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.

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.

It can’t be Social Work All the Time

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In a class focused on communities we have a project that requires us to engage with an under served community and perform an assessment of need. We do this through research (pulling census data, historical information, information about the geographic boundaries of the community) windshield surveys and one on one interviews with community members/leaders. It is a group project and my group has completed the preliminary research which means we were ready to go into the field. Yesterday was our first day spent in the community. It was one other group member and myself. We first did a windshield survey and then parked and observed the community on foot.

When we were finished I drove my classmate back to her car and together we processed our perceptions about what we observed in the community. This conversation led to a broader conversation about the social work program. We began talking about our strengths and weaknesses in the program, as we see them, and what we are actively doing to grow in these areas of weaknesses. One thing I have been doing about this area where I feel I need to grow is research and reading, lots of reading. One of my professors, who is aware of my quest for knowledge in this area, brings me a new book to supplement my current reading every few weeks. Every time I finish one, she brings me another. I have been very heavy on the books this semester but it has helped. It helps make me feel like I have some control over this area where I want to improve, I am not fully grasp it yet but I am working at it and that helps me feel like I am making progress.

As this conversation progressed my classmate gave me some very honest and helpful insight into her perception of my growth. An important piece of advice she offered was to try not to over compensate. I sat on that for the rest of the day and realized how valuable what she said was. Admittedly this area I am working on is an area I feel a bit insecure, I don’t have the same confidence in my abilities in this area as I do in other areas. When feeling insecure in yourself it is easy to swing the pendulum the other direction and overcompensate for this area where you believe you are lacking. That doesn’t help anything though. Her words helped me take a step back from all my reading and work and research for a moment and realize I need to take a breath. I am not going to get it over night and I have to take a break sometimes to maintain balance. At one point when my classmate was talking about her insecurities and concerns in the program she even said, it can’t be social work all the time. She was referencing the importance of balance and self-care.

As it is spring break and with these words in mind I have decided to put down my mountain of research and reading materials and pick up a book to read for fun. It has been a while since I have read for fun, I haven’t had the opportunity. Any free time I do have I spend reading one of my texts of one of the borrowed texts from my professor. I actually went and saw her right before spring break to return one text and borrow a new one so I would have something to read while we are in Key West. Well it will just have to wait.

It is easy to be consumed by school, just like I am sure it is easy to be consumed by work and clients when in the field but I know better. That has been lesson one in this program from the beginning, balance. Vacation is not social work time it is Todd and Jill time, it is family time, it is beach time and reading for pleasure time. It is frilly drinks at sunset time and exploring new places time. School will still be there next week when I get back, I am no less committed to any of this because I take time for me.

I have to remember to come up for air sometimes. Once I came to these conclusions I excitedly picked a book from the bookcase that I have not read yet. Dad, Todd’s dad that is, bought me three new books for Christmas that he thought I would like, I cannot begin to express how touched I was by this. I have not had a chance to touch a single one so I decided to start with Wild by Cheryl Strayed. The New York Times called it “A literary and human triumph”. That sounds like exactly what I need right now.

I do have one more school related activity on my schedule for tomorrow but then I am done for the weekend. Todd’s parents arrive tomorrow late afternoon and we leave early Friday morning for Key West. This vacation could not come at a better time, this is a much needed opportunity to clear my head so I can return to my studies next week refreshed and open.

Chino and Stratego.

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Saturday morning we got up early. Our nephew is on a little league team that plays in my home town every Saturday morning. As we drove to the game The Cure was playing in the background. I love 80’s music, Joy Division, Tears for Fears, The Cure, New Order.. Todd, however, does not. I am always trying to work on him, an awesome Depeche Mode song will come on the radio and I will try to make him see how similar it is to some of the music we like now. I am always saying don’t you see how this band’s sound influenced that band’s sound? Rarely am I able to get anywhere.

So we are driving and Love Song is playing in the background. I ask if he knows who sings the song, he answers 311. I say, well yes, technically, but this is the original. Who sings the original? He is clueless. So I make a game of it and start giving hints. My first hint is that they were popular in the eighties and that they were one of the first true “emo” bands. His answer, The Deftones. WHAT?! I exclaim. Are you serious? You know The Deftones right? Please tell me you are joking. He admits he has never actually listened to them. I say, How did I let this happen? How did I marry someone that has never even heard The Deftones? Who is this person I am married to? I immediately stop the game, give him the answer and a little ear full about why The Cure is a great band the proceed to pull up YouTube on the radio to start educating him on the greatness that is Chino Moreno.

I start with the obvious, Change (In the House of Flies). Everyone likes that song, it is a classic and a good starting place for beginners. He liked it, likens them to Love Drug ( I guess I can see that) and I move on to the few songs, two of my favorites, Knife Party at the Niko and Passenger with Maynard from Tool. From there I pulled up Team Sleep and played my favorite, Tomb of Liegia as well as Ever (Foreign Flag). By the time we got to the little league field Todd was in agreement that Chino has an incredible voice and that both bands are worth listening to.

After the game Todd decided to introduce me to some awesomeness he knew I had never experienced before, Stratego. Todd has told me about it before, it is one of his favorite board games from childhood. It involves strategy (shocker) and fair degree of critical thinking skills. We picked it up at the store while I purchased a few items for a baby shower I was attending later in the day.

I went to the baby shower and when I got back in the evening Todd and I made drinks and started playing. I love board games, they are a great introvert activity, but this one is tricky. I am not the best at Chess and this game reminds me of a cross between Chess and Battleship. I have trouble mapping out multiple moves into the future when I play a game. Todd usually beats me at these kinds of games, and such was this case with this game. It is a lot of fun to play though. I like that your pieces are unknown to your opponent until they strike. It is going to take me sometime to get good though.

 

Living in the Uncomfortable Place

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This semester has been the most difficult for me thus far. It is not specifically the semester that has been challenging, it is just this moment in time, is that makes sense. The issues I have been struggling with have been building slowing over time and recently it came to a point where I could no longer ignore what I was feeling. I had to take sometime, withdraw and focus on these feelings.

In doing this I set my blog to private for a while. I flirted with the idea of deleting it all together because I was not sure if I could be authentic going forward and that has always been my purpose, if that was no longer possible this blog serves no purpose. I hesitated though and I am glad I did because this place has been therapeutic in way over the years as I have been on this journey and I think it will continue to be now that I have a few things figured out.

I have definitely experienced some major growth in a short period of time, a lot of it is thanks to the social work program. I am excited about this but it also means I have been in this really uncomfortable transition place for a while. That is what growth is though sometimes, painful and awkward but incredibly satisfying once you make it to the other side. To be clear, I am not on the other side yet, I am living in this place of awkward discomfort and doing my best to embrace it and process everything.

Another aspect of my withdraw has been with family. This is where I felt concern about my ability to be authentic so I am going to try this on and see how it fits. I have felt a bit disconnected from my family for a while now. There are multiple reasons for this and it has been gradually building. My concern about being able to be authentic with this is that I do not know how comfortable I feel discussing my family issues on here. I am always reminding myself that I have to own everything I put out here for people to read and that is hard when it is something so personal.

Here is where I landed with my feelings on sharing this; I recognize that it is completely up to me what I choose to share here and what I don’t. This is my experience and I don’t owe anyone anything. This is something I need to process though and this blog has been a place for me to do just that over the years. I think it will be baby steps but there will undoubtedly be some personal posts coming out in the near future.

With that being said, for anyone that has been following my blog from the beginning (THANK YOU) you may notice some changes as I figure myself out. I do not know yet what this changes will look like yet but I feel a need to bring this blog up to date for where I am now instead staying in the place I was when I started it.

Spring Cleaning and the Quarterly Purge

One of my top priorities for this weekend was to get organized. Once again I found that shoes had exploded on the floor of my walk-in and once again I felt like my wardrobe was becoming unmanageable. It was time to take action. A while back Todd agreed to build a shoe shelf for my closet but until that time comes I needed to come up with another plan. I also needed to go through and take a critical eye to my entire wardrobe. This includes clothing, accessories the works. It took me 2 hours but I am feeling pretty good about my results, so much so that I decided to share.

I have no “before” photos to share because honestly the state of things was so pitiful I would be mortified to show it off. Here are my post organization photos though.

shoes1

Let’s start with shoes, that is where the problem really began in the first place. I own more pairs that I care to admit to and they had taken over the floor of my closet. I started with my heels. I singled out a few to be sold and/or donated, the rest go on the top shelf of my walk-in. My closet has a wrap around shelf at the top, it is the perfect spot to display some of my favorite shoes as well as keeping them from being damaged.

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I have a chest of drawers in my closet that formerly held miscellaneous clothes I rarely wore. I removed most of its contents to be donated and am now using it for my flats and wedges. It serves as the perfect place to have easy access while also keeping them from being damaged.

shoes2

What is left over in my ever-growing shoe collection is my boots and sneakers. These I now keep in a plastic storage Tupperware under my dresses. I am less concerned about them being damaged, they are a bit more rough and tumble and it is a good use of floor space while still maintaining order.

jewelry

Next I attacked accessories. When we first moved into the house I mounted these racks over my chest of drawers in the closet to hang my statement necklaces on. It is the ideal place to display and store this part of my jewelry collection.

scarves

My scarves are another area of my wardrobe where I felt I had lost any sense of order that was once present. To correct this situation I went through and separated scarves I no longer wear to be sold/donated and then rolled the rest up by color and placed them into four separate shoe boxes. These shoe boxes are the perfect size to fit into a drawer again allowing practical storage and easy access.

hats and belts

Last on my list of accessories were mt hats and belts. Belts got divided up by frequency of wear and put into different baskets. Hats stacked neatly on the top shelf.

clothes color organization

The last thing to tackle were my clothes. This is always the most overwhelming part of the process though.

clothes color organization2

I started by taking everything out of my closet and going through it piece by piece. Once everything that was slated to be sold/donated was taken out I put the rest back by way of color coordination. I have two racks on the right side of my closet so that is wear my tops and blouses go.

clothes dresses and skirts

The left side has one rack which I hang my dresses and skirts on.

clothes dailt outfit

After having such success with the racks used to hold and display my jewelry I decided it might e nice to have a rack for my outfits of the week. I mounted this rack on the left side of my closet a few months ago and use it to hold an outfit or two that I know I want to wear on any given week. My closet is not that big so I try to make good use of any free space I have.

organized closet

So after a few hours of organizing and purging this is my final product. A much more organized and user-friendly closet.

donate pile

I also ended up with two heaping baskets of clothes and shoes to be sold and donated.

Hopefully these adjustments to my daily organization routine will help get me through the next 6 months until the seasons change again and it is time to reevaluate.

Close Your Mouth, Open Your Eyes

malcom

 

I am approached a few times a semester by students doing surveys or polls for classes. I usually participate depending on what it is they need. For example, I am unlikely to sign a petition if I am not personally familiar with the subject matter. Earlier this semester I filled out an anonymous survey about my exercise habits. Today I was approached again.

This time it was a young-looking female student asking if I would fill out her survey about capitalism. Sure. Upon completion she asked if she could ask me a few questions, I was not busy and thought it was part of her assignment, so I agreed.

She proceeded to ask me what political party I belong to, I immediately thought I don’t like where this is going, I told her I had no party affiliation. She then began to explain her feelings about public assistance. She said it is not the government’s job to take care of the poor and that all the government programs should be cut because most poor people abuse them. She also said that if the government continues to give hand outs then no one will ever have the initiative to better themselves.

I just looked at her. What do I say to this? I really had to take a pause to calm myself before I opened my mouth. Some how I managed to politely say although I do not share her opinion I respect her right to it and asked if she minded sharing with me where she got her information. This very simple question rattled her. Has no one ever asked her to share her sources before? She said that she has friends who know people who use government assistance when they don’t need it.

I did not think I could be further dumbfounded but she did it. I asked if she had any other sources? Her reply, Fox news. So basically she is working on third-party information equivalent to gossip and Fox news.

The conversation that followed was brief. I discovered she does not know what the word equity means. I also discovered she does not know the difference between income and wealth and finally I found out that she thinks Doctors and Attorneys are the people who make up the upper 1%.  It concluded with me explaining that it was hard for me to take what she was saying seriously because it did not appear she was informed and her information does not appear to come from reputable sources. I explained that if she had some facts and figures to support her claims that were obtained from reputable, peer-reviewed research then there would be something to talk about it but as it stands I felt there was nothing more to discuss.

I realize I could have shared a wealth of information with her from far more objective sources but the truth is I was so offended by her lack of knowledge that I just had to stop. I did not want a random conversation with a stranger, that I secretly knew I should have never engaged in, to effect me. That was one of the worst cases of ignorance, parroting and confirmation bias I have witnessed in quite some time. I am surrounded by well-informed, open-minded, socially conscious individuals all day long, I forget that not everyone is as well-informed on the issues. This was a sad reality check.

 

Consensual Interview

This afternoon my classmate came over and we took turns playing the role of client and clinician for our consensual interview assignment. The assignment was to record the role play so as to later review and critique ourselves. I feel good about it but am curios to see the video. My classmate will be emailing it to me tomorrow so we shall see.

It was nice that she was able to come over. Although admittedly the idea of having someone from school cross the line into my personal space initially made me feel a bit wary I am glad now that we had this opportunity to get to know each other better. I become very excited when I meet people who care about the issues and that I can have meaningful conversations with.

My classmate and I had great conversation after we finished our assignment. We take a similar stance on a lot of social issues, she is a bit of a soap box girl as well with her loved ones. I had to laugh at that, I know all too well how that is. We talked about LEAD that is coming up in March, it is an overnight field trip to our state capitol where we will advocate for designated causes and hope to educate law makers. We are both really excited.

It turns out my classmate is a bit of an introvert as well, I discovered this as she was marveling over Todd and I’s book collection. We talked at length about our experiences as introverts and how, at times, we feel misunderstood by our extroverted colleagues. It is nice to feel related to in this way. And by matter of coincidence she is a long time boxer owner as well so she and Lucy got along splendidly.

All in all it was a nice afternoon. I am glad to have the bulk of this project out of the way, all that remains is my write up. I am also grateful for this new connection I made. I had been disappointed by the lack of meaningful connections I have made in the program thus far but I am realizing now that may have more to do with me than those with whom I am in the program.

I am beginning to see that I am more guarded than I realized. I feel somewhat indifferent about that fact though if I’m being honest. I have never been easy to get to know. I am more of a quiet observer at first and over time layers begin to slowly melt away with those I become comfortable with. I treat school as my full-time job, which means I am professional Jill at school and have clearly set boundaries. Professional Jill is concerned less with making friendships and more with the job and doing it well. If I am leading with professional Jill at school then it is no wonder that I have not made many meaningful connections up to this point. I have made quite a few with professors in the program because they are getting to know me through my work ethic and through the papers I submit. I relate well with a few of them and feel that I have earned their respect which I am grateful for.

I am three semesters in and now I am starting to make the connections I longed for with my fellow classmates. I am not looking for friends as much as just like minded people to share thoughts and ideas with. Ironically these connections are not forming because I have become more social and less professional minded but because of my professionalism. I am clearly not the only person in the program that approaches school this way and we who take the less social, more professional approach seem to be slowly gravitating towards each other. Regardless of why it is finally happening I am just glad it is.

Conducting my first interview

This semester comes with a generous pile of projects/assignments, group and solo. Last night I began working on my first which was my first interview and assessment. We had the option to work with someone from class or a friend/non-relative. I chose to ask my friend, primarily because  I knew if I chose a classmate they would be asking me the same questions and I preferred not to be the client in this exercise but focus on the role of clinician, which is what the assignment truly was.

I admit I had a little trouble with the construction of my genogram. It was my first time creating one and her family tree is a bit nontraditional, which I really like because this is a huge learning opportunity for me, so I am going to reach out to my professor to determine how to fill in the gaps.

Overall though I feel good about the interview and assessment. I recognize that this exercise and how I experienced the interview/assessment process is not completely realistic because I have a personal relationship with the person with whom the interview was conducted. My first real interview will probably feel a bit more uncomfortable because it will be with someone with who I am unacquainted. This was a nice first step though. It allowed me to practice without all of the other components playing a role.

After gathering all the information for my assignment my girlfriend and I spent sometime catching up. She is in a transition period in her life and has decided to take this time to do some work on herself. Every time I am with her I witness her growth first hand and without meaning to sound condescending, I am proud of her. Proud in the sense that I know it takes courage to look critically at yourself and admit that there is room for improvement and then to work consciously to achieve that betterment. She seems to be in a really healthy place right now and I am happy for her.

Next week I get to flex this interview/assessment muscle again. My next project is a group assignment with a classmate. It is another interview, this time with less detail, no genogram but it is to be recorded. Eek. This time to purpose is to focus more on our style of interviewing, the words we use, our nonverbal signals etc. By recording the interview we can go back, review and critique ourselves. While I absolutely see the merit in an exercise like this I do find the idea of being recorded a bit rattling. My nerves will subside though and I am sure I will do fine. The plan is for my classmate whom I’ll be working with to come to my house next week and we will take turns playing the roles of client and clinician. This is a new experience for me as well, to have a classmate over that is. I am a bit guarded at school, I have always liked to keep work/school and my personal lives separate. I do not share much with classmates about my personal life, on the rare occasion that a true friendship blossoms I open up a bit more but for the most part I like to focus on school at school and home at home. Keeping these two worlds separate has helped me to keep balance over the years. I am not overly concerned about having a classmate over but I do feel a little trepidation at the thought of allowing someone into my private world.

For now I will focus on completing my genogram and other assignments for the week, I will deal with next week, next week.

The only boy I’ll dance with

dance

 

We had a great weekend. It was a four day weekend for us which meant we got to have two date nights and a day in the park with Lucy. It was all a welcome distraction after a long week.

Friday we went to our favorite restaurant for dinner and then instead of staying out as we normally do we opted to rent a movie and spend the remainder of the night bundled under blankets.

Saturday was the most unremarkable day of our weekend. It was spent cleaning, running errands and attending to the tedium of everyday life.

Sunday we made dinner together at home. The weekend is the only chance we have to spend time together in the kitchen and I look forward to it each week. We made grilled chicken and vegetables over spaghetti squash with a berry salad. After dinner we went to a movie followed by drinks downtown.

One of my favorite parts of date night is our conversations.When it is just the two of us having drinks or out at dinner we have some of our most philosophical and over all stimulating conversations. Sunday we talked  about how valuing human rights over what is popular in American society does not make you un-American. We talked about peoples energies and the perils associated with comparing oneself to others. We also talked about the areas we would both like to grow this year.

After drinks, feeling sufficiently warm and fearless inside I asked Todd to take me dancing, and he did! This is out of the box for us for a few reasons. One because this is just not something we have ever done together, two because I do not and never have liked to dance with a partner and three because we are a couple of introverts.

We had the best time! There is a bar downtown we both like for the indie music they play there and it did not disappoint. I have never liked to dance with someone else, it makes me feel crowded and the truth is I do not dance the way boys downtown want to. Todd danced with me exactly the way I would want to dance with another person though. We danced and played together on the dance floor, it was like I have said before, it felt like when I was a kid and I was being completely myself as you only can be with your most bosom friend. He let me bop around and get lost in the music the way I love to and then would twirled me and sweep me into his arms. It was like no one else existed on that floor but us. I know I will keep it as one of my favorite memories.

Monday we had a day in the park with Lucy. We brought blankets and lunch and books. It was a lovely day to be outside, the weather was fair and we made a picnic in the shade of the trees that surround the lake downtown. Lucy laid in the pine needles and napped while Todd and I read peacefully. We had the occasional interruption from children that would pass by and want to pet Lucy but it was so sweet we could not possibly see it as a bother.

We spent the evening watching documentaries while we folded and put away clothes. By weekends end we were caught up on chores and errands and felt quite at ease and ready to start the week.

A Luxury that should be a Standard

obey

 

I called this morning and made appointments for Todd and I with the dentist in town to get ourselves established as new patients. Admittedly neither of us has had a cleaning since we moved to College Park, this call was a few years overdue. While scheduling I gave the scheduler our dental insurance information and she informed me we have wonderful dental insurance, some of the best they see in fact. Todd works for one of the largest engineering firms in the country so this did not surprise me to hear. I already knew just from treating patients in the healthcare field that worked for his same employer that the medical insurance was good, it was nice to hear they take care of their employees health across the board. The company encourages their employees to have a healthy lifestyle through a program that adds funds to their HSA by logging their activity with pedometers as well. Free money for making healthy choices is something I can get behind.

The Hospital I formerly worked for was one of the largest, if not the largest, in the central FL area and they had a similar health program that gave incentives for making healthy choices. Now personally I thought their healthcare package was lacking, big time. But as a company they took care of their employees in other ways that were no lost on me. I believe they care about the well-being of those they employ. They were a wonderful company to work for, especially if you did not have to use their insurance package.

After I made our appointment I was thinking what a relief it is to not only have good insurance but encouragement to live healthy and make good choices. With that sense of relief also comes a small pang of guilt though. Why isn’t this the standard? How can I, as a socially conscious human being, truly enjoy the access I am granted to doctors and medical treatment knowing that others in more dire need than myself are denied that same access?! I am grateful for it, absolutely, but I cannot feel good about it, truly, in good conscience.

You have heard the adage, Happy wife, happy life? I think that could apply to employees as well. If great healthcare coverage (dental, vision, maternity.. the works!) was a given in all areas of employment doesn’t it stand to reason that you would end up with healthier, more focused, all around happier employees? I am reading The Power of Habit:Why we do what we do in life and business by Charles Duhigg. The most recent section I read talked about how a new CEO took over a failing company and turned it all around by focusing on employee safety. His goal was to have zero incidents reported not just at the factory level but at all levels of the company. This was a lofty goal but by turning the focus back onto the well-being of the employee instead of profits etc he not only met his goal but the company became profitable again. If you take care of people they take notice.

To be clear though, I do not think that healthcare access should be limited exclusively to those who are employed. This should be something that all people, regardless of employment status, income, age, race creed etc should have equal access to.

I am not doing any research here to back any of this up, I am just thinking out loud which means these thoughts are unrefined and maybe even a little oversimplified. But really, I think I have a point. A point that I know others before me have already made. This is not some radical idea I am suggesting. Healthcare, or in our countries case – lack thereof, is a topic that is constantly under heavy debate.

I just don’t think it is right for something like this to be considered a luxury. It is not a designer bad, it is someones health. Health, a decent education, refuge, all of these things should be a given not a rarity.

Yes it was nice to hear that we have good dental coverage I just wish that we lived in a society where that kind of thing was the standard. Then there would never be a reason to point it out to a person because it was true for all.

Vacation Recap

matthiessen

 

Todd and I returned home this morning from our final vacation of the year, or our first of the year depending on how you look at it. Getting home was more of an ordeal than we expected but all that matters is that we made it and it feels good to be home.

We were both cranky when we finally got home, after about a half hour of grumbling and bad moods we decided to hug it out, hit the reset button and get on with our day. I think it was just a mixture of sleep deprivation and exhaustion from too much time out in the world without any quiet. After we calmed down a bit and started some laundry we both went to separate corners of the house to recharge. A few hours later I went into the kitchen for a glass of water and to get some hugs and found Todd sleeping with Lucy on the love seat in the sun room, I decided my hugs could wait. Todd never takes naps so I know he must be worn out.

Chicago was amazing and completely draining. I forgot that my brother-in-law, who recently moved back into my in-laws house after finishing nursing school, has a cat. I am very allergic to cats. I can handle outdoor cats fine, I can even pet a cat from time to time so long as I immediately wash my hands after and do not allow it to rub all over my clothes.. But living with a cat does not work. We arrived at Todd’s parent’s house and within a half hour I was coughing uncontrollably and gasping for air. I took some Benadryl and we left for a while to give the medicine time to work, that night when we got back I had another wheezing attack which we combated with more Benadryl. So the first day and a half consisted if me being awake long enough to start wheezing, take more Benadryl and then promptly pass out again until the Benadryl wore off. Finally on day two and a half (Christmas Eve) we figured out which non-drowsy antihistamine worked to relieve my symptoms, we had to try a few different options until discovering Allegra was the winner, good to know for the future. The rest of the trip was better, I still had some allergy symptoms, itchy eyes, runny nose etc, but I was able to breathe. The next step would have been going to an urgent care clinic and probably having to get injections or an inhaler but that really wasn’t how we wanted to spend Christmas so I am glad it worked out.Christmas and Christmas Eve were spent with family. On Christmas Eve we stayed up until 4 am playing games, that is 5am Florida time. Needless to say we were pretty worn out by night fall on Christmas.

My allergy issues gave way to some fun excursions out of the house as a way to give my system a reprieve and allow me to breathe poison-free air for a while. We went to two different state parks that were just a few miles from the house. One we had been to before, Starved Rock. The last time Todd took me to Starved Rock it had been snowing so it was quite cold and the ground was covered in snow and in addition most of the creeks and water falls were frozen. This time it was a mild 50 degrees outside so the whole area seemed much more alive. We saw deer and green trees and the water fall was active. It was neat to see everything from this new perspective. A few days later we went to Matthiessen State Park which is just a few mile s further down the road.’

Two days after Christmas Todd’s mother held a post-wedding reception for us as a way to visit with everyone from IL that was unable to attend the wedding. I met a lot of new family and even a few friends of his from college I had not met yet. His friend suggested Matthiessen to us during the reception, he said it was one of the best nature trails to hike in the area. He was not lying! The scenery first of all was breath taking. We hiked through the dells which just means we were hiking through a big canyon following a creek. It was really magnificent. The creek was frozen in most places and at this particular state park there were no man made hiking trails so we were pretty much on our own in untouched nature, I loved that aspect of it. Although, at times it was a little intimidating. We had to cross the creek a few times to get to the waterfalls and caves at the end and since there were no man made bridges etc this left us hopping on rocks and shimming across downed logs. This could have ended badly for me given my clumsy nature, plus I have a history of ending up in the drink. Miraculously though I succeeded in making it through the day without falling into ice water.

The two days spent out in the woods and nature were the highlight of the trip for me. One, because I could breathe deeply without coughing up a lung and two, because it was just Todd and I in the peace and quiet of the forest. That part was so nice. I guess these parks are not heavily attended in the winter months so more often than not it was just the two of us with no sign of civilization for miles, I really appreciated and enjoyed that. We wander through caves and sat on rocks watching the sun create rainbows in waterfalls.. We watched water drip from icles and threw rocks at the icy parts of the creek to see if the ice would crack, it never did. I felt like a little kid on an adventure with my best friend. Do you remember how fun it was when we were kids building forts out of nothing and playing outside until the sun went down, it was like that. Sometimes we would walk together in silence just taking it all in only breaking the silence long enough to point out some interesting detail so the other one wouldn’t miss out. It was some of the best days I have ever spent with him in IL.

anthro

We also made it into the city for a date night. He took me to the Anthropologie in the city, I love going to Anthros in other cities to see how they are decorated on the inside and what kind of window display they have. Anthropologie is known for its artistic displays. The one we went to in the city had a lovely window display, a tree covered in blue jays. This is one store he does not hate to walk around in with me because it is chocked full of so many interesting things. So after spending sometime there we visited a highly recommended book store, which we ended up spending close to two hours in. The bookstore was a good one, I think we purchased 3 or 4 books, I cannot even remember. What is nice about these independent bookstore is the staff is typically well read and well informed and can give insight into which books are worth reading and which are less so. At this particular store I discovered an author who seems to be in line with me on a few topics regarding the media and creating a sense of community based on things other than theism. I don’t have time for new books right now so I held off but I am hoping by the summer I will be ready for something new.

After the bookstore and the bean we went to dinner at Sepia near Union Station. It was definitely on par with the restaurants from our honeymoon.

I am glad to be home, I am thankful for the quiet and the clean air free of poison cat toxins. We are glad to be back in the house with Lucy, we started to miss her a week in. The twins have been home with my brother and sister-in-law since a few days before Christmas so we have new babies to hold and love on. It is a new year and it is starting off wonderfully. I am not sure how we could top last year but I am excited for what the year may hold for us.

Further Misadventures of Calamity Jill: If It’s not Lost, It’s Broken.

calamity jill   Seems about right..

 

In our house I am the reason we can’t have nice things. This has been true for me my entire life. I have always been the reason I can’t have anything nice and I am usually the reason why it is difficult for anyone I live with to have anything nice. It turns out to be quite fortunate then that I have never been a girl with expensive taste. Impeccable taste, oh yes absolutely, I pride myself in my good taste. But expensive, no never. It is also quite fortunate that nice and expensive are not mutually exclusive.

When Todd and I were dating and we both knew marriage was on the table I explained to him that my engagement/wedding ring would be the only real jewelery he has to get me. The title of this post is why I do not wear real jewelry. It’s true, that for me if it’s not lost it’s broken. I have owned four pieces of real, expensive jewelry in my entire life.. My wedding ring set (obviously), a bracelet bought for me by my parents and a Tiffany necklace that was bought many Christmases ago by an ex.

The bracelet did not make it a week. I was wearing it in a car with my arm partially hanging out the window when I accidentally banged the clasp against the door causing it to break. The bracelet fell out of the moving car into busy traffic and was promptly run over. I was heart broken. Not because of what it was but because it was from my parents and that gave it sentimental value.

The Tiffany necklace, although lovely, should have been a hint to me that the person I was dating did not know me at all. I wasn’t impressed by the fact that it was Tiffany’s, I just liked that it was from him. He could have bought me a sock, just one sock, not even a pair, I would have regarded it the same way I did the Tiffany necklace, I love it because it is from you not because of what it is.

Needless to say, true to form, I lost the Tiffany necklace about a month after it was given to me. Now this took some skill because I wore that necklace everyday. Never the less, I lost it. 3 months later I found it under my night stand covered in dust (I clearly didn’t spend much time under my night stand cleaning).

After those two incidents I decided that was it for me and expensive jewelry. It’s too much pressure and I value it the same way I value fresh cut flowers. Save your money and just get the flowers was my approach to conventional romantic gifts going forward. And my parents, while understanding about the bracelet catastrophe, learned their lesson as well.

Now here I am on my third and fourth pieces of expensive jewelry and wouldn’t you know it, in 8+ years I haven’t changed one bit. I am no less clumsy or more trustworthy with costly merchandise than I was back then. I blame it on the attention-to-detail issues I have always had. I have had my rings for a relatively short period of time (one over a year and the other about a month) and already I have managed to crush the band.

That’s right folks, I crushed platinum. Don’t ask me how for I have no answer. I just looked down and noticed one of the diamonds on my band was not shining as brightly. Upon further inspection (by Todd) we realized I had crushed one side of the band, completely obliterating the milgrain that was previously there. And in doing this I also apparently jostled one of the diamonds which is why it looks different.

I am very thankful that I married someone who truly knows how calamitous I am and therefore spared me the lecture and just started the process of filing a claim with the insurance. I love that man.

I am a little bummed that I will have to send my ring away to be fixed but I am not surprised by any of this. Guaranteed this will not be our last claim filed with the jewelry insurance either because this is me, I am rough and haphazard and these diamonds are in for a bumpy ride.

You know, what I said at the beginning about not being able to have nice things is not completely accurate the more I think about it. I have plenty of nice “things”. I have an incredibly nice husband, I’d venture to say he is one of the nicest. I also have a nice family and over all a very nice life. Lucky for me the nice “things” I have are durable and flexible and forgiving which means that no amount of calamities I can throw at them would cause them to ever become broken or lost. For that I am thankful.

Lying through a Lie

sales

 

Aside from being my birthday Tuesday was also my last day of classes. Now that the semester is finished I have time to get a few things crossed off my To-Do list before we leave for Chicago. Yesterday was only mildly productive because my parents came over for dinner. I spent yesterday morning straightening up before my mother arrived in the afternoon and then she and I ran errands until the boys were off work.

Today was my big day to get things done, and I have accomplished a lot. My time working around the house has been riddled with interruptions, however. three to be exact. After the third one I decided it was time to change out of Todd’s pajama pants and college t-shirt because clearly I am not having the quiet day at home I had hoped for. The first two were fine, aside from the immediate feeling of panic I get every time my door bell rings unexpectedly. The third was a problem.

The first interruption came while I was dusting, no big deal. It was a gentleman from next door letting us know that the work they are doing on the house will last for a week and will be starting early each day. The people next door sold their home about a month ago so this was the new owner just coming to introduce himself and let us know whats going on next door. We chatted for a few minutes where he explained he is not living in the house yet because they are doing major renovation. He said we should only see them early morning to mid afternoon while they are working and then they will be moving in (hopefully) at the beginning of next year. Upon coming back inside I thought, man I sure wish I hadn’t met our new neighbor wearing my husband’s pajamas. Oh well, what can you do?

The second interruption came when I had taken a break and was watching a documentary. This time when I heard the door bell my reaction was less of [panic and more of annoyance, what now? I paused the documentary and headed for the door, the whole time contemplating changing first but then deciding against it. I answered the door to a little blond lady explaining that the park next to our house has been chosen to film an Allegra commercial so she, as part of the production staff or something, has the responsibility of going around the neighborhood and making the neighbors aware. She also needed me to sign off on something showing that I had been informed. Neat, no problem.

The third disturbance was just that. This time I was changing out the laundry so when the door bell rang for the third time I had a load of laundry in my arms that I was transporting to my bedroom to be put away. There was no opportunity to change out of Todd’s pajamas, I would have to go to talk to another stranger this way. I dumped the load of laundry on the couch and headed for the door, Lucy in tow. That is a detail I have left out of the story so far, each time I answer the door I have to step outside and shut the door behind me so I don’t have to deal with Lucy. Otherwise she would be fighting with me to get outside and see the person on the other side of the door.

So, I answer the door and, to my chagrin, it is another unfamiliar face. I was really hoping this time it would be a friend or family member that was in the area and just stopping by, I was over talking to strangers, especially dressed like a bum. I step outside, close the door behind me and right after I do this I hear Lucy jump on the front door.

I ask how I can help the gentleman standing in front of me and he asks to speak to my parents. I tell him that I am the home owner and that my parents do not live with me. He became flustered and started apologizing, then he started lying.

He starts by saying he came by yesterday evening at 6:30 but no one answered the door so he went to our neighbors house and had a nice conversation with them. I stopped him and said, that’s strange because we were home last night and at 6:30 we even happened to be outside. How did we miss him? (My father arrived at our place around 6:20 just a few minutes before Todd. We were all outside helping him bring things in from the car. Then we stayed outside and spoke with our next door neighbor for about a half hour. We he had not seen our neighbor since the wedding so we were catching up. This guy’s timeline did not make sense). He got flustered again and started talking very fast saying Oh I must have just missed you but that is OK because your neighbor over here (pointing to the vacant house that is being worked on) was home, in fact I interrupted her during dinner and we had a nice long conversation. I stopped him again and asked, which neighbor? This house here? (pointing to the empty house) To this question he replied Yes. I explained that no one lives there currently and then looked at him puzzled while I asked, what is it that I can help you with??

After mumbling something and fiddling with some papers he was holding he started back tracking saying that he meant the neighbors on the other side. To that I said, no woman lives on the other side (we live next to a gay couple). He then asked me if I know all my neighbors, to which I replied Yes and asked again, sir can you please tell me what it is I can help you with? I am busy and really need to get back to work. He said that he was a Big Brother and that he mentors inner city youth and that the only way he will be allowed to continue to mentor is if he gets signatures from people supporting him.

I was lost, what on earth is he talking about? How are signatures from strangers going to validate his ability to be a good mentor? This makes no sense.

He was talking too fast for me to get a word in to ask a question. He then explained that all of my neighbors had agreed to support him and signed his sheet and then he asked if I would as well. With this he gave me a crumpled up packet of paper and asked me to sign on page three. I turned to page three and saw a list full of signatures, upon inspection I did not see one name I recognized. Now, I don’t know ALL of my neighbors but I do know the 8 that live closest to me. When he saw me looking confused at the paper he leaned in and pointed at the blank line where he wanted me to put my name. I stopped him and said, I don’t see any of my neighbors signatures here. Which one of these signatures is one of my neighbors? He started to say he has spoken to everyone on this block and everyone has signed his sheet. I flipped to the next page to see if there were more names and all I saw were pictures of magazines. Suddenly everything made sense.

I asked if by support he means he needs me to buy something? He said No, that I can make a donation, I don’t have to buy anything if I don’t want. So I rephrased the question, are you asking me to spend money?      Yes.

I handed him back his paper and told him that I was not going to be spending any money. With that he thanked me for my time and asked me if I knew if my neighbor was home so he could speak to him? (I was thinking, you just said you already spoke to all my neighbors!) I said I was sorry I did not know and he left.

What a colossal waste of 15 minutes of my life! I was beyond aggravated, it was just lie after lie to try to guilt me into buying a dumb magazine. “All your neighbors are doing it” “I came by last night but you didn’t answer the door” “I mentor inner city kids and unless you support me I wont be able to continue“. The last one is where he would have got me too because what he is claiming he does is really important. Now I don’t know whether to believe him because he lied about everything else and tried to trick me into buy something rather than just being honest from the beginning. It’s like he was just lying through his lies until he came out on the other side. Ugh.

After he left I got my mail from the box and turned around to go inside, fat chance, I was locked out. Locked out in Todd’s pajamas. Of course.

Apparently when Lucy jumped up on the door after I first stepped out she some how managed to lock it, just my luck. I walked around to the garage door, punched in the code and let myself back into the house where Lucy was sitting by the door waiting for me. What a debacle.

Needless to say I am now fully clothed finishing my chores just in case.

 

 

Balancing the Busy

I cannot tell you if it is just the point I am at in the semester or being this close to the wedding but my life has become exceedingly busy of late. I had a slight inclination that October would be a full month but I was not prepared for this level of frenzy, which is exactly what this feels like, an absolute frenzy.

It does not help that at times I feel like things or people are working against me. In terms of people being a hindrance I certainly do not think it is deliberate. They have their own lives with their own priorities and lists of things to do and at times unfortunately our priorities and lists do not match up. This has resulted in me having to make time where I do not have it to make something happen that is a priority to me. I have also been met with a lack of understanding more than once about my time constraints and overflowing schedule. Recently any time I am asked, Hey what are you doing on blah blah day, my response is always I have to check my calendar. I write everything down I have going on and I will not answer that question, even if I feel pretty confident I know the answer, without checking the calendar first. I don’t just have something going on everyday, I have multiple somethings going on just about everyday.

An unfortunate casualty in all of this is my social life. Which that part I know is more because of school than anything. There comes a time in every semester where I have to put my head down and really focus. I usually do not see my girlfriends for about a month or so when this happens. It’s what it is though.

I am starting to feel the effects of all of this commotion though. I feel like every detail of my life is planned out through the New Year. I feel like I can’t just sit and breathe and have a moment to mentally check out. That’s not completely true I guesses. There is allotted down time here and there for Todd and I to just be. I guess I just wish I had a little more or maybe just a full day of downtime rather than an afternoon here or an evening there. What winds up happening is that moment that we allotted for downtime turns into our only opportunity to make a grocery run or catch up on laundry etc. Last weekend is a great example of that..

Friday: 9-4:30 NASW Training

4:30-5:00 Drive home

5:00 Dinner Reservations for Todd’s Birthday

7:15   Movie

10:30 Finally get home, let Lucy out, play with Lucy for a few hours since she was crated almost all day

12:00 Go to bed

 

Saturday: 9:30 Grocery run

11:30 Leave for friend’s daughter’s first birthday party at 12pm

1:45 Leave birthday early

2:15 Arrive home, get Lucy, leave again to go to my parent’s house by way of grocery to pick up pre-ordered birthday cake

3:15 Arrive at parents house, have exactly 1 hour to do wedding hair trial run with my Mother

4:30 Family arrive for birthday celebration and dinner

11:00 Leave parents house, drive half hour home and go to bed.

 

Sunday: Our “Free Day”

10:00 Wake up, have herbal tea, make to do list for the day

10:30 Clean dishes

10:45-12:30 Reorganize guest room/wedding room to make ready for company arriving in early November.

12:30 Start laundry

12:45-2:15 Yard work outside, switch out laundry and start next load

2:30 Clean Lucy’s ears

3:00-4:00 Finish music list for DJ and send in email

4:15 Start dinner, switch out laundry and start next load

5:15 Eat dinner

6:00 Take Lucy for a walk

7:00 Arrive home from walk, switch out laundry

7:15 Start to fold and put away three loads of laundry while watching a documentary

9:00 Watch Walking Dead

10:30 Bed

 

I swear almost every minute of our lives are planned out right now. As I write this entry I should be working on three separate school assignments that have to be finished before 6:00 which is when I have to leave to meet one of my bridesmaids for dinner so I can finally give her the bridesmaids dress she should have altered a month ago.  I do not mean to sound resentful in that last statement I made, it is just one more thing for me to worry about that I wish I didn’t have to.

So you can see even Sunday which was supposed to be our day of no plans was quickly consumed by our household responsibilities. In truth it wasn’t so bad though. I got to spend the day in yoga pants and a sports bra as we checked items off our to-do list. And I will never complain about taking Lucy for a walk or watching the Walking Dead. In fact, I kind of like re-organizing the house and yard work too so all in all there isn’t much to complain about. My favorite part of the day was our walk though. It was a perfect evening. The weather was exceptional, it was right around sunset and Todd and I spent the whole walk day dreaming and talking about our future. We stopped on a bench by the lake for a while and just talked and talked soaking up every moment of the cool evening air. On the walk home I pointed out how radiant the trees looked with the red setting suns beams glowing on their branches, it was stunning. We stood there and watched the branches sway in the red light for a minute before continuing on. I was just glad to be outside seeing something pretty in nature and being in that moment with him not thinking about everything else. Thank God for long walks on autumn evenings, at least for a moment time seems to slow down.