Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Monday, October 19, 2015

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday morning

It looks ominous but will be sunny in a bit

Monday, August 31, 2015


Sometimes unemployment doesn't suck.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Trader Joe's Yes Please List

Trader Joe's feeds me almost exclusively these days. Here's my YES list:

1. Mini chocolate chip brownie cups! Add a table spoon of water and put in over for 45 seconds. Remarkably delicious considering the ease of preparation.

2. Gluten free pancakes. I love these skinny toaster pancakes. My friend Brenda, did not like them. I was shocked!

3. Pub cheese. I like the horseradish pub cheese. Addicting. Can't be good for you good.

4. Frozen margarita pizza. Delish for frozen pizza

5. Pesto tortellini bowl. Great to take to work for lunch.

6. Three layer humus. Sometimes hard to find at TJ's.

7. Reduced guilt pita chips with sea salt. Mmnnn

8. Peanut butter filled pretzels and even more decadent, chocolate covered peanut butter filled pretzels. I love the chocolate covered peanut butter pretzels but they are dangerous! And also, melty.

9. Chocolate covered potato chips. The perfect combo of sweet and salty. A must have for that time of the month.

10. Goat milk brie. It's a stronger flavor than regular brie and great on their water crackers

11. Chicken tikki masala. Another favorite of mine for lunch. Add in their naan and you have a big meal.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

3 Apps I use on the regular

1. White Noise. Only it's not just white noise, it's all sorts of soothing sounds plus white noise. I think I got it originally for free from Starbucks but it's well worth a few dollars. I use it everyday, twice a day. I sleep to "Stream Water Flowing" every night and meditate to "Tibetan Singing Bowl." There's a huge catalog of sounds and they offer new ones periodically to download for free. It has a timer or you can set it to stop at a certain time. I would sometimes use at work too to drown out co-workers chatting. One of the white noises that particularly works for me is "Airplane travel."

2. Breathe. Also known as Stop, Breathe, & Think. I tried out several meditation apps and this is by far my favorite. The free meditations/visualizations are  less than 10 minutes long and very calming. Has the added bonus of helping you track your mood. There are a couple in-app purchases if you would like longer forms of the meditations but they are not necessary to fully enjoy the app.

3. Evernote. I'm still learning how to get the most out of Evernote but what I am mostly using it for right now is making lists, and taking photos of my notes and having them stored all in one place. It can read my hand written notes and makes them searchable. So, for example, I had handwritten notes I had taken at a resume writing class. I took a photo of those notes in Evernote and then was able search Evernote on my phone for the word "resume" it it pulled up the photo of my notes when I didn't have my notebook with me.  My understanding is that if you take the time to learn how to use Evernote you can use it to organize your entire life.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

everything is gonna be okay

Even though you may not be getting what you want, when you want or how you want it, trust that you are getting what you need, when you need it and how you need to get it. This theme of trust came up in my class tonight. 

For example, you don't get the job you wanted and are very disappointed. Later you realize that by not being offered the job, you were able to care for a family member in need. You were where you needed to be when you needed to be there as a result. After fulfilling your role as support for someone in need, your dream job falls in your lap.

When you don't trust that everything is as it should be, you end up holding tightly to what you think you want, and focus on what you don't have. This causes needless suffering. It also makes you get in your own way. 

In trusting that everything is as it should be, you remove yourself as the obstacle.
I struggle with this. I am the obstacle. I make things hard for me. I make them hard for me because I resist what it is and focus my energies on what i think I want and what I don't have.

I worry about my future. My worry is based on my fears, which are based on my limiting beliefs, which are based on evidence I've collected over my life proving I am unsafe, I am unworthy, I am not good enough, I am not smart enough and I can't do it. I feel anxious, paralyzed, stagnate.

But what if I decide to channel my energy into the trust that I am going to be okay and everything is as it should be and I am exactly where I need to be instead of worry? 

Well. Then I feel less anxious, less paralyzed with indecision. I will get out of my own way. I will suffer less. I will not make fear based decisions. I'll be open and available for good things to come to me in my future.

The second theme that emerged from sharing in my class is that we all carry baggage that does not serve our greater good. This  baggage can be from our childhood, our parents, past relationships, traumas and so on. Learning to release that which doesn't serve you is hard. It takes a lot of unlearning and letting go of limiting beliefs and then replacing and re-learning more expansive and positive beliefs.

So we have a choice. We can hold on tightly to what is weighing us down and anchoring us to a place we no longer wish to be. Or we can let go of the baggage in order to move forward, grow, break unhealthy patterns, or just be okay with ourselves.

Letting go of that which no longer serves you requires much trust. Trust in ourselves and trust that everything will be okay if we let it. And it will be.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Monday, July 27, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Zen and the art of the backstroke

I recently took up swimming after some injuries prevented me from running regularly. Swimming is a form of exercise (I think) most people have a hard time talking themselves into. At least, I did.

There's the whole having a to wear a swimsuit in public issue, getting your hair wet, shaving your legs, sunblock, and a whole host of problems for women associated with showing most of your skin while looking like a drowned rat. Basically, there's a lot more involved going to the pool than going to a regular gym (sweats, shoes, hat, if you haven't washed your hair in a while, and you are good to go).

I was nervous and reluctant to try swimming for all the reasons listed above so I signed up for swimming lessons. It did the trick and I've begun going to the pool regularly to swim laps. I feel good afterwards and I sleep SO hard after a swim session.

It's still not my favorite form of exercise. Swimming laps is hard to get jazzed about. The freestyle (or crawl) stroke is really difficult for me. Just one lap of 25 meters had me out of breath. But I've been sticking to it. And, I'm learning to focus on the little positives about swimming.

One of the little positives for me is the backstroke as a breather or cooldown. I remember loving the backstroke as a kid. There's something so relaxing about it. For one thing, there's no panicking about breathing. Your nose and mouth are free to breath whenever you like, so that helps. But my favorite thing about it is staring up at the sky and watching the clouds go by. I love it.

There's something so unhurried and elegant about the backstroke. I kinda feel like Esther Williams in a technicolor musical while backstroking.

It's hard to worry about what's going on in your life when you are focused on not ramming your head into the end of the pool while channeling Esther Williams.

If only I could figure out how to do a damn flip turn I think I would do the backstroke for tens of minutes (that's a lot), I enjoy it so much.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My favorite sea creature: the bat ray

My favorite sea critter is the bat ray. When I was in high school I volunteered at a nature interpretive center in Chula Vista. I spent most of my time at the petting pool where there were rays (barbs trimmed) and leopard sharks. The bat rays were always my favorite to watch. They are so serene, elegant and graceful as they glide through the water. And SO soft to the touch. I love seeing them in their natural environment (and my neighborhood). It makes me happy.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Power in Numbers

I have never liked working in groups. My social anxiety, shyness, needing to please and be invisible at the same time made group projects way too stressful for me. So while group therapy had been suggested to me a couple times in the past (thanks HMO healthcare) I was like hell-to-the-no.

Fast forward many years and I have found myself somewhat unwittingly engaging in support group-esque classes. And low and behold- it's kinda helpful. Okay, really helpful.

My first experience with this was with my meditation class. I ended up spending three months with the same group learning about mindfulness meditation. We really got to know each other and opened up a lot about our struggles.

I also signed up for a personal empowerment class only knowing that it was a weekly class that incorporated meditation, healing and intuitive psychics. What I ended up experiencing was, well, group therapy. For real though. Mostly women and one guy from all walks of life and ages...and we all had problems. All sorts of different problems. And all sorts of emotional scars to work through.
And everyone is making progress slogging through those emotional scars and problems. It's pretty cool.

The group dynamic works- if you are open to it. I can't really put my finger on what it is about being in a group setting that has catapulted my recovery. Maybe it's just the support or being around like minded people. Maybe there's some sort of synergistic effect of the learning process as we wrestle with the gremlins in our heads. I do learn from the other's sharing on their progress, ah ha moments, sticky wickets, highs and lows, etc.

I leave these classes feeling better than when I entered. I can't explain why. I just do.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How to help a loved one with depression

I usually didn't confide to my mother that I had been going through a bout of depression until I felt that it was lifting. My mother would say to me "why didn't you tell me? I want to help" or "let me know when you are having a hard time." One day when we were having this conversation I told her that not asking for help is a symptom of the depression.

I'm simply not willing or able to ask for help when I need it. There are probably clinical reasons for this that I don't feel competent to attempt to explain. But for me, not being able to ask for help is a sign that I'm in trouble.

So what can you do for a friend or loved one going through a bout of depression?

  • Make the important phone calls that your loved one doesn't have the energy to make. These would making therapy appointments and calling the health insurance company to see where they can seek help. This was one the biggest hurdles for me. To get help, I needed to call my health insurance to see what was covered. It was beyond daunting, confusing and aggravating. If I recall correctly it took me 4-6 phone calls to set up an appointment with a therapist covered by my insurance. And it took me months because after 20 to 30 minutes on the phone I didn't have the energy to make the next call necessary. If your loved one admits that they are suicidal, dial the suicide prevention hotline for them and stay with them on the call. Don't just hand them the number and trust they will call it later.

  • Don't just offer open ended or vague help. I know most people are afraid of being pushy but be specific in your offer of support. For example, the offer of "let me know if you ever need to talk" is well intentioned but your loved one will probably not take you up on it. Something that might be more helpful would be to set up a recurring activity that they might enjoy. Things like going for a bike ride every other Saturday or a weekly movie night or going to a comic book store once a month or church on Sundays. Make a standing date that gives you both something to look forward to.

  • Come over and just watch tv. Usually people in the throes of depression are fatigued and don't have a lot of energy to burn. So low energy activities like a netflix night might get a more enthusiastic response.

  • Don't take unreturned phone calls personally. Keep trying and don't let your loved one feel bad about not calling you back

  • Remind them of the things that make life worth living for them

  • Tell them emphatically that another good day is coming and it will be worth it

  • Use logical reasoning with your loved one.  When I was most severely depressed, my feelings were lying to me but the rational side of my brain was still functioning. I understood that while life seemed endlessly hopeless, it was still preciously short. That logic could be used on me to, say, go to a concert of a band I liked by reasoning that they may not tour in our town again for a long time, or ever if they break up!

If you have any other tips and suggestions on how to support a friend or loved one with depression, please leave it in the comments section.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Transition to my Eat, Pray, Love

I work for a grant program that had its funding cut. We've known about the money running out for nearly three years now. My boss has spent this time pretending that more funding was coming any day now, but it hasn't. When he finally attempted to address the elephant in the room about myself and my co-worker who's funding source has not been renewed, it was done so shady and so much to cover his ass that I thought to myself "I am sooo done here." Truth be told, I've been unhappy at this job for many years. I've been too scared and too comfortable to leave though. I'm scared I won't find another job that I am comfortable at. I know I won't find a job that pays as well for as little as I work with the flexibility I have and co-workers I like. It just doesn't happen for most people, ya know?

But, I'm done. Even though my boss says I could stay if I wanted, I feel stuck in this job and am unhappy. I'm gonna squeeze out as much as possible out of my benefits and vacation hours until the remaining money is exhausted, but I can't wait to get out of here.

I'm going to spend the next 3 months defining what my "Eat, pray, love" is gonna look like and then spend the next 3-6 months doing it. I'm in the "figuring it out" phase now to see what's going to work for me. And also getting support from the strangest of people and places. I randomly went to a party and ran into an acquaintance that I haven't seen in a long time. She was a lawyer working god awful hours the last time I saw her. But right now she is doing exactly what I want to do. She's taking a break a from work. She encouraged me and reassured me that this is what I need to do for myself and that I wouldn't regret it. At least she hasn't. Running into her felt like a sign.

It's a big decision to make though, you know. I've been thinking about this for months but I just have so much fear of the unknown. I actually had break down in mindfulness meditation class from the stress of the decision. Luckily my teacher is awesome and talked me off the ledge by the pretty quickly, albeit publicly in front of the class (there's only 5 of us). It was so helpful and so weird and so exactly what I needed at that moment.

Meditation is staying in the rotation for my mental health and it's a practice that needs some cultivation. So there's the "pray" component of eat, pray love- no ashrams for me though. And actually "eat" can be crossed out as I've never been a foodie. Love may get a shot at staying in the rotation, but it's not official yet.

So... Eat, Pray, Love (?) could turn into Meditate, Volunteer, Write, Feed Stray Animals. The main point of this post is to declare that I'm taking a sabbatical. It's official.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Emotional fallout to change

I have two friends who have lost over 70 lbs in the past year. Each one shared with me independently that at a certain point they experienced an emotional crisis with the change to their bodies. There was a period of mourning. There was a feeling of loss, not just of the weight but their "old selves." And then needing to make friends with their new selves and get comfortable with their new bodies.

I just put two and two together and realized that I have been experiencing something similar. I'm doing these good things for my health, questioning long held beliefs about myself, and checking back into life. So why do I feel kinda lonely and out of sorts? The more I meditate, the quieter it is in my home which actually feels disquieting to me. Backwards, right?

It's like I don't know who I am anymore. Breaking long held habits leaves a void. And while I am replacing those bad habit with healthier new ones, it feels weird and uncomfortable and like, who hell is this person that stopped watching tv and now meditates. Do I even know her?

I know it was similar with my friends who lost weight. They were like, I'm kicking ass at being disciplined and working hard and losing a ton of weight, so why am I sad?

I know it's just growing pains of a major transition and I will get to a place where I no longer feel out of sorts. These healthier more mindful habits will become my new normal. There will be pitfalls and psychological boobie traps that come with making major changes. It takes inner strength to stay the course and follow your metamorphosis through to completion.

And it's okay to mourn the "old you." It's one of the pitfalls. Just be sure to dust yourself off and give yourself a mental high  five for climbing out of that booby-trapped hole. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Thursday, April 9, 2015

SAINT MOTEL - My Type (Official Video)

I am loving the horns in this song by Saint Motel.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Where I started when I wanted to face my depression

The resources I found helpful-

1. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction 8 Week Course
The short story is that it is an introduction to meditation class. It was developed Jon Kabat-Zinn for use in hospitals and is completely secular (not Buddhist or Hindu or any kind of spiritual).

It's hard and you spend the first two weeks feeling the little toe on your right foot and focusing on your breathing but if you pay the money you will go and you will be with other people thinking "oh god, not the body scan meditation again." And the teacher will ask "and how did returning to your breath feel ?" about 10 times and make you keep talking until some epiphany comes flying out of your mouth.

Just like anything else in life, you will get out of it what you put in. But I promise you, you will get something out of it. I'm not sure what exactly but something worth the time invested. Google the eight week course in your area. I went to New Mindful Life in San Diego.

Look up the instructors and see if they have any youtube videos. Choose the one whose voice you like the most because you end up listening to it a lot. And it blows if their voice is annoying.

2. Book List:

10% Happier by Dan Harris- A true skeptics tale of meditation

The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer

The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook For Depression by Kirk Strosahl and Patricia Robinson

The Mindful Way Through Depression by Mark Williams- You can read it for free here: http://site.henizaiyiqi.com/Public/Js/ueditor/attached1/20140828/14092407041265.pdf

There's More to Life Than This by Theresa Caputo- When you are ready to get spiritual, listen to the Long Island Medium. She's strongly catholic and there's a lot of "out there" concepts like guardian angels, guides, reincarnation, spirit and energy, intuition and signs. But I found it comforting. Especially the concept of a soul circle where you can have several lives with the same souls and that your struggles are part of lessons you agreed to learn or impart before your soul entered a body.

Unstuck, Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression by James Gordon

3. Look up and download the app called "Breathe". It's actually called Stop, Breathe, and Think. It's free and has 6 minute "feel good" meditations, or, at least, meditations that I think are way easier than mindfulness meditation. It's my favorite of like 10 meditation apps I've tried.

4. Start talking about it. When I got comfortable talking about my depression and anxiety I was shocked at how many of my friends experienced the same or even worse. And the more I just laid it out there, the easier it became. And the easier it became, the less I felt like I had to apologize for my depression. Most of those I told were supportive and even those that weren't as understanding (particularly the older generations), I didn't take it personally. I decided it wasn't my job to make them understand. They didn't have to live in my head all day, every day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On depression

While I've alluded to it, I have not yet really written about my depression. I've started this post several times dating back several years. When I look through my draft posts I can see where I started to put words down on paper. Tried to put words to my feelings and my experience. Tried to form the sentences into a take home message or at least a message. But I couldn't. That's the thing, depression takes a lot out of you and takes away your ability to do simple things, things you want to do, things you intend to do.

And even when I read through what I had started to write... it isn't very helpful.

It wasn't until I read the article
http://www.megfee.com/megfee/2009/01/16/for-claritys-sake-this-is-the-story-of-how-i-came-to-know-ned?rq=for%20clarity%27s%20sake from Meg Fee about her eating disorder that I thought I should really finish writing about my experience with depression because reading her blog post helped me. And maybe what I write can help someone else. Or at least, not feel so alone in their experience.

I too, like "Meg Fee," felt like the professionals that I sought help from did more harm than good. I got incorrect diagnosis' and just bad "treatment." I know not everyone has this experience. Some people get lucky and hit a home run on their first attempt at seeking help. But I think that is more the exception than the rule.

I was diagnosed with major depression about 8 years ago. I've had depression on and off since I was a teenager I believe now. At the time I was diagnosed I was having thoughts of suicide all the time. I went  to my healthcare provider (kaiser) and was told I was lucky and I was able to get 4 whole private therapy sessions!!! Although I expressed that I didn't want to be put on anti-depressants, I was pressured into it anyway. A psychiatrist spent all of about 10 minutes with me, then put me on generic Zoloft (or Prozac, I can't remember which was first).

That's when I entered the zombie phase of my life. Sure I had fewer thoughts of suicide, but I also had fewer thoughts. I was numb. I didn't feel anything and one of them, generic Zoloft or generic Prozac, made me so tired I couldn't stay awake during the day even after sleeping an average of 10 hours at night. I was practically narcoleptic.

During the last 8 years I've been in and out of serious depression, I've seen at least 6 different therapists and tried at least 6 different anti-depressants. Not once has a prescribing psychiatrist called to see how the medication was working for me. I just stopped taking them and no one knew. No one knew my side effects either.

Fast forward to last month when my thoughts of suicide returned regularly. My life has been stagnating over the years and I just couldn't imagine another 40 years of the same. And I can't tell you the last time I felt happy. 

In February, I stopped taking the current long named generic anti-depressant I was on because I was still experiencing negative thoughts and emotions all the time. I had intended to wean myself off in order to go a different anti-depressant as was recommended over and over to me by therapists. (Some medications you have to get out of your system before taking a new one.)

By this point, I was beginning to truly believe that I was just extremely lazy, and unmotivated with nothing to give and nothing to live for. But once I stopped taking the meds I realized I was less fatigued and had more energy. Maybe I wasn't just lazy, maybe the meds were actually making me sick. I decided to explore the alternatives to medication and traditional therapy while I had the energy.

I plan to blog about my experiences. There might be some lapses, but that's the plan right now.  Alternative therapies I've tried so far include mindfulness meditation, shin-rai spiritual awakening, hypnotherapy, psychic medium healing and an appointment with an archetyping life coach that told me my archetype was a knight (with a dash of queen and priestess).

I've started on an alternative path and some things have worked out well for me and some I feel neutral about and some I question. But I do know that I feel so much better off the drugs.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Animal Shelters- it boggles my mind

Today I saw an update on Instagram of a cute dog named Junior that had been put to sleep because he didn't get adopted at the shelter in Chicago. I started crying. How in this day and age is there still a pet overpopulation problem? Bob Barker told us for decades to spay and neuter our pets. And people started doing it. You can't take a pet home from the shelter that isn't fixed. Where are all these cats and dogs coming from and who are these irresponsible people who end up surrendering their pets or worse, abusing and neglecting them? It boggles my mind. I just don't get it.

I volunteered at the Sacramento SPCA well over 10 years ago. It was filled with pit bulls and older dogs and I knew in the back of my mind that many if not most were put down without some serious luck. Families didn't want to bring a dog into their home of unknown background that might be sick or aggressive or unfriendly after an unhappy life. But with all the education efforts and the increased willingness of loving individuals and families to adopt from shelters and the decreasing number of pet shops that sell dogs and cats, why do we still have overcrowded shelters? Why, why, why?

Through Facebook and Instagram I follow so many animal rescues and volunteers across the country and I know that I am not the only one that would love nothing more than to quit my job and start an animal sanctuary. There are so many animal lovers out there tirelessly finding homes for shelter pets and fundraising for the medical expenses of the abused.

So how are there still animals being euthanized in shelters? In my mind, shelters should be more like a lost and found at this point in time. There should be a waiting list to adopt a dog.

The only explanation I can think of is that there are still way too many greedy people in this country that think breeding dogs is means to make quick money. And it is those people that abuse, neglect and fill the shelter directly and indirectly with homeless dogs.

I get so angry. I don't even know what else to say.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Lessons learned: 2014 Edition

Here are some things I learned in 2014:

1.Don't refer to anyone as your fiancé until they actually ask you to marry them. Even if you've talked about it as a sure thing, and even if it's only to boost your rental application to the top. Talk about jinxing yourself. Lesson learned. I will never refer to anyone as my fiance until the ring is on my finger again.

2.I can do 10% better. In just about everything. 10% is not that much. It's only an incremental improvement and only requires slightly more energy invested. I found this to be the case in listening to my co-workers, exercising, communicating with my friends, controlling my emotions and fears, and pretty much all my inter-personal interactions.

3. It's easy to get caught up in the emotional highs and lows of a relationship, but your significant other is not your possession. They are an independent person that requires compassion and support. I always assumed that if I treated others they way I wanted to be treated all would be equanimous. Not so I learned. Everyone has different needs in a relationship. And men's needs in a relationship are different than women's in many instances. Learning to really listen to your significant other while removing your own judgement is a skill I hope to acquire someday.

4. If you know someone loves you, give them the benefit of the doubt. Check the knee-jerk reaction to a perceived insult or injury and just ask what the deal is without allowing emotions to escalate. Give the benefit of the doubt knowing there is love there.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Friday, January 2, 2015