Monday, June 1, 2020

Mental Health

I didn't mean to be gone for a week, but when last Monday rolled around, I found I didn't have anything to say. It was the same on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then it became much easier (and kind of a relief) to not blog. 

  • Mental health is an integral part of health; indeed, there is no health without mental health.

But not blogging was a symptom of something bigger that I've been feeling for at least the past four weeks or so. I don't want to do anything. I can knit a bit, but only some F*** 2020 dishcloths. I have started three books, but can't concentrate long enough to finish any of them. John, Justin, and Ryan all have some big issues of their own that they are dealing with. I've been trying to help, but that has really only resulted in more worry on my part. I make dinner, but I'm not hungry. I have found myself drinking more than I know I should. I'm tired, but I can't sleep. I find myself not feeling much emotion at all, and it became much clearer after a conversation I had with Ryan. He was encouraging me to try a new recipe and I told him I wasn't sure what the point was. We would just eat dinner, and I'd have to do it all over again the next day. When he said, "Mom you sound like you may be suffering from depression," then I started to pay attention. 

  • Mental health is more than the absence of mental disorders.

Ryan knows depression, having suffered from it pretty severely for a couple of years. I thought I knew depression, too, after learning all I could in support of Ryan. But it's tough to recognize in yourself, and it's even tougher to muster the motivation to care about it and take some sort of action when you're feeling this way.

  • Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

I hemmed and hawed, told myself that I have no reason to feel depressed as there are many people in much worse circumstances, thought about the difference between "normal" mental health and mental health during the pandemic, but ultimately decided that seeking some help sooner rather than later was what I needed to do (even if I was secretly hoping that the therapist I spoke with would tell me I was fine, quit whining, buck up, and get going). I did what I do best: read, researched, overthought, and sought out resources. I looked for a local therapist that I could meet with by video or phone sessions, found several, emailed them, and chose one. I've spoken to her for two sessions, and to be honest, I feel better simply because I took a positive step. Ultimately I decided that it didn't matter whether I labeled this feeling as depression or not, something was not right and I needed to try and remedy that. 

  • Mental health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living, and enjoy life.

Here are some resources that I found helpful, and I'm going to link to them just in case you or someone you know might benefit.

Mental Health: strengthening our response - This is from the WHO in 2018 (before coronavirus!) and is written fairly basically, but the bulleted statements above all came from this fact sheet. 

How to Get Therapy When You Can't Leave the House - Part of NPR's Life Kit, this article got me thinking seriously about options available when you can't just walk into a therapist's office.

Find a Therapist - From Psychology Today, this will help you search for a psychologist, counselor, or support group. You can filter results by teletherapy, insurance, type of disorder, type of therapy offered, and other helpful options. 

How to Protect Your Mental Health During the Coronavirus Outbreak - This list from the National Alliance on Mental Illness gave me a simple, basic, but very helpful collection of steps to follow. These may be obvious (maintain a routine, find ways to "get going", be kind to yourself, etc.) but I was not doing any of these. These eight simple things to do posted on my bathroom mirror have helped me immensely. 

Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook - This 28-page workbook from The Wellness Society is subtitled "A Tool to Help You Build Resilience During Difficult Times" and it has helped me begin to do just that. It talks about stress, anxiety, how to manage anxiety, what is within your control and outside of it, and includes many resources, practical techniques, and actions you can do to help yourself.  

I've long thought that every blog post needs a picture, but I couldn't find a good one. Then a wonderful friend clued me into Maggie Smith (the poet, not the Dame), and these felt appropriate even if they aren't exactly pretty pictures. 



I hope you keep moving.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Stumped

One evening during this past week, Justin and I headed out to a nearby county park. He wanted to fish in the pond and I wanted to be outdoors. I sat and read for a while, but then decided to take a walk. 

Years ago when we first visited Rocky Mountain National Park, Ryan was fascinated by the stumps he saw on our hikes. He took photos of them and put together a little book that he entitled "Stumps of the West". Ever since then, I've tended to notice stumps myself, and have taken a few hundred photos of my own. Here are some I saw at the pond. 

An interesting bi-color stump:


I see a smiling face on this one.


This stump has decayed pretty extensively ...


... but if you look closely, it's providing a substrate and nourishment for a tiny maple seedling. 


I call this one The Sign of the Trident stump.


With a moss tablecloth covering it, this stump is set for a woodfolk gathering. 


This can barely still be called a stump, and yet it still marks that a tree once grew there.


 This one has its fallen top (all 30 feet of it) still lying right where it fell.


The rare double stump,


 and the ultra-rare quintuple stump. 



If you're out this weekend, see if you notice any interesting stumps. They are everywhere!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Three on Thursday

I hate to post about all coronavirus, all the time, but it's also impossible to write about things as if they were completely normal. They most definitely are not, and if I'm completely honest, I'm not sure they will ever return to the normal I knew before. 

But humor is often a good way to deal with the fear and uncertainty, so here are three things I've come across recently (plus a bonus). 

  • I feel for most scientists in this age of "alternative facts".


  • A priest in Michigan delivers holy water by thinking outside the box.


  • This is not exactly humorous, but certainly illustrates both ends of the spectrum.


  • And a bonus Venn diagram, showing that most reasonable, thinking adults can understand more than one option simultaneously. 


What three things (or even one!) are you thinking about this Thursday? 

Be sure to visit Carole for more Three on Thursday thoughts.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday, with the return of my making things, weaving in ends, and blocking gumption. I wove in the ends on my Nervous Breakdown Hitchhiker about a week ago, but then it sat, forlornly folded up on the arm of my knitting chair, patiently waiting for my blocking motivation to make an appearance. One day last week I was waiting for John to take a walk with me, and when he said "I just have a couple of things to finish up; I'll only be 15 minutes," I decided to play a game. I know how this usually goes, and the race was on to see if I could get the Hitchhiker soaked, blocked, and pinned out in John's "15 minutes". 



And I did because this particular 15 minutes lasted well over an hour and a half. I could probably have been more precise, but I did manage to get all of the 59 points pinned out and I was happy not to let blocking perfection get in the way of good enough. 


It's big, bright and the yarn was a lovely, colorful gift from Ryan, so I love it. It will keep me warm and happy in the fall and beyond. 




I'm still working away, slowly but surely on the Sunset Hitchhiker. I've stumbled upon some gorgeous lampwork beads that I think would look absolutely perfect sewn on the ends, but the artist is in Germany, and Deutsche Post is not currently shipping to the US. That is an incentive for me to keep at it, as I've made a deal with myself that I can pay for very expensive UPS shipping from Germany, but not until I'm done knitting. 

I have finished Apeirogon and am convinced that it will be the best book I read this year. It's stunning, with a beautifully written story, and unlike anything I have ever read. It defies description, so the best thing I can say is that you should need to read and/or listen to it yourself. 

I've received my own copies of Poetry of Presence, The Summer Book, and The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly so I'm enjoying some reading immersion in these "real books"The latter was described as a Korean Charlotte's Web (one of my all-time favorites), so I'm going to find out for myself. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, May 18, 2020

It's Bee Whacking Time!

About six weeks ago, I offered up a suggestion for a fun activity while you were staying at home -- removing sweetgum balls from your yard and driveway. At the end of that post, I mentioned Things to Do, Part 2: whacking carpenter bees with an old badminton racquet. Well, wait no longer. With temperatures hovering between 80-85 degrees this past weekend it's finally bee whacking time! 

Disclaimer: No pollinators were harmed in this process. Carpenter bees are pests that chew circular holes in wood (e.g. our porch, porch railings, and fence) and cause structural damage by creating these nesting sites and tunnels. Because the females lay a single egg in each cell they create, and these eggs develop into larger larvae that are attractive to woodpeckers, your wooden structures can sustain damage from both carpenter bees and woodpeckers. Thus, bee whacking. 

John's chosen weapon in this battle is an old badminton racquet that we have picked up from yard sales, usually for free. We have an embarrassing number of these things in the barn, so there is usually one within easy reach of carpenter bee locations in the front, back, and side yards.


He watches carefully and swings when the bees are within range.


Sometimes this means they are low to the ground, 


 and other times they are higher up.


 Proper follow-through is necessary.


Bee whacking requires a sharp eye, quick reflexes, and the ability to withstand your spouse laughing at you, but John is a master who has been whacking bees for decades.


All hail the mighty bee whacker and farewell to the fallen.


I hope you enjoyed a nice weekend, with plenty of whacked bees, or whatever passes for fun at your house!

Friday, May 15, 2020

This Guy ...

  ... is 27 years old today. He's an avid outdoorsman, and since it's fishing season, here are some photos of Justin fishing through the years. 

He still has that giant fishing trophy. 

Justin started putting together his own lures (and they worked).

Little kid, big fish.

Fishing the Blackfoot River in MT

Fishing in Glacier National Park

He doesn't always catch big fish. 

This was a first, two fish caught on one lure in TX!

Another exciting day, Justin caught an incannu in the Yukon!

Saltwater fishing in NJ

Justin will be celebrating on Saturday by heading to the Jersey shore to fish for sharks, so hopefully, there will be more photos of Justin and his catch. 

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Three on Thursday

How to grow a garden, in three easy steps:

1.  Plant seeds




2. Tend seeds until they grow to be seedlings

Jet Star and Roma tomato seedlings

Napa cabbage and Brussels sprouts seedlings

3. Plant seedlings in the garden (and be patient and encouraging)


They don't look like much now, but hopefully, they'll be producing tomatoes in August.

The peas (and blue bottles) are looking good!




Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Read With Us: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter


Today is our first discussion of I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. S├ínchez. We're trying a slightly different format than we have before. Carole, Kym, and I have each posted/asked a different question on our blogs and we hope you'll answer our questions in the comments. You are invited to be part of a never-before-attempted-3-blog-extravaganza!



Parental expectations are a major theme running through I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. Did Julia's relationships with her parents turn out in ways you expected? Was Julia's mother toxic in the restrictions she put on her daughters? How did Julia's relationship with her father affect her, or did she even have a relationship with him? 

As the first-born child in my family, I often felt that I had to live up to my parents' expectations of and for me. This was probably partially due to my personality, but I often felt like I had disappointed them when I didn't get an A in French or only managed a C in Organic Chemistry. These hopes and assumptions shaped the person I became, and I was well into my 30s before I really began to question them. I know how I struggled with these expectations, and I can well imagine how the even more intense expectations of Julia's Mexican immigrant parents and their seeming overprotectiveness placed constraints on Julia. So what do you think? 


I'm looking forward to reading what you have to say. Please be sure to visit Kym and Carole and let them know what you think about their questions!


But wait, there's more! Once again we have a “book lovers' surprise package” thoughtfully and generously provided by Kym, to be awarded to one lucky reader! Your name will be placed in a hat EACH time you make a comment on each of our book discussion posts and we will then choose a winner. Thanks for participating!

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We're planning a further book discussion with another different-than-before-format, a Zoom call. What would work better for you - a weekday or weekend? Do you have any time preferences - daytime or evening? Let us know in the comments so we can include as many people that would like to participate as possible. We will let you know the details as soon as we have them!

Monday, May 11, 2020

It Was a Good Weekend

I have many things to be grateful for on this Monday morning, and a lot of them happened over the weekend.


Since the weaving-in fairy never showed up, I finally wove the ends in on my Nervous Breakdown Hitchhiker. This produced a lot of colorful clippings that I put out for the birds.


I bought some generic graham crackers and was happy ecstatic to find that they were ~1.5x as thick as name brand ones. I like to dunk graham crackers in my tea, and these are just perfect for dunking without absorbing too much tea and falling apart in my mug. 


I noticed flower buds on my little kitchen sink orchid.


I enjoyed knitting while watching My Dog Skip. (It was a great movie, and just what I needed to see.)


I had enough newly sprouted mint for the first batch of mint tea this spring.


I received two lovely, unique, and hand-crafted bookmarks from Justin for Mother's Day.



Several of you that have listened to Apeirogon have told me that you also read the book. I've ordered a copy so I can enjoy my favorite bookmarks in my favorite book. 

I enjoyed a wonderful weekend despite coronavirus, and I hope you did, too!