Recuperating

Two weeks ago today, I had surgery. While I won’t go into details, it was for a female issue and also something else. I figured while I was under general anesthesia, I may as well get the two things fixed together. Nothing to worry about, it was partially elective.

The procedures at the outpatient center went fine and I felt good when I got home. I was told to take a pain pill and not let the pain get ahead of me. I ate a piece of toast and took my antibiotic and pain medicine. An hour later, I was nauseous and couldn’t keep anything down. I was sick to my stomach for eight hours, on and off. I knew it couldn’t be good.

It wasn’t. The result was broken blood vessels that developed into a hematoma, which had to be drained. Six days later, I was back at the surgery center, bright and early. The procedure went smoothly. It was a step backward, but I was happy because that day marked the true beginning of my healing.

It’s been a week since the second surgery, and I have to say I thought I’d feel better much quicker. I’m tired of being tired. I know my body is doing what it needs to, and I must give it a lot of rest and time. But I’m used to being active and leading a busy life. This has definitely forced me to slow down.

I’m grateful beyond words that my husband is an amazing caregiver. He’s always there to remind me to rest and not move around much. I’m able to relax because of his support.

There’s been a flood of anxiety throughout this entire process. The anticipation before surgery was overwhelming at times. I was finally able to let out a deep sigh of relief when it was over. But that good feeling was short-lived because of the hematoma.

I don’t take my health for granted, I’m always thankful for it. But this experience has given me a new appreciation for being healthy.

I can’t wait to feel energetic and have the desire to get out of the house. Right now just the thought of going to the grocery store or out to eat sounds exhausting. I’m tired of being weak and having to sit down every chance I get. I’m looking forward to putting on exercise clothes and walking in the mountains, or at least around the block. I want to want to put on jewelry and do my nails.

I’ve only been able to take sponge baths, which is getting really old. I want to step in the shower and let the hot water stream down my back. Lather my hair with shampoo and watch the bubbles slide down the drain… Soon!

Right now all I want to do is rest and the farthest I walk is out to a lounge chair in my backyard. I know this situation is temporary, and I thank God for that. I’m actually trying to enjoy this time of recovery, basking in the deliciousness of slowing down.

I think it’s time for a nap.

Take care, Jenny

 

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Precious Treasures

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I’ve always loved to read. For me, it’s one of the best forms of escape. Books take me to places I’ve never been. I get to travel back in time or to the future. I meet people and am exposed to cultures I never knew existed.

This past weekend I watched a video that inspired me. It was by Danny at Dream Big, Dream Often. You can watch his vlog here. He talks about how crucial reading is, in order to learn and grow. One habit of successful people is that they read. A lot. Whether books are educational or entertaining, they expand your knowledge about the world.

Danny mentioned something that stuck with me. He quoted Mark Twain, who said, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”

What that means to me is that since I can read, I have no excuses for not continuing to learn. There’s a wealth of information waiting for me in books.

I started taking Mackenzie and Talee to the library when they were very young. It was a fun and free activity. As they got older, around five and seven, we made a trip to the library every few weeks. They’d browse the shelves and once they had a huge stack of books in their arms, we’d settle into comfy chairs to look at them.

When we were ready to leave, the girls would hold their library bags that were stuffed with books, audio tapes, and puppets. I can picture the huge smiles on their faces. They’d practically run to the car because they couldn’t wait to look at their new treasures.

It was like I  bought them a bunch of toys or outfits from their favorite store. They’d be that excited. It warmed my heart and made me smile. It still does.

Now that they’re in their twenties, Mackenzie and Talee still love to read. One day when they’re both home for the weekend, I should take them to the library. I bet they’d love that. I know I would.

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Old Habits Are Hard to Break

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The other day I was in the check out line at the grocery store. I was buying a lot of vegetables to put in my slow cooker minestrone soup. A man in his thirties was behind me. I couldn’t help but notice the difference in our items. He loaded up the conveyor belt with peanut butter cup, caramel, and chocolate chip ice cream. Three boxes of cereal; Trix, Lucky Charms, and Cap’n Crunch. Sugary drinks. Potato chips. High fat and sodium-rich frozen foods. I tried not to stare, not to judge.

Maybe he was having a party. Maybe his nieces and nephews were coming over. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. But what I really think is that he enjoys those foods and that’s what he’s used to buying. An unhealthy habit.

It got me thinking how habits–both good and bad–become routine and such a part of us, we may not even realize it.

Habits can become so automatic, that we may do them even if we don’t necessarily enjoy them anymore. We get used to doing what’s always worked. It’s hard to be open-minded and scrutinize things we’ve done for months or years. If someone points out one of my bad habits, I may get defensive. But later I take a good look at it to see if that person is right. If I’m ready to change that habit, I figure out how.

For instance, I eat a treat almost every night while watching TV. Sometimes I’m not even hungry. But my husband gets some popcorn or ice cream, the dog gets a rawhide bone, and I want to join in.

I’m working on being mindful about our nightly ritual. If I had a light dinner and really am hungry, or if I plain and simple want to munch on something, I won’t deny myself. As long as I stop and think about it, and make a mindful decision.

Often I grab something relatively healthy, like a banana and a low-fat graham cracker. Or a cup of decaf tea and a piece of fruit. That way, I’m able to eat a treat with my husband (and dog), and it’s a healthful choice.

But there are times when I crave a bowl of ice cream or a brownie, so I indulge. I don’t regret one bite, as long as I truly want it and make a conscious decision to have it. I’m only  angry with myself if I eat it, and don’t even want it.

Some of my bad habits:

  • Eating later at night.
  • Craving and eating popcorn and candy at the movies (and we go often). My mouth waters just walking into a movie theater.
  • Not going to the gym enough (or not at all).
  • Procrastinating.
  • Spending too much time on social media.

Some of my good habits:

  • I eat healthy: a lot of fruits, veggies, Greek yogurt, chicken, fish, whole grains, and not much red meat.
  • I drink a lot of water.
  • I don’t smoke or drink (except an occasional glass of wine)
  • I walk every day, with a goal of reaching 10,000 steps per day.
  • I practice deep breathing which helps calm me.
  • I smile and laugh easily.

Habits are choices. If there’s something we want to change, we first need to acknowledge it. And then figure out a way to replace that bad habit with a positive one.

I wonder what I’m going to choose to nibble on tonight when I’m watching TV.

A little wisdom from Calvin + Hobbes

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Just a Thought…

Every little thing's gonna be alright - Bob Marley :) Quote - Inspiring Inspirational Sayings / Quotes / Song Lyrics:

Sometimes we need this reminder.

My sister has had a rough week. She was laid off her job, which she worked at and dedicated herself to for sixteen years. Her emotions range from complete shock and devastation, to worry, sadness, anger, and despair. But there’s also hope and anticipation for good things to come, as she navigates her new journey. She believes there’s something better for her, that God has a plan. My sister’s strength and positive attitude amaze me.

We all have challenges. And sometimes it can be really hard to be positive.

But close your eyes, take a deep breath in, slowly let it out. Think calming, peaceful thoughts. Everything will be alright.

Have a wonderful weekend,

Jenny

 

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Free to Be Me

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I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist. I used to though. It really bothered me if everything wasn’t just right. I’d feel anxious if the house wasn’t clean, the girls’ toys weren’t put away,  or dirty dishes were left in the sink. I’d be hard on myself if I didn’t cook amazing meals every night or if I didn’t exercise enough that week.

I thought I had to be the perfect mom, wife, daughter, friend, cook, gardener, and housekeeper — all the time. It was exhausting. I wasted a lot of energy striving for unrealistic goals and self-imposed high expectations.

I’ve learned to let go. To be gentle and not criticize myself when things don’t go the way I planned. Give myself a break when I don’t accomplish what I set out to do that day. Let myself indulge on deliciously rich foods. Say no when my schedule is too hectic.

No one is perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, it’s good to, that’s how we learn. It’s fine to admit we don’t have it all together. Because really, who does?

If we can forget about being flawless, we can be who we are instead of pretending to be perfect. What a freeing concept.

My sister recently told me, “Jen, don’t worry what other people think. You do YOU. You’ll be happier.”

Yes, I will. Imperfections and all.

Now that I don’t need to be perfect, I’m good.

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It Takes a Village

It caught my eye as I drove past the local high school. “Parent Mental Health Night” flashed on the digital display board. I don’t have a child there anymore, my youngest is a senior in college. But as a mental health advocate, my curiosity was peaked.

I checked it out online and reserved my seat for Monday night’s meeting. The city’s Youth Commission organized the entire event and a movie theater donated the space.

As we arrived, groups of teens welcomed us and checked us in. I settled into my seat and looked around. I was happy to see how many people showed up.

The first speaker explained that the Youth Commission formed last year and made decisions on which upcoming projects they wanted to focus on. They felt the number one concern for youth is mental health. The number one concern.

They got to work and developed Parent Mental Health Night and also a separate evening just for teens later in the month. To say I was impressed is an understatement.

The lights in the theater dimmed and we watched about ten minutes of an award winning movie, based on a true story. The film is called “No Letting Go.” It’s about a teenager struggling with bipolar disorder and how his mental illness affects the entire family. His parents desperately try to save their son, while keeping the rest of the family together.

After the film, a panel of professionals were ready to speak. There were psychiatrists, therapists, counselors, the head of the county’s youth outreach program, the county’s executive director of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), and the police chief. They discussed anxiety, depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

I couldn’t get a phrase out of my head. It takes a village to raise a child.

These community organizations came together to openly discuss the importance of mental health and the challenges of mental illness. A step in the right direction. A step toward ending the stigma.

On that night, in that theater, mental health was literally put in the front row. No longer shoved to the back of the room.

It was captivating when the young adults on the panel spoke. In their late teens and twenties, they each gave a testimonial about their struggle with mental illness.

One boy’s anxiety became severe when he was a junior, dealing with the pressures of high school and getting into college. One girl was hospitalized with depression. Another girl hid her eating disorder for years. One young man with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia was hospitalized numerous times.

They all had one thing in common. It was hard for them to admit their problem to family and friends. Because of stigma.

Often mental health conditions are kept secret because the individuals or family members are embarrassed or ashamed. One speaker said, “Pretending there isn’t a problem only makes the stigma worse.” So true.

The police chief was the final speaker. He explained the importance of having officers CIT trained. Crisis Intervention Training. Many of the domestic calls involve someone with a mental illness and CIT officers know how to handle those cases. Currently, 70% of the police force in our county are CIT trained. The goal is 100%.

Something else the police chief said made a huge impact. He talked about how officers monitor social media. They search Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and more.

One night a teenage girl was on Instagram and said she was going to kill herself. Officers found her post and called her parents in the middle of the night. They were sound asleep and  had no idea. That girl was helped in time, thanks to those police officers.

It takes a village.

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Learning Something New

Meditation has always intimidated me. I used to think it was mainly for monks or people deeply devoted to yoga. I thought there was one correct way to do it, and that it involved hours of silence and sitting still. I wouldn’t be good at either.

I’d heard that meditation could help lower high blood pressure and relieve stress and anxiety, all of which I have. But I wondered if there was some trick, maybe a secret meditation code, that I would never be privy to. So for years, I never attempted it.

Until now.

I’ve been working on mindfulness and practicing deep breathing techniques. The next logical step for me is meditation. I did some research and learned that it isn’t as mysterious as I once believed. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort in order to reap the benefits.

It can be as simple as sitting in a chair in a quiet room for five minutes, counting your inhales and exhales. Or going for a walk, deep breathing, and concentrating on the movement of your body.

My daughters said to check out the app, Headspace. The trial period is free, so I decided to give it a shot. One evening I went into our family room and settled  in for my first ten minute session. I turned off the lights and sat on the floor in a comfortable position. I closed my eyes and concentrated on the man’s voice on the app (which sounds kind and soothing), instructing me to breathe deep and slow.

It was going well for the first few minutes. That is, until our dog walked into the room. He  licked my face and nudged my arm with his nose so I’d pet him. He plopped right next to me and rolled over, wanting his tummy scratched. Thirty seconds later, my husband barged in and wondered what time I wanted to watch TV. I guess I should’ve warned both of them I was unavailable for ten minutes.

The next couple of sessions went better. But my problem was trying to keep my head clear. It felt like a hundred thoughts constantly invaded my quiet time. What should I make for dinner? I forgot to call Mom. I need to transfer money to that other account. What movie do I want to see this weekend? My mind goes a million miles a minute. It’s hard to turn it off on demand.

This is where the man on the Headspace app helped me. He said if your mind wanders, it’s okay. Let it wander. Don’t fight the random thoughts.

There was one explanation I really liked. He said to pretend you’re on a street corner watching cars go by. Each of those cars is a thought. You can’t possibly stop them from coming. Just be still and watch them drive past. The cars (thoughts) come. And they go. Let them. Then get back to counting your breaths.

Like any new task, meditation takes practice. Some days I have more concentration than others. But that’s okay. Every day I look forward to that calm, zen feeling that washes over me.

Meditation empowers me. I’m in control of my thoughts, my breathing, my anxiety.

Even when my dog comes into the room.

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