Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Day After

November 9th dawned cloudy and chill here.  A sign of impending doom?  Nope, it's just stupid Ohio weather.  Does that mean I'm not depressed and worried?  Of course not.

I think all the people who wanted Hillary to win (or at least those who did not want Trump to win) should be allowed to grieve.  Yes, this could potentially turn into a debacle.  But when hasn't this been a debacle?

I remember when Obama was elected.  I was still very Republican then, as much as a 23-year-old who grew up in all-white schools and lived in a small town and was still under the influence of her parents could be.  I felt the exact same despair when Obama was elected.  He was going to mess up my country!  How dare he!  A lot of my friends wanted to move to Canada.  A lot of them complained, were depressed, were worried about the future of the country.

All of these fears are justified.  When hasn't the president "messed up" the country?  Thanks to the democratic process, we're able to choose exactly who we want as president.  Sometimes it doesn't work in our favor, but it's the majority of people who wanted to change.

Does that change inherently change the people that we are on the inside?  Hell no.  We might feel like we're on a sinking ship, that America is going down for the count.  This country is more than just one person.  There's billions of people living here of every race, creed, gender and sexual preference.  America has long been seen as a refuge for the poor, the tired, the weary.  Does having the Republican party in power mean that is going to stop?  Probably not, because, much as we might try to demonize them, they are people too.

Don't threaten to run away to Canada.  Running away from problems doesn't fix them.  We need caring, considerate people now more than ever.  They have plenty of those people there.

I am worried about the next four years.  Hell, I'm worried about the next Trump campaign.  But that will not stop me from being me.  That will not stop me from teaching kids tolerance and acceptance.  That will not stop me from being charitable, from being socially aware, or from voting again.  If this is a sinking ship, then I am in the dance band on the Titanic, and I will go down protecting the people and ideals that I believe in.  I will learn the lessons of history and do my best to not repeat them.  I will help the world to see that hatred begets more hatred, but also that love and peace exist even in the darkest of places. 

My current emotional state can be summed up into a song.  Here.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Problems of Paganism

You may or may not know this about me, but I am a Pagan.  I have been since I was about 16.  I grew up in a very strict Catholic household.  I went to church every Sunday no matter what.  Once, I even scratched my cornea on a Sunday morning and my mom thought I was just trying to get out of going to church.  I stopped going as soon as I left the house for college, and only go back when I feel the impetus to go.

Now, I work for an organization that has the C for "Christian" in it's danceable name.  (You catch my drift?)  Luckily, I have never felt ostracized nor proselytized to.  It's pretty nice to grow up in America and be able to be whatever religion you want.

The problems come whenever the topic of religion comes up.  Cause being a Pagan is kind of a personal thing.  It's not like saying, "Oh yeah, I'm Mormon," or "I was raised Baptist but now I'm Pentecostal."  I mean, technically, pagans are just people who don't believe in Jesus.  So I could be a Jew or Hindu and still claim the title.

Titles are kind of messy anyway.  A lot of them either have a weird connotation (think "Scientology"), or refer to a specific set of rules that everyone follows ("Bah'ai" and "Buddhism.")  I might as well just say that I am an "Ideological Universalist".  But again, that takes a lot of explaining.

Or I could call myself "New Age".  But that has a hippy dippy connotation that I don't exactly like.  I mean, "New Age" means listening to Yanni, using essential oils as medicine, doing tons of yoga and meditation and being anti-vaccinations. (Not that there's anything wrong with Yanni, essential oils, yoga or meditation.)  I can't be Wiccan.  That's a pretty dogmatic set of rules that I just don't completely hold with.  And try telling people you're a witch, especially around this time of year.  They'll just laugh and be like, "Yeah, I'm going as candy corn for Halloween," or "Oh really, what house are you in?" (Well, Ravenclaw obviously but that's not the point.)

This is my pagan altar.  Yes, that is a picture frame with Gravity Falls tarot cards...
And besides the whole putting a name to my beliefs system, comes the fact that pagan groups aren't as well advertised as Christian ones.  I mean, you go to a Mosque and you know what goes on there.  You know the Methodist church around the corner has services every Sunday at 9:30 and 10.  To get together with other weirdos, I have to scour the internet.  I mean, there are only two or three pagan shops that I know of in the city that I live in (and it's a pretty big city).  Of those shops, one offers Druid services, but sometimes you have to be a member of the Grove in order to participate (which, again, I'm not exactly Druid either.)

So once I finally am able to meet up with a group (usually once every four months or so), I then have to socialize before the ritual.  A lot of people are very nice, bright, hippy dippy kinds of folks.  Unfortunately, another problem of being atypical is that it attracts some weirdos.

Not to say that I'm not a weirdo.  I mean, I believe in fairies.  I think pineapples will take over the world someday.  I am obsessed with cats.  But I don't exactly dress up like a cat or pretend to be one. (Ha!  Furries....)  Those people are harmlessly weird though.  No, I'm talking the weird, scary, gothic looking couple who just give off that "creep" vibe, and when you talk to them you just want to run away (not because of what they're saying, but because of their energy).  Yep, I'm one of those crazy people who reads others' "vibes".  I'm sure that these people are perfectly nice, normal weirdos.  But I don't want to hang out around them, much less do a circle with all their creepy energy.  I do, anyway, because I don't have a weekly gathering to go to and I just really want some ritual time.


Still, I think the best "problem" of being Pagan is when I tell people, "Well, I was raised Catholic, and did twelve years of parochial school, but I'm not Catholic anymore"--other person chuckles here-- "I'm a pagan." Stunned silence. Uncomfortable seat shifting.  Like, how could anyone reject Jesus growing up with him in the house?  Look, it's not that I reject him... I just don't think he was God.  Or if he was, he was just one facet of the whole diamond that is God.  But alas, this rationale is rarely understood.

It's all right.  I don't really mind explaining what I believe or why.  Unless whomever I'm talking to has the desire to tell me I'm wrong or try to convert me.  Look, I'm not going to tell anyone they're wrong for believing what they do (except maybe Scientologists...), nor am I going to try to convert anyone to my way of thinking.  A deep conversation about beliefs is really beautiful, and a good way of being vulnerable in front of friends without having to resort to talking about sports or politics.  Sometimes, it's just a conversation.  And at the end of the day, it's really about what you can live with.  So I'll take the problems that come with being Pagan because I am very content with my relationship with the Universe, the Great Spirit, the Divine Creator... even if I don't always understand it.



Sunday, May 29, 2016

Craft Time with Crazy Cat Lady

I have been kicking around the idea of starting my own business for the past few months.  Well, actually it's been for a few years now, off and on.  I think of great ideas and they fall by the wayside.  I wish the business I'm thinking of could be to sell ideas to people.  I have ideas growing out my ears.  Like corn.  Sigh.  Maybe someday.

About a month ago, at the end of April, I had an incredibly successful program.  It was called "Fairy Time!", for young kids aged 3 to 6 (only girls signed up, of course) and in it, we painted and decorated small craft birdhouses (fairy houses), left them to dry and went for a walk in the woods to look for fairies.   

Example of one of the fairy houses, painted by the lovely lady who assisted me with this program.
When the girls came back, they had some teensy, tiny trolls waiting outside their homes, "Fairies came to visit, and it looks like each of you get to take one home!" I said.  They were so. damn. excited. 

Teeny tiny troll fairy in his new house.  Quarter for size reference.  Excuse my hairy carpet!
I feel like this would be a great idea for a launching point.  I could probably figure out something to do for boys' (Viking party maybe?) birthdays.  I could also expand upon what I actually did at Fairy Time and create a mini fairy tea party in the woods that we could stumble across, and then maybe have some pre-made wands that the fairies left for them to take too.  Add in some different themes (like "natural" and "glittery" and "under the sea" or "flowers") for different decorations on the houses.  Finish everything off with cake and ice cream and opening presents.  Not only could I still educate kids (what do you think we do on a nature walk?!) but they would have a fun birthday party.  And heck, it doesn't have to be a birthday party!  It could be fun, creative, educational programs.  We could have a small wooded area, but also a garden out back for other kinds of programs.  There could be a "gallery night" where kids can create artwork in the shop and the parents pay whatever they think it's worth to donate to the facility and the community.  I could team up with local artists and other vendors and sell artwork or jewelry in a small part of the space.

Then I expand.  Craft nights for adults.  Bohemian birthdays.  Wine and painting. Pinterest Win or Fail programs.  These ideas aren't quite fleshed out yet.  But here are some examples of things we could do!

Polymer clay figurines.  This owl is the cutest thing ever!

I made these for everyone for Christmas.  I am probably going to do it again this year!
 Polymer clay is relatively cheap, and sculpting with it is pretty easy.  I am good with my hands though... not so good at teaching others how to use it.  These, pictured above, are little "desk buddies" that I made for my friends this past Christmas.  They're for those times that your internet connection is slow and you need someone to listen to you complain about how those cat memes need to load faster.  And they're tiny, which makes them all the cuter.

The next is my favorite, because the possibilities are so endless.

Sharpie + mug + your imagination = endless possibilities
 Sharpie mugs.  This one is a small teacup that I created.  I made mugs for my friends for Christmas two years ago.  Then the Dollar Store ran out of white mugs, and I panicked, bought different colored mugs.  They worked.  My Mom had glitter sharpies that I borrowed, which looked amazing on black mugs.  Seriously.  I wish I had taken a picture of all of them.

Then I made personalized birthday cards for my friends' kids.  I was going to buy them, but I was feeling crafty that day.  These aren't hard to make, just a little cut and assembly and you're done.

Have a monstrously good birthday!
Oh, and of course, a good birthday card pun to round out the occasion.

I guess this could also lead in to scrapbooking, but I don't do that.  It seems like a giant waste of time, especially nowadays, with all of us taking 3,000 digital photos and looking at exactly two.  
 

I'd also need a die cut machine, which are super duper expensive.  And probably some better paper than construction paper, especially for adults.

I make (well, used to, before this new job started sucking the time away from me) new wreaths for every season.  I have Halloween and Christmas and V-Day and spring, summer, and fall wreaths.

Guess which holiday this is for?
Wreaths don't have to cost $40 (or more) a pop.  They're actually really simple to make.  I think this one cost me about $10 to make, but then, I got the base from a craft store instead of the Dollar Store (where I got everything else).  I can whip these out for about $6 in supplies.

 Another seasonal holiday thing I did this year, which was a successful experiment, was to take puffy paint and trace over outlines of snowflakes on waxed paper.  I let that dry overnight, peeled them off and voilĂ ,  homemade window clings. (Unfortunately, they have dried out due to improper storage and no longer cling.)  I had some scrolling hearts that I was going to do for Valentine's Day, but I never got around to it.

Window clings made from puffy paint.
I'm sure that with more practice they wouldn't look so much like a child had made them.  Unless this is a parent/child class and that's what we're going for, which is entirely a possibility!

And last but not least, I got into painting vases this Christmas too (word of advice, don't use acrylic paint because it doesn't adhere fully!).  Basically, I squirted acrylic paint into these glass vases and tried to coat the inside.  It was painstaking labor to get the paint allll the way around and looking even.  But, I think they turned out rather pretty. 
About half of the vases I painted.
Perhaps next time, I will find a different paint to use, and add two different colors and some marbles to create a swirled effect.

I only kept this purple one, because it's one of my favorite colors!  And the flowers complemented it well, I think.  (I don't know if you can see it, but there are purple "berries" on the twigs that are the same color!)  I bought other flowers for the vases too, because I like to arrange fake flowers.  And I'm apparently pretty good at it?


Can you find the hidden kitty in this picture?!
Well.  This post went from being my business ideas to being "Craft Time with Crazy Catlady".  Maybe I should just open an Etsy shop and see what happens?  I really enjoy being creative and making things with my hands.  I don't really have a dedicated craft room though, which might limit my production capabilities.

I'm still ruminating on this whole, "opening my own business" thing.  I don't have a degree in business, and have no idea how to run a business.  But I have to start somewhere, and the best place is with an idea.  Because ideas can always be modified, right?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Full Time Blues

Remember back last year when I was whining about how all I wanted was a full time job?  Well, I finally got a full time job.  And you know what?  It sucks.

Now, every day is not the worst, and the paycheck is pretty nice.  But because I work in childcare, I am pretty much working 12 hour days, which does suck.  I leave my house at 6:15 in the morning and I get back around 6:45 at night (if I don't go grocery shopping or on a walk with friends).  I hate that.  I feel like all I do at home is feed my cats and watch TV.  I don't feel like I have any time to do anything productive, like clean my house, read my book, or even write my much-anticipated blog posts.  I haven't played a video game in months (shocking!), and the only friends I see are the ones who go walking with me every week.

I feel stressed out and completely drained.  I know this job is not for me.  I know that I do not want to do this for the rest of my life (let alone the rest of the school year).  Because I am always looking for lessons from my conflicts, I also know now what it is that I am chasing.

Sometimes we don't always know what we want.  Our brains are smart and good at tricking us.  They're all, "You want that full time job!  Go get it!" and we get it and then are miserable and can't figure out why.  But it's because the full time job was not what we truly wanted.  What we wanted was the security we feel from the bigger paycheck, or the freedom we thought we could have with more money.  As it turns out, we didn't really want the job, we just wanted the money, but we weren't open to all the different avenues it could come through (like... for example... blogging?).

I had to sit down with myself and try to think of the real reason that this job is bothering me.  Is it really that I can't manage kids?  That these kids are horrible and they're purposefully testing my limits?  Of course not.  I manage them just fine.  Kids are kids; they test limits, need to know how firm their boundaries are, and forget rules all the time.  That's how they are.  I just can't see the progress they're making under my leadership because I see it every day.  (My boss came in to my site on Friday and complimented me on the progress I've made just by being more respectful and consistent!)  So it's not the kids.  It's not the people I work with.  Is it the hours?  Hmm.

Perhaps if I had a 9-to-5, regular full time job I would feel better.  I would feel busier and more relaxed at the end of the day.  I wouldn't have to wake up at 5:30 in the morning or go to bed at 9:30 at night.  Perhaps I would have more time to do a morning workout, clean the dishes and cook breakfast, to go grocery shopping at the end of the day, to cook dinner and do some cleaning around the house.  Hmmm.  Or maybe, those hours would leave me feeling just as drained and exhausted, and I still wouldn't want to do anything.

What I'm really chasing here, it seems, is freedom.  I desire freedom from worry, from having to do things like everyone else, from having to shove myself into that cookie-cutter that frustrates me.  I value my time, and want to be able to feel productive and proud of myself.  I want to be able to chase my passions and do things I love without having to worry about bills or when was my house last cleaned or do I have time for a nature walk today?  Now that I have figured out that freedom is what I want, comes the trickiest part.

Actually finding things that make me feel free.

So what would someone who loves herself do?

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Nature Lady

Two weekends ago, I had two programs. One of them was run by a friend of mine who is also a contract employee.  Hers was a rousing success.  The kids had a blast learning about nursery rhymes; they got to card wool, make butter, put together a "Humpty Dumpty" puzzle, and eat crackers in the sunshine.  They even got to meet an awesome little duck, named Opal!

Mother Goose's cousin.... Mother Ducker.
All in all, that program was amazing.

No one came to the second program.

I'm not sure if no one came because it was a nice day out or there were soccer tournaments going on... or if the PR office I've been constantly struggling with never got the posters out so no one even knew about it.
 
Look at all the people--oh wait.  Those are Mayapples...
As bitter as I am that no one came to that second program, I almost don't care. The day was glorious. The weather was beautiful, the birds were singing, the sky was blue, and I spent the entire day outside. Instead of crying over the fact that no one wanted to come and adopt a tree for Earth Day, I walked around the park that I was at because I haven't been able to do that in a very long time.

Buckeye tree.  It looks like fall, but these leaves are new spring leaves!
I don't much get a chance to go walking out in nature these days. Well, I take that back.  I get to go walking with my friends at two separate parks twice a week, but it's not the same as going out and discovering nature. I like going out and looking at the changes that are happening, especially in spring.  I like finding that one bloodroot flower that is blooming too early....

My favorite part is that the leaf is just so tiny!
Or finding the buds on trees are slowly peeling open...

New leaves and flowers just starting!
 Or the most perfect flower for a fairy hat, the trout lily....

Trout lilies would make excellent fairy garb.


 I found a whole bunch of that as I walked around. I love spring. I say it all the time; spring is the best time of year to do programs. It changes weekly.  Sometimes daily, like how bloodroot flowers only bloom for one day. It changes so subtly that you can't even see it sometimes. One day you'll be driving down the road and there are only redbud trees blooming and then bam! All the trees have their leaves and flowers.

I wandered around taking pictures, and then decided to decorate a tree anyway, even though there was nobody there to do it with me, because it was something that I wanted to do.  All I used was some clay and yarn.  I found the sticks on the ground and stuck them on with clay.

I like that she had a knot that looked like an eyeball!
I had a ton of fun doing this. It was so easy, and I had a blast getting dirty doing it. It called somewhat of a revelation for me because I just knew (I have somehow always known) that I love being out in nature. It's just something that calls to me and something that I really truly love, but I never knew how much I needed it in my life. It's not something that can be distilled and stuck into a vitamin tablet and give it to me. I need that dose of Vitamin N every day. I have to be under the blue sky. I have to be out in the sunlight. I have to be where nature and trees and little animals and flowers and quiet solitude of the woods abounds.

Sometimes I think that I was Thoreau a past life because I just want to go out into the woods and walk and be alone with my thoughts and not have to worry about other people or society. But the most fun that I have is when I take kids out into the woods to see what we can learn outside. That doesn't feel like work to me. I guess what I'm saying is, I need nature in my life, but I feel most excited when I get to share that gift with other people.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Signs

I started a new job recently. This was a job that I thought was going to be a ton of fun, but also a step up for me responsibility wise. I do before and after school care for elementary aged kids. I'd had fun at the beginning of the year being a traveling site coordinator, because I could be a teacher figure, play with the kids, and had the actual site director to back me up. Once I got my own site however I saw how different things are on the other side. There's a lot more paperwork, which I don't really mind; I have to come up with lesson plans, which again isn't a big deal, it's just time-consuming. There's a lot more administrative things too. I have to talk to parents if their kids are misbehaving. I have to fill out the paperwork if a child gets hurt. I have to track attendance numbers, card any adults I don't know who are taking children out of the program, organize my storage closet, gather supplies for crafts. This is a job where I am supervising kids from 7 to 9 in the morning and then from 3 to 6 in the afternoon; not really a lot of time to do all the things I need to do. The time in between? I can do more work, I can go home, I can go to my other job, I can work out at the community center, but that's about it. I leave for work at 6:15 in the morning and come home around 6:45 in the evening. The long hours don't help with the stress of running a difficult site.

But I have found it's it's especially stressful because the program is licensed through the state. The Department of Job and Family Services has a list of guidelines of how to run the site; ratios, safety procedures, basically what were allowed to do with kids. I have to follow those guidelines, or else my site can lose its license. That's all well and good, and I know why things like this exist; it's because they want to keep kids safe... but sometimes safe is boring. These kids are bored in this program. Especially the older children, who have been in the program since first grade and now they're in fourth or fifth grade and they're sick of playing with all the same toys. They don't want to play any of the games, they basically just want to do what they want to do. I have been trying to play new games and get more supplies for them, but it's really hard when these kids push back at all my "new" rules.  They had no accountability for their actions with the previous site director, nor had any sort of team building. If I had my way I would take them to the creek every day. There's a nice little creek and wooded area out back behind the school. I know a lot of kids probably don't like going out and getting dirty especially because their parents are so against dirt (you know, because dirt is obviously is one of the worst things ever)*, but being in nature is such a different animal than being stuck in a school building for eleven hours every day.  With all the research I have done, it would help them to decompress, destress, and generally make them happier and calmer.  But I can't do this, because it's not safe for me to take forty kids creeking.

So what has The Universe done for me instead?  The Universe has been sending me little animal friends once a week, to help me keep my cool. I'm a firm believer that there are always little signs, straight from God or the Universe or whoever, all around you and that it is up to you to interpret them as they pertain to your life. (I don't know what signs led me to this job, if any, but it was a full-time job and my rational mind said, "Take it!" and looking back I should have waited.  But we must play cards with the hand we're dealt, so there's no real point in complaining.)

The very first week of school back after spring break we found a crawdad climbing up the path to the school doors. I have no idea how a crawdad got out of the creek bed, climbed the short rock shelf back there, crawled across the field and came to our school at 8 o'clock in the morning when it's not even warm enough outside for him to be out.  The kids of course freaked out. They thought it was super duper cool. Crawdads, crayfish, mini lobsters, (whatever you want to call them) are awesome little invertebrates. Whenever my coworker kept trying to touch him he would raise his claws defensively and the kids would freak out and run away and come back. It was hilarious to watch. I had more fun on that day, just in those five minutes that we had a crawdad visitor on the playground, than I had in like the entire time that I have been working this new job.

The second week there was a dead bird outside. A little dark-eyed junco that probably flew into the windows of the door and broke his neck. He was right in the middle of the path and the kids of course screamed and worried about him so we buried him and then washed our hands. This past week (on Earth Day no less) we found a frog in the Gaga pit. (Don't even get me started on the bullcrap that is Gaga). One of the girls in the program stopped the game and yelled, "There's a dead frog in the Gaga pit!" He was underneath the wall between the wood and the concrete. He blended in with the rocks, because he was a little gray tree frog. So we gently poked him out (I did anyway), and picked him up and he kept jumping, and every time he hopped the kids screamed. It was the funniest thing that I think I've ever seen. Kids screaming over a frog a frog no bigger than the tip of my thumb; he was (I'm pretty sure) an Eastern Gray Tree Frog and he had beautiful yellow patches on his legs.  I was trying to explain that he was a tree frog when he jumped and promptly stuck to the side of a Gaga pit, to which one of my kids said, "Oh, that's cool!". I took him out back toward the woody creek area, and let him go on a stack of logs.  He didn't try to escape too much from me when I set him down, just looked at me with his big froggy eyes.

I think the universe is telling me that my calling is not working in childcare, because working in childcare is. Fucking. Exhausting.  But doing educational nature programs with kids is so much more fun, because kids can learn and not know they're learning.  The kids in my program aren't there to learn. They're there for school, which is obviously the only place kids can learn,* and they're at the school from seven or eight in the morning until sometimes six o'clock at night. That is a long-ass day for a child. (I know that some parents can't help it and that there are parents who put their kids in this program because they have to work early or later than school hours, which is totally fine. I'm not trying to dog on any parents who put their children in childcare. And thank God we have people who offer these programs because if we didn't there would be nothing for these kids to do there be no help for these parents and there will be a lot more struggling people). My point is this is not the thing that I want to. I want to have nature programs with kids. I want to take kids out in the woods and splash around in the creek and roll down hills, get dirty, duel each other with cat tail puffs and climb trees and basically just learn while having fun, like kids should be doing. I'm pretty sure the universe is sending me animal friends as a sign for that so that I can have my teachable moments with these kids and not feel like I am doing something that is not worthwhile. Because I am. I just have to find the right perspective.




*sarcasm star.  Please read with sarcasm in mind!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Winter Walk

The surest sign of spring is not crocuses popping their friendly heads out of the snow.  It's not leaf buds growing huge on trees.  It's when the quiet solitude of a forest coated in snow becomes loud with the lusty chatter of birdsong.  Yes, the birds are beginning their mating calls and defining their territory even though it's still cold outside!

A chubby robin perched in his tree!
I went into the woods on Friday to look for migrating bird couples.  It's too early, you might think!  But eastern bluebirds actually begin their nesting in early March.  In fact, I saw some last month when I went out into the woods here in Ohio, but some of them don't migrate.  I thought I was looking at an indigo bunting, this bluebird was that vibrant.  Of course I got too excited and forgot to grab my phone for a picture.  Not that I would have been able to snap one anyway.  For some reason, birds don't usually sit still enough for me to take their pictures.

 

Unless, of course, they are duckies!  I found a few sets of mated pairs at the wetlands.  Mallards begin their courtship in the fall and it continues through the winter.  I'm not sure exactly if that means they're completely paired off by the spring breeding season.  I watched one male fly up and chase off another pair.  Or maybe he was trying to mate with the female and they decided to high-tail it out of there.  But these ducks were the only ones that I saw so far.  I am planning to keep checking, just to see how many different types of water fowl I can find before spring.

Can you imagine being a duck in this place?  This is like duckie heaven, even though the water is pretty low.

Nothing like a monochromatic winter walk.
Yep, it snowed here on Friday.  A light dusting, but it made the walk feel magical.  Even though the snow was beginning to melt by this point, there were still some places where it sat, feathery and light.

Snow collected on this bush.  I could actually still see some individual snowflake shapes!
 At least it didn't collect on the walkways.  And it wasn't terribly cold outside.  I mean, it was cold, probably about 33 or 34 degrees Fahrenheit, but that is balmy compared to the fifteen degree average of last winter.

Despite last year's crazy snowfall, I have decided that I really do like snow.  Or at least, if it's going to be cloudy, I would want it to snow (as opposed to rain, or just staying overcast all day).  There's something kind of calming about looking out the window and watching big fat flakes falling on your porch.  And I have to admit, I really admire the monochromatic, chiaroscuro effect that even a light dusting of snow causes.


Even though the sky is gray, I don't feel down.  The brightness of the snow helps to keep my mood uplifted.  It may be just the fun nostalgia of a day playing in the snow, it may be because I like to imagine what the world looked like ten thousand years ago, with its snow blanketed forests.  It may be because the snow reminds me of solitude and reminds me to center myself. As long as I don't feel gross and depressed, I'm okay with snow.

Three robins chilling in this tree... probably posing for mates.
Also, as long as there are cute birdies to watch, I feel better.  The house finches that came to visit my porch feeder are back again this year, so I am making sure to keep their feeder well stocked with black oil sunflower seeds.  I will try to get a picture of them this year.  Hopefully they are nesting nearby; since they only eat seeds, even when breeding, I'll have to make sure they are kept well stocked this spring.

Because the happy bird songs made me feel so peaceful, I'm going to leave you with a video that I took.  Don't watch it, but listen to all the different bird sounds.  I managed to catch a red bellied woodpecker's kwirr call on it!  I heard his call (it's one of like, the ten that I can actually identify by sound) and immediately got on my phone to find the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Red Bellied Woodpecker page, which has all the bird sounds and calls on it.  I played that on repeat a couple dozen times and got him to come in pretty close!  Then he caught on that it was just a recording and stopped calling.  But at least I now know that I can call in woodpeckers during the day just like I can call in owls on a night hike!

video

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Losing Eight Pounds in 5 Days?!

I found a "cleanse" featuring parsley, lemon and water which claims to reduce belly fat by 8 pounds in 5 days.  I decided that I want to debunk this, just to see what happens! 
Not that I need to.  I mean, I'm pretty dang sexy.  I just want to see what happens.  I'm one of those lucky (lucky?!) women who gains weight in her thighs and rear instead of around her middle.  I always have a gap at the back of my pants at the waist even when the zipper refuses to budge because apparently if women have a sizable derriere, it must mean that we are fat everywhere.  Amirite, ladies?

In order to attempt to be scientific, I am not changing my exercise habits, nor am I changing what I eat.  The instructions didn't say to!

Started: Sunday February 28
Looking good from the front!
Trifle belly! <3

Weight Saturday night: 200.2 pounds
(weight Sunday morning: 196.8 pounds, which just goes to show you how much my weigh can fluctuate just over night)

Waist inches: 32.5

Day 1: Directions aren't very clear.  Says to drink it on an empty stomach, but how long do I have to wait to eat afterwards?  My Vitamix didn't exactly puree the parsley either, and I was left with floating chunks that tasted like... well, like grass.  I gulped it down.  I guess there are worse ways to start your morning!

Day 2: Figured out that my Vitamix can pulverize the parsley if I turn it up to 5 or 6.  Cool!  I had a cup that is pond-water green.  It tasted better than it looked.  Kind of like a citrus grass.  Not unpleasant though; just different.  I don't even need any sugar!  I felt kind of blah today, but I'm thinking it's because I didn't really eat much for breakfast (as usual) and waited until almost 1 to eat.

Day 3:  Feeling pretty great today, despite the fact that I have been going to the bathroom more than normal.  I have a feeling this is all my "water weight" coming off.  I haven't been drinking much water lately though.  Not that I ever really drink a lot of water.  Nausea is kicking in hard though.  I'm not sure if this is because I haven't been eating much for breakfast or not.

Day 4: Intestinal distress.  Ugggh, I feel awful.  I could barely choke down the parsley drink this morning.  I thought I was going to puke it up.  Decided that this morning would be my last.  I didn't want to risk more intestinal distress, and I was sick of feeling nauseated all the time.

Thursday Morning:
A little bit of bloat gone...
Looks the same to me!
Waist inches: 32 
 Weight: 198.6

Technically I gained two pounds from my weight on Saturday.  But I lost a half an inch from my waist.  Perhaps there was a bit of overnight bloat gone, but definitely not eight pounds of belly fat.

So all told, this did not work for me.  Maybe if I had been working out and watching what I eat, I would have had better luck.  I mean, I get pretty good results from just 20 minutes a day of working out for two weeks.  Better than this drink.

Save yourself and your taste buds.  This diuretic just isn't worth it.


Monday, February 29, 2016

Authenticity

As you may or may not know, I am striving to become my most authentic self (I mean, that's why I have this blog!).  To me, this means knowing who I am, the things I stand for, and being myself without fear of judgment from others.

I am slowly coming to know myself through this process, which is crazy because I've lived in my own body, in my own head, for nearly thirty-one years.  You'd think that I would know myself pretty well by now, and in some ways I do.  I know my favorite foods are my favorites mostly because of texture and not flavor (it's why I prefer Rice Chex above all others, or rice krispy treats, or rice crackers).  I know that I don't mind doing dishes.  I know that I love cats.  But those are basic things about me, things that my friends find out relatively easily.

I've had to do a lot of soul-searching since college.  I'm not the kind of person who can learn life lessons from other people.  I usually have to get out there and try something before I see it's not for me.  Like in 8th grade, when I played softball.  I was good at judging when to try to swing for the ball, but I was useless at everything else.  Most of the time I just sat in the outfield, watching the game.  I couldn't throw.  I hated running.  I didn't want to learn the rules.  I just wanted to have fun.  That attitude stayed with me through high school and my early college years.  I liked learning, but I wanted to only learn things I was interested in, which meant my grades suffered terribly.  I couldn't find anything that I was desperate to learn about, which led me to bounce around in different classes in different majors.  If something didn't take my fancy right away, I gave up on potentially switching to that major.  I felt stuck in my spiritual life too; I gave up practicing Catholicism as soon as I could, but never really found anything that I liked better.  I felt lost, in need of a guide.

Little did I know that I am the perfect guide for me.

We are all the perfect guides for ourselves.  Only you know what can make you feel good (by good, I don't just mean a temporary endorphin rush, I mean something that makes you feel thrilled to be alive, makes you feel in love with your life, makes you feel like acting more positively).  Only you know what makes you feel alive.  Maybe it's music.  Maybe it's sports.  If you like it, do it.  If you don't like it, don't do it.  To me, that is what being authentic is all about; one is true to oneself.  You are living without fear of judgement (or at least with the idea that others' judgements of your actions are reflections of them, not you).  I think this is the hardest thing for people to do nowadays.  To live authentically is to invite judgement into your life, especially with the internet. 

Slowly I started to find classes and friends that made me feel good.  And not just good in an immediate kind of way.  Good in a long-term, positive influence kind of way.  I found others who accepted me without forcing me to behave in a certain way.  I could finally admit that I really enjoyed listening to Britney Spears without the fear of being rejected.  I could laugh and get really excited without feeling like no one understood.  I discovered classes that I was completely in love with (medieval history, poetry, and language).  Slowly I came to know more about myself.

This emotional and spiritual journey is exactly like peeling back an onion.  I really think that people develop layers in order to hide their true selves from others because they have had their true selves rejected time and time again.  If only we can stop others from seeing our inner layer, maybe we can stop ourselves from getting hurt.  But knives can slice deeply, so we keep building up our defenses.  Eventually there are so many layers that we are lost from who we once were, separated and alone.  We want someone, anyone to understand us, but who better than our very own selves?

You are so capable of loving yourself, of being enough just for you.  I think this is the greatest secret in life, the secret that no one ever talks about because no one ever really knows.  If you love yourself, if you slowly start to peel back the painful layers, you can expose something wonderful, something bright that others had no idea existed.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Rainy Daze

Whew.  I sort of fell of the face of the earth there for a little while.  Did I warn you that would happen?  Winter tends to hit me pretty hard, and my fall was actually pretty busy (playing Mario Kart and Super Mario 3D world on the new Wii... among actual work) this past year.  Ah well.  It's coming to close on February and it's time I dragged my butt out from its squirrely hibernation.  I can feel spring on the way, and it's making me super restless, especially on days like today.

Rainy days feel sleepy and slower than the bright sunny ones, and are perfect for curling up on the couch with a blanket, a book and a bottle (erm, I mean glass) of wine.  Some people like rainy days.  I am not one of those people.

I mean, I sure do like curling up on the couch to read.  If I had a fireplace, I'd like it even more!  But rain means only one thing to me; cloudy skies.  Where is my sunshine?  Rainy days toss me into a torporific depression.  I can usually get myself moving if it's dark outside and if I have strong enough coffee (which, thanks to my tenure at a coffee chain, I know how to make perfectly strong coffee).  When it starts to get lighter out, and all there is is a gray ceiling, I sink into a gray despair the exact color of the clouds, and cannot be roused from it easily.

Yesterday was a glorious day of sunshine and happiness, fifty-degree weather and playing outside with kids.  I had a great day yesterday.

This might seem like a metaphor, and though it is not exactly one, I can still use it as one.  See,  February kind of marks a special time for me.  It has been one year (ish) since I decided to quit my job at said coffee chain.  It has been one year of self-discovery, of learning to listen to my inner voice, and attempting to be truly me.  As you may or may not know, I decided to begin a gratitude journal in January of last year.  Each night, I would write down ten things that I was grateful for, either from the day or exactly in that moment.  Some things were silly and simple, like "piles of warm blankets" and "my cats purring next to me" and "grateful I don't have to wake up at 4am!"  I was trying to rewire my brain.  I had become stuck in a spiral of negativity and self-hate, and I was ready for a change.

It wasn't always easy.  Growth is one of the hardest and most painful things to do.  There are certain aspects that keep coming back around; I thought I had dealt with that issue (my self-worth), that it was solved and tucked away neatly into the corner of my mind.  I'd be glad and grateful and happy and relaxed.  Everything was perfect, and I knew that I was never going to feel bad ever again.  Then I'd get angry or hurt or feel lacking and all the neatly bundled issues would tumble off their shelves and I'd have to sort them out again.  While this gets tedious and frustrating at times, I have noticed that the more I have to put them back in place, the more I find that my issues are becoming more manageable.

It hasn't been a slow, steady upward momentum from last year either.  I grew in starts and stops (mental, emotional, and spiritual growth is just as exhausting as physical growth)  I am still capable of feeling just as rotten, just as angry.  But I have noticed that those negative periods don't last as long.  I have found ways of dealing with my emotions constructively.  Most of this is only doing things that I feel necessary (ie, showering, working, feeding my cats) or things that I really want to do.  For example, when I left my job today, I decided to come home and write a blog post.  I really, really wanted to do this.  And I feel a whole lot better even now than I did before I started writing.

Back to the rainy day metaphor.  I have a lot of good days (sunny ones) which are punctuated by some negative ones (rainy days).  But, (are you ready for some cheesy pie?) I have come to find out that while the clouds block the sun from me on the rainy days, the sun is still always there, smiling down at me from above the clouds.  All it takes is getting into the proper mindset.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Self Love

Do you love yourself?  Unconditionally?  Even when you're a spaz or when you make a terrible mistake or when you hurt someone's feelings?

How many of us can truthfully answer yes?

This is the journey that I am on right now.  A spiritual teacher suggested it.  She said the best thing that any of us can do is to practice self-love for an entire year.  Constantly ask yourself "what would someone who loves herself do?" when faced with decisions.  I decided to start on the fall equinox, which was almost six months ago.

How's it going? I am still struggling a little to get my intuition working.  Right now it feels like my ego and my inner child are two squabbling children who don't know how to share the flingin, flangin chalk.  It is exhausting trying to re-parent myself, to monitor my internal mood, to try to just do things that make me happy.  My ego has been screaming out for so long that my inner child has just stopped trying.

I think it's working, though.

I have so much more confidence than I did at the beginning of 2015. I'm starting to believe that I am worthwhile, that I actually deserve to be happy.  I know that I have a long way to go still, to becoming the person that I deserve to be, but I honestly cannot believe how far I have already come since January, when I decided to practice positive thinking and gratitude.  I can't even believe how far I have come since 2012, or even 2010.

The best thing I ever did was get out of a toxic relationship.  Not a romantic relationship, although that had its major issues as well, but a friendship.  Something that can be even harder to get out of than a boyfriend/girlfriend situation.

I think part of the healing for me is not pretending that I am some sort of saint or martyr for putting up with bullshit.  It was not fair of her to treat me the way that she did, but I also was not supremely innocent.  The biggest step that I made in my healing was to forgive myself for reacting the way that I did, to realize that I hurt feelings too, to realize that yes, I allowed it to happen. I needed to take ownership of that in order to be free.

I saw her, recently, at a mutual friend's wedding.  I had made such a huge deal about it in my brain, but Miss Toxicity didn't even come over to say hello to me.  She didn't acknowledge my presence. Yes, I was nervous, and yes I was worried, but I wasn't going to make a big deal about it. I got more worried about dressing up to go see my best friend the next day than I did about that wedding, because I realized that I don't care what Miss Toxicity thinks anymore.  And that is the most self loving thing that I could do.