Chasing Inspiration

Friday, November 13, 2015

Of Impending Snow and Cute Boots

  1. Chris Pratt. Always.
  2. Silk blend yarns because they are so soft and wonderful to knit with, even if they are cost prohibitive.
  3. Velcro Dog.
It's been a hard few weeks here at my place. Autumn may be my favorite season, but the ups and downs and highs and lows and constant craziness of the weather patterns have made it difficult for me. My brain feels disengaged and fuzzy. And Velcro Dog has more energy than I know what to do with. Does the colder weather with the biting wind really come back every year? Why yes, Naomi. Yes it does.

I am putting together my winter dog walking outfit, which is all about functional layers. I have a lovely jacket that I layer over fleece. There is the hat, the gloves, the various scarves to wrap around my face depending on just how cold and biting that wind decides to get. What's been missing are winter boots. I have never owned a pair of serviceable winter boots. At least not a pair that met the husband's approval.

This year I decided we had to remedy that. But the boots had to be at least a little on the cute side. Boots can be functional and cute, right? Why yes they can!

Cute and functional! Not boots I would wear out on the town, but cute enough for walking the dog!
They aren't super cute work boots or night-on-the-town boots. But they are cuter than most winter boots I've seen. I can walk the dog in style! Of course, I've also just lost my excuse for not shoveling the driveway. No longer can I say, "I'm sorry but I just can't. The snow is so deep it will get into my shoes!" I'll have to find a different excuse for avoiding snow removal. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Of Scaredy Cats and Velcro Dogs


  1. We have an awesome vet who understands our dog is a bundle of neuroses and loves him anyway.
  2. Seanan McGuire, an author spins tales amazing enough to pull me away from my pain and into a world of whimsy, daring, and adventure. 
  3. Mator the Mutant Tomato plant will provide us about 40 more cherry tomatoes before we have to mulch him. I'm a little sad about that. The mulching, not the awesome tomatoes.
Velcro Dog had a new experience last week. It wasn't awesome.

We've been very lucky that Velcro Dog hasn't required more than a once yearly vet visit for a check up. He's fine walking into the lobby, playing sit/stay/lay down with me while we wait (and I arrive just in time so the waits are never long), and going into the examination room. He hates the scale and loves to cower when getting his temp checked, but over all he does very well.

He is now almost nine years old and at our last wellness check the vet informed me it was time. Velcro Dog needed his teeth cleaned.

With a resigned sigh, I made the appointment and in the ensuing weeks attempted to get Velcro Dog to become accustomed to the stairs and elevator at our vet's office. Why? Because he is an anxious dog and he dislikes unfamiliar indoor stairs with a passion. He also has never ridden in an elevator.

New experiences and Velcro Dog don't always go well together and no matter what I tried, I could not get him to go near the stairs or the elevator. He would sit and would not be budged until we went outside.

An unhappy Velcro Dog. 
I informed Hubs that his assistance would be required. At 0700 last Tuesday, we loaded Velcro Dog into the car and drove to the vet's office. We got him inside and Hubs had to carry him into the elevator. Once in the basement surgical suite, the dog was fine. He was hungry and sniffing for a treat for being a good dog, but fine. We left him there with a pick up time of 1800.

The cleaning went well. He didn't require any extractions. He does have an bonus tooth that is behind one of his molars. Hubs refers to it as his shark tooth. It's not bothering Velcro Dog and it's healthy so the vet didn't see any reason to remove it.
I did get a call at 1400, however. Velcro Dog was anxious, could we pick him up earlier. I was available so I got to the vet and a shaking and whimpering Velcro Dog was released to my care. He slunk up the stairs and out the building, and dragged me to the lawn where he emptied his bladder forever. I got him in the car and started the incredibly short journey home, only to pull over a minute into the drive because the poor boy kept whining. I don't know if he was in pain, if he was feeling really out of it still due to the anesthetic, or what. I pulled over, got into the back of the car, and just sat there petting my baby until he settled and I could resume our trip home.

He was clingy and whimpery for the remainder of the afternoon/evening, and indicated he needed to go outside about every 20 minutes. By the time Hubs got home, I was exhausted. Hubs ordered take out and took over dog duty so I could rest.

It took three days for Velcro Dog to return to his normal self. His teeth are spotless. His breath is fresh. Hopefully we won't have another surgery visit any time soon for both our sakes. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

In Which There Are Donuts


  1. Cold water brewed iced tea. Yum!
  2. Reconnecting with old friends and celebrating the joy of having them be a part of my life.
  3. Gluten free donuts. 
I've been eating a gluten free (GF) diet for almost three years. The first year I would cheat and eat wheat/gluten filled food. Mostly because I was craving baked goods and didn't like the GF options available. Initially I didn't notice a difference in how I felt, but the longer I would go without gluten, the more I would notice increased pain and tummy troubles when I would eat food those really tasty treats. 

GF foods have come a long way, though they tend to be on the pricey side. Baking mixes are a godsend and more and more stores carry GF options for things like breaded fish and chicken strips. Yay! I have found pasta alternatives that I enjoy. And Hubs is getting used to gluten free dinners. Which we were mostly doing anyway, unless the meal included pasta. 

The problem occurs when dining out. So few restaurants have menus that point out items that contain wheat. There are many times I need to quiz the server on ingredients in sauces, dressings, breadings. I ask about GF substitutions. Usually I get a blank look. A few times open hostility. I totally understand why some people with severe food allergies don't eat out. We are viewed as a pain in the ass and entitled. When in truth we just want to enjoy the same thing everyone else does: a meal out of the house that we can savor within the company of our dining companions. 

Imagine my extreme joy when I found out that a local coffee shop now serves GF donuts. I haven't had a fresh donut in three years. When I visit Canada, I can no longer find my bliss within a Canadian Maple or Sour Cream glazed donut dipped ever so delicately in my cup of hot chocolate. Let's have a moment of silence as I'm still grieving this loss. 

Mmm, donuts!
Photo courtesy of devildolmail via Flickr (CC license)
While Timmy's may be out for me (until they get their act together and start making GF alternatives. Come on people! Think of the sales!), the GF donuts at my local cafĂ© are amazing! Truly. I kid you not. They make my heart sing and my taste buds do a little happy dance. Finally, baked goods at a coffee shop that I can eat. My wallet and waistline may start to hate me, but my mouth will be so filled with joy it won't matter. 

Dear @StarBucks and @caribou_coffee, for the love of all that is holy, please start offering GF baked goods. And advertise this fact far and wide. Do you know how many people will flock to your locations for a coffee AND a GF baked good? In this day and age NOT having GF fair is a travesty. 

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

It's All About The Spoons


  1. Laundry is done! For this week. Trust me, this is a major milestone as I didn't need Hubs' help with any of it. Even if it took two days to accomplish.
  2. Mator, our mutant cherry tomato plant, continues to thrive. He lives in the garage at night and comes out to drink in the sun and water during the day. We may get up to 50 more cherry tomatoes off him before he gives in to the inevitable. 
  3. I was up and doing things at 7:30 am. This may not sound like much, but the look Hubs gave me indicated he was witnessing a minor miracle.
Let's keep up with the sharing, shall we. Apparently, I'm full of the shares this week. And it's only Wednesday. 

courtesy of Liz West via Flickr  CC License 2.0
Have you heard of spoon theory? No? Well, aren't you in for a treat. Pull up a chair, sit back, relax, and let me, as the kids say, drop some knowledge. 

Spoon theory was developed by Christine Miserandino during a conversation with a friend in which she used spoons as an object lesson on what it's like to live with a chronic health issue. She grabbed spoons from near by tables, handed them to her friend, and told her friend she now had a chronic health condition, in this case Lupus. 

I liken spoons to units of energy, be it mental, emotional or physical. When a person is healthy, they have an seeming endless supply of spoons. A healthy person doesn't have to decide just how they are going to spend spoons on any given day. Little juggling is required. And the next day, poof, new spoons, so yay! 

A person with a chronic health condition gets a finite number of spoons on any given day. The number of spoons one has may also vary daily. Today I may have twenty spoons but tomorrow I may only have five. I can start to predict how many spoons I'll have to spend, but I could easily be wrong. Since I only have a finite number of spoons, I have to be honest with myself and make hard choices. My spoons yesterday looked like this: 

Yesterday was a 14 spoon day. This is the average of late. 
  • Task: shower and shave; Spoons: 1
    • doing my hair and makeup would have been an additional spoon. Thankfully, my hair looked fine and as much as I wanted to look polished, I forwent the make as well
  • Task: breakfast; Spoons: 1
    • it's amazing how difficult a healthy paleo/GF breakfast can be to make when the pain is high. I eat this way because food is medicine and when I eat 'regular' food I feel even crappier.
  • Task: take dog to vet; Spoons: 2
    • Velcro Dog is skittish and it takes a lot of energy to play games with him at the vet in order to keep his calm. 
    • Driving can take spoons. Yes, the simple act of driving can exhaust me some days.
  • Task: lunch; Spoons: 1
    • Soup, 1/2 sandwich, tea, and some snuggles with Velcro Dog.
  • Task: dog walk; Spoons: 2
    • Half my spoons were spent by noon, and there were more things on my list yet to attempt to accomplish. Beyond just living, that is.
  • Task: laundry; Spoons: 2
    • Climbing up and down the stairs three or four times to change loads along with folding and putting clothes away can be too much. These two spoons were just getting two loads washed and dried and in the basket. I skipped folding and putting away, knowing I could do that today. This is part of the negotiations I have with myself.
  • Task: Dinner; Spoons: 2
    • I was in charge of barbequed brats, homemade roasted potato wedges, and salad. It almost broke me. If I'm really honest, this was closer to three spoons but I don't count the resting I did during the actual eating of dinner. Yes, the act of eating can be a spoon unto itself. 
  • Task: Clean up/load dishwasher; Spoons: 0
    • I had only a few spoons left so asked Hubs if he could take care of the clean up. It was that or leave everything for today. No one enjoys scrubbing day old pots. No one. 
  • Task: Mental breakdown; Spoons: 2
    • It had been a stressful day and I was at the end of my reserves. I felt guilty and inadequate and useless. It is this type of thinking, along with the constant pain, that can have me sink low into a depressive episode, unless I am able to take the time to deal with the self talk. Which, ironically, also takes spoons. I tend to hold some spoons back just in case. Can you blame me? 
  • Task: Bedtime routine; Spoons: 1
    • Last night my routine was letting the dog out, turning the dishwasher on, brushing my teeth and falling into bed. I read a bit because my brain wouldn't turn off. If I don't fall asleep within 45 minutes of climbing into bed I use an extra spoon or two trying different means of dealing with insomnia
  • End of day tally: 14 Spoons Used
I used all of my spoons and I had many things I didn't accomplish. Things like paying bills, cleaning the office, dry mopping the wood floors, folding and putting laundry away, going to the library to return/pick up books, write, clean off the dining table, vacuum screens/windows in preparation for winter. My house feels like a complete pit. There is dust everywhere. Piles of papers adorn my office. Books are piled rather than put away on shelves where they should go because I haven't had the energy to go through the shelves to make room by doing my annual purge/organize. 

Some days I have more spoons, or fewer tasks that require a lot of spoons. Some days the weather sucks and my body pays the price. Some days all the stars align and I feel healthy and whole. Those days I may actually put on makeup and feel pretty. Or I may spend an hour going through one of the ominous piles of shit paper that needs to be organized or tossed. I may actually get bills paid and the cheque book balanced. Or I may say to hell with it and go out for lunch with a friend. Or go see a movie in the evening with Hubs. 

I have to learn to not feel guilty when I go to bed and the kitchen hasn't been cleaned. Or when the laundry has to wait for Hubs to help. Or when I need to ask Hubs to vacuum because I just don't have it in me. It's a lot of give and take. This is why I'm not currently working. Why I question when I'll ever be a functioning member of society. And why I kick myself in the ass for that last thought because even though I'm not working and I can't keep up with my life, I am still a living, breathing member of society. I have to have different standards. Different expectations. So does my husband. We both forget this. It's amazing how often we both forget this. 

To thrive I need to learn to slow down. And not in the begrudging manner I've done so thus far. Life for me is going to always be full of choices and give and take. I hate having a house that feels like a pit, but I can only do so much. And it's not really a pit. It just feels like it to me because I have specific standards of how I want my home to be. I hate feeling left out when I have to say no to friends, when I can't go to church because I really need rest more. I hate not working. I hate that some days I don't have the energy to even be online and feel like I'm part of a community that doesn't require me to get dressed and leave my house. I hate that there are days I feel like a hermit because I haven't left my house. 

What this has taught me is that living with a chronic health condition is like having to become a master strategist. Every day I have to measure my pain levels, my energy levels, the weather, and I need to look at the tasks that I want or need to accomplish. Then I need to be planful and mindful as I map out my day. I also need to be flexible. A flare can start in the middle of the day. Weather can change in an instant. A task can take longer or be more difficult than initially estimated. Because of this I need to determine what is critical and what isn't. And I need to be able to let go of the non-critical items because they may never make it to the top of my list. Which means attempting to be objective about my very subjective life.

I also have to think about my state of mind in any given moment. State of mind can impact my spoons drastically. Some days I just need to stay in my pyjamas, turn on some Marvel movies, and snuggle Velcro Dog while I wait for the gloom to part. It isn't about having a mental health day. It's about survival. 

Thanks for listening to me ramble. It was good to get this out. I miss a life where I don't have to measure out spoons. This is the life I have right now. I'm trying to live it the best way I can. 

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Life Is Exquisite


  1. Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, for her wit, and her new book, Furiously Happy
  2. The crisp, autumn air that allows me to spend more time outside and reminds me of the joy of apple crisp for breakfast. 
  3. People who at least pretend to be interested in the quirky things that interest me. Thank you!
I don't usually post a lot of my personal crap on my blog. I am relatively private and try to use this space for more positive things. Lord knows I need positive things in my life. 

Warning: this is a long post. Apparently, I have a lot to say today. 

The meds I take make me sensitive to the sun, which means I stay in the shade all summer long. Or slather on enough sunscreen to keep Banana Boat afloat for another year. I spend more time outside in the autumn and spring. As little as possible in winter. That's mainly because I am cold avoidant. And because I live in the land of perpetual grey with a side dish of wind chill. Why do I share this? It's rationale for what I am about to share next. Trust me. 

I have fibromyalgia along with a few other chronic health issues. Due to the constant pain and fatigue and pain (yes, I know pain is in there twice. There's a lot of pain), I can experience situational depression. This isn't clinical. I've seen therapists and I was once a therapist myself. I don't meet the criteria for a DSM-V diagnosis. Which means I treat the depression behaviorally rather than medicinally. In other words, my brain chemistry isn't messed up enough to warrant antidepressants. 

The last few years have seen more bouts of sadness and melancholy than I would like. I do believe that the lack of sunlight I experience due to the reasons listed above contributes. I've spoken with my doctor, my neurologist, and a therapist about this hypothesis and they agree. Their recommendations? Get a light therapy box. Walk every day, outdoors if possible. Spend time with friends. Find things to laugh about. Use DBT or other behavioral methods to acknowledge, reset, and move forward. 

Popping pills can seem much easier.

This summer was actually fairly good. It wasn't so hot I had to spend days on end inside conditioned air. Velcro Dog and I were able to walk more. I was able to spend time with some friends who have wicked sense of humor and help me to laugh more. I was able to do for others and get out of my own head. It was nice. 

This weekend, not so much. I'm not sure why, but my self talk is negative and I walk around attempting to not take everything people say as personal attacks on my character, while valiantly holding back the tsunami of tears. The husband asked me which pot of water I used for blanching veggies I wanted used to water the mutant cherry tomato plant that refuses to stop growing. I took his impatient tone of voice to mean he was disapproving of something. What, I have no idea. When I feel this way, this standing on the edge of the rabbit hole, I know I'm not rational. Or relational. I channeled my inner Commander Data and shared the facts. Then I went out and bought groceries. And chocolate. Lots of chocolate. On my way home, I parked the car somewhere I wouldn't be recognized and cried. It's easier to cry alone than with the man who loves me but wants to fix everything. There's nothing to fix. I feel this way right now. Not everything needs fixing. Cue heavy sigh.

Depression is a tricky thing. I have friends who battle clinical depression. They live in a world where their brains constantly lie to them and life feels dark and empty a lot of the time. I have friends who have a bipolar diagnosis and battle the swing from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. And everything in between. I haven't been in their shoes. And I feel awful complaining about my pain induced "mild" depressive episodes. I don't have to work my life around my brain chemistry. 

That's a lie. We all have to work our lives around our brain chemistry. Mine might be squirrely and lean towards the darker shades of grey, but I don't need to change my plans or coping mechanisms because of it. I don't feel worthy of calling what I feel depression. It seems a bit like trying to be something I'm not because my depression is on the mild end of the spectrum and doesn't meet diagnostic criteria. I cope by saying I feel melancholy today, rather than I feel like rolling into a tight little ball and crying until I have dehydrated myself, and then I want to sit in a dark corner and eat chocolate and tell myself this too shall pass. Kind of like what Velcro Dog does when he has had enough of everything. He goes to his pillow and shuts out the world for a little while. It's his way of resetting. We all need some way to reset. Even dogs need to reset. 


Yesterday I stayed up way too late reading Jenny Lawson's new books (see gratitude #1). I love her. I want to thank her in person for making me feel like I'm not pretending. That it's okay to be me, situational depression, fibromyalgia, and all. That being quirky and having interests in things that make my family roll their eyes is perfectly normal. She explains that furious happiness is her way of giving the finger to her depression, and that if we can feel these deep lows, then we can also feel bright and whimsical highs. Not in a bipolar kind of way, unless that's how your brain is wired. It's more...we can choose to be bright and bold and happy and find joy despite the crazy making of life and the lies our brains try to get us to believe. 

Life is exquisite. Let's live the shit out of it. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

The War of the Walnuts


  1. Summer is fading into autumn and the weather is starting to become bearable again. 
  2. The black walnut trees in the yard have shed all their nuts. These are messy and attract squirrels, who make them even messier.
  3. I'm not working which means I have the time to assist a dear friend who is recovering from surgery. I wouldn't have been able to be there for her if I was still working. 
We have two enormous black walnut trees in our smallish yard. They are fantastic for creating shade along the southwestern corner of the house and the deck, which makes being outside fabulous for someone like me who is sun sensitive. 

The downside is that black walnut trees, while pretty and excellent shade trees, are messy. They drop leaves and twigs all the time. And the walnuts. Did you know that a walnut is the seed of an ugly green fruit? I have the proof!


See that bucket? That is a gallon sized bucket filled to the two thirds mark with walnuts. From the beginning of August until mid-September we pick up at least this much every other day. Often we fill the bucket. What we don't pick up and throw away the squirrels eat. They peel off the green skin and the white fruit (fruit that turns black as soon as it makes contact with the air). They don't sweep up their leavings and neatly toss them in the trash. No, they leave these bits of walnut fruit and shells every where. In the grass. On the driveway. On the deck. In the rain gutters. In the pots I use for plants. Every. Freaking. Where! 


I used to just itch with the need to pick up every last bit of walnut. Do you know how difficult that is? Impossible. But I would try. I would rake on the days the husband didn't mow. I would even attempt to be proactive and pick the nuts right off the trees. It didn't matter how hard I tried, the nuts would continue to fall and the squirrels would continue to make a mess of things. Eventually, I stopped. I continue to pick up the nuts that have fallen, but I no longer attempt to pick up every single bit of walnut from the deck and yard. 

At first, this felt like giving up. I don't like to give up. I am a pit bull when it comes to something I am passionate about, or something I've started. I have to see it through. I have to give it my all. Anything less is admitting defeat. This attitude is what helped me be a functioning adult for over twenty years while battling fibromyalgia. It's also a contributing factor in why I am now unable to work because of the fibromyalgia. That tenacity, it's a double edged sword. 

Letting go of my desire to have a neat and tidy yard during walnut season wasn't giving up. It was adapting my expectations so I could pour my energies into something more worthwhile. So the yard was going to be Disneyland for squirrels for two months out of the year. It keeps the dog entertained. It's nature doing what nature does. And the walnuts aren't going completely to waste. 

The walnuts now represent the ability to adjust expectations. And to mindfully consider just where on the scale of importance something stands. Sometimes I get so worked up about something that is minor. Do I really need to expend all that time and energy on something that isn't truly worth my time? And won't really matter down the road? 

Walnut season is over. We can reclaim the deck and the yard. We can go outside without fear of nuts falling on our heads. Sure, it was inconvenient for a time and required we gather nuts we neither desire or use. But those two trees are still a gift and because we are a little less diligent in picking up the nuts, the wildlife benefits. Velcro Dog benefits. Sometimes looking at a problem as though it is a benefit is a good thing. 

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

A Younger Me


  1. I've said it before, but it is worth repeating. Air conditioning is a gift from the gods. I'm so thankful we updated and resized our AC unit when we first started renovating the house. I can actually function during heat waves. 
  2. Libraries. Why? I do love owning books, and would live in a bookstore if I could figure out how to manage that. Since books are currently a non-essential purchase, I have been making great use of our library's paper and ebook offerings. 
  3. Rob Thomas! If you haven't listened to his latest album, I insist you find it and do so immediately. 
I have a journal that I write in almost daily. Things I'm grateful for. My fibromyalgia log. Observances. Hopes. Dreams. These days they are filled with the mundane as I try to get a handle on my health issues. These are a far cry from the journals I kept in high school and college. These were works of art filled to overrunning with longing poetry and existential angst. I have journaled in one way or another for most of my life. 

I was cleaning the guest room this weekend and found a box of old journals from college. That was over 20 years ago. As I handled the fabric covers, I wondered if I would recognize my younger self in those pages. College was both amazing and devastating. And the mix started the foundation on which I have built my life. 

I looked at those journals for several minutes before setting them aside to continue cleaning. I'm easily sidetracked by shiny objects, and the fact that I was able to set these bits of shiny aside had me patting myself on the back. I was also unsure if I wanted to open those doors of memory. Like I said, college was both amazing and devastating. It has been a long time since I was that girl, and even thinking of reading those journals felt a bit like prying into something private. 

In the end I ended up packing the journals away. They are a part of my history. Part of who I was and a part of who I am. I remember college with an adult's eye, can see the heartache and think "phew, those were close getaways." I have the luxury of looking back with 20 years of knowledge and life lived between myself and the girl who poured her heart on on those pages. She deserves my respect and my compassion. I'm not sure I would be able to give that to her right now, knowing what I know now. So the journals have been gently packed away. It was a little bit like grieving and letting go, while celebrating who I am now. 

The guest room is clean. My heart is light.