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.

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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.)

birthday blog

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.

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.

Morning routine, summertime edition

I am a creature of habit, as I’ve often proclaimed. It’s an understatement to use those words because it’s more like I’m deeply entrenched in the day to day routines I’ve established and any varying of those routines sends me into a spin, from which it takes me a ridiculously long time to recover.

I’ve gotten into a routine this summer of waking up early (sometimes as early as 5:30, although it’s generally more like 6:15, even on weekends. Um, not on purpose. I think it’s all the light), making my coffee and heading to the porch with my backpack of treasurers, aka Freida the laptop and my journals and pens. I may or may not do a guided meditation or breathing exercise a la the Tide app. And then I just write.

Bean July 17.jpg

Bean is also a fan of the porch.

It’s nice outside in the cool morning air, listening to the birds and the orchard noises and even the traffic. Seeing what Mount Hood looks like that particular day, watching the cats tumble around and vent excess energy by racing halfway up the oak trees. Sorting through the events of the previous day and recognizing any areas that might need a little extra attention on my part, whether that’s because it gives me something new to think about or because I need a little (or a lot of) grace.

After porch time, I get ready for my day and head to work feeling ready to face whatever comes. Which sounds cheesy, I know this, but when I race out the door and straight into work — a job that’s chaotic enough — I feel out of sorts. Centering myself in the morning means I am more apt to stay calm the rest of the day.

When you live with anxiety, that’s huge.

I can take this time because it doesn’t really matter when I head in for work — journalist hours are whatever the story requires — and I only have my schedule to contend with in the summer. And my kids are older and require less attention. I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep it up when school starts up again and the weather changes. But I’m not worrying about that right now.

I’m just out here enjoying my coffee.

Trisha Walker and the Case of the Murdering Oven

Abby has had a lot of college friends visit lately, which has been a lot of fun. We’ve heard about these kids often, and it’s nice to put faces to names or get to know them a little better.

I have, uh, kind of stopped cooking — I’d say this was a summer thing, but really it’s a life thing. I do a big batch of something or other on Sunday and then we just pick at it all week. But with actual kids coming to visit, we’ve been trying to cook actual meals. Which my own kids seem to appreciate.

Mt hood blog

Our visitors especially like our view of Mount Hood. She is a beauty. On this side, anyway.

So this fun story begins last Sunday: Eric is barbecuing chicken and ribs on the grill and I’ve got sweet potatoes, potatoes and a chicken breast in the oven. I’ve got about 10 minutes left on the timer. Johanna and I are hanging out in the living room (this is probably a good time to tell you our kitchen, dining room and living room are one space) when all of a sudden, we smell something … off.

We live in orchard country and farmers are burning branches affected by fire blight, so my first thought was that THAT was what I was smelling. But no, the air is clear. I go into the kitchen and check my food. It’s close. I close the oven door and go back to the word game on my phone.

But the smell just gets worse. I head back to the oven and realize in the short time I’d been gone, everything has started to burn. The oven has gone from 350 degrees to supernova. We’ve been watching Stranger Things so my first thought was that my glass oven dish was melting … but it turns out that it wasn’t that hot. 😉 Ah well. It was an exciting 20 seconds thinking I was about to be murdered, anyway.

Eric finally had to flip a breaker because the oven would NOT turn off, regardless of what buttons we pushed. It just kept getting hotter and smellier. We did a little test later on that evening when the oven had completely cooled by flipping the breaker back on, and lo and behold, the oven started to heat again. Rapidly. There was even steam coming from the vent, so clearly all facts point to this sucker being haunted.

I spent all last week without an oven, which also means I spent all last week without a stove. I make my coffee every morning via tea pot and a pour over cone, so this hurt a little, until I figured out I could just microwave the water (think outside the box, TW!) and my routine wouldn’t even miss a beat. Tangent: I kind of prefer this method now because A) it’s faster and 2) I can measure the exact amount of water I need so there’s no waste.

Our oven is 16 years old and I never liked it anyway, so our first thought was replacement. Then Eric did some research and noticed that, because we need a downdraft vent (we have it in the middle of an island so there’s no room for a hood vent), the cost of replacement would be $3,000. Hilarious. Repairperson it is!

Repairperson came Friday and came to the quick conclusion that something in the clock interface zapped out and that’s what regulates the oven’s on/off feature, as well as heat. Estimated cost of part and time: $500. Free: A rant about new downdraft vent ovens and how the companies have changed the hookup mechanisms so repair people everywhere hate them. “Those are the professionals,” Eric pointed out. “Now imagine me trying to hook that thing up.” HA HA HA oh, I am.

The moral of this story is that the repairperson is calling this week to give us a final estimate on parts and time, but regardless, if it’s under $3,000, we’ll go that route. Probably more environmentally-friendly than tossing it in the landfill. I’m telling myself that to stave off disappointment.

What I’ve learned from this ordeal is that my crockpot is a lifesaver and so is the grill. That I can live without the stove even if it’s uncomfortable (no weekend eggs, no cooked rice to supplement my diet of meat and sweet potatoes). But I’ve also realized that this is a kitchen appliance that I take for granted — I was at the grocery store on Saturday checking out potential new items I could add to my diet (that’s another post for another time), only to realize I needed a stove or oven for that.

Bummer.

But really, if your oven is going to try to murder you, summer is a good time for it: Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables that we eat raw, lots of grilling anyway. I feel like I need to come up with a better concluding paragraph than this, but the words are telling me they’re done, so.