Week One of Winter Break

It has been an outstanding week. As I wrote that my grandmother’s voice was ringing in my ears, she calls everything that she likes outstanding.

I have had time to paint, finished my Christmas shopping, done a bit of travel, had time with girlfriends, time with family, multiple date nights with hubs, deep cleaning and reorganizing the house.. Week one had a lot of good stuff in it.

Here is what I have painted so far

One was inspired by a sunset I witnessed near our home. I was driving through our little downtown area in our neighborhood and it was setting over the power lines, it was beautiful. The second was inspired by Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. The Wes Craven movie was on last weekend (I love his vision for the classic story) and after watching Mrs. Fox paint storm clouds I thought I would give it a try. I think I have more work to do in this area but it was a fun first attempt. I have really enjoyed breaking in  my new easel.

So I am going to go out of order with my stories.. Tonight I had dinner with a friend from undergrad who I have not seen since graduation in May. She is special. She offered to cook me dinner at her home which I was touched by. After our meal we sat on the couch drinking a delicious tea blend she made and eating dark chocolate I brought as my contribution to the evening. We talked and talked. It was the best kind of conversation; sharing ideas, relating over shared values, talking about culture and social issues, getting personal. It was so refreshing. She shared a story with me that made me cry and I would like to share it.

Someone she works with lost their mother to Alzheimer’s disease. Apparently before getting the disease this woman was a painter and was very self-critical of her work. What was so beautiful is that when the disease had progressed quite a bit the woman no longer recognized her own art, this sounds sad and it absolutely is, there is a twist though. One day she was walking down the hall in her daughter’s home and saw one of her pieces hanging on the wall and stopped to admire it. She thought it was stunning, she really really liked it. When she had painted it she was critical of it then later when she forgot it was hers she was moved by it. This is such a sad, beautiful, special story.

Something else that was unique about the night is the amount of things that went wrong. I showed up and my poor friend was having so many issues. Her A/C had gone out and was leaking all over her carpet, the blender broke and she was making coquito which apparently she blends at the end to make sure all the ingredients are incorporated so she was not able to do that like she wanted, she had no ice to cool the coquito after being in the hot pot on the stove, her toilet was acting up.. It seemed like it was one thing after another for her. I have to tell you though I had such a great time just being with her that I barely noticed any of it. I also kind of loved that it was such a human experience. Things go wrong, that is life. We cannot control everything, things break at the worst possible time, like when you are having a friend over for the first time. It was a great night because of the energy we shared, nothing was going to going to take away from that.

This past weekend was wonderful. Hubs and I went St. Augustine Friday and stayed in a fancy hotel at the beach (totally out of the norm for us). We walked all over the sweet little downtown area, did some Christmas shopping, stayed to watch the entire city light up with white Christmas lights, had dinner.. We checked out the love tree, and the cemeteries, and got a gourmet popsicle on our way back to our hotel.

It was relaxing and romantic and fun. I love exploring with him.

The next morning we got up and drove up the coast to Jacksonville to visit my soul friend.

Her apartment is cozy and inviting. The art on her walls is inspiring. She has a piece by the same artist who painted our boxer piece, that one is my favorite of all the pieces my girlfriend has. The piece I painted her hangs in her bedroom. We explored a small area of her downtown, had dinner on a rooftop, and walked by the river before returning to her apartment. That night she made us Moscow mules (I had a mocktail as I was finishing up an antibiotic) and we played games with her and a friend she invited over. I lost at everything, so did she, hubs won all the games.

The next morning we came home, picked up Lu from my parents and spent the rest of the day at home watching movies and playing games together.

Today I was cleaning and reorganizing and managed to finally finish the work I have been doing on my wardrobe for nearly a year. I have been cutting back on the amount of clothes in my closet for sometime. I used to use clothing as a way to numb. I have gotten better about not numbing and allowing myself to feel what I need to feel. This year I have been whittling down the amount of clothes I own little by little. Every time I purge I give clothes away to friends and family or at a sip and swap. This is the last of it and I thinking about donating some to a women’s shelter (there are a good bit of professional clothing from when I worked in the corporate world and I thought that might be good for women going on interviews etc) I also think I might try to sell a little bit of it. Regardless of what I decide to do it just feels good to part with this hoard. I definitely feel like this year I have gotten a handle on habits that were harmful to me in the past, shopping being one. Finally being at a point where I can keep all of my clothing in one closet in my home without that closet bursting at the seams makes me feel good.

I also finished my Christmas shopping today. Last week when I was taking my last final my best friend at school informed me that she bought me a birthday and Christmas present. I was completely caught off guard. She is coming over tomorrow so we can spend some time together and because she wanted to give me my gifts. I thought for a while about whether or not to get her a gift as well. In group therapy my therapist has talked to us before about the act of receiving without feeling the need to reciprocate. This would be a wonderful time for me to practice receiving without feeling the need to give. In the end though I realized I just was not there yet. I love her and wanted to have something to give her as well. I needed to get my Dad a bookstore gift card anyway so while I was there I picked up a copy of Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey (I highly recommend it to everyone but especially all my female readers). Then I ran to another store to pick her up a small Himalayan salt lamp.

While I was waiting in line to check out the woman in front of me turned around and said my name I looked up to see a dear friend standing in front of me in line with her husband. I was over the moon, it was the happiest surprise! I really really like this person and do not get to see her as often as I would like due to both of our busy schedules. I could not have been more tickled. We caught up as we moved through the line and parted with a hug. Really thankful for that little moment.

While at the bookstore I also picked up Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. It has been recommended to me multiple times by my therapist and professors at school, I am finally ready for this story. You cannot read certain things until you feel totally ready because you have to know you are open to receive the message, somehow I know I am ready now. Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton is another book that is on my reading list right now. It was recommended to me by multiple women and I think it will help me with the work I will start doing next year around my relationship with my body. I think I am going to need support wherever I can find it when I start that work, at least at first.

So this is where I am at. Tomorrow I will spend time with my bestie from school, Thursday my mother has talked me into Christmas baking with my grandmother and niece at her house, Friday Isaac is spending the night, then Christmas will be upon us.

I am grateful for the love and connection this holiday season is bringing. A lot of what my friend and I talked about tonight centered around connection, a post for another day. I am happy with the way the year is ending and look forward to the dawning of the next. I am looking forward to quiet time for reflection over the next few weeks to really sit with my intention for the new year and what this transformation will mean to me.

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Festival Season

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October brings with it so many happy happenings; sweater weather, leaf change (in Florida it is the season when rain trees are in bloom), pumpkin spice everything, mulled wine, and a personal favorite: fall festivals!

It is festival season. Every weekend it seems like there is a reason to throw on your favorite light weight scarf and get yourself outside! Today marked the beginning of festival season for us with Veg Fest and Jazz Fest. In the midst of everything else going on today we made time to stop by Veg Fest this morning and scope out all the interesting booths and visit with some pups who were hoping for welcoming homes (I tried to talk hubs into a friend for Lu but he was having none of it).

This evening we walked into town for Jazz fest. Our neighborhood does seasonal block parties where the center of town is blocked off to traffic and our entire community, as well as neighboring communities, descends on the center of town for food, music, and friendship. Jazz fest is my favorite “adult” block party (Christmas time brings my true favorite block party but it is much more geared towards kids and families), there are tables set up all over our downtown, food trucks lined up in the streets, and three stages with jazz bands performing. I really enjoy the sense of community at these events. I am grateful to live in an area that encourages it’s residence to get out and be together in this way.

Tonight we sat on a stoop, hubs with his taco, me with my cold pressed juice, and we watched the goings on around us. Dogs hoping for a pet or stray pop corn kernel, little kids hugging and twirling, old men snapping to the music, ladies in their favorite fall attire.. It was fun to be involved without having to be too involved, just how we like it.

In a few weeks there will be an arts and crafts festival in my home town that I am looking forward to attending. I have not attended in years, as a child it was something I looked forward to all year – we never missed it, but this year a dear friend is selling her art at a booth and I would not miss seeing and supporting her.

This is the best time of year. Everyone seems to feel better in the fall, I know I always do.

Monopoly Marathon and Family

Last weekend Todd and I played Monopoly and for the first time in my entire life I won. No kidding, I have been playing Monopoly since I was a kid, I have never won.Todd says it is mostly a game of luck but there is a bit of strategy to it as well, I think the strategy part is where I always got stuck before. After my win I was so excited I wanted to play again to see if it was just luck or if I had finally figured out the strategy aspect of the game, thus began the Monopoly Marathon of July 2015.

It was not a true marathon, we did not play back to back for hours but we did play Monopoly about 10 times in four days.

Todd had Thursday and Friday off last week for the holiday. We spent most of the two days in our backyard finishing the “clear out” portion of our backyard renovation. In the course of three weekends we removed about 8 philodendrons (our new most hated plant in Florida), three trees and more vines than I care to describe. Our backyard, while very sad looking right now, is cleared and ready to be tilled (the next step in the process before seeding grass).

So during the days we worked together in the yard and in the evenings we played Monopoly. Todd is still reigning champ. I won the two games we played on Sunday, he won the rest.

We also went downtown for dinner Friday night and watched the sunset over the fountain. Saturday we had family over for a BBQ and then went to one of the lakes in College Park where you can see the downtown fireworks. It was a nice holiday weekend.

Quick school update: I submitted my application for the healthcare scholarship program, I should hear back in the middle of the month sometime. At the request of the program director I wrote a short blurb about my time at LEAD in March for a social work magazine that is going to be distributed to local agencies and colleges. Also, my friend and I who worked on a case study a few weeks ago had our paper chosen as the sample paper for this assignment going forward. We were both excited, it was an interesting case study and we enjoyed working on it together.

Across the board things are good.

It’s Official

Todd and I went down to the court house today and made my name change official. As the judge called me forward to hear my case she mispronounced my last name and I thought to myself, this is one of the last times someone will ever mispronounce my name. I had a nice judge who ended my hearing by addressing me by my new first name and wishing Todd and I the best with our marriage. It was a great experience considering how nervous I felt before hand. After our hearing we got our notarized documents and were sent on our way. The next step is a visit to the social security office, then the DMV, then everything else.

Officially though you are looking at the new Mrs. Jillian Elizabeth Baxter!

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It’s an Adventure

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I have been under the weather for a week now. Last Monday while working on a school assignment online I had the dizzy spell to beat all dizzy spells. I nearly fell out of my chair. I had to stop what I was doing and put my head in my hands until the room stopped spinning. I knew immediately what this was, this was not my first experience with this form of dizziness. A few minutes later I called and made an appointment with my PCP for the next day. As I expected it was a bilateral ear infection. I have been plagued by this diagnosis my entire life. It seems every time I get the sniffles it ends up in my ears. The real problem is the dizzy spells that accompany this illness though. I started the antibiotic prescribed that same day. Unfortunately it takes days for me to feel the effects of the medicine. The next day at school I suffered two dizzy spells while walking across campus to the library which resulted in my walking into a parked car and a tree. Embarrassing. The following day I walked into a wall on two separate occasions.

By the end of the week I had three new bruises and no relief from my dizziness. In fact the pain in my ears that I had described as mild to my physician had grown stronger and new symptoms appeared, runny nose, soar throat, the works. Needless to say Todd and I laid low this weekend. I spent my time quietly working on school assignments, laying (a lot of laying) and playing games/watching movies with Todd.

Saturday was a particularly pretty day which led to me feeling particularly morose. On a day as nice as Saturday Todd and I would normally busy ourselves outside. We would walk to one of the restaurants in town and have lunch or ride our bikes or do something with Lucy. I was very bummed to be missing out on such a pretty day but I felt awful. I had a low fever and everything hurt, just wearing clothes hurt. After spending most of the day admiring the blue skies and sun from inside we decided we would find a way to enjoy it that would not lead to feeling overexerted. We got Lucy set up in the backseat of Todd’s car and went for a family drive.

We had no particular destination in mind. It was an adventure. Whenever Todd or I make a wrong turn when driving somewhere or are driving in an unfamiliar area without a clear sense of where we are going we always exclaim, It’s an Adventure! It makes being lost or unsure less scary and way more fun.

We ended up driving down roads in College Park we had not traveled down before and through College Park to Winter Park on more roads we had never traveled. we admired homes and day dreamed about our forever home. We admired all the plants that were blooming and lakes we would drive past. We ended up near one of the local colleges and admired its campus on the lake. Our travels ended when we drove by a gelato shop and stopped for a cool treat.

On the way home I told Todd about my paternal grandfather. He was a pharmacist and owned the first drug store/soda counter in my home town back in the 60’s. Because he was a private business owner he worked all the time. the only day he took off was Sunday because my family is devout Catholic. Dad tells stories about how every Sunday after church grandpa would pile the entire family in the car and go for scenic drives around Florida. Dad says that they would drive for hours, they might drive all the way to Miami and back just to see what they see along the way. I have always thought the idea of being in a car for that long without it being a road trip that ends in a vacation sounds tedious. This was their family time though. Grandpa could have spent his Sundays in front of the TV or catching up on a sleep, any number of things that did not include his family because it was his one day to relax but he didn’t. He wanted to explore the state he lived in, he was a transplant from Wisconsin, and he did it with family in tow.

As we drove home I understood a little bit how family drives with no destination in mind are not all that bad. I don’t think I have the wherewithal to tolerate an all day family drive but being in the car taking a scenic drive with my little family unit was nice. It was a chance to talk and day dream and laugh as Lucy did her “batdog” routine out the backseat window. It made being sick and miserable a little less miserable. It was an adventure.

Preparing for the Next Step

In the next few weeks I will be applying for the Master’s Program. I can hardly believe I am already here. In a few weeks I will be a senior in the program and in less than a year I will be in my undergrad internship. This experience has had an enormous impact on my life, more so than I could try to measure. The further along in the program I get, the more confident I am in my decision to turn things upside down and go after this dream.

This week our actor came for the third of four sessions in the role play we have been doing in one of my classes. We had a good session. Our client is feeling empowered and capable, I believe we have helped our client develop better coping skills for the future. I am looking forward to getting feedback after our last session to see where improvements can be made but overall I feel really good about our progress.

After our clients left we went straight into the role plays that we had to create. The one my group acted out was spot on. One of our group members was unable to be present at the last moment so we had to punt but we were all so familiar with the roles that I don’t think anyone would have known the difference.

I am currently working on a research paper surrounding physician assisted suicide and the patient’s who request it. It is definitely furthering my knowledge on the topic. I may end up using this paper as the paper I turn in as a sample when I apply for the Master’s Program.

Our community assessment project is coming along nicely. That is an understatement really, I think we are going to hit this one out of the park. Our instructor has informed us that she plans to submit our finished paper to the Dean of our college because the data we have collected is relevant and useful for a huge project our college is about to undertake in that community. We have also started discussing the idea of turning in a copy of our data and findings to a senator whose office is in the community as a way to highlight where more can be done for this community. Now that we, as a group, have a better understanding of this community we have discussed how we can become involved on a personal level as well.

I have almost finished my supplemental reading that was loaned to me by a professor before spring break. It was a very worthwhile read. I have a much better grasp on hierarchical and  dichotomous thinking patterns now. I know how to break them in myself as well as how to identify them in others and help them move away from that style of thinking into a more holistic way of thinking. I know the next read she has for me will expand on this even further, I am curious to see what I will learn next. Each text she loans me opens my mind a little further.

This weekend I will be working on school assignments and laying low. I have had a double ear infection for a few days now and unfortunately the antibiotic I was prescribed has offered no relief from the symptoms yet. I am taking advantage of the downtime while I have it because next week promises to be another busy one.

Adventures in Baking

This morning I went to school early to take a make-up exam. I missed an exam Monday while in Tallahassee. After my exam I decided I would stop by the grocery on the way home. I wanted to make whole wheat veggie pasta salad for dinner and wanted to stop by the produce section for more veggies. While in the produce section I saw blueberries and decided blueberry bran muffins might be nice for breakfast this week. I have never made blueberry bran muffins before but I quickly found a recipe online and got my ingredients. I like this recipe because instead of oil it uses applesauce and instead of using only all purpose flour it combines it with whole wheat. Here is the LINK to the recipe.

I rarely bake as I have mentioned in prior posts but I have to say this venture was a total success. The muffins are delicious and filling and I am feeling very pleased with myself right now.

Getting Started

Ready to get started!

Boling Applies

Since the recipe called for apple sauce I chose to make my own. So I started my apples boiling.

Bran and Milk  Dry and Wet

The left photo is what my bran/almond milk mixture looked like after the ten minute period. the left photo is my bran mixture post applesauce mixture being added but pre-flour mixture which is shown to the left of the mixer.

Mess

It is not a true baking experience in my kitchen until I covered in one of the ingredients. This time it was baking powder, could be worse, at least it wasn’t egg. Ick.

Before Bake       After Bake

These are my before and after baking photos. My muffins needed the full 20 minutes in order to bake all the way through. The top became a nice brownish color and a few of the blueberries burst but they are DELICIOUS! I am not that familiar with baking/cooking etiquette, are you aloud to say that about your own food? Well either way, in my very subjective opinion these muffins are amazing.

Final Product

After I finished I juiced some oranges and had a lovely snack. I could totally run a B&B. haha.