Party like it’s 1989

Eric had his 30th high school reunion the first weekend of August. And yeah, we actually left our house to attend, Eric because he was interested in catching up with classmates and me because we have a pact that we never face a social situation alone and I had to.

And it was fine. I mean, it was loud and there were people there, but those people were genuinely excited to see their classmates. Maybe it’s because everyone is pushing 50 and no longer cares about coming off as cool. Perspective!

I benefited from that perspective, too. Social situations make me anxious, and social situations involving the people I went to high school with (class of 1990!) put me back in the mental and emotional space I occupied during those years. Which isn’t pleasant on any level because: Angst and chaos and high school is terrible.

Well, it turns out I’m so far removed from that high school mentality that the angst and chaos never presented — and we even had fun. Eric enjoyed the first night so much that we were out until 11:30 p.m. (two hours past our bedtime!); the second night was more formal and we were outta there by 9:30, but mostly because Eric felt he’d talked to everyone he’d wanted to.

There was talk of kids in high school and parents with health issues and navigating both at the same time. About starting “second phases” of life with new partners. About jobs and retirement. About feeling a certain way and being shocked when you look in the mirror and are confronted with your age. There was a little reminiscing about the old days, I guess, but what I gleaned from the conversations is that people are firmly in the now. That there are bigger fish to fry than whether or not someone was popular.

I don’t know, I found that comforting. Maybe my 30th next year won’t be so terrible after all.

Good things

I am beyond heartbroken and stressed and sad and upset and angry and just … things this week in the States have been rough. I can’t stand the news, I can’t stand social media, I can’t take any more negativity.

I just can’t. But the hits just keep on coming.

So today we’re going to talk about good things. Not because things are good — they aren’t. But to remind ourselves that despite all that, there is light. Even if we have to dig really deep to find it.

So here are a few of my good things, in no particular order. And in the comments, I’d like to see yours.

  • This plant
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Mind Flayer at work?

I wrote a story about a local fundraising effort for fistula repair in Uganda, and the woman behind the fundraiser gave me this plant as a thank you. Thank yous are NOT necessary — I’m a reporter, I reported! — but I appreciated the thought and the kindness behind the gift. Abby has claimed it, and I’m also happy about that because plants bring her a lot of joy, and this one will remind her of me when she’s at school. Plus it’s just freaking cool — that droopy flower growth has been two months in the making. Awesome.

  • My grandma
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Grandma Hollywood

Grandma is 95. She came to live by us this past May. She’s seen a lot, she’s done a lot, she has great stories and has had great heartbreak, but she just keeps going. I love being able to stop by and see her. I love hearing her stories and learning about some of the genetic quirks that make me a Trisha (panic attacks, check!). I love that she’s always excited to get a copy of the newspaper and that she reads my articles first. I love how she proudly tells everyone in the halls, “This is my granddaughter, Trisha.” Grandma kicks ass, you guys, and she’s right down the road. I haven’t had relatives closer than 2 hours away since I was 9. This time with Grammie is such a gift.

  •  My laptop
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Freida on the deck — that’s my parents’ 1970s card table she’s resting on.

Freida, born of anger and fire, has proven to be a beacon of peace and calm. Wow, that sounds dramatic. Here’s her origin story: I purchased this ol’ girl from an office supply store about a year and a half ago because I wanted the freedom to get out of my office and write, say, in a coffee shop. (Freida is derived from freedom. I wish I’d have been clever enough to come up with that, but it was Eric.) Freida and I have written in those coffee shops, on park benches, on the deck, in my parents’ backyard and in hospital waiting rooms. I lug her around every day in my backpack and, while she’s heavy and clunky, she’s worth it. Freida gets me out of the office, but more than that, she gives me the gift of possibility.

  • Coffee

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I made my 57,000th batch of iced coffee Monday night (method HERE — although now I use a gallon of water, 1/4 pound of ground coffee and let that sit upwards of 12 hours) and was reminded that there is such simple pleasure in grabbing a cup, filling it with ice and cold coffee, topping that mother off with lots of half and half, and heading to the deck to read or write. I don’t have a lot of food pleasures because my stomach is a jerk, but I do have coffee. Thanks, magic beans!

  • All my kids under one roof
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An old photo, but a good photo. And very indicative of their personalities.

It seems like just yesterday that Abby came home from college for summer vacation, and now we’re looking at roughly one more week with her here before taking her back. Johanna is pretty sure we can just lock the door and she’ll have to stay. Seems like a solid plan. I’ll report back on how that works. Although actually … we are in a good place. It’s exciting to see both girls spreading their wings and figuring out where they want to go. I mean, yeah, I would like to go back to when they were younger and I didn’t have to rely on apps to communicate, but I don’t know if I would wish for that because … well. You can’t stunt them, right? Isn’t this what we’ve been working towards? Those wings? Well, whatever, we’ve had a great summer and I have thoroughly enjoyed having both girls under my roof. They’re fantastic. And yes, I am biased, why do you ask?

All right, my lovely internet friends: Your turn.

P.S. Happy birthday, Shannon! Your list is coming …

Once upon a time …

… There was a Golden Retriever named Moose. He was visiting from San Francisco with his caregivers. They all happened into a local store where Abby was working. She saw him and immediately started swooning. Moose took all that attention in stride. Which is to say, he went to sleep.

Moose

“What a good boy!” Abby said, snapping a picture for her social media accounts.

“You want to watch him tomorrow while we go on a bike ride?” said Caregiver One, kind of joking.

“Hell yes,” said Abby, not joking.

So Moose came the next morning for a day with the Walkers while his caregivers went on a bike ride. He took a walk with Eric and found a Good Stick. He tried to chase kittens, but they all got wise after the first three seconds and disappeared. Johanna gave him plenty of pets. Abby gave him treats and love — and so did her friends, who came to visit so they could see him, too. Even Trisha, a solid cat person, was enchanted by this big floppy floofy Good Boy, who cuddled up next to her with a sigh and took a snooze. And that’s how Moose came to be an honorary Walker for a day.

The end.

‘New Year’ resolutions

Goodbye, July. Hello, New Year!

I found out the afternoon before my scheduled birthday massage that it was canceled. The therapist was dealing with a life-and-death situation with a family member and I understood her need to cancel. I’d have done the same.

I have done the same. Looking at you, April.

But I woke up feeling vaguely depressed. As I wrote in my journal (and I’m rather proud of myself for making the connection):

I think my issue with Plan A becoming Plan X and the difficulty I have in retrenching is because I’ve already visualized it all in my head — how it all went. So my mind is expecting THAT and suddenly, the narrative has changed. And that is NOT what I’ve visualized.

And that, internet friends, brings us to My Goal For 47: Learning how to retrench quickly when life throws me a curveball, whether a mild inconvenience or total restructure of the day’s events.

I tend to treat them both the same way: Like it’s life and death. Which is idiotic, I know this, and yet, here we are. My gut is all like, Run from the cheetah! even though my mind is all, Dude, there ISN’T a cheetah, calm down.

I can’t calm down. Also, I am rather fond of cheetahs.

Anyway, I have a feeling my inability to recover is tied to the scarcity mindset, that we have to get ours first because we deserve it and we don’t want to be left behind or forgotten.

Let’s face it, it’s fear that is behind my reaction — I haven’t had time to process this Plan X and that makes me anxious. I’m 99 percent sure I’m coming out the loser on this new scenario and if I take long enough to accept it, maybe I can get it back to my original vision.

So, logically, what I need to do is reframe the negative thought loop:

Who can I help? What can I learn today? Where in my life do I need extra attention and/or grace? When am I at my best and worst? Why am I feeling this emotion and/or thinking this thought? How can I be a light?

It will take time to retrain myself and my gut response. But I think I can do it. I’ve got all year.

A month-long celebration

I have always loved the month of July.

It’s my birthday month and, even though the thrill of birthdays ceased long ago, I still just really love everything about it: Summertime weather, more and more fresh fruit and vegetables at the farmers’ market, the girls are out of school, and life is more relaxed.

I love relaxed!

This year wasn’t a milestone birthday or anything (47), but I had the ingenuity in June to fill my July calendar with all of my favorite things: I scheduled two reflexology appointments, two acupuncture appointments, got my hair cut and thinned and made a massage appointment for my actual birthday. (That ended up getting canceled because the therapist had a very understandable family emergency. It’s been 17 years since my last massage, so I look forward to rescheduling.)

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Abby and me at birthday dinner.

I had coffee dates, I read on the deck as much as possible, I took a few walks with Eric, I made sure I took lunch breaks and tried my best not to let any work stresses beyond my control ruin my outlook. My sister-in-law was in town a few days before my birthday, and the greater group of my in-laws had a barbecue party for me, which was adorable and very sweet. My parents also had us over for dinner and entertainment the day after — Mom is in charge of dinner, Dad entertainment, and that’s always scratch-its. It’s hilarious and awesome and we tend to lose. The day of my birthday included a coffee shop stop, Friday lunch with both my girls, reading on the deck and a dinner of my choosing — which was barbecued chicken and salad, because our oven is still broken (that is another post for another time). Not actually my choice, but you know what? We were all together on the deck and I had a lovely time.

Tangent: My birthday was on the coffee shop calendar, which was AWESOME. I share it with a barista there, who was a little more excited for the day to come — she turned 21. Also, I got four presents this year, and two of them were coffee shop gift cards. I have never felt so understood.

Anyway, it occurs to me that maybe I’ve been feeling so well this month because I have been taking such good care of myself. I’ve felt relaxed and happy, and every day has been a celebration, even if all I did was sit on the deck after work with my Kindle. While I can’t continue with this level of self-care appointments — too expensive, not covered by insurance — I can take the lesson with me into August: Giving yourself a break and doing something that makes you happy goes a long way towards greater general health.

Tangent No. 2: Abby turned 20 on Saturday, and I would like to take this opportunity, AGAIN, to mention that she was due on my birthday but was eight days late. I’m still mad about that. She remains unapologetic.

In which I try a shampoo bar

One of my consistent inconsistencies, as Eric calls them, is my willingness to try something new based on its weirdness factor. I like routine, I’m happy with my established likes and dislikes, I don’t need to go chasing the next big thing. Um, except when I do.

While in Banff last month, we happened into the Rocky Mountain Soap Company shop. Never heard of it, but this place was right up my alley — minimally packaged soaps of all description that weren’t overpowering (I kind of hate smells. Also, there were plenty of packaged items, but I wasn’t in the market for lotion).

As I looked around the shop for the lavender bar that had been supplied at the condo we were staying at — I wanted to get a couple of gifts — I spotted a rosemary shampoo bar.

You know, I’ve always wanted to try a shampoo bar. Back during my Simple Year/zero waste year, I thought a shampoo bar would be the answer to all my packaging problems. I was following a couple of zero waste boards at the time, and everyone seemed quite excited about their own shampoo bars. But, living in a small town with limited options, I never did find one.

And here was whole stack!

So I bought one. I talked to one of the shopkeepers and she suggested cutting it into pieces so I wouldn’t have an entire bar to contend with in the shower AND because it would help on the lather front. I took note and gleefully made my purchases.

Here’s what I didn’t think about before actually hopping into the shower with a shampoo bar: I have thick hair. We’re talking enough hair for three people, and I wish that was hyperbole, but it’s the truth. Ask the darling woman who cuts and thins it every three months so I can keep this mop under control. I lathered my piece of shampoo bar — wow, very nice lather! — and then … tried to figure out how to translate that to my entire head. I concentrated on my scalp. I tried my best. And overall, my hair did feel clean. It just that it did not feel like my hair. The texture was off.

I was ready to try again. And again.

By the third try, I decided that what I really needed to do was lather up in my hands AND rub the bar all over my scalp for maximum suds. And that was the best hair wash I’d had up to that point. But while my hair definitely felt and looked clean, the texture was still off.

The next time I washed my hair, I used Eric’s packaged shampoo and conditioner. And breathed a sign of relief. And then I sat down to write a post about my shampoo bar failures.

But as I was writing, it occurred to me that there was a possibility it wasn’t the bar, but my lack of experience / knowledge of how to properly use one. I did a quick search and found the following advice:

Rub the bar up and down your hair to work up a lather, rinse and repeat — and then rinse and repeat again for a total of three times, followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse.

Bonus weird round! I was on it!

So that’s what I did. I rubbed the bar on my hair in sections, and lo and behold, I got an amazing lather that translated quite nicely to my scalp. I repeated the process until I’d washed my hair a total of three times. By the third time, I felt like I had really gotten somewhere with the bar — my head felt clean.

Then it was time for the apple cider vinegar rinse. I have a squirt-type bottle I use for the bulk bins (bulk jugs, I guess) at the grocery store, so I filled that with a little ACV, topped it off with water (um, maybe a cup total?) and rinsed my hair all over with that. I used the whole thing because why the heck not? The site said that the ACV helps restore the pH balance. I could tell it worked right away as I was rinsing it out. (Um, wow, that hurts when it gets in your eyeballs.) I could tell it worked as I brushed my hair. I could tell it worked as I watched it dry.

My hair felt soft! It was manageable! There was a slight apple smell from the vinegar, but I didn’t mind. It’s the manufactured smells that make me feel slightly ill.

I will be darned. I guess I’m a fan after all. Good thing this Canadian company does mail order. 😉

That ended up being a really good stop.

A not so new normal

I was at acupuncture earlier this month, updating my provider on our vacation, how well I’d done and how proud I was for not only surviving, but surviving well. And she was like, Of course you did well. That’s the normal you’ve worked hard to achieve. It’s only your mind that thinks it’s five years ago, when that was not your normal.

I sat there, completely flabbergasted. She was right — I have been feeling well. I have worked hard to get here — it’s been 12 years in the making, actually. That’s when I decided, on my 35th birthday, that something had to change. Um, because I couldn’t get up off the couch and I had a 2-year-old and an 8-year-old who needed me.

All the head meds, all the reflexology and acupuncture, all the doctor’s visits and learning how to eat for my gut, as well as how to manage my anxiety — that’s all paid off. And the truth is I’ve been feeling well for a while now. Setbacks have come when I tweak my diet or life inevitably throws me a curve ball. But overall … I am well.

I am well. I can’t wrap my mind around that fact. I need to flip my thinking so that I look at my life from today’s vantage point and not c. 2007, afraid of what could happen on the gut and anxiety fronts, expecting the worst day in and day out because that was just my reality.

But how do I flip the switch in my mind so I expect to feel well vs. always waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the next IBS attack, for the next panic attack?

Hell if I know.

Well, maybe I do: Maybe, it’s like any habit I have attempted to form, when I make a conscious effort to reframe my routine — and eventually, it does become routine. Maybe it’s as easy as setting the intention each morning to be well. To recognize that I am well each night before I go to bed.

(That seems too easy, really, but I’m willing to give it a go.)

I don’t know, this is interesting to me because I am not a naturally optimistic person (nor am I a pessimist — I’m just a realist who expects the worst 😉 ). I like thinking about reality vs. perception, what’s really true and what I think is true. And I want to be well. I’m enchanted by the idea that I could expect to be well, all the time.

How different my outlook will be if I can master my thoughts.