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Author Archives: caverns of my mind

You Decide for Yourself and Get Your Own Questions

I’m not going to tell people what to believe. Who am I to do that? But I am going to tell you to ask questions and seek answers. One thing I have learned in life is that if you have two greatly differing opinions, the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.

I don’t know if I believe the numbers we’re being spoon fed by the media on Coronavirus are accurate. Where are they all really coming from? Are they being altered or skewed? Are doctors being encouraged to attribute more deaths to COVID-19 than there really are? Without enough proper testing, how can we rely on any of the numbers anyway? Where have all the other illnesses gone? Are people miraculously cured of all of them in the midst of this virus? I still have allergies, so I imagine people are still suffering from other health issues as well, yet people are dying more of COVID-19 than any of these now. This seems curious to me.

If we go out in public without a mask are we all indeed murderers, as I keep seeing/hearing being said? I don’t go out much, but I have been complying with the mask suggestion, not because I think it does a bit of good, but because I know it eases the fears of others. I try to be courteous. Will I continue to do so when it reaches July and August in Florida and the real feel outside is over 100 degrees? Honestly, probably not. But I’m hoping by then this mask thing will have eased up.

You see, I am ok with erring on the side of caution with the unknown, but I refuse to live and make decisions out of fear. That’s why at the start of all this, I didn’t have a problem with a few weeks of social distancing. It seemed like we could all make a little sacrifice and then go back to normal. Now people are talking about “the new normal” and I’m getting pretty sick of hearing it. I am not ok with this if it isn’t temporary.

Yes, I do believe we have a real illness out there. I do believe people are dying. I know some say it’s all made up, but I believe it. I worry about my elderly parents (whom I also miss because I don’t know when it will ever be deemed safe to see them again) and my dear friend who has MS. I love them very much. I would never want to contribute to making anyone else deathly ill or to see my loved ones contract this virus. I know that would be irresponsible. But the converse to that is that keeping everyone caged up also feels irresponsible. Is it fair that healthy people are being forced to go hungry or lose their shelter because they cannot work (government aid is not working for all of us)? Or that some of those who are sinking into depression because of loneliness and the constant barrage of bad news are considering taking their lives? Or to those who are suffering immune-system-deteriorating-anxiety because of all of the above? What is the right answer? I wish I knew, but I don’t.

When I taught high school English, one skill I tried to teach my students was to think for themselves and to always check the validity of their sources. Sometimes we have to dig past the first things that pop up on a Google search. Just because it’s on the internet does not make it true. Who is saying it? Why are they saying it? Is there bias? Are there facts to back up what is being said? Where are those “facts” coming from (and there is also a difference between FACTS and TRUTH). If there is evidence for only one side of an issue, has information from the other side been sought out and considered?

And that is where my distrust comes in. I am not necessarily siding with the conspiracy theorists (I’m not sure I believe the government has much to gain by controlling us if our economy has also collapsed and it’s not just our government going through this- just to touch on a couple points I’ve seen). I do, however, find it interesting that any views contrary to what the media has been beating us over the heads and dragging us out to the curb with seems to disappear once it gets attention. That’s censorship. What needs to be hidden? Are we not meant to analyze the information in order to think for ourselves? Historically, before censorship, commoners, slaves, and women, to name a few categories, were kept from learning how to read? Why? Was it because it was seen as a waste of time for them to learn or because knowledge was gained by reading, and the less they knew, the more they could be controlled? So the censorship that I’ve seen going on is not sitting well with me.

I feel a bit like now that time has gone on and more is being learned, perhaps if it is seen that the frenzy was unnecessary, people who made these decisions will look bad for their early decisions. So maybe it’s just about about saving face. Maybe Bill Gates really is the anti-Christ. Maybe it is actually a nefarious plan to turn our country to Socialism. Who knows? I don’t. I will likely continue to use caution and care with others (If they are living in the fear this disease has caused they’re already suffering so why make it worse?). I really do not wish to contribute towards the suffering or illness of others. But I will also continue to ask questions, to seek answers, and to give both sides of the argument consideration. Never just take in the information that is freely given. Truth takes work. Scully and Mulder searched for eleven seasons and a movie.

Working While Not Working

This title may be a little misleading. This post is about what I’m doing while out of work for social distancing, but it’s also about aging and the challenges of taking care of myself (I’m not saying I’m old, but I am older than I was). I guess with more time alone each day I’ve had a chance to contemplate and try to understand it all a bit more.  I really want to grow old gracefully and be healthy for years to come. I want to stay active into my old age and die peacefully in my sleep one night, not from some preventable disease. I want to “rage against the dying of the light.”

Like many others right now, I’m not working. But I’m also not sitting on the couch, binge-watching Tiger King with a family-size bag of Cheetos in my lap. In fact, I still only watch tv in the evening, and then I try to exercise my brain with a puzzle or something stimulating while I sit.  I still set an alarm, just in case I don’t wake up early on my own, so I can get up and work out before I start my day. As my weeks at home have stretched past a month, I am also putting more time into my daily workouts.

Why? Once I blew out the candles on my 40th birthday cake, it really was like a switch had flipped. All my life, I was always the thin girl who people tried to make feel guilty for it. And no, I really didn’t have to think about what I ate (other than being a bit hypoglycemic); I did not gain weight from chocolate cake or second helpings of pizza, or anything, really. I just had a really good metabolism. But just like all the curses I used to receive, such as, “Just wait, it’ll catch up with you one day,” warned, when I hit forty, my luck ran out, I guess. I gained at least 10-15 pounds, and it does not want to go away. My running pace and my metabolism both suffered at the kickoff of my fourth decade on this blue marble, and I’m a couple years into it now.

I used to be able to just work out a little more or eat a little better and see huge results and quickly.  It’s just not that easy anymore.

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I am not at all comfortable posting anything where I don’t have make-up on.

These pics of my arm muscles (please ignore and don’t get too judgy about the sweaty no-makeup mess that is the rest of what you see of me in the pics) might lead one to believe I’ve got a rock solid body to match. I will be honest. I only took pics of my arms because they tone and show definition much faster than the rest of me (and I do laugh when I cannot wear the shirts I’ve had for years because the sleeves and shoulders are now too tight). I do not have it all together, but I’m working on it. This is my progress in the last month. I think I finally figured out how to speed up my metabolism a little. I try to mix and balance cardio and strength training. Most people think just cardio will do it, but when all I do is run, it is not enough. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest, so you can get even more out of those cardio workouts if you also have muscle, right? I do know my energy level has increased.

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I ramped up the calorie burn in April and am off to a good start for May.

So I’m gaining muscle, but my body weight is not really changing. I hope this is because muscle is more dense and maybe I hadn’t been trying quite hard enough until about a week ago, but I really need to get rid of my gut and the flab in my thighs. I had no idea it would be so hard. So there I was in mid-April, thinking I should be looking better with more workouts and fairly healthy eating, except my husband works at a grocery store that carries amazing chocolates and cookies, and it was Easter candy season. Basically, if it’s in the house, I WILL eat it because I like yummy stuff and because I’m super cheap and will make sure my money has not been wasted. So he brings it home, I eat it. I told him to please stop. We have agreed on that. Also, we had to slow down the beer drinking. I’m not a drunk, but I do enjoy a tasty beer, or a few of them. Limits. I must have limits! We eat well all week, and we allow ourselves a cheat day over the weekend. We have just implemented this…again.

I refuse to partake in any diet that cuts out any of the main macro-nutrients (fats, carbs, proteins). Our bodies were meant to have a balance and there are far too many health risks involved in cutting out all of any of the above. Our bodies were not designed to function at their max capacity with these deficits, especially not if we are also exercising. If you have found a quick diet to lose weight, it is probably damaging your body in a way you just may not know yet, and the weight loss will not be lasting, though the damage to your organs may be. I want a diet that isn’t a diet, but a way of life. But when I do settle down in the evenings, I like to snack. No more of that. I have decided to have tea in the evenings instead. Hopefully this little Jedi mind trick will work. And I’m eating more, but smaller meals. I learned long ago that this helped with my hypoglycemia, but I got out of the habit. It is also supposed to help your metabolism work more efficiently.  I already drink and pee a lot of water all day, so I’m good there.

Goals are important, so I have come up with a number I would like to see on my scale ( I will not share that here). But I am mostly looking to attain goals in the inches I can lose and where I can lose them. As I build muscle and lose weight, my proportions should change. I’ve always weighed more than people thought, so that number is not the important one. I want to carry it well. I also signed up for a challenge to run as many miles as possible in May. I believe I opted for 75 miles as my goal, but my real and secret goal is to reach the 100 mile mark (shhhh). I like to have a goal, but I don’t want to beat myself up over it either, so a secret goal is good for me. If I hit it, I look like an overachiever, but if I only hit the slightly lower goal I still know I accomplished something good.

So now I’m running more. The past couple times I increased my mileage, I also injured myself. This made me realize I need to create a better balance in the types of workouts I’m doing and to let certain muscles rest more between. Part of me just wants to be a beast and run five miles every day while also doing an hour of weight training. But I know I cannot do that without hurting myself in a bad way. I need to cross-train, but I don’t need to die. This morning, I ran a mile as a warm-up, did a twenty-ish minute upper body workout, and finished with a half hour of yoga stretching. I didn’t want to go that easy, but my muscles had been so tight, I knew I needed it. I felt amazing when I was done, and I’ll be ready to move and burn calories tomorrow without injuring myself.

These are my struggles and self solutions. Maybe this can help someone else. I’m just being honest about me. We are all different. I do recommend a couple resources though. I love the workout selection at fitnessblender.com and it’s not too late to sign up for the challenge to run, walk, or treadmill (boring-zzzzz) as many miles as possible in May. You can enter your miles up to two days behind and it’s only the 4th now. You get a cool shirt when you’re done and the feeling of accomplishment. Plus the Facebook group that goes along with it is so supportive. https://runsignup.com/Race/FL/Deland/MilesdeMayoChallenge?fbclid=IwAR3el7TzZbG9DsqENrZ-mc5pXsH3mzb5vNGUCSl2A2kZzympMRfjOcqXKgo

How a Non-essential is Coping During COVID

I am not an expert in anything except my own struggles, but maybe some of you just need to know that even though you are currently encouraged to be alone, you aren’t really alone.

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Is anybody else struggling knowing that you’re not an “essential worker”? Or as I had come to see it, actually being non-essential? Because if you’re not essential, you must be non-essential, right? And, wow, are there a lot of feelings of lacking self-worth that go along with that. My husband is essential, and seriously, I thank God for that because it means we will not starve as I wait (without holding my breath or I’d be dead already) for Florida to figure out the unemployment system. And even though his essential status means that he’s at risk of picking up this virus every day, I guess I’m a little jealous. Jealous of his importance, not the catching the virus thing; if he gets it, I’d likely be right there with him because he’s the only person I have contact with. This is also why I don’t get to have in-person contact with other humans right now at all. I don’t want to put anyone else at risk, even in groups smaller than ten. But so far so good, though there was a bit of a scare last week that turned out to be nothing.

I have a job, but I’m not working. My industry has to do with manufacturing goods used in the entertainment of people in large crowds. I mostly think my job will still be there when this ends, but I don’t know what it will look like yet or when it will happen. It really all depends on the actions of one other particular and rather large company. So we wait.

Honestly, I was excited at first. As an introvert, I thought this would feel like a vacation, and I was getting paid for the first two weeks, so it kinda was. I knew it would end up being longer and unpaid, but I think that news was harder on me than I realized it would be. That’s when I began to question my worth. I am used to having a full time job, frequent meetings in the evenings, and a dog to take care of. Then my dog died, meetings got cancelled (including meetings to prepare for a mission trip we were to go on this summer which was also cancelled), and I got furloughed.

I could write a country song.

With no routine and no sense of purpose, I started to feel depressed. I missed people, but I just didn’t want to talk to anyone at that time. And the sarcasm in a text I received right in the middle of feeling suddenly worthless was, “You have quite a busy schedule…” Yep, that hurt deep. Because I realized that in the midst of having no routine, I have been trying to create a routine. I need it. I want to make my life feel as normal as possible. And that means scheduling my day. It’s not like I break it down minute by minute, but I have given myself chunks of time designated for different activities, and it is really helping me. But that comment felt so mocking. It came from someone who has the ability to work from home, AND thus, has a steady income, so she couldn’t understand how empty and unimportant I was feeling. She also said it to hurt me, and it did.

But I am learning to cope with this mess better and better every day. I work out and/or run first thing every morning, have my coffee while spending time doing devotionals on YouVersion, and I do my Spanish all before I take a shower. The rest of the days have been broken down to cleaning and organizing (I have to feel I am earning my keep somehow and I never had the time or drive before), then maybe reading, then preparing dinner, and ending the evening with my husband. This week I decided I need to add something else back into my life…writing and organizing previous writing. So here I am on my blog. There are a few other projects I am working on that have sat untended on the back burner for a long time. I even had a virtual meeting with my church’s local mission team last night, and it was great to have that scheduled and then to see everyone in their little designated Brady Bunch boxes. It gave me something to look forward to and helped me remember I am still part of things outside of my house and outside of my brain. I also have a standing weekly virtual wine date with my best friend who is three time zones away. This has been one of my favorite things about social distancing and a wonderful thing to look forward to each week.

This is a lot like when I had summers off as a teacher, except that I still had an income then and I knew when I would start back at work each year. But I just needed to find my rhythm. I’m not sure how much longer this will last and this Friday will be my first with no paycheck, but this is why I spend time doing devotionals every morning and talking to God. He has always been there in the struggles of my life, and I’m still here. If you are struggling now and feeling non-essential, find your rhythm and a place to put your trust.

My “Furrever” Friend

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Dearest Sir Dylan,

Today we say goodbye. You’ll be joining your sister soon. I know you’ve been missing her. We all have.

You were our first dog together and we had so much to learn about dog-parenting. Thanks for being patient with us, but gently letting us know when we needed to do certain things… like that day I went to bed to nap off a migraine and you let us know you were essential on our bed, especially if I didn’t feel well. You were right. No dogs on the bed was a silly rule.

We adopted you into our lives because Robert wanted a dog. Honestly, I wasn’t really sure at first, but you let me know early on that you were also an essential protector as well as healer. How in the world had I been answering the front door before you had come into our lives? Certainly it was only a matter of time before someone with a package, wearing a uniform or a hat (or a uniform with a hat), or a kid selling magazine subscriptions was going to murder me if you hadn’t been there standing between us, immovable. Once you knew you could herd Girl Scouts they were ok. By the way, it was a nice touch when you raised up on your hind legs like a bear and put up your Wookie arms in the long window next to the front door. One time a delivery person actually just threw my package towards the door from the walkway and ran off.

You’ve been extra lovable since we had to say goodbye to MJ. I just wish you had been comfortable enough, physically, to put that love into cuddles more often. But that’s the problem: you haven’t been able to get comfortable for some time now, and pacing is the only thing that seems to help. But those back legs just aren’t moving like they’re supposed to anymore.

Knowing when it was time to let your sister go was hard, but now with you, it’s been nearly impossible. You’ve lived a long, happy life with us. We were worried about how you would do without MJ. It hasn’t been the same since. You’ve been more lonely and depressed. So have we. Thank you for sticking around for almost a full year after her passing to make sure we would be ok.  We will…eventually. You’ll both always be part of us, but we’ll keep missing you both forever. Eventually we’ll have more dogs, and we’ll love them. But you’ll always have been our first and most alpha of our dogs. Just as you walked into a pet store or dog park and ruled the place without having to do anything but be there, you ruled our hearts immediately. Thank you for giving us thirteen of your fourteen years and for being part of our family. You have given us so many cherished memories and all of your love.

You really haven’t been able to hear me sing to you for a while now, but here’s our song, one last time.

 

Once Upon a When

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In the fractured sharpness of the day

the stranger came.

Nobody could say when it happened.

It was as if he’d always just been

there.

So vital was the presence

replacing an emptiness

that once hung in the air.

Then after the steady fading of light,

a scream broke the silence

and pierced the night.

 

The Long Forgotten Blog

I wrote three posts in 2019.

That’s it.

I used to call myself a writer. I don’t say that much anymore. After only three posts last year and really nothing else written, calling myself a writer would feel like a lie.

I haven’t felt inspired in so long.

What I have had is a few people tell me I should write a book about the wreck that was my life a few years back. But after all that, I just want to escape reality, not dwell on it and bring it back to life.  No, not yet anyway.

So what do I write about? And when do I find the time to do it? I know I still haven’t finished Drew’s high school experience, but she really requires time and attention, which I just don’t have these days. (and I’m not saying Drew is needy, but she’s special and deserves my best efforts)

My new goal… write some kind of post at least once a month. That’s right, I’m putting it here for all five or so of you to see. That should make me more accountable, right? And maybe I’ll start to feel the inspiration again.

See you in February.

Never “Just a Dog”

Thursday was one of the worst days of my life. I lost a piece of my heart. I had to say goodbye to my MJ, my sweet Mara Jade, forever my puppy.

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MJ’s last outing to the beach.

Sometime early last fall we thought she had a uti. Through a series of vet visits, prescriptions, homeopathic additives, and tears, she still did not seem to be herself. Eventually, this lead to a visit with a specialist and a surgery that lead to a biopsy, which proved positive for urethral transitional cell carcinoma. Our baby was in the 1 percent! That’s about how common dog bladder cancer is, and hers was even more rare as it was actually forming where it would eventually prevent her from even being able to pee. It also turns out it is an extremely aggressive cancer, with no cure, and a life expectancy of about 6 months if untreated, maybe about 8 with chemo. She had already been sick since at least October. We opted for mostly pain management, I researched a diet for dogs with cancer, and we got her special vitamins.

We loved her as much as we could. We wanted to fill her remaining time with adventures and quality time. She wasn’t up for as many adventures as we had hoped. Her energy faded, and even with her extra healthy diet and an appetite that was still strong, her body was using all those nutrients to fight and she was quickly losing weight, and her battle.

From the first night after her surgery that we felt she was healed enough, she not only slept on the bed between us, but she often stretched herself the long way against my side or back, as if she was soaking up or radiating into me as much love as she could. Her last week or so, nights were bad for her. She couldn’t get comfortable, and she was panting so hard she shook the whole bed sometimes. But she slept right up next to me, even on her last night, and I’ll never forget her looking at me with those ever intense eyes of hers as the light started to pervade the room. We knew it was the day. We had set up the appointment days before. I think she knew too. She didn’t want to move around much and just settled on a towel on our screened in back porch, staring into my eyes as I just talked to her.

I wanted to be able to write a beautiful tribute for MJ when her time came, but I knew I’d be the blubbering mess I am now, unable to focus or make much sense. What I did was write a little something from my heart about a week before we put her down. I knew it was coming, and I think she was trying to let me know too. This is what I had written before I even had the nerve to tell Robert I knew we were close.

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When Dylan first accepted MJ as his baby sister, he let her snuggle with his best friend, Green.

She will never have been “just a dog.” She is…

  • the reason we have tile instead of wood baseboards, and tile around our front door.
  • the dog who attempted to eat an electrical cord as a puppy, shot across the house from the dining room to the foyer, messed herself, and still just wanted her mommy (she also ate a Blackberry phone, a remote control, Robert’s glasses, and probably an inedible Nylabone we never found).
  • the dog who figured out if she barked at the front door, her brother would get off the couch to see and she could steal his spot.
  • so intense that if she did not catch her “flippy” (frisbee) before it hit the ground she would pick it up, fling it back and forth in her mouth, and growl at it…then bring it back to us bent like a taco in her mouth.
  • the dog who started trouble with other dogs at the dog park just to watch her brother come running to her rescue.
  • the dog who came back slimy and green from having eluded us and running into a swampy canal behind the neighbor’s house… twice.
  • the dog who could bend herself in half and walk at us sideways when she was happy to see us, snarling the whole time (a frightening sight if you didn’t know it meant she was happy).
  • the dog who leaned on everything.
  • the dog who scratched my arms every day when I got home because her love was so intense and she was trying to become one with me.
  • the puppy who ran down the hall carrying a large bathroom rug in her mouth, shaking it and tripping over it.
  • the devious dog who could duck into the shadows of the hallway and wait for the cat to fall into her trap, but then realize she was terrified of the cat.
  • the dog who was unaccustomed to kids and the noises they make. When Linnea first moved in, she was scared, then curious. She would spy on her from a distance and check on her while she slept. Then she decided the little person needed her protection and they became the best of friends.
  • the dog who still checked on Linnea’s room even when she stopped coming to visit us.
  • the dog who practically jumped into my lap to cheer me up when I was sad because we found out she had cancer. Her level of empathy far exceeded most of the people I know.

MJ will never have been “just a dog.” She was our fur baby, our little girl, our puppy, our family. She loved unconditionally, and she loved hard. I know her time is coming, and coming faster than I thought it would. I don’t want to cheat her out of any of her quality time in joy and love, but her bad times are becoming more frequent now, and I also cannot drag out her pain and suffering. I don’t ever want to say goodbye, but I know it’s coming. I cannot imagine coming home to a house without my MJ greeting me. And I cannot cry in front of her because she feels so much that I feel. I haven’t had much loss in my life, thankfully, and I just don’t know how to prepare for this.

There is no way to prepare, and I know she’s now gone, but it still just doesn’t feel real yet. I’m glad we said goodbye in our home, where she was comfortable. I’m glad her brother was there and that I got to pet her as she went to sleep forever.