Mental Health Monday

Sleep…the final frontier of your day. There are many, many times I have slipped under the covers and given thanks to God for inventing bedtime. A whole entire chunk of time to do nothing but sleep? What a gift!!!

But what if you can’t turn your brain off when it’s time to drift away? It is so frustrating to be lying in bed unable to stop thinking all the thoughts. You can Google “how to shut your brain off at night” and get lots of really good articles, but I thought I’d share some personal tips on how I get my brain to just shut up already.

  1. Cool it down. I make sure my room is cool at night because sleeping in a too-warm room makes me SUPER CRANKY. Seriously, just ask my husband.
  2. Listen to my breathing. Sometimes if I can’t sleep, I can put in earplugs and listen to my own breath – it sort of sounds like waves ebbing and flowing on the shore, which relaxes me enough to finally drift off.
  3. Count sheep. Okay maybe not sheep, but I do count. I usually start at 100 and count backward, then forward again. If I haven’t drifted off by then I will…
  4. Get up and go drink some warm milk. Some warm milk with a little vanilla extract and a bit of sugar is like a hug in a cup. Makes me feel cozy and warm. It may be a myth that warm milk helps you sleep, but for me it breaks the pattern of trying to toss and turn my way to sleep and gives me a chance to reset my brain.
  5. Play mindfulness games. This one works for me when nothing else will. I go through the alphabet and list the first 3 words that come to mind for each letter. For example, A: aardvark, advance, apple. B: blender, bully, bike…etc. Sometimes I’ll do themes like animals or foods, but most of the time just thinking of the first word that pops in my head is enough – and sometimes it’s kind of amusing.
  6. Read something uninteresting. A coworker of mine who used to sell insurance said that if you ever have trouble sleeping, go read a copy of your homeowner’s insurance policy. Three paragraphs in and you’ll be out like a light! Similarly, reading a textbook or just any old boring thing you have lying around will probably do the trick.

Thankfully, I don’t usually have trouble sleeping, but on those occasions when I do, it helps to know that I have tools that I can use to calm myself.

What are your go-to tips for those nights when sleep eludes you? Share in the comments below so maybe we can all get a good night’s rest tonight. 🙂

 

Paper Potential

I am a stationery nerd. I love paper and pens and office supplies of all kinds. I used to have a stationery set of my own when I was little and I would write letters to my friends and they would write me back – sometimes there would be a puffy sticker included if we were extra-good friends. I don’t remember exactly what my stationery looked like, but I have a feeling it was something sweet and girly – probably something with strawberries. Remember those boxed sets with the satin ribbon? Man, I loved those.

Why don’t we write letters anymore? Oh right…email. And texting.

That sucks. :/

Anyway, my love of paper is now channeled into notebooks. Lined notebooks give me a thrill – something about a blank journal feels like it holds all the potential in the world. What could I use it for? What kinds of things could I write in it? What secrets will it hold??? COULD BE ANYTHING.

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Proof of my addiction.

I carry these notebooks around with me everywhere. They live in  a sturdy tote bag that stays in my car so that I can always access my notebooks if I need one whether I’m at work or at home. Two of the above notebooks are blank, but all of the others serve a specific purpose. One is used for my session with Emily Roberts, one is used for assignments from Emily, another is just for food journaling (which I don’t really do anymore, but I carry it around with me because…well I don’t know why, it just goes along with all the other notebooks), the pink one on the bottom is mainly a gratitude journal, and the red one I use to go along with this book. The black and teal are the blank ones – I’m saving them for a special purpose, which I don’t know yet, but I’m sure I’ll need them eventually. Those 4 in the bottom of the picture…I picked those up at Dollar General for $3 a piece. I LOVE THEM.

I’ve been using notebooks like this since my son was born 21 years ago. I used a hard backed, spiral bound notebook to write down questions I wanted to ask my OBGYN, and then later used it to record feeding times, questions for a new babysitter, then I just used it to make to do lists or grocery lists. It became the place I wrote down all the things I needed to remember. I still have that notebook and love looking back at it from time to time.

Oddly enough, I’ve never really used my notebooks as a day to day journal. Mainly my notebooks are filled with reminders or recipes, or blog post ideas. I will sometimes use my phone to remind me of appointments and such, but I think with my pen – I can remember things better when I physically write them down.

So even though we are living in a digital age, I will continue with my love of paper and pen. I may even bust out some stationery and write an actual letter sometime soon. Anyone need a penpal? 🙂

I’m rouxined

I used to hate cooking. It was ONE MORE THING on my to-do list of a lot of other mom-things. It was just not an enjoyable task, wich is surprising, given how much I love to eat. And when I was trying to diet cooking was even worse because then I had to cook TWO dinners: one disappointing meal for myself and a tasty one for my family.

But then when I finally decided that I would liberate myself from the diet du jour, guess what?! I actually started to enjoy cooking. When I could cook whatever sounded good to me, that’s when cooking became fun.

What I love about cooking is learning how to make things from scratch that I would normally buy in a can. I’ve learned that the basis for a lot of these is starting with a roux.

If you don’t know, a roux is just oil or butter mixed with flour. From there you add your liquid of choice and voila – you have a delicous sauce and just saved yourself a chunk of change.

For example, not long ago I was making a casserole and needed a can of cream of chicken soup but I didn’t have one in my pantry. I Googled “diy cream of chicken soup” and found a recipe. Some butter and flour cooked until bubbly then I added some chicken broth and stirred until thick. Ta Da! Cream of chicken soup that was delicious and free of unpronounceable ingredients. And so quick and easy – I couldn’t believe how simple it was and it didn’t take much time at all – a few minutes at most.

I also found a dangerous homemade nacho cheese sauce recipe that starts with a roux. I say dangerous because this stuff is so easy and delicious…it might become a problem if I let it. A cup of milk is added to the roux then a couple of handfuls of grated cheddar cheese is melted into the mix. Add a pinch of salt and chili powder…BOOM. Nacho cheese to fulfill all of your cheese dip dreams. So easy & delicious! And again, free of unrecognizable ingredients. I’ll be more than happy to never buy Velveeta again in my life.

As someone who has lived off of processed/convenience foods her whole life (Why so chubby Jill? It’s a mystery!) cooking from scratch is a novelty. I can’t believe I have relied on canned soups and sauces for so long when it’s almost just as easy to whip them up from ingredients in my own kitchen. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks! 🙂

 

 

 

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When The Label No Longer Fits

I have several labels I have applied to myself over the years, but the one that has been with me the longest is Sugar Lover. I didnt just have a sweet tooth, I had a whole mouth full of them. I wouldn’t just eat a cookie, I would eat as many cookies as my stomach could hold, and then I’d eat a few more. Sometimes, I would eat dinner just so I could eat dessert.

Yes, I was a sugarholic. Dessert was my love language.

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But over the last year or so, I find myself not enjoying the sweet stuff as much. I mean sure, as soon as I finish a meal my thoughts immediately turn to “what sweets do I have that would nicely complement my dinner?” because old habits die hard, but more often than not, confections don’t satisfy me like they used to.

Before I go further, let me assure you that I do still very much enjoy a decadent treat – last summer at the state fair, there was an artisinal chocolate bakery and I had the most amazing chocolate lava cake – seriously I don’t think I’ve ever eaten anything so delicious in my life. And a couple of weeks ago, I found a recipe for the most perfect chocolate chip cookie – crispy edges with a chewy middle…we made 2 batches in one week – that’s how good they were. So I am still totally on board for gourmet or homemade decadence.

But as far as just any old store bought cookie? Nah. Not interested anymore. If I do have one, it’s just because I don’t know how to let go of being that person, not because I necessarily want the cookie.

It’s hard to let go of that label. It’s scary to become someone you’ve never been before.

And actually now that I think about it, some of my other labels are changing as well. I used to be a night owl but now I really like getting up early. I used to enjoy alcohol quite frequently…now I can take it or leave it (most often I just leave it because it’s not worth feeling so awful the next day). I used to be someone who always thought she was “less than” everyone else, now I know better (I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, I just no longer assume I’m inferior to everyone I meet).

So many changes! It’s like puberty all over again, but with fewer pimples and less angst!

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Jr High Jill had a lot of angst. And bracelets. 

I think my next step is to just accept that this is who am I now, and that it’s perfectly okay to be different than I once was. But man, it feels kinda weird…like driving some else’s car or sporting a new hairdo, but you get used to it I suppose. And just like Teen Jill learned to live beyond the big earrings and rubber bracelets, Grown Up Evolved Jill will live beyond the Oreos and Hostess snack cakes.

UPDATE: Oh my gosh look what I found!!

         And in color too!!

 

 

Hello 2018

Well Hi!

How’s the new year treating you so far? Still keeping those resolutions? Yeah, me neither. Actually, I didn’t make any new year resolutions because I don’t need that feeling of failure so early in the year. I like to fail later, like around mid-summer when I fail to have that tanned & toned body yet again (for the 22nd year in a row). “Fail Later” is my motto! It has served me well.

And while we’re at it, can we all just agree to put off our “New Year New You” efforts until like, March or something? It’s still just too damn cold in January to try to change out of our six layers of clothing into a t-shirt and capris for the gym. Our bodies and minds were under enough stress and strain from the holidays – can we please just use January as a time to relax and hibernate? I’ll be on board for getting in shape when the temps are 50º or above, but until then, it’s going to be a “no” from me.

Not to say I’ve become a complete slug – I move around at work when I can, I stand up and stretch at my desk regularly, I’m taking my supplements and trying to up my veggie intake, but I’m not killing it in the gym. In fact, I haven’t even been to my gym this month – I’m letting all the Resolutioners get their fill first. I may go back next week when it’s not so crowded, or I may go just to sit in the massage chair. I’d get in the sauna but that would mean taking off my six layers of clothing and I already covered that in the previous paragraph, so…not happening.

How about instead of fighting our natural instinct to hibernate, we all just relax into it and give ourselves some grace and compassion and realize that it will be easier to work out when it warms up a bit. If, however, you are already crushing your New Year goals, then by all means keep at it! But if you are playing war in your head with what you feel you *should* be doing versus what you want to do (or don’t want to do), then just give yourself some time to get used to the idea of working out regularly again. Take a breath, start small and easy, and then work your way up to a full-on sweatfest. The gym will still be waiting for you with open arms if/when you decide to get back into it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some more hibernating to do.

I need this blanket!! It looks so snuggly! 

http://amzn.to/2Dugtsg

Merry Christmas!

The gifts are bought and wrapped and tucked under the tree, the neighbors’ gifts are going to be baked tonight and tomorrow, and this afternoon will start my ten day weekend. Woohoo!! I am so ready.

This has been a relatively stress-free Christmas season so far. I think a combination of online shopping, some chill-out supplements, and going to the gym regularly have helped me be a little more relaxed these last few weeks. The hardest day was last Saturday when I went shopping in actual brick and mortar stores and pushed myself too far to get it all done. But other than that, it’s been enjoyable.

Earlier in December I took my oldest and my youngest to see some Christmas lights at a church in Tulsa:

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Honestly, there were almost too many lights.

And then we went to our town’s Christmas parade. There were a lot of really good floats this year, but this one was my favorite:

Won’t you please enjoy my fine video skills?

Also, I took my favorite guy out to my company Christmas dinner:

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Why can I never smile like a normal person in pictures? My selfie game needs work. 

Also, I’ve watched Elf approximately 20 times in the last 3 weeks because it seems like it’s on TV EVERY SINGLE DAY. But I don’t really mind because I still laugh every time I see it.

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I might sing along loudly when this scene comes up (every single time). 

So yeah normally by this time I’m a big frazzled mess but this year I’m feeling okay about everything. Tomorrow night we are having dinner with my in-laws, Sunday is church and dinner with my extended family, then Monday is Christmas with just my little fam. We’ll open presents after the kids wake me up at O’Dark Thirty,  I’ll make cinnamon rolls and sit in the inevitable explosion of wrapping paper, and then later we’ll have lunch. After lunch I’ll watch The Christmas Story and slip into a Christmas coma for a couple of hours. Ahhhh…heavenly.

I hope you all have a wonderful, relaxing, fun holiday! See you in the New Year!

Merry Christmas,

Jill

 

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Christmas Music Commute

I love Christmas music. I am one of those who, on December 1, will find the radio station that plays ALL CHRISTMAS MUSIC ALL THE TIME and keep the dial parked there until December 25. Our radio stations in Tulsa have changed this year and the station that usually plays all the Christmas music is now playing ALL 80s ALL THE TIME (and if you think I don’t adore the crap outta that, then you don’t know me very well), but thankfully a local Christian station stepped up to the plate and has our Yuletide musical needs covered.

This morning I heard a song that is not new, but that I had never heard before, and it is my new favorite. It’s just such a cute song and I wanted to share it with you here. This is the unplugged version, which lends a certain rustic quality to the sweetness of the song.

Sidewalk Prophets Hey Moon from the Merry Christmas to You cd

Also, this morning, I heard this groovy little number and I won’t lie, there was much shoulder-shaking on the highway as I drove into work:

I so wish there was a video to this song with GoGo boots and pixie-haired dancers doing The Pony.

Percy Faith Orchestra Happy Holiday from the Christmas Is…album (ooooh, you can even get this one on vinyl!)

And then…a woman called into the station and requested ON PURPOSE the Christmas Shoes song *shudder*. Why do people have to be so mean? Aren’t we supposed to be kinder during the holidays? This woman, bless her heart, said this song was one of her favorites. And she was serious! I just can’t even with that song…JUST. CAN’T. EVEN. I mean, if you like this song, great, but please let me help you in your need of musical taste. That song is not real music – it’s emotional propaganda whose sole purpose is to make you cry. I don’t need anymore melodrama in my life…I live with two teenage girls who more than fill that need, so please take your syrupy sweet sad lyrics elsewhere. I’m not even going to link to the song – you can Google it if you haven’t heard it. (And this concludes the Grinch portion of my post today)

In related news, yesterday I overheard one of my coworkers saying that he hates Christmas carols. What??? How can anyone hate Christmas music? Anyway, being the sensitive-to-everyone’s-needs person that I am, I stampeded over to Youtube wherein I found and texted the following songs to my coworker:

 

 

And finally,

My coworker adores me now and is not at all annoyed. *snicker*

 

What are your favorite Christmas songs? Or conversely, if you also are not a fan of the Christmas music, which one do you like the least?

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source

 

 

Listen Up!

Since I am so avant garde, so cutting edge, so on the brink of the next big thing, I have discovered a new type of media: stories told in an audio format. I believe they are referred to by the millennials as “podcasts”.

Go Google it…I’ll wait…

I like listening to podcasts while I work because it keeps me on task and makes the day a little more enjoyable. And there are as many different kinds of podcasts are there are genres of movies, so I think there really is something for everybody. These are some of my favorites:

When I need my faith in humanity restoredSincerly, Hueman

This is a newish podcast that tells stories about people who are making a difference in the world and having a positive impact. When you feel like the world is a hopeless place, this podcast will give you oodles of renewed optimism.

When I need to laugh: Mortified

Mortified is a series in which adults read from their childhood (mostly middle school/high school) diaries. Beware though, sometimes episodes can get a wee bit raunchy – not all episodes are that way, but a few are…just so ya know.

When I’m feeling sentimental or emotional: Terrible, Thanks for Asking and Strangers

I LOVE TTFA and Strangers mostly because the episodes stay with me  – I find myself thinking about them for hours after listening. These episodes make me feel all my feelings.

When I want that Stranger Things vibe to continue: The Polybius Conspiracy

Bobby claims he was abducted by the makers of a new arcade game back in the 80s. Follow this series when you want a bit of nostalgia for the days when you used to spend your Saturday afternoons (and all your dad’s quarters) at the arcade.

When I just want good storytelling: This American Life

Probably the granddaddy and gold star of podcasting, TAL is so good at what it does. With years and years of archives, there is no shortage of stories that will interest folks of all walks of life. This is what I listen to when I don’t know what I want to listen to.

Other notable audio gems: Serial (this is how I got started listening to podcasts), S Town, Missing Richard Simmons, In the Dark (I just started listening to this one – I’m only on episode 1).

So anyway, that should be enough to keep you busy for awhile. There are so many podcasts now that it’s hard to sort through them all. What are some of your favorites and when do you typically listen to them? Sound off below!

 

 

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Holiday Sanity Savers

Every year around this time, I start to get all panicky and sweaty and wonder how in the world am I ever going to get/buy/do everything that needs to be gotten/bought/done before December 25th?? Every year I think surely THIS will be the year that finds me  weeping uncontrollably into Santa’s beard when I pass by him in the department store and yet every year, I somehow make it through. All gifts end up wrapped and under the tree, all Christmas goodies get baked and delivered to neighbors, and on December 26th I high-five myself and give myself a pat on the back for making it through another holiday season.

I started to get that sweatypanicky feeling again today, but then I remembered that there has never been a Christmas, not a single one, where I wasn’t able to do All The Things. I had to remind myself that I’ve always had enough money for gifts, I’ve always managed to buy what I needed, and Christmas has never, as of yet, gone down in flames in a fiery crash of tinsel and bows.

I can handle this.

You can handle this.

WE CAN HANDLE THIS.

And because we have skills /technology/support at our disposal to help us do ALL THE CHRISTMAS-Y THINGS.

What might those things be? Glad you asked! Take a gander at what we’ve got going for us:

  • We can delegate. If you’re like me, you have kids who are nearly grown adults who are more than capable of clearing the clutter and vacuuming the living room so the house can be decorated. Or maybe you can call a friend over to help you clean and decorate. Or maybe you just hire someone to do it because you are just OVER IT this year and it will be money well spent. Point is, don’t do it all yourself by yourself – enlist the help of someone close to you (or someone you can pay, whatever).
  • We can schedule things ahead of time. Did you know that you can schedule a text message? I only recently learned of this amazing bit of technology and it is a game changer for me. Sometimes I want to send a text but the person receiving my text might be sleeping or in a meeting. With my Galaxy phone, I am able to compose the text, then schedule when I want the recipient to get it.  Need to send a text to Janet reminding her to bring cookies for the class party, but you know she’s getting a massage right now? Schedule that text to be received in 4 hours when you know she won’t be blissed out on lavender massage oil and Enya. Need to remind your college student to pick up a pie from the excellent bakery next to the university but you know he’s in class right now? Schedule it to be received when he gets out of class. See? Technology is a little bit helpful. *Edited to add: I’ve learned that this may only be an Android thing. Sorry for getting your hopes up iPhoners. 
  • We can adopt the “less is more” attitude towards Christmas decorating (and spending and eating): Did you know that there is no law that says you have to put up every single decorative holiday item you own???? Truly!! Pick out the things that you actually love and display them. It’s really okay if you don’t set out the ceramic Santa that Aunt Linda made in her Beginner Ceramics class that she took at the Vo-tech twelve years ago. Really, let’s just let that sad little guy stay in storage this year, okay?
  • We can embrace online shopping. I mean, if you haven’t already. Seriously, take advantage of the fact that you can have most of your gifts delivered right to your door. RIGHT TO YOUR DOOR. No crowds, no beleaguered sales-people who can’t answer your question, no impulse buys that blow your budget…only the soft clickety-clack of your keyboard or phone. Aaahhhhh. So nice and quiet.
  • We can take time to enjoy and appreciate the little things: Watching A Charlie Brown Christmas while sipping hot cocoa, driving around and looking at Christmas lights, delivering some blankets and food to a grateful shelter (human or animal – either one is fine), the absolute silence of nature that comes with that first heavy snowfall (don’t you love that??? I love standing outside and being in awe of the quiet), snuggling up with those we love the most…let’s try and do more of these things this month, shall we?

I am going to try my hardest to not be a Grinch this year. I will enjoy this season and float through it with ease and grace and style…okay maybe I’ll just try not to trip while I gingerly tiptoe my way through it. Either way, I will remember to be mindful and appreciative of everything this month has to offer.

Do you have any Holiday Sanity Savers of your own? What do you rely on to make the season merry and bright? 

 

 

 

Thankful

In my last sad, depressing, Grinchy post, I lamented that I just don’t enjoy the holidays as much as I used to. I bemoaned the fact that it was all just too much pressure and too much money and too much time.

Well.

Let me tell you that I had one of the best Thanksgiving weekends I’ve had in a really long time. Grinch be gone! Maybe having low expectations is the secret to happiness?

I took a short road trip and got to visit with family I haven’t seen in years and HAD THE BEST TIME. I got to see my cousin and her kids, and my aunt, and then I jetted over to my hometown for a quick visit with my BFF and her family. (I’ve got a post brewing in my head about my hometown; I was overcome with nostalgia over the weekend and need to put it into words)

It was just so nice to be able to get out of town and see family, and the town of my childhood and feel connected to something again. My youngest daughter went with me and I got to show her the area where her mother grew up – I think she actually found it interesting!

So yes, now I am looking forward to this holiday season. I’m ready to put my tree up and decorate the house. I’m ready to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and make Christmas cookies. Can’t really say I’m ready to start shopping yet, but that will come.

I think I just needed a change in the Thanksgiving routine. Traditions are great, but when they become stale it’s time to switch it up and do something that feels fulfilling. And I am deeply fulfilled right now.

 

 

 

 

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