my Big 3 Things to work on in 2019

So it is now 2019 and everyone is resolving to do better at whatever it is they’re trying to do better at, myself included. This post contains affiliate links. Maybe you’ll find some of this useful.

So things I am trying to do better at:

1: My Health & Food

After talking with my doctor last year about my miserable menstrual-cycle-related breast pain and truly awful PMS, she told me my options were 1) hormonal birth control, which may or may not help with the symptoms; or 2) more pain medication as needed, which didn’t really help because the pain often resolved before I got around to taking any.

I was not pleased with either option and after some searching online, I came across Period Repair Manual, by Lara Briden ND, who advocates a removing dairy, wheat, gluten, (and a few other things) from your diet to cut back on inflammation, which in turn helps issues with the reproductive cycle. She also recommended dietary supplements to help provide extra vitamins and minerals not always acquired through food alone.

I am not ready to cut out all dairy, wheat, gluten, and a number of other things, but so far, well into the second cycle, regularly taking a multi-vitamin seems to be working. I’ve been diligently tracking things with Clue (not an affiliate link, just an amazing app) and so far a simple multi-vitamin has made a tremendous difference in my levels of breast pain.

In an ideal world I would be getting all the vitamins and minerals I need from the food I eat, and I’d be eating three healthy responsibly portioned meals a day, with the occasional equally healthy snack, but that isn’t always the case. I fall woefully short when it comes to meal planning, and I’ve been trying to find reasonable solutions to help.

I just learned about Mealime (not an affiliate link) and have decided to try it for two or three meals a week, I’ll let you know how that goes. Between some meal plans to work with and our every-other-weekly veggie box delivery from our CSA (community supported ag) I’m hoping to improve the quality of dinner around here so it isn’t ordering takeout pizza again. I’ll try and remember to update how this is going in a month or two. I’m currently using the free settings.

2. Blogging

I’m hoping to do a bit more blogging here this year. Maybe even once a month. Maybe I’ll even finish my series of Steiner lectures that I started in 2016 2015, maybe not, lets not get ahead of ourselves.

3. Organization around the house & with the children

This is an on-going issue. I tried bullet journals, but they were always too big, bulky, and complicated feeling. I’ve been using Field Notes (I’m partial to the graph paper) to help keep track of things, grocery lists, important dates, to-do lists. They’re great, they’re about the same size as my cell phone and fit easily in a pocket or my purse. Things either get immediately entered onto my google calendar, or they’re written down in my little notebook. When one fills up, I flip through for any important (or still relevant) information to move into the next one, or save that information somewhere more permanent.

In addition to keeping track of All The Things, there is the stuff that goes with it. I’m hoping have regular trips to the a local donation center, frequent posts on Nextdoor for sale/free items, and maybe even a few trips to the local dump. Not quite KonMari tidy, but I need to start somewhere.

These are my Big 3 Things to work on for the year. I will probably also set monthly and weekly goals, as well as to-do lists for the never-ending list of things that need to get done around the house. I hope everyone has a fairly decent 2019. What are your Big 3 Things you’d like to improve in 2019?


the new Missionaries & Santa

The other evening as I was preparing dinner, three young women knocked on our door. They introduced themselves as the “new missionaries” in town and wanted to “share a message” with us. I politely declined, wished them a good evening and closed the door. They looked mildly surprised, but took my rejection well.

Kid2, who was with me when I opened the door, had questions: what message, why did they want to share it, why did I say no thanks.

How does one explain missionaries to a child?

As it is nearing Christmas, I used an analogy that they might relate to. Kid2 does not believe in Santa, and we’ve had numerous conversations about that, so I decided to start from there.

So the first question was why were they going door to door to share a message?

“It would be like if you believed in Santa so much you wanted to tell everyone so you went door to door to share that. You feel everyone should believe in Santa so they can get lots of presents, because if they don’t believe in Santa they won’t get anything.”

Kid2’s brow wrinkled in confusion. Clearly this was not about Santa.

So what message are they sharing?

They’re most likely talking about the story of Jesus. You know, the baby from the Nativity play, and the man who was on the cross in the Mission we visited last summer.

Yes. Looks confused. Why do they want to share that?

Some people believe very strongly, that stories that in the Bible actually happened, and they have based their entire world view off of them. They feel they have to go tell everyone about this, so other people can make people change to their way of thinking.

Why didn’t you want to talk to them?

I have a different world view than they do. I know about Jesus, and I’ve read the Bible, and I don’t agree with their world view, and that’s okay. We can politely disagree with people, and we don’t have to talk to people who randomly knock on our door about religion, it is also time to get started on dinner.

*****

Kid2 took it at that and I’m sure we’ll have more opportunities for these conversations as time goes on, particularly around the holidays, as Kid2 has proudly informed their class that “Santa does not visit our house because we do not have a chimney!” and Kid1 has proclaimed “I don’t believe in Santa, I believe in Mommy!”

Passive Awareness of the Body

A series of unfortunate events at the turn of the new year led me to take up strength training two mornings a week with a personal trainer. It has been a surreal experience, I’m shocked how much I’m enjoying it, and I’m becoming incredibly aware of my body in aways I wasn’t before. I’m aware of more of it at once.

When I was in Christian Science, I was passively aware of my body. It was there, but not hugely important. When I hurt myself or was ill, I downplayed my injuries or illness — they weren’t really part of me, they didn’t need to impact my day-to-day. Anything too extreme warranted a call to a CS practitioner, who would tell me that 2+2=4 and God is Love, and I am God’s Spiritual Idea and therefore I am Perfect, so whatever I thought was wrong, was just that, an erroneous thought that needed to be fixed. The human body is really good at fixing itself, so most of the time I recovered in a reasonable amount of time, but sometimes the passive awareness (and flat-out ignoring the problems) was more problematic.

Passive awareness led to a mildly infected cuticle, it was a minor pain, nothing to worry about, until it spread down the length of the entire finger. It hurt to bend my finger, it hurt to move my hand. The nail was pushed out of place. My mother called the local CS Nurse, I soaked my hand in warm water with epsom salts and put a bandaid over the error. Eventually the puss ruptured out the side of my finger, the nail falls off, and the school nurse is horrified when I showed up one day needing a bigger bandage. A friend whose father was a doctor went with me, she’s freaked out about the infection spreading and the possible loss of the finger. I find the pain and her freaking out mildly annoying. Thanks to religious exemption laws, there wasn’t much (anything?) the school nurse could do. I got a new bandaid, the trip to the nurses office also means I get to meant out out on running the mile in PE. It was a win-win situation. Later I realized just how lucky I was it didn’t get worse.

Passive awareness leads to “walking off” the hard fall-and-slide down an icy hill. Downplaying the fact I can’t really walk properly, but I also can’t get back up the hill because it has iced over, so you may as well walk to class. Really, it hurts a bit, but it isn’t that bad. I’ve had worse, even if I can’t remember when. Get up, walk. Eventually I sort-of forget about it until you see the giant bruise in the shower, but that’s not real, neither is the pain of sitting, with the fabric of my pants pressed up against it. Ms. Eddy had her fall on the ice and found Christian Science, the least I can do is go to class. Totally ignore that MBE was in bed for a few days and claimed to be near death after her incident — she hadn’t found Christian Science yet.

 Anatomy declares man to be structural. Physiology. Man not structural continues this explanation, measuring human strength by bones and sinews, and human life by material law. Man is spiritual, individual, and eternal; material structure is mortal. Science & Health p. 173:17-21

Passive awareness of my body didn’t help things when I started birth control for the fist time. I didn’t have the language to communicate with the Planned Parenthood staff about my concerns and needs. I was terrified of becoming pregnant, and part of me thought stating the issues I had out loud would make them real. I used birth control for a year, faked okay-ness though the side effects, and promptly quit as soon as my prescription expired because I didn’t want to have to try and find a new doctor or go back and talk to the ones I’d worked with before. In my mind, on some level, I knew turning from Christian Science is what caused all these problems, if I’d prayed about it and continued to only use the barrier methods (or better yet, abstain from sex entirely, it is a distraction) it wouldn’t have been a problem. Really.

Passive awareness caught me off guard when my wisdom tooth came in awkwardly and promptly got infected. I didn’t know what was going on, I sort of knew things felt “a bit strange” and then one morning I woke up in extreme pain and realized I had to find a dentist who could do an extraction ASAP.  As if the combination of pain and dental issues wasn’t enough, the codeine they gave me to help with the pain after the procedure made me hallucinate.

Passive awareness of my body really snowballed when I got pregnant. I was suddenly very aware of different sections of my body. The way I couldn’t eat bananas or handle raw meat. The massive uncomfortable expansion of my breasts. The awkward pelvic exams. The aches and pains I didn’t realize were problems so I never spoke up about them until I ended up with an emergency c-section at 35-weeks. God is Love. 2+2=4. Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. My terror brought this down on me.

Question. What is man?

Answer. Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements. The Scriptures inform us that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Matter isn not that likeness. The likeness of Spirit cannot be sound like Spirit. Man is spiritual and perfect; and because he is spiritual and perfect, he must be so understood in Christian Science.  Science & Health p. 475:5-12

The week in the hospital was somewhat a turning point in bodily awareness. I had to answer questions about my vision, pain levels, and any number of other things that all felt so foreign to me. It was frustrating, I couldn’t answer their questions, and when I tried to explain, I felt I wasn’t being listened to, and I felt I was losing my mind.

It has been a little over nine years since those days in the hospital. I’m still struggling with passive awareness, and appropriate responses. I can be acutely aware of the tension headache, and do nothing to alleviate it. I can be aware of the near-debilitating mensural cramps, but the thought of taking a midol or some ibuprofen is not the first thing that springs to mind.

So where does that leave me with strength training? After my first session I was incredibly aware of every last muscle that I’d used. My trainer has encouraged me to be open about any injuries, strains, and stresses, that might impact my performance and over all wellbeing. He asks how I’m doing and how the last session was. He has me rate the difficulty on a scale of 1-10 mid exercise. He makes sure things are properly aligned so I don’t hurt myself. I’m learning to speak up and ask questions. “Is my body supposed to be reacting this way?” Sometimes the answer is “yes” sometimes the answer is “you need to put your elbows down.”

I’m working on finding the words. The other day I shared that “my hip hurt” and he had questions: Was it muscular? How did it feel? etc. I looked at him blankly. Apparently “it hurts” isn’t really enough of an answer, and to further frustrate, I was unable to figure out how I had hurt it. My range of motion and ability to do the workout were not impacted, but I’ve made a mental note to take better mental notes.

I have selective bodily awareness. I can go into detail on the finer points of breast tenderness related to my mensural cycle (I’ll spare you the details), but straining a muscle? Not so much. How many aches and pains do I talk about? The ones that go away, the ones that linger? The tension headache from trying to deal with two kids and dinner, or the strained lower back muscles from carrying an upset child up the stairs? I suppose this will be an ongoing learning for both of us.

When I share these stories with my fellow ex-Christian Scientists, they nod knowingly. They also cringe because they have similar stories to share. Sometimes they share their stories too. It helps to know we weren’t the only ones. When we share these stories with outsiders, they look horrified. It is easier not to share the stories with outsiders, and sometimes we really should.

How are you doing today? 

Please don’t ask me that. 

I’m doing better today than I was yesterday, but I’m still so far from okay I’m not sure I’ll ever be okay again. I’m also not sure what okay looks like anymore.

I’m getting things done, we haven’t missed any meals, or been late to school. I’ve fulfilled all my volunteer obligations (and then some above and beyond). The laundry is done, the house is clean enough, I have time to write this blog post.

And I’m so not okay. I’m better than I was doing yesterday, and I’ll probably be doing better tomorrow, so I’m trending in the right direction, but I’m not okay.

I’m working on being okay with not being okay, which feels counter intuitive. I’ve learned to sit with my not-okay feelings. A lot is happening right now. A lot has been happening for a while.

It is okay to not be okay.

I have acknowledged this, I have continued with my day until the not-okay feelings bubble up again. Then I sit with them, they’re not going away, they want to be recognized.

This is not like Christian Science where I have to correct my thought and everything will be fine. No amount of time pouring over obscure passages in Science & Health is going to rectify this situation. I can’t bury myself in “the books” and wait for a “demonstration.” I have to confront it, work through it, one day at a time, make difficult choices and follow through.

It will get better, but it will take a little while.

I’m working on being okay with that too.

How are you doing today?

You can’t run on gratitude alone.

You can’t run on gratitude alone. I knew this already, but I’m learning it again. All the heartfelt thanks in the world are not going to make up for the lost sleep, poor food choices, and exhaustion.

It feels good to receive heartfelt thanks. Then it gets awkward, watching a tear of gratitude trickle down someone’s cheek. They’d rather not be crying, you’d really rather they didn’t. Neither of you wanted to be in this position in the first place, they didn’t really want you to bring them dinner, they’d rather have their home, their own kitchen, their own dishes.

Sometimes they want to share their experience with you. You’re told stories that sound like apocalyptic Hollywood plots: fireballs racing down the street as you want the children. People make confessions of guilt over the beta fish who was left behind, I grabbed the baby, but the smoke was too thick to grab the fish. What do you say to that? I’m glad you grabbed the baby, sorry about the fish. 

You don’t really know what to say. Taking a meal to a family that has lost everything is very different than taking a meal to a family with a new baby. With the new baby, it is usually a joyous (if somewhat exhausting) occasion. With the loss of all worldly possessions, there is the uncomfortable moment when you have to go home, because you still have a place to go home to.

So home you go, feeling somewhat guilty that your house wasn’t destroyed. Survivor’s guilt is a real thing. It sits with you uncomfortably. Why was your town spared the devastation? You have an overwhelming desire to punch anyone who suggests it was karma, or worse, the Christian Science equivalent, of not doing their prayerful work, as if enough aligning one’s thought with God, would make a difference. Hundreds of acres were destroyed, why didn’t the wind blow your way? You’re not a better person than they are, nor are you any worse, seriously, who makes these judgment calls anyway? Sure, everything was covered in an inconvenient layer of thick ash, but it is just that, inconvenient (and toxic), but you still have a place to live.

The entire exchange is awkward, but at the end of the day, you’re in a position to help, so you do. It is okay to receive help. It is okay to provide help. It is okay to take care of yourself, because if you don’t help yourself, you won’t be in a position to help anyone else. I need this taped on my fridge in foot high letters, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, otherwise you are USELESS to others. 

Lesson clearly still not learned.

I’ve “done enough” and I’m going to do more

Another week, another meal train. More meals made for a family that is not my own. Another night of pasta and whatever vegetables we happen to have in the fridge for dinner so someone else can have a freshly made pot roast and veggies or baked ziti and a salad. Brownies for dessert, something chocolate is a must at times like these. Another bag of quick snacks and not-super-perishable goods put together in a reusable grocery bag that I don’t intend to get back, and a new box of super-soft kleenex, don’t forget the kleenex.

Kleenex are important, almost as important as the brownies. There will be tears. Plenty of tears. Theirs of gratitude, yours ugly-crying in the car later, after you’ve dropped off the meal. Tears of exhaustion, mental, physical, emotional. Acknowledging that there is so much more to do, and you can’t do it all, and you feel helpless, and slightly ill.

People asking how you’re doing, you’re doing ok, you still have a house. You’re not really okay though. When your phone pings from the police/sheriff updates your heart skips a beat. Your heart as skipped quite a few beats in the last few weeks. First the evacuation orders pinged out, then more, finally some re-entry updates, and then at long last, “this street will be blocked off for Halloween” notification. Doesn’t matter, the conditioned response is the same: panic, disaster, are we next?

There is more to do. There is always more to do. “Can you set up another meal train?” It isn’t really a question. It is coming from someone else who is also over-taxed and carefully balancing the emotional needs of many, including themselves. “You’ve done such a good job with the others, thank you, I really appreciate it.” So you set one up, and then start to feel guilt when no one signs up for food in the first week, or the second… The family needs support. So you make another meal (or two, or three) and email around the link again, reminding people: this family needs dinner!

People need dinner. They need nourishment. They need support. People don’t need anymore stuff. The stuff sits in boxes and bags around their tiny temporary living quarters. This isn’t where they’re going to stay for more than a few weeks, at most, if they’re lucky. They don’t want to get too comfortable, just comfortable enough. Besides, they may have to leave in a hurry, again.

You see the stuff outside, piled under a tarp, scattered and somewhat exposed to the elements. Piles of good intentions. You feel overwhelmed on their behalf. If there was something more you could do to help, but what? You can’t fight everyone’s battles for them.

You want to help, but not overwhelm. You want to help, but you also realize the only reason you know them so well now is because you’ve been asked to assist them, and under every day circumstances you’d likely never exchange more than a polite “hello” or a brief conversation about the weather.

Is this karma or serendipity? Were our lives fated to be intertwined for a few brief weeks so I could help them through a tragedy, or is this merely happy happenstance that we both participate in a community that cares deeply for one another? I prefer serendipity. To suggest that this tragedy was somehow fate is too horrible for words.

Then there are all the other things, life does not stand still for tragedy, it goes on. There are birthday parties to attend, field trips to chaperone, work obligations to fulfuill, home repairs to make, events to coordinate, meetings to attend, another email to reply to, a text from the outside world intruding, someone who is wondering why I haven’t done some unimportant thing in a timely manner and I just want to scream at them, and in the midst of all that, there are still children who need love and support.

Things are far from returning to normal. My husband is out for work and will not be home until well past the children’s bedtime. The little one is anxious: “is Daddy somewhere safe?” He persists until he and Daddy can exchange selfies. Daddy is safe, or as safe as he can be in a car driving on a highway, but I don’t tell the little one that. Later, after the little one is in bed, I check my phone, he is still safe.

The little one has lingering anxiety issues from our evacuation talks. Several friends from the play yard at school lost everything. I’ve done a lot of reassuring and a lot of snuggling. I would not leave you at school if I didn’t feel it was safe. If it was unsafe, school would be closed. If something happened to make it unsafe, your teachers would do their best to make sure you’re OK. For Real. Thankfully the little one is sleeping through the night. I’m still waking up some nights, drenched in sweat, wide awake. There is the hum of the ceiling fan and sometimes some light snoring from my husband.

We are safe. I have done enough. I am doing to do more, but first I have to go grocery shopping, again.