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.Β 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 πŸ˜‰ ). 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.

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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. πŸ˜‰ 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.

33 things for Thursday

  1. Just kidding. I can’t come up with 33 things. I just think it’s funny when I run across blog posts with titles such as “457 must haves for your minimalist kitchen!” What does that even mean? How do they come up with those random numbers? I’ll tell you how I came up with 33: Alliteration.
  2. I am writing this from my porch, looking at a partially obstructed Mount Hood. Because of clouds. It’s humid, which is weird for the Pacific Northwest. Just thought you should know that.
  3. I have seen three deer in the past week visit our yard. I haven’t seen three deer in all 16 years we’ve lived here, so I wonder what’s up. Eric is afraid they’ll find our blueberry bushes, but so far they’re oblivious. The kittens hunker down when the deer come through to see if anything sketchy is going to go down. They clearly have no plan of attack, but in their defense, neither do the deer.
  4. Lists are fun! I should do this more often.
  5. I probably won’t.
  6. I have been waiting, literally, since December to read “The Good Neighbor” by Maxwell King, a biography on Mr. Rogers, via the eLibrary on my Kindle. I watched Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood as a kid and while it wasn’t one of my favorite shows (I was more of an “Electric Company” kind of girl), I didn’t mind it, either. Anyway, the writing is so repetitive and boring that I’m having a hard time getting into it. I’m about half-way done and would have ditched by now if it wasn’t about Mr. Rogers. I feel like I owe it to ol’ Fred to keep plodding along.
  7. This is really too bad because I’ve been in a reading slump. I haven’t been in the mood for the past couple of months and haven’t had anything to read anyway. But I am ready to get back into the game, especially since this is prime reading on the deck season. Perhaps the issue is that I don’t like nonfiction as much as I like fiction. That’s on me.
  8. But! I just checked out “Call the Midwife” (also on my Kindle; I prefer it to real books) and have high hopes for its entertainment value. I’ve never seen the TV show, but then again, I’m not that into TV.
  9. We’re watching “Stranger Things III” on Netflix. Which is TV, you are correct. Eric is not letting us binge watch so we’re only on, like, episode five. I don’t know, he’s trying to teach us patience or something.
  10. The end, I guess.

Let’s hear it for small revolutions

I’ve mentioned more than a few times about how I do our grocery shopping once a week — on Saturday mornings, generally — and that, by Friday, the cupboards are pretty bare.

And sometimes even by Wednesday, as was the case last week.

I was finishing up a book when I caught wind of some grumblings in the kitchen. My family was bemoaning the fact that there was little in the house they could pack for lunch the next day. There were even some complaints over the sorry state of that night’s dinner (random crap in a tortilla. I mean, really, they could do a lot worse).

So I pointed out the obvious: That, aside from Johanna (who wasn’t complaining, that’s why she’s my favorite), everyone in our household not only has a vehicle, but a job. Which means that any one of us can go grocery shopping at any time. That waiting for me to get around to it on Saturday wasn’t necessary.

Abby and Eric just looked at me. I could see the wheels turning. It almost made me laugh.

First, they apologized. I was like, seriously, no sweat, I’m just reminding you that you have options. (Truth. I wasn’t worried; my dinner had been fine.) And Abby was all, you know what? You’re absolutely right, which kind of surprised me but also was a lovely thing to hear. Vindication! I went back to my book and Eric and Abby started making a plan.

Abby will be living off campus next school year with some friends and she keeps talking about learning to cook — so actually, maybe that helped my case. She’s been in the mood for taco soup and, as our weather went from the pleasant 80s to the rather chilly 50s in the span of a day and a half, she decided that was what was going on the menu Thursday night.

They found a recipe. They made a list. Eric went shopping after work (Abby was going to do it, but Eric ended up having more time than he expected, so he made the trip). While I lounged around, they made dinner. I had to save the day when it came to taco seasoning and home-canned tomatoes, but for the most part, everyone left me alone.

It was awesome.

They ended up with a big pot of soup. Johanna has textural issues (she refuses to eat cooked vegetables) and made herself eggs instead, and I can’t eat it, thanks to my jerk of a stomach (although I would if I could), so I had a rather lovely salad with leftover shredded chicken instead. But both Eric and Abby were happy with the meal.

Once upon a time, I’d have been ashamed that I had failed to keep the kitchen stocked. (Or the bathroom clean or the laundry washed.) I’d have taken the complaints as personal criticism. And I’m not sure if a switch flipped or if I’m finally learning my lesson, but I can see that this really isn’t a commentary on me at all. It’s a little bit being spoiled. It’s a little bit thoughtlessness — because they don’t have to think about how the fridge gets filled. And it’s also probably a bit of laziness.

I feel like a revolutionary. I feel like I’ve got a new notch on my feminist belt.

I’m kind of wondering if this will be a lasting lesson or if they’ll forget by Wednesday of this week.

Note to self: I don’t have to do it all. And it’s probably better if I don’t — for me, of course, because that means I can do more fulfilling work (or not: Reading, writing, taking a nap, playing with kittens, whatever). But also for them, particularly the girls, to learn a few basic life skills.

Also, this makes it sound like Eric is terrible. He’s not. He regularly cooks, does dishes, folds laundry and goes to The Store That Must Not Be Named to pick up toilet paper. (He doesn’t like to sit down, that’s why.) But groceries aren’t generally on his list. Um, they might be now. πŸ˜‰

How to tell if the Walker Four are all under one roof

  • There are no glasses in the cupboard.
  • The food you thought would last the week actually lasts until Tuesday.
  • You try to go to sleep but end up having a slumber party until Mom gets cranky about being pushed off HER OWN BED.
  • Constant chatter.
  • Art supplies everywhere.
  • Requests for gas money.
  • More laundry.
  • We watch an extraordinary amount of The Office reruns.
  • More kids in and out of the house.
  • More schedules to coordinate.
  • General chaos.
  • I’m at my happiest.

πŸ™‚

More changes

The day after my darling daughter, Abby, moved back home for summer vacation, my equally darling 95-year-old grandmother moved to town to be closer to my parents.

Gram came from an apartment in a senior living complex, and the room she has moved into is probably half the size. Well, maybe not quite that small, but it’s got half the closet space, easy. My father filled a U-Haul truck with her furniture and boxes … and then had another pickup load with more stuff. And that was after she’d downsized her possessions.

And here I thought Abby had a lot of stuff.

I came by in the afternoon to help with the move, and then came back while Johanna was at basketball practice to unpack. Grandma was looking at her stuff and her storage space, and was feeling a bit defeated. It became fairly obvious fairly quickly that she was going to have to discard even more in order to fit into her new space comfortably.

“We don’t have to make hard decisions tonight,” I told her, and she agreed that she could look through items as time allowed and make piles for the annual church rummage sale, happily coming up next month. Still, whenever she decided that she didn’t like or want something, I put it in a bag and brought it home — to either rummage or toss, depending on its junk quotient.

I’m very pro-rummage, but I’m also realistic.

Anyway, Grammie has been here for a couple of weeks now and she’s definitely settling in. She’s amazed that the food they serve in the dining room is hot (um, that broke my heart) and that she’s sleeping so well because it’s quiet (the last place had 22 trains going by day and night, and apparently, she heard every one of them).

And it’s nice, having not lived by any extended relatives since I was 9, to be able to swing by and see her whenever I want. “I love you, sweet girl,” she told me a couple of visits ago. That made me laugh. Only a 95-year-old would think 46 is a girl.

P.S. My grandma is such a trooper. She’s lost two of her kids and her husband within the last four years and had to move out of the home she’d been in for 60-plus years for assisted living (when my grandfather was alive) and then into an apartment (after he passed). And now she’s here. She’s got arthritis and macular degeneration AND diabetes. But she just keeps going. She’s joined an exercise group and sits with new people every day at meals and stays positive. I tell you what, that is a lot of change and I’m not sure I’d have been able to handle it as gracefully as she has. To say I admire her greatly is an understatement.

Introversion

I’m an introvert who happens to have a very busy, people-oriented and event-laden job as a journalist for a small town newspaper. That alone makes me want to crawl in a hole, aka my house, and shut the shades when the day is over. Actually, that’s exactly what I do.

There’s a myth that introverts aren’t good with people. I was in a coffee shop (obvs) a few weeks ago and ran into an acquaintance, and I was complaining about the lack of introvert time I’d had that week.

anusha-barwa-428445-unsplash THIS

Photo by Anusha Barwa on Unsplash. The cat is all like, “What do you mean, you’d rather go out tonight?”

“That’s interesting to me, when people who are great conversationalists say they’re introverts,” she said. That was interesting to me, that introverts aren’t supposed to be able to talk. πŸ˜‰ I wasn’t offended, of course — she’d just said I was a great conversationalist! I was mostly just relieved to hear I don’t come across as an idiot because I tend to ramble.

What is true, however, is that I’d rather be at my house than be out in the world. I even consider grocery shopping or getting my hair cut as social events, which greatly amused my extroverted co-worker when I was recounting my weekend one Monday morning.

Basically, if I’m not in my house, I consider whatever I’m doing to be social. And that’s fine, but there’s only so much of that I can take.

I’m good at being by myself. That’s never bothered me, even as a kid.

The awesome thing about being married to an introvert is that, when we get home, there’s no questions or hard feelings when we both veer off into separate corners to gather our wits at the end of the day. And we’re both on the same page in that we prefer our house to going out. Maybe that’s why we’re not big on dates. We’re already in the best place in town! Why would we leave?

“Where have you guys been?” Eric and I have been asked more than once when we actually make a pubic appearance. “At our house,” is always my honest answer.

It’s also true that I prefer the world in my head to the world that’s out there. That’s why I read and write a lot in my free time (also, as it happens, what I do for a living. Hilarious).

And I get uncomfortable when I’m the center of attention. I am a GREAT backup, and that No. 2 position is right up my alley. I try to blend into the scenery, which is sort of difficult when you’re 6 feet tall. Give me a one-on-one conversation any day of the week, but when it’s a crowd (two people plus), I’d rather listen.

So I suppose it’s ironic that I’m in a public job and that I blog. I just pretend no one reads what I write. Otherwise I’d never be able to do it. I have no desire to ever be the editor of our paper. That doesn’t appeal to me at all.

Extroverts fascinate me. Are you telling me that you actually LIKE being with other people? That you’d rather be at a party than in your own living room?

I’m honestly not even sure how that’s possible.

Of course, there are the hybrid introverts amongst us — my oldest being one — who thrive in social situations but also need time to decompress.

Which I suppose means there are hybrid extroverts.

We’ve had a lot of changes recently and my introvert time has been greatly diminished. Which, on one hand, that’s fine. On the other, I know I need to be more protective and proactive when it comes to finding time to recharge. Which is why I’m writing about this today, I suppose. It’s on my mind.