Friday, April 7, 2017

Books, Books, and More Books!

My TBR (To Be Read) list is a source of joy to me.  It keeps growing.  It is to the point now where I have it divided into five categories to keep track of it. This doesn’t stress me out at all, in fact, it energizes me.  I love to read and to learn, and my best learning comes from reading.  Plus I know that if I look over my list and decide some of the titles no longer look interesting to me, I can just erase them. J
I’m going to share with you one book from each category, to give you an idea of what I would like to read.
From the Fiction category: The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger. 
From Child and Youth Care Related Books: The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis. 
From Religious Non-Fiction: Up from the Stubborn Darkness by Ed Welch.
From Memoirs and Biographies: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. 
From Other Non-Fiction: Contrepeneurs by Diane Frances.
I recently finished The Feminist Mistake by Mary Kassian.  It’s an in-depth look at the development of feminist thought in North America over the last sixty years.  If you have questions about feminism, this is one book you should read.  And if you just like to read about the development of philosophy as an intellectual exercise, you will enjoy this one.  This book made me think, but I also just enjoyed the reading of it.
I also recently read Is Everyone Hanging out without Me? (And other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling and Out came the Sun by Mariel Hemingway.  Both were memoirs written by women in the film industry, but that’s pretty much where the similarity ended.  Kaling’s book is lighthearted and fun.  She’s a comedy writer and she writes and acts in the TV show The Office. I enjoyed it because a lot of what I’m interested in is the deep tough themes of mental health and human relationships, and this book was a break from that.  Hemingway’s book deals with her journey of overcoming the legacy of mental illness, addiction, and suicide in her family.  This one was much darker and more difficult.  Ironically, I enjoyed it precisely because it was all about the themes of mental health and human relationships.
Currently I’m reading How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics by Eugenia Cheng and Mistress Pat by L.M. Montgomery. How to Bake Pi is fascinating if you’re interested in math.  It’s probably still fascinating if you aren’t, but I don’t know that from experience.  My love for math is being rekindled, and now I envy the author her job as university math lecturer. :P  Mistress Pat is comfort reading.  I mean, it’s written by L.M. Montgomery; what more can I say?
This week I listened to Canada Reads 2017, which originally aired last week.  Now I’ve added more books to my list: Company Town by Madeline Ashby and The Break by Katherna Vermette.  I’m excited about these because of the Canadian connection.  My reading challenge of sorts (other than “Read the books on my list”) is “Read books by Canadian authors”.

What are you reading?  Do you have books I should add to my list?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Swimming and Other Fitness Stuff

Hello there!  It’s been awhile!
I don’t know about you, but I know for myself that the idea of “health” gets overwhelming.  You can find so much information on the internet and a lot of it contradicts other information.  One website says, “Don’t use plastic because it will cause toxins to leach into your food.”  Another site says, “Don’t eat GMOs – they cause cancer.” An article claims, “Walking is the greatest anti-depressant” while another blames gluten or dairy or red meat for humanity’s problems.  What are we supposed to believe? Perhaps more relevantly, what are we supposed to do about it?
When you live with mental illness, it is easy to blame yourself for your illness.  Add to that the never-ending barrage of information on health, and you can find a million reasons to blame yourself.  When I start reading too much about health, I am tempted to stop taking my meds.  I feel like because I am not doing all the right things, it is my fault I’m sick.  If it’s my fault I’m sick, then I don’t deserve to take the meds that help me.  If I’m going to justify spending money on meds, I’d better be doing every single thing that could possibly help me. 
That is faulty thinking.  For one thing, the meds I take are cheaper than a lot of the recommended “health foods”.  For another, without the benefits I receive from my meds, there’s no way I would have the energy or mental clarity to even figure out a healthy lifestyle and diet. 
My approach to fitness and health is an “every bit helps” approach. This means that I’m not going to cut out my meds and trust a specific diet instead.  I know my meds help, so I take them.  I don’t have to earn them by meeting a certain lifestyle standard.  I can add health components to my life, as long as they work for me. Every little thing that works adds to the benefits I get from my meds.  For me to incorporate a health practice into my life, it has to meet some criteria.  First, it can’t cause a lot of stress.  If I’m going to be constantly worrying about what I’m eating, that will increase my anxiety, not reduce it.  If I always have to force myself to work out, it has the same affect.  Second, it has to be sustainable.  It can’t take hours out of my day or require a lot of prep.  Third, it has to be at least a little bit enjoyable.  I won’t force myself to drink a smoothie that tastes terrible or do a workout that makes me so tired I could cry. 
Here’s what works for me right now:
Swimming. Back in January I set myself a goal to be able to swim 2km by my birthday in May.  Yesterday I hit 1.25km!!  Swimming works for me because:
-I’ve set a specific goal.  It’s not just “work out twice a week”.  I’ve tried that kind of goal and failed.  With this goal, if I have a couple of weeks where I don’t exercise, it just means I have to work a bit harder the next few times.  I haven’t failed.  It’s a specific but flexible goal.
-swimming is fun. I love the feeling of being in the water.  I like that I can go slow if I’m having a bad day or faster if I want to push myself.
-swimming is solitary.  Sure, sometimes I need to share a lane in the pool, but I don’t have to wait in line for the exercise machine or awkwardly walk between the mirror and someone doing curls to get to the dumbbells.  Once I’m in the pool, I’m in my own world.  This is a huge plus because the gym always heightens my social anxiety, but the pool lessens it!
-swimming is horizontal.  When I’m tired and having a bad day, I don’t want to hold my head up.  I just want to lay down.  To me, swimming feels like I’m exercising and laying down at the same time. J
-swimming is a full body workout.  I don’t worry about “leg day” or “cardio day”.  I do everything at once, so there’s a lot less to keep track of.
Being off (some) dairy.  Recently I cut out most dairy because I was having some gut issues.  It worked!  I still eat plain yogurt and mozzarella cheese, but I’ve cut out everything else.  This had some unexpected consequences.  Not only does my gut feel better, but I feel calmer and more alert.  My body feels lighter, not like I’ve lost weight but like I’m less sluggish.  I get stressed less easily and I enjoy life more.  I’ve always enjoyed not having diet restrictions, but hey, this is SO worth it.

What works for you right now?  

Saturday, January 7, 2017

When Anxiety Tells You Lies

When anxiety tells you lies, you don’t have to listen.  When you’ve lived with mental illness for a while, you realize you can’t trust your thoughts.  You can’t look inside for answers when they’re so self-destructive.
Usually when things are going crazy around you, you can retreat inside yourself for a bit and think things through.  When you’ve got anxiety and depression, that changes.
On bad days, my inner dialogue is something like this:
“Don’t do it like that!”
“Why not, it’s working.”
“No, it’s stupid.”
“Because you’re doing it wrong. You’re stupid.”
“Shut up!”
“You’re stupid so of course you’re doing it wrong.  You’ll never get enough done. You’ll never be…”
“SHUT UP!!! Can’t you see I’m trying?? Shut up and leave me alone! Michael thinks I’m good enough, and my family likes me, and other people like me.  You’re wrong!”
“No, you’re stupid.  You shouldn’t even exist because you ONLY did dishes and laundry today.  You should have made muffins too.  And crocheting doesn’t count as being productive because you enjoy doing it.”
“SHUT UP!!!”
What I’m learning is that I don’t have to listen to that voice in my head.  I can say, “I’m ok.  God loves me enough to save me from my sins and adopt me to be His.  Nothing I do can make Him hate me now.”  And then I read a book or watch TV to drown out the conversation in my head.  It’s pretty well impossible to stop that conversation – it will keep going all day.  It usually can be drowned out by a distraction, at least for a while. 

If your mind is telling you things like this, you don’t have to listen.  You are worthy.   You deserve to get help.  And if sometimes you spend the day in front of the TV because you just can’t take it anymore, that’s ok too.  I know it’s tough, not being able to trust your own self, but hang in there.  You’re not alone.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year 2017

2016 was for me a year of healing from mental breakdown, learning my limitations, being creative, and trying new things.  For us as a couple it was also a year of finding new direction career wise, moving to a new community, discussing and planning for the future.  2016 for the world was difficult, surprising, confusing.   There have been terrorist attacks in cities which a few years ago seemed to be safe bulwarks of Western culture.  One of the most powerful and supposedly progressive nations has elected as their leader a man who openly makes sexist and racist remarks.  We’re facing a world-wide refugee crisis.  Closer to home, indigenous peoples in our country are living without basic necessities like clean drinking water. 
For many, the start of a new year is a time for optimism.  It is a time to make a change; a time for new promises and goals; a time to change the world.   I used to think like that.  I would have a long list of New Year’s resolutions.  I would start right at midnight on my project to be sinless, perfect in every particular.  One year during a New Year’s Eve party, I stopped eating the party food and drinking pop as soon as midnight came.  For the rest of the party, I ate vegetables and drank water. 
I’ve lost that starry eyed optimism.  Hopefully it has been replaced with realism and not pessimism, although I can’t say for sure.  Here is what I know: 2017 is going to be hard.  We’re going to hear about terrorist attacks, airplane crashes, homicides, child abuse, and economic crisis.  We’re going to hear a lot of talk back and forth about policy issues, parental rights, religious rights, and globalization.  A lot of it will seem to get no where, because a new year doesn’t change anything. 
If you’re like me, you want to change the world and fix everything.  You want to feed every single refugee child and sponge away the trauma.  You want to shout from the roof tops that it’s not ok that there are so many missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.  You want to whisper into the heart of every woman, “You matter.  You don’t deserve to be mistreated because of your race and gender.  I care about you.” 
It’s discouraging because we can’t fix the world.  Every problem is so big and so complex.  Even if there was a perfect solution to everything, we couldn’t carry it out because we are flawed sinners.   We think “If I were in power, I would make so much positive change!”  But power corrupts, and we aren’t invincible to that temptation even as Christians.
Should we give up?  Shall we turn off the radio, stay in our “safe” social circle, and concern ourselves only with hypothetical rights and wrongs?  Can’t we build up a wall between “us” and “them” and give a host of reasons why their problems are their fault and there’s nothing we can do?
 It’s tempting isn’t it? 
Can I make a proposal?  What if we do the little things?  Each of us can seize every opportunity to make a difference.  You can’t change the world, but you can change one person’s world.  You can’t rescue every abused child, but maybe you can become a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters or Children’s Aid Society.  You can’t eradicate rape culture on college campuses, but you can keep your eyes open and intervene if you see something that’s off.  You can’t fix dysfunctional relationships, but you can be a listening ear for someone that needs it.  You can’t stop all abortions everywhere, but you can write letters to your M.P. voicing your disagreement; and you can provide financial or emotional support to a woman who is considering abortion. 
Will you join me in making 2017 a year of hope for someone?  Jesus said, “Whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”  (Matthew 10:42) Will you pray with me that God will use our little actions for the greater good? 

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Letter to those who have had suicidal thoughts

I'm proud of you.  We're proud of you.  You feel weak, but in fact you are brave and incredibly strong. It feels like weakness when you struggle even to breathe, but the fact that you are still fighting shows your strength.  I know it is so so hard.  Sometimes it is too hard, but you're still here and so are we.
And to all of you who have left us this year: we ache for you, for what you went through. We miss you and we won't forget you.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas Party

NOTE: I wrote this a week ago and didn't publish it right away.

I have just spent a wonderful evening with a fun group of women.   A few months ago I hadn’t met most of them.  They included me, and I am glad.
We laughed and ate and played games.  We talked babies (there were 3 of them present, and several on the way) and potty training and cooking. 
It was wonderful to laugh and have fun like that.  I was so tired beforehand, so drained from 3 days in a row of listening to loud kids and answering numerous questions and just trying to function on not enough sunlight.  But I was determined to go to this Christmas party – I’d been invited and included.  The women seemed very nice and I wanted to spend time with them and get to know the people in our new church.  I went, and I am so glad I did.  The tiredness seemed to melt away in all the laughter.  Sometimes happiness is contagious. 

So tonight I am uplifted and grateful.  And tired.  Goodnight! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

It's the Shortest Day of the Year

I feel a little bit like things are slipping.  I’m trying to keep a grip on things but it’s either fading or slipping away.  There are plenty of hours to get everything done, just not enough mental or physical energy.  This would be an awful feeling except for one thing: it is the shortest day of the year!  Soon the days will start getting longer!!
I have been reading a LOT of books since my last “What I’ve Been Reading Lately” post.  Right after we moved in September I got a library card so I’ve been discovering new books in different genres.  We don’t have internet at home, so that gives me more time to read.
Fun Books:
Vinyl Café Diaries by Stuart MacLean
The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery
The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by ___
The MacDonald Hall series by Gordon Korman
Schooled, also by Gordon Korman
More Serious Fiction:
Open Secrets and Runaway, both by Alice Munro
The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth
Child and Youth Work Related Memoirs:
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer
The Boy No One Loved by Casey Watson
Deliver Me From Evil by Alloma Gilbert
Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
Currently Reading:
The Contemporary Catechism of the Teachings of the Catholic Church by ____
Kids are Worth It! by Barbara Coloroso
I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris
Federal Husband by Douglas Wilson
I’ll only comment on a few since it’s a long list.  I enjoyed The Secrets of Midwives because it reads like a mystery/crime novel but without the murder.  I am drawn to that genre but always end up with nightmares from the violence described, so this was a nice compromise.  I would consider it an 18+ novel because of some of the content.
The child and youth work related memoirs were eye-opening and horrifying.   They are books I would tell you to read “if you have to”. By that I mean read them if you are interested in understanding or helping people who have been abused or have experienced trauma.  If you are looking for an interesting new book, these aren’t for you.  But if you think the Children’s Aid Society or Child Protective Services are unnecessary, READ THESE. 
Vinyl Café Diaries is so much fun.  I took the book camping in October and ended up reading some of the stories out loud to Michael.  I couldn’t tell him what was funny without retelling the whole story, and Stuart MacLean’s words are just so much better than mine!
I just finished Jesus Feminist.  I am still processing it, so I don’t have much to say except this: while Sarah Bessey presents a lot of ideas that are foreign to my upbringing and church background, she does it in a gracious and thought-provoking way.   She isn’t an angry feminist at all – she is a woman committed to following Jesus and caring about people.
Wishing you all a good shortest day of the year.  Here’s to all of us who have made. it. by God’s grace.  Things are looking up.  We got this.  Here’s to sunshine and later sunsets!