting off fireworks in the crowd (about 20k people out there for this thing). The whole thing was a big old mess. People were pushing and running into one another, not paying attention to where they were going. Two big groups of teenage boys were screaming obscenities at one another and I thought they might fight right there.


Matt and I went out onto the bridge, which I think added to my safety issues. With that many people on the bridge, it sways. Not a little swaying, either, but a lot. It made me a little dizzy and, I think, it also made Matt feel bad. The fireworks weren't that great this year, so going all the way down in there wasn't really worth it. To say I left feeling underwhelmed, upset that I felt unsafe, and annoyed that we walked six blocks and that I risked an anxiety attack in the crowd for less than I expected, would be an understatement.

Afterward, we headed back to Amanda and Karen's place where we stayed the night after spending another chunk of the evening hanging out. In the morning they made us breakfast and we hung out until noon when we went to look at cars (story about that coming soon!) and then came home. All in all, really nice. Matt's only complaint was that, after 11 straight days of work, he didn't get enough time to relax over the three day weekend (relax is code word for sit around, at home, and do NOTHING). But, he got over it.

I think living in a small town has spoiled me a little bit. Our fireworks show in town draws a huge crowd, but no where near like the one in Waco. The people drawn to it are families, teens, couples, but it's comfortable and safe. Clearly, my definition of safety is changing, which makes me a little bit upset for two reasons. First, I'd love to move back to Waco some day. Second, if not Waco, then in another large(ish) city. Feeling unsafe in a town of more than 15,000 isn't really going to help with that.

Okay, so I'm going to stop rambling now. Lots of stuff to do around the house and I have to wait for FexEx (ugh, I hate FedEx!). I hope you had an awesome 4th, whatever you did!!

Happy 4th of July!!

Happy Independence Day!! If you're celebrating the holiday, I hope you have a fun, safe celebration.

4th of July is one of my favorite holidays and we're going to Waco this afternoon to spend the holiday with our friends, Amanda and Karen, and to see the Fireworks show. Waco is the first place Matt and I spent the holiday together, when we had only been a couple for a little over a month. The glow of fireworks over the Bosque River simply cannot be beat. That we get to spend it with dear friends, whom we don't see often enough, is a serious bonus--We've been friends with Amanda for 13 years and Karen for 12 years!

I do feel a teeny bit bad, though, for abandoning Anakin and Chewbacca on the scariest of all holidays for dogs. Our neighbors have been setting off firecrackers since late last night (they started going off at midnight... rude neighbors!) and every time they crack Ani shivers and looks miserable. I'm just hoping they'll be okay since we won't be home until tomorrow afternoon.

They've been okay every year so far, so I'm sure they'll be fine. They're no less afraid with us here. Now I'm off to find an ice chest and a bag of ice for the food I made to take with us. The potato salad, pasta salad, Oreo truffles, and the candy bars for the s'mores need to stay cool between here and there.

Happy 4th of July!

Therapy, Anxiety, & Friendship

After years of denial and convincing myself that I'm okay, I've finally acknowledged that it's not true. I'm not okay. So, about a month and a half ago I found a cognitive behavioral therapist and have been going to therapy. Unlike last time, when I cancelled my appointment the day before and never made another, I've actually been going. There have only been three sessions so far, I go every other week. I go again tomorrow afternoon.

As a part of my therapy, my counselor suggested that I use a technique where I allot time every day to worry and during that worry session write down all of the things I'm feeling anxious/worrying about. Then mark off all of the things I can't control. Ideally, I should be left with a list of the things I can control and can make a reasonable plan to tackle. It has worked, for the most part. I still catch myself worrying all the time. It takes an act of will to stop the worry which is exhausting and sometimes pointless because it doesn't always work.

Through this exercise, I've come to understand that I spend a lot of time worrying and feeling anxiety over my friendships. I know a fair number of people, but there are very few that I consider real friends. I try to take friendship pretty seriously, a lesson from my early adulthood when I took some people I loved for granted and it led to heartbreak. So to be spending so much energy feeling anxiety about my friendships, when it seems to be adversely affecting my health, is on that list of things I feel like I can (or should) control.

So I've decided to make it a priority because it's seriously compounding my depression. The plan is simple and looks like this:
  • Stop spending so much energy caring about people who don't care back.
  • Stop reaching out to people who don't reach back.
  • Stop working on one-sided friendships.
  • Value myself enough to stop inching further and further out on a breaking limb by remembering that people who don't value me aren't worth the emotional toll it takes to feel anxiety over them.
  • Acknowledge, if only to myself, when I really just don't like someone enough to expend the energy it takes to pretend that I do.
Those are my plans objectives. Here are the action steps:
  • Don't call or text people who just ignore it.
  • Don't call or text people who never do the same.
  • Don't email, Facebook, or otherwise attempt to engage people who don't respect me enough to even acknowledge the effort.
  • Don't put myself out there to help people who wouldn't do the same.
It should be easy, the steps are clear enough, but even making a plan and making it public is giving me anxiety. Maybe when it's done and out there I'll feel better? The thing is, I fold. I get lonely and reach out to people who don't even care enough to pretend they want to talk to me.

Unfortunately, I have an all-consuming fear that if I stop chasing dying embers, I'm going to end up without anyone. Which sounds like a pity party, and maybe it is, but it's a valid fear. There's nothing irrational about it. I have certainly found myself without friends before, though the last time it was of my own poor choices. This time, it's not me. It's them.

I've always told myself that this is in my head, that my friends care about me and that it's my insecurity telling me otherwise, but I'm not doing that anymore. I'm done making myself feel like an insecurity head-case with an inferiority complex. All that does is hurt me, particularly since it is NOT TRUE. I'm old enough, and observant enough, to look around me and see when people just don't care. Making myself sick about it isn't hurting anyone but me, which only makes it worse, because while I worry and feel anxiety they don't even notice.

Enough is enough. This is one thing I'm working to check off the list. Therapy won't work if I don't use it to try to fix the things that I can see are broken. This is broken, I'm acknowledging this is broken, but unlike so many other worries, I can do something about this. It has been on my worry list almost every day. Soon I hope it won't be. Wish me luck mental fortitude. I'm going to need it.

21 Day Fix: Problems & Modifications

I've been on the 21 Day Fix for almost a week (5 days) and in that time have seen zero progress--no weight lost, no inches lost. I've never ever done a diet/exercise program and had zero first week progress, until now. So let me break this down for you, so you see where I'm coming from and what, exactly, my plans are from here. Remember: This post is based on my experiences the first week on 21 Day Fix and may not apply to everyone.

Problem #1: The Rhetoric

This program's point seems to be that you need fixing and that it can be done in 21 days. This is the one thing that has always bothered me, even before I bought the program. After buying it, I'm even more bothered. BeachBody, the programs makers, are targeting their program to people who need to lose less than 15 lbs. and though they say it can work for everybody, heavy people are not who they have in mind. The only good thing here is that this points to the idea that you can make lasting changes in your life in 21 days, like learning portion control or good workout habits.

The trainer, Autumn Calabrese, who seems very optimistic, says things like "Give me 21 days and I'll give you the body you've always wanted!" This may be true for some people, but not for the majority of people looking to lose weight. She does stress the eating program, which again is meant to teach you how to eat better over the long haul.

My Solution: Ignore the parts of it that are hurtful! I don't need fixing. I'm a person, not a clock. I can't listen to her saying I'll be fixed in 21 days without wanting to cry or throw-up, or both, so I just take it with a grain of salt. I consider that she's not considering me when she says that. That she's not being intentionally insensitive. I consider that I'm not the ideal user of this program, but that I find value in it anyway. It's nothing personal even when it feels that way and, at times, she says things that're helpful, such as "If you're tired of starting over, stop quitting." That certainly does apply to me.

Problem #2: The Workouts

No matter what they say, this program's workout are not for people of every fitness level. If you've never worked out a day in your life and you've somehow managed to have only 10 lbs to lose, then on this program you're a beginner. If you happen to be quite heavy and in bad shape, even if you've done some workouts before, you are not a beginner on this program. The workouts are not low impact enough for people who need to lose a substantial amount of weight, even with the modifiers.

Working out 7 days a week is also not right for everyone. In fact, most fitness experts suggest you give your body a day or so between workouts to avoid injury. Trying to do the workouts every day got me just that, an injury. I managed a muscle strain in my left thigh and a groin pull on the right. I'm actually still sore from trying an exercise on the first day that was way, way outside my fitness level, even with modifiers.

My Solution: Don't do all of the 21 Day Fix workouts. This may not work for everyone, but it has to work for me because I can't, at my current fitness level, do many of the Fix workouts. Instead, I'll substitute some hearty, lower-impact workouts that are good without the debilitating-can't-walk-want-to-die-type-pain. Leslie Sansone, for example, does great walking workouts that're actually quite a good workout. That said, I still plan to do the Upper Fix workout every two days because it rocks and wasn't so difficult that I couldn't get through it (for the most part). I'll also be doing a lower-impact yoga once a week to improve my strength and balance as the Fix Yoga moves to fast for me to keep up, especially since I don't know the moves.

Problem #3: The Eating Plan

This comes down to one thing: If you don't do the workouts every single day then you're eating too much and won't lose weight. Because I'm quite heavy they have me eating the most calories allowed, approx. 2,100-2,300 per day. This is a LOT of calories when you're trying to lose weight. In fact, this is more maintenance than weight loss. Since I didn't do the exercises every day, and when I did often didn't make it through the whole workout, I haven't lost a single solitary pound or inch.

All in all, the food plan is okay, though it's restrictive. For example, you can only have one glass of milk three times a week. There's almost no dairy in this diet. You can have apples, but apple sauce isn't on the list. You also can't have any salt or condiments, except things like mustard and vinegar. No mayo of any type, not even olive oil mayo, and no ketchup. They have a few really tasty seasoning mixes, but they aren't appropriate for foods like eggs. So, you can eat sandwiches but they're dry, or eggs without seasoning.

The best thing about the eating program, though, is that you don't have to measure anything. You just eat off the list and use the containers. No tracking my food down to the calorie. Which is awesome, because that's what makes a lot of other diets so cumbersome. It's meant to help you learn portion sizes and, in that regard, is really helpful.

My Solution: Keep using the containers, but change the eating category. The program includes 4 categories, each with a calorie range. Since I won't be doing all of the fix workouts, I'll be modifying down so that rather than eating 2,100-2,300 calories per day, I'm eating 1,500-1,800 calories per day. And I'll be making some small modifications to including at least one 8 oz. glass of skim milk per day. Finally, I'm going to allow myself some condiments, in small amounts, such as reduced-fat olive oil mayo and a tiny bit of sea salt. Bland food isn't worth eating.

The Small Things & Progress:

Doing this for a week, I've seen a lot of small things that I need to change. My sleeping habits are erratic and problematic. I don't drink nearly enough water. In order for me to go forward, I'm going to need to work on changing these small things that're having a big influence on my progress.

And I won't lie, because I have nothing to lose (or gain, since I'm not selling you anything here), I don't know if this is sustainable. I love food too much. I crave rich, sweet, and often salty foods. All I can do at this point is try. I will say, though, that I think the Shakeology is helping me beat the cravings. I hadn't really struggled at all this week until yesterday (Friday night) when I really, really wanted to eat everything I'm not allowed to eat. I wanted mac & cheese and cookies, and I wanted a milkshake. I actually went to bed early to escape the cravings because they were so strong.

Today, I feel terrible, but maybe tomorrow could be better. Right now I feel like giving up but I won't, especially since I've not laid out a plan to make the sort of changes that will make me better. I'll write again next week and let you know how it went. Until then, wish me luck. I really need to make change in my life.

21-Day Fix & Shakeology

I've been hearing a lot about the 21-Day Fix program and Shakeology, particularly from my little Sister, Candi, who has been doing the program for about the last month and a half. Since she's had pretty amazing success, I decided to give it a try. I ordered last week and got my kit today--my Shakeology should be here tomorrow.

Now that I have it, though, I'm both thrilled and nervous to get started. Particularly so because this program requires that you work out 7 days a week for 3 weeks (each cycle is 21 days). My sister has had success only working out every other day or so, but I'm going to give the 7-day workout cycle a try. What's the worst that can happen? I can't do it? Considering how much I have to lose and the terrible shape I'm in, there's a very good likelihood that'll be the case.

Without the workouts, though, the program doesn't really work. Especially because they have me on a 2,100 -  2,300 calorie a day diet (which is a LOT of food). That's too many calories for someone who isn't working out. Fortunately, the program comes with 7 different workouts so it doesn't get boring and so that you're able to work your whole body. Some will come easier than others, I'm sure.

What I really liked about this program, though, is that there's really no calorie counting on a day to day basis. You calculate what range you're in using a very easy formula and the booklet tells you how many of each color container you can have per day based on your bracket. Then, you can eat anything on the approved list of foods for each color/food group as long as it fits into the container.

Because I'm in the highest bracket, I can have six green (veggies), four purple (fruit), six red (protein), four yellow (carbs), one blue (healthy fats & cheese) and one orange (seeds & oils), and 6 tsp of healthy oils and nut butters per day.

I'm going to repeat what I said earlier because it's really important at this point: This is a lot of food!

In fact, it's almost too much. I've never seen a diet plan that expects you to eat so much. In order to get things straight I decided I would make a meal plan and a menu, which ended up taking me all evening because I can't quite puzzle together how I'm supposed to eat SIX proteins per day, let alone six teaspoons of oils and nut butters. Here's what my week one menu looks like:

Click to see it larger

Okay, so. I have no idea if I've done this correctly, but there it is. I've color coded it to correspond with the containers to make things easier on me. It's three meals and two sizable snacks per day. I'm literally going to have to start eating at 8 o'clock in the morning in order to get all this food down and I'm still not sure how you fit in breakfast and a snack before lunch without getting too much too quickly.

I'm actually considering going down one bracket during week two if this proves to be too much food. The only thing stopping me from doing it now is that under-eating and working out a lot is a big problem. Not enough nutrients for my current weight will stunt my progress, which will already suffer from my 35 year olds metabolism.

The only issues I've run into so far (other than trying to figure out how I'm going to eat so much) are those pertaining to what foods I can actually eat. The booklet allows for oranges, but what about mandarin oranges? It allows for apples, but what about applesauce? It allows for olive oil, but what about olive oil mayo? I struck the mandarin oranges and included the applesauce, which I'm hoping will be okay. I can't find answers to those questions one way or the other.

I start the plan on Monday, which gives me the weekend to grocery shop and prepare. I'm really hoping this program works and I shed some pounds and learn better eating habits/portion control. I really need this and can't seem to do it on my own, unguided. It's going to take much more than 21 days to reach my weight loss goals, but for now I'd be happy with small goals. Maybe 7 - 10 lbs over the 21 days. When I get to the end of each 21 day cycle, I plan to take a few days off to recharge before starting the next, though I read somewhere that some people take up to a week. We'll see what happens when I get to the end. That seems like forever from now.

Anyway, wish me luck as I get started. I'm definitely going to need it!

Don't Host with HostGator

Let me preface this by saying that I hosted multiple WordPress installations with HostGator for about six years and that this review is based on my experience only. I've only just recently cancelled and want to share my experience so others looking for a reliable host have an honest idea what they might be getting into with HostGator.

In the beginning:

HostGator was awesome and I was extremely happy with their service. They were helpful in transferring my domain and website that had formerly been with StartLogic (horrible, don't get involved with them either). Hosting with HostGator became so simple and so passive I hardly thought about it. Even billing was reasonable and hassle free. Great.

For years it was like this. When I had a problem they were prompt in fixing it and everything was great. At one point my entire site disappeared for no apparent reason and they were able to recover the entire thing. It had been an error on their end, anyway, which they readily acknowledged. Again, great.

But then, downtime:

When my WordPress installation began including JetPack, which now includes site monitoring, I began to notice a problem. Not with WP or JP, but with HostGator and site uptime--I hadn't been closely monitoring it before this, though my site seemed to be up most of the time. I was constantly getting emails from JetPack informing me my site was down. It happened so much, it became unbearably annoying (especially since JetPack also emails when the site is back up). I wasn't getting anywhere near the 99.9% uptime they were promising. Considering I was paying about $11 per month, I wasn't happy that I they weren't holding up their end of the bargain.

When contacted about this they try to blame everything but their system. If you're running WordPress they'll blame your plug-ins, even though they've never been a problem before. Their unwillingness to take responsibility for their system's failures is not only frustrating, it's dishonest.

Billing:

At first my hosting was less than $5 to host one site. Then I upgraded to unlimited hosting for about $8.95 per month. Over time the cost has slowly crept up. They notified me by email that they would begin charging me tax, then wanted me to cancel my PayPal subscription and re-subscribe for the new amount which is a pain in the neck.

Suddenly, it was no longer passive and easy. It became something I had to worry about, because after this their billing went down the tubes. On several occasions they billed me twice in a month, on others they said they couldn't process my billing even though nothing had changed with my billing information. In the several years since the cost went up it hasn't ever gone back to being simple.

Customer Service:

This is my number one problem with HostGator. Their customer service was amazing. They connected fast, stayed on the line until your issue was resolved, were pleasant, spoke clearly, got back to you fast, and seemed knowledgeable. All areas of their chat support were like this. Billing and technical support especially so. This is what I loved most about them.

Sometime over the last six years, though, their customer service has tanked. It often takes 15 minutes to be connected with a rude person who can't actually resolve your issue--they just want to get rid of you so they can move on to the next person in the queue. This problem becomes much worse when you try to cancel. So, the issue you contacted them about doesn't get resolved and you've just wasted 20 minutes talking to them about it.

The bottom line, their customer service is terrible.

Finally, cancellation:

Remember way back when AOL was a thing and trying to cancel them was almost impossible? That's what it has been like for me trying to cancel with HostGator. Apparently, the only way to cancel is to fill out a form. I filled it out, twice, but got no confirmation and today they tried to bill me for hosting. When I contacted billing they very rudely told me to fill out the form (again, I had done so twice before) and then disconnected our chat while I was still typing. Since I can see when they're typing, I know they can see me doing likewise.

Per their instructions I tried to fill out the form again, but like before I kept being kicked out of the system. I tried it twice more, still kicked. Then I tried it with Internet Explorer which worked. This really ticked me off. First, what kind of internet hosting business isn't compatible with Chrome? Next, if their customer service/billing chat support had spent just a little more time trying to resolve my issue and find out why I had filled the form out twice and it hadn't worked, I wouldn't have wasted so much time trying again (which is what he told me to do). The only advice he gave me was to clear my internet cache.

If their system isn't compatible with Chrome, this is something their support people should tell customers who're having trouble with their system and forms. But, they didn't which caused me to waste my time.

The bottom line:

There was a time when I would have, and did, emphatically suggest HostGator to every person who would listen. They had great support and their system was user-friendly. But, I cannot suggest them anymore. In fact, I suggest that if you're looking for hosting you look into the sites suggested by WordPress. Avoid HostGator, who brings in customers by offering them good deals. In my opinion and though my experience, however, no deal is good enough to make up for the bad experience you'll have after you've signed up.

Superstition ain't the way...

I had planned to write yesterday, while it was still Friday the 13th, but by the time I got around to it all I wanted to do was go to bed. Sleep won out over blogging, and even though I was exhausted I had trouble sleeping. As I lay in my bed, cuddled up with my dogs, it seemed like I heard every single little sound. The house settling, little noises outside, the people and animals moving around on the other side of the fence, the rhythmic chirping of insects. I turned over and over, my eyes watered from exhaustion, but sleep wouldn't come.

For a long time, I had a very hard time sleeping when I was home alone. It's not that I'm afraid of the dark, I'm certainly not. In fact, I love the night time, how quite and still it is. I love being awake when almost everyone else is sleeping. I love the feel of the cool, or cooling, moist air. But there's something about sleeping when home alone that sort of freaks me out. There's no safeguard, no one to watch over you while you sleep and keep you safe. If someone wants to break into your house and harm you, there's no one there to stop them or to help you fight them off. 

In order to come to terms with this, I've told myself that it doesn't matter. That if someone were to break in here, they would do it whether I was alone or not, whether I was asleep or awake. That I can't worry about things I can't control. It's helped, thank God, because I can't stay awake all night. I have a job, at least 9 months a year. Also, unlike Matt, I need sleep and I need to see the sun because when I don't my depression deepens. That means sleeping at night.

So as I lay trying to go to sleep it dawned on me that it was likely Friday the 13th's fault I couldn't rest. Normally, I eagerly wait for this particular holiday and am let down by how uneventful it is. Obviously, I'm happy that nothing terrible happened, but it seems like there should be more to Friday the 13th than there is. There's so much build up, so much hype, the actual day is such a letdown. I'm not sure why I feel like this, but there you have it. Still, as let down as I am by the day itself, it turns out that despite my cynicism I'm somewhat superstitious and Friday the 13th heightens my fears.

It's something I hadn't even really thought about or realized consciously until yesterday while Skyping with my mom. The 13th and the fact that it coincided with the honey moon (a moon that happens every year, but rarely corresponds with Friday the 13th) came up. Oh, and it turns out the honey moon was on the morning of Friday the 13th for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, not during the evening, so I missed it--not to happy about that! Anyway, I started to jokingly discount superstition and told Matt not to walk under any ladders or cross any black cats at work that night, when I realized that it maybe wasn't all that funny, except maybe that there might be black cats anywhere near his workplace. That I'm actually, strangely a bit superstitious. It seems ludicrous that I should be, but it seems that as I get older this issue is getting worse.

Take for instance my ritual when Matt goes to work. As he's walking out the door I kiss him, tell him I love him, and to drive safe. On days I haven't done all those things, in that order, I've felt incredibly uncertain that he would arrive to work safe. Clearly, that's remarkably stupid. I can't control what happens to him between here and there, and it's only five miles, but I fear the repercussions of not performing the small ritual anyway. It's not the only one, but it's a pretty clear example of my somewhat strange superstitions--or maybe it's just OCD? Why can't I just fear walking under ladders, opening umbrellas inside, crossing black cats or something? That would at least be normal!

The sleep issue will clear itself up now that the "holiday" has passed, I'm sure. I just hope I don't grow any more superstitious because I can hardly handle anxiety that makes sense, without having more anxiety that makes none. I literally feel (irrational) fear when Matt leaves for work and I don't get do my little ritual, which is alleviated only by him texting me to tell me he got there safely. Thank God he's willing to participate in this little song and dance by texting me, otherwise I'd got crazier than I already am being eaten up with anxiety. Superstition sucks, but I'm certainly never going to look at Friday the 13th the same way again. Clearly, Stevie Wonder was onto something when he said Superstition ain't the way--and yes, I know, the video below is Phillip Phillips, I like his version better than the original. ^.^