Tea Instead of Vodka

What an amazing summer it has been. (And Winter & Spring… sorry for not writing more!) For teachers, summer is an essential reset time. Many end up doing plenty of lesson planning, curriculum research, and professional development sessions as well. I still have four weeks to get to all of that. 😉

I felt like I was really due for a break this summer. Last summer, the reality of making the mortgage on my own was starting to set in: I worked three jobs: curriculum writing for the district, tons of voice lessons, and was a section leader in a church choir. I still had a decent amount of down time, but it wasn’t ideal for summer break. Summer of 2015 I spent a lot of time questioning my career choice and almost quit teaching entirely, and my sweet dog Bartley got deathly ill over the Summer of 2014.

This summer has been about countless yoga sessions and dance classes, drinks with friends, a trip to Puerto Vallarta with the boyfriend and his family, bike rides, and so much cooking. There has been an over abundance of joy and relaxation, and I feel so incredibly lucky to have the space for all of the things I love. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I’ve worked really hard to minimize the chaos and create space for joy.

The last few days, however, I’ve felt pretty down. I feel like there could be something big that I need to process, some huge ugly cry I need to have or something. Of course this is uncomfortable because I like being content. It’s lovely to be happy, but it isn’t really sustainable in my opinion, although many people think happiness is the goal. For me, contentment is the goal, and right now I don’t feel content. I feel restless, irritable, unmotivated, mildly depressed.

Several things could be the culprit: PMDD – it’s basically hardcore PMS and it’s SUCH a nuisance, but I can’t deny the reality of it – spending the weekend at a family reunion in which I had to see my mother who seems to have completely given up on life, and the fact that I’m still grieving the loss of my marriage. Or perhaps some combination of all three. I’ve also gained weight this summer and I’ve allowed my frustration with that to lead to negative thinking.

With depression, everything feels like it takes too much effort, and the end result won’t be worth it. I’ve never had a debilitating depressive episode, and I don’t even think what I’m experiencing qualifies as depression, it’s more of a depressed mood. But, the fact is for the last three days now, I haven’t had a desire to do anything. I’ve still done what I need to, but it has taken great effort, and the whole time my mind has been full of negative thoughts.

So, tonight I’m choosing hot peppermint tea over my more typical summer drink: ruby red vodka mixed with lime la croix – (so very refreshing!) I’m going to explore these various culprits, but also seek out connection with the people who love & support me – the boyfriend, my dearest cousin, my best friend, and of course the pup – and rely on my most dependable (& therapeutic!) companion: yoga.

There are things in life that I cannot control, like my mom’s current lifestyle and the way my dad chooses to deal with it. I can’t change the fact that my ex-husband hasn’t found the peace and success he deserves. All I want is for these people I care so much about to find their own way to contentment, but their journey is theirs and mine is mine. It’s hard to let go of what I can’t control, but it’s often so necessary. Above all, I want to remember that letting go doesn’t mean I don’t care, so I’ll let go of that guilt as well.

 

 

October is My Mixture-of -Emotions Month

There are so many lovely things about October: The temperature finally dips below 90 degrees (or may be even 80 if we’re lucky!) There are music festivals. Eating out on the patio is actually pleasant. Walking my dog is refreshing rather than a drag. Ok, so most of the lovely things about October have to do with the weather. So be it. 😉

I have a pattern of slipping into a seasonal depression in and around October. It’s actually really common for teachers to start feeling overwhelmed, overworked and beyond exhausted at this time of year. Our start-of-the-year adrenaline has run out, and Winter Break feels unbearably far away.

I think that’s a lot of what causes me to slip this time of year, but my guess is there’s more to it. The change of season reminds me of Autumn in Hungary, where I first met my real self; where I felt challenged but happy, and so incredibly free. It’s also the month before I met my first true love six years ago, and a month before he moved here to be with me five years ago. October is the month that most of my saddest posts were composed (2014), some even remaining private due to their dismal subject matter. And finally, this time last year Andras and I were closing on our house together, starting what seemed like a new chapter in our relationship.

This week, all of the warning signs of depression have been popping up: feeling exhausted most of the time, fantasizing about sleeping, putting off simple tasks due to lack of motivation, not wanting to be social, avoiding exercise, eating poorly, irritability at work, negative thinking, and lack of focus. I really don’t want to get sucked back in. I’ve been enjoy my life so much these last few months. Life is so good.

I plan on getting rest and re-establishing my routines over the next few days. Hopefully that will create space for more a more positive outlook. And I won’t judge myself for feeling this way. It’s happening whether I want it to or not, but I can choose behavior that supports happiness instead.

Happy Feelings!

Hehe – this is what I always exclaim when I’m watching a show or movie with Andras and the couple in the spotlight finally have their first kiss, or share a sweet moment. You know, the butterflies in your stomach, ridiculous smile stretched out across your face, can’t even take a breath feeling…

That’s kind of how January has been for me. I’m almost uncomfortably happy right now, which sounds a little weird, but let me explain: As some of you know, my life has been full of change for the last 4-5 years. How can things be so simple now? I finally have a home – no roommates! And Andras and I just love staying home, cooking, hanging out, not really doing too much of anything. That should be boring right? NOT! It is gloriously simple, refreshing and wonderful.

The other reason it’s uncomfortable is because my mom has struggled with depression my whole life, and was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, so whenever I feel really great, I wonder, “Am I just happy or could I be manic?” I’m certain that’s not the case because I’ve read enough about bipolar disorder, and have a friend who is an excellent resource – check out her blog! – but it’s still a paranoia of mine.

I made so many changes this month and the last few, that’s it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is bringing me such happiness. Since the blog is a great place to reflect, here I go:

  1. Routines. You already know about my obsession with those, so I’ll spare you this time. 😉 The most important one I’ve stuck to lately is getting enough sleep. It makes SUCH a difference. I have a nighttime routine now that starts at 8:30, and it’s lights out at 9:30, which makes waking up at 5:30 so much easier.
  2. Whole30 – no dairy, grains, legumes, soy, added sugar or alcohol for 30 days. We finish on January 30, and at that point I will add in small amounts of dairy (mostly as a seasoning) wine, and a sweet day – I mean a cheat day.
  3. No coffee! I sort of unexpectedly gave this one up a couple of weeks ago. As much as it feels  like I need it, I just don’t. It only leads me closer to anxiety, and I’ve noticed I now sleep much better.
  4. Yoga! 3x a week or more. Making that special time for just me is so important. When I don’t go, I at least meditate at home.
  5. Drinking enough water. I have a 24 oz water bottle, and I try to fill and drink it 3x a day.
  6. At work, my after school clubs haven’t started up. They will start up this week, so I need to do everything I can to plan carefully so that I don’t feel overwhelmed by them. They are supposed to fun extracurricular activities, something that the kids enjoy and are proud of. And that’s it. As soon as I make it more than that, it becomes stressful for me, and too much for them.

It will be interesting to see how the after school clubs, entering competition season, and modifying my diet slightly affect my happiness. Hopefully, if I keep up all of the other structure that’s making so much room for joy, I’ll stay in this lovely zone.

And when shit hits the fan, as it always does, I’ll just try to remember to breathe and laugh.

Almost nothing is ever as big as it seems.

3-day Weekend Fun!

School hasn’t even been back on for very long, but this three-day weekend was still welcome!

Things have been going really well. Andras and I have stuck to the Whole30. Tomorrow will be day 18! We’ve even started discussing what next month will be like. As of tonight we’re thinking we’ll keep excluding grains, soy and legumes, because we really don’t miss them, but add back in dairy (only as a seasoning), wine for me, beer for him, and a weekly cheat day. I’m finally seeing changes in my body, and it feels really good! I can’t wait to share how much I’ve lost. I’ve also noticed my skin seems much healthier, and I think I have more energy. Win!

I started two new things last week as well. #1. No coffee. GASP :0 But, I’m just too prone to anxiety, there’s really no need for it. And as long as I get 7 hours of sleep – enter item #2 – I think I’ll be fine. The first two days of trying life without coffee were welcomed with the worst headaches. By day 3, I didn’t have a headache, but I just feel sooo tired, and by day 4 I started coming out of the fog.

Work is work –  I’ve had some great days back, and some awful days back, but my routines are making everything more manageable, logistically and emotionally. My goal for the next few weeks is to be very conscious of how much I have on my plate, and to not take on too much.

Andras and I went on two movie dates this weekend. We saw Carol on Friday, and Anamolisa today. Carol was slow but beautiful, and I definitely cried. Anamolisa was really unusual, but 100% engaging, thoughtful, and many times comedic.

Obviously, I think I’ve missed too many days to get you caught up on all of my Whole30 meals, but I’ll list some of my favorites here:

http://www.generationyfoodie.com/2013/06/paleo-almond-chicken-fingers.html

Easy Roasted Vegetables + Amazing Giveaway

http://www.thetwobiteclub.com/2014/05/kielbasa-pepper-onion-and-potato-hash.html?m=1

Oven Baked Crispy Chicken Thighs with Garlic, Lemon and Scallion

Days 22-23 and #Whole30 Buffalo Ranch Chicken Meatballs

And here are a couple of pictures:

almond crusted chicken tenders

Almond crusted chicken tenders with roasted carrots and boiled dutch potatoes.

buffalo ranch meatballs

Buffalo ranch meatballs over spinach and arugula mix with roasted potatoes, carrots and eggplant. Mmmm SO delicious.

I’m really grateful to have so much space in my life right now to take care of myself, and work on these routines that make room for so much more joy in my life. 2016 is getting off to a pretty fantastic start for me, but I’ll still love myself when things don’t go my way, or when I do things I’m not proud off. Be back soon!

January Blues

I’m struggling to enjoy my final moments of break. It’s been a really great break. It has been so much fun spending hours on end with Andras, watching ER (yeah! You read that right!), walking Bartley, and now cooking, as we’ve taken on the Whole30 challenge together.

Day 2 Menu
Breakfast Snack: Anti-inflammatory Blueberry Smoothie 
Brunch: 2 scrambled eggs, strawberries & blueberries, sausage, hash browns, black coffee.
Snack: Salami

Whole30Day2 (1)

Dinner: Salt & Pepper Shrimp. It  was INCREDIBLE! You can find the recipe here

Dinner continued: For the mashed potatoes, we added one shallot, 1 T of fresh rosemary, and 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk. Mmm! It all turned out really well, and was very easy!
Snack: Strawberries

But, back to the fun stuff – January Blues. 😀 I guess I’m just getting caught up with thoughts about the impending back-to-school stress fest, rather than living in the moment. I think it would help some if I did some lesson planning early in the day tomorrow. I am beyond grateful that Monday is a professional development day, and our administrators are actually giving us the majority of the day for prep.

Goals for tomorrow: Sleep in. Yoga. Plan. Breathe. Eat Well.

Good night!

I Teach

I had a thought today. Why do we say I’m a teacherI’m an engineer, I’m a dog walker, etc.? When we describe what our profession is, why do usually say we we are our profession, rather than just saying what we do? I teach middle school choir…?

It’s easy for us to fall into the trap of letting our success at work dictate our happiness, our self worth. For me, it has been a real struggle to separate the two: I can be a good teacher, or a lazy or grumpy or obsessed or motivating teacher (most of the time many of these things at once) – but none of that has to do with who I am as a person. I can have a bad day at work, and still have a fantastic evening.

So today when this thought popped into my head, I wondered if this particular way of phrasing has impacted or even confused our society about how we see ourselves in relation to our work. I would love to hear if any of you have info about how this phrased in other languages or cultures!

I’m a person who enjoys teaching. I teach. But that is not who I am.

10 Months Tomorrow

Yep. If I don’t hurry up and write this post by midnight, 10 months will have passed since I last posted. 10 months! Let’s see how quickly I can get you caught up…

  1. All that stuff about being sick in the last post? Well, I was sick, but then anxiety kicked in and perpetuated the sickness, until I finally decided to take one less group to UIL contest. From that point on, the school year was basically an exhausting, chaotic but manageable blur. Year 4 was not my year. Also, Andras and I finished all 10 seasons of Friends in 5 months. Haha!
  2. Over the summer, I did yoga. Lots of yoga! And thank goodness. After a couple of classes, I realized I had kind of forgotten how to breathe. I know that doesn’t really make sense, but let me explain. Taking deep, expansive breaths, actually felt uncomfortable. Something that used to give me a lot of peace, felt foreign and forced. However, after only a week or so of regular practice in the studio and at home, I began to trust my breath again. The whole summer became about retraining my body to breathe, my mind to trust my breath, and my thoughts to center on self-love.
  3. I very seriously contemplated not going back to work as a teacher. I almost broke my contract. The other leads I had gotten didn’t go anywhere, so here I am, tackling year 5!
  4. The school year got off to an AMAZING start. There are still really rough days, and the early mornings and insanely long hours are definitely the toughest part, but in general I’m enjoying my work this year. 🙂
  5. Andras and I bought a house! Yay – no more roommates! It’s the perfect size, in a great neighborhood, and ah! We just love it.
  6. Anxiety still sneaks up on me at times when it is least welcome, but it is a LOT less scary than before. After my most recent panic attack, I turned to Andras and said, “I just need to treat everyday like it’s the morning after a really horrible panic attack.” And that is so true. ROUTINES, long deep breathing, meditation, stretching, eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising. This is the lifestyle I need to maintain if I want to sustain myself and make room for joy.
  7. I need friends. Three of my closest friends have moved away in the last year, my best friend has lived in LA since we graduated from college, and all of my other friends live in Europe. Loving myself as I am and trusting myself in social interactions, so that I can connect with people is definitely a goal of mine for 2016.
  8. Family. I love my family, but I get caught up in their imperfections, their inability to take care of themselves.. I wish I could just let them be without feeling responsible for fixing things and helping them. It’s really hard when I can see they’re emotionally drained. The holidays will be difficult.
  9. My dog now has an instagram.  https://www.instagram.com/sir_bartley/
  10. I still don’t put myself to bed early enough, AND I’ve been eating absolutely terribly. I’m sure I’ve gained back all of the weight I lost while on the Whole30 – so it may just be time for another one.

That was the quick run down. I hope to be less of a stranger next year. More coming soon!